Catching up

I’ve been off here for quite a while so here’s an update. I have dreams of making these more regular.

There have been a couple of really big changes for me over the past year.

So the good news first: Last fall I got married! Mari and I finally made it official. After 13 years it was long overdue. Now that we are nearing our first anniversary I cannot believe how fast the year has gone. I’m looking forward to many more.

The bad news: Last summer I started to have chronic pain throughout my body. I truly was shambling along.  I have seen a lot of doctors and there are more to see. Doctors and medication are probably a permanent part of my life now. We’ve finally settled on an initial diagnosis, at least. While Fibromyalgia isn’t fun, I’m happy to have a treatment plan to focus on. Also, there are some other things that it could have been that would have been a lot worse. I’m focusing on the positives and adjusting the expectations of what I am capable of doing. There will probably be more posts about the life of a guy with Fibro in the future. I’ve no intention of making this an illness blog but it is a big thing capturing a lot of my attention these days.

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Politics? Of course

Historically I’ve kept my political thoughts separate from my general ramblings off in another blog.  I’ve decided that I don’t write enough on either to justify keeping both.

What that means to any readers of this blog: Occasionally there will be some political commentary from me. I’m in the US and am pretty far to the left on most things for an American so that is the perspective I’ll be coming from.  I’m more than happy to have a rational discussion with folks with opposing viewpoints as long as everything stays civil.

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NW Nerdcast Interview

This week I sat down with couple of the guys over at NW Nerdcast  to talk about the LARP I help run, Shadow Accord.

I had a lot of fun doing this and I’m glad I had the chance to talk about the game.  I really think we’re doing some cool stuff out there.

The episode I’m on is According to the Shadows, Run! Even before being asked on as a guest I’d listened to most of the rest of the episodes they’ve done and if you’re interested in gaming and especially if you’re interested in LARPing in the Northwest the other episodes are worth a listen as well.

 

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Psychic Cab, it’s on the way!

Alright, I’ve finally had enough and so it has begun. If you call me from a number I don’t recognize I may just be rude to you.  Sorry. It’s nothing personal, but I’m really sick of all the random calls. If you call right back I’ll probably go ahead and pick it up (I should  not be your one call).  You’re probably safe during business hours; it may be legitimate so the worst I’m likely to do is shunt it off to voicemail. In the evening, on the weekend, at two o’clock in the morning we’re solidly into petty pranking time.

A few months back my cell phone number became associated with a cab company (http://www.stitataxi.com/) here in the Seattle area.  It’s not their main line but it is listed a number for them in several online directories. This generates a fairly regular flow of calls from people looking to get picked up or to schedule a ride somewhere. Fairly frequently these calls happen at closing time.  I’m really supportive of folks taking a cab home after a night of drinking. I’m less supportive of them waking me up because of it.

When I first started getting calls it was pretty minor and while the volume hasn’t really picked up that much it seems to be on a lot more sites than it was before. Information on the internet just spreads that way.  I’ve tried contacting the listing sites and the cab company to no avail. Considering my intended escalation, I just sent the cab company another message asking that they get this fixed, but I have little hope that it will change anything.

If I had to guess how it happened I’d say that one of their drivers put in the wrong area code trying to get listed online. That doesn’t prevent it from being a pretty bad mistake.  I’ve told dozens of people how the cabbie they thought they were going to get put in the wrong number online and because of this failure we are both irritated. Dozens more have simply gone to my voicemail. I’ve even had a few people try and schedule pick-ups by leaving me a message.  I really hope they weren’t late.

The only way I see this getting fixed is creating a customer service headache for the actual company. Unfortunately, that means I’m likely to upset some of their customers in the process. If you are one of the people trying to get a cab who is cheerfully told, “Psychic Cab,  it’s on the way!” and then are promptly hung up on, my sincerest apologies from the internet.

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Get some sleep! Seriously.

Odd story.  Earlier this week I was contacted by some people who were looking for online resource regarding because they had just put together an interesting infographic regarding the impacts on health of not getting enough sleep.  This is something I’m all too familiar with. I can completely see where, just given the name, someone might find think Sleep Dep Zombie was a place where such information might be found.

