What's New? at Rob's World! - What's new, changed, or improved recently.
 
 

Rob's World!

 
 

Welcome to my most humble Web Site. I've been working on it for more than nine years now. I guess it's my way of keeping a journal. Buried between these lines you'll find all my secret desires and passionate beliefs. Unfortunately, or luckily - I can't help but share them with the rest of the world. If you've found something amongst my web pages that has helped or entertained you in some way, then I've done what I've set out to do. I'll keep plugging away at the site - hoping to improve and expand it until it's complete. When's that?
Robert L. Vaessen

If you're interested in a monthly Rob's World! update by email, check out my Newsletter page. Sign up today for Rob's World!

 
 


This document is the "What's New" web log from 2005

 
 

December 31, 2005

On the verge of a New Year:
I've got some plans for the new year, and I'm sure that you do to. Kim and I will be attending a New Year's eve party tonight. It's quite a change from the military experience. We're civilians now, and starting to feel more like part of community than we did while we were in the military. Twenty years in the military means moving every three years or so. That makes it pretty tough to establish relationships, participate in community social events and build a feeling of community bonds. We're working on that now. We'll do our best not to drink and drive, but we're going to drink a toast come midnight. In the military, there's no tolerance for people who drink alcohol, as a matter of fact, it's getting really bad. The military has a tendency to punish everyone for the mistakes of the few, and at this point, anyone who drinks alcohol is seen as endangering everyone's health and safety. Granted, there are individuals who shouldn't be taking such risks. At the same time, there's a very large segment of the population who knows how much risk is too much risk. They're capable of limiting there risks, of making the right decisions. The military, on the other hand, has somehow managed to project a sense of no common sense onto anyone who might have a drink tonight. It's all rather sad, and strange - The way the military has convinced all it's members that drinking liquor tonight will result in you not having a good time.

I will drink in moderation, and personally, I'm glad that the decision is now mine to make. I'm glad that I don't have to worry that everyone will think less of me for having a drink tonight. If you're a civilian like me, I encourage you to do what 'You' think is right. Have a good time. If you're in the military... Well, you've already had your mind made up for you. "Don't drink and drive".

Eating out in Denver:
Kim and I received a flyer in the mail for a free drink and a discounted appetizer. A new restaurant opened near our home, and we decided to give it a try. Tali's Bistro is collocated inside the Simply Artrageous home decor store. The store features some fantastic wall art, furniture and sculpture. Eventually, we'll go back with our charge card in hand. The restaurant is well decorated, comfortable, and quiet. The menu is drinks and appetizers - The wine menu looked excellent but we went there looking for dinner, so we settled for a lighter meal. The marinated vegetable appetizer was outstanding. It reminded us solidly of balmy nights out at the harbor in Brindisi, Italy. Kim had an eggplant panini and I had a prosciuto pizza. Very much like an Italian bistro. The Tuscan tomato soup was unbelievable and the Tiramisu was heavenly. We'll definitely be back to Tali's Bistro.

Software favorites:
A couple of my software favorites evolved this week. GraphicConverter is now compatible with Intel processors. I can smell the change coming. In addition to the new compile, this new version features some new capabilities, bug fixes and enhancements. In addition to GraphicConverter, CSSEdit also released an Intel compatible upgrade.

One of my favorite programs just underwent another full release upgrade. GraphicConverter recently moved up to version 5.7.4b1. GraphicConverter is an image converter and editor. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, and I'm not sure I would do without it. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box. At a fraction of PhotoShop's cost, this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox.
<http://www.lemkesoft.de/en/graphcon.htm>

MacRabbit released CSSEdit version 1.7.2. This web tool is a lightweight editor with a heavy weight punch. If you're looking for a Cascading Style Sheet editor, look no further. With a very clean interface, point-n-click simplicity, and access to source code editing, you can't ask for much more in a CSS editor. Although I don't make extensive use of CSS, I've found CSSEdit to be the premier CSS editor in the Mac arena. The preview function takes all the guess-work out of a complex task (CSS editing), and the CSS extraction capability simplifies your plagiarization efforts. Inexpensive, powerful, and easy to use. I'm glad I found this gem.
http://www.macrabbit.com/cssedit/

 
 

December 27, 2005

Merry Christmas:
Kim and I celebrated Christmas on the 26th of December. I had to work all day on the 25th, so we opened our gifts, ate a Christmas duck, and relaxed on the 26th of December. We had a good day, and hope you did too. If I had off, we would have gone to church, but my 18+ hour work days really take it out of me. Our big Christmas gift was the House. Aside from that we got some clothing, some books, a Cuisinart and some other odds and ends. I hope you had a good Christmas too (assuming of course that you celebrated Christmas. If you didn't or don't, please don't take my well wishes as a personal insult).

Wow it sure is warm!
Today, Christmas day, is nowhere close to being white in the Rockies. The temperatures in Denver (on the 25th of December) are exceedingly high. So high in fact, that we set a new record for Denver. The warmest Christmas on record. What was the temperature? 69 degrees fahrenheit! Now that hot - For Winter!

Time Accounting:
Recently, the company that I work for (Northrop Grumman) switched it's time accounting system (for recording hours worked). We were supposed to start using the new system on the 24th of December. Well, I had a bad feeling about the transition. Sure they gave us training on how to use the system, but they didn't allow anyone to try the system before we actually made the switch. Well, as you can imagine, the 24th of December wasn't an easy day for the employees or the people working the help desk.

I tried to call in my hours, but the new system wouldn't accept my employee number/pin combination. I tried, tried again, tried some old pins. Tried a default pin that someone else recommended, but in the end I was locked out and unable to record my hours worked. Great!

I called the help desk, but no one had given them any permission to reset account or even log in to check things out. Yeah, it was a fiasco. As I write this, I still haven't been able to record my hours for the 24th and 25th of December. The help desk opened a trouble ticket, and I'm waiting for a phone call, but I have no idea when or if that will happen. In the meantime, the end of the pay period is approaching and I'd appreciate it if I got paid for the work I performed.

Oh joy, even more wonderful news. Someone called me back. Apparently my ticket number was no good because it was submitted against STARS, the old accounting system. The person I spoke to was of no help whatsoever. I called the 'New' Help Desk number in order to submit a new trouble ticket, but that office is closed for 'Shut Down'. Whatever that means. I guess peoples pay isn't important enough to have someone manning that phone 24-7.

 
 

December 22, 2005

Damn cold and snowy!
On the 17th and 18th of December, Denver got blasted by another Arctic front. On the 17th we got a small amount of snow. Something like 1 inch out here on the edge of the city, and the temperatures dropped way down. Thankfully the cold weather means light snow. Not that wet, sloppy, heavy stuff. It wasn't enough snow for the snow blower, but I still had to get out there with the shovel. For some reason we seem to keep getting snow on D&D days. It snowed again on the 18th, but it didn't amount to much, just a light coating.

Now that it's actually winter we've got temp's in the 50's and 60's. The temperatures are back on the rise again. Today and tomorrow we're supposed to get into the 60's. All the snow is melting away and we just might miss that white Christmas if this keeps up.

D&D update:
We last played D&D on the 17th of December, and I've been busy answering end of adventure emails since that meeting. When the journal update is ready I'll let you know. In the meantime, the players are working on character advancement. We've decided to take two weeks off for the holidays, and our next meeting won't be until the 14th of January. Hopefully, everyone will have their characters ready for the next adventure by then. In the meantime, I've updated the campaign feats listing. Thanks to some input from Sean, I was able to add new feat to the list.

DIVINE ARCANE ACCESS [DIVINE]
Your knowledge of the arcane, combined with spell casting practice and the ability to concentrate gives you access to an arcane school of spells. Once you have selected a school of arcane spells, you may cast them as divine spells.
     Prerequisite: Knowledge (Arcana) 4 ranks, concentration 4 ranks, spellcraft 4 ranks, ability to cast divine spells.
     Benefit: Add an arcane school of spells to you class list of divine spells (see special below). If you have divine spell casting ability from more than one class, you must pick which divine spell casting ability this feat applies to. Once chosen, this decision cannot be changed for that feat.
     You may learn these arcane spells as normal for you class; however, you use Intelligence (rather than the normal ability for your spell casting) when determining the save DC for the spell. In addition you must have an Intelligence score equal to 10 + the spell’s level in order to prepare or cast a spell gained from this feat.
     Each day, you may prepare (or cast, if you cast spells without preparation) a maximum of one arcane spell for each spell level you are capable of casting.
     Normal: A divine spell caster does not normally have access to arcane spells. There are a few exceptions where there is a divine spell which duplicates an arcane spell. With this feat, a divine spell caster gains the ability to cast arcane spells as if they were divine spells.
     Special: You can take this feat more than once. Each time, you must select a different arcane school of magic. You may not select a school of arcane magic that is in conflict with your divine deity, it’s domain(s) or beliefs. For example, a divine spell caster who worships a deity of truth (opposed to trickery), would not be able to select the Illusion school of arcane spells. The DM’s adjudication may be necessary to determine whether a school of arcane spells is accessible using this feat.

The new feats listing is available for download by the members of our D&D campaign. It's an encrypted stuffit archive, so you'll need a password to extract the pdf document. I encrypted the archive because some of the materials are taken in whole directly from copyrighted game materials. It's not my stuff, and I don't have explicit permission to re-distribute it.

Doctor's Appointment:
Yesterday I had a doctor's appointment. I got a booster shot for my tetanus/diphtheria vaccination. It didn't hurt when I got the shot, but now my arm is hurting. That's pretty much it, you don't really want to know too much about my medical 'conditions', and I don't want to bore you to tears, so let's just drop this subject, o.k.? Good.

I won something!
Holy crap! Batman, I actually won something. I don't usually enter contests, but I figured I'd give it a try. After all, with a relatively small audience, I might actually have a chance to win. So, I recently entered a contest sponsored by a podcast that I listen to. 'More Hip the Hippie' is a podcast about renewables, recycling, green living and environmental conservatism. It's a great show with a pair of high energy hosts. Val & Dori are always entertaining, even when they're talking about a subject as boring as Tofu.

Recently, Val & Dori introduced me to a great musician; 'Johnny Rome/John Romano'. I'm not quite sure whether this is two people, or one guy with two names. In either case, the music is acoustic bliss mixed with melodic lyrics for a foot tapping good time. I bought his 'Delicious' CD after hearing him on 'More Hip than Hippie' and the contest I entered was a chance to win a copy of his latest EP; 'Happy Christmas (War is over)'.

I answered a few questions related to the show, emailed my responses to Val & Dori and eagerly awaited my 'Dear John' letter. Imagine my surprise when I read the missive: "Robert - You won a CD!! Yippeeeeeee!!" Hooray I say. I look forward to this musical treat. If I'm lucky, it'll arrive just in time for Christmas.

Nearly Christmas:
Well, it's nearly Christmas, and I'll be back at work tomorrow. Unfortunately, I've got to work the whole weekend. Fortunately, the paycheck for that period will cover two holidays, and I'll collect plenty of overtime for working shift work on the holidays. The tree is up, there's a bunch of presents under it, and Kim and I have finished sending cards, gifts and holiday greetings. On Monday, we'll spend the day together. It's been a very good year for us, and the new house qualifies as our biggest Christmas present ever! Both of us would like to wish you a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. If you'd like to see this years Christmas card, you can check it out online. I posted a pdf version online, but I'll probably take it down early next year because it's really big.

 
 

December 16, 2005

D&D update:
I didn't think we'd make Saturday (the 3rd of Dec) a game night, but we did. With only four players, the group voted to 'Game-On'. With most of the players running two or more characters, it was a bit difficult to manage but they did their best. At the conclusion of the meeting, Stacy promised a journal entry from Grenco's point of view. It's the first time we've heard from Grenco (In the journals), and I'm glad to say that it's a refreshing change. Stacy did a good job with the journal entry, and I for one appreciate the hard work of Stacy, Mark and others who help make our campaign pages so enjoyable.

In addition to the latest journal entry, I also updated the monsters listing; adding one new monster (Rage Drake), and updating the entry for another (Harpy).

Genealogy:
Today I updated my Vaessen family information. Thanks to some considerable assistance from some Dutch Vaessen's, I've been able to trace my family history back to 1526 (With a partial history back to 1125). If you're interested in the history of the Vaessen name, check out my Vaessen family genealogy pages. The information was compiled and posted using 'MacFamilyTree' software. The software is capable of importing or exporting genealogy data in various different formats, including GEDCOM standard .ged files.

If you are a member of the Vaessen family, or you're interested in the Vaessen family history, I welcome any corrections, additions or elaborations. Please feel free to write me with any relevant information. robert vaessen name

 
 

December 13, 2005

D&D update:
I didn't think we'd make Saturday (the 3rd of Dec) a game night, but we did. With only four players, the group voted to 'Game-On'. With most of the players running two or more characters, it was a bit difficult to manage but they did their best. As a result of that meeting, some questions surrounding damage to magic items arose. As a result of those questions, the house rules regarding critical damage to armor have changed. Here are the revised rules:

ARMOR DETERIORATION DUE TO CRITICAL HITS:
Any time a character suffers a critical hit, there is a chance that the defenders armor may be damaged to such an extent that it's protective rating will be lessened by one or more points. Armor is permitted a saving throw vs DC 10, +1 per point over the amount needed to achieve the critical hit. For example; If Abramo the evil priest of the Dark Naga scores a critical hit on Thalidimar, Thalidimar must make a saving throw or have his armors protective rating reduced. Abramo scored a 24 on his critical hit (on the follow-up critical hit check, not the original ‘to hit’ roll/threat roll), which was 4 more than he needed. As a result of the critical, Thalidimar must make a save for his armor vs a DC of 14.

Armor receives a bonus to its save equal to its protective value. A suit of padded armor, with a protective value of +1, gains a +1 to its saving throw. A suit of full plate gains a +8 to its save throw (It has a +8 protective/AC value). Magical armors gain +1 for being magical, and +1 for each enchantment/bonus of the armor (not just protective bonuses count. A suit of +1 non-encumbering half-plate would gain a +3 to its save (+1 for being magical, +1 for the non-encumbering enchantment, and a +1 for the protective bonus) If there are any questions as to whether or not a non-protective enchantment counts towards a saving throw bonus, the DM makes the final call. Masterwork armors gain a +1 to their svs critical hits. Any armor can be completely destroyed in this manner. Any time magical armor is damaged in this way (Failing it's saving throw) it's enchantment may be eliminated. It may become mundane armor of it's type. A suit of armor can be reduced in protective value only so long as it has protective value left. A roll of 1 is an automatic failure on the armor saving throw.

Any time magical armor has been damaged a number of times equal to it’s protective rating, it is considered destroyed, with no further magical properties. Magical armor can have it’s magical protective value/bonus(es) repaired (provided it hasn’t been destroyed) by a qualified armorer. The cost to restore a magical protective bonus to damaged magical armor is equal to the base price listed in the DMG, pg 216. Table 7-2. (For example, restoring +1 armor to it’s original protective rating of +3 would cost 4,000gp (the cost listed for +2 armor)).

Damaged mundane armor may be repaired in order to restore it to it's original protective potential. Sometimes it's best just to replace the armor. Depending on the amount of damage sustained. To repair the armor requires a skilled armorer who will charge twice the original cost of the armor as divided by the number of protections it provides.

For example: If half-plate costs 600 gp, and provides 7 levels of protection (AC +7). Half-plate can take 7 critical hits before it is totally useless as armor. (Personally I'd ditch it way before this. It's only serving as an anchor after a certain point.) Back to our example. 600 / 7 = 85.71 multiplied by 2 = 171.42 (A kind armorer will round down) or 171 gold pieces to repair one protective rating to this armor. Magical armor on the other hand will cost four times the original cost of the armor. And the magical enchantment cannot be restored by an armorer, It will need a skilled mage's attentions.

(Any armor that is reduced to no protective rating through the effects of critical hits cannot be repaired. Start over.)

At the last D&D meeting, Stacy promised a journal entry from Grenco, and Sean promised a list of monsters encountered. I'll post some updates as soon as I get the promised input. I'm sure looking forward to Grenco's tale of the party's perilous journey.

Music:
Recently I added more new music to my collection. Echo & the Bunnymen - Echo & the Bunnymen (Self titled, but not their first). I own this music on cassette, and I've wanted a digital copy for some time now. It's taken me a while, but I've recently started acquiring digital copies of the music I purchased back in the 80's. Echo & the Bunnymen is my favorite band. It's another band from the eighties, but hey, they're still around, and still making music. Siberia, with all new tracks, was released this year.

<sidenote>I'm only downloading music that I already own (store bought cassette or album), so that I can have a backup copy and enjoy the music on any of my media devices. I'm not downloading stuff that I don't already have a license for. Please keep in mind that my collection isn't for sale, and I'm not interested in giving you any copyrighted materials. I'd rather not go to jail for music piracy. :-)</sidenote>

Software favorites:
Another GraphicConverter update. Another step towards perfection. Another product that's always getting better.

One of my favorite programs just underwent another full release upgrade. GraphicConverter recently moved up to version 5.7.4b0. GraphicConverter is an image converter and editor. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, and I'm not sure I would do without it. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box. At a fraction of PhotoShop's cost, this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox.
<http://www.lemkesoft.de/en/graphcon.htm>

Our House:
Recently, a contractors came by to work on one of the outstanding warranty items at our house. They poured the concrete for a new slab outside the service door to our garage. Of course I had to scratch our initials and the year in the wet concrete. R + K '05 What fun! That leaves just three items on our list of warranty work. Hopefully everything will be fixed by early next year.

Completely blank email:
Recently I added a new page to my web site. It's a somewhat technical article about completely blank emails that I've been receiving. While the article is rather technical in nature, and I often referred to protocols and formatting rules, I failed to include references to the source documents for this technical material. Today I added links to the formal rules regarding the subjects I discussed in the article. Hopefully, these links will help anyone doing additional research on completely blank email messages.

 
 

December 8, 2005

Happy Birthday!
To my sister Alice. My younger sister celebrated a birthday today. She'll always be my younger sister, and I'll always love her. Happy Birthday Alice, I wish I could be home to help you celebrate, and I hope you have a good time on Saturday.

A day downtown:
On Sunday (the 4th of Dec), Kim and I spent most of the day out of the house. We went Christmas shopping, ate lunch downtown, came home for a little nap, then went out for some live music. Here's a couple of hilites.

Eating out in Denver:
Kim and I found ourselves in the Denver Tech Center with a pair of complaining tummies, so we sought out a spot to gobble down some yummies. P.F. Chang's China Bistro is a chain, but it's a bit more upscale than your typical Burger King. The food hinted at an Asian influence, but it didn't really convince me. The menu was, well let's just say it wouldn't disappoint your typical American. I chose a Spicy salt & pepper prawns dish. Unfortunately, I know the difference between prawns and shrimp. Apparently they didn't think I'd notice. It was o.k. Kim had a Mango Chicken dish, which the waiter warned wasn't all that good. She was right. The best part of the meal were the Vegetarian lettuce wrap appetizers. Wok-seared tofu, red onions and water chestnuts with mint and lime. Served with cool lettuce cups. They were really good! The tofu was exceptionally firm, with a consistency like real meat! If nothing else, it's made us look at tofu with a less skeptical eye.

Live music!
In the evening, we went out to the 'Iliff Park Saloon'. The web site should help you visualize the dive that this place was. Well, I didn't go for the atmosphere. I went for the music. A bunch of my co-workers are part of a band. Article 15 is a Rock band in the classic sense - Hard hitting guitar chords, a pulse pounding snare set, throbbing base and diesel powered vocals drive this turbo charged stage performance. Sunday was their first gig! and they sounded great. I've heard a few first timers, and they sounded more polished the vast majority. You can tell that they're really working at it. Aaron's got a great voice (according to Kim), and the rest of the band pulls their own. The lyrics on the original songs were great. Given half a chance their band should do really well in the upcoming 'Battle of the Bands'. Good luck guys.

D&D update:
I didn't think we'd make Saturday (the 3rd of Dec) a game night, but we did. With only four players, the group voted to 'Game-On'. With most of the players running two or more characters, it was a bit difficult to manage but they did their best. There were a good share of encounters, but the meeting was primarily a journey. Traveling from the Steppes back to Willip turned out to be pretty dangerous. I've been notching up the monsters, and the party has been pulling out the stops to get past the obstacles. At the end of this meeting the party is just outside Willip with a decimated crew and a wounded party.

Stacy promised a journal entry from Grenco, and Sean promised a list of monsters encountered. I'll post some updates as soon as I get the promised input. I'm sure looking forward to Grenco's tale of the party's perilous journey.

Damn cold!
Over the last few days, Denver has been blasted by an Arctic front of historic proportions. Perhaps you've been avoiding the news, but our temperatures haven't been this low in centuries. In addition to some snowfall, we've seen the mercury plummet this week. As a matter of fact, Denver managed to set two records this week. The lowest high temperature ever recorded. A whopping 6 degrees, and a new record for the low temperature. It actually got down to 11 below zero yesterday, and that was without the wind chill. It's a good thing our furnace is running fine. These Wisconsin temperatures are not the sort of thing Denver is used to. Any chance this might be related to global warming?

 
 

December 2, 2005

Software favorites:
As a result of a recent security update, one of my favorite applications has been upgraded. In addition to the software update, I also updated the banner at the top of the software favorites page.

Safari: Apple's web browser for OS X, is way ahead of the pack. Apple's browser contains a plethora of incredibly powerful features. I wonder why Microsoft stopped developing IE for Mac? I'm currently using version 2.0.2 (v416.13). This most recent version comes as part of a recent security update for the operating system.

Battle of the browsers. Netscape versus Internet Explorer. Those are your choices right? Wrong! Think different! Think Mac! Choose Safari, the new kid on the block. A fast (The fastest available for Mac) but full featured browser, which performs like a pro. Tabbed browsing, URL snap-back, a powerful but elegant bookmark implementation (with built-in import capability), Google search integration, built-in pop-up blocker, multiple standards (HTML, XML, XHTML, DOM, CSS, RSS, JavaScript, and Java, plus QuickTime, Flash and Shockwave plug-ins), and a host of other features. Just one more reason to Switch! It's won a place as my default browser, give it a chance and it'll soon be yours.

Who's Who:
Who's Who is a web page used in my 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons campaign. It contains information about the player characters and non-player characters in the game. Today I completed an update that I've been putting off for some time. Due to the number of characters listed on the page, the page was getting to be a bit unmanageable. Today I made some changes to the page. I changed the page layout in order to better arrange the information, in order to make it easier to navigate.

Stained Glass side-light:
A few weeks ago, Kim and I had a consultant over to give us a quote on some custom made stained glass. We decided on a leaf/vine motif. A couple days ago someone came out to our house and installed our custom made stained-glass side-light. It looks fantastic, and here's a photo so you can see for yourself. I'm really glad we got it done.

 
 

November 30, 2005

Music:
Recently I added more new music to my collection. Dead Kennedys - Give me convenience or give me death and The Damned - The light at the end of the tunnel. Both of these albums hail from the early days of Punk Rock. Two very different bands featuring some very influential artists. They're bands I really liked back in the 80's, and I've wanted a digital copy for some time now. It's taken me a while, but I've recently started acquiring digital copies of the music I purchased back in the 80's.

<sidenote>I'm only downloading music that I already own (store bought cassette or album), so that I can have a backup copy and enjoy the music on any of my media devices. I'm not downloading stuff that I don't already have a license for. Please keep in mind that my collection isn't for sale, and I'm not interested in giving you any copyrighted materials. I'd rather not go to jail for music piracy. :-)</sidenote>

Stained Glass side-light:
A few weeks ago, Kim and I had a consultant over to give us a quote on some custom made stained glass. We decided on a leaf/vine motif, and today someone came out to our house to install our stained-glass side-light beside the front door. It looks fantastic, I'll post a photo as soon as I get a chance. I'm really glad we got it done. Check back in a few days to see the finished product.

Our House:
Recently, the builder of our home (D.R. Horton), has arranged to have contractors and D.R. Horton personnel come by to work on the house. Here's the things they worked on, and those items that still need to be corrected/worked on.

  • Fixed
    • They glued some stones in place on the retaining wall.
    • The service porch outside the back door of the garage was loose. They pulled out the old porch. The haunch that it was poured on was broken underneath the slab.
    • Someone came and caulked our furnace venting. Condensate was leaking from one of the exhaust pipes.
  • Still needs work
    • Masonry ledge is loose along the bottom of the windows on the back side of the house.
    • The front porch needs to be dug out and repoured. This will happen in spring of '06.
    • They still need to pour a new pad for our service porch outside the garage.
    • The bay window in the guest bedroom needs to be inspected for possible repair

D&D update:
It's been a while since I did a major D&D update. We'd left off with a cliff-hanger of a session on the 8th of October, and we concluded that session on the 5th of November, yes it was a climactic resolution of the previous cliff-hanger episode. However, I didn't have a journal entry that I could post until just recently. So I've posted the journal entry from the meeting on the 5th of November and the meeting on the 19th of November. Like I said, it's been a while. I'm sure you'll be pleased by the progress the party has made in just two sessions. In addition to the journal entries, there have been other updates related to those meetings. Below is a list of all the recent updates.

  • Who's Who?: I added and updated several NPC entries.
    • Updated the entry for Gavarize, an evil warlock who attempted to take the 'Black Sword' from the party.
    • Updated the entry for Ellies, a Gnome who was holed up in the Cube.
    • Updated the entry for Bravic, a cleric of Belotar IV.
    • Updated the entry for Too-Ate, a Samurai that provided the party with a clue.
    • Added a new entry for Sabatoo, juggling jester that the party encountered.
    • Updated the entry for Pleedir, the druid who provided the party with succor during their quest.
    • Created an entry for Whenit, a Celestial Emissary that the party encountered after leaving the Cube of Nth.
    • I updated the entry for Menelmacar, a constellation and a deity!
  • I updated the Journal with two entries from Mark. The 5 November entry is a cliff-hanger conclusion to a very dangerous combat situation. The 19 November entry is a climactic adventure resolution. Be sure to check out both of the entries. Mark really did a good job with the 19 November entry.
  • I added seven new entries to the monsters page.
  • I updated the next gaming session on the 3E campaign page. I sure hope everyone can make it to the next session.

When's the next session? Glad you asked. Two of our players won't be able to make a session on the 3rd of December, but we're still planning to play. Hopefully everyone else can make it. If you can't make it I'd appreciate an email or phone call. If we don't play D&D we can still play some 'Other Games' this Saturday. Unfortunately, the folks missing this Saturday's meeting won't get any of Kim's fantastically spicy oriental chicken wings!

The latest journal entries by Mark are really good reading. If you haven't read them in a while, I'd recommend them to anyone who'd like to catch up. They contain a lot of great information, and sometimes they even contain "Clues".

 
 

November 28, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving:
Kim and I had a good Thanksgiving, and if you're an American or Canadian, we hope you had a good Thanksgiving too. Kim prepared a scrumptious Capon (Male Chicken that's been castrated. They get lazy, fat, big and juicy!) plus a smorgasbord of other goodies. It'll take some time to finish all the food, but we sure had a good day (despite the rant below).

I'm a person, not an asset!
A recent altercation at work has left me with a very bad taste in my mouth. A vile bitter bile like taste. One of the military members I work for (No Names here) is making my life a living hell. To sum up his philosophy, this quote might help you understand what I'm forced to live with on a day to day basis. "I don't give a F*ck about your feelings, I don't care about anyone's 'feelings'. The only thing I care about is getting the mission done!" According to this 'person', he treats me like one of the assets at his disposal. Well, I've got a newsflash for him, and anyone who thinks like him (You'd be surprised how many military members think like him).

People are not 'assets'. People are people, they've got feelings, goals, aspirations and desires. You can't treat them like shit and expect results. You can't lead 'assets', and as long as you treat people like 'assets' they're going to resent you. This person hasn't learned this in over 20 years in the military, and he's going to have a rough time fitting in after he retires. I know because I used to be a lot like him when I was in the military - Thankfully, a few individuals helped me figure out what I was doing wrong, and they showed me how to lead people without resorting to an 'I order you' mentality.

Transitioning from military to civilian life hasn't been easy for me, but I'm starting to learn some terrible truths. I have to give up 'caring' about the mission. Every time I try to improve things, fix things or correct discrepancies, I get stomped on by some thick headed military person, or ignored. Someone who doesn't want anyone pointing out his/her/their mistakes or shortcomings. Maybe things will get better if I stop caring. That's what I'm working on now. Trying to move my way of thinking into an "I don't really care" frame of reference.

Oh, and don't kid yourself about advocacy or the Inspector General's office. There's literally no outlet or way for a civilian to resolve these types of 'problems'. No one almost ever believes the civilian, and when they do the reprisals are swift, merciless and downright despicable. Now I know why people go 'Ballistic'.

Movies:
Today I updated my 'Movies' page. I gave it the same sort 'theme' as my reviews page. In addition to these cosmetic changes, I've also updated my reviews page and the movies listing. Let me know what you think about the new look of these pages.

Hallowese:
Today I added another mp3 file to my web site. Due to some recent interest in my artificial language, I've added an mp3 file to the web site. It's the pronunciation of my name in Hallowese. So, if you've been wondering what Hallowese sounds like, now you've got a recording of me speaking my name in Hallowese. Hallowese is an artificial language that I created back in 1983. I created it to add verisimilitude to a theatrical performance at a local (De Pere, Wisconsin) haunted house. In addition to adding the audio link, I recently updated the web page to include some additional technical information and details regarding the use of a numeral set with the language.

 
 

November 23, 2005

Software favorites
One of my software favorites was recently upgraded.

BBEdit
The world's greatest HTML editor moved up to version 8.2.4 recently. This incredibly powerful application is a high-performance HTML and text editor for the Macintosh. It is designed and crafted for the editing, searching, transformation, and manipulation of text. BBEdit provides a vast array of general-purpose features which are useful for a wide variety of tasks, and includes many special purpose features which have been specifically developed in response to the needs of Web authors and software developers. It's an absolute must for any Mac enthusiast. Window's users eat your heart out! (for now).
http://www.barebones.com/products/bbedit/index.shtml

Music:
Recently I added more new music to my collection. Oingo Boingo - Nothing to Fear (My favorite of their albums), Adam Ant - Friend or Foe (Another old favorite), and The Dream Syndicate - The medicine show. Yes I know, I already added that one. Well, I wasn't happy with the quality of the cuts, and I was missing one track, so I remastered my digital versions by burning an old cassette to a CD-RW, and added that new transfer to my iTunes collection. All three of these albums are from the 80's ('82 & '84). They're bands I really liked back in the 80's, and I've wanted a digital copy for some time now. It's taken me a while, but I've recently started acquiring digital copies of the music I purchased back in the 80's. In addition to these downloads, I also transfered a couple of free demo cuts (singles) to my collection from various sources. If you look for free music, you'll find it!

In order to feed my growing need to download music, I recently downloaded a copy of a program called 'FrostWire'. It's a Gnutella network peer-to-peer file sharing application, similar to LimeWire. So far it seems to be working fairly well. Combined with transfers to CD using my stero component CD burner, I've found a couple of new ways to expand my digital music collection.

