July 19

Building a table

I wasn’t quite happy with our old table so I decided to build a new one. I looked around and decided to build a “farmhouse table”.

Step 1. Research.

I looked at over a dozen designs and tutorials from websites like Ana-White.com and YouTube.

Step 2. Draw up a plan.

So I didn’t go with a pre-made plan but bits and pieces of other plans make up what mine ended up being.

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3. Buy the lumber. I went to Lowes for the lumber and had them cut all the lumber. I had the number of pieces and lengths planed ahead to make the task easy. One Newb mistake I made was not realizing that they did not cut 4×4′s. I ended up going over budget by choosing turned legs as replacements but I have to admit they do look better.

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4. I laid all the lumber out in the kitchen to build the table. It’s hot in Texas this time of year. I wasn’t going to hang out in the garage that long. Sarah took Joseph to the zoo and then the mall so that I could have the space to myself.

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I also turned on Patton to have playing in the background. It helped make sure the requisite testosterone level was met in the house. I’ll also note here that those beautiful table legs were a pain in the butt to drill in and place screws. I’m not sure what wood they are but it’s much harder than the white pine I used in the rest of this project. Here are a couple more in progress pictures:

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5. After building the frame of the table I turned it upright and placed the boards for the top on. I just screwed the boards down and made sure to countersink the screws. I then placed wood filler in the holes and let that dry for a few hours.

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6. Later in the evening I painted the legs white and stained the table top. I turned on some fans to help get some air movement to dry out the project.

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Friday night I called about some wood chairs advertised on Craigslist. I ran out to Boerne on Saturday morning to pick them up. I also placed our old dining table on Craigslist and had a buyer by Saturday morning. They stopped by Saturday evening to pick it up. It can be a little weird buying/selling something to a complete stranger on Craigslist. Luckily this is Texas so I was discreetly armed and aware each time and luckily the weapon wasn’t needed. They were really nice each time. I’ve had a few people that seemed pretty sketchy in the past.

Overall I’m pretty happy with how the table turned out. My next big project will be sanding and painting the chairs. We are planning on painting them green to be a bright match to an accent color that is in our downstairs area.

Category: Life
July 12

Game Summary: Police Brutality

So I haven’t done a game summary for a while. I figure it’s about time I do one.

So the day started out fine as you walked through the streets of the village of Whitton and came to the gate of the White Lotus Academy. At the gates you were met by Wizard Trevors who greeted you as petitioners and welcomed you to the academy. You could tell he was very insincere in his greeting. He feels petitioners are a waste of his time. Wizard Trevors shows you the dining hall, the privy and your common room. He then departs and says he will come back when the head master is available. The group is suspicious of Trevors and decides to not show the letter from Valthrun the Precient and not tell of their mission for their own safety.

After washing up from the journey the group heads to the dining hall to get a meal and to attempt to chat up some of those eating there. Fred is his normal gregarious self and starts attempting to talk with the students and guards. Shawna shares out some of her Dwarven ale and attempts to chat up the guards. The group tries to find out where the headmaster is so that they may speak to him themselves.

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[What you don’t know.] You were suspicious of Trevors and Trevors was suspicious of you. While you were in the dining hall he was scrying on your location. He saw a bunch of heavily armed people trying to get the guards drunk and find where the headmaster is located.

So Wizard Trevors calls in Captain Harkness (The captain of the guard) and tells him to get absolutely everyone to arrest you. With the recent happenings in the Harkin Barony you could very well be remnants of the Iron Circle here to take the headmaster prisoner. Luckily the Captain has some soldiers (that were on the way to the Troll Wars to the south) present to augment his guards.

[Back to you guys.] So several guards show up and start escorting you away. They are joined by others along the way and once you reach an area that starts looking like a jail you have all had enough. Ket attempts to talk the Captain out of whatever they are going to do but the Captain isn’t in a listening mood. He tells Ket to be quiet and when Ket continues to plead your case Captain Harkness slams his weapon in Ket’s head. The guards came prepared and eventually are successful in capturing all of you. Among the guards is Fargrim. He ran away from Winterhaven a couple years ago and was a friend of Fred Voss.

When you all wake up you are in an infirmary as opposed to cells. One of the physicians tell you that they found the letter from Valthrun on Kitsune. He is a respected wizard and this acts as identification papers for Kitsune. He calls her a full wizard of the highest order and says he has sent her here to speak to the headmaster on his behalf. Sometime during all of this Shawna steals some Iron Arm Bands of power off of one of the physicians. You are told the charges of Assault and Resisting Arrest will be dropped.

At this point Wizard Trevors directs you to the headmasters quarters.

“The Headmaster’s Residence,” he states as he looks at the building. He leads you inside.

