Bob Portnell

Multi-Purpose Nerd

This is the (I imagine) last website of Bob Portnell (that's me!). Please find my latest journal notices and useful files from my past and present using the tabs (or menu, if your mobile browser gives it to you that way).

Bob is a technical writer living in Sparks, Nevada. Bob is also a father, husband, disciple, and some other things. His internet presence beyond this website is not large. He promises to not talk about himself in third person overmuch.

This seems as good a place as any to mention that Bob does NOT receive affiliate compensation from any stores, producers, or other places to which he links. If I link, it's 'cause I love.

The Library

Here are the files I have available. Some are new creations. Some are auld favourites which have attracted kind comments in the past. This page runs long, so here are some shortcuts.

Library Sections

Health & Wellness

New section, still in progress, but reflecting my intention to make my health (physical, mental, spiritual) a priority.

Wow, still nothing here?

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Spacemodeling Stuff

Spacemodeling is what the rest of the world calls model rocketry, and I've been doing it since 1975 off-and-on. My building skills are basic but sound. I have eccentric launch equipment and fantasies about building more. My models are mostly small and light, with low-power motors, and I build with the fewest and simplest (and often cheapest) techniques. But it's still rocket science. I've had lots of fun with the math and theory side of rockets, too, which is good when flying opportunities are rare. I have been a member of the National Association of Rocketry for a few years.

Model Rocket Safety Code

The bottom line on how to build and fly rockets safely and within the law. The official version is fine, but the inconsistencies in measuring units bother my professional technical writer sensibilities. Here's my edit with commentary track.

Useful Links

I do also own the RockSim software from Apogee Components. I like OpenRocket fractionally better.

I can be found lurking in the NAR Facebook group and in the Old Rocket Forum.

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Stargazing Stuff

As a kid who was in elementary school during the prime of the Apollo missions, anything to do with space is prominent in my makeup. And yes, just "stargazing." Maybe someday I'll put more investment into it, but for now I'm content learning and discovering via naked eye or binoculars. I've had two telescopes that didn't get used, so probably no point trying that again.

After spending years as an over-prepared non-viewing nerd, I have stripped my practice down to the bare wood and built it up again. Minimum prep, quality resources, and more sky time, I hope.

Analog Tools

I have some other books and guides as well, but I figure those are the ones I need most.

Electronic Tools

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Dice Stuff

I've been crazy about dice since I was a toddler watching my grandmother play Yahtzee with her pals. I've designed and bought "ideal" sets. I've written many dice-rolling programs (see below). At this point in my life, I'm resolved that less is better. I currently have just over 210 dice total in the house (counting mine and the ones that stay with their games, but not my daughter's). For most people, that still sounds like a lot. For most gamers, that sounds like far too few.

Bob's Dice Fake Book

A booklet that shows how to do any common dice roll with true mathematical fidelity using only a d6 and a d20. There are two versions: one to print with booklet settings or one to view on portrait screens.

Dicepick Dice Rollers

Speaking of dice rollers, here are these two again. DicepickXR has positive dice on the right; DicepickXL has positive dice on the left.

Dicepick Manifesto, Brief Version: I like dice rollers, but I think most of them take us too far away from the physical and mental activities that make rolling real dice a meaningful and fun part of gaming. The Dicepick programs seek to preserve some of the "real dice" experience, while still providing useful info quickly.

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Board Game Stuff

Board and card games held a deep fascination for me as an only child who liked play. They still do and I still do.

Triplanetary

The classic space war game by Marc Miller, most recently published by Steve Jackson Games (and out of print again). I've written an article on the Basics of Space Flight which I hope is useful for the novice interplanetary traveler.

Fluxx

The Looney Labs card game that's never the same twice. I made a playmat!

Munchkin

Steve Jackson Games' card game of the fantasy gaming experience without the pesky roleplaying. I made a (legal-size) playmat! And a long time ago I made the one-page Flowchart. It's dated, but might still help you through the first few games.

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Roleplay Game Stuff

I've been engaged with tabletop roleplay games since 1980. My past websites have always had plenty of RPG documents. Below I've listed some of my favoritest games and my most-noted contributions.

EZFudge

This is a part demonstration Fudge build, part game-engine heartbreaker that I've been tinkering with for a while. It has now graduated to its own page in my website, as it represents current work. Plus, having its own URL will make it easier to find.

It has been suggested here and there from time to time that EZFudge should be given a fantasy setting. I've worked on that for a while and haven't yet made a magic system that retained an EZFudge vibe. I recommend Fantasy Fudge, the not-very-heavy fantasy rules included in the free Fudge SRD.

