shannon_a: (Default)
Injuries. Managed to hurt myself again. Darn it. And this time it was a recycling injury. Sigh.

I was tearing down a heavy corrugated cardboard box on Monday and I was holding it up against my chest as I did, and somehow throughout all of that I managed to spasm my muscles and bruise my sternum and/or ribs. Or something like that. It's been aching for days, especially if I do anything spectacular like breathe. The worst has been sleeping. I can't cuddle with my cat at night, because that requires lying down on that side, and I can't escape her in the morning, which I usually do by turning over. Overall, the result has been a week of poor sleep.

It's been getting better day by day, but slowly. Frustrating. 

Computers. I've laid my old MacBook Air to rest. Or, at least, I'm filing it away for use as an emergency backup if I ever need it. Sadly, of all the Macs I've bought, that was the one that seemed to have some serious manufacture problems of the sort I don't generally expect from Apple.

In the end:
  1. The "1", "q", "a", and <delete> on the keyboard often stopped working, usually just when I opened it up and especially when I had it out somewhere cold. This was apparently a well-known problem with the MacBook Airs and had to do with the keyboard circuitry contracting away from the plug.
  2. The wifi constantly cut out, but would come back if I hit the little wifi icon at the top of the screen. This was not a well-known problem. Or, at least if it was, the only suggested solutions were software, and they didn't do anything.
  3. The battery was starting to die, and though it was still getting decent time with my usually low-energy use, it was to the point where the Mac was suggesting I replace it.
  4. The 120G of hard drive space was becoming inadequate as I continued to add PDFs for my work on the next Designers & Dragons book, on the entire set of TSR & WotC books for D&D. (After 4+ years of working with DTRPG, we've almost covered the full ~1000 or so, and that's a lot of PDFs.)
Only the first two were really manufacture problems, though they were extremely annoying, but the first three probably required hundreds of dollars worth of repairs, and that still left me with inadequate hard drive space. So, after getting the OK from Kimberly, I ordered a new one instead, on Monday, pretty much as soon as Apple announced the new MacBooks.

My new computer is a 12" MacBook. It's a little smaller than my 13.3" Air was, and that's taking a little getting used to, but it's still a full-sized keyboard, and my eyes are still good enough to read the screen at an increased resolution, so I think I willl get used to it. And it's 2 pounds rather than 3 pounds, which will be notable when I'm carrying it around up hills and on long hikes.

Oh, the process of migrating was a pain though. It just wouldn't work, and I eventually came to the conclusion that it was because the Air was one version back of the MacOS software, and the migration didn't work from that to Sierra. Not that Apple documents that, but some forums seemed to confirm it. So I had to unsync my RPG PDFs from my Dropbox to have enough space to upgrade to Sierra. (That's why I hadn't previously.) Then the upgrade wouldn't work either, because it couldn't install a helper. I finally managed to get the old computer upgraded after a reboot. Then I finally managed to get the Migration going after a reboot. Shockingly the Migration with both computers set next to my wifi router only took 30 minutes or so. But it took another day and a half to resync all those D&D PDFs, off of Dropbox.

Still, new computer. Very happy because of all the annoying problems with the old one.

Not being ble to type an "a" can make rticles hrd to write.

RPGs. I've been running my Burning Wheel campaign since sometime left year. I'm enjoying creating an original campaign world in conjunction with the players and I'm enjoying slowly unravelling their story. I have some qualms that the story might be too mundane thus far and that I need to be more accepting of sea changes as the campaign goes forward. But, so far so good.

My only real issue is a pretty common one: I find the prep of adventures stressful. Usually I feel like my Friday nights before games are very rushed as I try to jam together adventure prep along with my usual writing prep. And, I also feel pressure that I prep well so that we can have fun the next day.

So this week I tried something new, based on a thread on RPGnet. I modeled my prep after a game called Agon: prep an adventure with one goal, three sub-goals, and one or more complications for each sub-goal. It's very similar to the system of three complications that I was laying out for Mouse Guard that helped me to minimize my prep time there while still producing good adventures.

I've varied this up a little. I try to introduce at least one notable locale each adventure and at least one notable NPCs, and I try to reuse one or more NPCs from past adventures. So my notes include all of that too. But still, that's less than a page for an adventure, and the actual plot-ty part of the adventure is minimized, making the prep easier and keeping options more open for the players during play.

But there's another thing in Burning Wheel: it's very player-focused. So I bit the bullet early in the week and I prepped four adventures in this style, one for each player in the game. Voila! I now have full prep done, well before Friday. And hopefully I'll be able to do the simpler prep necessary for a replacement player-oriented adventure after I run each.

Sure enough, this Friday I was unstressed. Or little stressed.

The next test was whether my slightly shorter prep was sufficient to run an exciting adventure ... and sadly I didn't get to find out. When I got to gaming on Saturday, Mary could tell that I was in low spirits due to lack of sleep (from my ribs) and due to exhaustion (from offering support for K. in a hard time). So she asked without prompting if I wanted to play board games instead, and I nearly collapsed in relief into that idea. We played 7 Wonders and Agricola. I did horribly in the first and came in second in the second, probably highlighting how worn out I was.

Vacations. And we are already making plans for Hawaii next year. My step-mom is putting together a family vacation, where she, my dad, my sister and her husband, and Kimberly and I will all spend a week together on the Big Island next year. We had a lot of fun hanging out with everyone at Melody and Jared's wedding, so I'm quite looking forward to this, and it'll also be a nice opportunity to visit a different island.

Mary has also talked about doing the same thing on a different island in 2019, maybe. If that indeed happens, then we quite amusingly will not see Kauai again until we move there in 2020.
shannon_a: (Default)
No, I don't really do "relaxed" weekend.

And no, I still can't write a journal entry within a week of time.

Saturday was a gaming day. It's my Burning Wheel campaign, but the idea has always been to vary it up with other games that expand the overall world. So we started off with three sessions of Microscope over a few years time before getting into the regular Burning Wheel groove for almost ten sessions.

Then, this Saturday, I decided that I didn't want the stress of story prep intruding onto the holiday weekend, so I offered up the first of my interludes, a game of Kingdom. We learned about the Alchemist Guild deep in the past of Eligium. It went well. The roleplaying was more intense than usual, which caused some tension, and we were all pretty tired by the end. But it was an interesting game, and we definitely learned more about our history.

Sunday was a hiking day.

It began with my usual inability to find a sandwich in south Berkeley. I had found a sandwich-making place I hadn't found before called Tivoli Caffe. So I visited there to pick up a sandwich before I walked up the hill. But, they were closed for the whole Memorial Day weekend. So was Cheese & Stuff. IB Hoagies was closed and not opening until noon. Top Dog was closed. I finally ended up at Taco Bell again. Ah well.

Afterward I walked up Panoramic Hill to the fire trails, then up to the top of the hill. It was chilly and overcast, and I was literally walking up into the clouds. By the time I got to the top of the hills, I was in then.

I took a break at a bench on the Bay Area Ridgeline Trail, just over the top of the hill. It's got a beautiful view of the Siesta Valley Recreation Area, down to the teeny super-rich community of snobs in Wilder. I stopped there to write for a while, but that was about when the sun came out, and it soon became too bright to really read my computer. So I walked down through the EBMUD trails until I got to Orinda.

I'm always shocked by how short that walk is, from Berkeley to Orinda. About an hour and a half up the hill and about an hour and a half down the hill. I always think about walking the St. Stephens Trail on to Lafayette afterward, but Google Maps inevitably shows it as another hour, and I inevitably decide it's getting late and I get on the BART in Orinda instead.

