Three Years

I can still remember how it went three years ago.

Things actually started around 6PM the day before when Michelle’s water broke but we stayed home until just after midnight so she could get through some of the early labor in the comfort of her own home. We kept things publicly quiet until the next day when I sent a few texts and some posts on Facebook and, of course, no one really believed me at first and it was finally taking pictures of the inside of Labor and Delivery that convinced people that, no really, this wasn’t an April Fool’s joke.

The last three years have been an incredible journey, one full of changes, struggles, and growth for the three of us. There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t appreciate the fact of how lucky we are with the kid we got and I have enjoyed and loved being there to see him grow up. While he has his moments, Connor’s generally a sweet, good-humored kid and it’s been awesome to watch, especially over this last year, his sense of humor and imagination spring forth.

Happy birthday, monkey. I love you.

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I wonder where he gets it

Connor has this habit of asking questions about something he’s just seen where the questions repeat and are cyclic, even when he’s just been given the answer. For instance, a series might look like this:

Q: Where’s Berk?
A: It’s where the vikings live.
Q: Who are the vikings?
A: The vikings are Hiccup’s people.
Q: Where do the vikings live?
A: In Berk.
Q: [returns to the start of the conversation]

This happens daily about everything and he asks questions in this way even if he knows the answer. Sometimes this can wear on us a bit, having to answer the same question over and over again and today this hilarious exchange happened:

Connor: [Asks a series of questions, repeating multiple times]
Michelle: Connor, I’m not going to answer these questions anymore, I’m getting tired of the questions.
Connor: I’m getting tired of you.
Adults: [proceed to lose our minds laughing]
Connor: [stares like we've lost our minds]

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Game Reviews: The Doom that Came to Atlantic City, Elder Sign, and A Study in Emerald

Being something of a fan of HPL’s work, it’s not surprising that I’ve amassed a small collection of HPL-inspired things. One such collection is board games and I have a number of tabletop games that are based around the Cthulhu Mythos. Yesterday, my wife planned for me and a small gathering of friends a day to game and try out some of the new games I’ve recently purchased (or have been given) but hadn’t yet had a chance to play. I was able to try three new (or new to me) games yesterday The Doom that Came to Atlantic City, Elder Sign, and A Study in Emerald.

The Doom that Came to Atlantic City was originally a Kickstarter project and the first Kickstarter I ever backed. If the name of the game isn’t familiar to you, it has a long and storied history over year and a half since the Kickstarter was fully funded (and then some). The TL;DR version of the story is this: this jackoff started a KS to get this game off the ground, a Monopoly-esque Cthulhu game, without acquiring the rights to the Monopoly IP from Hasbro, who were understandably upset when they found out. Delays, excuses, and finally it was found out that this guy was basically an inept clown who didn’t seem to know what he was doing when he “cancelled” the game. It also didn’t help that he used some of the Kickstarter funds for personal use, such as moving himself across several state lines. The end result was that he basically walked away with over $120k of other people’s money and was only penalized by being known as an epic tool on the internet. Still, I’m sure the $120k+ helps alleviate any embarrassment.

Enter Cryptozoic Entertainment, who basically swooped in like a squid-headed super hero and saved the game by taking the art, the rules (such as they were) and basically, as far as I know, produced pretty much most of the Kickstarter for the backers without getting any of the Kickstarter money to do so. As far as I’m aware, they basically just gave me a game because some other guy screwed me, they felt bad, and doing so got them another game to produce and sell. Hey, I don’t mind, I get my game and Cryptozoic gets a big plus sign in my mind.

