Don’t get suckered by the comments — they can be terribly misleading. Debug only the code.

— Dave Storer

Mystery Hill on the level


It happened in 1980, I think. My father and I were vacationing in Michigan, in the general vicinity of Manistee, when some of the local kids told us about a special place they were calling Mystery Hill, where if you put your car in neutral, it would roll uphill.

It’s a fairly common optical illusion that often results in the creation of a cheesy tourist trap. By happy coincidence, on the day we went out to see it, my father had a toolbox in the back of his truck. It contained a carpenter’s level. We set it down on the allegedly-uphill road and let the universe reveal the truth of the matter.

By their threats shall ye know them


Hey, what’s a web site without fraudulent threats of legal action? There’s a guy out there who has bullied and blustered his way into a business running pay web sites for Playboy models under various names, primarily “Alpha Interactive” (no links provided; after all, my goal here is to convince you to spend your money elsewhere).

This is old news, but I couldn’t resist the urge to yank his chain by reposting his threats and explaining his motive in making them.

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Adventures with NAV


It’s been about eighteen months since I bought my new car, a Lexus RX-300. It was basically a storage-and-comfort upgrade from my eight-year-old Camry, but what technophile could resist upgrading to the DVD-based GPS navigation system? Certainly not me.

It’s an interesting mix of pros and cons, features and limitations, but on the whole it’s proven to be both useful and entertaining.

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Custom RoboRally boards


I think everyone who ever played RoboRally has toyed with the idea of making their own boards. Indeed, a quick Google will turn up dozens of sites devoted to fan-made boards and editing tools. I tried using a few of them, but the tools were clumsy and the results uninspiring.

So I did it in Adobe Illustrator, and my first original board looks like this.

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D20 initiative cards


A lot of folks track combat order in D&D with index cards. I don’t know who the first person was to think of making custom index cards with a pre-printed form on them, but I first saw it at The Game Mechanics web site (great people, unfortunate choice of names).

I had just gotten back from a con where we’d run a four-party adventure with a total of five DMs, 24 players, and umpteen monsters, and the freeform index cards we used just weren’t good enough. I didn’t like the actual layout of the TGM cards, but the concept is great, and the rotate-for-character-status mechanic really improves the flow of a large combat.

My response was, of course, to come up with my own layout, adding fields and spot color to make them more useful. Along the way, I decided to increase the size from 3×5 to 4×6, greatly increasing the available space. TGM’s original cards, along with instructions on how to use them, can be found here; their forums also have several lengthy discussions on the subject.

My latest version is here. Several people have argued for a double-sided 3×5 version, and I’ve prototyped one here.

Printing Note: Acrobat has two settings that can make it annoying to print odd-sized documents: “shrink oversized pages” and “enlarge small pages.” Turn them both off if you want the cards to come out the right size.

trollbridge


Teresa Nielsen Hayden of Making Light has a charming way of dealing with obnoxious commenters: she disemvowels them. This seems to be far more effective than simply trying to delete their comments or ban their IP addresses. She apparently does it by hand, in BBEdit. Bryant liked the idea enough to make a plugin that automatically strips the vowels out of comments coming from a specific set of IP addresses.

I don’t have any comments to deal with at the moment, but the concept amused me, and I wanted to start tinkering with the guts of MT, so I quickly knocked together a plugin that allows you to mark individual entries for disemvoweling. While I was at it, I included another way to molest obnoxious comments.

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MTRoundRobin


Simple little MT plugin, created as a generalized alternative to FlipFlop.

Given a list of keywords to be substituted into the template, each call to returns a different item from the list, in order, wrapping back around to the beginning when it hits the end. Examples follow.

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The Passing of Tom Emmett


[excerpted from John M. Browning, American Gunmaker, by John Browning and Curt Gentry. © 1964 by the Browning Co. and Curt Gentry.]

The Brownings depended on Tom Emmett for all odd jobs, either at the store or in their homes. He professed no specialized skill but would tackle any job and get it done. On this day he was up on a stepladder near the ceiling of the shop, by the line shaft, taking measurements. His job kept him near the shaft for so short a time that he did not ask to have the power shut off. Nobody paid any attention to what he was doing, except John. He remarked to Ed, “Tom shouldn’t be working up there with the power on.” Ed looked over his shoulder and said, “Oh, he’ll be through in a minute, and I need the lathe.” It happened just then, while John was looking straight at Tom.

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