A Keyboard Story – Part I – Of Luck and Lead Times

Standard

Well heck, that didn’t last long did it? 2021 decided it was going to begin by asking 2020 to hold its beer and then kicking it square in the nuts after the hand-off. Unfortunately it does not appear to be over even after its over. So far the prevailing mood has been, “AAaarrrrgggghhhhh”.

But that isn’t why you’re here, is it? Or maybe it is. I have no idea. The most difficult thing about producing content is producing content, and the hardest thing about consistently producing content it being consistent about it. I any case, I sincerely apricate all the people who read and engage with my posts, so thanks goes to both of you.

Let me place a big astirick next to everythng that I’m writing below. This is topic is entirely new to me, and I’m basing everything on what limited research I’ve done and my experiences as I dabble in the hobby. Im not an expert, and depending on who you ask, I’m a complete idiot. This is all perfunctory. I am prefunct.

In my last entry I mentioned the niche world of custom built keyboards. Because it is relatively obscure activity, issues include scarcity, cost, and extended lead times. From what I can gather the situation is much better than it used to be insofar as now there are items that actually being produced whereas previously, there weren’t. The advances in boutique manufacturing have been amazing. Hell, the advances in 3D printing have been staggering. When you realize the number of things you can produce at home, the mind truly boggles. I digress…

Just before the New Year I started down the path of “building” my own keyboard. It feels a bit disingenuous to say that, as it is more assembly than actually building. I’m not laying out a PCB, working out the circuit for a keyboard matrix or soldering any components to anything. In truth all the hard work has really been done, I won’t turn a single screw for my first build. What I will be doing is making something at least a bit unique, tailored more to my own preferences than I would be able to buy “off the shelf”.

I mentioned some of the pitfalls. The first is the cost. This goes hand in hand with the second pitfall I mentioned, which is scarcity. Most of the people/companies that produce the components (cases, keycaps, switches, etc), are on the smaller side and don’t maintain large inventories. From what I can gather, items are made in limited quantity, and most in batches done on a pre-order basis. You can find some things on major sites like Amazon, but you’ll find a more interesting assortment of offerings on smaller sites such as KBDFans and NovelKeys. How likely something will be available is a different story. If you are fortunate to find something that strikes your fancy, such as a case with a distinctive style for example, there is a real possibility you will wait months for it to ship. Just as likely you may find the pre-order has closed and you missed your opportunity. This is an endeavor of luck and lead times so if instant gratification is your thing, you may wish to look elsewhere.

As it stands, I’ve been fortunate that everything that I’ve ordered has had quick turnarounds. Ironically the one thing that I’ve had to wait an extended amount of time for is from Amazon, some Kailh Creme switches which despite being listed as available, aren’t scheduled to ship for another month. Throwing caution to the wind, and knowing I’d need more of them anyway, I went to NovelKeys a few days later, ordered a batch of 110 and and they should have arrived by the time this is posted.

I’m planning on doing a more thorough post on the build process, so stay tuned for that. Thanks for stopping by and I’ll catch ya later.

-Stu

Of Keyboards and Dumpster Fires

Standard

Happy New Year! Now with 2020, the historical equivalent of dousing a dumpster in gasoline then lighting the whole thing on fire with an ignited fart, we can get back to what really matters, and that is calling the fire department, dousing the flames, and sifting through the cinders of our dreams which are now charred reminders that yes, in fact it can happen here.

But I digress. 2021 is upon us, a new year with new hopes, new opportunities, and a refreshed sense of purpose. For example, I have discovered that you can build your own mechanical keyboard. Like virtually any hobby, once you dive into the rabbit hole you discover that the investment can well exceed the realm of good sense and fiscal responsibility. Why spend $15 on a plain, boring keyboard when you can spend upwards of $600 to get in on the entry level of building your own bespoke keyboard? Why spend time learning to program, to play the guitar, or learning carpentry when you can toil for hours over which switch to buy and how to best secure and lube your keyboard stabilizers? It seems like a no brainer to me.

The pandemic is still raging and while there are viable vaccines now coming available, it will still be quite a while before things start returning to anything even resembling the Before Times. My employer (hey, a marmot needs to eat too) has already informed us that when normal operations resume, a large part of our staff will continue to work remotely. A lot of places are embracing remote work arrangements in part because the technology now exists for it to be truly viable. I’ll be very interested to see how far this shift in our work environments will go, and if it will be truly lasting.

