Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Just got back from Puerto Rico

I just returned from Puerto Rico, where I met with a group of fellow Director enthusiasts. It was good to finally put some faces to the names of various Director gurus I've been following for years. (Universally, a great bunch of guys, by the way.) It was Director chatting from morning to late at night for two days straight, and a great look into what other people are doing.

After seeing some of the things these guys are working on, and talking to them about how their current projects are going, I'm more encouraged about the future of Director than I've been lately. It's good to get connected to the community again, and I'm looking forward to doing more Director work in the future.

And a special thanks to Adobe for organizing the retreat. Thanks for one of the best times I've had at a conference in a long time.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

You Reap What You Sow

Kathleen Parker, an old-school conservative columnist wrote Giving Up on God for the Washington Post, where she bemoans the fact that the GOP is being dragged down by the Bible-thumping wing of their party. She says, "the GOP has surrendered its high ground to its lowest brows....shifting demographics suggest that the Republican Party -- and conservatism with it -- eventually will die out unless religion is returned to the privacy of one's heart where it belongs."

Well, duh. That's what liberals have been trying to tell you guys all along. Religion is not politics is not religion. Mix them at your own peril, dumbasses.

You reap what you sow. For years, the GOP has been pandering to the uneducated, the superstitious, the resentful, and the xenophobic, using them as an easily-riled base who doesn't really question whether the leaders they elect really legislate in their best interests. They were your "useful idiots," and you built an ongoing drumbeat of spin, misdirection, and outright fabrications to rile them up and draw more into their fold. But ultimately, if that's what you increasingly rely on, if that's where your rhetoric goes, and, as the generations turn, that's where you draw your fresh political blood from, that means you, by definition, will become them.

No whining about it. It's a monster of your own creation. The villagers have torches and pitchforks, Dr. Frankenstein. Your time in the castle is over.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Spinebreakers is a site sponsored by Penguin Books which appears to be bringing print publishing up to Web 2.0 sensibilities. It's interesting because traditional print publishers need to keep up if they don't want to become irrelevant, and Penguin Books seems to be doing the right stuff. Between initiatives like Paper Cuts, a competition to get kids to write 100 word essays on what really matters to them and collecting the best ones into a printed volume, to fantastic cover design for classic reprints, they're doing the right stuff.

(And speaking of visual design for book jackets, be sure to check out the Penguin blog, which celebrates print design with articles like this one about designing the covers for a series of horror novel reprints. Good stuff.)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Anyone have a copy of Creature Castle?

You may remember my earlier "nostalgia games" blog entry about Creature Castle.

Well, I've been contacted by someone related to the original creators of the game who is looking for a copy. If you have a copy you're willing to part with, please contact me, and I'll put you in touch.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Page Has Turned

To all who voted today, and in previous days, for Barack Obama: thank you.

And my children thank you - they just don't know it yet.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Carnival of Souls 2008 a success, but not without problems

This is just a brief note, for those who may be watching, that Carnival of Souls 2008 was a big success this year, but we did have a few problems.

The haunted house was spectacular. The many volunteers came together to make a thrilling experience for visitors. Cries of "That was AWESOME!" were heard throughout the night, and we even had kids stop by the day after to tell us how much fun they had.

There were some problems, however. We had a lot of last-minute cancellations from volunteers, leaving us with eight fewer volunteers than we expected. In addition, we had some people who were only able to work part of the night, so even with covering those losses, we still had holes over the course of the evening. The front yard bore the brunt of this - the carnival games stood unmanned for a good portion of the night, and there was no usher for the Magic Mirror, which caused some trouble. The people who were here soldiered on, and some last-minute volunteers made the situation better than it otherwise would have, though, so it wasn't a disaster. But I do feel bad for the smaller kids who were too young for the haunted house who came and found none of the front yard stuff going.

I'll try to get a page about 2008 up on the web site in a few days. Until then, if you are a volunteer or a visitor, feel free to leave a comment about how YOU thought it went.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Apple's Other Excellence

You know, there's a lot of buzz about Apple these days, what with the fantastic gains of the iPhone in the market, the dominance of the iPod, and how great Mac OS X is compared to Vista.

But there's another realm of excellence I experienced today: customer service.

