31 October 2005

My World Series Experience

Sorry for the longtime-nopost. Its just that baseball season, a cold/sinus infection, and pressures at work have sucked my attention away from this all-important blog.

Let me start by discussing the root of all my current problems: the Houston Astros.

Okay, I'll start by saying I'm proud of my home team for making the World Series this year. I would have prefered that they win a single game, but all said, I would rather them get swept in the series than not be there at all. I have to admit that my stress level during the St. Louis series was much, much higher than during the White Sox series. Its like last year we won our first post-season series, this year we went to our first World Series, next year we should win it all.

Sounds good doesn't it.

I'm getting sidetracked.

Anyway, the stress of the Astros/Cards series seriously weakened my immune system. Then I just flat-out opened the door for germs and whatnot fretting over getting World Series tickets.

You see since 1986, when I first started paying attention to sports, I have been a baseball fan. And not just an Astros fan. I mean I became a baseball fan. I love the game. I love the history, the statistics, the romance, the players. All of it. So when the World Series rolls into town I think to myself that I would regret not going to the very first World Series game held in Houston.

Lets go back a couple of weeks before the Astros win the National League Championship. I was looking at ticket prices for the World Series then. Ticket face value was around $150 -- but unless you got real, real lucky, you couldn't buy a ticket at that price. You could, however, buy tickets from 3rd party ticket brokers for about $500/ticket. Like any normal American, I scoffed at the absurd price for a ticket. I figured that the people offering the ticket were gouging the market, and as game time approached the ticket prices would go down.

Boy was I wrong. The day after the Astros won the Cards series, prices skyrocketed to about $1200/ticket (that's for a seat, mind you -- standing room only tickets were going for ~$800). I wanted to wait till the game got closer to see if I could get any better deals, but I was too distraught that I wouldn't be able to find any tickets, that I decided to pay the huge price and buy two tickets. One for me, the other for my wife.

So I get online and purchase two tickets in section 327. I get called from the ticket broker some 2 hours later saying the tickets I bought were not available. There is some kind of generic ticket pool that all these ticket brokers use and none of them seem to actually own the tickets until they sell them. I didn't know that then, otherwise I would have told the guy that I didn't want any tickets and then I would have gone to a local ticket broker. But instead I get offered two tickets from the guy in section 401 (I think). There is a be worry spot about all this -- they won't be able to mail me my tickets until the day of the game. So I have over two grand committed to two tickets that I won't see until about 4 hours before the event starts. Against my instincts, I buy the tickets. And then I spend the rest of the week and weekend (about 5 days) with my stomach in knots about the whole thing.

Getting paranoid, I check out my order online. The tickets reported online are for section 415. So now I'm worried that my order is crossed with someone else's and I may not have tickets sent to the right place. It takes forever for me to get back through to my ticket broker who tells me everything is gonna be alright. But do I believe him? Would you? I mean, its a lot of money and my only shot at seeing the first World Series game in Houston.

So on Tuesday, the day of the game, I finally get my tickets -- for section 416.

Everything worked out fine. I went to my game. Saw my Astros lose. And had a great time. I caught a cough that eventually became a sinus infection -- but thems the breaks.

Here is a snippet of an email I sent to my brother-in-law when he asked me about getting tickets to the Big 12 College Football game that is being held here in Houston:

He wrote (from Austin):
I'm planning on going to the game; do you have any insight on how to score good tickets? The game is in Reliant.
I responded:
Having just been abused by buying overpriced Astro's World Series tickets, I have some insights. These are your options from best to worst:
  • Try to buy them from whoever sells them at face value. This is, of course, impossible -- but still the best option.
  • If you are EBay proficient, buy them there. They are by far the cheapest way to get tickets.
  • Go to a local ticket broker and buy tickets from them. Only buy tickets that they can give you right then. And make sure they are real tickets, not etickets or anything else.
  • Purchase tickets from an online ticket broker that is located either in Austin or Houston. This way if something happens in the mail, you can manually pick them up. Make sure all tickets you buy can be mailed right away. Do not buy tickets that will arrive at your place a day or two before the event.
I bought tickets to the Astro's world series game 3 from a ticket broker in California. They mailed me the tickets the day before the game. Though I got them, I was sweating bullets for about 5 days.

The original tickets I bought online, were actually unavailable. I figure a lot of the online stuff is for show. When I got called by the ticket brokers I bought another set of tickets. When I checked on my order I found out that I did not get the tickets I wanted. When the tickets were actually shipped to me they were not the tickets I originally bought, nor the tickets I bought over the phone, nor the tickets that the online order said they were -- they were a yet different set of tickets. The seats were fine, however.

Don't expect great customer service or reliability from 3rd party ticket brokers. But its really your only option.

I sit in the southern endzone of Reliant for my Texan's season tickets & they are great seats. Since they don't allow you to move around much in the stadium, I don't know what the other angles are like. I can vouch for the second tier of the endzone however.

27 October 2005

Bunnies and Windows

Sorry about the lack of posts here recently, but the Astros have been keeping me quite busy recently. Now that baseball season is over, I should be able to post more often. Here are some more of my wife's bunny pix for our adoption book.

First, a couple of windows that we will paste into the bunny in bed scene.

I think we prefer the next one, since it's lighter.

Now a bunch of bunnies:

As we assemble the peices we'll show them off here.

22 October 2005

More Drawings for Our Adoption Booklet

My wife has been hard at work on our adoption booklet. She is taking forever to do the first illustration where our protagonist, the bunny, gets the present from God and has to find someone to give it to. (Get it? The bunny is the adoptive mother, the present is her kid. Just thought I'd state the obvious just to be sure here.)

