Friday, February 29, 2008

No deposit no return?

My mom’s parents used to live about a mile outside of Gimli. As kids, for extra money, we used to fish bottles out of the ditches for refunds. Back in the day, there used to be a lot of beer bottles and even some pop bottles. This was before plastic pop bottles became popular and beer was still mostly sold in stubby bottles instead of cans.

Early spring, after the snow thawed, was a great time to walk up the side of the road, cleaning out the bottles from the ditch with a fishing net. Even at the penny a bottle (and a nickel for pop bottles!), we were able to get several dollars worth for a few hours of work. This was quickly turned into comic books at the local Robinsons.

As we got older, cans became common for pop and beer and the amount of bottles in the ditches made it less worthwhile. Plus the amount of bottles had declined sharply. Sad for us but probably safer for the roads.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Steve’s state of the union

Steve Jackson of Steve Jackson Games (SJ Games) has been posting an annual report online since 2004. The 2008 versions can be found at

We like Steve. Every time we’ve met him, he’s always come across as busy, but genuinely likeable. We’ve liked his games since we came across them – Ogre, Car Wars, Illuminati, Killer, Dino Hunt, and even Undead, Raid on Iran, One Page Bulge.

We used to like his magazine, Pyramid, when it was still a print copy before it became electronic only. It used to have a State of the Industry in it that was a good view of what was going on in the pre-Wizards/TSR/Hasbro FASA/WizKids days.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Oscars / Jumper

We usually get together with the movie group for the Oscars and watch the ceremony. This year, due to the writer’s strike, it was a bit montage-heavy as they had prepared a bunch of montages in case the actors didn’t attend. Every year we have our picks of who will win. Since I tend to vote with my heart instead of trying to guess how the academy will vote, I don’t often win. This year, I came in fourth in our group with 9 correct out of 24 categories. For our group, that was close – the winner only had 13 correct this year.
Normally we try to see a bunch of the nominated films. This year we hadn’t seen many of them. The only ones we had seen were Happy Feet, POTC3, Enchanted, and Transformers – none of which were in the major categories.

That said, we did see Jumper last night. It was pretty good – a nice fluff teen action film but there wasn’t really much behind it. The cast was solid – Hayden Christiansen, Samuel Jackson, Rachel Bilson, Jamie Bell, AnnaSophia Robb, and Diane Lane but the story was pretty weak. The action held up though – a fun watch but not really much to it. AnnaSophia continues to provide a strong performance and it was nice to see Jamie Bell again. We remember him as Billy Elliot and he pretty much steals this film.

When Heath Leger died, we were wondering which actor would be able to step into his roles. Either Hayden or Jamie should be able to do that handily. We were also thinking Shia Leboeuf could handle it.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

nonprofit / not-for-profit / no profit

Some people tout the fact that they are a nonprofit organization. Some even bandy around the term casually. This was something that we had looked at seriously when setting up Wincon.

Nonprofit is an actual legally defined term. As an actual nonprofit organization, you have to file a special tax return and hold annual meetings. You are still allowed to absorb a shockingly large amount of the monies collected for charity and use them for operational costs. The key point of the nonprofit is that the regular members aren’t expected or even allowed to share profits.

Some people call themselves or their organizations not-for-profit in thinking that they are avoiding all this hassle. They really aren’t. Besides, as a business, no matter how touchy-feely it sounds to not strive to make a profit, I’d rather a business makes a profit to ensure it still being around. See notes for nonprofit above for the operating costs.

Wincon was always set up a regular business. We ended up giving a large amount of our proceeds to charity (I’ll explain the hassles of that soon) and we ultimately operated at a slight profit for the original investors. The organizers and committee never drew a salary. We were able to give out some prizes and gift certificates to our volunteers but not nearly what we considered enough considering how helpful many of them were.
In our dreams, we hoped the convention would make a ton of proceeds so that we could afford to bring in phenomenal guests and give away massive prizes of value and super-coolness. This would further increase the memberships to staggering numbers. With the convention growing to the size of a GenCon North, we could make it our sole work and rake in the dividends. That didn’t quite happen.