I had a problem with my iPhone that was annoying me for the past few days, and I called customer service about it, even though I was out of warranty. I was prepared to pay for some pay-as-you-go tech support to get the issue fixed.

The person on the other end of the line was very helpful and friendly, and walked me through all the basic troubleshooting steps, and then into the advanced steps. Finally, we decided that the best thing to do would be a complete software reinstall, so rather than make him wait through it, I let him go, saying I could handle it from there. He sent me an email so that I could pick up with him personally if that didn't work.

Now, at that point, I figured I was done with tech support unless I called them back.

However, while I was going through the software install, I received a call from another Apple customer service representative. He said that they were talking about my case after I hung up with them, and he wanted to ask me a few follow-up questions. They'd begun to suspect it was a hardware issue.

Seriously. These guys remain service-oriented on an issue after you have hung up with them and the ball is no longer in their court.

Not only that, but they are going to fix the hardware issue for free and send me a loaner iPhone to cover me while it's being repaired.

I have to say, if I wasn't an Apple fan already, I would be now. I can't remember when I've had such a positive experience with calling tech support for a product. Yes, a hardware issue is frustrating, but it happens. What matters is knowing that Apple will step up to the plate and make it right when it does.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Tonight's Debate Reaction

The third debate is over, and thankfully, McCain is 0 for 3, according to the polling by most major media news outlets (even Fox). McCain lost them all. Even the town hall meeting.

A few thoughts:
  • Regarding America's trailing scores in math and science, Obama said "This probably has more to do with our national future than anything." Yes - Obama gets it. Education is infrastructure.

  • Again with the "$3 million overhead projector" thing from McCain. The Sky Theater planetarium projector is an "overhead projector" like Google or Amazon is "someone's web site". Technically true, but intentionally disguising the nature of what is being discussed by leaving out the important detail of how much amazing technology is behind it. The Sky Theater projector is not what people think of when you say the words "overhead projector," and McCain knows it. It's dishonest.

  • McCain predictably excuses his lifetime position of giving education the short shrift by saying "throwing money at the problem won't solve it." Again, technically true - we can't just throw money at our educational system to fix it.

    We need to hire and retain better teachers, find better ways to teach, provide safer and more conducive learning environments, lower the student:teacher ratios, update outdated modes of teaching that don't connect with today's kids, provide after school programs for at-risk kids, fix our crumbling schoolhouses, etc.

    And you know what, McCain? Those things cost money.

    Yes, you can't just throw money at the system to solve everything - it needs true educational leadership and responsible stewardship for that money to do what it needs to do. But they do need money.

  • Besides, McCain sure is one to talk about "throwing money at a problem." This is the guy who would be fine with spending $2,400,000,000 per week in Iraq for 100 years. This is the guy who "suspended his campaign" to go throw $820,000,000,000 at the international banking system. Doesn't he see the irony? At least when we talk about funding teachers, science programs, and... ahem... high-end planetarium star projectors, we know exactly what it is we're going to be spending the money on, that we're spending it here at home, and what we can expect as an outcome.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

More Juvenile Antics

You might remember my earlier blog post about how some idiot stole the Obama bumper sticker off my car.

I've been talking to people, and it sounds like this is not an isolated incident. Two of my friends, also Obama supporters, have told me that they have had yard signs stolen, and I noticed that two Obama signs that I pass on the way to dropping my son off at day care went missing and were replaced by a different yard sign.

It's also apparently happening elsewhere. Personally, I like this response.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Sarah Palin would make a terrible wizard

It looks like Sarah Palin has an IQ score of 83.

For you Dungeons and Dragons players McCain is always talking about, that means that if you made a character sheet for Sarah Palin, she'd have an Intelligence score of 8.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Adler's Response to McCain

Yesterday, I blogged a bit about McCain attacking Obama for supporting informal, all-ages Science education, namely, Obama's support of replacing the 40-year-old planetarium projection machine (not merely an "overhead projector" as McCain called it) for the Sky Theater there.

Well, here's an update. The Adler has posted a response to McCain detailing the exact position of the Adler and clearing up McCain's erroneous implications about the funding, namely that it's somehow frivolous or wasteful.

