Category: Life

Dice Overload

Dice Overload

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrssyoutubeby feather

A while back, oldest daughter declared she wanted to try a pencil and paper fantasy role playing game. Of course I stepped up to the plate and offered to dust off my ancient GMing skills to run an intro campaign for her and any friends she might scrape up who were interested.

On the one hand, I’m not sure that was such a good idea as I really haven’t done the RPG thing since about my fourth year of university, and that’s longer ago than I like to think about.

On the other hand, I’m not sure that was such a good idea since she passed over pretty much every game I pulled out of a box I haven’t opened in far too many years, and instead glommed onto the game she’s heard about and even seen referenced on TV: Dungeons and Dragons. Youngest daughter joined the party at this point.

I don’t own D&D. Haven’t played it since university, and that was only sporadic among other things. That’s okay, though. I know people I can borrow stuff from, including a bunch of modules to avoid having to start from scratch. In particular, I now have on extended loan all of the hard copy core materials for D&D 4e and the pdfs for the first six modules of the “War of the Burning Sky” campaign.

IMGA0364

My remaining problem, okay my remaining hardware problem, is a lack of dice, or it was. Scouring the house, I can up with a paltry few. Where the rest have gone over the years, I have no idea. Maybe they went to visit the missing dryer socks. It doesn’t really matter. I quickly decided I needed more.

Last year at Fan Expo, I saw a booth with a bin of polyhedral dice. A small sign had the at $0.30 each or some dollar figure I can’t remember. At the time, I thought it was neat, but as yet had no idea of my daughters’ future interest in RPGs, so I kept walking.

Knowing better this year, I hoped to find the same booth. It’s a lot of the same vendors every year, right? I told myself that several times, but as we crisscrossed the floor on Thursday, I didn’t catch even a glimpse of it.

On Friday afternoon, I suddenly found myself alone and headed for the con floor with 20 minutes to myself. The first aisle I turned down, I saw it. The Bin of Dice.

30 cents each, a random scoop for $12, or as hand selecting as many as you could get in the cup for $15.

Jasper with my little finger
Jasper with my little finger

I dove in and started hand picking colours and sizes, making sure I’d get some that would please the girls, too, paying attention to things that would meet their approval for colours and sizes. $15 later, I had 67 dice of various sides, sizes, and colours including a small 6-sided die carved from blue jasper.

Set for whatever game might come up, I vowed to bring the girls back to choose a few of their own, knowing, as any father of daughters must, that though I have the best of intentions, my perceptions of the proper colours are obviously and fatally flawed in some small way and they will certainly be able to pick something better. I noted the aisle and even took a business card.

And never found it again.

Not during the remainder of Friday, not Saturday, and not Sunday. I lost the aisle and the business card disappeared from my pocket even though I have all of the rest of the ones I picked up that day. It gave me a feeling of the overused fantasy trope of Ye Olde Magic Shoppe, or in this case Ye Olde Bin o’ Dice.

Warning, not edible.
Warning, not edible.

But still, I did well, and the girls agreed, not having seen the bin themselves, that I managed to pick out some pretty cool dice. They were particularly impressed by the ones that came closest, or even matched, their favourite colours.

I brought them safely back to the hotel and eventually home in a style of box we somehow all recognize as Chinese Take Out, even though I’ve never actually seen real food come in one.

 

 

The treasure inside.
The treasure inside.

And sorting through the dice, I find this distribution:

  • 13 20-sided dice
  • 6 12-sided dice, including 1 itty-bitty one
  • 13 10-sided dice
  • 8 10-sided dice numbered 00-90 by tens
  • 10 8-sided dice
  • 8 6-sided dice
  • 9 4-sided dice, including one that doesn’t work because all of the 1s have been replaced by D’oh and at least one of the sides has been rotated so things can’t line up. It’s obviously intentional.

