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September 26, 2023: In Praise Of USBs

I was cleaning out a box of adapters and computer parts the other day, and I came across myriad USB cables from bygone eras. Curious, I plugged one unusual device in . . . and it worked. If I wanted an IDE-to-USB adapter to muck with any ancient hard drives, I now have a decent prospect.

It got me thinking how amazing the humble USB port is. The USB 1.1 specification that sparked off the widely adopted USB era came out in August 1998, so the technology is just over a quarter-century old. And it's remarkably robust; if I needed to use a decades-old USB keyboard, printer, or memory card, the same rectangular port that enabled the gear to work last millennium still works fine (or, at most, is an adapter away). Any such device almost certainly won't be fast, but it has better-than-average odds of the computer going, "Ahh, I haven't seen one of these since the Y2K era . . . but I . . . [more]

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September 25, 2023: What Makes A Good Headline?

Writing a headline should be easy, right? It's just a few words that summarize a story so people can decide whether they want to read more. How hard can it be?
Actually, a good headline can be just as challenging as writing a full article, if not more so. The best headlines need to convey a lot of information in a small space, and they have to do so while being intriguing and (if possible) exciting. You've probably had practice writing headlines if you've ever worked for a print or digital publication, but if you haven't, here are some tips:
  1. Seek to summarize: Whether a news story is simple or complicated, your job as a headline writer is to tell people what's going on in the fewest words possible. For example, say you stumble across a juicy scoop: A naval officer working for a project that maps the sea floor stumbles upon a man-made structure at the bottom of the ocean. . . .


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September 24, 2023: One Weird Trick To Play More Games

I'm an introvert who fights with my own brain a fair bit of the time. Here's a "life hack" that's worked well for me which might prove beneficial to some of you.

My little family likes to play games. However, whenever we have some free time, we're often vapor-locked by being overwhelmed by our choices. Too often, that precious free time either evaporates, or we gravitate toward one or two "standbys" that we pick because we know them. (Those "default" games are often loads of fun, but they're also not making use of our extensive library . . .)

Here's the trick we've found to broaden our horizons: Schedule something specific ahead of time. Don't simply say, "We'll play a game Saturday morning." Add to your calendar, "We're playing GreedQuest Saturday morning at 10:00 a.m." (replacing GreedQuest with any game of your choice, of course).

This method helps us in a few ways. First, it speeds . . . [more]

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September 23, 2023: Leave Yourself Notes

Let's say you have a game that you figured out a house rule or solution for something to make the game more fun for your group. As a pro-tip: Write it down. Leave yourself future notes. Even if it's jotted on the back of a fast-food napkin with a ballpoint pen, write it down. You can even do it during the game, while you're waiting for the other players to finish their turns.

"But, Steven," you say, "I had the perfect solution! I will surely remember it." Maybe you will. Speaking for myself, for years I had such conviction in my own memory. The hubris of my past self has come back to haunt me on more than one game night, as we've cobbled together new (seemingly less-effective) solutions that Past Us had definitively solved ages ago but failed to document..

Write it down. Tuck it in the box. Your future self will either ignore your efforts (because they did, in fact, remember), or they . . . [more]

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September 22, 2023: Recommending Recommendations

My first experience with GURPS was likely seeing a copy of GURPS Wild Cards on the games-and-geekery shelf of a Waldenbooks. (I believe I have just enough references in that previous sentence to date me like the rings of a tree . . .) I recall flipping through that book while thinking, "Huh, that's interesting," and putting it back. My second memorable encounter was with a friend in college who said, "You've got to try GURPS; it's the best game!" The friend then explained why: the many sourcebooks, its universal nature, etc. So, I picked up some books, ended up running a years-long supers campaign we all enjoyed, and – long story short – here I am today.

The point of this trip down memory lane is to note that the impetus of my eventual exposure to GURPS began with the recommendation of a friend. Even in this quasi-cyberpunk world of omnipresent advertisements and micro-targeted media, . . . [more]

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