another misAdventure

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

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


OK, the following image is put up here just to frighten Mike Norton:

And, yes, it's supposedly a real, new marketing arena.

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006


I'm responding here to Narf's comment on the most recent blog post, because other's may be interested (or not). Also, a general update...

Hey, Narf -- yeah, pages on blogspot seem to often reload the cached page rather than an updated page. I don't know why. Just hit reload every once in a while when you visit.

OK, the sources of the most recent few subtitles on my blog:

"Can you tell that I'm planning prevenge?" -- From the song "Prevenge". They Might Be Giants, from the album "The Spine".

"We'll have fun, fun, fun until T-bird takes her dad away" -- From the song "Thunderbird", also TMBG from "The Spine" (can you tell what I've been listening to again recently?). "Thunderbird" is about the fortified wine, not the car or the e-mail client -- "I remember now, I remember now why they call it Thunderbird".

"If we hit that bullseye, the rest of the dominoes will fall like a house of cards. Checkmate." - Zapp Brannigan (master of the mixed metaphor), from the Futurama episode "When Aliens Attack".

OK, that's it for now on the quotes. I'll eventually be inspired to change it again, after I've completed my prevenge.

As for the update -- my laptop is screwed up. My home laptop that is -- my work laptop has been replaced and is OK for now. My home laptop freezes about 1d12 (or maybe 2d8) minutes after it is booted. I'll pull out the system rescue disks, probably tomorrow night, but I had a bunch of not-backed-up data that I needed to try to retrieve first. So this evening I made a visit to Tiger Direct and bought a 2.5" hard drive enclosure with a USB interface. I took the hard drive out of my laptop, put it in the USB enclosure, and can now read the drive from Ellen's laptop. Pretty cool, and the enclosure was only $9, so cheap. I think I've burned CDs with almost all the worthwhile information, though I still have to grab my e-mail boxes.

I still have to decide whether I'm going to put this hard drive back into my laptop, or just buy a new one and keep this other drive in the enclosure as a portable drive/backup-system.

That's enough for tonight. Hopefully I'll have good news on a couple fronts tomorrow.

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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Master of Kobolds (Gencon Report - Saturday and Sunday)

Gencon report part 4 - and final!

First off, let me mention a bit more about my Goblin Dan's shirt, mentioned in the Thursday report. Here's a link to a picture of the shirt (the Hydra Head BBQ image), and here's the story behind it.

Saturday I didn't have anything planned, so I was able to sleep in a bit. Everyone else seemed a bit restless, though (except Narf), so they were stirring around earlier. I let pretty much everyone else get up and ready (and, mostly, out) before I got my shower and got dressed.

The plan was to hit the dealer room, since I'd spent very little time there during the rest of the week. Unfortunately, Saturday morning is pretty busy so I didn't really spent time trying to get game demos. I mainly just cruised up and down the aisles to see what was available. I did buy a new flip-mat from Steel Squire and some new dice. I got a d20 just like my old, worn out favorite, another d20 that I like even better (easy to read!), and four d12's numbered as d4's. d4's (tetrahedrons) don't roll that well, and are hard to read because you have to figure out which way they numbered them since there's no flat top (they can number the vertices on each joining side, or they can number the opposite edges and you read the edge along the table). These are dodecahedrons numbered I through IV, so it's easy to tell them from a d12 numbered 1-12. Anyway, enough of the long side discussion of dice!

I also went to try to find a place Ellen had seen with "Mr. Suitcase", a gaming case built into a rolling suitcase. However, I couldn't find it, and Ellen later said they sold out. It turns out I wasn't impressed with what I saw online later anyway, even though it was relatively cheap. Not worth it though, except maybe just as a suitcase.

I then got bored with the dealer room and was ready to play more. I decided to grab the third part of "Well of Woe" on Saturday afternoon rather than do it either Saturday night or Sunday morning. I had plenty of time before that, though, so first I bought an event ticket for it, then got a slice of pizza, then planned to meet Matt to go through the Dungeon Delve once when it opened at noon (before my 1pm game). However, while I was eating my pizza I neglected to see that the line for the suddenly got long, and Matt wasn't there yet. So, by the time we did get in line, we were way back. We continued to wait in line, but it became clear we wouldn't be able to get in the delve and play in (it's a 20 minute adventure) before the next game slot at 1pm when I was playing Well of Woe part 3. So, I ditched the line, but Matt instead decided to ditch the module he was signed up to play and stayed with the delve instead (which he then got addicted to -- see his post for details).

Anyway, I went to muster for the "Well of Woe", and wound up being the only person for it who had a real event ticket for part 3 rather than seeing if they could get in with generic tickets. We did get a legal table though (actually, five players), and we had a lot of fun. We did things to not quite break the module, but we did wacky things that the GM wasn't expecting, so he had to improvise. The first thing we did was beat up several kobolds, and then intimidated the final three of them into becoming our lackeys. I hired them in the name of the Blackwheel Company (since my character is a member of on of the dragon-marked houses that run the company), and after they proved useful I even gave them all field promotions, and wound up equipping them with stuff from their former comrades as we continued through the dungeon. We convinced them that we were such kind and benevolent masters. Ah, alas, two of then wound up dying due to the .... oh, but that would be telling, and some people reading this will still play the module. :-) I sent the final one fleeing for his life as we were afraid he was about to turn on us. Too bad, if we'd managed to keep them alive the judge was going to see if the faction master would let us keep them as certed cohorts!

Oh, and during the module we found a Wand of Magic Missles for me to use, and every time I used it I wound up rolling maximum damage! It was just an amazing run of luck that everyone commented on. It was one of those lucky new d4's I boughth! So, I think I singled handedly killed the ... oops, that would be telling.