Add these to the five I found in the house, and we should be good for any game that comes up. I’m not fooling myself, though. If I’d found the bin again with the girls, we would have had a second Take Out box of dice to bring home, but that would have been fine, too. Maybe next year.

Be well, everyone.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Days of Geek Launch

Days of Geek Launch

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrssyoutubeby feather

The Podcast Launch

So I’ve been thinking, and talking, and writing, about doing a podcast for a long time, coming up with a lot of thoughts and ideas of things I’d like to do.

The primary criteria involved are fun and interesting. Removing those will turn podcasting into a drudge task that doesn’t last very long. Not what I’m after in a hobby.

I thought I had it with my girls deciding it might be fun. The youngest wanted to help with interviews and the oldest actually wanted us to co-host, and we were going to talk about a variety of geeky things we enjoyed together or even as a whole family. Unfortunately, that excitement didn’t last long. Schedules may partly be to blame, but we recorded bits and pieces of several episodes and they lost interest in doing it. The Cyborg Bunnies Review was no more, gone before it had really gotten moving.

But I still wanted to do something, and the taste of getting things going wasn’t enough. Plus, two friends had been kind enough to submit to guinea pig interviews. Those had to happen.

And life happened, too.

So I found myself in the back half of August when we’d planned to launch in June and I went back to the list of all of the ideas I’d had for podcasts, combined a couple of them, took some inspiration from the podcast that never was, and came up with Days of Geek.

Interviews, audio essays, classic geek cinema discussion, reviews, and Q&A panels I’ve recorded at conventions (mainly Fan Expo so far, but I’ve got a couple from Montreal last fall, too). An eclectic collection of geeky things I find fun and interesting. I think other people might, too, but we’ll have to wait and see.

I have tentatively scheduled to launch on September 17th 24th. (Still need cover art and a couple of small things.) There’s nothing really stopping me at this point except I only have three episodes in the can where I wanted at least five. Life again.

But I’ve also scripted the next two episodes, rough plotted five beyond that, and listed the main subject for forty more. Just at this moment, I have one more interview, 12 more recorded Q&As, and no shortage of geek cinema or subject matter I can go over. Plus some co-hosting ideas of my own. There’s no shortage of content—all I have to do is produce it.

So I’m going to aim for weekly and when life makes that hard, I’ll post a quick audio apology and miss a week. People are pretty understanding when the content is free.

And I think this is going to be fun.

There’s not much going on yet, but you can connect with the show on Facebook (Days of Geek), Twitter (@daysofgeek), or the website (daysofgeek.com).

Stay tuned for the launch, and be well.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
What I Did This Summer

What I Did This Summer

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrssyoutubeby feather

Let me follow this vaguely back to school title with the note that, just like physical health, everyone is responsible for their own mental health. Period.

Don’t blame the world or other people or things beyond your control. These may be causes, but they are not excuses. Take responsibility, take action, do what is necessary to get better.

For my part, a combination of things in various aspects of my life drove me to centre on my family and tune out the rest of the world a bit. That second part really isn’t healthy, either, stealing from one part of your well being to feed another, but I figured that out eventually too and I’ve taken the steps to centre myself and decide on a clear vision of who I want to be. The nice thing is I’m mostly that person. The other nice thing is I’m aware that it requires ongoing growth and effort to continue to be that person and to improve him. And to be there for the people around me.

Every day is a new one.

On a less abstract note, it was a busy summer. We made some significant progress in de-cluttering the house, although a bit portion of that clutter has merely moved to the garage for the moment. There were lots of small activities, video games, movies, geocaching, karate classes, and football skill improvements, as well as the usual summer chores and cleaning up the yard. I cut down three dying pine trees to save five more—whoever lived in the house before we did planted them a foot or so apart and they’re far too big for that now, but I hope I’ve given the rest of them a fighting chance.

And of course, there was Fan Expo, about which I have written much, and I’m probably not done yet. I also haven’t managed to put the good cosplay photos I took at the con up on Facebook or Flickr. I should add that to my list of things to do.

