Sunday, 28 November 2010

PSA: Google Docs sharing bug

There is a current bug with Google Docs & Spreadsheets, with many users unable to share documents. On Minstrel Hall, this is a bit of a problem for us, as character sheets have to be shared between a player and a DM. But fortunately there seems to be a workaround.

Shorten the document name, then share it. Once both people have access, rename the document to a more appropriate name, the sharing will be retained.

Courtesy of a user on

Monday, 25 October 2010

Savoy Opera Company: Patience

I wasn't expecting to be able to get to this show, having several scheduling conflicts, but at the last minute, time opened up for me to see the matinee. Patience is a show I've seen quite a bit of; my first non-crew role was a Heavy Dragoon, and then two years later the G&S Society took a Patience to England. It's less popular than some of the Gilbert and Sullivans, but its music is no worse than any other. Unfortunately a production that's artistically good but undersells is a tough proposition for a performing company.

And today's show was good. There were a few unfortunate moments, where lines were lost or unplannedly altered, but by and large it was a fun show. The cast were clearly enjoying themselves, and it communicated.

Patience (Lucy Pfeifer) was marvellous in her scenes with the two poets, and then she topped herself in the second act with Lady Angela (Bec Muratore). Over the top? She started there and kept on moving up! But with all her effort, she still had a fair way to challenge the OTT-ness of the hilarious Lady Jane (Jennifer Donohue). The second act opens with Jane and her cello, which she made no pretense of genuinely playing. When she dragged her bow across and the orchestra didn't oblige, she glared down at them comically. And later, in her duet with Bunthorne (Stephen Smith), both of them played up the comedy, with an energetic Reggie popping up and down behind Jane - their relative heights made this work quite well. Bunthorne and Grosvenor (Stephen McNealy) had a similarly energetic "When I go out of door", upstaging each other with enthusiasm. Among the 35th Dragoon Guards (what do dragoons need to be guarded from, incidentally?), I think there were about one and a half minds - occasionally the Duke (David Campbell) disagreed with the others, until being brought back into line by the Colonel (Matthew Cookson), or the somewhat ineptly soldierly Major (Julian Raff), who needed to pause to figure out how to get the company off stage (Oh yes! Left, that's right. No, right is right. Left. Right. Left. Got it!). Their singing was far more impressive than their soldiering, though, and especially in the Soft Note, we heard a very good set of voices. Ella (Ariel Chou in the matinee) was clear and lovely, if a little timid at times; Saphir (Lucy Fitzmaurice) came forward rather more, both musically and in her characterization.

There were a few places where the show perhaps could have done with a little more polish, which may have been a consequence of having missed out on the previous night's performance; the Dragoon Guards particularly do need to look precise in their movement, for instance. But it was still a good show and a fun one, enjoyable and enjoyed, and I'm very glad to have seen it.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

RosMud version 1.6.3

* If you have "Prompt on close: Always" and active connection(s), then you will now get _two_ (or more) prompts before closing.
* Fixed an obscure race condition with Passive Mode.
* Updated the wealth plugin to the new format

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Practically Perfect in Every Way

Two brothers and I saw "Mary Poppins" at Her Majesty's Theatre on Thursday. The ticket price was rather higher than I had been planning to pay, but I had hopes that the show would justify it. The cost of a programme ($20) was in line with the ticket price, but for that we got a large full color programme and a B4 booklet of close-up photos, which made that fairly good value. It had several points which piqued my interest. The quintuple casting of the two children was an obvious necessity, given the amount of work they have and the length of the season. But more notable was the crediting of "Mary Flight" engineering. In Sheldon Cooper's world, that would be a spoiler... we went in with our minds "pre-blown" with the expectation that we'd see some spectacular flying. More on that later!

Our seats were up in the Grand Circle, around to the side a bit. As readers of this blog will know, a bit of altitude doesn't bother me; in Buxton, we always sat in the balcony seats, and in closer-to-home productions, I'm frequently in the roof, operating a follow spot. In the Maj, the view from the Grand Circle is more than adequate, and the show was carefully miked to ensure that every seat heard the show just fine.

From our seats, we could see the domes and lighting board. There were four domes, all of which were used to good effect. It was occasionally distracting to see the full cone of the spotlight, which mostly happened after smoke had been used on stage - which was done extremely well, eg chimney scenes - but the most notable attribute of the follow spotting is precision. Marvellous precision. They would 'bing' on and 'bing' off and be perfectly placed every time.