So it was on Sunday.

Monday was hanging-out-with-Kimberly day.

Unfortunately, the Labor Day Salsa "block" party on the next block, which attracts huge crowds of people from Oakland to Richmond, and which results in hours of loud music shaking our house, has spread like a disease to also be a Memorial Day Salsa "block" party. So, we were definitely desirous of fleeing the house, but K. is too tired currently to want to go with far.

So, we waited until about noon and then headed out to grab some lunch (Taco Bell again!) and take it to campus.

Once there we ate, then read-aloud from Fool's Assassin, then did our own things for a while. (I had my computer, full of work, as usual.) Eventually some hellacious almost-inaudible buzzing noise settled onto the entire southeast side of campus, and we moved on.

There was then yogurt and drug stores and a haircut for me. Unfortunately, we still had a few hours of Salsa when we got home. K. and I both went to our offices to hide, but my office turned out to be not protected. It has windows on three sides of the house, and though the Salsa party was on the opposite side of the house from my office and windows, it still boomed through the room like a panel truck with its roll-up door flapping all around.

Monday was also the day we said farewell to our exercise bike.

Pretty much, Schwinn sucks. They manufacture crap.

More precisely, we got it a few years ago. It didn't work when we got it: the wheel had no resistance. So a repairman came out and fixed it and it worked. briefly.

Unfortunately for the next year, K. didn't really use it because she wasn't doing well and I didn't really use it because my doctor was keeping me off bikes.

So some 10 months or so after the repair, one of us sat down ... and found the wheel had no resistance.

Though the parts warranty hadn't expired, the labor warranty had, and Schwinn told us this was clearly labor, and so we were on our own.

But, it was an easy repair, they said, taking only a phillips screwdriver. The kind Schwinn liar even told us what pages in the manual to use to repair things.

So Sunday night we finally sat down to look at the instructions, which had been sitting around for a few months. And, they were horrible, and they had little to do with the bike we actually had. I fooled around with it for about an hour and came to the conclusion that a pedal wrench was actually needed to get things open.

We'd already decided that the bike's poor quality control meant that it wasn't worth bringing to Hawaii. Rather than having a non-functional bike in the house for a few years, we opted to drag it out on the street Monday afternoon with a free sign (and a clear statement of its condition and all the supposed "instructions" attached). Our theory was that we could at least benefit from the annoying Salsa party because there'd be people leaving and heading to their cars and one of them might pick up the non-functional bike and take it home.

Sure enough.

Mark that as our last purchase ever from Schwinn, once a sign of quality, now a sign of horrible manufacture and poor customer service.

That wasn't our only experience with crappy companies over the weekend. The other was Jack Richeson & Co., Inc. K. bought a very nice easel from them, and we tried to set that up on Sunday night after our failure with the exercise bike.

The instructions were atrocious. Worse than 10 IKEA books. There were no illustrations of many of the parts and very minimal explanations of what to do.

But, we figured it out and did fine until we got to the last part ... which required a bolt that they had not included.

So K. sent them mail and requested our '2 1/4" bolt'. They sent back the requirement that we fill our a four-page warranty form and send it back along with a receipt and a declaration of where we'd purchased it, in order to get our $2 bolt.

I did so, but I wasn't very happy about it, and I very politely told them their ridiculous bureacratia made me think poorly of the company.

So the next day, one of the owners mailed me back and apologized, but also explained why it was really wonderful that they had a system where I had to fill out and scan four pages in order to get a 2 1/4" bolt. Nonetheless, I was mollified, especially when they said they were sending the bolt priority mail, to arrive on Friday, along with some nice paint brushes for K. as way of apology.

It's Friday. No bolt. No paint brushes.

Crappy companies.

Don't even get me started on the self-righteous asshats at Spamcop, who darkened my door late in the week.

Suffice to say: I've learned that they're now buying dead domains and reusing previously valid email addresses as spam traps. Which is all kinds of morally and possibly legally wrong. Their excuse is that the domains are really old, but if they think data on the internet has expiry dates, they're fools.

(They're fools.)

So, if you're not a spammer, and you ever find the need to sue Spamcop for defamation and/or prior restraint of trade, I'm your man. I now know where the bodies are buried because an arrogant Spamcop engineer explained to me what they're doing as he tried to bludgeon me into believing he was right and I was wrong.

(And this complaint will just have to serve as a substitute for exposé that I want to write but don't want to get involved with.)

My goal in any holiday weekend is to revitalize myself for the wear, tear, and work of everyday life. I quickly discovered that I failed, because my Tuesday or Wednesday I was at wit's end about a variety of problems.

But that was due to the problems (and the ongoing stressors in our life currently) as much as anything.

Maybe this weekend.

I just plotted out a really cool hike.
shannon_a: (Default)
As we closed in on lunchtime on the Friday after Thanksgiving I was determined to find myself a tasty sandwich that I could eat up in the hills above Berkeley.

But Cheese 'n Stuff was closed. So was IB Hoagies. I finally decided to walk all the way up to North Berkeley to get a delicious Andronico's sandwich.

Truth to tell, I hadn't even expected to be back in Berkeley on Friday morning.

One day earlier. We headed out to BART at a quarter 'til 10 on Thursday, for Thanksgiving down in San Marteen. It's the first time we've had Thanksgiving there in I dunno how long, and I think it happened primarily because I quizzed early about plans in San Marteen rather than just waiting and then making our own plans up here when things were getting toward the last moment. So, yay.

K. and I packed pills and toiletries and clothes to stay over night, though we weren't definite about doing so. That's foreshadowing about that whole not-expecting-to-be-in-Berkeley-on-Friday bit.

Jason picked us up in Fremont, because the Warm Springs BART station, now two years late, still hasn't happened. We got to see his new house on the way to San Marteen. It seemed very nice.

Then we were down to San Marteen by noon or so, which was great. There was talking and ping ponging and then dinner around 2.30. More talking and some football watching (which I find interesting enough though it's never something I'd do on my own) and some gaming with Between Two Cities and Dixit. It was feeling like late evening by the time Jason and Lisa and Rob were all planning to head out, but it was only 6 or 7 or something, which was pretty cool — getting such a full day in and still having evening ahead of us.

I was somewhat concerned about staying overnight because of the fact that the heat wasn't working at Casa Wiedlin in San Marteen. There were fires and heaters going all over the house and it was keeping it from being super cold. But I thought it was going to be pretty cold in the morning.

But then there was the pumpkin pie incident.

K. awoke from her post-turkey stupor, ate pumpkin pie, and got sick from it. So we ultimately decided to head home on Thursday night so she could be sick there instead of at someone else's house.

Rob drove us, so we got to talk to both brothers on different car trips.

The Warm Springs BART extension still wasn't open, so he took us up to Fremont.

Friday, I did get my sandwich at Andronico's.

Another side effect of the is-it-a-holiday-or-is-it-not problem of Black Friday was that AC Transit was running a weekday schedule. So I had to hike all the way up to Euclid to catch a bus, and it didn't deliver me quite into Tilden.

But I had a nice lunch in Tilden, then I wrote for a while, then I walked all the way home from there: up through southern Tilden, around Strawberry Canyon, and then down Panoramic Hill. Somewhere over 10 miles total, the exact sort of nice hike in the hills that I'd been wanting for a few weeks.

Saturday was gaming, our first full session of Burning Wheel play. We're still at that uncomfortable point where we're learning a game system, and Burning Wheel is quite complex, which means we'll be there for a while.

