Monday, March 31, 2008

Bye bye buy the brick

For the last few years, Wizkids has been giving a mail-away incentive to those customers who buy their boosters at actual retail stores instead of over the internet. They pack a case into a ‘brick’ or 12 – 10 boosters and include a coupon. If you mail in the coupon with a receipt you can get a special figure mailed out to you.

I’ve missed a few of these while I wasn’t buying boosters but have gotten the last several (Mandarin, Phantom Stranger, Dark Beast). I’ve been chasing down the ones I missed (Dr Fate and Anthony Stark) but am still missing a few (Krypto and Venom).

I didn’t get a brick yet for the new Heroclix set that came out at the beginning of March – Crisis but Wizkids just posted that all 5000 figures have already been redeemed. So the Superman / Batman World’s Finest figure on a bigger base will need to go on my missing list – that I’ll have to try and chase down on ebay when they drop – as they are already going for over $40 a pop.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


National Novel Writing Month. 50,000 words, 30 days – November 2008

I didn’t come across this until into November 2007 – too late to really join in that year. Since then, I have looked into it a bit and read his book, No Plot? No Problem! It does seem to speak to me as something worth trying.
Now to convince some other people to join in my madness. So far, Amalia has remained resistant to my prodding, but we still have almost half a year to go so we will see.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Jeanne's cake

Like most Winnipegers, there is only one picture that comes to your mind when you hear the words ‘birthday cake’. You think of that rectangular log with the shaved chocolate curls on the sides and the cookie on the bottom. I’m talking about a Jeanne’s cake.

I’ve always been partial to a marble but some prefer the banana. I’ve tried the round ones that you can get at other grocery stores but lately I often go direct to the source. Some people don’t like the cookie bottom or find the cakes dry but, for me, it’s the definition of a birthday cake. For a lot of the former Winnipegers who visit, it’s often one of the things they want.

Monday, March 24, 2008

HSX - Hollywood Stock Exchange

I’ve been playing for about three years now. It’s a site where you can ‘buy’ stocks in movies that are in production and bonds in the stars. The movies cash out at their value in box office millions and the stars adjust based on their last five movies. You start with 2 million and, at present, I’m up over 150 million. I’m in the top 2% and closing in on the top 1% and am in the top 10,000 players.

I go in mostly every day to dabble in the daily stocks. Since I learned how to short bonds, I’ve done much better. Most of my main goals have been passed – 100 million, top 2%, in top 10,000, 150 million. My next big goals are $200 million and top 1%. After that, it will be a while before I crack $500 million or top 5,000.

This gives me no illusions about my ability with real stocks. This is a select environment with strict rules on how it works. The real world doesn’t adjust nearly as cleanly. Besides, the real world won’t give you $50,000 every week to dabble with just for answering a simple survey about what movie you’re going to see.

If you want to join, you can go under here - I still have a few referals left.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


We’re too young for any of the steam-tunnel live-action D&D craze. We did play a few of the Murder Mystery diner games – but they aren’t quite the same. By the next time live action role playing came around in a big way, Vampire the Masquerade was the one making headlines. I didn’t play that either but many who have seem to be the ones to think it’s the only game out there.

Many others systems have come out with LARP versions. I have the Star Wars, and Cthulhu Live ones. I even played a Highlander LARP back in the day at Gencon.

Some of the local players seem to think the only LARP that could be is Vampire. They were once putting together a LARP con. When I expressed interest and asked what games they would be playing, Cthulhu Live or Star Wars, they look askew at me and said that they would just be playing Vampire the Masquerade.
They didn’t appreciate my suggestion that they should rename their convention to be a VAMPIREcon instead of a LARPcon so as to not confuse people. I’m not even sure if they actually ran the convention or not – it had dropped off my radar after I found out it didn’t have anything that interested me.

Presently, I'm reading the Cthulhu Live books. They look great - I'm just not sure I have enough of a crowd with which to play though.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Car - rust repair - 3rd time the charm?

Shan has been dealing with arbitration about the Windstar for the last two months. It’s not been easy – mostly due to the fact that the lady she was dealing with wasn’t really listening to her. The end result is that the Windstar is back in at Birchwood to have the rust fixed to “industry standards”. We were a bit leery about they defined that but they basically mean “cut out the rust, weld in a new metal piece, grind down, and repaint.”

Since this was what we had wanted originally, we were happy to learn that they could do this after all. The arbiter thought we were being unreasonable about wanting it fixed “like new” and wouldn’t listen to us tell her that Birchwood was the one who brought up replacing the panels in the first place.

We did get them to provide a courtesy car again – but it took us hammering away at the arbiter that this wasn’t later repair work but rather work that was supposed to have been done before we bought the car. I think when we started bandying around the word “fraud” she finally understood.

I dropped it off on Monday morning. They had said that it should be fixed by Thursday so we shall see.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Hercules / Heracles

I’m just reading the kids the Greek and Roman mythologies – in graphic novel form. It’s a nice version that gives a good overview for them. It mainly uses the Greek names for the gods but does give charts and tables with the Roman versions. The one problem is with Heracles, or as they call him, Hercules.

With Greek myths you have – Aphrodite, Ares, Poseidon, Hades, and Heracles as Zeus’ son but not with Hera.
In Roman myths, you get – Venus, Mars, Neptune, Pluto, and Hercules as Jupiter’s son but not with Juno.

I’ve noticed that most shows seem to want to use the Greek gods but usually break down and use Hercules to not confuse the masses. Both Hercules the TV series and Hercules the animated movie have done this and it always annoys me when it happens. Of course, I would rather that they use the Roman names anyways but if they are going to use the Greek names, at least be consistent.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The third place

Starbucks is making no money off of me. I don’t often drink coffee. I’ll have the occasional cup if we go out for breakfast on the weekend but I don’t normally drink it. The only time I drank it regularly was when I worked at a printing place and pop was $1 and coffee was $0.25.

To me, I usually add enough sugar to the coffee until it is saturated – in that the crystals will no longer dissolve in the hot liquid. Then, by adding milk, it cools the coffee slightly and makes the solution supersaturated. The last sip of this is very thick and one can actually chew the grains of sugar in it.

Of course, this taste was acquired in university when one needed the extra energy from the sugar to add to the caffeine. Jolt cola had been out back then. When the cola conglomerates were starting to advertise caffeine-free colas, Jolt’s ad campaign was “All of the sugar, and twice the caffeine.”

My standard amount now is four heaping teaspoons of sugar in a cup of coffee. With that much sugar, I’m not really noticing the fine flavor of the coffee or the distinct differences in the roast variations. Certainly not enough to spend almost $5 on a cup of joe.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Dora the crack mule?

With kids, we watch a lot of kids shows. There was a good group of shows with strong female characters for our daughter – Lilo and Stitch, Kim Possible, and Dora the Explorer.

In many ways though, Dora reminds me of a crack mule.
- She often has to deliver items and follows an odd map to get there.
- She carries an odd assortment of items with her in her backpack.
- She has no long term memory, and always has to check back to where she is going next. At the end of the show, they always talk about their favorite part of what happened, and Dora’s is invariably the part that just happened.
- Plus, while not on her back, her companion, Boots, is a monkey. Just saying is all.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Geography - Bauxite is from Memphis

In some ways, what knowledge I have of the world, map-wise, has been more shaped by gaming than by school education. My world view is heavily based on Risk. My knowledge of Europe is based on the Diplomacy map. What I know of the States is based on Empire Builder with the exception of the small part that we drove through to get to GenCon.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Of the RPGs that I picked up, I have played less than half of them (so far!) I mostly looked at the modules as $8 novels. Nowadays that seems close to a normal price for a book but back then they were priced at about $2-$3 for a paperback novel.

D&D lead the way to the other TSR games – Top Secret, Gamma World (multiple versions), Boothill, Gangbusters, Marvel SuperHeroes, Dawn Patrol, Star Frontiers, Adventures of Indiana Jones, and Top Secret SI – plus all of their respective modules.
Those games led to Bushido, Villains & Vigilantes, Twilight 2000, Flashing Blades, Star Ace, Star Wars (West End), Chill (both versions), Valley of the Pharaohs, Crimefighters, James Bond 007, Vikings & Valkyrs and Bunnies & Burrows – plus most of their respective modules.
I have also picked up Big Eyes, Small Mouth; Autoduel; Fighting Fantasy; Pokemon Jr Adventure Game; Theatrix; World of Indiana Jones; and TWERPS but these were mostly just to pad out my list.

I have run D&D, V&V, MSH, and Adventures of Indiana Jones.
I have played several D & D solo modules but I don’t recall any actual games as a PC.
I have played Vikings & Valkyrs, The Palladium Role-Playing Game, James Bond 007, Paranoia, Toon, Chill, Star Wars, Top Secret, Star Wars, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, Call of Cthulhu, and even a game or two of AD&D. Most of these were events at conventions. At one point, I even created an over-system that would allow characters to be transferred from system to system as well as a campaign story for the changes. I’ll try to dig out and post the blurb for – The Gates of Kessler.

Don’t think that I remembered all those games by memory alone. The following site was an invaluable help:

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

more D & D memories

In 2000, D & D 3rd edition caused a huge uproar with the move to D20 and open source. The last big change to AD&D was when the second edition came out in 1989. We were at Gencon that year when they announced it. The big change on my side was that they had dropped the ‘Advanced’ from their name.

My 3rd edition had come out 17 years earlier.

Going in to senior high in 1983, I picked up the new D&D (3rd edition) boxed set. Over the years they churned out another Expert set, as well as a Companion, Masters, and finally Immortals. This one started with a walkthrough adventure in its own Players Handbook to start off new players. My copy is now pretty beat up from loaning it out to prospective players. While we did play a few one-offs, I don't believe that we ever did get a campaign going.

Monday, March 10, 2008

D & D memories

I had seen the little white boxes at the Ye Olde Hobby Shoppe in the Garden City mall for quite some time. I picked them up from time to time but never did buy a set. I didn’t get the original blue Basic rules in 1977 (I do have it now – but bought it much, much later), and saw the hardcover Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rulebooks but again passed them over – mostly due to price.

I’m trying to work out the timeline in my head. I thought I had gotten the 2nd edition Basic set while in elementary but, based on publishing date, I must have been in the back half of grade 7, in the beginning of grade 8, or the summer in between. My memory gets mushy about dates sometimes.

I used to mail away for a lot of things. I still love getting stuff in the mail. I remember that I knew my postal code by grade 2 from all the offers I had mailed away. I recall getting the Yaquinto Attack of the Mutants minigame based on the ad in the comic books. I don’t recall if this was before or after the first D&D ads appeared.
Based on the ads, I convinced my folks to let me buy the red Basic Dungeons & Dragons boxed set at Eatons in 1981. I got the blue Expert set later when it came out. Both had the plastic dice and the all important crayon for filling in the numbers. I still have these dice and can pick them out of my assorted dice I’ve acquired from various sets over the years.

I recall reading the rules and module and we played with Trevor and his brothers. This was how I met Jeremy – he came with an ‘existing’ character (that he and Trevor had created) to take on my crazy dungeon I had designed. His character, Yremej, had been outfitted with all the cool magic items they could find – basically making him a PC version of Thor. (This is why we no longer allow characters from other campaigns.)

Friday, March 7, 2008


I love maps. I always have. Part of what got me hooked on gaming as a youth was the maps from RPG modules (D&D, Top Secret, Boot Hill, and Gangbusters). D&D even gave you charts of symbols to use in making your own maps. This later helped build my interest in architecture in high school.

Even today, some of my favorite games are those that have interesting maps – like Heroclix and Horrorclix and I still like drawing floorplans of my house. Especially when planning possible upgrades or even working out furniture layouts.

Next week, I'll post up my reminisces of RPGs. I was going to do it soon anyways, but with all the D & D in the air it just helped move it forward.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Daylight Savings Time

This is often attributed to Benjamin Franklin due to his 1784 satirical essay to the French “An Economical Project” about getting up earlier than noon and wasting all the prenoon hours of light. In truth, or at least according to wiki,, it is really the fault of William Willett who came up with the idea in 1905 and put forth as a proposal in 1907. William was one of those early rising people and thought people were squandering the early light. It was adopted by Germany in WWI and most of Europe soon followed suit. Thus we have “spring forward and fall back” burned into our brains and have had to suffer through this.

Lately, they have taken to starting it earlier and ending it later. They used to claim that it would save energy and in the pre-electric time this might have been true but current studies of the effect have shown no appreciable energy savings. This change has also been repeatedly shown to cause problems for many people for several weeks as they readjust their circadian rhythms to the new schedule twice a year.

As nice as the idea seems, having the sun set after 10pm during the summer makes it a lot harder to get to sleep when it’s still bright out – not to mention trying to put kids down. Plus, for the one drive-in that we still have, it would be better for business if they could start their movies before 11pm.

Once again I say that we should follow the forethought show by our neighbors to the west and abolish Daylight Savings Time. Instead, we have followed lockstep with our neighbors to the south as they not only maintain it, but have now extended it.

Let those keeners who want to take advantage of longer daylight hours get themselves up earlier in the morning instead of trying to push their beliefs on the rest of us.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


In case you haven’t noticed yet, Shamrock Shakes are back at McDonalds for a limited time. They’ve been there since February 26. I picked up one on the way home yesterday to have with supper - and to share with the family too, of course.
If you’ve been missing the touch of the Irish on your tastebuds, be sure to head on down and pick up one before they disappear. After they go, you can still make one at home using this recipe:

Interesting note, according to their website, McDonalds doesn’t list any milk or ice cream directly in their shakes. They do list glucose syrup, water, and potassium sorbate though.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Gary Gygax gone

Gary Gygax passed away today. When we met him at Gencon, he seemed like an okay person. We'll miss him and can never really thank him enough for basically creating (with Dave Arneson) the RPG hobby that I enjoyed so much.

We'll move your character sheet to the binder of dead PCs.

the politics of personality

Fidel Castro handed over the reins to his 'younger' brother Raul. For almost 50 years, he had been the ruler of Cuba. That’s a long time in a political career. Especially with a large unfriendly neighbor like the USA beside you. For a former baseball player, he held out quite well as a leader.

I’ve always been a big fan of personalities in politics. I liked Leonid Brezhnev because he was a big personality, not necessarily for his politics. I liked Margaret Thatcher for the same reason.

The states hasn’t really had anybody I like that made it to the top. I did like Nixon, but he was a bit before me. H.Ross Perot was an interesting candidate but never came close. I was hoping that Jesse Ventura, fresh from Governor of Minnesota, would run – but he didn’t.

Locally, I’ve liked Pierre Trudeau, Joe Clark, Rene Levesque and Jean Cretchen. When I first became aware of politics, Trudeau was our Prime Minister. Except for a brief hiccup with Joe Clark, he lasted for sixteen years. He made quite the impression on me at the time.
I look forward to a few years from now when Trudeau and Mulroney can clash again when Justin and Ben face off.