Category Archives: Product Reviews

PLaying D&D 5th edition, on a Wreck-Free Sunday

The RPG group has moved into the world of D&D 5th edition from 3.5 (there was no 4th edition, in spite of the books of some other RPG saying they were D&D 4th, and anyone who says otherwise is a tool of the mass misinformation machine). To give the new version the best possible test we all played either the same type of character, or the closest thing to the same kind of character in 5th that we played in 3.5, so I played a warlock, again. We had a druid, a paladin, a barbarian, and my warlock.

Notes on warlock building in 5th. There are 9 variations of the build, with three different sources of power and 3 different paths to that power within the source. There is one source and path that results in a moderately powerful combat magic user, who also has access to healing spells. This seems to be the best-rounded form to kick butt in battle and then fix broken butts after combat has ceased. This is also something I wanted for at least the last couple of years as we have had sessions without a healer, and they don’t end well, so I want to make sure every party I adventure with has a healer of some kind even if I have to be that healer.

All we had with our first session was a first-level party which like any other first-level party was pretty weak. There was some dice karma involved, but basically we liked the play action of 5th edition. Combat was streamlined with the use of “advantage” and “disadvantage” instead of having multiple adjustments to AC based on cover and concealment as in 3.5. So the way that works is when your target is obscured or behind cover you are disadvantaged, and you make two attack rolls with the lowest one counting as your actual attack. If you are working from surprise or a sneak attack then you take the higher of the two attack rolls for your actual attack. Again this works much better than the complicated tables of adjustments to AC for when the person making the attack has advantages over the attacked.

One of the problems we had with our party in yesterday’s session was the person playing our paladin playing “lawful good” as “lawful stupid” and killing the lawful evil NPC who was spying on the target of our mission for several days before we got there and more than happy to show off and tell us everything he had discovered had the paladin not killed him first.

And again tonight I am going to end that public spell to return the intentions of the guy that tried to kill me by focussing a reflection spell with my hat. The guy died back in 2002, so the spell has been just churning out energy to no effect ever since then. I will be starting a new spell by dedicating a new hat to the creation of real, high quality (CROW Manual) bicycle infrastructure here in the Beautiful Suburbs of Hell. Pictures to follow.

We had the hats soaked in lamp oil before placing them on the fire.
Burn, baby, burn!

A few minutes after placing them on the fire.feel that energy getting shunted to good use!

After the rest of service was done, energy safely dispersed.Go and harm ye none.

And that’s all I got today.

PSA, Opus the Poet

I’m getting a new bike (with picture)

I’m getting a new bike from Oak Cliff Cargo Bikes (est. 2012) to replace Blue and Gigi. What I’m getting is a Clyde cargo-only version of

this bike Bonnie cargo bike

in a similar color scheme. My bike will have a slightly more vertical rear wall on the box and darker stain on the woodwork. And there will be a graphic similar to the header on this blog on the side of the box.

So, this new bike will need a name. At the moment I don’t know if this bike will have a feminine personality like Gigi, or a more masculine personality like Blue. I won’t know until I get the bike in my hands. So at this point boy, girl, or androgynous names are all equally accepted as suggestions.

PSA, Opus

A post about music, not bicycles

Yep, I’m staying up late with a bad backache listening to full albums on YouTube, and what I have been listening to lately has been Gorillaz. While the best stuff is from the second album Demon Days, the best album musically is their most recent studio release, The Fall. No hits, just a steady sonic wall of awesome. And a narrative of sorts as the songs track a journey that meanders across the United States, starting with a phone call to Arizona from somewhere in the hills and moraines of Michigan, that tracks through Detroit, Chicago, Joplin MO, Southern OK and far North TX into Dallas, then back northwest to Amarillo and then on to the Speak It Mountains and a quiet glade of Aspens. From there they meet up with Bobby in Phoenix, slide on over to California, then up the coast to Seattle. Nothing that screams “hit single” like “Clint Eastwood” or “Kids With Guns”, but just a mellow trip with smooth sounds. All together it sounds like a trip through the late 1960s and early ’70s country blues rock. I wouldn’t buy any song from the album as a stand-alone, but as a sonic unity I like it. I would buy the album if I could find the CD.