But, the gears kept turning and we continued our development of our story.

The AP of our game so far is here though I haven't added this week's session yet. As always, there are too many things to write. (More on that momentarily.)

Sunday was rest (and writing). But after some early afternoon naps, K. and I put up our Christmas tree.

This is an artificial tree that K. found after last year's sawing-the-tree-in-half debacle. Putting the new tree together and spreading out all the branches took forever and was quite exhausting, but I compared it to going across town to pick out a tree, and it wasn't too bad. And that was on top of moving various book cases and a cat tree out of the way to provide space for the christmas tree. And moving a cat out of the way, as Callisto kept insisting on jumping on the top of the cat tree whenever it stopped for a moment in its movements. This made things particularly difficult when the cat tree had to go through low doorways.

After all that, the hanging of lights and ornaments was pretty easy.

So there's now a nice tree in the corner of our living room. Callisto has only made one mad rush at it so far, threatening that she might climb straight up it.

Also busyness this weekend: writing, writing, writing.

  • Prep for Saturday adventure (due Friday night; done). I had fun detailing places and people in our city of Eligium, starting to create the modern basis of our world.
  • Edits and expansions of three Pathfinder ACG strategy articles (due Sunday night; done).
  • This journal entry (done).
  • AP for Saturday's game (due before I forget things; in process).
  • Four D&D Classic histories (due Monday night; three and a half drafted).
  • One Prince Valiant encounter (due Tuesday night; half done).
  • A very long Catan gamopedia (in process).

shannon_a: (Default)
The weekend began with insomnia. Friday night I was tossing and turning until 4am. Then I finally got up, read a mediocre comic, and when I went to bed at 4.30 I was able to drift off.

By 9.30 cats and/or the sun were waking me up, so five hours it was.

Which was a crying shame due to the busyness of the weekend.

Saturday was my regular roleplaying group. We played Microscope, which is a brilliant history creation game. This was our third session working on the same history, but whereas we'd spent the previous two sessions detailing the history of the whole world, this time around we focused on a city that we called Eligium, which is on the frontier.

(Also apparently the name of a failed MMORPG, but I can live with that.)

The idea is to ultimately have a great basis for a new campaign, and I'm indeed planning to start that campaign in October. But I'm also loving the history we've been designing enough that I'm thinking it might be great for fiction too. Well, maybe in a different decade; things are too busy right now.

Kimberly joined me for this gaming, which has just about never happened. But I knew it would be a really creative game that she might enjoy (though she surprised me by enjoying the roleplaying interludes as well) and I knew that it was likely to be just Donald and Mary, who are friends of hers. So that was nice. In fact, we made a whole day of it. We BARTed down to Oakland early, then we had a tasty lunch at the Endgame Cafe. Then, after the game, we walked over to Chinatown, grabbed some Dim Sum, and took it to Jack London Square to eat. All around a very nice day.

(And one of the reasons I'd invited her was that I knew I'd be busy on Sunday, which is the usual day I spend with her.)

Sunday was a birthday get-together for Christopher. Him, Mike B., me, and Chaz play tested a story game he's been working on, and that I've commented a few times. It was an enjoyable game about a future, ruined Rome and ambitious senators and indentured androids (Hello, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, which K. and I are currently reading.)

I think we got some good use out of the playtest, and I offered up some feedback on developing the game that I was quite happy with. We'll see what Chris thinks when I see the rules again.

And we also had a mini-bbq.

I thought I'd be absolutely dead after two days of serious socializing ala roleplaying games. I thought I'd be dragging this week, praying for the next weekend.

Not so bad though. I got seriously behind on projects, in part because I didn't have a lot of time for my regular D&D history writing, and in part because I was finishing up a 10k word article on Pathfinder ACG strategy.

But other than that, the busyness of the weekend did not kill me.

And tomorrow is the second BBQ for Chris' birthday. It's my regular Thursday night board game, with backyard BBQ and some social/co-op games afterward.
shannon_a: (Default)
A busy few days.

On Saturday I ran a Mouse Guard game at Endgame. This is the first RPG I've run since my Kingmaker campaign ended last year, and a rare diversion into more indie play.

I thought it went well. The players seemed to enjoy themselves, and the game system really encouraged more roleplaying and more thoughts about a character's motives, exactly as I hoped it would. Meanwhile, I didn't feel overwhelmed like I have with some indie games (Dying Earth comes to mind). They can be really exhausting, but this one didn't feel like that, perhaps because it gives players lots of ability to choose what they're doing.

The plan is to run a total of four-five sessions of Mouse Guard, then if we like that use it as a springboard for a longer Burning Wheel campaign.

On Sunday K. and I took a first walk guided by Berkeley Walks. We picked the Elmwood walk as our first from the book. It's a bit more than 3 miles.

We liked Berkeley Walks when we saw it at the Berkeley Book Festival because it appeared to be full of details about the various houses and neighborhoods that you were walking through. We didn't realize quite how full. We did a bit more than half the walk, but took 2-3 hours doing so. We'd walk several houses (rarely, a half block or a block), then we'd stop, read about the next way point, and examine the house that was being described.

There was some history in the book, which I expected (though actually less than I would have hoped). However, there was much more architectural detail than I expected, and both K. and I found that fascinating. We slowly began to recognize architectural styles ("colonial revival" was quite popular) and also architectural elements that we hadn't know. Now I sort of know what a dormer (a roofed structure that projects out from the plane of a roof) and a mullion (a vertical divider between panes of glass or between windows) are.

We'll finish up the Elmwood walk on another Sunday, then there are many more in the book.

On Monday I worked, but also visited my specialist to see the results of some recent tests.

So, I apparently have a 4mm kidney stone. It's still in the kidney, so it's unlikely to be causing any of my current, chronic problems. But, joy. Massive pain sometime in the future.

The doc is concerned that the next stage of testing for my chronic problems would not be insurance-covered, because insurance companies suck at doing their job. Combined with the fact that my symptoms have perhaps lessened in the last few months, we're trying out some new drugs and supplements.

(More joy.)

So far I've doubled up on the alpha blocker I was taking before and it's making me a little groggy during the day and a little light-headed when I stand up, but hopefully that'll go away in the long-term.

Not thrilled about the idea of any of this doing anything ... but onwards we go.

And on Tuesday I worked, and on Wednesday I video-conferenced about a paper. And now it's Wednesday night, as another week flies by ...
shannon_a: (Default)
Last night I finished up a little mini writing project that took up a bit too much of my time in December & January. At the last minute I decided on the name "Far Futures & Fiction: A Review of Traveller's Literature", but we'll see if that sticks or not.

It originated with a series of 23 reviews that I wrote of Traveller novels and short stories when I was running my Traveller campaign, several years back now. I covered several of Traveller's inspirational novels and also every novel and collection of stories based on the game that I could find. (I missed one.) Besides just talking about the quality of the books, I also looked at the inspiration they offered for Traveller and for Traveller games.

Fast forward to 2015, and Marc Miller was kickstarting his own Traveller novel, Agent of the Imperium. He was listing out past Traveller novels, and I posted my whole list of reviews, and he asked if I'd like to compile them into a book(let).

Now I'm always a fan of collecting together material that I've written on the 'net into a more concrete and permanent form, so I happily told him yes. But that also meant lots of editing to transform everything into a book form and to make sure it was all consistent as possible. I also added six reviews (one new inspirational book that Marc suggested, the one book I missed, three books that had been published since 2011, and one short story collection that was new too). Oh, and you'll be unshocked to learn that I added as much historical context as I could for everything.

