another misAdventure

"We are all of us living in the shadow of Manhattan."

Monday, January 23, 2006

"The amiable old Proctor"

If I plug this post's title into Google, it gives me several examples of randomly generated filler, and the text of Dickens's "David Copperfield". So, public domain literature gets fed as an initial seed into random junk generator, and shreds of it wind up in my e-mail.

Actually, in the junk folder, fortunately, which I weed through only to a) make sure that the spam filter hasn't given a false-positive to some mail I want, and b) to provide titles for these posts.

This is the remainder of the holiday season post, which means it's the Dungeons and Dragons post.

Let me re-wind time a bit. I spent a lot of time in the last half of October and before Thanksgiving preparing for Stuffed COWS, the D&D convention that's held on Thanksgiving weekend (Fri-Sun). I'd volunteered to judge (aka run, be DM for) games in every time slot except one for the convention. I reserved the one slot to play the special, convention-only module that had eluded me in past conventions: "Spray of Blood". We were planning a Tjarks table of that mod (counting Tony as a Tjarks), since everyone had a character of the appropriate level (level 6, plus or minus 2).

So, to prepare I needed to play as many of the modules that were to be run at the convention as I could. That made me more flexible for what Brad (the con organizer) could schedule me for, and made it so I wasn't wishing I was playing a module when I could be judging.

So, in that October-November time I played seven modules and judged three others for groups of other Stuffed COWS judges. Seven modules in about four weeks. I scheduled those for when Ellen was working as much as possible, because I like peace in the family. :-)

At Stuffed COWS, my expected schedule kind of went out the window as far as what I was judging. That's not at all unusual -- usually more judges are scheduled than are actually needed, and sometimes if tables don't work out for one module the players shift into a different module, sometimes one not scheduled for that slot. So, again, flexibility is good.

First I judged one table of "Deep in the Lortmills", and that table had the one item from a previous module that made this one a cake walk. It's all part of the story line for that series, if you had one specific item found in a module 2.5 years earlier the defenders of a place let you want right in, because you're there to set things right. If no one at the table has that, you have to fight your way in. (When Matt and I played this module at the beginning of 2005, Matt had the item and the mod was easy). Anyway, since the group I was running had the item, the whole game took about two hours to run.

Tony wasn't so lucky. He was playing the same module at a different table, and they didn't have the item. So sad. His group did very badly with the defenders, and Tony's character died. He managed to scrape together enough gold to get a "Reincarnate" spell case (he didn't have enough for a "Raise Dead"), and his human character was reincarnated as a halfling. It also meant he lost a level, so now he wouldn't be able to play at the Tjarks table of "Spray of Blood"!

In the next slot I ran a table of "Here There Be Dragons". It's meant to take up two slots, but this group had no real problem with the mod, breezed through sections of it, and took no breaks, so it took probably 5.5 hours to run, leaving us only a half-hour into the third time slot. This was good for the players, as they were able to fit in one more game. It was good for Brad, because he had a table of other players without a judge, so could I run a mod for them.

The bad news, it was a Living Arcanis module, and I would be running it with absolutely no preparation. I don't play Living Arcanis (or haven't to date), so I wasn't eating a module that I'd want to play later, but it also meant I knew nothing about the campaign setting. Ack! Anyway, I'm a sucker so I agreed, provided the players knew that I knew nothing and hadn't prepped the mod (I didn't want them mad at me in case I did a bad job). They were cool with that, they just wanted to play the module. So, OK.

I muddled through, although there were sections where I skimmed the text, told the players one thing, but then had to retract when I read a little later that I'd interpretted something wrong. Nothing serious. I couldn't do much role playing of the characters that I didn't know, and almost everyone at the table had psionic powers. I hate psionics, because they are so broken in game terms. Way too powerful, and I don't know them well enough to say "No, that's not how that works". Oh well, I survived one way or the other, even though the players were able to handle every encounter with little challenge.

OK, so that was Friday. Saturday I wound up not judging at all. I wasn't needed for the first slot, but I could fill out a table of Blackmoor, which I'd had my first experience with the previous weekend. The second slot was "Spray of Blood" with the Tjarks-plus-one table (Matt recruited a guy he'd met earlier in the con). Between the non-Tjarks player's pack of dogs (which we used to set off traps), and some good play, we managed to fight through most of the encounters (it's meant to be like a gladiatorial pit, that's the premise of this module) and get through the exit just before time was called. We did really well compared to some of the stories I'd heard of this mod.

For the final slot on Saturday I was again released from judge duty, so I could play the interactive that they weren't actually expecting to be able to have for the convention. I felt pretty useless for the most part in this, we kept running into huge, tough creatures that Joe (my 8th level ranger) couldn't really do anything against. Rock trolls! Huge earth elemental! Fortunately, while the rest of my party was trying to deal with the elemental, Joe took on a polar bear (a polar bear?, here?!?) and then the druid behind the whole problem (thus explaining the polar bear, the druid's animal companion). A really lucky shot (possible critical roll of 19, followed by a natural 20 to confirm, and a third natural 20 because the judge decided to play the non-rule that a third 20 would be instant death), had Joe finish off the bad guy (bad girl, actually) just before she turned to escape.

Sunday, I ran another game of "Here There Be Dragons", which took the full two slots (including a lunch break), and that was in for Stuffed COWS. Oh, apart from Matt also running "Here There Be Dragons" at the same time (he ran the high level table, I ran the low level), and he had the fun of having a red dragon pick up a character and drop them in lava. Not good for character survivability. At least it wasn't Tony (whose character survived the rest of the con, just shorter).

OK, so that's another really long post and I still haven't gotten to after Christmas. More D&D goodness later. However my next post, tomorrow, I'll have to talk about the bathroom remodelling project that is currently going on. See, you got to the end of the post and you get the preview.

Anyway, since I have it here to remind me, here's my recent RPGA (Role Playing Game Association) activity. This isn't all the D&D I've played recently, but it's most of it:

Player Activity
1/21/2006 - RoseOCon @ Home 41 EMH-5 Gambit at Dreadhold
1/8/2006 - CIRCA 596 Fireseek COR5-02 Voice of Reason
1/1/2006 - Eberron New Year EMH-7 The Delirium Stone
12/30/2005 - Year 595 end VTF4-01 Velverdyva Year 4 Metaregional 1
12/29/2005 - Hooks Rainy Day COR4-18 It Never Rains in Nyrond
12/25/2005 - Lary Home Play 04 Dec 05 COR4-17 The Real Hero Blues
12/18/2005 - Lary Home Play 02 Dec 05 COR4-14 Sympathy for the Baatezu
11/26/2005 - COWS Here They be Dragon day CORS4-02 Here There Be Dragons
11/25/2005 - Stuffed COWS 2005 COR5-12 Return to the Undercity
11/25/2005 - Stuffed COWS 2005 COR5-16 Here Comes the Sun!
11/25/2005 - Stuffed COWS 2005 COR5-13 The Price of Power
10/24/2005 - Oct Games 2 COR4-07 Full Circle to Oblivion

Judge Activity
1/11/2006 - Hooks End VER5-05 Verbobonc Year 5 Regional 5
12/29/2005 - Hooks Last Minute 2005 EMH-6 Blind Man's Hunt
12/9/2005 - Kalamar Barriers Online LKoK 18 - Barriers of Mentality
11/26/2005 - COWS Here They be Dragon day CORS4-02 Here There Be Dragons x3
11/25/2005 - Stuffed COWS 2005 COR5-09 Gateway to Bright Sands
11/25/2005 - Stuffed COWS 2005 COR5-17 Time's Tide on Bright Sands
11/25/2005 - Stuffed COWS 2005 VER5-01 Verbobonc Year 5 Regional 1
11/8/2005 - Hooks Letterbox COR4-08 The Letter
11/2/2005 - Kalamar Mounds Online LKoK-7 Burial Mounds

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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Time Tickers

Everyone seems to want to sell me watches now, even more than they want to sell me Viagra. None of them seem to have any grasp of English.

OK, on to the next part of the holiday posts. As we last left off, we'd just arrived at my mom's house.

Day 2 (Fri, Dec 23): Did some errands for my mom in the morning, including grocery shopping. In the afternoon I went shopping in Omaha with Matt and Kalen while Kathy tried to pick up some baking tips from her grandma and Ryan did whatever Ryan was doing (mostly playing on his GBA, I think). Kalen had a particular thing she was shopping for, I had gifts for several people I wanted to try to find, while Matt was mainly along for something to do.

We started in what I think of as the middle of Omaha (Dodge, west of 72nd, though I'm probably off geographically). The store Kalen had an address for apparently had closed, so that failed. Got some shirts for Bob, DVDs for Matt and Ellen (whether I really pulled off the sleight of hand to avoid Matt seeing his Battlestar Galactica and Serenity DVDs I don't know, though he claims he didn't know). Went further west to the Westroads and failed to find Mom's electronic Bible, or anything else at the bookstore. I don't even remember what else we went in there for. Then we went to Maple and way-out-west to find the second store Kalen had listed. That store was open, but didn't have what she wanted. Went to the Borders out there and got some books for Mom and a gift card for Ellen. Got one book for Kalen so she'd have some gift to unwrap, but failed to remember anything Kathy wanted (I forgot to bring the lists I'd printed), so I decided she would just get a check. Still failed to find the electronic Bible for Mom, and I couldn't figure out who carried it that I could find in Omaha. Tried for that a couple more times back around 72nd and Dodge (and got the wrong network adapter for her Tivo in the process). Finally, went down to the Old Market area for one more shot at a store for Kalen's goal. Once again, the store was there but she couldn't find the exact thing she wanted. Finally, nearing 6pm, we headed back to MV for dinner.

I called Ellen after dinner, and she was out shopping. I let her know that I was unable to get the electronic bible, and Kalen could tell me exactly where she'd seen one near Fox Valley. Shortly later, Ellen callen back and reported success, so that bit was taken care of. Yay!

Day 3 (Sat, Dec 24): A little shopping in town in Missouri Valley, gift wrapping (badly), wrote checks for the kids (and for Bob, but that was for baseball tickets, not Christmas). For dinner we went over to Beth's house to visit Ellen's family (though Ellen wasn't yet with us, she was working at the time). We had chili and potato soup over there, as is traditional for Christmas Eve at their house. After dinner we played the DVD version of "Family Feud" - basically Tjarks's vs. Briggs's (I think the only exceptions were Brian's girlfriend on the Briggs team while we had, I think, one of our nephews - Emery maybe?). Many people thought this was fun, but I wasn't crazy about it because the answers on the DVD were grouped oddly, so things we though should be grouped wound up as separate answers. There was also a game of Munchkin going on at some time in there, which would have had Matt, Ryan, Daniel, and probably Kalen and/or Kathy and/or Emery, so I'm sure I'm mixing up when these games were happening and who they were happening to. We went back to my mom's house at about 10pm, getting there just after Bob got in.

Day 4 (Christmas Day): I set my alarm early so I could help mom get the turkey ready on on to cook. That accomplished, I went to pick up Ellen from airport. She got in just after 11am, and we were back at mom's place by noon. Since that didn't take long and the food was ahead of schedule, we were able to have a great Christmas dinner at about 1:00 rather than closer to 2:00. We opened gifts after dinner and then relaxed for a while. Later in the evening, we went back over to Beth's for some leftovers and to visit with Ellen's family and swap gifts there. Some people went to play Family Feud again (which would up boys vs. girls), but I'd had enough of that so I stayed downstairs with Ellen and her mom, Elaine. Elaine got a dice game (Bunko) for Christmas from someone, so the three of us wound up going through a game of that.

Day 5 (Mon, Dec 26): Lazy day after Christmas. We put together a turkey casserole for lunch, and then helped pack up stuff for Bob to take back home as he left that afternoon. Monday evening we did something else that has been traditional when we get over to Iowa, everyone in Ellen's family went out for dinner (because these other times listed above usually had people going in and out and were not as organized -- this was the organized get together). We drove down to Council Bluffs to Famous Dave's, and had 20 around the table. That's six from our family (me, Ellen, Kalen, Kathy, Matt, Ryan), four from Ellen's sister Beth's family (Beth, Don, and their kids Brian and Rachel), five from Ellen's brother Lyle's family (Lyle, Debbie, and their boys Emery, Daniel, and Kaleb), Ellen's mom Elaine, Brian's girlfriend (who's name I'm blanking on), Rachel's boyfriend Carlos, and Carlos's parents.

Of course, with a group of 20 it's a rule that someone's order get's screwed up. What's the rule, >= 8 people? Anyway, they had the wrong sides for my meal and Brian's, and Brian's was late as was Carlos's mom's (IIRC). So, we wound up with extra sides as they replaced the mistaken ones. Kathy managed to put together a meal of side dishes, even though Famous Dave's isn't exactly famous for being vegetarian-friendly.

Day 6 (Tue, Dec 27): Hmm, I can't remember what we did on Tuesday. Not a lot. Got things packed and ready to go home. I think this is the day that I tried to install the wireless network connector on Mom's Tivo, and discovered that while I had gotten a supported model, it was only supported on an earlier revision, and Tivo just refused to talk to the adapter. So, that's an issue to resolve another day.

Day 7 (Wed, Dec 28): Drove back to Aurora. Nothing exciting here, as we pretty much drove straight through other than stopping for lunch at Newton. I called the other car (caravan of two cars, mine and Kalen's) and gave them a choice for lunch: Perkin's or Country Kitchen. Ellen and Ryan (in my car) chose Country Kitchen, while Matt and Kathy (in the other car) accused me of not really giving them a choice, that they may as well be the same restaurant (though they had no problem with stopping at one).

So, that was Christmas vacation in Iowa with the family. The rest of the vacation falls under the category "Dungeons and Dragons", which I'll deal with tomorrow.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006


OK, this is the Christmas vacation post. "Inquisitive" is how one visitor described this blog (OK, it was the guy that left blog spam on the football post).

And so, at least until it bores me to do so, the titles on this blog are some of the random phrases used in spam I get. "Its so night" was buried in a spam e-mail I got at work, trying to get me to invest in some no-doubt-junk stock.

Anyway, on to Christmas stories:

First of all, I didn't get into Christmas at all this year. Well, maybe a little, but in odd ways.

I made Kringla for the Chestnut House open house, as well as Chocolate Cherry drop cookies. Not great ones, but adequate. Then, the weekend before Christmas, I decided to make yet more Kringla so I had it to take home to Iowa. Basically creative avoidance, avoiding anything else about Christmas, like shopping.

Shopping, eh, I didn't get into that at all. I knew what the kids most needed -- cash! Not hard to shop for that. And Ellen announced what she considered her Christmas gift from me. So, the only things I really wanted to shop much for were something for mom, Bob, and a couple things for the kids. Basically, for the kids I was going to get something from their list on which I knew they'd spend any cash I gave them anyway.

(heh, try to diagram that last sentence! Yuck!)

Anyway, the main reason to get the kids something they'd buy anyway was to make sure Ryan got the Nintendo DS package he wanted, with the red DS packaged with Mario Kart. It was a Game Stop/EB Games exclusive. I knew after Christmas he probably wouldn't be able to find it. I didn't look real hard for it. I tried the Game Stop near us -- all sold out. That was Dec 21, the day before we left for Iowa adn the only day I really tried to do Christmas shopping. And the only thing I bought all day/evening was the traditional comic trade paperbacks for the kids "stocking". I decided that maybe, just maybe, some of of the stores in Omaha might still have Ryan's DS in stock, where the stores around Naperville were almost all sure to be out. So, I went home. That was basically Day 0 and before (including the Kringla).

Day 1 - Thursday, Dec 22
The first day of my week-and-a-half off work, burning all of my remaining vacation for the year. This is the first time I haven't carried over any vacation days since, I don't know when. Ever?

This was the day we were to leave for Iowa. "We" being the four kids and I, since Ellen had to work Christmas Eve. And the girls had dental appointments in the morning, so we couldn't leave until after noon. I was trying to get things ready, and for reasons I can't even remember now, I was a wreck. Every single thing was wearing on my nerves. Matt was frustrated because he couldn't find the charger for his DS, figuring that he left it at his apartment in Urbana. And he was unhappy that we had to wait for the girls to finish their appointments. Oh, and Kalen needed to do a little shopping after her appointment, so it wasn't even going to be non that we left. And I was crabbing and snapping at everyone. Like I said, I can't even really remember why, now. I think it was lack of sleep more than anything. Anyway, I was bad enough that when Kalen did get home and we did get ready to leave (2:30pm!), the kids decided that it would be best if I didn't have to drive, so Ryan started out driving my car. Oh, and since Matt was the target of most of my snapping, he chose to ride in Kalen's car.

Matt wanted to get another charger for his DS, so he'd asked if I knew of a place where we could stop and get one on the way? Well, yes, I certainly did! The Coral Ridge Mall in Coralville/Iowa City was pretty much perfectly situated on our route to stop for supper at the food court. And, I knew right where the EB Games was in that mall. We stopped on the way in and got Matt's charger, and I had Matt ask about the Mario Kart/DS package. They had one! I just had to distract Ryan. So, we went to the food court to get dinner, then I excused myself after eating (someone was still finishing, so I could do it without too much suspicion) and said I was going to see if they had an Amana Store in the mall so I could get some Amana Black Bread.

So, a quick stop at EB got me the DS package for Ryan, then I hiked the rest of the length of the mall looking for an Amana Store (since I really did want to get the bread, too). No luck on the bread, though, and I didn't want to make another stop to get bread, so we just continued to Missouri Valley. By this time, my stress had totally dissipated, so it was possible for any of the kids to cope with me. We got into MV and to mom's house exactly at 10pm.

OK, so this is already a huge post, so I'll continue with the tale in another post later. Today or tomorrow. Dang, I have to dig out another spam mail to get a title.

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Monday, January 16, 2006

Its so night

My blog title is ungrammatical, and will drive the Kalen and Kathy crazy. But I'll eventually explain that. Not in this post, mind you ...

More than a month since the last update! Ridiculous.

My fault, obviously. I can't really pin it on anyone else. Oh, but I will. Part (only part) of the reason is that, during what has been the kids Christmas break, I spent time lounging around with them, or playing D&D with them, etc, rather than spending time writing blog entries. Since a major target of this blog is them, I can just talk to them rather than write. But, as of today they're all back in school. So, they can update their blogs soon with start-of-semester updates.

But, I can write other times. Like when I'm waiting for a lab to load, like right now.

Another part of the reason is that I've got a bit of a backlog here at work that I'm digging through, a good deal of it because I let it build up. So, I need to clear that. But, the lab loading is part of that, and I've got another compile running, and so this is just another thing I can multitask at the moment.

So, what's been going on:

Metric excrement-loads of D&D: Worthy of it's own post. Let's call that Wednesday.

Christmas, home for the holidays, etc: Another post. Let's call that one tomorrow (Tuesday).

There, I have a couple topics for coming posts. Let's see if I can keep to it.

Fantasy football: Subject of that long-ago previous post. I won one league (the one with prize money!), and came in third in the other one. TIED the semi-final game, and we never figured out exactly what the tie-breaker was. Whatever it was, the Yahoo! computer settled it and put me in the consolation game. The team that beat me in the semi-final ALSO tied in the final game (who'd thunk it?), but they lost that tie-breaker. So, my D&D pal Dick Gilbert, who got me into the league, won the playoffs.

Home improvement: we're finally getting ready to re-do the downstairs half-bath (aka powder room). I'm going to tile the floor and half-way up the walls there, my first attempt at ceramic tile. It's good to start there because it's a small area, I can start with the wall behind the toilet so I can practice where no one will look. I've got the wall tile and all the materials needed. The floor tile should be in in the next couple of days. I still need to get some drywall (or DensShield) to re-do some or all of the wallboard ("all" may depend on whether I decide to move the light switch). And, a new door as well. And then I'll either need to have that delivered or rent a pickup to get that stuff, since I no longer have a vehicle for hauling (not that it'd be worth having just for this). Anyway, I'll write more about that soon. Let's say on Sunday, by which time I should be knee-deep in the project.

Other stuff? Well, I can't think of it right now, but I know I have other stuff. I'll just have to keep on this and write as I think about it.

For now, my lab is loaded, so back to work.

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