Monday, February 25, 2008

convention people counting

I've had someone mention that it's hard to count members in a space of a certain size. Counting crowds in a park or a beach, or an area where they can come and go freely and they don't have to pay or check in can be tricky. Counting people in a confined space, like a convention, is pretty simple, if you control the entrances or have competent registration people.

You should be getting everyone to fill out a small form to register – in counting these registrations, you have your numbers. This also gives you a database for contacting people for future events. This seems to take a bit of time at the tables when it’s busy, but a quick form can be processed quite simply with name and address. You can then count the forms and get your total of individual attendees. With Wincon, were had super-competent in charge of registration and were able to get super accurate numbers.

Failing that, you count the number of badges or wristbands used. This is less accurate as replacements and errors can skew the number slightly. There should be some way of tracking who is eligible to go into your convention and both of these have to be bought by the case anyways.

You can also count the number of people going in and out. This can be tricky as you are bound to miss a few in crowded periods. As well, it is a lot harder to avoid recounting the same people as they leave and re-enter.

This again comes down to the reasons why you are keeping track of your numbers. See my other rant on how conventions count memberships.

Friday, February 22, 2008

GenCon Update

It sounds like GenCon LLC filed Chapter 11 due to the temp agency costs from Celebrations IV.
It looks like GenCon is being sued by Lucas for costs and auction proceeds. GenCon is saying they are keeping money that Lucas didn't pay for booth costs - to the tune of about 80,000.

Geez. There's no good winner here. Can't we all get along?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Bridge to Terabithia / Spiderwick Chronicles

We finally saw this film over the weekend. I had never read the book. I believe my mom had first recommended it to me back in the 80s when the first movie adaptation had been done. The book itself first came out in the late 70s. The grandkids had gone to see the new one in the theatre with their grandfather but we hadn’t seen it. I remember the kids chanting “free to pee” for months afterward.
The movie was very nicely done, we’ll probably end up picking it up. We knew what Leslie’s fate was but it still caught us a bit when it happened. The actress playing her, AnnaSophia Robb, also played Violet Beauregard in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. She will be someone to watch in later years. She has quite the impact on the screen – very reminiscent of a young Winona Ryder or Christina Ricci. She can also be seen in Jumper or in the new remake of Escape to Witch Mountain.

We also took the kids to see the Spiderwick Chronicles this week. I hadn’t read these books either but Shan had read the first book and was looking forward to it. It sounds the like movie covers the whole book series. The books are very small - only a shade more than 100 pages each.
It was another fun one although it may be a bit scary for some kids. Ours were fine with it. The movie deals more with the goblins than the fairies, I’m not sure how it compares to the books. The family was nicely done and the boy playing the twins was very impressive. It was neat to see the various fencing swords being used. It’s definitely another one for the to-buy list. D3 picked up the first book yesterday and is almost through it. Now he wants a fieldguide.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Gencon LLC files Chapter 11
GenCon has filed chapter 11. Having run conventions, Shan and I are always boggled that GenCon would be a money losing venture. No matter how we crunched the numbers, we couldn’t figure out how it would be a loss unless they were paying for massive coke parties. Granted these were based on the Mecca GenCons but they should hold up.

The booth costs are huge. I believe booth costs back then were between $500 and $1000 each. With over 200 booths in the dealers’ room, even comping the ones for TSR and later Wizkids, this should generate over $200,000 and should easily cover the cost of the convention space for the week.

The memberships used to cost $50 each. They claimed 30,000 attendees. Even with convention math, this should generate $500,000 which should cover the costs of preregistration books, program books, and any extra convention space that the dealers didn’t cover. This should also cover costs involved with a salary for a dedicated person in charge of the convention all year as well as a staff for the week of the convention.
They used to trade volunteer hours for memberships to help spread out the manpower as well.