<sidenote>I'm only downloading music that I already own (store bought cassette or album), so that I can have a backup copy and enjoy the music on any of my media devices. I'm not downloading stuff that I don't already have a license for.</sidenote>

Please keep in mind that my collection isn't for sale, and I'm not interested in giving you any copyrighted materials. I'd rather not go to jail for music piracy. :-)

Deja-Vu:
With some recent interest in my article on Deja-Vu, I decided to update the page a little. It's now set in a table similar to many of the other pages. It's also interesting to note that I recently read an article about selective memory. The article claimed that the medical community had in fact isolated a drug that can be used to erase specific memories. Unfortunately, the author of the article did not give a reference to an actual source. He simply claimed that he read it in the newspaper. If it is true, and you're familiar with an actual reference, please forward the information to me.

 
 

November 20, 2005

D&D
We played D&D last night. We had a very productive session. The players actually achieved their goal for the adventure. They found and recovered the sword of Nth. A powerful artifact that they quested for inside a four dimensional room. It'll be some time before the journal entries (from this session and the one from two weeks ago) get posted, but they should make good reading. I know you've been waiting for the resolution of the clifhanger I posted back on the 8th of October. Hopefully, the journal entries will be posted before our next session on the 3rd of December.

Music:
Recently I added more new music to my collection. Minutemen - Double nickels on the dime, Hüsker Dü - New day rising, and The Dream Syndicate - The medicine show. All three of these albums are from the 80's ('84 & '85). They're bands I really liked back in the 80's, and I haven't been able to find copies of this stuff at the iTunes music store. In order to feed my growing need to download music, I recently downloaded a copy of a program called 'FrostWire'. It's a Gnutella network peer-to-peer file sharing application, similar to LimeWire. So far it seems to be working fairly well.

<sidenote>I'm only downloading music that I already own (store bought cassette or album), so that I can have a backup copy and enjoy the music on any of my media devices. I'm not downloading stuff that I don't already have a license for.</sidenote>

Please keep in mind that my collection isn't for sale, and I'm not interested in giving you any copyrighted materials. I'd rather not go to jail for music piracy. :-)

Rob's World!
Perhaps you haven't heard. Perhaps you didn't notice, but I recently completed some major changes to the front page of my web site. You might not even recognize it. The banner is slightly changed. It's a little bit bigger and the copyright disclaimer has been moved from graphic to text. The page is now composed primarily of tables with new colors and backgrounds. The old teal and brick motif is gone. Today I did some more adjusting. I had to changes some colors, and I tweaked the banner a bit. It now points out the presence of this "What's New?" journal with more authority. I hope you like the new look. Please feel free to provide any feedback. Good, bad, indifferent..

 
 

November 18, 2005

More Snow!
Yesterday we got more snow. We received appx one inch out here near the Aurora reservoir, at the base it just rained. I haven't had to use the snowblower yet, but I did shovel the driveway this morning. It certainly hasn't been as warm as the forecasts said it would be. We've barely been in the 50's, and it doesn't look like it's going to get any warmer for quite some time.

Music:
Recently I added some new music to my collection. I downloaded two albums and some miscellaneous tracks (Revive, Loser Friendly & Miscellaneous tracks) from the Steadman web site. A band which I've heard in the past. I like the music, and I couldn't pass up their offer. Download all their songs - For Free! See the website for more info: <http://www.steadmanband.com>. In addition to the Steadman music, I also downloaded some files from newsgroups (before I exceeed my newsgroups download limit!). I downloaded a copy of 'Urgh! A Music War'. It's the soundtrack to a documentary made in 1981. The documentary featured live performances of bands like: 'The Police (First ever live performance), Oingo Boingo, Devo, X, Gary Numan' and many more. These bands formed the core of a 'New Wave' sweeping the music scene in America. A movement that has fueled countless bands, entire genre's and an entire generation of artistic expression.

In order to feed my growing need to download music. <sidenote>I'm only downloading music that I already own (store bought cassette or album), so that I can have a backup copy and enjoy the music on any of my media devices. I'm not downloading stuff that I don't already have a license for.</sidenote> I downloaded a copy of a program called 'FrostWire'. It's a Gnutella network peer-to-peer file sharing application. It's similar to LimeWire. So far it seems to be working fairly well.

Please keep in mind that my collection isn't for sale, and I'm not interested in giving you any copyrighted materials. I'd rather not go to jail for music piracy. :-)

Rob's World!
Holly smokes! Talk about a change, I just completed some major changes to the front page of my web site. You might not even recognize it. The banner is slightly changed. It's a little bit bigger and the copyright disclaimer has been moved from graphic to text. The page is now composed primarily of tables with new colors and backgrounds. The old teal and brick motif is gone. I hope you like the new look. Please feel free to provide any feedback. Good, bad, indifferent..

D&D
We played D&D on the 5th of November, and unfortunately I have some bad news. I won't be able to post any journal entries until after our next meeting (that's tomorrow night). The next journal updates won't come until sometime before the 3rd of December. The good news? The party resolved their dilema without anyone dying, they gathered a new clue and figured out an old clue. I think they're very close to the end of the adventure at this point.

 
 

November 15, 2005

Snow!
Perhaps winter is finally here? Last night it started raining around 1800, and it switched over to sleet and freezing rain by the time I went to bed. Now it's morning, and there's a nice white blanket covering everything; including the ice that's covering all the paved surfaces! The landscape out my back window looks like a sugar cookie with a powdered sugar coating. Thankfully, it's not so much that I'll have to break out the snowblower. The temperature is only 10º Fahrenheit right now, and it's not expected to get above freezing until tomorrow. Then it's back into the 40's climbing through the week until it reaches 60º by Sunday.

UPS sucks!
UPS has a policy which has caused me (and several of their customers) a great deal of pain. They re-use their shipment tracking numbers. So when you go to check on a shipment, don't be surprised to find that your package has been delivered - To someone else, last year, in a different part of the state!? Confused? Yeah, so was I. You would think that a company as big as UPS could afford unique numbers. Umm, last time I checked, we had an infinite supply of those. Re-using the shipping numbers only causes confusion and consternation. I've actually missed a shipment because of this policy. The shipper and I were completely befuddled by the UPS policy, and a package did end up going to a third address. Not my address, not the one they listed in their 'tracking history', but one of my old addresses. It's a long story, and I'm still upset with UPS. If it were up to me, I'd never use UPS to ship my products. I'm currently waiting on a UPS shipment. Wondering whether the product has already been delivered to someone other than me. Their tracking history is useless to me because it's listing someone else's product under my number. Stupid!

Music:
Recently I added some new music to my collection. I converted an old cassette (Kraut - Whetting the Scythe) into a CD (I have a stereo component CD burner), and added it to my iTunes collection. Kraut is a speed metal/thrash punk band from the 80's. If you like it fast, you'd like Kraut. I also purchased an album through the iTunes Music Store (Jack Johnson - In Between Dreams (iTunes Version)) for $9.99 ($10.87 after taxes!). The iTunes version includes a demo version of one of the songs (Constellations) and a digital booklet (in pdf format), which contains the song lyrics.

In addition to these latest additions, I also updated my online music listing. A mismatch between naming conventions (The English Beat vs English Beat, The) was causing my database to not pick up and list iTunes tracks. I'm still waiting for 'The Minutemen' and 'Husker Du' to show up in the iTunes music store. My cassette copies aren't in the best of shape, and I haven't found a decent download alternative yet.

Please keep in mind that my collection isn't for sale, and I'm not interested in giving you any copyrighted materials. I'd rather not go to jail for music piracy. :-)

Our House:
Am I becoming a Handy-Man? Today I fixed the garbage disposal (again), and the dishwasher. Things I never had to do before. I'm feeling kind of domestic. Kim's first instinct was to call in the experts, but I said "Whoa Nelly! I'm not calling in a plumber for a plugged up garbage disposal!". The dishwasher had a broken plastic component, which I fixed with super-glue. It may not last long, but we've still got some time left on our one year full warranty. So, if it breaks again we'll make use of the warranty.

Movies:
I added another movie to my collection today. With a friend like Harry arrived in the mail today. It's a French psycho-drama thriller. I haven't seen it in a while but you can read the review from my last viewing on my movies page.

Software favorites:
Another GraphicConverter update. Another step towards perfection. Another product that's always getting better.

One of my favorite programs just underwent another full release upgrade. GraphicConverter moved up to version 5.7.3. GraphicConverter is an image converter and editor. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, and I'm not sure I would do without it. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box. At a fraction of PhotoShop's cost, this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox.
http://www.lemkesoft.de/en/graphcon.htm

 
 

November 14, 2005

The Wheel:
Recently, a friend of mine from my time in Misawa, Japan wrote me. He wrote about my "Wheel" article. As a result of that correspondence, I've decided to update my 'Origins of the Wheel' web page. If you haven't read the article, you may be interested to know, that my theory of the wheels initial invention, involves the natural occurrence of a fully formed wheel!

The Front Door:
Today I updated the 'Front Door' of the web site. It's been quite some time since I changed the look of the web site's main page. Today I made a few layout changes to the Index.html. I moved some items to a side bar. This is an interim change. I'm planning to eventually change the 'Front Door' so that it more closely mirrors the look of the other pages at my web site. Watch for more changes in the future. I also added a link to my anti-spam pages in the 'Front Page' listing. The link leads to Index2, from there a visitor can select any one of the seven anti-spam articles.

More Index changes:
Recently, I made some changes and updates to two index pages. Along with those changes, I forgot to update the 'Index Page'. It's a single page from which visitors can select one of the two index pages. I gave it the same look as the other two index pages.

Kudos for Amazon:
A while back (07 Oct, 2005), I criticized Amazon for out-sourcing the majority of it's order fulfillment. Today I'm giving them Kudos. As it so happens, I ordered some movies from Amazon. They immediately turned around and out-sourced the order fulfillment. to some less-than trustworthy vendors. Well, one of those vendors shirked their duty. I ordered a movie, and the only thing they ever managed to deliver was a charge to my credit card. After a protracted wait (One month exactly), and some email exchange with the vendor and Amazon, Amazon has refunded the money that the vendor charged to my credit card. So, even though I encountered a crappy vendor through Amazon's out-sourcing policy, Amazon made the experience less painful than it could have been by guaranteeing my refund when the vendor failed to deliver.

Movies:
I added two movies to my collection today. Two DVDs arrived in the mail. La Femme Nikita. A lightning fast thriller with a female lead so strong she can't be ignored. The Conversation. A murder mystery drama starring Gene Hackman.

D&D
We played D&D on the 5th of November, and I updated the campaign page today. It was a particularly productive session. The party resolved their dilema without anyone dying, they gathered a new clue and figured out an old clue. I think they're very close to the end of the adventure at this point. Our next session will be held on the 19th of November. Hopefully, I can get more updates posted before then.

 
 

November 10, 2005

Our House:
Yesterday was a warranty repair day. The builder of our home (D.R. Horton), arranged to have contractors and D.R. Horton personnel come by to work on the house. Here's the things they worked on, and those items that still need to be corrected/worked on.

  • Fixed
    • Sticking and warped doors and cabinets.
      • Master bedroom door.
      • Guest bedroom door.
      • Door to the computer room.
      • Stripped screws on the door to the pantry.
      • Sticking door to a linen closet.
      • Warped frame around the door to the utility room in the basement.
    • The vinyl trim around our sliding glass door, and the trim around a master bedroom window.
    • Caulking around windows (inside and out), grout in the guest bathroom shower/bath enclosure.
    • Loose spacing blocks in ceiling of garage were removed.
    • Broken shutters on the back side of the house were replaced and painted.
  • Still needs work
    • Retaining wall with loose stones.
    • Masonry ledge is loose along the bottom of the windows on the back side of the house.
    • The front porch needs to be dug out and repoured. This will happen in spring of '06.
    • The service porch outside the back door of the garage is loose, it needs to be secured.
    • There are two stones loose on the retaining wall near the back of the house.
    • Someone needs to inspect the furnace venting. Water is dripping from the roof exhaust pipes?
    • The bay window in the guest bedroom needs to be inspected for possible repair

Completely blank email:
Huh? What's that? It's a new page. What am I talking about?

I'm talking about "Completely blank email". Well, not precisely; technically, a completely blank email would contain absolutely no data whatsoever. No header, no subject, no body. If that were the case, we couldn't really classify it as an email message, could we? I'm talking about email messages that don't contain message addressing, that lack a subject, and have no content in the body. A "Completely blank email".

These perplexing pieces of eMail may be a sign of trouble to come. Trouble spelled with a capital "S", as in Spam. Yes I'm talking about that scourge of the iGeneration, that plague of the information hiway, that menace of the world wide web.

To address this issue, I've created a new web page. I know I'm not the only one receiving these blank, innocuous and apparently harmless messages. I've done quite a bit of research regarding this plague. Unfortunately, there's not a lot of information out there. It's not all in one place. And I couldn't find an adequate single source web page that addresses the issue - So, I created my own. I hope you enjoy it.

Index pages:
There are three index pages at "Rob's World!". There's the 'Front Door'. It's the main page of the web site. It's the primary index. You've probably seen it before. If you haven't you need to set "Rob's World!" as your browsers default starting page. Then there are two index pages that you can use to help you find your way around the web site. Index1 covers all my D&D and gaming related activities. Index2 will help you find all the other stuff at "Rob's World!" I'm only mentioning the index pages because I recently updated them. Sure I added the new 'Completely blank email' page to Index2, but I also added other stuff to Index1, tweaked the code on both pages, and added some more D&D stuff to Index1. If you're still having trouble locating that article about the Tanuki, you can always use the search engine. You shouldn't have any problem finding anything at "Rob's World!" by using the search engine.

Software favorites
Another GraphicConverter update. Another step towards perfection. Another product that's always getting better.

One of my favorite programs just underwent another upgrade. GraphicConverter moved up to version 5.7.3b0. GraphicConverter is an image converter and editor. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, and I'm not sure I would do without it. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box. At a fraction of PhotoShop's cost, this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox.
http://www.lemkesoft.de/en/graphcon.htm

 
 

November 9, 2005

Is this a blog?
I've often found myself asking myself that question. Currently, I'm having a conversation with a hypothetical audience regarding a conversation I had with myself. Wow! That's strange. Anyway, on with the conversation. So, I often ask myself, "Self; Is my What's New? column actually a 'blog'? Sure it's a blog. It's what a blog is all about." My What's New? column has been around longer than 'Blogs', and It pretty much embodies the primary purpose of a blog. A journal of my thoughts and experiences.

I've been trying to revamp the look of my 'blog' for quite some time now. Back in 1996 (the beginning) it was quite rustic, and covered just the HTML editing aspects of my web site. By 1999, it still looked the same, but I was starting to use it to journal some of the things going on in my life. By the time 2003 rolled around, I had reworked the look and layout, and it was now a weekly journal. It had grown considerably in size, but I was still trying to find a more polished look. Today's column features a slightly revised look, but it's essentially the same journal.

I guess I should get to the point. I've been trying out different web log applications for the past five years, but haven't found anything that works as easily or elegantly as my plain-old HTML formatted journal. So, I've decided to stop pestering my ISP with php, sql, and cgi demands. There isn't anything special about my daily (or weekly) journal. It's just a collection of my thoughts, work, and musings. I don't need people voting on my articles, posting their comments, or sharing photos on the "What's New?" web page. I'm content with the way I've been posting these entries, and I think I'm going to stop looking for the 'Holy Grail' of web log applications. There is no single application (that doesn't require extensive script configuration, software re-compiling, or intricate web server tweaking), that allows me to do more than I'm doing now. My HTML editor seems to be working fine, and people are reading the column - Well, I'm pretty sure they're reading it. So, enough is enough.

Primarily, this web page is for me. It's a way to express myself. It's an introspective examination of my thoughts, desires, and passions. I decided to share the column with the world a long time ago. I hope you're enjoying the column, and I appreciate all the feedback that I do get. What's New? I thought you'd never ask!

Our House:
Today is a warranty repair day. The builder of our home (D.R. Horton), has arranged to have contractors and D.R. Horton personnel come by to work on the house today. They're supposed to show up today to work on various things around the house. No one's showed up yet, but I'll keep you posted on the progress. Here's some of the things that they're supposed to work on:

  • Sticking and warped doors and cabinets.
  • Retaining wall with loose stones.
  • Vinyl trim around sliding glass door and windows.
  • Caulking around windows, grout in bathroom.
  • Spacing blocks in ceiling of garage are falling down.
  • Replace broken shutters on back side of house.

Music:
Recently I've made a few purchases, additions, and conversions to update my music collection. Here's a list of some of the music I recently acquired. p.s. Some of the links below are iTunes music store links. I'm not sure how they'll behave if you haven't got iTunes installed, but maybe now's a good time to install it. After all, it is free!

These are some of the items I added to my music collection during November (so far). I don't buy everything through the iTunes music store, but I have found it to be very convenient. Since revamping my music collection back in September, I've been slowly adding, revising and updating the collection. If you notice an error, have a comment or a question regarding my music collection, please don't hesitate to send me an email. robert robsworld org

Please keep in mind that my collection isn't for sale, and I'm not interested in giving you any copyrighted materials. I'd rather not go to jail for music piracy. :-)

Think Tank:
It's been a while since I updated or changed much at the Think Tank page. Well, today I added another person to the list of prestigious members. Terry Sadler is a friend of ours from my time in the military. Currently Terry is developing a web site and running a business intent on helping retired military find employment. A solid endeavor if ever there was one. Thanks for joining VIFSI Terry. Terry joins our board of knowledgeable and respected members. We stand willing to 'Think' about your problems.

 
 

November 5, 2005

Colorado weather:
It's another day of Colorado weather. 90% of the time it's clear blue skies and moderate temperatures. When winter comes along it's anybody's guess what the weather will bring. Today was one of those days. In the span of five hours, the temperature went from 30 degrees Fahrenheit to 50 degrees, we had snow, rain, ice pellets, more snow and blinding sunshine. The mountains to our west sure do cause some unusual weather conditions.

Software favorites
Another GraphicConverter update. Another step towards perfection. Another product that's always getting better.

One of my favorite programs underwent another upgrade recently. GraphicConverter moved up to version 5.7.2. GraphicConverter is an image converter and editor. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, and I'm not sure I would do without it. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box. At a fraction of PhotoShop's cost, this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox.
http://www.lemkesoft.de/en/graphcon.htm

 
 

October 31, 2005

Music & Movies:
More updates to the Music and Movie collections. I also updated my movie reviews page and the primary movies page. The Movie collection now features a header/banner graphic like the one I created for my music listing.

Mac OS 10.4.3
Today I updated my operating system. A minor update as far as Operating Systems go, but this upgrade brings some application updates, security patches and bug fixes that have been bothering a small number of users. The upgrade went painlessly, and it only took about an hour to get everything installed, rebooted and back in business with my icon preferences reset using CandyBar.

As a result of my OS update, the following pages have been updated. myfavs.html, feedback.html, mycomputer.html.

Software favorites
Another GraphicConverter update. Another step towards perfection. Another product that's always getting better.

One of my favorite programs underwent another upgrade recently. GraphicConverter moved up to version 5.7.2b2. GraphicConverter is an image converter and editor. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, and I'm not sure I would do without it. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box. At a fraction of PhotoShop's cost, this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox.
http://www.lemkesoft.de/en/graphcon.htm

Safari: Apple's web browser for OS X, is way ahead of the pack. Apple's browser contains a plethora of incredibly powerful features. I wonder why Microsoft stopped developing IE for Mac? I'm currently using version 2.0.2(416.12). This most recent version comes as part of a recent OS update. Safari is now fully compliant with the Acid 2 web standards test. By the way, it's the only browser that complies with the standard!

Battle of the browsers. Netscape versus Internet Explorer. Those are your choices right? Wrong! Think different! Think Mac! Choose Safari, the new kid on the block. A fast (The fastest available for Mac) but full featured browser, which performs like a pro. Tabbed browsing, URL snap-back, a powerful but elegant bookmark implementation (with built-in import capability), Google search integration, built-in pop-up blocker, multiple standards (HTML, XML, XHTML, DOM, CSS, RSS, JavaScript, and Java, plus QuickTime, Flash and Shockwave plug-ins), and a host of other features. Just one more reason to Switch! It's won a place as my default browser, give it a chance and it'll soon be yours.

Disclaimer:
I updated my legal disclaimer today. Just some subtle changes to the wording. Primarily a cosmetic change. Just revamping the look of the page a little.

 
 

October 30, 2005

Mom's visit:
Mom's visit came to an end yesterday. Kim and I took her to the airport this morning and she made it back to Pound safe and sound by 1700. Mom visited us from the 22nd through the 28th (departing yesterday morning). The visit came as a complete surprise to me, and Kim is the master of conspiracies - keeping the whole thing under wraps until I woke up from a nap to find my mom sitting in the living room. What a great visit! We went out to eat, played dominos, reminisced, and had an enjoyable week together. I was glad that mom got to see the new house, and I hope that we can go back to Wisconsin sometime next year in order to visit more friends and family.

I'm still on vacation for the next couple of days. I go back to work on the 2nd of November. Hopefully, I'll have time to put out the newsletter in a timely manner. The vacation has been great, but I'm starting to miss work... O.k. I take it back. Vacation rules! If only I had more vacation hours! :-)

Music:
Recently I've made a few purchases, additions, and conversions to update my music collection. Here's a list of some of the music I recently acquired.

  • John Romano & Johnny Rome - Delicious: Purchased through iTunes music store.
  • Michael Tolcher - I Am: Purchased through iTunes music store.
  • Gang of four - Entertainment! (remastered): Purchased through iTunes music store.
  • Bad Manners - Lunee Tunes!: Cassette converted into CD.
  • Nervus Rex - Nervus Rex: Cassette converted into CD.
  • Rufus Wainwright - Posses: Purchased through iTunes music store.
  • The Distillery - Hybrid & Hyper: Primarily instrumental. I discovered this band through my Mac Addict disc, and downloaded the albums for free from their web site.
  • Echo & the Bunnymen - Siberia: The new album from my favorite band. I purchased this music from the iTunes music store.

These are some of the items I added to my music collection during October. There were a few other singles and a couple EPs, but these were the albums I don't buy everything through the iTunes music store, but I have found it to be very convenient. Since revamping my music collection back in September, I've been slowly adding, revising and updating the collection. If you notice an error, have a comment or a question regarding my music collection, please don't hesitate to send me an email. robert robsworld org

Please keep in mind that my collection isn't for sale, and I'm not interested in giving you any copyrighted materials. I'd rather not go to jail for music piracy. :-)

Comcast Internet:
Comcast customer service sucks pretty badly, but I really like the quality of the service provided. Today they upgraded the download speed of customers with both Internet and Cable t.v. service. Download speeds have increased by up to 2Mbps. That's a pretty good juice-up. Considering the fact that download speeds were 3.3Mbps, the boost is very hefty. I measured download speeds at two different times of the day, and found my download speed to be appx 2Mbps faster than before. Thank you Comcast. Cable is definitely the way to go if you want Fast download speeds. If you're still wallowing in DSL or waiting on dial-up, it's time to move up to cable.

Typical download speeds: Cable - 1.5Mbps (until now!), Dedicated T1 - 1.544Mbps, DSL - 768Kbps, Dial-up - 56Kbps.

 
 

October 28, 2005

Music & Movies:
I've been busy updating my music and movie collections lately. Check out the primary music page, the music collection, the primary movie page, my movie collection and the movie reviews. These pages often receive updates that don't get announced. Recently though, I've been spending some time revamping their look, adding content and tweaking the layout. If you haven't seen them in a while, today would be a good day to check out the updates.

Our House:
Recently, Kim and I made use of a housewarming gift. Something we got from Rob & Ryoko a long time ago. We waited until we had a lawn, and then we waited too long. With my mother visiting I thought it would be a good time to try it out. Rob & Ryoko sent us a copper fire pit. One of those portable fire pits that you can move around your yard. It's a beautiful gift and it worked like a charm; warming our bones as we nursed a couple cold beers. Thanks for the fire pit Rob & Ryoko.

I'm currently working on a video walk through of the house. If things work out right, some of you will receive a copy of the disc by Christmas time. The rest of you might see the movie posted to the website; if I can keep the file size down to a reasonable amount. In either case, Mom's visit will likely generate updates to the photos of our house, and may result in a web page just for her visit. Stay tuned for more updates.

 
 

October 26, 2005

Happy Annibirthday!
Kim and I celebrated our anniversary today. We were married on the 26th of October back in 1985. It's been 20 years and it just keeps getting better. It's hard to believe that we've been married for 20 years! Today is also my birthday - Yes, we got married on my birthday. The stranger thing is that we didn't intentionally plan our wedding for my birthday. It just turned out that way. So it's our anniversary and my birthday - Annibirthday.

Vehicle maintenance:
We brought the Passat in for service yesterday, and we brought the XC90 in today. Maintenance on both vehicles was completed today. The Volvo made it through the check-up with no problems at all. Unfortunately, the Volkswagen didn't fare as well. It had a cracked oil pan. They had to replace the oil pan and a gasket. Then, after we got it home, it had a flat tire! Good thing we have tire hazard insurance through a local tire place. They replaced the valve stem, rotated and balanced the tires at no charge. It sucks when your car breaks down, and Kim and I have lived through quite a few vehicle breakdowns. Now that the Jeep is gone, we haven't had to suffer through the agony of a disabled vehicle for quite some time.

Our House:
With my mother here visiting us, she's been helping us film a video walk through of the house. Kim and I are making a movie of our new house. It's a walk through tour of the house for friends and family who haven't been able to come out here to see it. With Mom's help we've been able to shoot all 15 scenes. I've transferred the digital video onto my computer, and I should be able to start working on the editing in the near future.

I've started the project using iMovie, and I plan to add a slide show, stills, some additional documents a soundtrack, transitions, etc. Once the project is finalized in iMovie, I plan on authoring it to DVD using iDVD. So far it's been pretty easy. The export to my computer and subsequent import to iMovie went very smoothly. No problems so far.

COMCAST is a Spam source:
Unfortunately, it's true - Comcast is the source of numerous spam messages (They currently rank as the #2 source of all Spam at SpamCop.net). Because of their sheer size, their are many Comcast users who have failed to secure their internet connection/computer. As a result, their computer accounts have been hijacked in order to send spam. Comcast has tried to limit the problem, but their efforts haven't met with much success. Why do I care that Comcast is a source of Spam? I use Comcast mail servers to send and receive email. Unfortunately, a huge block of Comcast's DHCP IP blocks was recently added to a black list used by Hotmail & MSN mail servers. Since they think most of Comcast is a source of Spam, my email has a hard time getting through. For a couple of days (18-20 October, 2005), none of the email I sent to Hotmail & MSN customers was being delivered. Comcast made the situation worse by blocking all outbound messages destined for MSN or Hotmail recipients. I struggled for hours trying to figure out what I was doing wrong. By the time I figured out what was going on, the whole community was in an uproar with accusations finger pointing and confusion spreading like wild-fire. Everything seems to be back to normal now, but I doubt that this is the last time something like this will happen. Spammers suck!

Eating out in Denver:
For our anniversary Kim, my Mom and I went out to eat at a new restaurant. Well, new to us. Maggiano's Little Italy is a chain with two restaurants in the Denver area. We went to the Denver South location (In Englewood, CO). The place is huge! Looks like a big castle or Tuscan manor house. We chose the family style dinner/buffet. It's a six course meal scaled to the number of people eating. We chose two different appetizers (Bruschetta and Stuffed Mushrooms), two salads (Chopped Salad with Chicken and Maggiano's Salad), two pastas dishes (Four Cheese Ravioli and Farfalle), two main courses (Whole Roast Chicken and Salmon) and finally, two deserts (Tiramisu and Vanilla bean ice cream). The food was great, the price unbelievable (only $27.50 per person) and it was all you can eat. Of course we couldn't eat everything, but then they surprised us. Whatever we couldn't finish got boxed up to go! What a bargain. We'll have to go back in order to try the other stuff on the menu.

 
 

October 25, 2005

D&D
I updated the campaign page today. I added a photo of the players. I'll do my best to keep the photo up to date as players come and go. I also changed the layout of the page and some of the formatting. Just some minor changes. I also updated the players page. Since Stacy is playing his own character and Kethri, I changed the link to point to his character instead of Kethri.

Our next D&D session will be held on the 5th of November. Based on the cliff-hanger events of our last session, this next meeting should be quite a thrilling session.

 
 

October 24, 2005

Surprise!
Well, we didn't have an 'Other Games' session last night. Instead I got a huge surprise. I woke up from an afternoon nap, and my Mom was sitting in the living room! Kim surprised me by flying my Mom in to town for my birthday! I was completely surprised. What a shock! I had no idea this was coming. Boy did she get me good. Mom will be here for a week, and we're having a great time.

Mom flew in on Saturday afternoon, and we went out to eat that evening. We went to one of my favorite restaurants. Pappadeaux's is a Cajun restaurant. The food is unbelievable. We had boiled shrimp, alligator and some drinks to get things started. Kim ordered the Filet Mignon special, I had the Tuna special - Blackened tuna with some spicy sauces and cajun style dirty rice. Mom ordered a Po-Boy shrimp sandwich (it was huge) with fries. For desert we had a huge piece of sweet potato pecan pie. It was great. Total damage came to $132.04 for the three of us.

On Sunday we watched the Packer game (they lost), watched a movie, played some Dominos (Mom's favorite), and had a fantastic home cooked meal prepared by Kim. So far it's been a pretty good vacation.

Stained Glass side-light:
Kim and I had a consultant over today. We're going to have some stained-glass installed in the side-light by the front door. It'll feature a leaf pattern and privacy glass. It should look fantastic once it's completed. You can be sure that I'll post a photo afterwards.

 
 

October 22, 2005

Hallowese:
With halloween rapidly approaching, it's somewhat apropos that I recently received an email regarding this artificial language. Hallowese is an artificial language that I created back in 1983. I created it to add verisimilitude to a theatrical performance at a local (De Pere, Wisconsin) haunted house. I recently updated the Hallowese web page to include some additional technical information and details regarding the use of a numeral set with the language.

Vacation:
Kim and I will be on vacation from now until the 2nd of November. That's when I have to be back at work. We don't have any specific plans for this vacation. We'll probably go out to eat, see a movie, maybe even go on a little drive. Our Anniversary, and my birthday are coming up on the 26th. We'll probably spend most of our vacation relaxing at home.

 
 

October 18, 2005

D&D update:
We last played D&D on the 8th of October, and it was one doozie of a session. It ended with quite a bang. The party is currently in the middle of a battle with a big nasty monster, but that's not all. Just before we stopped for the night (still in the midst of a battle), one of the characters ended up inadvertently summoning an incredibly powerful evil sword. So now, not only does the party have to deal with the big bad monster that they were fighting, they also have to deal with the character who just summoned the evil sword. Confused? Just a little? Well, let's see if I can clear it up a little. The last time a character (from the party) held this sword, the sword compelled the character to commit suicide. Later the party managed to find out some more information about the sword. Apparently it's some kind of super-evil, super-powerful artifact. It's powerful enough to control just about anyone, and one of the characters just summoned it to his hand!

Here's a list of updates related to the session on the 8th of October.

  • Who's Who?: I added and updated some NPC entries.
    • Created an entry for Gavarize an evil? warlock who is searching for the 'Black Sword'.
    • Added an entry for Ellies a Gnome who's held up in the Cube.
    • Updated the entry for Bravic, a cleric of Belotar IV.
  • I updated the Journal with an entry from Mark. Written from Ashedyn's point of view, this one's quite a cliffhanger!
  • I added two new entries to the monsters page.
    • Added an entry for the Frostman, a humanoid hell-bent on freezing the party.
    • Created a new entry for those pesky Fire beetles.
  • Finally, I updated the next gaming session on the 3E campaign page. I sure hope everyone can make it to the next session.

