The Moments of my Balls in the Air

When something spins around an axis, engineers measure it by its moments. That’s one of the many things I’ve learned studying for my ETCP Theatrical Rigging certification. Because we have a client that wants to see one. I’ve been doing this ore than 20 years, but its still a big, complex, convoluted technical discipline, and I learn a lot every damn day.

  • The top channel in a pulley, where the rope goes in, is called the “swallow, and the bottom part, where it plays out is called the breech.
  • Manila rope is graded by something called the Becker Value. It measured with photoelectric reflectrometry (so by color) and is obscure enough that you may know more about it right now than most rope dealers.
  • Manila rope is also stronger than hemp rope , so it is no real loss than you can’t readily find hemp rope in the US. Theaters would buy manila anyway.
  • Calculating the forces on three point bridles is insanely convoluted. Like skip that question and come back if you have time because there are literally 17 steps.

So my approach to studying, after flailing around a bit, is to alternate between three textbooks:

I try to read a chapter a day in each book, and do the problems in Rigging Math.

So that’s one ball in the air.

I still try to market my hiking guides and still contribute to the blog my publisher set up for that purpose.

The latest is here: http://trekalong.com/arewelostyet/2015/09/18/taking-the-inner-basin-off-of-my-bucket-list/

In writing that I learned that it takes about 3 hours to put together an 800 word article with pictures. But I couldn’t hike inner basin without telling someone about it, could I?

Another ball far from my hand but not forgotten is Go Action Fun Time

It turns out that marketing a new Role-playing system has an extreme degree of difficulty.  The trouble is the learning curve vs the plethora of established systems that people are already familiar with.

Scott Thorne, of Mongoose Publishing cites: “Lack of interest by customers in venturing outside their comfort zone.  There are very few “Igors” (cue Dork Towerreference) who are willing to try a brand new RPG just because it pops up on the new release shelf.  Most stick with the tried and true, going for the new PathfinderDark Heresy, or, much less than in days of yore.”

http://rpgr.org/news/scott-thorne-on-future-of-rpg

My quest for game masters to play test this thing remains at zero hits.

And I just sent the complete manuscript to  Beanstalk and Beyond to my publisher. That’s right, they signed a contract for a book they had yet to actually read. Good thing they signed it with me, huh?

Some reasonably relevant links:

NPR on how book sale numbers are lower than you imagine, and perhaps generated by voodoo.

http://www.npr.org/2015/09/19/441459103/when-it-comes-to-book-sales-what-counts-as-success-might-surprise-you

and author Kameron Hurley has some cold facts on that same subject:

http://www.kameronhurley.com/the-cold-publishing-equations-books-sold-marketability-love/

Now You Know.

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Leprecon 39 Game Master Rules

What’s new? I’ll tell ya:

I am the Gaming Director for LepreCon 39, the annual science fiction and fantasy convention with a special emphasis on SF/F Art.  Below are my various collected information blurbs on this subject, so that you, dear reader, may know the truth – and that I have a site I can direct people too when posting all or part of the blurb seems too unwieldy.

LepreCon 39 will take place May 9-12, 2013 at the Marriot hotel in downtown Mesa. There is a full badge and a gaming only badge. You’ll have to refer to the website for current pricing.

http://www.leprecon.org/lep39

The theme is Warriors of the Rainbow. Really.

A Gaming Only pass provides access to the gaming area, the Dealers Room, the Art Display and the Con Suite (where the snacks are!). It does not allow access to panels or other non-gaming events. It is only good for the weekend (May 11 & 12) as that is when organized game activity begins.

Our dedicated gaming area will have several tables available for running role-playing games, miniature simulations, board games, or as a central point for LARPing. Some tables can be reserved, others will be just there for the taking.

We will have a library of board games and a stockpile of props and miniatures available to check out. There will be sign-up sheets for scheduled games.

We are particularly interested in hosting LARPs, tournament games (RPG or otherwise) and demos of games no one has played before (perhaps because you just wrote the rules). Anyone willing to organize something along those lines would find in us a receptive and enthusiastic host.

Gaming inquiries can come to me directly, through any of the means listed below. Vendor or general convention inquiries are best directed at the directed to the Co-Chairs by contacting Patti Hultstrand at lepreconprogramming@yahoo.com.

PROPOSED RULES FOR GAME MASTERS – PARTICIPANTS

(These aren’t final, but they will be very close).

LepreCon wants and needs game masters to run games at the convention, and to that end we offer Participant badges. There are some rules.

A GM must sign up in advance to run at least three sessions of a published game (or a scenario based on published rules). We expect these games to go 2-4 hours, but this a default, not a requirement. We do need a fairly realistic estimate of time required when signing up so that we may schedule accordingly.

Participation in a panel or workshop counts the same a game session.

Published means that it is available for sale commercially from someplace other than the hands of the author. If it is for sale in the Dealer’s Room, we will count that.

A GM may run a game with unpublished rules and qualify for a participant badge provided that GM joins the Game Designers Collective detailed below.

