A page a day, day twenty-eight: International Tabletop Day

I’m so exhausted and very much looking forward to going to bed. But I have to post my daily page first or I will break the chain. I’ve been doing so well I don’t want to stop. It has been such a hard few years that I really, really need a sense of accomplishment.

Did I just say that out loud? I said that out loud.

In other news…

Today was the first ever International Tabletop Day as declared by Felicia Day’s Geek and Sundry crew to commemorate the 1st anniversary of Wil Wheaton’s show “Tabletop”. The response has been insane and there are, from what I’ve heard, millions of people around the planet participating. I don’t know if that’s an exaggeration on my part, but I do know the response has been huge. I really wish I could have watched their live broadcast throughout the day, but I was in the back of the game shop.

Yes, I actually went out for this and socialized with strangers. Alone. This is a huge thing for me. You have no idea.

I went to Myth games at about noon. I packed my motorcycle saddle bag with food and drink in the form of tea, club soda, tea biscuits, and a tupperware full of grapes, cheese, and sugar snap peas. I knew I’d get hungry and I didn’t know what would be available. Plus I also knew if I brought my own food I’d be much less likely to eat junk food. And it worked.

I also shared my food.

I played a number of games, all of which I’d played before. I would have liked to have tried a couple of new games but there was a limited selection. There was a game about giant b-movie monsters fighting it out over Tokyo that I really wanted to try and may have to track down some day. The games I did get to play were still great games, however.

I first played a few games of Munchkin, which is always fun. Then I played a couple of games of Flux, which is a very random game in that just about every card you play changes the rules of the game in some way. It’s not a game for everyone as you can become very easily frustrated trying to keep track of it all. It can be quite hilarious as well, as two brothers joined our second game in the middle and one of them wound up winning on their first hand.

Much more Art than Reason

Much more Art than Reason

We followed that with a couple of games of Dixit. I really do love this game and would like to get more people to try it with me. I bought a copy last year and only managed to convince my friends to play it once. It’s a highly imaginative game that is competitive without being directly confrontational. The results of each turn are surprising, more often than not, and it definitely awards artistic creativity over rational tactics without any actual need for artistic tallent. If you’re curious about it, let me know. It works best with more players than it does with a few, and you need a minimum of three.

Finally we played a couple of games of Pandemic, which I have played a couple of times before and it is fucking tough. It’s another game well worthy of my love, though, as you are not playing against the other players, but rather all players are cooperating against the game itself. The goal is to prevent a worldwide pandemic that will wipe out civilization as we know it. Each player gets a role in the world theater, from scientist to researcher to medic and dispatcher. Each role has special abilities that can help the other players. Having played it only four times I can definitely say you are best off if you have both the medic and the dispatcher. There’s a potential set of six roles, but a maximum of four players. You’re never going to have all six roles in play and the selection of roles at the start of the game is random.

Even on the "easy" setting Pandemic is a damned tough game.

Even on the “easy” setting Pandemic is a damned tough game.

It is a TOUGH game to beat. Being very new to the game (I’d played it before but it was YEARS ago and didn’t remember the rules) we decided to go with the “easy” setting. We lost very quickly in the first game as we floundered around, learning how things worked and where the real threat was likely to come from. We won the second game but only because we lucked out on how slowly the epidemic cards showed up. We still had a few tense moments.

And that is the other thing about the game. It can really get you worked up, more than any competitive game I’ve ever played. Partly because it’s an exciting game with lots of tension, but also partly (in my opinion) because you are all able to get worked up TOGETHER without anyone feeling they’re being ganged up on and without any one person coming out appearing to be a poor winner.

Blank, good to the last drop. Answer: Elf Cum

Cards Against Humanity: not your family friendly kind of game.

Lastly, Mav and Tony invited me over for dinner where I got to gorge myself on some fantastic barbecued pork, after which we played a game of Cards Against Humanity. They already have two expansion packs mixed into their set with the third expansion ordered and on it’s way. We finally had to call the game after 10pm because we were all exhausted. It was a great time as always, though, and well within the spirit of the day.

The only game I won all day was the second Pandemic game, and with that game you can only win if everyone wins. I was never the sole victor in anything I played, and I had a fantastic time all day long.

I also spent the day on my motorbike, going from place to place, which was the cherry on the top. It’s still rather cold out there (definitely felt colder than the reported four degrees outside on my midnight right home) but the chill is worth the feeling of the engine between my legs and the wheels on the road.

