Computer Games Gaming Personal Piracy Inc RPG Shebang WRPL

Week Ten – Once Is Chance, Twice is Coincidence, Third Time Is A Pattern


First weeks at work are generally a bit chaotic, new accounts, new processes, new people. This combined with a few other complexities (We had a Virgin Engineer around to fix the fact that every so often my ping times hit 20 seconds or so, a side effect of a fix of an issue a few months ago, when some gas engineers took a back-hoe to the fibreoptics) made the week slightly less relaxing than ideal.

Going to a new place is often a point of comparison, and it’s possibly worth writing up some of the practices and theories of operation of doing AWS stuff at enterprise-grade that I didn’t have the mental energy to get permission to write about before I left. All theory, anyway, since I can’t refer it back…


This week we won a RL battle of getting all the people lined up to play the third session (And first with everybody there) of Doug’s Trail of Cthulhu game, the Charybdis Protocol. I’ve got an IC writeup of the second session (my first. Scheduling is hard), and I’m working through the writeup of the second (Slightly harder. I’m attempting to walk the line between “useful session notes” and “one-sided account” in a session where I kind of lit a jerry-can of explosives on fire and threw it at the rest of the character party) (In my defense, shit got weird). Those will appear on my IC Diary site – The Hero Diaries – assuming the rest of the PCs don’t mind, and I’ve got their character names right.

Video-Game-wise, I’ve mostly been playing Warcraft, as I’ve been attempting to get my Monk to the end of the levelling campaign. Right now I’ve hit one of my least favourite bit of WoW end-game mechanics, the “Do tiny repetitive missions that reward junk and reputation to get through the reputation gateway” bit. Happily, I’ve managed to get my gear up to the level where I can do pick-up Heroics, so I’m balancing that with knocking out low-level achievements (Explore these zones, Poke this NPC, Poke that interactive object) while watching Twitch channels.

Twitch is my current background noise. Annoyingly I can’t get my old username back – I had a Justin.TV account before they were Twitch – but I did just realise that I could do the same thing as I did for this, so my new Twitch channel is Twitch.TV/Aquarionics. My first experiments in streaming had some mic-quality problems, but it is something I intend to experiment more with.

This may be combined with the fact that SWTOR is picking up speed in my local community again, so might end up doing more of that, and the idea of live-streaming a character path appeals. We’ll see.


I’ve had no beer explode this week, which can only be a plus. Brain-gremlins are down, sociality is up. I never really realise how badly stressful environments screw up my headspace until I’m out of them.

The lack of Odyssey meetings and discussions is kicking in to my calendar, and I’m kind of itching to run something game-like. This, coupled with Torment coming out and a block of Cipher-system/Numenera setting content that I backed with Kickstarter years ago turning up all at once is making that look like a short-run Numenera campaign. Tempting.

However, existing projects exist. I tidied up a bit of The Book, and it’s looking a lot better than I thought when I gave up on it. I almost don’t feel the urge to ditch it all (again) and rebuild. What I probably need to do is go over the first few chapters, redraw the arcs, and get a second opinion on whether the style actually tells the story. And then: Pirates.

cevearn comics linux Python Shebang tv

Week Nine – it’s better than bad, it’s good

Quiet work week, so we’ll skip that. Decided that I’d had enough of print statements, and moved both Lifestream and Lampstand over to use Python logging instead for everything outputty. Lampstand also needs a pass to separate output into levels, right now everything’s at INFO.

Positive feedback on some creative writing I did recently – on tumblr, and in scraps elsewhere – has led me to want to carve out time to get the novel moving forward again. I need to suppress the urge to kill it with fire and start from scratch, but right now it’s plodding a bit.

Somewhere between Rest and Play lies Odyssey work this week. A good Story Team meeting at the weekend has set some flags out for the year, and indeed next, and then I spent a few hours putting together the Odyssey T-Shirt shop, to supplement our costume & props budget with mercenary goodness.

Somewhere over the last week I’ve also carved out 13 hours to watch the full first series of Daredevil on Netflix, which I enjoyed a lot, and should turn into another entry shortly…

Imported From Epistula Shebang stories

Dan – PI

There is no such thing as an ordinary case which involves treacle mines.

Say the word “Treacle Mines” to a person, and you will get a number of possible reactions. From those with historical knowledge you will probably get a lecture on the golden, gloopy mud that made cutting off parts of the New Forest for farming trees so incredibly difficult. From most, however, you will get an image of trying to dig into rocks and get refined sugar. It takes a certian type of mental state to come up with small explosive charges which coat the surrounding area in thick, gloopy, difficult to move though and – take it from me – impossible to clean stuff. The treacle mines came later, though, because we start before I was hired. Before, in fact, I knew I was going back. Before, and this was the annoying bit, I was awake.

I don’t get frosted glass in my door-panel. I didn’t have a 1950’s style fan, bare floorboards, and a single safe in the corner to hold my prized possession: a Colt 45. This was because I couldn’t afford an office, lived in London where the requirement for cooling was generally rare, and the only 45’s I owned were some records in a box on top of the wardrobe. I had a carpet which may once have not been brown, a trenchcoat that had once been brown, a sink that may once have been white, and a detective agency that may once have had clients.

