Thursday, December 26, 2013

Time of the Doctor: See an Earlier Entry I've Written for My Thoughts


I have the compulsion to voice my disappointment in The Time of the Doctor.

Seeing Matt Smith go makes me sad. He has portrayed the Doctor in some of my favorite and most unliked ways. I feel that most of the affectations that have endeared me most to the Eleventh Doctor have come from the actor, not the writing.

At the same time, he has chosen to leave at a good time. He has brought the Doctor to a height never before seen. Who knows what the future will bring? Anything great that comes will very likely come from Smith popularizing the show more than ever. The height of his reign came at the end of Series 5 but slowly descended from there as the three-season arc grew convoluted and full of holes.

I gave these plot holes the benefit of the doubt. I called them dangling plot hooks. Either they would go nowhere as happens with a lot of postmodern literature and science I've read in the last few years. They could, even better, have explanations that the audience would glean someday with a sense of wonder. Unfortunately, last night let me down and loaded a weight of disappointment on me.

More time for Smith would not likely have helped the arc unravel in a more satisfying fashion. We would likely just see more and more plot hooks pop up without any intention to resolve them in a satisfying fashion. The show would have just provided more of last night. I don't know if Doctor Who will improve on this track record. With such improvement in doubt, though, I think Smith made the right decision.

Smith is a young man. He has a long future ahead of him with much opportunity available. Doctor Who makes for a great stepping, but I would hate to see him typecasted as the eccentric Mad Man in a Box. I see Smith with a bright future of entertaining the world in the many ways that he does. Good luck, Mr. Smith with your future!

As for the episode, itself, I feel like I've already written the criticism on it. I don't really have anything new to say. . .just check out my past entry, Doctor Who: More World Building & Strong Secondary Charcters Plz.

LINKS OF NOTE:

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Freema Agyeman Q&A at Chicago TARDIS: An Interaction Highlighting a Peculiar Phenomenon of Fandom


A couple weeks ago I went to Chicago TARDIS, thanks to the generosity of a family friend. Freema Agyeman was probably the highest profile New Who actor there.


Agyeman's Q&A session highlighted an interesting phenomena I never spent much time thinking about. Fans had the show fresh in their minds. They could recall episodes, events and relationships between characters as if they just happened. Fans showed a sense of emotional immediacy about the show.

Bless her heart, Agyeman did not. Fans would ask her about her favorite episodes, how she felt working with a certain actor, how she felt that her character should feel in a situation, what it was like to do this and that. For Agyeman, though, playing the part of Martha Jones seemed like a distant memory.


I think the Doctor Who experience has become more a memory than anything. A good one and important one, but a memory, nonetheless. Honestly, at her age and point in her career, I'd feel a little pity if her time on Doctor Who remained so immediate to her.

Agyeman has come some ways since playing a companion to the Doctor. Just based on my own knowledge, she played a main character in Law & Order: UK. She now has an important role in The Carrie Diaries.


As the first, and presently only, black female companion to the Doctor, she has an important place in the history of Doctor Who. Her place as one of the most divisively loved and hated companions demonstrates a job well done connecting and alienating audiences.

Martha Jones voluntarily left the Doctor for her own emotional well being and without duress. Her exit portrays her as one of the strongest, smartest and most independent companions in New Who (great that Amy Pond chose her husband over the Doctor but it occurred under duress).

Many young women and girls told Agyeman that they consider her a strong role model for them and others out there. These proclamations show the resonance that Agyeman has had on Doctor Who fandom as Martha Jones. I haven't followed Agyeman much since Doctor Who. Nonetheless, from my perspective, I think she deserves all her praise.

Agyeman or some other Doctor Who actor had once said something about taking a role on Doctor Who is more than take a role, do it then consider it done. Doctor Who fandom has such passion that playing that role will stick to an actor.

It has some positive aspects. Looked at as an investment, an actor could look at it as something of a retirement plan. Many of the Classic Who actors make a run of the con circuit to help pay the bills.

I think many of the professionals who have worked on Doctor Who also see it as a family. Just take a look at Peter Davison's fun parody production, The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.

The production makes jokes about professionals in the game ignoring has beens trying to get onto the The Day of the Doctor. As parody, they want favors and such, but they won't help each other.

If you see these professional together or hear them talk about each other, they can't help but speak about each other on familiar terms. It also happens when they haven't worked together but have had their own isolated thing to do with the show.

The interaction with fans probably also gives these professionals some sense of belonging. Some familiar and strong relationships have probably also come about through these professional-fan interactions.

Whereas actors without connection to Doctor Who may remain a familiar name and face, how often can they bank on getting a nearly full room for a Q&A session at some kind of convention? Many other actors probably have a much higher chance of becoming a has-been. Spend one season on Doctor Who, however, and an actor can probably get plenty of attention decades later.

The disconnect between the fans' emotional immediacy and Agyeman's distance from playing Martha Jones illustrates how the professional-fan relationship can get peculiar. An instance in this type of relationship between computer game developers and a fan shined a negative light on the developers.

I doubt anyone at Agyeman's Q&A expected her to have the nuances of Doctor Who canon down pat. From the questions, though, fans did seem to expect her to have her experience on the show fresh and clear in mind.

Who can really blame her for not meeting this expectation? She last played Martha Jones semi regularly in 2008. She had cameos in Doctor Who and Torchwood.


That's nearly six years ago! I can hardly remember events from then except for a few random instances. I had the second year at my current job then, and I now feel like I've been there forever without beginning or end, it has all blended together too much.

I would have two reactions if Agyeman still felt the emotional immediacy of her time as Martha Jones, depending on how she kept it. I would feel awed if she could recall every event in her life with such intensity as part of her genetic code.

Otherwise I would have a general sense of worry that this young woman with a long bright future ahead of her put so much energy and free time rewatching and going over the product she contributed to six-seven years ago. Or worse, I would worry about the trauma required to keep experience that fresh.

Yes, playing a companion on Doctor Who has a lot to it and makes for a big, important line on the resume. The part of Martha Jones probably has a lot to do with who Freema Agyeman is now and where she is in her career. It likely made for a big stepping stone.

But the part lasted one season. It was only a secondary part. Even though Doctor Who can play with genre, it still falls within adventure and science fiction.

The world offers us more than one activity. The TV and movie industry offers more than one type of show or role. In fact, both offer a variety.

We, as humans, can't engage in a single activity or a limited series of roles and activities without getting bored. Even in less advanced animal behavior, animals will engage in repetitive, unhealthy behaviors when they find themselves in environments that don't stimulate them. Life needs variety or it grows unhappy, depressed and even self destructive.

I often hear of actors complain about getting typecasted and not able to find different roles to keep their interest. Freema Agyeman has done a great job showing range and finding a variety of roles. From the science fiction adventure of Doctor Who to the procedural fairly serious role in Law & Order: UK. Now she has what sounds like a fun and more lighthearted role in The Carrie Diaries.


