Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Grand Romantic Delusions Chapter 08: The Connection

     Katie McEllern drove back to her hotel. There was no sense in making further contact with O'Keefe just now—he'd only get suspicious. Besides, she was beginning to think there was something more to this case—something she wasn't being told.
     The way Katie saw it, she could take one of three possible courses of action from here. She could continue shadowing O'Keefe and maybe do some independent background research on him. She could track down the woman from the BMV that O'Keefe seemed to be searching for and hope that he would come to her. Or she could find out more about LaBelle Labs and see if her hunch was correct. Of course, there was always the option to do any combination of—or even all of these.
     After parking in the hotel garage she took the stairs up 16 flights to her room. Katie did her best to keep in shape—sometimes to a fault. It was important to her line of work, though. You never knew when you might have to chase someone down. You also never knew when you might have to flee a scene on foot. This kind of thinking had been labeled "paranoia" by her superiors at the Agency—and that was just one of the many reasons why she worked independently now.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Grand Romantic Delusions—Perspectives: Mary Sue Dagfridchen

     I first met him while waiting in line to renew my license. He had disheveled dishwater-blonde hair worn below the ears, but not long enough to hit the collar of his t-shirt, and a stupid little "soul patch" under his lip. I have no Earthly idea how or why I caught his attention, because I definitely wasn't trying to. I'm nothing special look at and I was wearing scrubby clothes—just an over-sized grey sweatshirt and faded jeans. I was wearing my old granny glasses, too. I had lost my regular glasses, and I hated wearing contacts, so I only put them in for job interviews or special occasions.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Missionary Position

So yesterday evening just after dinner, my family and I are all sitting and watching our regular Sunday night TV shows when there is a somewhat timid-sounding burst of knocks at the door. We all go silent, unsure if we really heard a knock, or whether it was the dog bumping into something upstairs and making noises or what. My teen-age son looks out the kitchen window (this is the only way to see who's at the door of our apartment). He says there's a guy in a suit standing there.

Great, I think. Some kind of salesman—probably looking to sell vacuum cleaners or insurance or maybe religion or something. Just to be clear, I have, on occasion, been known to buy a bit of candy or cookies from a child going door-to-door, but only because a) I'm in the mood for a snack and if b) I'm OK with the music program or Girl Scouts or whatever it is the kid is trying to promote. I don't like the fact that some of these organizations exploit kids in this way, but it's hard to say "No" to a child standing there with a box of cookies in her hand and a look of hope in her eye. 

Also, I fucking love Samoas.

Anyway, as I was saying, I generally don't care for the whole door-to-door thing. First of all, if there's something I want, I will go and get it. If I need insurance (which I don't, as it happens), I'll go shop for it. If I need a new appliance, or steaks delivered to my door, or bottles of knock-off fragrances or magazines or anything else, I will either go get that thing or order it online. I don't need some asshole interrupting family time, TV time, video game time, dinner time or any other part of my personal life with a sales pitch. So, I'm already miffed when I go to answer the door in my pajama shorts and tattered T-shirt.

I open the door, and there are two young men in suits and ties standing there.

"Yeah?" I inquire.

They stand there staring at me, mouths agape. Perhaps they were surprised someone bothered to answer the door. Several seconds pass, and neither of them says a word. They just stand there like a couple of idiots.

"What do you need?" I ask.

"Umm … we're missionaries—"

"OK," I respond. "Bye." And I then proceeded to close the door firmly in their idiot faces.

After a few minutes, my son went back to the kitchen to get something, and looked out the window again. They were still standing there. What, were they in shock? Were they just confused? Or were they performing some sort of prayer or incantation to either save or curse my soul?

I like to think they were putting some kind of sign on my door-post, like those old hobo signs that hobos used to let other hobos know where they could get work or a good meal, or to watch out for a nasty dog and such. Maybe they were putting a warning to other proselytizers that there was a doomed non-believer inside … like a Satanist or *gasp* an atheist! Watch out, the warning would signify, the guy in this apartment won't let you finish your spiel. Best move on.

But seriously, why does this happen? Why must I be interrupted by stupid "missionaries" at my door? And seriously? Missionaries? In the Midwest of the United States? Like there's the remotest possibility that there's anyone in this country who hasn't heard about JAYZUS and his wonderful plan for the salvation of my soul and the disappearance of my cash and my ability to think coherently.

Now, I used to be more polite to these people when they came around. I mean, I understand they have their beliefs and they probably really do think they're helping somehow. But you know what? I don't care.

I don't begrudge anyone their personal beliefs, no matter how far out they might be. But the minute you decide you have to go around and push your stupid superstitions on complete strangers, then you've lost the right to politeness. If you want to go hold a meeting—put up flyers or web ads or whatever and invite people to come talk about your beliefs, then great. If you want to go on the internet and find people who are interested in philosophy, theology, discussions about gods and the origins of the universe and other such topics, then that's OK, too. You can even go strike up a conversation with someone at a coffee shop or someplace public, as long as they don't mind. If you want to go out into the public square and chant about Krishna, Buddha, Jesus or whatever, I'm fine with that. Have fun doing it. I'm all about freedom of expression. Put up religious art … as long as it's not on public property. 

But, if part of your "calling" is to pester total strangers who have expressed no interest in you or your beliefs at their private residences, then fuck you and your stupid imaginary sky friend. You'll get the same respect and consideration from me that you've shown to me, which is to say none.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Political Post

This isn't meant to be a political blog, but politics touches all our daily lives in countless ways. With an important election coming up in less than a week, I've decided to share.

First off, something positive—for those who say President Obama has no record on which to run, this list proves otherwise. I know the Right loves to call Obama out as some sort of extreme leftist socialist (and still, somehow fascist), but the truth is, he's been a pretty moderate guy who has attempted to compromise with the opposition, and finally gave up after having his hand smacked every time he reached out to them.

Ultimately, though, President Obama seems to care about doing the job for which he was elected. He seems to actually care about people in general.

Mitt Romney seems to care only about scoring points and saying or doing whatever he needs to say or do to get the votes of the people in front of him at that moment.

And frankly, Mitt Romney is a big fucking phony. He doesn't give a  shit about people in trouble. He just wants to take advantage of any situation to appear like he cares.

Also, Romney wears magic underwear. At least if he really is the devout Mormon he claims to be, he does. If not, well, that's just one more lie he's told to get him what he wants.