The Fantasy Trip

The first RPG I loved, and I'm over the moon to see it back in print and well-supported. Recent personal projects include making level-by-level maps of Tollenkar's Lair and the generic labyrinth poster.

Risus: The Anything RPG

I love Risus so much, I stole ideas from it for EZFudge (below). And I'm (thrice) a member of the International Order of Risus, so I can completely testify to its utter grooviness. I've written a few rules tweaks and designed some variant character sheets. They're in the Risusiverse somewhere, along with many other, much cooler, things. Truckee Games is a publisher of amazing, sometimes disturbing, settings for Risus.

GURPS

I spent many, many years immersed in GURPS, and I even managed to get published a time or two. I've been slowly rebuilding my library with just the GURPS books I liked best. I started with Second Edition, was pretty happy with Third Edition, and didn't object to Third Edition, Revised, but when the Compendium volumes came along I started feeling overwhelmed. Fourth Edition is a better game, but it still feels overwhelming to me.

GURPS Lite (3e) is a 0.4 MB PDF, "… the boiled-down 'essence' of GURPS: all the fundamental rules, but not the options and embellishments that often confuse new players." GURPS Lite (3e) is probably all the rules I want for playing GURPS, with the right balance between detail and inspiration, and kind of in-between Second Edition and Third Edition, Revised. It's free, at Warehouse 23 or from my library.

Of my writing for GURPS, the work I'm happiest with is Final Frontier (0.4 MB PDF), roleplaying rules for the Star Trek universe, rather minimalist by GURPS standards. Final Frontier requires GURPS Lite (3e) (see above). (I have no plans to update Final Frontier to GURPS Lite (4e).) Layout by Adam Jury!

Sherpa

Steffan O'Sullivan's roleplay game to be played outdoors. Here's my house rule to make Sherpa higher-is-better: For unopposed tasks, add the trait to the random number (and modifiers). The total must meet or beat 11. And here's my Character, Reference, and GM scene cards (0.1 MB PDF).

PlainLabel Game System

From 1998 to 2007 or so, I had the pleasure of working with the good folks of Microtactix, and I still think the PlainLabel Game System is a wonder and a joy: a unified set of rules and concepts that works for roleplaying, arena combat, and mass combat. (The print-and-play figures and scenery were pretty good, too. I liked using cards for weapons and equipment so much, I made it part of earlier versions of EZFudge.) Alas, the company was simultaneously ahead of its time in ways, behind the times in ways, and in all ways hopelessly underresourced. I was honored to serve as line editor or copy editor on the games. I also made a bunch of house rules and hosted other peoples' house rules at my site. Those files appear to be lost.

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The Journal

Blog posts! I have some again!

Mon 11 Jan 2021 — Top of the Stack, Redux

When the blogging thing starts all over again …


Sat 30 Apr 2022 — Spinnerets

In which Bob reshapes his web cocoon …


Sun 17 Apr 2022 — Easter Sunday

Chocolate bilbies everywhere …


Sun 20 Mar 2022 — Forget about it, Jake

It's a command-line interface …


Tue 15 Mar 2022 — Beware What?

Oh, is that today? Pass me the knife, then …


Sun 27 Feb 2022 — Site News

In which Bob tidies …


Mon 21 Feb 2022 — Going Analog

Not quite 1/7 of a year later …


Sat 01 Jan 2022 — The Marley Plan

"I wear the chain I forged in life …"


Mon 27 Dec 2021 — In The Mail Room

"Warning! Discard any unit showing any dimensional change!" …


Mon 20 Dec 2021 — Solar New Year's Eve

In which Bob does some solstice-searching …


Sat 18 Dec 2021 — For Future Reference

Probably some graduate student …


Fri 17 Dec 2021 — Rounding the Corner

In which Bob abuses assorted tools …


Tue 23 Nov 2021 — iBob

Nerdery Run Amok …


Sun 21 Nov 2021 — Three In A Row

Is Bob building a routine of posting? Probably not …


Sat 20 Nov 2021 — Near Miss

In which Bob avoids education …


Fri 19 Nov 2021 — iMadness

In which Bob lives in all worlds …


Sun 14 Nov 2021 — Some 1PRs!

Reasonably spoiler-free …


Thu 11 Nov 2021 — Cooking the Books

A Little News, A Little Snark, A Little Schmalz …


Sun 16 Oct 2021 — DREI

Distracted Reassessment of Ecumenical Interests …


Wed 13 Oct 2021 — UNO

Unexpected Nerd Occurrence …


Sat 25 Sep 2021 — How Many Skies?

