August 2008 Archives

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...magnesium citrate is not as bad as it was built up to be.  Kind of like flat, too-old lemon-lime.  I was expecting something on the order of the fermented shark Anthony Bourdain had in Iceland from the way my mom was talking about it.

I've been fasting all day, basically, and it's starting to drive me a little bit batty, especially since the hotel we're staying at has a reception between 5-7 every night, and I can smell the popcorn drifting from the lobby in our room.  Still, there's not much longer to go -- in 14 hours, we'll be heading to the hospital, and 6 or 7 hours after that it'll all be over.  Pretty hard to believe really.

Anyway, I'm hanging in there.  Thanks for all the well-wishes I've had the last few days, and I'll try to let everyone know how I'm doing as soon as I can.
-- from Deidei, describing how she looked after spilling pancake batter all over her butt and down the back of her legs.
Well, after leaving my parents' house this morning at about 0500 CDT, we've now arrived in Phoenix (at 1300 MST).  I can't say I particularly enjoyed the last twelve hours, but we're here, and we have all our stuff despite only having a 35 minute connection in Charlotte (marking my first visit to North Carolina, I suppose).

It is pretty damn hot here, at least for me -- a bit north of a hundred at the moment -- but I guess it's not any worse than 85 and humid as hell back in Illinois.  Still, the hotel seems really nice, so my mom will at least have a decent place to stay (and for the price, it really can't be beat).

There's not much on the schedule for today -- gaining three hours is throwing me off a bit, so I suspect we'll have an early dinner, but I think both of us are still suffering a little from the early morning and the long flight from CLT to PHX.  Hopefully I can get some decent pictures today though -- Phoenix is really a pretty beautiful city, but it does have an oddly jarring quality of a moonscape in places if you're used to being surrounded by corn and soybeans.

Ever since yesterday, I've noticed that I've started noticing that every time I do something, I'm very aware of the fact that it will be the last time I do it before I have surgery.  The last time I'm in my house.  The last time I'm in my parent's house.  The last time I see my dad, or my brother.  Like the Protestant Reformation in Mr. Butler's lectures, it's becoming a fulcrum upon which everything in my life is turning.  It's a very strange feeling, and I think it's probably the first real sign I've had that this is finally sinking in.

Edit: As Chesnut pointed out, Charlotte is in North Carolina.  Whoops!
...RPGnet brought this article to my attention:

Last year Terry Pratchett, the bestselling author of the Discworld fantasies, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. How does the writer cope with a disease that whittles away at his brain?

When writer Terry Pratchett was told he had Alzheimer's disease, his first thought was "that's a bit of a bugger". That, and "I hope they hurry up and find a cure quick."

...

"It's now hunt and peck, and there will be a moment sometimes when the letter A just totally vanishes and I don't quite know what happens.

"It's as if the keyboard closes up and the letter A is not there anymore. Then I'll blink a few times and then the letter A comes back."

I thought this touched on a few issues that are similar to the ones I mentioned in my last post -- being acutely aware of sweeping changes being made to your mind and body.  It's definitely worth a read, even if you aren't particularly a Terry Pratchett fan.

This time next week, I'll be walking into the hospital to go get ready for surgery.  For ten years now, I've been working towards that day -- ten years of therapy, hormones, electrolysis, introspection, pain, self-doubt, worrying, and a million other ordeals that I've been through.  The whole time, I've been asking myself if it was all really worth it.  Now, ten years later, I'm looking at finally getting it done, I've written the largest check I've ever seen...and I still don't know, not for sure.
Convention Hall Entrance.jpgSo here it is, the multimedia debut of Things You Don't Care About.  These are thanks to my new Canon SD1100 IS camera, which I picked up on the recommendation of both Sam and Consumer Reports.  I've opened this article with a shot of the convention floor from the main entrance, looking towards where the electronic gaming section of the floor is.  You can clearly see the top of the Eve Online booth, which was much larger this year than last year, when it was squeezed on the back of the White Wolf booth.  This year, White Wolf and CCP both had a large presence, which was nice to see.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  We stayed this year in the Hilton Garden Inn, just east of Monument Circle in Indianapolis.  A bit further from the convention center than where we stayed last year, but still close, and the war monument makes it pretty easy to tell people how to find your hotel.  It's also a pretty impressive monument to boot.