The result came out to 30k words. I think it's a nice little book(let) that gives a great overview of Traveller's fictional literature. It's also enthused me to read more of the inspirational literature for the game and write about it (but probably not at the moment, as this already set me back two months on another reading & writing project that I'm working on).

Dunno what the schedule for this book(let)'s production is going to be, as I just mailed things off to Marc yesterday, but I'm enthusiastic to see this little surprise mini-project appear. (As a PDF, one presumes.)
shannon_a: (Default)
Weekends are my panacea. They're my tonic. They're the time that I rest and relax from the busyness of the week. They allow me to work hard and return refreshed. Without them, it feels like the burdens on my shoulders grow larger and everything grows tighter around me week by week.

So, it's important that I get to actually relax on the weekends and when I don't, when I dive back into the week without true weekend, it's like diving into another exhausting day without a night's sleep in between.

Sadly, last weekend wasn't that restful.

Saturday was very busy because roleplaying was at my house. So the morning was spent cleaning and chatting with Kimberly, then folks arrived and we started gaming, then the gaming ran late, then Kimberly & I chatted with Donald & Mary for a while after gaming. It felt like I didn't come up for air until 7pm. (Then Kimberly and I watched TV, ate dinner, went for a walk, and it was 9pm!)

Sunday was better, though Kimberly & I spent a lot of time moving from one activity to another. After dinner it seemed like finally time to relax ... and then an attack on RPGnet ate up the next several hour of my evening. Dammit.

This all felt busy in part because I've been roleplaying less. It's certainly something I want to do, but the sessions have been a bit unpredictable since before Thanksgiving, so it's an activity that I'm less used too. (Hopefully that'll be changing around in the near future).

I think things also felt extra busy because of the lack of bike-riding. Usually even when I roleplay I bike out to Endgame and back, and that gives me an hour to stop my head from a'whirring, but that wasn't possible on Saturday. (Sometimes in the past I've gone for a bike ride before gaming at my house, but this Saturday I was up late the previous night because I'd had problems sleeping and Kimberly was unexpectedly home in the morning and it was raining part of the time, so ...)

I made up for things a bit on Monday. Because I'd been working on Sunday night, I knocked off a bit after 2pm, then bike up to Lake Temescal, where I wrote and read some up in the park. It was pleasant and did indeed remove some of the stress that accumulated (and more importantly didn't disperse) during the weekend.

On the ride I was a bit irritated to find that I'm still having troubles getting up to my cardio zones while biking, thanks to the upgraded med level for my blood pressure. I've been trying to get 30 minutes of activity a day, minimum, and I ended up with only 17 on Monday because for much of my ride up to Temescal and just about all of it back, I was sitting below the fat-burning zone that marks the start of cardio fitness. Grr.

My heart rate is definitely lower than it has been. However, the biggest problem seems to be that my Heart Rate Recovery is through the roof. My pulse rate drops extensively and quickly the second I stop exercising ... which apparently can nowoccur if I just take it easy while biking for a minute or two. That's generally supposed to be a sign of very good health, but when trying to exercise, it's a bit frustrating.
shannon_a: (rpg stormbringer)
So it turns out that Designers & Dragons did win one award: a gold ENnie for Best RPG-Related product.

I'd said that I wasn't too concerned about the ENnies because it was mostly a popularity contest. Which, it is. And if I hadn't won anything I would have continued to be not concerned. I thought that winning them would be the same: I have a couple of Origins awards in the closet, from when I worked at Chaosium, and the fact that those Cthulhu products with my name on them won someone wasn't that meaningful, and that's what I was basing my thoughts on. But the difference is those votes were primarily for Chaosium's carefully-created property, while this was for mine. For my Designers & Dragons.

So, cool. And cool to know I have fans too.

(Thanks fans who voted!)

One of the reasons this is cool is because I am continuing to work on Designers & Dragons books. A lot of that centers around the writing I've been doing for DnDClassics. Every week I write 1-3 histories for them of individual D&D books. I've been doing so since the start of 2013. If you do the math, you can see that I should have 125-375 histories done (exact count: 385, probably due to a rush at the start).

My goal right now is to continue writing these as my main thing through the end of 2016 (hopeful count: 550-600), and then in 2017 see what would be needed to fill in the gaps to have complete books describing the history (and some additional info) on every single D&D product ever put out by TSR and WotC.

This type of work is really time-consuming, because I have to research every single individual product and there's something like 1,000 total. I don't think I could ever do it without the weekly regimen required by having to prepare them as DnDClassics releases them week-by-week. So, I'm grateful to the DriveThruRPG folks for that (continuing) opportunity and the continuing demands, which keep me on track.

I've been slowly working on an outline for these D&D histories, which would (I think) put them at three books. My word count is already a ridiculous 282,000 words, but I'm pretty sure redundant text would get streamlined as I put them into books.

(Thanks DTRPG!)

I'm also thinking about a Designers & Dragons mini-book called something like "Designers & Dragons '00s to '10s: The OSR". I want to position it as the fifth core book of the line, and a good bridge while we're waiting for the opportunity to write a complete '10s book. And, I think it would go well with the TSR and WotC D&D books. Right now I'm just collecting information on the OSR movement and a couple of the first companies I'll write about, so this is a ways off. I thinking this might be a half-sized book at 200 pages or so, covering maybe 7-8 "companies".

And speaking of roleplaying, I did some today. Mary's Achtung Cthulhu campaign kicked off, and it was my first opportunity to actually play in a game since her very short-lived Dresden campaign (which was in 2011).

I had a blast. Kevin and I had fun when we created characters by randomizing most elements, and today I got to bring my character out to play for the first time. He's an overconfident American guerrilla expert. So I stepped into the fire time after time and kept quoting line and verse of what we should do based on my lessons back in guerrilla school (which I'd never before used in the real world).

My favorite was setting fire to the guard shack after we'd killed the Nazis there, in the village where we were continuing to operate. ("Rule #7: Never leave resources for the enemy".) Sadly our GM didn't take advantage of that potentially horrible choice. But I got to set something on fire.

(Thanks Mary!)
shannon_a: (Default)
I really enjoyed the wedding yesterday. Or maybe, I really enjoyed the reception.

Generally, it was great to see Woo so happy. He was just beaming throughout the day.

But I also enjoyed hanging out with the gamers alongside Kimberly, in a social venue that wasn't just about gaming. At this point, I've known these folks for most of my life. They've been an important part of it for two-and-a-half decades. It was great seeing them with their kids and families, within the context of a larger social web.

I loved seeing Eric with Justin, who is such a great kid.

I loved seeing Sweet bustling around helping to take care of things, while also being a great dad for his own kids.

I really appreciated getting a great compliment from Rowe, who told me that he's had signed copies of Designers & Dragons sitting on his table for months, waiting to be read but looking daunting. It made me happy to think that some of those books I signed at Endgame made their way to New Zealand and also to know that they're a constant presence there in his life on the other side of the world (even if they're not read!). And it was great seeing Barb again.

I enjoyed seeing Woo and Chris and Corina who have been mostly absent from my roleplaying in recent years, and meeting Sophia for the second time. I was really stunningly happy to hear that Woo and Sophia are thinking about joining us for the roleplaying Saturdays up here in the East Bay (in a couple of months, when things quiet down for them).

And it was good seeing Pick and his delightfully cute daughter Katie and the shy Vincent and Kevin and everyone else. I gave everyone I could find a hug on my way out. Kevin said it was an obvious sign that I'd been drinking. And, I'd had one mysterious fruity drink at the start of the reception some hours before, but mostly I was drunk on the camaraderie.


Jun. 8th, 2015 12:29 am
shannon_a: (Default)
Today was Woo's wedding, and following it, I am absolutely exhausted.

Donald and Mary were kind enough to pick us up at 12.30, and Kimberly and I walked back in from BART at 11.30. Whew! That was a long day!

We'd planned to meet Mary and Donald down at Fremont BART, but then we discovered that today was one of the days when BART was closing part of their Fremont line due to track reconstruction. (Why they don't do it at night when BART already isn't running, we dunno.) There was a bus bridge, but none of us trusted it not to screw our schedule, so they were kind enough to come all the way up to Berkeley to get us.

Very unfortunate timing, but it turned out fine.

The wedding was in a Presbyterian church in Portola Valley. It turned out to be a gorgeous venue. The a-frame church had a set of big glass windows in the back which overlooked a beautiful wooded area. It was stunning.

The ceremony was quite short and quite nice. Most people will probably say the highlight was the lighting of the candles. Woo and Sophia each lit candles and then used them to light the marriage candle together. Or so the theory went. In actuality they kept trying again and again to light the candle. It wouldn't light, not even when Woo trying to bring up the wick. As they grew increasingly frantic the (wonderful) minister rushed in with an emergency replacement candle.

And that one lit quickly.

The minster, very light on her feet, told them it would be a wonderful story about their wedding day to tell for decades, and that it showed the power of perseverance.

After many large group pictures, including several of everyone who attended, there was then a few hour break before the reception. Kimberly, who is still recovering from sickness, was exhausted, so Mary was kind enough to suggest that we could rest at her office. K. crashed out on a couch and slept, meanwhile Mary, Donald, and I played Citadels and Fluxx and Fluxx.

I think we were all pleased by the activities (rather than alternatives of beer-drinking or dave-and-bustering).

The reception was at another beautiful venue, a country club up in the Palo Alto Hills. Absolutely gorgeous views. The club itself was attractive too and served good food and drinks.

We sat with Donald and Mary and the sister of Woo's long-term roommate & family (and spent awhile explaining what Woo's strange "gaming" was, which was fun). I also got to wander off for a while and talk to my old friend Eric, who's in town for the wedding from New Zealand.

Wedding favors: Lindt chocolates. I heartily approve.

Afterward Donald and Mary dropped us by Union City BART, the same station I used to use when I commuted to Sun in Mountain View. And then it was a hike home from BART. I hadn't quite realized how tired I was until I hit the couch. Whew!

And of course when I got home, RPGnet was broken. It's had a bad run since the power outage 10 days ago or so. Something was wrong with our MySQL slave tonight. I couldn't really see what, so I just set the site to only use the MySQL master until tomorrow.

Not really ready to go back to work after such a tiring weekend, but so it goes ...


Jun. 7th, 2015 01:06 am
shannon_a: (Default)
Woo's bachelor party today. It was hosted and put together by Sweet. We gathered at his house starting around 7pm. Mostly gamers, but a few other Woo friends as well. There was ramen and barbecue to go on it. Drinks were shared around (though I sadly abstained, as I didn't want to upset my stomach before the wedding). Then at 8pm, the "game truck" showed up.

This is apparently a real thing that you can franchise. Patented too, which shows how broken the patent system is. ("A system for putting Wiis and Xboxes on a mobile delivery platform" — not obvious at all). The Game Truck people claimed it could seat 20, but that was clearly younger butts. But about 10 of us were in the truck playing on the 4 big screens at its height. I was also amused by Kevin and Pick playing from outside the truck for a bit, leaning in through the big windows. I bet young 'uns can't do that.

Besides the gaming and the eating, there was some talking too, in chairs out in front of Sweet's house in Pleasant Hill, which is pleasantly balmy at night. I forget that other parts of the nearby Bay Area don't have the nasty chill evenings we get here in Berkeley. At least not in summer.

Anywho, that was the Bachelor's Party. I think it was the third I attended. Rowe's (miniature golf + go carts + pool & drinks) + Jason's (Hooter's + I didn't stick around for the bar hopping) + Woo's (ramen + game truck + drinks).

I actually spent much of the day over the hills in Contra Costa. I did a great bike ride from Lafayette around and over some of the hills into Pleasant Hill. I biked up to about 680 feet, hiked down through the Aclanes Open Ridge Space and then biked along a portion of the Brionnes to Mt. Diablo Regional Trail, which was a really great ride. It went through some hilly areas going down, then through some houses and a park (where I stayed and wrote for a couple of hours) then eventually connected up with the western contra costa canal trail.

I also rode a bit along the western contra costa canal trail, which I've done twice before. I love the canal and I love the suburban areas it goes through. On my first ride through I found it really hilly and tough going as a result. It's still hilly, but not very tough now. Instead there were some delightful areas that I was able to really enjoy when I was a good 20 or 30 feet up from the canal far below.

And then on the way home I took dark trails out from Sweet's house around to Walnut Creek. I'd done it once before and it was a weird and wonderful ride, as was the case again tonight.

(25 miles total today. Almost 4000 calories burned and over 200 active minutes according to my Fitbit.)

And that was the busy day. K. and I also finished Justified earlier in the day with the last two episodes. Fine show! And with an ending that worked well! I'm really sad to see it go, as Harlan County is one of those TV places that's found a little place in my heart, as only the best detailed places can.
shannon_a: (rpg stormbringer)
My long-running Kingmaker campaign is finally done. It's been running for 4.5 years and totaled either 71 or 72 sessions, and I brought it to a planned finish on Saturday in a session that I was happy with.

I feel as if a great weight has been lifted from my chest. That was the longest running campaign I've ever GMed, in either time or in sessions (though the shared run of our Roman Ars Magica game went longer, at ~100 sessions in just 2.5 [college] years, but there were several GMs). Especially because the plan is for Mary to run an 8-10 session Achtung Cthulhu! campaign, I feel light and free, because I won't be preparing or running any adventures until next year at my guess.

But, it's always sad to see a campaign come to an end. We'll never see those characters again and even if we have the exact same players in the next campaign, the dynamics won't be quite the same, because players taking different roles (and so interacting with the group in different ways) is literally the name of the game. Or at least the name of the gaming category.

Right now I'll just be happy that we had a campaign that folks enjoyed and that kept us playing together for another half-a-decade.
shannon_a: (Default)
Designers & Dragons. This weekend I finished up work on the "Platinum Index", our free supplement to Designers & Dragons backers. It contains four new histories, plus edited, commented versions of the yearly reports I've written on the industry for 2008-2013. It totaled about 31,000 words, which as I say in the introduction isn't bad for a couple of months work. To be fair, I had about 12,000 words of yearly reports in advance,but there's a lot of great new text as well. All told, that's about a quarter of one of the printed books.

This is basically the end of my writing and editing work on Designers & Dragons this year. I do still have: (1) signing of Kickstarted books; (2) interaction with editing, proofing, and layout of the Appendix. But, I'm not doing anything new for the series until 2015*. Whew.

More generally, I'm going to take as much of the next week as I can off from extracurricular writing, and enjoy some rest in the evenings instead. Also whew.

* Except I was really tempted today to start in on histories of Morrigan and Khepera for some future book. Must. Show. Discipline.