I think that makes the choice pretty clear.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Grand Romantic Delusions Chapter 03: The Meeting

     "You are sure this is the best way to handle it?"
     "This is the only way to handle it."
     "But, isn't the process untested—at least on human subjects?"
     "True. It might not work."
     "Aren't you worried it might kill him?"
     "It might, but that's a risk we're willing to take."
     "Assuming he survives … how will we know for sure?"
     "We'll have to keep a close eye on him."
     "Extremely close."
     "You have a plan for that?"
     "Of course. We have plans for everything."
     "So I've heard. How does this one work?"
     "We'll have to keep him here."
     "Wait … keep him here? Are you serious?"
     "Deadly serious."
     "But, isn't that kind of risky?"
     "Extremely risky."
     "Then, shouldn't we, maybe, try something else?"
     "There is one other course of action."
     "Yes, that's the one."
     "But not the one we want?"
     "Considering the investment we've put in to date, no."
     "But isn't the whole thing a failure?"
     "No, not entirely."
     "What could you possibly salvage from this?"
     "We aren't sure yet, but there are … possibilities."
     "So, you don't want to do anything permanent."
     "Yes, precisely."
     "What about contingencies?"
     "We have a plan in the works."
     "Plans have been made. Documentation has been prepared."
     "You think it's as simple as that?
     "Of course not."
     "What else, then?"
     "People have been consulted. Other people have been put into play."
     "What people?"
     "The right people. Also, things are in motion."
     "But how?"
     "We keep several moves ahead."
     "Ahead of whom?"
     "Ahead of the others—the competition. We keep several moves ahead of whomever it is we need to keep ahead of."
     "But how do you know they're not ahead?"
     "Wheels within wheels."
     "Wheels within wheels?"
     "The gears are in motion."
     "What's that even supposed to mean?"
     "Nothing, really. It's just meant to sound … I don't know."
     "Deeply mysterious."
     "So that's intentional?"
     "Of course it is."
     "You're full of shit, you know that?"
     "Completely full."

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Atheism: The Third Wave?

I just wanted to share this post from Jen McCreight about a more "inclusive" atheism ... one that is about more than simply disbelief or even fighting or ridicule of all the woo out there:

How I unwittingly Infiltrated the Boy's Club & Why It's Time for a New Wave of Atheism

Obviously atheism, by definition, is simply a lack of belief in god(s). But there are "movements" within atheism—or beyond atheism, maybe. 

I think it's time for this. It's time for an atheist movement that stands against all the b.s. that religion has been used to support over the millennia, such as racism, sexism, or any other hatred of the "other" that we so often find scary or threatening. It's time for an atheist movement that incorporates social justice as a central theme. 

I'm not much of a "movement" kind of guy, generally, but this one ... 

I like this one.

Monday, August 6, 2012


They actually pulled it off! (And flawlessly, too!)


Nice job, NASA/JPL!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Grand Romantic Delusions Chapter 07: The Book

     "Hey, Anita!" Mary entered through the back door into the kitchen.
     "Yeah," came the reply from somewhere in the front of the house. "What's up, Mary?"
     Mary dropped her over-sized purse on the kitchen island and went to pull the book out. Unable to find it, she grabbed her bag and went into the living room where Nita and Lewis were sitting on the couch. Nita was sitting upright, with her feet on the coffee table, supporting her laptop on her knees. How she maintained this awkward position and still managed to function well enough to use her laptop Mary didn't understand, especially as Lewis's head was resting in her lap—he lay on his back, filling the rest of the couch, his knees propping up his own laptop.
     Mary sighed. "Well, I lost your stupid book." She dropped the purse on the coffee table with a loud thump. Lewis, startled, sat up, bumping his temple on Nita's computer.
     "Ow!" He exclaimed, "What the hell?" Mary stifled a laugh behind her hand and quickly turned her best glare on Nita.
     "That was seriously some of the goofiest New Age bullshit I've ever read, and I only read a dozen pages of it."
     Nita glanced up at Mary briefly, but immediately focused her attention back on her computer screen.
     "Lewis! You're losing aggro!"
     Lewis quickly turned and sat upright, likewise returning his attention to his laptop. 
     "Yeah, I got it, I got it ..."  He rubbed his right temple gingerly as he went back to his game.
     Nita replied, "You can call it goofy or whatever you want—and I'm not saying I agree with all of it.—but, you know, it does make you think."
     "Funny," said Mary. "I thought it had the exact opposite effect.  Although, to be honest, I'm not sure what was worse: the book, or the idiots at the DMV who kept trying to talk to me about it. That thing must be some kind of retard magnet."
     Lewis chuckled quietly. "So, you … what? Decided to pitch it out the window on your way home?"
     "No," Mary replied. "I just lost it. I … I guess I must have left it at the DMV."
    "You're in Ohio, dear," said Nita vaguely. Most of her attention was focused on keeping Lewis's game character healthy. "We call it a Bureau here, not a Department or Division."
     "So … are you gonna go back and get it?" Nita smiled slyly. "I mean, I'm an upright citizen these days. I don't need a lost library book on my record."
     "Yeah, I suppose I will, but I want to wait a while."
     "Whatever for?"
     "I just want to wait for the queue to clear out. There were people in it I'd rather not see again."
     "OK, what's his name?"
     "What? Who's name? What are you talking about?"
     "It's fairly obvious," continued Nita. "Some guy in line at the BMV—despite your best efforts at avoiding male attention—noticed you, and you want to avoid him."
     "You're crazy, Nita."
     "Am I?" Nita smiled more broadly. She turned to Lewis and said, "Rogue's down. How long you think you can hold on? Should I res him, or are we doomed to wipe again?"
     "We can get this!" Lewis tapped away furiously at his keyboard. "Go ahead and res him, then spam heals on me, quick!"
     "I'm on it." She made a few quick taps on her own keyboard, and spoke to Mary again, but her eyes remained fixed on her screen, "You know exactly what I'm talking about. Every time a guy pays any attention to you, you run away and for the next few weeks you give yourself a reverse make-over."
     "Revers— what does that even …"
     "You know what I mean. You wear the frumpiest clothes you can find and halve the number of times you wash your hair."
     "What? How?" Mary blushed. "Why would you even notice something like that?"
     "I'm an observer. I observe. We have lived together for nearly three years now, after all. It would be hard not to notice."
     Mary let out an exasperated sigh and went back to the kitchen.
    She yelled through the doorway. "How abut I just pay for the damn book?" 
     Mary opened the refrigerator and scanned the contents. She grabbed a pizza box and a can of Mountain Dew and closed the door. She dropped the box on the table, opened it, grabbed a couple of rectangular pieces of pizza and threw herself into a kitchen chair, cracking open the soda can with her other hand and taking a drink.
     "I'm not actually done with that book," yelled Nita from the other room. She followed up with, "There's still some pizza left from last night, if you want it. It's in the fridge."
     "Found it, already." Mary took a couple bites of cold pizza. "And why the hell do you still need it?"
     "It's for my research paper."
     "Wait, what? So, you're doing a research paper that requires the use of that stupid thing? What's the paper about, failed prophecies? Or just made-up bullshit in general?"
     "Well, sort of. It's about the social phenomenon of conspiracy theories. I need that book for my section on apocalypticism."
     "Did anyone ever tell you that you've made some odd academic choices?"
     "Says the woman who majored in Medieval and Renaissance Studies."
     "TouchĂ©." Mary sat with her eyes closed, chewing on her cold day-old pizza. There was another thing she never understood: square-cut pizza. Ohio was a weird place.

