Leetaur's Blog

Lindsey Stirling in The Outpost

When I watched this episode of The Outpost (aired this past Tuesday), I didn't realize that the girl bard was played by Lindsey Stirling!  I had to go back and find scene again.  The bards end up trying to rob Janzo and Talon.  This YouTube clip is just of the song they sang.

Looking on IMDB, Stirling is playing "Pock", and will be in 5 episodes.  It should make the rest of the season fun :)

Dungeons & Dragons' Place in Pop Culture

It is pretty cool that Dungeons & Dragons is again popular.  I first played D&D in 1982 with my mom, dad and sister.  Now, in my 40's, I play with my younger brother and a number of friends, both as a player and as a Dungeon Master.  I also DM for my children, all the way from my 22-year old down to my 5-year old daughter (who cannot really play, but loves to sit at the table, with her dinosaur figure).

D&D Beyond Jingle

Sam Riegel, voice actor and D&D player from Critical Role, sings the D&D Beyond jingle for the first time.  

This jingle is later picked up by D&D Beyond, and the little cartoon-intro they came up with is pretty awesome :)

D&D Beyond

I have been playing a lot of Dungeons & Dragons lately, both with my brother's group (an online group, since the players live in different states), and among my own family.  

With a large family, I run two different campaigns, one with my wife and my 3 oldest children (who are 21, 14, 13), and one is the "younger group", ages 11, 9, 8.  And my 4-year old daughter, Lizzy, always insists on being at the adventuring table.  She likes rolling the dice for the Dungeon Master.  And she also insists on being in the party.  Her D&D "miniature" is actually a toy dinosaur.

A couple months ago I discovered D&D Beyond.  Officially approved by Wizards of the Coast, and programmed by Curse, it is a record-keeping system for players and Dungeon Masters.  The DMs can create campaigns, and invite players to those campaigns.  The DM can invite players into their campaigns, and share the manuals that they buy (electronic versions of the Dungeon Masters Guide, Player's Handbook, etc, pretty much all the manuals and adventure publish by WotC).

There are subscription prices for players (Hero's Tier) and Dungeon Masters (Master Tier).  If you have a subscription to the Master Tier, that is what allows you to share the content you've bought with your players.

So how do I like the D&D Beyond?  It makes some things very easy, such as rolling up/leveling up characters, because it is all done with a step-by-step process. I also like the electronic version of the manuals.  They allow for easy searching, and it is a lot easier to have all the books available on your laptop or iPad.

Downside - to unlock the the content on creating characters, and to have electronic access to the monsters/etc, you have to buy the electronic versions of the manuals.  There has been a bit of griping in forums about having to rebuy the manuals to unlock the content, after players had bought the physical manuals.  And they cost a bit, for example $29.99 for the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide.  It cost $39.99 for the physical version, but $30 could still be a lot for some folks.

The best answer I saw to this in D&D Beyond's forums is that you have to think of D&D Beyond like a hobby shop.  Curse, who programmed D&D Beyond, is not the same company as Wizards of the Coast.  They are selling (reselling) content, and D&D Beyond has to be able to make money to offer services like that.  You can see the thread HERE.

For me, I am happy to pay extra for the digital content.  After all, anyone who produces a physical good, or an electronic service, has a right to be paid for their services.

For anyone who wants an electronic way of tracking the characters in their campaigns, or to have electronic versions of the game manuals (I think D&D Beyond has the only legal electronic copies), I happy recommend the service.

WWDC 2017 Keynote

Apple held its 2017 WWDC keynote yesterday at 10:00 Pacific time.  It ran longer - 2 and a half hours.  There were a lot of announcements at the keynote, including new Mac laptops and iMac updates, information on virtual reality and augmented reality, and more.  iOS 11 was demoed, and will be launched in the fall (probably September) alongside new, 10th anniversary iPhones.

Amelia Brightman and Gregorian - Moment of Peace

Gregorian is one of my favorite music groups (though I have a few, with very different styles.

This one is a slower version of "Moment of Peace", with Amelia Brightman (aka Violet) as the singer.  Scenes from the Passion of the Christ are intermixed with it.

Everyone have a Merry Christmas! 


Back in college I very much enjoyed writing, along with a few friends of mine.  My "master piece" at the time was a novel I was working on called "Blood Fire" (no relation to the "Blood Fire" in Terry Brooks' novel, the Elfstones of Shannara, which I hadn't read yet), an epic fantasy story in a world that I made up.  The story made it up to 140 pages.  I was using a 286 computer to write the story, with MS-DOS as the operating system, and Word Perfect 5.something as my word processor.  

I was in college when the World Wide Web came about, though back in those days there wasn't much on it yet.  I didn't have a web browser on my 286, which couldn't run Windows, though by the time I graduated I had a brand new Pentium machine, and had a 14.4K modem in it!  I certainly don't remember writing resources or pages on the web back then ('96), and even after I was running Windows 95, word processors seemed to be pretty limited.

Life happened - I got married, we had a daughter, and I graduated and started a professional career.  And now it is 20 years (and many children) later!  To make a long story short, though I would work on some stories now and then, I let my writing hobby languish.

My daughter, the one born while I was in college, loves to write.  And she challenged me to something I had never heard of before.  It is called NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month.  The idea is that you will write an entire novel, 50,000 words, in a month (specifically, November).  That is well over 1,000 words a day, and with a full-time job and lots of kids, I didn't know if I could do it, but I decided to give it a try.  You are supposed to come up with a completely new story, not work on something from before, and I followed the rules 😁.

