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d10 Roll For Initiative . . . In My Garage

July 28, 2020

I was tired. I’d been on an outage call all day. And not only that, it was a stupid call. By that I mean that someone made a mistake. They missed a step in the process we had run a week earlier. Now the error was showing up.

And now, I was sitting in my garage. The door was up due to the heat. The thermometer showed 90 degrees. At 40% humidity, it was not uncomfortable. But, I was tired and simply sat and stared.

And I noticed the trim around my garage door was coming loose. Maybe I should fix that?

Instead I just sat and stared.

And I noticed a set of golf clubs I meant to list for sale online. Maybe I should post them?

Instead I just sat and stared.

There were other things. Maybe I should spread that bug poison on my lawn? There was my broken shop light. I could fix that, maybe? Or maybe build a storage shelf for my drills? Oh, and I needed to repost the fish tank and terrarium online. And there was an inside door panel on my Suburban that needed fixed. Oh, and that stroller that showed up in our yard? Yeah, I needed to post in the neighborhood group asking if anyone was missing one. And there were weeds between the patio bricks that needed spraying. And the bugs. I needed to spread that bug poison on the lawn. Oh, wait. I mentioned that one already, didn’t I?

ADHD can be a bear at times.

In the mean time I sat. I sat and stared.

Maybe I should write down all the things I need to do. That would require getting up. Maybe I should put “Make a list” as the first thing on my list?

Finally, I decide I had to do something. I drug myself off the chair I was on and found a shipping receipt. My list looked like this:

  • Bug Poison Lawn – 30 min
  • Build Storage Shelf (design) – 20 min
  • Spray Poison on Walkway – 10 min
  • Fix Suburban Door Panel – 30 min
  • List Golf Clubs – 8 min
  • Relist fish tank/Terrarium – 20/15 min
  • Fix Garage Door Weatherstripping – 20 min
  • List Stroller with 2nd Ward – 5 min
  • Fix Light w/ Liquid Nails – 10 min
  • Gas car / take Old Oil – 40 min

I added the times to try to motivate myself. But, once the list was complete I just sat and stared at it. Everything needed done and I didn’t really feel like doing any of them.

Because I couldn’t decide, I let someone else choose for me. I decided to roll a die. There were ten items so I needed a ten-sided die. They exist. They are used in role playing games, especially Dungeons and Dragons. They are referred to as a d10.

I no longer play D&D. I don’t actually own a d10. So, I did the next best thing. I opened my Clock app and chose the Stopwatch option. I let it run for a few seconds and stopped it. It read 4.23 seconds. I looked at my list and found the third item,

– Spray Poison on Walkway

I found the RoundUp and spent a few minutes spraying the stray dandilions and grass that had sprung up between the cement pavers.

I finished and put away the RoundUp. I then rolled again. This time the number was 3.56. I found the sixth item,

– Relist Fish tank/Terrarium

Well, this was a more involved task. I retrieved the fish tanks that had not seen a fish for over a year, and the terrarium that had housed hermit crabs over a year earlier. I cleaned, organized and photgraphed them. I’m sure my estimates were off.

As I worked on staging the pictures for my post, the Mariners game started. I “turned on the radio.” By that I mean I opened the app and selected the Mariners game at the Aneheim Angels.

As the innings past I added the golf clubs to my “for sale” posts. And fixed my shop light with some liquid nails. And since I had the Liqued Nails out, used it to secure the weatherstripping.

Many of these items have been on my list for weeks. Some for only a few days. I have four items left, but I’m out of time, and the Mariners lost their game to the Angels.

Tomorrow maybe I’ll try this again. D&D players use a d4 as well.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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(c) 2020 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

  1. As a boy, my parents confiscated my D&D dice but not my rulebooks, thinking to have crippled the game. The problem is, I was a bright boy with ADHD and *just* enough grasp of distribution theory (raise your hand if the first bell curve you ever saw was the 3d6 chart in the Dungeon Master’s Guide) to know that all methods of generating random numbers are not created equal. I played D&D all summer using coins and the “normal” dice from a yahtzee set (which D&D nerds call d6’s).