     After getting a shower—reverse makeover, indeed—Mary dressed and grabbed her cell. She looked up the number for the BMV.
     "No, ma'am, there's no book here by that or any other description," the woman on the line said. "You say you left it here today?"
     "Yes," said Mary. "I was there around noon. My name's Dagfridchen. Mary Dagfridchen. There was a guy there with two little girls just ahead of me, and an annoying man that had to mind them while their father had his picture taken. Any of that ring a bell?"
     "You know …" the woman paused, annoyingly. "Come to think of it, I do remember you. Did you know there was a man asking about you after you left?"
     "What? What man? Why was he asking about me? There wasn't anything wrong with my forms, was there?"
     "No, it was nothing like that. It was the guy behind you in line, actually. The one we had to watch the kids."
     "Wait, he … he … he was … asking about me?" Marry stammered. "What do you mean? What did you tell him? What did he ask?"
     "He wanted to know where you lived," the woman replied. "Name and address—that sort of thing."
     "Jesus! You didn't tell him any of that, did you?" Mary was starting to feel a little panicked.
     "Of course not! BMV data is private," the woman said. "Well, except when the state decides to sell it to marketers, I guess."
     "Well, thanks for that, at least." A terrible thought occurred to Mary as she continued, "You didn't happen to notice if this man had a book with him, did you?"
     "I think maybe he did."
     "Oh great," said Mary. He didn't have one while we were waiting in the queue, so he must have picked up mine."
     "Sorry to hear that. Important book, was it?"
     "Not really, except that it wasn't mine. My roommate had it checked out of the library. So … maybe this guy was just wanting to return the book to me. I guess I should call the library and see if he returned it."
     "Yeah, you could try that, except, I don't think it was the book he was worried about."
     "What do you mean?"
     "Well, this guy seemed on-edge. He came up to the counter after you, like I said. But he never said anything about a book."
     "What did he say?"
     "He came right up and told me that he needed to find the woman who was in line before him and started going on about destiny and how you were meant to be together."
     "Seriously?" Mary shuddered. "He actually said that?"
     "Sure did," came the response. "I told him this wasn't some kind of movie and if he wanted to go running after you, he'd have to wait in line again. So he renewed his license and went on his way. It was a big line."
     "And you're sure he had a book with him?"
     "Pretty sure, yeah."
     "I have a feeling I'm going to regret this, but … I don't suppose you can give me his name? Even though he probably has my book?"
     "Nope. His information is just as private as yours was."
     "All right, well, thanks, I guess." She touched her phone screen to disconnect the call.

     "Columbus Metropolitan Library—how may I help you?"
     "Hi. I lost a library book that I think someone else picked up and may have returned it for me," said Mary. "Can I check on that?"
     "Sure," said the man on the other end. "What's the account name and number?"
     "I don't have my library card with me, but the name's Anita Herrera."
     "Oh my God! Was the book Twilight of the Gods, by any chance?"
     "Yes. Yes, it was. How did you know? Did someone return it?"
     "Well, someone came in with it," said the librarian. "He was trying to use it to track you down … well, your friend, anyway."
     "My friend? Wait … what did he look like? What did you tell him?"
     "Calm down, Miss." The librarian started to chuckle. "I didn't tell him anything. You should have heard him, though!"
     "Why? What did he say? Who was he?"
     "He was about average height, maybe a bit overweight. He wouldn't stand out in a crowd or anything … light brown hair, or dark blond, maybe, with one of those little beardy things under his lip. He was wearing blue jeans and a plain black t-shirt. Anyway, he said he needed to find out who had checked out the book. I told him I couldn't give him that information. Then he started going on about how your friend was probably the love of his life, and he was desperate to find her. Did you loan the book to a friend, or something?"
     "Um … yes. I, uh … I loaned it to my roommate." Mary felt a chill crawling up her spine. "So … you have the book now?"
     "No. He took it with him." The man started giggling again.
      "What? You let him leave with it? What's so damn funny?
     "You see, I tried to tell him he had to leave it, but then he flew out of here like a bat out of hell." The librarian was just outright laughing now. "What's funny is that he kept stumbling and dropping things the whole time. It's not like we were chasing him, or anything, but I watched him out the window. Once he got to his car, he nearly hit a couple of people on his way out. Thankfully no one was hurt!"
     "So, you saw him get in his car?"
     "Yeah. That was part of what was funny. He was driving some old beater—like a Camaro or something—with a terrible half-done paint job and stickers all over the back of it."
     "What color?"
     "Oh. You know, I probably shouldn't have told you that."
     "Please … he has my book. And I think he's stalking me. My friend, I mean. I think he's stalking my roommate."
     "Well, OK, I wouldn't want something bad to happen to you, and it's not like I have any personal data on this guy. It was like a light blue … kind of metallic-looking. Big parts of it were covered in grey, though … like primer, I guess."
     "What about the stickers?"
     "Oh, there was a Metallica one and … let's see … Slayer, Iron Maiden … AC/DC, I think. Just, you know … rock bands. Oh! And there was a Labelle Research sticker. I think he must work there, because of the plates?"
     "You got a plate number?"
     "Oh my. Yes, I did, but I feel like maybe I shouldn't … Oh, what the hell? It was 'SECRETS' … but, with, like, numbers for some of the letters."
     "So, 'SECRETS' plus the Labelle sticker …"
     "Yeah. You've probably heard the rumors about that place. They're always working on some top-secret government projects and stuff. So, I figure this guy must work there. Although … as weird as he came across, I sure hope he's not working on something important!
     "Yeah," replied Mary. "You and me both."

