Beautiful opposition & equivalence:

Taylor Mali's "Totally like whatever, you know"

Melissa Lozada-Oliva's "Like Totally Whatever"

Armada surrender

I am having a very hard time settling down and anteing up for a space combat miniatures game. After a great deal of exploration and consideration I had settled on Star Wars: Armada. Its fleet combat action with the concomitant large vessels, lots of fighters, and played on a big table is what I am looking for. And I really like the setting. So a few weeks back I bought the starter kit, but since it arrived the box has been unopened. Why?

Even after buying it I remained a little uneasy about the large number of custom components: the specialized dice, unique movement jigs, uncommon vessel stands, specific crew & vessel cards, the tokens, etc. What happens when Fantasy Flight Games discontinues the game? Can the game stand up without the support of the manufacturer? Should I care as long as I enjoyed the game for a few years (my ROI)? A specific game is not eternal afterall.

On Tuesday I was in northern Massachusetts and so drove over to Hobby Bunker to get a couple of back issues of Wargames Illustrated. The shelves had lots of X-Wing, lots of Star Trek Attack Wing, and almost no Armada. I should have asked the staff about the discrepancy, but my gut told me that Armada just did not have the following of the other games. Having others to play with is also what I want in my space combat miniatures game.

I returned Armada today, and I am back to not knowing what to choose.


ps If you are a D&D Attack Wing player and looking for more components Hobby Bunker has a dozen or more in their remainders sale.

pps Wargames Illustrated US subscription price is far too high at £80.00 / year (currently $114). So I choose to just buy a few issues a year to get my glossy magazine fix.

Update: I have bought Star Wars: The Force Awakens X-Wing Miniatures Game Core Set. Seeing the X-Wing Builder tool and some of its results, for example, herehere, and here (by way of The Woofboot Chronicles), put me over the top. I picked up the newer version of the core set as I have read that the manual is much improved over the original (and there are very few new rules or rules changes between the two).

Listen to Wikipedia

Listen to Wikipedia is wonderful and a good example of an ambient display. Reminds me of listening to the music of the stars in Carl Sagan's Cosmos series.

d0x3d!

I year or so ago I bought the d0x3d! board game. The theme is network security and the players are hackers cooperating to retrieve stolen information and escape the network before detection. The mechanics are very similar to Forbidden Island. I finally organized my coworkers and bribed them with a selection of Rhode Island beers and we played it today. It was a lot of fun and I would recommend it to other engineering types that might be adverse to playing a board game. Most telling was Mike's comment that playing the game together was the best team building exercise we had ever done. That was not my intention, but I am glad the game play achieved that also.

Regarding the beers, the two winners were Captain's Daughter and Revival White Electric Coffee Stout.

Looking for laser cutting service

Anyone know of a laser cutting service in South Kingstown or vicinity? AS220 Labs has a low cost service (4 hours / $25), but I normally only need an hour and don't want the cost of driving to and parking in Providence. Does URI have a maker space or have plans to create one?

Playstation 4 Tax

Macintosh users once talked about the "Microsoft Tax." This was the additional hardware you needed to buy in order to effectively use a Microsoft Word upgrade. Today I discovered a "Playstation 4 Tax". This is the additional wireless networking hardware you have the buy in order to play Call of Duty with teammates and not effectively block other family members from using the internet. I am thinking my son will need to pay this tax.

FYI: How bad are things (in schools)?

Tom Hoffman's How bad are things (in schools)? posting (and the one it draws from) is related to the complexity of childhood's problems that often come up when talking about social engineering education reform. The "script" he talks about is a small computer program that when run prints the condition(s) of a random stranger. Well worth reading.

Too much beer and ardent talk

The planning and execution of 9/11 took several years to complete. Oklahoma City took 2 years. These guys' plan seemed to be based on drinking too much beer and speaking too ardently the night before. Blockade the facility and let 'em starve. I give them 5 days before they quite.

Update: Their humiliation will likely to be the spark that sets this fiasco on fire. And that outcome WILL cause serious problems for this country.

Update: Regarding humiliation, "Hungry and cold, Ammon soon found his limbs entwined with Trevor’s. He was unsure where he ended and Trevor began. ‘It’s for warmth,’ he told himself. He pulled out his Magnum and gripped the barrel, locking eyes with Ammon. Ryan held the cold steel to his brother’s naked flank. Ammon gasped with pleasure and desire." Y'all Qaeda erotica fan-fiction.

