Roleplaying

Last week, someone posted on an SD boardgaming meetup that he wanted to get a group to play a Gamma World campaign.  Even though my pen-and-paper roleplaying has been limited, it sounded fun, and I went.  (The fact that I had been talking to someone on okc about Pathfinder had nothing to do with it.)  We spent most of the night making characters.  The GM was inexperienced and railroaded the group while mumbling a lot, and the group was big and unwieldy, but I did have coming up with my character, even if it was largely determined by dice: he’s a human that has embraced mutations who can zap people with electricity even though his ultravision can see electricity and so he can blind himself.

Overcome with a desire to create more stories, I looked up games like Pathfinder ACG.  Though their character customization and campaign are tops, ultimately I held off buying it because of some reservations about how repetitive the adventures are.

Instead, I started digging around actual RPG adventures.  The ones that really interested me the most were Eureka: 501 Adventures and Villainy Amok, both of which are really books of tropes.  (501 Adventures has a companion, Masks: 1001 Memorable NPCs.)  I also bought Operation Rimfire because I heard it was a good mecha based campaign (it’s basically a 20+ episode anime in adventure form).

The system that interested me the most was the derivatives of the Gumshoe system, like Ashen Stars.  The system is designed to avoid the problem with mysteries in RPGs where the players flub a die roll and miss out on a clue.  Gumshoe games provide the players with all the necessary clues, and the game is about the investigation and putting together the mystery.  Sadly, I don’t like any of the genres, otherwise I might try to mine their adventures for ideas.

In other news, Primetime Adventures had their latest printing successfully Kickstarted.  Fate, a system that was developed from Fudge, was also Kickstarted.  I like these stripped down games, where the players rather than the game mechanics bring the characters and story to life.

Science & Engineering Fair

On Wednesday, I volunteered as a judge for the Greater San Diego Science & Engineering Fair.  They had too many math and CS judges, so I was put in Engineering – Electrical and Mechanical, middle school division.

There were two really impressive projects.  One student studied the effect of EM radiation on wavelength division multiplexing in fiber optics.  I questioned him about WDM and he seemed to understand the concept pretty well (he gave good analogies for multiplexing and wavelength division).  He was a bit shaky on error correction, and he didn’t actually do a physical experiment. but he did learn how to run simulate the system using software, including learning the language used to describe the system(!).  Truly impressive for a middle schooler.

Another student tried to build a hearing aid for listening to violin.  Okay, really it was an amplifier/filter circuit.  And her mentor (who does speech, I believe) pointed her toward a bandpass filter designer that was more concerned about magnitude response than phase response.  But she breadboarded her circuit, including an op amp (how many op amps did we fry in college?) and tested her circuit by seeing how it affected various perceptual qualities.  Of course, loudness was best.  The student and her project would gain a lot from talking to a sound engineer.

Then there were all the projects that students did because their teachers made them.  I’ll say this: I’m not very impressed with the award system the fair uses.  Every entry gets either 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th place.  There is no way to not get a prize.  My group handed out roughly a third 1st, 2nd, and 3rd.  An uninspired project that performs an experiment (we saw several) gets 3rd.

Finally, one interesting observation: I asked a lot of the students, “Did anything in your project raise more questions / make you want to look deeper into an aspect?”  I believe if you asked a grad student, they will invariably have something that bugs them or something that interest them or something that must be answered.  All of the students said no.  From the stellar projects down to the generic projects.  It’s like admitting you still have questions is a form of weakness rather than admitting you have a curious mind.

9 Feb: North Park

The target for today was around 30th and University.

– Cafe Calabria’s woodfired pizza wasn’t open yet, so I went to Fatboy’s Corner Store and Deli.  Got a pastrami and swiss on an onion roll, which came with potato salad.  Not bad.

– The main commercial streets are definitely more used looking than residential roads.  Telegraph was better at keeping up appearances than this area.

– Houses in this area look a notch below what I saw Wednesday and Friday.  Or maybe because I’m seeing them in daylight and not in the dark?

– Grabbed a mexican cocoa and sat in the lounge of Cafe Calabria.  The crowd is mostly 30-somethings stopping in for a drink or meeting up.

– Cafe Calabria serves Neapolitan pizza.  I forgot exactly what toppings I ordered, but whatever brassica it was was bitter.  Combined with excessive oil, it made it hard to enjoy the pizza.

7 Feb: University Heights

Today we’re on the north side of University Heights, on the west end of Adams.

– Bahn Thai is small but busy.  Too busy to get a table, so I get a pad thai to go.
– I can easily see several open restaurants and bars from the door, including vegetarian and Ethiopian.
– The crowd is 20s to 30s and doing well for themselves.
– The houses along Georgia look older than what I saw Wednesday, but they are less tightly spaced and hence larger.

5 Feb: North Park

Today is east North Park / south University Heights.

– I’m reminded of south side of Berkeley, the way residences are right next to a strip of commercial along the main road.
– Today’s target is Twist, a burger joint.  I got a spicy ranch chicken sandwich and side for a bit less than $8.  The side salad was balsamic vinaigrette, so I got the fries.  But the fries came with spicy ranch sauce too, so that flavor was overrepresented.  The sandwich uses a really thick cut of bacon.  The owner is trying really hard to impress me.
– The houses and complexes here look clean, definitely not run down.

4 Feb: Normal Heights

I hear that the strip of SD from Hillcrest to about Kensington is the trendy place to be, if I ignore downtown and the coast for price and distance reasons.  So this is my chronicle of exploring local restaurants after work.

Today is Zia Gourmet Pizza on the west side of Normal Heights along Adams Avenue.

– Parking is tough. Note to self: need guaranteed parking.
– $6 for 2 spices of pizza.  Good pizza though.  Reminds me of Cheeseboard.  I leave the shop a little hungry, thinking I might make a half portion of noodles when I get home, but I think otherwise when I get back.
– I left the office pretty late, so there aren’t a while lot of people around or shops open.  There are a couple of coffeeshops doing good business and a couple liquor stores.

23-24 Nov

This weekend was the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, so I got caught up.  That meant watching everything from The Power of Three onward.  Yeah, that was a lot of television.  I don’t like Angels episodes.  The mystery surrounding Clara was interesting, and I wished they played with it more before resolving it, but I guess that’s what you get when you get for starting a story arc mid-series.

Oh, and I heard about Little Witch Academia.  It’s fun, silly, and short.  It’s nice to be able to watch an anime without having to invest many hours getting into it.

My apartment gave me an apple pie and a discount code to Papa John’s for, I dunno, not moving out I guess.  Papa John’s garlic dipping sauce is disgusting.  It seems to be garlic powder suspended in butter.

I’ve also started trying to code a browser game using HTML5 / Javascript Canvas.  Making things look good is hard.