Game Designer’s Collective

While we would like to provide a place to incubate and play-test home-brew and unpublished systems and scenarios, they are notoriously poor draws for participation. To mitigate the problem of Game Designers sitting at their empty tables looking sad, we have some special rules – er incentives for GMs of unpublished games:

You will qualify for a participant pass if you join the Lep39 Game Designer’s Collective. This club exists only for the Leprecon 39, but you will meet some folks, and get feedback on your game. Who knows what could happen afterwards.

The requirements are as follows:

  •  Members must provide at least four readable, playable copies of the rules to their game (and any other required elements needed for the game). (This is a guideline – the bottom line is that we need to be able to learn and play the game from materials available at the table.)
  •  Members must agree to run/demo at least two scheduled sessions of that game.
  • Each Member must agree to play every other member’s game at least once.
  • Give feedback to each other as if you were grown-ups.

Of course, you are always free to buy a badge, and then run whatever game you want whenever you want it, so long as there is an open table.

TRANS-DIMENSIONAL  TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS

Can a 18th level paladin take on a space marine? Let’s find out!

In the Gaming Room, I want to put together the Trans-Dimensional Tournament of Champions. Bring your baddest-ass character, and we will convert him/her/it to a common rule system (Likely GURPS – but I am open to suggestions), make a bracket and battle it out.

Prizes for the winner!

(So … that means I’m fishing for a sponsor as well.)

Now you know.

CopperCon 31 and a few other lessons

First – I’ve actually updated other blogs.

Are we lost yet profiles Elden Springs and my upcoming book signing / workshop.

DIRECT LINK TO THE REI EVENT

And at Writing Made Visible, there are some reposts about the accelerating sales of  e-books.

Small cons are great – because you can actually talk to people!

Buy some light groceries and keep them in the hotel room.

The art carries the story in a comic book (or graphic novel, or any variant). Words only get what little space is left over, so every word has to count. No small talk.

There is no standard for comic book scripts. Unless you’re writing for Dark Horse Comics. Their format is here.

Marketing (or anything else) via social media – a few rules:

1) Be social first! Pitch your crap second. The other way around just gets you deleted.

2) If you’re not comfortable with the format, don’t use it. You’ll likely suck at it anyway.

3) If you’re marketing yourself as a writer – write well. Spells words correctly.

4) No amount of social media presence will make up for a shoddy product.

The current estimate is that half of all star systems have planets, and the average may be 1-10 planets per star.

We find an awful lot of “Hot Jupiters” – gas giants closely orbiting a star – which goes against our model of how solar systems form. We know why we keep finding them – they are relatively easy to spot. We have no idea why they would exist at all.

Planets orbiting pulsars are very easy to find, even as small as the Earth. But the pulsar’s radiation makes life pretty much impossible.

Piratey sword-fighting was all about shorter movements with shorter swords (crowded ships and all).  And footwork – you live or die by footwork.

I’m over adapting anything to D20. It’s no longer supported for 3.5, and I have no urge to learn 4.0. I’m pushing forward with the game. Amen.

I’m thinking about writing it in Tiddlywiki. Seriously.

There might be a separate blog for that later on.

Finally New Scientist looks into the quantum-mechanics of human thought.

Now you know.

Finally coming up for air

Cause this blog isn’t dead. It’s just for the first time in 3 weeks, I’ve been able to come up for air. Haven’t been busy with one big thing. Oh no. A bunch of little things:

* swapped rooms in the house. My bedroom is now where the “family room” was. The “Office/lounge” is now where the bedroom was. The bedroom is functional. The O/L, where I now sit, not so much.

* Negotiated and finally signed a contract for Five Star Hikes in Flagstaff and Sedona and started work on that.

* Worked a selection of big, medium and small shows for Rhino. Then caught up with the install projects I had been ignoring because of those shows.

* Pushed forward on the space opera.

* Wrote a few articles for Fitness Plus

* Watched the Suns run over the Portland Trailblazers

* and played some Dungeons and Dragons.

I also kept falling asleep on the couch.

Did we learn things? Yeah

My house to the “Y” in Sedona is about 2 hours flat.

There is room in the market for a good hiking guide for Sedona and Flagstaff.

My old Garmin E-trex legend does not interface cleanly with the new Garmin Basecamp freeware. I need to upgrade. This is why I fear progress.

European power is all screwed up because of the French. (Of course, my source was British roadies).

There’s a swampy little lake near Casa Grande called Picacho Reservoir. And that’s about all I could learn about it. With 350 words t cover 20 lakes, that was all I needed to know about it.

This year’s  Suns squad is the best since 2004.

Good characters make even poorly designed systems (like 2nd AD&D) fun anyway.

Yeah, we’ll do some brazen wonk about immigration, but another night, ok?

Meanwhile, some links:

Strange Horizons gathers experts on zombies

What you always suspected, Jason Fried confirms: Why You Can’t Work at Work

Gamepocalypse chronicles how our culture is turning into one big collection of games

Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual is fairly close to how I’d like to present my space opera (except my subject is less satirical, and would be carved into bigger chunks).