When's the next session? Glad you asked. Two of our players won't be able to make a session on the 22nd of October, so we're delaying until 5 November. This weeks journal entry contains a link to an mp3 file. It's the pronunciation for "Mhagrehvieskhonn'. Instead of D&D, we're planning to play some 'Other Games' this Saturday.

Another new/old player? We've still got one chair open at the gaming table, and an old player is currently under consideration for the spot. Nicholis played in our campaign just a few months ago, but he had to drop out for personal reasons. The rest of the group is hoping to see Nicholis back at the table again. Who knows, maybe Alcarenque will return to the group.

 
 

October 14, 2005

Yummy restaurant:
Yesterday, Kim and I had appointments with our eye doctor (routine annual exams). Afterwards we ate out at a place called the "Elephant Bar restaurant" in Greenwood Village, CO. The restaurant was recommended to Kim by two different people at work. It's a relatively new restaurant in the Denver area, and we thought we'd give it a try since we were in the area.

The decor was a bit unusual. I'm not sure what kind of theme they were going for, but it was vaguely safari like. The wait staff was courteous and the service was outstanding. The best part of the experience was definitely the food. It was exceptional. We each had a lunch special. Kim had sword fish and I had salmon.

We started with a Soy-ginger calamari appetizer that was fantastic. Normally an appetizer isn't this good. I'm not certain, but I suspect that their calamari was cuttlefish. In either case, it was very tender cuts of meat, cut strips of the body instead of just the tentacles. The meat wasn't cut in rings and the appetizer was complemented by julian cut carrots and zucchini in a ginger soy sauce. It was awesome.

My main dish was a blackened salmon that was grilled to perfection. Typically, restaurants ruin a good cut of salmon by overcooking it. They cook it until it's well done, dry and lifeless. The best salmon is still moist, tender, 'pink', and fleshy when cooked right. It should be warm throughout, not hot, and definitely not dry. The fish was rubbed with a well mixed blend of seasonings and blackened to perfection. The medley vegetable mix (something like succotash) was a great side combined with rice that was a bit dry.

Kim's lemon-herb swordfish was also scrumptious, but the two person crème brûlée was a little to eggy. Overall, it was a great meal and the price was exceptional for the quality ($45.00 for the two of us). We'll definitely go back for seconds. It's hard to believe that this is a chain...

Cable company:
What follows is a typical trip through cable company hell. This could easily happen to you. This is a dramaticized recounting of a late night encounter with a technician on the other end of my cable company's 1-800 number.

  • Cable guy: Hello, my name is Larry your Super Conglomerate Cable Company representative. How may I help you?
  • Typical victim: I don't have any cable tv or internet connection at this time.
  • Cable guy: Well, that certainly seems serious. Let me check to see if there are any reported outages for your area... Well, according to my records, there are no outages in your area. Did you try power cycling your modem?
  • Typical victim: Yes, and that didn't help. It didn't fix my internet connection or my lack of cable reception.
  • Cable guy: When did this outage start?
  • Typical victim: I'm not sure, I started watching a VHS tape about two and a half hours ago, but before that the cable reception was fine. So it probably started some time between then and now.
  • Cable guy: Well, at this point there are two possibilities. You could wait it out and see if it gets better. Or, we could generate a trouble ticket for a service call.
  • Typical victim: Service call? What will that cost me?
  • Cable guy: Well, if the problem is found to be your equipment, or an outage caused by you, then there will be a service charge. If the problem is found to be on our end or something unrelated to your premises, then there's no charge to you.
  • Typical victim: So, if I generated a trouble ticket, how soon would technicians be working on the problem? Would someone be working on it this late at night? It's 2AM now.
  • Cable guy: Well, I can tell you that no one would be out to your premises until at least 8AM, but if the problem is a network or line issue, someone would be working on it as soon as the trouble ticket is generated.
  • Typical victim: So, I'd have to generate a trouble ticket before anyone will do anything?
  • Cable guy: That's right.
  • Typical victim: And doing so, could result in a service charge? But no one will be out to my residence until at least 8AM, but they won't come out to my residence if it's a network or line issue?
  • Cable guy: That's right.
  • Typical victim: Well, you've succeeded in dissuading me from submitting a trouble ticket. I don't have any way of disproving that the trouble is originating with my equipment. Your technicians could simply wait until 8AM, show up at my house, poke around a bit, call the office, have my cable turned back on, and then declare that it was all my fault. So, then I'd be stuck with a service bill because I dared to submit a trouble ticket, which forced your technicians to lift a finger and press a button at 2AM. I think I'll just wait it out. You can stick someone else with the bill for fixing this one.
  • Cable guy: Have a pleasant evening.

Of course there's nothing wrong with the cable service. It's always the customers fault. I have never once seen a cable company or ISP admit that it was having a network outage. The stuff starts working again. Sometimes it takes several hours before it starts working, but that's only because everyone's afraid to report the problem. They're all afraid that they're going to get stuck with the service charge. I hate it when you have no way to refute the claims of the cable company. They can fix the problem, then claim that it was my equipment/my fault, and stick me with the bill. But why stop there? They could do that with all the customers who generate a trouble ticket.

As I write this, my internet and cable television service is still out, and it will probably remain out until some time tomorrow morning. When someone is brave enough to risk the cost of submitting a trouble ticket. Calling to report an outage isn't good enough... Apparently, you have to submit a trouble ticket, which then identifies you as a possible target for a service charge. However, if you just wait for the problem to 'fix itself' you're not susceptible to the service charge. In the meantime, the late night technician is permitted to sleep blissfully through the night without having to monitor network health, run diagnostics or line maintenance routines. As long as he's sleeping on the job, everything must be working perfectly.

I guess I'll just watch another movie, and hope that the cable problem will just go away.

 
 

October 13, 2005

Mountain painting project:
Living in Colorado means "Mountains". Unfortunately, our home doesn't have a decent view of the mountains. Actually, we don't have any view of the mountains. A nearby ridge blocks the view. Needless to say, that's a downright shame, and something that needs to be remedied. Well, I've come up with a solution. It's not an actual view of the mountains, but it's the best I can do, given the logistical realities of the situation.

There's a spot right above our fireplace, it's a west facing wall; where a painting or photo would look good. Well, that's just what we need, a painting of the mountains. I created a 'Painting' using 'The GIMP' (a free Graphic (GNU) Image Manipulation Program that rivals PhotoShop in features and capability). The base image is a panorama photo with dimensions of 100"x40" (you can see a small sample of the panorama at the top of my "What's New?" web page). At 100"x40" the photo-painting has a resolution of 72x72dpi (That makes for a hell of a lot of pixels). I stitched the panorama together using Canon's PhotoStitch software. The software came free with my Canon ZR200 video camera. I tried using two other programs, but Canon's PhotoStitch did the best job. After that I scaled the photo, I added an oil painting effect, and a border using the GIMP. Finally, I added a brush stroke border/frame using EasyFrame. The result is an oil painting that looks great at large scale. Reduced to web page size, it looks like the base photo.

If you've been keeping up to date, you already know that our photo-painting project came full circle on the 8th of this month. Today I updated (as promised) the photo-painting pages. I updated all the pages, added a new banner, added two new pages, and updated much of the text. The project has come full circle - From photo to painting to photo of photo-painting.

Our House:
Recently, I added a new banner to the 'Our House' web page. I wasn't particularly happy with the old one, and I've been recreating many of the logos on my website, this was just one of the more recent ones. In addition to the change in the banner, I updated the photos pages, adding some new ones, and updating others. I hope you enjoy the newer photos.

Snow:
Just in case you haven't been keeping up to date, Colorado got hit by an early winter storm this week. Quite a blast actually, we got about eighteen inches near the Aurora reservoir, and the snow snapped off the main branch on one of our trees. It was a very wet and heavy snow, but temps are back to normal now, and the snow is quickly melting. Here's a photo of the snow (just in case you're interested).

Movies:
I recently updated my movie page and my movie listings. I added a new banner and a new look to my reviews page. I also made a bunch of changes to my movies page. I added another category to my favorites by genre on the movies page, updated the movies purchased this month, and updated the 'must buy' and 'must watch' listings.

 
 

October 10, 2005

D&D update:
We last played D&D on the 8th of October, and it was one doozie of a session. It ended with quite a bang. The party is currently in the middle of a battle with a big nasty monster. Oh, and that's not all. Just before we stopped for the night one of the characters ended up inadvertently summoning an incredibly powerful evil sword. So now, not only does the party have to deal with the big bad monster that they were fighting, they also have to deal with the character who just summoned the evil sword. Confused? Just a little? Well, let's see if I can clear it up a little. The last time someone (from the party) held this sword, the sword compelled them to kill themself. Later the party managed to find out some more information about the sword. Apparently it's some kind of super-evil, super-powerful artifact. It's powerful enough to control just about anyone, and one of the characters just summoned it to his hand!

Aside from this incredibly tense encounter, what else happened? Well, we had wings... and the newest player candidate didn't show up for the meeting. I had to send him a 'dear John' letter, and I'll start looking for an alternate player soon.

Mountain painting project
Living in Colorado means "Mountains". Unfortunately, our home doesn't have a decent view of the mountains. Actually, we don't have any view of the mountains. A nearby ridge blocks the view. Needless to say, that's a downright shame, and something that needs to be remedied. Well, I've come up with a solution. It's not an actual view of the mountains, but it's the best I can do, given the logistical realities of the situation.

There's a spot right above our fireplace, it's a west facing wall; where a painting or photo would look good. Well, that's just what we need, a painting of the mountains. I created a 'Painting' using 'The GIMP' (a free Graphic (GNU) Image Manipulation Program that rivals PhotoShop in features and capability). The base image is a panorama photo with dimensions of 100"x40" (you can see a small sample of the panorama at the top of my "What's New?" web page). At 100"x40" the photo-painting has a resolution of 72x72dpi (That makes for a hell of a lot of pixels). I stitched the panorama together using Canon's PhotoStitch software. The software came free with my Canon ZR200 video camera. I tried using two other programs, but Canon's PhotoStitch did the best job. After that I scaled the photo, I added an oil painting effect, and a border using the GIMP. Finally, I added a brush stroke border/frame using EasyFrame. The result is an oil painting that looks great at large scale. Reduced to web page size, it looks like the base photo.

If you've been keeping up to date, you already know that I took the photo-painting to a frame shop. Well, we picked up the framed painting on the 8th, and hung it up on the 9th! The project is completed. If you'd like to see a photo of the final product, you can check out a photo I posted. It's posted with the photos of our house, but I plan to update the photo-painting project page in the near future.

 
 

October 7, 2005

D&D update:
We last played D&D on the 24th of September, and I just completed some web page updates from that meeting. Thanks to input from Zeddishous the chronicler (Micheal), I updated several entries on the 'Monsters' page. The party recently began a new quest – The quest for the Sword of Nth. The adventure has taken them through an extradimensional portal and into a hypercube. The cube is a four dimensional room with many surfaces. The surfaces of these 'rooms' are occupied by various denizens, and mystery abounds behind every door. How did all these creatures get here? What is this place? Where is the sword of Nth?

Amazon sucks!
Just something you might want to keep in mind the next time your shopping online. O.k. they offer free shipping, if you qualify. You must purchase more than $25.00 worth of merchandise that is shipped directly from Amazon. Unfortunately, 90% of the products offered are out-sourced to subcontractors. So you'll spend several minutes trying to find a $2.17 cent item that's sold exclusively by Amazon. Oh yeah, you can't tell whether it's an Amazon item until you go to the final page of the check out process.

Shipping sucks too. Amazon gives you free shipping, if... Well, I decided I wanted an item before the weekend (I placed my order on a Wednesday morning). So, I selected two day shipping. Yes there are two business days between Wednesday and Saturday. Those days are Thursday and Friday. I'm willing to pay a little extra. So what happens after I process my order? After mind you. Not at the last page, but after! — I get an email from Amazon with estimated delivery dates. According to the email, my product shipped with two day shipping will arrive on Tuesday! That's six days, not two! I'm outraged. I go back to the Amazon site to check my order. Yup, I selected two day shipping. That's enough of this crap. Since the order hadn't been filled or shipped yet, I was able to change my shipping option. I changed it back to the 'Free shipping' option.

Arrival — Imagine my surprise when the product arrived via UPS on Friday. So the 'Free shipping' method resulted in a two day delivery. Boy they're sure screwed up at Amazon. Take it from me. Don't order from Amazon. Their 'Free shipping' is difficult to qualify for, their shipping is screwed up, and their prices aren't the best. If you're looking for movies, try Bestprices.com. If you're looking for hard to find music, try Djangos.com. If it's books you're after, head for Booksamillion.com. If you're looking for electronics, well I haven't got a good recommendation (which is why I ended up at Amazon). Maybe you can recommend a place to me?

 
 

October 5, 2005

Movie Reviews:
Recently, I updated my movie reviews page. I put all the content in a table and added a new banner graphic. I wanted a different look than the movies page. The two pages looked too much alike. The new banner graphic was created with something called 'The Logo Creator', a piece of software that I'm glad I picked up. The reviews page now has it's own look, a more disctinct style. Similar to my new 'Music' page. I don't think people will confuse it with the 'Movies' page from now on.

Software favorites
Another GraphicConverter update. Another step towards perfection. Another product that's always getting better.

One of my favorite programs underwent another upgrade recently. GraphicConverter moved up to version 5.7.2b0. GraphicConverter is an image converter and editor. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, and I'm not sure I would do without it. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box. At a fraction of PhotoShop's cost, this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox.
http://www.lemkesoft.de/en/graphcon.htm

In addition to the GraphicConverter update, I also added two new pieces of software to my software favorites page. I held off on adding these two for some time, but the evaluation period is over, and these applications have earned a spot on my favorites list.

I'm running version 4.1 of an application called 'The Logo Creator'. The Logo Creator is exactly what it says it is. Software for creating eye catching graphic logos. I use the software to create banner graphics/titles for my web pages. The interface isn't the greatest, but the included logo elements are great and there are several pre-built templates to chose from. Use a pre-built template or start from scratch. Aside from pre-set graphics, you can apply and manipulate a vast array of effects on all the elements of the logo. This software will allow you to create great looking graphics for print or the web.
http://www.thelogocreator.com/

I'm sportin' version 2.2.8 of the GIMP - The GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a freely distributed program for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition and image authoring. Written and devloped under X11 for the Unix platform, I'm running a version ported to Mac OS X (runs under X11). This software application is the equivalent of PhotoShop for free! There's very little you can't do with this full feature graphic authoring software suite. It's got all the bells and whistles: Full suite of painting tools, Sub-pixel sampling, Gradient editor and blend tool, Custom brushes and patterns, Full alpha channel support, Layers and channels, Multiple Undo/Redo, Editable text layers, Transformation tools, Selection tools, Advanced path tool, Transformable paths and selections, Advanced scripting capabilities, Support for Photo-Shop plugins, and several more features. I've been using the GIMP for some years now, and I'm continually impressed by it's rich features and powerful rendering capabilities.
http://www.gimp.org/macintosh/

D&D updates:
Recently, a player in my 3E D&D campaign discovered an error in the lunar calendars I'd posted. Thanks to Mark's eagle-eye and attention to detail, I was able to correct the discrepancies and update the pages. The updated lunar calendars are available here:

Years with a 0 remainder when divided by 4: rwcal1.html
Years with a 0.25 remainder when divided by 4: rwcal2.html
Years with a 0.50 remainder when divided by 4: rwcal3.html
Years with a 0.75 remainder when divided by 4: rwcal4.html

You can also access the lunar calendars from links on the standard calendar page.

Aside from the calendar updates, I also posted a couple of updates as a result of our last D&D session. I updated the party's journal page, and the monster listing.

 
 

October 4, 2005

Cell phone hell:
We will not select Sprint as our next wireless provider. Kim and I have been tortured by Sprint's horrible customer service, unfathomable billing, hidden charges, and unusable features ever since we first started using them (over four years ago). Unfortunately, we're kind of locked in for the next two years, but you sometimes have to learn the same lesson more than once. We're gluttons for punishment.

Yesterday we got our first bill under the new plan. Guess what? It was twice as much as the 'estimate' we were given when we signed up with a new contract. Especially disgusting was the PCS Vision plan package. We don't even have a camera-phone, and we never asked for that feature. Oh yeah, there's also the voice command feature. Once again something we didn't ask for. In addition to the hidden charges, they didn't apply the 15% discount that they said they did. What else? How about the completely unusable email addresses they assigned me? I tried for a week straight (six phone calls and two emails) to get a web based sprintpcs email account set up. That still doesn't work. I could probably go on for another hundred words or so, but I think you get the point. Next time we'll choose a different carrier, even if it costs more!

 
 

September 30, 2005

Music & Movies
Recently, I've been working on my media collections. A while back I bought a copy of CDpedia. Cataloging software for music collections. It's made by the same company that makes DVDpedia (imagine that!). I've owned a copy of DVDpedia for about a year now, and I was so impressed with it's performance (particularly it's HTML export capabilities), that I bought a copy of CDpedia, that does for music what DVDpedia does for movies.

I bought CDpedia a few months ago (in July), and I've been slowly working on my Music collection ever since. I'm still not done, but I'm at a point where I think it's worth the effort to post the results. I'm very happy with the results I've been able to achieve, and I'll keep adding to the collection in the months to come.

As a result of the work I've been doing with my media collections, I recently updated all the associated web pages. You'll find minor updates to the movies page. An updated movie listing. An extensively reworked music page, and a completely new music listing. I hope you like the new music listing. I left the old listing online, but I redirected all but the historical references to the new listing. If you've got comments, suggestions, or feedback regarding these pages, please don't hesitiate to email me. robert robsworld org

 
 

September 29, 2005

D&D update
We last played D&D on the 24th of September, and I just completed one web page update from that meeting. During the meeting, a question about the weight of a coin came up.

Thanks to Mark for finding that discrepancy. Coins weigh .02# per coin not .2# per coin (as previously listed on the equipment listing page).

Mountain painting project
Living in Colorado means "Mountains". Unfortunately, our home doesn't have a decent view of the mountains. Actually, we don't have any view of the mountains. A nearby ridge blocks the view. Needless to say, that's a downright shame, and something that needs to be remedied. Well, I've come up with a solution. It's not an actual view of the mountains, but it's the best I can do, given the logistical realities of the situation.

There's a spot right above our fireplace, it's a west facing wall; where a painting or photo would look good. Well, that's just what we need, a painting of the mountains. I created a 'Painting' using 'The GIMP' (a free Graphic (GNU) Image Manipulation Program that rivals PhotoShop in features and capability). The base image is a panorama photo with dimensions of 100"x40" (you can see a small sample of the panorama at the top of my "What's New?" web page). At 100"x40" the photo-painting has a resolution of 72x72dpi (That makes for a hell of a lot of pixels). I stitched the panorama together using Canon's PhotoStitch software. The software came free with my Canon ZR200 video camera. I tried using two other programs, but Canon's PhotoStitch did the best job. After that I scaled the photo, I added an oil painting effect, and a border using the GIMP. Finally, I added a brush stroke border/frame using EasyFrame. The result is an oil painting that looks great at large scale. Reduced to web page size, it looks like the base photo.

If you've been keeping up to date, you already know that I took the photo-painting to a frame shop. Unfortunately they called a couple of days ago with some bad news. They can't frame my print. It's too big for them to frame! Arrggh! Why didn't they tell me that before I wasted my time? So, yesterday I had to go back there, pick up the print, and get my credit reversed. I also had to do some research in order to find a new place to take the print. This time we took it to a place in downtown Denver. They stated emphatically that 'No frame size is too large'. Great, we took the print to their shop and explained what we wanted done.

It should be ready to pick up sometime around the 7th of October. As soon as it's framed I'll hang it above the fireplace, where it'll complete the living room. Once it's in place I'll take a photo to complete the project.

 
 

September 26, 2005

D&D update
We last played D&D on the 24th of September, and I just completed some web page updates from that meeting, from a meeting on the 10th of September, and one on the 27th of August (It's been a while since I got in this many updates). The party recently began a new quest – The quest for the Sword of Nth. The adventure has taken them through an extradimensional portal and into a hypercube. The cube is a four dimensional room with many surfaces. The surfaces of these 'rooms' are occupied by various denizens, and mystery abounds behind every door. How did all these creatures get here? What is this place? Where is the sword of Nth?

The sessions on the 27th of August and 10th & 24th of Sepetermber were exploration sessions. These updates are anchored by journal entries submitted by Mark. Mark's journal entries are great and we all appreciate the time he takes to hammer out these great entries. Despite Mark's great work every session, it sure is nice to see alternate entries like the one from Stacy a couple weeks back.

  • Who's Who?: I updated the entry for Too-Ate on the Who's Who page. Too-Ate is a samurai who's been trapped in the cube for who knows how long. He recently decided to help the party by providing them with a clue he found long ago. In addition to the NPC entry, I made some updates to the Player Character section of the "Who's Who?" page.
    • I added a new Player Character - Grenco; Stacy's Whisper Gnome. With a character illustration from Races of Stone (it's copyrighted material).
    • I also updated the entry for Kethri, which now includes a character portrait, thanks to Mark and the Hero Machine.
  • I updated the Journal with two entries from Mark. Both entries; one for the session on the 27th of August, and the other for the session on the 10th of September, are written from Ashedyn's point of view.
  • I added three new entries to the monsters page. The party encountered three very different kinds of snakes during our last meeting. The snake entires are pretty limited, and I really need Michael's notes in order to flesh out (and possibly correct) the recent snake entries
  • Clues: There have been a lot of clues discovered during the last two sessions. The latest journal entries contain illustrations of some of the clues that the party has discovered. Hopefully these clues will be helpful. Hopefully someone will figure out what to do with them!
  • Finally, I updated the next gaming session on the 3E campaign page. I sure hope everyone can make it to the next session.

Recently, a good friend of ours arrived in the Denver area. Kim and I have known Kevin since our days at Sugar Grove. We were stationed with him there and then again in Misawa, Japan. He's been a good friend and a player in my D&D campaign. With his arrival in the Denver area, he told me that he wanted to play D&D with us. Since we're currently down by two, it's perfect timing to offer him a chair. Kevin will be playing Tanar for now. If everything works out, Kevin will be joining our group permanently. Welcome to Colorado Kevin, it's good to have you back at the gaming table.

Kevin's not the only new player at the table. I sent out solicitations for a new player last week and someone responded this week. We should see Leo at the table in the near future. Leo has expressed interest in joining our group, but he'd like to check out the game first. If everything works out, Leo will fill that second empty chair at the table.

 
 

September 20, 2005

Guestbook
I no longer have a functional Guestbook (as of appx 20 Sep 2005). I can't figure out why it doesn't work (it doesn't report any errors). I've spent numerous hours troubleshooting the P.O.S. and I'm stumped. All the pieces are in place, all the permissions appear to be correct, all the variables are right, but the script just won't write to the guestbook page. I can't figure it out. I'm leaving the page up, in case you wanted to read some of the previous entries, but you won't be able to add your own comments. When my domain administrator gets done working on a PHP/MySQL problem, I'll have him take a look at the guestbook script.

Mountain painting project
Living in Colorado means "Mountains". Unfortunately, our home doesn't have a decent view of the mountains. Actually, we don't have any view of the mountains. A nearby ridge blocks the view. Needless to say, that's a downright shame, and something that needs to be remedied. Well, I've come up with a solution. It's not an actual view of the mountains, but it's the best I can do, given the logistical realities of the situation.

There's a spot right above our fireplace, it's a west facing wall; where a painting or photo would look good. Well, that's just what we need, a painting of the mountains. I created a 'Painting' using 'The GIMP' (a free Graphic (GNU) Image Manipulation Program that rivals PhotoShop in features and capability). The base image is a panorama photo with dimensions of 100"x40" (you can see a small sample of the panorama at the top of my "What's New?" web page). At 100"x40" the photo-painting has a resolution of 72x72dpi (That makes for a hell of a lot of pixels). I stitched the panorama together using Canon's PhotoStitch software. The software came free with my Canon ZR200 video camera. I tried using two other programs, but Canon's PhotoStitch did the best job. After that I scaled the photo, I added an oil painting effect, and a border using the GIMP. Finally, I added a brush stroke border/frame using EasyFrame. The result is an oil painting that looks great at large scale. Reduced to web page size, it looks like the base photo.

Today (20 Sep 2005) I uploaded a full scale slice of the photo-painting, so you can get a better idea of how it actually looks. That small scale version just doesn't do justice to the digital oil effect. I also used a scaled version in the header/banner of my "What's New?" page. Unfortunately, the full scale image is appx 54Mb in size, so I won't be posting the actual image on my web site. I also added a link to the Photo-Painting page on my photos page.

I took the photo (on a CD) to a local print shop, and they reproduced my photo-painting in large scale (108"x48") on canvas. It turned out great! Today (20 Sep 2005) I took it to Michael's to get it framed. It'll be appx 102"x42" once it's framed. It should be ready to pick up sometime around the 4th of October. As soon as it's framed I'll hang it above the fireplace, where it'll complete the living room. Once it's in place I'll take a photo to complete the project.

Cottonwood Pass
Cottonwood pass is a continental pass just west of Buena Vista, CO. Kim and I have been there twice, and we'll definitely be back again. A while back I created a small page featuring three photos from the pass. Today I updated the web page. I made plenty of page layout changes, added a new banner/header graphic, added and updated a bunch of text, and I also updated some of the photos. I hope you enjoy it.

 
 

September 15, 2005

A New Banner
As you can see (look to the top of this page), I've created a new banner for the "What's New?" page. It incorporates the old graphic and a new background I created from a panoramic photo I recently created. This panoramic background is a piece of the panoramic oil painting I created for above my fireplace. I hope you like it. In addition to the new graphic, I also made a few other changes to the "What's New?" web page.

Mountain painting project
Living in Colorado means "Mountains". Unfortunately, our home doesn't have a decent view of the mountains. Actually, we don't have any view of the mountains. A nearby ridge blocks the view. Needless to say, that's a downright shame, and something that needs to be remedied. Well, I've come up with a solution. It's not an actual view but it's the best we can do, given the logistical realities of the situation.

We do have a spot right above our fireplace, it's a west facing wall; where a painting or photo would look good. Well, that's just what we need. I created a 'Painting' using 'The GIMP' (a free Graphic (GNU) Image Manipulation Program that rivals PhotoShop in features and capability). The base image is a panorama with dimensions of 100"x40" (you can see a small sample of the panorama at the top of my "What's New?" web page). At 100"x40" the photo-painting has a resolution of 72x72dpi (That makes for a hell of a lot of pixels). I stitched the panorama together using Canon's PhotoStitch software. The software came free with my Canon ZR200 video camera. I tried using two other programs, but Canon's PhotoStitch did the best job. After that I scaled the photo, I added an oil painting effect, and a border using the GIMP. Finally, I added a brush stroke border/frame using EasyFrame. The result is an oil painting that looks great at large scale. Reduced to web page size, it looks like the base photo.

I took the photo (on a CD) to a local print shop, and they reproduced my photo-painting in large scale (108"x48") on canvas. It turned out great! I can't wait to get it framed. That should be sometime next week. Once it's framed I'll hang it above the fireplace, where it'll complete the living room. Once it's in place I'll take a photo to complete the project.

Beliefs
What do I believe in? I was raised and confirmed as a Roman Catholic. My parents chose well in my upbringing. My religious upbringing helped me form strong moral values and a firm ethical basis to help guide my life decisions. When I was attending CCD (Confraternity Of Christian Doctrine) classes, my expressions of belief in science were never ridiculed or put down by the priests and nuns who taught the classes, on the contrary - they seemed to agree with scientific teachings. Always pointing out that God had created all things, that science was simply man's way of discovering the truths of Gods creations. Cool, I was o.k. with that.

Fast forward thirty years or so.. Now it seems that 'Science' is under attack by Christians from all quarters. Even the Catholic church seems to be backing away from it's stance in regards to evolution. They used to say that evolution was part of God's plan. Something I believe. Something the church was o.k. with. Now there are those who would have you believe (as a Christian (Catholic or otherwise)), that anything that contradicts the bible can't be true. For instance 'Evolution' is fast becoming a heretical subject in Christian circles.

I believe in evolution. I believe in science. I believ in God, I believe that God created all things, that there is a divine hand in our universe, in the way that it is ordered in the creation of life, in the presence of intelligent life. I don't pretend to know what or who God is, or what he/she/it may be thinking. There is no basis for those who claim that one cannot believe in science and God concurrently. Science is not a religion - despite what some may want you to think. It is not in competition with your church, and has no wish to disuade you from divine worship or beliefs.

I'm no longer a 'practicing' Catholic (Do you have to practice at being Catholic?), but I find myself asking myself this question.. "If the church says 'Evolution' is against the teachings of the chuch"; or they condem evolution or it's scientific basis in some way, will I still be able to call myself a Catholic? Do I need to call myself a Catholic?

I find it disturbing that high ranking members of the Catholic church would tell me how to vote on political issues. I find it disturbing that any church might claim to know how best to educate children. It is a parents obligation to educate children. A state (our government) ought not allow religious instruction at taxpayer expense. We should not allow the teaching of 'Creationism or Intelligent Design' - A wholly religious view/doctrine - in our public schools. Public schools belong to all citizens - regardless of their religious beliefs (or lack thereof).

I have no problem with religious instruction in a school run by a church/religious institute. But state sponsorship of one religions views over another sounds to me like a fine line crossed. Our forefathers formed this country in order to escape from religious persecution and control over society. It seems to me that we may be repeating mistakes of the past when we start to embrace religious teachings in our public schools.

I say keep state and religion separate at all costs. Leave salvation to the church and taxation to the state.

 
 

September 11, 2005

September 11, 2001
Today is the anniversary of an act of terrorism commited against America. It was a cowardly act perpetrated with malice upon innocent victims in what has now become a global war on terrorism. The hand of America was forced on that day - Forced to attack, to strike back in the only way it was capable of. With incomplete information, no clear objective, and a sense of outrage, America acted in haste and the results have been less than desirable. Do you feel safer today? Have we exacted enough vengence upon those who were behind the 911 attacks? Who was behind the 911 attacks? Surely Al-Qaida was behind the attacks, they claimed that they were, and our intelligence led us to the same conclussion. They, their members, the organization, and those who sponsored or led assistance to them, should all be held accountable. Has that happened? Has Al-Qaida paid the price for their murderous actions? Where is Osama Bin-Laden?

D&D update
We last played D&D last night, and I took another photo of the players. I've converted the photo into a clickable image map. The images of the players in the photo now link to their respective characters on the "Who's Who?" page. Just a little fancy. I'd like to put some css hover text on the image map, but I can't quite figure out how to do it.

Death to spammers!
Beginning on the 20th of August, a spammer launched a spew campaign using my domain in the From:/Reply-To: address fields. As a result of his forgery, I received numerous blow-back messages. These server (and user) generated messages were sent to me in response to spam sent to the domains/users in question. I made a half-hearted attempt to warn these system administrators off of auto-responders, but I doubt that they'll listen. I also sent email to the unfortunate users who sent me 'remove' messages. I thought that the blow-back messages had finally stopped on the 27th of August, but I received another bounce message on the 9th of September. Hopefully that's the last I'll hear on this subject. Hopefully, there won't be any measurable effects on my domain or its standing. I haven't been black listed yet, not that I know of anyway. Oh how I hate spammers!