I congratulate Agyeman for expanding her experience, showing a range in her acting ability and, in general, becoming successful. On top of being a good actor contributing to a bright future, her diversification of roles will play a large part in that future of hers, too. It probably provides her with satisfaction, too.

I would hate for fandom to discourage Agyeman from sharing her gifts with the wide world and also doing what's best for her professional career. Yes, she has chosen a very public career where she becomes exposed to this kind of scrutiny. She had to know that it could occur.

Yet she remains a human being with her own needs, desires and future independent of our own. She has every right to pursue all of those without the judgment from legions of fans.

To me, her emotional distance from Martha Jones shows her success as a human being that can act as an example for the rest of us. We, too, can transcend our present situations, whether we enjoy them or not, and grow into a more fluorishing human being with a range and bright future for ourselves.

Regarding the phenomena, itself, I noticed that most of the fans who showed emotional immediacy to Agyeman's tenure on Doctor Who tended toward the younger kid category. Their age has a lot to do with their experience of immediacy. Still, I think it also shows how much the technology of our modern contributes to the phenomena.

Until the revival of Doctor Who, exposure by most people in the US came as episodes on PBS. It would often come on as full stories during PBS pledge drives. Otherwise PBS would show 20-minute parts of stories as frequently as the network wanted to show them.

Up to this point, Doctor Who existed in a traditional TV paradigm. Fans would catch the show by chance in their free time or check TV listings then schedule time for Doctor Who. People couldn't re-watch the show unless they caught a re-run. Such infrequency contributes to emotional connection but not as much as we can get with technology today.

Now, though, we have

And on and on with a near infinite selection of purchasing, recording and watching TV shows and movies. We don't need to catch a show by chance or schedule our lives to watch a show we love anymore.

This ability to watch and re-watch entertainment whenever we want -- dependent on the studios making it available or getting illegal access, of course -- has changed our relationship to it. This change becomes especially apparent with children of means. They have more time than adults to spend with entertainment. They also have more capacity and desire to watch the same or similar thing over and over again. They like their consistency.

At some point, this kind of control for more exposure to Doctor Who came in the form of novelised versions of the stories. The industry at some point started releasing audio adventures. These became even more prevalent when the BBC put the show on hiatus during "the wilderness years" between 1989 to 2005. Both these forms of media allow for repeated interaction, but they require more energy to imagine details and everyone has their own interpretations.

Doctor Who is a good, fun show. It wouldn't have lasted fifty years if it wasn't. I can't blame anyone who watches repeatedly, especially if they have the time. Part of this quality comes from

  • Caring about sympathetic characters
  • The excitement of danger
  • Having something at stake
Along with the catharsis of going through all these emotional ups and downs.

We can now get our fix as much as we want, barring any other personalized limitations we face. All these ways for repeated exposure allow fans to refresh their memories and emotional connections to the episodes and characters. Fans can sustain the memories and emotional immediacy through these repeated viewings.

No wonder the fans and Freema Agyeman had different levels of emotional immediacy regarding her time on Doctor Who. Agyeman worked a job. No matter how much she enjoyed her time on Doctor Who, she has had to move on and probably have a very busy life.

I'm even willing to bet that watching TV doesn't always count as leisure time when you contribute to it a lot. Watching yourself on TV, even when seen a lot and professionally, probably remains strange and a little unpleasant.

Fans love the show. They have numerous opportunities to watch each episode numerous times as much as they like. The more they watch, the more it sticks with them and easier it becomes to recall the memories and emotions, the more it becomes immediate to them. As they immerse themselves deeper into it, the more it stays with them.

The experiences between the consumer and professional creators/contributors has always had their differences. Lately, though, the disparity of emotional immediacy between the two has grown more intense. The increased availibility of playback technology has contributed a lot to it.

Does it mean anything beyond an uncomfortable relationship between professionals and fans?

Will professionals feel more obligation to meet the expectations of their fans?

Will fans continue with this implicit demand for professionals to feel the same level of emotional immediacy?

Will technology advance to a whole different form of creativity that blurs the line between professional and fan? Just look at original fans of franchise creating their favorite properties:

And probably many many other examples.

Will things just continue as they are?

Who knows? We can only find out with time. It still makes for an interesting phenomena.

LINKS OF NOTE:

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Quest Kick has a Kickstarter Campaign


Hey DMs, GMs and Tabletop/RPG Game Supporters, the Quest Kick app has started a Kickstarter campaign.

Check out the campaign at www.questkick.com/ks-share. Click the first two options to share on Facebook and Twitter. Share and help promote the campaign even if you don't plan to pledge. It's free and easy to do just that much.

Then click on the third option. You'll have the option to pledge on the campaign homepage. They'll accept pledges as low as $1. Higher amounts will get you rewards, though.

Should you not be able to pledge anything, still watch the video and look over the campaign page. The app will have some great features. Down the road, you could also get yourself a copy for a game you're running. Maybe seeing it just this once will help you in the future, near or far.

Go. Learn. Support.

LINKS OF NOTE:

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Dumb Mistake Taught Me More About Baking Pie Crust


Something dumb I did revealed the importance of moisture in pie crust. It happened a couple weeks ago, before I used gluten in dough.

For lunch at work, I heated up some pie in a microwave. I had used either whole wheat flour or garbanzo bean flour with coconut oil for crust. Eating a whole piece at one sitting had gotten difficult. I had taken to keeping leftovers. If leftovers looked sparse, I would just add more pie for the next lunch.

My pie usually goes pop in the microwave. Many things go pop in the microwave. I thought nothing of it.

Ten minutes after lunch, co-workers closer to the lunch room commented about burnt popcorn and asked me if I had burnt anything. Other people in our building often makes microwave popcorn.

Nothing about the pie struck me as burnt. Maybe dry, but not burnt. I said my lunch didn't have anything to do with it. The other company probably just burnt the popcorn. It made more sense. I didn't remember anything about me burning the pie.

So. . .turns out I burnt my pie. Pungent burnt scent permeated the back half of the office. The strongest of it came from the microwave. It wouldn't go away for the rest of the day. I had no choice except conclude the pie got burnt.

Liquid bubbles and boils around the edges of my gluten pies in the oven. Seeing that, I saw an unanticipated way that gluten behaves. It retains moisture when cool. Definitely a useful characteristic to keep in mind. Good to know for using microwaves in the future. Dry stuff burns in the microwave.

Also useful to know of a desired characteristic for two uses:

  • To use for gluten-free cooking and baking
  • To adjust the recipe for texture

It will be interesting to see what I can do with this information and understanding.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Trying to Make the Perfect Pie Crust


I've been nerding out about pie crust these days. It comes from a place of nostalgia, amateur molecular gastronomy and desire to create a variety of perfect crusts. People who can't eat gluten have the right to enjoy pie, too!

It started a month or two ago. I roasted vegetables, tofu and wheat gluten meaty chunks in a loaf pan for lunch at work.

At some point I realized my lunches needed more starch and fiber. I wanted that postprandial feeling of full. Feeling sated had become a quest some time ago.