Be well, everyone. Mentally, and physically.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
The Sadness of September

The Sadness of September

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrssyoutubeby feather

Posting this, it’s Sunday night before the second week of the school year, and it’s still a bit of a melancholy time for me.

I don’t really like the whole BTS thing. Yes, kids need an education, but in a time when fewer and fewer of us have so called “standard” work hours, summer is better for seeing your kids.

I’m not talking about taking vacations, but all the time. During July and August, if I have the day off, so do they. If I’m working nights, they’re probably around when I get up. I get a lot more time with them, even the teenager.

When they go back to school. That changes.

Staples/Business Depot has been running an annual ad campaign for something close to two decades now based around the idea that Back To School is the most wonderful time of the year for parents, even using the chorus from that old Christmas song. And I have to wonder about the parents they’re targeting. And they’re absolutely targeting parents, because the parents in these commercials are all overjoyed that the kids are going back to school and the kids always look like they’ve just swallowed a live beetle and can still feel it moving around. See, obviously it’s a great time of the year. Look how happy the adults are at making their kids miserable by sending them somewhere they don’t like being.

I have this to say: if, as a parent, the best time of the year for you is when you get rid of your kids five days out of seven, why did you have kids? If you really don’t want them around, why did you bring them into the world?

Yes, they need an education, though I’m increasingly unsure that what the public school system is providing for them qualifies anymore, but the new school year is not a celebration. Mark it, prepare for it, understand it. Don’t celebrate it unless your kids want to. If they don’t, find something else to celebrate with them.

Bite me, Staples. Bite me.

Everyone else, be well.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
The Family Grows

The Family Grows

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrssyoutubeby feather

You might remember that last year, we lost both of our ancient cats and less than three months apart. If you don’t, I blogged about it here and here.

The OSPCA had an adoptathon in July where they farm out rescue animals to pet stores and reduce adoption fees in hopes of greater exposure. I think it works.

On a trip into the local pet store for crickets (my son has a Leopard Gecko), a scrawny long-haired grey tabby got my youngest daughter’s attention. He’d spent at least one winter as a stray and his weight showed it. His coat also showed it. A rough time in the wilds, I think, as they’d had no luck trying to comb the knots out of his back half and eventually. But, with the unlikely name of Cyrus, he was affectionate, attentive, and interactive, and my daughter fell in love with him. So much that she convinced me to bring her sister back to the store with us so she’d have someone else to help argue with their mom. When we left the store the first time, she looked at me and said, “He will be mine. Oh yes, he will be mine.” (No, I don’t think she’s ever seen Wayne’s World.)

Cyrus in the pet store.
Cyrus in the pet store.

Let’s be clear: I’m the softie of the parenting team. Yes, I can enforce rules; yes, I can determine sanctions for inappropriate activity or behaviour; yes, I do the disappointed dad routine very effectively. But they all know that I’m the one to convince first.

And it had been a year, almost, since I said goodbye to Leo. More than that since Xena. I was ready for a new little furball. And, scraggly looking little rat he might have been, he was still pretty cute.

I took a few days for the girls to convince my wife. We didn’t get to bring him home for a week after that as the shelter had elected to treat the feline equivalent of kennel cough (basically a cat cold) with antibiotics and, according to their rules, once they start, they have to finish to know he’s had the full course.

We visited him in the shelter a couple of days before we could take him home. He was perky, interested, interactive, and vocal. There was no doubt.

When he came home, he rode in a small borrowed carrier between my daughters in the back seat. They didn’t quite fight about which direction he should be facing.

And he adapted immediately, following us around for a couple of minutes before being satisfied that the house was far larger than the cage he’d been in and letting himself be a lap cat for as long as anyone wanted to hold still.

All was well.

Until the next morning when he crapped on the couch before everyone got up.

