Announcement! Moving!

The cat is out of the bag! The Murder Hobos with their Transmuter Banker and Spy Bard and Undead King friends are moving to their new permanent home on Critical Hits under their dedicated column, Dungeonomics! They produce some of the premier RPG content on the Internet and I’m proud to join their collective and become part of the Borg.

Being part of the DC gaming scene is super cool. Washington DC is turning into the Silicon Valley of RPG game development. So many awesome people live here and contribute to the constantly living and growing body of RPG content, it’s amazing.

I started blogging in 1997 (I went and looked it up) and most of the time it’s been about random slice-of-life stuff. And then up in a bad chain Mexican restaurant in Michigan I went off on how I couldn’t stand D&D5e Tieflings because they weren’t true to the (superior) Planescape originals. That worked, so I decided, hey, it’s my blog, I’ll write about what interests me. Turns out it interests you, too.

But! Since now about 1000 of you are hanging out, you deserve a FAQ.

Also, big shout out to Illuminerdy, another excellent online RPG blog you should follow. Like, now.

Will you be tweeting/G+ing/FBing your links on a weekly post?

Yep. I will still personally man some of my personal social networking. You don’t need to go anywhere if you get the links from twitter or G+. If you get them from RSS or an email on posting, you will need to move, unfortunately.

But if you sign up to the Critical Hits RSS feed, you will get even more great content! This is like an everything for nothing deal.

Do you have enough ideas to keep this going for a while?

Where power, money, violence, and magic intersects is a well with no known bounds. Although I take people’s ideas and expand them all the time.

Will you still be sticking to your schedule?

I’m still writing on Sunday mornings with plans to publish on Mondays.

Are you planning on publishing your essays?

Not in the first half of 2015.

Are you making any money off this move?

Well considering I’m going from -$10.99/month for hosting to $0 a month, it’s a net gain of $10.99 a month.

Although if I ever get a logo, I am printing it and “Given an infinite amount of time and actual economic pressures, all adventuring groups become neutral evil” on a t-shirt and selling them.

Is your old blog coming down?

It’s expensive to maintain and I will likely start ignoring it. But I am going to wait until the traffic moves over cleanly.

I don’t know. I don’t know what I am going to do with it. If anything.

What about your Nephilim FATE Conversion?

Yes, I have a mostly finished conversion of Nephilim to FATE. It gets constant traffic all day. If I shut down this blog it will need a new home. I’m not sure what that new home is. That is TBD.

Are you attending any cons?

Gaming conventions? Dunno. I’m well-known hermit who never goes into public like Thomas Pynchon.

What is the best place to find you online?

Twitter. I’m a junky. Follow me at @multiplexer.

Do you truly have a dog named after Arthur Schopenhauer?

Yep. He helps me write. It’s his job. He also really likes reading /r/economics.

Couple Days Off

We’re going through a big transition period right now.  Katie just started her fancy new school with the new teachers in the new classrooms.  Eric is heading back to his school to do mysterious University of Maryland things.  I am still undergoing some changes at work that take some mild adjustment.  Also, football season started, and football tends to occupy a good 90% of my brain.

I tried blogging last night and by 9pm all that came out was “bleh bleh bladdity blah.”  It was hardly English.  

I’ve got a ton of half thought out “fun things to do with ancient aliens who go around possessing humans for fun and profit” but it will need to wait until we get past this transition period and my brain comes fully online again.

Damn you school schedules and… and things!

PAX East 2011

PAX East 2011 was awesome.

I have a handy comparison of con styles on hand. I just attended the RSA Conference 2011. I dearly loved RSA but it was a death march. Up at 6am, slog through the rain, be there by 8-8:15am, try to hit as many talks and keynotes and paper presentations as possible, cram in visiting booths and talking to relevant vendors, try to socialize, maybe eat in there somewhere. Do something eveningish, collapse, rinse, repeat. It was a great experience but dear God it was painful.

PAX East is the antithesis of the track-and-talk-and-demonstration-based conventions. It has no real set schedule. Instead it has a huge number of things to do. Want to attend a talk? There are talks. Want to go to an evening concert? There are super cool evening concerts.* Want to play a game? What kind? Many companies run tabletop and boardgame full demos. You can check boardgames out of the library. The console freeplay rooms were huge this year for those looking to play an XBox or 360 game. There was Rock Band and Dance Central. The EXPO floor was enormous and full of playable demos and swag. I really enjoy the loose, not really terribly planned nature of PAX East. It doesn’t feel like a convention. It feels like a huge party where 65,000 of your best friends show up to talk about games and play games and generally hang out together in the bonding of love over all things games.

