Go it Alone

6/14/03: Just a follow-up on an earlier post: Peter Schweighofer's latest installment in his solitaire adventures essays is a fun freebie: Trapped in the Museum, a Risus solitaire adventure he wrote a while back as a micro-press item to sell at his convention appearances. I've been wanting to see Trapped as a free PDF for a long time, now; snag it before he changes his mind!

Sandra's Got Claws!

6/12/03: Just peeking in to say hi. It's been a Uresia kind of week (and a fun one!) with the new campaign starting this past Sunday, complete with Sandra as a cat-girl sorceress slinging a wicked lightning bolt. It's a hoot to have Sandra at the gaming table again; she doesn't often get to play because she gets sleepy early in the evenings, but this is an afternoon game! Fun fun fun.

I've also got a new Uresia font set almost ready to roll, a maps-and-symbols set, four fonts worth. More on that in a few days, if the playtesters report that it hasn't melted any hard drives . . .

Tonight I get to experience Fly From Evil for the first time as a player. Cody, one of the regular local campaigners, is taking on the mantle, as we used to say. Wish me luck; I wanna kick some butt.

There are probably lots of other subjects to cover but I'm just hurrying to get this update up so the Blue Desk can live again like the evil robot monster it is. More soon!

Long Time Gone

6/1/03: I've had a couple of emails and one phone conversation about how the Blue Room hasn't had an update; that's a sure sign I'm running later than usual. As most folks have guessed, though; I've just been (happily) busy with all kinds of work, homestuff and sundries. Hopefully, I'll have a bunch of interesting stuff to announce soon, related to some of it!

In the meantime, though, it's June, and a new month means a new Free Font of the Month. This time around, it's a font so stressed it'll probably have a stroke by 30, bearing the appropriate name of Struck Dead. It's one of those titles that feels like tempting fate, like now my odds of being hit by a bus have tripled just so people can later say "and you'll never guess the title of his last font!" Like Hank Williams, but with TrueType instead of a song. Of course, by that logic, typing what I just typed triples the odds again. I'll have to be sure and look both ways twice when crossing!

It's been a quiet weekend at home, which has been extremely nice. On a lot of Saturdays, Sandra and I make a point of heading out and about, but sometimes it's just nice to snuggle close for the whole day. Especially lately ... My sleep-schedule is a little topsy-turvy right now, so our schedules are overlapping in odd ways and we see a little less of each other some days. Anyone who knows us knows that seeing even the tiniest bit less of each other takes its toll, so we've been extra-clingy (which suits me fine)!

And speaking of Sandra and clinging ... In a couple of days, it's the sixth anniversary of the very oldest entry in the Blue Desk Archives. I still don't know how I survived the months following that entry - several months with no Sandra around once it had alreay become apparent that we were meant to be together. Six years later I still ache just thinking about that time.

Anyway, I'll be more talkative this month, possibly a lot more. Drop back in in a few days, and if I haven't posted something at least weekly this month, don't hesitate to email me a "hey S. John, take a ten-minute break and update your freakin' website" note. 'Til then, hope this finds you all well.

Back in Town

4/29/03: I know; I know. I should have posted a "we're home" update when we got off the plane, but it was nice just spending a few days decompressing (literally, in the case of my hearing) putting stuff away, and taking a vacation from the vacation, as they say. Now that I'm back at the keyboard hammering away at my work, though, it's high time to say hello again here at the Blue Room.

The trip was really fun; St. John's is one of the best places on Earth, and I had a ball enjoying the cold weather; gaping at the dramatic cliffsides and rocky hills; gaming with the in-laws (Scrabble, Balderdash, Cosmic Wimpout and assorted card games); enjoying the city down by the harbour (they spell things funny in Canada) and poking into the secondhand bookstores (I scored some great 1930s material for my massive Fly From Evil library). The best, part, though, was spending time with Sandra on her home turf (she gets insistently snuggly when it's cold!) and even hiking with her in the snow (we crossed footbridges so snow-laden that the top of the railing was well below our knees).

Of course, while it was fun to be away, it's good to be home. We've been scooting around Austin making sure it's all still here. We missed it! We took lots of pictures; Sandra will probably post a few when we get them developed.

