I Push Buttons

Whether I'm coding, writing, playing games, or pissing people off, it all boils down to pushing buttons.

April 25, 2009

Vote the Adventure: Chapter 1

Darkness dwells in the hearts of all men. It is only the conviction of the strong, holding it at bay with the light of honor, that allows civilization to endure. On this, all our foundations lie. Black, indeed, will be the day when righteousness gives way to avarice and spite. On the shoulders of few, rest the fates of many, and when they fall, all will be consumed.

~ Stephan the Wise

The roar of the fire in the pit at the far end of the dining room was completely muffled by the rowdy conversations emanating from every table. Ethon made his way carefully down the main aisle between the two main tables that ran down the center of the hall, taking care not to trip over satchels, helmets, bucklers, and all manner of other gear piled up against the benches. He carried a large round tray on his right shoulder crammed with goblets, some full of ale, most empty. When he stopped at each section to drop off more drink and take up the empty cups, he was greeted with hearty cheers and claps on the back, some coming perilously close to upending his tray. Ethon marveled that most of the ale managed to make it to the travelers instead of soaking up dust on the inn floor. He'd been lucky so far tonight, and he prayed that it held.

He looked around the large room, making sure the serving girls were getting meat and mead to everyone who needed it. The Inn of the Black Stag was full almost to capacity with knights, squires, bards, merchants, and all manner of men he imagined lived in the three kingdoms. The majority of the patrons were almost certainly on their way to Lionsridge for the Tournament of Roses that occurred every five years in the spring and was set to begin in the next few weeks in the Southern Kingdom. The winter frosts had ceased, and the sun grew higher in the sky each day.

The lords sprinkled throughout the three kingdoms would be sending some of their surest swords and bravest knights in an attempt to win honor for their house and their king. Unlike the annual tournaments, the Tournament of Roses was open to all men, so long as you had a horse and a sword (or could afford to buy them), and many a simple man gambled all he had to try to forge a name for himself amongst the highborn of the three kingdoms. It swelled Ethon's heart, not mention his pockets, to see people from all walks of life put aside their differences and talk of great deeds past and great deeds to come as they filled their stomachs at his tables.

He made his way back to the kitchen and dumped the tray of goblets into one of the large sinks filled with soaping water. Young Will, who had yet to reach eight, sat atop an empty ale cask in front of the sink, drying the last cup of the previous load and setting it aside on the counter next to thirty-odd others. He looked sullenly at the newly filled basin and sighed in exasperation. "Not again, Mr Ethon," the boy pleaded. "I only just finished this load. My hands're run raw."

Ethon started filling the clean goblets with more ale, mead, and wine and placing them on the tray. "I'll hear none of it, William," he admonished, not unkindly. "If you like you can trade places with Jeoff. I'm sure he'll be more than happy to wash dishes and let you shovel dung from the stables." Will stuck out his lower lip, and began to clean the next load. Ethon reached out with a large paw and mussed the boy's hair. "Cheer up, lad. You'll be getting double wages tonight, maybe even triple if we can get enough drink into the merchants. I bet your mum would appreciate the extra coin." The boy grinned and began to wash all the harder. Ethon gave him a smile, loaded his replenished tray onto his shoulder, and made his way back out to the dining hall.

He could tell something was amiss as soon as he entered. The raucous laughter and boisterous conversation had been replaced with a tense silence. Every man, woman, and child was seated, save two, who were standing on opposite sides of the long table nearest the kitchen. The face of the man on the left was beet red and taut. He wore steel chainmail over a leather jerkin and a dark blue tunic. His raven hair fell to his shoulders, framing the neatly trimmed goatee that adorned his chiseled face. The rearing white bear of House Morgan adorned each of his sleeves and the cloak draped over his chair. Ethon recognized him immediately: Sir Alyn Randolph, captain of the regiment of soldiers stationed in the barracks at Swiftriver just a few miles north of the crossroads where the Inn of the Black Stag was located. He was a frequent patron and Ethon had never known him to be anything but an honorable man. Sir Randolph leaned forward slowly, placing the palms of his hands on top of the table. "What did you say?" His words were weighted and deliberate.

Ethon turned his attention to the man standing across the table from Sir Randolph, a man he didn't recognize. He was tall and thin, definitely not a professional soldier like Sir Randolph. He wore light leathers, the shirt dyed green a shade lighter than his trousers. His brown hair was cropped short, his face soft and smooth as a baby's. "I said," the man began, imitating Sir Randolph's pose, "that Theodore Morgan couldn't lead an army downhill if you pointed him in the right direction and kicked him in the arse." A wry smile blossomed across his handsome face. "Was I not clear? Should I have used smaller words?"