Education is infrastructure. Probably the most important infrastructure we have long-term, because if we slide technologically, there is no way we'll remain a leader of the free world. If our kids and grandkids cannot keep up, then we're looking at our potential enemies outpacing our weapons technology, our surveillance technology, our security technology, our energy technology, our medical technology. Economies ebb and flow, alliances rise and fall, but the one constant is that whoever has the best technology wields the most power. If McCain doesn't get that, if he openly mocks science education and says we don't need it, then he should not be president. He cannot possibly be a good steward of America's future.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

McCain against Education Again

I just watched the presidential debate, and I am struck once again by John McCain's contempt for educational efforts.

It's probably not going to get a lot of play, but the one thing that stood out to me as strange was McCain attacking Obama for supporting spending money on a star projector for a planetarium in Chicago. He's referring to a $3 million earmark for replacing the 40-year-old projection system at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, the first planetarium in the western hemisphere, let alone America, and a major science education venue in the Chicago area.

To my mind, that's not "pork," at least, not in the derisive sense of the word, like a bridge to nowhere. This is perfectly in line with what Obama was saying about the need to invest in America's educational infrastructure.

Planetarium projector
Modified photo by Arlette.
As a child, I remember planetariums being one of my favorite places to visit, second only to theme parks. As an educational venue, planetariums conveyed to me, like no other venue can, the enormity, wonder, and adventure that is represented by the universe we live in. It got me interested in topics like Astronomy, Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics.

In particular, planetariums did a far, far better job of that than school did. In school, it's all academics and textbooks. But there was something almost spiritual about going through those double doors that opened by themselves, into the serene, dim theater, surrounded by celestial ambient music and dramatic lighting. And there, in the center of the room - the projector. That strange alien-like contraption, a black cylinder with two spheres at each end adorned with thousands of tiny eyelets, the whole thing supported on a rack, displaying it in the middle of the room as it sat dormant and quiet.

And when the show started! The lights would fade, and the music would swell, and that alien device would come to life, rising and falling, turning on its axis, spinning the spheres at each end, throwing stars into the sky above. And the narrator would speak - not the dry monotone or the finger-wagging admonitions I heard in church, but the sage and simple voice of a guide, who would take you through the universe and back. In those tall, comfortable seats, pitched back to look up at the stars, we'd observe the magnetosphere of the Earth protecting us from the fiery conflagration of particles spit out fitfully from the sun, or travel out of our galaxy so far that we could observe it from afar, a swirling sea of stars so huge it was difficult to wrap your mind around it.

To this day, as you can probably tell, I have a childlike awe of the things I learned at planetariums.

But more to the issue at hand, planetariums are educational venues. They are venues for traditional education - school trips to planetariums are common - but they are also venues for informal and adult education. If we're going to be serious about turning around our nation's educational infrastructure, it must include more than just textbooks. We have to fundamentally embrace education as a part of life, not just a part of school. We need to support the things that make kids (and their parents) interested in math and science, that get them interested in careers in the math and science industries, and help them understand how important, far-reaching, enriching, and fulfilling these pursuits are.

If the worst instance of "pork spending" support John McCain can come up with in Obama's legislative history is this, an initiative which fundamentally embraces, celebrates, promotes, and (most importantly) strengthens America's math and science educational infrastructure, then he's better off not pointing it out. Especially in terms of what we're spending in Iraq - the $3 million for the planetarium renovation Obama asked for is what we spend in Iraq every 13 minutes. This would have been a relatively tiny investment for a big return, and given that the projector the money would have replaced was forty years old and is no longer serviceable since no one makes parts for them any more, it's not likely money that would have been squandered; that the Adler kept the last projector running so long beyond its lifetime shows that they are frugal and responsible stewards of the money apportioned to them.

To me, the fact that Obama supported a public, informal educational effort like funding a planetarium, and didn't try to distance himself from it when McCain derided him for it, just reinforces the kind of man he is, especially in contrast to McCain, who has voted against education time and time again.

Oh, and by the way, the $3 million didn't get funded. I guess we needed that 13 extra minutes in Iraq instead.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Obsidian Portal

Obsidian Portal is a "Web 2.0" service for organizing and tracking your RPG campaign. It's basically a wiki keyed to the particular information architecture you see in tabletop RPG design.

This is the software that Michael Harrison from GeekDad is using in his world building tutorial series.