I don't binge eat. At least, I don't in any way that shows to the outside world. A fair amount of food still goes down my gullet, though. Yet I often remain hungry without appetite.

I read, I believe at NutritionData.com, that protein, fiber and water act as main factors influencing sense of fullness. Long story short, they activate nerves in the stomach, hormones and neutrotransmitters that affect the sense of hunger and satiety.

Also I have experienced that slow-burning starches (like tapioca noodles) cut down on hunger pangs. They probably contribute to the same processes I mentioned above. Either way, doesn't hurt. We need to get easy energy somewhere.

Nostalgia-wise, I started making pie crusts back when Michi and I got together eleven years ago. I made a dinner pie with a mushroom-based thick gravy and veggies inside for when she returned from an out-of-town trip. Tasted great, but it got old, I moved on from the pie. Still some great, warm memories, though.

My first run at pie crust this time used the following ingredients:

  • Whole wheat flour
  • Vegan margarine (mostly soy-based)
  • Salt
  • Coconut sugar (most sugar uses an animal product bleach)
  • Water
I found it too thick, dry and tough. Enjoyable the first couple times, but I predicted it getting old easy. I played with proportions of flour and margarine. That experimentation made it too crumbly.

I thought of the Indian dish, dosa. Yes, the dosa dough usually comes off as too tough for a pie. Getting a crust that thin would make a good target, though. I could work on the texture later.

Years ago I tried making dosa. It didn't work well. I used either pea flour or garbanzo bean flour, not sure which. The result doesn't stick in my mind. It didn't work, though, it just plain didn't work.

Nonetheless, I tried garbanzo flour for pie crust. The combination of starch and protein should make a thinner, tougher crust, right?

Wrong. The result: maybe thinner, but too crumbly and fragile. I even mixed it with whole wheat flour to try moderating characteristics. It fell apart too much. It felt like eating soft cereal with vegetables in it. Not satisfactory.

I went back to the Internet. "The Pizza Lab: On Flour Types, Foams, and Dough" makes for great, innovative reading. Crust is a foam!

The main point of preparation involves breaking down the protein walls then having them glom together with new bonds. The article suggests using a food processor. It will help cut and break down the bonds better than rolling and mushing with hands.

I tried using the Kitchen Aid. The bowl ended up too big. The attachment couldn't reach all the dough.

Michi suggested I try our pastry/dough cutter. It accomplished the job. It cut through the dough and mushed it better than anything else I used. The final result improved but not as much as I would have liked.

"The Pizza Lab" article almost took for granted that gluten-heavy flour needs to be used. Despite taking on the defense of wheat gluten against haters who don't have celiac disease or allergy, I wanted to not depend on it. I wanted to think that any protein can do the job.


I felt desperate, though. The results didn't satisfy me. Either nature was wrong or I didn't understand nature. Nature can't be wrong. It is what it is. When Nature and Humanity disagree, Nature will always win.

Back to the drawing board. I will embrace the recipe known to work then play with it. I know my original recipe stays together. It only had one problem: too thick.

I won't consider using butter. I don't want to use animal products. Besides, we've found that the right Earth Balance margarine product substitutes for butter just fine.

Trying vegetable oil didn't help any, either.

I nixed using white flour, too. I think it increases blood sugar faster than whole wheat flour and has nutrients stripped away from it. Whole wheat flour also has more, better taste than white flour. Bleached flour bores my taste buds.

Powdered wheat gluten came to mind as a good compromise. Since I don't want to use white flour, why not go straight to the culprit that breaks down then bonds things back together? Again, I want to go back to the basics: wheat gluten.

I used a ratio of 1/3 wheat gluten and 2/3 whole wheat flour. Final results improved leaps and bounds. The crust ended thinner and remained intact.

Even the dough before baking came out better. It glommed together, stayed moist and didn't stick to my hands. I normally have to wash my hands before doing anything else, but I didn't have that problem.

It still needs some work, though. I want it thinner. Going thinner will help me understand how dough works better. I already have a couple ideas that I want to execute some day: calzones and empanedas with poutine inside. Should be fun.

Next time, I'll try 1/2 wheat gluten and 1/2 whole wheat flour. I hope it comes out perfect. Then I can stop focusing so much on figuring out my base model. I can get creative with it by producing different variations and forms. That's what I really look forward to.

LINKS OF NOTE:

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Geek Bar Chicago Kickstarter Campaign Victory Party


Michi and I went to the Geek Bar Chicago Victory Party at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry. If you're familiar with Geek Bar Chicago, check out my previous write up here.


We arrived with enough time for a leisurely coffee and light socializing before heading over to the Museum auditorium (who knew they had one, and so nice?). The Geek Bar President and CEO, David Zoltan, and CMO (Chief Marketing Officer), Matt Wolff, put on something of a thank you and announcement event.

They have much to be proud of. Foremost, they raised $44,538 through their Kickstarter campaign (with only a goal of $9,750). In addition, hitting their original goal got them a $5,000 matching grant from MillerCoors as part of Seed Chicago. All this comes in addition from private investment they gathered before the Kickstarter campaign.

A couple announcements concerned a couple events they have conspired with other parties to run:

  • Tuesday, September 24, 2013 6 PM: Science and Nature trivia (and maybe a surprise or two) at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum's adult-only Nature on Tap. Come have some drinks, see nature exhibits and hang out with butterflies and the Geek Bar Chicago crew.


    I'll admit, I've got a soft place in my heart for the Nature Museum. I got married there.
  • Thursday, October 3, 2013 8 PM: The Crownless King at The House Theatre. Enjoy some great fantasy drama then afterward, watch the Geek Bar Chicago crew host a talk back with artists that make the show happen. Audience members will even have the opportunity to ask their own questions for the artists.


They introduced their Executive Director of Cuisine, Tom Kern. Per the Geek Bar Chicago Kickstarter page, "Chef Tom plans on bringing his unique spin on comfort food to Geek Bar, utilizing his love for modern, sui generis technique applied to gastropub-style food." They mentioned an appealing concept for their food: keep it holdable in one hand so patrons can play games and enjoy other hands on geek activities.

Unfortunately, we didn't get to meet head bartender, Laura Green. I haven't had a drink she has made yet, but she sounds like a multi-talented interesting person to have as part of the team. If anything, announcing her addition to the team shows Geek Bar Chicago coming closer to execution for the general public.

One of the hot questions on everyone's minds: Where will Geek Bar Chicago get established? Right now, the team wants to set up in the Lakeview neighborhood, probably more in the Western part. Depending on the exact location, it should work out well. It will have proximity to the 'L' and some major bus lines. Plus, not so bad parking. Then again. . .Geek Bar Chicago could cause some issues for parking if it gets as popular as everyone hopes.

During a question and answer session, an audience member asked if Geek Bar Chicago will have dedicated rooms or areas for different activities, like gaming, watching movies, trivia, whatever you can think of. Plans presently don't include separate areas.