Sir Randolph made a move for his sword that stood propped against his chair, but stopped short. From nowhere, a bronze dagger had appeared in the stranger's hand, which now pressed tightly right up underneath the knight's jaw. "Careful, now," the man said. The soldiers on either side of Sir Randolph made as if to stand. "You may want to tell your men to keep their heads," the man said, his eyes not moving from Sir Randolph's. "That is, if you value your own."


Poll closes Thursday, April 30th at noon.

Click here for Chapter 2

April 21, 2009

My Major Accomplishment

Bask in its glory!

April 20, 2009

Vote The Adventure: Main Page

This has been a long time coming, but I'm finally starting this back up. Some of you are already familiar with this from the interactive story I ran on my first website back in 2003 and 2004. It was probably the most popular thing I had on the site, and it was great fun to write, so I've decided to resurrect the Vote The Adventure! (And there was much rejoicing.)

I'm sure everyone reading this is familiar with the "choose your own adventure" style books, where you would read a few pages and then be presented with a decision. Based on your decision, you would turn to a certain page in the book to continue along with the story. Repeat until your character died (I swear, ninety percent of the choices in the books would kill you), or you managed to find one of the very few endings where you lived.

Vote The Adventure is kind of like that, except with a drastically reduced chance (basically zero) of death, since the story hasn't been written yet. I will start the story off, and then when I think I've reached an interesting decision point, I will offer up options for you readers to vote on. The poll will remain active for several days to allow for everyone to discuss, vote, and maybe even get some of their friends in on the action if the poll is not leaning in the direction they'd like. The more people involved, the better! Once the poll is closed, I will continue the story in the direction that the majority of the readers feel will be the most interesting. In the case of a tie, my vote will be the deciding factor.

The last time I did this, I wrote the story in second person, where "you did this" and "you did that," but I think that is too limiting. I'm going to do things a bit differently this time. The story will be told from a standard third person omniscient perspective, but the choices will now relate to several characters, rather than just the protagonist. This way, you'll be able to influence multiple angles of the story instead of feeling like you're just driving this one character down a certain path.

In addition, everyone will be voting on aspects of the main character before the story even starts. That way, hopefully you'll feel like you have at least a little something invested from the very beginning, provided at least one of the characteristics you choose is selected by the majority. If by some chance the protagonist turns out to be completely unlike how you would like them to be, you'll still be able to influence their decisions and growth during the story. Keep in mind that the characteristics you will be voting on are what the character will be like at the beginning; stories are all about growth, learning, and experience, so it's completely possible that later on in the story the character will be nothing like how they started out.

I've been on a fantasy kick recently. I'm currently reading George R. R. Martin's "A Game of Thrones," and I've always thought that fantasy would be a fun genre to write in. I think it gives the author the most freedom, as it's only as grounded in reality as you want it to be. That being said, this Vote The Adventure will be a high fantasy story (think elves, knights, wizards, dragons, etc). So just keep that in mind when you vote on the characteristics of the protagonist.

I hope that you will enjoy reading and participating in Vote The Adventure as much as I enjoy writing it. I had a lot of fun doing this last time, and I hope this time it will be just as enjoyable. If I've piqued your interest even just a little, I hope that you will join me in this little interactive experiment. I will endeavor to be worth your time.

Note: If you're reading this on Facebook, you should know that all of these posts originate from my blog at http://ipushbuttons.blogspot.com. You're more than welcome to read everything on Facebook, but you should know that Facebook doesn't allow Javascript, and so all of the polls will link you to the PollDaddy site. If you're fine with this, great. But if you read the story chapters on my blog, the polls will appear on the same page; you won't need to go directly to the PollDaddy site. Also, there is a lag time of up to several hours between when I post on Blogger and when it shows up on Facebook. Just an FYI so you know what's going on.

Well, that's enough of that. Let's get started!

Main Character Creation

Vote The Adventure: Character Creation

Not sure what's going on here? Read through the Vote Your Adventure Main Page for a full description. If you want to get involved, go right ahead! Those of you who've already read through the boring stuff can get right to the voting. The polls will be open until Friday, April 24th at noon. Feel free to point anyone else you think would be interested in participating in this direction. It would be nice to have a decent number of voters to get this started.

Continue on to Chapter 1

April 18, 2009

As Time Goes By

The weeks have been screaming along more rapidly as of late. I'm not sure why this is. Usually it's only the weekends that speed by, splashing water all over your new suit as you stand on the curb. Now, it's every day. I was always told that as you get older, the perceived passage of time increases along an exponential curve. I've not yet acquired thirty years of playing time in this Game of Life, and it's already going by faster than I'd like. Granted, I'd like for July to be here as soon as possible so I can visit my family and make the annual beach trip to the Outer Banks with friends, but I'm afraid that those brief lulls in the chaos will only fly by all the faster.