But that does bring up, why did I choose Sleep Dep Zombie for my online presence? For many years I rarely got anything like enough sleep (if I’m honest with myself I probably could still do better). Graveyard work, rotating on-call schedules for the railroad, late night bar work, and the notion that there will be plenty of time to sleep when I’m dead have all contributed to me not getting a proper rest for years.  Several years ago in the midst of fielding tech support questions for an ISP on the graveyard shift, I was really dragging. I felt like I was shambling through everything. I had become a Sleep Dep Zombie and I’ve stuck with the identity since.

So back to the infographic.  I have a great deal of appreciation for being able to present information in a clear and interesting manner.  This one is pretty successful at that.  It gives a lot of information about the downsides to not getting enough sleep and explains what you body is doing while sleeping. It is a great reminder that getting enough sleep is important for your health and the downsides of cheating yourself of sleep. I know in our busy lives it can be difficult to make sure you schedule time to take care of yourself, but getting enough sleep is definitely something to make time for. Maybe I should go take a nap.

You Need More Sleep

 

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Gaming and Storytelling: Failure

If you didn’t already know, I’m a geek.  I know I’m pretty good at hiding it and all. What you may not know is that I help to run one of the largest LARPs in the Northwest.  We have a break over the summer due to conflicts with the campground we use. To fill up some of the time over the summer our players were asked to write short articles on our game, LARPing, or gaming in general.  What follows is my submission:

Embracing Failure:

Character Story Development Through Adversity

A Preface

Role playing games in general do not have an objective victory condition; there is no “Winning” to be had. So why do we play them? Why do we spend our time, energy, and resources to make them happen? For me, the answer is that I want to see the interesting stories of the characters develop. While there is no absolute “Winning” there are plenty of opportunities for characters to be successful or to fail in the context of their stories. Oftentimes, failure actually makes for the better story. With that in mind:

What Makes for an Interesting Character Story?

Let’s start with a counter-example:

The Story of Prince Whocares:
There once was a prince, heir to the throne. As he grew up he was successful at everything he put his mind to. When his father died there was a smooth succession and he was crowned king. For the rest of his years he reigned over peaceful times. Eventually, age took him, as it will all people, and he passed on surrounded by his loving family and beloved by his people.

I’m sure this was a lovely life for our fine prince. All the same, do you know why no one ever writes stories about characters that are like that? Because they’re boring, deadly boring, that’s why. There is no challenge; there is no opportunity for failure. There is no risk of something going horribly wrong only to be righted (or not) by some magnificent scheme. There are no Pyrrhic victories where even success brings the character to ruin.

So back to our question; what does make an interesting story? To create an interesting story you need conflict, adversity, challenge, struggle, failure, and the like. Sure, we each want our characters to be successful. However, interesting stories come from characters that don’t get everything they want. Interesting characters are created by their flaws and inadequacies which lead to failure or at least the risk of failure.

Characters do not have perfect knowledge nor are they the best at everything they do. It is limitations like these that make characters more interesting and believable. Limitations introduce risk and an opportunity for failure.

Without Risk There is No Reward

No matter how much we want our characters to be successful if there is no fear of failure then success is meaningless. If there is no risk, no challenge, then any victory becomes hollow. Sure, your character might collect a giant pile of coin or items and have a character sheet filled with every power in the game. However, without an interesting story surrounding it all merely collecting stuff seems to be missing the point of a game driven by character stories. Truth be told, even games with minimal story would be pointless without a possibility of losing. We as role-players just have an opportunity to create an interesting story out of defeat unlike the person who gets trounced at chess.

Try to Succeed (Knowing You Won’t)

All of this is not to say that that you should go in with the goal of failing. Even when faced with insurmountable odds a character should likely try to be successful, find a way of avoiding the conflict, or change the conflict to their advantage. Just know that things won’t always work out the way you hope. Even if it looks like your character is in a situation where success is impossible your character still has goals. Decide how far your character is willing to go to get what they want. Will they search for a treacherous way to victory or will they embrace a noble defeat.

In a game where failure (and even success) can be lethal, knowing how far your character is willing to go and for what is an important piece of player knowledge. Again, it is these struggles, conflicts and adversity that make for a compelling story.

Death and Dying

Character survival is great as long as there is a story to go along with it. But seriously, if your character goal is to have a long life they should take up farming or retire to their country estate and stay away from dangerous places. Characters in interesting stories are in peril. In role-playing games, unlike writing a story, you don’t have ultimate control over what happens to them. Short of the character throwing up his hands and saying, “I’ve had enough,” and then getting quickly out of town to some place safe you’re pretty limited on picking the ending.