Monday, July 16, 2012

In Defense of Your Annoying Friend: Firefly, Arrested Development and Community

Last week-end there was a 10th anniversary Firefly Reunion panel at San Diego Comic-Con.  The week before that Ron Howard tweeted a picture from the Arrested Development writer's room where they are beginning work on a new Netflix series to be followed up by a movie.

It got me thinking about all the great but obscure shows that we've lost over the years. Ultimately, these shows get the axe due to low ratings which result in low ad revenues for their networks.

Now, beyond that, there seem to be other reasons—most of us know the story of how Firefly was mistreated by FOX before it ever even hit TV screens. We also all probably have a particular favorite show that was full of promise but was cancelled before it ever had a chance to find an audience and even begin to reach its full potential. (The awesome Threshold springs to my mind.)

It seems the networks no longer have the patience to let a show develop or for word-of-mouth about it to get around. If a new series doesn't hit certain targets in the first 3 or 4 weeks, it's gone. A show like The X-Files—were it to premiere today— would never get nine seasons. Hell, it probably wouldn't get halfway to nine episodes! 

Now, the networks would claim they're a business, and as such, they must make money. They're right. The trouble is they're costing themselves money with this short-sighted behavior. You see, whenever a new and interesting show comes up—say, something trying to be the next LOST-like show (creating long-term plot-lines and mysteries to be solved over time*)—most people I know now take a "wait and see" approach. No one wants to get hooked on a new show—to get pulled into its world and learn to like its characters—only to have the rug yanked out from under them after a few short weeks. People have become leery of even starting to watch what may appear to be a great new show for fear that the network will pull it before they can get any resolution.

This fault lies not with the wary audience, but with the short-sighted network programmers. So many shows have been pulled too soon that no one wants to invest their time in a new show any more, and so new shows fail. If a network would just let a show run (commit to a full season or two), and do this on a regular basis, they would probably start gaining the trust of their audiences again. But somehow I doubt that's going to happen, given the current mindset of TV executives and the splintering of TV audiences over broadcast TV, basic cable and premium channels.

Of course, the big broadcast networks see what's going on over at HBO and AMC and assume that they need to make their shows more racy or violent. They're completely missing the point that what's really going on over there is that good stories are being told, and that these stories and the characters within them are being given the chance to develop. These shows are being given the the time to find the right audience!

Of course, competing with the likes of Mad Men or Breaking Bad takes effort and commitment. It also takes work … and patience. The networks find it far easier to pull a show that doesn't hit its numbers in the first few weeks and just replace it with another cheap, mindless reality show.

The real shame is that many shows later find an audience after it's too late. And this brings me back to Firefly. More people have watched Firefly since it was cancelled than ever saw it when it was on the air. I suspect that if the number of people who love the show now had been watching when it originally aired, we'd have had at least four or five seasons.

Think about that. All of you people who've bought or borrowed the DVDs, or watched it on SyFy or NetFlix and were disappointed that there are only 13 episodes, and don't understand how such a fantastic show got cancelled so quickly—you all wish there was more Firefly to watch. Same goes for Arrested Development. Sure, at least it managed to get a couple of seasons** but it, too, has become more popular since the release of DVDs and NetFlix Streaming.

So now we come to our Annoying Friend.

We all have at least one of those Annoying Friends who is always telling us about how great something is and how we should be paying attention to it. I both have them and have been one—notably in the cases of the two shows mentioned above. 

The problem is that our Annoying Friend is Annoying. So we often don't listen to her or him.

But—how often, in hindsight, has that Annoying Friend turned out to be right? How many of us had an Annoying Friend tell us to watch Arrested Development, but for whatever reason, we never got around to it until after it was off the air?

My point is that the next time your Annoying Friend tells you that you really should pay attention to something … maybe do it? Before it's too late?

Oh, and one final thought: WATCH COMMUNITY, DAMMIT!

*The disappointing ending of LOST notwithstanding.
** OK, so it's officially 3 seasons, but there were only a total of 53 episodes. (Anyone else remember when a "season" of television meant 26 or more episodes?) 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Grand Romantic Delusions Chapter 06: The Venture