TDtCtAC does play a lot like Monopoly only it’s a LOT faster paced. Rather than buying and building up property, you and the other players are Elder Gods who are stomping around a city, leveling buildings and attempting to open gates to other dimensions on the now cleared terrain. The rules are straightforward and easy to understand, the artwork is simple but well done, and the pieces are freaking epic. My one complaint with the game is that it definitely favors the players who are later in each round. Essentially, a win condition is opening your sixth gate and you open gates by destroying the last house on a piece of property so, if you’re the fourth player in a four player game, you have three other players ahead of you stomping the first house on a property (there are two per property) meaning you are very likely to open gates by landing on the spaces they’ve started clearing. I feel like you should have to clear the last house and then land on the space again to open a gate (that gate opening should be another action). It’d slow play a little, but it would reduce that advantage I just described.

The next game I tried was A Study in Emerald. A Study in Emerald is based on the work of short fiction of the same name by Neil Gaiman, a Sherlock Holmes/Cthulhu mash-up where the world was conquered by the Elder Gods some seven hundred years before and now humankind sort of muddles along under their three-lobed, loathsome gaze. However, while most people are either neutral or loyal to their squamous god-royalty, there is a small but growing band of resistance fighters named the Reconstructionists who are attempting to fight back through assassination (by dynamite, because nothing else will do) and by causing the public to rise up and revolt against the revolting. The story of ASiE is that the players are secret agents of one of two sides, the Loyalists or the Reconstructionists, and that they are trying to work towards bringing about their own particular goals (i.e. winning the game).

The problem with this is that this big secret about which faction the players are working on behalf of? IT’S TOTALLY EASY TO FIND OUT. The moment a player assassinates a royal alien god it’s probably likely they’re a Reconstructionist and the moment someone plays a “hide the royalty” (i.e. save them) card it’s easy to guess they are most likely a Loyalist. So the whole premise of the game in that sense falls apart unless someone is really trying to play secret buggers by throwing someone off their trail.

My other complaint about the game is that it’s complex. Very, very complex with a lot of conditional rules. Reading the rules for the first time was not an easy task and probably took about thirty minutes on its own; I played a game and I know I couldn’t explain game play to a new player with enough confidence that I’d get it right.

However, once we got the rules down it was entertaining. Just way, way complex.

Finally, Elder Sign. I was first exposed to Elder Sign on the iPad and played that version first, the table-top version pretty much plays the exact same way. In short, you’re investigators who are exploring a museum where strange and horrible things are afoot, attempting to keep an Elder God from waking up at the same time. Really, the game feels like budget Arkham Horror and, honestly, I think I like AH more although if you don’t have the time to play AH, Elder Sign definitely comes through. I think I like AH more because while it’s a hard game with the setting and rules stacked against you, Elder Sign’s ability to shout “FU!” at the players is particularly brutal, almost to the point where you might not want to finish a game and just start over (like we did last night on our second game).

We didn’t get to play Mansion of Madness but we can save that for another time. All in all, a really fun time.

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What Fresh Asshattery Is This?

Recently I heard about a blog post over at HuffPo that I really couldn’t believe when I was told about it. Which post? Well, let’s just consider the title.

If J.K. Rowling Cares About Writing Then She Should Stop Doing It by one Lynn Shepherd.

What could ever be inside a post with such an interesting title, I wonder?

“When I told a friend the title of this piece she looked at me in horror and said, ‘You can’t say that, everyone will just put it down to sour grapes!’ And she does, of course, have a point.”

Oh. It’s like that.

She then goes on, “But this particular piece isn’t about that.” and I can’t but help think that someone was lying to herself just a touch when she wrote that sentence.

What follows is a blog post that comes across like that type of person, you know the type of person, who drops “helpful suggestions” in a particularly droll tone of voice that just happen to have a slight insulting slant to them or could be taken as a jab but, were you to suggest such a thing, they’d put hand to breast, go all wide-eyed, and say slightly hushed and certainly shocked, “I’d never mean it like that.”

Because you see, Miss Shepherd didn’t “mind Rowling when she was Pottering about”. Why? Because the books were meant for kids (why else would Miss Shepherd then claim she thought it a “shame” that adults were enjoying them when there were other books out there “surely more stimulating for grown-up minds”, i.e. her books) and so, in theory, not competition for the readers Miss Shepherd was hoping to attract. Not that Miss Shepherd read any of the Potter books apparently. One might assume that such things are beneath her.