Anyway, we'll start today's post with her new direction. My original take on the whole thing was to be a bit more cartoony about it, and her original take was to be more detailed with the illustrations. Well, the simpler path won here. It is just easier to do cartoony illustrations. Here are my wife's first "cartoony" sketches:

I want her to practice the art of the abstract protagonist. Its a technique that I read about in Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics. It's where you keep your main character as un-detailed as possible. The less detail in your main character, the easier it is for your reader to identify with them. In this case, we want potential birthmothers to be "the bunny". So the more abstract and cartoony the bunny is, the better.

Once my wife settled on a style, she went to work picking her tools. She decided to draw the opening panel -- the one with the bunny in bed and a present at her feet.

She also is playing around with drawing her parents -- the beavers. She wants to depict her father as a builder, hence the hammer. I want her to draw him with a cup of coffee in his hand -- since he is from Portland (and he drinks a lot of coffee). I also want her to draw a bald beaver, but she doesn't want to do it.

Somewhere along the way she lost faith in her ability to draw a bow. She didn't want to do the simple two hoops and two strings. I told her to draw a carnation (the flower) and that would do for a bow. Personally however, I prefer the simple two hoop bow. My wife went with the carnation approach.

Next she dabbled in watercolors:

The watercolor paper gets all warped when you use water colors on it, hence all the picture distortion. You can see she played with various bedspread types. It was important to her to get the blanket properly designed.

In the end she went with watercolors over pencil drawing and then re-inked to highlight the illustration. She also went with a thicker, more textured charcoal drawing paper. [Edit: My wife corrected me here. She says that the paper that warped was charcoal drawing paper, the un-warped paper is watercolor paper. Oops! I guess that makes more sense, now that I think about it.]

Here is her first take on the first illustration:

She didn't like how the bunny turned out in this one. Here is her second take:

This is the one we are going with. I dig the blanket.

18 October 2005

To Hire a Lobbyist or To Not Hire a Lobbyist?

You don't have to read the entire quote below to get the gist of this post, just read from top to just past the bullet list.  I included the rest of the source just for those curious about the rest .

*** Federal Sales ***
Welcome to a new series called "Federal Sales." This newsletter is the second installment in a series of email newsletters about current topics relating to Federal Sales. This series joins our other popular newsletters; "Proposal Writing" and "GSA Schedules" in a weekly rotation.

Installment 2 - Top Down or Bottom Up

Many attendees at our Federal Sales Academy seminars ask: "We have something truly unique that the federal government just has to have. Should we hire a lobbyist or go to our congressman or a high level administration official to help us sell it?" You are wasting your valuable time and money unless:
  • You have contributed so much money that the congressman actually knows your name.
  • You are so active in the congressman's political party that you are newsworthy.
  • You are a connected Texan.
  • You are connected to a pork project or a highly visible local initiative.
Not only is a top down approach to sales expensive it can lull you into believing that something is happening and divert you from what you really should be doing. Further, pressure from the top can alienate the mid-level procurement decision makers.

Well if top down isn't going to work, how about bottom up. Most federal sales are made from the bottom up or better yet from the middle up. You must search out that particular end user with both pain and the money.

The person you are seeking is usually somewhere in the middle and probably is either hiding from you or already has a favorite vendor. The person will need your products and services in achieving their job and what you provide will probably have an impact on the individual's performance, salary, and/or promotion.

Make my pain go away really means help me do my job better. The person you are looking for can be an engineer, technical specialist, program specialist, branch chief, division head, program manger or Chief Information office. It depends on the circumstances. Finding them and then getting through the glass wall (resistance to sales calls) is not easy but that is what you have to do.

Leave the top down approach for the multi-billion dollar deals.

[Oct 16, 2005   Fedmarket.com]

I thought that this was an interesting email.  Fedmarket.com has a very informative series of write-ups about how to sell to various sections of the government.  Most of the pieces are boring, but some of them, like this one, have some scary insight.

These people make money telling you how to run your operation.  The fact that they think
Big money == Active in politics == Pork project == Texan
is kinda revealing.  Again, this email is not from a politically tinted organization.  They are just trying to make a buck.

I wonder if being a "connected Texan" stays true for other administrations?  It seems a lobbyist would only help you with Congress, which isn't the domain of the Executive branch of government.  So does this axiom always hold true?

I don't have answers, but I do have questions.

15 October 2005

Adoption Marketing

My wife and I started working on our “Getting to Know Us” book for prospective birth mothers – the point of this book to sell ourselves to someone who is making a very tough decision. I imagine that someone thinking about giving their child up for adoption has to be working off a very high level of emotions.

That said – my wife and I want to take a simple approach to this thing. We are going to try to take a simple tack. We thought about introducing ourselves with a little kid story. I wanted it to be Curious George-like, but my wife wanted to go with bunnies, since they were easier to draw.

So I started on the storyboard, and my wife started on sketches. Here are the first two pages of the storyboard. My wife's sketches follow.

My style is very cartoony and may not be very suitable for such a serious subject matter. My wife's style will tend to be more cute.

We'll play with it a bit more. You should see lots more on this subject.

14 October 2005

What Makes Houston, Houston (or Why I Hate Krispy Kreme)

Discussing my wife is a forbidden topic so I'll keep it quick. My wife and her family are all from Oregon. I sometimes get defensive when describing Houston to them since they live in a gorgeous location and I kinda get a bit jealous. But there are some things that are just different in Houston that I have grown accustom to. Houston has its own culture, so to speak.

When I am trying to describe Houston culture to someone it comes across as kinda bland. I mean Houston doesn't have the history of San Antonio or New Orleans, its not as picturesque as Denver or San Francisco, its not as American as New York or Boston or Philly or Chicago, its not as self-important as Washington DC, its not as nostalgic as Atlanta or St. Louis, its not as hip as Seattle or Portland, and its not as Texan as Dallas. This is scary to say, but the city that reminds me the most of Houston is LA -- except Houston doesn't have nice weather or Hollywood. Its more like LA's drainage ditch.