And this year we spent PAX East meeting new people. My twitter follow list exploded. We had great talks over in the RPG area. We played board games. We played the Leverage RPG. We went to dinner with new people and had a great time. This is what I loved this year: the socialization. Gaming people! Comic book people! Random Internet famous people! We went to only one talk, and it was on Geek Parenting. We were interviewed for a documentary as geek parents. We watched the Old Republic trailer. I played Marvel vs. Capcom 3 in the console freeplay room until my hand nearly fell off — and then found the Gauntlet upright and that had to be played. It was a moral imperative.

Save one detail,** the move to the bigger conference center was a massive upgrade. No more crowding in the hallways trying to get somewhere. The EXPO area was cavernous. I’m still not certain we saw everything there — but we saw lots and lots of cool stuff. The tabletop area, crammed into a few small rooms last year, was huge with lots and lots and lots of tables. It even had halfway decent con food that didn’t kill any of us. We even liked the hotel.

I could pick it apart day by day and item by item, and may do so, but suffice to say right now: PAX East is huge fun and highly recommended for anyone who can get themselves to Boston.

We’re totally going next year. April 7-9th. Be there.


* We did the concerts last year to the exclusion of many other things so we did the other things this year.
** Not enough beanbags to crash in.

It’s Savage Out There

I saw NBC Universal, ABC and Telemundo trucks. The NBC Universal guys seemed to be slouched, bored, and having a smoke. I also spotted the FBI (very early) and several brand new “NO SKATE BOARDING SIGNS THIS MEANS YOU” signs which, I suspect, are a coincidence. Some photographer yelled at me to get out of the way while standing in the parking lot of the Panera — I don’t know what was up with that. I was passed on the way back from lunch* by people wearing press passes. They all looked bored. There are 17,392,531 security guards standing around the Discovery Channel building but they’re all talking among themselves.

No sign of our local normal Crazy Sign Guys. Not even Jesus Guy or our Local Anti-Abortion Protesters.

I see the news has moved on to Yet Another Exploding Oil Platform and Burger King being sold for $4B. The World Moves On. Also, my brain is now completely consumed with the new Big 10 divisions. No Michigan-Penn State games in 2011 or 2012!

Steam tofu on rice — thrilling, yeah?

The Discovery Channel Building

I went to the gym today.  I was feeling particularly virtuous because it meant I went to the gym multiple times this week.  I even managed to keep my heart rate “in the zone” (below 140) for the majority of the time on the cross-trainer and it left me feeling a bit sore in places that need exercise.  I mention this because I had a meeting at 1:30pm and I needed to pick up lunch and be back by around 1pm-ish.  Had I gone at my normal time, I would have been locked out of my building.

I walked back into the building at 1:06pm, annoyed a few people, sat down to my desk, and heard people talking loudly about something going on across the street.  Then I heard the police sirens.  I have a big wall of windows.  I can see actual weather and time, but I can also hear the street noise from 29 and the Silver Spring Metro (Red Line).  Most importantly, the building is across the street from Discovery Channel HQ and most windows have a view.

By “across the street,” I do not mean down the block a half mile away.  I mean, literally, across the street.  Look out the window and there it is.  The building makes a big wind tunnel in winter.  It’s hilarious during Shark Week when they strap giant inflatable shark parts to the building.  It has the best lobby with a giant dinosaur skeleton and a physics machine.  The lobby is open to the public and people do stroll through at lunch.  I have done so myself.

This means I called into my meeting and it was punctuated by sirens in the background and people going, “What was that?”  I had my droid and peered at twitter and coworkers who were coming back from lunch were posting pictures of police mayhem right outside.  We all got off the phone (meeting over) and headed off to go peer out a window with a good view.  We watched the police block off 29 and put up yellow tape.  We watched the news helicopters fly in and the various TV stations set up their gear and harass random people heading back from Downtown.   We watched at least 30 police cars show up and park.