For all the tragedy and trauma Coronavirus has caused, there have been some lasting impacts that are not bad. One of the most beneficial things that has happened is that it gave us all an opportunity to pause and reflect on the things and people that truly matter. My fear is that we as a society will forget everything as soon as we’re given the all-clear to go outside without a mask. It seems that for every painful lesson that is learned, there is a far greater, far more concerted effort to forget the lesson and pretend the pain was never experienced. We don’t actually learn anything other than how to embrace denial. We should probably see to that going forward.

Well, I know this has been a random post. This doesn’t seem very technical or engaging. What it is is the random musings of some dude floating out there with the rest of you, trying to sort out the day to day while needing to actually do the day to day. I have no idea if I’ll be posting more regularly in 2021, though I hope to do so. I’ve got a couple other things I’d like to dive into, but I always have about 10 things I’d like to get to before sighing to myself, launching Netflix and proceeding to squander my time left here on Earth.

I don’t make resolutions anymore. Resolutions mean endings, and life isn’t over until it’s over.

Happy New Year everyone. Let’s all try to kick some proverbial ass.

-Stu

2020: Gonna Have to Deal With It

Standard

Hello all.


It’s been a while since my post. Almost two years in fact. The idea of a blog is always a great idea right up until you need to write. Then it all sort of falls apart. This post is not going to be lighthearted or gaming related, so apologies in advance.

So much has happened I don’t even know where to begin. Normally I would say it is enough to say that things are crazy. But it really isn’t enough. Not anymore.

As I sit here in the United States, we are in the midst of a global pandemic, an election cycle, an Supreme Court Justice seat opening, racial injustice once again being laid bare, and a power structure in our government that made it absolutely clear it does not care about the people it governs.


That’s a lot. It’s too much. But it’s where we find ourselves. It is understandable to want to push as much aside as we can, if only to remain some semblance of sanity or normalcy. But complacency now is what they are counting on.

Now, who are “they”? When I say that, what do I mean? Who do I mean?
“They” are those in positions of power or athority who view themselves and the stations they hold above the people who put them there. Their true power rests in their tools.


Gerrymandering. Television and radio punditry disguised as news. Instilling the mindest in others that you owe fealty to the people you elect and hire to govern and protect you. Laws with Innocuous sounding names that hide their true intent. Social media falsehoods elevated to fact. And yes, even religion at times.


These are the things we must recoginize, call out, and safeguard against. We must vote out, call out, and demand accountability from those who would use these tools against us. The people of the United States. All of us.


We do not have the things we need as a society because through our actions or inactions have decided we don’t want them. We don’t want afforable healthcare for all. We don’t want clean air and water. We don’t value our natural preserves and forests. We don’t want equal treatment under the law. We don’t want gun reform. We don’t want police reform. We don’t want better education. We don’t want to face the ills of our nation because that would mean we are fallable, and the greatest nation on earth must not be fallible.


You may want these things, but the society we have built does not. we have placed athority into the hands of people who find no vaule in those things. They spit in our faces every day with every lie they tell and every law they pass, or fail to pass as is just as often the case.


Our President has failed us. Our Congress has failed us. Our judicial system is being engineered to fail us. Our states have failed us.
Until we all realize we are in this together, all of us, the Great Experiment is destined to fail. You may not think or feel that you have any effect on someone somewhere else but the wind doesn’t care about borders and you may think someone shitting their pants next door doesn’t effect you until the wind starts blowing in your direction.


Vote. At every level. Hold accountable those with the power, elected, appointed, or hired. Our country is the sum of its parts. The only reason it is US vs THEM is because we accept that as just the way it is.
Allow for compasion. Allow for compromise. Allow for discussion and dissent.


Do not allow wanton disregard for basic decency and truth.
Our society is changing. Demographics are changing. Social norms are changing. This is the way of things. It can be frightening. You may ask uncomfortable questions to yourself and others. There is nothing wrong with this. It is a sign of growth. It is normal. It is not a sign of weakness, it is our greatest strength as humans, the capacity for change and adaptation.
We may not always acheive the goal of being the best, but we must always aspire to be better than we were the day before.


If you take offense to what I’ve just said or if you think I’m talking about you, my question to you is why?


Thank you for reading. Be well.

Season’s Greetings

Standard

Hellooooooooooo my favorite marmot following followers! It has been quite a while since I’ve poked my head up out of the ground. Looking at the thermometer it seems as though winter is well and certainly upon us and the holiday season is well and certainly underway.

With that being the case, I wanted to take a moment to wish you all happy holidays. May you all be happy and safe and well. This season can be tough on a lot of people and it is always important to keep in it in the back of your mind that even if you aren’t lonely or having a hard time, someone else may be. Be good to one another and remember that we all have far more in common than we think.

