Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tornado (?) in Woodstock

Last night, at around 6 or 7pm, we started getting some really bad weather and the power went out. I was standing at the sliding glass door to our backyard watching, and all of a sudden it got really fierce and trees started going horizontal. So, we grabbed the three dogs and ran for one of the bathrooms in the middle of the house. We crammed in there and sat/stood in the dark while we heard loud booms all over the place, plus some constant drumming as some tree limbs kept beating against the roof. It eventually died down a bit, so I went to take a peek, and saw a tree lying right outside the sliding glass door.

We went out and saw that there were several more trees lying around. As it got close to 8, Mom was frantic to see her American Idol and Dancing with the Stars shows, so we got in the car and headed to a local restaurant with some TVs and ate some dessert. On our way out of the neighborhood, we saw a bunch of houses had been damaged. There was a skinny tree lying in the road on our street. I tried pushing it off to the side, but it wouldn't budge. So, it blocked traffic a little bit one way. When we got out to the neighborhood entrance, there were a couple of trees lying across the road that our subdivision is on, as well as a tree resting on the power lines, totally blocking one way on the street. The other way, there was also a tree in the road, but they had cut away half of the tree to allow one lane of traffic through.

In the morning, we took better stock of what the damage was. I counted 8 separate trees in our yard, either totally down or snapped in half. But, it doesn't look like there is much damage to the house itself. We didn't get any direct hits, from what I can tell, and none of our cars were hit. All the trees had fallen the same direction, so the storm was definitely taking a path. We were without power until 2:30 this afternoon. There were chainsaws going until the early hours of the morning. They restarted again at around 6 when we got up. Here are some pictures below.

Here's the view out the sliding glass door. Nobody had the heart to tell Phoebe it wasn't a picture of her.

Here's our front yard. That's the top of the middle tree lying there.

This is to the left of our house. There were two trees right inside our neighbor's fence. The storm uprooting both trees and they came down just past the back of our house, to lie across the deck and the rest of the backyard. The tree in front is what we saw out the sliding glass door.

Here's a closeup of where it uprooted. It's kind of hard to tell, but lying flat on top of that is the piece of fence that was there. I think it's still somewhat attached at the top left corner by vines to the rest of the fence. It looks like the trees busted through the right side of the section of fence, then the piece of fence looped up over top as the trees fell.

This is to the right of our house in the backyard. One tree busted through the fence there (obviously) and that one in the back came to land on top of/in our neighbor's big shed. Our shed was taken out in October when a tree fell through it during another storm.

There's his shed. He was pissed.

Here is more of the backyard, looking to the left. The tree in the foreground is the one that busted through the fence. The tree lying horizontally there in the back left is one of the trees that uprooted from our neighbor's yard. That table in the back is where our shed used to be. Even if we had replaced it, I think that was the one place in the backyard that wasn't hit.

Here's our deck. The bench on the right there was smashed up pretty good. And I'm pretty sure the railing in the back there is probably also pretty screwed up. You can also better see the piece of fence lying flat on top of the uprooted ground. Also not the discolored shingles in the corner of the roof, above the mangled gutter. That was where the tree fell and hit the house in October. It had fallen directly where the steps are (and the tree in the picture is lying), hit the house, then rebounded to the side of the house. When the guys fixed the roof, they put the wrong colored shingles on.

This is the shot from the deck. There were three other trees down in the back of the yard. You can see a couple of them on the left there and one in the back right.

This... is not our house. This was one of the neighbors who got some of the worst damage. I counted four houses on the two ways out of the neighborhood with trees through the roof. Some other people also had roof damage, as trees hit and bounced off. But, these people were one of the ones with a direct smash or two. They've got the front sheered off there, and another tree through the roof (under the tarp).


We heard that some people were literally blocked from leaving their house. One of the schools shut down for the day and was used as a rally point for the cleanup efforts. Given how much damage there was, though, I heard there were no injuries.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

One Reason Why The Internet Is Awesome

Behold! Hot Chicks with Douchebags!

It doesn't get any better when you do a Google search for something completely unrelated and stumble upon websites like those. Just think, not too long ago, you wouldn't be able to find something like that if you tried. Now, you can type in just about any term into Google and find a hilarious website within a couple pages of results. I mean, just look at the pictures of Peaches in the Hall of Scrote. I almost cried when I looked at those.

