February 17th, 2004


Apple Anniversary

Hola, amigos. Been a while since I rapped at ya.

A big part of this was that even though I haven't been working flat out at work the way I had been in January, I'm still very much in a mode of working hard while at work, and then coming home and being fairly drained. It's hard to really argue with this working-hard-at-work thing, though, particularly since I've been very happy with how much I've achieved with my hard work.

So, today was the one-year anniversary of my first day of work at Apple. Nothing in particular happened at work because of it, but it's still cool.

By now, I'm really rolling along well at Apple; I know what I'm doing in my portions of the code, and I know how to ask for help when I run into trouble. It's very good.

P-p-p-p-p-pop Music

Normally, I listen to WDUQ (an NPR news and jazz station) in the car. I listen to this station not so much because I particularly love news and jazz (though I do enjoy them), but because WDUQ doesn't annoy me into changing the station nearly as much as the pop-music stations.

But the pledge drive does annoy me. So this year, I decided that I would listen to rock stations during the pledge drive, in order to check out current pop music. The particular question: would I like it, or would I be revealed as a stuck-in-the-80's cane-shaking geezer? (Note that I've used an 80's musical reference as the title of this report on my foray into the pop music of the 00's. I am teh ironic.)

For a few days, I listened to WXDX, a local "alternative" station. I enjoyed pretty much everything I heard here. Specific song commentary:

- OutKast, "Heya": this is a fun "rappy" song. But the final lyrics are "shake it like a Polaroid picture!" Point the first: Polaroid recommends against shaking pictures. Point the second: who has Polaroid cameras anymore? In my social circle, digital cameras have crushed Polaroid's market share with an iron fist.

- Audioslave, "Show Me How To Live". This is heavy metal. It's good heavy metal, with a sort of "Frankenstein's Monster" theme that carries on the heavy metal tradition of lyrics that are about something, despite people's surprise. But it's not fundamentally different from the heavy metal of the 80's.

- I also heard covers of the Cure's "Love Song", by 311, and Led Zeppelin's "When the Levee Breaks", artist unknown. What goes around, comes around, certainly, but it made me feel right at home.

WXDX did play one thing to make me change the channel, though: the Howard Stern show. And so I switched to WBZZ, which claims to play "all of today's best music".

WBZZ turns out to be a much better place to observe the current iteration of the inevitable co-opting of black music by white culture; almost every song I heard was strongly influenced by rap and hip-hop. But it's such mild, drippy rap that it reminds me of Smoove B. I'd rather listen to my 15-year-old Public Enemy albums.

This is overstating things; though I didn't enjoy WBZZ as much, there was nothing that really forced me to change the channel. And I did hear some very enjoyable songs, such as Kelis' "Milkshake". (I'd been aware of that song before hearing it on the radio, because NPR's All Things Considered did a piece asking the question, "Just what is the song referring to, anyway?" I agree that the song certainly sounds as if 'milkshake' is referring to something salacious.)

D&D Feb-12-2004

Thursday's D&D session was pretty satisfactory, though it was basically just a monster mash.

The situation: the PCs are heading into the Caverns of Laryn, the larynx of the Great Dragon of the Land. I had been poorly prepared for this session (another effect of the "doing work while at work" thing), so I grabbed a map from the Wizards' web site (I'd thought of using the map from Laurel Caverns, for real authentic cavern shape, but I found it too complex to read) and a list of monsters with a connection to sound, and quickly whipped up a dungeon-crawl.

The lineup of fights:
- six ghasts. They couldn't hit the PCs, and Turok and Kyle could hit them on a 2. Plus, of course, Larissa threw a fireball or two that blasted them away.

- three cloakers. The PCs were supposed to have an advantage here because they had stopped their ears with wax, thus preventing the cloakers from moaning. As it was, the cloakers did manage to engulf Kyle and Turok at different times, but they did hardly any damage.

- one yrthak, a flying sound-projecting monster. Liandra cast a languor spell on it, and after that, it was pretty much all over. If it had been able to find a better ledge to collapse upon, so that it could have survived until the languor wore off, things might have been better for it--but such a thing would be very unlikely, since Larissa could fly into any reachable position. As it was, Turok made a coup de grace on it that did 50 points of damage or so because he was using Power Attack.

So once again we see that my PCs are diverse enough to handle almost any encounter with little difficulty. Both of the front-line fighters have very high ACs (Turok's is 28 or 30, even with the loss of his plate armor), Larissa's fireballs are good against most mobs, and Liandra's languor is deadly to single big foes.

The answer is the same as it was the last time I complained about this; I need to munchkin up the monsters I throw at the PCs a bit. Giving monsters somewhat better attributes (a +2 to Str, Dex, and Con, say) would be entirely reasonable, and it is appropriate for me to use the best combos I can find. (Fortunately, I have some ideas...) But I probably should still have some harpies or somesuch, to reward the PCs for their preparation.

But that's really just a quibble, because this was a satisfactory, fun session, even if not an inspiring one. It's nice to return to simple monster-bashing sometimes, and if the fights are too easy, that's still better than being too hard.

One side point: I worried about the slapdash way I was designing the cavern layout, and worried that it would be just railroading the PCs from fight to fight. But my players were pretty happy to just follow the right wall in their explorations; if I didn't have a map but just a list of encounters, I don't think they'd mind much. What map shapes or features might make it matter to the players' experience for me to have a map of the cavern?