Optometrists. Last Tuesday I was back to Berkeley Optometric Group yet again. We're theoretically working on getting a new pair of glasses, with prescription verified by a different optometrist and placed in a different frame. So I spent 45 minutes this time looking at frames (really, I let the techs do the looking), but the only place the techs could find similar frames to what I have was in a catalog, so they've ordered them and I get to go back yet again this week.

While I was working with the techs, one of them apologized and said I'd been very patient with the whole process. Which is true, but it really made me think about my one and only appointment with Dr. Chun at BOG. My problem wasn't just that he was trying to dump me as a patient, but also that he continually tried to invalidate my experience. He was so busy explaining how the screwed-up glasses were in spec and that he'd never had a problem like this that he refused to listen to me explain how the glasses were unusable and worse than what I had, that one lens was a blurry smear when I tried to look out of it.

Doctors that don't listen to you? Unfortunately common. Doctors that try to convince you that you're wrong in your personal experience? BAD.

Rain. Yay! We've finally had some real rain this year. It was actually a misty day when I went out to bike last Saturday (the 25th) and I found it joyous, with the smell of damp dirt in my nostrils and the wet air, and I even saw a rainbow on the way home. (And got doused for about a minute at the Knox Miller Regional Shoreline). Then this last Friday (the 31st) we had some real rain again. Still below seasonal norms, but it felt good to see some water falling from the sky.

Halloween. Friday was of course Halloween. Lucky for the kiddies, that rain cleared up before the eve. I generally enjoy Halloween because it feels different than any other US holiday, more about joyous experience than brainwashed merchandising. K. and I always go out to dinner on Fridays, and so I chose Nation's so that we could have a delicious Halloween pie afterward. Sadly, her pecan pie was still in the fridge last I saw, due to ongoing problems with nausea.

Then afterward I got groceries. Riding through north Berkeley, I saw troupes of kids and parents trooping about, which was fun. We don't see that sort of thing in our neighborhood, though it picks up a few blocks south of us. And at Safeway I saw college kids dressed up, with a homemade looking Peter Pan being the best.

Gaming. We rather shockingly had our roleplaying fall off for two months(!). First I was in Placerville, then the next week I was finishing up the Designers & Dragons: The '00s index. Then Mary & Donald were unavailable for three weeks running, with Dave S. unavailable each week too.Then we almost got together on the (rainy) 25th, but Eric F. didn't tell us he was available, so we cancelled, then he showed up at the session(!).

But on Saturday (the 1st), we finally got together to continue Kingmaker! Whew. We're still traveling the River Kingdoms, and I'm trying to push as much RP as fightP, so it's been enjoyable. I feel hopeful that we can have more regular attendance of sessions through the end of the campaign, but who can tell. We also counted up many of the loose plot threads (evil fay, silver dagger, Penny's dad, wedding), but I honest to goodness have them all on the horizon. We probably won't be finishing by the end of the year, but I'm hopeful that maybe we can before Hawaii '15. If we can game regularly.

And after that: Mary might run Achtung! Cthulhu or The Tyranny of Dragons or I might run 13th Age or Burning Wheel or Dungeon World.

Hawaii. On my TODO list: making reservations for the trip to visit my folks in Hawaii next year. They've offered us a stay in their condo in Honolulu for a few days, so the question is whether we can make a three-leg reservation like that work without increasing our costs too much. So, soon to fight with the bureaucracy of online flight reservations.
shannon_a: (Default)
GAMING SATURDAY Had an unusual gaming day on Saturday. We almost always do RPGs, but when it became obvious that half my regular group was missing, I suggested board games instead. This offer is *almost always* turned down, but for once not. Apparently I wasn't the only person that wanted to see my gaming friends one last time before the year ended. Chris W. is the one other serious boardgamer in that group, and he brought a game he'd kickstarted calle Zombicide.

I must admit that I've increasingly grown wary of kickstarted board games done by companies I've never heard of before, but I was pleasantly surprised b Zombicide It was enjoyable, it allowed for good co-op play, and as with any good co-op game we came up to just the edge of success but failed on our first game. After that, we played a short game o Timeline, my filler of the year, then called it a day/month/holiday.

WRITING, WRITING, WRITING I actually started seriously writing on Friday night, but Sunday was the first day that I was able to devote almost entirely to writing — which is one of my goals for this week off. (Sadly, I often devote my winter week off to video game playing to try and puncture the stress balloon for the year, but this winter there's just too much to do.) My main goal is to finish u Designers & Dragon '70 an '80s. They're actually pretty close to completion, but I"m getting in as much final research and writing as I can. Most of that is focused on various columns i Dragon agazine. I have to say that buying th Dragon Archive n eBay was one of my best choices for the book — not just because I can read early issues that I didn't have, but also because it' all searchable. I've also been doing some work on a new (unannounced) project where I'm writing up some histories for specific RPG products. So, I've been balancing the two: a product history, then a few hours o Designers & Dragons, then another product history ...

CHRISTMAS LIGHTS AT LAST After dinner last night (and after a talk with my dad in sunny Hawaii) I finally got to go out for a good night of Christmas light sighting. I was hoping that Kimberkly would join me, but she was coughing again. So, out my own, I headed up into the hills. With my new hillside riding ability, I'd been wanting to do this all year, but somehow rain and work had conspired otherwise. I'm glad I finally got my opportunity.

I headed up to Rockridge, but then instead of going up to Lake Temescal I went to the part of Upper Rockridge that lies just west of the Lake (and sometimes above it, as there's a ridge there). From there I went to the Glen Highlands, which is between Lake Temescal and Montclair. I actually had quite a bit of fun in the Highlands, as I'd never ridden in that neighborhood (except along one main street), so there I was in the dark on steep hills, going here and there as I saw lights. There were some neat spots in that area where you could see down from a hill into wide swathes of the neighborhood, and that was made all the cooler by the occasional Christmas lights. The lights, by the by, were quite good from Rockridge onward. I wasn't sure what they'd be like in the hills, as in my experience poorer neighborhoods often have some of the best lights, but these were very enjoyable. Lots of lighted trees and pillars, which all looked quite cool.

I rode 'til I was tired then headed home (this time via spooky nighttime Lake Temescal). I was out for about 75 minutes. I've since looked at a map of the Highlands and was bemused what a small area I actually biked around in, because it seemed huge and vast when I was wandering around in the dark. (My total riding area was much greater, it's just I was more familiar with the areas of Rockridge & Upper Rockridge that I biked through.)
shannon_a: (Default)
RUNEQUEST: Saturday I ran a review session of RuneQuest 6. That took lots of prep before hand (as a new game system always does) and the combination of character generation and adventure on Saturday left me a little hoarse. Overall, it seemed to go well. The combat dragged a little due to our inexperience, but overall we appreciated the greater tactical options as compared to good 'ole RQ3. Generally the BRP mechanics had been well polished, with some things like the new opposed skill rolls working really nicely.

During the session we sussed out that we hadn't played RQ since Eric left for New Zealand, which means early 2005. A shame, as it became one of my three or so favorite game systems in the time I've been here in Berkeley (Ars MagicaPendragon, and RuneQuest). The new game has me thinking about the possibility of a RQ campaign after our current Pathfinder campaign, but that's at least a year off.

Anywho, we're going to finish off our review session in two weeks.

HELLA OAKLAND: On my way home from Endgame, I got to watch lots of people in costumes running through the streets of Oakland. That actually doesn't sound that great given the increasing violence in Oakland this year. But it was a 5-mile run. The folks in costume made it look so fun that it made *me* want to run, and I'm not a runner.