Now having said that about The Fall, the album that has the best songs is Demon Days, but those are all just songs, not a sonic unity. My particular choice from that album is a tossup between “Dirty Harry”, “Kids With Guns” and “DARE”. I mean none of the songs are clinkers, they are all pretty decent pieces of music, but those are the 3 that top my list. “Dirty Harry” particularly sounds like something that was rejected from the soundtrack to a Mad Max side story for being too good compared to the rest of the story (and now someone is going to make that movie in some alternate universe because I wrote about it here). “Kids With Guns” has one of the better bass lines ever, what else can I say? I mean there is the socially relevant lyrics, and a decently catchy tune, but that bass line >shiver<. And something that foreshadows The Fall is the pair of tracks "Fire Coming Out of the Monkey's Head" that tracks right into "Don't Get Lost in Heaven". The thematic thread that runs through Demon Days is a bass-heavy mix with the bass line carrying the melody in several of the songs. That is to be expected with a front man (Murdoc) that is the bass player for the virtual band. I know the front for the real band is Damon Albarn, the voice of 2D in the virtual band and singer for the group Blur when he's not a Gorillaz.

Now my vote for "worst" Gorillaz album is Plastic Beach which just goes to show that with a good songwriting team and good musicians even the "worst" is pretty good. It just doesn't have the sonic unity of The Fall, or the consistent single quality of Demon Days. The best tracks on that one are "Stylo" and "Melancholy Hill", with the one I like the least is "Superfast Jellyfish". That song sounds like a 3 minute commercial. Ugh!

Well I’m not a music guy, so I’m going to let this one end here.

PSA, Opus

About that henna tattoo…

I mentioned that I got a henna tattoo while I was at the festival, and that the artist immediately went with one of the more common themes that have been submitted. The good news is that skin grafts take henna very well, as you can see:

Henna temporary tattoo

And now you can see my leg in all its scarred glory. I wish I had written down the name of the artist so I could give credit where due. If you see this and want credit (your name attached to this post) leave a comment saying where I got the tattoo other than my leg, IOW where on the planet did I get the tattoo so I know you’re the real person that did the tattoo.

PSA, Opus.

Building winter gear from a Halloween costume, Wreck-Free Sunday

I have almost completed making the mask to keep the cold wind off my face, and what needs to be done won’t be visible in pictures so I’m just going to go ahead and document the build now.

First of all you need to start with the right mask, the hockey mask used by the monster in one of those slasher series. you will need to trim it so that it doesn’t interfere with your helmet but still covers your face where the helmet and balaclava (if you use one) doesn’t. I didn’t have a camera for this part of the build so I’m just going to describe the process and show what I had when I got the camera. What I did was I wore the mask under my helmet, and used a Sharpie to mark the plastic at the edge of the helmet. This was an uncomfortable process and I rushed it a bit which compromised the appearance of the finished project but did not effect the performance of the mask all that much. After I marked it I used heavy shears to cut the plastic mask leaving the parts I wanted in good shape.

After that I needed to figure out some way to put my glasses on the mask. I had a spare pair that had single-vision lenses and a broken temple piece so I decided they would be part of the mask. I removed the other temple piece and trimmed back the “barbs” on the side of the frames to reduce the amount of snagging things when I was using the mask. The glasses have a nose piece and a bar across the top of the frame, which suggested that a bolt type attachment could be used along with a wing nut to attach the glasses after I put the mask and helmet on. I had to do this because the frames were too wide to fit while putting the helmet on (from prior experience with identical frames and that same helmet, next time I buy glasses I’m making sure I can put my helmet on without removing my glasses). This required further modification to the frames by removing the nose pad (on these frames the nose pad was one structure that went from one side of the nose, up and over the brow, and down to the other side of the nose, instead of two smaller pads) so that the frames would fit closer to the face at about the same distance they would if I wasn’t wearing the mask. Then I marked the mask and drilled a hole for the bolt. I missed the spot (too low and to the side) so I had to re-drill a new hole that was higher and closer to the center. You can see both holes in the pictures.

After I made the physical alterations to the mask to make it fit the helmet and take the glasses, I modeled it for Mrs. the Poet. She did not like it and pronounced it “scary”, so I painted it black since I was planning on doing that anyway. Black was “still scary” because inside the helmet I became faceless, like Darth Vader crossed with one of those comic book super heroes that wore the stretch mask that he could see out but people could not see in. I became “too anonymous” which was “scary”. As I wasn’t trying to be scary (this time) I decided to add some color to the mask and give myself some facial features. which you can see in the first picture.

