Digital Game Table Progress: Phase 1 Complete

Many months ago, I decided that it would be super cool if I had a digital game table. Having a digital table would allow me to accomplish several things.

First, I would be able increase the efficiency and quality of my DnD DMing through the usage of Maptool. This would have the added bonus of allowing remote users to join our session and have a more complete playing experience.

Second, I could use it as a platform to explore programming for a touchable surface interface that is larger scale. Touchable interfaces are only going to be more and more common (Think tablets like the iPad in addition to all the touch driven smart phones).

Third, I would have a lot of a fun and learn a lot.

With the help of my friend and many months of switching between working and slacking, I am super proud to announce that the Digital Game Table has completed phase 1: Carpentry.

This was no easy task for sure. When I set out to create a digital table, I immediately ran into some stumbling blocks. Lorena and I had different visions of what our living space would look like, and as it turns out, we realized we really didn’t want a full sized table at all. We ended up agreeing that a low coffee table flanked by two couches would provide adequate seating for entertaining and dining. With such limited space to work with, I had to design a table that would meet our needs.

I was inspired by this project, but as you can tell, the table isn’t something you would want as a centerpiece between two couches, as it doesn’t really have the form or function for such a location.

Another issue presented itself. The idea of this implementation of a digital game table relies on a projector and enough distance so the minimum throw distance of said projector is satisfied. The other table used a mirror and hung the projector facing the floor to get the extra distance needed. I had to find another way, since my table would be low.

Fortunately, at the same time I was thinking on this, I realized that if we got a good enough projector, we could replace our old TV and mount a screen. This encouraged me to find a solution that allowed the projector to be mobile enough to project for the table and the big screen.

Eventually I realized that I could use the same mirror trick (this is still theory of course) that the other table used, but instead I could set the projector outside of the table pointing inward. A mirror under the table would face 45 degrees from the floor/surface and cast the image upward.

This seemed reasonable, but there was another problem. A projection surface uses a clear material, usually acrylic, and that doesn’t really meet the durability needs of a all use table. I decided then that a multilevel table would be in order. I designed a removable leaf in the table that measured half of the tables length (2ft.)

With these problems resolved, I drafted a design for a 4x3ft table with a removable leaf. With a lot of help from my friend Todd, we embarked on the task of creating a hand crafted table made of Red Oak, because hey, if you are going to make a hand made table, you might as well realize what decent lumber costs.

Here are some photos of the new table.

TableTable From Corner

Table Sans LeafClose-up of Leaf Space

Corner BraceTable with Pretty Flowers and Coasters

The next step is to buy some acrylic and translucent material to project against. Once I have that sized correctly, it will only be a matter of getting a mirror to sit at a 45 degree angle. I’m thinking of creating some kind of frame for it that will allow it to easily snap into the right angle and then lay flat again when needed.


Better Scams From Fairbanks Locals

I’m severely disappointed that I haven’t seen any new or improved ad scams lately. It seems like all I’m seeing is the same crap that they’ve been trying for years. Take this list of Fairbanks produced ads that appeared during a visit to FML.

FML ads

Typical ads produced in Fairbanks

I’ll start with the Acai Berry. First, It’s heartening to see that a we have such a dedicated news operation (News 6) based in Fairbanks. It must be new because I’ve never heard of it before, but I’m going to start getting all my information from them (So long NPR!)

The unbiased news covereage of the ACAI berry phenomenon  is wonderful. If you don’t believe that ACAI berries will give you super mutant powers by the end of the third week that you gorge yourself on them, check this out. They really have real testimonials of real people that really ate real ACAI berries, which are a real super mutant power food. We may not be on a boat, but this is as real as it gets.

Next up, I checked out the second gem from Fairbanks people, the teeth whitener. Seriously, I can’t believe a mom in Fairbanks managed to create this. How do you have time to figure this stuff out when you are raising kids? I have to attribute it to the long days in the winter time.

The site is really helpful. It’s from a network called Consumers Digest Weekly, which is a 100% legitimate product review site. I know because there are plenty of comments from really real people that have really used the product and gotten real results, really. How can you tell? Well, look at the mistakes in grammar they made. Only real people can’t type really well.