The interior’s wood paneling has an old, worn look that bespeaks age. Tevors leads you up a broad stairway to a landing and through the door at the top into a study that feels cramped due to the numerous bookshelves. In the center of the study, an aged man with gray hair sits with his head on his desk, snoring softly. Your guide gives you a small smile that wavers after a couple seconds, then he clears his throat. A few moments later, he steps forward and shakes the headmaster, who sits up with a start and looks at Tevors, then you, with bloodshot eyes and sticky drool on his cheek. Before Tevors can speak, the headmaster sways to his feet and yells, “Tevors!” leaning forward as though to counter the force of his voice. “Leave me! My work is urgent and my time is valuable. Begone, and take these petitioners with you!”

With a small shrug and a warning glance at you, Wizard Tevors ushers you out of the office and closes the door behind him. “I’m, uh, well. There’s a student duel due to begin any time now. I was hoping you would enjoy the demonstration and perhaps share wisdom from your practical experiences. I have some administrative duties to attend to, but I’ll have Fargrim show you the way.”

At Harrid Yard, two combatants square off against each other. Each wears the White Lotus uniform—one in the form of heavy practice armor with a dulled blade, and the other in light practice armor with a wand. Neither is older than 16. The warlock is just getting the upper hand when the practice mannequins go nuts and attack the group. The group springs into action protecting the spectators. The two combatants take a couple shots as they run through and get help.

When that fight finishes, Instructor Obrak (a dwarf) runs up, saying that a student fetched him. Instructor Tevors arrives a moment later.

Tevors is nearly breathless after his run to the practice field. “I’m . . . ” he gasps, “ . . . so incredibly sorry. Nothing like this has ever happened before. The enchantments on those practice dummies have been unchanged for at least 50 years.” Then he doubles over and breathes heavily for a minute while the dwarf that ran up just before him talks with the students.

“I’m going to be examining the records of their maintenance and then I’ll ask Instructor Westbrooke to examine the mannequins directly.” Tevors looks at you. “If you’d like to help me figure out what happened here, you could find me the book in the library that details how they were created originally. I’d send a student, but it’s likely to be in one of the more dangerous parts of the stacks.”

“If I could use your experience and knowledge any other way, I would. But both the maintenance records and the creation instructions are confidential and proprietary, and we can’t allow you to see either without permission from the headmaster who . . . who might not be forthcoming, as you saw. This is something you can do now.”

Tevors gives the group a crystal the size of a finger that, through warmth and chill, will guide them to the correct room in the Lost Secrets Library.

Several of you say, “More dangerous parts of the stacks? I hate this place!”

Category: Gaming
June 19

Net Neutrality, T-Mobile and Cheers

tmobile-music-freedomYesterday (June 18th) T-Mobile announced Uncarrier 6.0 and as part of that Music Freedom. Essentially Music Freedom will allow T-Mobile customers to stream audio from supported providers without it counting against their high speed data cap and will allow them to stream music at high speeds when over the data cap. Currently Pandora, iHeartRadio, iTunes Radio, Rhapsody, Spotify, Slacker, and Milk Music are the only supported services but Legere says that they will work to include others.

As a T-Mobile customer I was excited to hear of the program but then it sunk in that this program is a text book example of a violation of network neutrality. For those that are unfamiliar with the term Network Neutrality it is defined as:

Net neutrality (also network neutrality or Internet neutrality) is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, and modes of communication. (Source: Wikipedia)

In this case T-Mobile is giving preferential treatment to audio streaming services over video, other data use and potentially other audio services. This acts as a violation of network neutrality and provides opportunity for unintended consequences. This is all a clear violation unless you are a fan of the Google/Verizon 2010 deal which redefined network neutrality (for them) to allow for discrimination between different types of data but not within a data category. Most comments and articles at the time were not fans of that plan for the internet.

Now John Legere has announced a plan which is a perfect example of the Verizon/Google deal. Earlier this month AT&T announced a similar plan called “Sponsored Data“. The difference from the AT&T plan is that services have to pay for their position on the sponsored data plan so that their services data does not count against users data caps. From what I saw most comments were critical of that plan but my experience so far is that many users are ecstatic about the T-Mobile plan.

Let’s get back to that opportunity for unintended consequences. There are several openings in this case. Currently there are a limited number of services that are covered in this plan. While John Legere says they will work to get other services on this plan, will it really happen? For the services not on the plan will it encourage T-Mobile users to use services on this plan? I found myself planning to use Pandora while mobile as opposed to Amazon Prime Streaming or Google Play while out due to this deal. iHeart Radio is included in this deal which streams music and talk radio. Will podcasters and other internet talk radio stations have a chance to join in this for free? I could see that giving a big advantage for the current big content producers. Most of these are what if situations so I am taking my own concerns with a wait and see approach.

This is about when I get to the cheers. Violating Net Neutrality doesn’t always result in a negative result for the customer. In this case it appears to be a positive result for customers and is getting a large amount of positive fanfare. So in this case I believe this violation of network neutrality will be accompanied by cheers of T-Mobile customers and by envy of AT&T/Verizon customers. In fact I think AT&T and Verizon will take note of this to better plan how they will roll out similar initiatives in the future.