Monday, August 31, 2015

Climbing Penobscot

We took our first hike yesterday, up the south face of Acadia's Penobscot Mountain. This was noteworthy because it had the hardest section we'd ever climbed as a family, a section of the Spring Trail that the guidebook noted required a series of "iron rungs and wooden handrails" built into the ascent. I pictured something like a ladder bolted into the rock face and wasn't sure how we were going to get the dog up that, but we decided to try it and carry her somehow if necessary.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Friday Is Cancelled

I had some fool notion of doing 5 Things on a Friday this week, but as you can see, I'm out of the office.

How's your Friday going?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Army Football Preview: 2015 Season Overview

We’re two weeks from the start of college football, so now’s the time to preview the season.  Next week we’ll take a more detailed look at the opener, but I want to walk through the schedule first, lay out some thoughts, and maybe make a few cautious predictions.  If you’re new to Army Football[1], then hopefully this will serve as something of a primer.  If you’ve seen it all before, well, maybe there’s some news down at the bottom once we get into the games themselves.  Regardless, with new every football season, hope springs eternal.  Where we go from there is anybody’s guess.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

#goARMY Instagram Pics

Army quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw.  As of this writing, Bradshaw looks to have the inside track on the starter's jon.

Army's season starts in ten days!

A photo posted by Army West Point Athletics (@goarmywestpoint) on

Monday, August 24, 2015

Triathlon Training Log: 8/17 - 8/23 (Week 5)

It's been kind of an interesting week.  I never made it out to run, but I did a decent amount of swimming, and I actually got out with one of my buddies for a long(ish) ride on Saturday.  That was fun, and I think it was productive as well.

I'm getting tired, though.  I usually train on a four week cycle, which is three working weeks followed by a rest week.  This is Week 5, however, meaning that I haven't had a rest week since early July.  I still feel okay, but in the back of my mind, I know that I need to back off soon and let my body recover.  Recovery is an important part of training.  But while that's easy to say, it's hard to do when you feel like you're making progress.  This week in particular I finally managed to get down below 195 lbs for the first time in almost a year, and I felt good both in the water and on the bike.  Yes, I'm tired, but it's going to take a change to my circumstances to force a change to my training.  As a matter of reality, swimming three times per week and riding my regular commute is a solid training plan all by itself.  I could cut yardage, but I don't particularly want to.  Still, that's really the only way to do it without changing my schedule.

Fortunately, we're headed on vacation later this week, and that promises to be less rigorous.  That's a good thing.

Friday, August 21, 2015

5 Things on a Friday: Trump's Wasteland

It’s Friday, and I start vacation next week.  Life is good.  It feels late to be getting away, but I cannot wait.
Let’s get to it, yeah?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Army Football Preview: Summer Scrimmage

Army Football held its first summer scrimmage this past weekend, and as a season ticket holder, I got invited.  I was joking with my buddy Chris later that same day about him driving up from DC to watch football practice, and he surprised me--astonished me, really--by saying that he’d love to come up, he just needed to check his schedule.  Plans were quickly made, and we wound up meeting at Columbus Circle about 9:30 Saturday morning for the drive up to West Point.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

D&D: Anatomy of a Slow Reveal

Last week’s article on sea stories seemed to be popular, but judging by some of the comments, I got the impression that folks maybe would have preferred to know less about planning adventure stories and more about making stories that pay off in play the way they feel in the GM’s head.  To put it another way: How do we surprise our players with an ending that they probably should have seen coming?  This, to me, comes in the form of a twist ending, often as part of a slow reveal.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Triathlon Training Log: 8/10 to 8/16 (Week 4)

As I've mentioned before, I'm seriously considering a solo attempt at next year's Swim Across the Sound.  I'd like to do it, but at this point I have two concerns.  First, I'm not sure how my body is going to react to the dramatic increase in swim yardage required to contemplate a 15.5-mile open water swim, and second, I'm not at all sure that I have time in my personal and professional life to make the kind of commitment to training that I think success is going to require.  So the past two weeks have been about upping my swim yardage and gauging how my body is reacting while working with my wife to design a family schedule that works for everyone.  So far, so good, but we are all of two week in.

If you're new to the blog, this write-up uses a points system to track training and equivalence efforts across all three disciplines.  You can read about that here.

Friday, August 14, 2015

5 Things on a Friday: Servers for Indictments

Happy Friday, folks.  Let’s get to it.
China on Thursday sought to ease the turbulence its depreciating currency, the renminbi, has set off in global markets, even as it pushed the renminbi lower for the third day in a row.
China’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China, set the renminbi’s official exchange rate to the dollar lower by 1.1 percent on Thursday, bringing the total devaluation since Tuesday to 4.4 percent, the biggest drop in decades.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Outline Structure via Feedback from "Anatomy of a Sea Story"

Great write-up.

Which brings me to an idea: do you ahve or know of any tools for 'storyboarding' adventure or fiction design? I'm thinking an easy way to plot out major plot points, identify the critical path, as well as side quests/stories, etc.

I'm thinking of something like starting with a mindmap, then organizing into a \"PERT" type diagramming, and applying critical path analyses to keep major connections sound.