Throughout the show, precision, precision, precision. I wrote it on my notes five times, all up, and that's only because it would have been redundant to write it any more. The ensemble work was crisp, the technical aspects were executed smoothly, the timing was spot on. It's not easy to stand perfectly still, and then to break into movement at the exact same time that the lights and the music begin moving; and that's exactly what happened.

The title character's first entrance was smoothly done. We weren't specifically looking for her, and completely did not see her - the lights went down, there was a flash of lightning, and then the lights came up to reveal her in the middle of the stage. It's an effective technique - once. When the same method was used a second time later in the show, we could see exactly where she came from. But it still worked fairly well.

A side point, on entrances/exits: The set for the inside of 17 Cherry Tree Lane had an upstairs, which the children would exit by when heading to their rooms. The painted outside showed that there was a bit of a landing before the stairs started moving up, so it didn't look 'wrong' to see the children walk through the exit and not begin climbing stairs. It's a minor point, but one where forethought can maintain artistic verisimilitude - and over and over again, this production had it working right. There were a very few cases where things looked odd (the statues in the park, when they became animated, were clearly in costumes that were zipped up behind), but they were far outweighed by the alternative (like the projected rain effect, which was used in three different ways to create drizzle, driving rain, and snow).

The story takes place in a large number of different locations. This necessitated some swift scene changes, frequently in the middle of other action. To accomplish this, some scenery was flown, and other components were brought in on tracks in the stage. I have no idea how much stuff was in the wings, but it must have been quite considerable. We never saw stage crew, but they were clearly extremely active through the whole show - not the "thirty minutes of boredom, thirty seconds of blind panic" model of some shows.

As a geek, I was of course looking closely at the technical aspects of the show. How would the carpet-bag be handled? I didn't quite satisfy myself on that point. It disgorged a hat stand, which might have been telescoping and might have come from a trap in the floor; a plant, which could easily have been folded down on itself; but also some bedclothes, which couldn't really have fitted along with everything else. There must be some alternative entrance to that Bag of Holding... but we didn't see it. The stage magic was equally impressive in the finger-snap tidying sequence, where a kitchen disaster was smoothly undone without the luxury of running the film backwards, and in a front-of-projection scene where Bert drew a "Welcome" message in the sky prior to Mary's return. His arm movements synchronized with the projection with just a little delay that could be explained by the altitude at which he was writing.

Normally, I would plan to applaud after each song, and occasionally after a particularly awesome entrance or piece of stagecraft. Unfortunately we weren't permitted to do so for quite a while - important dialogue followed immediately after a good song, so applauding would have meant missing out on that. But as the show continued, we got more time to applaud, and we were far from alone in doing so.

Everyone who works in theatre knows what it means to "fly" something. It's not really flown, but rather is strung up and lifted into the roof. And everyone who's used a kite knows what it means to "fly" a kite. But in this show, kites are flown in both senses at once - a convincing rendition of kite movement, in the windlessness of theatre. And not just one kite, but five - moving in and out smoothly - and one of them managed to get stuck on an approaching Mary, a rather neat effect.

Yes, my expectations of "Mary flight engineering" were not disappointed. Even if there'd been only a few short flights, it would have been impressive. But for the grand finale, in every sense of the word, she did more than just fly around the stage - she flew right across the audience's heads, and up into the roof! Two men came to a lighting tree in the auditorium (why two? I don't know; maybe one is in charge of safety) and took what had been a fixed lamp and turned it into a follow spot, smoothly highlighting the departing star. (And yes, she behaved very much as an operatic star, both in singing style and in how she took her bow - I think she earned that privilege.)

And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell more about these characters, who through stage magic walked up walls, appeared through dollhouses, turned houses around, held families together, and became powerful in foreign armies (okay, not that). These were all commended for their stagecraft, yet none of them received as much applause as they - and even more so, the invisible crew who made it happen - deserved. This show had its awesome moments. The rest was merely spectacular.

Friday, 30 July 2010

RosMud version 1.6.2

* Fixed a bug with paste that could potentially crash RM if an arbitrarily long line was submitted. Now, it will cut the line short without crashing (but without erroring either).

* Changed the default world file.

Also a couple of slight tweaks to plugins and default options that will make the initial install a bit cleaner.

Monday, 3 May 2010

RosMud version 1.6.1

A few small bug fixes, nothing enormous.

* Double-clicking a world name in the Connect window will connect to it.

* Fixed a small bug with the HPGraph plugin (retroactively added to some 1.6.0 releases)

* Fixed a small bug with passwording: the window would stay in "concealed mode" if you disconnect from the server while entering your password.

