Here’s a potentially very silly, but also very fun, way to make fake album covers for fictional bands. Here’s my first effort. Actually, I like this so much I’m going to keep it for when I’m a rock star!

Courtesy of @RonKJeffries. Picture courtesy of Rachel Lake.

I love a sausage

One thing about moving countries that is often overlooked is the problem of finding new versions of home comforts. Whether it’s the channel that shows the rugby (or where to find it online) or where to find the best pizza, these are the things that make your new life in your new country easier and better.

After many years of moving around, I’ve realised that my most important home comfort is vegetarian sausages. Now, this may be because I was spoiled for choice in London. From a supermarket I could get these Lincolnshire sausages made from tofu from a company named Cauldron Foods. They were wonderfully seasoned with all the right herbs, and the consistency was not too meaty, and not to obviously veggie. I should note here that I’m incredibly picky with my sausages; if they’re too reminiscent of a meat sausage in terms of texture, I’m not interested.

If I wanted to get something a little more special, while living in London, i had only to pop over to Greenwich, home of the National Maritime Museum, the Meridian Line, Henry VIII’s tournament grounds, the Cutty Sark, and the finest sausage stall known to man. The market that housed the miraculous sausage stall also was the place to go for fresh tea, home-made caribbean hot sauce and jerk seasoning, and the finest selection of cheese known to man. The sausage stall stocked sublime meat sausages but I would obviously skip those and head straight for the mushroom and tarragon, or spinach and feta, or one of the other delectable delights on offer. They were loosely bound, i.e., they had no skin, but had chunks of ingredients and were freshly made. They were never oily, but unlike many vegetarian sausages, they were never too dry either. As the ones with cheese cooked, the cheese would melt inside to form little pools of hot deliciousness…

Excuse me, I need to take a break to wipe the drool from my chin.

Ok, so what happened when I moved to Canada? Well, I had hoped that being on the West Coast, the liberal side, as it were, that I would find all manner of exciting new vegetarian sausage options. Sadly, I was very mistaken: The only options I could find were frankfurter type affairs.

We shall skip over that sad, sad episode and move on to the Singapore portion of the search for vegetarian sausages. Here I had high hopes once more, as Singapore seemed to be far more conscious of the vegetarian lifestyle (no, not yoga, incense and tie-dye, just not eating meat) than the great white north had been. I was once again disappointed for the first few months, until I found something marketed as breakfast links. They weren’t up to those ambrosia-filled heavenly packages from Greenwich market, but they tasted great in sandwiches. The only down-side was their size. I prefer my sausages to be, well, substantial; to have one or two fill a sandwich at most. It took five or six of these things to fill a sandwich and I often ended up just cooking the whole packet, which made me feel like a terrible glutton. Still, one has to do what one must when desperate times are abound.

Finally, we come to the last stage of this great tale of longing and desperation: The return to North America, this time to the sandwich filling of the great Western continent, and specifically to the liberal, healthy-living, pilates-loving California. Here, surely, there must be vegetarian sausages to rival those of Greenwich! Here, surely, there must be riots when vegetarian sausage quality drops or supplies run low! Here, surely, I will find a sausage worthy of fulfilling my Sunday morning craving!

After nearly four months, I was once again ready to give up. Then, just the other day, I spotted some succulent little buggers all wrapped up with “Spinach and Feta” proudly proclaimed on their packaging. Could it be? Could I have found them? Well, no. They turned out to be chicken, written on the packet in criminally small type. My wife, the carnivore, thought they looked delicious, much to my chagrin.

But what’s this? What are these just next to the deceptive bastard chicken sausages? Italian flavour vegetarian sausages… Apple, sage and onion flavour vegetarian sausages! Come to my arms, my beamish boy! O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! 

I think I yelled “SUCCESS!” as I brandished the fruits of my long, globe-spanning search to all who came near.

For those still with me, the brand is Field Roast and while taste trials are continuing, we appear to have a winner.

The Great Purge revisited

I was browsing the Google Analytics statistics for this blog and noticed a couple of odd things in the results for search keywords used to find it. Firstly, more people find this blog searching for my wife than for me, which has now encouraged more healthy competition in the Hamon household, as if more was needed.

The second is that the third highest ranking keyphrase used to find the blog is “how did the great purge end”. I know why this would give my blog as a result, but it did make me wonder why someone would be searching for this. Searching for it myself, I found that it refers to the Great Purge, the period in the early 20th century when Stalin orchestrated a series of campaigns of persecution and political repression in the Soviet Union.

It makes me laugh to see that I rank just below Stalin when people are looking for such a key historical moment. I can only wonder at those people who read this blog expecting to find some political essays and finding my ramblings about throwing away board games!

In fact, I think it might have to be my new tagline. “Dominic Hamon: almost as popular as Stalin”.

[REDACTED]

As most people know who read this blog, at least two of the three of you, I’m a software engineer working in the games industry. Most software engineers eventually specialise in some field or other, whether it’s gameplay, audio, AI or something else. Somehow, I never have. I’ve remained a generalist; a jack of all trades and master of none, as the saying goes. This has worked pretty well for me over the years as I’ve been able to take on new challenges and figure out what needs to be done, and I’ve always loved researching things so learning new areas of engineering always excites me. Always, that is, except when it comes to my nemesis: Rendering.

