Thursday, April 03, 2014

Throwback Thursdays and BFFs.

(This come as result of the Facebook gimmick, Throwback Thursday, where you post an old photo of yourself or someone and then say a bit about it. I happened to find one that I wanted to share but it inspired me to write this little missive.)

I, like many of you out there, have BFFs. You know. Best Friends Forever. At least I certainly hope you do. Friends come and go. And I don't have to tell you that in order to have friends, you have to be a friend. Keeping friendships is an active participation event. You can't just go out, find a friend and not cultivate and nurture that friendship for otherwise it will die or fade away. I have been lucky enough to have six guys that I would consider my best friends. Guys that I would go the distance for and they would do the same for me. Some I met as a child, some later in life, but each and everyone of them has a special role that they play in my life. With one of them I had the good fortune to reacquaint myself with after many years of being apart. It was great! We never lost track of each other but we did lose touch and it was great to spend a few days with him and start that friendship up again. It was like we had never been apart.

It is my sincerest hope that my kids find best-friendships that can last a lifetime. And I hope that they are lucky enough to have more than just one best friend. They say that he who dies with the most toys wins. For me it is he who has the most friends can never die, because there is always someone else to make future plans with.

So here's to you guys... those I call my best buddies. Thanks for being along for the ride!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

PAYING IT FORWARD

Today I did something that I can take off of my bucket list, even though I did not know it was on the list. (apparently it was on a list that I am not aware of) I helped out a homeless person with the simple act of charity of buying them breakfast. For those of you who know me personally, I am not normally one that encourages the act of begging by panhandlers on the street but today something was different.

Let me back up just a little bit... Over the weekend, my wife and I spent the weekend in Indy to attend a Steampunk Valentines event and to enjoy the downtown area a bit. We come to Indy quite a bit. Downtown Indy is a great place, and we normally visit Indy during the huge gaming convention called GenCon, and during this time, the panhandlers are out in droves, begging for money, food, beer, cigarettes, you name it. And normally I pass them by as I see the game they are playing. They have cell phones, new Nike shoes, and Oakley sunglasses with their dirty clothes and hair.

But as I said, today was different. Last night as we were walking back from dinner and drinks with friends, I saw a guy sitting right out front of the Starbucks. And he looked cold. I thought to myself that if I had been in that Starbucks, would I buy him a hot coffee or chocolate, just to take the cold edge off? I probably would I said to myself. But yet, I walked by and went about enjoying the evening with my wife without another thought.

But God and the universe have a way of making what you think about, coming back to you. This morning, as we left the hotel to walk to the Einstein's Bagel shop for a quick breakfast I saw this older black man shuffling toward a couple in front of us, ask them something, but only turn away and walk toward us. I knew he was going to ask me for money. They always do. As long as I can recall, panhandlers have always targeted me for money or something like that. I don't know what it is about me, but I must have something that makes them beam in on me, even in a large crowd.

I hate the feeling that comes over me when I know a panhandler is going to proceed to beg from me. Partially because I don't like it and I have a belief that, yes, some people have bad lives, but people also have choices to make in their lives and some people chose badly, so why should they come looking to me to help fix it. Another reason I don't like it, is because I truly feel sorry for them but I don't wish to encourage their behavior, even though I know I could help them. Even just a little.

When this man approached us, I readied myself for the obvious question, but when he asked I almost did not understand him. His speech was a bit rough and I was expected something totally different from him. He asked,"Could you please help me get something to eat?" Frak!! (Ha ha ha, God... you are one sneaky son of a gun....) I was just thinking about this last night and now here is a guy asking if I could help him get something to eat.

I turned to my wife and asked her if she would mind if we helped find him something to eat? The look on her face probably reflected my own. Surprise, confusion, and a bit of uncertainty. I said we were on our way to breakfast and that I would be happy to buy him a bagel and coffee. I really had no idea that I had just said that. It just came out. And of course, he accepted. He introduced himself as Terry and that he had been in Indy since 1972 when he moved here with his foster family from Ft. Wayne. He also said that most of his family had passed away in the last few years and that he had been on the streets for about six months now.