Instead, Geek Bar Chicago wants to include mingling and coexistence of all these activities and interests. Geeks, nerds and other dedicated activities have had separate spaces as far back as we remember. Geek Bar Chicago wants people to share these spaces, interests and for them to exist side by side.

I can see their point. Chicago has plenty of dedicated spaces for these activities. Gaming stores have game tables. People who want to read can go to a book store or library. People can watch TV at home and movies at a movie theater.

Do geeks have anywhere where they can mingle between these activities, socialize during downtimes or even lure a new person into a new activity on a whim? Do they have anywhere it's not considered strange or weird to take part in such activities? Not anywhere that is also a public space. We will have Geek Bar Chicago to create that space sometime soon.

After all the announcements and all the Geek Bar Chicago-centered conversation and activity, the team invited up some personnel from the Museum. I wish I remembered their names and more about their presentations.


The first person up discussed the place the Museum had in society and how they get support to follow their mission. I never really thought too in depth into the research done at the Museum or how much energy they put into educating and exciting kids about science.

They've even brought in a teacher (or more than just one) from The Second City to teach Museum staff how to interact with kids to keep their interest. From what I've heard about how science gets viewed in certain areas of the world, this kind of activity proves a valuable resource. This part got me so excited I wanted to find out how to donate money!

Somewhat surprising, this person mentioned how Geek Bar Chicago made them excited. Geek Bar Chicago didn't rent the space or seek the Museum to help them put together this event. The Museum approached Geek Bar Chicago to donate the event and provide support.

The Museum saw their missions falling close together, not just as two groups with similar interests. I can see the point, too. Geek Bar Chicago and its popularity helps legitimize a subculture that focuses a lot on rationality, knowledge and science. I see the Museum trying to realize all these things by making them exciting and growing these things through all the research they do.

Speaking of research and science, we also had the treat to receive a presentation from someone at the Museum who had much interest in robotics and the promotion of it.

They started off the presentation by introducing us to Paro, the therapeutic seal robot and passed it around to the audience. Really neat and fun. It reacted to be held and from pressure put on it. I think it may have even reacted to human gaze. A baby in the row behind us was quite taken by Paro.


Apparently the Museum does a lot on teaching about robotics and research into it. We heard about all types of robots out there, from gentle Paro to factory arms that won't heed you, tearing your arm off if you stand in the wrong place.

They also stressed that robots don't destroy human jobs. A readjustment may have to occur, but plenty of new jobs get created because of robots. Requirements for these jobs, however, may require a higher level of scientific and engineering education that we may not see as so prevalent now.

Institutions like the Museum hope to make a difference by encouraging these directions in education and interests in people. Geek Bar Chicago can also play a part, like I said above through legitimization of geek and nerd interests.

We filed out to a huge main area near the entrance escalator. President and CEO, David Zoltan, helped in presentation on fire and explosions. We learned that different elements burn different colors. I unfortunately can only remember that lithium burns purple. They had another element that burned green.

Zoltan participated in the finale. He got to throw some jet fuel onto a well contained flame. It made a big flame and boomed loud enough that we had to cover our ears. They had made quite the astonishing display there. I wonder if anyone's eyebrows had singed off.

Michi and I wandered the Museum afterward and socialized a bit. We watched The Last Reef in the Omnimax Theater.


Very enjoyable movie, even though we found ourselves falling asleep here and there. All the walking around had exhausted us! The score especially stuck out for me. By the end, I found it so transcendent I felt ready to cry with joy and rapture by being in the Universe.

Not bad for my second trip to the Museum. It gave me a bittersweet feeling. I feel overjoyed and in awe at what humans can accomplish. At the same time, I'm sad that I haven't taken part so much in any great discoveries like these. Feels like the times have left behind in some kind of rut just to wallow.

Well. . .I guess that simply means I just have to try harder, eh?

LINKS OF NOTE::

Saturday, August 10, 2013


Follow the "live tweets" of my Dungeon World character's party on ‪‎Twitter‬ through the ‪#‎DungeonWorldBlackmoor‬ trend. It's long, I know. . ..

LINKS OF NOTE:

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Dungeon World: Simple Tabletop RPG with a lot of Potential


One of my table top RPG groups played it's third session of Dungeon World the other night. We had a blast!

The local thieves guild, The Velvet Sash, forced us to enter a dungeon to get them a legendary ruby. If we didn't do it, the Guild would kill us. Kind of a fair deal when "there is no honor among thieves. . .."

The session satisfied my nostalgia for playing as a teenager with peers when I first played tabletop role playing games. Back then, we didn't know the rules and didn't have the sophistication to fully comprehend them. We tried learning "on the job."

We had our imaginations! With the toll that adult life takes on our emotional life and brains, imagination has become a scarce commodity.

I remember the first time I ever played this way. My character's village had been raided by orcs who kidnapped my family. I went on an epic cross country journey, seeking out the orc tribe and my family.

Playing by the rules, I wouldn't have made it past the first encounter. I don't remember details, but I recall enjoying the newness, discovering a strange new world and overcoming challenges I've never had any exposure to. I hadn't watched that many fantasy movies, but I'm sure people who had probably have a fun time emulating them with tabletop role playing.

I know I did with Dungeon World. The game satisfied the urge for adventure from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. I have a hard time giving that movie a rave review, but it was a fun, romp of misadventures. It made me want to go home, invite one of my gaming groups over and get our game on.


This past game session captured that feeling. It also captured the essence of an Indiana Jones movie or Star Wars: A New Hope. Our party often found ourselves in over our heads, using our wits to solve a problem or running to survive.

I don't think we even won any combat. The enemies ended up being an obstacle in the middle of the room or chasing us because they were hungry.

Encounter one had us overwhelmed by fire beetles emerging from the cave floor. We jumped into a stream down a hole that we had no idea where it went. It ended up dropping us quite a height into an underground lake.

My halfling druid shape shifted into an otter to save an unconscious companion from drowning. A Cthulu-esque tentacle beast emerged, so we had to swim fast as we could to shore. I had to shape shift into a barracuda, so I could chew off one of the beast's tentacles to free another companion.

We entered an underground tower. The front entrance blended the features of a huge banquet hall and library. We set up camp for a good night's rest since half the party had come near to death.

Of course, someone on first watch fell for a classic trap. He pulled a book from a shelf, triggering a trapdoor opening from under his feet. We chased after him into a goblin lair. They had put him over a fire to roast. We saved his ass then escaped by going up an elevator on the other side of the room.

Somehow everyone survived the first part of the adventure and the rest of it. I won't get so much into those parts because they had more to do with problem solving than straight up hack & slash misadventure. If our game master (GM), Jeff Smith, ever wants to run another group through this adventure, I don't want to provide game breaking spoilers.

These type of events make great stories to tell. I also think they show what Dungeon World can do that Dungeon's & Dragons-based games can't do.

I used to think that a good GM could adapt any game to make it into the style of gameplay they want. They can, but why do so if they can purchase another game that already does. The only reason I can see a GM going to all that trouble is to release their own game system commercially.