The ticket prices for the games should easily cover the costs of printing of tickets. The tickets cost $2 and the judge could cash them in for $1 back. Even if every one of those attendees only played 1 game, the tickets should generate at least $30,000 and probably closer to well over $100,000. This should cover any cost of bringing in a big name guests.

The hotels used to be filled. Based on standard convention deals, if you guarantee a certain number of rooms booked, the hotel usually comps you a certain amount of rooms. With over 10 hotels being filled, any hotel space you need should be covered.
Could it be the spread of GenCon to GenCon SoCal, GenConUK, GenConOZ causing trouble with GenCon itself? See the open letter from Peter himself about GenConSoCal’s demise:

All the best Peter, we want you to be around in 5 to 10 years when we can start taking the kids again.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

KRONA rides again?

On the weekend, we watched the new pilot for Knight Rider. The characters seem okay, the car technology is a bit much – with the morphing car. The biggest change is that Val Kilmer not William Daniels is now doing the voice of KITT. It brought back a fair amount of good memories.

The first Keycon I went to was Keycon 3. Since this year would be Keycon 25, that means Keycon 3 would have been in 1986 – back when I was 17. I would have been in grade 12. (I hadn’t thought I was that old when I went to my first Keycon but the math holds out.) It was at the Ramada out by the University of Manitoba. I was only able to make it out there for the Saturday due to the bus schedules.

I had been into Car Wars and had been told by the nice people at Pendragon that they would be playing it out there. I mainly kept to myself, and did notice the signs posting the various suites and rules. The one that left an impression was that no vehicular weapons were allowed – except at the KRONA suite on the second floor where they were okay.

KRONA was an acronym for the Knight Riders of North America. They had a VCR going with episodes of Knight Rider running all day. That was where I first saw KARR – I wasn’t following the series that close back then.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Universal Legacy

When the Universal Legacy sets first came out we were very excited. I love the old films from seeing them on Saturday afternoons and was looking forward to seeing some of the others for the first time. We quickly got the Wolfman set and then picked up the Frankenstein set figuring that we would get the Dracula set soon after. We didn’t get it right away.

They then came out with sets for the Mummy, the Invisible Man, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. I’m not in any hurry to get the Invisible Man set, but I added the others to my DVD want list as well.

It’s been a few years now, and we still hadn’t picked up the Dracula set so I finally bought it at Best Buy when we were in there last. Now to work at picking up the others before they disappear too.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Night of the Comet

Of the zombie films, this one is one still holds a special fondness with us. It was a fun film from the eighties that we didn’t ever think we would see on DVD. (The other one I found recently was Robot Jox – which we’ll get when the price drops) When I finally found out that it had come out and was available, Shan said to pick it up. I said we could wait for it to drop a bit but she said it would be our Valentine’s day present for us. And we already have Shaun of the Dead, and the Evil Deads.

Again I think about how much I love my wife. We share a similar taste in movies and TV shows. We have a few discrepancies, but mostly our tastes match. When we blended our movies, we both had Monty Python and the Holy Grail and the Star Wars trilogy boxed set. Our books, while both deep in science fiction and fantasy, only overlapped in the Anne Rice’s and Stephen King’s where she had the hard covers and I had the paperbacks.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Water Horse

We took the kids to see the Water Horse last night at CinemaCity. I’m finding that the popcorn during the week isn’t as fresh as it is on the weekends. That said, the movie was pretty good. It’s by the people who did Narnia so the effects hold up quite well. The kids were a bit concerned during parts of it but it was a good tale.

Shan has actually been to the Loch Ness when she went to Scotland so she recognized a bit of it. I know the Loch is quite narrow and super long, as well as very deep. I didn’t know that it was open to the sea though. I always pictured it being land locked (or loched).
Still, all in all, a good family film. We highly recommend it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

hello - gamer

"It all comes back to gaming for you, doesn't it?"

Yes. Yes, it does.

One of my friends is over in Belgium right now. She had sent back some photos of the canals. I had commented on how much they reminded me of terrain which is why she sent back the quote.