Well, November turned into a very busy month, both at work and at home.  I am an iOS programmer, both professionally and personally, and a project I had going came very much to life and needed my attention.  I did get a new computer that I am using to program and write (see my previous post), and I did get a decent start on my new story, which right now is called Hybrid Shadows (the title may change).

Now, halfway through December, I am continuing to work on my story, with an unofficial goal of having the first draft done by March.  I am using a professional writing tool called Scrivener, and it is really helping me to organize my writing, which now that I am in the 10's of thousands of words is getting more complicated.  I am needing to track characters, places, the plot, etc, and having a tool like Scrivener has really helped out with that.

It has been decades since I have gotten this far into a story, and I have never tried to publish my work before. I am planning to this time.  If you are interested in the writing process, follow this page for the next couple of months, and I will blog the things that I discover along the way.  I am starting to follow some people on YouTube and blogs that are authors and editors, and I will link to those from time to time as well.

Also, if you have suggestions of people to follow, tools to use, or anytime else related to writing a story, please leave a comment.


The Impossible Astronaut

Below is one of my favorite scenes from Dr. Who (at least the Matt Smith version), from The Impossible Astronaut.  In this scene, Dr. Who has dropped into the middle of the Oval Office in 1969, and encounters President Nixon.  The scene is pretty cool :)

Everquest Next is canceled

Hot off the presses, Daybreak Games has canceled Everquest Next.

From Russell Shanks, president of Daybreak Games:

For those familiar with the internals of game development, you know that cancellations are a reality we must face from time to time. Inherent to the creative process are dreaming big, pushing hard and being brutally honest with where you land. In the case of EverQuest Next, we accomplished incredible feats that astonished industry insiders. Unfortunately, as we put together the pieces, we found that it wasn’t fun. 

I have pondered the fate of Everquest Next ever since Sony Online Entertainment was sold to Daybreak Games.  SOE was being very open, and very LOUD, about their development of Everquest Next, but finding any real news in the past year or so has been very hard to come by.

For those wanderers of Norrath, never fear.  Everquest and Everquest 2 are still going strong.


New Year

It is yet another new year, 2016. So what are my plans for 2016, and the plans of my family?

One of the things I would love to do is travel more. The last few years we haven't gone all that many places. It would be fun to travel as a family, all eleven of us, to Michigan. We could visit Crystal's father, sister, and brothers, similar to a couple of years ago, and then swing up to the Upper Peninsula to see my folks. 

It has also been a long time since we have been to Minnesota, all the way back to 2007. It is a beautiful state!  In the summer at least!!  Minnesota's winters might be a little too rough for me. 

There are other things on the list. There are always house improvements and repairs. Living in a 105 year old house has charm, but also takes a lot of money to fix up. 

Well, that is it for now. Hello to my relatives that read this blog. I hope to see you this summer 😀 

Saint Nicholas Day

Right now our children are unpacking their stockings.  My 6-year old and 8-year old were quite anxious to wake up everyone once they found that their stockings were full! 


First post in a while

This is the first post that I have done on my Leetaur.com blog in a while. This is pretty much my technology blog, so I will go ahead and talk about my new phone 😀 

A little over a week ago I got my iPhone 6s in the mail, straight from Apple on launch day. My trip over onto the Android platform is over. Though, as I am told my the Android team at work, the Fire phone does not really count as Android! 

The iPhone 6s is a really nice phone. It feels really fast. The 3D Touch interface is cool too, and has already sped up the use of the native Apple apps (Twitter also uses it). As more apps adopt 3D Touch I think the new navigation introduced by Apple will come into its own. It is a different, cool way of doing things. 

I also find myself using Siri a lot. We already have Apple's virtual assistant on my wife's iPad. But that is her machine, and as portable as an iPad is, I like either working I need device that fits in my pocket, or else using a full-blown laptop. The iPad is great for reading or watching movies in bed, but for programming or writing I like to use my MacBook Air... Though admittedly my MacBook Air is getting a little old. It will probably be time to update soon. 

That is my short update for today. Going forward I will try to write more about what I am doing with this tech - the phone and laptop. I like to write, and program (cannot program on a phone of course). I do like how closely the iPhone and MacBook Air work with each other - syncing Pages documents over iCloud, being able to access the children's reports, cross-device password management, etc It is convenient. 

So what did I do with the Fire phone?  It is now a backup phone for my family. It works perfectly well as a phone, does email and messaging and web browsing well. But it is now for the rest of the family, as I do not need it now. 

That is enough for this post. I will try to blog on Leetaur.com more often. We'll see how well I do at that.  

(Typed on my new phone, please excuse typos!) 

Kindle Paperwhite 3 Released


Amazon has released another updated Kindle Paperwhite.  Amazon is referring to it as the "all new Kindle Paperwhtie", while according to Good E-Reader, others are referring to it as the Kindle Paperwhite 3.

The update looks pretty cool.  My family has two Kindles- my wife has a Paperwhite 2, and I have just a plain $79 Kindle (if I read in the dark - not very often - I borrow my wife's).

I am glad to see that Amazon is continuing to invest in their E-Reader lineup.  I hope they continue to invest both in the Kindle Fire HD, and the HDX lineups, especially the 6-inch Fire, as I consider that one better for reading.