BIKE WOES: Man, I can't seem to get a break with my bike lately. I've been having some problems with the back wheel, and finally came to the conclusion that it was out of true. Sure enough, I took it in to Missing Link and they agreed. On the bright side, total repair included some needed chain adjustments (because it was scraping) are only $40 and the bike was ready about 4 hours after I dropped it off. I'm going to get lunch downtown tomorrow so that I can pick it up, then I can get back to riding (Monday night that is, probably).

BATHROOM WORK: Though all the contractor work is done, Kimberly & I still had a bit of work to do to finish up our beautiful new bathroom. Today we put up some baskets on a tension pole in the corner of the tub — to hold shampoo and stuff. It involved bad instructions, a bit of scraped paint (sigh!), and some swearing as everything kept trying to fall apart, but it finally got installed, and I'm hoping it's all good and stable now. We still have some hooks to put up, then we're genuinely done.

WRITING: As usual lately, lots of writing. Today I wrote an article on the problems with the US election system (looking at it as a game for Mechanics and Meeples a week from Monday) and continued work on Designers & Dragons (Games Workshop and GDW got complete edits with some minor updates and my extensive work on TSR continues).

THE FUTURE: Looking forward to a quieter week coming up. Kimberly & I are going to spend Halloween together, enjoying some tasty desert and finishing up Butcher's Ghost Story. Then there's no gaming this coming weekend, which means a bit more rest (and work!) time ...
shannon_a: (games)
I cancelled my normal Kingmaker game today and instead went to Endgame's Xth anniversary party. I had a good time, playing several fun games with quite a few people that I don't get to game with enough (Aaron because he no longer lives in town, Bob, Brad, and Robert because our times don't tend to sync on Wednesdays). I think that in the future I'll go ahead and plan to attend these anniversary parties, even though they're not the big X (and not just for an hour or two before RPGing, like I did the last few years).

Games Played included: Ascension (with a win that proved I was able to take skills from the iOS game to the tabletop); Maharaja (also a win, but also a game that showed me Maharaja is usually too thinky for me); Sun, Sea & Sand (a game that I really enjoyed, especially thanks to the SimResort theming, which goes great with Oh Zoo Le Mio by the same author); team Innovation (which is the only way to play the game with 4); and Race for the Galaxy (my second play with the prestige rules, which sent one of the players right out to buy the expansion that includes them).

Between biking and about 6 hours of gaming and interacting, I'm pretty tired out, but will probably read for another hour or so before bed.

Oh, and congrats to Aaron, Chris, Chris, Anthony, Finn, and everyone else at Endgame for 10 years and for running one of the premier gamestores in the country for community and for fun.
shannon_a: (rpg glorantha)
Off at Endgame today, where we did some more meta work for the Dresden Files game. No actual RPG due to absent people and headaches, but I think we solidified some of the background. Afterward I got to introduce everyone to Small World: Underground (thanks to the EndGame demo shelf!), which was generally well-received. I fought my hardest, but newcomers Chris & Corina came out with the best scores.

On the way home I was beset by wind, making the ride grueling. This seems to be the case throughout late summer: every Saturday afternoon when I go home, the wind is consistently and thoroughly in my face. I'd love to find an article somewhere that talks generally about the wind patterns in the Berkeley-Oakland area, so that I can better understand what to expect when and why.

(I remember when I used to work at Chaosium, 'lo these many years ago, I'd get wind against me both when heading to Chaosium and when heading home most days. When I bike, I'm certainly in better touch with the world around me.)

When I crossed MacArthur Blvd on the way home today, I also saw a phenomenon that I'd experienced last week as well. The sky was mostly blue south of MacArthur and almost entirely gray to the north. When I used to visit my folks in San Jose a couple of times a year and get driven back, I'd see the same thing: somewhere in Oakland the sky suddenly became totally overcast. I guess I now know that "somewhere" is MacArthur.

It didn't used to bug me, but in my middle age, I've grown less fond of Berkeley 200-days-a-year of foggy skies.

The other day I tentatively agreed to do some writing for Mongoose for a new RPG book. It'll be for their Eternal Champion series, and should be something fun to work on next year. I pushed it off until January or February as I want to make sure I can get out an iPhone release of my friend Eric V.'s Armorica game first.

Though I've enjoyed lots of reading and relaxing since I finished Designers & Dragons, it's good to have projects too, so I'm happy to be working on Armorica this year and a new RPG book next year ... as long as it doesn't eat as much of my brain as a few super-big projects have from time to time (and it shouldn't).

(Newest word is that Designers & Dragons will be to Mongoose's warehouse around the 15th, by the by, and presumably to stores 7-10 days afterward.)
shannon_a: (politics)
Haven't been writing much lately. So, writing on a variety of things.

Dog Park. K. and I went to the dog park last Sunday in advance of a trip to Target. We were very pleased to discover that our bench had returned. It was even the same bench, as I verified by looking at the plaque thanking the people that donated the bench. Yay.

K. is still very disturbed that one of the area's two water fountains is gone, but the dogs seemed to be making due with just the one.

Tar-jay was as always cheap and full of plentiful good food.

Dresden. We got our first actual session of Dresden play last Saturday, and I thought it went very well. Lots of active roleplaying and problem solving. And, we muddled through how the system worked for a few things (combat, spellcasting). I really enjoyed getting to play my character. I had realized that I hadn't gotten to do any player-side roleplaying since Donald ended his Eberron game 2 or 3 years ago. And Eberron was mostly tactical fighting, as most D&D/PF games tend to be. So it may be that I haven't played much in the way of characterized characters since way back when Eric left around 2005. Wow.

Anyway, fun was had and I'm looking forward to the follow-up this next Saturday.

And to the new Dresden book, which I hope to be getting from the library in the next several days. Woot! Woot! I've been eagerly awaiting Ghost Story since the Changes cliff-hanger a year and a half ago. Yarg!

Yarg! Had a Coke today at Endgame because I was just getting a bit worn out (and thirsty!) from the running of the game. I've mostly tried to give up Caffeine for good this time, falling back to Italian sodas as a tasty liquid treat. I think I hadn't had any caffeine in like a month as a result. Now I'm pulling myself off the damned walls.

I should write. And write and write and write. I've got enough things on my TODO list. (Last session's AP. This session's AP. My final Traveller column, which will probably end up as two. My next review. A new board game article for BGi about Ascension.)

(No, I will read and relax and try to move toward bed after posting this.)

Kingmaker. Between last saturday's Dresden and next saturday's Dresden we had today's Pathfinder. And I was pleased how that went, after last session feeling somewhat uninspiring. Good group synergy, and about half the session spent on the players proactively improving the kingdom and following up on an existing plot thread, before I pushed them out on an actual mission, that will better link together a series of unotherwise independent encounters.

Of course, I mapped out this possible series of encounters and we only got to the first. Such is gamemastering.

Yet Another New Office. Moved my office around again this last week. The reason was that I got tired of some falling-apart, leaning bookshelves that I've had for the last 15 years or so since Billy (I think) pulled them off a loading dock for me (where they were destinied for the trash). The shelves kept falling down this last week, which has been an ongoing problem for years, mainly solved by various bits of MacGuyverism by Dave S. back when I lived on Hillegass. So I ordered new ones and they arrived on Tuesday.

However, they were slightly larger than my old ones (by like 1.5" between the two of them, but it was enough), so I've been rearranging all the shelves in my office. For a while much of my office was literally knee-deep in books I'd pulled off the shelves. I've also been better sorting things as I've placed books back on the shelves, which is nice. I finally got the new shelves anchored tonight, which means I can now put the last bits on them (my books to read, atop them), and I'm about resorted. Whew!

