Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Weekly Update (3) - Sunday, March 18th, 2018 - Two Polycoms, No Waiting...

The one...

and the other...

So, I can hear you ask, "What's with all the technology?"

"It's remote access gaming," sez I in my best Peter Gunn pirate voice.

Back in my career as a audio-video technician, I built a lot of conference rooms for businesses, and got pretty good at it. So, The Missus thought, why not use our connections in the surplus market to get some of this technology, and use it to make our game room more accessible to people. So, we have.

The idea, at this point, is that if you and your game group want to visit our house and our game room you'd have to get to Minneapolis. Our thought is to take our house to you - electronically, of course. What's been our concern is the relatively poor technical quality of the audio and video that we've seen on the Internet, and we've been working on how to improve on that.

One aspect of this has been the new computer for the game room; it has it's own camera, but we're going to be interfacing our multi-camera system to it as well as our own audio feed; we're looking at providing the best possible feeds that we can. You'll be able to look at the game room on your computer, as well as look at the game session later on youTube after we upload the video - providing, of course, that everyone who's on the screen agrees; if you are having a bad hair day, we'll keep the recording in the archives.

What the Polycoms give us is much better and more reliable audio quality on your side of the connection; We have two of these units, and all they need from you is a wall plug and an analog phone line. We can also go through a cell phone, too. The idea is that you fire up the phone, after we send it to you, call up the game room, and we're off with up to ten or fifteen people at your game table. After the session, you put the phone back in the box, and end it back to us. (Shipping prepaid, most likely; we're working out the details.)

And with the possibility of adding in more lines for conference calls, you can see why we're so excited by all of this.

Surplus is a wonderful thing... :)

The Weekly Update (2) - Sunday, March 18th, 2018 - A Tale Of Two Cameras...

From this...

To this...

A very big part of the changes about to engulf us is the way we communicate with people. Back in the day, you either were published in the magazines or out at conventions; these days, we have the Internet will all sorts of amazing possibilities. We had one of these amazing possibilities come up on Thursday evening, and we jumped on it. Hard. Very hard.

Long-time followers of this blog will remember when we got the little pocket video camera, the 'Bloggie', and how we did some podcasts with it which are up on our YouTube channel. The 'Bloggie' is a nice little camera, but it does have some very real limitations when it comes to the kind of 'field production' that we'd like to be doing. The new Sony digital camera puts our production capacity right back where we're used to having it; we're breaking down our inventory of video production gear into the component parts, and recombining it all into two broad areas: field production, where we can shoot both 'A-roll' and 'B-roll' footage for later editing and uploading to our YouTube channel, and studio production, which will be a switched three-camera shoot from the game room.

I'll be you were kind of wondering what this had to do with gaming, didn't you? :)

Back when we were shooting the YouTube videos, we felt more then a little limited by the hardware involved; I could not cut to close-ups of the miniatures I was talking about, for example. Audio quality also wasn't all that great, and certainly not up to the standards that I would have expected from somebody with our level of production experience. We're going to divide up the microphones we have amongst the studio and the field kit, and we think that this will really add some 'production value' to what we want to do.

A by-product of all this is that we also have enough spare cameras, switcher capacity, and microphones to also wire up the workbench itself as well as the workshop proper so that we can bring you 'how to' videos sharing with you how I do things - you can learn from my disasters, The Missus says.

The digital still camera fleet is also being reorganized, with a primary and a secondary camera being set up for both archival and game documentation work. It's been amazing to see how much gear we've accumulated through our surplus market connections over the past year, and it's time to get it all sorted out and packed for use. And, because this is our house, we can leave everything set up and functional between shoots - no time and energy lost in set-up and tear-down, which will be a big help to us.

So, I have a lot of work to do, this year, but it's all starting to happen this weekend. We're off!!! :)

The Weekly Update (1) - Sunday, March 18th, 2018 - First, A Little Housekeeping...

Fifth Daughter, in her native habitat

This is the first part of what may be a longish set, bringing everyone up to speed with developments here at The Workbench; please bear with us, as there's a lot going on...

Fifth Daughter will be moving ou of the house in a couple of weeks, to move in with her fiance in their new townhouse. This will mean that for the first time in over a decade, The Missus and I will be 'empty nesters', with the house entirely our own. This will being some really major changes to our lives, as we move all of our boxes of stuff back into what used to be 'the spare room' and getting more then half of our house's square footage back. We're in for a month's worth of very intensive work, but once it's done it's done; I spent most of the past two days digging out and de-icing the garage door, so I could bring all of Fifth Daughter's boxes in, but this is now done. I can access the sheds, too, and with the arrival of the warmer weather hereabouts I can get cracking on projects and repairs that have had to go into hibernation, over our cold and snowy winter.