A recent web nifty: Colleague and pal Peter Schweighofer is writing a short series of what he calls "rants" (and what I call preaching the gospel) about solitaire adventures. Amen, Pete! And thanks for the kind words about my own Ring of Thieves!

Homeward Bound

4/9/03: There was a hot dog vendor just north of downtown yesterday with a sign: PRIVATE CATERING AVAILABLE. That made me smile, first because it's almost romantically optimistic to advertise private catering on a hot dog cart, and second because the image of, say, a wedding party lined up for chili dogs is amusing. I picture some big guy with a mustache and a cummerbund salivating and asking the guy to hold the onions, while some woman behind him, wrestling with a poodle, is urging him to hurry it up because little Bootsy is hungry.

Now, realistically, a larger food-service company that offers traditional catering probably owns the cart, but I'll keep that hot-dog-cart-at-the-wedding image and be happy with it.

None of this has much to do with anything. Sandra and I have begun hustling to get ready for our trip to Newfoundland to visit family. I've been wrestling with assorted technical problems on the laptop, but (knock on wood) everything seems ship-shape now, so it's all down to packing and remembering to turn off the coffee pot before we go.

I've got a new page on the Blue Room this week, a Risus: The Anything RPG adaptation of Uresia: Grave of Heaven entitled (whimsically enough): Uresius: Grave of Anything. Risus is a pretty crackerjack choice for Uresia, really, and while I'll probably stick with BESM for most of my Grave of Heaven games, I'll make with the stick figures whenever it's time for a pickup game.

I noticed recently that at least one website linking to the Blue Room refers to it as a "blog." I've never really thought of myself as a blogger; I just sort of update whenever. I guess I'm an intermittent (or perhaps just unreliable) blogger.

It is true, though, that the Blue Desk Archives amount to a kind of scattershot diary of the last few years. Maybe 15 years from now I'll publish it as "Scenes From A Happy Marriage" or something along those lines (the Blue Room has been around almost exactly as long as Sandra and I have been together).

Anyway, if I keep rambling like this I really will be blogging. So I'll wave off from Texas, and maybe I'll remember to post and update or two from the tropical island of Newfoundland. If not, I'll see you when we get home!

Spring is Here!

3/21/03: In the real world, we've got the beginning of spring (it's beautiful here in Austin today) and the beginning - and hopefully the rapid conclusion - of the activities in Iraq. Spring is best experienced by turning off the computer and TV and wandering outdoors. I daresay the same goes for CNN.

The nominees for the 2002 Origins Awards have been posted, and while most of it seems a little random, one real beacon cuts through the fog: Dan Smith's Battle of the Bands card game (along with its expansion set) are nominated for three awards. Long-time readers know that I've been enamored of this game since Dan was selling it as crudely-cut xeroxes, and Sandra and I have played more BotB than any other card game in the past year, easily, and would play it twice as often if we could find the time. I can't express how happy I am that Dan's work has earned some recognition; he deserves it, and lots more.

I had an amusing ego-boost the other day. While poking around Austin, I picked up a local newsrag devoted to the Red River music scene, and the logo on the front was in Dirty Headline, one of my Fontworks freebies! I need to track down the graphic designer - a local tattoo artist named Karen Slafter - and see if she wants to draw a font for me. There's some of her hand-lettering inside the 'zine, and it's really cool stuff.

I've heard from fans a lot via email over the past few days. Many of the letters have just been greetings and questions and friendly banter, but there's been some interesting public results, too! The list of Risus pages grows again with a Final Fantasy VII page by Shane Beirnes, and a spiffy little Risus adaptation of Brian Jacques' Redwall novels by Bryce W. There's also been a fresh sprinkle of Q&A on nearly all of my mailing lists, and the first addition to the Uresia fan archives - a slime chef by Robert Laib.

Feel free to keep the letters coming, substantive or just chatty. It's a good time to renew our sense of community, on every front. Hope this finds you all safe.

Checking In

3/12/03: It's been another one of those long gaps in Blue Room updates! Austin is hopping right now, with South By Southwest rocking in the streets and in the clubs and in just about every cool movie house in town.

