Friday, July 31, 2009


So I was making my lunch yesterday—left over grilled chicken breast.
I threw in a couple rings of purple onion with it.

Riding the bus into work I was watching Ratatouille on my Zune.
There's a scene fairly early in the movie when Remmy finds himself in the Kitchen of Gusteau's Restaurant and he's desperately trying to get out. He finds himself at one point in a dish that is being prepared—a dish that contains purple onions. Right at that moment I reached up to scratch an itch on my face and whaddaya know, I'm smelling purple onion.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Are We Playing the Old School Way?

There seems to be a lot of Old School/New School talk in the Role Playing Game Community as of late.

I never played back in the days of AD&D so I don't really know what that was all about. I have an inkling from what I've read—a sort of gut feeling about how those games went. The Joke is that there was a more adversarial relationship between the GM/DM and players, but in reading A Quick Primer for Old School Gaming I came to realize that old school gaming is what I had in mind when I wanted to get into gaming.

I came to realize that I had, as a player, definitely tried my hand at being an old school gamer without even knowing it. What this essay points out is that the character sheet in old school games had far less on it, which leads to more creativity. For instance in a new school game, if I describe some kind of tactical trick during a fight—there's probably going to be Rules that determine the outcome and the situation will be resolved with a couple rolls of the dice. While in an old school game—the same explanation requires a little mind exercising on the part of the GM; die rolls will still be incorporated, however the GM will be "Ruling" as opposed to following "Rules" so instead of following the rules he makes something up that fits and may or may not have you roll to resolve.

The current system we've been running is Savage Worlds, and I think that it lends itself well to the old school ways. Instead of having eight skills for eight different types of firearms, you have a shooting skill that covers everything from a bow and arrow to a howitzer to a M1A2 Abrams to the phaser banks and torpedoes on the Star Ship Enterprise. It's this simplification of the character that opens up the possibilities and creativity.

Because I'm a new GM and not clear on ALL the rules it forces me to just make things up—which is a very old school way of doing things. (For more Specific examples see A Quick Primer for Old School)

The only thing I didn't like so much about the old school way of doing things is the resource management. I don't really like keeping track of  every bullet, etc. We've reduced fuel, food, and Ammunition to a Scale of Very High, High, Low, Out. So I guess I'm a little bit Old School—A Little bit New School.

Sure, sometimes I find myself just resolving things with a die roll, though I hope I'm still running a creative game, and using quick die rolls at times when appropriate.  Those that have played in my games are encouraged to comment—especially if they take time to read A Quick Primer for Old School (it's only 11 pages)

One last note, I learned again while writing this that I had been using some words wrong. I essentially had the definitions of Treatise and Essay backwards in my head.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Texting—More Rant

For some reason this morning I was thinking about texting.

I had overheard someone at work ridiculing a co-worker (all in fun) about his excitement over an iPhone. They mocked him because he had said something like, "It can even tell you where you are!"

To which they replied, "Well, geeze don't you know where you are?"

Then they commented on how stupid texting is. I was thinking about how stupid texting is, how it's a giant step backwards in technology (I'm sure I've ranted about this before). Then suddenly, I had to pause for a moment. I remembered that I used to Text. It used to be a throw away feature to the phone, they all had it and nobody used it. It was FREE to receive texts and only cost money to send them. Unless you sent them from the internet. I used to be able to log into my Cell provider's website and send text messages to anyone on the service.

Now it costs me 25¢ a pop to send OR receive a text. I have no control over whether someone sends me a text, but I still get charged for it—until recently...they finally made it an option to block texts from coming in; so if you text me I'm not going to get it.

Sure you can add a texting plan—but that's what? Twenty more dollars on my bill. Even at 25¢ a pop I only spend about Five Dollars extra on a bad month due to unsolicited texts. I still maintain it's a ridiculous business model and a giant step backwards in technology. I have a PHONE in my pocket and yet you insist on sending me a telegram. That's not communication, that's avoidance of communication.

Kids and their telegrams these days.

I'll finish with a quote taken from the December 1900 Ladies Home Journal—the article entitled: What May Happen in the Next Hundred Years.

