The Caffeinated Penguin

musings of a crackpot hacker

It's been a busy two weeks

| September 17, 2007

Let’s hit this chronologically. So, the long weekend, we painted the porch, and I told all you fine folks about that. The following week (3rd – 7th), we work on the porch some more, and I scrounged up some steel (there’s a pile of it in the woods near the house) and prepped everything for the repair work I was going to do on Saturday (the 8th). Saturday, my folks come up for a visit and my Dad brings his welding machine. In the morning, Liz painted the side door a nice shade of maroon, and I got the plastic trim pieces on the main door masked off and spray painted. My folks showed up and my Dad taught me how to weld. We were welding up some brackets on the mower deck where the welds failed. I was putting a lot of stress on them because the anti-scalp wheels were too low, but the main issue was that the welds were crap. My dad looked at them and said that whomever welded it got really poor penetration, so it was basically just sitting on top of the metal. We welded them up all nicely, and my dad says that it will likely tear the deck off the mower before those welds fail. I welded up some new skis for the snowblower. Basically, the skids that the blower came with are too small for my driveway when it’s muddy, and the blower sinks in to the driveway a little too much. So, the additional surface area of the newly fabricated skis should help with this. After that, we picked up my car from the dealership where it was being fixed from a broken rocker arm bolt which caused a variety of rocker arm related issues which made the engine run like poo. After that, we hit the cheesecake factory for dinner, where my folks split a burger and didn’t even order cheesecake. How weird is that? On Sunday, Liz’s dad came over and we ripped into her car to pull the steering knuckles off so we could replace the wheel bearings. Of course, after 130,000 miles, half the crap underneath was rusted solid, so we ended up hailing out piles of tools (Dremel, sockets, ratchets, hammers, assorted pullers, saws, etc.) and basically attacking it. Luckily, Liz’s dad has experience with these things, so he was able to direct me so that I didn’t feel completely useless. Once we got it apart, we realized that we needed to replace more things – tie rod ends, lower ball joints, struts, rotors, pads, etc. Because of these complications, the project stretched into the week, and we ended working on the car after work for most of the week. To be honest, I rather enjoyed it, though I felt bad that it took up so much of Liz’s Dad’s week. It was also made less stressful by the fact that we didn’t need the car per se – my car ran, so hers could be up on blocks without issue. Meanwhile, I got a spare set of blades for the mower deck, had the old ones sharpened (I need to buy a bench grinder – a $40 grinder pays for itself after two sharpendings of the blades – they’re $6 per and there are 3), had the chain for my chainsaw sharpened, had them order an extra one (where I get a third for free, because they’re doing a buy one get one). I also grabbed a can of paint, so I could wire brush the crap off the welds and prime and paint it, so now it looks less like crap. Let’s see.. other stuff. Got some line for the weedwacker, so I can finish that up, we bought new door hardware (brushed nickel instead of gaudy gold). I think that gets us to this past weekend. Sunday was the Syracuse gun show, which meant about 300 miles on the VW, which proves an adequate test for the new rocker arms.. she’s purring like a kitten. The Syracuse gun show presented me with numerous things which I did not have the money for: – Real HK 91 – $2200 – JLD PTR-91 (HK 91 clone) – $1100 – Mosin-Nagant M-44 carbines – $90 – SMLE’s – $125 – SMLE Jungle carbine – $150 – SAR-1 – $400 The only thing which was really missing was a selection of FALs. Very few, and not very good ones. I did, however, pick up about 50lbs of “mixed range pickup brass” for $25. On the way back, we stopped by Tractor Supply company and I ended up buying a dumping cart (think overgrown wagon, except it dumps) which can be pulled, or if you turn the handle around, you can hitch it to the tractor. With a 1000lbs capacity, I can use it for carrying various piles of crap (rocks, dirt, brush, etc). The short term use will to be pretending like I work on the road maintenance crew – loading it up full of dirt and driving around the yard trying to find all the old post holes and holes which used to have rocks in them. I’m concerned that someone is going to turn their ankle in one of the holes, and we can’t have that. Anyway, it was my father in law’s birthday, so when we got back Liz made him a nice birthday dinner, primarily consisting of Black Bear in a Blackberry sauce. It was quite good. The bear and sauce by themselves were unremarkable, but together they worked quite well. Dessert was a very tasty pumpkin cake, which was not unlike carrot cake in spice, flavor and consistency. Sunday, we got up for brunch with Liz’s folks (I think the main thing he wanted for his birthday was to spend it with his family. He really likes having his daughter back up here, and I think he doesn’t mind having someone to go to gun shows with much either). After that, we went over to this cider mill, which was having a craft show. I was hoping for a rocking chair, but I didn’t like what they had. Anyway, there were a variety of interesting things, and it was a nice, relaxing morning. We took away some fresh apple cider (which we watched being pressed; oh, and it was all water powered, too), cider donuts and fudge. After that, there was a bit of grocery shopping, and some more work on the mower deck and such. Tonight, we picked up Liz’s car where it was getting an alignment done (a useful thing when you’ve replaced all the things we did), and then I put all the bits back on the mower deck, and bent tips on one of the skids for the blower (heat with torch, then bang unto shape with hammer). It’s not perfect, but it will work. Oh, and I’ve decided that the “greenhouse room” (a room with french doors to the rest of the house, and three floor to ceiling windows to the outside, which gets a lot of eastern exposure, so it gets a lot of sun, and we will use it for starting plants for the garden and keeping others for the winter) is a good one to use to make sun tea in the winter time. I love plain iced tea with just a hint of sweetness. Even the Arizona teas are too sweet for me to drink as much as I’d like to. Tomorrow, I figure I’ll put the mower deck back on the tractor and mow the lawn. Wednesday I’ll go to the tractor place and pick up my second set of (now sharp) mower blades and hopefully the spare chainsaw changes. After that, I’ll finish using the weedwacker on the parts I couldn’t get to last time (ran out of line), and maybe this weekend I’ll hit the huge pile of wood with the chainsaw and make it into smaller stackable pieces of wood. Oh, and I need to sweep the upstairs, wash the floors, and vacuum the downstairs. Also, make ice cream (I owe Lizzy some Tiramisu and mint chocolate chip ice cream), and pull out another post which is bothering me. Anyway, I think that about covers what’s been going on in my life.