We walked into the bagel shop and I told the cashier that I was paying for his meal and he promptly order an egg and cheese bagel with a large coffee and quietly waited in line while I ordered for my wife and I and payed the cashier.

We all got our coffee and proceeded to find a seat to sit. I was not sure if he was going to take off and proceed on his way or what but instead he sat with us and when our order was ready, he would eat his meal with us as we talked.

Terry had been working at a loading dock and about two years ago he suffered a back injury that required surgery and it was found he had a small tumor that was removed. However, he lost his job and with most of his family gone, he was one his own and subsequently found himself on the streets of Indianapolis. He says that for the most part, he tries to stay warm and dry, he visits a church once a week for a service and a meal, but the rest of the time he was out trying to survive. His birthday he said was August 16th and he will be 57 years old this year.

We talked a little bit about my wife's injuries and how that things can get better, even when you think they can't. I told him that you have to believe it will. Because if you don't, then your fight is lost. You have to keep believing.

We talked for a short while more, finished our meals and said our goodbye and well wishes and I told him, if he could, pay the favor forward in the future.

Now here is the kicker. When leaving, I noticed that the cashier had not charged me for Terry's order. Whether on purpose or accident, his meal did not cost me a thing. Only my time and my conversation. (God...you sneaky, sneaky son of a gun......)

This year, at GenCon, I don't know if I will see Terry on the streets or not, but if I do, I am buying him lunch.

Live Long and Prosper!

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Best summary of what being a nerd or geek is all about.

Back in April of 2013, someone asked Wil Wheaton to talk on what it is to be a nerd and wanted to video it for her newborn daughter. You can view the video here. It really is a great off the cuff speech and gets right to the heart of what it is to be a nerd or geek, of which I am a card carrying member of. Recently the speech was transcribed and I wanted to share it here with you all. Now, I like Wil Wheaton for his stance on all thing nerdy and geek related, but I don't think that he and I would agree on much else. His politics and ideology are quite different from mine but he and I are both geeks (or nerds if you will) and on that commonality, we can agree on many things in the culture we love so much. Here's the transcript. Enjoy!


“My name is Wil Wheaton. It’s 2013. And you've just recently joined us on planet Earth. So welcome. I’m an actor. I’m a writer. And I’m a Dad. Your mother asked me to tell you why it’s awesome to be a nerd. That’s an easy thing for me to do because I am a nerd.

I don’t know what the world is going to be like by the time you understand this. I don’t what it’s going to mean to be a nerd when you are a young women. For me, when I was growing up, being a nerd meant that I liked things that were a little weird. That took a lot of effort to appreciate and understand. It meant that I loved science, and that I loved playing board games, and reading books, and really understanding what went on in the world instead of just riding the planet through space.

When I was a little boy, people really teased us about that, and made us feel like there was something wrong with us for loving those things. Now that I’m an adult, I’m kind of a professional nerd, and the world has changed a lot. I think a lot of us have realized that being a nerd … it’s not about what you love. It’s about how you love it.

So there’s going to be a thing in your life that you love, and I don’t know what it’s going to be. It might be sports, it might be science, it might be reading, it might be fashion design, it might be building things, it might be telling stories or taking pictures. It doesn’t matter what it is. The way you love that, and the way that you find other people who love it the way you do, is what makes being a nerd awesome. The way you love that, and the way that you find other people who love it the way you do is what makes you a nerd. The defining characteristic of [being a nerd] is that we love things. Some of us love Firefly and some of us love Game of Thrones, or Star Trek, or Star Wars, or anime, or games, or fantasy, or science fiction. Some of us love completely different things. But we all love those things SO much that we travel for thousands of miles … we come from all over the world, so that we can be around people who love the things the way that we love them.

That’s why being a nerd is awesome. And don’t let anyone tell you that that thing that you love is a thing that you can’t love. Don’t anyone ever tell you that you can’t love that, that’s for boys … you find the things that you love, and you love them the most that you can.