The move will also drastically lower our household expenses, as we'll no longer have to provide a lot of services at our expense. We'll also see a drastic lowering of our stress levels, as the 'constant pandemonium' of having a resident college student will no longer apply. We'll have a lot more time, energy, and resources to put into things, and The Missus and I are looking forward to our new lives. Coupled with Der Bug's reliability and my new job, we're going to be in really good shape, going forward from here.

Friday, March 16, 2018

A Look Back At An Old Post, This Morning...

From the blog "Chirine's Workbench", March 16th-17th, 2012:


 This is going to be a very personal post, told from a very personal point of view, and with some very personal feelings.

 This post wasn't originally going to be what you're about to read; I had wanted to talk about going out to see "John Carter". I had a day off, the first one in several months, and I wanted to take my very own Dejah Thoris out for a day's excursion. As Prof. Barker's archivist, I especially wanted to see this movie because I'd just found his childhood copy of "A Princess of Mars", and I thought it would be fun to see a movie that Phil would (I thought) enjoy; he'd loved the various "Conan" movies, as he'd read the Howard stories as they'd come out, back in the day when I taken him out to see them, and he was like a kid again watching them.

 I didn't get to see the movie.

 Instead, I buried an old friend.

 I got the call from the house at 11:15 this morning, and I'm just now back home at about 00:15 local time. Phil had been in slowly declining health over the past six months, and he'd taken a very marked turn for the worse over the past 36 hours. He passed away about 10:30 this morning, and the news passed like the flames of a chain of signal beacons along a Sakbe road.

 In Islam, the departed are to be buried within twenty-four hours; they have gone on their final journey and it is the responsibility of the family, the friends, and the faithful to take care of what Allah the Most Merciful and Compassionate has left behind.

 We did. We prepared the empty husk of the brilliant, eccentric, funny, cranky, and unique man I knew for so many years, and then we carried him down his stairs in his home for the last time. Like so many Praetorians, we did what we'd promised we did for him so many years ago; we took care of him, and we took care of Ambereen.

 I rode with him for the last time on the way to the mosque, and when I was asked by the brothers who were to prepare him for the prayers of the faithful why I was there, all I could respond with was something that Phil had said about me to some of his players back when I was twenty-five and he had come with Ambereen to my birthday party: "This is the son I never had."

 I stayed with him for the last time as they washed and anointed him, and I was asked about this man who had departed from us. I told them of his gifts as a linguist and as a scholar, of his writing, and of his life. I told them of his conversion to Islam, and his abiding faith. I told him of how he'd taught so many of us so many things, and I told them of his astonishing creation of an entire world.

 I stayed with him while he was given the robes he would wear for his final trip in this world, and I stayed with him while the faithful offered their prayers for him. Together, we took him to the cemetery, and we returned him to the earth that he had sprung from. We took Ambereen home, and stayed with her telling stories of our times with him; there will be, I am told, an official memorial in the near future. Tonight was, though, just for us.

 We'll be back there tomorrow, as the family members fly in from all points, and we'll do what we can to help. That's what we came to do, all those years ago, and what we'll do for him and for Ambereen in the future; be there for them, and to serve the Petal Throne.

 And now, if it's all right, I'll be off to try and get some sleep. I'll have more later, when I have the chance.

 Thank you all, once again...

yours, chirine

[Edit. I thought it had been five years, I guess it's been six. It's always been a difficult day for me, ever since, and I hope you'll excuse me for the confusion. Thanks. - the Management]

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Has It Really Been Ten Years? Seems Like Just Yesterday...

It's been brought home to me today - yet again - that we here at The Workbench seem to measure time in different ways then most people do. It seems like just yesterday that I first heard this news, and it's still fresh in my memory.

Gary was always unfailingly kind, polite, and respectful to me, despite knowing full well that I worked for Dave Arneson and M. A. R. Barker. We'd bump into each other at Gen Cons and TSR stockholders' meetings, and he'd always have something nice to say to me; I got to play in his Greyhawk, after the latter, and at one of the former - the first Gen Con at the University of Wisconsin Parkside - he walked up to me and said "You do the miniatures for Prof. Barker, right? Then this is from me to you." And then he handed me this:

I have a lot of artifacts in my game room from across the decades, but this gift from Gary is one of the most special things in my archives, simply because from whom it came and the spirit in which it was given. I carried this case, full of the miniatures you've seen on this blog in previous posts, out to Phil's Tekumel game sessions for the next decade.

Three years ago, it carried the same miniatures out to Gary Con for my Tekumel RPG session. After I put the figures out on the table, I took the case upstairs to the Gary Con charity auction. If you looked under the foam - which is still in great shape, after four decades! - you'd find some signatures. Gary's kids Luke, Ernie, their three sisters, and his grandson Alex were all kind enough to sign the inner side of the case. The case will stay in the archives, doing what Gary gave it to me to do - carry figures to my games - and then it'll go to my grandkids. (If they don't want it, it'll go to his kids.)

We miss you, Gary. Have a good time looking over everyone's shoulders, this coming weekend.

Kyrie eleison...