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Feb. 26th, 2013 12:35 am
ggreig: (Astronaut)

I spent the first few weeks of January in California. Because I was particularly keen, [livejournal.com profile] msinvisfem and I caught a train into Los Angeles to go and visit this place:

Samuel Oschin Pavilion

We paid more than we needed to for the train, as I made the mistake of going to a window for service in the station rather than buying from a machine. Different train company, as we figured out later, and happy to charge us getting on for twice as much without even mentioning that there was a cheaper and more frequent alternative service.

We got off the train in LA Union Station, found our way outside through the impressive waiting room and walked down the road a bit for the Metro Silver Line (a bus service, despite what it may sound like). We both checked the route signage, waited for a bit, and got onto the right bus heading in the wrong direction.

When we reached the end of the route without spotting our destination, it became clear that something had gone wrong, and a helpful cop who managed to keep a straight face throughout directed us to the correct stance to go back again.

By this time, the generous safety margin that we’d allowed for getting there before our timed tickets were due to take effect was looking a bit shaky. In fact it was worse than that, as it turned out. By the time we’d returned to Go, did not collect £200, and headed out in the right direction for a similar period of time, our safety margin was completely blown and we turned up half an hour too late.

The End...eavour )
ggreig: (Default)

I usually like my posts to be about something, but I’m aware I haven’t posted anything in longer-than-usual and with another week dawning where I know I’m not going to have the time to post (never mind the inclination), I thought a general catch-up might be a good idea.

Much of July was spent in California visiting [livejournal.com profile] msinvisfem. Since my return, I've been to Claymore in Edinburgh and spent a fair bit of my time at weekends painting stuff I picked up, particularly La Maison Rouge, a model building in 28mm scale that really looks good. Since painting enthusiasm is to be valued, I've not got on with any other things, like the Windows Phone app I started months ago, or the electronics projects I started months ago, or, well, anything else I probably started months ago. If not longer in the past! And that’s before I even think about the possibilities of T Scale*, which I’d never heard of before the St Andrews Model Railway Exhibition a couple of weeks ago.

Some of this stuff is definitely post-worthy, so might still crop up later. But for now, I’m fine, I’ve been doing stuff, and hope to resume normal, occasional service in the not-too-distant future. Just not right now.

* The smallest model railway scale in the world, and more affordable looking than other quite small scales. Shame it’s all modern and no steam at the moment.

ggreig: (Default)

’There's a reason that Scotland languishes at only second fattest nation in the world. America can see us the infamous deep fried Mars bar and raise it… quite a bit.

Mean looking bunny, San Diego Fair

Go to the fair... )
ggreig: (Ribart's Elephant)

After eating at Pink’s, we went on to Griffith Park, which covers the hills above Hollywood, including the famous sign, and walked up-hill to the Griffith Observatory. The walk is not very long, but climbs at a fair rate, and in the heat of a Californian summer day it was a relief to get to the top.

Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles (Hollywood sign very faint on left)

We didn’t stay at the observatory long enough to do any observing – the telescope is open to the public after dark – but we did sit through a show in the planetarium (enjoyable and informative, although not likely to tell my audience anything new) , then wandered round the museum. The upper floor was mostly devoted to meteorites, and the lower to planets of the solar system. Pluto has not yet been eliminated, although its change of status was noted elsewhere – the gift shop sells “Pluto – Revolve In Peace” T-shirts and baseball caps.

Model of the Moon, Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles

We bumped into a familiar face:

Einstein and me

There was an excellent view over Los Angeles from the top of the hill.

Los Angeles from the Griffith Observatory

When we got back down to the car, a coyote dropped by, and posed for a few seconds on the bank opposite, but moved off just before I managed to press the shutter release on the camera.