And listen: This is really important. I want you to be honest, honorable, kind. I want you to work hard. Because everything worth doing is hard. And I want you to be awesome, and I will do my very best to leave you a planet that you can still live on.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Weight of Family History.

We all have a family history. And I don't mean that history of stories about family members that you don't want to be known to the general public, but the family history that is contained in things. Things like furniture, clothing, photos, newspaper clippings and such. If you have a large family, odds are you have a bunch of family history that is being kept somewhere. By someone. Recently I had a discussion with someone who works for me and we were discussing how horrible it would be to lose one's home to a fire or some other way. We both agreed that it would be both devastating to lose all those things that are important to us and how irreplaceable those things would be. But during the conversation, we lit upon the idea of how liberating something like that could also be. For him, he carries the weight of a lot of family history, all manifested in things. He and his wife came from families that were large, and became the recipients of the family dining table and chairs, clothing, and quite a few other things that bore some special meaning to them in some way or another. But they themselves, do not have children, so there is no one to really pass those things on to. For many many years they brought these items from one living space to another, never really using them, or even looking at them, but those items still required special treatment and storage. And then it hit him, that those things, while having important meaning to him for what they were, they were no longer are even the things they were meant to be.

Let me explain with example. In the attic of my house, there sits a rocking chair. It belonged to my grandmother and apparently it was used by her to rock her grandchildren(including myself) to sleep when she watched them. At that time, it was a useful item and it was the thing it was designed to be. Today, I possess that chair. But it has been in my attic for literally 20 years. It is in very good condition. But it resides in my attic, acting as a holder of other stuff that I have not looked at or utilized in many years. It is no longer a rocking chair. It is not that which it was constructed for and hence not really a chair anymore. It is merely a part of the weight of my family history. Now if I were to have grandkids, I could then use it for the purpose it was made for, but truth be told, I probably won't. What I should do, is sell it. Or give it away to another family member, or maybe donate to a used furniture store. But I don't. Why?

Is there that much emotional attachment to it that I cannot bear to part with it? I certainly don't recall ever being rocked to sleep in it while being held by my grandmother! I cannot even remember ever seeing it in her home! But yet, I hold on to it and let it sit and collect dust in my attic. I think the reason why is because I am afflicted with what I will call "Familial Historical Responsibility Disorder." I am reluctant (But not unwilling) let go of things that are of supposed importance to my family history. I feel that I am responsible for maintaining a family ownership or connection to those things. It could be things like furniture, but it can also be smaller things like photos, newspaper clippings, or simply family genealogy. I think my wife feels that same way too. While her family is not nearly as large as mine, and she moved from home to home more times than she cares to count, she also feels that urge to hold on to things from the past that carry the weight of family history. Speaking solely for myself I feel I have the responsibility to hold onto these things and make sure that they are stored away and ready for whenever the need might arise for them to be dusted off and used or referenced.

I think my wife might feel that weight more keenly than I at times. For her, there is a basement full of photographs, newspaper clippings, school awards, drawing, poems, and other items that document the lives of our children, all stuffed away in chaotic little piles, just waiting to be used for what they were intended. But there is so much of it, so big of a weight that I think she might be intimidated by the sheer size of it all. She is a scrap-booker but family history (especially in photos) grows at a much higher rate of speed than any scrap-booker can manage and so it that weight continues to grow.

Someday, I (and she) will have to come up with a way to reduce the weight of family history, because if not, then it will be passed on en-mass and become a weight for my children, or it might be tossed out without any regard to the value it might have for family members. As for those things that can be used, like a chair, or clothing, I am of a mind to finding a new home for them, so that others can use them for what they were intended. Whether they go to someone in the family or not, I don't think I much care. Because if they go to someone that will appreciate them, or find a use for them, then those items will possibly become part of someone else's family history or at the least a useful item to them. But as they sit now, their story and connection to my family are tenuous at best. Currently, the intended usefullness is wasted and they are only adding to the weight of family history that I carry.

So True, So True, So True...

I found this a long time ago and it came up again. I thought I should share it.

