Regarding My Blogs

I’ve been frustrated lately with the writing side of Hugo.

It’s a great tool for publishing and content transformation. It plays
well with CI/CD tools. My static site host, Netlify, makes hosting sites
built with Hugo a breeze.

However, when it comes to being able to write whenever the mood strikes,
Hugo is horrible.

Yes, technically, I can just use GitHub’s web IDE to write a new post. I
don’t have to use the git+vim workflow that I often do when writing Markdown. But it feels very… clunky. Inserting images is a slow and manual process. Layout requires messing with the site theme and its CSS, making it unwieldy for individual posts. Hence, all my posts on this blog look the same.

I decided to return to the GUI blog engine world.

With that decision behind me, I started looking at the options. Having been
out of that particular game for awhile, I hoped that some new tool had come along that I could check out.

In fact, there was – a blog engine called Write Freely. So it entered
the running alongside the usual suspects (Blogger, Ghost, and WordPress).

Blogger hasn’t changed. It has some new themes since I last looked at it
seriously ten years ago, but the interface has not aged well.

Ghost charges a ridiculous amount of money for a hosted blog, and the self-hosted version still hasn’t acquired some of the quality-of-life features that
WordPress has.

Write Freely is interesting, especially since it’s in the federation space, but
it’s not yet mature enough for my tastes. This, despite the fact that I contributed code to it.

So that leaves WordPress. And rather than deal with hosting it myself, I decided to pay for hosting on wordpress.com. It’s not ideal (the Personal version doesn’t allow installing plugins), but it works well enough and gives me the GUI features I missed.

At time of this writing, I’m still trying to figure out how to migrate all of my Hugo posts to WordPress. No tool exists for that purpose. I’ll probably have to write something myself.

Update: I did end up writing a tool to handle this. I’ll write a blog post about it later.

Getting back into MMORPGs

As a result of my one-year boycott of Activision-Blizzard, I found myself without any of my usual games to play. I decided to take the opportunity to return to a genre I haven’t played much of in the past few years – MMORPGs.

Aside from a month where I played World of Warcraft following the new expansion, and about three weeks playing Final Fantasy XIV after that, I haven’t played MMOs much in the last three years. With Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen still a long way off, Crowfall still in alpha, and Camelot Unchained in… whatever state it’s in, I decided to have a look at games I’ve played in the past for something to occupy my attention.

I settled on four options – Elder Scrolls Online, Black Desert Online, Project Gorgon, and Guild Wars 2. ArenaNet’s layoffs killed my enthusiasm for Guild Wars 2, so that dropped off the list. Black Desert Online had some strange bugs with keyboard controls (like erasing all my key binds) that left a sour taste in my mouth. Some friends of mine decided to try playing ESO together, so I decided to join them. But, I also have renewed interest in Project Gorgon because of its influx of Pantheon fans, so I’ve decided to alternate between those two.

I never got very far in either game. In Elder Scrolls Online, my highest character was level eight. My character in Project Gorgon still hasn’t left the starter town. Of the two, ESO seems to be holding my attention better. The story is pulling me along. That got me to thinking… what exactly do I want out of an MMORPG?

These days twitch shooters usually are my go-to. But with most people obsessed with battle arena games (which I hate) and Overwatch and Destiny 2 in my boycott, there isn’t much to play that interests me. So I’ve decided to take a different angle. What if I actually relax with video games, instead of get a drip-feed of adrenaline? So that’s what I’m trying to do with ESO and Project Gorgon: relax. Sit back and enjoy a slower pace.

So far it seems to be working.

I may write in the future about my adventures as a wood elf nightblade in Elder Scrolls Online. I’m taking to the character’s playstyle pretty well. For now, I’ll finish with this thought: when’s the last time you relaxed with a video game?

Setting up a new personal blog

Having a blog built using a static site generator was nice from a maintenance perspective, but from a writing perspective, it’s a bit of an inconvenience.

So now I’ve created a new blog on this address using WordPress. I already use WordPress for the Silver Gryphon Games website and I maintain the Geek Partnership Society website (which also uses WordPress), so I might as well add a third one to the mix.

I will probably migrate all of my existing blog posts to this site. First though I’ll need to write a utility to migrate from Hugo to WordPress. That kind of tool doesn’t exist yet.

Iron Arachne Updates for January

It’s been a dry spell for Iron Arachne for the past couple months. The holidays and work on Silver Gryphon Games meant that I had no time for coding outside of work.

Coming up in February I have a two-week trip to Thailand. I won’t be coding during that, either!

Yet, I have been spooling up some projects for Iron Arachne. Here are some of the things I’ll be doing this half of the year:

  • Fixing a few bugs with the heraldry generator
  • Writing a language description generator
  • Expanding the Æther setting generator (under the Silver Gryphon Games banner)

I plan on doing work to make publishing and discovering these generators easier. That means releasing several of them as Docker images on Docker Hub, among other things.