Really. Okay. We clean, we decide his stress level is high, and we deodorize. No problem, as long as it’s a one shot deal.

It isn’t because he does it again the next morning.

There are concerns. I decide that it’s barely possible that he can still smell Leo and Xena and he’s attempting to mark his territory against unseen intruders, or maybe his stress level is still high from the various moves, or maybe it’s something we can’t even began to figure out, but it can’t go on. We must take steps.

So we clean, we deodorize, we cover the couch in aluminum foil, we spray everything nearby with stuff designed to discourage them from doing anything to the furniture, and we get a plug in device that fills the air with synthetic cat pheromones.

A day goes by. Two. Three. Five. The foil comes off, but we leave the plug in plugged in.

All seems well, and we haven’t had an issue since.

Oh, he’s got other issue though. While he’s affectionate and loveable and his fur is growing in so he’s not quite so scraggly looking, he’s very definitely nuts.

He has some separation issues. He gets anxious if everyone leaves the house at the same time and is right there to scold you when you get home. It’s not so bad if everyone’s asleep because he can go check to make sure you’re there. And he does. If you’re the only one awake, he’s with you. And while he has favourite spots already, he’s only in them if someone’s nearby. This cat does not like to be alone.

Part dog, doing the whole turn around thing before he can lay down but when he stopped to knead first, it’s with all four feet and a twitchy tail.

Part pig, as evidenced by the way he eats. I understand, since he was a stray, he’s still being in survival mode, but he’ll try to lick plates as you’re loading the dishwasher. A couple of mornings ago he jumped up on the counter as I was spooning some canned food out for him. No patience, our Cyrus. And he’ll try for anything that hits the floor, including tortilla chips.

He’s vocal, especially when you’ve just arrived home or you’re trying to feed him, but doesn’t really purr all that much.

The girls decided he should get to keep his shelter-given name of Cyrus. My wife, therefore, calls him Billy or Billy Ray. My son has decided that he should be named Bubbles. I prefer to think of him as my house wookie.

Perhaps Cybacca.

Be well, everyone.

Cyrus at home.
Cyrus at home.
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Begun, the Language Wars Have

Begun, the Language Wars Have

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrssyoutubeby feather

My oldest daughter is learning a bit of Japanese, partly due to a desire to live in Japan one day, and mainly via anime and Japanese music. I’m encouraging this, as she’ll let me, since it’s a dream of mine to spend a year in Japan, pending my spouse being convinced, and hopefully soon enough to take all three of our children with us.

Somewhere in the anime, she’s picked up a couple of simple insults and has apparently used at least one of them on her sister. If only I were surprised.

My youngest daughter has decided she needs to learn to respond, also in Japanese. Last night, I caught her using Google Translate trying to figure out appropriate responses.

Older sister suggested that it would be funnier if she used a different language, and I think the suggestion may have been overheard.

How long before the cry of “Schweinhund!” or “Vache stupide!” is heard in our house? This could get very creative and very out of hand very quickly.

Begun, the Language Wars have.

Be well, everyone.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
New Additions to the Family

New Additions to the Family

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrssyoutubeby feather

So there are new inhabitants in the house. Well, not quite in the house. More on the back porch in an old fish tank, but that’s sort of like being in the house, right?

Let’s backtrack a little.

Youngest and I were out geocaching1 Saturday afternoon and at one point found ourselves beside a small stream with a few hundred tadpoles lazily sunning themselves and enjoying an afternoon algae snack here and there. Of course she wanted to catch some and bring them home. We went through the usual battery of questions—where will you keep them, what do they eat, and so on—and she offered to do some research to find out how to take care of them, noted that we had an old aquarium in the garage we weren’t doing anything with, and thought it would be a wonderful science-y nature-y type thing to watch them grow legs and turn into frogs then take them back and release them. After all, dad, many frogs are endangered or at risk and maybe we can help a few more make it to adulthood.