     Seth pulled the beat-up Camaro into the driveway of his small house. It was a side-split, only about 1,200 square feet, with siding painted in the most eye-watering shade of green imaginable. He drove over the half a dozen or so issues of bagged community newspapers that lay in the driveway as he parked.
     Grabbing the book he ran up the front steps and unlocked his deep red front door. He figured the people who had owned the house before him must have been huge fans of Christmas, or something.
     After grabbing a beer from the fridge, he plopped himself and the book down on the couch. He needed something to take his mind off Mary and how he was going to find her. He often found that the best way to solve a problem was to take a break from thinking about it. He was very Zen like that.
     He turned on the TV and grabbed a game remote. This guy Gary at work had been telling him about a new game called "Venture" or something like that. It was one of those downloadable console games you could get for, like, ten bucks. It was supposed to be a sort of "art" game you just had to experience to understand, he'd said. Of course Gary was quite the stoner, so his opinions were hit-and-miss. Still, Seth had plenty of points in his account, so he thought he'd give it a shot. After logging in and starting the download he stood up, downed the rest of his beer and headed back to the kitchen, book in hand. He dropped the book on the counter next to the fridge, grabbed another beer and went back to the living room. 
     Something felt … odd. He pushed the front curtain aside with one finger and peeked through the small gap he'd made. There were a couple of kids playing in the yard across the street, and one guy a couple doors down washing his car. He could hear the sounds of a lawnmower and those of a couple of dogs barking … pretty much just a typical Saturday afternoon on Cortona Road.
     He sat back down. The download was finished so he started up the game. He was greeted with a title screen which included a shadowy character floating about and making ghostly chimp-like noises while soft piano and synthesized flute music played over the sound of wind and crickets. Yeah, this looked like something Stoner Gary would get into.
     Seth was completely unprepared for what happened next. After hitting the start button, he found he had control of one of the ghostly shadow characters and he was floating through some standing stones on a hilltop in the middle of a foggy moor. It was dark, with only the barest sliver of a moon, but in the distance there was a faint light, so he moved his avatar in that direction. Quiet music rose and fell as he glided across the landscape towards the source of the light. It seemed to be coming from the base of a tall tower at the top of another hill. 
     On his way there, he started playing with the controls to see what functions they had. One button made him leap into the air. Another made him glide more quickly. A third caused his character to vocalize—making chimp-like noises. He found that if he tapped this button he got a simple ook-like sound, but that if he held hit down the sound became more of a squeal. If he held it long enough the noise was like that of a chimp screeching after having had a banana taken away or something. How could any of that possibly be useful? The fourth button didn't appear to do much other than make him squat down and raise his hands up. Weird.
     Seth shrugged and held down his sprint button. His character floated at double speed towards the tower in the distance. He downed rest of the second beer and went to pause the game so he could get another. It wouldn't pause. Weird … so apparently you have to play this game in real time? He quickly went to the kitchen and grabbed two more beers (the remainder of his six-pack), as well as the bottle of Jameson's and a glass tumbler from the top of the fridge for good measure.
     When he returned, he noticed that the faint light that had been at the base of the tower was now a little brighter … and a little closer. In fact, it appeared to be moving towards him. Suddenly he remembered a key point that Gary had mentioned about the game.
     "It's multi-player—online only. But you can't actually talk to the other players. You can only communicate through noises and gestures," Gary had said. "And you can't pick your partners. It just randomly teams you up with someone else who's playing the game."
     So, that light coming towards him must be another player's avatar! Cool, he thought. I can get into this. After taking a swig out of the third beer bottle, Seth set about moving towards the other player. As they neared one another, he could see another ghostly figure, similar to his, but white and glowing rather than dark and shadowy. When they came together, the two characters did a little dance around one another. 
     Seth tapped his vocalize button a couple of times. Ook! Ook! The other player did likewise. OK, well we can sort of communicate, Seth thought. But what do we do now?
     The white character willowed back and forth a couple of times then ooked at him three times and turned away, back towards he ruins of the tower from which she'd come. (Something about the way the white figure moved made Seth think of a woman, though he knew there was no way to know who was on the other end.) He followed.
     Suddenly it became a race. They each moved towards the tower as fast as they could. Seth realized that he could only sprint for so long before his character slowed down, and that it took some time before he could sprint again. However, as there was no "energy bar" or other indicator on the screen, you just sort of had to get a feel for when you could sprint again. So the two of them traded leads until they were almost there, when suddenly the white figure pulled ahead and touched the tower first. She must have been conserving her energy, thought Seth. Of course, this person had probably played the game before.
     The white figure began spinning around and jumping, ook-ooking the whole while. What did she want? He imitated her, spinning his avatar around, alternately tapping the vocalize and jump buttons. Sure, the dancing around and chattering senselessly at one another was kind of fun, but what was the point of this game?
     Suddenly the other character began bumping into him—sort of pushing him forward, guiding him around the tower. Once they were at the other side, Seth noticed that the tower had a large open doorway and inside there were alternating stones sticking out from the walls like a spiral staircase, but with big gaps between the individual steps, and the bottom step far higher than their characters could jump. This must be what she wants me to see!
     Seth finished the third beer and popped open the fourth and last bottle. He had a big gulp then turned his attention back to the game. OK , he thought, it's a puzzle. We have to find a way to the top of the tower, I guess.
     The white character began spinning again, then jumping. The more she spun, the higher she seemed to jump. She appeared to be trying to reach the bottom stair, but couldn't quite manage it. He tried the old Mario double-jump, but that didn't work at all in this game.
     Then the white character jumped on top of him and squatted. She held the position for a moment then sprung up into the air … but only slightly. This clearly wasn't going to help them reach the stairs, either.
     After landing in front of him, the white character squatted again and made an ook sound. Seth imitated her. She gave him two ook sounds this time. Then she squatted again and held the position. He pressed his squat button and held it. She ooked twice then jumped up. He did likewise. She stopped in front of him and ooked once, then stepped away and squatted again.
     Seth wasn't sure what she wanted at this point. He stepped towards her and squatted. She ooked twice … and he released the squat. She gave him one ook and stood still. Suddenly it dawned on him She wanted him to hold the squatting position!
     Seth squatted again and remained. The white figure ooked twice then began her spinning jump until she was on top of him again. She ooked. He sat there in his squatting position, unsure of what to do next. She ooked twice. He still didn't get it. Then she started shrieking. He remained in position, holding the squat button for a good thirty seconds or so … her shrieking rose in frequency and intensity. Finally, she jumped back down in front of him and shrieked some more. He stood up.
     She alternated between bouncing and squatting and shrieking, over and over again. Then she jumped on top of him once more. After several minutes of this, Seth finally got it. He squatted, she jumped on top of him, and he released the squat button and flung her into the air, high enough to reach the bottom stair … but in the wrong direction. So the squat button was really a throw button, apparently.
     Seth finished the fourth and final beer then grabbed the whisky bottle and poured himself a double-shot into the glass tumbler. He took a couple of sips. Nothing like trying to solve a co-op puzzle game while drunk, he thought.
     He moved towards the bottom stair, facing it, and ooked at the white figure. By this time he was sure it was a woman on the other end. He tried to imagine what she was like. She was probably patient. One had to be patient to play a game like this—especially with such limited communication. With patience came kindness, of course. He tried to imagine a pair of kind and gentle eyes. He thought they would be a light brown color, like Mary's—when you could see them through the glare of her glasses, that is.
     Seth squatted and let the white character jump on top of him again. This time he threw her accurately and she climbed onto the bottom stair. She hopped to the next step, then the next, but fell off the one after that, so he squatted and threw her again. 
     Wouldn't it be hilarious if it was Mary on the other end of the game, he thought. He knew fate was bringing them together, but wouldn't it be something if after trying to find her through the library, he ended up playing with her online? He finished his whisky, the cool warmth flowing down his throat and hitting him in the chest. He poured another.
     He watched as the white figure leapt from step to step until she made it all the way to the top of the tower. OK … what now? How was he supposed to get to the top? She disappeared through a trap door and then he heard a "click" and suddenly the walls of the tower began to rotate in sections, each section moving opposite from the way the section above and below it moved. The whole tower was like a big clockwork. As the sections rotated, more stairs popped out of the walls and then it stopped. Now he could climb right up to the top and join his companion without the need for jumping. 
     Once he reached the top and climbed through the trapdoor he stood next to the white figure and looked out towards the horizon. The tower was quite tall and they could see a fair distance away as a result. It was a beautiful, haunting kind of game world—especially with the soft New-Agey music and the wind and frogs sound effects. It felt like they were really outside in some mysterious and alien world. The sliver of moon lit the rolling hills and moorland about them just enough that he could make out the contours of the surrounding countryside without seeing any of the details.
     His partner began ooking again and spinning around. She stood on a pale circle of light on the roof of the tower. He stood next to her and ooked back. She moved to the other side of the tower and he followed her again., then she screeched at him.
     He wasn't sure what a screech meant. Was he supposed to follow her, or was he doing something wrong? She stood on another circle on the other side of the tower. He went and stood next to her again. She circled around him and pushed him into the circle and ooked at him twice. He squatted. Am I supposed to throw her somewhere?
     She crossed the roof again and he followed. She shrieked and he went back to the circle and squatted. Ook ook! She went and stood in the opposite circle while he remained. Suddenly the entire roof of the tower lifted off and floated away, carrying them with it. So that's the trick, Seth realized.
     Suddenly he knew it was her. That's right … it had to be. The universe was bringing them together, one way or another, and what better way than through the incredible shared experience of this otherworldly game?
     Oh Mary, he thought. If only I could find you in OUR world!
     They went on like this for hours. They explored the world, finding new landscapes, new puzzles and collecting various kinds of gemstones. Seth guessed that was the real point of the game: collecting the gems. Each time they found one, they were treated to swelling music and a new vista. They searched the moors and then a desert and then a barren snowscape. One doorway apparently led them to the moon—everything was grey and lifeless and starkly beautiful.
     Every step of the way they worked together as if sharing one consciousness. They would arrive at the new location and she would guide him through each puzzle —patiently, lovingly. Seth had never experienced anything quite like this.
     With each new discovery he was more convinced that it was Mary with whom he was playing. Who else could it be? Who else could he just click with on such a deep level, without even needing language to communicate? He knew instinctively that it was his soulmate on the other end of the network. And with this knowledge he was more confident than ever that he would manage to find her. He just had to be as patient as she was with him in the game.
     At the end they were in a jungle, exploring the ruins of some sort of step-pyramid. By this time Seth was so drunk he could barely sit up straight and hold the controller, but he was not giving up. He needed some water. He ooked at his companion a couple of times and jumped up—too fast. He fell forward before ever really getting to his feet. He was suddenly very glad he didn't own a coffee table.
     Seth stood and staggered into the kitchen. He grabbed the water jug out of the refrigerator and brought it back to the couch in the now-dark living room. He managed to pour himself a tumbler-full of water without spilling more than a couple of cups worth on himself  or his couch.
     He downed the entire glass of water in a couple of lusty gulps and poured another. God damn, I'm thirsty. He picked up the controller again and noticed that Mary was jumping up and down again, ooking at him like mad.
     He moved towards her and ooked back twice. She led him up the pyramid to a little room at the top. Again, they each had to press a button on either side, but this time instead of floating away, the entire pyramid inverted, collapsing in on itself—the top sinking below the level of the bottom—and they were suddenly in a chamber deep under ground.
     Everywhere was dark. They had only the soft glow of white light issuing forth from Mary's avatar to see by. She led him away from the little room into the deep dark chamber. In the distance there were colorful lights and he could see more ghostly figures like theirs—some dark, some light—dancing in a great circle. It was like a homecoming!
     There was a loud bang from somewhere behind Seth, which scared the living shit out of him. He jumped up, controller in hand, and pulled the console off its shelf. The TV screen went to blue. Disconnected!
     Heart racing, he quickly checked the wires in the back of the console, but realized he could barely see anything. The clock on the cable box said it was 11:30. Fuck! How long have we been playing? He jumped up to hit the lamp and almost knocked it over before he managed to get the light on. Goddamn neighbors! There was always someone in this neighborhood setting off firecrackers or target shooting or something.
     He checked his console now in the harsh glare of the lamplight. The cables were all connected, both to the console and the back of the television. He hit the power button on the console and it blinked on, then off. It wouldn't stay on, no matter how many times he pushed it.
     Seth howled with rage. He'd have to get this fixed. Shit! Probably cheaper to buy a new one. At any rate, he knew he was done for now. He'd get the damn thing looked at tomorrow.
     One thing he knew for sure: he would have to find Mary. He wanted to talk to her about the game. He wanted to finish playing it with her. He wanted to stare deeply into her eyes over a cup of coffee and talk about all the feelings they'd shared tonight. He wondered if she knew it was him she'd been playing with. Tomorrow, he told himself. I will find her tomorrow.