—There will be no C, X, or Q in our every day alphabet. They will be abandoned because unneccesary. Spelling by sound will have been adopted, first by the newspapers. English will be a language of condensed words expressing condensed ideas, and will be more extensively spoken than any other. Russian will rank second.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

What I Should Have Done

There are probably some spoilers ahead—those that visit from the Savage Worlds Forum may want to skip the read if they plan on playing in a Zombie Run Game. You've been warned. 

Another Gaming Session. Another Learning Session for Me.

Saturdays session had a disturbing story behind it, involving a preacher with a twisted perspective on the meaning of the Zombie appocalypse. He saw it as a Ressurection of Judgement. He sees the Zombies as Agents of Judgement against the Sinful world. He also believes that the righteous can't just sit idly by and expect to be left alone (i.e. he has no problems defending against the hordes of dead). One more thing, when his "family" was low on food he decided they must do as the Agents of Judgement. In order to survive they must eat people.

I was nervous about running this session. First off, the story is just plain twisted. Second, we have in our group a character that is a Pistol Packin Preacher; so there was some explosive pottential there. Third, the way the Zombie Run is written it is assumed that characters will do certain things—I've learned that Player Characters are completely unpredictable.

One thing that I thought might happen, is that the characters just decided to not follow the preacher's kids up to the ol' homestead. To prepare for that, the preceding week (at scout camp) I kept trying to read the next portion of the story, but I just couldn't concentrate on it. I'd read it before—but I really need to brush up before the session takes place.

Some very good Roll Play took place when they drove into town and spotted the Deranged children of the Deranged Preacher. At this point they weren't supposed to know how deranged they were, but I have two characters that have beliefs in conspiracy theories—and their paranoia nearly kept them away from the home of "The Family" I let them argue it out.

My Wife's character just wanted to go with them—no pretense of a prejudistic bone present in her gothy body. The Two Paranoids wanted nothing to do with them. The Preacher felt it was his responsibility to set things right after hearing some of the teachings of their father.

When they finally got there, nothing went according to plan. Only one person partook of the drugged food and she only failed one vigor roll—so never lost consciousness. The daughter tried to seduce one of the paranoids, but the other paranoid was watching his back, so the pre-dinner snack that she and her brother had planned never took place—and they managed to heighten the alarms of everyone else. Things escalated ridiculously fast. A grenade went off, and they escaped the Cannibal Zombie Death Cult before any real harm was done to the party.

Then I had nothing—I even told them so. This was the day I got back from Scout Camp so my mind was not completely up to snuff. So my player that is a GM asked if they wanted to try out a Scenario he's writing for a one sheet, and he took over the rest of the night. I even played.

Not ten minutes after everyone left, I realized what I should have done. No, I wasn't up to an on-the-fly encounter like last session. I should have run another Interlude session—two of the players there weren't present at the last interlude.

The good news is, we've run consistently every other week for five sessions now.

Bear Lake—Werewolves and Savage Twelve Year Old Scouts

WARNING: This turned into a Super Long Ramble—Most likely you will get bored and close the window before you reach the end; I won't hold that against you, since that's what I do when reading Long Blog Posts.

I spent all of last week at Bear Lake Aquatics Base, because I am the Assistant Scout Master of a local Troop. It was fun and I should highlight some of the experience, and some of my thoughts.

Attending Scout Camp as a Leader, rather than a Scout is a whole different experience.Being Assistant Scout Master even more so than Scout Master I believe.

When I was in Scouts, I don't really recall working on Rank Advancement all that much. I thought that I had made it to Second Class, had done all the requirements for first class and then never bothered with the Court of Review for advancement; but I recently came across a sash with the few Badges I did earn in a box in the garage. I apparently did make First Class—so it must have been the Star Rank that I didn't attend a Court of Review in order to obtain.

At camp I learned that all Scouts are Expected to reach First Class. Anything more is Above and Beyond. Well at least I made the minimum requirement.