Perhaps the coyote was just leaving The Trails, a little Zagat-rated cabin café selling high-quality snacks and drinks for people in the park, including interesting varieties of shortbread (lavender, and fennel and almond) and a variety of vegan-friendly fare including shepherd’s pie, pigs in a blanket, chilli and galettes.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Usually, when I’ve visited the States, I’ve left blogging until after I get home, done a couple of decent posts then run out of steam. In an attempt to manage better coverage this time, I’m blogging offline with Live Writer for posting once I get back. (Now that I’m back – I didn’t succeed as well in that as I hoped, but still have a bit of a head start.)

[livejournal.com profile] msinvisfem and I visited the famous Pink's of Hollywood, a hot dog stand of 71 year’s standing patronised (occasionally) by the rich and famous and (more commonly) by hordes of commoners willing to queue for up to an hour to sample the gourmet hot dogs.

[livejournal.com profile] msinvisfem's only option was the vegan Patt Morrison Baja Vegan Dog (topped with fresh guacamole, chopped tomatoes and chopped onions) but she declared herself satisfied. I ordered a “Planet Hollywood” dog for myself (Polish sausage, grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, bacon and nacho cheese), and [livejournal.com profile] msinvisfem recommended* a Martha Stewart dog (relish, onions, bacon, chopped tomatoes, sauerkraut and sour cream).

Left to right: a Patt Morrison Baja Vegan Dog, a Martha Stewart Dog, and a Planet Hollywood Dog.

I dug into the Martha Stewart first. The bacon was nice and crispy and the sauerkraut made an interesting contrasting layer between the bacon and the hot dog. The other ingredients, while each making a contribution, were less significant in their impact. On the down side, it was impossible to get a full height bite of the dog in one mouthful, and the wetness of the ingredients led to fairly quick disintegration of the hot dog, and a fair bit of fall-out.

I finished off Martha Stewart, and started in to the Planet Hollywood. My first impression of this was the nacho cheese adhering to my face as I tried to bite into it, and unfortunately it’s only at this point that I recalled I’m not over keen on nacho cheese – it’s a bit slimy and plasticky, and doesn’t even have the greatest taste. The Polish sausage was mildly spicy, but gave the impression of being made of the cheaper bits of meat. It may be true, but generally we want to be able to fool ourselves about this! Even the bacon was less well cooked than in the Martha Stewart, and was a bit on the fatty side. I wasn’t sure when I started out that I’d finish both dogs, but the Planet Hollywood made it easy to give up half way through.

Pink’s is worth a visit, but I would recommend avoiding any dog based on the Polish sausage – try one of the other ones. The Martha Stewart was nice.

* The recommendation was made on general principles, not experience. [livejournal.com profile] msinvisfem wishes to further clarify that "'General principles' doesn't mean that I think people should go around eating giant wodges of bacon. Especially as I am vegan."

ggreig: (Default)

Ever since Windows 7 came out, I’ve fancied putting together a Windows theme, and a couple of recent blog articles finally prodded me into action.

The obvious choice was the more exotic locations that I’ve got photos of, so I set out to create a California theme and went back and reviewed all my photos looking for scenes that could be turned into a package of decent wallpapers. After a bit of selection, cropping and culling, I came up with 24 that I put together.

It took the best part of three evenings to work through everything, but I was quite happy with the result. I don’t feel the need to do another one straight away, but it would be nice to have one that’s closer to home, so look out for a possible Scotland or even St. Andrews theme in the future.

Download in whichever format’s more useful to you:

Moon at Sunset, Joshua TreeColour coordinated carSunrise on Ventura Boulevard, Woodland HillsJumbo Rocks Campground, Joshua TreeFallen HackberriesLocomotive cab, California State Railroad Museum, SacramentoSnowy Plover, Monterey Bay AquariumPrickly PearCalifornia Sister Butterfly (Adelpha Californica)Wah Hop Store, ColomaFloss Silk Tree, Costa MesaAnemones, Monterey Bay AquariumRock Fish in the Kelp Forest, Monterey Bay AquariumAmerican Mastodon, La Brea Tar PitsMall Sign, SolvangMining Cart, ColomaChipmunkPacific WavesPalm trunk, TustinWorkin' on the Railroad, California State Railroad Museum, SacramentoOutdoor pool, Hearst CastleCalifornia Ground SquirrelRedwood Glade, Humboldt Redwoods State ParkWedding Rock, Patrick's Point
ggreig: (Vacant Podling)