It does look beautiful but it reminds me that I need to build some terrain for Mordheim. Sometime after the addition, when I’ll have the space to keep it. After I finish putting together and painting my warbands. Of course, I’ll have to reread the rules again at that time.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Axis & Allies

I’ve never been a big fan of Axis & Allies. I’ve played it a few times – usually as Japan but don’t really like the game. I had to pick one up – to complete the GameMaster Games series. I already had Broadsides and Buccaneers, Shogun, Conquest of the Empire, and Fortress America. I’ve always preferred Risk, Diplomacy, or even Fortress America to it. I’ve had the game for close to a decade now and just sat down last night to finally de-sprue it.

The people that I know who do play it usually have a copy of it themselves so the one time someone pulled mine out to play, they were quite dismayed that I hadn’t taken the couple of hours it takes to remove the pieces from the sprues. Having just read the Usborne Introduction to the Second World War, I wanted to track the progress of the war on the world map. The game set up seems quite accurate. I was rather impressed and will probably need to actually try it again sometime.

The kids also thought the game looked pretty neat. D3 thought the ships looked real on the water and G thought the Rising Sun markers looked like candies.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Survivor Micronesia picks

I’m torn. From the Fans, I like Joel, Tracy, and Mikey B. From the Favorites, I liked Pavrati, James, and Yau-Man. I couldn’t recall who Amanda was at first (from last season) but she’s definitely on my team again.

Ozzy will probably score a bunch of points, but I’m not picking him. With Yau-Man joining an alliance of evil with Alan Alda (Jonathan), Ami, and crazy Eliza, he’s out of the running as well.

I’m going to go with the current lowest combination of 2 Airai and 3 Malakal – excluding both Kathy and Yau-Man. My picks are Joel and Tracy from Airai, James and Pavrati from Malakal, and Amanda as my Wild Card. This gives me a current score of 29 out of a maximum score of 37 for Kathy, Yau-Man, a Malakal, and 2 more Airais.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

BSG Razor

We watched the original series when it was first on in the late 70s and enjoyed it then. We watched and enjoyed the war series Black Sheep Squadron, and, thanks to the heads up from JP, really enjoyed Space Above and Beyond (even thought it started slow – like Pags, we thought they should have gotten their planes sooner). We have watched the new series since the mini series and finally watched Razor last week.

We keep hoping to like it. The military stuff looks nice. We like most of the cast. The radio broadcast bugs us – but only minimally. We just don’t like the series. The pacing was super slow. We realized that when they had finally reached Kobol at the end of season one that the miniseries and first season had only covered material that had all been covered in the pilot of the original series.

They had also gutted out most of the humor of the original series. We were okay with them changing the genders of Boomer and Starbuck. But they made Starbuck grim when he used to be the one that helped keep the balance by being lighter than Apollo.
The updated Cylon raiders and Vipers looked fine and we liked how the Vipers moved in space. The new mechanical Cylons looked fabulous – they were just woefully underused.

Any of the characters that we ended liking turned out to be cylons. Or else they quickly died. The only two exceptions are Adama and President Roslin who remained human. Maybe this was what they meant to do, portray the robots as more human and likeable that the actual humans.
Razor had more of the same. Being compressed, it didn’t drag as much but did have enough cases to remind us of the lack of humor in the series. We did like the central character who, of course, dies. The one bright spot was seeing the old Cylons again done up in the new CG. Go toasters!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Projects 2008

We’re two months into this year and I haven’t set any projects yet. I’m still torn on what to start. Shan’s birthday is Keycon weekend so I’m not sure what we’re doing or if we’ll be able to go.

Without a Keycon deadline, costuming will be a bit delayed until the crunch in the fall. Right now, both of my kids want to go as zombies, so that should be fairly simple to achieve. With Jeremy Bulloch scheduled to come for the Comiccon, I’ll probably do some more work on D3’s Boba Fett. If I can get some of the guns, I’ll do a Jango Fett as well. I want to fix my Ghostbuster backpack and make some traps and meters. I’m still toying with making some space marine armor. Depending on who I can rope in to a new color project, there are always Arc Troopers / Rebel Commandos / Snowtroopers on the to-do list as well.