If you need me I’ll be back in my burrow playing Red Dead Redemption 2 and not playing Fallout 76 which is what a dumpster fire would look like if it was coded in COBOL, translated into LOGO, then translated again in Visual Basic, finally being sold as a game in the back room of a disreputable hair salon.

Season’s Greetings Y’all!!!

-Stu

Rolling, Trapped in Trappings

Standard

Hello to dedicated readers and the errant link-wanderers alike, it is time for another fitful post on The Marmot Report.  I’ve risen early in the morning, assisted in no small part by a recent bout of insomnia, to commit some more ideas to the vast vastness that is, The Internet. This time around I would like to riff on the subject of the role playing game (or, RPG for the uninitiated).  The subject is not tied to a particular RPG though I use D&D as my reference, or the tortuous process of getting people in a single place at a single time to play which most consider a meta-game, as the likelihood of getting 6-9 people’s schedules to match up is just as fantastical a scenario as cleaving an bugbear in half.

But lo, no, I am not here to discuss those things which I have just discussed.  I am here to talk on the subject of…

Stuff.

Things.

Dice and stuff.

Yes, I am referring to the trappings of the RPG.  The products that you can buy that may or may not be directly related to the game and in most cases are unnecessary, or at least not necessary in bulk.  Things such as dice, notebooks, sourcebooks, dice, backpacks (yes, backpacks), miniatures, hero vaults, dice, pouches, you get the idea.  These items are not required to play the game (probably with the exception of dice, which as I said may be necessary, but not in the quantities I currently possess), but help you to feel as though you are immersing yourself in the game.  They enhance the experience by way of giving one the ability to imbue a physical object with the essence of the gaming sessions and lend a feeling of uniqueness and occasion.  It is a physical connection to that which exists only in our minds.  It is tactile.  It is real.  It is a great way to get rid of the random bits of cash you think you have laying around.

Gaming can be thought of as a hobby, and starting a new hobby can be a wonderful thing.  A hobby can involve physical or mental challenges that push you past your comfort zone, or a way to do exactly the opposite, to lessen the load on your mind and body temporarily of day-to-day nonsense and rigors, a spa-day for your psyche and soles, if you will.  A hobby can be viewed as something that will get you out of the house, or at least out of your partner/roommate/parent’s hair, which is generally considered to be a good thing.

ANNOUNCING

Like almost any hobby, there are various levels of investment.  In the realm for tabletop roleplaying, and again for this I’m using Dungeons and Dragons as a reference point, all you really need is a set of polyhedral dice, your character sheet, a pencil, and a GM who isn’t out to TPK the lot of you at the first roll of a Nat1 (don’t worry, these terms will be explained at the conclusion of the post).  That’s it, that is all you need.  You can get into it for about $10.  If you’re feeling bold and want to toss another Hamilton into the mix you could get a starter kit which includes basic rules for both playing and running a game, as well as a set of dice.  If you’re spending over $20, you’re probably doing something wrong though for reasons that will become clear, I’m not going to judge you.  It could be argued that in the case of D&D,  you could opt to skip the starter set and go right to purchasing of the Players Handbook, which depending on where you purchase it from can bring the initial investment to around $40.  That’s it.  That’s all you need. Unless…

BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE

Once you get a taste for it, you start to become aware of those things that enhance and your hobby.  The supplemental items.  The sourcebooks. The miniatures.  The rolling tray.  The grid mats.  The dice.

Oh, the goddamn dice.

AND IF YOU ACT NOW

I would venture to say that it starts with the dice.  There are all sorts of dice out there in all manner of material.  With the boom of roleplaying the last several years, there have been tons of entrants into the field of dice making and they have arrived at every price point.  You can pick up a fully functional, completely useful, utterly serviceable and perfectly fine set of plastic dice for around $7.  You roll them onto a surface and they show a number.  Simple.  Easy-peasy.

But if you are foolish enough to peek down the rabbit hole of polyhedral dice, an entire world opens to you.  Dice of every material and price point present themselves for purchase, ready to make your roleplaying experience more unique and satisfying.  There are plastic dice, metal dice, stone dice, bone dice, wood dice, and there are probably dice out there made of Bolivian mountain beaver shit and dice comprised of gluten free compressed corn husk shavings.  I don’t know if there are beavers in the mountains of Bolivia or if one actually can shave a corn husk, but you get my point.