Kohler Haunt's Magic Mirror

Kohler Magic Mirror
Here at the Carnival of Souls, we love to see what people do with the digital puppets we provide for people to use.

Today, the House of Kohler sent us some great video of the Magic Mirror in action at their haunt. It looks like they have a great little yard haunt, complete with fireworks.

This video is a good one to watch because the puppeteer of the mirror had to deal with a rather quiet young boy who looked a little apprehensive about the entire place. He did a really good job setting the boy at ease while still maintaining the sense of magic about the place.

You can see other peoples' implementations of our effects at our Friends of ImaginEERIEing page. If you have photos or video of the Mirror (or any of our other ideas) at your own home haunt you'd like to share, be sure to submit your haunt.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Punctuation Man Endorses Serial Comma

Yes! Finally, it's settled. Oxford wins out over AP, because Punctuation Man has endorsed the serial comma.

And it is just. Using a serial comma buys you clarity. Omitting the serial comma buys you a drop of ink on a printed document or one less byte in a word processing document. Which is more important when you're trying to communicate an idea?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Boney Island

Boney Island Yard Haunt
I don't often find other haunts which really strive to be age-appropriate for all audiences. But the Boney Island Yard Haunt, by Simpsons producer Rick Polizzi, certainly captures the spirit of "Halloween for Everyone."

Although he takes a different tack than our own Carnival of Souls - his is much more whimsical and humorous - we both agree that there should be a Halloween venue for younger kids which doesn't involve getting chased with a chainsaw.

His display looks absolutely fantastic. He has many motorized props, so the place looks like it is bursting with activity: singing skeletons, ferris wheels, rides, spooks telling jokes, etc. It all has a very charming look to it.

Unfortunately, due to neighbor complaints, 2007 was his final year, after a ten year run. Sad to see, but I'm very happy I got to see this inspirational footage. Rick obviously added a little magic to many kids' lives with his work.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Update to Printable DM

Printable DM
I've made some updates and changes to the Printable DM Encounter Manager.

This version has more whitespace between the entries to help differentiate the rows as enemies. This version also has a lighter backdrop to the hit point track, to make it easier to use when printed in grayscale, and the word "init" has been removed from the bubble because it was hard to read a number written in there with the word in there also, even though it was faint text.

If you have any other suggestions for improving the Printable DM, let me know.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Printable DM Works Really Well!

Printable DM
I finally got a chance to try out my Printable DM Encounter Manager (note: updated version 2 link) sheet in a gaming session today.

In short, it rocked. I was really happy with how it worked. Everything I needed to run a combat (beyond the monster stats) was contained on the page. This makes DM'ing fourth edition really easy, because it's got spaces for everything you need organized in a clear, accessible way.

Now, we've only tried it with 3rd level adventurers, so it hasn't been tested with the higher-level combats, so perhaps there are elements of high-level combat that I'm leaving out here. But so far, it's a really handy reference for adjudicating. Just print out one copy of the page per encounter, fill it out before the game, and you can hit the ground running.

There are a few minor changes I need to make. When printed in black and white, the hit point tracks and the "Init" word in the initiative tracker are too dark and get in the way; I intended them to be lighter so they could just be written over and easily read. I'd also like to reduce the size of the rows and add some more whitespace between them, to make it clear which pair of rows go with which monster.

Do you have any other suggestions for improvement?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

McCain: Making America Stupid

Thomas Friedman's op-ed in the New York Times called Making America Stupid (thanks Digg) rightly makes the argument that we need to quickly improve our educational infrastructure if we don't want America to slide into global irrelevance.

But what Friedman doesn't really do is make it clear what sort of approach our two presidential candidates would take on this issue.

I don't have to tell you that you can see what Barack Obama plans to do about it. He lays it all out.