The last gem that Fairbanks produced was by another one of our amazing moms. She is making over $77/hr working from home. I have to tell you, after I read this one, I kind of wanted to be a woman and have kids so I could invent white teeth for less than $4 and make $77/hr working from home. If you do the math, that means you could have white teeth in just over three minutes!

Now, I was super dubious about this one. I can swallow a berry, and I can buy into $4 really white teeth, but getting paid $77/hr from home? This one has got to be tough.

Kelly, the mom raking in this dough says “It was pretty easy, I filled out a short form and applied for a work at home kit. There is a small shipping and handling fee, its not really free but was just under $3. I got the Kit and within four weeks I was making over $5,000 a month. It’s really simple, I am not a computer whiz, but I can use the internet. I post links that are given to me, I don’t even have to sell anything and nobody has to buy anything. They are constantly recruiting people to post links, you should try it.”

Wow holy crap on a stick. I’d like to believe in this. I really want to believe that Kelly is telling the truth, but I have a degree in computer science, and I don’t make that much money per hour. Could this actually be a scam?

No! It’s not a scam. If you keep reading (always keep reading), the next paragraph clearly implies that it’s not a scam. “There are plenty of scams on the internet claiming you can make $50,000 a month, but that is exactly what they are scams.”

That was close. Sure, it never actually said that it wasn’t a scam, but it did point out that there are other scams exactly like it that are scams, so that’s why it’s different.

Punny Stuff

Recently at a get-together we were exposed to an unsolicited series of random rapid fire jokes by one of our guests. Although the interaction was a bit awkward, I found the jokes pretty amusing. The series reminded me of our recent fishing trip at the Copper RIver near Chitina, where I subjected three other people in my captive audience to a series of puns.

I really enjoy puns. They are better than regular jokes, because with regular jokes, you are trying to get someone to laugh. In order to get your audience to get your joke, you want it to be easily understandable. With a pun however, you can try to get people to laugh, but I find it more fun to aim slightly above the median level of the audience’s intelligence, as it grants a feeling of intellectual superiority. You can pun all day and no one will laugh, and then you can feel confident that you are more evolved than them.

I’ll share three of my puns I created while fishing. These ones are pretty easy to understand. I don’t want to lower anyone’s self esteem too much.

  1. A salmon walks into a club…
  2. A match walks into a bar and joins in on the karaoke action. After a few songs he’s on fire. The crowd is screaming and he really brings the house down.
  3. A goose is distressed because she hadn’t been laid in weeks and decides to go to the local store to get some help. She asks the assistant “Do you have any eggs? I’m desperate!” The assistant shows her their selection and points to a rather large one. The goose says “That’s a rather large egg, and it’s plastic. Don’t you have anything a little more natural?” The assistant pauses, then says “Of course! Why don’t you come into our back room and take a gander?”

My Really Great Idea

I had this great idea the other day while standing atop my toilet, trying to fix a lightbulb. The idea was so great that I went to my lawyer friend for advice on how to proceed with it. Even before I had told him anything about my idea, he said that whatever you do, before you tell anyone, make them sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) so they can’t steal your idea.

After that sentence my yearly lawyer budget ran out (I found it under the couch one day while vacuuming), but I took his advice, and decided to let the world know about my great idea via this blog post, which is preceded by my NDA. This way, I don’t have to pay for an expensive patent, because if anyone sees my idea, they will be bound by my NDA.

Here goes.

Really Official and Fully Legally Binding Non-Disclosure Agreement

By reading this ROFLNDA you agree that, if you take my Really Great Idea and do anything with it that will make you any money, that you agree that you are a jerk and will go to the hell or hell-like location that is designated by your preferred religion. For those individuals that do not have such a location, you agree to have your remains desecrated by your enemies and spat upon carelessly by troubled teens, who have no respect for dead, sacred things.

Additionally, failure to not be the biggest asshole in the world by stealing  My Really Great Idea will result in a fine of 1 (ONE) 000,000 (SIX ZEROS SEPARATED BY A COMMA) American dollars payable by someone you cared about when you were alive (if that’s even possible).  In the event that the Canadian dollar is valued at more than the American dollar at the time of the bastardly deed, the amount before ascribed will be paid in Canadian dollars.