 
 

September 10, 2005

Mountain painting project
Living in Colorado means "Mountains". Unfortunately, our home doesn't have a decent view of the mountains. Actually, we don't have any view of the mountains. A nearby ridge blocks the view. Needless to say, that's a downright shame, and something that needs to be remedied. Well, I've come up with a solution. It's not an actual view but it's the best we can do, given the logistical realities of the situation.

We do have a spot right above our fireplace, it's a west facing wall; where a painting or photo would look good. Well, that's just what we need. I created a 'Painting' using 'The GIMP' (a free Graphic (GNU) Image Manipulation Program that rivals PhotoShop in features and capability). The base image is a panorama with dimensions of 100"x40". At this size it's got a resolution of 72x72dpi (That makes for a hell of a lot of pixels). I stitched the panorama together using Canon's PhotoStitch software. It came free with my Canon ZR200 video camera. I tried using two others, but PhotoStitch did the best job. After that I scaled the photo, added an oil painting effect, and a border using the GIMP. Finally, I added a brush stroke border/frame using EasyFrame. The result is an oil painting that looks great at large scale. Reduced to web page size, it looks like the base photo.

Yesterday I got lost in Commerce city. I was looking for a print shop. I took a CD with my photos on it to the studio, showed them what I wanted, and they agreed that my photo painting would look great at large scale. O.k. you might be saying it's only 72 pixel.. So how much resolution does an oil painting have? If you're standing five feet away, how much detail do you expect in an oil painting? Despite the nay saying sales rep, the graphic artist who looked at my image reaffirmed my beliefs that the image would look fine printed at large scale.

On Wednesday, they'll have a cross-section sample ready. If everything goes well, I'll proof it, they'll print it, and I'll have an oil painting on canvas by Thursday.

D&D update
We last played D&D on the 27th of August, and I just completed some web page updates from that meeting. The party recently began a new quest – The quest for the Sword of Nth. The adventure has taken them through an extradimensional portal and into a hypercube. The cube is a four dimensional room with many surfaces. The surfaces of these 'rooms' are occupied by various denizens, and mystery abounds behind every door. How did all these creatures get here? What is this place? Where is the sword of Nth?

The session on the 27th was another exploration of the Cube of Nth.

  • Who's Who?: I added an entry for Too-Ate to the Who's Who page. Too-Ate is a samurai who's been trapped in the cube for who knows how long.
  • I updated the Journal with a temporary entry. No one submitted a journal entry, and I'm kind of hoping that my half-hearted excuse of a journal entry is just a temporary measure.
  • I added some new entries to the monsters page, and updated a few older entries with entries submitted by Michael.

Recently, a good friend of ours arrived in the Denver area. Kim and I have known Kevin since our days at Sugar Grove. We were stationed with him there and then again in Misawa, Japan. He's been a good friend and a player in my D&D campaign. With his arrival in the Denver area, he told me that he wanted to play D&D with us. Since we're currently down by two, it's perfect timing to offer him a chair. Kevin will be playing Tanar for now. If everything works out, Kevin will be joining our group permanently. Welcome to Colorado Kevin, it's good to have you back at the gaming table.

Our next meeting is tonight, and it should be a good meeting. We'll have six players at the table, and an old friend is joining the group.

 
 

September 6, 2005

Death to spammers!
Beginning on the 20th of August, a spammer launched a spew campaign using my domain in the From:/Reply-To: address fields. As a result of his forgery, I received numerous blow-back messages. These server (and user) generated messages were sent to me in response to spam sent to the domains/users in question. I made a half-hearted attempt to warn these system administrators off of auto-responders, but I doubt that they'll listen. I also sent email to the unfortunate users who sent me 'remove' messages. The blow-back messages finally stopped on the 27th of August, 2005. Hopefully, there won't be any measurable effects on my domain or its standing. I haven't been black listed yet, not that I know of anyway. Oh how I hate spammers!

Mountain painting project
Living in Colorado means "Mountains". Unfortunately, our home doesn't have a decent view of the mountains. Actually, we don't have any view of the mountains. A nearby ridge blocks the view. Needless to say, that's a downright shame, and something that needs to be remedied. Well, I've come up with a solution. It's not an actual view but it's the best we can do, given the logistical realities of the situation.

We do have a spot right above our fireplace, it's a west facing wall; where a painting or photo would look good. Well, that's just what we need. I created a 'Painting' using 'The GIMP' (a free Graphic (GNU) Image Manipulation Program that rivals PhotoShop in features and capability), but the painting wasn't high enough resolution, so now I'm working to get a higher resolution source image. I've got one photo with 300x300ppi resolution, and I'm also working to develop a high resolution panorama photo. Once the high resolution image is ready, I'll have someone print and frame it.

In my quest to obtain some higher resolution photos, Kim and I took a day off and drove up to Cottonwood pass. I was armed with my new digital camera, but the weather wasn't the greatest. I managed to get some photos, but I'm not sure they'll work out. None of the photos are really worth posting (I didn't take them for that purpose), but hopefully I can create a high resolution panorama suitable for my project.

A drive in the mountains
In my quest to create a photo/painting to use above our fireplace, Kim and I went for a drive in the mountains on the 28th of August. We had a good day, the trip was a nice scenic drive, and I got some nice photos. Unfortunately, given the price of gasoline, I don't think we'll be going on any day trips like that for quite some time.

I did promise to post photos, so here are two photos, and one of the oil paintings I created. Just a couple pictures of Cottonwood pass. I hope you enjoy them.

Updated photos page
With all the recent photos I've been taking, I updated my Photos page. I changed some of the page layout dimensions, and arranged the content into a few categories.

Software favorites
Yet another GraphicConverter update. Another step towards perfection. A product that's always getting better.

One of my favorite programs underwent another full upgrade recently. GraphicConverter moved up to version 5.7.1. GraphicConverter is an image converter and editor. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, and I'm not sure I would do without it. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box. At a fraction of PhotoShop's cost, this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox.
http://www.lemkesoft.de/en/graphcon.htm

Hurricane Katrina - Louisiana & Mississippi
What happened in Louisiana & Mississippi is truly a disaster of epic proportions, the aftermath is a humanitarian disaster of epic proportions. Hopefully, we can move beyond the recriminations and blame game in order to get the important stuff done. Let's rebuild, recover, and repair the damage done by this natural disaster. I'm not about to make any political or pontifical statements regarding the recovery, and I'll let the mass media cover the event (as best they can).

D&D update
Recently, a good friend of ours arrived in the Denver area. Kim and I have known Kevin since our days at Sugar Grove. We were stationed with him there and then again in Misawa, Japan. He's been a good friend and a player in my D&D campaign. With his arrival in the Denver area, he told me that he wanted to play D&D with us. Since we're currently down by two, it's perfect timing to offer him a chair. Kevin will be playing Tanar for now. If everything works out, Kevin will be joining our group permanently. Welcome to Colorado Kevin, it's good to have you back at the gaming table.

 
 

August 31, 2005

Software favorites
As a result of a recent security update, one of my favorite applications has been upgraded.

Safari: Apple's web browser for OS X, is way ahead of the pack. Apple's browser contains a plethora of incredibly powerful features. I wonder why Microsoft stopped developing IE for Mac? I'm currently using version 2.0.1 (v412.5). This most recent version comes as part of a recent security update for the operating system.

Battle of the browsers. Netscape versus Internet Explorer. Those are your choices right? Wrong! Think different! Think Mac! Choose Safari, the new kid on the block. A fast (The fastest available for Mac) but full featured browser, which performs like a pro. Tabbed browsing, URL snap-back, a powerful but elegant bookmark implementation (with built-in import capability), Google search integration, built-in pop-up blocker, multiple standards (HTML, XML, XHTML, DOM, CSS, RSS, JavaScript, and Java, plus QuickTime, Flash and Shockwave plug-ins), and a host of other features. Just one more reason to Switch! It's won a place as my default browser, give it a chance and it'll soon be yours.

A drive in the mountains
Recently (On Sunday), Kim and I went for a drive in the mountains. We headed out at approximately eleven in the morning (I'm working nights). We stopped at the base first, in order to fill up on gas. The price was $2.70 a gallon for premium. Then we got on the toll road (E-470) and headed for the west side of Denver. I'd estimate that it took us close to an hour to get all the way across town to I-285, which heads west into the mountains.

We took I-285 south and west through the towns of Conifer and Bailey until we reached the South Park region. We continued south until we got to Buena Vista. We stopped in Buena Vista, picked up some lunch, and headed onto Cottonwood Pass Rd. It wasn't too much longer before we were at the top of the pass (12,126 ft). We stopped and took a bunch of photos (the primary purpose for our trip). While I got a lot of nice photos, none of them were as good as some I had taken a few years back.

After we finished our lunch, and the weather started turning bad, we packed up the camera and headed down the unpaved western side of the pass. The road was in remarkably good condition for a dirt road, and we made pretty good time down off the mountain. When we got back on a paved road, Kim and I switched. She drove while I tried to catch some sleep (I'm working nights).

After I caught forty winks, I took over the driving again. The trip down the mountain and back around to the Atlantic side of the Rockies took us through the towns of Almont, Gunnison and Salida before we turned north to get back to Buena Vista. From there we simply retraced our path back to our place in Aurora. It was dark by the time we got home (2000), and we were both hungry. Kim cooked up a few burgers on the grill before she turned in for the night, and I went to work on the computer.

We had a good day, the trip was a nice scenic drive, and I got some nice photos. Unfortunately, given the price of gasoline, I don't think we'll be going on any day trips like that for quite some time.

 
 

August 28, 2005

Our House
Kim and I bought a new house on the 30th of March. Our first home. Since then we've been engrossed in the new house. Settling into a new home is quite a chore. There are A LOT of expenses, expected and otherwise. We've still got a lot of work to do, and I imagine it'll never stop. Owning your own home brings a lot more work than a rental, and I didn't expect this much fun!

Last month, I spent a considerable amount of time working on a landscaping plan for the back yard. Kim's was hounding me to get it done, and the deadline was quickly approaching. Well, I submitted the plan to our HOA on the 21st of July. The plan was approved was approved by the HOA on the 8th of August. On the 22nd we decided on a contractor to do the job. He started work on the 25th, and they finished today!

We have a back yard! It cost us a little more than originally estimated, but I was very happy with the results. It cost us $4,180.00 for the entire job, including a 10% tip. They did a fantastic job. Having a back yard sure is nice. We'll fire up the portable fire pit as soon as we get a chance. If you'd like to see a few photos, point your browser here.

With all the work that's been going on lately, and the purchase of my new camera, I updated the 'Our House' photos pages. Some of the photos were taken with my new camera (a Nikon CoolPix 7900). The photos taken with the new camera look great.

Thunderstorms
Yesterday was another rainy day; more of those typical afternoon thunderstorms. It was a good soaking, which came in waves, but it didn't last very long. The temperature dropped significantly, and we got about an inch of rain over a one hour stretch. The rain was immediately soaked up by the new sod in my back yard. August isn't usually a wet month for Colorado. I'm glad the drought is over. It's nice to see things in green versus beige or brown.

2005 World Forum
From 23 - 26 June; I volunteered at the 2005 AEI World Forum. The World Forum is held every year in Beaver Creek, Colorado. At former president Gerald R. Ford's personal invitation, the forum is attended by prominent business leaders, public officials, and scholars. Participants discuss the most critical economic, social, and security issues facing the United States and the world community.

Volunteers are solicited from military bases in Denver and Colorado Springs. Volunteers spend their days acting as security augmentees for the forum's events and drivers for the participants. Recently I received a thank you card from former President Gerald R. Ford. I scanned the card, and you can view it online if you're so inclined.

I had a good time, and if I'm still working in the Aurora/Denver area next year, I'll try to attend the forum for a fifth year.

 
 

August 26, 2005

Our House
Kim and I bought a new house on the 30th of March. Our first home. Since then we've been engrossed in the new house. Settling into a new home is quite a chore. There are A LOT of expenses, expected and otherwise. We've still got a lot of work to do, and I imagine it'll never stop. Owning your own home brings a lot more work than a rental, and I didn't expect this much fun!

Last month, I spent a considerable amount of time working on a landscaping plan for the back yard. Kim's was hounding me to get it done, and the deadline was quickly approaching. Well, I submitted the plan to our HOA on the 21st of July. The plan was approved was approved by the HOA on the 8th of August. On Monday we decided on a contractor to do the job. He started work yesterday. The crew is spending four hours a day, and I hope they'll be done by Saturday.

It's going to cost a little more than originally estimated. He forgot to include my boulders in the estimate. Four 1/2 ton boulders at $100.00 each. That's not too bad. It sure will be nice to have a back yard. Then we can fire up the portable fire pit that Rob Garrity sent us and toast some marshmallows.

Photo-Painting project
Living in Colorado means "Mountains". Unfortunately, our home doesn't have a decent view of the mountains. Actually, we don't have any view of the mountains. A nearby ridge blocks the view. Needless to say, that's a downright shame, and something that needs to be remedied. Well, I've come up with a solution. It's not an actual view but it's the best we can do, given the logistical realities of the situation.

We do have a spot right above our fireplace, it's a west facing wall; where a painting would look good. Well, a painting of the mountains is just what we need. I've got the painting all set. Check out this 'Painting'. I created it using 'The GIMP', a free Graphic (GNU) Image Manipulation Program that rivals PhotoShop in features and capability. I've been using it on and off for a few years now, and I'm slowly coming to realize that there's nothing I can't do with the GIMP. I took one of my photos, applied a couple of filters, and suddenly, I've got an oil painting on canvas. Now all I need to do is get it printed and framed. I imagine that'll be the hard part, and it certainly won't be free.

There's been a slight kink in the plans to create my own oil painting. It turns out that my source photo (one that I took up in Cottonwood Pass), doesn't have anywhere near the resolution necessary to blow it up to 50"x108". Yeah, that's big, and the result would have been a highly pixellized photo. It would have looked pretty strange, more like a surrealistic moire than an oil landscape. So what's am I supposed to do? Well, for one I need a higher resolution photo...

How am I gonna get such a photo? I'm glad you asked. Kim are planning a little day trip on Sunday. Back to Cottonwood pass. This time I'll be armed with my new digital camera. I bought a Nikon Cooplix 7900 today. It's a great camera; earning a 5 star rating from every review site I could find. At 7.1 mega pixels, I ought to get enough resolution to create a better photo for my photo-painting project. Armed with my new camera, I can create a photo montage that extends the width of the photo in order to further enhance the source of a new photo-painting. I just hope the weather's as nice on Sunday as it was back in July of '03.

Back in 2003, we drove the Passat up to Cottonwood pass, and we didn't venture down the unpaved side of the pass. This time we'll take the Volvo, and we will be going 'Over the mountain'. As you must have guessed, I'll take a bunch of photos, and I'll post them as soon as I get the time.

Software favorites
Yet another GraphicConverter update. Here's another beta release. Another step towards perfection. A product that's always getting better.

One of my favorite programs underwent another partial upgrade recently. GraphicConverter moved up to version 5.7.1b0. GraphicConverter is an image converter and editor. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, and I'm not sure I would do without it. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box. At a fraction of PhotoShop's cost, this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox.
http://www.lemkesoft.de/en/graphcon.htm

D&D
We played D&D on the 30th of July, (yeah, I know, that was a long time ago) and I just completed some web page updates from that meeting. The party recently began a new quest – The quest for the Sword of Nth. The adventure has taken them through an extradimensional portal and into a hypercube. The cube is a four dimensional room with many surfaces. The surfaces of these 'rooms' are occupied by various denizens, and mystery abounds behind every door. How did all these creatures get here? What is this place? Where is the sword of Nth?

The session on the 16th was an aftermath meeting. Rezigrene was killed at the previous meeting, and we had two players drop out of the campaign, so we were low on players, and the mood was somewhat somber. Here are the updates from that meeting.

  • Who's Who?: I added an entry for Jeeves to the Who's Who page. Jeeves is Duracell's unseen servant.
  • Where now: This is a web page of locations and places in the campaign. I added an entry for the Cube of Nth. If you were paying really close attention, you might have noticed that the Cube of Nth was mentioned on that page before the party even started this quest.
  • I updated the Journal (thanks to Stacy for the entry) with a journal entry from Kethri's point of view. Thanks for stepping up. Diversity in the journal entries really makes for good reading. Maybe someone else (other than Mark) will offer a journal entry next time.
  • I added three new entries to the monsters page. The party was attacked by angry Poltergeist, and a group of Dark Creepers led by a Dark Stalker. Check out the monsters page for all the details.

The chairs left open by Rich and Nancy won't be vacant for long. There's already interest from two friends of the players, and I've promised one of the chairs to a good friend (and former player) from my time in the military. Hopefully we'll be able to fill the vacancies soon. Stacy has already created his new character, and I'm just waiting for the appropriate time to introduce it. In the mean time, he's playing Kethri, and Sean is playing Thalidimar and Tanar.

Our next meeting is tonight, and I for one am looking forward to the session. It's been some time since we last played, and I miss the excitement.

 
 

August 22, 2005

Our House
Kim and I bought a new house on the 30th of March. Our first home. Since then we've been engrossed in the new house. Settling into a new home is quite a chore. There are A LOT of expenses, expected and otherwise. We've still got a lot of work to do, and I imagine it'll never stop. Owning your own home brings a lot more work than a rental, and I didn't expect this much fun!

So what's going on with the new house lately? Last month, I spent a considerable amount of time working on a landscaping plan for the back yard. Kim's was hounding me to get it done, and the deadline was quickly approaching. Well, I submitted the plan to our HOA on the 21st of July. The plan was approved was approved by the HOA on the 8th of August. Today we decided on a contractor to do the job. Tomorrow he's supposed to stop by with the contract/paperwork. The price I was quoted over the phone was $3,400.00. That's pretty low if you ask me. If he does a good job, I'll pay him a bonus - Probably make it an even $4,000.00.

If everything goes right, he should be able to start the work by Wednesday. It could be done as early as Saturday! It sure will be nice to have a back yard. Then we can fire up the portable fire pit that Rob Garrity sent us. Sure would be nice to have a back yard...

Another rainy day
Yesterday was another rainy day. This time it was just an afternoon thunderstorm. Preceded and punctuated by flash flood warnings, it was a good long soaking, lasting at least two hours. The temperature dropped significantly, and the heavens let loose with a drenching that was immediately soaked up by the thirsty yards in our sub-division. August isn't usually a wet month for Colorado. I'm glad the drought is over. It's nice to see things in green versus beige or brown. Hopefully we'll get some more rain to keep those forest fires down.

We had afternoon thunderstorms again this evening. This was more like the normal afternoon thunderstorms that are typical for this time of year. It lasted about 20 minutes or so. Nothing spectacular. A few flashes of lightning, and overcast sky, and a downpour that lasted for a short amount of time.

Death to spammers!
I'm currently under attack by another spammer (attack began on the 20th of Aug, 2005). Another Joe-Job, the trivial sort. A spammer made a spam run using my domain name (robsworld.org) in the From: and or Reply-To: address fields. As a result of his forgery, I received numerous blow-back messages. These server (and user) generated messages were sent to me in response to spam sent to the domains/users in question. I made a half-hearted attempt to warn these system administrators off of auto-responders, but I doubt that they'll listen. I also sent email to the unfortunate users who sent me 'remove' messages. Hopefully, there won't be any measurable effects on my domain or its standing. I haven't been black listed yet, not that I know of anyway. Oh how I hate spammers!

 
 

August 18, 2005

Movies
Today I received my first DVD from Filmmovement.com. Well, actually I received two DVDs. Let me explain; recently I joined a new club. It's sort of like a book of the month club, but it's DVDs, not books. This movie of the month club isn't you're run of the mill Columbia House movie of the month club. The movies I'll be receiving represent the diversity and quality of film in the U.S. and around the world with most having won awards. Each months selection is chosen by a curatorial board which includes directors of top film festivals such as Lincoln Center, American Film Institute and South by Southwest, among others.

Film Movement is for people who don't want to miss out on outstanding films because of where they live. Most films do not receive a national release despite critical acclaim and awards at Cannes, Sundance and other top film festivals. As a result, most of us don’t get to see many of the year’s best films. Film Movement is changing all that…

Filmmovement joins NetFlix in my movie watching pursuits. By paying an annual or monthly subscription (I opted for an annual subscription at considerable savings), you receive one movie a month. With my initial subscription I also received a disc containing six original short films. Three of the short films were academy award nominees. I usually buy three movies a month, so I figured this would be a good investment. The movies I receive each month will be listed on my movies page (under the 'What have I bought lately' heading), and reviewed on my reviews page. I'm not quite endorsing Filmmovement yet, but stay tuned, and I'll let you know how it turns out.

Music
Recently, I realized that I've got a gold mine of new music sitting on my bookshelf. A rich vein that's gone untapped for quite some time. Each month I receive a copy of MacAddict magazine. Each copy comes with a CD (I pay extra for the CDs) containing software. In addition to the software, each disc contains four songs. Original music you can listen to while perusing the contents of the disc. I've discovered a few favorites (Din, Rullian, Sasha Zand, Tower, Chocolate Sunday) while listening to the tracks on those CDs, but I never thought to add them to my music collection. Well, this week I collected all those CDs (dating back to the mid 90's), and transferred all that music to my computer. I managed to extract something like 250 songs from that stack of CDs. The songs were all converted to AAC/MP4 format, and I'm rediscovering the fantastic music on those overlooked assets.

My next music project is conversion of my music listing into something more like my movie listing. Last month, I purchased a new program: CDpedia from Bruji.com. I'm currently using DVDpedia to create my online listing of movies, and I've been very happy with that piece of software, so I decided to give CDpedia a try. After a short trial run, I made my decision. I'm definitely switching from a spreadsheet generated table to this new tool. Now it's only a matter of time before I have the time to convert everything to this new format.

Just recently (this week) the makers of CDpedia added a barcode scanning function to the software. My iSight camera can now read the barcodes off my old cassettes. This ought to speed up the conversion process considerably. I'll let you know when the new database/listing is ready.

 
 

August 16, 2005

Feeling Sick
Yesterday I was sick. I'm still not feeling 100% today, but I'm certainly feeling better. I woke up yesterday with a tickle in my throat - always a bad sign. I got worse as the day went on. Fever, sore throat, upset stomach, tender muscles around the neck. It felt like a touch of the flu. I felt like crap as I left work, it didn't get any better last night, and I called in sick for today. Before bed I took a couple of Tylenol PMs and slept for nine hours! That's something unusual for me. Hopefully, I'll feel better by the end of the day.

A rainy day
In empathy for my illness, it rained today. It was a good long soaking. The temperature dropped significantly, and the heavens let loose with a drenching that matched my mood. August isn't usually a wet month for Colorado. I'm glad the drought is over. It's nice to see things in green versus beige or brown. Hopefully we'll get some more rain to keep those forest fires down.

Software Update
Yesterday Apple released a security update for Mac OS 10.4.2. Considering the number of things that were updated, I was surprised that this wasn't released as an OS update. As a result of the update, the following web pages have been updated: myfavs.html, feedback.html, mycomputer.html.

Our House
Kim and I bought a new house on the 30th of March. Our first home. Since then we've been engrossed in the new house. Settling into a new home is quite a chore. There are A LOT of expenses, expected and otherwise. We've still got a lot of work to do, and I imagine it'll never stop. Owning your own home brings a lot more work than a rental, and I didn't expect this much fun!

Living in Colorado means "Mountains". Unfortunately, our home doesn't have a decent view of the mountains. Actually, we don't have any view of the mountains. A nearby ridge blocks the view. Needless to say, that's a downright shame, and something that needs to be remedied. Well, I've come up with a solution. It's not an actual view but it's the best we can do, given the logistical realities of the situation.

We do have a spot right above our fireplace, it's a west facing wall; where a painting would look good. Well, a painting of the mountains is just what we need. I've got the painting all set. Check out this 'Painting'. I created it using 'The GIMP', a free Graphic (GNU) Image Manipulation Program that rivals PhotoShop in features and capability. I've been using it on and off for a few years now, and I'm slowly coming to realize that there's nothing I can't do with the GIMP. I took one of my photos, applied a couple of filters, and suddenly, I've got an oil painting on canvas. Now all I need to do is get it printed and framed. I imagine that'll be the hard part, and it certainly won't be free.

Follow this link for a slightly more enhanced explanation.

 
 

August 14, 2005

Software favorites
One of my software favorites was recently upgraded. This update marks the move to Intel compatibility. BBEdit now runs on an Intel processors. A forerunner to Apple's switch to the new chip set. Could this also spell the release of BBEdit to a Windows audience? It would certainly result in increased sales. I don't see any reason why Bare Bones shouldn't go that route.

BBEdit
The world's greatest HTML editor moved up to version 8.2.3 recently. This incredibly powerful application is a high-performance HTML and text editor for the Macintosh. It is designed and crafted for the editing, searching, transformation, and manipulation of text. BBEdit provides a vast array of general-purpose features which are useful for a wide variety of tasks, and includes many special purpose features which have been specifically developed in response to the needs of Web authors and software developers. It's an absolute must for any Mac enthusiast. Window's users eat your heart out! (for now).
http://www.barebones.com/products/bbedit/index.shtml

The Air Force and My Pay
The U.S. Air Force runs a web service called My Pay. Active duty, reservists, and retirees can use the web site to manage their pay. Well, back in April of this year, someone changed my PIN for the web site and it wasn't me. I responded by requesting an investigation; as recommended by an email that I received. That was back in April - when I was having problems getting my W2's straight (The AF changed my State of Residence to California instead of Colorado). It took nearly four months for me to get an answer as to how and why my PIN was changed. It turns out that it was changed by someone within the AF finance system while attempting to correct my W2s/tax withholdings. Unfortunately, I still can't use the web site as they locked my account during the investigation, and they still haven't unlocked it - Despite the fact that they said they would unlock it and send me a temporary PIN.

At this point, I'm thoroughly convinced that the Air Force's accounting and finance system is broken. Administered by marginal managers, staffed by personnel who don't really give a damn, and overburdened by a bureaucracy that's become more bloated than the fat man in Monty Python's 'Meaning of Life', the Air Forces accounting and finance system needs a gigantic enema from the top down. If I performed as poorly in my job as those entrusted with the Air Force's pay system, there'd be a lot of dead Americans in Afghanistan and Iraq. I guess I'll have to make phone call number 12 on Wednesday...

Rain, Rain and more Rain!
Who said August was supposed to be so wet?! The Denver area has been soaked over the last few days (Thursday through Sunday). Uncharacteristically cool and wet. I couldn't cut the lawn until Sunday, and it's been overcast all day today. We've been checking the basement, and aside from the foul odor, reminiscent of raw sewage - there hasn't been any flooding.

Our House
Kim and I bought a new house on the 30th of March. Our first home. Since then we've been engrossed in the new house. Settling into a new home is quite a chore. There are A LOT of expenses, expected and otherwise. We've still got a lot of work to do, and I imagine it'll never stop. Owning your own home brings a lot more work than a rental, and I didn't expect this much fun!

So what's going on with the new house lately? The finishing touches are all that's left to our 'Settling-in' phase. Last month, I spent a considerable amount of time working on a landscaping plan for the back yard. Kim's was hounding me to get it done, and the deadline was quickly approaching. Well, I submitted the plan to our HOA on the 21st of July. Last week I contacted the HOA for an update. The good news? The plan was approved. The bad news? It's going to cost a pretty penny. I've calculated a materials layout of approximately $2,000.00. This weekend I had three different landscapers come out and/or view my plan online. So far I've got two bids. One is $3,400.00, and the other is $5,020.00. That's a considerable difference in prices, and Kim is a bit concerned about the lower bid. We'll see what happens later this week, as I'm expecting two more bids before the week is out.

Gaming night
Last night we played some 'Other Games'. Normally we play D&D every other Saturday, but this weekend we had two missing players. Playing with two missing players would have meant that everyone else would have had to play two characters. Factoring in several variables, I decided against D&D last night. We'll play again on the 27th. Hopefully, the adventurer's journal will be caught up by then, and all the players will be available.

So what did we play? One of my old favorites: Nuclear War / Nuclear Escalation / Nuclear Proliferation. Three compatible but separate card games. A comical card game about nuclear war? It's a great game by Flying Buffalo, and Kim and I have been playing it since the early 80's. The other game we played was: Zombies. A relative new comer that's captured our heart like no other Zombie game... We had a good time, and played late into the wee hours of the morning. We didn't call it a night until 0230! The Zombies game was especially tight, with the upper-hand switching back and forth several times.

 
 

August 9, 2005

Guestbook
Something of a throw-back. The web based guestbook used to be all the rage in personal web sites. Mine hasn't seen much activity over the years, but part of that might be due to an error discovered by a recent visitor. A co-worker discovered the error, and thanks to his recent attempt to leave me a message, I located and quashed two bugs. One was a whopper preventing the guestbook from functioning at all. The other prevented viewers from seeing some menu pull-down selections. There's still one little bug left in the guestbook, but I'm not too concerned with it at the moment. It's something that most people won't notice, and it's unlikely to cause much of a problem. The guestbook is back up and running at this time. Feel free to leave a little missive after a visit to Rob's World!

House Rules
Like any other D&D campaign (outside of tournament play), my campaign makes use of various house rules. Recently, I made a few changes to the house rules. Nothing major mind you. Just some semantic sorting. A clarification in the rules. Nothing much to write home about, but I figured I might as well mention it for those players who appreciate such notification. The change was made to the rules regarding monster identification. Not a change to the rules themselves, just a slight re-wording of the rule. See pages 12 & 13 for the rules.

Newsletter
I send out a monthly newsletter to the avid fans of Rob's World! If you're one of the subscribers to my newsletter, you should have received your copy yesterday. If you're interested in reading about happenings at Rob's World! you can forego the daily chore of logging in to check out the latest nugget. The newsletter is a more convenient way to keep up to date on the comings and going in the life and times of Robert & Kim Vaessen. I can't imagine why anyone wouldn't want a copy emailed directly to them every month!

In any case - Enough with the self-promotion already. What's up with the newsletter? I thought you'd never ask... I'm planning to switch the newsletter format. I'm planning on switching to a multi-part format. Currently, the newsletter is sent in plain-Jane plain text format. In the future, the letter will be sent in HTML format with a plain text alternative. I've thought about doing it in the past, and I think the time is right. As soon as I find an adequate piece of software, I'm planning to make the switch. If you have recommendations or reservations, please feel free to email me.

Our House
Kim and I bought a new house on the 30th of March. Our first home. Since then we've been engrossed in the new house. Settling into a new home is quite a chore. There are A LOT of expenses, expected and otherwise. We've still got a lot of work to do, and I imagine it'll never stop. Owning your own home brings a lot more work than a rental, and I didn't expect this much fun!

So what's going on with the new house lately? The finishing touches are all that's left to our 'Settling-in' phase. Last month, I spent a considerable amount of time working on a landscaping plan for the back yard. Kim's was hounding me to get it done, and the deadline was quickly approaching. Well, I submitted the plan to our HOA on the 21st of July. Yesterday I contacted the HOA for an update. The good news? The plan's been approved. The bad news? It's going to cost a pretty penny. I've calculated a materials layout of approximately $2,000.00, and I really have no idea what the landscapers will charge for labor. The next step, locate a landscaper who won't try to scalp me. Wish me luck!

