Modernity July Preview Shipped!

Greetings from the vast wilderness around Glacier Peak.

It took me a little longer to hit the next milestone that I planned, but here it is, updated and ready for you to download. This is the complete planned content for the core Modernity book after full editorial pass #3 by the beta readers. I’m now hiring a professional RPG editor to put it on the rack and go over it with a fine-toothed comb.

Next stop? Art. The preview of cover and interior art is due Sunday 31 August 2014. I know you’ll love it.

Please send me your input. I’d love to add your name to the wall of feedback champions and playtest heroes!

Goodbye, Outlook Tasks!

When I first met Peter Bregman, he was on his book tour speaking at Microsoft Research. In 2012. He tried to convince me to give up Outlook Tasks for managing all the stuff that I wasn’t doing. His logic was sound. He repeatedly pointed out that “It’s a myth. You can’t do it all!”

I wasn’t yet ready to acknowledge that my [many] task lists were really just a pile of things that I wish I had time to do. But don’t.

I bought the book, 18 Minutes, anyway and had Peter sign it for me. He was very gracious.

My wife and kids have read it (and done better than I have at following Peter’s advice).

Sure, I adopted some of his recommended practices:

  • I made a simple, six-box set of priorities. (I even look at them once in a while!) They’re in OneNote and pinned to the start screen on my phone so that I can’t ignore them (all the time).
  • I schedule time on my calendar for the important things, instead of putting them on a list.
  • I don’t put anything on my calendar that doesn’t fall into one of the six boxes.
  • I make myself accountable for the items on my calendar every day, even if they don’t get done during the time slot I originally allocated to them.
  • I celebrate the things I do get done, which is a lot more than I did two years ago.

imageEven the partial adoption of the 18 Minutes philosophy has made me more productive and successful in the past two years. I highly recommend the book. Peter’s fun to read.

Fast forward 2 years, 2 months, and a fortnight.

I still have hundreds of task list items in 6 different mailboxes (two of them Office 365 mailboxes). Many of them over a year old. Most of them long overdue.

I’ve known that I have a task problem for a long time, but it was never a priority to do anything about it, and I always promise myself that I’ll review the task list someday and do those things.

So why am I saying goodbye to my task lists now?

wp_ss_20140723_0002Windows Phone 8.1 made me do it.

I’ve had the same Windows Phone 8 device since Launch Day™. I stood in line for 8 hours on Microsoft’s main campus with a couple thousand of my closest cow-orkers to get my “free” phone. I’ve never been without it since, not a single day. Until this past Monday. My reliable, beloved HTC 8X has finally gone to the great phone Valhalla in the sky. RIP, little guy. I’ll miss you.

I have a great new device, a Nokia Lumia 635 with Windows Phone 8.1 on it. I love it. It’s so yellow that you can see it from space. I’m not prone to losing devices, but just in case, you know?

Now, I’ve always had the comfort of being able to easily swipe over to my task list on my phone and look at them. Occasionally even complete (or delete) one! But over the years with Windows Phone, as it grows and matures, it is becoming clear that Tasks are an afterthought for the team that maintains the Calendar app.

I can’t swipe over to my task list anymore. I have to perform some alternative action to discover my tasks. As a creature of habit (part of my autism is being pretty change averse), this is painful. It just seems like nobody thinks tasks are important enough to treat like first class citizens the same way that email, contacts, and appointments are. I don’t know if Tasks are going the way of Outlook Notes. (I don’t think ActiveSync has supported Outlook Notes since Windows Phone 7, but I could misremember; maybe it never did. I gave up on Outlook Notes long ago.)

  • I can’t pin Tasks to the start menu or create Tasks from the start menu.
  • I can’t do a lot of the categorization, coloring, etc, on the phone that I can do with tasks in Outlook. I’m not sure the two teams are communicating with one another regularly.
  • I can’t effectively search or do more than a basic sort of tasks on my phone.
  • OneNote is where the task functionality seems to be headed. Which sort of makes sense, although they don’t really have reminders, sortability, etc, either.
  • For now, tasks do still sync with my various clouds, but… I can’t find a Windows Phone app that does what I want AND supports more than one mailbox at a time.
  • The Windows Phone API only allows read-only access to other apps for appointments and contacts, not for tasks, which means I’m really, really too lazy to reinvent the wheel and code to the Office 365 API and manage my own task store on the phone. Ick.
  • Do I really need them after all?

No. I don’t really need them after all.

Fine. I can admit when I’m wrong. I’m sorry, Peter. You were right.

With my grieving done, I’ve made one final task list in OneNote.


Goodbye, Outlook Tasks.

I can’t even, either.

Clive Thomson driveled something on the internet today:

It must be said: Lovecraft is not a great literary stylist. His prose is good, but not great.

The one exception? This linguistic subgenre—the craft of finding new ways to say that he can’t say something. When Lovecraft does describe a monster straightforwardly, he often stumbles, defaulting to pretty journeyman prose. But when he describes the way a monster can’t be described? He is endlessly inventive. I read and reread my collection of Lovecraft, slapping in a Post-It Note whenever I hit upon one of these I-can’t-even moments, and soon the book was crammed with stickies. I’m starting to believe these catchphrases may be his most enduring contribution to English letters.

“I can’t even.” — The Message — Medium

Despite being a relatively fun and upbeat article about “stylized linguistic incoherence”, I find myself at a loss for words to describe the level of disrespect to Mr. Lovecraft that I must inveigh here! Well, I never!!

No one should ever dis The Master™ that way! Even if it might be a little true.

My favorite [unintentional] “stylized linguistic incoherence” was a teammate of mine back in my second round of startup daze. After staring at HTML code (not her strong suit) trying to clean up the branding language for TOO MANY HOURS straight FAR TOO LATE AT NIGHT, Gail finally threw up her hands and objected to HTML in general, “That not even English is!” Which is really saying something for a bright young woman with a bachelors degree in English.

Blast from the past

Millennium's End 63044One of my [many] favorite tabletop RPGs from the ‘90s is Millennium’s End. (ME v2 was updated in 2009.) It’s also one of the few games [of any kind] that I have ever seen that made a conscious effort to maintain backward compatibility between its v2 and v1 products.

Like many earlier generations of RPGs, its character creation involves some random generation of attributes. Very Gygaxian. The skill system is incredible rich and complex. What’s a 14-letter word for really complex?

Like a lot of RPGs, not just RPGs in the ‘90s, it’s combat rules seem absurdly complex at first blush. Every combat turn represents 2-seconds of real time. A typical human has 25 different hit locations, which are determined by a separate percentile role on a clear plastic overlay of a representative figure outline once a successful hit is determined. For each bullet fired. Then there’s different types of armor, different types of ammo, different types of… You get the picture. When we were in high school, we had time to burn six hours to run a 30-second combat scenario. Not so much anymore.

The rules (which I think are based on Phoenix Command, but I could misremember) are not what I love about the fabulous game that Charles and company produced. The complexity of the simulation engine is obviously the opposite end of the spectrum for what we have adopted for Modernity, but the gritty and contemporary cyber feel of the game are in many ways similar to aspects of Modernity. The technology obviously is years out of date, but if you’re looking for inspirations for your Modernity game, there a hundred plus pages in Millennium’s End that will serve you well.

You could even ignore the rules portion and play through the entire Millennium’s End campaign with the Modernity rules. It’s a lot of fun!