I've got a couple of new things sneaking out toward gaming tables this month. My new Sparks set with cool artist T. Jordan Peacock is the pulp-adventure set, Cairo Moon. Meanwhile, Uresia: Grave of Heaven, my satiric little fantasy worldbook for Big Eyes, Small Mouth, has already been sighted in Canadian game shops and should hit the states any day now. I haven't seen a copy myself yet, so drop me a line if you spot one near you!

A Risus Trio

2/24/03: It's been a busy weekend for Risus, with three new fan resources appearing almost overnight: Karl Paananen's Dr. Who stuff popped into the inbox first, followed by Michael Kurko's Middle-Earth adaptation and finally David North's Wild West page. The stick figures are on the rise, it seems!

Nuts, Pie

1/28/03: I had one of those odd realizations the other day. You know the kind, where suddenly the world shifts two pixels to the left, or you suddenly notice something on your own street that's always been there it just never clicked. I have moments like this every couple of weeks. Life is amazing (last year I had a doozie when I realized I'd never seen a cashew in its shell ... Then I looked it up. Ugh).

Okay, now that you know that unshelled cashews qualify as cosmic insight for me, you won't be expecting too much and won't feel let down. Here goes: I made a pie chart.

Wow. I know. A pie chart. But to begin to understand why this is odd, you have to think back to maybe 15-20 years ago, when home computers first started advertising in magazines. Throughout the 80s, home computer ads pretty much universally showed one thing: a computer with a pie chart on it. That was the big deal, at least graphically speaking, for the early home computers. You could balance your checkbook and make bar graphs and pie charts. And guess which one looked better in a photograph? Right. So, charts it was.

I never owned a computer in the eighties, so to me they were these blocky, chunky, mystical objects owned by beautiful rich, who sat around all day in crystalline towers summoning pie charts into existence with a playful flick of the wrist. I envied them those pie charts; pie charts made without a pencil, pie charts made without a compass.

[San Francisco Housing in the 1930s, if You're Curious]Years passed, and I've had a computer steadily for a decade, now, but by the time I owned one the state of cool had moved on and you could play the Gold Box D&D games. The Gold Box D&D games involved even more math than balancing a checkbook (oh, the trials of party equipment!) but were fun to look at and made grating little zap noises.

So, a week or so ago, for work, I made a pie chart. I did it without thinking. I just sort of needed one so I just sort of smacked the appropriate button in Excel and a few clicks later, there it was. A nice, snazzy little 3-D one with the labels already on it and everything. And just today I looked at it and realized that here was a childhood dream of mine come true, and that I completely and totally failed to appreciate the moment. I've written several books on computers, made all sorts of pictures and maps on computers, made fonts, made music, made pretty much everything a computer lets you make, and I guess I'd become a little blasé about it because here I had just summoned a pie chart into existence with something very much like a flick of my wrist and didn't even stop to enjoy it.

It was an unshelled cashew sort of insight, for whatever that may be worth.

W[h]ither DAL?

1/09/03: Folks who've known me a long time know that DALnet is my IRC "home," where I've been running channels like #GURPS and #TheBlueRoom for ten years now. Well, that home is burning to the ground, it seems. DALnet is collapsing, and most of the old channels are posting subject lines telling you which server they're fleeing to. The whole thing is being caused by pointless hacker play which is blocking connections and driving up bandwidth charges to force the volunteer providors to bail. It's just ridiculous and sad. Anyway, I'm not jumping ship just yet . . . I'm hanging on to the masts, hoping the squall blows over. In the meantime, though, I've duplicated all of my channels on Magicstar (where channel #LUGTrek used to hop and bop into the night, and where #RPGNet still does) while I search around for the best permanent home for them should DALnet really fall. If you know of a light-traffic IRC network with good uptime and a solid Nickserv and Chanserv, drop me a line. If you have no idea what anything in this paragraph said, the best way to learn about IRC is to snag a copy of mIRC and dive right in!

Some lighter notes: if you're in the mood for a different kind of ego-surfing, cut right to the chase at Googlism, the page that tells you what Google thinks of you! If you're in the mood to play a game of alien solitaire, P.D. Magnus has one for Points in Space fans to enjoy. And finally, if you've always doubted the existence of the 1st Edition of Pokethulhu, the fine folks at Yog-Sothoth.Com have cover scans for all to see (and it's apparently all pricey and collectible, now).

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