Software favorites
Yet another GraphicConverter update. Here's another full update release. This update includes 14 new features, 31 updated features, and 20+ bug fixes. Amazing!

One of my favorite programs underwent another full upgrade recently. GraphicConverter moved up to version 5.7. GraphicConverter is an image converter and editor. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, and I'm not sure I would do without it. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box. At a fraction of PhotoShop's cost, this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox.
http://www.lemkesoft.de/en/graphcon.htm

 
 

August 4, 2005

Software favorites
A couple of my software favorites were recently upgraded. The recent update to GraphicConverter is just another step in an ever-improving product. Paying for this shareware guarantees a continuously improving graphic manipulation and conversion tool worth way more than any other so-called 'Professional' application. The Transmit update comes as a result of Apple's newest operating system release.

One of my favorite programs underwent another upgrade recently. GraphicConverter moved up to 5.7b0. GraphicConverter is an image converter and editor. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, and I'm not sure I would do without it. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box. At a fraction of PhotoShop's cost, this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox.
http://www.lemkesoft.de/en/graphcon.htm

Transmit
Anyone who publishes web pages eventually needs a way to upload their pages to a web site. I've found that stand alone FTP tools are the best for this task. Transmit has a clean and easy to use interface, and some really nifty features, like the ability to resume a transfer that's been interrupted, site synchronization capabilities, iDisk integration (It's way faster than the finder!), drag-to-dock sending, column views, a built in text editor, and secure ftp transfer (in various different flavors) capability. The most recent update moves this software up to version 3.2.1.
http://www.panic.com/transmit/index.html

Our House
Kim and I bought a new house on the 30th of March. Our first home. Since then we've been engrossed in the new house. Settling into a new home is quite a chore. There are A LOT of expenses, expected and otherwise. We've still got a lot of work to do, and I imagine it'll never stop. Owning your own home brings a lot more work than a rental, and I didn't expect this much fun!

So what's going on with the new house lately? Perhaps you recall the floods we endured back at the beginning of June - During the spring of this year our basement was flooded three times. Since then the builder corrected our landscaping, rebuilt a retaining wall, and put drains in three of our window wells. The basement hasn't flooded since, but we really didn't have any major rains since June. Well, the repairs have now been thoroughly tested. Over the last couple of days we've had a lot of rain. On Thursday (Aug 4th), it rained for just about the entire day. Over the last two days we must have received over 3 inches of rain. That's a lot for this part of Colorado. Kim and I checked the basement several times during the deluge, but there was no sign of flooding. We sure are relieved. That's one problem that certainly seems to be fully resolved.

By the way, if anyone knows where I can find historical climate information (including rainfall amounts) for Colorado, I'd appreciate the link. It seems like there's a million forecast sites, but no one seems to be recording the information as part of a permanent record?

 
 

July 31, 2005

D&D
We played D&D on the 16th of July, (yeah, I know we played last night as well) and I just completed more web page updates related to that meeting. The party recently began a new quest – The quest for the Sword of Nth. The adventure has taken them through an extradimensional portal and into a hypercube. The cube is a four dimensional room with many surfaces. The surfaces of these 'rooms' are occupied by various denizens, and mystery abounds behind every door. How did all these creatures get here? What is this place? Where is the sword of Nth?

The session on the 16th was particularly deadly. Rezigrene is dead. Devoured, diced up, and partially digested at the base of a Killer Column. Check out the adventurer's journal for all the gory details.

  • Who's Who?: With the departure of Rich & Nancy from our gaming group, I made some changes to Tanar and Kethri's entries on the "Who's Who" page. Currently, Sean is playing Tanar, and Stacy is playing Kethri. With the death of Rezigrene, I moved her description to the former player character category, and created a separate page for her.
  • Rezigrene: As I mentioned above, this dearly departed 'cuddly' friend has departed the mortal coil. As a reward for a job well done, she's earned a page all of her own. She's gone but not forgotten. Perhaps the characters will all drink a toast of Grzuk in her memory? (or maybe they'll wimp out and drink ale?)
  • Several other former player character pages have been updated. While creating the Rezigrene page, I noticed that all the other individual character pages had something wrong with them. I corrected transparency on header images, corrected header data in several pages, fixed broken links, corrected inappropriate links, updated descriptions, and made many changes to the following pages: Lumiarti - Male, Elven Wizard, Kragus - Male, Half-Orc (Half-human?) Barbarian, Dokren - Male, Dwarven Ranger, Emrikol-Oz - Male, Human Wizard, Solindria - Female, Half-Elven Paladin, Nibori - Female, Wood Elve Ranger, Alcarenque - Male, Sun Elf Wizard, Eilownwy - Female, Wild Elf Ranger
  • The campaign page was recently updated to reflect our next meeting date. Mark won't be there, so we'll need someone else to do a journal entry. I also made some changes to the text on this page.

The chairs left open by Rich and Nancy won't be vacant for long. There's already interest from two friends of the players, and I've promised one of the chairs to a good friend (and former player) from my time in the military. Hopefully we'll be able to fill the vacancies soon. Stacy has already created his new character, and I'm just waiting for the appropriate time to introduce it. In the mean time, he's playing Kethri, and Sean is playing Thalidimar and Tanar.

Since Mark won't be able to get a journal entry done before he goes on vacation, Stacy has volunteered to do a journal entry from last nights session. I'm certainly looking forward to Stacy's journal entry. Kethri should provide a unique "Bird's eye" view on the events that transpired during our last meeting.

 
 

July 30, 2005

D&D
We played D&D on the 16th of July, and I just completed the related web page updates. The party recently began a new quest – The quest for the Sword of Nth. The adventure has taken them through an extradimensional portal and into a hypercube. The cube is a four dimensional room with many surfaces. The surfaces of these 'rooms' are occupied by various denizens, and mystery abounds behind every door. How did all these creatures get here? What is this place? Where is the sword of Nth?

This particular session was deadly. Rezigrene is dead. Devoured, diced up, and partially digested at the base of a Killer Column. Check out the adventurer's journal for all the gory details.

  • I updated the Journal (thanks to Mark for the entry) with Ashedyn's latest entry. Mark will be present at the meeting on the 30th of July, but he won't be able to make our 13 August meeting - So, we will need someone else to make a journal entry.
  • I made a couple of updates to the monsters page. I updated the "Killer Columns", added entries for the Glabrezu and the Firetoad. I also added an entry for the Galltrit the party spotted. Check out the monsters page for all the details.
  • The campaign page: The next meeting is tonight, so I changed the campaign page to reflect the meeting on the 13th of August.
  • I updated the "Who's Who" page as well. The party encountered a legendary character during the last meeting. The enigmatic, invincible, immortal – Donald Duck! I'm sure you're as eager as I am to find out his story.

A few days after the session, I received notice that Nancy and Rich are going to be dropping out of the campaign. It's unfortunate, and I hate to see them go, but now we have two NPCs to run. I hope there won't be any problems running these characters for now. Aside from the loss of two players, Stacy lost Rezigrene. He's already created a new character, but it might take some time to bring it into the current adventure.

With Rich and Nancy leaving the group, that leaves two chairs open at the table. I've got good news though; I've already got one person on standby to fill one of the chairs. A good friend of mine (Kevin) is moving to Denver soon. I helped him find a job with Northrop Grumman (that's the company I work for), and he's been selected to fill a position where I'm working. Kevin will be arriving at the end of August, and should be able to start playing soon after that. Hopefully we can fill the other chair as well. Stacy has already mentioned that he has a friend who's expressed interest in gaming.

I look forward to tonight's session and hope to see everyone there (less Rich & Nancy). Bring your bravado and some daring, but don't forget some caution and compassion. Not every monster deserves death at the hands of the S.C.R.E.W.O.F.F.S. (Several Craft, Resourceful, Enterprising Wanderers Out For Fun & Simoleans).

 
 

July 26, 2005

Vacation
Kim's Birthday get away 2005
I'm on vacation now (Today's the last day). Kim and I had various plans for the weekend and beyond. We went to Elitch Gardens: Six Flags amusement park on Friday (the 22nd of July). Why? - Well it was the annual Northrop Grumman picnic/family day at the park, and we needed a break. As promised. I took a bunch of photos. They're not as good as the photos I took last year. I think I'm going to have to buy another digital camera. The Canon ZR200 that I bought back in April just isn't cutting it for stills, and my old Fuji has a broken battery compartment cover.

On the 23rd we went to a going-out of business sale. The EXPO design center in Denver is closing and someone told us they carried 'Bona' hardwood floor products. Unfortunately, they don't. Disappointed, we decided to have a bite to eat. We ate at a 'Rock Bottom Brewery' in South Denver. We had Calamari Diavolo as an appetizer. For entree's, Kim had a tenderloin steak. It was so 'melt-in-your-mouth' tender that I dubbed it a dissolving steak. I had the smoked salmon fish-n-chips. A delightful treat. The batter locked in and enhanced the savory salmon flavor. After lunch, we called a 'Great Indoors' store. They had the product we were looking for, so it wasn't a complete waste of a day. The food really was good; even if we hadn't found the Bona, lunch alone was worth the trip.

On the 24th, we headed out to Buena Vista, Colorado. On the way there, we took a detour to do a little scenic driving. We drove out to Alma, Colorado, where we began a trip to drive through Mosquito pass. While we made it all the way to the London mine, we had to turn back at that point. The trail to the summit (appx 2 miles) was extremely rough with boulders of nine to twelve inches in diameter. The Volvo was having a pretty rough time on the 9' wide trail, and Kim was a bit concerned with the shear drop off just outside the passenger door, so we backed down the 200 yards we had climbed. After the abortive attempt to cross Mosquito pass, we headed directly for 'Sawatch Vista', the B&B we stayed at. We've stayed there before, and it's a great place to get away from the city (Denver & Aurora). We relaxed a little before heading out for dinner. That evening we ate at a place called 'The Missing Spoon'. A casual restaurant with a non-smoking bar, which Kim and I appreciated, since our table was right next to the bar. Kim had a Chicken Picata, which was very good, but I had a heavenly dish. A Thai Green Curry dish with shrimp. It was absolutely fantastic. For desert we had Creme Brule'

On the 25th, we left Buena Vista and headed back towards Denver. On the way, we stopped for a little more off road action. This time we drove Weston Pass. A milder trip (rated as level two in my off-road guide) that was well worth the effort. The views were spectacular, and the Volvo had no problems on this trail. Yes, we made it over the summit, as the pictures will attest. It rained most of the day, but I still got a bunch of good pictures.

While we were on vacation I took a bunch of photos with my crippled camera. If you'd like to check them out, you'll find them posted on my web site... Umm, here.

All in all, I'd say we had a great time on Kim's birthday. Happy birthday Kim!

Our House
Kim and I bought a new house on the 30th of March. Our first home. Since then we've been engrossed in the new house. Settling into a new home is quite a chore. There are A LOT of expenses, expected and otherwise. We've still got a lot of work to do, and I imagine it'll never stop. Owning your own home brings a lot more work than a rental, and I didn't expect this much fun!

Well, most of the warranty repairs have been completed, we've got our window coverings in, and all the furniture is in place. I'll bet you're wondering when we're going to make that video walk through? Yeah, me too. Things keep coming up, and it keeps getting put off. I do however pledge that it'll get done - eventually...

So what's going on with the new house lately? Wasps! This morning I had to knock down three wasp nests. I'm not sure what type of wasps they were, but their hives? were made of mud and hard as rock. I thought I could knock them down with a broom, but that didn't work. I had to get the shovel (heavy duty - steel) out of the garage. Thankfully, it was a cold (60's in July) and rainy day. I got up around 0600 and there no wasps around. It took me some time to knock down all those nests, but I lucked out. I didn't get stung. For that matter, I never even saw a wasp; aside from the ones that fell out of the nests (I squashed them). Having bees nests right outside the front entrance was something I didn't anticipate. I guess I'll have to keep an eye out for that sort of thing in the future.

Music
I added three CD's to my collection recently:

A blast from the past - Echo & the Bunnymen: The Cutter. This CD - Released in 1988, features some classics by Echo & the Bunnymen (one of my favorite bands). In addition to the classics, it also contains a bunch of tracks I'd never heard before. This may be an old CD, but this band - Started in the 70's! is still rocking. Granted, their last album 'Live in Liverpool' (a compilation) was released in 2002, and many thought their day was past. But, they've been touring and playing the club scene in europe, and now they've made a new album. Siberia is due to be released in September of this year, and I for one will be scooping up a copy.

The second CD is another favorite from the past. A band named Felony made two albums in the 80's. Pretty much a one hit wonder, the debut album (The Fanatic) contained plenty of songs which lodged firmly in my memory of the 80's. One hit in particular (The Fanatic) has found it's way onto many compilations and play lists. As a matter of fact, I've even had someone request a copy of the album from me. I bought the cassette release back in the 80's, and it's been in my collection for a long time. After the recent request, I rewound the tape and gave it a spin. Unfortunately, time has taken it's toll on my cassette collection. This particular gem was one of the victims. It sounded terrible, with plenty of screeching, squeaking and downright bade audio, I decided to resurrect this favorite. After a short trip to my favorite on-line music store, the used CD arrived a couple of days later, and now I have a relatively pristine copy for my ever growing digital collection.

Finally, the third CD was a MacAddict discovery. Yes the magazine, MacAddict. Each month the magazine comes with a CD full of software. In addition to the software, they include four tracks of music to listen to while you peruse the disc. The selection is surprisingly suited to my musical tastes, and I often think that the music tracks are better than the software collection. In any case, one of the recent music selections included a song from a band called "Jim's big ego". After listening to it, I rushed out and checked out some more of their stuff. Liking what I heard, I ordered a copy of "They're everywhere" (released in 2003) from djangos.com.

All three CDs now reside on my computer and my iPod. These are not the only additions to my music collection in recent months, but I thought I'd mention them because of the newfound joy that this music (and others) has brought to me in recent months. I haven't updated my online listing in several months, but I've made a decision lately - I'm going to update my collection. I plan to buy a copy of CDpedia from Bruji.com. I'm currently using DVDpedia to create my online listing of movies, and I've been very happy with that piece of software, so I decided to give CDpedia a try. After a short trial run, I made my decision. I'm definitely switching from a spreadsheet generated table to this new tool. Now it's only a matter of time before I have the time to convert everything to this new format. I'll let you know when it's ready.

Mac OS 10.4 - Tiger
Today I updated my operating system. Mac OS X recently underwent another evolutionary change. Moving from the 10.3 system to 10.4 is quite a change. This latest operating system contains a very large number of changes; over 200 according to Apple. Some of the more notable features: Spotlight - Find anything, anywhere, fast. I've already used this feature several times, and I'm certain that it'll cut down on the amount of time I spend rooting around looking for things. Dashboard - Handy widgets at your command. Something I haven't had a chance to try out yet, but something the community is all abuzz about. iChat AV - Videoconferencing for the rest of us. I've been using iChat for some time now, but this new version brings multi-person video and audio conferencing to the Mac desktop. These and many, many more form the core of OS 10.4.

The upgrade went painlessly, but It'll take some time to shake out all the kinks, like multiple versions of certain Mac apps, and some hesitant performance under the X11 umbrella. I've already got the Gimp back up and running, so things can't be all that bad. I updated the operating system from 10.4 to 10.4.2 soon after completing the initial OS upgrade.

As a result of my OS update, the following pages have been updated. myfavs.html, feedback.html, mycomputer.html.

Software favorites
As a result of the recent operating system upgrade, at least one of my favorite applications has been updated.

Safari: Apple's web browser for OS X, is way ahead of the pack. Apple's browser contains a plethora of incredibly powerful features. I wonder why Microsoft stopped developing IE for Mac? I'm currently using version 2.0 (v412.2). This most recent version comes as part of a recent operating system update.

Battle of the browsers. Netscape versus Internet Explorer. Those are your choices right? Wrong! Think different! Think Mac! Choose Safari, the new kid on the block. A fast (The fastest available for Mac) but full featured browser, which performs like a pro. Tabbed browsing, URL snap-back, a powerful but elegant bookmark implementation (with built-in import capability), Google search integration, built-in pop-up blocker, multiple standards (HTML, XML, XHTML, DOM, CSS, RSS, JavaScript, and Java, plus QuickTime, Flash and Shockwave plug-ins), and a host of other features. Just one more reason to Switch! It's won a place as my default browser, give it a chance and it'll soon be yours.

 
 

July 23, 2005

Our House
Kim and I bought a new house on the 30th of March. Our first home. Since then we've been engrossed in the new house. Settling into a new home is quite a chore. There are A LOT of expenses, expected and otherwise. We've still got a lot of work to do, and I imagine it'll never stop. Owning your own home brings a lot more work than a rental, and I didn't expect this much fun!

Living in Colorado means "Mountains". Unfortunately, our home doesn't have a decent view of the mountains. Actually, we don't have any view of the mountains. A nearby ridge blocks the view. Needless to say, that's a downright shame, and something that needs to be remedied. Well, I've come up with a solution. It's not an actual view but it's the best we can do, given the logistical realities of the situation.

We do have a spot right above our fireplace, it's a west facing wall; where a painting would look good. Well, a painting of the mountains is just what we need. I've got the painting all set. Check out this 'Painting'. I created it using 'The GIMP', a free Graphic (GNU) Image Manipulation Program that rivals PhotoShop in features and capability. I've been using it on and off for a few years now, and I'm slowly coming to realize that there's nothing I can't do with the GIMP. I took one of my photos, applied a couple of filters, and suddenly, I've got an oil painting on canvas. Now all I need to do is get it printed and framed. I imagine that'll be the hard part, and it certainly won't be free.

Vacation
I'm on vacation now. Kim and I have various plans for the weekend and beyond. We went to Elitch Gardens: Six Flags amusement park on Friday (the 22nd of July). Why? - Well it was the annual Northrop Grumman picnic/family day at the park, and we needed a break. As promised. I took a bunch of photos. They're not as good as the photos I took last year. I think I'm going to have to buy another digital camera. The Canon ZR200 that I bought back in April just isn't cutting it for stills, and my old Fuji has a broken battery compartment cover.

Today we're planning an outing to a going-out of business sale. It's an EXPO design center (They're owned by Home Depot). The EXPO design center in Denver is closing. There's only one in Colorado, and they're closing it? That's odd? Perhaps Home Depot is planning to close all of them? - Later: I did a little digging, and it looks like Home Depot is planning to close some, convert some to Home Depot stores, and continue to operate 34 others.

What else are we doing today? Well, yesterday I received my copy of Mac OS 10.4 in the mail. If I get around to it, I'll update my operating system. It's been a long awaited update, but I'm afraid that I'm going to lose a lot of my X11 apps (including the GIMP (see above article)), and a bunch of my older OS 9 apps as well. Perhaps I'll hold off for a little while. I'll probably need to do some additional research, and maybe even make some application back-ups before I update the operating system.

After that, we're headed to Buena Vista, CO on the 24th. We're staying at a B&B called 'Sawatch Vista' for two days. We've stayed there before, and it's a great place to get away from the city (Denver & Aurora). We're planning to do a little scenic driving. I'll be sure to take the camera(s) along. Photos will be posted.

Software favorites
One of my software favorites was recently upgraded. This recent update is just another step in an ever-improving product. Paying for this shareware guarantees a continuously improving graphic manipulation and conversion tool worth way more than any other so-called 'Professional' application.

One of my favorite programs underwent another upgrade recently. GraphicConverter moved up to 5.6.3b1. GraphicConverter is an image converter and editor. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box. At a fraction of PhotoShop's cost, this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox.
http://www.lemkesoft.de/en/graphcon.htm

Photos
With all the pictures I've been taking lately, I decided to update the photos page. A photo journal of Robert & Kim's adventures. People, places, things. I added links to my World Forum photos, photos of our new house, updated the Six Flags category, and updated some of the text and page formating.

 
 

July 21, 2005

Our House
Kim and I bought a new house on the 30th of March. Our first home. Since then we've been engrossed in the new house. Settling into a new home is quite a chore. There are A LOT of expenses, expected and otherwise. We've still got a lot of work to do, and I imagine it'll never stop. Owning your own home brings a lot more work than a rental, and I didn't expect this much fun!

Over the last couple of weeks, I've been working on a landscaping plan for the back yard. Kim's been hounding me to get it done, and the deadline is quickly approaching. Well, I'm proud to announce that today I submitted the plan to our HOA. Here's a copy of the plan - Just in case you'd like to see it. I created the plan by starting with a scan of our property plan. I did a little image manipulation in GraphicConverter, and then I imported it into AppleWorks. I used AppleWorks to do all the editing. It worked like a charm. I can't imagine what I would do without it (By the way, it's slated to be discontinued by Apple, and there is not an adequate replacement (IMHO)). The GIMP would probably suffice, but I've found the controls (very PhotoShop like) to be more difficult to use.

House plants: The other day, Kim and I visited a local nursery in order to pick out a replacement for our somewhat dilapidated fake Ficus tree. The height of crappy home decor - A fake Ficus tree. They never look like a real tree, they accumulate a lot of dust, and they almost never stand up straight - always tilting one way or the other. Ours had to lean against the wall, so that it wouldn't tip over. Well, all those problems are solved. We bought a real tree for our entry. We bought a 'Dracaena Massangeana' cane plant. It looks really nice (click here for photo). Nicknamed the 'Corn plant', the leaves look very much like those from an actual corn plant. It's only 4' tall at the moment, but it should grow to be very tall (up to 10'). My friend from Japan has one of the plants, and it reaches the ceiling in his home.

While we were at the nursery, we picked up a selection of herbs as well. They're already started, but we plan to transplant them soon. Boy they sure do smell good. Even if we don't eat any of them, I'm already enjoying their aroma.

Veteran's Administration
Well, it's official. I'm now a 'Disabled Veteran'. Back in May, I spent a day of break at the VA hospital. I was there to complete a compensation examination. After the examination, they claimed that it would take three to four months before I would hear anything back. It's only been two months, and already I've received a response. Astonishing, the government actually got something done ahead of schedule?! Well, when you predict three to four months, I guess two months isn't too bad.

Anyway, they've completed the evaluation of my compensation claim. I was evaluated on three areas for my disability claim.

  • Injury to facial nerves as the result of an orbital blow-out
  • Impaired vision as the result of the orbital blow-out
  • Back injury as a result of an accident

The government conceded military service related disability in all three cases. However, they only allowed compensation in the case of the nerve damage related to my orbital blow-out. Apparently, my other injuries aren't severe enough to warrant compensation. I was granted a 10% disability with compensation in conjunction with the nerve damage to my face. So, I'll be receiving a monthly compensation of $108.00. Wow! - I'm underwhelmed. Do I actually get the money? No - The government actually reduces my retirement pay by $108.00 a month in order to pay me my compensation. Yeah, there's definitely something wrong with that, but the government's in charge, and they get to make the rules. The only good part of the compensation is tax status. The $108.00 per month (that I'll be paying myself) is not taxable. Who knows, if I'm really lucky, it'll change my tax bracket. Disabled Veteran status also gives me some employment preference with the federal government. If I ever decide to take a job with one of the government intelligence agencies (It might happen), I'll get hiring preference for being a 20 year veteran, and additional preference for being a disabled veteran.

 
 

July 20, 2005

Our House
Kim and I bought a new house on the 30th of March. Our first home. Since then we've been engrossed in the new house. Settling into a new home is quite a chore. There are A LOT of expenses, expected and otherwise. We've still got a lot of work to do, and I imagine it'll never stop. Owning your own home brings a lot more work than a rental, and I didn't expect this much fun!

Over the last couple of weeks, I've been working on a landscaping plan for the back yard. Kim's been hounding me to get it done, and the deadline is quickly approaching. Well, I'm proud to announce that I've finalized the plans, and I'm ready to submit them to the HOA. Here's a copy of the plan - Just in case you'd like to see it. I created the plan by starting with a scan of our property plan. I did a little image manipulation in GraphicConverter, and then I imported it into AppleWorks. I used AppleWorks to do all the editing. It worked like a charm. I can't imagine what I would do without it. The GIMP would probably suffice, but I've found the controls (very PhotoShop like) to be more difficult to use.

Vacation
I'm on vacation now. Kim and I have various plans over the next week. We're going to Elitch Gardens: Six Flags amusement park on Friday (the 22nd of July). It's an annual Northrop Grumman picnic/family day at the park, and we need a break. After that, we're headed to Buena Vista, CO on the 24th. We're staying at a B&B called 'Sawatch Vista' for two days. We've stayed there before, and it's a great place to get away from the city (Denver & Aurora). We're planning to do a little scenic driving. I'll be sure to take the camera(s) along. Photos will be posted.

 
 

July 15, 2005

Our House
Kim and I bought a new house on the 30th of March. Our first home. Since then we've been engrossed in the new house. Settling into a new home is quite a chore. There are A LOT of expenses, expected and otherwise. We've still got a lot of work to do, and I imagine it'll never stop. Owning your own home brings a lot more work than a rental, and I didn't expect this much fun!

Yesterday the hardwood floors in our entry finished curing. With the floor in the entry back in business, we've just got two problems left from our initial warranty report. The wood floor in the kitchen had to be refinished, and it still hasn't completely cure. The stoop outside the service entrance to our garage needs to be repaired. We also discovered a new problem. Our front porch has several cracks in it. The cracks have been getting progressively worse.

Once the the finish on our hardwood floors has fully cured, I plan to make a video walk through of the new house. Hopefully the house will be presentable by then.

2005 World Forum
From 23 - 26 June; I volunteered at the 2005 AEI World Forum. The World Forum is held every year in Beaver Creek, Colorado. At former president Gerald R. Ford's personal invitation, the forum is attended by prominent business leaders, public officials, and scholars. Participants discuss the most critical economic, social, and security issues facing the United States and the world community.

Volunteers are solicited from military bases in Denver and Colorado Springs. Volunteers spend their days acting as security augmentees for the forum's events and drivers for the participants. Recently I received a thank you card from the Vail Valley Foundation (Event coordinator/organizer). They send the card to all the drivers after the event. It's a nice personal touch, and I appreciate it.

I had a good time, and if I'm still working in the Aurora/Denver area next year, I'll try to attend the forum for a fifth year (Provided I don't have to stay in 'The Lodge').

 
 

July 13, 2005

D&D
We played D&D on the 2nd of July, and today I added some more updates to the Monsters page. Monster descriptions by one of the party members. I prefer these descriptions to the canned text from the monster manuals. While it may not be as accurate (technically), it usually has a better 'flavor' than the clinical description offered by the rule books.

Stuffit Deluxe
Moving up to version 9.0.2, again? That's really odd. On the 7th of May, Allume (Makers of SD) released a 9.0.1. to 9.0.2. update. Why do we need to update to 9.0.2. again?

Stuffit Deluxe, along with the freeware Stuffit Expander, allows me to compress and encode any files that I upload to my web page. It's not really necessary for Web page authoring, but I've found it to be essential for MAC users who use the internet. Stuffit Deluxe allows me to create archives in many different compression formats, segment the archives, save them with a password for protection, and it even facilitates emailing of the compressed files.

Stuffit expander (for Windows or Mac) can decode, decompress, and un-archive just about any compressed file you might encounter on the internet. It's a must have for anyone surfing the web.
http://www.stuffit.com/mac/index.html

 
 

July 12, 2005

Our House
Kim and I bought a new house on the 30th of March. Our first home. Since then we've been engrossed in the new house. Settling into a new home is quite a chore. There are A LOT of expenses, expected and otherwise. We've still got a lot of work to do, and I imagine it'll never stop. Owning your own home brings a lot more work than a rental, and I didn't expect this much fun!

Recently the builder has been sending contractors to repair things around the house. Yesterday, contractors came out and put the finishing touches on our basement repairs. They finally replaced the insulation that was damaged in the (last month and the month before) flooding from this spring. I spent a lot of man hours moving things around the basement, and now everything is back in place (for D&D meetings). The repairs to the window wells haven't been 'tested' yet, but I certainly hope I won't have to move all the contents of the basement - Again!

We still have a couple of problems left - The wood floors still haven't completely cured, and the stoop outside the service entrance to our garage needs to be repaired. We also discovered a new problem. Our front porch has several cracks in it. The cracks have been getting progressively worse.

Once the the finish on our hardwood floors has fully cured, I plan to make a video walk through of the new house. Hopefully the house will be presentable by then.

D&D
We played D&D on the 2nd of July, and I just completed some more related web page updates:

  • I updated the Journal (thanks to Mark for the entry) with Ashedyn's latest entry. It sure would be neat to see a journal entry from someone else's point of view.
  • I made a couple of updates to the Monsters page. I certainly hope you didn't forget the "Killer Columns".
  • I made a few changes to the house rules, and I wanted to get them down on paper (so to speak), before our next meeting. One update is a rule clarification, the other two are the result of recent rule book acquisitions. The relevant changes were/are:
    • Rule books used (pg's 4 - 6) - Added two new books
      • Races of Eberron
      • Dungeon Master's Guide II
    • Allowable character classes and races (Pg's 6 - 7) - Added new races from 'Races of Eberron'.
    • Knowledge of monsters and other things (Pg's 12 - 13) - Updated the formula used for identification.
    • Updated the House Rules table of contents
  • I also updated the D&D books page - I added two new books (see above)

KNOWLEDGE OF MONSTERS and OTHER THINGS:
The DM may determine whether a character has seen, or heard about a particular creature prior to the apparent 1st contact with it. All Characters are assumed to have knowledge of PC races (not monstrous or minor races). The chance of knowing something about a monster is calculated as follows:

First determine the monsters Challenge Rating (CR). The chance to know of/about the creature is then equal to (100% - (10 x CR)). Additionally, the player should subtract the characters level from the roll. So, a 5th level character has a 55% chance of knowing what a troll is/does. Troll CR = 5, ((100% - (5x10)) and a minus 5 on the roll). Players may be directed to subtract or add additional modifiers by the DM. A modified score of 1 is always a successful identification roll.

This chance is calculated/roll made, when the creature is seen. If it is described to the character but not seen, then a roll is permitted but the chance is equal to the normal chance, with no level bonus. Additionally, if the character has the ability to turn Undead, then the level bonus is doubled. This method may be used for other situations as well. For example; if the DM wants to know whether the character in question has ever heard of Eivobrin’s Incanabula (A rare book) before, he/she should assign a base % to the chance. Based on how well known the subject matter is to the common character. Subtract the level of the character from this % and you have the percent chance that the character has knowledge of the subject in question. The level of knowledge the character has on the subject is entirely up to the DM. As is the case with knowledge of Monsters.

 
 

July 7, 2005

Our House
Kim and I bought a new house on the 30th of March. Our first home. Since then we've been engrossed in the new house. Settling into a new home is quite a chore. There are A LOT of expenses, expected and otherwise. We've still got a lot of work to do, and I imagine it'll never stop. Owning your own home brings a lot more work than a rental, and I didn't expect this much fun!

Recently the builder has been sending contractors to repair things around the house. Contractors came and repaired a couple of downspouts. One had been stepped on by a worker (I think it was covered by snow at the time), and the other blocks access to the backyard gate and discharges too close to the foundation. Another contractor came and removed some insulation that had been damaged by the recent flooding in the basement. We still have a couple of problems left - The insulation in the basement needs to be replaced, the stoop outside the service entrance to our garage needs to be repaired, and we discovered a new problem. Our front porch has several cracks in it. The cracks have been getting progressively worse.

Once the the finish on our hardwood floors has fully cured, I plan to make a video walk through of the new house. Hopefully the house will be presentable by then.