Upsizing-wise, I can still do more planes for Canvas Eagles. I can finish the ships for Man o’ War. I can upsize the RoboRally figures. I can do a Titan and tanks for 40K. I can start upsizing Star Wars Miniature Battles, or even make some Mechwarriors for Solaris VII. I also have a bunch of cars for Car Wars in 3” scale or even 1:32 or 1:25. I can also do 3D maps for Horrorclix or Crimson Skies. I still haven’t locked down what we’re planning for Wincon 2008.

I’m probably going to try to finish the Aliens egg I’ve had on my worktable since before we moved to clear up the space. I’ll also probably do a K-9 (shell anyways) and start a static R5-D4 or even a R2-D2. I might even try the Pulse rifle, Space 1999 communicator, Jack Sparrow compass, or Terminator memory chips – I have papercraft files for all of these and might try making them in styrene or wood.

For now, I’m working through reading some more books from the library and finishing getting caught up on the taped shows. We're almost there.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Cthulhu mine!

I finally got my first big convention figure. I picked up the Heroclix Cthulhu from Max on Friday. It had been opened and the map has been laminated, but it looks very nice. They say that once you connect the wings you can’t take them off but I was able to without much trouble. This way he fits back in the box a bit better. I have to go back and get the rest of the cultist pogs that come with the set (24 seemed like so many).

They had a Wizkids convention weekend deal, where those of us who can’t get to the conventions can pick up some of the cool promo figures. I missed the Fooms for $100, but was able to get convention Thor, and Batman, as well as another convention map and another Vlad. He even threw in a few of the Pirates packs.

I also picked up a two of the Horrorclix Lab pack that he had on sale for $5 each. Out of the 8 figures, I got a Veteran Candy Striper and a Unique Mi-Go that I needed. Since the Avatar of Cthulhu was the last Unique I got from the basic set, I was very happy to see the Mi-Go from this one. Especially since he consistently seems to be going for the upper teens to low twenties on ebay.

Friday, February 1, 2008


We have watched Survivor since the first season. It’s always interesting to see how people think and scheme – it’s like watching a Diplomacy LARP. The only other “reality shows” (which we used to call “game shows”) that we regularly follow are the Amazing Race and the Last Comic Standing (stupid Dat Phan). We used to follow Celebrity The Mole because Corbin and Stephen were hilarious. The wife also follows Big Brother but I usually try to avoid getting sucked into it as it takes up three nights a week.

At work, for the last several seasons, I have run a fun pool as well. Basically, you pick 5 Survivors following a basic guideline and get points based on what they do and how long they last. We’ve modified it a bit from the original to include being exiled or captured and the extra hidden immunity idol. The other big change is that we don’t take picks until after the first show – so no-one gets the person who was first voted out. Plus this gives you a small chance to see if any of the Survivors make an impression on you.

The rules for picking your team vary depending on how they split up the Survivors in the first show. Usually they have two distinct teams so you would pick two Survivors from each team and then pick an extra Survivor who would be your “wild card”. The wild card would count as part of your team and would be used to break ties if the players otherwise had the same scores. When they have done three teams, you would pick one Survivor from each team, plus two extra players – one of which would be your wild card.

The points accrue each episode as follows:
- Survival = 5 points per episode / tribal council
- Being on a team that wins a Reward Challenge = 1 point
- Being on a team that wins an Immunity Challenge = 2 points
- Winning individual Reward Challenge = 2 points
- Winning individual Immunity Challenge = 3 points
- Being the Ultimate Survivor = 20 points
- Coming in second place = 10 points
- Being sent to Exile Island = 1 point
- Being kidnapped = 1 point
- Finding the Individual Immunity Idol = 3 points
- Using the Individual Immunity Idol = 2 points