Linode + GoDaddy - 1and1

I have never liked 1and1.com, but I had a good package deal from their early days and so continued to use them for small web sites and applications. Yesterday, I went to add support for a new domain that I bought at GoDaddy and I could not figure out how to add hosting for an external domain. While the feature might be in the interface it was sufficiently impregnable that I gave up looking. It was also the last straw for me and I have started to move all my sites to Linode and my domain registrations to GoDaddy. Both GoDaddy and Linode have gotten better over the years and so am comfortable with the transfer. Now for the work.

Update: Done! (And quite expensive in the end due to too many domain names I seem to want to keep.)

Starting a miniatures wargaming club in South Kingstown, RI

I would like to start a miniatures wargaming club in South Kingstown, RI. I am interested in many periods with battles or skirmishes fought on the land, in the sea, and in the air. At this time I have dark age figures I use with Saga and so am most keen on playing more of this game. I am currently building ancients armies to play To The Strongest and steampunk factions to play In Her Majesty's Name or Gaslight in 2016. I am also interested in Napoleonic fleet battles, modern guerrilla skirmishes, and non-historical miniature games such as Games Workshop's Lord of the Rings, and space battles using Starmada, Star Wars X-Wing, and Star Wars: Armada.

My plan is for the group to meet at the Kingston Free Library's Potter Hall twice a month during the week, starting around 6 PM and finishing up around 9 PM. I suggest that we commit to always having 2 regular game rules played and adding others as wanted.

If you are interested in attending a planning meeting (online or in person) please contact Andrew Gilmartin at andrew@andrewgilmartin.com or at 401-441-2062.

Tim Cook is right

There has been a lot of criticism of Tim Cook's 60 Minutes comment that the US lacks the vocational skills to host the scale of manufacturing that the Apple has in China. The commentators that I have read do not understand that for every multiple of manual laborers you need a skilled laborer. A manufacturing line does not work without having skilled and experienced designers and maintainers. The less manufacturing that happens in the US the less we have those skills and experiences. Not to mention the concomitant need of local suppliers of raw materials, parts, and consultative or otherwise specialized skills. The world might be a global market, but manufacturing is a local activity.

For a specific data point, look to your school district and see how much vocational education is being funded. Do you see that where once your school district had its own vocation school or track in High School and now that has been replaced with a single regional vocational school? Do you see that the remaining high school "shop" classes in High School metal, wood, automobile, etc have been underfunded and full-time faculty are now part-time? Do you hear the school administration's mantra what "fewer students want this education" and then ask yourself, "why would this generation's interests be vastly different than any previous generation's interests?" We see the same mantra and consequences in music, the visual arts, and the performance arts programs.

Tim Cook is right.

Re: Suggestions on best practices for school web sites

I wrote Suggestions on best practices for school web sites 6 years ago and it is still pertinent.

Incompetent formaters

Grumble. Why do people spend so much time and energy on making documents or presentations look good when they are not competent to do so? Just stick to the style guide and spend the time and energy making sure the content is accurate and the form appropriate.

(In the 80s I worked with many very smart people who needed help getting their content out of overly formatted hell. I find it despairing that every generation has to repeat the same information delivery problems of the past.)

El Capitan and horrible glyphs

I spent a day upgrading my MacBook Pro from Mavericks, OS X 10.9, to El Capitan, OS X 10.11, and then downgrading it back to Mavericks. I needxe to downgrade my OS back to Mavericks as the system fonts on El Capitan produce horrible glyphs on my older external monitor* and, further, my 52 years old eyes were not able to adjust to the high contract between the visual strength of the background and the visual weakness of the glyphs. No amount of hardware adjustment or software calibration resolved the problem. Apple's visual design drive to near invisible text -- on OS X and iOS -- is going to push me away from their products.

* Acer B243H 24" Widescreen LCD Monitor

Bundling a Java tool into an OS X application

A quick reminder to myself about bundling a Java tool into an OS X application.

Directory structure

JConsole.app
JConsole.app/Contents/
JConsole.app/Contents/Info.plist
JConsole.app/Contents/MacOS/
JConsole.app/Contents/MacOS/Run.sh
JConsole.app/Contents/Resources/
JConsole.app/Contents/Resources/Application.icns

Info.plist

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC "-//Apple Computer//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN" "http://www.apple.com/DTDs/PropertyList-1.0.dtd">
<plist version="1.0">
<dict>
    <key>CFBundleExecutable</key>
    <string>Run.sh</string>
</dict>
</plist>

Run.sh

#!/bin/bash

APP_DIR=$(dirname $(dirname $(dirname $0)))
APP_NAME=$(basename $APP_DIR .app)

$(/usr/libexec/java_home -v 1.8)/bin/jconsole \
-J-Dapple.laf.useScreenMenuBar=true \
-J-Dapple.awt.antialiasing=true \
-J-Xdock:name="$APP_NAME" \
-J-Xdock:icon="$APP_DIR/Contents/Resources/Application.icns" \
-J-Dcom.apple.mrj.application.apple.menu.about.name="$APP_NAME"

The Melting Pot Anxiety

My company had our year end lunch at The Melting Pot. While I did enjoy our lunch the long drive home had me thinking
  1. I had to cook my own meal!
  2. How much bacteria sharing happened?
  3. When is the salmonella poisoning going to set in?
I doubt that I will be returning.