My Duties pretty much involved making sure that the Scouts didn't waste time. If they came back to camp early from class, they were to be working on something. I also had the responsibility of making sure the Scouts didn't "kill" each other when they were in camp—which can be difficult when you're about ready to do the job yourself.

Everything else pretty much fell to the Scout Master. He did ask me to attend Scout Master Meeting on Tuesday. Which turned out to be 5 minutes of announcements and 5 minutes of comments/suggestions from the Leaders in Attendance.

In other words—for the most part it was pretty kick back. The routine ended up being something like this:

Get up—eat breakfast, make sure that the boys on KP assisted our volunteer Cook, offer to help in the kitchen (this was always refused) get the boys out of camp and off to Flag Ceremony. After Flag Ceremony they went to merit badge classes. Around Noon they would return to camp for lunch and at 2:00 they were off to class again. At 5:00 we would have dinner, 7–9:00 they generally had "free time" which was open time at the classes—anyone could show up to pass off requirements that they didn't complete in class time. After 9:00 they were back in camp, and "lights out/quiet time" started at 10:30.

I attended Flag Ceremonies, three of the five and a third days we were there. I attended the opening and closing campfire ceremonies. The opening consisted mostly of the staff acting foolishly to make everyone laugh (i.e. skits) and the closing consisted mostly of Scouts acting foolishly to make everyone laugh (more skits).

Monday afternoon it donned on me that I had a magnifying glass in my pocket. Which I've been carrying around with me since a family Christmas party. I decided to burn an image into something out of the wood pile.

My original idea was to make a comic, not unlike the one I drew last camp out. I found that it takes longer than I have patience to burn an image, so I abandoned that Idea. I then tried carving the wood into a bit of a speech bubble shape—which didn't really work.

Tuesday I was looking at a block of wood one of the scouts had carved a bas-relief candle into (for the woodcarving merit badge) and musing that I might go get one from the camp store to carve. He stated that he was done with it and that I could use it if I wanted. So I shaved the candle off and had a blank canvas. I made a Die. Wednesday when I finished carving it, I was not happy with the readability of the numbers—so I busted out the magnifying glass again.

When preparing for the camp I asked if I needed to drive, and luckily they said no; which meant that they weren't expecting me to borrow the van from my wife. I wisely decided to drive my car—this means I can pack whatever I want in the quantities I deem necessary. I didn't unpack the trunk in order to prepare for camp—this means that there were a lot of board and card games in the trunk, most of which wouldn't really be playable at camp, except Lupus in TabulaLupus in Tabula is a published version of the popular party game commonly known by the name Werewolf or Mafia, with a few additions.

When one of the leaders suggested that we play Werewolf—I stated that I have a copy in the car. He was confused (I knew he would be when I made the statement) I explained that there were several published versions of Werewolf now on the market and that I had one in the car. So I was nominated to run the game.

I had only played Mafia a few times—years and years ago. When I purchased Lupus in Tabula, I had also purchased Are you a Werewolf? at the same time. I got them home opened them up and started reading the rules—this is when I realized that they were published versions of a game that people play for free (which angers me) and they were the same stinking game!
(I suppose you can infer how that made me feel); at which time I put them both back in their package and never looked at them again.

Well, now that I was tasked at running a game I thought it just may be important that I read the rules through. Are you a Werewolf? is the basic game including Villagers, Werewolves, and a Seer. Lupus in Tabula is the same thing in its basic format—but also includes optional roles such as the Medium, Possessed, Bodyguard, Werehamster, Free Masons, Owl, and Mythomaniac.

I chose to run the basic game since it was the first time for most of the scouts (and myself), but I made an error. I left only the Villagers and the Werewolves in the deck and forgot the seer. I chose to play the Ghost variant of the game that allows villagers that have been killed to vote (but not participate in the conversation) this keeps everyone involved in the game so they don't feel left out—I'm supposed to think of that sort of thing as their leader.