     Somewhere south of Phoenix, Arizona, in an adobe-style ranch house sat a heavy-set, unshaven man in his mid-forties. He wore an ill-fitting black tank, cut-off denim shorts and a trucker hat which read "Horny Old Bastard" —and he was not wearing it ironically. He scratched his ass as he stared at his TV screen, controller in one hand, can of Bud Light in the other. He began screaming at no one in particular.
     "That stupid sunovabitch! Took me for freakin' ever to finally drag his dumb ass to the end of this game, and then he fuckin' quits on me?"

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Neil DeGrasse Tyson for President ... of the Galaxy!

This is one of the greatest, most inspiring, yet maddening and saddening things I have ever seen:

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Dear Corporate America: Stop it! Just … Fucking … STOP IT!

As the company continues to evolve its branding identity, we are making proactive structural adjustments in order to allow the management team to be better positioned for leveraging anticipated growth sectors while taking a more strategic role in driving the company forward.  
Our current structure has served us well to date, but it is not ideally suited to optimize additional new methods for business inter-operations. As such, we will be moving to a more strategically functional structure in this area, which is similar to the current structures in other areas of our business model. 
The newly created group will also evolve as we bring everyone involved in the core business needs of the department together within this group. We expect to be able to leverage synergies between the various roles while allowing greater strategic flexibility, thus allowing us to react to ever changing and increasingly complex business needs within the core competencies of  this departmental function. This new group will become primarily responsible for forecasting needs while managing expectations and logistics and ensuring that the overall solutions utilized to support the businesses are optimized across all sectors. We will finalize and communicate the specific structure and roles within this group at a future date, while the organizational structure of the business division will remain poised to support the growth needs of the business as they arise.
In terms of addressing the question of open positions in the organization, these new positions will provide us with anticipated resources needed to not only support long-term strategic growth but to also take a more active role in driving the business forward in the short term.
We sincerely hope you share our excitement as we continue to the next chapter our company's future. Our team looks ahead with an unyielding sense of commitment and the deepest dedication to what we hope to accomplish through this forward-looking evolutionary phase of growth.  We are embracing a heightened sense of enthusiasm and urgency for scalable improvement and continuous excellence moving forward.