Dungeon World has a simplicity to it that both provides an excellent intro to role playing games for beginners and encourages high adventure game play like many fantasy and science fiction movies many of us love.

I didn't much care for Dungeon World the first time we played. It felt too rules lite and generic.

Arguing over complicated rules, as this group has done a fair amount with Dungeon's & Dragons doesn't make for a fun night of gaming (I can often times be the main culprit). The cognitive load of remembering all the tricks and features for even just your character can take away from the game, too.

Nonetheless, characterization of characters, creatures and items doesn't affect game play much in Dungeon World. Even situational factors don't feel like they affect game play. Dice rolls needed to fail, succeed or get a mixed result on two six-sided dice doesn't change. Switching weapons doesn't change your character's range of damage.

Choices of equipment, tactics or anything like that not affecting game play make these types of choices feel pointless. These choices feel like they only change the description of how things occur, not the effectiveness of how they occur. Characters still have a lot of choice, but their agency feels stripped away to benefit the narrative.

This feeling lingers. After the last couple of sessions, though, seeing this feature as a vice has been tempered. Albeit, my halfling druid has used his shape shifting skills to avoid danger better than other characters and to change the flow of narrative. I had a good dose of agency.

Also, I think the GM had also adjusted the narrative. In the first session, we had engaged in a combat that had a more Dungeon's & Dragons feeling to it. Some monsters attacked a farm. We set our goal to defeat the monsters at all costs. Some cool features of the environment helped make game play more interesting, but Dungeon's & Dragons could accomplish the same thing.

The big feature that I think changes game play: the accumulation of experience points that can be used to improve your character's skills and abilities. Characters in Dungeon's & Dragons-based games get experience fastest by defeating enemies and monsters, mostly through combat. We often joke about awaking or resurrecting enemies just to kill them again for the experience points.

Back in the days of Advanced Dungeon's & Dragons, accumulating gold and magic items awarded experience points well. Selling magic items before returning to home base could generate even more experience through gold. That could make an interesting cost-benefit analysis for a character. These alternatives gave players options for how to approach the game rather than just resorting to hack and slash for most efficient level gaining.

Dungeon World flips the reward structure on its head, though. Characters most efficiently get experience by failing at dice rolls to accomplish things. Such things can include hitting a monster, finding a trap and avoiding danger. You make a mistake, you learn from it.

Experience can be gained in other ways. I don't have the most clarity on those approaches, though. I think they involve development of character and relationships with other characters.

The gaming group has discussed the positives and negatives of this approach. We've come up with supplementary ideas to address what are seen as demerits. Such as: a certain number of successes will provide as much experience as one failure.

Overall, though, I think the reward structure provides a satisfying balance. Yes, failure provides the most efficient way for min-maxing your character (which seems contradictary). Enough failure, however, will lead to character death or prevent the story from moving forward. Easy enough to make a new character but how to weave them into the game?

Story delay gets annoying and frustrating. That argument stands by itself.

Dungeon World has so much balance in character, enemy and monster combat statistics that it's deadly. All our characters have around twenty hit points. We all had come close to dying at least once during the night, though. Monsters, traps and tricks all took their toll on us.

The balance falls on EVERYONE having the same general chance for success, failure and mixed results on two six-sided dice. Some character attributes modify those rolls but not by much. 10+ is a success, 7-9 mixed result & 1-6 is a failure, I think it goes.

It doesn't help that armor acts only as damage reduction, not influencing a hit or miss. Most of our characters have a max armor of just 1. It helps, but when we get hit, we get hit.

Unlike in Dungeon's & Dragons-based games where characters and creatures can get power scaled to never getting damaged or always hitting weaker creatures. Enemies and obstacles have to constantly get scaled up to provide a challenge. It makes sense in a high fantasy/movie type of thing. We love to see the hero mowing down minions in epic fashion until they reach the big boss that provides a challenge.

At the same time, that power differentiation feels unsatisfying at times. Watching it on a movie screen can provide excitement and establish the power of characters. Playing through it, though, can feel like a lengthy churning slog that lacks some degree of realism and challenge.

Even by the end of that slog, the movie hero has gotten all smudged up, cut, bruised and those trevails play a large part in weakening them against the big bad. Why else would the huge, powerful big bad need those minions, anyway? If they're so powerful and invincible, why risk an army that could revolt and oust their leader. . .except that he's so powerful and invincible that he doesn't need them, so he can put down such a revolt.

Dungeon World returns that sense of danger while maintaining a high level of fantasy. Sure, the players can still face an underwhelming challenge that they defeat easy like a small patrol. On one hand, though, the game master has control of that and on the other, it's easy enough to get failure die rolls that could turn the tide along with the ingenuity of the enemies.

The players can turn the tide through their wit, too. If this last session indicates anything, they often have to.

Changing the reward structure and power balance this way changes the play dynamic. Having enemy and monster killing providing most efficient rewards gives the game tunnel vision (interesting moral philosophy discussion could be had here, too).

Dungeon World, on the other hand, elevates other goals. More often than not in the last session, the party tried to evade monsters or sneak through enemy ground. We wanted to accomplish our goal, but we didn't want to die foolishly. These slapdash efforts often ended up more exciting and fun than head on, rules laden combat to get more power.

Advancing the story proves more fun. I also like the idea that if we get frustrated with a problem, we don't fall back on entering combat to attain our goal. As Isaac Asimov has characters say in his Foundation series: "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent."

Combat as the most useful resort also primes us players to not bother thinking of better solutions. We're just going to be entering combat, anyway, so why not just do it right away?

I see myself playing Dungeon's & Dragons-based games in the future. Pathfinder has become a favorite of mine. I feel like it blends the above gameplay elements better than the latest iterations of Dungeon's & Dragons. It also allows for characterization features that change the game and provides a little more agency. The power trip has its fun, too.

You won't find my arguing against playing Dungeon World based on the game system, though. It's fun. It makes a good gateway game to beginners. It allows for a more cognitively light game to provide the brain some rest.

I find myself wondering, though, if it's possible to find some other game sysem that blends the best of both systems I've mentioned. Can we have a system that doesn't use combat/domination as the primary reward system but also allows for more agency for characters by item, weapon, armor, feature, skill choices and the such?

Plenty of games out there. I think the answer to this question comes more down to me making the time and effort to finding them. Until then, these games have their fun sides and make for some fun game sessions.

LINKS OF NOTE:

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Geek Bar Chicago's Kickstarter Campaign Launch Party, a Grand Success


Last night I went to the Geek Bar Chicago Kickstarter campaign launch party at Mad River Chicago. I could care less for Mad River (beer selection didn't impress me and the trivia and music got loud), but you have to give them credit for hosting last night's party and the Chicago Game Lovers Meetup for past events.

The links above do a fairly good job of explaining Geek Bar Chicago. I don't link to their main page, though. I don't have the best luck loading it.