But still, there is something that makes Houston, Houston. Some people would say that Houston has the best restaurants. That may be true, but that’s not what I think of when I think of Houston. Sure the Mexican food is top notch, but it’s just a carryover from border Texas. It’s not Houston. Houston shrimp is also top-notch, but since Cajun and Creole food swept the nation a couple of years ago, all Houston seafood distinction has been lost in the shuffle. Chicken fried steak is Texan, not exclusively Houstonian.

The easiest thing to notice different about Houston is the doughnut shops.

I know it sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. There is no other major metropolitan area that has Kolaches available in every doughnut shop. Most people not from Houston don't even know what a Kolache is. Or else they have some great aunt from Eastern Europe that makes something she calls Kolaches. European Kolaches can be anything from dumplings to fruit pastries. Hell, that may be what real Kolaches are, but I don't care. A Houston Kolache is -- by definition -- a doughy roll with a piece of sausage stuck in it and maybe some cheese. There are lots of variations on this theme that may replace the meat with something sweet, but those are variants. A lot of lazy Kolache makers will put lil smokey's in a Kolache, but a truly authentic Houston Kolache has a cut piece of sausage in it. That way more of the sausage flavor seeps out into the dough.

Most doughnut chains that open up in Houston eventually end up serving Kolaches. If they don't, they go out of business. Shipley’s and Dunkin both offer some form of Kolaches with their doughnuts.

This brings me to the evil Krispy Kreme doughnut shop which so far does not offer Kolaches. This is spit in the eye of every Houstonian. People that are not offended by this are yankee carpetbaggers and I want them the hell out of my town – it’s like not offering coffee in Seattle or beignets in New Orleans. It's just Houstonian sacrilege.

Unfortunately my wife is a yankee carpetbagger (I've tried to chase her out of my town, but she won't go), so sometimes I have to lower myself and buy her doughnuts from that evil place. But I hope every last one of them closes or folds to local pressure. So let me end this in an SAT format analogy:

Redskins football team : American indians :: Krispy Kreme : Houstonians

Oops, I forgot my point to all this, my sister-in-law is from one of the many Czech (as in Czechoslovakia) communities that dot the area around Houston and she knows how to make Kolaches -- lots of different varieties, mostly the Eastern European types I mentioned earlier. She has come to my house numerous times and stayed for extended periods of time. You would think that this would obligate her to feed me homemade Kolaches as I mention it to her something like every five minutes. But she just doesn't seem to ever think it important enough to do. Still, I have to keep the relationship on the up n up in hope that someday I will be treated to a sheet of fresh, warm Czech Kolaches. A Houstonian can dream, can't he?

13 October 2005

Songs I Love Right Now

We have a nice MP3 server at work. Everyone has dropped their music on it. So at the start of the day I just point to the top-level directory, randomize the whole kit'n'kaboodle and listen away. Most of it is crap but there are some real gems in this mix. This is my current song love list (in the order that I discovered the songs, top being the most recent):
  • *Blue October - Calling You
  • Jets to Brazil - Morning New Disease
  • *Modest Mouse - The Fruit that Ate Itself
  • Collective Soul - Tremble for my Beloved
  • *The Killers - All These Things That I've Done
  • Barenaked Ladies - Tonight is the Night I Fell Asleep at the Wheel
  • Marcy's Playground - Our Generation
  • Lou Bega - Tricky, Tricky
  • Andre Bocelli & Sarah Brightma - You take my breath away
  • *KMFDM - Anarchy (God and the State)
  • Foo Fighters - This is a Call
  • At The Drive-In - Invalid Litter Dept
  • Doves - Some Cities
  • A Perfect Circle - Imagine
  • Opposite Day - Mr. Plain
  • Wheatus - Love is Mutt From Hell
  • OK Go - Your So Damn Hot
  • Bluejuice - Here We Go Now (remix)
  • OK Go - Return
  • Harvey Danger - Old Hat
  • Breaking Benjamin - Medicate
  • Hot Hot Heat - No, Not Now
  • *Baggsmen - Long Strong Diamond
  • *Wheatus - Sunshine
  • Wheatus - Teenage Dirtbag
  • *Phish - Bouncing Around the Room
  • Moldy Peaches - Who's Got the Crack?
  • *Moldy Peaches - Downloading Porn with Davo
  • Mindless Self Indulgence - Tom Sawyer
  • Plummet - Damaged
  • Eurythmics - I Need A Man
Songs marked with "*" are amazingly good. Plastickelly will get pissed if I don't put links to these songs, but since I'm at work and do not have Internet connection, I can't realistically add links. Go to itunes and pick them up. If you have the software installed you can sample some of the songs on this list.

If you only have time to listen to a few, I recommend "Moldy Peaches - Downloading Porn with Davo" and "Baggsmen - Long Strong Diamond". Both of those are truly original pieces and both are available on itunes. I think that the Peaches have some kind of cult-following in the NY area. The Baggsmen are a band discovered by my colleague who plays bass for Slappy's Groove Shack (see link to the right, I can't remember it off the top of my head) when he visited Sydney, Australia a couple of years ago. All their stuff is pretty good, "Long Strong Diamond" is a masterpiece, however.

12 October 2005

Rita Damage

I have a pal that has tons of pics of the damage Hurricane Rita did to Creole, Louisiana. It's some impressive stuff. This was his home town, now it's pretty much unlivable.

Chick Flicks Argument

I plan, in this post, to properly define the much maligned category of "chick flick". This genre is routinely butchered by the conversational public. It is my duty to set that public straight. Lets start with some definitions, shall we?

Grossly Defined Chick Flick: Defined more by what it does not contain. A movie that does not have anyone wounded, anyone dead, any vehicular explosions, or any breasts is a chick flick. Any movie that has hot female full frontal nudity and no male nudity cannot be a chick flick.
Narrowly Defined Chick Flick: A movie that is aimed at *just* women

Now the gross definition encapsulates O Brother Where Art Thou, The Wedding Planner, On Golden Pond, and Beaches. Depending upon who you talk to, all of these may be chick flicks. By the real definition, only Beaches is a chick flick -- since its intended audience is only women.