If the cats and dogs could write, it would look something like this-----


DOG DIARY
8:00 am - Dog food! My favorite thing!
9:30 am - A car ride! My favorite thing!
9:40 am - A walk in the park! My favorite thing!
10:30 am - Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!
12:00 PM - Lunch! My favorite thing!
1:00 PM - Played in the yard! My favorite thing!
3:00 PM - Wagged my tail! My favorite thing!
5:00 PM - Milk bones! My favorite thing!
7:00 PM - Got to play ball! My favorite thing!
8:00 PM - Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favorite thing!
11:00 PM - Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing!

CAT DIARY
Day 983 of my captivity. My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets. Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength. The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape. In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet.

Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates what I am capable of. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a "good little hunter" I am. Bastards!

There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the food. I overheard that my confinement was due to the power of "allergies." I must learn what this means, and how to use it to my advantage.

Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I must try this again tomorrow -- but at the top of the stairs.

I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches. The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released - and seems to be more than willing to return. He is obviously retarded.

The bird has got to be an informant. I observe him communicating with the guards regularly. I am certain that he reports my every move. My captors have arranged protective custody for him in an elevated cell, so he is safe.

For now...

The Cat!

Thursday, September 05, 2013

There and back again....

To know me is to know that I am a gamer. A big one. Take that for what it's worth, but I don't hide it. I am passionate about games and gaming and make time in my busy schedule to game. And one of the games that is near and dear to me is Dungeons and Dragons. That game has been with me since I was about 12 years old and I have played most of the varied incarnations of the game from the "Red Box" basic set all the way through to play-testing the latest version, currently known as D&D Next. Of all of those, I have played 1st Edition the most, (safe to say hundreds and hundreds of games) but only played one game of 4th Edition and a handful of 2nd Edition. And of all the versions, I feel that 1st Edition was my favorite. First impressions last and that version of the game is the version I like the most. That being said, it is version 3.5 that I currently play as it is the most accepted form by D&D adherents prior to the game rules system being taken up and turned into the Pathfinder game rule set.

But I digress. Home games (when I play them) are mostly 3.5 edition with a bit of 1st Edition influence. And that works for me. I never really embraced 3.5 like I did 1st edition but that is because I was an adult when I picked up 3.5 and had things like a home, a family, and a job. I am part of a D&D group that meets every other Tuesday (well, at least they do. I am more of an irregular part of the group) at the local game store and we usually have a go at the game for the better part of 4 hours. But of late something has changed for me. The luster for the game has worn off.

While I truly enjoy the time spent with the people I play with, am find myself becoming bored with the "game". Too often it becomes a grind to go through the rules to find the "magic number" you need to roll to succeed or things get bogged down with too much attention to little details that while might be helpful to the characters of the game, make it downright tedious for me to figure out, listen to, or simply care about. What I never really noticed before was how much "roll playing" there was in 3.5 and how little "role playing" there is.

I really try to encourage the role playing aspect in the games I run and I think I succeed to an extent. I have always tried to play by the rules of the game system, but I have never forgotten the words of Gary Gygax in the introduction of the 1st Edition of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. To summarize, he said the books were not actually rule books but rather guidelines on how to play the game. And it is with that idea etched in my brain I approach my playing style of D&D. I don't care about some of the finer details or rules and stats. If they get in the way of the game play, then I do away with them or deal with them in such a way that it still allows the player to do what he/she wants to do but doesn't bog down a game.

So I am thinking of letting go of version 3.5 and whole heartedly embracing the newest version of D&D, which is in reality is not even complete or even published. D&D Next is still in the play test mode but I have been following it since the beginning and do some work with it and find it very satisfying. The people in charge of D&D Next want to make this new version more about what made the game fun in the early days of the game, and that is less concern about hard and fast rules and more about role-playing, adaptability, flexibility, and improvising. (They admit to using the best parts from all previous versions.) This new edition, whatever it will be called, sounds a lot like what 1st Edition was! And that makes me happy! The designers are taking the word of what the play-testers, gamers that love the D&D product, have to say and are using what they say to make the game better.