D&D
We played D&D on the 2nd of July, and I just completed a couple of updates. I updated the campaign page to reflect the next game date, and I updated the "Who's Who" page - I added an illustration for Tanar. It's another one of those 'Hero Machine' illustrations. It looks pretty good, but I still prefer the hand drawn portraits. That photo of Ashedyn's miniature isn't too shabby either.

Donate!
As recommended by one of my friends, I recently added a donation link to the bottom of my main page. Today I updated my PayPal page. I added a line which shows the donations to date - Yeah, you guessed it $0.00.

 
 

July 6, 2005

Our House
Kim and I bought a new house on the 30th of March. Our first home. Since then we've been engrossed in the new house. Settling into a new home is quite a chore. There are A LOT of expenses, expected and otherwise. We've still got a lot of work to do, and I imagine it'll never stop. Owning your own home brings a lot more work than a rental, and I didn't expect this much fun!

Recently the builder has been sending contractors to repair things around the house. Contractors came and installed the valence rods in the master bedroom and bath. Kim put up the valences - and they look fantastic. So now we're done with the window treatments (except for the guest bedroom - but Kim's doing that later). We also had a contractor come out to fix our air conditioning - Again! The thing had started vibrating again. That's been fixed. It was something different this time. We still need work done on the insulation in the basement, a downspout re-routed, and the stoop outside the service entrance to our garage needs to be repaired.

Once the the finish on our hardwood floors has fully cured, I plan to make a video walk through of the new house. O.k. It seems like I keep changing the criteria. I promise I will make a walkthrough.

Today I took a bunch of photos around the house. With all the window treatments up, I figured it would be a good time to take some additional photos. The photos of the house have been updated. I hope you enjoy the new photos.

 
 

June 30, 2005

Our House
Kim and I bought a new house on the 30th of March. Our first home. Since then we've been engrossed in the new house. Settling into a new home is quite a chore. There are A LOT of expenses, expected and otherwise. We've still got a lot of work to do, and I imagine it'll never stop. Owning your own home brings a lot more work than a rental, and I didn't expect this much fun!

Recently the builder has been sending contractors to repair things around the house. Contractors came and finished refinishing our kitchen floor. Subcontracors got their hands on it, and the results were less than satisfactory. The final coat is drying now, and I can't wait till that's done - This headache is killing me. We also had a contractor come out to replace some windows. We had a bug stuck between the panes of the sliding glass door which led to our back yard, and a window in the bedroom with latice work that was coming apart. We still need work done on the insulation in the basement, valence rods put up in the bedroom, a downspout re-routed, and the stoop outside the service entrance to our garage needs to be repaired.

Once Kim hangs some valences and the basement insulation is back in order, I plan to make a video walk through of the new house.

D&D
We played D&D on the 18th of June, and I just completed the journal updates from our last session. Here's what's new:

  • The campaign page: The next meeting will be on the 2nd of July. The party recently started a new adventure - The quest for the sword of Nth.
  • Adventurers Journal: The 3rd edition campaign is well underway, and we're documenting all the action. An adventurers journal of the parties escapades. The journal is updated every other week (approximately). If you'd like to follow the misadventures of a group of bumbling adventurers, the journal is the page to watch. Organized by adventures, this series of journals is a recap of what the party's been up to. Their trials and tribulations, their ups and downs, their journey, their quest, their Adventure. With the party on the verge of a new adventure, this chapter marks the second entry in a new volume of the journals. Thanks to Mark for the journal entry.
  • Who's Who?: With the party about to embark on a new adventure, the Who's Who page received a lot of updates. The following non-player characters have been added to the page: Arevach N'drs, Hank of Deppershire, Constable Billet, Deputy Nesbit, Old man Geete, Menelmacar, and Pleedir the Druid. Check out the page for all the details.
  • Where Now: The party finds themselves in a new environment. The town of Deppershire is a small tourist stop in the middle of a great plain.
  • Monsters: The party encountered (or learned about) four new creatures during the last session. Check out the monsters page for the details on these nasties: Giant Dragonfly, Song Dragon, Flind and Gnoll.

The party is finally on it's way to adventure. After leaving Willip. They endured a relatively 'Calm' voyage aboard the skyship Eclipse. After making anchor in Deppershire. They arranged for a guide to take them to Rift Canyon. The canyon is rumored to contain an extra-dimensional gateway, and it's inhabited by a mad Druid. Will either of these lead our group to the Sword of Nth? There's only one way to know for sure - Stay tuned for adventure!

 
 

June 28, 2005

Software favorites
One of my software favorites was recently upgraded. This recent update is just another step in an ever-improving product. Paying for this shareware guarantees a continuously improving graphic manipulation and conversion tool worth way more than any other so-called 'Professional' application.

One of my favorite programs underwent another upgrade recently. GraphicConverter moved up to 5.6.3b0. GraphicConverter is an image converter and editor. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box. At a fraction of PhotoShop's cost, this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox.
http://www.lemkesoft.de/en/graphcon.htm

Movies
Recently (26 June 2005), some friends asked what my all time favorite movies were. Well, I hadn't though much about it at the time. But I've been thinking about it ever since. Instead of simply spouting out the top five, I guess I'd have to categorize my favorites by genre. I don't have a favorite picked for every category, but I definitely have a few picked out. Here's the first two to make the list. I'll add others as my opinions solidify around the best of each genre.

  • Comedy: The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra
    A spoof on 1950's sci-fi movies. This little gem always leaves me rolling on the floor. The lines! Oh my god. Whoever wrote this knew what they were doing. The cast are complete unknowns, but that's a good thing. The set and locations are perfect. The film style is also well done. A scientist and the doting 'scientists wife' are investigating a meteorite sighting. An evil-scientist is trying to revive the lost skeleton of Cadavra, and a pair of stranded aliens must refuel their space-ship and recover their mutant. Put all these characters together for dinner and watch what happens! It isn't just a funny movie, it's a well crafted parody/homage. Incorporating time tested B (for Bad) movie film techniques, and directing style, this one is well worth the watching. Days later I find myself describing the movie to friends, and falling over with laughter at the comic genius of this movie. A genre defining 5 of 5.
  • Independent: Pi - Faith in Chaos
    Brilliant - A brain twister. Part sci-fi, part history, part documentary. This movie is a shining example of what happens when the right person directs the right film. Shot in black & white, this cerebral thriller confounds the senses. Pleasing to the eye, enthralling to the ears and captivating the mind. The mysteries abound in this strange movie about math and religion. Can someone find god through science? Great casting, great acting and absolutely unstoppable writing. I enjoyed this movie so much that I analyzed it from beginning to end and took copious notes. A solid 5 of 5.

Our House
Kim and I bought a new house on the 30th of March. Our first home. Since then we've been engrossed in the new house. Settling into a new home is quite a chore. There are A LOT of expenses, expected and otherwise. We've still got a lot of work to do, and I imagine it'll never stop. Owning your own home brings a lot more work than a rental, and I didn't expect this much fun!

Recently the builder has been sending contractors to repair things around the house. Contractors came and worked on our drapes this week. They installed valences over three of the windows - That completes the Hunter Douglass blinds, but we're still not completely finished with the window coverings. We also had a contractor working on the wood floor in the Kitchen. I can't wait till that's done - This headache is killing me. We still need work done on the insulation in the basement, a downspout re-routed and some window work done.

Once the drapes are in and the basement back in order, I plan to make a video walk through of the new house.

2005 World Forum
From 23 - 26 June; I volunteered at the 2005 AEI World Forum. The World Forum is held every year in Beaver Creek, Colorado. At former president Gerald R. Ford's personal invitation, the forum is attended by prominent business leaders, public officials, and scholars. Participants discuss the most critical economic, social, and security issues facing the United States and the world community.

Volunteers are solicited from military bases in Denver and Colorado Springs. Volunteers spend their days acting as security augmentees for the forum's events and drivers for the participants. I didn't get to drive in the Vice President's motorcade this year, but I still had a pretty good time. The downside was the rooms. The conditions of the rooms were horrible this year. If we're asked to stay in the 'Lodge at Avon' next year, I won't be a volunteer. It was worse than any motel I've ever stayed in!

Kim wasn't able to come along this year, but I did manage to take some photos. This years hilite (in my opinion) was a logistical coup, pulled off primarily by one of the drivers. This year we were all able to keep our own vehicles on the night of the 'Dine Around' - A dinner party event on the last night of the World Forum. Why is this so important? On the last night of the World Forum, we often have our vehicles packed with our belongings in anticipation of an early departure the next morning. In the past, there was no guarantee that you would keep your vehicle for the 'Dine Around'. Drivers were often separated from their vehicles on the night of the dine around, and they had a very short amount of time left the next morning in order recover their belongings before returning participants to Denver.

As usual, our accommodations were provided by the Vail Valley Foundation. Unfortunately, not everyone got to stay at the Beaver Creek West condominiums this year. Most of us (myself included) had to spend our down time in a flea-bitten rat trap known as 'The Lodge at Avon' (Don't be fooled by the room pictured on their web site - The rooms don't look like that). In addition to accommodations and free meals, we also received a $75.00 stipend to help defray other costs.

I had a good time, and if I'm still working in the Aurora/Denver area next year, I'll try to attend the forum for a fifth year (Provided I don't have to stay in 'The Lodge').

 
 

June 22, 2005

Our House
Kim and I bought a new house on the 30th of March. Our first home. Since then we've been engrossed in the new house. Settling into a new home is quite a chore. There are A LOT of expenses, expected and otherwise. We've still got a lot of work to do, and I imagine it'll never stop. Owning your own home brings a lot more work than a rental, and I didn't expect this much fun!

Recently the builder has been sending contractors to repair things around the house. Contractors came and worked on our window wells this week. They installed drains in three of the window wells, tying the drains into the drain tile. It cost the builder $1,600.00 per window well. They've learned their lesson though. They're installing them on all the new homes now. We also had a contractor come in to install some cabinetry scribe work, and another contractor has been working on the wood floor in the entry. We still need more work done on the kitchen floor, drapes installed, and new insulation in the basement.

Once the drapes are in and the basement cleaned up, I plan to make a video walk through of the new house.

2005 World Forum
Today I picked up the car I'll be driving in this years World Forum - A Volvo XC70 (Cross Country). It's a really nice car. Sort of a hybrid between an SUV and a station wagon. Not as nice as my XC90, but a fine vehicle. The World Forum is held every year in Beaver Creek, Colorado. At former president Gerald R. Ford's personal invitation, the forum is attended by prominent business leaders, public officials, and scholars. Participants discuss the most critical economic, social, and security issues facing the United States and the world community.

I've volunteered as a driver and security augmentee at the last three World Forum's and I'll be there again this year. I'm leaving tomorrow to drive up to Beaver creek. This years event will be held from June 23rd - June 26th. I will take pictures, and I will post a recap after the event.

Software favorites
One of my software favorites was recently upgraded. This recent update is a maintenance update. There are no new features. It's primarily a bunch of bug fixes brought about by the Mac OS 10.4 upgrade.

BBEdit
The world's greatest HTML editor moved up to version 8.2.2 today. This incredibly powerful application is a high-performance HTML and text editor for the Macintosh. It is designed and crafted for the editing, searching, transformation, and manipulation of text. BBEdit provides a vast array of general-purpose features which are useful for a wide variety of tasks, and includes many special purpose features which have been specifically developed in response to the needs of Web authors and software developers. It's an absolute must for any Mac enthusiast. Window's users eat your heart out!
http://www.barebones.com/products/bbedit/index.shtml

Eating out in Denver
Since we moved Kim and I have been exploring the local community. We recently ate at two of the restaurants in our new community. They're not spectacular, but the food is really good, so I thought I'd mention them.

The first is a Sushi restaurant! Blue Koi - Thank god - Kim and I now have a sushi restaurant a couple miles from the house. The cuts are very fresh and they have a pretty good variety. The decor is modern industrial, the atmosphere is airy and cheerful. The menu is primarily Japanese cuisine; sushi, sashimi, as well as teriyaki and tempura dishes. The Volcano roll (served warm) is really good.

The other restaurant is a chain. Camille's Sidewalk Cafe - A light menu. Sandwiches, panini's wraps, and salads. With a large vegetarian selection, the eating is very healthy. Kim tried the Veganini panini - boy was that good. Focaccia bread (it's not like the focaccia bread we had in Italy), grilled eggplant, feta, roasted read peppers, sun-dried tomato pesto, red onions, pesto-mayo, and a balsamic glaze. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it. We've been there about three times now, and it just keeps getting better. The atmosphere is relaxed and conversational. People really do eat at tables outside on the sidewalk. The salsa that they serve with tri-colored tortilla chips is fresh and tasty. Very good salsa. Camille's pays attention to every detail, even something that's usually bland and unremarkable.

 
 

June 18, 2005

2005 World Forum
Yesterday I attended a meeting for this years World Forum. The World Forum is held every year in Beaver Creek, Colorado. At former president Gerald R. Ford's personal invitation, the forum is attended by prominent business leaders, public officials, and scholars. Participants discuss the most critical economic, social, and security issues facing the United States and the world community.

I've volunteered as a driver and security augmentee at the last three World Forum's and I'll be there again this year. At yesterday's meeting we went over some critical information regarding the event, and received some necessary items. This years event will be held from June 23rd - June 26th. I will take pictures, and I will post a recap after the event.

Promotion Party
I went to a party yesterday. A bunch of people (five people) from work got together and held a promotion party yesterday. I didn't get promoted, but I know all the people who did. It was quite a party. Free food and drinks, including a keg of Fat Tire! The party was out at Murphy Creek golf community. It's only a couple miles from our place, and I'm on break. So what the hell. I had a really good time. I was there for four hours. I had some food, some beer, and talked with some friends. I had a really good time.

 
 

June 17, 2005

D&D
We're playing D&D tomorrow night, and I thought I'd post a little update before the meeting. I purchased a new rule book the other day. Races of Eberron - It's a basic rules supplement, but it's based on the Eberron campaign. I bought it because I wanted to see if I could incoprorate any of the races into my campaign. I haven't finished my review yet, but I believe I'll be adding three races to the Rob's World! campaign: Warforged, Shifters and Changelings. In addition to the new races, I'll probably add some of the feats, spells and equipment. I will not be adding the Kalashtar (another race) any of the psionic related material, or the other races. Once I've completed a thorough review of the book, I'll make appropriate changes to the house rules and post an entry here.

 
 

June 14, 2005

D&D
We played D&D on the 4th of June, and I just completed the journal updates from our last session. Here's what's new:

  • The campaign page: The next meeting will be on the 18th of June. The party will be starting their new adventure. The quest for the sword of Nth.
  • Adventurers Journal: The 3rd edition campaign is well underway, and we're documenting all the action. An adventurers journal of the parties escapades. The journal is updated every other week (approximately). If you'd like to follow the misadventures of a group of bumbling adventurers, the journal is the page to watch. Organized by adventures, this series of journals is a recap of what the party's been up to. Their trials and tribulations, their ups and downs, their journey, their quest, their Adventure. With the party on the verge of a new adventure, this chapter marks the second entry in a new volume of the journals. Thanks to Mark for the journal entry.
  • Who's Who?: With the party about to embark on a new adventure, the Who's Who page received a lot of updates. The following non-player characters have been added to the page: Nth, The Sword of Nth, The War of Shadows, the Legend of Nth, Il-I-Kay, Siegrid, Yorgel, Kraetia and Trelles. Check out the page for all the details.
  • Where Now: With the party on the verge of another journey, this is another page that's been updated. The following new places have been added to the page: Rift Canyon, The Great Rift and the Shaar.

The party has returned to Willip, split up their loot and rearranged their membership. Gone are: Alcarenque, Khoronach, and Eilownwy . Joining the group are Tanar and Kethri . The party is well balanced, trained, and resupplied, and they've already selected a new adventure. They're planning to go in search of another legendary weapon. This time their looking for a sword. The quest for the sword of Nth. Stay tuned to learn more about this new quest. Stay tuned to hear more about the newest party members. Stay tuned for adventure!

 
 

June 13, 2005

Software update
Recently, Lemke Sotware updated one of their less known pieces of software. Famous for GraphicConverter, Lemke Software GMBH also makes FontBook for the Mac. Not to be confused with Font Book, the application that ships with OS X, FontBook is more of a font sampler application than it is a font management tool. If you'd like to create font overviews of your fonts, FontBook is the way to go.

Changes in version 4.3 include many of my suggestions, and correct some of the problems I'd noted.

Changes 4.3
+ 40 lines layout added
+ command +/- jump complete pages
+ print settings are stored between program launches
+ terry williams text can be changed
+ bug reporting added
+ bug in saving multiple pages into separate pdf/ps files fixed
+ bug in display of 20 lines layout fixed
+ many internal improvements and bug fixes

Fighting spam
Today is a sad day. In order to reduce my spam intake even further, I've had to ditch another email address. This time it's one of my favorites. I had my suespammers.org email address turned off. It's hard to believe that spammers would even bother sending spam to a 'suespammers' email address, but they don't care, they have no shame, there is no justice. They operate in a vacuum and they know that they can spam everyone with no repercussions. If only it was legal to XxXx them! I liked using the suespammers email address. I didn't use it a lot, but it was one of my favorites. Unfortunately, it's become one of my biggest spam magnets. I wish it was filtered, but it's not. So for now, I've had it turned off. If you send email to that address, you'll receive a bounce. The administrator assured me that I can have it turned on again in the future. For now though, it'll have to stay turned off.

As a result of this change, I've updated a couple of my web pages: feedback.html and junkdec.htm.

 
 

June 9, 2005

NetFlix News!
Last month, Kim purchased three movies through our cable company (Comcast). The cost $12.00! Twelve bucks for three movie! Needless to say, we had a little conversation. The result, we've increased our NetFlix queue from 3 out at a time to 5 out at a time. So now we're paying $29.99 a month for unlimited rentals, with five movies out a time. You might be thinking, That's the same as the Comcast rental for one less movie... Umm, what you've failed to take into account the fact that $12.00 buys you as many movies as you can watch in a month, the NetFlix selection is way better than any other rental outlets, and the movies in the mail method works like a charm.

How many movies do you think Kim will watch this month? How many movies do you watch in a month. If you're like me (I watch 15-20 movies a month), you'll find NetFlix is a much better bargain than the other rental options.

NetFlix is awesome. It's easy to use - Pick your movies on the web. It's cheap - Only $17.99 a month (for three movies out at a time). It's convenient - No need to drive to the rental place. It's got a huge variety of movies - Over 25,000 at last count. Another feature that I appreciate; Movie recommendations. The more movies you rent, the more movies you rate. Rate movies and NetFlix recommends movies, rate a lot of movies and NetFlix gets better at making recommendations.

Our House
Kim and I bought a new house on the 30th of March. Our first home. Since then we've been engrossed in the new house. Settling into a new home is quite a chore. There are A LOT of expenses, expected and otherwise. We've still got a lot of work to do, and I imagine it'll never stop. Owning your own home brings a lot more work than a rental, and I didn't expect this much fun!

Recently the builder has been sending contractors to repair things around the house. We had two sinkholes, one on either side of the house. They rebuilt a retaining wall and filled in the sinkholes on both sides of the house. The work they did on the retaining wall is fantastic. Now I'll need some additional landfill put in to finish that job. Someone came and fixed the porch outside the garage service door. I didn't much care for the teeter-toter. J.C. Penny came and installed our drapes and blinds. They did a good job, but they forgot the valences, some rods, and they made one curtain half size. They'll be back.

I'm still waiting for all the drapes to get installed before I make a video of the new house.

 
 

June 4, 2005

Time to build an ark!
Our basement is flooded as I write this. It isn't all that bad mind you, but it's damned inconvenient. A few days ago, Kim and I discovered a very wet basement with standing water all over the floor. We weren't sure what caused it at the time, so we called our warranty rep, and he came out to look at it. He claimed the water came in through the window well. At the time, I wasn't quite convinced.

Yesterday afternoon we had some heavy thunderstorms. As I went down the stairs, I could hear the water running. One of our window wells was filled with water, and the water was leaking into the basement. The water was coming in around the window, and it was everywhere. I frantically began moving stuff out of the way. I spent two hours fighting with the water before I realized that there really wasn't anything I could do.

Unfortunately, I didn't move the boxes to the 'high ground', and some of the boxes ended up standing in water (again!). The rain finally let up and I went to bed.

Today it's raining steadily. I had to relocate a bunch of D&D stuff for tonights meeting, and I had to move everything to a new location in the basement. I think I've figured out where the 'high ground' is, but who knows how long it's going to rain?

We've still got some boxes in standing water, but I've pretty much given up on those. Hopefully the rain will let up before the water causes some real damage. If only the sump pump was in the corner where the leak is...

I'm planning on leaving the D&D table and some books upstairs until the warranty people get this situation straightened out. They're going to need to do two things to correct the problem. Re-grade the yard. A sink hole ruined the grade on the west side of the house, which is causing the rain water to drain into one of my windo wells. Unfortunately, the window well doesn't drain to the houses drain tile. That's the other thing they'll have to do.

Owning a home is so much fun!

 
 

May 31 , 2005

Memorial Day
I hope you had as good a day as Kim and I. Despite the rain, we had a pretty good day. We did a little shopping, went to see a movie, and then we had a cookout. I had to buy a paneling hammer and a prybar. We also picked up some furniture coasters for our new dinning room set. The movie didn't cost us anything because we used the free tickets we won at a 'New home buyers workshop'. We even had a $10.00 gift certificate to help defray the immense cost of popcorn and sodas. After the movie we went home, I cleaned the grill and we had a cookout. Kim prepared beer-brats, vegetables and portabello mushrooms on the grill. What a perfect day.

Software favorites
One of my software favorites was recently upgraded. This recent update is just another step in an ever-improving product. Paying for this shareware guarantees a continuously improving graphic manipulation and conversion tool worth way more than any other so-called 'Professional' application.

One of my favorite programs underwent another full release upgrade. GraphicConverter moved up to 5.6.2. GraphicConverter is an image converter and editor. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box. At a fraction of PhotoShop's cost, this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox.
http://www.lemkesoft.de/en/graphcon.htm

D&D
We played D&D on the 21st of May. I just completed the journal updates from our last session. Here's what's new:

  • The campaign page: The next meeting will be on the 4th of June and we should be starting a new adventure. If all goes according to plan.
  • Adventurers Journal: The 3rd edition campaign is well underway, and we're documenting all the action. An adventurers journal of the parties escapades. The journal is updated every other week (approximately). If you'd like to follow the misadventures of a group of bumbling adventurers, the journal is the page to watch. Organized by adventures, this series of journals is a recap of what the party's been up to. Their trials and tribulations, their ups and downs, their journey, their quest, their Adventure. With the party on the verge of a new adventure, this chapter marks the first entry in a new volume of the journals. Thanks to Mark for the journal entry.
  • Who's Who?: With the departure of Nicholas and Jason from our gaming group, I moved Alcarenque and Eilownwy to their own pages, as the characters have left the party. The chairs left open by Nicholas and Jason have been occupied by Rich and Nancy Clark. The two new players bring fresh blood to our group, and their new characters - Tanar and Kethri - should provide some interesting role-playing opportunities. I also updated the Hero's gallery, as it was a bit out of date.

The party has returned to Willip, split up their loot and rearranged their membership. Gone are: Alcarenque, Khoronach, and Eilownwy . Joining the group are Tanar and Kethri . The party is well balanced, trained, and resupplied, and they've already selected a new adventure. They're planning to go in search of another legendary weapon. This time their looking for a sword. The quest for the sword of Nth. Stay tuned to learn more about this new quest. Stay tuned to hear more about the newest party members. Stay tuned for adventure!

Movies
Recently Kim and I went to see Star Wars - Episode III: Revenge of the Sith at the theater and I updated the movies and reviews pages as part of my routine updates.

 
 

May 27, 2005

Software favorites
One of my software favorites was recently upgraded. This recent update is just another step in an ever-improving product. Paying for this shareware guarantees a continuously improving graphic manipulation and conversion tool worth way more than any other so-called 'Professional' application.

One of my favorite programs underwent another upgrade recently. GraphicConverter moved up to 5.6.2b3. GraphicConverter is an image converter and editor. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box. At a fraction of PhotoShop's cost, this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox.
http://www.lemkesoft.de/en/graphcon.htm

New Home
Kim and I bought a new house on the 30th of March. Our first home. Since then we've been engrossed in the new house. Moving into a new home is quite a chore. There are A LOT of expenses, expected and otherwise. We've still got a lot of work to do, and I imagine that it'll never stop. Owning your own home brings a lot more work than a rental, and I didn't expect this much fun! Today I put together an electric lawn mower and weed eater - I vow to never buy another gas powered lawn mower or weed eater. I also installed shelves (built from scrap lumber) across the back wall of the garage. I worked so hard, I broke a hammer!

D&D
We played D&D on the 21st of May, and I haven't updated all the appropriate web pages yet, but I thought I'd update the next game date on the campaign page and make some player character changes to the "Who's Who?" page. With the departure of Nicholas and Jason from our gaming group, I moved Alcarenque and Eilownwy to their own pages, as the characters have left the party. I also updated the Hero's gallery, as it was a bit out of date.

 
 

May 21, 2005

D&D
We last played D&D on the 7th of May, and the next D&D session is tonight. I've made a few changes to the house rules, and I wanted to get them down on paper (so to speak), before our next meeting. Below are two changes to the house rules: The first adds ranged attacks to the sapping rules (see house rules, pg's 18-19). The second (excerpted only) rule is a reduction in the training costs for arcane spell casters (see house rules, pg 25).

SAPPING ATTACK:
Sapping is an attempt to knock out an opponent by striking with the flat of the blade, slugging someone from behind with a sturdy sword-hilt, or using a weapon specifically designed for a sapping attack. It doesn’t work very well against characters or monsters that are expecting it. Any character attempting to sap a creature that threatens him/her provokes an attack of opportunity from the defender. Light, one-handed melee weapons may be used in melee sap attempts. Characters with the ‘point-blank-shot’ feat may make ranged sapping attacks with blunt projectiles, provided they are within 30’ of their target.

Anyone attempting to perform a sap attack has a -1 penalty on their initiative for the round in which they attempt the sap attack. The sapper also has a - 4 ‘to hit’ on the attack roll. The penalty increases to - 8 if the defender is wearing some type of helmet. Only creatures that are equal to the sappers size or one category smaller, may be targeted in a melee sap attack.

If the sapper scores a hit, she may knock out her opponent. The chance is 5% per point of damage caused, up to a maximum of 40%. Thus if the sapper inflicts 5 points of damage, she has a 25% chance of knocking out her opponent. Sapping damage is like unarmed combat damage; 25% is real and the rest is temporary. Naturally, if her damage roll exceeds the victim’s hit points, he’s knocked out anyway.

The knockout chance increases to 10% per point of damage (max. 80%) if the victim is surprised, asleep, restrained, or magically held in some way. Sapped characters remain unconscious for up to 30 minutes. Starting in the first round after being struck unconscious, the target may make a fortitude save vs DC 30 in order to become conscious. The DC will reduce by one each round thereafter.


3rd - The cost of training is determined by multiplying the LEVEL by CLASS COST by NR of WEEKS. (round down when fractions are involved). The CLASS COST is obtained from the chart below. A character with a prestige class is considered to be a character of the basic class type for advancement costs. A multi-class character calculates cost and number of weeks as if they were the class type that they are attempting to advance in.

         A: Cleric/Monk = 400gp     B: Fighter/Barbarian = 200gp     C: Magic User/Sorcerer = 600gp
         D: Rogue/Bard = 400gp      E: Ranger/Paladin = 400gp

Movies
Recently I noticed that a movie I'd purchased back in December of 2004 (Hero) was missing from my movies database. As a result, I updated my database (I use an application called DVDpedia), and the movies listing at Rob's World!

Software favorites
One of my software favorites was recently upgraded. This recent update is just another step in an ever-improving product. Paying for this shareware guarantees a continuously improving graphic manipulation and conversion tool worth way more than any other so-called 'Professional' application.

One of my favorite programs underwent another upgrade recently. GraphicConverter moved up to 5.6.2b2. GraphicConverter is an image converter and editor. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box. At a fraction of PhotoShop's cost, this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox.
http://www.lemkesoft.de/en/graphcon.htm

Books
I finally finished reading Time and Again by Jack Finney. This book was slow at the beginning, and I was quite busy over the past couple of months, but the last third of the book was a real page 'burner'. A great exploration of the ethics of time travel. With Time and Again out of the way, I can finally start to read my copy of Dan Brown's 'The Da Vinci code'. The conspiracy thriller that leaves the reader forever affected. It's been on the best seller list for, how many years now? The Books page has been updated.

 
 

May 17, 2005

What's happening?
I've been busy working. Now that the move is over, and we're slowly settling into our new house, Kim and I have buckled down and gotten back to work. I'm still working straight mids, and it's really starting to get to me. I find myself tired most of the time, I've got a knot in my back that's been there since April 5th, and I never have enough time to get anything done.

I spent a day of break at the VA hospital last week. An entire day! That's how long it took for them to complete my compensation examination. It's going to take three to four months before I hear anything back, so I guess it's more hurry up and wait.

Sugar Grove
A favorite among visitors is my NSGA Sugar Grove page. It contains some information about an assignment to one of the remotest tours in the continental U.S. I often get questions regarding the base, the community, and what it's like to live and work at the little station known as 'the Grove'. I recently updated the web page to correct a spelling error spotted by a vigilant visitor.

Software favorites
One of my favorite software applications was updated recently. Another consequence of Apple's most recent OS release.

Transmit
Anyone who publishes web pages eventually needs a way to upload their pages to a web site. I've found that stand alone FTP tools are the best for this task. Transmit has a clean and easy to use interface, and some really nifty features, like the ability to resume a transfer that's been interrupted, site synchronization capabilities, iDisk integration (It's way faster than the finder!), drag-to-dock sending, column views, a built in text editor, and secure ftp transfer (in various different flavors) capability. http://www.panic.com/transmit/index.html

 
 

May 11, 2005

Software favorites
A couple of my favorite software applications were updated today.

GraphicConverter
My favorite graphics software moved up to version 5.6.2b1 today. GraphicConverter is an image converter and editor. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box. At a fraction of PhotoShop's cost, this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox.
http://www.lemkesoft.de/en/graphcon.htm

BBEdit
The world's greatest HTML editor moved up to version 8.2.1 today. This incredibly powerful application is a high-performance HTML and text editor for the Macintosh. It is designed and crafted for the editing, searching, transformation, and manipulation of text. BBEdit provides a vast array of general-purpose features which are useful for a wide variety of tasks, and includes many special purpose features which have been specifically developed in response to the needs of Web authors and software developers. It's an absolute must for any Mac enthusiast. Window's users eat your heart out!
http://www.barebones.com/products/bbedit/index.shtml

 
 

May 9, 2005

Software favorites
Given all the recent software updates, I noticed that my favorites pages was missing links. This morning I created anchors to all the different entries on the software favorites page. That way, I can reference a particular favorite, and send the reader directly to the appropriate entry on my software favorites page.

D&D
We last played D&D on the 7th of May, and the next D&D session is the 21st of May. I just completed the journal update from our last session, and I updated a few entries on the "Who's Who" web page.

 
 

May 7, 2005

Still busy
The new house is still keeping us very busy. I haven't been getting much sleep, and our schedules have been running very tight of late. Kim and I really need a vacation. A break from everything for a few days... Today I updated the web page dedicated to our new house.