To sum it up, the guys of Geek Bar Chicago/Cantina Forward, David Zoltan an Matt Wolf, see a demand for a social place for geeks to hang out to do geeky things. Sure, there are game shops with game rooms, cafes to hang out, conference rooms/theaters to rent out. Those avenues focus too much on one activity, don't necessarily encourage larger social crowds or require complicated planning and organizing money logistics for a couple hours of a movie screening.

Sports fans have sports bars. Other bars cater towards more general audiences by showing reality TV or pop culture TV. Beercades have arcade games, but that doesn't necessarily mean geek. The bars here in Boystown have their drag shows.


Why shouldn't geeks have their own bar to have showings for Doctor Who, play table top games (board or RPGs are fine, I figure), have a quieter atmosphere to discuss the finer points of Lord of the Rings or The Avengers, work together to come up with theories for the next piece of technology or heck, have a cosplay fashion show.

Zoltan and Wolf have worked successfully to get seed money over the last few months from qualified investors through their social networks, larger networks like The Chicago Nerd Social Club, contests, civic organizations and entrepreneurial events.

Last night they reached their next stage: the Kickstarter campaign. Time to let the crowd funding bug in and let more everyday folks have their chance to contribute finances to the venture. Crazy as it may sound, just a little more than 24 hours later, they've already exceeded their goal of $10,000. This accomplishment doesn't surprise me. By the third or forth hour of the party, they had already exceeded the $4,000 mark.

Zoltan and Wolf have the right idea about demand being out there for Geek Bar. Just look at how much they raised in about 24 hours and still continue to raise!

Suffice to say, if they progress like they have so far, we can expect them to get established by the end of 2013 and have a place for geeks to go where they can be social and do what geeks do. Fifteen, twenty years ago, can you imagine even think of the possibility?

If the Geek Bar Chicago take over of Mad River for the launch party indicates anything, it shows that Geek Bar Chicago will provide a fun place to hang out. I made great conversation with friends, new and old, and didn't do much else. That's just me, though.

The Geek Bar Chicago people took over one wing of the bar and good deal of the main area. Most of these areas had board games set up with full rosters of players intense on competition. In the front of the wing taken over by the Geek Bar Chicago crowd, they had set up laptops for people to make Kickstarter pledges. Why encourage people to go home and contribute when you can offer them the opportunity at the bar?

Mad River had their trivia night going on the same night, so they couldn't accommodate full on Geek Bar. If last night was just a 25% to 50% sampling of how Geek Bar Chicago will run, though, I can't wait to see it running at 100% with its own space. I know I'd rather see Doctor Who or Lord of the Rings on the big screens, yells of triumphs of games won rather than loud music, and other fun geek themed activities.

How about you? You know what to do to make it happen.

LINKS OF INTEREST

Monday, July 08, 2013

C2E2: "Hanging Out" with Peter Davison and An Auditorium Full of People


Peter Davison came out to the cheering crowd in the auditorium at McCormick Place. We all had gathered together on that April Saturday afternoon to spend some time with Mr. Davison at C2E2.

He sounded quite youthful, much like he did during his earlier years. I shouldn't expect any less. When I've only seen a youthful version of him on television, though, it feels a little unsettling to see him having aged so. Felt that way even after having seen the "Time Crash" short.

Maybe more apt to say that he broadcast a youthful spirit rather than simply sounded youthful. Somewhat uncanny.

His charming demeanor, both at the lectern and when he played the Fifth Doctor, still makes it hard to believe that he was something of a trouble maker in his youth. How could he have trouble with academics during his secondary school years (or whatever they call it England). An interesting story to hear that he ended up in acting very much because it captured his passion unlike any other activity or field.

Entertaining to hear that his role in All Creatures Great and Small, which made him a household name in England, consisted a lot of sticking his arm up the asses of cows. He played the role of a veterinarian and that job apparently consists of putting your arm up cows' asses a lot. Who knew. . .that someone could get famous doing that?

C2E2 is a nerdy geek convention, though, and most everyone there knew him as the Fifth Doctor, as the father of the actress, Georgia Moffett, who played the cloned daughter of the Tenth Doctor and then, as the actress, married the actor who played the Tenth Doctor, David Tennant.

Suffice to say, that's just the tip of the iceberg in the relationship and acquaintence of Peter Davison and David Tennant. You, fine reader, can attend a con and see Peter Davison to hear these stories. The thought of sharing those stories as my stories feels a little wrong. I'll let those fine Doctors breach their own privacy.

Also, I don't want to take the man's "market share." I have a hard time seeing more people visiting my blog in a month than going to see Davison just once. Nonetheless, they're his stories to tell, not mine.

Davison had some fun stories about the interaction of his family and Doctor Who before Tennant became part of the family. One story involves one of Davison's sons preferring other Doctors before him. Another fun story made for interesting one upmanship in traumatizing the exit of two of the Doctor's companions: Adric and Rose Tyler * * * SPOILERS: Don't read these links if you don't want to get spoiled * * *

One question and answer interaction really has stuck with me, though: an aspiring actor or actress (OK, maybe the question doesn't stick with me so much) asked Davison either about tips on how to make it in the business or what kept him going. Davison had a pretty frank answer: Don't act or really do anything creative unless you have the love or compulsion for it. If you can stand doing something else, do that. If you can only act or something like that, then go for it.

There's generally not enough money in the creative world to make it worth it. Too much crap and dependence on luck to get to that point.

Something I heard on a podcast the other day made me think of that answer. For the life of me, I can't remember where I heard it, sadly. The interviewee said something to the effect that to them not to create and not to work on their craft caused pain to them.

I think for most of my life, I had felt this way. Whenever I took time away from my academic project, I felt like I would keep going back like some kind of battered spouse (not to make light of such a situation, but the combination of distraughtness and compulsion made me feel that way).

Davison's statement about doing something creative only if you have the love for it really hit me in the heart. For a good while now, I've been going though a lull in that love. Life has gotten in the way too much. I've started doing a lot of manual effort to save time. I've been working long hours to just keep up at work. I've focused on investments and trying to make them grow. I spend more time with my wife and have more of a social life. I watch more TV and play more role playing games (like D&D, Pathfinder, etc). . .but read less.

I've largely relegated my writing to mornings, this blog and Tuesday nights with the Just Write Chicago Meetup group at Dollop Coffee. I started going to Just Write Chicago after "hanging out" with Peter Davison at C2E2, even though he has no idea who I am. I need to put myself into situations that will surround me with the energy to create.

At that point, I had reached a low point with my writing. I had grown tired and my love had grown weak. It had reached that duty stage, suffice to say. Davison articulated the need to feel that love at the perfect time for me.

I've had to go through a couple more interactions with other creatives and do a bunch of my own thinking to start pulling myself out of my rut. I can't say that I've pulled myself all the way out of the hole yet, but I've reached a good point.

I've realized that I had gotten so focused on legitimizing myself to the world. I had become so focused on doing the academic stuff. I wanted a degree to qualify for a job that I would like to do everyday. That's all well and good, but then. . .what?