And finally:

Res Ipsa Loquitor.

Now You Know.

We found a way to run new rope through a headblock without someone (usually me) up at the headblock to force the issue:

We took a one foot section of the new rope and removed the central core. Then we stuck the onld (thinner) manila line and the end of the new rope halfway each into the empty sleeve, and taped the hell out of it with electrical tape. We had to yank it sternly to get that portion through the block (there are keepers,you see, which are designed to keep the rope in the block, but also just barely let the new thicker rope pass). In 30 linesets, it only broke once.

Every fire curtain is rigged a different way, so if you’re going to mess with it (like, say, re-roping it), you’d best march up to the grid and discover how the contraption is actually rigged.

Burkhard Heim may have come as close to a Unified Field Theory as anyone else [according to a New Scientist article which may require registration to view]. More importantly to the fictional future, his theories point the way towards a functional hyperdrive. Heim rarely published, and never published in English so much of his work from the 1950’s is just now being “discovered”.

My dream of a unified combat damage system for both melee weapons and firearms may not be possible. Primary evidence is that armor designed to prtect against melee weapons is useless against bullets, and for the most part vice-versa. Running numbers I discovered that melee damage can be satifactorily measured in Newtons while ballistic damage can be satisfactorily measured in Joules (kilojoules, actually). These line up with the damage range consensus among most RPGs.

E-books, copyright and zombies.

I wouldn’t count on another entry here until after the holidays.

Now you know.

Notes from 9/24/09 Writer’s Group

There is a great deal of advice out there on how to write a query letter for a novel, and precious little in useful facts. It is, after all, a completely subjective exercise. I’ve done a fair bit of research myself, and here’s the two sites I found most helpful:

Do’s: Nathan Bransford – literary agent – on how to get an agent. To save you a click – his “mad-lib” query template.

First I’m going to need these things:

[Agent name], [genre], [personalized tidbit about agent], [title], [word count], [protagonist name], [description of protagonist], [setting], [complicating incident], [verb], [villain], [protagonist’s quest], [protagonist’s goal], [author’s credits (optional)], [your name]

Don’t’s: For those who like their truth a little brutal, you can follow agent Janet Reid’s Query Shark (where you might eventually see my query letter). Reid critiques “sample” query letters sent specifically for that purpose (as oppossed to real query letters sent to her real agency).

I’ve stopped reading right here. […]

Answer three simple questions: who’s the protagonist; what choice does she face; what are the consequences of the choice. That’s ALL you need.

Not for those with squeamish egos.

Personally, I value the advice of agents and editors far more than the advice of teachers and authors. If your goal is to get through the slush pile – heed those who read that slush pile.

ASCII Codes for special characters

Alt+160 = á

Alt +130 = é

Alt +161= í

Alt + 162 = ó

Alt + 0252= ü

Alt + 163 = ú

Alt + 164 = ñ

Alt + 167 = º

Alt + 168 = ¿

Alt + 0193 = Á

Alt + 0201 = É

Alt + 0205 = Í

Alt + 0211 = Ó

Alt + 0218 = Ú

Alt + 0220 = Ü

Alt + 0209 = Ñ

Alt + 173 = ¡

§ couln’t find an ASCII number for this.

I inserted it from the dialogue box.

[Word to WordPress = weird typeset anomolies]

Not directly relevant – but too cool not to share: A pictorial tour of Odessa

The Encyclopedia of Ukraine on Nationalism. (And some “don’ts” of HTML typesetting).

Just who is Scott Turow anyways?

Namemeanings.com

Three viewpoints on ghosts:

1- Van Alst “Spirit Investigators” answer prospective client’s FAQ’s.

2- Canadian kooks researchers who believe ghosts are misunderstood and that exorcisms are worse than useless.

3 – Mystical Blaze ( a New Age reference site) with a relatively coherent run-down on theories behind ghosts.

And a sidebar – a review of a role-playing game rules about ghosts. (This is a PDF, and may take a bit to load.)

And if you absolutely cannot eat another can of beans in this old trailer, here’s the Kingman Chamber of Commerce list of Restaurants.

Now You know


Links of tangental relevance to my current life

Do you not get enough drama from your “friends” on Facebook?

Try following the antics of fictional friends on Fatebook.

Need a reason to stay up all night and fret about the future of humanity?

Robots with guns – soon!

Remember way back on my other blog, when I explained The Miserable Truth About Plastic Bottles?  No less than Slate.com agrees with me.

Forty years later: random facts about Apollo 11.

Have you just spent years writing the best RPG ever? Too bad.

The E-bbok debate nicely summarized in five points.

And now, because its been a while, further news on the antics of the octopi:

Spain’s Islands of the Gods. “But we’re content. We have our peace and everything we need: meat, octopus, goats, chicken and vegetables,” says Victoria, as she herds her goats into a stall.

And the journal Afarensis has compiled a survey of recent octopi literature including octopus ancestry, octopus porn, and a debate over whether octopi is actually a word in English.

Since “gianormous” is now in standard usage, I’m thinking yes.

Now You Know