Norway. Ugh, what a crappy bit of news. I'm interested to hear from B. (who is in Denmark, but will be visiting us next month) how it was covered in the Scandinavian world.

Sadly, there was also a very predictable sequence of news coverage and response over the whole affair. First, the news passive-aggressively noted that there'd been a big controversy over a Mohammed comic a couple of years ago, suggesting that was the reason for a possible Muslim terrorist attack. That the comic was in Denmark, not Norway didn't seem to deter them, because what's a Baltic Sea between friends.

Our home-grown US reactionaries immediately started decrying how Europe was so stupid as to let "religious extremists" have any civil rights. That was a passive-aggressive poke at Muslims too. Then it came out that it was a Christian extremist terrorist, and ... crickets. Except for the people saying he wasn't a Christian because of the actions he took. (While entirely failing to understand that's how the Muslim terrorists can't be used as a measure of "their" religion.)

And then their Tea Bag gods gave our country's reactionaries their next talking point: that there wouldn't have been so many deaths if some folks on that massacre island just had guns to BLOW AWAY THE FUCKEN' TERRORIST, HECK YAH!, GO JOHN-WAYNE-MCCLANE GADGET GUNS!!!

Mind you, Norway actually has pretty liberal gun laws, allowing ownership if you can document a use. They do outlaw automatic weapons, despite the widespread legal need for those things, the damned commies. The result is something like 1.4 million weapons in the country or about 3 per 10 people. The US comparatively has 9 guns per 10 people, though only about a third of people own the guns. (That's the heaviest armed society in the world, by the by, with Yemen coming next at about 6 per 10.

And what does Norway get for those somewhat loose controls? A quarter the gun death rate of the US, per capita. Their average yearly gun murder rate seems to be somewhere in the 10-30 range, which I think underlines the scope of this tragedy for the nation.

And people who actually know what the fuck they're talking about suggest that the lax gun laws in Norway led to the tragedy.

Meanwhile, I'm sure our own religious extremists will find some new reason to hate Muslims next week.
shannon_a: (Default)
Greenery! I filled what I think is my third green bin of the year Friday night, after about an hour and a half working through the front yard, side yard, and back yard. The main point was to clear out greenery that would get in the way of the builders who are coming to put new windows in my office this week(!).

We really need to invest in some herbicide of some sort, as we've got some thorny vines which have gone global around our house. I absolutely hate to put poison of any sort down, as I worry about local animals, particularly pets, but what else can you do?

Hot! And summer has finally arrived. I noticed while lounging about in the Family Room yesterday that it was pretty warm, even with the windows open. Today, it's even moreso, with the temperature looking like it's going to kiss the 90-degree mark today. As a result, I just locked all the cats out of my office and opened up the (screenless, old) windows. I was hoping to have the new windows in before things got hot, but alas no.

(Not that the new screens will necessarily fix the whole problem as I still won't be able open the windows that swing out from the sun room, but we'll see how just opening the three windows in my office proper works on future hot days.)

In any case, I'm actually happy to see the warm weather. Last summer was gray, cool, and gloomy almost the whole time. One local told me it was the strangest summer he'd ever seen. Then this year we had cold rain up until a few weeks ago. So I'm happy to see some summer-like weather somewhere other than Hawaii.

Dresden! We had our fourth session of Dresden Files, held at my house, this Saturday. We were back to doing prep stuff as Eric didn't have a character ... and we also went over our city description to date, since it was now four months or so back in our heads.

After Eric was done, around 4pm, I asked folks if they'd like to take a tour of Berkeley, since our campaign is set there and we were, rather uniquely, in Berkeley for the day. So we did, walking through some of the areas which are highlighted in our campaign, like northern Telegraph, People's Park, Cafe Strada, the Anthropology Museum, and Dwinelle Hall.

There was unfortunately some stress on the walk. Eric had his son Justin with him, and that turned out to make walking difficult. Then Chris had to head out quickly for some dinner plans. Still, Mary got some photos and everyone got some reminders of what the Berkeley area was like.

And Now ... back to work. Web of Power Card Game: The Duel is the current (and final for now) app I'm working on for Skotos, and I've also got lots of cleanup to do on RPGnet, in files, etc.
shannon_a: (Default)
Got back to Endgame for RPGing yesterday. It was our first Pathfinder game since May 7th, which means that we had a somewhat unexpected four weeks' worth of break.

Someone asked me how I was doing, and I said I was very relaxed and rested after four open weekends in a row. Mary said that conversely she & Donald were very tired as they'd been running around during many of those weeks. (Various folks not being around, including Donald, Mary, Chris, Corina, and Dave P. was why we'd missed gaming for so many weeks.)

Somewhat surprisingly, Eric F. and Dave W. were both there for the game. Eric F. has been entirely gone for years due to family issues, but now says he wants to attend weekly. He brought his son, Justin, with him, who was the most well-behaved 2 or 3-year-old I'd ever seen. A bit shy, but he definitely interacted with his dad. Hopefully the quietness isn't a lingering bad effect of his time with his evil mother. Dave W. had been gone because he's been working weekends for years, but he now says he's going to try and make it once a month. We'll see how all that works out. We had a somewhat unmanageable 7 players at the game, but it being Endgame we had a huge miniatures table that we were actually able to sit everyone at!

The game itself was no great shakes. I'd already planned at least half the session to be kingdom setup for the next major phase of the game, but we also made characters for Eric & Dave W., and that was pretty much the session. When I write about it on <a href=">RPGnet, I'll call it an "Administrative Interlude".

I love the background of logistical kingdom construction in this campaign, but I'm going to need to figure out how to keep it without boring the players. My current plan is to run a quarter (3 months) or something at the start of each session, which should keep it to 30 minutes or less and maybe give us something to do while we're waiting for everyone to show up. I also need to write up a quick-ref chart for the super streamlined list of what to do and what happens.

Anyway, we're really getting back into gaming with the full start of the Dresden Files campaign (by Mary) next Saturday, then a more active Kingmaker in another week.

Beyond that it was a beautiful Saturday when I rode into Endgame and a humid, gray icky Saturday when I rode home. What a difference 6 hours makes. And I'd forgotten the wind patterns in summer often result in a southerly wind around noon and a northerly wind around 6: which results in me biking against the wind both times.

I wondered on the way in: how much does each mph of wind decrease your riding speed? This page on cycling math says:

Obviously, if the wind is directly behind a rider at the strong speed of 20 miles per hour, that rider will be able to ride much faster. If that rider could output 90 or 100 Watts of power, and thus ride about 12 mph in no wind, he will now be able to ride at perhaps 24 miles per hour. (At that speed he will have twice the frictional resistance but only a bit of wind resistance.)

On the contrary, if the wind is totally against this rider at 20 miles per hour, a biking speed of about 3 miles per hour for this occasional biker brings the equation into balance.

This all assumes wind is directly ahead or behind you and it fits my intuitive understand that, say, 10 mph or wind directly against you can slow your biking by several mph. I was a bit surprised to see that 20 mph or wind could equal -9 mph or speed, but I guess that all scales. And I feel like less of a wimp now.

I could really feel that I'd been putting out the WATTs after dinner and grocery shopping last night. I laid down to read The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Skylark of Space (the two books I'm working on right now, one of which is brilliant and one of which is OK) and I felt that I was sore.

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