My answer went so long that I decided to make it a new post:

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

D&D: Anatomy of a Sea Story

I’ve had in mind to do an adventure at sea for quite some time.  I like sea stories, and I choose to live near Long Island Sound.  I’ve read all of the Aubrey-Maturin (Master and Commander) books and most of the Honor Harrington books, and I set a good portion of my own forthcoming book, Sneakatara Boatman & the Crown of Pluto, on board a fifteenth century caravel very like the ones with which Christopher Columbus sailed across the Atlantic in 1492.  I’m even thinking seriously about trying to swim solo across Long Island Sound from Port Jefferson, NY, to Bridgeport, CT.  In thinking about my would-be sea story, though, it occurred to me that I wasn’t sure what elements actually make up the sea story genre.  Is the sea story a thing unto itself, or is it just as adventure story set on board a boat or a ship?  What elements tie stories like Moby Dick, Billy Bud, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and The Far Side of the World together?

Monday, August 10, 2015

Random Pics from Staycation

I've been off since Wednesday night.  We went places and did stuff, and occasionally I took pictures.  Some of my favorites are below.

One of the first things we did was go to Lake Quassy Amusement Park on
Thursday night.  This ride shocked us all, not least because it's right next to the
carousel, in the kiddie section of the park.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Bonus Coverage: The Debate

A Foxy, Rowdy Republican Debate (NY Times)
On Thursday night in Cleveland, the Fox News moderators did what only Fox News moderators could have done, because the representatives of any other network would have been accused of pro-Democratic partisanship.

They took each of the 10 Republicans onstage to task. They held each of them to account. They made each address the most prominent blemishes on his record, the most profound apprehensions that voters feel about him, the greatest vulnerability that he has.

I didn't watch.  Instead, I am doing what I usually do, which is to read the coverage the next day, trying to pick out what's important.  That's usually a good way to avoid millions of meaningless platitudes, but in this case, I'm not sure it was a good idea.  It looks like this debate may well have been worth watching--and not just as a piece of reality TV theater.

5 Things on a Friday: Football is Coming!

Happy Friday, folks.  By the time you read this, I'll have been on a mini-staycation for a couple of days!  Yay me!  

Let's get to it.
Roddy Piper was never the biggest WWF star, but he was irreplaceable because he grounded all the good-versus-evil theatrics. He made it OK to root for a heel, not because he was transcendent or postmodern but because he was honest. He was human. It’s why casting him in They Live was such an inspired choice — [George] Nada was an average drifter suddenly burdened with world-altering power. He was a nobody who had to give up his life to destroy the alien menace, but not before he flipped them off. He was quite possibly wrestling’s most relatable heel: We could see ourselves in him even though he was provoking our heroes. Piper battled cancer in the 2000s and beat it.
Piper wasn’t a superhero — not when he was staring down Hogan and certainly not when he was a “good guy.” There was nothing nice about that guy, no. But unlike Piper himself, the rest of us could never look away when he was onscreen.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Going Longer

Today's swim workout went 4600 yards.

Warm Up
--2 x 200 easy (no interval)

Main Set
--12 x 200 @ 2:50 (aerobic pace)

--10 x 50 kick @ 1:05
--12 x 100 @ 1:25 pull

Warm Down
--100 easy

That's my longest practice in quite some time. But I got in the zone early and felt good. Ultimately, I had to stop myself to keep from overdoing it.  Considering how tired I am right now, I might not have stopped soon enough!

RPG News & Other Notes

I don't usually do RPG-type news, but a few things caught my eye this morning:

5E Adventure Review: The Fall of Cahokiantep (Merric's Musings)
The adventure is presented as an 11-page pdf, and consists of seven “scenes”, some of which might potentially have several encounters. It’s a wild, fantastic adventure, which should appeal to those wanting more than “just another dungeon” to explore. I mean, how many adventures are there where you get to fight an astral dragon turtle?

I love the imagination of it all...

If you missed it, I put out "The Fall of Cahokiantep" on Tuesday.  For what it's worth, I always try to do my D&D-type content on Tuesdays.  As of this writing, over 400 people have read "Fall of Cahokiantep," making it one of the most successful posts I've put out.  Readership is way up in general, though, and I've been especially gratified to note that more roleplaying folks seem to be coming by for other posts, like "5 Things on a Friday."   Thanks for that!

As an aside, I badly need a cover image for "Cahokiantep".

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

D&D: The Fall of Cahokiantep

As promised, here is “The Fall of Cahokiantep.”  For those keeping score, this is my fifth short role-playing adventure, though it’s the first one that’s not set in some kind of fantasy version of Bar Harbor, Maine.  Instead, Cahokiantep is modeled on Savannah, Georgia, where I was stationed as a young lieutenant in the 3rd Infantry Division.
The purpose of this adventure is twofold.  It introduces Cahokiantep as a potential location for future content—either Sketch in My Notebook-style stories or else future RPG content—and it provides a bridge from a traditional swords-and-horses style campaign to a plane-hopping campaign that incorporate elements inspired by science fiction.  I wrote this piece specifically because the stuff I’ve done on Spelljammer lately has been super-popular, but it doesn’t seem like Wizards is doing much with the setting these days.  I’m hoping that leaves a little room in the market for Cahokiantep, but we’ll see how that goes.  If this adventure is well received, I have a sequel in mind, tentatively titled “Cahokiantep: Journey to the End of the Universe”.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Housatonic Boat Club

The Housatonic Boat Club is the oldest active yacht club in the state of Connecticut.  I've never though of myself as the kind of person who would join a yacht club, but the place is really nice, and they have a sailing school.  I'd love for the girls to have the chance to learn to sail.

Hannah & Sally out on the dock.