Monday, January 9, 2012

D&D Forever ...

Upon the announcement that there's to be a new edition of Dungeons & Dragons, I thought I'd re-post my initial observations about the 4th Edition:

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My "Geek Geezer" Opinion (FWLIW) on Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition. (Old Geekzer? Could that be a word?)

First, a little history (if nothing else but to establish my "geezer" bona fides):

I've been an off and on Dungeons & Dragons player since 1981, starting with the "red-box" Basic Set and "blue-box" Expert Set, and then picking up with AD&D in about 1982. In mid 1991 I married (and then became a father at the end of 1992), but I still managed to pick up all the major Second Edition AD&D books, and even get together and play with a group again starting in the mid-90s. And in 2000 we all started playing 3rd Edition.

The basic game was a lot of fun, but seemed somewhat lacking, which was why I quickly jumped to AD&D, as soon as I realized what it was, and that it existed (I would have been about 12 at the time). It was a fuller-featured, more logical, more "realistic" (if the term can be applied to a fantasy world of the player's own imaginations) simulation of a Sword & Sorcery Fantasy Epic Adventure.

I really loved the Second Edition, too. It built so well on top of the older system, streamlining it, and adding tons of new options with the Character "Kits" (I think I was one of the few who really enjoyed those, though) ... it actually felt like the game was opening up - becoming a framework which a DM (and players) could use to build up any kind of fantasy story they desired. You want to focus on a stone-age, low-magic universe? No problem. You want High Fantasy, with magic as common as technology is in to-day's world? Easy. You want a Feudal East-Asian themed world full of honourable Samurai, peasants defending their homes with the tools they had at hand and skulking Ninja spies selling the keys to power to the highest bidder? You could do that, too. And you wouldn't necessarily have had to buy specific expansion books to do those things. Any DM with a little imagination and ingenuity could make the rules fit.

Now, when the 3rd Edition was published, I admit I was a little apprehensive. The rules, as they had been, had really grown on me. Nevertheless, I bought the new Player's Handbook, and, together with my regular gaming group, we started exploring the new rules set. And, behold! We found it good! Again, the rules had become much more streamlined, and more logical. The d20 system was a great boon in that it simplified the PROCESS of D&D gaming, without simplifying the GAME. Next thing I knew, I was buying a whole new set of D&D books. (As were all of my friends.)

Then there was a 3.5 edition, which I never really got into ... it seemed a bit pointless, really. Why spend all that money buying yet another new set of books with minor rules tweaks, when the rules we had worked so well? (Of course, we'd always had a few house rules here and there, depending on who was DM - who doesn't? - but the core rules were a great foundation.)

Unfortunately, my regular gaming group sort of fell apart a couple of years ago, and I haven't played much D&D since then. Besides - how are you gonna pull people away from the ease of playing World of Warcraft, and get them around a table to play a game? (This last question is important, as I'm sure it has gone through the minds of everyone who has had anything at all to do with the development of 4th Edition. In fact, I'd venture to say it was probably the guiding principle in 4th Edition's design.)

Then there was 4th Edition announcement.

Upon first hearing about 4E, I was, as with 3E, a little cautious. But I was also more than a little hopeful. After all, I had thought 3rd Edition was probably unnecessary, but I went into it with an open mind and was pleasantly surprised. I even found myself preferring it over the older versions. Couldn't the same thing happen again? Of course it could! I planned to do as I had with 3rd Edition: buy a Player's Handbook first, and if I liked what I read, pick up the other books and maybe try to get some of my old group back together and give it a whirl.

Now we come to the present. I've been reading the new 4th Edition Player's Handbook ...

So ... where to even begin?

I guess the first, most obvious thing is how dumb it is. I don't mean dumb, as in "not smart" ... I mean "dumbed-down" the way video games often are. Of course, video games have to be dumbed down to accommodate the lack of real intelligence behind them. They have to be run by AI, which is just a bunch of mathematics that run different equations based on the players' input. The whole point of a table-top game is that you have a real, live, thinking person who will make intelligent decisions or the NPCs and/or monsters in any given situation.

Let's take concepts like threat and aggro from the realm of MMORPGs. Why do these concepts exist? These terms represent the outcome of formulae that work behind-the-scenes in order for creatures in a MMORPG to react within some set of pre-defined parameters. (Let me just note here that I'll be using examples from WoW, because it's the most popular MMORPG out there, and the one with which I am most familiar.) These formulae can be tweaked, depending on the characteristics that the creators of the game want a particular creature to display. This way, if you're running through, say Elwynn Forest with a level 76 character, it's unlikely that any of the low-level Defias Bandits (or whatever) are going to bother you, unless you walk right up to them and stand there - or even hit them first. But, if you go through there with a level 3 character, they'll come running to attack you from many yards away. This is what allows a Murloc to decide that it's time to go running and bring back more Murlocs to help in its fight unless you take it down very quickly. This is also what allows your main "Tank" to use specific abitlities that increase her threat to any given mob, so it will attack her, instead of the poor cloth-wearing mage who is doing, probably, a lot more damage. It's these behind-the-scenes formulae that determine the reactions - and it's these same formulae that players have learned to game in order to have success. That's why it's vitally important, especially when going into an instance, to have a good tank (and a good healer) - you have to game the systemic formulae in order to make the monsters play to your strategy.

Now, in a video game this becomes a necessity. The only way around it would be to hire a lot of people to play mobs, which would be very cost-prohibitive. Another way would be to develop AI that is beyond anything that can be accomplished, currently. But, see ... this is a WEAKNESS in the video game world - one which developers are either constantly struggling to overcome, and make as transparent as possible, or which, in the case of WoW, they use as a tool in building abilities and classes within the game. Players are going to figure these things out anyway, so why not just make it part and parcel of the whole MMORPG experience? This is one of the things that annoys me about WoW - but it's something I can accept, considering the limitations of the medium.

So why, in the name of all that is Good and Right in the Universe, would the developers of a table-top RPG take the biggest weakness of MMORPGs and incorporate it into their game? WTF?!?