Comments (not given) at last night's School Committee meeting

Here are my intended remarks to the South Kingstown School Committee yesterday (Dev 8). Due to the meeting running late I was not able to stay until the Community Comment portion of the meeting. (I left at 9:30, some 2 hours into the meeting.)

Good evening,

When I have first considered speaking at tonight's meeting I intended to address the Strategic Plan. I wanted to raise concerns that the Plan does not address long term financial planning, long term physical infrastructure planning, nor long term technology infrastructure planning -- a rapidly increasing and continuing cost.

I was hoping that today's agenda would have an updated Plan that at least addressed adding an historical perspective on the changes with regard to the 2010-2015 Plan. This perspective was requested at the last SC meeting by committee members. Unfortunately, the agenda does not include a copy of the Plan and so I have to assume that it has not changed.

But then I realized how large the meeting's agenda was and I wandered how a 3 hour meeting was going to cover

  • Dual Language Initiative,
  • Late Start Survey Results,
  • PARCC results,
  • Grading Policy,
  • Strategic Plan,
  • Resolutions to the General Assembly,
  • the recognitions,
  • the pro forma actions,
  • ...

Any one of these subjects should be expected to have significant discussion and take up many hours. And for the community we can not address the SC for more than 3 minutes. 3 minutes to cover 8 subjects with all their entangled details. I clean my teeth for 3 minutes. How can I or anyone else speak to the agenda's issues in such a short time?

How can I ask for a statement of the progress of replacing Simone Palmer's role of 1:1 leadership and STEP coordination?

How can I point out that the proposed grading policy does not allow for summative grading range that does not have a zero? That is, it has no bottom.

How can I point out that the PRACC results speak to a very bad test design and a very bad vendor review?

How can the HS score of 29.5 in Math and 38.3 in Literacy be anything but a dismal showing even in relation to other school districts?

How can we have wasted so much instructional time, money, and energy on PARCC?

So I have decided to address the issue of pacing for the SC meetings.

My understanding is that the Thursday before the public meeting the chairwoman and the Superintendent set the meeting's agenda. Why pack in so much? The SC members non-verbal communication, body language, clearly reveal the weight of the material to cover.

Is there too much to cover in the number of scheduled meetings?

Luckily, the 2016 Meeting Schedule is is also on tonight's agenda. This schedule is notable for its lack of information on the known work for the 2016 year's meetings and the number of open time slots per meeting. This seems to be a minimum aid to help guide the pacing of the SC's work.

Let's not bump the Strategic Plan from its next meeting, its 3rd "first reading" meeting.

Thank you for your attention this evening.

Educationally, the buck stops here

I attended last night's School Committee meeting and it is clear that South Kingstown parents like the new Dual Language Instruction. If ever there was a program to rally around for next year's elections then it is this one. In contrast, all the 1:1 technology stuff is meh.

Three times during the DLI discussion SC members implied that the Town Council that would ultimately decided on DLI's expansion into all the elementary schools. One member even said "they are your elected officials." Wait! That's wrong. The SC are our elected officials to make decisions about educational goals, policies and the budgeting to make them happen.

Now, I don't actually believe the SC members were trying to distance themselves from this responsibility at all. The SC unanimously supported DLI. What I am sure they were trying to say was that they will make it happen, but with new programs its is very helpful to have community support at the joint TC & SC budget meetings. Unfortunately, it has been my experience that most people don't understand that the TC has NO role in making education decisions. Their only legal role is to transfer tax money to the SC. The SC needs to continually clear up this misunderstanding. Perhaps they need a big sign behind them that says

Educationally, the buck stops here

Matt Caron's primer on hunting and weapons

A fews days ago I posted a statement that gun type should be restricted and purposeful. Matt Caron has kindly give me (and y'all) a primer on hunting and weapons used. Very helpful to understand an issue that is so often debated in the absence of facts. Please do take the time to read his comments.

Update: Matt has posted an updated version of his comments to his own blog at A primer on what constitutes "common" firearms in various market segments.