Old school shaving

Thursday, 10. February 2011

Dovo Black Micarta

This Christmas I made the switch over to a straight razor from the standard off the shelf disposables and in a word it’s simply awesome.  There is some therapeutic value in the morning, my face feels a lot better, the shave is much closer to the skin and I find I nick myself less with the straight than the disposables.  There are some downsides of course – a learning curve, a higher initial investment and it takes a little bit more time.  Even if you don’t feel like taking the plunge of holding a 3 inch razor against your neck; there are some partial steps that will yield much better results than the standard disposable and canned crud for shaving cream.
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Happy New Year!

Saturday, 1. January 2011

Happy New Year (Flickr / Lel4nd)

Happy new year to everyone out there, hopefully last night was host to some good friends and partying, maybe a little drinking and if you were really lucky, gaming (I was in the last category for a change.) A good start to a new year indeed. Unless of course, you subscribe to the theory that this is the last year there is. I have no such problems however.

So the new years resolutions are something along the lines of the following..

1) Work towards getting self employed.
2) Lose the added holiday weight
3) Game more
4) Write more
5) New locks

I managed to scrounge up an amusing story for new years too.  Apparently while I was away, I had a visitor that made off with some of my loot  (Been a local problem in the apartment I’m in.)   My Xbox hard drive was missing, along with a few rolls of quarters and wait for it… someone fed my goldfish.  A lot… Hmm.

Needless to say, the police were promptly called and as they already had a handle on the situation from some of the previous issues, an arrest was made and the missing loot was recovered.  I was real lucky, in short.  One of the local kids seemed to have managed to get his hands on the maintenance keys for the apartment and was causing some havoc.  Master key problem will probably be remedied on Monday, as I don’t particularly care to have the vulnerability exploited again.  But hey.. at least the fish were happy.

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Good food locally – CSA’s

Tuesday, 7. December 2010

Evansville Produce (Flickr / JaseMan)

Or in long.. Community Supported Agriculture.  This is one of those oddball topics that fits into my “What interests me” categories on this blog, so bear with me here.  It fits neatly into my “gaming as entertaining niche” however, since it’s hard to entertain with crappy food.  If you’re aware of what I’m talking about - great.  If not and you enjoy cooking, supporting local businesses and/or fresh organic food for a good to low rate then keep reading.

The entire organic eating movement developed because people are/were sick of eating pesticides, GMO food and generally unhealthy food that was mass produced and outsourced from halfway across the planet.  Some food we need to get that way.. but obviously not all of it.  The USA is geographically diverse enough to produce pretty much anything you can think of with a few exceptions.  As everyone knows though.. “Organic” food is boutique and mostly freakin expensive as a result.

Alongside this, the locavore movement was getting established at the same time.  If you are too lazy to click, it basically means eating locally.. foods that are in-season.  They taste way better and if you pick them up from a smaller producer..  are mostly organic and potentially very cheap.  Farmers markets are a good example of this, and forutuately the number of them have exploded in the last 10 years.

Now, CSA’s are essentially eating local food, mostly organically produced with a bit of a twist on it however.  The food is paid for in advance, as a “share” of the crop - for a season. For those of you unfamiliar with farming… farmers get screwed particularly in 2 situations.  When there is a poor harvest (there isn’t enough food to sell even though the prices are high are a result) and when there is a great harvest (prices plummet even though there is a lot to sell.)  So, by getting a fixed price at the beginning of the year the farmer is assured and income… regardless of the harvest.  If they want to keep their shareholders happy, they will of course do their best to ensure the best harvest possible. 

Anycase, your next thoughts are probably “Why now, it’s winter and nothing grows in winter.”  You are of course right, however the shares for these have to be purchased in advance, so now is a good time to start looking.  Shares vary from CSA to CSA to the number of available, but most have half shares available if you don’t cook as much or happen to be flying solo.  There are also working and non-working shares depending on the CSA… working shares involve you getting your hands dirty from time to time with weeding, planting, harvesting and the like.  The costs for such case are typically lower and it is a great way to get local expert advice and experience on local growing and gardening if such things interest you.

With a share purchased, you will typically get food weekly throughout the growing season.  This is either picked up from the farm itself or a local distribution point in the city if the farm has enough shareholders.  Anything that can be locally grown is in the harvest.. and if your CSA doesn’t offer a given item.. say milk, eggs, honey or some of the more esoteric food.. they often partner up with another CSA that does giving you some of the best in local fresh food.