When I first started out, I went for the generic bag-o-dice.  You get 100 or so mass-produced plastic dice.  More dice than you could likely want or realistically use.  You toss them in a ziplock bag or if you are feeling classy you repurpose that Crown-Royal pouch which until last night cradled a bottle in its felty caress.

But you discover specialty plastic dice, with sharp edges that roll more “true” and are less susceptible to the issue of statistically landing on specific numbers (you see the polishing process makes most dice egg shaped and so…..eh, go see for yourself).  They cost a little more of course, but isn’t it worth it for the piece of mind of knowing that your character’s fate is truly random? (NOTE: Most reasonable people don’t give a flip which is…perfectly reasonable)

You have your first couple play sessions out of the way.  You’ve got your dice situation sorted out.  Maybe you’ve picked up a extra set or two because you liked the color or you got tired of having to re-roll your d4 multiple times.  You’re having fun but one of your fellow players shows up with a small box-like object, the bottom lined with a mat of oiled leather.  Curious, you ask what it is and they inform you that it is a “dice tray”.

“Oh”, you exclaim, “So you’re not rolling off of the table and onto the floor.  Nice”

“Well yes, ” your fellow player replies, ” but it’s so I don’t ding the table when I roll.”

“Huh?”

“I just got some metal dice.”  Your playmate presents his new metal dice.

Metal dice?

You stare in awe.  A hunger grows deep inside you.  Inside your wallet your credit card screams as if the holds of a thousand impulse purchases were just placed on your credit card.  You are now trapped in the trappings.  Roll for initiative.

To be continued (maybe)

TERMS:

GM = Game Master (more woke than Dungeon Master).  The individual who manages the rules, creates and narrates the story/adventure, and rapidly loses or gains friends during gaming sessions due to arbitrary decisions that make no sense but whatever, sure, just do that, I don’t care, I totally should have made that jump over the ravine.

TPK = Total Party Kill.  A game master places the players in a scenario that results in the death of all the characters.  This happens when the GM hates everyone they are playing with, has someplace that they forgot they needed to be and has to screw out early or, it is the third session in a row that nobody has offered to chip in for the food and beer.

Nat1 = Natural 1.  In the game of D&D, a roll of an actual 1 or 20 are considered “natural” and can have spectacularly good results (20 – you swing your sword and cut a dude’s arm off) or fantastically bad results (1 – you swing your sword and cut your own arm off).  You can have rolls of 20 that are not “natural”.  For example, if you are playing a character that has a bonus +2 to a particular skill and you roll an 18, the result is 20 but it isn’t a nat20.

Woke = I have zero idea what the hell this means but use it to give the appearance of…something.

 

 

 

 

August Update

Standard

 

Hello all and welcome to August, the most august of the summer months.  It’s been hot and humid and quite frankly, I’ve not been a fan.  But things being what they are, it is summer and it’s not snowing out so I suppose that is a win. 

Now then, what’s been going on?  It’s been a few months and things have gotten away from me a bit.  An immediate family member passed in June and it still doesn’t feel quite real.  I can’t even say I’ve really allowed myself to process it.  Life itself has been its usual rollercoaster of moody ups and downs and I struggle more with myself than anything that might be going on around me.  But that’s not why you come here.  You come here for the sweet, sweet…something. 

The book You and 42: A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Douglas Adams saw publication in June.  Seeing your name in print is a special sort of awesome.  Its shipment from the publisher was delayed however and unfortunately that delay prevented me from showing it to the one person I really wanted to show it to.  Life is fleeting my friends, life if fleeting. 

On the gaming front, I finally bit the bullet and gave Fortnight a shot.  I’m terrible at it but it is a fun way to kill a little bit of time if you’ve got nothing else going on.  The visual design is fun, the gameplay is easy enough to pick up and the crafting, while something I’m no good at, adds a really nice bit of novelty to the game. 

Last month I joined a group to kick-off a new D&D campaign.  It’s the GM’s first foray into the 5th edition ruleset and my second campaign overall.  Our group is huge with 9 PCs and the GM.  That is 10 people to wrangle together in one place.  I think the real campaign is scheduling our sessions, with the resulting gameplay merely an incidental side effect.  My character is a Dragonborn fighter and in our first encounter I cleanly cleaved an opponent in half with a single nat20 roll.  It was satisfying.  In a later session I saw fit to engage in a friendly drinking game but my constitution rolls did not go well with the result being a wall projectile-painted with a soupy mix of ale and semi digested quail and a giant dragonborn fighter passed out face-down on the floor of the dining hall.  Good times. 

Well, that’s about it.  I know, it isn’t much.  The burrow hasn’t exactly been hopping lately but things are looking up. 