So okay, it turns out there’s a crazy guy in the DIscovery Channel building across the street and the FBI was called in.  He has a gun and he has fired either one or five shots.  He had between one and twelve hostages at any one time.  He has a bomb.  He has multiple bombs.  The downtown strip behind the building by Borders was evacuated (this one was true).  Cops were telling people to get off the street or they were going to arrest them (they didn’t).  The giant Police Command Center RV pulled up.  We found streaming video of the news outside.  We watched the helicopters above us give us shots on the monitors of what we were looking at out the windows.

And we did watch the cops evacuate the day care center in the Discovery Channel building.  People pushed cribs across 29.  They disappeared into the McDonald’s.  We joked that the McD’s was selling its weight in McFlurries.

Nothing happened for a long time.  Our building was switched to key card access only, probably to keep the gaggles of reports that set up on our curb in front of our building (Metro Level exit) from wandering in and out.  The news told us the name of the guy, flashed a picture, and it was eerie: it was a guy who had been seen, often, standing around on various corners at lunch time waving his sign.   It was THAT GUY in a “HEY, IT’S THAT GUY!” sort of way.  People got up and milled around and went to the windows to watch the SWAT guys stand around.  (One apparently took a header climbing out of the truck.)  Work kind of happened in drips and drabs with the thoughts that the guy across the street had something strapped to him and it might be a bomb and it might be worse.

That was exciting.

I spent most of my afternoon watching the news spread from the local news to the WaPo to CNN to the NYTimes to the BBC and then everywhere.  It was a little boggling that closing the street outside my window was now world-wide news. It didn’t help that our local crazy guy had left a manifesto full of environmentalism and evolution and anchor babies and squirrels.  (Squirrels?)  It was a manifesto’s manifesto and the Internets, as they are, were having a field day while we were waiting for it to end so we could go home.

Then it was over.  5pmish.  The SWAT guys lured our friend, the local crazy guy, out of the lobby by the nice dinosaur bones and science displays, out to the manicured sitting area in front of the doors and ended it.  The crazy guy’s bomb did go off, but it went pfft.  We watched the cops pull away and some of the back streets began opening up.

Then there was escape.

Good grief, man.  What kind of world do we live in now that it seems sensible to try to blow up the Discovery Channel? Not a BP office?  Or the nice government offices around the corner?  I joked when it started that the guy objected to “The Deadliest Catch” and I wasn’t far off.  And it’s not like those offices are small.  That building is huge.  I know the crazy guy had years of being barred from coming into the building and he snapped.  But really?  The Discovery Channel?

That was my day.  How was yours?

So, Alaska!

So, um, hi!

For our 10th Anniversary (10 years? REALLY?) we took a cruise on Princess Cruises up the Inside Passage from Vancouver, BC to Anchorage, AK.* Fascinating thing about being in the middle of nowhere: a distinct lack of the Internet. Not that we missed it. We were too busy on an adventure. We had some mild peril. We had some not-so-mild peril. We saw stuff! Some of it was huge! Most of it had mountains!

Places we have been:

Vancouver, BC, Canada
Ketchikan, AK
Juneau, AK
Skagway, AK
Haines, AK
Whittier, AK
Anchorage, AK

Things we have seen:

Whales
Bald Eagles
Mountains
Alaskan Primary Campaign Signs
Glaciers
More Glaciers
Even More Glaciers
Fjords
Ford Seward
Crazy Native American Anthropologists with Awesome Fishing Hats

Thing we had to go to the zoo to see:

Bears**

Vancouver International Airport (YVR) is the strangest airport I have seen. It was very clean, very neat, very tidy, and completely devoid of human life. I don’t know if we hit it in some sweet spot but people were few and far between. Canadian customs is like all things Canadian — polite. But the moment I hit YVR I no longer had phone service.

Now that we have seen Vancouver, we have decided to run off and move to Vancouver. Eventually. Someday. Or at least return for more than a few hours. We failed to see Scott Pilgrim in Vancouver but we did manage to see some of the city, and eat sushi there, and have a huge breakfast, and be asked by the cabbie why the Detroit Red Wings suck.  I had no real answer.

The ship itself (Diamond Princess) is a floating bar with bars inside of bars. The point of a cruise is to drink and spend money, and we drank and spent money. On a cruise ship, it is always booze o’clock. After a while the constant hovering service, especially in the dining room, got to us, but the ship was always nice, neat, and well designed to slice up the huge floating population into small groups so it did not feel crowded. For Glacier Bay it also boasted the US Forestry Service to give us a tour over the loudspeaker and, afterward, their own on-board crazy Naturalist. He was my favorite guy on the ship, that Naturalist. He was Very. Enthusiastic. About. Whales!

Ketchikan, AK is a disappointment but everyone who has taken this tour has said the same thing: Ketchikan, AK is a disappointment. It’s a tourist trap that exists only to fleece tourists on cruise ships. It’s full of horrible shops full of horrible, crappy things.*** It wasn’t even fun like, say, going to Ishpaming with its bizarre Yooper-based gift shops. We should have taken a tour to Saxman Island, as that’s the only thing of worth to do there, but live and learn. We did get a few nice pictures and luckily we only spent half a day there.

Juneau, AK is, on the other hand, neat even if it is unreachable by land.  Who puts the capital of a state where it can only be reached by sea or air? It’s an odd place.  Mendenhall Glacier! Top of Mount Roberts! I found the local knitting shop with my super tingly knitting senses! Juneau is very walkable as cities go. It’s neat and tidy — not the sparkling clean of Vancouver but a long way from dirty. We walked Juneau until I was convinced my knees were going to blow out and then we walked a bit more. Then it was drink o’clock.  My plan of living off the guide book worked well here.

Skagway, AK is like Henry Ford Village. It was a mining town in the gold rush but now it’s sort of a touristy trappy town preserved in time and tiny. But we were there only for an hour before we joined our tour and took a 45 minute ferry to Haines, AK. We took a bus to a mountain and then I drove a glorified 4×4 golf cart up a mountain on unpaved roads. Then came the more interesting part — driving the ATV back down the mountain. It was a complication I hadn’t though about. I thought about it very hard around the hairpin turns.  It was worth it, though — the view from the top of the mountain over the fjord was amazing. I absolutely recommend taking the insane Sub-Alpine ATV excursion in Haines, AK.

Glacier Bay is amazing but cold. Mountains! Glaciers! Mountains! Glaciers! Between the rain, the wind, and the air temperature, I was convinced I would never be warm again. They were selling hot spiced wine to go with the glacier and somehow I resisted until I caved to coffee.  We stared at the big glacier (Marjorie) for a while and went ooooooh but it only calved off some smaller bits of ice. On the way out, though, we saw 16 whales. 16! 6 in a pod! I had the binoculars so I didn’t get pictures but Eric did. 16 whales!

By time we got to College Fjord, though, I was tired of being cold so I don’t have any pictures of the Harvard Glacier. But that sucker absolutely did calve off great bit huge chunks of ice into the water with a huge thundering splash and because we’re all suicidal morons we sat in the bar that gave us a good view, drank, and applauded Mother Nature. Woo! Go Nature! Trying to kill us with ice! WOO! Do it again!

Only 250 crazy people live in Whittier**** but Anchorage wasn’t bad. The room was a bit dumpy but not somewhere one uses to dry out from their drug habit. We ended up renting a car in Anchorage. I wish I knew it was a “car is necessary if staying for more than 4 hours” sort of place because we would have a) gone straight to the airport and b) had a car waiting for us at some cheap rate. But I did not know. Now we know. Rent a car in Anchorage. The city is a grid. It’s simple to navigate.

We saw Scott Pilgrim at the local mall. We went to the Alaska Native Heritage Center. We went to the Alaska Zoo to see bears. We went to the Glacier Gardens. We drank the local beer. Mmmm beer. The local beer is fantastic.  Anchorage is like Grand Rapids with mountains. It’s very, very, very Northern Michigan with mountains. I could not shake the feeling of deja vu.

It was at the Heritage Center where, listening to a pat talk about Aleut Indians, we were invaded by above anthropologist who simply started talking to us. He was making a visor out of wood by planing the wood down to very thin and then planning to soak it in water. One of the people there was fascinated by the hat and would not accept that it was just a hat. But it was a hat. And a cool hat! It was one of the highlights of the trip for me.

We had fun. We spent a ton of money. We currently have 1800 pictures up for the brave — but I’ll post something weeded down in a few days. It was different. Different from going to the Caribbean. I think, yes, I would happily return to Alaska. It is much less psycho than it seems from the outside. People do not randomly claim they can see Russia from their house.*****  I would take a different trip. We’re more drinking and adventure people over drinking and shopping people. That’s something to consider on balance.

If I did another big cruise it would be with Princess as we were very pleased with the cruise overall but if I could afford it, I am tempted by the National Geographic offerings. I can recommend this trip. Except for Ketchikan, it was amazing.

The only sad thing was how obvious global climate change is up there. Go to Alaska and learn not to doubt.  A few of the glaciers are still growing but most are receding. They are growing apple trees on Kodiak Island.  See Alaska before it melts!


* I believe a few others have taken this trip this year. To which I say: we were past the mosquito season.
** I was informed I should be thankful about the lack of bears-in-the-wild.  Eric was damn well not leaving Alaska without a picture of a bear.
*** Later in Anchorage I would pick up a pamphlet that helped to identify real Native American arts from the stuff in the gift shops. I wish I had it when we started — not that I bought anything — but it would have helped. They have a special seal on the real things.
**** When the locals describe someone as “strange” it is time to run.
***** We were tempted to drive to Wassila. It’s only 40 miles outside of Anchorage. But it is way too far to see Russia from anywhere. That assertion is just dumb.

Diet Nattering

A quick note on diet —

After recording everything I eat for several days and trying to eat completely normal, I have learned that:

– I could go completely vegetarian and not miss anything in life. I hardly eat any meat — but plenty of fish* given the chance.
– I don’t eat much dairy.
– I eat about 1/2 the cheese I thought I was eating, and that’s not much.
– I scarf vegetables whenever I get the chance.
– Hummus is my personal bane. I love hummus and I can eat it with every meal given half a chance. I’d slather it on oatmeal if I could.
– I am struggling, really struggling, to eat over 1500 calories a day.
– Why I don’t weight 10lbs is an utter mystery.

I have a back appointment this week so I am going to ask them if they can recommend a dietitian to me. I bet the problem is not that I’m overeating but that I’m not eating enough, and we may need to start injecting smoothies into my diet.

That likely explains my rate of getting food poisoning. Ah well.

Low Fat Diet

My cholesterol came back up a minuscule tick over normal and this sent my doctor into a tizzy of “lose weight/eat a low fat diet!” Here’s the problem, though — when I was losing all the weight after Katie was born, I retooled my diet and dropped a huge number of things out permanently so figuring out what new things to cut is challenging.

Going through the “bad” list I have:

Fast Food (McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, etc:) — I don’t even walk into those places.
Fried Foods — My two banes are fried tofu and french fries. Otherwise, no fried food.
Cakes, cupcakes, cookies, chips — I have to eat occasional whole wheat crackers to deal with the sugar crashies but otherwise, too much sugar in a sugary treat makes me ill.
Ice cream — Rare treat. Too much makes me ill.
Soda — Diet only, prefer hot tea on non-uber stressful days over diet coke. Although I do have a diet coke addiction.
Creamy dressings — Don’t eat.
Bacon — Don’t eat.
Eggs (like omelets, scrambled, etc.) — Don’t eat.
Mayo — Limited consumption. Sometimes I have mayo but it tends to be too greasy.
Red Meat — Have cut back some 80%.
Big Sugary Starbucks Drinks — Don’t drink.
Rolls on the table at dinner — Either don’t eat or limited consumption. “That’s how they GET YA.”
Booze — Way less than one would think.
Milk — I have refused to drink straight milk since I was 3; I don’t see that changing.

That sort of takes out all the low hanging diet-based fruit. When I surveyed what I ate and I could plausibly eliminate I came up with:

1. Any other processed white breads I can find. No more non-wheat buns or get burgers or sausages, when eating them, without buns.
2. Any cream-based sauces on any food especially Italian food.
3. French fries.
4. If eating pizza, only the thin crust pizza.

The last big one is cheese and, man, I have given up everything else. I can cut back on the cheese and yes, I know it is nothing but fat, but I am refusing to whole sale give up cheese. It’s simply not going to happen.

The other one is that salads at lunch don’t give me enough nutrients to make it through the afternoon so I end up crashing. And besides, salads can be just as bad as anything else.

I am well aware that French Fries are the Killer and I will have to Drop Them Entirely. Does anyone out there in Internet-Land have any good suggestions for other foods to cut/eliminate that I may be eating and leading to fatness?