It's harder to tell what McCain is going to do. He offers a page about his early education policy, and while it's filled with a lot of platitudes, it's extremely vague. A close read makes it clear that he's not planning on doing anything to improve things other than shuffle things around. Check out his carefully-crafted language to make it look like he'll be doing something:
  • "There is no shortage of federal programs..."
  • "There is much to be achieved by leveraging and better coordinating these programs..."
  • "John McCain will focus federal resources..."
  • "Each Head Start Center identified by the Secretary as a Center of Excellence will use their funds to expand their programs to serve more children..."
  • "We should also encourage and enable states to better align Head Start with their own pre-K programs."
  • "...partnership grants and targeted federal funding can be used to encourage and facilitate early screening programs..."
  • "John McCain will ensure that there are no federal prohibitions against preschool programs..."
  • "Current federal programs will be focused on educating parents..."
...and so on. A careful read of his entire early education document indicates that John McCain does not plan to increase funding for early childhood education by even a dime. The one place where he even has a dollar amount - $200k for Head Start programs he identifies as "centers of excellence" - he adds the caveat "...depending on availability of funding." (And even then, it's not clear whether the dollars come from a new federal program or are merely cannibalized from other Head Start programs.)

His idea is, apparently, to sail along with current programs, while imposing upon them reporting restrictions and federal-level mandates to shuffle around the existing programs. Yeah, that's exactly what we need - more unfunded mandates mixed with increased federal bureaucracy. I thought the Republicans were supposed to be against that kind of thing.

Of course, a better predictor of what McCain intends to do about our educational infrastructure is to look at his past votes on education issues. See the table below. To put things in perspective, I'm including the price of each educational program that was proposed, and how much sooner we could leave Iraq to pay for it.

YearWhat he didCostIraq Time
2006Voted against rolling back Bush's earlier cuts to education, health care, and job training programs for education.$7 billion20 days
2000 Voted against a small estate tax increase for school repairs and teacher training. $3.5 billion10 days
2001 Voted against improving the national student-teacher ratio to 18. $2.4 billion7 days
2003 Voted against funding for educational programs and dropout prevention. $210 million15 hours
2005 Voted for the largest cut to federal student loans in history, a vote that was voted against by crossover Republicans to make it a 50-50 vote, with Cheney casting the tiebreaker. If McCain had been the "maverick" on this issue, and also broken with his party, the student loans would not have been cut. $12.7 million53 minutes

In addition, he has voted multiple times against funding for Pell Grants, voted against a $12,000 college tuition tax credit, and practically every time it's come up, he's voted against school breakfast and lunch programs for low income students, even though this has been shown to increase school performance. Etc.

You get the idea. Clearly, McCain is hostile to even modest amounts of money going to improving our educational infrastructure in America, despite what he likes to say on the stump. McCain is willing for us to spend 100 years of America's economy on Iraq, but he's not willing to spend even 53 minutes on our schools here at home.

Our economy is weak, our schools are weak, and the world is increasingly relying on an information economy. The number one thing we can do to ensure America's longevity is to shore up its future economic might by making sure our kids are the ones who are inventing new technologies in the future. Everything in our future hinges on remaining excellent innovators compared to the rest of the world. We need new energy sources coming from here. We need new information technologies coming from here. We need new defense, threat detection, and investigation technologies coming from here. We need new medical and transportation technologies coming from here. We need to explore our universe, our seas, our deserts, and our genetic structure. If we don't, if we slide into a consumerist, superstitious society hostile to "ivory tower elitists," then we do so at our own peril.

We simply can't afford for McCain to win.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What is this, middle school?

Coming out of work today to head to lunch, I look down at my car's rear bumper and notice that someone stole the Obama bumper sticker off of my car. There's a little scrape mark where they got it started, and they peeled the rest of it off.

Seriously, since when do middle schoolers care about politics? What's next, ding-dong-ditching me?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Printable DM

Printable DM
After reading David Seah's "Printable CEO" blog, it occurred to me that some of the productivity philosophy he uses could be applied to the process of dungeon mastering. I've been running a fourth edition game for a while, so I took a look at ways I could improve the way I organize my combat forces.

The result is the Printable DM, which aims to help clarify and organize your encounter's monsters so that it's easier to keep track of initiative order, monster health, status effects, who is marking whom, who is bloodied, etc.

Download it and take it for a spin, and let me know how it works for you in the comments. I'm going to use it in my game in the coming sessions, and if anything interesting emerges, I'll post it, too.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Save Madame Sarita Page Up

I finally got around to posting a web page about Save Madame Sarita.

Players playing Save Madame Sarita

This was our new attraction for 2007, basically an interactive, installation-based video game where players use mystical artifacts to enter the spirit world, defeat Marius Blackwood, and Save Madame Sarita.