While in the vicinity of Hollywood, [livejournal.com profile] msinvisfemand I went to the recording of an American TV show there - with me under strict instructions from [livejournal.com profile] msinvisfemnot to embarrass her by mentioning the host's former stage name...

Craig Ferguson, who some may remember as a stand-up comedian in the late 80s or early 90s, or as Confidence in Red Dwarf, is now rather better known in the States than he was on this side of the pond, after a number of seasons in a successful sitcom, starring roles in a couple of moderately successful movies, and several years of presenting a daily chat show: The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.

Not having been to a recording of a UK show, I can't make any comparisons, but they don't half make you work for your free ticket in the States! The warm-up man is dire and filthy, not a good combination, although to be fair to him, he knew it; and he was on the ball with coordinating responses silently once the programme began. In return for your seat, you have to sit and laugh for an hour or so, whether it's funny or not; and under those circumstances it's a pretty fair bet it's not...

After too long listening to the warm-up guy, the show began. The standard pattern of the show is opening monologue, followed "after the break" by studio guests. The opening monologue is a bit weird for the audience because it's delivered straight to camera, and even though we were behind the camera, it was plain it wasn't for our benefit! Craig plainly knows his audience and is now an American citizen, but it's a bit odd hearing a Scottish accent building up to his closing catchphrase,"It's a great day for America". There are some jokes related to the world situation that might get more of a mixed response in the UK.

The guest spots were a bit more interesting, as they were slightly less scripted. I had no clue who the first guest was, but Brooke Shields had a bit more international appeal. She was plugging a stage show.

Actually, the guest that woke me up most was Tyson. Who's Tyson, you say? Haven't a clue, except that he was the guy plucked from the audience to look foolish - one seat away from us. He did a fairly good job of matching up to Craig's banter, after an initial period of looking like a stunned mullet. Of course we wondered whether he was a plant, but on balance I don't think so - he was hesitant and lost enough to start with that I think not. And he seemed to enjoy himself, and might possibly have earned himself repeat appearances (apparently this does sometimes occur to audience members, but I haven't watched any subsequent programmes to find out).

Part 1: Fleetingly visible as a small blob in the audience.
Part 2 : Part 3 : Part 4 : Part 5

Craig has a decent line of patter, but didn't manage to justify the side-splitting mirth expected of us; still, it must be pretty difficult to keep that up day after day, and if we needed any reminding that it's a skilled job requiring talent, we only had to recall the gulf in capability and charm between him and the warm-up man!

Afterwards we nipped out to the  Farmer's Market a couple of blocks away for something to eat (the show gave us money off vouchers for local eateries, but not for anywhere we wanted to go). It's a permanent fixture, more like some of the well-established markets in our big cities than the local farmer's market in St. Andrews. After a wander around looking at everything, I had fried alligator tail rolled in cornmeal (nice enough but undistinguished) from The Gumbo Pot.

ggreig: (Default)

By special request, my next American post is about the Gold Rush. Sorry they're quite so infrequent; I'm pretty busy at the moment, even in my "spare" time, so it's difficult to make the time to do a topic justice. I'm going to try writing on the phone while commuting in order to try and catch up a bit!

The Assay Office, ColomaAmericans often seem a bit sensitive about their "lack" of history, compared to European countries, but I reckon they do themselves a disservice. True, when you think of national/state identities, California is younger than the Union of the Parliaments, never mind the Union of the Crowns, or England or Scotland. But for most people it's not the number of significant dates that a country has accumulated that matters, it's whether events capture the imagination and whether people think they can empathise with the people of the time. For the historians in the audience, that may be a sore point, as the general public may be empathising on the basis of fiction, but nonetheless real people, whether historians or not, like to feel a relationship with the past.