After than I met Ellen and Matt for dinner at the place in the Hyatt that looks like just a smoothy place, but they really have other food as well (and serve a decent 5-way chili over spaghetti). Narf joined us there, and afterward the four of us went to the Knights of the Dinner Table live read. While we waited, Matt, Narf and I played Treehouse with another guy waiting near us, since Narf bought Treehouse earlier that day. Treehouse is a fun little game that takes only a couple minutes to play, so we got in two games. Then they inflated the beach ball and sent it out into the crowd, which kept everyone entertained until they were actually ready to start the live reading.

They changed the way things were done this year, in order to try to speed up transitions between readings a bit, so they drew the names of three sets of readers and a time so they had and "on-deck circle". In the first group of names were Kathy and Matt (I think Kathy was on the second table reading, and Matt on the third). They both did fine, although Matt says he was nervous and got crossed up on a couple of words. A friend of Amber #2 as on the first table, and I think he didn't know what he was getting into. And he even drew "tell a character story" as his prize, and again didn't know what was expected so the crowd was a bit impatient with him. Kathy's prize was "experience points", and Matt's was a free demo in the dealer room (which are free anyway). At least none of them got the Hubcap of Shame or a ass-kicking by the Kenzer crew! :-)

Then in the second set of three groups they drew Kalen and Ryan. Kalen got a got strip to read and read as Dave. Ryan got the "Dawg, the role-playing game" strip, and got to read the line "I want to play Pretty Pretty Princess!", much to all of our amusement. Kalen and Ryan both got to choose books for their prize, and both unknowlingly picked the same Hackmaster supplement.

After the reading I was interested in going to grab some dessert or something with everyone, and thought we might go to Chammps in the hotel, but it turned out to just be a Chammps bar rather than the restaurant (the restaurant, as it turns out, was a block over). We instead decided just to go back to TGI Friday's at our hotel, but the group scattered (Matt going to play the LG Special, Ryan to watch Anime, Kathy and Narf going to tear down True Dungeon. So it was just Ellen and Kalen and I, and Kalen wanted real food since she hadn't had any all day.

Finally, I walked Kalen over to the Hyatt where they were having the dance, and found Narf there. Then I went back to the room to crash.

Sunday I slept in, made sure we got everything packed up and taken to the car, checked out of the hotel, and then wandered the dealer room for a bit longer. I finished the tour of the room, got a couple of demos from Wizards so I could roll their prize die. One of the demos I got was Heroscape, which I'd never demoed before. It was alright, but if I'm playing a miniatures game I'm rather put the time and money into either D&D minis or HeroClix. Anyway, I thought I was getting my ass kicked in the demo, but I wound up winning because the troops I had in my second line were far more powerful than either I or my opponent had realized. Once I had them out on the attack I routed him. The other "demo" I got was just the Wizards of the Coast forums online, in which all I had to do was login with my account to get the demo-stamp. I then got in line to roll the die, and had to endure listening to this kid behind me talk non-stop at some other poor schmuck who was in line behind him. The guy was loud, talked constantly, and had no idea what he was talking about. Typical 17-year-old know-it-all who thinks he has to share his wisdom with the world. I almost turned around a couple times to tell him to just shut up, since his observations were based in no facts, and his opinions thus made no sense. But instead I just got to the front of the line, rolled a mediocre result, and got another pack of the Eberron character sheets that I'd gotten in my Big Pile o'Stuff, because that was a better choice than a novel I wasn't interested in or trading card boosters that no one I knew would play.

I then hiked back to the Hilton Garden Inn to get my car that I'd left in the adjacent garage all week, and found that the rumor that Ellen heard was true -- there was no attendant on Sunday afternoon so four days of parking cost me only three dollars at the automated payment station (same as just parking on Sunday). Something to remember for next year, assuming they don't decide they need to fix that system (it may not be worth it to them to pay an attendant, even if they know they lose some of the fees).

I took my car over to the Courtyard and parked it near Ellen's car, then went to the True Dungeon Riddle Reveal to figure out what we missed. Very little, as it turned out, and I talked about those things in the Thursday report.

Everyone except Matt gathered after the Riddle Reveal, and we phoned Matt and met him at the entrance to the dealer hall. We all agreed we didn't have anything else left to do, so we prepared to leave. We got back to the Courtyard and arranged the cars so that all of Matt and Narf's stuff was in my car. We then went to the hotel lobby and got a quick demo of Narf's group's video game. It looked pretty good, though simple at this point, and I really like the theme they chose for the game (origami figures, and the paper protaganist having to make its way across a classroom with various school supply antagonists and obstacles). Then we packed up, and Ellen, Kalen, Kathy and Ryan set off for Aurora while I took Narf to the airport and Matt back to Urbana.

After dropping Narf off for his flight Matt and I looked for a place to grab lunch. We spotted a Schlotzky's Deli and had to figure out how to get back around to it, and then when we did we found it had been closed for some time. So we ate at the family restaurant just across the way, where they asked if we wanted a seat near a TV so we could watch the race (Nascar). We didn't care, and instead had a relaxing lunch and took off. A couple hours later I dropped him at his apartment and headed back home.

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Big Pile o'Stuff (Gencon Thursday addendum)

This is Gencon report part 2.5. I forgot something from Thursday night.

OK, so every slot at Gencon the RPGA rewards their judges with a drawing. The winner from that slot gets ... a Big Pile o'Stuff -- books and stuff that Wizards of the Coast sends as a volunteer inducement.

So, while I'm playing the LG Special on Thursday night, an RPGA person comes over to our table with ... a Big Pile o'Stuff. Except they tell the judge (who's won a couple times in the past I guess) that it's not his this time, that this is the pile o'stuff as a player reward. So they told all of us to roll a d20.

I rolled a 17, and was the top one at the table. So I got ... a Big Pile o'Stuff. I think it was seven different D&D books, only one of which I already had, as well as two or three modules and a pack of Eberron deluxe character sheets. Cool stuff all around, and probably worth $200 retail at least.

Maybe they've done this in past years as well, but I'd missed them doing the giveaway to players. I knew about the judge part because we'd been told about it as volunteers.

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Ogre Attack (Gencon Report - Friday)

Gencon Report, part 3. A day with the RPGA.

Friday morning the whole family (at least those who play D&D regularly) had scheduled to play the Dungeons and Dragons Open Championship. Matt and I played last year, but didn't do well with the pick-up team we had. This year we planned our entire team: me, Kalen, Kathy, Matt, Ryan, and honorary Tjarks-for-a-day Dick Gilbert (who you may remember was mentioned as the father of the seventh on our True Dungeon team, Colin Gilbert. At Verbobonc Pre-Gencon Madness I'd given Dick an Adventure Hooks shirt so we could all be dressed as a team for the Open.

Friday was also the day we needed to move to a different hotel. Due to getting in a half-day late for hotel registration, I couldn't find a hotel that had a four-person room (yes, for the seven of us!) for the whole convention. At least not a hotel we were willing to stay in, mainly due to distance from the convention center. So, Friday we needed to move from the Hilton Garden Inn to the Courtyard by Marriott. The Courtyard was a lot closer to the convention center but, as it turned out, the room wasn't as comfy.

Anyway, we got up and got ready, then took many of the suitcases down to Ellen's car which could then be moved over to the Courtyard. Ellen and Narf would later move the rest of the bags and then Ellen would get checked-in, as I'd had most of the day scheduled.

I got Matt and Ryan down to the car and heading toward the convention center, then went to my car with Kalen and Kathy as they still had somethings there that they needed for the day. Then they were on their way to the convention center while I took Ellen's keys back to the room before I finally followed to get to our game.

When I came out of the hotel, I noticed for the first time that it was raining again -- this time a bit harder than Thursday. However, there was also a cab right at the door. A guy I rode down the elevator with grabbed the cab, but since I saw he also had a Gencon badge I figured he was going to the convention center, so I asked if we could shared the cab. He agreed, and we got over to the center quickly. I then told my ride-share that he got a free ride, as I picked up the whole fare and tip.

Outside the convention center I greeted Verbobonc triad-guy Rob Silva, who was grabbing a smoke. Then I went inside the center and ran into Dick, who was standing in the event ticket line. He said he couldn't find his Open ticket was he was going to grab another. What he'd forgotten was that we'd gotten the tickets for the whole team, so I saved him $4.50 by finding him before he got to the head of the line.

Dick and I found Matt and Ryan in the mustering area, and Kalen and Kathy got in shortly thereafter -- damp and surprised to find me there already.

We did alright at the beginning of the Open, although I was stupid and accidentally stepped into Dick's Stinking Cloud spell and took my rogue out of action for a few rounds. When we got to the second area, though, we didn't have a good strategy to deal with the opponents, four ogre scouts with spring-attack and way too much speed. They could move 100' in a round, get their attack (with reach), and not provoke any attacks of opportunity. We tried to ready attacks against them, but they were doing more damage per-round than we were, so we were going to lose the war of attrition. I figured out from something that the judge said that ogres had a small camp around the corner, and that they were reloading on spears there. I had an invisibility potion and hoped I could get over to their camp and destroy their extra spears (a nice bonfire of ammo). However, in the round that I was heading there the judge had an ogre come and start grabbing all the spears. I don't think he knew my plan, but he wound up ruining it anyway. I had nothing else I could really do at that point, so I tried to sneak-attack the ogre -- and missed. At that point we were done for. I was hit and knocked unconscious, but stabilized just short of death. Everyone else got hit in the same round, and I think we were all dead shortly thereafter. Kalen's warforged fighter fell down a deep pit that she couldn't get out of, and died from falling when trying futilely to climb out. My halfling rogue was the last to actually die -- as the ogres' breakfast. :-)

So, the Open didn't go so well. Needless to say, we did not advance to the semi-finals. :-)

I grabbed lunch at the food court with Ryan and Matt, meeting Ellen there. Then I went back to the RPGA hall and played the first part of "Well of Woe", the Xen'drick Expeditions cross-faction adventure -- in three parts. I enjoyed the guys that I played that part of the mod with, and since I hadn't actually scheduled the other two parts I decided to come back in the third slot on Friday to play "Well of Woe" part 2 with them. I couldn't get a ticket for that time, but I decided to chance it with generic tickets. It turned out that there was only one table of part 2 that formed, and I was able to get in as the sixth person at that table.

After that game I was interested in food again since once again I didn't get dinner between slots. I called Ellen, met her at the room at the Courtyard, and then we went down to the TGI Friday's that was part of the hotel, and I had dinner while she and Ryan and/or Narf and/or Matt had dessert. (I know it was more than just Ellen and I, I just can't rmemeber who). Finally that night I took a hotel room key over to Kalen and Kathy, who were working at True Dungeon.

Then I crashed for the night, sharing the sleeper-sofa with Ryan.

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Friday, August 25, 2006

Duh! Spiders Count in Base Eight! (Gencon Report - Thursday)

Gencon Report, part 2. Picking up at the actual beginning of Gencon -- Thursday morning.

I woke up Thursday morning at about 6:15, so that I could get a shower and wake everyone else up who had an 8am game. The plan was to stop at the car to get some stuff and then head to the convention center. The first snag, though, was that Matt couldn't find his binders with his Living Greyhawk characters (see his blog for more on that). I offered to trade tickets with him, so he could play Xen'drick Expeditions and I would play the LG special. Then he could either whip up a character for Xen'drick quickly or grab a quick-play character. This idea fell through when we got to the RPGA mustering area and found ... chaos. There was no indication of where various modules should be mustering tables other than "out in the hall". This isn't a great idea at a small con. At a large con, with several hundred gamers, it's just unworkable. Matt got frustrated with this and decided to bail out, so I got my Xen'drick ticket back and gave his LG special ticket to Kalen (who also had a ticket for that event).

I started wandering and shouting the game I was looking for. I managed to find another group of players looking for the same module, so I made sure they clumped together and then tried to gather others of like mind. About this time, and by now it was actually 8am when the slot was to start, they started bringing out large signs indicating where some of the players for a specific module should gather. They brought out two of the Xen'drick factions, and from that I could guess where they were going to put up the sign for my faction (Blackwheel Company). I herded the others toward that spot, and there found even more of us, so we had enough players for three or four tables of that modules. Shortly afterward we had a real marshall show up, and we broke into tables and got assigned spaces and judges. From there, everything went find and the module was fun. We got done in about three hours (11am), so plenty of time before the next RPGA slot, and even more for me since my next game was True Dungeon at about 3pm.

I fingured out where Matt was and joined him in the dealer room, getting a D&D minis demo so I could get a card-stamp and a promo mini (the same one I got at Wizard World Chicago). I talked to Ellen on the phone and agreed to meet her for lunch, and before heading there I found Kathy in the Giant in the Playground/Order of the Stick line. I handed her money so she could get me the three Order of the Stick books and the Goblin Dan's T-shirt.

Matt and I then headed to the food court to meet Ellen for lunch (and Ryan, but I forget exactly when we added Ryan). While enroute there I got a call from Narf, just arrived at the Indy airport. We confirmed that he was to get a cab and I'd pay him back for the fare, since it didn't make sense for us to pick him up (the parking fees, moving a car and breaking up the day into what would have been multiple full-day fees for parking, would have been more than the cab fare). You can see Narf's blog for what happened with that cab ride, but it wound up not costing either one of us a cent.

We got lunch and relaxed for a bit, and when mostly through Narf found us. I gave him directions to the hotel and the room number, and then offered to take his bag there as I wanted to head over to the room relax a bit and get online to send an e-mail for work, while Narf wanted to hit the con with Matt. As it turned out, I didn't realize that it had started raining while we were eating, not horribly hard but enough that I was more than just damp by the time I got to the room. I switched clothes (to my Goblin Dan shirt), got my little bit of work done, and was in the room when housekeeping came so I could ask for some extra towels (and tip her). By the time I headed out for True Dungeon the rain had died down or stopped, so I wasn't soaked when I got back to the Marriott for TD.

While walking back I got the call from our seventh for True Dungeon, Colin Gilbert, son of our D&D friend Dick Gilbert. I had Kalen find him since she was already at the Marriott, and soon we had the whole team together. Matt decided he wasn't in the mood for True Dungeon, so Narf filled his slot.

The True Dungeon run was good -- a lot of fun, and more emphasis on the puzzles than had been in the past couple of years -- more like the first year. I did manage to die in one room when I failed my reflex saving throw against a fireball (I was the wizard, so I had a lousy reflex save and few hit points). However, they changed the rules a bit this year so that a dead character could remain with the party as a "ghost" as long as they didn't say or do anything. And there might be a possibility of recovering the dead character.

As it turned out, the opportunity to restore me was in the very next room. So, I lay out on the "altar", adding to the the flavor of the room, while the others tried to figure out the right order to light the candles to complete the restoration. They managed to do all the right things, including Ellen casting Detect Magic to find the best clue as to what was going on, and I was back in the game.

We successfully finished the whole run without any further casualties. We had some good puzzle solving, as well as apparently some amazing "fighting" skills from Ryan (able to hit the 20 on the shuffleboard "to hit" board almost every time for a critical hit), excellent roguing skills from Colin, and some dumb luck. We totally failed to recognize one puzzle as a takeoff on Minesweeper, and in the final puzzle we managed to come up with the right answer for mostly the wrong reason (I was subtracting 8 rather than using base 8 -- which yielded the same answer anyway).

After True Dungeon it was my slot to play the Living Greyhawk special. I was hoping to play at APL 8 with my 9th level Ranger/Scout. However, I didn't hear anyone looking to muster an APL 8 table right away, but did hear people looking for a couple players to fill out an APL 2 table. So, I went with my near second choice and played my 3rd level Paladin at APL 2. We only had 5 players at the table, three of us level 3 and two level 1, but well balanced in character classes. We didn't have all that much problem with the module -- a couple moments when I thought we might have a tough time but then managed to turn it back to a positive quickly. With that mod and the zero that I played before Verbobonc Pre-Gencon Madness I managed to get my Paladin to 4th level (his fourth level will be taken as "Fighter", as will his fifth, after which he will qualify to take levels of "Outcast Champion").

By the time I was was done with the LG special it was late, after 11pm, and most of the quick-service places to eat were closed. I could have waited in line at Steak 'n' Shake and then carried that back several blocks to the hotel, but I just decided to to straight back and figure out what I could find there -- maybe room service. It was too late for that too, as it turned out, but I could get a burger to warm up in the microwave, and a bag of Combos crackers. I had my "dinner" and played a hand of "Bang" with Matt, Kalen, Ryan, and Narf before calling it a night.

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Two Nights at Wrigley

Tuesday and Wednesday nights I went to watch the Cubs games. Both nights they lost. Oh well.

Tuesday night I went with my brother, Bob. We were particularly interested in the pitching matchup because it was the second MLB start (and first at Wrigley) for Cubs rookie Ryan O'Malley. He has never exactly been touted as a strong prospect -- in fact we hadn't heard anything about him until the week before when he was called up to make an emergency start in Houston, and won 1-0. The Phillies pitcher, who was at least as interesting to us, was former Cub Jamie Moyer -- the 43-year old crafty veteran who hadn't pitched in Wrigley in 18 years, far longer than the average MLB career.

Anyway, O'Malley wasn't as good as he was in his first start, possibly nervous in the first inning but he got out of it only giving up one run. He gave up a couple more in the third, but then left early in the 5th inning with an injury (and he's now on the disabled list already). After O'Malley left Glendon Rusch came in, and gave up his traditional three runs. By this point the game was just boring. The weather didn't help, with a heavy mist in the air. Bob and I were more interested in playing dumb games with the "Home Town Heroes" ballot -- guessing who was on the ballot for each team, listing better choices, etc. We both left at the end of the eighth inning. Cubs lost 6-3.

Wednesday I went with my pal Steve. The game was much more interesting, staying within one run throughout. The weather was good. The teams were playing well -- not outstanding but nothing particularly bad either. The Cubs tied it in the bottom of the 8th, but then gave up the winning run in the top of the 9th. The Cubs lost 2-1.

Dinner at the stadium club was good both nights, but Wednesday was weird. Steve and I got to the podium for dinner seating and they said someone had already come in to take our reservation, using the name "Tjarks". I'm there enough that they know who I am, though, to know that I had the legitimate reservation. We went by the table (same one Bob gets almost every time) and didn't recognize anywhere there. The folks at the club set us up with another table and didn't raise a fuss with the guys who had come in, but Mike (the club manager) kept a close eye to make sure that they didn't skip out on the bill. Just odd -- I figure that those guys had fast talked the guy at the door of the club and saw our name on the reservation list, then just used that name at the podium to get a table.

Anyway, that's it. Work has kept me busy all week, but at least hasn't kept me late at any time. This weekend will be devoted to cleaning the garage, getting Legends out the door, and playing a game of D&D on Sunday night.

And, Gencon report part 2 will be coming shortly. I'll start typing as soon as I publish this post, and then see how far into the con I get.

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Sunday, August 20, 2006

Madness (Gencon report - part 1 - Tuesday/Wednesday)

This is the Gencon report, part 1. Read more if you care. :-)

Matt's got a lot of Gencon stuff on his blog, much of which applies to me as well.

I took the day off work on Tuesday so I could get ready to go and leave by mid-afternoon. As usual, I still felt like I was pushing right up against the last minute, but it wasn't quite as bad as the past couple of years.

Since all six of us were going to Indy, we needed to take two cars. However, with Matt's short-term job, he decided he didn't want to come back to Aurora after the con, so it would be better if he could just drive back to Urbana. So, that was going to be a third car in Indy. However, I suggested that instead we caravan to Urbana on Tuesday, drop off Matt's car at his apartment, then he would ride the rest of the way to Indy with me. So that's what we did. Ellen and I in her car, Matt and Ryan in Matt's car, and Kalen and Kathy in my car. We got into Urbana just about dinner time, which gave us all the excuse that Kalen needed to decide to eat at her favorite place, Cheddar's. I think the only thing she really cares about there, though, is getting a Cookie Monster for dessert.

Anyway, after dinner, dropping off Matt's car, and a very quick tour of Matt's apartment (aka Beamer's storage space) for Ellen we drove another 1.5 or 2 hours to Brownsville (?), Indiana, which is pretty close to Indianapolis, and stopped at the Super 8 there (which was a decent place to stay).

Wednesday morning we drove the rest of the way to Indy, which only took about a half hour, and parked at the Westin so that Matt, Ryan and I could get ready to judge for Verbobonc Pre-Gencon Madness. This is a kind-of low overhead mini con which is run on the Wednesday before Gencon so that folks coming in for Gencon can play D&D Living Greyhawk modules for the Verbobonc region, which covers Indiana and Illinois. Since I'm in-region, and I've played most of the modules (all I plan to play), I judge all the slots at this con to give others from elsewhere (and everywhere) a chance to play.

Slot 1 I ran a table of "Deep in the Lortmils" which the players had no real problem with, and we got done early. That gave Ellen and I a chance to find the Hilton Garden Inn, our hotel for the next two days, and check in. The clerk said we'd have a surprise when we got to the room, and it was a nice surprise even though I'd guessed what it probably was: we had a suite. That worked out well, since we had six people in a room technically for four. Well, six people on Wednesday night - seven on Thursday when Narf joined us. We had plenty of space that way, though, as we brought our airbed and had plenty of floor space for it in the bedroom area, and Matt had a couch in the front room as wel as a TV so he could stay up as late as he wanted (and Narf could use the floor or the chairs in there).

Anyway we got checked in, had lunch at Jimmy Johns, moved a car over to the parking garage there along with most of the luggage (which Ellen got up to the room), and then I returned to the con to judge the next slot.

(By the way, I called Verbobonc Pre-Gencon Madness a mini-con, but it's only that because it's only one day long really. In terms of number of players I understand that it is now the largest regional con in our region. (Gencon itself is, of course,
much much much larger, but it's a national con and we thus can't run regional mod at Gencon proper). Sometime in there Kalen and Kathy also found me and collected a room key and directions to the hotel, and then they went back to the True Dungeon set-up that they'd been working on.

Anyway, in slot 2 I ran "Castle Estival", which is a two-round module. Except that we finished easily in one round (I was running it at APL 2, the lowest level, which is not all that tough). The players that I had suggested that we get a table at the convention center rather than a stretch of floor at the Westin. We did, and as well as running the table for them (an no, there certainly weren't seven players for that game, that would have been technically illegal!), we entertained some of the folks waiting in the badge registration line that wrapped around to where we'd set up.

Since we got done with "Castle Estival" early, I was available to judge in slot 3. I waited around for a while, hoping that I'd get a table of "Fallen Hero" (short and fun to run), while the possibility was raised that I could run another table of "Castle Estival" (which would then have the possibility of running well past midnight, depending on the players and the APL). As it turned out, what I wound up getting was a talbe of "Sign of the Black Orchid", which I had played but hadn't read yet. I was able to do an OK job of running that game semi-cold, and the players seemed to enjoy it and figured out most of the stuff in that very investigative mod. The couple of clues they didn't find didn't make much difference in the resolution, though most tables wind up frustrated by the way the ending is scripted, anyway.

"Black Orchid" has a tendency to run a bit long, but we got it done in the prescribed four hours. That got us right to midnight, and I was ready to call it a night. I checked in with Ellen via cellphone and heard that everyone else had found there way to the hotel, so I got my car out of the Westin garage, got it moved to the garage next to the Hilton, and hit the bed to get ready for an early start on Thursday.

To be continued .....

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Top Plays #5

And at number 5 in the top plays for Saturday: Juan Pierre against the ivy to catch Albert Pujols's hard drive and save the game for the Cubs.

Kalen, Bob, and I went to the Cubs game on Saturday, and it was one of the best games of the past couple of years. The Cardinals took an early 2-0 lead by the 2nd inning, with Zambrano not looking his best. Then he settled down at shut down the Cardinals for the next five innings. In that stretch, the Cubs took a 3-2 lead. Then it was back-and-forth. The Cardinals scored once in the 8th on a home run to tie the game. Then the Cubs scored in the 8th on a bloop hit. Then the Cardinals once again tied the game in the 9th, and almost took a bit lead: the bases were loaded due to walks by Dempster, with one out and Encarnacion up. Ohman struck out Encarnacion, and the Wuertz came in to face the fearsome Albert Pujols. Pujols then hit the ball to deep center field, just left of dead center. It was about one foot from being a home run, but Pierre was able to leap and catch the ball at the very top of the ivy, then first time I've seen him actually make a catch against the wall (I've seen a couple time that he just missed).

So, that led to extra innings. In the Cubs tenth there was a double, a bunt that wound up being a single, a strikeout, an intentional walk, and then Phil Nevin hit a line drive to left over the head of the drawn-in left fielder, and that was the ball game. Lots of tension and excitement, and a good result in the end.

That was most of Saturday. Today I woke up and Ryan already had all his stuff packed and down by the front door ready to go. That doesn't mean we left right away, though. We kind of relaxed for most of the morning instead. We finally let about 11:30am. It was pretty easy getting him moved into the dorm. Most everyone had already moved in, so we were even able to park in the metered spaces behind his dorm, so we didn't have to mess with unloading stuff at the curb and then moving the car. Instead, we parked and Ryan went in to get his key while I unloaded the car and stacked stuff on the cart we'd brought. I think we then only waited about 15 minutes in line for the elevator -- I don't know how long it took Ryan and Ellen last year but he said the line wrapped around the corner of the building then. This year, the line was maybe 10 people/carts long for this first load. We got that up, Ryan met his next-door neighbor, and we went to get the rest of his stuff from the girls' apartment. Just as we were loading, Kalen arrived (she left Aurora 30-60 minutes after we did), so I could help her get a bit of her stuff back into her apartment. Then we returned to Ryan's dorm, got a real parking space again, and for the second cart the elevator line was only about 3 people long, so got things into his room quick.

Then I came home and mowed the lawn, and have mostly been vegging tonight.

So, now all the kids are back at college. Now everyone can start updating their blog regularly again (I'm looking at you Ryan -- Matt's been keeping his up now). Everyone can do a Gencon report, including Ellen.

I'll start my Gencon report, with at least the first two days, next.

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Shrinkage (Comicon Report)

Yep, to me it'll always be Chicago Comicon. Report after the break.

The con seemed smaller this year than last year, and a lot of the reports I've seen after the con back that up. First impressions -- there were a LOT fewer small press booths than in previous years, and some folks that would normally be in artists alley seem to have moved to the small press area. This leads me to think that they may have dropped the booth price in that area at some point in order to flesh it out. I'd also swear that the aisles in the dealer area were wider, with the implication that there were fewer actual dealers. Or maybe it was just fewer attendees (Dal at Graham Crackers thought probably some of both).

I know that there was no spill over area for artist's alley, so definitely fewer of those tables. And I never did figure out exactly where the gaming area was for WizKids or the few other games.

And, taking up a huge area in the major publisher area, right in the middle of everything, was a full size wrestling ring, promoting some martial arts "league" that's supposed to be starting up (and has all the trappings of WWE wrestling, and likely the same legitimacy).

Oh, yeah, not to mention the skateboard ramp (half-tube, probably 10' by 15' and 5' high) that was there to ... hmm, I'm not sure I remember why they even had that. I know they were supposed to raffling it off at some point.

DC had the same booth as the last couple years, but moved back further into the room. Marvel had an area much further forward, just to the left of the entrance, that consisted of ... a large swath of carpet and two tables for autograph signing. Oh, and a balloon sculpture Captain America that apparently didn't survive past Friday. And the front and center booth was ... Spike TV?

It was a weird con. And spent quite a bit of time there getting game demos, probably more than I did at Gencon(!).

Oh, and Tjarkseque. Well, there were a lot fewer of the APA friends there this year as well. Tjarkseque consisted of the family plus Chris and BJ. I.e. something we could have done any other weekend of the year. :-) But we kept the tradition going, and it gave Dwight someone to call. :-)

Anyway, here's what I did at the Comicon:

  • Cruised the dealer areas and bought a Supergirl action figure (Crisis on Infinite Earths version) and a few of the "Who's Who" "collectable" figure packs (cheap).

  • Bought a few comics from Christopher Jones (the four issues of "Dr. Blink, Superhero Shrink"). Talked to him for a few minutes -- he had been a tagalong with Mark Stegbauer at a previous Tjarkseque -- and got the issues signed by Chris and the colorist (Melissa Kaercher).

  • Saw Peter David in the men's room. No, I didn't talk to him or ask for an autograph or something stupid like that. He's commented on that before and though it's certainly not hard to imagine someone being that dumb, it ain't me.

  • Played a demo of "Clout" and got a starter pack of the game and a booster, and a promo piece. Later I got the same starter pack at Gencon in the Origins swag bag. The game is OK for a quick play, but I won't spend any actual money on it. The pieces (poker chips with "collectable" faces) could become large-size markers for D&D games, though I already have plenty such things.

  • Went to the DC Nation panel, where I though Dan Didio actually had moments showing he can be thoughtful about what makes good comics and has some idea where the whole DC line ought to be going. He was also willing to ignore some well-thought-out arguments from an audience member when it didn't fit the immediate agenda (this regarding the Captain Marvel/Shazam! franchise). I enjoyed the panel.

  • Got a demo of Comicbase (collection management software), though neither he nor I could really hear each other because the speakers for the "International Fighting League" (or whatever) were blaring just 20' away. He said the the con was going to get their booth moved the next day.

  • Got a demo of DC HeroClix -- Not that I haven't had the demo before and played a bit of Clix, but if I took the demo I could get the swag -- which was a DC Icons booster. And in that booster I got a Superman fig, so it was well worth it.

  • Got a demo of the new Battlestar Galactica collectible card game. It was decent. Again, I won't spend any money on it, but it had some OK ideas.

  • Over at the Wizards of the Coast booth, I got demos of Dreamblade (my thoughts on that align with Matt's in his recent post) and Duelmasters (Magic: the Gathering simplified for the kids). I had no interest in Duelmasters, but the guy demoing it had noone else at his table at the time, and I knew of him through RPGA (it was August Hahn, for those who know) so I chatted a bit about that. Oh, yeah, and I won't be spending money on Dreamblade or Duelmasters. After that, I didn't get a D&D demo, but I did talk to the guy there and got a promo mini and a demo stamp/validation from him, since I didn't need a demo of D&D, and he and I wound up talking about RPGA stuff and Gencon.
    Oh, and I already spend plenty of money on D&D.

  • Rolled the die for the Wizards of the Coast giveaway, with my three demo stamps, and got a D&D minis booster -- though I shouldn't have. They had the area set up wrong, so with my roll I should have gotten one of the prizes below the minis boosters, but they had the Abberations boosters hanging way over into the area marked for the total that I did roll, and I'd picked the booster as my prize before the guy could tell me that it wasn't part of that level, so he let me go ahead. Abberations is probably the set Ihave the most of anyway, so I didn't get anything too exciting in the booster.

  • Went to the DC coming attractions panel. Not as interesting as the DC Nation panel the day before, but it was OK.

  • Went by some of the celebrity tables where they were selling autographs, mainly to see what they looked like now. The main one I was interested in was Joyce DeWitt, from Three's Company. And she looked pretty good for being 25 years older.

  • Found where they'd moved the Comicbase booth and bought a copy of the software, so I can try to get my collection cataloged properly. I'd looked at this in previous years and never thought it was quite right for my needs, and a bit expensive. Now they've evolved the product to the point that I think it does pretty much everything that I'd want it to do, and the price (with the con discount) was more along the lines that I thought was worth it. Now, though, I've discovered that I can do some things with it SO MUCH FASTER if I just had a barcode scanner, so I've ordered one. By next week, I should be scanning in a good chunk of my collection. I'll start this weekend with older comics with no barcode, so I'll just enter them the manual way.

  • Went to the Peter David panel on writing stories. The room was packed, so I stood in the back. The tips he was giving were fiction writing 101 and so stuff I'd heard plenty of times, but Peter is an entertaining speaker so it was well worth it for entertainment. He used "The Karate Kid" (the movie) as the perfect example of three-act story-telling, and also talked about the character arcs and some of the themes in the movie so that he could use it to illustrate all his points.

  • Left early on Saturday -- in more than ample time to return home for a D&D game (a zero for Verbobonc Pre-Gencon Madness).

And that's it. There just seemed to be a lot less excitement around the con this year, with even the Kevin Smith panel not having the same buzz around it despite the recent release of "Clerks II". I had a ticket for the Cubs game on Sunday with Bob so I didn't bother with the con that day. I gave my three-day pass to Ryan, but he also didn't bother.

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The Blogs are Back in Town

Gencon is over. Chicago Comicon WizardWorld Chicago is over. So, time to get back to some semblance of normalcy.

Well, maybe a couple more days before actual normalcy. Cubs game on Saturday with Bob and a couple of the kids (exact ones still to be determined), and then I'll take Ryan back to school on Sunday and the girls will go back sometime in there.

We'll see if Ryan is back to normal by then, since he had all four wisdom teeth out on Tuesday. But maybe he'll write about that.

So then next couple of posts will be the Comicon and Gencon reports, with little introduction. Read them if you care about such things. :-)

Update: the WizardWorld Chicago report is up. Gencon report will wait a day or two, because the Comicon report took longer than I'd thought.

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Thursday, August 03, 2006

Valley of the ... Wind and Rain?

OK, here's the catch-up post on my last week in Phoenix.

Hey, whoa, it's been two weeks ago now, or nearly so. Two weeks ago the temperature in Phoenix topped out at 118°. I mainly say that to freak folks out, I still contend that I wasn't uncomfortable, due to the dry heat.

Saturday of that weekend (July 22), I went driving around to do some sight seeing. I drove a bit around Scottsdale then south to Mesa. In Mesa, my main objective was to find Hohokam Park, the spring home of the Cubs. I found that, as well as their training facilities at Fitch Park. When I drove by Fitch Park I saw guys in Cubs uniforms on one of the fields, and then figured out that there was a rookie league game going on. I couldn't exactly figure out how to get in, though, so I passed by and went to get lunch.

I wound up at a Schlotzky's Deli, a chain I'd discovered while on a business trip in Virginia and that I go to occasionally, though there isn't one convenient to Naperville or Aurora. At Schlotzky's, though, they had three public internet stations. From there I was able to find the Cubs rookie league information and schedule. The games start at 10:30, so even if I'd stopped at Fitch Park it was late in that game. I found that there was a game the next day at 10:30, though, so I figured I might be able to check that out.

After lunch I drove out into the Tonto National Forest. It's mainly desert mountains (rocks and cacti) and empty road. But the mountains were very scenic. There was a recreation area with a river and lake in the south part, which I hadn't checked out. As it turns out, that's where Brian Mann was that day (more on that later). I drove an hour into the mountains, but then turned around because it seemed that the first actual town I was going to get to was yet another half hour away. After getting back into town I just had dinner and then did some work on my computer in the hotel room.

Sunday morning I drove to Surprise (surprise!) to the Texas Rangers training facilities, where the rookie league Cubs were playing the rookie league Rangers. Again, I could see where the game was, but I couldn't exactly figure out how to get in. However, the Rangers' camp is directly next to the Royals' camp, and it was easy to see how to get in to see the Royals rookie game. So I parked, walked through that gate, then walked through the complex toward the Rangers' fields and found the field where the rookie league Cubs were playing.

The training complex in Surprise is pretty large. Here's a Google Maps view of the complex.

I got there in the Cubs half of the 3rd inning. There were maybe 15 people sitting in metal bleachers on the Cubs side of the field. There were also metal bleachers, with a canvas awning, right behind home plate, but it seemed that the people on those were all with the teams -- players who didn't dress that day apparently. I don't know how many players they actually carry in the rookie league, I guess it's probably 30 or 35 players and they just dress 20 to 25 (after a Google search, the Mesa Cubs roster lists 42 players). Anyway, on the Rangers' side of the field in the larger metal bleachers there was -- one guy.

I think there may have been another tourist or two on the Cubs side, but mostly they seemed to be the family of players. I know there were the parents and younger sister of one player, and I talked to the grandparents of the Cubs centerfielder (Drew Rundle, Cubs 14th round draft choice this year, just out of high school). When I left, after the 7th inning, the crowd was down to just Rundle's grandparents and the reserve players. The sun was pretty fierce by this time, just after noon.

I hiked back to my car and discovered my major mistake. The Royals game had started earlier, at 9am, and by now was long over. And they locked the gate that led out to my car! I needed to hike back, try to find an open gate (I knew there was one over on the Rangers side, though I hadn't parked there in the first place as it was marked "Rangers Staff Only"), and I'd have to walk all the way around the complex to get back to my car.

Fortunately, part-way back I ran into a groundskeeper in a golf cart, who asked if I needed a lift somewhere. I explained my mistake, and he drove me back and opened the gate for me.

I'm still not sure if they really welcome folks to watch the rookie league games, but neither did anyone feel the need to kick me out.

I was pretty beat by this time, so found a Fazoli's to get lunch and about a gallon of iced tea. I called Kathy to wish her happy birthday.

Later that evening I met up with Brian Mann (my nephew, or technically my step-nephew-in-law, I guess :-) ) and his girlfriend Jackie. He showed me his apartment, drove around Scottsdale a bit, and then we went out for a nice dinner at Houston's, a steak house. After comparing notes, it seemed we'd continually missed each other over my time in Phoenix. He works kitty-corner from the building where I'd been working in the Cingular offices. He and Jackie had been at the Diamondbacks game I went to the previous weekend, and they were sitting just a couple sections over from where I was. They'd been tubing on the Salt River in the Tonto National Forest while I'd been driving through it the day before. Surprising we hadn't managed to run into each other.

Anyway, then the rest of the week was mainly just busy at work. The one notable thing was that it rained a couple times, and cooled off a little. Apparently the end of July is monsoon season in Arizona, and so I was there for one of the few times when they get thunderstorms -- there were some impressive lightning displays one night, and the clouds hanging halfway up Camelback Mountain were a pretty cool sight. I also got to watch a dust storm blow through -- from the comfort of the offices on the 11th floor. The mountatin that was the view from those windows was totally obscured by the dust for about 15 minutes, and the windows were shaking pretty fiercely.

Anyway, that's about it for the Phoenix trip. Coming up tomorrow, the comic con and what passed for Tjarkseque this year, which probably won't be much. Saturday I'll go to the con again and then do a zero of a D&D module for the pre-Gencon gaming (more on THAT next week). Sunday I'll be at Wrigley again with Bob.

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Home, for a bit of miscellaney

As you may have surmised, I'm back home from Phoenix safely. No problems with the flight, nothing interesting to say about the last few days there other than that they were pretty busy.

I still need to write up a couple things about my last weekend in Phoenix, alluded to in a comment back to Matt. But I'll get there. This is a quicky update, with several miscellaneous items.

Since I got home, I've been to two Cubs games (won one, lost one). Saturday I sat with Ellen, a little lower in the lower deck than we usually do and on the other side of the field. Very nice seats. We had lunch in the stadium club with Bob, Craig Cunard and his family, and Don Brothers and his friend Blake. So, out of the nine folks there we had five Missouri Valley High School graduates -- Ellen ('75), me ('76), Bob ('77), and Craig and Don (both '78). Mini sort-of reunion. :-) It was hot, but we had a good breeze and really weren't uncomfotable at all. We met everyone back in the club for dessert toward the end of the game.

Monday night I went with Bob to the game and sat in our regular seats. The game was a blow-out though and we left after the 7th inning with the Cubs behind 10-4, with all those Diamondback runs scoring on six home runs (including one grand slam). Ugg. But, leaving early spared us from seeing the additional five runs that the Diamondbacks scored in the 8th inning! Final: 15-4.

Friday is the Chicago Comicon/Wizard World Chicago, and Tjarkseque. But Tjarkseque is going to be very sparsely attended this year -- maybe only us and Chris and BJ. I haven't heard from anyone else yet, and it sounds like not many people are coming to the con -- probably hurt by it being only two weeks after the San Diego con.

Next week is Gencon -- so probably no updates starting Tuesday through at least Sunday. I might sneek one in, if I even bother bringing my laptop.

Ellen has updated her blog with pictures of our landscaping work from earlier in the summer. But now I need to take new pictures since she's done a lot more work since those were taken.

And, I see that Google has updated the picture of our house in Google Maps. From that link, you should be able to tell our house as the one in the center of the picture and with the white concrete driveway (where all others around are asphalt). So, now the picture shows the new driveway and patio (now both three years old). I wonder when the picture was taken -- possibly this spring or maybe the one before. The clues: besides the presence of the patio it also has the brickwork landscaping (you can see it around the back bay windows, and a bit on the front corner) that was done two years ago. The locust trees are bare, and the patio table is still wrapped up for winter and tucked next to the house. And it looks like Matt's car is parked in front on the street. And, if I pan over to the west, the outlet mall is now present and open. Hmm, my guess is that the picture is from the spring before last, before Ryan graduated (and so he was driving the wagon that Matt now is), though it may have been this year during Matt's spring break.

Woo hoo, Google detective work!

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