For more detail, video, and a behind-the-scenes look at how the mystical controllers worked, visit the web page.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Singing Busts Hacked!

Photo of hacked singing bust
As I mentioned earlier, I was planning on using the instructions at my-mania.com to hack the 2006 Target talking busts to create talking busts that move their mouthes to custom audio.

Well, long story short, I had a bit of trouble, but managed to work around it. I also noticed a few shortcuts in terms of accomplishing the hack. To see video of the final hack, and get some more info on how we worked around the problem, you can visit our talking busts page. If you want to do this hack yourself, you will still need to use the instructions at my-mania.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

A Quick Plug for Midnight Syndicate

As much as we'd like to take credit for it, Midnight Syndicate is the soundscape source for our haunt every year.

Midnight Syndicate banner

As a refreshing change from most bands, Midnight Syndicate is uncommonly open to people using their music for horror-themed attractions, going so far as to give you permission royalty-free right over the web using a form on their site. They touch base with their haunters every year, and even feature people using their music at both pro and home haunts on their web site.

They have a new CD available for the 2008 season called The Dead Matter, a soundtrack that is paired with a movie they scored of the same name. You'll find it in the usual places for music, but you will also find it at your seasonal Halloween stores, in all likelihood. If you'd like a spooky soundtrack, be sure to pick up a Midnight Syndicate CD. These guys are active, generous supporters of the home haunt community, and make Halloween that much more magical for kids all over the country.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Upgrading the look

They say beauty is only skin-deep.

In the case of the Carnival of Souls web page, that's certainly true.

I've just updated the look of the main Carnival of Souls web page, but I haven't had a chance to update the stuff behind it. (I also updated my main page, too.) I'm not sure if/when I'll get to the other pages on the site, because, well, it's a mess under the hood. This site has grown organically since 2003, and it needs to be cleaned up. Unfortunately, Halloween is a mere two months away, so I'm not sure how much time I'll be able to spend on it.

My goal is to get some of the most oft-visited pages re-skinned, just to save people from looking at my early-2000's web design. Just don't expect to have every page skinned anytime soon.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Voter Registration Drive

A few weekends ago, I volunteered for a voter registration drive being organized by the Barack Obama campaign. It was an interesting day.

I'd never done it before, so I had to get a bit of instruction on what to do. The Obama staffers I worked with, a group of uncommonly intelligent and personable young men and women, were pretty patient with my questions, and walked me through the process.

In particular, they told me that we were registering any and all voters. Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, we were providing a service that day to get as many people registered as possible. The main thing they wanted to express was openness and inclusiveness, so anyone who wanted to register would be registered. This is significant, because in talking to some people afterward, I was met with a lot of cynicism about whether we were actually willing to register anyone but Obama supporters. The truth of the matter is, with most of the people I signed up, I didn't tell them who I was doing the voter registration for, and they didn't tell me who they were supporting. I wasn't wearing any Obama pins or shirts, we didn't have a table, or anything. I was just a guy with a clipboard full of voter registration forms. If they asked, I'd tell them, of course, but the vast majority of the time, political leanings were not even mentioned during the act of signing up people.

In addition, the campaign staffers made the point that one thing that would solidify someone's distrust of the Democrat party would be to sign up with a Democrat registration drive and not turn it in, and conversely, if a Democrat helps a conservative sign up, it might break down stereotypes and help us reach across to other constituents. It's clear that they're not just interested in doing what it takes to win this election. They're taking the long view, which is a good sign.

I was also impressed with the people I met. Many, many people were already registered, and a lot of people thanked me for just trying to get people registered. People from all walks of life, who drove up in a Prius, an Oldsmobile, or a bicycle, valued the role of voting. It was pretty heartening to see how many people took it seriously and how many people were genuinely appreciative of what I was doing.

Of course, there were a couple of uncomfortable moments.

I talked to more than one college-age young woman who "just wasn't into voting." This is sad, especially considering McCain's obvious misogyny. This is the man who referred to his own wife as a "c**t" in front of reporters, remember. Not a lot of respect for women in that man, despite the politically-calculated choice of a woman for VP, a cynical attempt to grab expatriate Hillary supporters who haven't been paying attention to what McCain actually does with his political power.

I also got a little vitriol from both the left and the right.