American history's relative youth can be an advantage, then, as we're less remote from the people and times concerned. (And of course the entirety of the Americas have a fascinating history that predates Columbus, much of it still to be uncovered. A very little more of that another time, though I wish I could say more than a very little!)

A mining trolleyWhile I was in California, we visited not just one but two places where modern California could be said to have begun. The more recent one, and the one visited first, was Sutter's Mill.

To me, in my ignorance, I'm afraid Sutter's Mill was the blog of Herb Sutter, notable figure in the world of C++. I didn't know where the name had originally come from, but now I do. Sutter's Mill in Coloma is where the Gold Rush started that made California the populous state it is today.

Coloma wasn't a big important place at the time, and it isn't now. But for a brief period in between, it teemed with prospectors eager to make a fortune with that lucky strike.

It sounds awful.

Logging was the major business in the area, and the first trace of gold was found in 1848 by James Marshall, while working on the tailrace of a water-driven sawmill owned by John Sutter. Sutter and Marshall tried to keep it quiet, but failed.

The tailrace of Sutter's Mill, where the Californian Gold Rush began.It's a slightly odd place to walk around; a village with quite widely spaced houses, most of which date from a little after the discovery. The main visual attraction is "Sutter's Mill" itself, which is actually a recent reconstruction based a contemporary photo and Sutter's own drawings. What's not immediately obvious is that the reconstruction is not on the original spot; the path of the river hasn't changed much and the new mill is set back from the water a bit. The original site is a few tens of yards away, fairly unheralded although it is marked. A steep bank leads down into a stagnant ditch beside the river, and there you are. That's where (one version of) California was born.

Although the original mill is no more, its timbers have been recovered, and are stored in a shed where you can see them through glass; a big stack of wood.

The population of Coloma - and California as a whole - boomed as a result of the discovery. Many died getting there, and many more died once they arrived. One in five of the Argonauts - as the 49ers referred to themselves - is thought to have died within six months of arrival, and Coloma itself, where people worked claims of a few square feet and lived in fox-holes, had a mortality rate of four times its inflated population over a few short years.

A miner "sees the elephant" (the experience of taking part in the Gold Rush)A few prospectors became fabulously wealthy, but the great majority had a miserable life, and for many it was also short.

The people who made fortunes out of the gold rush were the merchants, selling to a market who were captives of location and their own aspirations. A loaf of bread worth 4 cents in New York would sell for 75 in California, with eggs $1 to $3 a piece, $1 to $5 for an apple, and $100 for a pair of boots; all on typical earnings of $8 per day. That was 8 times what a miner might earn on the East coast, but it's easy to see why it wasn't typically the prospectors who struck it rich.

There's relatively little evidence now of Coloma's boom. Whole streets have left no more than a line of foundations, rather like older lost settlements in Europe. What's left is a small village, but an interesting one; with a number of surviving buildings well presented within their historical context. They're small and wooden, and while they're not the fanciest buildings that sprung up after 1849, such as the hotels, it's sobering to think that they're much better than the tents and shanties that most enjoyed.

Neither James Marshall, the carpenter who found gold while building the mill race, nor John Sutter the mill owner became rich. Sutter's business ventures failed because his staff preferred to prospect for gold, and his claim to ownership of the land fell between the cracks during California's transition from being part of Mexico to becoming an American state, which was taking place at the same time. (In his own words.)

Sutter's Mill (reconstructed)

My previous visit to a gold mine, at Joshua Tree:
"I have seen the elephant:"

ggreig: (Default)
A Sequoia and Me

Me and a RedwoodWell, who knew that they weren’t the same? Not me, but once you see them in person they’re not alike at all; apart from both being mahoosive!