Painted mask

Mask rear, you can see the holes for the screw and the nosepad attachment

With the glasses screwed on

You can see which hole was right in this picture with the screw in place

After I painted the mask I needed to put baffles in it to keep my moisture-laden breath from fogging the glasses (which was the original reason to make the mask as previous solutions to the frozen face issue resulted in fogged glasses and having to stop to wipe them off so I could see again). First thing I needed to do was get the baffles cut out, which happened before I got the camera. I cut the baffles from a hunk of PU upholstery foam I had sitting around from a previous project. Then the baffles had to be glued to the inside of the mask in such a way that they didn’t fall off or get permanently squished (glued down squished). This took a couple tests with my favorite craft adhesive, Goop.

Finally getting the foam to stick to the mask, this was why I saved the cut-off piece when trimming the mask

Making sure there was enough baffle to cover the width of the mask

I had a little material left over on each side.

You can really see the hang over in this picture

Which was trimmed off after checking for fit.

Neat and clean looking

You can see the difference in this view.

Similar to the picture showing the hang over from the side, after trimming

Testing showed that the mask was blocking a clear view of my mirrors which required some more trimming, this time on the mask itself.

You can see the lower outside corners of the eyeholes have been pushed out and down

It is really visible in this picture.

All done!

Putting on the mask and having it work right is a minor production bit all on its own. First I have to put the balaclava on, and then put the mask over it.

Handsome devil, isn't he?

Then I have to slide the helmet over the mask, keeping it from getting pushed off my face.

Actually more painful than it looks

The helmet must be seated while the mask gets pulled down enough to spin the wingnut over the glasses.

I can almost see out like this

Then the glasses are installed and the mask moved into place.

And I can see where I'm going, and die from the heat if I stay in this too long indoors

I made a run last night at near-freezing temperatures, and while there are leaks in the baffles that caused the glasses to fog, my face was very warm. Problems yet to be solved are related to the condensation of that moisture-laden breath against the cold surface of the mask, the mask isn’t insulated so the inner surface is only slightly warmer than the outside air temperature. All the mask was intended to do was keep the cold wind off my face and prevent direct heat loss on the skin, but as designed and built now my breath condenses out most of its moisture when it hits the inside surface of the mask which on long rides results in a rather large puddle in front of my face. I’m still working on a solution to that issue.

Another thing I’m still working on is making the whole mess quicker to put on and take off. I see two possible solutions for that. One is to buy smaller glasses that can stay with the mask while the helmet goes on over the mask. The second is to trim the mask so that it fits completely out from under the helmet and the strap goes over the helmet instead of inside, but that would require coming up with a different way to attach the strap to the mask and glasses. That’s doable but I haven’t figured it out yet.

PSA, Opus

Edit: So far none of the pictures I uploaded to the site have shown in this post for me. Can anyone see the pictures? All I can see is what is supposed to be the mouseover text posted to the page as regular text.

Edit 2/24 I finally got the pictures to work, now the alt text doesn’t work, but I don’t care.

Where Mitt lost it

I think Romneybot 2.012 (and a tip of the sombrero to Patrick O’Grady for the epithet) knew he was going to lose the election way back when he was fundraising and made his (in)famous “47%” comment. If you have 47% of people that will vote for your opponent regardless, then anybody else that votes for anyone else but you is actually voting twice, because all that’s required is a plurality of the votes to win a majority of the electoral college. If you don’t have the majority, that’s cool so long as on a per state basis you have more votes in the states with the most electoral votes. And in almost all of the contests there were no totals that showed more than 49% of the vote to any one candidate. And for some reason all the links I had to the state by state vote counts are now dead. How strange?

Product review: Forte Metro tire

A little over a year ago I bought a set of Forte Metro tires in 26 X 1.5 (559*37). Since then I have managed to get a touch over 2K miles on them Here is my experience.

First is they had pretty good grip compared to the Primo Comets installed OEM on Blue, but a little more rolling resistance at recommended pressure. When pumped to the same pressure the Metros rolled a bit easier than the Comets. They also had a much better ride than the Comets at the recommended pressure, and a slightly better ride at the higher pressure recommended for the Comets.