Because there are so many interesting ways for a character to die I’m not a huge fan of random, meaningless death. I’d much rather a character’s death become a plot point in someone else’s story than it simply having no meaning. That said, knowing that at any moment a character might fail to survive makes everything he accomplishes so much better.

Final Thoughts

Failure isn’t bad. In fact, it is a critical element for making an interesting character story.

Go fail at something and make it awesome!

Discussion Items

  • Relate a time where you had a great story come out of something not going according to plan.
  • Describe how a character’s limitations have positively impacted role-play.
  • Talk about how your character has grown through failure.

I might also add, “How far is your character willing to go?” But that could be too telling and I like surprises.

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Interesting article on WGU

 

There is a really interesting write-up about the online university where I am working on my degree on the Washington Monthly site.  It’s a nice bit of history about the founding of the school and goes into WGU’s role in the competitive landscape for higher education. It’s nice to see the little online school I’m attending getting some attention.

The Washington Monthly – The Magazine – The College For-profits Should Fear.

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Sunday Morning

Forms,

Remembered from my youth.

Grace,

Lost in the intervening years.

Meditatively,

I find myself at peace.

Revitalized,

Moving through the water.

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Life is Busy

Life has been pretty busy and between work and school I really haven’t had much energy for writing personal stuff. With our recent launches at work things seem to be slowing down a bit at work so I may have more energy for personal writing and might even end up doing better than quarterly updates on here.

Work:

Building and maintaining  support processes, ISO compliance documentation, and helping to manage the knowledge base of troubleshooting guides for my team to support Windows Intune, System Center Advisor, and our Managed Desktop customers. I suppose when I’m either writing or wrangling writing projects all the time I have successfully transitioned to being a technical writer/project manager rather than being a tech.  I’m really happy with this.

School:

Last term I completed 26 credits towards my degree .  This term I suspect I’m going to get around 20 although I might manage a bit more than that.  The tricky part is that the program I’m on is a lot of writing.  There are a some tests but most of the work comes in the form of writing a lot papers. Some days it is really hard to get motivated to get these papers done after spending a day at work going back and forth with people over word choices at work.

Pets:

Around Yule we picked up a  giant cage and got a couple of awesome rats named Hermes and Augustus.  I really like having small creatures about.  I haven’t really had pets since I was growing up because my allergies but these don’t seem to give me much trouble. And did I mention they’re awesome?

Gaming:

In the last few months I’ve started playing in a live-action role playing game called Shadow Accord.  I’ve been a gamer since I was young and while the games have changed it is a hobby I’ve enjoyed most of my life.  This game is a bit different than the normal sitting around a table rolling dice. This is running around in the woods for a weekend staying in a cabin and beating people with foam weaponry.  The game is a hell of a lot of fun and the players are great.  It is a really wonderful group of people.

Crafting:

I’ve always enjoyed working with my hands and making things. The game has helped encourage me to start doing leather crafting a bit.  I did some leather work growing up but really haven’t done anything with it in years.   It’s kind of nice making something physical once in a while when most everything you do is on a computer screen.

Health:

The Dr. told me I needed to drop some weight (Duh!) so I’m cooking more and going back to the gym.  So far everything is going pretty well.  I’m not getting too carried away in hopes that taking it slow will be something I will actually stick with.

Videogames:

I keep meaning to go back and play WoW now that the expansion is out. Unfortunately, the motivation is just not there I’m sure I’ll play again eventually but I just know that it will take a lot of time and I don’t have a lot of that to spare for a major commitment like WoW. I have been playing some puzzle games and have gone back to Champions once in a while now that it is Free to Play, and I have spent some more time with Borderlands.   It’s nice having games where there I can take a break and not feel like I’m letting people down and where I don’t feel like I’m wasting $15 a month in subscription fees when I’m not playing.

Reading:

Lots of reading since I picked up my nook last year.  A terrible job of tracking what I’ve read and commenting.

Yeah, that was a whole lot of shorter blog posts that I had sitting around in my head and never wrote fully and it was was all about me. I promise to try and be more entertaining next time.

See you again soon (hopefully)!

 

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Norwescon Party

The Merchants of Deva are planning to throw a party at Norwescon this year.  I’m hoping we can make it awesome!  Unfortunately, throwing a party is an expensive proposition so we’re looking for donations through Kickstarter. If we get enough money committed we get a party! If not we’re all sad.  Anything we raise beyond our costs is getting donated to EFF so it’s going to a good cause.

 

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