Now.. last question is probably “Great, but how do I find one?”   There is a site for that as well.. Local Harvest.  Assuming you’re not living someplace really arid, you probably have a lot more of these around you than might imagine… Like any other business not all of these are created equal, but they are definitely worth investigating if you’re into fresh and/or local food.  It’s also a good opportunity to build community.. and actually meet the person that provides your food which is pretty great in the era of big box anonymity.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, 25. November 2010

Our annual harvest festival is now upon us and I hope that everyone is out getting some good food, drink and spending some quality time with family or friends. If you are far away for whatever reason, hopefully your travels return your safely in a timely fashion. Those really lucky among us may actually be gaming as well – if you are, Salud!

I am of course, nauseated at the over commercialization for all of these holidays and can see how people get depressed at having to listen to rubbish 3 months prior to the actual holiday. If you’re braving black friday tomorrow, good luck! I will be out enjoying other activities other than shopping.

Anyone else have anything going other than shopping?

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Newsletter is here

Saturday, 6. November 2010

I had read a while ago that some sort reader follow up is essential to continuing to build a successful site.  Apparently, somewhere north of 90% of people reading don’t actually use RSS (I am among them.)  That means you need to either be really, really interesting.. which is hard to do with whats our there, or have a method of remind those who are interested in the site to come back is a simple email list.  That of course can get out of hand with both costs to run it and the amount of information requested.

After a much figuring out the best way to do this without being obnoxious, I decided upon using Phplist for a mailing program.   It seems to be pretty powerful, probably more than I need at the moment but long term thinking is always good.  This of course, made me work on a bit of coding to get everything cleaned up the way I want it to look… and since coding is not my strong suit, it took a while. 

I finally have a working widget that I’m at least somewhat happy with.   Happy enough to put on the side of the site, although I’m sure it can still be somewhat cleaned up further given some more time.

What we currently have then at Pen and the Sword is an E-rss update that updates on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.  Typically the stuff shows up the next day due to the queuing method.  Not so noticeable with weekly and monthly, somewhat more so with daily if you’re into updates in a quick fashion.  I also have  25.. no 24 days now to put together a good newsletter for December -  Perhaps it would be a good focus for arctic adventures.  Nothing like deadlines to have some fun.

Now that this is mentioned, I promise I’ll shut up about it for a while and not be those spammer guys who ask everyone to sign up every post.~

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Why Pen and the Sword?

Tuesday, 26. October 2010

We all have heard the old adage “The pen is mightier than the sword.” This of course deserves some light examination if nothing else.

In a purely physical context this saying is of course nonsense. Bladed weapons have been the kings of the battlefield from thousands of years. The sword has longer reach, and is varies from lethal to extremely lethal in trained hands. It wouldn’t be a difficult task to simply kill the person using the pen and take it as plunder.

In a political sense the pen in skilled hands is capable of changing minds and hearts. In the longer game, it is capable of marshaling far more swords than the sword alone could by pure force. While tools act as a force multiplier, those who are able to consistently rebuild their armies to a stronger state win.  In a sense of knowledge, the pen is a large advancement in passing know how from generation to generation. It has brought the ease and availability of such information to many as a method of simplicity.  Likewise as is in art it is an easy expression of spirituality among many other things.   We could almost say the pen represents much of what came with a more modern society.

Somewhere along the line however it was decided that because of the Pens virtues the sword was no longer required by everyday people.  Violence became in instrument of evil, even if used as a shield.  Vigiliance was no longer required, it was something that could be provided by others.  Likewise was the sense of awareness and self protection; the odds of being victimized were low enough that those skills simply were no longer required.  Or was that simply an illusion?

The pen for all of its virtues is a poor instrument when one is besieged.  To those who speak the language of violence it is a relatively nonthreatening, sharp stick.  That language, the language of violence needs to be answered in kind in order to be understood.  The act itself need not be committed, but the vocabulary needs to be there.  The awareness and perception that goes with it needs to be there, along with the sense of preservation of self and those of others.

Those who though the sword was only capable of violence were sorely in error.  The sword represented far more than pure physical, temporal power. It is a sense of perception and alertness, the willingness to look and see trouble coming.  It is the awareness that evil comes to good people and the vigilance required to guard against it.  It is the urgency of action to defeat such evil when it is spotted.  The knowledge that without protection, all that the pen is capable of is for naught.

We need to retake the history of warrior poets, of warrior philosophers and of warrior artisans.  That little ember burns within all of us; some much brighter than others… but still it is there.  It needs to be fueled, kept hot, kept ready.  For if not, woe be to those that decides they need that fire but finds but cold ashes; useless in their time of need.