Software favorites
A couple of my favorite software applications were updated recently.

GraphicConverter
My favorite graphics software moved up to version 5.6.2b0 this week. GraphicConverter is an image converter and editor. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box. At a fraction of PhotoShop's cost, this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox.
http://www.lemkesoft.de/en/graphcon.htm

Stuffit Deluxe
Moving up to version 9.0.2. Stuffit Deluxe, along with the freeware Stuffit Expander, allows me to compress and encode any files that I upload to my web page. It's not really necessary for Web page authoring, but I've found it to be essential for MAC users who use the internet. Stuffit Deluxe allows me to create archives in many different compression formats, segment the archives, save them with a password for protection, and it even facilitates emailing of the compressed files.

Stuffit expander (for Windows or Mac) can decode, decompress, and un-archive just about any compressed file you might encounter on the internet. It's a must have for anyone surfing the web.
http://www.stuffit.com/mac/index.html

D&D
We last played D&D on the 9th of April, and the next D&D session is tonight. I just completed the journal updates from our last session. Sorry for the delay, but Kim and I have been a bit busy. Here's what's new:

  • The campaign page: The next meeting will be on the 21st of May and we should be starting a new adventure. If all goes according to plan.
  • Adventurers Journal: The 3rd edition campaign is well underway, and we're documenting all the action. An adventurers journal of the parties escapades. The journal is updated every other week (approximately). If you'd like to follow the misadventures of a group of bumbling adventurers, the journal is the page to watch. Organized by adventures, this series of journals is a recap of what the party's been up to. Their trials and tribulations, their ups and downs, their journey, their quest, their Adventure. Thanks to Mark for the journal entry.
  • Monsters Known: A listing of all Creatures/Monsters Known and encountered by the characters. This listing includes brief descriptions of the creatures encountered. Intelligent NPC monsters/villains are not listed here; they're listed on the Who's Who page. The party encountered one new creature during a brief but hard fought encounter with Sion. Aside from the 'Shadows' that attacked the party, the party read about all the monsters listed below in Derwyth's bestiary.
    • Stinger, Green Warder, Yochlol, Black Abishai, Fhorge, Half-Troll Barbazu, Salt Mummy, Mivilorn, Lucent Worm, Frost Salamander, Gravorg

After our last session we had a player drop out. Within the hour I had posted new player solicitations in two discussion groups and one web page. Less than six hours later I had three takers. Two of the candidates will be attending our meeting tonight. This town (Denver/Aurora) sure has a large supply of gamers. I guess it's not a fad...

Movies
I purchased a couple new movies recently. As a result, I added the movie to my movie listing, updated my movies page and posted some reviews. I sure do love NetFlix!

 
 

May 3, 2005

New Home
Kim and I bought a new house on the 30th of March. Our first home. Since then we've been engrossed in the new house. Moving into a new home is quite a chore. There are A LOT of expenses, expected and otherwise. We've still got a lot of work to do, and I imagine that it'll never stop. Owning your own home brings a lot more work than a rental, and I didn't expect this much fun! Today I updated the photos of the new house. Stay tuned for more developments. The photo pages were created using software showcased on my software favorites page.

Software favorites
One of my favorite software applications was updated recently. Another consequence of Apple's most recent OS release.

Transmit
Anyone who publishes web pages eventually needs a way to upload their pages to a web site. I've found that stand alone FTP tools are the best for this task. Transmit has a clean and easy to use interface, and some really nifty features, like the ability to resume a transfer that's been interrupted, site synchronization capabilities, iDisk integration (It's way faster than the finder!), drag-to-dock sending, column views, a built in text editor, and secure ftp transfer (in various different flavors) capability. http://www.panic.com/transmit/

D&D
We last played D&D on the 9th of April, and the next D&D session is on the 7th of May. Recently, some email discussions has brought to light some questions regarding level advancement for multi-class characters. As a result of these email discussions, I've updated the campaign's house rules. If you're interested in the changes see page 26 for the new/revised house rule.

 
 

April 29, 2005

New Home
Kim and I bought a new house on the 30th of March. Our first home. Since then we've been engrossed in the new house. Moving into a new home is quite a chore. There are A LOT of expenses, expected and otherwise. Kim's parents even flew in to help us. They were here from the 22nd through the 28th, and I can't thank them enough. Without their help, it would have taken us months to get a bunch of stuff finished around the house. Sharon left a very unique baby picture, helped Kim with a lot of design work and helped Kim put up several pictures. Ted put up the speakers for my surround sound, installed two ceiling fans, helped me install lighting fixtures, and helped me with a bunch of other design decisions. Oh yeah, I almost forgot — one of the most important things; Ted brought me a years supply of Yellow Perch!

We've still got a lot of work to do, and I imagine that it'll never stop. Owning your own home brings a lot more work than a rental, and I didn't expect this much fun! If you'd like to check out some photos of the new house, I created a web page just for that purpose. Stay tuned for more developments. The photo pages were created using software showcased on my software favorites page.

Software favorites
Some of my favorite software applications were updated recently. These updates are primarily a result of Apples release of OS 10.4 (Tiger). It'll be a while before I upgrade. Two reasons: Money, and the bug hunt associated with a major OS upgrade.

One of my favorite programs underwent two updates this week. GraphicConverter inched forward to version 5.6.1b0, followed a day later by the release of another full version. GraphicConverter is an image converter and editor. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box. At a fraction of PhotoShop's cost, this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox.
http://www.lemkesoft.de/en/graphcon.htm

BBEdit moved up to version 8.2. This incredibly powerful application is a high-performance HTML and text editor for the Macintosh. It is designed and crafted for the editing, searching, transformation, and manipulation of text. BBEdit provides a vast array of general-purpose features which are useful for a wide variety of tasks, and includes many special purpose features which have been specifically developed in response to the needs of Web authors and software developers. It's an absolute must for any Mac enthusiast. Window's users eat your heart out!
http://www.barebones.com/products/bbedit/index.shtml

CSSEdit inched forward to version 1.7.1. This web tool is a lightweight editor with a heavy weight punch. If you're looking for a Cascading Style Sheet editor, look no further. With a very clean interface, point-n-click simplicity, and access to source code editing, you can't ask for much more in a CSS editor. Although I don't make extensive use of CSS, I've found CSSEdit to be the premier CSS editor in the Mac arena. The preview function takes all the guess-work out of a complex task (CSS editing), and the CSS extraction capability simplifies your plagiarization efforts. Inexpensive, powerful, and easy to use. I'm glad I found this gem.
http://www.macrabbit.com/cssedit/

Transmit
Anyone who publishes web pages eventually needs a way to upload their pages to a web site. I've found that stand alone FTP tools are the best for this task. Transmit has a clean and easy to use interface, and some really nifty features, like the ability to resume a transfer that's been interrupted, site synchronization capabilities, iDisk integration (It's way faster than the finder!), drag-to-dock sending, column views, a built in text editor, and secure ftp transfer (in various different flavors) capability. http://www.panic.com/transmit/

 
 

April 23, 2005

Short note
Kim's parents are here, so I won't be able to make many web page updates for a while. They arrived yesterday, and they'll be here for a week. So far, Ted (Kim's dad) has helped me install two lights, assembled a desk and helped me move a new (The movers dropped (and broke) my big TV!) 36" Sony WEGA into place in the living room.

Sugar Grove
A favorite among visitors is my NSGA Sugar Grove page. It contains some information about an assignment to one of the remotest tours in the continental U.S. I often get questions regarding the base, the community, and what it's like to live and work at the little station known as 'the Grove'. I recently updated the web page to include a link to a U.S. Navy web site on Sugar Grove.

 
 

April 16, 2005

Mac OS 10.3.9 Recently, (15 April 2005) I updated my operating system. Mac OS X (Panther) went up one notch to OS 10.3.9. This latest update is primarily driven by security updates. Normally, Apple simply releases a security update for these kinds of issues, but this update affected some core services. That's why they released the updates as an operating system upgrade. The significance here is updates to some of my pages. As a result of my OS update, the following pages have been updated. myfavs.html, feedback.html, mycomputer.html.

Software favorites
A couple of my favorite software applications were updated recently.

One of my favorite programs underwent another major upgrade yesterday. GraphicConverter moved up to a new full release version. 5.6 is now available for download. GraphicConverter is an image converter and editor. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box. At a fraction of PhotoShop's cost, this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox.

Safari: Apple's web browser for OS X, is way ahead of the pack. Apple's browser contains a plethora of incredibly powerful features. I wonder why Microsoft stopped developing IE for Mac? I'm currently using version 1.3. (v312). This most recent version comes as part of a recent operating system update.

Battle of the browsers. Netscape versus Internet Explorer. Those are your choices right? Wrong! Think different! Think Mac! Choose Safari, the new kid on the block. A fast (The fastest available for Mac) but full featured browser, which performs like a pro. Tabbed browsing, URL snap-back, a powerful but elegant bookmark implemetation (with built-in import capability), Google search integration, built-in pop-up blocker, multiple standards (HTML, XML, XHTML, DOM, CSS, JavaScript, and Java, plus QuickTime, Flash and Shockwave plug-ins), and a host of other features. Just one more reason to Switch! It's won a place as my default browser, give it a chance and it'll soon be yours.

Why I choose Mac
I updated my Mac evangelism page today. Just some minor format changes, but it made me realize that I really do love the Mac operating system. Over the last few months I have often commented on the futility and difficult nature of the Windows operating system. I'm forced to use Windows at work (along with other operating systems), and I just can't help but draw comparisons when I'm trying to get some work done.

Someone recently emailed me with a 'Switch' story. He told me about a friend who had switched from Mac to Windows! Eegads, surely that must have been a painful experience. It certainly was. According to the story; about three days after switching to the PC, he threw the PC out of his window and switched back to Mac! Like I've said before: "Once you've gone Mac - You never go back" This guy started out with a Mac (an iMac), switched to PC (Not knowing what he was getting into), and then went back to Mac. Someone probably told him that PCs were better, and he believed them (he didn't know!).

Spam
Reducing my spam intake. As promised, yesterday I took a drastic measure. I dropped an email address in order to reduce my spam intake. Normally I wouldn't advocate this type of action. However, as you can imagine, I've got my excuses, umm make that 'Reasons'. Should I bore you with the reasons? No? O.k. How about some details instead. Well I ditched my pophost.com/akamail.com account. A service I had used since March of 1998! Why that one? I rarely used it anymore (on account of spam), it was costing me $15.00 a year (with a scheduled increase to $19.95), the customer service was horrible, they absolutely refused to implement any type of spam prevention techniques, and it was accumulating more spam than any of my other accounts. Just wait until I calculate the reduction. I'll bet that it was responsible for nearly 90% of my spam take!

Wait a minute, I wasn't going to bore you with my excuses. I guess I've said enough about that already. In either case, this email change also resulted in an updates to two pages: The Feedback page and the Junk mail declaration page.

...Another update... Later in the day I deactivated my Netscape.net email accounts. I had two because I couldn't figure out how to update my account information. I used to have a third one, but that's another story. Since I still couldn't figure out how to update the account information, and no free help is offered (Yeah, like I'm going to pay $9.99 for telephone support - Not likely!) , I've decided to cut my loses permanently. Deactivating my accounts was no easy matter either; a non-functioning link, and two 'Are you sure?' dialogs - So long Netscape. Good riddance!

More spam
Recently (from March 28 - Apr 08), I was victimized by a spammer (again). Another Joe-Job. The trivial sort. A spammer made a spam run using my domain name (robsworld.org) in the From: and or Reply-To: address fields. As a result of his forgery, I received numerous blow-back messages. These server generated messages were sent to me in response to spam sent to the domains in question. Unfortunately, I was too busy moving to do much about it. Thankfully, there were no measurable effects on my domain or its standing. I didn't get black liste. Not that I know of anyway. Oh how I hate spammers!

 
 

April 14, 2005

We're moving
Kim and I are in the middle of a big move. We're moving into our first home! As a result, I haven't been updating my web site as often as I normally do. This evening, I took a break from unpacking to update a few web pages.

The move is almost over. We're still unpacking boxes, and the only thing left to do at the old house is carpet cleaning. That should get done on Monday. It was supposed to happen this Monday, but a snow storm put the kibosh to those plans.

I recently updated the photos of the new house. I added some unpacking photos, and a few pictures of the D&D room.

Donate!
As recommended by one of my friends, I've added a donation link to the bottom of my main page. Please feel free to donate money to help defray my operating expenses? Perhaps you like Rob's World! so much that you'd like to express your appreciation in a very American way. Feel free to contribute to my PayPal account. Your contribution will be used for some frivolous pursuit. Perhaps I'll use it to buy some computer software, pay for my internet bill, or purchase a new car! I make no promises regarding the disposition of any contributions, but I do promise to send you a personal email in response. Thanks for helping keep Rob's World! running.

My W2's
It's a rant. Skip it if you're not in the mood.
The Air Force finally corrected my W2s. See the January 28 journal entry. Here's another update:
The NCOIC (Non-commisioned officer in charge) of the Comptrollers squadron, hand delivered copies of all my W2Cs to my new house. He dragged the flight commander with him, but the fact that this huge blunder has finally been corrected is due primarily to his efforts. Everybody pretty much ignored my problem, until I got him involved. He was willing to call DFAS (The Defense Finance and Accounting Service) when everyone else just kind of wrung their hands, and shrugged their shoulders.

In the morning, kim and I are going to sign our tax documents and fax them off to the IRS. Hopefully we won't get audited! Thankfully we're due to get a pretty big return. I'm sure it'll all go towards the new house.

Software favorites
One of my software favorites was recently upgraded. This recent update is just another step in an ever-improving product. Paying for this shareware guarantees a continuously improving graphic manipulation and conversion tool worth way more than any other so-called 'Professional' application.

One of my favorite programs underwent another upgrade recently. GraphicConverter moved up to 5.6b2. GraphicConverter is an image converter and editor. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box. At a fraction of PhotoShop's cost, this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox.

 
 

April 11, 2005

We're moving
Kim and I are in the middle of a big move. We're moving into our first home! As a result, I haven't been updating my web site as often as I normally do. This morning, I took a break from unpacking to update a few web pages.

D&D
We played D&D on the 9th of April. We played at the new house, and thanks to Stacy, we had adequate lighting. The new gaming table is set up in the basement, and the setting brings back memories of playing in the Garrity's basement. Since Kim's parents are coming to visit at the end of April, the next D&D session isn't until the 7th of May. During Friday's meeting, the party completed an encounter with some Yeth Hounds, traveled through a mountain pass, stayed at Derwyth's place, and had another encounter with their arch nemesis; "Sion". I've updated the next game date on the the 3rd Edition campaign page, and added some more info to the monsters page.

Software favorites
One of my software favorites was recently upgraded. These recent updates are just another step in an ever-improving product. Paying for this shareware guarantees a continuously improving graphic manipulation and conversion tool worth way more than any other so-called 'Professional' application.

One of my favorite programs underwent two upgrades recently. GraphicConverter moved up to 5.6b0, and then again to 5.6b1. GraphicConverter is an image converter and editor. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box. At a fraction of PhotoShop's cost, this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox.

We're moving
Kim and I are in the middle of a big move. We're moving into our first home! It'll be a while before I'm able to add any new content, or make any major changes to the web site In the meantime, I'll add some more photos of the house, some pictures from the blizzard! and I'll continue to update the reviews page. Stay tuned for more updates.

 
 

March 28, 2005

D&D
We played D&D the other night. The party avoided a violent encounter with a village full of Gibberling, fought a machine, and traded with the Kagu-svirfnebli. After trading a meteor for a set of books, the party set out to return to the Tower of the Heavens. As a result of the meeting, and thanks to Mark's efforts, I've updated a few web pages.

  • The campaign page: The next meeting will be on the 9th of April and it'll be in the new house. Thanks to Mark, I was able to post these updates early. Kim and I will surely be busy over the next couple of weeks. The next time we play, it'll be a new experience. With a bigger table and a basement setting, it'll feel more like a traditional gaming environment. Well, it'll feel that way to me anyway. Reminiscent of my days DMing in the Garrity's basement, the new setting should evoke some fond memories. I hope to see you there.
  • Adventurers Journal: The 3rd edition campaign is well underway, and we're documenting all the action. An adventurers journal of the parties escapades. The journal is updated every other week (approximately). If you'd like to follow the misadventures of a group of bumbling adventurers, the journal is the page to watch. Organized by adventures, this series of journals is a recap of what the party's been up to. Their trials and tribulations, their ups and downs, their journey, their quest, their Adventure. Thanks to Mark for the journal entry.
  • Who's Who: The Who's Who page is a listing of players, characters, and non-player characters in our 3rd edition Dungeons & Dragons campaign. This session resulted in the addition of one new NPC: Hammerinoch - Burrow warden of the Kagu-Svirfnebli.
  • Wherenow: I added a new entry. The Caves of the Kagu-Svirfnebli. These caves are the home of a tribe of Deep Gnome.
  • Monsters Known: A listing of all Creatures/Monsters Known and encountered by the characters. This listing includes brief descriptions of the creatures encountered. Intelligent NPC monsters/villains are not listed here; they're listed on the Who's Who page. The party encountered and fought a mechanical construct called a "Maschin-I-Bozorg" during this session. I also updated the entries for Yeth Hounds and Dire Rhinoceri.

Software favorites
One of my software favorites was recently upgraded. BBEdit (now at version 8.1) is a high-performance HTML and text editor for the Macintosh. It is designed and crafted for the editing, searching, transformation, and manipulation of text. BBEdit provides a vast array of general-purpose features which are useful for a wide variety of tasks, and includes many special purpose features which have been specifically developed in response to the needs of Web authors and software developers. It's an absolute must for any Mac enthusiast. Window's users eat your heart out!

 
 

March 26, 2005

D&D
We play D&D tonight, and I managed to make a last minute update to the Monsters page. I added some player/character narration to a couple of entries. Thanks go to Michael for the descriptions.

New Home
Kim and I are in the process of buying a new house. Our first home. We completed a builders walk through the other day, and we've been ordering new furnishings over the last couple of days. Of course there's still the danger of our loan not going through. Once again, I worry about things that I have no control over. My dreams suck of late. Despite our anxiety, things are really moving forward. I can't wait until the deal is inked. We close on the 30th of the month. In the meantime, you may want to check out the photos of the house. I added some photos that Kim took with the Canon Rebel. Stay tuned for more developments. The photo pages were created using software showcased on my software favorites page.

My W2's
It's a rant. Skip it if you're not in the mood.
The Air Force still hasn't corrected my W2s. See the January 28 journal entry. Here's another update:
I received a set of W2Cs in the mail yesterday. W2s from California. The state that I was never supposed to pay taxes to. The new W2s show $0.00 taxable income, and $91.82 taxes paid. So, when I file with California, I'll get my money back. Now all I need is a set of W2 for Colorado.

Hopefully, when this whole matter is resolved, I'll never have to deal with bases finance office again. They sure screwed things up; Royally!

Thank god I'm not doing the taxes myself!

 
 

March 22, 2005

My W2's
It's a rant. Skip it if you're not in the mood.
The Air Force still hasn't issued me any corrected W2s. See the January 28 journal entry. Here's another update. Well, I finally tracked down someone who could help me. I had to go to base, and get some face to face with the people who are making a mess of my finances. As usual, I got no satisfaction at the AF finance office. No one was able to answer my questions. I asked to talk to supervisors, anyone in charge. I ended up at the comptrollers office. Had to wait a while, but eventually I cornered two people who helped me. The flight commander and first sergeant of the finance. All three of us ended up on conference call with the personnel at DFAS (The Defense Finance and Accounting Service). It took some brainstorming, but eventually they came up with a solution to my W2 problem.

Oh, at this point I'd like to add another twist to the story... Apparently, I did pay taxes to California! Even though the amount withheld was based on the Colorado rate, the money was sent to California, not Colorado. Even though California doesn't require military (out of state) residents to pay taxes. So the base finance office not only screwed up the original request, they then screwed up the corrective action as well.

Back to the issue at hand. The way I understand it, DFAS is going to zero out the taxes owed/paid to California. Then they're going to issue me a corrected set of Colorado W2's. I'll get my money back from California, but then I'll owe that money to Colorado. In the mean time, they wrote me a letter. If I need to file an extension, I can include the letter with my extension.

Hopefully, I'll never have to deal with that finance office again. They sure screwed things up; Royally!

Thank god I'm not doing the taxes myself!

New Home
Kim and I are in the process of buying a new house. Our first home. Recently we placed a bunch of items on order for the new house. Appliances and furniture. Today we have a final walkthrough with the builder. Things are really moving forward. I'm still a little anxious about the financing. The loan processor assured us that we shouldn't have any problems getting the loan approved, but I worry. I don't have any real reason to worry, but I do. Oh that sucks. I can't wait until the deal is inked. We close on the 30th of the month. Stay tuned for more developments.

D&D
We played D&D the other night. last night. The session ran a little long. We finished the meeting on the morning of the 13th. The party had one big battle, an encounter with some giant Rhinoceri, and they found the expected Gibberling village on the other side of the mountain pass. As a result of the meeting I've updated a couple web pages.

  • Monsters Known: A listing of all Creatures/Monsters Known and encountered by the characters. This listing includes brief descriptions of the creatures encountered. Intelligent NPC monsters/villains are not listed here; they're listed on the Who's Who page. The party was ambushed by a group of Yeth hounds, and they avoided an encounter with a group of Dire Rhinoceri.
  • Adventurers Journal: The 3rd edition campaign is well underway, and we're documenting all the action. An adventurers journal of the parties escapades. The journal is updated every other week (approximately). If you'd like to follow the misadventures of a group of bumbling adventurers, the journal is the page to watch. Organized by adventures, this series of journals is a recap of what the party's been up to. Their trials and tribulations, their ups and downs, their journey, their quest, their Adventure. Thanks to Mark for the journal entry.
 
 

March 18, 2005

My W2's
It's a rant. Skip it if you're not in the mood.
The Air Force still hasn't issued me any corrected W2s. See the January 28 journal entry. The Air Force issued my W2s with a mistake. They marked withholding for Wisconsin and California on my W2s. I've never been a resident of California, and I never paid any California state taxes. The finance office on base screwed up and changed my withholding to California by mistake, but I never did pay any California taxes. Colorado taxes were withheld, as I requested. Unfortunately, the Air Force finance office on base can't seem to make DFAS (The Defense Accounting and Finance Service) understand the error and issue corrected W2s.

Earlier this month (7 March) they supposedly elevated the problem to their MAJCOM (Major Command) headquarters for resolution. Apparently, they (the base) aren't allowed to communicate with DFAS through any medium other than an electronic case tracking forum. So far that communication has resulted in an unending cyclye of 'Pass the buck'.

Yesterday I contacted the base finance office to get an update on my W2s. Apparently there's been no change, I was not given any information, and no one had any information for me. The person handling my case handed the phone over to the NCOIC, who didn't have any answers and Lt. Burell wasn't available. No one called back later with any additional information and I never received an email with an update either. What's next? Now I know why people go 'Postal' when they have to deal with government beauracracy and incompetent workers. My W2 problem could be solved with a single phone call, but no one seems capable, able, willing to make that phone call.

When April 1st comes around I may have to file for an extension... This is ridiculous.

 
 

March 14, 2005

New Home
Kim and I took another trip out to the new house today. I took some more pictures, updated the photos page, and added some more information to the new house page. In addition to that short trip, we spent some time at the BX looking at appliances, stereo equipment, and new home furnishings.

Movies
I purchased a copy of Exorcist - The beginning the other day. Kim and I watched it tonight. Very scary. I added the movie to my movie listing and updated my movies page.

 
 

March 13, 2005

New Home
I promised a web page devoted to the new house, and here it is. The page contains photos, a narrative about our search, links to some photos, and a description of some of the amenities. If you're interested in what our new home is going to look like you should check out the new page.

D&D
We played D&D last night. The session ran a little long. We finished the meeting on the morning of the 13th. The party had one big battle, an encounter with some giant Rhinoceri, and they found the expected Gibberling village on the other side of the mountain pass. As a result of the meeting I've updated the new game date. Other updates will come later.

 
 

March 9, 2005

D&D
Recently, I updated some of the web pages related to our ongoing D&D campaign. Thanks to Mark's (A player in our campaign) continued journal entries, I posted updates to the following pages:

  • Who's Who: The Who's Who page is a listing of players, characters, and non-player characters in our 3rd edition Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Recent updates include the following NPC's: Derwyth the forest warden and a group of Killoren hunters.
  • Monsters Known: A listing of all Creatures/Monsters Known and encountered by the characters. This listing includes brief descriptions of the creatures encountered. Intelligent NPC monsters/villains are not listed here; they're listed on the Who's Who page. The party encountered a pair of scorpion-like creatures that tried to crush the life out of them.
  • Adventurers Journal: The 3rd edition campaign is well underway, and we're documenting all the action. An adventurers journal of the parties escapades. The journal is updated every other week (approximately). If you'd like to follow the misadventures of a group of bumbling adventurers, the journal is the page to watch. Organized by adventures, this series of journals is a recap of what the party's been up to. Their trials and tribulations, their ups and downs, their journey, their quest, their Adventure.

Software favorites
One of my software favorites was recently upgraded. As predicted, this latest version is just another step in an ever-improving product. Paying for this shareware guarantees a continuously improving graphic manipulation and conversion tool worth way more than any other so-called 'Professional' application.

One of my favorite programs underwent another minor upgrade yesterday. GraphicConverter moved up to a new full release version. 5.5.2 is now available for download. GraphicConverter is an image converter and editor. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box. At a fraction of PhotoShop's cost, this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox.

New Home
The search for our first house officially started late last month, and we spent a week looking at houses. After viewing approximately twenty homes, we've found something we love. It's a new home in a community called 'Tollgate Crossing'. It's going to be our new home.

I can't believe the process is moving so quickly. I thought it would take longer, but this new place pretty much screams out to Kim and I. We're very happy with the floor plan, the amenities, the construction, the community and the many upgrades in the house. It's within our budget and we even got $50,000.00 off the price (It's been on the market for a while). It's new construction, so we'll have to work on the yard some, but it met nearly all our other requirements (we had a big list of 'must haves').

Kim and I are currently in the clossing process, and our clossing date is 30 March. The government still owes us one last house hold move, so we've scheduled the move for the 4th of April.

It's hard to believe that we'll be in a new home by this time next month! I'm currently working on a web page that will provide a view of the floorplan, elevation and some of the features in our new home. Stay tuned for more info.

 
 

March 3, 2005

D&D
I recently corrected a couple of errors/problems with the house rules documents. Just a few 'Minor' updates. Pages 6 & 12 of the house rules were updated. No change to the number of overall pages or the table of contents.

Movies
A recent purchase proved defective. I recently started buying my movies from Bestprices.com. I found them while searching for the best prices on some rather pricey picks. They weren't the lowest prices, but they've got a pretty good reputation, and I like their policies. They proved themselves worthy this week. A movie I purchased recently (Twelve O'clock high) was defective. It wouldn't play in any of my DVD players. I emailed them and requested a Return Authorization (RA) number. They responded in less than 24 hours, and emailed me a postage paid return address lable. Now that's service. I don't even have to pay for returns of defective merchandise. Very nice!

A follow-up: I received the replacement, but it was defective as well. I requested another RA number, and received another postage paid mailing label. I've sent the defective DVD back. They must have a bad lot. It seems that fate is trying to keep me from owning this movie. I've removed it from my movie listing, and added it to my Netflix queue. I guess I'll just watch it for now. If I rate it high enough, I'll add it to my must 'buy' list again. Bestprices.com is going to credit my account for now.

Software favorites
One of my software favorites was recently upgraded. I'm certain that this newest version will only precede an even better version.

One of my favorite programs underwent another minor upgrade yesterday. GraphicConverter moved up to a new full release version. 5.5.1 is now available for download. GraphicConverter is an image converter and editor. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box. At a fraction of PhotoShop's cost, this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox.

Beer of the month
For xmas, a good friend signed me up for a 'beer of the month' membership. I received my first case* at the end of February, and so far I've sampled three of the beers. So far I haven't been knocked over by an incredible new discovery, but I'm not that discriminating. For a while, I thought I'd start a web page to chronicle the monthly offerings, my likes, dislikes, and the labels. Well, I'm not going to do that. There's already a web page where you can find a pile of information about the monthly offerings, and they do a much better job at describing the individual beers. My web page would just be a shallow reflection of that data.

Included in each shipment is a newsletter that provides details on each of the beers, the breweries that produced them, and facts about beer, brewing and tasting. If I find a fantastic brew in one of the shipments, I'll let you know through this forum.

*My membersip is the domestic 12 pack. I receive 12 bottles every three months. Each 'case' contains four different beers, three bottles of each variety.

New Home
The search for our first house has officially begun. On Tuesday, we attended a new home buyers workshop. The briefing was o.k. It was too brief, and a bit disingenuos. The sponsors were up fron about the nature of their sponsorship, but then they admitted that they were no working independently of the companies that were named as sponsors for the seminar. I think we'll get more out of the free booklet than we got out of the two hour briefing.

The best part of the briefing? I won the door-prize and it was right up my alley. Two tickets and a $10.00 gift certificate from Regal Cinema theaters! Nice...

We've already got our credit check done, pre-qualified for a loan, and we're going to look at some homes today. One of Kim's former co-workers is going to act as our buyer agent. I'm very nervous about the whole process. It's a very complicated process, I don't want to rush, we've got plenty of time, but everyone else on the other side of the table is in a big hurry. "This home won't be on the market long. Act now before it's too late!"

 
 

February 28, 2005

D&D
We played D&D last night, and I'm back at it again. Today I updated the next game date, and corrected a couple of errors/problems with the house rules documents. One rule in particular had to be re-written after I discovered a rather glaring error. Below is the revised rules for identifying monsters, as well as the experience points earned for successful monster identification.

KNOWLEDGE OF MONSTERS and OTHER THINGS:
The DM may determine whether a character has seen, or heard about a particular creature prior to the apparent 1st contact with it. All Characters are assumed to have knowledge of PC races (not humanoid/minor races). The chance of knowing something about a monster is calculated as follows:
First determine the monsters Challenge Rating (CR). Chance to know of/about the creature is then equal to (100% - (10 x CR)) + Characters level). So, a 5th level character has a 55% chance of knowing what a troll is/does. Troll CR = 5, (100% - (50)) + 5). A modified score of 1 is always a success.

This chance is calculated/roll made, when the creature is seen. If it is described to the character but not seen, then a roll is permitted but the chance is equal to the normal chance, with no level bonus. Additionally, if the character has the ability to turn Undead, then the level bonus is doubled. This method may be used for other situations as well. For example; if the DM wants to know whether the character in question has ever heard of Eivobrins Incanabula (A rare book) before, he/she should assign a base % to the chance. Based on how well known the subject matter is to the common character. Subtract the level of the character from this % and you have the percent chance that the character has knowledge of the subject in question. The level of knowledge the character has on the subject is entirely up to the DM. As is the case with knowledge of Monsters.