Last night we got together with friends at Sweetwater Tavern in Centreville for Jim's birthday dinner. (On a side note, I absolutely hate writing "Centreville." It's just so... British. I may have to start pronouncing it Sen-tree-vil to annoy people.) I hadn't been to Sweetwater in a long time, and I was looking forward to ordering the drunken ribeye, which is basically one of the best steaks you can get on the underside of $30. It was just as good as I remembered, and by the end of the meal I was stuffed. Good times were had by all.


It's absolutely gorgeous outside today. I'm glad this weather wasn't wasted on a workday. We're planning to go hiking today, probably down to Great Falls in Virginia. The Difficult Run path is a gorgeous walk and great for exercise. Hopefully Courtney will get back from her volunteer work soon so we can head out. She was supposed to be leaving early, but as of now, she is severely tardy. I may have to send her to detention.


I got a coupon for 10% off of a single item from Barnes and Noble in my email this week. It's pretty silly to use this on a book, as I usually buy mass market paperbacks, and that would save me a grand total of $0.79 or some such. I looked around the site and noticed they have an okay selection of board games. I was excited to see that they carried Carcassonne, which is a game I have on my wishlist at Board Game Geek (which is a phenomenal website, if you are fan of board games). I had some leftover money in my PayPal account, so I immediately placed an order, and it should be arriving on Monday or Tuesday of next week. I will be sure and write up an impression of the game after a few plays. This looks like it could be a good one to take to game night at church.


This comic makes me laugh. It's a fun idea, though I doubt it would be useful. Roxie already manages to communicate her utter disdain without artificial eyebrows. We are already well aware that our existence is merely tolerated. Taping objects to the cat would only assure our complete and unmitigated destruction.

April 11, 2009

Goings On

It's been a good Holy Week at church thus far. The Palm Sunday cantata went great, as did my solo in it. I had another solo for the Maundy Thursday service, and that also went well. The week ended with me singing in a trio for the Good Friday service. All of the services this week were great, and the Easter service promises to be excellent as well. If you're in the DC area and are looking for a place to go to Easter service, you should come to Montgomery Hills Baptist. We rock the Hallelujah Chorus.


We took the cats to the vet this morning. A couple of amazing things happened. 1) Roxie did not puke, pee, or poop in her cage on the way there or back. This qualifies as an Easter miracle. 2) They didn't try to push any unnecessary medication on us to give the cats for their dirty ears. They've given us tons of different reasons for this condition over the years, from ear mites to allergies, and nothing they've given us has helped. It's not like it bothers the cats, either; they aren't constantly scratching or anything.


We also went to the Verizon Wireless store today to switch our phones to a pre-paid plan. We were on the smallest monthly plan they had, which is something like 500 minutes for $69.99. We never even came close to using those minutes, so we were basically just handing Verizon free money every month. Switching to a pre-paid plan allows us to use minutes only when we need them (we aren't big phone talkers), and this will save us a ton of money. I think the savings will be close to $450 a year. That's pretty awesome, if you ask me. If you find that you don't come close to using all of your minutes on your phone plan, you may want to consider switching to pre-paid as well.

April 04, 2009

Quick Bits

  • Had a good time at game night at church last night. Went two for two in games of Blokus and went two for three in games of ping pong with Mike as my partner. I really miss ping pong; we used to have a table in the break room at the office, but they knocked that room out and ended up taking the table away. It was a good way to relieve stress or take a break, and I actually got to be pretty decent. When Quan was my office mate, we used to keep a tally on the whiteboard in our office. I think we had over 150 games on there at one point.

  • We opened a Roth IRA account for me this month. Now I have two retirement accounts. Aren't I responsible?

  • I played in one of the blogger poker tournaments on Wednesday night for the first time in a really long time. I finished third out of 77 and won $100. Not bad for not having played against serious competition in a long time.

  • This weekend is going to be NICE. Carly and Eric are coming over to play tennis tomorrow, and I'm definitely looking forward to that. We haven't played doubles in a long time. I should probably read up on the rules...

  • When we bought Tigris and Euphrates, we got one of the prints that didn't have enough treasure cubes to play the new side of the board. Those came in the mail this week! I'm sure you don't care.

  • Currently reading A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin. I am completely enthralled. I'm about a quarter of the way through the book, and I feel like I can recommend it. If you like fantasy, pick it up.

  • I haven't been posting my weigh-ins online recently, mostly because I got tired of it. However, I'm still working at it, and I'm down to 195 lbs now. I hope I continue to make good progress all the way until the beach trip.

  • It's solo season at church for me, apparently. I had one last week, Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) by Chris Tomlin. I have one in our Palm Sunday cantata tomorrow, and I have one for either the Maundy Thursday service or the Good Friday service, I'm not sure which. I hope they all go as well as the first one did.