I talked to one woman who told me that yes, she was registered, and that there was no way in hell she would vote for "that fascist Obama." Fascist, really? I don't think that woman has read Obama's position papers on his web site - the legislative work he's done has clearly been democratizing work, rather than supporting fascism, such as requiring new standards for making the government's behavior and spending open to public scrutiny ("Google for Government"), and limiting the power of lobbyists (see his political ethics reform plan for more). And she especially hasn't paid attention to McCain's voting record over the last several years, which really has been sweetheart deals for corporations. My guess is that she was a disgruntled Hillary supporter, but I really don't understand how someone who supported Hillary would take it out on Obama by voting for McCain. Unless the only reason she supported Hillary was because she was female, it doesn't make any sense. Vote policy, not plumbing.

On the other end of the spectrum, I talked to a, shall we say, forthright individual who, when I asked him if he was registered to vote, told me that it didn't matter whether he votes or not because the outcome of the election could never subvert God's will. He went on to say that he looks forward to my destruction at the hands of his God. And then stormed away. I watched him go, thinking, "yup, it's probably a good thing you don't vote." It's been a while since someone has launched into the whole "my god hates you" thing against me, but it's always a surreal, depressing, and saddening experience, no matter how many times I get it.

But all in all, it was a positive experience. I personally signed up people who may not otherwise have voted. I spurred people into taking part in the political process. I don't know how they're going to vote, but the mere fact that more people will be voting because of me is a good feeling. It may not make a difference in the final count, but I'll at least know I was part of the solution and not part of the problem. And even if my guy loses, at least the winner will have been selected as a representative of more people than he otherwise would have been.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

SW3D Bone Animations from Lightwave

Screenshot of Lightwave weight map on a model
I've written an article about exporting bones from LightWave for use in Shockwave3D. (Sorry, but this article is now defunct - do not use Adobe Director.) It collects a lot of the information I've learned on the web about the finicky process of exporting bones for animation in Director.

In particular, I disagree with something that seems to be conventional wisdom about Lightwave export to Shockwave3D. You can have more than one weight map influence a vertex. Before, it was said that each vertex is assigned 100% to a single bone, but that's not true - you can spread a vertex's influence over multiple bones and it will work.

The article contains two Lscrpts (scripts for controlling Lightwave) I wrote which help ease the process. There's a "Weight Detail" script which lets you set the weight values of a point (or a set of points) across all your weight maps all at once in one dialog. This is really handy, since Shockwave3D likes all the weight maps to add up to 100%. The other Lscript is "Weight Analysis" which will analyze your model for you and show you all the vertices which don't have 100% weight assigned to them. That way, it's easy to find problem areas in your model before export.

I also mirror Mike Green's "BlurVMaps" script, which is also handy for blurring the weight maps so that they flow naturally over the surface.

Taken together, these Lscripts really make preparing models in Lightwave for Shockwave3D export a lot easier.

Hacking the Target Talking Busts

Oh, happy day. Jeff Baird has posted detailed instructions on hacking the Target talking busts from 2006 and making them respond to custom audio.

We've used these for two years running, after embellishing them a bit to give them a bit more presence:
Sheridan talking bust
...so I'm happy to see this how-to. My plan is to take a trip to the corner Radio Shack this weekend and get our three busts hacked to accommodate custom audio.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Mirror, Mirror

For those of you still subscribed to my blog, I thank you for your loyalty. Sorry I was away from posting for so long, but when my second son was born, well, I had to focus on that for a while. No offense to you, dear reader, but he's hella cuter.

magic mirror halloween puppet with necrotic venting
Anyway, to make it up to you, I'm announcing Mirror Mirror, our new digital puppet for the 2008 haunting season. It's a massive overhaul of the original Magic Mirror effect we did way back when we started Carnival of Souls.

It includes all the features you've come to expect from ImaginEERIEing's digital puppets: customizable lighting and other appearance options, multiple modes of control, and an easy-to-use onscreen console for configuring your puppet. Plus some spiffy new tricks, such as cool background effects like fire, spectral emissions, and necrotic venting. (Necrotic venting is shown at right.)

If you try it out and find any problems, please let me know. I want to get any bugs knocked back well in advance of the 2008 haunting season if possible.

Happy haunting!