Somewhere in the world there is a detective agency that does well, can afford an office and a secretary they can pay, and generally doesn’t live in squallor. Classically, however, this is not where a case begins and I have ever been a slave to the classics.

Too much of the singular pronoun. I do have a name, in fact I have several. I am known mostly as “Dan”, which is short for something, and took on the surname of “Black” because I found it amusing at a time when I needed a new name. I’m currently asleep in the bed that folds up into a couch that dominates my office. It may once have had springs, it may once have been comfortable. As it is, I sleep lightly, my body honed into a state where I can defend my life at the slightest noise in the appartment, or from a spring making a last bid for freedom via my spine. The latter is more usual, but it was for the former that I was glad this evening, for as I lay sleeping a duo of questionable morals climbed the stairs.

Imported From Epistula Shebang

Shebang – The Obfuscated hardware contest – Part One

Of the origin, location and inhabitants of Shebang we will learn more later. We begin with the opening, because that is the sensible place to begin.

It began with the posters which appeared around town, and in common rooms, and in the cafs where the people who cared about this kind of thing were known to hang out. The posters were not fancy, but were striking to the people who they were designed to attract. They featured the symbol that would become the logo of Shebang watermarking a simple sans-serif paragraph:


42 Trumpton Street.

Obfuscated hardware contest.

All entries welcome.

Opening 9am, Announcement at noon

Several things stood out to the people who it was targetted at. First was the signature. was the address of one of the more famous hackers, creator of a new routing protocol in 1999, he’d vanished into corporate obscurity until his much-publicised abandonment of the company who had bought his expertise two years ago. Since then he hadn’t been heard of, though it was assumed that with the money he’d made selling out he could live in happiness for an extremely long time. In this, they were correct. In the assumption that he’d changed aliases and gone underground, they were less correct.

The second was the event itself. The idea of an Obfuscated $foo contest, where $foo was just about any programming language this side of Python, was a popular one. The idea was to make an incredibly convoluted, yet fascinatingly elegant, program. Preferably one that nobody could work out the purpose of until they ran it. Previous winners of such things include car racing games in less than thirty lines, and network pong (in which the code was molded into the shape of an “I”). Variations included programming entire systems where the code was the shape of a beer-glass, or in the email-sig-block standard size of 72 columns by just 4 lines. The idea of an obfuscated hardware contest seemed difficult, though.

Saturday noon came, however, and the three-story building was – while not exactly full – buzzing with anticipation. From behind the counter, a short figure stood and picked up a microphone from behind the bar.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, more of the latter than the former, I note with less than absolute surprise” he began, to a nervous titter from his audience, “My name is Christopher J Ashdown, better known as Crash, occasionally known as Crash at Crikey, and this is my new project, Shebang. Soon to be the ultimate ‘net caf. We have – as you have noticed – Proper coffee and real tea, as well as a decent net connection, all for sale, all for reasonable prices in cool surroundings. Yes, this is something of a Geek Haven, but the rest of the world should be comfortable here too.

“So what of this competition then? This Event for which I dragged you here from your comfortable monitors. Well, it works like this. I know that there are those among you who have dreamed of the ultimate computer. Not in speed, but in elegance of concept and weirdness, and I hereby challenge you to produce your dreams onto paper. The strangest and coolest idea for a working computer device will win.

“But what of the prize? We can’t offer something like this without a prize, can we? Indeed we cannot, and the prize is as follows: The winner will get a reasonable-lifetime’s supply of coffee and or tea from this very establishment for as long as we exist. Definition of Reasonable is fairly flexible, and will be on the entry forms. But that isn’t all, The winning project will be actually created, and will run in this very room. This means, people, that your ideas have to be fantastic but possible. They have to actually work, but beyond that it’s up to you.

“Pens and paper are dotted around, take one or get some kind of writing implement ready, for the instructions on how to enter will be as follows:” Crash paused while the room either grabbed pen and paper, or withdrew notebooks or – and a significant percentage fell into this got out palm-top computers to write it down.

“Send an email to this address: Oh Bee Haitch Dee Sea At Crikey dot sb. That’s Sea Argh Eye Kay Ee Why Dot Ess Bee. That’s Oscar Bravo Hotel Disco Charlie At Charlie Romeo India Kilo Echo Yankee, or Open Berkley Hack Digital Coffee Commercial-At Coffee Random Infocom Kludge Eris Yak. If you still haven’t got the address after that, it’s on the posters in here and will be all week. You’ll get an Entry ID and further instructions. Those further instructions consist of how I’ll accept entries, namely PDF, Tarball or Zipped HTML directory, or Word doc. Anything that doesn’t pass my virus checker will be shot, as will any entry over half a meg. Comp will close in one month, extensions forbidden – you aren’t at university now. Now go forth, Think, Drink and be geeky.”