'cause there's only really one …


Sun 05 Sep 2021 — Not-Much-Labor Day

In which Bob lounges more than he ought …


Sat 18 Sep 2021 — A Stargazing Post

Not a postgazing star …


Thu 19 Aug 2019 — An Awakening

In which Bob commits self-awareness …


Fri 13 Aug 2021 — Closing Some Loops

Hey! Firm plans instead of angsty thinking …


Sat 07 Aug 2021 — Recycling the Count

In which Bob overthinks as usual …


Fri 06 Aug 2021 — Hoo dat?

An owl has moved into the neighborhood …


Sat 17 Jul 2021 — Down to the Wire

As usual …


Sun 11 Jul 2021 — Bob's Tool Time

Where the motto is "Less power!" …


Fri 25 Jun 2021 — Ownership

In which Bob tidies up, to his expense …


Mon 14 Jun 2021 — Under the Missile Toe

Don’t blame me, that pun was old long since …


Sun 30 May 2021 — Holiday Road

To Nowhere …


Sat 22 May 2021 — Changing Vision

Imagine a near-sighted beholder... …


Wed 12 May 2021 — Hey, Let's Talk Rockets

No raccoon-like aliens need apply …


Sat 17 Apr 2021 — Re-Spring

A very bouncy time …


Mon 12 Apr 2021 — Yuri's Night + LX

Also STS-1 + XL …


Sun 04 Apr 2021 — I Do'd It!

In which Bob shows his green streak …


Sun 04 Apr 2021 — Happy Easter

I wonder if Jesus in the tomb was awoken by a cat demanding food …


Sun 28 Mar 2021 — Words and Music

A long post below …


Sat 13 Mar 2021 — Indoor Dog

It's safer that way …


Fri 12 Mar 2021 — Beware the Ides

In which Bob bards unnecessarily …


Mon 22 Feb 2021 — At Last, The 2020 Show

In which Bob looks alive …


Sat 20 Feb 2021 — Round, Up

In which Bob blathers on software …


Sun 07 Feb 2021 — Exemplary Night Hunter

In which Bob commits a riddle …


Sun 31 Jan 2021 — Getting It Up

In which Bob demonstrates an occasionally juvenile sense of humor …


Sun 10 Jan 2021 — Work in Progress

In which Bob commits to a project …


Sat 09 Jan 2021 — Sparking Ideas

In which Bob heats up and cools down …


Sat 02 Jan 2021 — Assertions I

In which Bob speaks and we hope acts …


Mon 21 Dec 2020 — Having A Ball

Bob is working only half-time this week. How does he fill he hours? …


Mon 17 Dec 2020 — Naming Names

In which Bob makes a declaration …


Mon 14 Dec 2020 — Pre-Flight

In which Bob revisits the status of his main hobby …


Sat 21 Nov 2020 — I Had A Terrific Post Title This Morning

And a teaser, too …


Wed 11 Nov 2020 — Post Toasties

In which Bob goes round and round …


Sat 24 Oct 2020 — Iidying Up and Moving Things Around

In which Bob plays code-monkey for a while …


Sun 18 Oct 2020 — More Musings on Launch Sites

In which Bob might be de-ranged …


Sat 17 Oct 2020 — The Weave

In which Bob updates and downchecks …


Sun 11 Oct 2020y — Old Dogs and New Tricks

In which Bob rules the rules of thumb …


Sat 26 Sep 2020 Catching Up

In which Bob circumloquates about recent developments …


Sun 13 Sep 2020 — Far Future Enterprises

In which Bob looks ahead while commiting a sly callback …


Sat 12 Sep 2020 — The Fixed Stars

In which Bob rewrites the rules, which is better than starting over …


Fri 11 Sep 2020 — Waffles

In which Bob demonstrates his spine of steel-colored gelatin …


Mon 07 Sep 2020 — Less Labor Day

In which Bob natters about rocketry tools some more …


Mon 31 Aug 2020 — Rocket Madness, Ground Support Edition

In which Bob spins in a relatively new circle …


Sun 30 Aug 2020 — Hopping the Clouds Some More

In which Bob commits meta-posting …


Fri 28 Aug 2020 — Summer's End

In which Bob meanders around the season change …


Sat 15 Aug 2020 — Night Errands By Day

In which Bob goes shopping again …


Sat 08 Aug 2020 — Flight Day

In which Bob reminds his family what used model rocket motors smell like …


Sun 02 Aug 2020 — Gone Shopping?

But not for piston engines …


Fri 31 Jul 2020 — A Reflection on Rocketry Tools

In which Bob takes the measure of his work …


Wed 29 Jul 2020 — A Dice and Rocketry Update

... 3 ... 2 ... 1 ... roll! …


Sat 18 Jul 2020 — A Computing Update

which Bob needed ten minutes to remember he wanted to write …


Sat 18 Jul 2020 — A Calculator Update

including special bonus rant …


Mon 13 Jul 2020 — A Stargazing Update Post

The omens were right …


Mon 13 Jul 2020 — The Shaving Cream is a Lie

And so is the shaving gel …


Sun 28 Jun 2020 — A Gaming Update Post

In which Bob accepts some inevitables that have been around awhile …


Sun 28 Jun 2020 — A Rocketry Project Update

In which Bob confesses to surprise but not ruthless efficiency …


Sat 27 Jun 2020 — Cloning the Estes Cloud Hopper

In which Bob is in full rocketry nerd mode …


Tue 16 Jun 2020 — Seven Nights Later

(and not a zombie yet) …


Sat 13 Jun 2020 — Rewriting Some Rules

In which Bob repaints the goalposts …


Fri 12 Jun 2020 — Never Read The Comments

In which Bob comments …


Tue 02 Jun 2020 — Where Were You When ... ?

In which Bob speaks briefly to the current time …


Sat 30 May 2020 — Flights of Fancy

In which the sky is not the limit …


Sat 23 May 2020 — Now Presenting: RUST -- The Oxidation Extravaganza

For audiences which couldn't get enough of WATCHING PAINT DRY and WATCHING GRASS GROW …


Wed 20 May 2020 — Space Race

In which Bob sets a goal … ?


Mon 18 May 2020 — Letting The Days Go By

In which Bob reflects with fondness …


Thu 14 May 2020 — Another Week Indoors

In which Bob catches up and looks a little ahead …


Thu 07 May 2020 — Upside-Down Again

In which Bob has mixed feelings …


Sun 03 May 2020 — Speedy Delivery

In which Bob reports on the "new" computer …


Wed 29 Apr 2020 — Let Me Tell You About My …

(roleplayers know to run away right now) …


Wed 29 Apr 2020 — The Modest Step Forward

In which Bob continues to embrace the state of the art of five years ago …


Fri 24 Apr 2020 — Assorted Assorteds

In which Bob gives a smattering of news and updates …


Sun 19 Apr 2020 — Taking Stock

In which Bob reflects some more and maybe plans …


Tue 14 Apr 2020 — Memory Skylane

In which Bob visits the past and accuses the future of treason …


Mon 13 Apr 2020 — Balsa Engineer Apprentice

In which Bob meanders around the topic of model rocket building …


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Sun 12 Apr 2020 — Bob and Yuri's Weekend

In which Bob blathers about some news …


Tue 07 Apr 2020 — The Die is Cast

In which Bob reports a commitment and a change of plan …


Sat 06 Apr 2020 — Flying Again

In which Bob lays plays for the spring "and beyond" …


Sat 28 Mar 2020 — The Month That Was

In which Bob recounts the past four weeks …


Tue 10 Mar 2020 — Finnegan, Begin Again

In which Bob starts so many things over …


Tue 03 Mar 2020 — Sunrise, Sunset

In which Bob is blindsided by an unexpected aspect of parenting …


Sun 23 Feb 2020 — Where Have I Been?

A few updates …


Sun 26 Jan 2020 — Pocket Boxing

In which Bob recalls two games and reports news …


Wed 15 Jan 2020 — This is Madness

Slowly digested over a thousand years …


Sat 11 Jan 2020 — Odometer Rollover

Reflections and resolutions abound …


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Thu 19 Dec 2019 — A Random Mess

In which Bob just starts writing and sees what happens …


Fri 13 Dec 2019 — Bye, O'Rhythm

In which Bob plays with numbers and mocks the hive mind …


Thu 12 Dec 2019 — Calculating Ways

In which Bob goes nerdy on old tech …


Sat 30 Nov 2019 — Logocycles

In which Bob learns, albeit slowly …


Mon 18 Nov 2019 — Echoes and Reverberations

I don't remember Memory Land being this round …


Sat 09 Nov 2019 — Round the Whirl'd in 80 GHz

In which Bob looks yet again at his use of tech …


Sat 02 Nov 2019 — Over My Shoulder: The Dice Fake Book

In which Bob answers the question "What were you thinking!?" …


Fri 01 Nov 2019 — Propulsion

In which Bob reports on the battle with inertia


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