Real Chick Flicks:
Ya-ya Sisterhood
Real Women Have Curves
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
Raising Helen
Fried Green Tomatoes

Not Real Chick Flicks:
The Wedding Planner
My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Priscella, Queen of the Desert
The Notebook

I know, I know, where am I going with this? Bear with me here -- the point is forthcoming.

Anyway, lets look at the films that are "Real Chick Flicks". Every one of those films could give a rat's ass if any man saw them. They are not meant for male consumption. I'll admit that Fried Green Tomatoes and even Beaches were good movies and I fully enjoyed watching them, but I felt like a gay jewish black guy at a clan rally. (That's interesting, I just successfully compared Fried Green Tomatoes to rednecked fascism. Score! Obiwanchunn!)

Compare those movies to "The Wedding Planner" -- the stupid romance movie staring JLo and some famous guy. Okay, most people would classify "The Wedding Planner" as a strict chick flick. But I take issue with this. Let me further clarify -- Titanic had lots of stuff for the dames, as well as lots of stuff for the guys. (Stop rolling your eyes, Bubba.) Titanic has lots to offer us men: a whole lota death, someone gets shot, full frontal nudity of a classy babe, and Leonardo DiCaprio gets killed. What's not to love from a guy stand-point? Also for example is the movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding". That movie was funny. Funny movies give the guys lots to enjoy. And to top it all off, both "Titanic" and "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" are great date movies. They are meant for couples. Guys may get a little bit of extra attention when they get home. wink wink

Okay, by this point I have hoped to establish that Titanic and My Big Fat Greek Wedding both have something to offer men and are not "Chick Flicks". How, pray tell do I use that to explain why "The Wedding Planner" is not a Chick Flick? Simple, Titanic, My Big Fat Greek Wedding and The Wedding Planner are all in the same genre -- romance. Romantic movies are meant for couples. The first two movies in that series are good romance movies, The Wedding Planner is a bad romantic movie. It just so happens that women have a lower tolerance for bad romance movies than guys. Its kind of like Pulp Fiction is to Titanic as XXX is to The Wedding Planner. A bad action flick does not make it change categories -- its just that less people will see it. In the case of The Wedding Planner, a lot less MEN will see it.

I had to make one small aside before I get to the point of this entire post (yes, I still haven't made it yet). There are no big Hollywood "guy" films. Porn is about the only genre of guy films that exist -- and that delineation is slowly dissolving. I have "Priscella, Queen of the Desert" up on my "Not Real Chick Flicks" list because it is about gay guys. A lot of breeding men would classify a gay man film as a "Chick Flick". How ironic it is that films about gay men are nigh the closest thing to an actual "Guy Flick". Their target audience is just men. No women intended there. Okay, aside over.

The point of this entire post is that you should rent "The Notebook". It is a very good romance movie. I highly recommend it. All you guys out there, watch it with your dame and get some points for seeing "her kind of movie", knowing full well you aren't watching a "Chick Flick" -- just don't admit it though. And that recommendation was the entire point of this post.


11 October 2005

A Football Rant

My wife and I have season tickets to the Houston Texans Football team. They have to be nigh the worse team in pro football right now. Anyway I hate going to their games. And it’s not just because they are absolutely boring to watch. No, it’s the little things.
  • First, it takes forever to get into the stadium. That place is the epitome of inconvenient. We have to walk 1/2 a mile to get to the stadium.

  • Second, we have to walk another 1/4 mile just to ENTER the stadium. Heaven help us, if people could just enter the building where it is most convenient and then while inside, walk to where they need to go, the terrorists would win.

  • Third, once you get into the stadium, they don't let you wander around. I have friends in another place in the stadium, but I can't get there. No one will let me travel around the place. I feel like I am in a concentration camp.

  • Fourth, the food service sucks. You can't buy any candy there. Can you believe that? No candy, no chocolate, no friggin junior mints. What kinda place doesn’t have junior mints? The only thing sweet you can get there is cotton candy, soda or dippin' dots. Yes, you heard me right: Dippin' Dots -- you know that crappy ice cream designed to be mostly air? That's "dessert".

  • Fifth, some moron is in charge of opening and closing the roof. The first home game, when the temperature outside was 105 degrees F, the effing roof was open. I felt like I was gonna die in there. The last game, this Sunday, when the outside was a blissful 83 degrees F, the effing roof was closed (I am trying not to cuss, because my mother may read this someday -- but I really want to say "fuck", I just have to edit myself, I guess). The worst case scenario is that someone heard everyone bitching about the roof being open the first game and they thought they would teach us a lesson by closing it last Sunday.

  • Sixth (this list will grow for quite a bit longer -- bear with me), I can't see replays of close plays. I hate it when I would see a better game if I just stayed home and watched it on TV. I know, I know, the reasoning is that if the crowd could see the replay, they might boo or sigh or something that might change the mind of the replay official. To which I retort: that is the stupidest thing I have ever heard. Hire some new officials if they are taking their cues from the crowd.

  • Seventh, I cannot stand football fans. I am beginning to loath people that rah-rah the team. I am way too cynical to be in a 3 hour long pep rally. I didn't go to pep rallies in high school. Why in the HELL am I going to one now?

  • Eighth (almost to the end, bear with me a bit longer), the game of football is decided too much by officiating. I have the same problem with basketball. When you specifically have plays designed to try to get the other team to break a rule is boring. I want to see people hit each other. I want to see cool passes and tackles. I do not want to see flags and stopped plays and things called back and entire offensive lines frozen, unable to move and if they blink a whistle is blown. That just plain sucks. I wish rugby were more popular in the states because then I might be able to get in to it and watch what I want to watch and not a bunch of old men doing semaphores on camera.