But then Rowling had the audacity to pen A Casual Vacancy and, well, darling, that just is certainly not done. While I am no fan of A Casual Vacancy (or as I like to call it, Everyone’s An Asshole and No One Is Happy), Miss Shepherd found the hype regarding the book “drearily excessive”, that it “sucked the oxygen from the entire atmosphere”.

The entire atmosphere, you guys. Entire.

It seems, by publishing an adult book Rowling made it simply impossible for other people to publish because she somehow created a “monopoly” that made it “impossible for anything else to survive.”

“…But what can an ordinary author do, up against such a Golgomath?” Miss Shepherd asks us, I imagine, with a deep earnestness as she stands surrounded by piles of her own, unsold books.

She brings up Cuckoo’s Calling, how it was a “well-written and well-received crime novel”, but the fact that Rowling wrote it, albeit under a pseudonym, made it so that no other books of similar genre (*coughcoughherscoughcough*) were possibly paid any attention when the reveal about who had written it came out. Miss Shepherd then bemoans that Rowling would get a sequel to Cuckoo’s Calling! A sequel! Won’t Rowling think of the poor, lesser known authors named Miss Lynn Shepherd? Does she have no shame?

Finally, she concludes with her “plea” to Rowling. Miss Shepherd magnanimously says “[by] all means keep writing for kids, or for your own personal pleasure – I would never deny anyone that”.

Well, that is certainly very nice of Miss Shepherd, isn’t it?

She continues “but when it comes to the adult market you’ve had your turn” because, apparently, authors get “turns” at being published and artists are behooved to simply step aside into some kind of artistic limbo or retirement once they’ve reached a certain plateau it seems.

“Enjoy your vast fortune and the good you’re doing with it, luxuriate in the love of your legions of your fans, and good luck to you on both counts. But it’s time to give other writers, [i.e. me], and other writing [i.e. mine], room to breathe.”

What. A. Bunch. Of. Horse. Shit.

Unsurprisingly, this was the Internet’s reaction: INTERNET CRUSH PUNY WHINER

What also isn’t surprising at all was her reaction to the Internet’s…exuberance in expressing their displeasure with her blog post. You see, over at the Guardian, “Shepherd apologised for upsetting writers and readers alike, explaining that she had ‘only ever meant to raise the issue of how hard it is for new writers to get noticed and how publishing is much more of a zero sum game than people often think.’”

She goes on to say, I imagine wide-eyed, palm to her chest, voice slightly lowered, “With hindsight I’d have written my piece an entirely different way, as I never intended it to upset anyone, and I’m very sorry that it did.”

Sure you didn’t, sweetie. Sure you didn’t. I have to wonder if Miss Lynn Shepherd wishes she’d listened to her unnamed friend, choked down her helping of sour grapes, and never suggested that a fellow, and much loved, artist give up the craft for her own selfish gain.

Hat-tip to Sage Bear for letting me know.

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Harold Ramis

Yesterday, the new broke that Harold Ramis passed away at the age of sixty-nine. He was an accomplished writer, actor, director, and producer.

He also played one of the best geek role models out there, Dr. Egon Engler. As my friend RJ put it, he brought life to a character that will forever be known for being “a researcher, inventor, reluctant adventurer and hero. He showed everyone you could be smart and weird and funny and eccentric and nice and courageous, all at the same time, and be loved for all of it.”

Not many people can say they brought joy to people all over the world, Mr. Ramis, but you could. Well done, sir. Well done.

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First Geek Dad Moment Was Amazing

I’m a proud geek and have been for all my life. It’s an integral part of my self-identity and I love everything about it. One of the things I’ve been looking forward to the most about being a father was the prospect of introducing my son to the things I geek out about: games, books, science fiction, fantasy, the “classic” geek movies, and then seeing what he picks up and geeks out about.