Redwoods grow along the northern half of the coast of California; they’re fairly numerous and commercially harvested. They are home to small tree villages of Ewoks, although if I’m completely honest I have to admit I never actually saw any of those. Redwoods are tall and thin, although thin is relative when you grow that tall; they can still be over 20 feet across at the base of the trunk. Compare that with a 10' x 10' room, and you’ll see that if you find the right tree and you’re careful about it, you could fit the room inside the tree.

Sequoias are protected. They’re much less common, and are quite picky about the environment they grow in, preferring a fairly narrow band of altitudes in the mountains – between 5,000 and 7,000 feet in the Sierra Nevada. A couple of thousand feet may sound like a lot, but maybe not when you consider the trees themselves can grow to over 300 feet tall. They don’t grow quite as tall as the redwoods do - there’s about 50 feet in it - but they’re a lot bigger in the more general sense of the word, because they don’t get much thinner as they get taller. For all their size, they look pretty stocky.

[livejournal.com profile] msinvisfem's master-plan for the first part of my recent visit to California was to see big trees, since they were the most obvious Californian icon I’d not seen on previous trips. The day after arriving, [livejournal.com profile] msinvisfem, her Mum and I set off to travel north. More about other aspects of the trip another time, as I've decided to do themed posts this time rather than a travelogue, but here’s the overview of the route: from Anaheim we went up the Coastal Highway past Monterey (which I visited last time I was in the States) and San Francisco, then the Redwood Highway as far as Patrick's Point. After that we cut inland towards Redding, then south through Sacramento and Fresno, before heading further inland to Sequoia National Park. The final haul was back down to Anaheim, arriving eight days after we'd set out.

The trees are interesting enough in themselves, but there’s a human history to some of them too, particularly the larger sequoias. A fallen sequoia may be big enough to live in, if you don’t need a lot in the way of space. Tharp’s Log (interior below) was inhabited every summer from 1861 to 1890 by Hale Tharp, the first non-Native American to enter Giant Forest. Sequoias are very slow to decay, so trunks that fell over 100 years ago can still be in a good state today. Tharp’s Log was hollowed out by fire.

The age of the living trees is impressive too. They’re not the world’s oldest, but a sequoia cut down in 1893 for the Chicago World’s Fair comes 8th or 9th in the top ten (3200 years old, by ring count), and many are between 2000 and 3000 years old.

Interior of Tharp's Log, a cabin made of a single hollow sequoia trunkRoots of a fallen redwood

And yes, we drove through a tree:


Sep. 14th, 2010 08:38 pm
ggreig: (Blockhead)

I got back to Scotland from a holiday in California visiting [livejournal.com profile] msinvisfem last week. I saw a lot of interesting stuff, so there’s a lot to write about, but based on previous experience – and about 12GB of photos and videos to sort through – it may be a while before it hits the blog here.

Outside the Microsoft Store, Mission Viejo, CAIn the meantime there’s one thing it’s quite easy to write about quickly, so I’ll start with my trip to one of the first Microsoft Stores, at Mission Viejo. There are currently only four physical Microsoft Stores, all in the States, so while the chances of me buying something off the shelf were pretty slim, it was an interesting opportunity to visit and see what there was to see.

The store bears a distinct resemblance to an Apple Store, though a bit more warm and welcoming with varnished wood in place of the sterile lab look. The staff seemed interested and helpful, although being British and just there for a look, I was mostly more keen to dodge them than interact. The hardware was nice to look at, but difficult to arouse much enthusiasm for when I’m not in the market at the moment, either personally or at work, having just got a touchscreen laptop at the start of the summer.

There was one young guy I spent some time chatting to though, who was demoing something I was surprised and pleased to see: Kinect for Xbox 360. If you haven’t hear about it already, it’s due out in a couple of months and it’s a way to interact with the Xbox 360 without a hand-held controller. That’s a big deal for the Xbox, which will help it catch up with other less sedentary game machines such as the Wii, but it’s also a big deal full stop if it’s actually good; bringing sophisticated real-time computer vision into peoples’ homes (also voice control and facial recognition, though those have appeared in home devices such as phones and cameras before). That’s impressive, and – assuming it’s successful – not so much catching up as leap-frogging other consoles.