I should have stacked the deck, because one of my werewolves ended up being the only kid in the group that couldn't grasp the concept of what was going on. I had another kid in the group that just couldn't keep his eyes closed so I had to pull him aside and have a chat while the villagers were discussing who they thought the werewolf was—he behaved better after that. The other funny thing about the game was that following a suggestion in the rule book. I had the werewolves off me as the first victim since I was acting as narrator. This to the other players caused them all manner of suspicion trying to decide who would be so horrible as to off the narrator on the first night.

All in all, I felt the game was a complete disaster. The boys liked it though because the next day they begged and begged to play again. I succumbed and ran another game the following night. I read the rules through again, realized my mistakes—stacked the deck, threw in all the roles except the Mythomaniac and tried again. There were still problems, but I think it went a little better. I still think the individual that suggested we play in the first place was disappointed, because there was no hunter. Well sorry—I've never played with a hunter and I don't know what he does, and my game doesn't have one.

This is us playing Werewolf. Note the lack of campfire, it was so warm that we didn't have a need for a fire; I think we built one fire the entire week and that was so someone could pass off a rank advancement requirement; and we didn't feed it all night as is customary. I think that this is one of the best things we did, my clothes weren't all smokey when I got home and I didn't have to deal with that smell all week. Don't get me wrong, I like the campfire smell—but it gets old fast.

This essentially brings us to Thursday. Monday was just above comfortable as far as temperature—Tuesday was bearable, yet unpleasant—Thursday was a joke. A very unfunny joke. 109° F in the Shade!

To pass the time I dug through the Wood Pile—now our wood pile is not like your typical wood pile. I believe the wood we get is mostly scrap from someone's place of employment; instead of logs we have a lot of flat boards, square sticks, and even bits of crown molding—I found a nice big flat board and used the ruler on the fish de-scaler on my pocket knife to measure 1" increments. Then I used one of the aforementioned flat sticks as a straight edge to lay out a grid on the board.

Then I took the stick, which was approximately 1" wide and divided it in inches. In these squares I drew birds eye view tokens of the major landmarks of our camp. Then I cut them apart using a Leatherman and placed them on the board—thus creating a game board of our campsite.

I pulled out my copy of Savage Worlds: Explorer's Edition and proceeded to write up characters of all the Boys and Leaders. I was hoping to run a few of the boys through a quick Zombies Invade the Camp Site!!! session, but alas it never took place. I even devised how many rounds it would take them to run up the mountain and grab weapons and ammo from the Rifle Shooting, Archery, and Shotgun Shooting merit badge class areas.

We took them to the other side of the lake that night for Pizza, I think they enjoyed it—but I was surprised when they didn't out eat me.

Friday they finished up as much as they could and we prepared to head home as soon as possible the next morning. We had 7 of 9 fulfill the requirements for rank advancement (No, not the former Borg drone) and as a whole they brought home 43 Merit Badges. Not too shabby.

I'm not sure how someone as geeky as me ended up as the Assistant Scout Master. I guess filling their heads with Zombie & Werewolf Lore is only slightly better than losing them in the woods looking for snipe.

Friday, July 17, 2009

How Many Stylists Does It Take...

My Brother in Law is getting Married tomorrow. I haven't had a haircut since April—which is not unusual for me. First of all, I hate taking the time to get my hair cut, and second of all—I'm a cheapskate, thirteen dollars for a haircut that takes on average fifteen minutes makes me crazy. Also, last time I got my hair cut, she messed it up—which is mind boggling.

I cut my hair in a bowl cut, then I part it to the side rather than the middle or not at all, so it doesn't generally look like your typical bowl cut. This is the easiest haircut in existence. Historically it is the haircut of the commoner, because it's easy to do at home and was symbolic of an inability to afford to go to a barber. I really should just let my wife do it (she's going to have a comment about this, I'm sure) but I've had it done wrong by so many people that are supposed to know what they're doing, that I'm a little clipper-shy.

So, on my lunch break today I went to get my hair cut—since there will be picture taking tomorrow.

In my opinion, the best place to get your hair cut is a barbering school, by a student. This offers many advantages. First of all, it's cheap. Second of all there are teachers there that check the cut when the student is done and fix things. Third, it's cheap. Fourth, if they mess it up the teachers are good at fixing things (not everything can be fixed, but things can usually be made better) Fifth—did I mention it's cheap?