  • Ninth – and I can't believe I waited so long to rant about this one; I hate the utter proliferation of advertisements. You can look around Reliant Stadium, and I swear if 33% of your viewing plane isn't an ad of some kind then well, you aren’t in Reliant Stadium; you must be somewhere with less ads – like Times Square. The Texans have a large scoreboard, but maybe 25% of it is actual scoreboard, the rest is ads.

  • Tenth, the Texans have been so unhappy with the crowd's response to their lame-ass team that they have been piping in "cheers". I kid you not, about 1/4 of the crowd noise in Reliant stadium during the game is fake. Yes, they play it over the loud speakers. It makes me want to vomit every time I hear Announcer: "It’s another..." Loud speaker spewing fake crowd chant: "FIRST DOWN!"

  • Eleventh, fireworks inside a closed stadium. When the roof is closed there should be NO fireworks. At the start of the game, during the national anthem and while the players are introduced, the Texan's let off smoky fireworks. There is no ventilation when the roof is closed. I can still see the smoke residue left over from the fireworks at the beginning of the game AT HALFTIME! Thank goodness the team can’t score squat, or else I would be choked by nauseating smoke every time a touchdown was thrown.

  • Lastly, you have a team that has had problems protecting the quarterback. Notorious problems. Horrible problems. They set all sorts of records for sacks allowed. So when you decide to fire your offensive coordinator and replace him with someone, who would you pick? I know who the Texans picked – the offensive line coach. Yes, the same guy in charge of the worst offensive line in NFL history. Great choice guys. Way to pick a winner.
To top it all off, the Texan’s played their crappy game while the Astro’s were playing their finest game. The loudest cheers in the crowd are when Berkman hit that grand slam to close the gap and then when Ausmus hit the game tying homer. The whole stadium (which was about 18 people that bothered to stay until the 4th quarter) erupted into a “Let’s go Astro’s, let’s go” chant. Yes, I know, I claim to hate all that pep rally crap – and I do. But at least THAT cheer was for a good team playing their hearts out. Sure, maybe the Texans are playing their hearts out too, but they still aren’t anywhere close to a good team. And sell some friggin candy, willya, Mr. McNair?

10 October 2005

Magic Leagues

I recently started a Magic Online league. Anyone who has played the card game Magic the Gathering would pick up quickly the online version of the game. It is a much better version of the real card game from a rules and huristics stand point -- since it regulates and adheres to the rules much more adamantly than most real card games.

The problem with the online version, however, is the lack of the human interaction. Since the computer regulates most of the action, the chit-chat, taunting, and goofing around are mitigated or removed entirely.

Still, the online version allows for pick-up games when ever you feel like it. Well... most of the time, at least.

06 October 2005

Adoption Home Study Meeting Went Well

Well, my wife and I are thinking we have been had. The lady that does the home study to allow us to adopt children told us straight up that since our criminal records are clear, we're in. Now its just a bunch of paperwork.

So my wife cleaned the house for nothing (but I still like a clean house.)

In the Early-Middle of the Adoption Process

My wife and I are both infertile. Yeah, yeah I know, too bad for us. We are over it, believe me. We've moved on.

Anyway, when we gave up on the fact that we couldn't have kids on our own, we started looking towards adoption as way to begin a family. Its a mega-annoying way to have kids. The normal way is at least fun tostart off with. Adoption is a huge bureaucracy. Red-tape galore.

I finally finished my personal report on myself. This report is 15 pages of questions like: "How do you handle feeling angry", and better questions like "How will you feel if your adopted child wants to find his birth parents?" Uhg. (And for the record, the answer to both is

Well tonight we are having someone come over and do our home-study. This is where a social worker inspects you, your wife, your property, and then deems us child-worthy or not. My wife is wigging out -- doing things like trimming the bushes out front and cleaning non-stop. Fortunately I like the bushes trimmed and the house clean, so at least I get something out of all this nervous energy. I do not, however, like a stressed out wife. Wife + Stress = Complication. So there are somenegatives to this.

Surprisingly I'm not nervous about this a bit. I don't know why. I usually freak-out in pressure situations. I am the antithesis of steady under pressure. I'll give a full report after the home-study completesthis night.

Oh, and it has not gone un-noticed that this home study corresponds with the choicest Astro's game in months. Fortunately I have Tivo.

Astros Rule

Okay, I'm a baseball nut.

I love my Astros. They seem to finally be in the swing of things in the post-season. They actually look like they might win some games here. Its very exciting. I should get to go to a few games if they make it to the next round.

Assault on FedXorn

This should be the last DnD post for about a week.

We just finished the second session of the new Fugglies campaign.

High level encounters are mega slow to run. Each fight takes about 2-3 hours. We started the game in the new Crater Ridge Mines development. Ioctl is the super there and is charged with repairing the damaged caldera and refilling the lake so the new tenants have some water-front property.

The first session dealt with Ioctl wrapping us some loose ends in the Crater Ridge Mines. First he had to evict Demogorgon from the property (well actually just Demogorgon's employee, a Sorrow Demon and 10 Aspects of Demogorogon) and then a timeshare meeting got interrupted by a newly summoned epic-level abomination from the plane of evil air elementals. The timeshare salespeople were very upset as the Abomination was killing their potential commissions.

Elani died in that last fight. Nate almost bit the dust twice, but didn't. (Just one character death in two sessions. I'm not living up to expectations here.)

This night's session was mostly about Ioctl taking the team to the ruins of the Temple of Elemental Evil and attempting to talk Ogremoch, the Prince of Evil Earth Elementals, to come to the Crater Ridge Mines and repair the caldera. Ioctl had previously summoned Ogremoch, but failed to best him by himself. So instead of going back to whence he came, Ogremoch sets up residence the old Temple of Elemental Evil. Ioctl plans on using the Fugs to best Ogremoch in a feat of strength (at least that's the plan.)