Tri-Stat dX vs. Shadowrun

| September 16, 2007

So, I looked into the Tri Stat dX system (used in Big Eyes, Small Mouth, amongst other things) and, while interesting, I like Shadowrun better. The main issue is the lack of opposed rolls. In Shadowrun, if I'm trying to smack you, I roll my dice and you roll your dice and whomever gets more successes wins. In Tri Stat, both players would roll against a given target number and whomever beat it by more wins. This is kind of lame.

I think I still prefer Shadowrun.

More on Serenity RPG

| September 10, 2007

I looked up the Shadowrun rules again, and apparently I had forgotten that on skill tests you roll skill + linked attribute. Given that, Serenity's system doesn't seem all that different, except for the “mix and match” aspect, which is easily cured with a house rule. (You roll the appropriate attribute rather than the linked attribute). Furthermore, you can play the same game of having cars have their own dexterity, and you roll car dexterity + driver's driving skill rather than driver's dexterity + driver's driving skill + handling modifier of the car (some adjusting of TN's might be necessary here, but it's doubtful. After all, if a guy's dexterity is 4, his skill is 3, and the car's handling is -2, it's 5 dice. Well, if the car's agility is 2 and his skill is 3, it's skill 5 dice. Now, if his dexterity was originally higher, then he's at a disadvantage, but I think it's more realistic this way).

Also, Shadowrun uses an opposed ranged combat system as well, so that is not unique to Serenity.

Finally, I don't like the way Serenity handles damage when in combat as well as Shadowrun does. The main deal here is, with Shadowrun, damage is either stun or physical, not both (or rather, rarely both). Depending on damage, you get bad modifiers applied. When your stun or physical damage is full, you pass out. With Serenity, the to-hit success is used to determine a mix of wounds (physical) and stun damage, then the damage of the weapon is added on top of it (this is one type, stun or physical). These are checked off on the damage chart. You get some penalties if your physical damage gets to halfway. Also, if your physical and stun equals your life points, you roll to see if you pass out. This requires more counting than I care to make.