All in all I’d have to say to day was a fantastic day.

Dianne’s visit

Just had Dianne visiting for about ten days. It was … good. Reconnecting is becoming increasingly important.

We had much to inspire us on this trip. Dianne discovered a book I am now highly recommending to anyone: Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon.

picture of the book "Steal like an artist" on a table beside some coffee and a cookie

Reading requires appropriate fuel.

It’s short but brilliant, an excellent spark for any endeavor. His advice is the sort that seems so simple and obvious shortly after someone else thinks of it.

One of my favorites quotes was: “Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started.”

A close second was: “In the beginning we learn by pretending to be our heroes. We learn by copying.” Another: “Remember: Even the Beatles started as a cover band.”

We combined this inspiration with a desire to create things together, to actually spend time interacting on something rather than just sitting side by side watching TV or a movie.

My first idea was to create my own t-shirts.

Well, to be honest, this isn’t a new idea. Dianne creates custom shirts for her boys all the time. I often envied her ability to draw stuff and wished I could do the same.

Well, I can’t draw, but I can trace.

A picture of my table with my projector suspended precariously above it.

It’s a lot sturdier than it looks. Honest.

And I have a projector.

So, with the combination of one slightly broken laundry basket frame, a scarf, two bungee cords, and an oven rack, I managed to set my projector over my table to project an image onto a t-shirt.

It took me over an hour to set it up, and the t-shirt took me about fifteen minutes to trace. The shirt is crude and definitely not original, the marker I used was too thick and the image kept shifting ever so slightly so that the result, rough as it is, is somewhat skewed…

But it was fun. I can’t draw, I know I can’t, so I wasn’t expecting an excellent image. What I got was recognizable enough, and since it’s an undershirt very few people are ever going to actually see it, so I didn’t care. I had fun. We had fun. Together.

Later on we reviewed some instructions on the internet about how to create your own Tardis themed notebook. You can easily buy one online, if you like, but it’s much more personal and meaningful if you make your own.

Again… I’m not a visual artist. I don’t draw, I don’t sculpt. So I don’t care. The end product looks more or less how I wanted it to look, and it was a lot of fun just doing it. I personally love the result.

We started with blank journals. We keep buying them for ourselves and each other so we had a good dozen or so to choose from just on my shelf alone. We even managed to find two that were exactly the same make. Dianne then rinsed the books’ pages in some left over tea (I love my tea British strong, so it didn’t take much to add color) and let them dry, giving them an aged look and feel.

Dianne worked with corrugated cardboard cut from a box of dishes she had bought to contribute to my kitchen. I kind of thought that cardboard would be a bit too thick for what I had in mind and searched around for an alternative.

picture of a table with crafting supplies dispersed

Your mission, should you choose to accept it…

My grade school art class came to mind and I suddenly realized I had two egg cartons to work with. I set the eggs up in a bowl in the fridge and set down to cutting pieces for my book.

The base of the cartons produced natural squares, but after some comparison with the size of the book I determined they were too small for my purpose. I wound up making all the parts from the two lids.

I didn’t bother to measure anything other than by placing it against the book and setting the scissors somewhere around the point where I figured I should cut. I did strips first, just cut the lids into strips as long as I could make them. My cuts were vaguely straight, they didn’t bulge or thin in any appreciable way.

From there I placed the diagram next to my book and brushed glue across the whole of the surface. Then I took strips and placed them in position one at a time, cutting them short enough to fit before firmly pressing them into position. It probably took me about five minutes.

partially completed tardis book with cardboard scraps glued in place.

Accuracy and detail are overrated.

The squares came next, for which I had to turn to the other egg carton lid. I cut the cardboard into wide strips, measuring them against the gaps between the strips on my book and quickly cutting them into approximate squares. With some minor trimming I managed to fit them into the eight spots before the glue was even starting to dry.

It was crude and chunky and I loved it instantly. I turned the book over and repeated the process with the other side. I had to make additional strips off the edges of the cartons’ bottom halves as I began to run out of the thin pieces. One of the squares came from a completely different part of the carton, I can’t even remember where, but it turned out to be much smoother than all the other pieces. I decided it would help me remember which was the front of the book.

Letting the glue dry we played a few hands of magic, something we haven’t done in many, many months. The first game quickly reminded Dianne why I should never be allowed to play a denial deck. It wasn’t black and blue, as denial decks usually are, but instead black, blue, and white from the Guildpact release, back when multi-colored cards were still fairly new. I kind of remember having made the deck a couple of years ago, and if I recall correctly I dubbed it my “Bureaucracy” or “Red Tape” deck. I think the second name is the better precisely because there isn’t a single red card in it.