    Fun fact, there are LOTS of ways to generate random numbers, but many of them are dangerously flawed. Consider flipping through a book and taking the last digit. Simple, right? Try it five times, I’ll wait. Did you get random numbers? Did you really? Look again, I bet they’re all odd numbers: books are printed with page 1 on the right, flip over for page 2, and continuing through with evens on the left and odds on the right.

    Your stopwatch method is good as long as you let it run long enough that you can’t really tell where you are in the 10s period, i.e. if you no longer have any idea if you’re closer to 5 or to 0. Even if you do, the goal here was to make you FEEL like it was random, so it’s actually perfect for a one-off quickie. It is “random enough”.

    For the dorks out there: you can fix the book thing by taking a flip through and picking the right-hand page. Stop on a page number and remember it. Now flip through AGAIN, and if you get a 1 or a 3, back up one page and take the even number. If you get a 5 or a 7, keep the odd number. If you get a 9, ignore it and flip again. Or you could flip through the book and then flip a coin, heads take the even page, tails take the odd, and so on.

    If you have standard dice, you can get a d10 by rolling 1 die, rerolling sixes, so you have a number 1-5. Now roll a second d6: if you roll 1-3, keep the number. If you roll 4-6, add 5 to the first die. Back to my childhood, D&D relies heavily on d20’s, so I did the same thing: get a 1-5 from one die, then get a 1-4 from a second one to make me add 0, 5, 10 or 15 to the first die.

    Yes, I was unpopular as a child, how did you know? 😀

    • I think my version works perfectly IF you use the hundredths digit. I couldn’t pick a hundreths of a second number if I tried.

      In fact, I have a manual stop watch and I couldn’t use it because it only goes down to 1/5 of a second. But the electronic stop watch and the hundreths digit is about as random as you can get.

      Cool stories about the D&D history. My brother and I had the original version. My dad made us burn the books.

      I really wish I had those v1.0 books today.

      • It all comes down to your definition of “good enough”. Hundredths are fine. But here’s an even sillier one: if you have no idea what time it is and can resist the urge to immediately look or even stop to reason about how long it’s been since you last checked, just flip your phone over and use the last digit of the minutes. Obviously you can’t use it repeatedly but if you just need a number out of the blue, it’ll work.

        Related: Authors of the earliest versions of the Sun Sparc operating system implemented the rand() function to return the number 4. They put a comment above it saying that it was TECHNICALLY random, but that it was “not guaranteed to be suitable for repeated calls”[1]. Historical note: this was in 1986, when a lot of CS academicians were still up in arms over the very definition of randomness. John Von Neumann once said, presumably before his death 30 years prior, “Any one who considers arithmetical methods of producing random digits is, of course, in a state of sin.” He was, and may well still be, the final word on the subject. As near as I can tell, computer science never got over itself on that accord, instead agreeing with Von Neumann’s use of the term “pseudo” random[2] which was intended to limit the scope of endeavor from “impossible” to “merely difficult”. IMO it was either half-intended, or half-received, as a pejorative condescension.

        [1] These were the same jokers who declared PI as a constant and included a comment that they did so “in case the value of PI should ever change.”[3]

        [2] A quick wikipedia check does not confirm for me if JVN coined, or even used, the term pseudorandom; my TIL for this post is that in the 1940’s they were called “Deterministic Random Bit Generators”.

        [3] …and the joke was on them. Just 7 years later, Sparc v9 was released, which was a 64-bit OS and required a new constant for PI which had twice as many bits of resolution than their original 32-bit definition. 😀

      • I’ve never understood why they didn’t combine the clock function with human interaction to generate randomness. If you need a 1-10 random number, just ask the user to “press any key.” As soon as they press a key, grab the last digit of the time sequence.

        That’s pretty random.

        Now with the internet of everything, just pick a location “far away” and do a ping. Look at the last digit of the time packet and you are again pretty random.

        I understand the “no true random” in CS. I was never really happy with it.

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