In the first floor of the temple, a giant Xorn named the Returns Queen is running a parcel service known as FedXorn. Dracustous discovers his great-great-great-great-grandmother's shipment to him has been smashed to bits by various earthquakes that run rampant throughout the premises. Dracustous plots his revenge on FedXorn.

We ended the game with the party defeating a huge Elemental Earth Dragon and then starting to pick a fight with the Returns Queen.

It was great fun.

The Sprawl

I thought I would share my map of "the Sprawl". The concept of the city is that there is no legitiment authority. No mayor, no king, the courts rule those that attend them. The sewer managment, known as the Drainage Department, are unoffically the city watch. They are known for wearing plate mail under thier overalls.

The balancing factor in the city is that all group view anyone with power as a threat. Ergo, no one of power lasts long in the city.

The orphanage that Porn Has originated from is located in Lower Towne. The Wrongside courthouse is where many a character has been hung. The Dungeon Development is a dungeon that has been cleaned out of monsters and turned into a set of urban, hip condos. Many of the Sprawl campaigns revolve around property developments.

Tikki Towne served as this campaign world's Homlett (one of the towns in the Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil.) And Direville served as the other.

05 October 2005

DnD Tonight

I have recently restarted an old DnD campaign. When 3rd edition first came out my DnD group transitioned from a cool Dark Sun game to one where we all played evil guys. That set of characters were known as "Porn Has" (a really stupid anagram of the word "orphans" of which all the characters were). Anyway the city that they operated out of was loosely based on a medieval Houston that I called "The Sprawl".

As that campaign wore on, it became more and more difficult to motivate the party to do anything. Evil people just don't have enough in common with one another (one of the guys was trying to become a Godfather-like crime lord, another was a crazy cleric that wanted to become an evil god.) In the end the party of Porn Has splint in twain. And it became increasingly difficult to DM.

So we created as our second batch of characters for the new DnD system (at the time, still 3rd edition) a group of good characters. This party was notable by the fact that most everyone had a charisma score below average, with the median being around 6. Everyone was ugly, so that group became known as an agglomeration of two words which formed the title the "Fugglies".

We took the Fugglies through the DnD 3rd edition introductory module, the Sunless Citadel and then through the mega-module Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil. All the while I kept that group in the Sprawl environs. Through much of the adventures, the first group, Porn Has, made several appearances and worked as reoccurring villains for the Fugs. There were several times when members from Porn Has and the Fugs switched sides. In fact, the 2nd to last part of the Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil was actual performed by Porn Has instead of the Fugs.

The entire Fugglies campaign was very dynamic and symbiotic with the first campaign of Porn Has.

And then the death knell of all DnD games occurred: the Fugs got to level 15.

The DnD game breaks down in a major way at late mid-levels. Encounter generation is cumbersome for DMs. Battles are tedious as everyone has a billion options. And fights tend to be either impossible or mind-numbingly easy for the characters. I hated high-level DnD.

So we abandoned the Fugs about 3 years ago. Since then, DnD has release as new, partial, edition -- 3.5. And the support for high-level characters has gotten a bit better. Now, at least, there are some published adventures with high level bad guy stats, and some of the newer monster books have some high-level monsters stated out that I can use as-is. So when our last campaign ended, I sent this email out to our group:

"Ioctl is the new super for a condo development in the ruins of the caldera dungeon, the Crater Ridge Mines, and has to find a way to patch the hole in the mountain and refill the lake inside. Rumors abound about a Prince of Evil Earth Elementals that can be found in the inner fane. Maybe he can repair the caldera? There is also rumor of an artifact-level decanter of endless water located in some ancient tomb in the Sprawl. An ancient tomb? Solve a problem – gain a new development property. Sounds like a win-win to Ioctl.

"Sir Rafael the Grey has entered politics and is running for Mayor of the Sprawl. For the last three hundred years, Sprawl mayors have only survived for a few weeks before being assassinated. In the last seventy-five years only three people have run for mayor, all unopposed, and all serving a cumulative time of 16 days in office. Rafael’s +10 sword should keep him in office longer, but who knows? Maybe the fact that his running mate is CHA=2 Jerpy, will discourage would-be assassins.

"Grummish, feeling a little threatened by a rising half-orc deity sends several tens of thousands of orcs to "check things out" in the Sprawl. When the hoard arrives to town, the orcs cause massive headaches for the citizenry. They book all the rooms at the Sprawl hotels, pack all the restaurant full, they don't tip, they overflow the tourist attractions, and other very annoying things. It is now impossible to go out on the town since smelly orcs are everywhere. The Sprawl officials are desperate. The Fugs must solve the problem diplomatically; Jerpy and Sir Rafael demand it. It’s their campaign slogan: "Fugs to eradicate orcish hoard peacefully!"

"Dracustous' great-great-great-great grandmother dies (she was an ancient blue dragon wyrm) and names her great-great-great-great grandson the sole heir of her hoard. All he has to do is come and get it. Of course Dracustous has relatives that were spurred by Gggggrammy and want their fair share of her hoard. They come armed with restraining orders and legal counsel. Drac really has no option but to mount an assault of the Law Office of Gronk, Bonenose, Redaxe and Acererak and kill every damn lawyer there. It won't be easy – Acererak is a demi-lich. Oh, and the law-office only hires lawful evils so its safe to annihilate everyone in there.

"Nate's sheriff duties become too overwhelming for his meager faculties. He hires a deputy and takes a vacation. When he comes back, the entire population of Tikki Town has either been murdered or is missing. Where is everyone? Where is his deputy? Several days later a package is delivered via FedXorn with the decapitated head of Rufus and a note saying, "I know you are the new half-orc god. This material plane isn't big enough for the two of us! Prepare to die when I find you. -One Eye G." Who sent the package? How did the head of Rufus end up in it? Is it related to everyone being gone? The mystery must be solved.