Remember that this ROFLNDA is seriously serious, and should be taken seriously.

Now that the standard legal mumbo jumbo is out of the way, I present to you:

My Really Great Idea

Ok, I think it would be really cool if we had some kind of device that would cook thin loaf slices of crushed grains. The device could have one, two, or even four (but never three) slots that the loaf slices of crushed grains could be set into.

The operator could then press a lever to activate the device, which would (and here’s the genius) apply heat via wires that are heated up by passing electricity through a metal that has a high “resistance”.

A timer (perhaps in the form of a knob with numbers on it) would allow the user to select how long the device is active. If you really wanted to get fancy, you could have a separate timer for each of the slots.

I was thinking of drawing up a sketch, but apparently I don’t have “The Gimp” on my computer, so if I get enough popular demand, I’ll show you what I’m talking about.

For now, take a moment to process what you’ve just read. It’ll take a couple of days to really calm down from the excitement of this idea, but you’ll be better off for having the experience.

Sustainability And Problem Solving (don’t get excited)

You may or may not know that Lorena and I have a greenhouse. It is quite nice. In addition to our Thursday pickup from our local CSA, Wild Rose, we grow some of our own goodies, including tomatoes, peppers, onions, peas, and basil!


Our Greenhouse. If you look closely, an important element of this story can be seen.

I decided to water our plants as well as some tomatoes that we are plant-sitting for our friend, Helena. She was kind enough to leave us a container of water, and after I used most of it, I remembered that I could have used the collected rainwater instead.

Our rainwater collection system that we inherited from the previous tenants consists of two angled gutters that drop water at the midpoint of our carport. It’s pretty complex, but I think you can wrap your head around it. At the bottom of the drop point is a large metal container that you would expect a horse to eat or drink from. Well, I would expect the horse to drink from it, but it may have other ideas.

That metal container has a hole in it that produces a slow but devastating drain rendering the capacity of the container to about 5% of what the horse would expect.

I decided to transfer some water into our watering cans for storage, so when it rained, we’d get at least a bit more water in the large metal horse bucket. This is important because every drop of water we use has to be hauled to our house in a big truck, and costs us at the rate of $0.095/gallon. As you can imagine, conserving water is important.

Even though my motivation was in full gear, there was one slight problem. The water was full of needles, sharp, scary needles.

I didn’t put these needles there, the nearby trees did, and I didn’t want them in my watering cans, or else they might poke even more holes in them rendering them completely useless, or just restrict the water flow to an annoying trickle.

Confronted with this obstacle I immediately attempted to brute force my way through the problem by using my hands to pick up the needles. Although a competent needle gatherer, I found that there were too many for my skilled hands to collect alone.

I remembered my training in kindergarten. It always comes in handy. If could share the responsibility with someone or something else I could accomplish my task much more quickly. Lola of course was no use, and the horse was nowhere in sight, so I decided to look around the greenhouse. Then I found it: an official Fred Meyer reusable grocery sack. It’s the kind of sack you would expect a horse to eat out of.

I used the sack as a cloth-like filter to remove the needles from the liquid.

I could go on, but that’s really all there is to it. You can indeed use cloth to filter particulates out of a liquid if the mesh size is small enough. Go Team Problem Solving!

Metal Horse Bucket

Our main collection bucket for rainwater.

Defeated Needles

The needles I destroyed using my problem solving prowess.

Visitors And Long Time No Post

Recently, our friends from Indiana, Julie and Keith, visited us in Fairbanks. We had a really good time, and I hope that some of our other friends and family decide to take the trip up to the north!

Alex, Lorena, Julie, and Keith at Chena Lakes

Alex, Lorena, Julie, and Keith at Chena Lakes

I realize that this blog has gone quite a long time (over a year I think) with no posts, but hopefully Lorena and I will be on the ball! We have a lot of information to catch up on, but I think much of  the information can better organized in other posts.


My parents arrive tomorrow!