This Sunday we introduced Connor to Star Wars.

I don’t think I can truly express to you how happy it made me to watch him watch the movie, his eyes wide, and see his imagination fire up. No sooner had Luke and Obi-Wan made contact with Han and Chewie than our two couches in our living room became space ships. The two drumsticks from our very old Rockband drum kit became “shooters” we used to help Luke blow up the Death Star.

It was amazing and the last five hours of the weekend made up for all the struggles of the rest of it.

I can’t wait to introduce him to The Princess Bride.

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Poop Threat Levels

If you’re a parent or have ever babysat younger children, you know the…”joy” of changing a diaper. You also know that whenever you go to change a diaper you’re potentially in for any number of possible outcomes. Having recently started trying to train my kid in cloth underwear, I thought I’d share with you my Poop Threat Level Meter*.

Level Zero – No poop. Pretty self-explanatory, the easiest diaper to change.

Level One – The Flyspeck/Diaper Duster – This isn’t really a poop but where clearly the kid almost pooped, enough so that there’s a little on the diaper. Consider this a warning that poop will later be in your future.

Level Two – The Pebble – This is literally a little pebble of poo as if your child’s body used every last scrap of food for nutrients and this is the weird stuff left over. Not necessarily a herald of horrible things to come but that’s all they got for now.

Level Three – Deer Diaper (or Rabbit Diaper) – The Deer Diaper/Rabbit Diaper is pretty much a collection of Pebble’s like your kid was channeling their inner woodland creature. How the kid manages to make it like this is beyond me, maybe a pediatrician would know, but it’s weird. Super weird, and evidence that your kid’s digestive track is a strange, undiscovered country.

Level Four – Little Poop – Exactly what it is on the tin, a little poo.

Level Five – Poop – A healthy sized poop for your kid. Not necessarily a freak show in their diaper to clean up, but something you’d not think too out of the ordinary.

Level Six – Large Poop/Diaper Filler – Maybe they were packing it away for a while, maybe they decided to give you a look at what the inside of their lower intestine and colon looks like, but this is a poo that gives you pause and makes you thank your blessings it wasn’t worse while making you take a mental inventory of how many wipes you brought with you.

Level Seven – The Back Shits/The Pants Ender/The Super Underpants Explosion – This level is a test of fire for newer parents, especially when your sweet newborn manages to produce their own weight in semi-solid waste. How a baby weighing ten pounds is able to produce that much crap AND the internal pressure necessary to propel it with such force that it shoots up their diaper, curling up the back of it like a ramp, and gaining liftoff to paint their back a horrible Jackson Pollock of feces is beyond me. This one is always a challenge, especially the Back Shits, as you try to strip them of their soiled clothes without getting any in their hair.

Level Eight – The Shatastrophe – The Shatastrophe is both the Back Shits and the Pants Ender at the same time. Your child has somehow managed to hose themselves down in runny, slightly clingy liquid shit and it’s best not to think too long on how they managed to do it; that way lies the path of madness. Necessitating an entire change and maybe a hose down, the Shatastrophe is a nightmare, especially if you’re out.

Level Nine – Poopacolapyse – The Shatastrophe that is…not contained. Maybe your toddler left a little trail of brown footprints, maybe you came around the corner and found them rolling around in their own filth, maybe they decided to finger paint with their very own natural pallet, regardless, this poop has grown to Biblical proportions and literally laughs at the diaper that sought to contain it, much like the mighty Fenris Wolf scoffs at the chain he eventually will slip free from.

Level Ten – The Crapnarok** – The Shitting of the Gods. The end of the world where all creation will be subsumed beneath rivers of fiery poo and the fear of all things baby. As your little bundle of joy ushers in a new age of darkness, new parents around you will reconsider their decisions to produce their own herald of the end and those without children will make commitments to never breed themselves.

*Any and all likeness to the US government’s terrorist threat level is in your own head.
**Yes, I probably didn’t translate it right. It’s ok. It’s a joke.

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