This also reminded me of The Hall of Douchebags that someone (Graham? Brad?) pointed me to quite a while ago.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Cyberboard

Lately, I've been playing around with something I found called Cyberboard. It's a program that facilitates "Play By Email" type of gaming. In other words, you can play board games with other people who aren't sitting right in front of you. I think it was originally intended for war game type of games, but the functionality has expanded over the years to facilitate other types of games. The program is made up of two main programs, a design program that lets you create a "game box" (i.e. virtual representation of the board/card game you want to play), and another to actually play the games. In the design program, you recreate all the pieces you'd need to play, such as board, cards, pawns, dice, and other bits and pieces. It has drawing tools if you want to go that route, or you can scan all your materials and paste in images. Unfortunately, it only takes in bitmaps, which makes the file somewhat large, but in most cases it looks much nicer than anything I would be able to draw. Anyways, once you have created the "game box," you then create "scenario files." In the scenario files, you set up the starting conditions and all of that. Then, the first player makes whatever moves they make and Cyberboard records each move. You save the move file, then email that file to your opponent. They load it up, watch what you did, then do their own moves, save them, and send them back to you. I think you can do games with more than two people, but there might be slightly altered logistics to it that I haven't really looked into.

I have mainly played around with the design portion of it, so I don't know exactly how it plays out in practice. But, it is a pretty nice idea. Some people have posted Cyberboard files up on Boardgamegeek for some of the games. Of course, there are copyright issues with scanning in material and uploading them to the internets for free and such. So, the rule that I have seen around is that you only use it if you own the actual physical board game itself (after the person who made the files got consent from the publishers). Two games in particular that I have seen Cyberboard files up for are Dead of Night, which I posted about a little while ago, and Duel of Ages. As far as the one for Dead of Night goes, that would probably solve some of the gripes I had about it, since I was frustrated with the actual crappy paper bits that I made myself. An electronic version of the game is much nicer. The Dead of Night Cyberboard file posted on BGG is pretty nice looking, has pretty good functionality, but is missing a couple of things and features that I would want. Unfortunately, I can't change the game box itself, so I would either have to bug the guy who made it (he passworded the game box file) or just make my own. The Duel of Ages one is really nice, and includes all expansions for the game. From what I've seen, the publishers have been really supportive of the Cyberboard version, and there are tournaments running on the forums on their site. I'm not sure if you're supposed to own all of them in order to play the Cyberboard version or not. But, maybe I'll try to get up a game with someone sometime.

I've been working on a Cyberboard version for one of my boardgames. I'm not going to post it to BGG or anything, because I don't want to worry about any hassle of getting permission or any of that crap. It's been taking me a bit of time, but I'm liking how it's turning out. If anyone wants to check out Cyberboard and has any requests to play any of the games that I own using it, let me know and I'll see if I can work it up. Or if you want to try out Dead of Night or Duel of Ages with me, I'll point you to the files.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Parapsychology at Duke

I knew that, once upon a time, Duke had a Parapsychology Laboratory. What I didn't know is that it is still around in Durham, and that I probably drove right past it hundreds of times. It's no longer affiliated with Duke, but it's still around. The Rhine Research Center sits right on Campus Walk Drive, between Morreene and LaSalle, across from the Millenium Hotel, and I never knew. According to the site, they were affiliated with Duke from 1927 until the 60s, when they set up the Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man in a building on Buchanan. They changed names to the Rhine Research Center to honor J.B. Rhine, one of the Rhines who established the original Duke Parapsychology Laboratory, in 1995, 100 years after Rhine's birth (he died in 1980). Then in 2002, they sold their building on Buchanan to Duke and moved to Campus Walk Drive. Supposedly, they're still conducting studies on stuff like psychokinesis, human biofields, ESP, and twin telepathy. It's kind of mind-boggling that there are people with PhDs who have made careers out of this kind of stuff and enough money to set up research centers that last 80+ years.

Someone still in Durham needs to go on a tour of their museum for me and report back. Or, even better, volunteer to participate in one of their studies. Please? It even says they have a gift shop with items to do your own research and testing!