Whoa, Nelly

Good for sitting on the porch after a long day.

  1. 1 jigger rye
  2. 3/4 shot dark rum
  3. 3/4 shot orange liqueur 
  4. 3/4 shot simple syrup
  5. Dash of bitters
  6. Squeeze of lime

Shaker full of ice, combine, serve in a highball glass.

I wish I could quit you

I constantly try to quit WordPress and run my own thing, but every time the same thing happens: I get bored, I get tired of screwing around with templates and JS and hosting and servers, when really I just want to write dumb stuff.

So I’m perpetually switching back and forth between some random hosting nonsense and plain ol’ hosted WordPress.

I wish I was normal.

I do not understand PbtA at all.

I really, really want to understand Powered By The Apocalypse (PbtA) games, but I just don’t. I’m starting to think I’m either really dumb or so old that this New Fangled Way is beyond my old grognard/neckbeard skills.

Now, to be clear: the basic premise is easy to grasp. In “old school” RPGs, you are presented with a challenge: say, an orc guarding a door. The players and GM then shift into a semi-simulation of the fight. In the classic method, each side (in PbtA parlance) “makes moves”, or executes various rules systems, with the roll of the dice standing in for the randomness and chaos of the real world. GM rolls well, you get hit and take damage; you roll well, the orc dies (or you sneak by him or you con him into opening the door, or whatever).

In my day (rattles cane) if you – the GM – got a roll you didn’t like, well, you were probably rolling behind a screen, so you’d just fudge it. Maybe killing a PC right now was the wrong thing to do, or maybe the player did a really funny or interesting job pretending to fast-talk the orc; whatever. The point is, you made the call and went on with the game.

In PbtA, all that is … simplified? Streamlined? Systematized? All of the above? I get it: the PCs have moves┬áthat are analogous to the volume upon volume of rules in classic systems. “We are going to sneak past the orc”, they say, and they roll their “Sneak Past Stuff” move. If they succeed, they succeed; and if they fail, or partially succeed, then something appropriate happens.

This bit, I get. This is nearly exactly identical to the old-school way, just clarified and formalized. It works. I get it.

What I don’t get are the constant series of meta games┬áthat PbtA systems seem to want to introduce, to the point of having hundreds of pages of rules for … frankly, I don’t even know.

Consider ‘Blades in the Dark’. It consists of a “free play” mode and a “score” mode and a “downtime” mode. Uh, ok? It has “flashback scenes” and all sorts of other, strange modes of interacting that involve different types of rolls and systems.

[Sidebar: I’m told that Blades in the Dark is a pretty “advanced” hack of PbtA, and possibly not ideal for a first play-through. “Just play DW”, they say. To which I say, I should not have to have a fundamental grounding in “Chutes and Ladders” before taking on Advanced Squad Leader.]

As I understand it, the modes of play are roughly like this:

  1. Free play: “We go talk to a dude about a door we heard we want to open.”
  2. Score: OK, roll to open the door. Roll to get what is behind the door. Roll to carry off things. Roll to escape.
  3. Downtime: roll to fence the goods. Roll to heal. Role play all of this.

That needs … systems? And I’m leaving out flashbacks and numerous other pieces of minutiae I can’t even remember.

The list goes on, and on. There’s a bunch of abstractions I can’t wrap my head around. Combat in PbtA has a strange set of moving parts I can’t get. I get not detailing each swing of a sword or pull of a trigger, but at times it feels like a flip of a 3-sided coin (you take a hit! you don’t take a hit! you sort of do or don’t!).

I could keep rambling on, but I think you get the idea. Am I just over-thinking this? Am I too grounded in old-school D&D?

Things I wish were represented in RPGs but never are

You’re running low on water and you know it’s not too many miles ahead but you have none now.

I am wearing everything I own and I’m still cold.

Why won’t this goddamn tinder catch.

This fucking axe is sharper than a razor and harder than a diamond, how did that hit just bounce off that goddamn tree with nary a nick.

Is it going to rain? Fuck it’s going to rain. But like, in an hour? Or 3?

I’m in great shape and fit, why are my thighs rubbing in an uncomfortable way.