"Elani is newly divorced – her husband citing irreconcilable differences. He gutted her share of her adventuring treasure by a hiring super-slick lawyer Milford H. Bonenose. She just sits in her Sprawl apartment with her growing number of kitties. Does kitty-witty want swom fwood? Kitty-witty wuvs mummy. Mummy wuvs kitty-witty... Will anything stir her from her depression?"

I know you don't know the Fugglies. I'll try to introduce them later. But I just wanted to demonstrate just how my games work. I basically love to take people's character concepts, and manipulate that concept in a different way. Then I hope the player runs with it and we get something we both weren't expecting. Some people do this well, others hate it. My buddy, Kelly, hates it. When he plays a game, he doesn't want *anyone* to tell him what his character does, did or is going to do.

The game group (I DM most of the time, but sometimes Chris DMs Sprawl games, so I have one character in this mix):

Adam (that's me):
Porn Has - Donkeh Jones - Male Half Elf Bard/Arcane Archer
Donkeh falls under the "psychopath" heading. He has been killed once, by Brian's "Porn Has" character, Rollo. Both Rollo and Donkeh were "confused" and attacked one another. Rollo won initiative. If Donkeh had one more round, he would have killed Rollo. This fight started a huge enmity between Rollo and Donkeh that shows up when ever these two play together. Donkeh follows Fachish in the "Mad God" portion of Porn Has.
Fugglies - no character

Porn Has - Pepe - Male Halfling Rogue
One of two neutral characters in the evil party. He is known as "The Rogliest" since through all sorts of DnD power gaming, and me giving him insane narrative dexterity bonuses, he has an impossible dexterity score. Pepe is the only character, that as a DM, I cannot kill without cheating. Pepe follows Wendel in the "Crime-Lord" portion of Porn Has.
Fugglies - Jerpy - Male Half Orc Ranger
The ugliest character that I have ever DMed. He has a charisma score of 2. I punish this score by every time he walks into town, he gets thrown in jail and/or sent to the gallows. The rest of the Fugglies have rescued him from imminent execution multiple times. He ties with Nate as being the character that has died the most (at least 5 times). Oh, and sometimes Grummish, the evil god of orcs, possesses him and gives him deity like powers. This has happened so much now, that Jerpy has started to take on permanent diefic traits, and is actually being worshiped by a large number of half-orcs.

Porn Has - Rollo - Male Human Fighter
After Rollo killed Donkeh, I took back over as DM for the group and told Brian that if Rollo didn't show some remorse for killing Donkeh, that I, as DM, would punish him. Brian instead mocked me. So I spent the next 8 to 10 sessions trying to kill Brian. I finally got my shot when the KouToa Monks of the Left Arm captured Rollo, and then severed his left arm in homage to their god. At the time Rollo had speciallized in two-handed axes, so missing an arm was pretty bad. A good highlight was when he had an arm polymophed (I think) and Ken's sorceror, Sam, accidentally caught him in a dispel magic that made his new arm disapear. Rollo follows Wendel in the "Crime-Lord" portion of Porn Has.
Fugglies - Ajaris - Male Human Psychic Warrior | Killian - Male Human Arcane Trickster | Ioctl - Male Human Dungeon Delver
Brian has gone through more permanent deaths in the Fugglies campaign than anyone else. Ajaris was turned into a lich by the dark god Tharazidun (sp?) and eventually destroyed when Bill's Jerpy was possesed by Grummish and then smitten with an Orcish Doubleaxe. Killian was killed by Geoff's Fachish but in his dying breath, summoned Tiamat, goddess of evil dragons, which destroyed a large section of the Crater Ridge Mines. Tiamat, in turn, crushed Fachish along with Ken's Psychic Bob. Finally Ioctl finished out the last campaign, and when the dungeon was cleaned out, attempted to revive the property as vacation homes.

Porn Has - Wendel - Male Human Drunken Master
The leader of the bad guy group. Intends to run the Sprawl with a huge crime syndicate. Wendel is most know for rolling poorly. Whenever Chris plays Wendel, he always rolls "1"s. We don't know why. He just does. It is now expected. Whenever I give Chris a chance to role-play Wendel, he drinks from his flash of booze and gets drunk. Wendel is quite the souse. He also runs from battle frequently, so he has never come close to dying. Wendel is now in charge of the "Crime-Lord" portion of Porn Has.
Fugglies - Nate - Male Half Orc Barbarian/Cleric
Nate isn't that ugly, but is very stupid. He has an intelligence of 5. When Chris levels Nate, he spends Nate's lone skill point on "Craft - Basketweaving". Its a joke. Whenever Nate gets nervous, he weaves baskets. Nate is known throughout all of our games as being the most broken. With certain augmentations and conditions, Nate's strength can become insanly high. Fortunatly Nate's armor is very poor, and he dies a lot. Nate holds the record for dying the most times in a single session -- 3. One of those deaths was via a Grummish possessed Jerpy.

Porn Has - Fachish - Male Human Cleric of Tharizdun
Fachish started off as a member of the Fugglies, leading the Fugglies on a raid of the Fire Temple. Fachish was an NPC in the module Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil. And Geoff started playing with our group when Fachish was introduced, so I had Geoff run the NPC. He did him so well, Geoff kept him. After he betrayed the Fugglies, and got eaten by Tiamat, he was raised and eventually joined Porn Has. When Porn Has completed the Inner Fane portion of the Return to the temple of Elemental Evil, Fachish drew poorly on a Deck of Many Things and was banished to a prison plane. I had him go to the same prison plane that kept Tharizdun. Eventually, Tharizdun possessed Fachish and escaped the prison plan. Fachish/Tharizdun now leads the "Mad God" portion of Porn Has.
Fugglies - Dracustous - Male Half-Dragon Sorceror
Dracustous entered the game after Fachish was killed by Tiamat. He is known for killing a CR 25 Chaos Wurm by himself when he was only 13th level. To be fair, I played the Chaos Wurm poorly, but still, I intended the Wurm to kill everyone. Geoff plays Dracustous as a borderline nut-job that is obsesed about eating the hearts of evil dragons -- hoping to become one himself someday. Dracustous is also know for his use of walls of force -- creating mazes of force walls during encounters.