So just like in the past, a new version of the game has come into view and I find it appealing. I will work some way of out of letting players continue to play their characters from 3.5 in the Next edition but I am going to start phasing out my involvement with 3.5 and wait for the full release of D&D Next (or version 5.0 if you will) to arrive. I can only do one version at a time... and that not very often.

I am hoping that the others that have been with me in the 3.5 world will come along for the Next world. After all it is about getting together with friends, rolling some dice, and having some fun.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Fight, fight and then frakking fight some more...

This entry is specifically intended for my children, their fellow students, and anyone else who has a child in school. In light of the recent terrorist attack at the Sandy Hook Elementary school, we have been over-whelmed with knee-jerk reactions as how to prevent horrible tragedies such as this. The problem is, we will never be able to prevent things like this from happening again. We might be able to make it more difficult for events like the killings in Newtown, CT. to happen but we will never be able to totally prevent it.

No matter how hard we prepare, no matter what laws we enact, no matter how we treat the mentally disturbed, we should always be prepared for another tragedy. Because it will happen. Human beings are animals. And in my opinion, we have lost our moral way and we really don't value human life anymore. We might talk a good talk, but we don't walk that walk. But that is not the point of this blog entry.

What I want my kids, and any other person reading this to know is that if, God forbid, you ever find yourself in a situation where some crazy person is intent on harming you or others, I want you to fight. I want you to throw stuff, I want you to hit them with stuff, I want you to hurt him or her. If need be, I want you to maim, lacerate, and if need be, make that person assume room temperature. Do not become someone that just stands there and lets someone else decide what will happen to you. It is your life. Fight for it.

I have always taught my kids to carry a pocket knife. If you don't have one, shame on you. It is probably the most useful thing you can ever carry on your person. I have one with me at all time unless it is restricted in some locations. I use it everyday for any number of small jobs, but in the event I would ever have to defend myself, it would be a handy tool to level the playing field ever so slightly.

But if you don't have that little tool, there are other things that you might have at your disposal while in school. Or anywhere for that matter. Books, staplers, paperweights, band instruments, the list can go on and on. Do not wait for the police. Unless you are lucky enough to have an officer in the same location as you, it will be a while before they are able to respond. Fight. Don't be a willing victim. Don't huddle in a corner or closet and become nothing more than fish in a barrel. Feel free to pray to God, but pray that the book or chair you just threw at a terrorist knocks them out. Pray that the paperweight you threw crushes their skull. Pray that the pocket knife you use hits a major artery or tendon and makes them unable to continue their reign of terror. Pray that someone has a weapon bigger than theirs and is willing to use it.

If someone is intent on causing harm by being in a school or mall or theater with weapons, that person is not concerned with your well being and in turn, you should not be concerned about theirs. It is you or them. Make it them. If they are intent on hurting you, try to make them hurt more. Make them bleed. Make them sorry they messed with you. Fight. You don't have to be a hero, but for frak's sake, don't be a helpless victim.