Middlest thought this a wonderful idea. Mom not so keen, but is very indulgent on things related to learning and education.

Fast forward to Sunday afternoon and three of us are back at the same stream trying to catch tadpoles with bare hands, small cups, and an aquarium net with a hole in the middle. Net result (ha, ha) is a total of 15 tadpoles of at least two different species (I think) in a fifteen gallon tank on the back porch.

It was quickly agreed that they must have names. I offered to name only the three I caught (as if I can tell which those are) and let them split the rest. Here’s what we’ve got:

Named by Youngest: Kermit, Yoda, Kelpie, Popper, Pickle, Gandalf

Named by Middlest: Naked, Baby Blue, Assassin Toad, Bubbles, Buttercup, Blossom

Named by Me: Edgar, Alan, and Hypnotoad.

You can see slight differences in sense of humour spread between the three of us. I’m hoping we can keep more of them alive that nature would have. Updates may follow, at least until we release our little slimy friends back into the wild when they’ve got fully developed legs and lungs.

We brought three snails home as well. Likely, they are equally deserving of names.

Be well, everyone.

 

1 Outdoor treasure hunt with the aid of GPS capable devices. Find things other people have hidden. A fun hobby. You should try. geocaching.com

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
So What Does “Shifting Priorities” Mean for the Website?

So What Does “Shifting Priorities” Mean for the Website?

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrssyoutubeby feather

So what do I really mean when I say “shifting priorities” and “refocusing my efforts”?

Well, I don’t mean I’m giving up writing or creative pursuits, that’s for sure. Too many stories I want to tell. But I’m certainly changing how much I’m pursuing and how fast. The ‘Hitlist’ contains several sublists for project ordering. But, as I said, I’m making some philosophical changes, and those necessitate a little rearranging of my online world, too.

I’ve let the renaissanceninja.com domain go, having decided there isn’t any point in the extra complexity of maintaining two personal blogs, even though I’ve mostly been trying to keep this one as a writing blog. But I’m more than just a writer and the writers whose blogs I tend to read post about more than just writing. They’re people beyond their writing. It makes sense to me that I should be one of those.

Here at my primary website, the ‘2013 Goals’ tab has been replaced by a ‘Project List’. It doesn’t contain everything on the full list, but it does show the current project and the next handful planned to give folks an idea where I’m headed in the next little while. It also contains a similar sized list of the things I plan to indie publish. “Thorvald’s Wyrd” and “Turn the World Around” are still high priority, but not at the very top. Small Realities figures prominently and I’m keeping a couple of secrets for the moment.

In keeping with the ‘focus’ mantra, there is now only one WIP indicator at the top right of this page.

An end to the monthly writing reports. I’ll announce exciting things as and when they happen. Otherwise, no one but me really cares exactly how many words I wrote on any particular thing last month.

I’ve secured two domain names for other significant projects: cyborgbunnies.com for the podcast with my oldest daughter, and daysofgeek.com for another project I’m going to hold close to the vest for a week or two.

I’m returning to the idea of scheduled office hours, i.e. introducing a little bit of time management skill into my free time, something more than just a ‘to do’ list to keep me targeted towards the current set of goals.

Consolidation, simplification, focus.

Be well everyone.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Priority Shifts

Priority Shifts

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrssyoutubeby feather

I’m given to bouts of introspection and analysis, examining some bit of my life or how I’m doing something. Usually these last a few hours, or maybe a day or two. Occasionally, they go longer.

The day or two I took off of writing to recharge my batteries turned into almost three weeks worth of electronic vacation while I considered nearly every aspect of my life. Hope no one’s missed me.

In that three weeks, I’ve spent a fair bit of time with my kids, switched back to day shift, been late once for work, gotten a lot of stuff done around the house, and spent a great deal of time thinking about all of the activities that make up my life and what place they should be occupying.

