Sunday, December 28, 2008

Power-party

Last week was a scary week at our apartment. On monday, our electricity started to show peaks in voltage, which caused our lights to occasionally flash brighter and dimmer. As we advanced further into the week, it became intenser and even caused some household appliances to shortcut.

Thursday evening, Christmas day, was the culmination of the whole fiasco, when suddenly the lights in our living room went down. Then we heard something click in the kitchen, at which point I tried to turn on the lights there. They immediately went down too. Suddenly I smelled a distinct burning coming from the living room. We got out the flash lights and saw smoke coming out of our printer.

I immediately shut down the main circuit and called the technical services of our electricity provider, and they sent someone by to come measure the voltages. I also called our landlord to let them know about the problem. They promised to drop by as well -- on Christmas day none the less!

The guy from Electrabel, our power supplier, measured no abnormalities in the power coming into the building, so from their part it was all okay. However, at our apartment, he measured 400 volts on the sockets (where it should be no more than 220V). Since there was nothing he could do, he left and we waited for our landlord to arrive.

At around 22h, the landlord, his wife, their daughter and son-in-law arrived at the scene, and immediately set to work, trying to figure out the problem. At 23h30, they found and fixed the problem: an old powerline (I believe they called it 'line zero') had burned and caused a shortcut.

The resulting damage beyond repair includes:

  • 3 cable modem adapters destroyed
  • 1 cable modem destroyed
  • 5 lightbulbs destroyed
  • 1 halogen lamp destroyed
  • 1 printer destroyed
  • 1 computer screen destroyed
  • 1 computer 6.1 surround speaker set destroyed
  • 1 radio alarm clock destroyed

All this happened with two kids in bed, in pitch black darkness, while we had planned to leave on holiday for a week the next day. We are very grateful, though, that our landlord was kind enough to leave their home on Christmas day, to come and repair it as soon as possible. That way, we were still able to sleep a little and be gone in the morning.

Right now, we're still on our holiday, so I hope everything will still be okay when we get back home in a couple of days...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Week of Bad Luck

I think I just had my unluckiest week of the year.

  • On monday, while driving from work to the train station, I got hit by a car. Well, perhaps 'tagged' is a better word; while driving along a bicycle path (with right of way), a car from a crossing street didn't see me and tried to advance slowly onto the intersection, when his bumper hit my left shin. I lost about a square centimeter of skin.
  • On tuesday morning, after a night of severe freezing, I slid with my bike on the road and hit the ground. I still feel my ribs and hip when put force on that muscle.
  • That evening, when returning from work, I noticed that one of my brand new bicycle lamps didn't work anymore. Apparently, I managed to leave it burning inside my pocket for an entire day, effectively draining the batteries in one go.
  • While trying to remove that same bicycle lamp from my bike when I arrived at the train station, it was stuck in its placeholder. While trying to force it out, it suddenly sprang out, making two small cuts on the inside of my wrist from scraping it across the sharp borders of that light holder.
  • On wednesday, I learned that our daughter was allergic to milk. It's the reason why she's been crying of belly-pains all the time. My wife had to stop the breastfeeding, and we had to buy special milk powder for our baby girl.
  • On thursday, our son had a really bad day, throwing his books and toys towards his sister whenever she ate. He ended up 5 times in his box that day, as punishment.
  • On friday, the monitor of our computer broke down.

In hindsight, none of these incidents actually got me down, though. I took them all with a good laugh, except of course the allergies of my daughter.

There were some good moments too, by the way. The new milk for our daughter has its effect; she has no more pains, is gaining in weight, and seems a lot happier now. We've also bought a new, 20-inch flatscreen for the computer yesterday, and on wednesday, we finally restarted our D&D campaign at work, after almost three months of downtime. So it wasn't all that bad.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Looking for D&D players

The D&D campaign that I was playing with a couple of friends for the last year has unfortunately died a slow death. Due to some major personal changes for almost all players, it was getting very difficult to get everyone together on a regular basis. Furthermore, interest waned as the story progression was grinding to a snail's pace -- at best, we played for four hours every two weeks.

Now that our daughter is born, our free time can be shaped again around our busy lifes. I'm hoping to fit a new D&D campaign in there, preferrably a little more intensive than the previous one.

So, this is a call to everyone who is interested in playing a new Pathfinder RPG (which is a slightly modified D&D 3.5) campaign. I'm looking for 3 to 5 players who

  • live near Dendermonde, Belgium;
  • can find the time to play one evening (or afternoon) a week;
  • would like to play seriously for an extended period of time -- it's a full adventure path, which is going to take at least 2 years to finish.

If you meet these criteria, and are willing to meet new people in a friendly and fun environment of gaming, drop me a line. Also have a look at the Obsidian Portal wiki I've set up.

I can't wait to hear from you!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Aim for the moon ...

... because if you miss, you may hit a star. -- W. Clement Stone

The purpose of life, if you ask me, is not so difficult to discern. The way I see it, it's to have dreams and try to make those dreams come true.

However, it's important to realize that the collection of dreams you have is not set in stone. Some will turn out to be unreachable -- this we have to face. Some will eventually be reached, whether in a matter of weeks, or over the course of several years. And, what's most important, new ones will flare up. And it's not just dreams coming true that make you happy, it's just as much the journey itself that can be rewarding.

In my life, I have seen a couple of major dreams realized in the last few years. The two most important ones are having a family, and getting a job as a game software developer. The next dream I'm chasing is that of finding a safe and comfortable place to spend the rest of my life. I even got a relatively new one to enjoy: to some day be able to make money from drawing and painting.

I look forward to chasing them, even if I might not succeed.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A fresh perspective

Finally someone who's given some thought about all those environmental and 'Save the Planet' issues. George Carlin can really put things in a right perspective; we can all learn a little humility from this guy.




Friday, November 14, 2008

Time warp

I've been back at work for a couple of days now, after two-and-a-half weeks of paternal leave and an extended weekend.

When I first got back in the office on wednesday, it felt like I've been gone for just a couple of days. However, when I think of the two weeks of emotionally strong moments with my newly expanded family, it seems like it's been two months.

Can you imagine how chronically challenged I feel when I think back of those two weeks while I'm at work?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A new life

Yesterday around noon-ish, our daughter Cato was born. She's a healthy daughter, weighing in at 3.730 kg, and measuring 52 cm.

We have a blog going at http://cato-vanherle.blogspot.com. I apologize to all non-Dutch speakers: it's in Dutch. If you would like to know what's going on, drop me a line (either here or on Cato's blog) and I'll give a quick English transcript.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

What would you do?

This question suddenly came to me today. It seems like a silly, trivial question, but I find it a very difficult one to answer.

Imagine you would be working in a hospital, and you would be responsible for distributing the patients' breakfast and for collecting the dishes afterwards. In this breakfast, a few slices of cheese or ham are included. Imagine that a patient doesn't eat all of his or her slices, and some of it is returned to you in the kitchen. What would you do with the remaining slices? Would you hand it out to the next patient, and risk spreading infection? Throw it away, and waste food? Eat it yourself to avoid either?

Imagine you would not be working in the kitchen of a hospital, where strict hygienic regulations are in order, but in that of a restaurant, or a boyscout campout, or in an industrial kitchen? What would you do then?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Return of the old me

The last two years have not been kind to my resistance against stress and pressure and my ability to see things in perspective. Not coincidentally, a lot of (albeit good) things happened to me these years: I moved to a new city, got a new job in the video games industry, raised a son, got married, and now we're expecting a second child.

Suffice to say that the extra responsibilities I gained for other people (of which I used to have almost none in the past) piled up a little too high for me. I was trying too hard to be the best husband, father, friend, employee, ... possible. I was losing sleep and spare time pretty fast, and I started taking things way too serious.

And then, about a week ago, I realized how far I've strayed from the path of inner peace. I need to get a grip on myself again, so now I'm trying to live by a few simple rules:

  • Accept what happens, and don't try to change it. You will only realize that you can't change all that much, which will only annoy and aggravate you. Don't fight the stream, let yourself get carried by it and enjoy the ride.
  • Forgive peoples' mistakes and admit your own.
  • Try to look at things in perspective. If something bad happens, try to see it in the big picture and realize that it's never as bad as you first think it was.
  • Don't let yourself get riled up by other people in traffic. Let speeders pass, take your time, hang back if necessary, and when some driver thinks he owns the road, just shake your head and forget about it.
  • Don't always play music, even if it should relax you; try to listen to and enjoy the silence every now and then.
  • Don't forget to breathe.
  • Look up at the sky more.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Go candy

It's kind of 'interesting' -- for lack of a better word -- to see how many people's very first reaction to a game of go is how the goishi (official japanese term for the playing stones) look like candy. In one form or another, more than 75% make that reference: "Oooh! Can I have a mint?", "Can you eat these?", or just put one between their teeth and pretend to bite it.

And it's not just in my environment, all my go-playing friends experience the same reactions and I'm sure other people get this as well.

It makes you wonder about human reaction to unknown or unfamiliar things. It seems to always be either humor to something non-threatening (example above), and anger to something possibly dangerous (e.g. spiders). This interests me, so I'm going to look for scientific studies on this.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The baby is getting ready

Last night we got to drive to the hospital again. This time, though, as opposed to the previous trip, it was a lot more relaxed.

My wife started to have minor contractions around noon, which would slightly intensify towards the evening. By the time I got home from work, they would come in 5 minute intervals, which is a sure sign to get ready to leave for the hospital.

When we were there, she was attached to the monitor to quantify the contractions. The nurses told us they weren't strong enough, though (in their words: it needed to hurt more), so they were considered Braxton Hicks contractions (aka 'false labor' or 'practice contractions'). We were allowed to go home again.

It does mean we won't have to wait much longer for the actual birth.

Oh, and the nurses reassured me about not making it to the hospital in time: if my wife is about to deliver while we're still on our way, all I need to do is pull over, call an ambulance, and just 'catch the baby'. Very comforting...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Stressful times, part 2

As said in the previous post, work is getting stressing. Unfortunately, at home it isn't getting any easier. My wife is currently in her 33rd week of pregnancy and that means she might go into labor any time now.

If her water breaks when I'm at work, it's a 45 minute ride back home, and then another half hour from there to the hospital. Considering that Frederik, our first child, took just about 2 hours to get born, and people say the second one will come even faster, you can imagine what a close call that will be.

If, on the other hand, it happens at night, we need to call and wake up her parents (who are the closest living relatives) to come over to our house and watch over Frederik while we race to the hospital, still half asleep.

I've run both scenarios (and a couple of others) through my mind a million times by now, but I'm still not ready for it. Furthermore, I have to remember other little stuff as well, such as bringing the camera along, or we might miss some very precious photos.

As if that's not enough, since a few days ago Frederik suddenly has come to realize that something's up. Somehow, he understands a baby is coming (he is amazingly intelligent, apparently -- other infants his age won't understand the severity of the situation until the baby is actually born and brought home), and has started to openly revolt his mother. He can't really speak yet, so he outs his frustration (having to miss his mother's caring hugs and playtime) in other ways, by hitting and biting and getting into angry fits, immediately followed by crying and screaming.
We've never heard him say 'No' as much as we do now, simply out of stubbornness. Four months ahead of time, he's already in his "terrible two's", as they call it.

Stressful times, part 1

There are some rough months ahead of us at home, and we've been having our first tastes already (more about this in the next post).

As if that's not enough, work is getting more stressing by the day. Plannings are fully booked, and even get overbooked the closer we get to the deadlines. New requirements for the game are still being added, and old ones keep getting changed. I can't take anything for granted anymore; a decision made one day can easily be turned completely around the next, and hours worth of work can turn into lost effort pretty quickly. But we know it's all for a worthy cause.

Although still quick to make jokes, my colleagues and I are slowly but surely getting to know what it's like to be working in the video games industry. The tension is oozing off the walls; people get irritated more easily, and start to have difficulty handling interruptions or extra requests.

However, we all love our jobs and we all want to make this the best game possible. Each and every employee gives it his or her full 100%. The Ooze of Tension can't eat through our Barriers of Dedication and Optimism, so we fight as hard as we can to hold the little Demon of Despair back. However, every now and then a short emotional eruption occurs somewhere down the hall.

For me personally it gets extra tough, because my wife is currently in her 8th month of pregnancy. She can't drive a car anymore, so it's now become my responsibility to drop our 20-month old son off at the day-care in the morning, and pick him up again in the evening. In other words, I have no leeway to work overtime to finish my planning, which tends to get frowned upon by my superiors.

But I will not yet give up. I plan to support the project until the bitter end.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Riding my first ambulance

Last Sunday evening, my wife and I had our own little 'special adventure'.

At about 1:45 at night, she woke me up groaning from serious pains. I thought she was going into labor (over 2 months early), but according to her it weren't really contractions. Furthermore, her whole body started to cramp up, she was getting sick, and she felt like she was going to pass out.

I immediately called an ambulance to take us to the hospital. At around 3, we arrived at there, and she was immediately attached to a monitor, which recorded her contractions (by then, they actually were).

By the time the questions and monitoring and paperwork were done, we were finally allowed to try and sleep a little. However, with the pains my wife still occasionally felt (although much less severe), and me being given a sofa to sleep in, we didn't get much of it.

In the morning, there were some more questions and monitoring, while we were waiting for the doctor to come in and decide whether or not we were allowed to go home, or stay for a couple of days. At about noon, we got the word that we could go, so I phoned my wife's mother to ask her to come pick us up. More waiting.

She took us to her place, cooked us some food, let us sleep on the couch and in the evening dropped us off again at our place.

Looking back at it, it was kind of a surreal experience: woken up in the middle of the night, to ride an ambulance (with siren, running through red lights) to the hospital, where we had to wait and wait and wait, to finally be sent home again. In the end, everything was back as it was before (except for extreme tiredness, and some extra hospital bills to expect).

We're both hoping never to have to go through all this again, even though it all turned out okay in the end. Except, of course, for giving birth itself, which we agreed with our new baby would not happen before Octobre. It was sealed with a kick.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Come one, come all! Hear ye, hear ye!

The first screenshots and ingame movie trailer of Larian Studios' new game 'Divinity 2 - Ego Draconis' are released and can be seen in this article from computerandvideogames.com.

Also, Larian Studios is looking for playtesters. If you live close to Oudenaarde, Belgium and are willing to spend an afternoon trying out the new game, be sure to sign up!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Brain Teaser Paradise

A nice little discovery in the obscure shadows of the internet: the website of Vegard Hanssens.

Among a few interesting math applications (such as fractals and birth primes), he's got a number of challenging puzzles on there as well. Each puzzle type has a huge database of specific puzzles, and for each one you have the option to solve it online, print it out, or let it solve itself. I suggest to go check it out.

My personal favorites are the hashi and arukone puzzles.

Friday, August 1, 2008

'Giant leap' in cheap, environment-friendly power

Some researchers at MIT have discovered a way to store energy from solar power, which was until now not possible.

The fact that solar energy was not available when the sun doesn't shine, was apparently the only reason why we couldn't completely rely on it yet.

Until now, because a simple setup of neutral pH water with a special catalyst in room-temperature (inspired by photosynthesis - the way plants get their energy from the sun) will enable us to store any surplus power the sun freely gives us. And it's totally carbon-free, which means no more mining for fossil fuels and no more toxic exhausts.

And did you know that the energy of one hour of the sunlight reflected on our planet is enough to provide the entire earth with power for one year? I didn't.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Larian out of the closet

Larian Studios, my employer, has yesterday completely restyled their website in anticipation of an important announcement, that should come any day now.

If you're interested in computer roleplaying games, I suggest to keep an eye (and a bookmark) on the Larian website.

Glee!!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Favorite Roleplaying Tools

After almost a year of running our current home campaign of Shackled City (D&D 3.5), and a little under a week away from starting a new homebrewn campaign at work (D&D 4), the time seemed appropriate to revise my collection of computer tools that I use to run my games.

In the past, I've been using one particular all-encompassing tool most often, and tested a few others that were much alike. Until recently, however, I realized that these tools didn't really help me improve my efficiency as a DM anymore. In the past, they used to, because they took care of all the nitty-gritty rules details for me, but since then I've grown and I've learned, so much so that I feel these tools are now holding back my creativity.

The features I need the most are the following (separated between 'planning' and 'playing'):
- Planning: a quick and clean way to write down ideas and inspiration, and still be able to go through them easily enough in the future
- Planning: a fast way to design maps, where the tool itself doesn't slow me down (otherwise, I could just use pen and paper)
- Planning: preferably some way to make the maps visually appealing
- Playing: a battle map
- Playing: a way to quickly find important PC and NPC stats
- Playing: a good overview of rules that can easily be searched (so I don't need to flip pages when looking up a rule)
- Playing: a batch dice roller, for rolling all players' saving throws at once, for example
- Playing: a flexible initiative tracker

So I've spent some time looking for a way to improve on these issues, and I think I'm almost there. Allow me to present you my suite of favorite tools (all of which are totally free, and system-independent).

To brainstorm on campaign and adventure creation, and to jot down ideas, I use a tool called Freemind, which is a freeware mindmapping tool. Mindmapping is ideal for this job, and Freemind does well what it's supposed to do.

Making maps goes through a number of tools. First, I create the basic idea and layout of the environment (dungeon, landscape, cityscape, etc.) in AutoREALM. This tool has some basic and a few advanced drawing capabilities, a nice collection of icons, and a system of layers that make rudimentary mapmaking quick and easy. Moving stuff around and relating all features to each other is a brease, which is ideal for the planning process of the maps.

AutoREALM has a few features that can improve your maps visually, but I personally find the resulting maps lacking appeal. Therefore, once the layout of my maps are satisfactory, I export them to GIMP (or even better: Adobe Photoshop, if you're rich), and start drawing over them. This is the hardest part, and takes some practice, tricks, and preferably a drawing tablet with a pressure sensitive pen, but it gives the best results. I might in the future make a blog post with some tips and tricks on this matter.

For campaign notes during play, I use the very simple, but very elegant KeyNote. It's just an rtf text editor, but with tabs and a tree-structure of notes. This allows me to neatly sort all rules summaries, PC and NPC stats, campaign notes, and more in a single file, with a nice overview and easy access. Unfortunately, the tool is no longer being supported, but the latest version has all I need.

Handling combat is done, for now, with Calc (it's the OpenOffice alternative of Microsoft's Excel, except it's totally free). It allows me to put a combatant with some info (like AC, hp, status effects, combat notes) on each line, and easily sort the whole initiative list when necessary. I might change to another tool for this, but for now I will try this one out.

Finally, showing maps to players is done with the ultimately cool MapTool from RPTools. It supports a client-server approach where the DM has his maps with fog-of-war, topology (i.e. obstacles that block player view), monster tokens to be moved around (and the possibility to show stats on mousing over those monsters), simple drawing tools which may or may not be visible to the players (DM's choice), a macro system that allows custom rolls to be made (rolling all PC spot checks and NPC hide checks at the same time, for example), and much more. This is by far the best tool I've ever seen, and it's constantly being improved on and new features are added.

Monster and player tokens (visual representations for the battle grid in MapTool) are created with the TokenTool. It's really fast, easy, and professional looking.

The only thing I'm still looking for, is a tool where I can link all my maps together (sort of like an interactive atlas), but MapTool (see above) might soon have that feature too.

The preparation tools have already been tested (and approved). I'm wondering how the playing tools will behave, but I already extensively used some of them (like MapTool and KeyNote) and I'm pretty confident the rest will do its job too. I just hope I won't fall into the trap of relying on them too much. I need to make sure I spend most of my attention on my players instead of my screen.

I'm curious...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Schwarzwald

Last friday, my wife and I returned from our week of holiday (actually, our honeymoon) in Schwarzwald, Germany. Our son stayed a week with his grandparents, so my wife and I could really relax and enjoy.

We stayed for 5 days and 4 nights in a quiet little hotel in Muggenbrunn, making small trips to surrounding sites like the Feldberg, Belchen (from the top of which we could see the Alps), the Todtnau waterfall, etc... Even in Muggenbrunn itself, there was ample opportunity to make small walking trips into nature. Really sweet.

The food in the hotel was absolutely incredible. In genuine German hospitality style, you get an oversized plate stuffed with delicious meat, flavored vegetables, and baked potatoes or home-made 'SpƤtzle'. Whenever you're halfway through your plate, though, they come fill it again for you; we never once were hungry in that entire week.

There's much more to tell, but I'm not going to bother too much. Instead, I'll show off (*ahem*) some of the drawings I made while we were there.






Friday, June 27, 2008

Right of way? Never heard of it.

This morning, I witnessed another shiny example of a neanderthal in traffic.

I was riding my bike towards work, when I stopped at a crossroads to give right of way. The car driving behind me had to stop as well.

There were three cars coming from the right-hand side road; two of them were able to pass without a problem, but before the third one could get on the intersection, the car behind me suddenly geared up, passed me by, and sped on to the intersection, forcing the other car to brake. Apparently, the 'mammal' didn't approve of me obeying traffic laws.

I swear, I had to firmly grip my stear to prevent giving him (or her, I don't know what it was) the finger.

From now on, I will vow to remember the license plate, car make, and color of any driver acting like a complete moron, and post their info on this blog for the whole world to see. I've had just about enough of people terrorrizing the streets, so I'm putting them out in the open, for everyone to flip a finger at. I'm probably not allowed to do this, but I care WAY more for safer streets than some dumb privacy law.

You're all warned.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

D&D 4E

It's been a week since the new 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons came out, and a lot of interesting reviews have already been written:
While at first I was very skeptical about the new edition, having read the reviews and skimmed a colleague's copy of the Core Rules books did convince me to at least try it out. Some of the stuff really got me interested.

Even though I don't plan on buying the books, I'm definitely willing to play the game. Perhaps I will get me a copy in the future (when they have their first, or maybe even second, revision published), but I got myself too much 3.5 material at the moment to be wanting to switch editions. Furthermore, Paizo announced that they will keep their Pathfinder products 3.5 compatible. I will probaby buy that Pathfinder RPG book.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Bonded

So, the wedding was last saturday, and I have to say it was everything it should have been. Except for the weather, maybe (there was no sun, but that didn't bother us in the least), the entire day was as perfect as it could be. Everything appeared to be meticulously planned and executed, even though we just let ourselves go with the flow and just had a great time.

The civil wedding in the morning was quite okay. It took half an hour for the official to say his thing, have us sign the papers, and congratulate us.

During noon, we went to my wife's parents' house to relax and have lunch. It was really comfortable and enjoyable, having everyone close to us be there.

The service in the church was good (no hassle with rings not wanting to slide over fingers, or witnesses not showing up, or anything). Our son stole the show, though, running around and playing in front of the altar and doing his cute little dance whenever the fanfare played their music. I think the people attending the service payed more attention to him than to what the priest was saying.

Then we went on to the reception, the evening dinner and the dance party, all at the same place. The food was excellent, the staff was courteous, fast, friendly, and clean, the place was very cozy, and the DJ did his job very well (at any time during the dancing party, there were more people on the dance floor than sitting at their tables, which you don't see all that often at weddings).

What I liked most was seeing everyone at the evening feast honestly enjoying themselves. That really gave me a kick.

Too bad you can have this day only once in your life (at least, that's the point).

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Showtime... almost

One more day before the wedding, and we're both so amazingly relaxed you wouldn't believe it.

I wonder what effect this will have on the day itself? Stay tuned...

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Mastery

A friend's blog pointed me towards the book Mastery, by George Leonard, explaining the process we go through whenever we learn a new skill.

I've only just begun reading it, but it's already an interesting read, more so because I currently have some situations where it applies: I'm a 'fresh' parent (a year and a half parenting doesn't exactly make you an expert), I recently took up drawing, and I play go.
Other examples are easily thought of (improving Dungeon Master skills, learning to relax in any possible situation, trying to be forgiving to everyone, writing cleaner software, ...), but these three are the most apparent.

And from these examples, go is, if you ask me, the most perfect example in which to apply the Mastery theory. Go is a game which you will never in your life completely master (none of the 9-dan players claim they do; or at least, they shouldn't or otherwise they wouldn't even be dan-players), and the process of learning to master it, i.e. improving yourself, is way more satisfying than actually winning games.

And the funny thing is, reading this book actually makes me even more excited to continue learning to draw. I'd like to claim that I started this new hobby with the correct mindset, knowing that I will not achieve perfection in a small amount of time, but instead needing to find the proper tutors and tutorials, filtering them and deciding which ones are the next logical steps to take, and practicing, practicing, and practicing even more. This book actually endorses that decision, and gives a real confidence-boost.

So, to anyone who reads this blog, and is caught up in the modern downward spiral of consumerism and instant gratification: read the book and change your life for the better!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Sneak attacked!

This weekend, my friends completely surprised me with a bachelor party (yeah, I'm marrying in two weeks).

It was a great evening, filled with the sweet nostalgia of staying up all night playing games and having fun. We went out for dinner (japanese) and spent the night at a friend's apartment in Leuven, where we played boardgames and console games (Wii and PS2) until sunrise.

Oh yeah, and they got me a stripper. It's weird, but you really get to know yourself a little better at a moment like that. The thoughts going through my mind when she was 'working' on me, were not the thoughts I'd have expected. Here are two:
  1. "Will she stay afterwards for a chat? I'm really curious why she chose this job," and
  2. "Damn, I hate greasy lotion, especially down my pants!"
But it was a fun experience, and I'm glad to have had it. My soon-to-be-wife had a good laugh when I told her about it the next day :).

The downside to this party was the lack of sleep. I skipped a night's rest, and with a kid to look after, catching up the next day was nigh impossible.

So I'm at work now, tired as hell, but with great memories, and the afterbliss of experiencing an all-nighter again.

Just like old times...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A ga-what? Huh-zebo?

Funny story: http://www.netfunny.com/rhf/jokes/98/Jul/gazebo.html

At least, funny enough if you're a roleplayer.

Powerful reflection

I'm sorry to disappoint most of you, but this is not a deeply psycho-analytic and philosophical self-reflection post. I'm afraid I'm going to turn most of you away when I tell you it's about one of the strongest features I've ever seen in C#, a programming language.

I knew that C# had something called 'Reflection', which you could use to determine object types and other 'compile-time' information, but then at 'run-time'. I never did use it, though, until now. It's kind of amazing to see what you can do with that stuff!

I'm currently writing a serializer/deserializer (read from and write to xml files) using reflection, and I have managed to keep 95% of the code within one single class, and the remaining 5% in a single function within each 'object manager' (special dictionaries which stores and retrieves top-level components - I currently have 3 of those). None of my objects actually being saved have any serialization code whatsoever, save for a simple [Serialize] attribute which I attach to each property that I would like to see saved and loaded.

And this code can already traverse the managers, writing out each object with public [Serialize]-able properties (in the case of simple types or references to other 'managed' objects), nested objects, and lists of properties/objects.

For reference's sake, the main serialization class is about 150 lines long (pure code, excluding whitespace and comments). Beautiful, isn't it?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Gnome Stew!

Good news for all you Game Masters out there: there's a new blog for and by GM's, called Gnome Stew (http://www.gnomestew.com).

They have a number of experienced and well-versed Game Masters writing periodic articles about The One True Art. Go check it out!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Back to square 1

Well, the week off has come to an end. It was a fun and relaxing week, with a couple of trips (Brugge, Gent, and Leuven), and some time spent at home drawing, playing boardgames, and watching Twin Peaks.

Our good intentions to sleep out didn't really succeed, though. Most of the time we stayed up later than we normally do (too much fun), and we got up at almost the same time as always (routine). So I don't feel of having caught up on sleep very much.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Holiday

It's the first time in his life that our son will stay with his grandparents for an entire week. It's also the first time in 16 months that we can take a breather from all the nursing and cleaning.

On the one hand, I'm glad to be able to do whatever I want for a change, without constantly having to interrupt because of nap-time, diaper-changes, bottle-feeding, and reading books; but on the other hand, I sometimes wonder if it was such a good idea to send him away for the week, both for him (he was a little sick) and for his grandparents (they loved to take care of him, but I don't think they realize anymore how much work it is to take care of a toddler).

At the moment, I feel good, relaxed, and free. So perhaps it was a good idea after all.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

People and cars

I notice that people in traffic become more and more selfish, rude, impolite, impatient, inept, cocky, ... behind the wheel of a car.

Is it just me, or perhaps just Dendermonde? Or is it a global plague?

It is really astonishing (and not in a good way) to see how few people apply the rules of 'Right of Way'. Either they don't know, or they just don't care.

Perhaps it would be a good thing to force everyone with a driving license to redo their exams every 6 months. I estimate that more than half of them will fail. At least that would make our streets a little safer and driver-friendly.

It's really sad.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Back on kyu track

A few weeks ago, I decided to start practicing go again.

It has been - what? - 3 years since I played it regularly? In my previous life (different home, different job), I knew a few people who played it, and whom I played against at work. There was even a local go-club which I could attend every week.

Now, since I moved to Dendermonde and started my job at Larian Studios, those people are too far away to regularly meet up with. And I've noticed it in my playing skills; I must have dropped 3 or 4 kyu in those last years.

But that's all past now. I've taken up playing again, albeit against GnuGo, the AI opponent. And in something of 2 weeks time, I can again beat it at an equal game (i.e. no handicap).

Monday, April 7, 2008

Household challenges

Until recently I figured that when two people have been together for over 4 years, have been friends for over 8 years, and have successfully (i.e. without any fights or much doubt) lived through the first year of raising a child, any challenge would be easy to overcome.

Apparently, I was not entirely correct. It's very important to think of your wife and kids first, and to talk things out at the earliest opportunity, but lately I have come to the realisation that it's equally important to not stop thinking about yourself.

The trick in keeping a happy family is finding the balance between providing for your loved ones and keeping yourself happy and healthy. But that can be hard sometimes when exhaustion finally catches up with you.

I, for one, am EXTREMELY lucky to have a wife (well, actually a fiancee) who thinks on the same level, whom I can discuss these issues with, and who actually helps me better myself and at the same time allows me to help her better herself.

I'm also EXTREMELY lucky to have a very healthy, very kind, very calm, and very intelligent son, who makes it all worth the trouble.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Hello World, part two

Just in case someone does happen upon this blog, and decides to waste some time, I would like to introduce myself a bit.

I'm a 28-year-old guy, born in Belgium. I've lived here my entire life, in a worry-free and well-supported environment.

I've studied mathematics and science in high school, and went on to computer science in college.

Currently, I work as a game software developer at Larian Studios, where I plan to stay as long as possible.

I have a wonderful girlfriend, with whom I am to marry in a couple of months, and we already have a 15-months-old son.

My hobbies include computers, tabletop roleplaying, go, drawing (only since recently), and listening to music.

So, as you can see, there's absolutely nothing special, unique, or shocking about me. This will be a mediocre blog from an average person.

Hello World

Writer's block.
On my first post.
Typical.
Well, I guess this typifies my blog and my intention with it. I decided to start a blog. Why? No particular reason.
I have already played with the idea of starting a blog of my own several times in the past, but every time I dismissed the idea as 'silly'. "There are billions and billions of blogs out there already", I reasoned, "why would one extra blog make any difference? Probably no one will read it anyway".
And I probably am right.
Nevertheless, I decided to start one anyway. Not for the world, but for me.
So here goes...