The generator community is a talented group. More links to authors’ tools are going to appear on the Iron Arachne website.

I’m thinking about what kinds of generators I should be writing for Iron Arachne. Many of the ideas I’ve been running with so far have been things that’ve done many times before by other people. This includes name generators, character generators, and so forth. I’d like to cover new territory now that I have more experience with writing these tools.

My Spin on the Unix Philosophy

The Unix philosophy guides the development of both Unix and its derivatives. It’s a good philosophical core to judge new projects by.

I’m increasingly using the Unix philosophy in my own works. This is particularly true of new versions of Iron Arachne command line tools.

There are multiple versions of the Unix philosophy bouncing around on the web. Some are longer or more stringent than others. What follows is my own interpretation of it.

Rule One: Tight Focus

Each program should do one thing well.

Corollary: Each program should do only one thing.

Rule Two: Predictable Flexibility

Expect each program’s output to be the input for some unknown other program. Design for flexibility.

Corollary: Also design first for command-line interfaces, and avoid interactive interfaces. Assume machines will use your program more often than humans.

Rule Three: Rapid Iteration

Release early and often.

Corollary: It’s not only OK but desirable to have minimal change between iterations.

Rule Four: Automated Development

Write tools to assist development instead of seeking out human help.

Corollary: It’s fine to ask for help when you’ve tried the above to no success.

Year in Review 2018

As 2018 comes to a close, I’m looking back on the year and reflecting.

It was a big year for me. On January 1, I proposed to my fiancee, and
she accepted. We got married in October. In February, for the first
time since 2005, I left the country. My fiancee, a couple friends of hers,
and I all went to Punta Cana for a 7-day vacation. In May, I quit my job
working for Spok and took a consultant position with Solution Design Group.

With encouragement and support from Sarah, I paid off most of my credit
cards over the course of 2018. I also paid off one of my loans. I saved
up enough to pay cash for our honeymoon to Thailand next year.

For the first time ever, I bought a current events book. I haven’t been
able to read much of it, though, since I normally read at night before
bed and this particular book is the opposite of relaxing.

I also spent a great deal of time programming generator tools for
tabletop role-playing games. This year marked the emergence of my
website for such tools, Iron Arachne.

Finally, I started to really put normal effort into Silver Gryphon
Games again. I’ve been blogging there regularly and working on
multiple new books for the company.

My Breakfast: A Recipe and a Ritual

I like cooking. I’m not necessarily good at it, but it’s fun to experiment
and try new variations.

This is a breakfast I prepare almost every morning. Each time I make it,
I change something about it or try and focus on a specific technique. It’s
like a cooking kata. The repetition of most of it means that I’m not
devoting brain time to anything other than the particular focus of the
morning.

Scrambling eggs is more of an art than you’d think. The butter is key to
making great scrambled eggs. So is the figure-eight pattern. Some people
add water or milk to the eggs before scrambling, but this isn’t necessary
and I feel that it negatively impacts the texture.

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs, scrambled
  • 1 green bell pepper, washed, then julienned or diced
  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • 1 can of black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup of chunky salsa
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • lime juice
  • sea salt
  • various spices

Directions

Step Zero: Prepare all ingredients. Prepare your station. Mise en place
is a vital part of this process.

  1. Heat a nonstick pan on medium heat
  2. Add the olive oil and bring up to temperature. Don’t let it smoke.
  3. Add the minced garlic. Toast it for just a few moments.
  4. Add the onion. Sauté until caramelized.
  5. Add the bell pepper. Sauté until slightly browned.
  6. Add the black beans. Throw in some spices and lime juice, stir, and
    let cook for a couple more minutes on medium.
  7. Reduce the heat on the veggies to low.
  8. Heat a second pan on medium heat.
  9. Melt the butter in the second pan. Don’t let it brown.
  10. Add two generous pinches of sea salt to the eggs and stir.
  11. Add the eggs to the pan. Stir continuously in a figure-eight motion.
  12. Once the eggs have set, shut off heat to both pans.
  13. Plate. Eggs first, then veggies, then salsa.

Interesting variations that I’ve tried include:

  • garnishing with fresh cilantro
  • using sour cream as a final topping
  • stirring the eggs in a circular pattern instead of figure-eight
  • adding sea salt to the veggies at varying times in the cooking
  • adding fresh spinach to the veggies
  • replacing black beans with chili beans
  • replacing black beans with pinto beans
  • using garam masala for the veggies
  • putting all the ingredients in a flour tortilla instead of a bowl

I’ll continue to experiment and explore the possibilities of this
dish.