Rendering, for those who don’t know, is the bit of technology that makes the things show up on the screen in all their rim-lit, shiny, bumpy glory. I have never been interested in the rendering side of things, and have somehow managed to completely avoid coming into contact with it. Until today. Right now I’m working on [REDACTED] which means that I have to [REDACTED] the [REDACTED] with some other [REDACTED]. Hmm, that doesn’t work. Ok, simply, I have to use the rendering technology do what I want it to and I can’t.

It may seem like bragging, but I don’t normally have this problem. I usually understand enough of the underlying concept of something to pretty quickly get up to speed with a new system, and to figure out any teething problems along the way. The problem this time is that I really have no clue about what might be wrong to fix the problems that I have. So what to do? I took a bold step, if I may say so, and one that I don’t like to take: I asked for help. I know, I know. It’s like Shakespeare asking Marlowe for some tips on Iambic Pentameters. What I didn’t expect was that the person I asked was more than happy to take time out of their extremely busy day to take me through what I was missing. There was no condescension, no frustration that I didn’t know what I was doing, no suggestion that I was less of an engineer, just plain help.

Now yesterday we had an all-company meeting. I expected from previous experience of such meetings at other companies that this would be a painfully dry and tedious affair full of budget information, sales figures and executive staff patting each other soundly on the back and spouting self-congratulatory platitudes. I should have remembered which company I work for. The (often amusing) speeches were broken up with videos of other people in the company talking about how much the company meant to them before they started working here, and the fun times they’ve had since joining the company. It really didn’t matter what else was said, that was a clear message and a powerfully inspirational force.

These two things together have reminded me, and shame on me for needing reminding, that I work for a company that I’ve wanted to work for as long as I can remember.

No, my [REDACTED] still doesn’t do what it should, but I’ll figure it out yet.

I love this integration, but I am concerned about having my twitter password saved by a third party.

staff:

Tweet from Tumblr

We’re testing Twitter integration on Tumblr. You can set it up by going to the special address: http://www.tumblr.com/settings?twitter

This will automatically send your Tumblr posts to Twitter (you can toggle this when posting). If you have people following you in both places, it’s an easy way to stay active on Twitter, or just to let your Twitter followers know about your Tumblr posts.

If you’re like us, and only follow a few people on Twitter, you should try enabling “Show Twitter updates in my Dashboard” to get all of your friends’ updates in one place.

Raising the dead

It seems we can learn from our mistakes! Obligatory warning: This is another DnD post.

This weekend’s DnD session was the one where I first found out if my party were going to raise me from the dead or if I was going to have to roll up a new character. I am not yet particularly invested in my current (dead) character, Tordek the Dwarf Paladin, but rolling a new character when one dies does feel like cheating the system. It seems that my party agree, as they pooled all of their resources and all the great stuff we’d accumulated and paid for me to live again.

Once back on my feet, it was time for action! Happily, the DM threw in some more puzzle elements this time. Essentially, we had three in-game hours to find some items, as well as solve some clues, or the battle that we were going to face would be hard. We knew we were facing battle, the only thing at stake was how difficult it was going to be. I love sessions like this: I find the puzzle solving aspect, while staying in character, more of a challenge than whacking orcs/undead/halflings. I might make a particular logical leap, but would my character? I might have a problem with a particular ethical standpoint put forward by an NPC, but would my character?

Having solved the puzzle with only 2 in-game minutes left (isn’t it amazing how it always works out like that?) it was time to bear arms. I was not really looking forward to this, having seen our party struggle with combat previously. It seems that having two characters die in battle last time, and having most of the party be unconscious for the majority of that fight, has taught us something key about 4th edition DnD. I will now save you the pain of figuring this out for yourself by stating Dominic’s Golden Rules for 4th edition:

DGR 1: Know your role and stick to it. For anyone who has been involved with end-game raids in World of Warcraft, this should not be particularly difficult. For people used to 3rd edition, it takes a little getting used to.

DGR 2: Don’t be afraid to blow your daily powers early. The quicker you can reduce the odds against you, the easier the fight will be. If you save your dailies, you’ll just have a long fight ahead and will be possibly too low on health to be useful before you get the chance to make a difference.

Following these rules certainly made our party more effective, but did it make the game any more fun? Well, I think it’s too early to tell. Unlike 3.5 ed, when it was easy to try to bend and break the rules and watch the DM squirm, it feels more difficult under this ruleset. My hope is that as we become more effective and learn the system, we’ll also learn how to successfully bend the rules to bring more life to our characters.

Smallest exoplanet yet found | Bad Astronomy

Link: Smallest exoplanet yet found | Bad Astronomy

Stories like this just blow my mind.

The mere fact that there are people with the technology and skills to make such delicate measurements is enough to amaze me, but add to that that what they’re measuring are planets orbiting other stars and I find myself stunned.

Sadly, I’m sure this will illicit the over-excitable press to extend the findings to something more than they are which will just lead to disappoint me down the road when they should be focusing on how wonderful even this is. We don’t need to find an Earth-like planet in an Earth-like orbit to congratulate our scientists on a job well done.