Are we near the ridge? We should be. How much longer. Maybe an hour? Or 3?

My clothes are so wet from sweat, when the sun goes down, I will probably die of exposure. But FUCK I can’t get a fire started! (See above)

WHAT the FUCK was that NOISE?

Epilogue: well, that sucked

I got it working! I wrote a bunch of scripts to wrap Watchman and my workflow. It all behaved precisely to plan!

Except for one thing: our pre-commit hooks.

We have a thing for code quality, and so we have a HUGE set of Git hooks. The biggest are our pre-commit hooks, which check a whole slew of things. From brace style to cyclomatic complexity, they really give the code a deep look.

The problem is, our environment uses mod_perl. Mod_perl doesn’t ship with macOS, and doesn’t compile cleanly/easily, esp. if you’re using Perlbrew to run an old-ass Perl.

Some of our commit checks rely on Apache2:: stuff to run.

Sadface. Others, more experienced than I, ran into similar issues, and bailed, too.

So I gave up. For the time being, my workflow will remain shitty, impractical, and inefficient. There is probably a way. It’s just not low-hanging fruit.

Remote vs Local Dev: HALP!

For various complex reasons, it is currently not practical to run our application on a laptop. (Primarily but not limited to: there isn’t a “subset” of the large database, the web-heads don’t have a simple configuration, and much of the subset of CPAN we use doesn’t always easily/quickly compile on Windows or OSX)

SO! Everyone gets 1 or more development VMs upon which to do their development.

Which is great except our current development platform is Centos 5. So that awesome Macvim config you carefully cultivated at your last gig? Doesn’t work.

Most of the devs do one of three things:

  1. Run a Samba server on their devs, and mount
  2. Run FUSE SSFS, and mount
  3. Use an editor that works entirely by remote

UGH. I’ve been doing that but it’s not without problems: I have to sync my configs everywhere, making sure to write stuff that works in Mac OS X and Linux; running Git – especially really great tools like Sourcetree – isn’t feasible locally, so you’re limited to doing everything on the command line; and you are constantly losing connections when you switch networks (even if your machine sleeps when you’re having a long lunch). You lose local indexing, you lose all the awesome tool chain I’ve built up over the past few years.

So I have an idea. I remembered Facebook’s Watchman, a file-watching thingee. Why not just keep a local Git repo/working tree, and have it “ship” changes as they happen to my dev?

After all, the devs are configured to watch for file changes, and if they get unruly we have a quick command to bounce them. The amount of front-end I do is limited – I can basically watch .pm and .pl files only, and there is no build step once delivered to the dev. 

Am I insane? Does this sound remotely plausible? Should I just develop in a simple, unadorned xterm and stop using nice, modern tools? What does everyone else do in this situation?

(Addendum: in theory this plan will work transparently over VPN too, without possible latency gripes like a networked file system, I guess?)


If my recent job-hunting experience taught me one thing, it’s that I’m never again doing whiteboard coding to try to get a job. Whiteboard coding is beyond stupid and companies that practice it – use it a core indicator of ability – are at best misguided, at worst broadly unconcerned with software quality.

There is an exception, I suppose: whiteboarding a block diagram of something – “design me an N-tier web service for foobar blah etc” – is a potentially useful exercise. It is entirely relevant to things programmers, devops, and others do every day. A conversation about lots of useful things can result from that.

But coding? Writing a reasonable facsimile of working code off the top of your head, without a single reference, without the ability to drop into a REPL or gin up a test case or 3? No man pages, no Stack Overflow, no quick convo in the Slack channel, no hallway meeting? That’s how code gets written in the real world. That’s what you’re testing in a candidate.

Give a take-home assignment that tests their actual ability to write code. Bring them in for a code review, discuss software quality  and design. If you absolutely MUST make them do a live test, let them use their laptop and preferred environment. (You probably DON’T need to do this, though.)

I feel reasonably comfortable saying that the first thing I think I will ask a prospective employer is, “Do you require whiteboard coding in the interview?”. An affirmative answer is a clear sign not to move forward.

The whiteboard code test: not even once.