* Updated the default world file

Friday, 26 February 2010

One very good Ventura Knoxfield driver

Ventura Bus Lines, Knoxfield depot. Home of Melbourne's bus route 742, which I use morning and evening (unless I take the almost-parallel route 693, operated by Invicta) to get to and from work. For those who don't know the geography, grab Google Maps or similar, or just bear with me; the specific locations don't matter all that much. Route 742 sometimes dips underneath Centro Oakleigh to go directly to the station, and sometimes arcs around Hanover, Atherton, and Station Streets. (It depends on whether the bus is terminating at Oakleigh or going on to Chadstone, but again, immaterial to this account.) In the arc there are three bus stops: one partway along Hanover, one at the corner of Hanover and Atherton, and one midway down Atherton, at Eaton Mall (tangent: it is so named because it used to be Eaton Street before it was made no-traffic, but it's singularly appropriat because the mall has a large number of eateries...) All buses then go to the Oakleigh Station Bus Loop.

Yesterday, I was on an arcing bus, which I like because I can disembark at the first Hanover St stop and go shopping - it's the most convenient way to maintain my supplies of soft drink (aka soda, to my American readers) and cheesy snacks for at work. I was short on snacks, so I hit the "next stop" button and prepared to disembark - but the driver didn't stop. This is unfortunately quite normal - a lot of drivers miss that first stop - and as we ran past it, I reminded the driver that I'd wanted that stop. (The usual course is for the driver to then stop at the other stop on Hanover, which entails a longer walk for me but still lets me go shopping.) He said no, there's no stops here. I pointed out the signage, and he said they were stops for other routes, but not for this one. We unfortunately had a bit of an argument, and I ended up departing the bus (at Oakleigh Station, and unable to go shopping) in something of a huff, giving the driver a dirty look rather than my extremely usual "Thank you" as I departed the bus.

Today, he changed all that. I boarded the bus as usual, and the driver - yep, the same guy from yesterday, I believe, although I've not a good memory for faces - said, "I owe you an apology". There are not many bus drivers who are prepared to apologize to their customers (aka passengers), and as far as I'm concerned, this turns the incident completely. I wish I knew his name, so that I could thank him formally, but whoever you are: Thanks. It's good to know that Knoxfield drivers do not all fit the negative stereotype!

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Oh frabjous day!

Google has announced that soon support for IE6 will be removed from Google Docs and other services... okay, so the browser isn't dead, but if more and more major sites make similar declarations, eventually all those corporate locked-down systems will have to get upgraded, and that would be a Good Thing. Hopefully, when the crunch comes, they'll think about going to Chrome or Firefox rather than IE8, but even moving to IE8 would be better than staying with IE6.

Everyone's already said everything I would have said on the subject, but I have to give some more airtime to this delightful paragraph with which Think Geek regaled its loyal readers:

In a missive that made designerds and code monkeys everywhere swoon with Valentiney love, our sweetheart Google announced they would stop supporting IE6. Or as our codeslingers call it, IE666. Google pulled out their vorpal blades and with a snicker-snack, they left IE6 dead. Hearing the news was just like being in high school and getting a pass out of P.E. We are chortling with joy. Callooh! Callay! We love you, Google. Muah! Now, if you could only do something about Comic Sans and Papyrus fonts...

There is a sheer brilliance to this which is noteworthy even among ThinkGeek missives... go Geeknet!!

Sunday, 3 January 2010

RosMud version 1.6.0

Wow, it's been so long since the last of these posts. Well, time for a birthday release!

Quite a few changes here, so I'm calling it minor (1.6.0) rather than revision (1.5.10).

* Added a way to display recent numpad nav travel. Use the /lastnav command, put by default on the * key, to see up to 16 recent directions travelled. The list is restarted every time you start travelling using the numpad.

* Fixed a display issue with the input box when ANSI color is disabled (thanks Gesslar!)

* TinyURL plugin will now process multiple URLs in a single command, potentially tinifying them all.

* Added /debug command 'a'.

* You can now copy and paste with timestamps. Hold Ctrl while marking and copying, and timestamps (in the same "line timestamp format" configured in Advanced Options) will precede each line.

* New plugin: Kill counter. Designed for Threshold RPG; keeps track of the NPCs you have seen die (note that this is not necessarily the same as the number you kill, but it will likely be close). If you see all the same NPCs all the time, consider that you might be over-borging them! :D Not world-aware. (Type /killcnt to see stats.)

* The Editor now has an AutoWrap button which controls whether or not sending will be wrapped (previously it would always be wrapped).

* Also, the Editor now treats wrap to 0 as "don't wrap" (like it should have long ago).