It’s not so much “denial” as it is “lockdown”. With such cards as “Arrest” and “Overrule” it’s a deck designed to make you feel like you just can’t get anything done. Just like in a bureaucracy.

two decks of magic cards spread on the table across from each other

Play to have fun, not to piss off your opponent

It’s also not a good deck to play if you want to your opponent to actually like you at the end of the game. I played it once and immediately put it away. From now on I will only play it against opponents who already dislike me. Which means I may never play it again. After all why would be be playing games with people who don’t like me?

With the glue on the books dry we set to painting them Tardis blue. The paint dried quickly and we didn’t have to wait long to add texture to the blue, lightly dry-brushing black paint over the blue to bring out the natural texture of the cardboard.

My egg cartons were made out of recycled paper and pressed into very rough approximations of their shape to start with so my book has a lot of texture to highlight.

corner of the finished Tardis book

Crude and simple but still bigger on the inside.

The finished product is crude and amateur-ish and I love it. Part of me worried I might have a hard time bringing myself to write in it precisely because I like it so much, but as it turns out my modification of it broke the “seal” as it were, took away the book’s virgin look, and freed me from any apprehension. Now I look forward to adding to it almost daily.

So now we’ve set up internet based “dates” in which we do some form of crafts together. With the considerable physical distance between us, when she’s not actually visiting, it gets difficult to maintain a connection. Spending time on cam, working on artful projects, gives us interactive time together that isn’t just us staring at our screens saying “so, how was Your Day?”

two paper monsters set side by side. One has a cupcake sticker attached to it's face.

Let’s meet up and eat cake. I’ll wear a cupcake on my face so you’ll recognize me.

Dianne also bought me a book of paper toy monsters to work on, so even if I don’t have a specific project to work on I have something to build with just scissors and glue. We can spend many minutes together online without saying a word, just quietly working on our own thing.

People I love who don’t exist

I’m sitting outside of Waves coffee shop on 17th ave getting a solid example of why people fought for the anti-noise law that now threatens to provide me with a bevy of tickets for riding my bike. The riders cruising up and down 17th ave evidently have no functional genitalia whatsoever and have decided to take it out on anyone and everyone by blasting as much vehicular noise as possible. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever to red line your engine while coasting at five kilometers an hour except to draw attention to yourself. Congratulations, gentlemen, you’ve given us ample warning about how much of a douche you are and we now know enough to avoid you.

The Noisy Douche boys also map out every sensitive car alarm along the strip and rev every single time they pass them, setting the alarms off about every two minutes or so. It’s testament to how well placed my condo is that I never hear this noise when I’m home. About the only time I hear any noise coming from 17th ave is when its patrons try to get around some road block and argue with each other about where they’re going as they idle past my building.

Honestly, I’m getting the best of both worlds here. I like the energy of 17th ave in the summer, and it’s a very short walk away, but far enough that I don’t actually hear anything.

I’ve been starting in on a few shows that I thought I might comment on. Haven’t been doing much else so I might as well start there.

Two of my current favorite shows, Warehouse 13 and Alphas, have just started their next seasons. Odd, I know, being the middle of summer, but that’s the way the SyFy channel rolls, I guess.

A wide view of the warehouse

It’s about a lot more than storage.

Warehouse 13 kind of jumped the shark a while ago, in my opinion, but I still watch it loyaly because, well… it’s still kind of fun. True, the stories are getting slightly repetitive and they’re trying very for drama and coming down on the side of overdone and non-believable, but I still like the characters and I still love the concept. I’m constantly impressed with the artifacts they dream up and sincerely feel the series would work really, really well as a role playing game.

Okay, maybe saying it jumped the shark was excessive. It’s actually just finding it’s groove.

The constantly argued rule about not using artifacts for personal gain is the serie’s Prime Directive, that one fundamental rule of the organization that all of the heroes keep ignoring because they’re the heroes and rules don’t apply to them. Besides, if they honestly played it safe they’d lose half their story-lines, just like Star Trek. This season begins with Arty using a diabolically powerful artifact to rewind time and undo the destruction of the entire warehouse. Personally I think it would have been much more interesting to have them rebuild from the ashes, but the writers have to go with what the producers will approve and the producers will only approve whatever has been tried and true for the past forty or so years.