Until next time, roll for initiative and watch the skies for a ride off this crazy rock. 

-Stu 

Well Now This is Interesting

Standard

PAX East 2018 is over.  I’m enjoying my traditional day-after recovery day, unpacking, washing wearable swag, sorting through the discarable cruft of promotional material, and discovering that my personal PAX White Whale, the Limited-Edition PAX pin, is nowhere to be found.  I spend three god damned days pursuing that thing and my success in obtaining it was met with an equal mixture of frustration, relief, and accomplishment.

It is nowhere to be found.  I imagine it is currently existing in some secret, hidden place, such as behind some hotel furniture.  There it sits, laughing to itself in its maniacal, evil pin-laugh thinking it has bested me.  You may have won this battle you pinny bastard, but this is a war and…well I’m not sure where I’m going with that, but I think you get the idea. (UPDATE: Found the sonovabitch.  It was in the seldom used and hidden pocket in my backpack, which I can only assume I used so I absolutely wouldn’t lose it)

The real reason for this post is to make a small announcement about something that is a big deal, at least for me.  Through the tremendous efforts of some amazing people, I will be part of a published piece of work.

You and 42: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Douglas Adams has just been announced for pre-order!  The contributions of my alter (real) ego are scattered throughout the book and there is no shortage of notable contributors, including Jem Roberts, the official biographer of Douglas Adams as well as an essay by Martin Adams, of Adams-Smith-Adams, who, if you are familiar with Douglas Adams, should ring the appropriate cognitive bell.  There are also a number of contributors I have come to know and call friends from across the US, across the pond, and all over the world.

Though my contribution is small, my anticipation and excitement for this book is enormous.  Also, author’s proceeds from the book go to Save The Rhino, a cause that was very dear to Douglas Adams himself.

And so, in closing, maybe check it out.

PUBLISHER’S PAGE: https://who-dares.co.uk/shop/you-and-42-the-hitchhikers-guide-to-douglas-adams/

TABLE OF CONTENTS: https://youandwho.weebly.com/you-and-42.html

Till next time,

Stu

Blade Runner 2049 – Nope

Standard

***WARNING: There are probably spoilers below, so if you haven’t seen Blade Runner 2049, turn away now***

Blade Runner was a brilliant movie.  Blade Runner 2049 was a terrible movie.  Placing aside some of the more disturbing issues the first movie had, and make no mistake, in hindsight there are troubling power-dynamics between Decker and Rachael – especially when viewed through a modern lens, it was a stunning film.  Visually, aurally, metaphorically, it was a fantastic film.  I’ve seen the various versions several times (5 different cuts last time I knew) and though it’s been years since I’ve watched the theatrical version,  I have no problem admitting that each version has its merits.  Even the voiceover in the original theatrical still holds a little spot in my heart.

BR2049 was slow.  Really slow.  A slow glacier of slowness.  My boredom grew weary of itself, if that’s possible.  I will concede that the movie was a looker.  Visual effects aside, there wasn’t much else going on.  The set pieces felt empty, disjointed, disconnected.  The characters felt empty, disjointed, disconnected.  The plot felt empty, disjointed, discone…..you get the idea.  I felt nothing for Ryan Gosling’s character.  Throughout most of the movie my prevailing attitude was to just get on with it.  I couldn’t buy into the idea that replicants, so soon after a full-on revolt, would even be allowed to be manufactured, let alone live amongst the public in an apartment.  And what can I say, Jared Leto gave a Suicide-Squad Joker level performance, which is to say it could have been cut from the film entirely and saved us some time.  And the statues of women in all sorts of…interesting…positions?  And really, what the heck was up with that birthing chute?

The ending was nonsensical.  It was painful.  It was not good.

You can probably tell that I didn’t like the film.  Yes, the visual effects were good, but that’s all there really is.  Maybe I just didn’t see the same film all the critics saw.  Maybe I need to see it again.  Don’t hold your breath though.

Eh, your mileage may very.

Cheers,
Stu

 

 

 

Goodnight Stephen

Standard

Dr. Hawking, You are proof that the human spirit and intellect are not bound by the constraints of the human body. Your vision served to expand countless minds, and will continue to do so for at least a generation, if not more. We thank you for your faith in us, your compassion for us, your understanding of the human condition, and your hope. Your hope and wonder drives us all.

Godspeed Stephen, Godspeed.

I Am Ready

Standard

The badges are in, the dice have arrived, the business cards have been ordered (you know, for networking).

Let us be prepared in our preparation of this thing we are going to be doing!

-Stu