Porn Has - Fred - Dwarf Fighter
Fred was captured by Sprawl authorities and hung for his crimes. Kelly, disliking how late we played (we play till midnight and he gets up at 4am), quit Porn Has after the death of Fred. Rollo was next on the gallows, but was saved by a miraculous prison break.
Fugglies - Val - Halfling Rogue/Wizard
Kelly also left the Fugglies, but Val didn't die then. He eventually bit the dust as an NPC, however. Val was most known for being a wizard that never cast spells. In fact, at one point in the game, he dropped his spellbook on the ground and never picked it back up.

Porn Has - Sam - Male Human Sorceror
Ken is another guy that hates when I mess with his character. So there isn't much to say about Sam, except that he is psycho. When Sam drew from the Deck of Many Things he had his alignment changed to lawful good. Recently though, Fachish/Tharzidun converted him back to chaotic evil. Sam is a member of the "Mad God" portion of Porn Has
Fugglies - Halfgan - Male Half Elf Druid | Psychic Bob - Male Human Psion | Elani - Female Elf Loremaster
Ken hasn't gone through many permanent deaths, mostly he was gotten bored with his characters and wanted to change them out. Halfgan is notable in that I had him taken over by a doppleganger and didn't tell Ken that he was playing a doppleganger. I just kept telling him that his spells failed when he tried to cast them. Eventually the party Paladin, Sir Rafael, caught him in a detect evil, and the slew Halfgan to Ken's dismay. Ken was grousing with Woody when I told everyone that dead Halfgan reverted to a dead doppleganger. Psychic Bob was fun to DM for. He was a momma's boy that eventually became sheriff of a small town (after Psychic Bob died, Nate took over sheriff duties.) Ken opted to keep Psychic Bob dead after he was killed by Tiamat. Ken then decided to be the first player to play the opposite gender (this still bothers some people in the game.) Elani entered the game with a cohort, her husband. Ken was disillusioned by the leadership feat and quickly had Elani abandon her cohort/husband in town.

Porn Has - Josie - Male Human Barbarian
Josie is firmly in the psychopath camp. He is known for killing people, lighting their severed heads on fire and then throwing them at enemies. The most memorable moment for Josie is when Woody was expecting his first child. I had "Porn Has" have a fight where a pregnant woman was wandering around. Josie, in atypical psychopath fashion, stopped the fight long enough to let the pregnant woman get to safety. This says something about a player's tie to their character -- but I don't know what. Josie follows the "Mad God" portion of Porn Has.
Fugglies - Sir Rafael - Male Human Paladin/Blackgaurd
Sir Rafael has created a template known as the "Woody Paladin". Woody Paladins are know for being greedy -- taking all the treasure for their church. Running away from fights on horseback -- especially when fallen comrades are left behind. And forcing fellow party members into "reprogramming" when they do slightly questionable things -- even while being in a state of perpetual hypocrisy. I love Woody Paladins -- but I was put under so much pressure by the game group to punish Sir Rafael's non-paladin ways, that I had stripped of his paladin-hood. He wandered aimlessly until Saint Cuthbert enlisted him as his "enforcer" and changed into a neutralish Blackgaurd. Now Sir Rafael operates with ease in the confines of pure Lawful Neutralness.

Well, that's the group. I'll try to summarize the current campaign later.

03 October 2005

Burping up Garlic and I Just Thought I Would Share

We celebrated my spouse's birthday today. I'm not supposed to write about her here, so that's all I'll say about that connection.

We had about twelve to fifteen people show up at the Amazon Grill (the one in Westchase). I ate so much garlic/parsley sauce that I am going to still taste it late into the night. I wish I could share it with you, but that is impossible.

[First aside, looking at the paragraph above, I realize just how much I prefer spelling out numbers when they pertain to people. It seems more personable. "Eleven friends" looks better than "11 friends" even though "seventy-two crates" looks better as "72 crates". Oddly enough roman numerals look poor on both, witness: "IX friends" and "LXXII crates". Bleh!]

[Second aside, my buddy, Kelly likes lots of links in blog posts. So I aim to meet his wishes.]

Getting to Know Me

Okay there is a bunch of junk that I am supposed to fill out so people can get to know me. Since I never read anyone’s blogger profile, I assume that no one will read mine.

But here are my current interests:
  • Nagging at Kelly’s soon-to-be wife, Nat
  • Hmmm… That’s about it
  • No, there’s more
  • I play a stupid, juvenile game called Dungeons and Dragons, but I love it
  • I play a stupid, juvenile game called Magic the Gathering, but I love it
  • I watch an insipid television program called Survivor, but I love it
  • I boss people around incessantly at my job, almost to the point of ridiculousness
  • I play a moronic online game called Guild Wars with my wife
  • Like all Houstonians, I go out to eat religiously
Well, that became quite the list there. Oh wait – one more:
  • I like to be mean
But not mean in a “mean” way or even an “average” way (math pun). No, mean in that teasing, flirting, on the verge of pissing you off but not quite getting there kinda mean. I love being that kind of mean.

What I can't talk about

Okay, this is my virgin post. My friend, plastickelly, has had a blog for quite some time now. I've read his for so long that I've decided to start my own. Its an ego thing.

Things my wife has forbidden me to discuss:

1) Her
2) *omitted by my wife*
3) Her anything
4) Our fights

So I guess this blog will be about my favorite subject: me!