On a Shadorun-only note, I'm house-ruling burst fire weapons to not have a recoil penalty for your first burst (much like semiauto weapons do), because applying recoil to the first burst is not really realistic. The second burst, however, is at normal recoil pentalty.

Serenity RPG as generic system?

| September 5, 2007

So, I have to say that initial impressions of the Serenity RPG are good. I like the flexibility of the “roll appropriate attribute + skill” approach (which is not completely unlike the old Pinnacle system used in Deadlands). One interesting aspect is that all combat is an opposed roll – you roll attack, your opponent rolls defense – high roll wins. This is not unusual for melee combat, but is interesting for ranged combat.

I'm still reading the rules, but it seems like it should play quickly (a nice feature of D20), and yet be reasonably gritty and realistic (like Shadowrun). Anyway, I'll most more impressions as they come.

(Oh, and I'm sick, so this is kind of rambly.. I know this.).

Sticking a teapot up your nose

| September 3, 2007

I suppose that I've been using one long enough that I should sing the praises of the Neti Pot. Basically, it's this teapot-looking thing which you fill with warm water and a few pinches of salt. You then stick it into one nostril and tilt your head while leaning forward so that the water flows through your sinuses and out the other nostril. After some amount of water has flowed out, you straighten your head, take the Neti pot out, let the rest of the water drain, then blow your nose. Repeat with the other side.

It feels a little strange at first, but I have to admit that it works. It feels like you've been swimming, actually. It has helped me with:

  • seasonal allergies
  • sinus headaches (brought on by seasonal allergies. I make sure to use it when the headache is starting).
  • dust/pollen/etc. (working in the yard, shooting, etc.)

The basic idea is that it flushes all of the crap out of your nose and sinuses, breaks up mucous, etc. so you can actually breathe.

Tips (In my experience, it is uncomfortable if you break any of these):

  • Use warm water.
  • Use a good amount of salt. Initially, Liz an I were using too little. You need about 1/4 tsp, or “3 solid pinches” (which is what I use).
  • Don't use iodized salt. Use regular, plain table salt.

We bought ours off Amazon.

Also, I should mention that Liz originally saw this on Oprah.


| September 3, 2007

(original post was here).

So, of what you planned to do, what did you actually accomplish?

As far as me, we only got the porch railings painted, because the project suffered from some “creeping featuritis” and we added a pile of crap on to what was initially a fairly simple affair.

In the style of “to give a mouse a cookie”. If there is a long weekend, you must paint the porch. In order to paint the porch, you must sand off the loose paint. In order to get supplies, you need to go to the home improvement store. While at the home improvement store, you pick up some light fixtures which would look much better than the ugly gold ones, and were 2 for $14, so how could we go wrong? Once you’ve started painting the porch railings, you decide to paint the doorframes. While sanding the doorframes, you realize that the door has the same problems as the one on your in-laws’ house; the trim has yellowed in the sun, so you decide to paint that too (including all the tedious masking off, hanging paper to protect against overspray, and basically doing an hour of prep for two 5 minute coats of paint). If you’re going to be painting the trim, you might as well paint the doors. While painting the porch rails, you decide that you want to fill in the cracks in the wood with some silicone sealant, and realize that you need a small roller to get the bottom of the lower rail. So, it’s back to the home improvement store for caulk, spray paint that sticks to plastic, paint for the door. While at the store, you realize that the paint is on sale, and buy paint for the guest bedroom as well. While cleaning the trim in preparation for painting, you realize that the sealant applied at the factory has softened to the consistency of chewing gum and is oozing out onto the glass. When you scrape off the old sealant, you see that you should recaulk the glass. Luckily, you have some silicone caulk (purchased to fill in the cracks in the wood), and all that remains is the absurdly tedious job of masking both sides of the tape joint, caulking it, then pulling off the tape in order to make it all nice and professional. While doing all of this, you realize that you should throw a couple of coats of paint onto the unfinished underside of the bay window in the master bathroom.