There's one big Giant disadvantage to getting your hair cut by a student. It usually takes an hour. These people, unless they are close to graduating are still really nervous about taking hair off. Which is understandable, when my hair gets messed up—I get really really upset. Because there it is, for all to see; and even if it looks okay (like mine did three months ago) it doesn't feel right or behave the way to which you are accustomed. Ask my Wife how many days I complained about my hair last time.

I didn't have time for an hour haircut today—and I've had very hit and miss experience from actual Barber Shops (that could be its own rant entirely)—so I went to a nationally franchised chain salon. I was greeted by a very effeminate man. He asked me for my address—which I usually refuse to give, but I humored him—being in a hurry, my phone number, my blood type. Well, not really my blood type, and I drew the line at phone number, which I'm pretty sure annoyed him as it took him about three minutes to circumvent that portion of the computer program. Either that, or he was just stalling to annoy me.

So he sat me down in the chair and asked what I wanted. I told him, "This is supposed to be a bowl cut, but the last person messed it up." He put on the drape and walked away, just sort of disappeared—which is a feat considering that this was a one room establishment. When he came back he had a broom—odd since he hadn't made a cut.

He informed me that someone else was going to cut it, "because I don't know how to do a bowl cut. . . And I don't want to mess it up."

So the woman finished up the guy in the chair next to me and then came over, she started clipping the up under part, and before she was done—he was helping her hold the top hair out of the way. She did the clipping and then explained to him how to finish. This blows my mind, having spent as much time as I have in my life at barbering schools, getting my hair cut—I have an idea as to how much training and testing that they have to go through in order to be licensed. Yet he's never done a bowl cut? I know it isn't as popular now, but it's not an uncommon cut—or is it?

This marks the first time I have ever had a trainer/apprentice experience in a non-school environment. I never found it odd at the barbering schools when I would say "bowl cut" and all the blood would drain from their face and they would run to teacher; it was a school after all—it was probably the first time they got to do a bowl cut.

In fact—I liked it when that happened at the barbering school; as simple as the bowl cut is, there must be some deception in the simplicity. To do it right—there's a trick, a trade secret if you will, that requires the receiver of the secret to have a little more experience under the belt in order to grasp the concept. On more than one occasion, generally at the beginning of the semester, I would say "bowl cut," I would see that tell tale draining of blood from the face, the fearful searching for the master of the shears—and upon return, the master would just attend to the locks himself indicating that they should watch closely, and that they would in the future be allowed to attempt the venerable Cut of the Bowl.

So, I'm reasonably sure that the correct answer to the question of the number of stylists is, at the very least—but not by any strech of the imagination limited to—TWO.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Someone asked me how to edit a DVD (i.e. Remove the Curse Words/Embarrassing Scenes) and maintain the surround sound. This will be somewhat general as different computers will have different settings that will change certain specifics.

First off, this is a very time consuming endeaver; and if you mention that you have edited a DVD, a DVD that you purchased at the store, a DVD that you keep on  your shelf at home for your own personal viewing, on the shelf right next to the original DVD version of the film—if you ever mention that out loud, or on a blog, etc. the MPAA will bust down your door and take away all your DVDs that you purchased from your favorite retail outlet, and then fine you for "Artistic" impugnment, take away your dog and make you Rot away in prison while your stay-at-home Wife is left to find a way to pay the Mortgage while you're stuck doing laundry for pennies and fear for your self in the shower.

First of all, because DVDs are in MPEG2, they are not an editible format. In MPEG2 you have key frames, and all the frames between those key frames are based on what changed in the frame from that key frame. So the first thing to do is get the video into an editible format.

I use a program called DVDFab—find it yourself, it's of questionable legality and costs... I don't know, it was $50 when I bought it, but I think the price has gone up. You could also probably use, Super or Handbrake—but I'm not an expert at those. I like DVDFab for its "one click" usage.

You want to get the Video into an AVI using a codec that your computer can understand. The audio codec doesn't matter, because you won't be using the audio—turn off the audio in the video file if possible.