It’s tough to promote a show who’s entire premise rests on a literal warehouse of Deus Ex Machina but, honestly, it is fun to watch. The real pleasure comes from the interation of characters, and I definitely have my favorites. Much of the Warehouse 13 fandom actually doesn’t like Claudia because she’s overly bubbly and impossible to shut up, but I love her for precisely those reasons. Plus she gets, or inspires, the vast majority of the best lines.

Alphas has returned as well, much to my surprise. I don’t know why but somehow the end of last season felt like a big wad of Fail. Objective evaluation of the plot-line shows how the big reveal of the existence of Alphas opens up a whole deck of possible plot twists and complications, but the whole culmination was executed so hurredly it felt like the producers had told the writers there wasn’t going to be a second season and they should just wrap it all up as quickly as possible.

The start of the season doesn’t feel much better. The team is scattered to the wind, some of them working for the man, some of them hiding in their own way, and a couple of them firmly incarcerated. Within a single one hour episode they bring the whole team back together, including freeing the two that are jailed. And their collective recovery from all the damage left from the end of season one is handled in about five minutes.

It’s rushed, almost painfully so. It’s as if the writers are constantly looking over their shoulders, anticipating cancelation at any second, and are trying to cram as much into each episode as they can. If they push it any faster they’ll have to start presenting the episodes as cliffs notes.

But, again, I still love it. And, again, it’s partly because of the characters and partly because of the potential of the concept. Everyday people with everyday baggage dealing with super powers. From the autistic youth traumatized by the chaos of the real world to the daughter of traditional Persian parents who’s low self esteme has her at high risk of becoming a shut in to the red neck jock with nothing but former glory and a divorce in his past and dead end retail food jobs in his future, to the FBI agent trying desperately to return to his once pristine career, to the privileged rich girl struggling with a burdensome sense of entitlement while desperately trying to develope her new found empathy.

Alphas fight club

Hint: It isn’t the 90 pound girl who loses.

It’s rich, it’s diverse, and it has a great deal of potential. They introduce at least one new power a week, and each one is very cool and fairly well balanced. The man who’s body is cranked up to super speed is also cursed with aging even faster. The girl able to manipulate emotions is unable to fully trust anyone who seems to like her. The man who can see every influence in a chaotic system so as to predict it’s seemingly random outcome doesn’t understand how anyone else can’t and thus feels any accidental slight against him is pre-meditated. The woman who’s senses are capable of extreme sensitivity, from microscopic to telescopic, is becoming a microphobe because she can see, smell, hear, and feel ALL the bugs that we can’t.

Again, extreme potential for a role playing game. Of course there are already dozens out there that encompass this kind of story, whch is probably just another reason I’m such a huge fan of the show.

I’ve also downloaded the first seaon of Psych, a comedy detective show about a twenty soemthing with a Sherlock Holmes level of attention to detail with a Joey Tribiani sensibility and his sidekick partner who fills in all the little random skills he doesn’t have. It could be good, but it tries to hard to be funny, and his level of intelligence, his “attention to detail”, would only be impressive to standard American sitcom audiences. Anybody truly interested in an intelligent mystery will find the writing for this show to be incredibly banal. The humor is similarily low brow and unoriginal. Honestly, the only reason I watched the whole series was because I’d already downloaded it and there wasn’t anything else available.

Odd side note, the show used a few former cast members of Jpod as incidental characters, which makes me suspect the show is somehow filmed in Canada. Except that it can’t be because it’s filmed in a beach town where it’s always sunny and warm. It can only be in California, which suggests that those actors are just trying to edge into the American market.

In more mundane news a communal drain linking my kitchen sink to that of the neighboring condo and the laundry room got clogged up. The clog appears to involve water from the roof as well as the water coming back up the pipes was full of dirt and leaves. The water didn’t fill my sink more than halfway but it unfortunately flooded the neighbor’s place which then seeped into mine. The flooring in my kitchen area is soaked and already beginning to warp ever so slightly. The good news is a plumber called by my neighbor seems to have cleared the blockage, but the bad news is I’m still going to have to replace my flooring. I don’t know if my condo’s insurance will cover it or not. I think it should, but they’ve already taken a couple of hits from flooding other condo units last year so I don’t know if it would be worth puting in the claim. Assessing a third claim could jack our premiums up to a point where it would simply be cheaper to repair the floor myself.

And in other mundane news I’m losing the battle against my introversion and utterly failing to socialize. I have no idea how to re-kindle that struggle.