It’s an impressive technical achievement, but is it really much different in terms of play from a hand-held controller? I’m not really in a position to say definitively, but the difference is that it’s (quote) “full body play” (promotional video). You only need one controller sat in front of the TV screen, and it will track not just the position of your hands or your feet, but can follow facial expressions too. Judging by the promotional video, it can handle two players at once. I don’t know whether more are possible.

I had a quick shot at a ten-pin bowling game:

Ten-pin bowling with Kinect for XBox 360

First of all, you get the machine to recognise you by positioning yourself on a red spot that appears on the “floor” on the TV screen. I had to shuffle backwards slightly to get “myself” on the spot. Once that was done, all I had to do was reach out my arm to the right to pick up a ball; and do what came naturally to bowl it.

I bowled six frames, and had no difficulty picking it up. In fact, in common with my similarly limited experience of bowling with the Wii, it might be a bit too easy; within that six frames I managed to bowl a turkey, which I’ve never heard of before and certainly never achieved in real life. However, it seems there may be room for greater finesse; the demo guy said that once you’ve practiced a bit with it you can apply spin – and all without a hand-held controller!

Six frames of bowling isn’t enough to give a comprehensive overview of Kinect, but it was fun and natural, and I’m quite excited about this development – both as an Xbox peripheral and as a significant achievement for applied computing in the home.

ggreig: (Astronaut)

While I was in California recently, I visited Monterey Bay Aquarium. I’m not sure that there’s an awful lot to say about the aquarium itself – you know what an aquarium is, right? – apart from a couple of quite interesting nerdy facts. The money to set up and run the aquarium was largely supplied by David and Lucille Packard, also of Hewlett-Packard-founding fame; and although it’s here that they filmed the aquarium bits for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, there have never been any whales here. The tanks aren’t big enough, for a start, as is obvious when you visit.

I tried taking photos, but as very few of the beasties were willing to cooperate in behaving predictably for the camera – especially the otters – it quickly became obvious that video was the only way I was going to get anything half-decent; so here’s my inaugural YouTube video for your delectation. It’s available in resolutions up to 1080p (full HD).

Camera shake is all my fault, as is jerky zooming. Video quality is not great when the lighting is low, though it improves noticeably when the lighting is good; it's a stills camera that does video, not a dedicated video camera. I'm quite pleased with how it copes. If the video is at all sticky I blame Windows Live Movie Maker. I found it quite nice on the whole for editing my first video, but it is a bit buggy. The most noticeable flaw to you may be some slight stickiness on scene changes; the most noticeable flaw to me is that you’re not seeing all the scenes I wanted you to. When you select a clip from the middle of a longer video, Movie Maker sometimes seems to randomly start playing from the start of the video file, rather than the start of the clip. Needless to say, this is very annoying, but as I wasn’t able to figure out why it was picking particular clips to do this on, I eventually settled for the output you see above, which contains a very low number of unwanted substitutions that don’t affect my vision too badly.

Camera shake in particular is something I might have done better on. I had in my backpack a commercially produced version of The Poor Man’s Steadicam, which I chose not to use. This was mostly due to embarrassment (it’s taken me ages to get used to just using a camera when there are people around), but shhh! That’s just between us. I intend to claim it was really an altruistic move, to avoid clouting small kids around the head with the weight on the end.

ggreig: (Blockhead)

I’m back from three weeks’ break in California. Work starts again tomorrow, but today I had some light relaxation in the form of my first physiotherapy appointment for the arm I broke in December. The physiotherapist seemed quite pleased with my progress already, and reckoned with exercise I should be back to 90% strength and flexibility by the middle of the year.