Then you need to use the program again to rip an audio stream out of the same source. This should give you an AC3 file. An AC3 file is an audio file with 5.1 audio. Then you want to use BeSweet with the BeSweet GUI to rip 6 Mono WAV files.

Take the AVI file and the 6 Mono Wave files into your video editor (I use Adobe Premiere) and then edit as you please. I have used techniques like: Muting only the Center channel (where you find most of the dialogue), borrowing ambient sound from other channels so it doesn't sound like the audio is cutting out, removeing scenes completely, etc.

When you're done, export the video to Frames, then render those frames as MPEG2.
Then Export all the channels of audio seperately and recombine them into an AC3 file, the software I use is no longer available comercially (it's been implimented into the feature set of a more expensive program, I think)—I understand that you can use a program called HeadAC3he (using a global gain of 6db to get the volume right) I've never used it though.

So now you should have an MPEG2 video file and an AC3 File. Take those into your DVD authoring program of choice (I've used Adobe Encore and DVDLab) Setup menus if you want.

I don't know how to retain Subtitles, but I maintain that someone probably knows how.

Google Reader—Posting the Past

I love my Google reader. I keep up with all the family blogs (I think—post your blog in the comments or send me an e-mail and I'll make sure to get you added) some news sites, and some art blogs, and a boatload of Webcomics.

Recently I've taken to reading blogs about Role Playing Games—particularly Savage Worlds (I may have mentioned my fondness for this particular system before) and one of the Blog Feeds about Savage Worlds did something...strange this morning.

Every once in a while Google Reader will show me posts more than once. I noticed it on Mr. CFI most recently. But then I noticed a pattern, it's the Blogs that I follow through Blogger that are showing up twice. Once as a follower and once as a subscribed RSS feed.

So I thought I had it Figured out, but every once in a while, I still get a stray feed that shows up a late.

This morning I got a feed from one of the Savage Wolds blogs that I follow—I read it, it had some good ideas that I'm considering implementing into the game I'm running.

The feed I get it from is a little confusing at times however. This particular feed was created by another Savage Worlds Blogger at and I subscribed to it from a forum post on the Savage Worlds Website—it's essentially a feed made up of other feeds. The problem with that is that sometimes I don't know what feed it's coming from, so I end up going to reader and then linking to the original Blog to find out who wrote what.

I just made a decision, I'm going to go to all the blogs on the pipe feed, add their feeds to my reader and then remove the Pipe feed from my reader. That will simplify life... okay done—Sorry, this blog has turned into a stream of consciousness.

It still doesn't explain why sometimes Reader Necro-bumps a feed. For instance, the blog I read this morning was interesting but I couldn't tell where it was from until I got to the actual blog; I was reading other posts (incidentally I was going to say I was purusing the site—I looked up the word to make sure I was spelling it right and found I was using it wrong: it means in depth studying or reading, not lightly browsing) Anyway, I was reading other posts once I was there and wanted to get back to the post that got me there in the first place. I clicked on the Blogs name to take me to the Main Page and thus the most recent post—but it wasn't there. Confused I hunted it down—post date: Monday, September 22, 2008—that broke my brain, so here I am dumping said brain.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Cell Phone Dice

My obsession with dice is well established.

Recently, my wife had me upgrade my cell phone. As far as cell phones go, I don't really care—all I use it for is making and receiving calls. I don't text, I don't even have a texting plan (texting is a step backward in technology AND a way of avoiding communication—but that's a rant for another time) I don't use internet or any data functions of any phone I've ever owned.

However, I learned last time that I avoided updating my phone that if you put it off for a few years, it's a big giant hassle. (Because my technology and thus my plan was so outdated that it ended up costing us ridiculous amounts just to upgrade) Again, not the point.

So the new phone has the ability to run applications. I downloaded p2e Multidice (linked from Savage Heroes) which is nice, but I really like programs to be more graphical and GUI. So I searched around and found this Dice Application which looks pretty good, but it's still not quite the functionality I'd hoped for.

One cool thing that the phone features, and is utilized in the pre-installed demo games and in the the media player controls, is an accelerometer.

