Weekly Recap

Nothing happened last week.  Zero.  Zip.

Time didn’t pass.

So DATS dropped a lady heading to Milbourne Mall at Millwoods Town Centre over the weekend.  A bit of a scary happening since I take a very similar trip every single day.

I kvetch about the length of the trips lots, but really I have only glowing praises for DATS.  The drivers have all been excellent.  They’ve done shoveling to get me on board.  I ran into one and injured him and he behaved professionally.  Once when a passenger ran away, the DATS driver tracked him down.  In that situation I had to change buses while the driver found the missing man and the replacement bus came quickly and the driver was excellent.   When it was slippery last week, one lady fell on her way to the bus and the driver helped her to her feet.

So things that actually did happen:

  • Troy came up!  Yay!
  • Gaming at Craig and Suellen’s with Jones Sodas, Scotch, pulled pork sandwiches.  I lost.  😦
  • Big comics week.  Good too.  I haven’t finished yet.
  • Talked to Bran.  She is doing well and says hi.
  • Talked to Treek.  He is doing well and, um, I forgot to ask if he says hi.
  • Talked to Tony.  He brought over supper.
  • (both conversations were heavily summarized).
  • Work was challenging.  It has gotten to the point where I can’t keep up.  This is frustrating, but a good challenge too.

That is about it.  Need to finish the blog.  I am going to put in some overtime for the first time tonight.  There were three deliverables due last Friday, but none of them were given to me for me to do my bit.  One was done this morning.  One I got the documents this afternoon and one is still outstanding.  So I need to build on the docs I received.

Finally, prayers and thoughts to Jason and his family.

Death (and comics)

No one wants to talk politics with me so I’ll go back to fantasy stuff…

My apologies to anyone dealing with real loss and grief.  This article will deal with comic book fictional depictions.  I do not mean to offend.

You may have heard that one of the Fantastic Four died in this week’s issue of the monthly series.  It has everyone pundit, including myself, chiming in.  That story is obviously part of a larger story arc and might include the member’s return.  Marvel editorial have already allowed that the return is possible.

Ron Marz comments on it in this article. I agree, but mostly I disagree.  Ron Marz is a fairly prolific comic creator who has been producing stories for well over twenty years.  He has the background to support his opinion unlike myself.

I have two points of disagreement.  The first is that I do not think the return necessarily causes a cheapening of the original death (although it may).  The second is that writers need to limit themselves to realistic depictions of death and loss in order to maintain reader attachment to the characters.

DC Comics and Marvel comics both had a stable of ‘dead is dead’ characters for many years.  Some big ones for DC included: Robin (Jason Todd), Flash (Barry Allen), Supergirl, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) and Green Arrow.  Every one of those have now returned.  Some for Marvel include: Uncle Ben, Gwen Stacy, Captain Marvel and Bucky Barnes.  Only Bucky has come back.  (But both DC and Marvel have dozens of more minor characters who have returned from death.  I don’t mean to pick on DC.)

Both companies also have characters who died whose return was intended as part of the original story.  Superman was the biggest, but Batman and Captain America are recent examples (and a variety of others at the start of Blackest Night).

The second category actually shows a strength of these superhero shared universes.  They contain superheroes whose experiences are beyond that of those of us in the real world.  Returning to life after death is a theme that has occurred in fiction and myth for thousands of years.   A superhero universe is a neat place to be able to explore these themes.  Why restrict creators artificially?

The first point on the cheapening doesn’t apply to this second category of deaths in my opinion.  If the return is part of the plan and that entire arc is what the creators are exploring, I don’t think it cheapens the start of the arc.  There is another occasion where I don’t think it is cheapened either.

Both Bucky and Flash were dead over twenty years before they came back.  Their return only was shocking to that small percentage of the readership who has been around that entire time.*  If these ‘dead is dead’ characters return is good stories, I have no problem with it.  Bucky’s return was pretty darn good and Flashes wasn’t bad either.

Obviously other peoples mileage may vary.

There is then a third category.  Returns that were neither planned in advance nor occurring a long time ago.  This does happen – more often with villains than heroes.  On this category I fully agree with Marz.

Because the possibility of return exists in the superhero universes it is very difficult to really write a story that deals with death and loss.  I think that is hard in a superhero universe anyway.  These are extraordinary people in extraordinary situations.  But outside of these shared universes this subject has been covered with care and craft.  Two examples that spring immediately to mind are “Mom’s Cancer” and “Maus”.  These are excellent books that I recommend to folks who want to explore such themes.

*That is a little misleading.  Many stories were also told in the interim that showcased characters reactions to that loss in the intervening time.  It isn’t as if the death was just an isolated incident that happened decades ago.

Lots to talk about!

I have been planning a post about snow clearing for a while, but there seems to be a lot going on in the last week.

First thank you to Craig and Suellen for the patio clearing.  Thank you!  Thank you to the guys for a bunch of smaller chores on Sunday too – fixing the runner, planning a foot slip stop, moving my car and the stuff Rob hasn’t quite finished yet.  I’ve had a lot of little help in the past week.  I certainly appreciate it.

Tony R. was over yesterday and brought dinner.  Thanks!  I was bragging to him about how the battery on my scooter rarely needs charging.  Today I moved offices to a new part of the building and it means that I need to put a lot more miles on the scooter.  As I drove to the new location the battery meter started to slip inexorably downward.  To preserve power by the end of the day I had reduced my speed to almost nothing.  🙂  It stays full for nearly a month at a time, but then empties all at once.  That or it drains as soon as I brag it up.

Happy Robby Burns day!  If you read this today make sure to take a dram of scotch.  I’m going to break open my bottle of Glen Garrioch with dinner.  Num, num.

The big news today is the report that Steady Eddy is done as Alberta Premier.  I am pretty sure that I respect him for his honesty, but we certainly don’t see eye to eye on politics and I don’t think he was a good figurehead for the party either.    I don’t think being Premier it is enough to simply be a good guy.

It seems to me that Mr. Ted Morton is the likely successor – maybe not until a leadership convention in the fall though.  Morton and I are even farther apart on the fiscal spectrum.  However, I think the party will receive better overall leadership.  My political beliefs contain in part the dictum that there is more than one way to do things.  Regardless of my personal opinion of which way is better, I think the province will benefit from strong leadership.

The employees in the public sector might see an even tighter belt tightening though.  That is scary – especially for a person that just took a job back in the public sector again!

The other question that comes up is whether the other parties will be able to capitalize on this.  The PCs will not have a strong desire to support Mr. Stelmach from now until his replacement.  Any PC party bickering that was located only in back rooms may come forward now (and they had a problem with that anyway!)  We’ve got the strong push from the Wildrose, the Alberta Party barely exists, but seems to have a little momentum too.  The Liberals are foundering – perhaps they can be reactive to an opportunity here too.

If we are going to discuss politics, please be on your best behavior.  No calling folks a moron please.  But I’m interested in hearing what others think…

Now I need to go buy something with my new credit card to make sure it works.  Take care and I’ll talk snow later.

Weekly Recap – oops no time

Tony brought supper over tonight and we chatted for a couple hours.  No time left for a proper recap.

Apologies to B for missing her call.  I was here and the phone works fine, but I had company.  I should have answered to tell you that.  I did just check the message though.

If Mom reads my blog from Hawaii – Hi!  Hope you are having fun!

K-Cars and Con-fusion

First year university was a slow year for gaming me, Dave, Treek and Rob.  The summer after graduation had gaming at least every weekend and often during the week thanks to the local gaming store.  We may have been high school grads, but I, at least, was still a geek.

In Edmonton, we had no gaming store to gather around.  Dave and I were at the college and there was no gaming group there.  Rob and Treek were in Bonniedoon at the Fac.  Gathering for a game was a chore, but we accomplished it fairly frequently, but still at a much reduced level.

Plus it was the first year university, there were classes and beer and girls and all sorts of distractions.

There was a university gaming club, but we didn’t participate.  I had a couple reasons – I can’t speak for the others.  First, I was shy.  Second, after going to watch a few games they seemed to be very focused and serious compared to the boisterous social sessions I was accustomed too (that might not have been a fair assessment).

But they did organize a gaming convention for the spring.  It was called Con-fusion.  A gaming convention is a gathering of geekery.  Vendors come in to sell their games and comics and collectibles.  There are casual drop in games of the board-gaming and role playing variety.  There are Larpers (live action role players) running around wearing costumes.  There are midnight showings of classic fantasy and sci-fi movies (less exciting now that every geek ‘owns’ these on VHS, DVD, BlueRay and mpeg4 anyway.

There is also usually a tournament and Con-fusion was no exception.  Competitive role-playing.  You entered as a team.  Each team was run through the same three part adventure.  Each session had scored goals (including wishy factors like having fun).  The first two sessions are the round robin and the final session are finals.  The final accumulated score wins the tournament.

We decided to enter and call in some ‘ringers’.  We figured that most of the players would be part of the gaming club and the judges/DMs would be the same.  We needed to put our best foot forward.  Plus we missed gaming with and seeing the guys.  Stef and Troy worked out coming down.  And there the adventure begins.

[The team was Rob, Dave, Stef, Troy and I.]

Road Trips are important, but they need twists.  Stef and Troy were late getting in.  This was an age before texts and Facebook so we were not getting constant updates on their progress.  This was not unexpected… while everyone is better now punctuality isn’t really a natural for anyone besides Rob.  (Rob needs to be early.)  But then they became really late.

Do you remember way back to my first blogs when I told of Dave and my adventure driving in the city for the first time?  Troy and Stef had their own.  But theirs included an actual accident. Jasper and 109th street.  A busy intersection.  Troy was driving his boss’ Honda Prelude.  The other driver was in a Chrysler K-car.  One of those vehicles is a light sporty model and the other is built like a tank.  (The K-platform may have been rejected by the American military for being too heavy…)

Peace River had 3 traffic lights.  Driving in the city is a different experience.  So novice city drivers place require a good navigator.  They were headed east on Jasper and Stef said to take 108th street south to cross the river.  Reaching 109, Stef realized he was wrong.  “Turn.  Turn here.  Turn now!” he urged.  Relying on his navigator Troy obeyed.  Of course checking the lights and the surrounding traffic would have been a good idea too.

Guess who wins when someone shifts lanes to make the corner and cut off the other car?  I’ll give you two guesses and any answer that doesn’t start with K is wrong.  Stef and Troy were shook up, excited and unhurt when they finally arrived.  The ‘lude had seen better days.

We’d never been in a tournament before so our planning session was chaotic.  The adrenaline from the accident and the beer may have also been factors.  (Not that we gave any beer to the two minors.)  In typical me fashion I had spent the last few weeks studying the entry package – reading and re-reading.  We handed out the characters and studied our packages.

I was to play the dwarf warrior (?? – was it a warrior/cleric – or was that just my character from the big D&M campaign).  All dwarves talk with bad Scottish accents.  I do horrible accents.  I mean just lousy.  The dwarf was solid, dependable.  Lots to do in any situation and a giant number of hit points and a good AC.

Our first session the next morning was a disaster.  The Judge/DM assigned to us was from the gaming club and expected a certain style of play that didn’t match us.  We also knew the rules of the game better than he did.  We played lots of the 2nd edition, but lots of people still knew the old rules to 1st ed better.

So between a style incompatibility and arguing over the rules (although atypically we quickly deferred to the DM) we didn’t accomplish many of the goals and we also didn’t accomplish them well.

We walked out of that room and checked the leaderboard… last place.

But we knew we were good.  Between our egos and our experience, we knew that we could do better than last.  We regrouped over lunch and came back.

The next session was the opposite of the 1st.  The DM was from Edmonton, but from outside the club.  He thought everything we said was funny.  We also knew the rules better than he did, but he deferred to us – bizarre.  We kicked butt in the challenges and instead of taking a long time we breezed through.

The TSN turning point was when the DM made a mistake.  We had a choices of three challenges.  The adventure goal was to choose one and pass it.  We played all three in sequence.  We racked up huge points.

During the session my dwarf was cursed.  He underwent a magical sex change.  Now it was a female dwarf with a bad Scots accent and a long beard.   It was super silly and I played it for every laugh I could get.

We walked out and checked the leaderboard.  We had now qualified for the finals.  Oh, yes.  The single largest comeback in the history of role-playing.  They should have written us up for the record books.  We were jubilant.

The finals.  [Queue Jeopardy music in the background.]  What happened?  We got so lucky.  Soooo lucky.  The other qualifying team requested their DM.  They wanted that home field advantage and they were still in the lead.  We ended up with our DM from session 2 again.

[This is incredibly bad gamesmanship from the other team.  We had just earned more points than any other team with the DM.  Instead of looking for their own advantage they should have removed ours.]

I can hardly remember the details of the adventure anymore.  The only one involves my character again.  We had a team of five.  It is unfair that I can’t remember their bits – they were just as good as me.  My cursed dwarf fell 300′ from a gargantuan statue.  300 feet.  D&D had terminal velocity rules so my character only took damage for the first 100’.  That was supposed to be deadly, but he/she had so many hit points that only a small fraction were used up.  Literally she bounced to her feet and the bottom and climbed the bloody statue again.

We walked out first and there were points to be earned for early completion.  We finished successfully and we entertained the DM/judge again.  Still it could have gone either way.

It didn’t.  We won.  We won.  We won.  This felt like a huge accomplishment.  It was a rags to riches story.  Out-of-town first year/high schoolers take on the home-town dream team.  I wanted to put it on my resume when I graduated university, but I didn’t think others would recognize it.

We rock.  We have the medals to prove it.

To wrap things up, the boys drove back up to PR safely…

“I told you that story so I could tell you this one.”

So today sucked. But the rest of the week was pretty good.

I took a tumble this morning just getting out of bed. If that is the start of something than that sucks. So I will be extra cautious tomorrow morning.

Hmm, in other suckage, we had a little debate on Friday night. I was exhausted and decided to stay out of it. But I changed my mind long enough to stay something stupid. I used the most evocative word I could and it was certainly hyperbole in the situation. Stupid.

In goodness – the new job is working out fine. The plans at the new place are ambitious and demanding. After a week I have made enough plans to do things that I will be busy for a long, long time. Prioritizing will be tricky and actually turning around deliverables will be a challenge. So far that challenge is in a good way.

I got home tired every night. Didn’t finish my comics until Sunday for instance. But those comics were pretty darn good. I think Dave’s comics were even better. I also like the gimmicky covers DC is doing this month.

Did Friday lunch with the old crew. They are still rowing the boat thingy. Was happy to see them and say hi!

Not sure what else I have to say.

Update:

Ooh, ooh. Ooh. I forgot Mom’s birthday. That was good too. Bad me. Bad. We had dinner and talked. I got dinner and Tim brought a gift. Small and comfortable. Happy week after your birthday Mom!

Best Birthday Present Ever

So I want to tell a story, but first I need to tell you this one.

Some gifts show the thoughtfulness and care the giver has for you.  Some gifts are exactly what you need.  Some gifts are just plain fun and reinforce the bond between giver and giftee.  Some can change you life.  This one had some of that.  It certainly changed my life, but it wasn’t a gift I received or gave.

1983.  Karma Chamaeleon and Every Breath You take were on the radio.  Return of the Jedi was in theatres.  And TSR released the D&D Basic Red box.  This was bought by Rob’s folks and given to him on his birthday.

(The 1983 isn’t the first edition of D&D, but it might have been the most popular.  In 1982, Elliot and his friends played D&D in E.T. and though they were geeks, geeks throughout the world got the game the next year.  Including Rob – Sorry, don’t mean to call you a geek.)

Our first adventure was in September at school during lunch.  As usual I got a small rule wrong and one round of combat took the entire lunch hour (which would actually be typical for 4th ed.), but I figured out the goof over night and the next sessions went better.

We were in grade six and were too old now to run around the playground pretending to be Jedi, Cylons or pilots from Battle of the Planets.  But this was another release for our imaginations.  We sucked every friend we had into trying it at least once, but Rob, Dave and I were truly hooked.

The game came with a module.  The module had a keep and outside that keep was a pit.  In that pit was a carrion crawler – a giant centipede like worm with tentacles that paralyzed and could draw you into the pit and your doom.  The pit could be bypassed by simply walking around, but many characters were lost into it.  We went on to fight dragons, evil assassins, and tarrasques, but that worm still ranks high on the all time foes list.

Our first major upgrade was dice.  The Basic Set had crap light, blue dice that needed to have the numbers coloured with a crayon.  Rob got nifty clear dice and we suddenly had two sets.  The dice were horrible in that when the fell from the table to the carpet in Rob’s basement they became nearly invisible in he dim light.  We likely spent nearly as much time searching for the missing d4 as playing.

Tim always wanted to tag along, but he was but a kid of five or six and who wants your kindergarten aged brother around while fighting to truth and justice.  It would be many years before he became a regular and welcome part of the group.

The second upgrade was Dave getting the blue Expert box.  Our options expanded further with new sets and eventually entire new systems.  It was handy that we had found Top Secret S.I. when D&D got banned at our school for the demonic and eldritch content.  We complained, but then segued into the non-mystical spy system.

People were drawn in.  Sometimes they were new students we befriended.  Sometimes it was old friends who were pulled into the rules with us.  I couldn’t do this in order properly, but Stef, Troy, Kevin and Treek each expanded the group on a more or less permanent basis (I’m sure I’m missing people).  They each also brought friends with them from time to time and our gaming group could shift from five people to eight or nine depending on the weather outside.

Gaming went from the serious, to the fun, to the silly.  We adapted our own version of a system to model the heroes from Aliens.  We spent a spring moving frantically and figuratively from room, to ship, to other dimension while shouting, “Don’t hit that Red Button.”  We bought many, many more dice and lost many to the bouncing along the floor, under cupboards and into heating registers.  (Although Rob’s clear set remained intact forever.  How did those invisible dice not get lost?)

The gaming shop that opened in town was the next huge change.  New people who had different backgrounds.  Many of them were adults.  They brought completely different viewpoints and experiences to the game.  Both Dave and Mike (The D and M from D&M Gaming) were wildly imaginative DMs.  We now sometimes found ourselves in mega-games with as many as 12-13 participants while in the gaming rooms at the store.

Gaming at D&M meant long term campaigns and characters that were interesting and distinctive. It meant going out to the front to buy a bag of chips or can of pop and wandering back to the game before your initiative came up again.  It meant scheduling your gaming around a trip downstairs to catch a movie only to return to more gaming after.

When D&M closed sometimes the huge games moved into our basement.  Tim was much older by then and sometime during the D&M years became a part of the core group on a regular and welcome basis and he brought his own friends.  Groups would gather around the ping pong table in the basement and play cyber-augmented elves.  Pop came in by the cube.  My parents would watch in bemusement as 12 people ranging in age from 12 to 35 wandered into the basement with pop, dice, character sheets.

That brings us to the end of high school and to the beginning of the story I want to actually tell.   🙂

Best birthday present ever.  Not for the game, but for the people.  I’ve mentioned names above and I’m sure I’ve missed many.  There are some crucial ones to come in the college years.  But these people are mostly all still around.  Some of them still come by for gaming or discussion every Friday.  Some don’t because they can’t make it or are too far away.  (There is still a weekly’ish game up in PR too. And Tim hosts another shoot from the same tree too.)

Really.  Pretty random as a gift.  I didn’t get it or give it, but I sure benefited from it.

[Next update: K-Cars and Con-fusion.  No spoilers.]