D&D 4E is chock FULL of this kind of malarkey. They've even gone so far as to give each class a "role" to fill in combat ... Strikers=dps, Controllers=Crowd-Control, Defender=Tank, Leader =Healer. These aren't necessarily EXACT cognates, but they're pretty close. The new combat rules are pretty much ALL about managing aggro and threat zones - a concept which really shouldn't even EXIST in this setting! So, what - now the DM is supposed to pretend to be a computer AI?

And now, characters are constantly using all these special powers ... no one ever just attacks any more. And instead of cool-downs you have frequencies of time in which to use the powers - daily, once per encounter, at will, etc. The only thing missing is the buttons on a menu bar. And these "healing surges" ... what's up with that? Why not just give us a random number of hit points to put on top of what we already have? In essence, you are rolling up hit points - you're just doing it on the fly, in the middle of combat, instead of at creation or level-up, AND you're giving every character a huge hp reserve right from level 1. (Don't even get me started on this "martial power-source" bunk.)

And speaking of rolling ... does any one else find it odd that using dice to get your character's stats is so strongly discouraged? Again, I have to compare this with video games. It makes sense in a video game - especially in an MMORPG, or any game with an on-line component, that you want to level the playing field to a certain degree. This evening-out of the playing field was traditionally handled by a DM, but again, the lack of a human DM is the big obstacle to overcome in a computer game. So we use point-buy systems, or some such thing to prevent players cheating or gaming the system to gain an unfair (or just lucky) advantage over other players. But what's the point, again, of taking a system that is primarily a response to a weakness in one system, and moving it to a system that does not share this weakness? If a DM is afraid her players will cheat on stat rolls, all she has to do is make them roll their stats in front of her! Problem solved ... and, more importantly, UNIQUENESS of CHARACTER is maintained! With the systems that 4th Ed. presents and encourages, almost all Elven Wizards are going to have the same (or VERY close) stats! As will all Dwarven Paladins, or Tiefling Rogues, or whatever ...

Whatever happened to the DEX-based fighter who could dish out damage like no one else? Doesn't exist anymore. A Fighter is a Tank is a Fighter is a Tank, with only a few possible modifications. Trying to build a truly creative, unique character, within the framework of these rules, is pretty much impossible.

Character creation in 4E feels as cold and impersonal as in WoW. Sadly, even the Neverwinter Nights character generation felt more organic. The beauty of D&D (or any table-top system) was that you could create and play something new and different - you weren't just playing another cookie-cutter hero (or anti-hero, or even villain).

Let's talk about what a framework rules set for an RPG should NOT do (unless it's set up for a specific milieu) - and that's tell us what kind of world we're in. That's what campaign settings are for! "Points of Light in the Great Darkness" or whatever, is great for a specific setting ... but don't try to implement it as part of the basic rules! In fact don't even give us deities - unless you just want to include a few as examples (much like 3E) to help guide the players and DMs in creating their own. Each setting (whether published or home-brewed) should have its own feel - its own cosmology. I want to see vast continents full of cosmopolitan societies, where social and political intrigue play as big a role (or even bigger) as martial prowess. Or how about a universe without gods? Or maybe a whole campaign that takes place within a single huge city? Yes, you can do those things in the 4E rules - but they seem to go against the spirit that the rules are trying to set forth.

And what happened to Alignment?!? So now there's no such thing as Chaotic Good?!? WTF?!? You're telling me that a person of my own personal moral persuasion can't exist in the D&D world? And no Lawful Evil? (I guess there are no Dick Cheney's in D&D either ... so maybe it's a fair trade.) I can forgive Unaligned, I suppose ... but in a sense, that's more of a Chaotic Neutral sentiment, a "who gives a crap about all this morality anyway" attitude, that actually is, in itself, a moral stand. Now, I was never a huge fan of the old alignment restrictions, except in specific cases (Paladins are Lawful Good, End of Story.) I never used alignment languages or any of that - but I DID ask players to choose an alignment - not to punish or control their actions, but as a Role-Playing device.

Ah, Role-Playing! Anyone else remember role-playing? Ostensibly, that's what the "RP" in "RPG (and even "MMORPG") stands for. But MMORPGs tend to break the mood of real RPing. There's too much "gaming the system" and meta-talk to ever really role-play. That's where a lot of the old text-based MMORPGS had it over WoW. There was always MUCH better RP on those - even if it wasn't always consistent. Go to one of the WoW RP-specific servers, and what do you see? The same thing as on any other server, except with the occasional thee or thou or m'lady thrown in. People are still talking about movies and shouting about selling their crap over the General channel and such - and discussing meta-game concepts. Again, this is a great weakness of the electronic versions of RPGs which should NOT be brought into the Table-Top versions.

Now, I'm not an RP purist, per se. I'm not saying that I believe that everyone at the table should always speak as their characters, or anything like that. In fact, one of the great things about playing with a group, in-person, is that the amount of RP can be measured out according to the tastes and whims of the group. When you're on-line with 2,000 of your closest "friends", this isn't so easily accomplished!

I'm also not saying that D&D 4E is anti-role-playing. Role-playing is something anyone can do with any game if one so chooses - though it's easier with some games than others. (Ever tried to behave like a millionaire real-estate developing shoe in Monopoly?) However all of the emphasis in the new PHB seems to be about combat and powers and "what can you do with your cookie-cutter hero character?"

The whole intangible "feel" of 4th Edition D&D is that it's a specialized tactics game, on a par with the old Milton Bradley Hero Quest game. Its emphasis is no longer on encouraging friends to get together and use their imaginations to weave together a story, complete with character development, and plot. Now it's all about getting to the next Big Action Sequence.

Now, It's not ALL wrong. I like the idea of a hero being able to summon forth great reserves of strength to make a real difference - to do something almost super-human, just in the nick-of-time, to save the day - or even to fail while making such an attempt, and die a truly heroic death. (Though, it shouldn't be a daily occurrence.)

Again, I'm not saying D&D 4E is ALL bad. I just don't see this as D&D anymore. It's a small unit combat tactics game set in a medieval/fantasy setting, with video-game-type powers being used in Hollywood-Style Action Sequences. In short, it's D&D with all the heart and soul ripped out.

I'm sure it'll be fun for what it is - and for the generation raised on XBox and MMORPGs, and movie versions of classic stories, I'm sure it will be a lot of fun. And if you enjoy it, good for you! I'm certainly not here to ruin anyone's good time.

But for me ... it's just not the same anymore. I dunno ... maybe I'm just getting old. Or I'm just old-fashioned. Whatever it is ... YOU KIDS NEED TO GET OFF MY LAWN!!!