Experience points awarded are based on the successful identification roll. Identification roll: 0-10=10pts, 11-20=9pts, 21-30=8pts, 31-40=7pts, 41-50=6pts, 51-60=5pts, 61-70=4pts, 71-80=3pts, 81-90=2pts, 91-100=1pts

My Tie - Destroyed!
On the 11th I dropped off a tie at a local dry cleaner. They gave me a ticket, and told me the tie would be ready on Wednesday. I went back on Wednesday, but the tie wasn't ready yet. The clerk said that the tie would be ready later that afternoon, but I needed to get some sleep so I told her I'd be back tomorrow to pick it up. When I arrived on Thursday, she remembered me and my brown tie. She hung the tie on the rack, and said "That'll be $2.00". I went over to the rack to look at the tie. That's when I discovered that my tie was ruined. Totally unwearable. Where there had once been a very small food stain (grease from spaghetti I believe), there was now a gigantic discolored blotch. It looked like they had tried to remove my food stain with bleach.

No one called me, and I went to the BX (Military Exchange) on the 25th. I spoke with the supervisor in charge of concessionaire relations. She called me back later that day and told me that I was authorized $20.00 compensation for my ruined tie. Well, the dry cleaner never contact me, and I had to take the dispute to AAFES for arbitration. The BX got me my money. I'll never use that dry cleaners again. They didn't follow through on a simple thing like calling me on the phone. I suppose they were hoping I would just go away.

 
 

February 27, 2005

Human Barometer
Some time ago (Apr 2002) I wrote a web page regarding my particular sensitivity to reduced barometric pressure. Over the years I've received a few emails regarding the subject. Basically these emails are of the 'Me too!' type. Recently, I received one which pointed to a government study. This study, conducted by an institute of rheumatolgy in Barcelona, Spain concluded that there is a link between reduced atmospheric pressure and increased arthritic pain. I've since added a link to the studies findings on my 'Human Barometer' web page. It's about time someone provided some proof to this painful reality.

My W2's
It's a rant. Skip it if you're not in the mood.
The Air Force still hasn't issued me any corrected W2s. See the January 28 journal entry. The Air Force issued my W2s with a mistake. They marked withholding for Wisconsin and California on my W2s. I've never been a resident of California, and I never paid any California state taxes. The finance office on base screwed up and changed my withholding to California by mistake, but I never did pay any California taxes. Colorado taxes were withheld, as I requested. Unfortunately, the Air Force finance office on base can't seem to make DFAS (The Defense Accounting and Finance Service) understand the error and issue corrected W2s. On Friday they elevated the problem to their MAJCOM (Major Command) headquarters for resolution. Apparently, they (the base) aren't allowed to communicate with DFAS through any medium other than an electronic case tracking forum. So far that communication has resulted in an eight round 'Pass the buck' session, and a completed bungled finding used to close the case! When April 1st comes around I may have to file for an extension... This is ridiculous.

New Home
The search for our first house has officially begun. On Tuesday, we attended a new home buyers workshop. The briefing was o.k. It was too brief, and a bit disingenuos. The sponsors were up fron about the nature of their sponsorship, but then they admitted that they were no working independently of the companies that were named as sponsors for the seminar. I think we'll get more out of the free booklet than we got out of the two hour briefing.

The best part of the briefing? I won the door-prize and it was right up my alley. Two tickets and a $10.00 gift certificate from Regal Cinema theaters! Nice...

We've already got our credit check done, pre-qualified for a loan, and we're going to look at some homes today. One of Kim's former co-workers is going to act as our buyer agent. I'm very nervous about the whole process. It's a very complicated process, I don't want to rush, we've got plenty of time, but everyone else on the other side of the table is in a big hurry. "This home won't be on the market long. Act now before it's too late!"

Software favorites
A couple of my favorites were recently upgraded. Transmit went up two notches from 3.0. to 3.0.2. It's one awesome FTP tool. Hmm, Awesome and FTP in the same sentence? Maybe you should check it out? Another favorite getting a boost up is GraphicConverter, moving up to the first beta after a major release.

Transmit
Anyone who publishes web pages eventually needs a way to upload their pages to a web site. I've found that stand alone FTP tools are the best for this task. Transmit has a clean and easy to use interface, and some really nifty features, like the ability to resume a transfer that's been interrupted, site synchronization capabilities, iDisk integration (It's way faster than the finder!), drag-to-dock sending, column views, a built in text editor, and secure ftp transfer (in various different flavors) capability. http://www.panic.com/transmit/

GraphicConverter
One of my favorite programs underwent another minor upgrade recently. Moving up to version 5.5.1b0, the beta is now available for download. GraphicConverter is an image converter and editor. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box. At a fraction of PhotoShop's cost, this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox!

 
 

February 26, 2005

D&D
We're set to play D&D tonight, and I just completed a considerable number of updates. Here's what I've been working on:

  • Monsters! The party encountered a group of hungry Feldrake (Small Dragons) on a mountain trail outside of Dunfee. Thankfully, they didn't have to fight them!
  • Who's who? I updated the entries for two of the party's enemies. One dead Piyarz, and one living Sion. Two shades with an evil agenda.
  • Thanks to Mark and Stacy, I've posted a new side-by-side journal entry. Follow the party's exploits by reading the journal entries submitted by the players.
  • Wherenow I updated the entry for Dunfee, a Dwarven mining community nestled high in the mountains east of lake Icemelt.

In addition to these meeting related updates, I also updated the weapons documents again (as promised).

Weapons
As a result of another recent D&D rule book acquisition, I've had to add and update some significant portions of the house rules. This update resulted in changes to the following documents:

  • Weapons listing page. The weapons list in html table format. This page also includes links to downloads of the weapons listing (the statistics table) in various different formats. I'm no longer using AppleWorks as the source document for the weapons listing (the spreadsheet). AppleWorks just isn't flexible enough, and it's html output wasn't robust enough for my needs. I've since switched to using OpenOffice to edit/produce this document. OpenOffice is an open source productivity alternative produced by Sun Microsystems. I'm using version 1.1.2, which has been ported to Mac OS X. The OpenOffice spreadsheet is powerful, robust and easy to use.
  • 3rd Edition weapons preface document. A key of sorts. Definitions of the statistics used to describe the weapons.
  • 3rd Edition weapons text or descriptions. A document which describes each weapons characteristics and specifics.
  • 3rd Edition weapons list. The weapons and all related statistics in column/table format. The listing is available in pdf format as well as the OpenOffice spreadsheet format. To save on server space, I did away with the AppleWorks, tab delineated text, and excel formats of this document. If you need the data in some specific format please contact me by email. robert robsworld org

House Rules
Thanks to Mark's keen eye, I've made yet another adjustment to the House Rules. After a recent discussion about adjusting weapon damage for creature size, Mark found that a similar rule exists for weapon ranges. He re-wrote the existing rule (a 3.0 rule), updating it to version 3.5. As a result of Mark's work, I've updated the House Rules document. Adding the rules regarding creature size and range. Since we are currently all Medium size characters, it will not affect the current party in any way.

Movies
A recent purchase proved defective. I recently started buying my movies from Bestprices.com. I found them while searching for the best prices on some rather pricey picks. They weren't the lowest prices, but they've got a pretty good reputation, and I like their policies. They proved themselves worthy this week. A movie I purchased recently (Twelve O'clock high) was defective. It wouldn't play in any of my DVD players. I emailed them and requested a Return Authorization (RA) number. They responded in less than 24 hours, and emailed me a postage paid return address lable. Now that's service. I don't even have to pay for returns of defective merchandise. Very nice!

 
 

February 18, 2005

D&D
Books, weapons and house rules. Recently, I purchased a couple of D&D products. A DM's shield and a new book: Races of the Wild. As a result of these new purchases, there have been a few updates. I updated my D&D books page, adding the new titles to the list. I also updated the campaigns house rules. I added the new book as a reference, and the new races as options for the players in my campaign. Who knows, perhaps the next PC will be a Raptoran! This new book also included a bunch of new weapons. However, given the fact that I just completed a rather major update on the Weapons documents/pages, I've decided to hold off another weapons update for now. In the meantime these weapons may be used in the campaign on a provisional basis.

Movies
With another purchase from Bestprices.com, I've once again updated a bunch of movie related web pages. With the purchase of three more movies, I updated my movie listing and my movies page. As usual the reviews page gets updated quite frequently (daily?), as a result of my movie watching habit.

My Tie - Destroyed!
On the 11th I dropped off a tie at a local dry cleaner. They gave me a ticket, and told me the tie would be ready on Wednesday. I went back on Wednesday, but the tie wasn't ready yet. The clerk said that the tie would be ready later that afternoon, but I needed to get some sleep so I told her I'd be back tomorrow to pick it up. When I arrived on Thursday, she remembered me and my brown tie. She hung the tie on the rack, and said "That'll be $2.00". I went over to the rack to look at the tie. That's when I discovered that my tie was ruined. Totally unwearable. Where there had once been a very small food stain (grease from spaghetti I believe), there was now a gigantic discolored blotch. It looked like they had tried to remove my food stain with bleach.

Now I don't claim to know anything special about the dry cleaning process; but they're the professionals not me. I mentioned that this tie was ruined, that I wasn't going to pay the $2.00, and that I would need to be compensated for my tie. She didn't argue with me. She said she'd keep my tie and I should keep my ticket. She asked for my phone number (I gave it to her), and said that 'Someone other than me will call you'. No one called on the 17th of February. Maybe they'll call later in the week. If they don't call by Saturday, I'll stop at the exchange (They operate out of the Main Exchange mall area) and complain to the AAFES management. Maybe they can help?

I made some remark about the stain not being removed, and there being a gigantic stain in its place, she said something like 'they have to use chemicals to remove the stains'. I said something like 'Well, if you're uncertain about how a particular chemical is going to affect a garment, you should test it on a portion of the garment that isn't visible'. Now a tie has two sides. One side that people see, and another that never gets the lime light. They could have tested their dry cleaning chemicals on the back side of the tie. I thought they were the professionals. The tie has a tag that says 100% silk. If they were professionals, they should have known before hand what the chemicals would do to silk. If they weren't certain, I could forgive a stain on the backside of the tie, but this is ridiculous. This tie is completely ruined. I can no longer wear it.

Reading their disclaimer (after the fact), I find nothing in there that would indemnify them from the damage they caused to my tie. It's got a clause about 'weaknesses of or defects in materials that are not readily apparent prior to processing' Now, my tie didn't have any weaknesses or defects (as far as I could see). Any claim that a defect in the tie caused the damage would have to be supportable. I don't think they could support such a claim. I think that any silk tie treated in a similar manner would have resulted in the same 'staining'. This is a case of negligence. They didn't take appropriate precautions in the treatment of my tie. Either they didn't know what they were doing, or they didn't perform the cleaning process in the proper manner.

How much did I pay for this tie? I can't quite remember, but it's a Stafford, and I bought it at J.C. Penny. I went back to J.C. Penny to try and find a replacement, but I couldn't find a tie that matched my brown tie. I know we bought it there, and Kim says we paid cash. She's going to look for the receipt, but I'm not holding out much hope of finding it. The table where they had the Stafford ties for sale were priced about $20.00 (They were on sale. Originally $25.00). So I figure that the dry cleaners owe me $20.00 for a new tie. A search on-line hasn't turned the tie either. I'm always picking the unique stuff.

It was a nice tie. I liked it, it matched my suede shirt perfectly. I'll be hard pressed to find a decent replacement. I don't think I'll be taking my dry cleaning to this place again. I don't have a warm fuzzy about the response I'm going to get (if any). They won't get off the hook that easily though. I'll follow up on this one. It's a matter of principle. They ruined my tie, and they must provide some sort of response! Am I going to sue them over something like this? No, but I might make up some flyers, and distribute them in front of their business.

O.k. I'll cut them a little slack for now. Let's see how they respond.

 
 

February 17, 2005

Software favorites
One of my favorites has recently been upgraded to version 3.0. It's one awesome FTP tool. Hmm, Awesome and FTP in the same sentence? Maybe you should check it out?

Transmit
Anyone who publishes web pages eventually needs a way to upload their pages to a web site. I've found that stand alone FTP tools are the best for this task. Transmit has a clean and easy to use interface, and some really nifty features, like the ability to resume a transfer that's been interrupted, site synchronization capabilities, iDisk integration (It's way faster than the finder!), drag-to-dock sending, column views, a built in text editor, and secure ftp transfer (in various different flavors) capability. http://www.panic.com/transmit/

 
 

February 14, 2005

D&D
We played D&D last night. The evenings events were primarily occupied by another bout of combat with none other than Sion. Piyarz's pupil. Sion is still intent on wrestling the meteor from the party. His usual attack methods are becoming more refined and deadlier. This time he came accompanied by eight Shadow Mastiff's. Since Ashedyn slept through the entire battle! we can expect a journal entry from one of the other characters this time around.

Weapons
I just completed a major update to the campaign's weapons data. As a result of recent D&D rule book acquisitions, I've had to add and update some significant portions of the house rules. This update resulted in changes to the following documents:

  • Weapons listing page. The weapons list in html table format. This page also includes links to downloads of the weapons listing (the statistics table) in various different formats.
  • 3rd Edition weapons preface document. A key of sorts. Definitions of the statistics used to describe the weapons.
  • 3rd Edition weapons text or descriptions. A document which describes each weapons characteristics and specifics.
  • 3rd Edition weapons list. The weapons and all related statistics in column/table format.
 
 

February 12, 2005

Mac OS 10.3.8 Recently, (10 February 2005) I updated my operating system. Mac OS X (Panther) went up one notch to OS 10.3.8. Here's a recap of the improvements and bug fixes. The significance here is updates to some of my pages. As a result of my OS update, the following pages have been updated. myfavs.html, feedback.html, mycomputer.html.

 
 

February 9, 2005

Software favorites
Two software upgrades for the Mac. BetterHTMLExport and GraphicConverter.

With Apple's release of a new version of iPhoto (now at version 5.0.1 (237)), BetterHTMLExport has moved up a notch to version 2.1. BetterHTMLExport is an iPhoto plugin which you can use to create web pages from iPhoto galleries. You can control the web page output much more efficiently than the you can with iPhoto's built in web page output controls, you have additional output options, and you can download, save, and use templates to create highly professional looking web pages. Or, you can build your own templates! This plugin is definitely worth the cash. I was tired of spending hours tweaking my photo web pages. BetterHTMLExport lets me spend my time more wisely. http://www.droolingcat.com/software/betterhtmlexport/

One of my favorite programs underwent another minor upgrade yesterday. GraphicConverter moved up to a new full release version. 5.5 is now available for download. GraphicConverter is an image converter and editor. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box. At a fraction of PhotoShop's cost, this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox!

Achievement coin
Something happened at work yesterday... I went in to work on my day off. I had some email I needed to check and send. While I was doing that, I got an email from the lead for my section. He wanted me to stop by. After I finished with my work on the computer I stopped by his desk. That's when he told me that my name had come up a bunch of times during recent management meetings. Apparently, the bosses are pleased. I've been sending out a lot of emails with recommendations, suggestions, and corrections. Ways to improve our processes, correct errors in working aids, etc. Undaunted by some nay-sayers, I've been providing input feedback and input every day. Trying to find better ways to do things, and more efficient ways to conduct business. Well, I guess someone noticed. The position lead handed me the coin, told me to keep up the good work, and explained that this was the first coin of it's type to ever be awarded. Nice!

 
 

February 8, 2005

Spam
Reducing my spam intake. Today I took a drastic measure. I dropped an email address in order to reduce my spam intake. Normally I wouldn't advocate this type of action. However, as you can imagine, I've got my excuses, umm make that 'Reasons'. Should I bore you with the reasons? No? O.k. How about some details instead. Well I ditched my myself.com account. Why that one? I rarely used it anymore (on account of spam), it was costing me $19.95 a year, and it didn't meet my identity needs as well as my own domain email. I was paying $19.95 to re-direct spam (email) from my myself.com account to my domain account. Wait a minute, I wasn't going to bore you with my excuses. I guess I've said enough about that already. In either case, this email change also resulted in an update to two pages: The Feedback page and the Junk mail declaration page.

Next to go? My pophost.com and akamail.com addresses. Getting rid of that service should cut my spam intake by about 90%

Movies
I recently received three movies in the mail. Purchases were made from a recently discovered web site: Bestprices.com. Ironically, I found them while searching for the best prices on some rather pricey picks. They weren't the lowest prices, but they've got a pretty good reputation, and I like their policies. I bought three movies recently: SLC Punk, The Experiment and Chunhyang. All together the movies cost me $56.05 ($61.01 w/shipping). At Amazon, the movies would have cost me $69.87 (free shipping), and Barnes & Nobles would have charged me $77.94 (not counting shipping), as a member (that costs $25.00 a year!) it would have cost $74.04 (not counting shipping). Wal-Mart on-line didn't carry Chunhyang (it's a Korean movie), and the prices for the other two added up to $43.40 (not counting shipping) versus $35.12 (not counting shipping) at Bestprices.com. I think I found a new favorite!

With the purchase of the new movies, I updated my movie listing and my movies page. As usual the reviews page gets updated quite frequently (daily?), as a result of my movie watching habit.

 
 

February 4, 2005

Shadow Dragon - The Ninja Movie. I just reached another breakthrough in a project I've been working on since April of 2004. As soon as I bought my new computer, I knew I had to complete this project. This breakthrough represents a post production milestone.

Back in the autumn of 1984, before I entered basic training, my friends and I shot a movie. No, it wasn't a porno! We rented a video camera, someone wrote a script, and we gathered our friends. As total amateurs, we did our best to make a movie.

Ambitiously undertaken by a group of rank amateurs in the autumn of 1984, and undaunted by our total lack of skill or experience, our crew set out to produce a movie of epic proportions... Or at least amuse ourselves for a couple of weeks. What followed was our movie: Shadow Dragon - The Ninja Movie. Shot directly to VHS, it was transferred to digital video in the summer of 2004, remastered and re-edited using iMovie, and forever preserved on a DVD.

I recently had another major success in the production of Ninja Movie. Although I've already released the first remastered production of the movie on DVD, I've been working on improving that initial run. As you may recall, I had some HUGE problems with iDVD and DVD production, and eventually overcame those problems by producing the first DVD version by using non-Apple software. Well, recently I purchased a copy of iLife '05, which included new versions of iMovie (Now capable of HD editing and production) and iDVD.

So, after installing iLife '05, I fired up the newest version of iDVD. After about an hour, I successfully produced a DVD with full motion menus. A really professional looking set of DVD menus. Now that I've managed to produce this iDVD version of the movie, I plan on re-editing the movie for another major release. This time I'll take my time and release a well polished production. Stay tuned for more info and a Ninja Movie page.

D&D
We played D&D on the 29th. It was quite a session. Rather dangerous I would say. The party had an encounter with a Chraal and an Avalanche! Today I updated the player's journal. Thanks go out to Mark (as usual). It sure would be nice if we could get a journal entry from 'Rezigrene' or 'Zeddishous'.

Software favorites
One of my favorite programs underwent another minor upgrade yesterday. GraphicConverter moved up to 5.5b1. GraphicConverter is an image converter and editor. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box. At a fraction of PhotoShop's cost, this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox!

 
 

February 3, 2005

D&D
A recent rule change was made for players in our 3rd edition campaign. After some discussion and review, I've decided to award a double XP award to Rogue's (and only Rogue's) who single-handedly overcome a trap in 'Singular combat'. Just like monsters, traps have a 'Challenge Rating'. See DMG page 75 for more info on trap challenge ratings. From now on, we need to keep track of traps 'Defeated', and the characters that participated in the 'Combat'.

As a result of this rule change, I've updated the 'Experience Points' section of the house rules. Note: The XP award for traps defeated is/was part of the 'official' rules. It's simply something I/we were overlooking. The double award for Rogues is the part that's unique to our campaign.

 
 

January 30, 2005

D&D
We played D&D last night. It was quite a session. Rather dangerous I would say. The party had an encounter with a Chraal and an Avalanche! Be sure to read about it as soon as the newest journal entry gets posted. Today I updated the date for the next game session and I added another book to my extensive collection of D&D books.

Software favorites
One of my favorite programs underwent another minor upgrade yesterday. GraphicConverter moved up to 5.5b0. GraphicConverter is an image converter and editor. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box. At a fraction of PhotoShop's cost, this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox!

 
 

January 28, 2005

W2's taxes and my pay
It's a rant. Skip it if you're not in the mood. This week I've spent a lot of time correcting other people's mistakes. Incompetence isn't in short supply these days. Back when I decided to retire from the military, I told the people in the military finance office that I wanted to switch my residency to Colorado. I'd been a resident of Wisconsin up until December. Kim and I switched the registration for our vehicles, registered to vote, and I filled out a W4 for Colorado withholding with my new employer.

Well, I asked the finance personnel to switch my state of residence to Colorado, and to change my withholding for tax purposes to Colorado. They managed to change my residency with no problems, but they botched the taxes part of the equation. Instead of Colorado, they made me a resident of California. I've spent the last two months trying to correct that mistake. At first they didn't want to admit that they had made a mistake, but they soon realized what they'd done, apologized, and they've been trying to get everything straightened out since then.

Here it is more than two months later, and now I've got a set of W2's that say I paid taxes to California. The good news is, I didn't actually pay any taxes to California. The bad news is my W2's are wrong, and now I need new ones. So now I wait to see whether the new W2's are correct. I sure hope they arrive in time to get my taxes done. This year should be fun for the preparer. No I don't do them myself. I get someone else to do it. Yeah, I pay for it, but at least they guarantee to eat the cost of any mistakes. They usually end up screwing something up. This year shouldn't be any different.

The pay from my new employer has been screwed up since day one. They were supposed to be paying me a 10% shift differential, but they weren't. So now they owe me a bunch of back-pay. The good news is, I don't owe them any money! That was another thing I had to keep asking about, as no one seemed to be able to say with authority that I was getting the shift differential. I thought my pay looked a little more anemic than I'd expected.

Switching long distance carriers
Another rant. Switching long distance carriers shouldn't be this difficult. Today I decided I'd had enough of high long distance bills. I thought the $.049 a minute rate was a good deal, but Kim and I are big talkers. We've been running an average of $30.00 a month on long distance charges. Well, I decided that was too much and decided to switch to Qwest's long distance service. It's $.05 a minute, but it caps out at $20.00 a month. I figure we'll save $10.00 a month, so it's worth it to switch.

Switching isn't all that easy. I was on the phone for more than thirty minutes. I had to talk to two humans and two machines. I had to answer the same questions over and over and over and over again. I figure I answered the same questions six times. Yes, I really want to change my long distance carrier! Not only did I have to spend thirty three minutes on the phone, now I have to wait 7 to 10 days before the change takes effect!

Once we get that unlimited long distance in place, Kim and I plan on racking up the minutes just to make up for the inconvenience and cost ($5.00 for interstate long distance, and $5.00 for intrastate long distance) incurred as a result of switching.

D&D
I posted a new D&D related page today. It's a listing of all my D&D books. A listing of rule books, accessories, supplements, modules, boxed sets, etc. All the printed products (aside from magazines) I've bought since I started playing the game back in 1976. It's a big stack of books, and I thought you might want to take a peek, so here it is. They way I figure it, I've spent more than $4,000.00 on these books. It's not a 'For Sale' list. It's a catalog that charts the progress of the game, something of a self inventory, a comprehensive listing of one mans obsession. I hope you enjoy it.

In addition to the new page, I updated the D&D pages index. Adding the new page, and adding another link to the house rules. The D&D index is a quick way to find a D&D related page at Rob's World! If you're a gamer, you may want to familiarize yourself with this site index.

We played D&D on the 22nd of January, and there's one more meetings scheduled for this month (29 Jan). The new quest is has been underway for some time now. During the last meeting the party managed to slay Piyarz and free Shalfey from his imprisonment in the Tower of the Heavens. After freeing Shalfey, Piyarz's treachery was fully revealed. The party has collected their promised reward and Shalfey has asked them to go on another quest. Here are some updates I completed as a result of our meeting on the 22nd.

  • Monsters! The party encountered a floating guardian inside Piyarz's quarters, and Shalfey told them about a tribe of deep-Gnomes called the Kagu-Svirfnebli.
  • Who's who? Three new entries to the listing of NPC's. I added entries for Lurg and Poro, two sages in the Tower of the Heavens, another new entry is Khoronach the Storm Trooper of death. I also updated the entries for Shalfey and Piyarz.
  • Thanks to Mark, I've posted a new journal entry. Follow the party's exploits by reading the journal entries submitted by the players.

Our last meeting went rather well. The party handily defeated Piyarz and a Beholder by using a magical item, they freed Shalfey, and collected their reward. The only bad news comes at the expense of Mark's character. Who, thanks to a curse, is now know as 'Mud'! Join the party on the 29th as they set out on another quest at the behest of Shalfey.

Music
I added three CD's to my collection recently. Cake's latest - Pressure Chief, Elvis Costello & the Imposters - The Delivery man, and Jimmy Eat World - Futures. All three albums now reside on my computer and my iPod. As a result of the recent purchase, I updated the online listing of my music collection.

 
 

January 22, 2005

D&D
I updated the House Rules document. As a result of a recent purchase (The Complete Adventurer) I updated and added references in the 'Rule Books Used' and 'Allowable character classes and races' sections of the house rules. The changes begin on page 4, and include several new character classes. There were also some new weapons in the new book, but I haven't updated my weapons listings/documents yet.

We play D&D tonight, and I for one am looking forward to the session. The party is in the Tower of the Heavens, slugging it out with the Gnomish guards, and looking to free Shalfey from Piyarz and his co-conspirators. Was this frontal attack the right decision? Is Shalfey still alive? Is he even in the Tower of Heavens? Stay tuned to find out the answers to these and many more questions.

Books
A new place to buy books. There are plenty of online bookstores, but this one has become my new favorite. After some disappointing results from Amazon, and the overpriced book and membership fees at B&N (plus the retail stores refuse to carry D&D books), I've switched to something I'd previously discounted as a marginal service. I'm now using Booksamillion.com for all my book purchases. Their prices are lower than others, the shipping is free (UPS Ground) with purchases over $25.00, and I've got a free membership (Through AAFES) that gets me an extra discount on top of the regular low low day to day prices. Recently I bought two books: The Complete Adventurer (A D&D books), and Darwin's Radio. I paid $18.87 and $6.38 for the books, no shipping, and no tax. So $25.25 buys me two books, delivered to my door. The same books would have cost me $26.52 at Amazon (no membership necessary), or $27.03 at Barnes & Noble (with $25.00 annual membership).

The free membership is offered to military members and their family members (DoD ID card holders). If you can show me a better deal, please do!

 
 

January 18, 2005

D&D®
We played D&D on the 8th of January, and there are two more meetings scheduled for this month (22 & 29 Jan). The new quest is has been underway for some time now. The party managed to recover a meteorite that they saw in a vision, and now they 're trying to free Shalfey from the clutches of Piyarz in the Tower of the Heavens. Here are some updates I completed as a result of our meeting on the 8th.

  • Monsters! The party certainly has had it's share of encounters during this adventure. Most of the encounters have been with cold based monsters, but now the party is inside the Tower of the Heavens, and the occupants are a little warmer. One monster has been encountered so far. A Stone Guardian.
  • Thanks to Mark, I've posted one new journal entry. Follow the party's exploits by reading the journal entries submitted by the players.

Software favorites
One of my favorite programs underwent another minor upgrade yesterday. GraphicConverter moved up to 5.4.1b3. GraphicConverter is an image converter and editor. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box. At a fraction of PhotoShop's cost, this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox!

The latest beta contains the addition of a smudge/blur function, an improved undo function that contains 40 undo steps as well as html webpage creation support for embedded movies. These are just a few of the new (12) and improved (24) features. Not to mention the bug fixes (16).

Searching high and low
I updated the Rob's World! search engine. The current engine is a sophisticated index created by a web crawler (I updated the index today). I can add advertisements if I want (I might advertise Rob's World!), it automatically updates its index, it has sophisticated admin controls, its a sweet little search engine.

 
 

January 11, 2005

Movies & Reviews
Here's a couple of pages that get updated quite regularly. I watched three movies this past weekend. One was a new purchase and the other two were Netflix selections. As usual, I updated three pages as a result of all this movie watching. The reviews listing, my movie collection, and the movies page.

Software favorites
One of my favorite programs underwent another minor upgrade yesterday. GraphicConverter moved up to 5.4.1b2. GraphicConverter is an image converter and editor. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box. At a fraction of PhotoShop's cost, this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox!

 
 

January 8, 2005

D&D
I updated the House Rules document. As a result of a recent purchase (Races of Destiny) I added some new references to the 'Rule Books Used' and 'Allowable character classes and races' sections of the house rules. The changes begin on page 4, and include six new races for player characters. Another significant change to the rules involves the 'Knockdown' rules. As previously determined and indicated the DC to determine whether a knockdown occurs is as follows: DC to resist knockdown = 10 + The amount greater that the number needed to hit (as rolled on the attackers 'to hit' roll).

We play D&D tonight, and I for one am looking forward to the session. The party has finally begun the assault on the Tower of the Heavens. Was this frontal attack the right decision? Is Shalfey still alive? Is he even in the Tower of Heavens? Stay tuned to find out the answers to these and many more questions.

Feedback
Today I made some changes to my feedback page. Also known as a contact page, the feedback page contains various email addresses and other ways to get in touch with Kim and I. I revamped the look of the page, reconfiguring the page in a table format, and changing the color scheme slightly.

 
 

January 7, 2005

Ribbons
While I was in the Air Force, I earned a bunch of ribbons, medals, awards. I wore these ribbons whenever I wore my dress uniform. If you're at all interested, I've created a web page which lists and describes the various ribbons I earned while I was in the Air Force.

Books
I finally broke down and bought a copy of Dan Brown's 'The Da Vinci code'. The conspiracy thriller that leaves the reader forever affected. It's been on the best seller list for, how many years now? I was kind of waiting for it to come out in softcover, but I might be old (older) and shriveled by the time that happens. I added the new book to my list of books 'on the shelf'. Besides adding the the new book, I also updated the web page, revamping the structure of the page, the tables and the colors. Now all I have to do is get off my butt and finish the book I'm currently reading.

 
 

January 3, 2003

It's a new year
Well, it's been a while since I updated this page. As a matter of fact, it's been a while since I've updated any of my web pages. The holidays kept me busy, and I've been busy working shift work. I can't complain too much though. On the 31st of December (New Year's eve), I logged 44 hours worth of pay. Now that's some serious holiday pay! Being a civilian certainly has its perks.

Holidays
Kim and I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.

What's New
I recently updated this web log. My "What's New" web page. I tried using iBlog (Software I received for free for being a .Mac member) to revamp the "What's New" page, but it didn't work out. This is the second time I've tried to get a web log running using iBlog. Oh, the software worked, but I found it lacking in control features. I wasn't able to do what I wanted with it. The main page was a complete disappointment, I couldn't edit it at all. I had difficulty getting articles/entries to appear in the exact order I wanted them. The file hierarchy and page linking was incomprehensible, and the publication/publish feature could not be used to export the files in the manner I wanted. I'll stick with this format for now. I'm happy with it, and I haven't had any complaints.

My BIO
On the 1st of January, I officially retired from the Air Force. Over the last year there have been a lot of changes in our lives. As a result, I updated my bio page. The page now contains a revised section on the military, the present and the future.

 
     
 

Return to the Main Page of Robert's Home Page.

Take a trip into the Past. View the "What's New" archives. Venture way back to the Distant Past. Fire up the way back machine, and study some Ancient History. In order to experience previous "What's New Archives", manually enter the URL in the form 'http://www.robsworld.org/wn####.html'; substituting the year for the number (pound) signs. The archives begin in the year 1996.

 
 

Author: Robert L. Vaessen e-mail: robert robsworld org
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