No, I’m not selling all of my worldly possessions and moving to a commune or a Buddhist monastery (although though I think both would be interesting experiences, if in different ways), or contemplating any major life changes at the moment. I don’t need a midlife crisis, really. But I’ve made some decisions about how I pursue certain goals, and how many of them I’m pursuing at any given time in favour of as much time with my kids as I can possibly get in whatever activities they’re willing to participate in.

I like to think I’m a fairly involved dad, but at the same time I feel like it’s never enough. How often do you stop and say, “Why am I doing this right now? What would be a better way to spend my time?” I’ve been doing that a lot lately, and I find that while I profess to be all about family, there are times when mine is around and I’m doing something by myself that doesn’t involve any of them.

This is not what I want.

So, more geocaching, more karate, more anime, more audio work and podcasting, more video games, more movie making, more football, more paintball, and more of whatever other things I can drag them away from the computer with (that includes my trying to become a pro gamer son). Okay, more shared housework and chores, too—stuff’s gotta get done, after all.

But also probably less writing and related activities. I’ve written before that suffering for your art is not a bad thing, but making other people suffer for your art just makes you a jerk (or perhaps some other word that rhymes with grass mole). Things that are solely for me can now only be done when they aren’t around or are sleeping (because it’s my night off and I’m on nights).

Not as bad as you might think, though. I have breaks at work, days off when they’re in school, commuting time (I can dictate), and a few other odd moments here and there. I’ll still get things done in a creative vein, but I’m not going to be firing on all cylinders on everything at once. Writing goals wiped clean on a word count basis. The goal is now to finish whatever project is on the top of the list.

There is now a top secret list of the order of priorities for my own creative work. Gone are the days of working on five or six things at once. I’m going to try one at a time for a while, which is going to be really tough for me, but will probably be good for me too. Blog posts go on a separate list. Yup, more of those than there have been in the last month or so.

My new word: focus.

Focus, grasshopper, you need focus.

Be well everyone.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Cosplay Prep

Cosplay Prep

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrssyoutubeby feather

Totally forgot to post this, so it seems a little off now that the Con is over. I’ve added a couple of notes here and there. Pictures in a post I’ll be uploading in a few minutes.

 

Many months back, my oldest daughter and I decided to go to Ad Astra, a (mostly) literary Science Fiction and Fantasy convention held in Toronto, a planned awesome father-daughter weekend. More recently, she decided that maybe, since we’re going to cosplay for Anime North in May, we should consider putting together something for Ad Astra as well. This sparked the interest of my youngest daughter (I only have two), who began to wonder if she’d like to come along. After going through the programming list with her, and after she sucked up to her sister a bit, it’s now a father-daughters weekend. (And was completely awesome. See my last post.)

And after trips to a variety of thrift stores and other places, we’ve now got a pile of stuff we’re supposed to be turning into steampunk outfits. And the con starts Friday (this was written on the Monday before). And I’m out of days off. I am, however, on nights so I have some afternoon time. We’ll finish up what we need to in the nick of time, I think, as long as the bronze paint dries on my gloves.

I’m using the word steampunk fairly loosely, too because I’m not all that interested in labels, really. The point of the cosplay is not to strictly adhere to an imagined aesthetic, however cool, it’s about bonding with my daughters and doing something fun. We went shopping. We mixed things together. We’ve sewn, hot glued, spray painted, and made jewelry modifications (fiddly damned stuff and those miniature pliers don’t really make things easier).

Net result: we each have a nerfpunk gun (pictures forthcoming) and we each have a costume (actually, I sort of have 2, pictures of all of us also forthcoming).

Are we done? Probably not.

Are we ready for the con? Who knows?

But it doesn’t matter if we are or not. We’ve had fun, and we’re going to have a great time next weekend. We are still trying to hammer out a schedule for the convention. There are three of us, after all, and I’m not giving my girls completely free run of the hotel.

{And now we just need to worry about our Soul Eater cosplay for Anime North.}

Be well, everyone.

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather