So now what?

I am still not happy. The new processor arrived today and I installed it. Guess what? I still have a dead system. I now have no idea what is wrong. I have spent $200 and I still have a brick. I don’t know if either mother board is good now and I don’t know if either processor is good now. All I know is that the last system I own that still works was build by Dell. Maybe I should shit-can the boutique builders and stick with someone whose slogan is “just works.” My attempt to work with a box supposedly built with off-the-shelf parts has been an epic fail.

-= G =-

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So much for that theory

I am not happy. I spent $29 on diagnosis and $70 on a new main board for my desktop system and it wasn’t the main board after all. That means it must be the CPU that died. That’s annoying because the CPU would have been only $60.

At least I think I know now what happened to the system. Builders are supposed to put thermal paste between the CPU and CPU cooler to make sure that heat moves quickly to the cooler. Well, the jokers that built my system didn’t use any or didn’t use enough to count. I expected to have to wiggle the cooler to dislodge the existing paste. However, when I unlocked the cooler, it fell off, and there was no sign of any thermal paste. So the CPU has probably been running hot the entire time I have owned this box. I know I bought a low-end system, but lousy build quality was not one of the compromises I expected.

I need to figure out what to do here. The one thing I am sure of is that I will never buy anything else from the company that built this box.

-= G =-

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Thaedra updates

I have given the Thaedra document its own page rather than trying to maintain it by posts. As of today, I have started separating out information that only I would know from what the players would know or could find from in-world sources.

-= G =-

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Reinventing Thaedra

Thaedra Overview

Introduction

I once had a well-developed game world called Thaedra and ran an active GURPS campaign there for several years. The original materials, both digital and hardcopy, are now lost. For several months now, I have been thinking about creating a new version of the world and starting a GURPS campaign again. I will have to create it again, but that is not a bad thing. There was a lot about original Thaedra that I could have done better. Working from memory and all that I have learned in 35 years of gaming, I will build a new Thaedra.

In order to walk the talk, I have created this document to track the process and record material as I develop it. Once I had created enough of the world for people to play in, I will see about starting a campaign.

Defining concepts

Pa’al

Like all self-respecting game worlds, Thaedra has a mysterious lost civilization, which was called Pa’al. The Pa’aleen people achieved great success in the magical arts and were even able to control the unstable geology beneath their feet. Until the day they couldn’t. In the end, they failed, and hundreds of years of crustal movement happened in hours. The landscape and the people of modern Thaedra are the result of this failure.

Geology

Thaedran geology is defined by the great basin in the center of the continent and by the Godwall Mountains that constitute the northern border of the continent. The habitable areas are largely around the edges, and the major cities arose there. The stuff in the middle is scary and dangerous.

Magic

Magic is a major force in Thaedra. As a story line point, the primary stabilizing entity in Thaedra is the Mages Guild, which is above local politics. Located in the city of Mithrannon, the Guild observes all that goes on in Thaedra and strives to keep any faction from gaining too much power.

Technology

Thaedra is a high-magic low-tech world. In GURPS terms, this is Tech Level 3 (medieval). Gunpowder is cutting edge, dangerous, unreliable and difficult to do. For people who prefer tinkering to thaumaturgy, the Mechanician specialty is available. Not an easy career path, but full of surprises for everyone.

NPC Races

NPC races in Thaedra are defined partly by classical Tolkien literature and partly by local conditions. Case in point: the Swamp Hobbits. These are nasty people, shaped by an environment dominated by Swamp Orcs. Their answer was to master the potential of the incredibly poisonous frogs of the region. “Toto, I don’t think we’re in the Shire anymore.” There are other anomalous races. Happy to you when you find one….

Who runs the place…

…. depends on where you are. Humans dominate most of known Thaedra, but Elves, Dwarves, Goblins, Dragons, Orcs, and others control specific regions.

Notable Cities

Jhin

This is the largest and oldest of Human cities, and it has the widest reach and influence of any Human city

Mithrannon

This is the home of the Mages Guild and the seat of their power. It was built on the most powerful mana fountain ever discovered in Thaedra and its alignment was deliberately slanted by its founders to be primarily Lawful Neutral. The Archmage leads the Council of Mages and strives to maintain independence and stability for everyone in Thaedra.

Khazad Khad

The name translates to “Fortress of the Dwarves.” The Dwarves are not fond of outsiders, and visitors should have really good reasons to knock on the door. If you don’t have official business, then look for Dwarves at ….

Bazaar

The universal ‘city,’ so-called because it isn’t really a city so much as a neutral place where the various races can meet to trade, learn from each other, etc. It has been around long enough to have its own police force and other trappings of government, but it clings to the original notion of impermanence.

Once a year (in late Spring) the Grand Bazaar is held. If you have anything to sell, or want to buy anything, or want to meet a representative of any race, this is the place and time to show up. Just be careful who you talk to about what….

The Elven Home

Elves don’t do cities. Their municipal organization defies Human comprehension. If you really need to deal directly with the Elves, travel north from Jhin until you are sure someone is watching you. Then make camp and wait for contact. And don’t light a fire if you value your life. Be polite when they appear without your noticing.

Dragons

You seriously want to talk to a dragon? Okay. Dragons will talk to you if they decide that talking to you is more useful than just eating you. Remember that they eat horses as snacks.

If you are determined to speak to a dragon, travel north to the Godwall mountains and climb until you are certain that someone is watching you. Then sit down and speak in a clear voice to the air why you are trespassing on a dragon home. Suitable messages might read like “I come bearing news of a threat to all living beings, including the Wurmkind.” This should get the attention of whatever dragon first noticed your approach. Whether the dragon believes you is up to the Game Master. Be advised….

So you want to play here.

Okay. This world runs on GURPS 4th Edition. To reduce the pain on both sides, it will run on the GURPS Lite rules and supporting material. This is all free to download from Steve Jackson Games, so nobody has to pay anything. I have already downloaded all the PDFs and will make them available here once I figure out how to do that.

The Lite version limits some options, but it’s a hell of a lot easier to understand as a player and run as a GM. The material components are some paper, a pencil, and three six-sided dice. Dice of other numbers can be useful, but are optional. All the necessary paperwork can be had as free PDFs, so you don’t have to buy anything to play. Well, you need dice, but you are a gamer, right?

What I don’t remember

I did point out that I am reconstructing Thaedra from memory. I could remember anything at any time. Just so you know.

Well, I have also remembered things that I have not decided yet to add to the world. That’s for the future.

 

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I Did That and It *Worked*

After over 35 years of working with computers, I am not easily impressed. But this weekend I saw something that astounded me. My main computer suffered a catastrophic hardware failure and would not even start to boot when powered on. In desperation, I moved the hard drive to the other desktop system, which I had coincidentally set up the day before.

It worked. Windows spent about 15 minutes frantically scratching its butt trying to figure out the drastically different hardware, but it did it. I am writing this post on that system. Except for the somewhat slower response (it is an older and slower system), you would never know that anything had changed.

I remember when Windows introduced Plug and Play years ago, and I remember how long we waited before PnP was more than a slogan. My experience this weekend was a startling demonstration of how much Microsoft has polished the feature over the years.

I expect now that I will be able to just put the hard drive back in the newer system once I have diagnosed and repaired it. I will sit back and let Windows do its dance and we should be back in business. As Jen likes to say, “I love living in the future.”

-= G =-

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Playing With Tech Again

Recent circumstances have obliged me to pay closer attention to our web sites and associated blogs. In the process of doing that, I realized that our sites have been running for years now on the same hosts and that it is time to migrate them to better hosting.

I’m not changing hosting companies, just moving to newer servers with better software. We’ll be paying the same for hosting and I have confirmed with tech support that they would be migrating the sites in the future anyway. So might as well do it myself to have full control over the process.

All that is fine and that project is now well underway. But whenever I sit down to do one tech thing, my mind starts wandering around looking for more tech things to do. This is one thing that made me a good test engineer and it also helps rekindle my interest when I’ve been away for a while.

So I have let this urge drag me around a bit. I have now scrounged enough space in my room to set up my older desktop system to use as a tech playground. Nothing vital runs on that system anymore so I’m free to try anything that catches my interest. I’m going to start by experimenting with different Linux setups to refresh my knowledge and get back up to speed on the platform. Not sure where I’ll go with that, but that’s kind of the point.

Could be fun. I’ll let you know as it develops.

-= G =-

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Oh No! Not Another Diagnostic Opportunity….

This week has been pretty miserable because my rheumatologist has been running medication tests to figure out why my knees and hips have been giving me so much grief since the move.

X-rays showed no mechanical damage (or osteoarthritis), so the problem was likely some inflammatory disease. As a first test, I started on prednisone last Thursday. If this relieved the symptoms, then inflammation was confirmed.

Well, within 48 hours the pain and stiffness was nearly gone. I reported this to the doctor and we discussed likely causes. I had been speculating on all sorts of obscure forms of arthritis or even more exotic things. His notion was unexpected but obvious now in retrospect: gout. His reasoning was that this was the most likely explanation for an inflammatory disease that affected only the lower body in an older male. And I already had been treated for gout in my left foot.

So now we had to confirm the diagnosis. This is where it got unpleasant because the test involved stopping the prednisone until symptoms returned, then starting a gout medicine. I stopped the prednisone on Tuesday. Yesterday morning I almost couldn’t get out of bed and stand up. That was good enough for me, so I started the new medicine.

I’m happy to say that the new stuff works and that I managed to sleep last night. I’m still sore and stiff, but gaining ground. I need to let it run a few more days before declaring victory, but I’m encouraged.

I just hope I can go some time before I have to survive another experiment like this one.

-= G =-

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I’d like to thank the Academy….

Now that my epic search for a new part-time career has reached its conclusion, I want to publicly thank some dedicated professionals who made that possible.

Lauraine Bush, Disabilities Resource Coordinator, CNYWorks

Lauraine was my first contact. She was the one who pointed out that my work as a caregiver to family was an important resume bullet point. She helped me rework my resume and cover letter to work in the current job market. Lauraine gave me what I most needed at that point — a clear sense of “yes, we can do this.”

Patty Jowett, Counselor, ACCES-VR (The NYS vocational rehab agency)

Once my application to enroll in ACCES-VR was approved, Patty was the one who worked with me to figure out what specific help I needed. She guided my selection of an agency to do the grunt work of helping me find a job. She also gave me some incredibly practical help by issuing a clothing voucher. Yes, the state of New York is pragmatic enough to realize that people like me probably don’t have clothing fit to wear to an interview. She sent me off to Casual Male XL in Fairmount with enough resources to get a fairly serious business casual wardrobe.

Frank Whaley, Employment Counselor, ARISE

Frank was my man in the trenches. He got me off to a quick start by creating an account at Indeed.com and a GMail address to use just for the job search. He searched the first listings and pushed the button to apply me for some of those jobs. That gave me essential focus for the job search, focus I needed as the weeks wore on. He also provided moral support during the last few weeks as my financial situation grew more desperate and all my attempts to apply for jobs went into a black hole.

As I start out on what may become a serious career in public health, I want to repay these three people by giving them the most valuable thing I can think of — confirmation that what they did made someone’s life better.

-= G =-

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Thinking of my father

My father died in 1994 and I still think about him, especially on Father’s Day.

We were a lot alike. I was born on his birthday and grew up to be the same height and weight, as well as having the same color hair and eyes. I used to joke that we were identical twins born 32 years apart to different mothers. Of course the similarities caused some confusion. At that time, a NJ driver license number consisted of a couple of letters from your last name and about 16 digits based on other information about you. I ended up with a number that was identical to Dad’s except for the last two digits, which called out the year of birth. Since I lived at the same address, it was much too easy for people to confuse us when looking up personal data for things like credit applications. I used the ‘Jr’ suffix everywhere, but it didn’t always help.

We were also very different. Dad had a much tougher life than I did. I had all the issues that arise from the vacuum that results when both parents work, but my father definitely went through worse.

He never knew his birth mother, who died in the influenza pandemic of 1918 six months after he was born. Grandpa John remarried, and Dad and his two sisters did not get along with their new step mother. They all left home fairly quickly.

I don’t know much about Dad’s history from that point until he was drafted in 1941. I do know that he was captured in the first action he saw, a botched campaign in North Africa in which we fought the Germans for the first time and lost badly. Dad’s unit was nearly destroyed. The general in charge was sent back to the U.S. and dad landed in a German prison camp where he spent the next 16 months. During that time, he learned to play the guitar. He also suffered a back injury, although it has never been clear whether that happened in the battle or in the camp.

He came out of that camp a very bitter man. When he learned that there would be a two to three year wait before he could get his back injury treated, he took his mustering-out pay and had the surgery done privately. It didn’t work well, and he spent the next 50 years in pretty much constant pain.

He also met my mother somewhere in the post-war confusion. She was an Army nurse, and I assume they first met while he was being processed as a returning POW. I really don’t know the details and I really wish I had asked more questions while they were still alive. But somehow they met, and were married in 1948.

Fast-forward to early 1994. I’ve been married now for nearly a year and I’m looking forward to finally going home so my parents could meet Jen for the first time. We planned the trip so I would be home for our shared birthday. But it was not to be. By this time, Dad had bad diabetes and other chronic conditions. He had been in and out of the hospital several times, but was stubborn and kept working as a public accountant and tax preparer. On Monday, March 7, he went into the hospital. He died two days later.

I knew when he died. I was at home that Wednesday evening and I suddenly got a strange feeling. Something at the edge of perception had changed. My sister called a half hour later to tell me that Dad had died. I realize now that I had been feeling his pain at some level and was startled when the pain suddenly stopped.

So Dad never got to meet Jen, which saddens me. But Dad had called out of the blue one evening a couple of months earlier, and we ended up talking for an hour and half. We talked a lot about our wives, and realized that our stories were very similar. Neither of us had been looking to get married. Both of us met our wives through improbable sequences of events. And both of just knew from the start that we were going to marry this woman we hardly knew.

So Dad got to meet Jen, sort of, through my descriptions of her. I wish he could have met her in person, but I am consoled by one thing: at least he knew that I was happy.

-= G =-

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Some More Constructive Exhaustion

I had an opportunity this weekend to take care of a long-deferred maintenance shore and push my physical and mental limits at the same time.

We have three air conditioners that we depend on in hot weather. To make sure they keep running, I try to give them some preventive maintenance each year by opening them up and cleaning out the crud that builds up on the coils. When we lived in NH, I just hauled them out to the driveway, parked them on the tailgate of my truck, and went to town.

That all changed when we moved to Syracuse. By that point, the combined stress of all the events of the previous two years had my fibro roaring away at top speed. I also no longer had my truck or even the garden hose I used. There was no way I could carry the air conditioners downstairs to clean them, and no way to clean them in any case, so they didn’t get cleaned. I could see the effects. All three units had to work harder to get the job done. But there wasn’t anything I could do about it.

When the time came to put in the air conditioners this year, I stopped and thought very hard. The downstairs neighbors had a garden hose I could use, so if I could just manage to get the things downstairs, I could clean the coils and get all three air conditioners running right again. It would be a massive effort and I would be pushing the envelope a lot, but I decided to go for it.

By the time I got to the third air conditioner, I was spent. I was resting more than working and I was starting to get very shaky. My bandanna was dripping and fibro fog was setting in. I obviously had pushed myself right to the edge.

But I got the job done. All three air conditioners are in their windows running smoothly. I feel a sense of triumph there. But more importantly, I have successfully pushed myself beyond my recent limits.

This is a major threshold event, like fixing the exhaust pipe on the van, but bigger.  I have now been able to do something I haven’t been able to do for six or seven years.

I’m feeling the effects of working that hard, but ya know, it feels good.

-= G =-

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