They have an amazing wear characteristic compared to the Comets which had a bald strip down the center by 2K miles where the Metros are still showing good tread (and until a couple hundred miles ago still had the nubbies showing). Also the Metros have been ridden at a much higher GVW than the Comets were as I didn’t get the kitty litter buckets installed until a couple hundred miles before I installed the Metros.

So, in a nutshell compared to the OE Comets the Metros have better grip, slightly lower rolling resistance, better ride, and longer tread life. Not bad for a tire sold from the deep discount rack at Performance Bikes. I don’t know if the Metro is still available in this size, I had read that it was being discontinued in favor of a smaller width tire in the 559mm rim size. EDIT 10/01/2012: The 559-37 (26 x 1.5) size is available again, but I don’t know if it’s the same tire I bought. EDIT 4/30/2013: I now have about 3K miles and still not showing serious wear yet. All the nubbies are gone, but there is still lots of tread depth remaining and rolling resistance is much less than before.

PSA, Opus

I was neither paid nor provided product for this review, this was a spontaneous report on a product I had bought with my own money. Since I don’t get very much of that don’t expect WoaB to turn into Consumer Reports for bicycles.

An excellent experience in massage

I had a really great massage last week. I have multiple issues in dealing with the physical aftermath of my wreck, with permanent muscle and nerve damage, and from time to time I need to get a massage to unwind the knots and dial back the pain a bit. Well I found a technique that really helped dial back the pain and stiffness, using heated pillows filled with buckwheat and herbs, kind of a combination of stone massage and aromatherapy. The heated pillows make chronically tight muscles relax a bit so that the masseuse doesn’t have to use extreme pressure to get deep into tight muscles to make them unkink. The herbs are pleasant and make the person getting the massage relax a little more then would be the case without them.

The therapist that gave me the massage is Stephanie Brinkman. Her e-mail is sabrinkman@yahoo.com. Tell her she was highly rated by the Witch on a Bicycle.

PSA, Opus

Short post today, and still begging for stuff

Felicitations! I love big fancy words, don’t you? And that is so much nicer than “I wish you a happy hello and a very good day” even though it has almost as many syllables.

First up I will be baking bread in a borrowed oven Friday and Saturday preparing for the auction and circus on Saturday night, and the newer laptop is still SNAFU and I can’t get the older laptop to take Linux so I can use the wireless adaptor, meaning I can’t blog at church while the bread rises. So no wreck reports Friday or Saturday, but I will do a wreck-free Sunday post.

Second, I seriously need that reline kit for the Bellistic helmet Size M. I’m starting to get little bits of liner in my hair after riding, which means that while I still have some protection for my head, it isn’t very much any more. Also that motorcycle helmet I was supposed to be getting last spring for use as a winter helmet never showed, so I need something like a MX or ATV helmet with a vented chin bar for conversion to a winter bicycling helmet. Actually this helmet has lasted longer than any helmet I bought. My first 2 full face helmets both had chin strap failures long before the energy absorbing liner started falling apart. That’s the biggest reason why I want a reline kit instead of buying a new helmet, when you find a good product you want to stick with it. And I need the motorcycle helmet to keep my face and the rest of my head warm this winter, same size as the bicycle helmet: Adult Medium.

This fund raiser is going to be so cool, I wish at least some of y’all could be there. There will be several very fresh loaves of bread going to the auction including one that will be auctioned off hot from the oven.

Not a PSA, but I don’t think I should be billing either, Opus

About to go camping, no Feed

I know, a Saturday without a Feed. What will you do? How about going for a bike ride, like I’m about to do. I did a test run on the kitty-litter bucket panniers last night and empty I found them to be quiet and secure. I checked out what drivers could see from behind at night and what they see they don’t understand, so they stay well back. I used part of 2 old license plates and a couple of stick-on reflectors stuck in the middle of the plates to make my night profile more visible, and the combination has drivers doing a WTF? I won’t have anything final to say about the set-up until after I do a major grocery run and see how the bike handles and everything holds up on the bumps. I noticed in my test run that I lost 7% on my speed, which means that when I’m doing long trips not involving carrying large loads I’ll leave the buckets at home.

All I need to do now is figure out how to connect my camera to my computer to download my pictures of Blue and his new green kitty-litter buckets.

PSA, Opus