Thus we need both; Pen in one hand and the Sword in the other - As it should be, as it has been in the past.

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Goal: Gaming as Entertaining

Monday, 18. October 2010

One of my goals in starting this site was not to have something that talked purely about gaming.  There are a number of other websites out there that do a very good job at that (I’m finding more and more still as I shuffle though the community.)   I wanted something that worked on improving games at a conceptual level, something that also treated gaming as entertaining and how to improve from that level.  In addition I wanted a site that covered a wide variety of additional interests to which I could have the gaming articles as a bit of a “teaser” to get more interest into playing. 

While I’m at this (and before I started even) I read quite  a bit on post length.   Short posts index more frequently unless you’re just a virtuso of material, but on the other hand they punish you in the amount of time each person spends reading a page.  I’ve decided to work toward the former when possibly simple for the sake of brevity.  A quick, concise read to get the information is more useful than sinking time into it with the way people treat their time and attention span nowadays. 

I think in regards for my first goal that this has been a pretty good success; I feel I’ve been fairly effective in remaining in that niche although slightly less so recently.  Its going to be a constant battle not to fall into the typical web of “do x, y and z” posting.   I still need to get into doing more food posts along the entertaining line, but as I am not a natural cook (even though I do enjoy it.) this takes a good amount of work and research to produce something worthwhile.  Difficult to pull off while travelling although it can certainly produce some good ideas.

With regards to the second goal of pulling in a wide variety of interests, this is still a huge work in progress.  I have a number of odd ones that I write about and several others to work into as well.  Hopefully this can turn into somewhat of a time killer for entertainment purposes with somewhat of an offbeat feeling to it.  I’ve got a number of interviews I’ve been working on getting lined up, although I feel it’s something I need to wait on for the site to pull more traffic in order to make it better worth their time.  The delimas of catch 22′s of course.

Current other immediate projects in the bag are a newsletter and RSS updates via email, the latter I am hoping to have implemented by the end of the week.  I think given my resources to put into the project that it’s been a good start so far and I like to thank all my readers to making it what way.

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Thursday, 14. October 2010

Since last week we discussed timekeeping throughout the daytime by use of the sun, it would only figure that this time we move towards the evening.  The ring dials appropriate counterpart is known as the Nocturnal and works on quite a bit of a different principal.  Since there is no sun to work off of to measure rotation and the moon is highly variable, we have to use the stars. The only downside to this if you’re not entirely familiar with your constellations, you’ll need to figure them out (or at least 3 of them.) to properly use the device.

The Nocturnal

In this case our reference point is Polaris; the north star.  Since the other constellations rotate around this on a yearly basis for us, by using their position in the night sky we can accurately determine the time.  Polaris is sighted through the center hole and the other reference constellations.. Cassiopeia, Ursa Minor and Ursa Major are clocked around the outside of the nocturnal.  The time is indicated in the local mean time and needs to be corrected for local time.

Some of the smaller models tend to be accurate within 15 minutes, but apparently the full sized models (Which used about an 8 inch disk.) could tell time within 2-3 minutes. With accuracy like this, it is no wonder that mechanical timepieces took such a long time to catch on.  In addition, based on the position in the sky, the ships latitude can be determined as well, which is typically based on a scale off of the back of the instrument.

Of course, I would be remiss without including a similar Project to demonstrate how the device works.  Like the other timepiece this one is best made out of card stock.   This is also “slightly” more complicated, requiring a rivet with a hole in it to sight the north star. It’s also worth noting that many cities probably have too much ambient light to really make this work, so you’ll need to head out into the country or someplace thats darker to easily see the stars you need. Happy hunting!

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Raziel – Soulreaver

Saturday, 9. October 2010

Pedro has a great piece up today from the old Legacy of Kain series. Raziel as a Halloween project. Very neat, and more importantly from a time when vampires weren’t glittery!

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Troubleshooting Process

Thursday, 7. October 2010

Throughout our all of our lives problems or lesser and greater natures inevitably crop up. How we resolve these problems in large part determines our success in life. The logical process of troubleshooting is very useful both in life and in gaming to determine the real cause of failures, so is worth examining further in depth.

With any systems there is a line or web (in the case of more complicated situations.) of supporting systems. Its useful to look at some of these as a supporting chain in which any failure within it will produce an overall system failure. In addition, the first chain within any loop is the core supporting structure and even small deviance’s in this can cause cascading failures throughout the system.

Each failure within a supporting system causes a specific kind of result, which may or may not be shared by others within the system. These results have to be sifted through and tested to find the real root cause of the problem.
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