Now those of you out there that have iPhones or iPod touch have all manner of dice applications that utilize the 3-axis accelerometer, but I'm a cheapskate and will probably never have enough in the ol' family budget budget to justify the purchase of one. I have yet to find a java based one that I could use on my phone—bummer.

Does anyone know of one?

I'd love to write one, but alas—I'm an artist, not a programmer. I created this little program using Macromedia Director back in college, but I never finished the full scope of the idea because I couldn't figure out the Lingo.

Anyway, I'm asking if anyone out there knows of one, or would like to program one. I'm willing to provide artwork.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Storytelling on the Fly

There are probably some spoilers ahead—those that visit from the Savage Worlds Forum may want to skip the read if they plan on playing in a Zombie Run Game. You've been warned.

Session four of our Zombie Run Game has come and gone. There were two ways I could have taken the game tonight. I could have run the next chapter in the Adventure, but the mix of people that had confirmed attendance was not the mix of people that I wanted to send into that situation. So I've been wanting to try running what Pinnacle Entertainment has dubbed an Interlude.

Savage Worlds is not what would be considered a storytelling system, but the Interlude is the Savage Worlds way of introducing storytelling to the game. The interlude storytelling device was first published in this particular edition of Zombie Run (Updated for SW:EX) which was released the week I started running it back in May. They stated that they would be releasing a free edition of the Interlude (via the website), that can be used in any Savage Worlds Setting shortly after releasing it in the Zombie Run Savage Tale—but I haven't seen it there yet.

Roughly the way it works, is that based on the card you draw—you tell a particular type of story. We learned that one character has a nasty puss filled scratch on the leg, one character has issues with shopping at the mall, one character thinks he's completely wrong in his assessment of mall shopping, one character has anger issues, and one character actually found a Humvee full of M.R.I.s back in Camettesville when they were scouring the Mall for Supplies.

The Role Playing was great—even our most Munchkin of players really got into character, and everyone seemed to have a real great time in character. Looking at the clock after everyone was done telling their story I found that it was approximately two hours before I planned on being done for the evening. So I had to figure out what to do next—everyone else had had their chance to come up with story on the fly, and now it was my turn—since I didn't want to run the next written chapter of the adventure.

To stall, I busted out the Atlas of the United States and asked them where they wanted to go. They bantered in a friendly manner about where to go and eventually decided on a direction. Then, not wanting to completely dismiss all "Roll" playing from the evening, I had to come up with some sort of encounter.

So I put a road block in their way.

An abandoned military roadblock—i.e. three Humvees on a road through a forested area (represented by boxes of Monster Snap Fireworks) where the trees come right up to the shoulder of the road. They cautiously examined the Humvees. Got one started and moved out of the way—which promptly ran out of fuel. They found an unexploded grenade with a missing pin in the back of one of the Humvees (this served to escalate their already heightened "paranoia" that something bad was going to happen) and a small crate in another of the Humvees. While they were distracted by the small crate (i.e. extremely overly cautious opening of said crate) I was able to walk some Zombies out of the forest and start a combat situation.

The crate contained grenades, I'd been trying to find an excuse to give the party grenades for three play sessions now. (admittedly, I was looking for an excuse to use the Burst Templates that I had so masterfully crafted). Zombie combat ensued. Grenades were thrown (one severely missed its target—blowing up a tree that fell onto and covered almost the entire roadway—brilliantly represented by a Twizzler on the map)

After the Zombie Combat was over, I was wondering what plan they would come up with, in order to remove the tree from the road,since the bus couldn't drive over it or around it—but Brandon remembered that Justin had a chain saw.

The only really weird part of the evening, was that one of my players had earlier in the week asked if he could invite a friend to the session. I had reluctantly said yes. Reluctantly, because this person has some quirks that I didn't want to distract from the game—I mulled it over in my head and the quirks that I had observed in the past didn't seem like things that could distract from the game. I said Yes because I thought we were going to be on the low end of players for this session, and I didn't think it would hurt to have another survivor on the bus, but I stated the Caveat that I didn't really want him to become a regular because I already have thirteen people invited to this game, and although it hasn't happened—I have this sinking feeling that one of these weeks all thirteen are actually going to show up.

He's a nice guy, and I have no personal problems with him—Let me state this again, I like him. We have done things with him before, he is not a bad person, I will probably play games with him again in the future; but he spent the entire session preparing a talk for church—That is odd— I invited people over to play a game, and participate in a little escapism; not to prepare their talk for church while half heartedly participating. I probably would have said something, but he was keeping it mostly low key and I honestly didn't notice at first; and when I did notice I was a little too... shocked is too harsh a word, surprised is not harsh enough... I was somewhere in between. Luckily it didn't distract from the game too much, but as a result he really didn't add much to the session.

As contrast, I had one player comment that they wished that P could have been there because he would have added to the situation, rather than just being there.

But Everyone, Even Sunday Sermon Planning Man expressed having had a good time. My player that is normally a GM stated that it was a good off the cuff encounter. Overall, I think everyone had fun, and that's what's important.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

The Declaration of Independence: A Transcription

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:

Column 1
Button Gwinnett
Lyman Hall
George Walton

Column 2
North Carolina:
William Hooper
Joseph Hewes
John Penn
South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Arthur Middleton

Column 3
John Hancock
Samuel Chase
William Paca
Thomas Stone
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton

Column 4
Robert Morris
Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Franklin
John Morton
George Clymer
James Smith
George Taylor
James Wilson
George Ross
Caesar Rodney
George Read
Thomas McKean

Column 5
New York:
William Floyd
Philip Livingston
Francis Lewis
Lewis Morris
New Jersey:
Richard Stockton
John Witherspoon
Francis Hopkinson
John Hart
Abraham Clark

Column 6
New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett
William Whipple
Samuel Adams
John Adams
Robert Treat Paine
Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins
William Ellery
Roger Sherman
Samuel Huntington
William Williams
Oliver Wolcott
New Hampshire:
Matthew Thornton

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Eeee. Coliiiiii

I got a call from an unknown number on my cell phone last week.
I could tell right away that it was a computer, and I almost hung up—and then I didn't. Curiosity, I suppose, because it didn't sound like a recording I had heard before. (I get these scam calls all the time about my car warranty about to run out or a special offer on my mortgage or other such nonsense)

It was Smith's calling me to tell me that the the Ball Tip Steak, Petite Cut or Lean 85/15 Ground Beef ST or Ground Beef (Not to Exceed 15% Fat) or Cube Steak or Beef for Stew or Beef for Fondue or Beef Fajita Meat or Beef for Stir Fry—seriously it went on and on like this—was recalled by the company that provided the beef because it was possibly contaminated with E. Coli.

Well isn't that dandy? I got the call Friday—I had already eaten the beef I purchased at Smith's on Father's Day. Referring to the list (I wanted to recreate the situation for you, you know where it went on and on about all the products that I possibly purchased, so I looked up the recall) I'm noticing that the type of beef I purchased isn't even there. Hmmm.

The Recording proceeded to tell me that if I had any questions I could call a number—then rattled off the number before I could get a scrap of paper—then, did not repeat the number and hung up.

In locating the list of products above I found that the Number was 1-800-632-6900—which I noticed (when looking in my phone to try and figure out when I got the call) is the same number from which I was called.

At the time I looked up the recall—but could only find general information, not the detailed list I just located and pasted above. So then I looked up what I could find on E. Coli—I don't really store away in my brain what all this stuff does to you. Apparently E. coli O157:H7 is a potentially deadly bacterium that can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration, and in the most severe cases, kidney failure. The very young, seniors and people with weak immune systems are the most susceptible to food borne illness. How Pleasant.

The only reason they called is because I used my Fresh Values Card to get a better price and they tracked my purchase with that—I hate "Big Brother" but I'm a cheap penny-pincher.

I'm happy to report that we are not sick. Today is day ten since the consumption of the possibly contaminated product. So if symptoms don't manifest today—we're in the clear.

Just so you know the E. stands for Escherichia