Friday, December 14, 2012

A movie review: The Hobbit

*CAVEAT* Blogger does not want to add formatting for some reason.... Here is my pitiful attempt to review a wonderful (IMHO) movie; "The Hobbit". And attempt to do so without any spoilers. (Can that even be possible, and furthermore, has anyone who reads this possibly not have read The Hobbit?) Anyway, here goes. It was a joy to go back to Middle Earth. Tolkien's work as displayed on the big (and small!) screen has been a part of my life during the holiday season for almost 13 years now, and it felt like going home again, seeing it again in all of it's digital 3-D glory. But it was different. Like going home, but with all the furniture moved around and the windows cleaned. I saw the premier at midnight on the opening day in the best option that my theater had to offer. Digital 3-D, but not in the 48 FPS version. It was so clear, so vibrant, and so much visual overload that I really think I will have to see it again just to catch all of what I missed. So much was going on is some scenes that I could not follow it. I think the next time around I will see it in digital 2-D. It was Middle Earth, but not the familiar landscape and character of the Lord of the Rings. New places were explored, new faces seen, and of course a new adventure. It really was a treat to see what Peter Jackson did with the old place and he did (again IMHO) not disappoint. If you have read the book "The Hobbit" I will not go into what the movie is about. You know that already. If you have not, what the heck is wrong with you. It should be required reading in at least High School if not Junior High. I know some people say they have a hard time getting interested in the book, and to some extent, I agree. It does start off slow, but it does pick up speed and is a great read. So if you have not read the book, then suffice it to say that a little guy named a hobbit is selected to travel with some sturdy dwarves to undertake a quest to reclaim a lost home and along the way, has many adventures, finds a few interesting items, meets some interesting characters and learns a little bit about himself. And that is what happens in the movie. Pretty much on par with the book in relation to the book story. The actors are quite good at portraying their characters, with maybe the dwarves being a bit to cartoon-ish. Certainly there is room for it, but at times, they were just a bit annoying. However, when things got serious, so did the dwarves and damn, did they fight like I feel dwarves of Middle Earth would fight. Here the movie elevated the proud, stout and brave characteristics of the dwarves far above that told in the book. Thorin Oakenshield (and the backstory of how he got that name) is maybe the main character of this first part of the Hobbit movie trilogy. He has as much, maybe more screen time than Bilbo, and his character is, I think, a deeper one than any other in the movie, with the exception of Gandalf. But the movie also goes beyond the book and this is why Peter Jackson can make a 300 page book into a 6 hour movie (Parts 1,2,&3) There is a ton (yes, a ton) of filler information that is worked into the movie. This filler information comes from the appendices of the Lord of the Rings books, some from the Unfinished Tales and maybe a bit from The Silmarillion. "What are those, you ask?" If you asked that then your level of Tolkien geekiness needs a bit of work. Those are a fill book,stories, and notes that Tolkien wrote about the history, background, and in-between parts that took place before, during, and between (and some after) the stories of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. And this is what I enjoyed the most of the movie. Seeing on the screen all those things that I have read about in my past readings of those side stories. For me, it was almost as if the Hobbit story was just a vehicle for the deeper, juicier, background information. For some this might make the movie drag in places, but for me, it was the extra tender meat that lies close to the bone that is oh so good to consume. I loved it. At times, especially in the beginning, just like the book, the movie is slow. But by the middle of the movie, it finds its footing and there is no looking back. It is two and a half hours long but it felt longer to me... in a good way. I did not want it to end. I really need to see parts 2 and 3. NOW. Why wait until a year from now?! Let us see it again at the time when part 1 would normally leave the theaters! Like in June and then part 3 around Christmas 2013! Just like the Lord of the Rings trilogy, when it was done, it really left me wanting more. Especially to see more of Smaug the dragon! Now I have given the movie pretty much a grand review, but there were a few things that bothered me. The first I already mentioned. There were at times, so much going on, with so much detail, that the human eye cannot almost take it all in. (especially the fight scenes.) It takes active viewing! If this is the way movies are going to be made in the future, we will all have to get used to it and acclimate our viewing behavior. Secondly, the mountain troll scene, while enjoyable for it comic relief, came off way to campy with sophomoric humor and it never really made me think our brave band was in any danger from the trolls because they were just so... stupid. And lastly, it was a continuity issue. In a flash-back scene in one of the Lord of the Rings movies, we see Bilbo stumbling across the One Ring, finding it in the mud of Gollum's cave, which I believe is how it is described in the book. In The Hobbit, there was no attempt to copy this scene at all. Bilbo finds it sitting in the middle of the cave floor, all nice and shiny bright, completely out in the open, with no mud to be found. I know it is a small thing to niggle over, but I thought they could have made that effort at continuity. So there you have it... my opinion of The Hobbit movie. Go see it. It is well worth it! I would give it a 4 out of 5 stars. But I am not like some critic who cry over all kinds of detail and look for hidden meanings and other stuff. My criteria is: Did it entertain me? Was it worth my money? Would I see it again? Did it meet or exceed my expectations? (I use this only for movies that deal with story-lines that are near and dear to me.) It did all of these but there is always room for improvement!