Since I’m not feeling like posting anything substantial at the moment (<snore>), here is a meme courtesy of [livejournal.com profile] pink_weasel: tell me what you think of me using my Johari Window.

ggreig: (Ribart's Elephant)

I ran a session of Steam Elephants on Saturday – my fledgling campaign using a very slightly modified version of  [livejournal.com profile] ffutures' Forgotten Futures rules. I say fledgling, because it's probably still accurate; it's been running for about two and a half years, but infrequently, so we've not racked up a lot of sessions. However, given how long it takes me to start a campaign these days, I’m inclined to think I’ll stick with this one for the foreseeable. It feels fairly comfortable for me, seems to be going down well with the players and it’s got lots of potential. And there are fun figures for me to paint, when I get the time!

This particular session was a not-particularly-steampunky first though; the first game I’ve been involved in where we had a virtual presence.

I set up a spare PC with a web cam on a chair in the living room, and [livejournal.com profile] msinvisfemtook part from California. The times worked out fairly well; our regular start time of 3 o’clock was 7 in the morning on the west coast of America so it was early, but not impossible.

I took advantage of someone else’s trial and error in finding the best solution; Scott Hanselman has written a couple of articles about remote working with a more social side to it, and in the absence of a spare $5000 for a Roundtable camera, I went with his Skype video recommendations, which he uses for speaking to the family when on the road, and sharing a virtual office with another remote worker, setting up a dedicated Skype account on the spare, and telling it to auto-answer anyone on its’ friends list with full-screen video. As it’s an old PC and I don’t have the world’s fastest broadband connection, I didn’t try the High Quality Video Hack, although the camera would have supported it.

Picture quality was good enough anyway, and help up fairly well for the nine or ten hours of play. There were some problems with corruption of the picture and freezing, and the sound was not always perfect, sometimes requiring repetition; but on the whole, OK. In the post-mortem, it turned out that some of these issues might have been due to a virus scan starting up in the background on one of the machines, so maybe the problems we did have can also be avoided in future.

From the GM’s point of view, I would say it was a success. It wasn’t hugely different from having a player in the room. There were some practical issues regarding who to send out of the room at some points when secrecy was required (i.e. everyone else might have to move rather than the remote person, because the PC is not easily shifted) but nothing insurmountable. I was kept busier than usual just keeping things going, but that may not have been due to the teleconferencing – we had a good turn-out, which means more people to deal with, which means more work.

From the remote player’s point of view, I think it was more of a qualified success. Although it did allow involvement in play from a distance, the positioning of the camera meant that other players were disembodied voices, so it wasn’t as immersive as actually being there. One thing I got right with the camera was putting it on a long USB extension lead, so that it could be brought over to the table to show the position of figures. I wonder if there’s a better place to put it for general play, though. On top of the monitor is good for other players, because it’s easy for them to face the remote player when talking to them; but positioning the whole assembly naturally as if it were just another player meant the other players usually weren’t within the camera’s field of view. Finding a different location that would show more of the other players to the remote player would be an improvement. I’ll have to see if I can come up with an alternative place to put it.

La Brea

May. 25th, 2009 11:02 pm
ggreig: (Simpsons)

Having failed to visit the creationist dinosaur museum at Cabazon, it was time to come a bit more up to date in a couple of ways; by visiting a more reputable scientific establishment, to see more recently extinct beasties.

Into the pit )
ggreig: (Simpsons)

Our second tourist trip in California was a bit less clichéd than Disneyland: the place where the Mojave Desert and Colorado Desert meet, in Joshua Tree National Park.

Long, and photo-heavy )


May. 7th, 2009 12:07 am
ggreig: (Simpsons)

What’s the difference between Bing Crosby and Walt Disney?
Bing sings; Walt disnae.

So, much delayed, here’s the first of my posts about visiting California.

Flight, Disneyland (no, I'm kidding, it did) )

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