Monument Circle.jpgI spent Thursday afternoon playing NSDM, a Cold War game with the Russian and US cells that never went to crisis mode, which was surprising in and of itself.  I played a West Coast representative, and ended up getting nicely screwed because everything that had been conceded to me got eliminated in the final budget cycle, which was a tad annoying.  Most of our minor crises seemed to get snuffed out before flaring up too much.

Sadly, I have to say that I didn't get any pictures of NSDM this year; I was too busy with the game to do so, and I am still not quite used to taking pictures (or being in them!) after being such an anti-camera person for so long.  However, it looks like pictures from last year are finally up at the NSDM site.  In this lovely photo, you can see me in the middle right, grinning like an idiot, and the garishly dressed Pezzle, our illustrious friend from the CVA, on the middle left.

Thursday night, I had dinner with three other members of CAIN at the Weber Grill. While it was an excellent dinner, we were disappointed that two other members weren't able to make it.  Next time, Derrys, you need to let us know what's going on.  Maybe it's time to join the 21st century and get a cell phone. :)

Here's another random selection from the convention, Cardhalla X.  Cardhalla is a charity event that GenCon runs, where over the course of the first three days of the con, people build towers and sculptures out of cards (no coincidence this started a few years after CCGs took off).  Saturday night, anyone who wants to can gather around the exhibit and at an appointed time, everyone tosses coins at them and knocks it all down.  The change is collected and given to a charity.  These pictures were taken Friday afternoon.

Cardhalla Left.jpgCardhalla Right.jpg
Friday, I spent most of the day talking with folks from CCP (including Tony Gonzales), and then Friday night I went to dinner with the Fiery Dragon folks, publishers of Adam's Iron Heroes books, and actually a few very nice people from CCP North America/White Wolf as well, at St. Elmo's Steakhouse.  I had a good time, as I did last year, and even though I am by far the smallest fish at that table, they made me feel very welcome.

Saturday, I had another NSDM game, this time an eight hour megagame I was brought in to facilitate.  This one was a bit more eventful than Thursday's game.  Two fully-staffed cells, the US and China, and 48 players, and we had everything from presidential scandal, to terrorists causing havoc in western China, to a situation in Pakistan that nearly sparked a shooting war between the US, Pakistan, China, and/or Russia.  I think the most surprising, and probably the most disappointing part of the game was the reaction of the US Congress to many of these events; they spent much of the game buried in haggling over the budget and issues of considerably less importance than the president sitting on evidence of spies in USAID for over a year (true, they were American spies, but they didn't know that...) or the CIA and the JCS selling arms to Uighur rebels.

The game was a lot of fun though, and despite the absence of Dan, everything went mostly according to plan.  I do think we all missed him, though, and we wish him a speedy recovery.

Saturday night began for me with a short stop at the RPGnet Meet and Greet.  This year, despite the room being less insanely sized, it was still very well attended and it was nice to see all the other RPGnet folks there, even though my stay was much shorter than last year, unfortunately (this year it also had the added bonus of refreshments!).  Lots of kudos to CW Richerson for putting this all together!

RPGnet Meet and Greet.jpgAfter making a brief appearance there, I went over to the White Wolf party.  The White Wolf party has always been a pretty big event as long as I've been going to GenCon, and now that CCP owns them I have a tad bit more reason to head over.  I missed it last year (when you can't find the Eve booth until Sunday, that's what happens), but I made sure to go by this year, despite the fact that I have to admit I'm not exactly the clubbing scene type.  It was held this year at the Ice Ultra Lounge, which was a pretty neat venue I guess, and they definitely went all out for the White Wolf and Eve crowds.  The lower floor was decked out in World of Darkness regalia, while the upper floor was decorated in Eve stuff.  It was, however, crazy hot there, and after an hour or so, both floors were packed to the gills.

While I had a good time, and got to meet a few CCP folks and a few other Eve players I hadn't already met (including a very nice lady Goon), free booze only has so much appeal when you can only have a few drinks before you keel over and puke on your shoes, and I felt out of place.  I've never really understood the appeal of a party where it's too loud to talk to anyone without shouting at the top of your lungs (and I am not really the dancing type, much to Marc's chagrin, I'm sure).  So, after spending a couple hours there, saying hi to a few people I wanted to make sure I saw, and fending off at least one really pathetic come on from a guy who was quite obviously drunk (and completely unappealing, the fact that I'm taken aside), I decided to call it a night.  I wanted to be up fairly early anyway for the NSDM debrief breakfast the next morning.