In this day and age of financial ruin, I have a hard time seeing my liberal arts degree having a direct impact on my job prospects or getting me more respect than I have from people. Not to speak poorly of liberal arts degrees. I just don't see it providing me with a practical benefit.

I went to college to write creatively. The academic side of things got tacked on to legitimize the writing. Someday, I would like to complete that project, but not for legitimacy. The project has grown on me. I feel like once I can finish it and figure out what there is to figure out, I might help make a difference in the world with it.

But with all my other activities, I don't have the time or energy for it. I can hardly keep all the facts straight in my head. That difficulty may come from having too many drafts of the same essay. More of it comes from not having a concentrated amount of time to think about it. My time has become way too broken up and fragmented.

I've settled on the goal of trying to do what I can to free up more blocks of time. I can't do it freqently enough in the short term. Too much life in the way. It comes down to needing enough money that I can live off the yield and interest. That's far in the future if I go at the pace I'm following now. Maybe I can figure out how to invest smart and speed things up, but that route will still take some time and free up time the short term.

What if I can write a best seller, though? Maybe I won't, though. Even if I don't, though, I'll be engaging in the love that started this journey: writing stories.

Going at things this way will even fulfill my dream of being a working class writer. I won't really do the working class part, but I'll do the creative writing schlub thing on top of all that life stuff. Even if I don't find success, at least I'll be doing what I love, not looking for legitimacy from the world around me. Maybe I'll find time to do all that other stuff someday, too.

Thank you, Mr. Peter Davison, for inspiring me both as a child and as an adult.

LINKS OF NOTE:

Thursday, June 20, 2013

C2E2: The Not So Epic Waiting in Line for Peter Davison's Panel


I know, I know, it's been awhile since C2E2 and even my last entry about the convention. It has come and gone. It's old news. Ah well, hopefully I can provide a perspective that no one else has had or put out into the world.

Besides, I've been in something of a bad head space for the last couple weeks.

I guess this whole C2E2 review thing has become something of a serial. Today's entry will focus on waiting in a lne.

I didn't get to do too much after the Futuristic Fright panel with John Scalzi and Alex Hughes before having to go save spots in the line for the Peter Davison panel. Even at that time I thought that maybe I had gotten a little paranoid about not making into a panel, but it was Peter Davison, the Fifth Doctor, after all. Not an opportunity to miss.

My worries had merit. I had gotten near the front of the line. Finding the front made for a trial of wits, in itself. Outside of the panel rooms, in the hallway, I found a small group of people who thought they made the front of the line. Like me, though, they worried that we had the wrong idea. All of us had already dealt with enough line messes in the last day or so. We knew we couldn't make any assumptions about where lines started and ended.

Good thing we kept our eyes and ears open. Asking questions of C2E2 assistants and staff helped. We ended up getting herded into one of the panel rooms and told to form a line on one side of the room. The other side of the room already had a formidable line formed for some other panel. I counted myself lucky that I had gotten into the first layer of line.

I plopped myself onto the ground and pulled out my mobile devices. The panel wouldn't start for another hour or so. I hadn't the patience to just sit around with my own thoughts or try to make friends.

Rumor spread or I overheard that the people in the panel before us wouldn't have to leave. Anyone who wanted to stay, could stay and keep their chair. That didn't and still doesn't strike me as entirely fair. People like me who sacrificed time to be in line could get screwed if everyone already in the room wanted to stay. Heck, couldn't someone in their group have stayed outside to save space in the line, like I did for wife and friends?

Didn't turn out half bad, though. Wife and friends arrived as the line had started getting long and excited. I breath a sigh of relief that no one got rowdy or worked up about me saving a spot in line for wife and friends. Elementary school lunch line politics could have come into play easy with just a little spark. Someone could have easily yelled "No cutting" or started some fisticuffs.

After both fortune and internalized drama, we all got into the panel room. Our little group didn't get the best seats. We sat off to the right side with middling distance but closer to the back. Having gotten close to the front of the line proved disappointing after getting suboptimum seats. Still, happy to have gotten in considering people who attended the panel beforehand didn't have to leave if they didn't want.

LINKS OF NOTE:

Saturday, June 15, 2013

DMs and GMs, Keep Your Eye on Quest Kick App


Hey RPGers, a DM techie of mine is making an app for running campaigns. It looks great. He showed it to me the other night and told me some of the concepts he's putting into it. Mind you, the Website doesn't necessarily have functionality yet. If reality matches his vision, though, it looks pretty kick ass.

The Website: http://www.questkick.com
His Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/questkick1
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/questkick1

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Brief Review of The Timey Wimey Fantastic Brilliant Extravaganza (Geronimo!)


I've just gotten home from seeing The Timey Wimey Fantastic Brilliant Extravaganza (Geronimo!) by McKenzie Gerber and Justin Gerber (they have bios on the page). The Right Brain Project produced the show. It has musical elements.

I had no idea what to expect. The Chicago Nerd Social Club had a post for it on their event calendar, which showed up on my RSS feed. Most things Doctor Who related tend to have an element of fun, so I said to Michi, "Let's go!" She said sure, so we did.


The play gets produced in a very small, 30-seat theater on the fourth floor of a loft space at 4001 N Ravenswood. You can practically hop, skip and jump from the Irving Park Brown Line stop.

We made reservations to take advantage of the $15 per person ticket (NOTE: first five patrons that come in costume get in for free). On a Sunday afternoon show at 3 PM, reservations may not prove necessary to guarantee you a seat. Then again, who knows? With enough buzz, a seat might be harder to get. The show has run four weeks so far and only has a couple more.

We had fun at the hour-long show. Michi called it cute and charming, which I think is apt.

Such a small theater group obviously doesn't have a huge budget, but the special effects were probably on par with Classic Who. They portrayed the Doctor much like a Classic Doctor, too, with much more arrogance and know-it-allism than we have become familiar with through the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors. Both Michi and I wondered if the actor had channeled Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor a little.

It didn't present anything groundbreaking. However, some of the plot twists and tricks could prove worthy of the show. Using the word canon in relation to the play doesn't do justice to anything (does it ever in the fifty year history of Doctor Who?).

Someone with the barest familiarity with Doctor Who will do fine watching the play and have fun. On the other hand, the loyalist fan with a sense of humor will enjoy the in jokes. Anyone who takes themselves too seriously really has no business going.

The program probably says it best: "THE TIMEY WIMEY FANTASTIC BRILLIANT EXTRAVANGANZA (GERONIMO!) is a parody and does not seek to profit from the creators and producers of DOCTOR WHO." It's a parody, not a satire, not a tragedy, not an epic, not a drama. They execute the parody well.

I would be remiss not mention that the performers did a good job performing, from acting to singing. The stage crew also did a great job of making themselves visible without disrupting the drama and taking you out of the show.