After that breakfast (at the Marriott, as usual), where we went over some ideas for how to try and fix the US cell, I made one last pass through the dealer's hall, which is when I saw this:

Sultan Gaming Table.jpgWhat is this?  It's the Sultan Gaming Table from Geek Chic. It's basically the thing I have been asking why no one has made for years.  It's a pool-table sized gaming table, centered around a well area.  At the bottom of the well is a whiteboard surface, and on top of that is a felt pad (on a stiff back), and on top of that you can place maps, which you can then cover with a clear plastic hexboard (or gridboard, if you prefer).  And, if you want to use it as a dining room table, you can cover the top with a wood cover that levels the surface (and probably safely covers any miniatures you have down there).  Around that there are all sorts of cubbies, drink holders, and unfoldable writing surfaces.  It's gorgeously handcrafted from walnut and maple, and if I had $9600 and the space for it, I would have bought one right then and there.  If you are one of those people who can afford something like this and wants it, I suggest you get in touch with these guys -- their GenCon debut here is what they're using to judge demand, and if they can't sell enough, the company will probably close up shop.  I think that'd be a real shame, so I would love to see them succeed (if only so that they are around when I win the lottery and do have the money for it).

Anyway, that's about it for my GenCon pictures and review; I'm sorry for the mediocre quality of the pictures and the sparse overview, but I've been a bit out of sorts lately, getting a little freaked out by surgery creeping up on me next week, so I hope my three adoring fans (hi Mom!) will forgive me.  Maybe by next year I'll have enough experience with the camera to remember to actually take pictures instead of forgetting I have the camera with me 90% of the time!
I'm back home (almost -- having dinner at my folks) and just taking a look through my mail and taking a look at Digg, and I found this article there.  In light of what I've been up to over the last week and the last year, I found it pretty funny to read it and pick out things that applied particularly to me.  A bit reassuring, I guess, that I'm not the only one that has to deal with seemingly contradictory (and often frustrating) personality traits.
At least, I sure feel like it sometimes.  I know I've been promising to blog more about GenCon but that last few days have been pretty busy for me.  I have been taking pictures though, so I expect that Sunday or Monday I'll get those up here for people to have a look.  I have been having a good time, and I'm definitely looking forward to an 8 hour game of NSDM today and the CCP/WW party tonight.

However, back to the title of this entry, yesterday I got a chance to talk to Tony Gonzales, author of The Empyrean Age -- yes, the very same book I excoriated not that long ago.  It is incredibly embarrassing to write something like that, and then find out the author of the book is quite possibly the nicest, most gracious guy you've ever met.  While I don't think my opinion of the book has changed, I do understand a little more about the choices he made and I can understand most of them, even if I don't agree with them; I hope that that feeling of understanding goes both ways.  Either way, I have great respect for him for actually talking about this stuff with me knowing what I thought of it, and my hat is off to him.

Anyway, hopefully I'll have another update tomorrow and I'll be able to get pictures up before the end of the weekend.
I realize that I haven't been blogging as much as I really should lately, and I suspect that the promised second part of my Empyrean Age review is not going to happen (I think at this point I've dealt with my disappointment and I really don't want to stir that up again -- it's not really useful anyway).  I may have some more general thoughts on worldbuilding at some point though.  I will,however, be blogging quite a bit this week, hopefully, with some updates from GenCon with accompanying photos (assuming I don't screw up with my new camera too much).

Adam and I arrived in Indy last night and after a quick stop at the packed registration hall so he could pick up his GM materials, we went to dinner with Wolfgang and Cierra from CAIN at the Rock Bottom Brewery. That was my first time there to actually have dinner, and it was pretty good; I had some sort of Southwestern pasta that was decent enough, and I didn't hear anyone else complain.  While there wasn't really any line, it was pretty full; you could tell the GenCon crowd was starting to come in to town.

After dinner, we met up with another CAINite, our slumming Amarr Yoshito, and went out for coffee to talk and give him a chance to get a bite to eat, and we ended up doing that for a good two or two and a half hours before heading out.  This is really what I love about GenCon, being able to just hang out and talk games or whatever with people for hours on end; I don't get much of a chance to do that back in Champaign, since most of my friends there, with a few exceptions, are not huge gamers.

Anyway, on tap for today is a fastplay game of NSDM and probably a few of their seminars, a quick swing through the vendor hall, and then the CAIN dinner tonight at the hopefully-as-awesome-as-it-is-in-Chicago Weber Grill, all of which I'll hopefully get some pictures of.

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