At times I thought the actor playing the Doctor and the actress playing the most capable bystander would have done good in an actual episode on BBC or PBS. The production had its fill of romping and ridiculous stakes, much like the fun parts in the show. These two, though, manifested the occasional welling of palpable emotion that comes through during the best parts of the show.

I have a hard time rating the show as an absolutely can't miss. Life will continue as is, either which way. I'll always encourage people to support local business and arts, but I feel like bringing that up in a review is a little patronizing.

The play makes for a fun time and worth the price of the ticket (especially if you e-mail ahead and make your reservation for lower cost). If you're looking for a dose of The Doctor and/or some comedy, it stands up pretty good against the actual show and other comedy you'll find around Chicago. If you go, you'll have a fun time.

LINKS OF NOTE:

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Healing & the Thoughts Inspired by CNSC Writers' Panel and Networking Event


I usually post a blog entry after getting inspired after work, sitting down, tapping away an entry then putting it up. I followed that process a couple weeks ago after my bike accident. Not since then have I really had much inspiration to get down and write. Plenty of chores got in the way, but I think wrist pain had a lot to do with it. My wrist feels a bit better now so hopefully I'll get back on the horse to write more often.

To get on topic, though, I went to the Chicago Nerd Social Club Writers' Panel and Networking Event at Open Books Ltd. Authors on the panel included:

I showed up late and stayed a little longer than a hour. Other commitments made me leave early. The premises of all the works sound like worthwhile reads. When I find some time, I'll have to give them shots.

Prompted by moderator, Jeff Smith, the panelists provided thoughts on

  • Creative process
  • World building
  • Creating and filling out characters
  • Plotting
  • Where to get inspiration
  • Importance of themese
  • Seeking and taking criticism
I even got to provide some input on a couple topics. I also tried to inspire a fellow audience member to balance the entertainment of others and the expression of ideas they think are cool.

Suffice to say, I didn't get much new for the panel. Not the panelists or the moderator's fault. I'm deep in the middle of my own process and have much of my own work figured out. I've gotten lots of criticism on what I've written and have plenty of ideas of refashioning what I've already written.

If it came down to it and money wasn't a worry, I could probably sit down and write for days on end. I've got the characters, much of the world and the plotting figured out.

I even got on my own case in my head while at the panel. I've got the ideas, I should just sit down and belt it out. My big hang up: I want to understand the psychological phenomena involved in utopianism before I get really into writing the fiction.

I've got my head all wrapped up around my project, and I want to get that done. It fascinates me more now. And when I finish my novel, I want to know what I'm talking about if I get published, do panels like this or do interviews somewhere else.

Even after saying all that, part of me says I should just sit down and get it written. Sigh. . .fear of missing out on life and plenty of excuses, I guess. I also like the security of paying expenses (don't feel confident that I'd deliver if I got funds from Kickstarter). Bad time management and bad life balance, I guess.

LINKS OF INTEREST:

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

I Love Johnny Sprockets


I got into a bike-on-bike collision this morning.

Should have been prepared for it five minutes earlier. I had tempted fate. Thought about how riding my bike everyday to work would make me sooooo healthy and all that. I stopped congratulating myself when I remembered that riding a bike could be risky: a crazy, fatal uncontrollable accident could happen at any moment.

Of course, I had an accident five minutes later.

Below is a map of the intersection where the accident occurred:


View Larger Map

Imagine me coming from the southwest corner heading north on the Lakefront Trail. I'm having a grand old time, taking in the nice weather, feeling the wind in my face, finally waking up from the morning slog. All the usual, pleasant, quiet before the storm stuff.

I notice some guy on a street bike speeding down from the northwest on W Belmont Harbor Drive. He takes as sharp a right turn as he can to head southwest down the Lakefront Trail. The guy probably can't turn that sharp, though, or he'll flip the bike or something.

Looking back I can rationalize the course of events that way.

At the time, my sense of causality both slowed down and skipped a couple frames at the same time. My mind saw what unfolded in front of me and refused to accept it. What idiot would be crossing into my lane and head straight toward me? It failed to make sense, so I put my trust into this guy. He must know what he's doing and must be going fast enough to avoid collision. Why else would he try to cross the path if he didn't know he could do it?

He was an idiot. He had no idea what he was doing. He took the right onto the path too fast and had completely lost control.

I didn't make all those connections until the very last moment. I entered avoid the idiot mode. I tried turning left as best I could. It wasn't enough. Of course, my instincts didn't let me turn that sharp. If I did, I would flip or wipe out on the pavement.

Through all the slo-mo frame skipping, I realized the futility of avoidance. I entered the next stage: loss control. Keeping injury to a minimum, that is. I had just ran my front wheel into this guy's back wheel then had jumped off my bike, after all. It's funny how we have thoughts about consequences before being conscious of the cause sometimes. I think a part of my mind had chuckled at this observation while my repitilian mind had focused on preventing major wounds by crashing into the grass.

No major wounds that I know of. I have my left wrist wrapped up in a bandage right now, but I had anger surging through me, the fear of being late to work, worry about hospital bills and possible bike repairs. Money's tight right now. . .and what?! My handlebars were in a super weird angle!

I became determined to get the guy's number. After cursing him out a little, I told him he would give me his name and number. . .after I turned on my phone. I assume I gave him a steely glare and curled my lip (the lip thing is what I do when I'm angry, apparently).

My phone always takes a little time to boot up. The guy asked me if I had a pen and paper. I told him no. He would just have to wait and wait he did.

All that settled, I made my way to work. The handlebars at their odd angle took a little getting used to, but I got it down. Amazing how our minds and bodies can compensate for distortions in reality that don't cause injury.

The adrenaline started wearing out. I popped a couple Ibuprofen at work. Wrist hasn't swollen at all. Pain isn't all that bad. Keeping it wrapped and elevated should probably do the trick in a couple weeks.

This accident makes for my third bike accident in Chicago (Michi didn't appreciate me smacking into a car a couple days before we got married. . .again, just got banged up is all). If I'm not in the emergency room by now, I just need some R&R.

I worried more about the cost of fixing the handlebars than dealing with my wrist. Even if I have to get x-rays and stuff, health insurance will handle it well enough until I get the dumb ass other guy to pay for stuff. I would have to pay 100% out of pocket to repair my bike until I get reimbursed. . .and reimbursement isn't guaranteed. Along with being an idiot, the guy could be a jerk, too.

Imagine how relieved I felt when one of the register people up front at Johnny Sprockets diagnosed the problem, fixed it in five minutes then didn't charge me a cent. I even asked if it cost anything. The guy just said nope.

I don't know if it has anything to do with being a regular for repairs there. Could just be that they're awesome for things that take minimal effort.

Doesn't matter. They're awesome. I love Johnny Sprockets and don't hesitate to tell anyone to go there for their bike needs. If you have bike needs, go. They just might help you feel like there's still good in the world after a crappy day of worry and pain from a dumb bike accident that you had little chance of avoiding.

And oh yeah, don't be an idiot when you making tight turns on your bike. Slow down and take your time.

LINKS OF NOTE: