A Return to Gaming

This past winter my significant other (Writer Girl) and I went to her cousin’s birthday. It was a significant birthday for him so the party was pretty impressive. His wife who is originally from Mexico prepared a wonderfully spicy spread which everyone could graze upon. I am really not one for large social gatherings as I find it difficult to make small talk. On this occasion however we met some of his friends who just so happen to have similar interests to both of us, but more specifically me.

That is not to say Writer Girl isn’t a geek, because she is, and that is one of the things I love about her. It’s just that her geek levels are a bit more subtle than mine where they overlap. For instance, we both like science fiction, but while my enthusiasm is more overt in that I like talking about it, reading about it, and watching it, her enthusiasm is a bit more subdued. This is likely because her geekiness leans more toward literature… not a big surprise considering that she is a writer. But I digress.

So we introduced ourselves to some of her cousin’s friends and it turns out that they too are geeks of a significantly high order. This geekiness includes Star Wars, Star Trek, Science fiction, Science, Space, and Role Playing Games. We talked about the vacation that Writer Girl and I had recently returned from where we ticked off several checks on my geek list including Star Wars at Disney Hollywood Studios, Cape Canaveral, Kennedy Space Center, and the Harry Potter parts of Universal Studios in Florida.

While we were geeking out with our new acquaintances, Writer Girl’s cousin dropped by while making the rounds at his party. The conversation turned to gaming and the beginnings of an idea of joining in on a Pathfinder game began to sprout.

Years ago, while Writer Girl and I were still in High School, we were both involved in a Dungeons & Dragons game that lasted the better part of two years. In the years since, I have continued to play in a variety of groups in spurts. The longest of which was about 5 years. I have also occasionally played in Live Action Roleplaying games like Vampire and Werewolf, but I have always preferred the old style tabletop RPG.

What I didn’t know, was that Writer Girl still has an interest in tabletop gaming. So when her cousin contacted us a couple of weeks ago to officially invite us to play, she was pretty enthused about playing again. I have been out of gaming for nearly one and half years, mostly because the Live Action game that I was playing previously wasn’t holding my interest anymore. This new game sounds like fun, and feels pretty old school. I think we’re going to have fun. And as usual, I think the dice are going to try to kill me. FUN!

Housing and becoming a Land Baron

So, it’s been a few years since I have taken the time to write something here. A number of things have happened over the last 4 years and I think it’s about time that I say something about that.

I have been a home owner for approximately 8 years. I have managed to keep the house from falling into disrepair or from burning down. I had to take down the trees in my yard as they were becoming dangerous to the structural integrity of my house, and potentially my neighbour’s house as well. The Saskatoon bush beside the house has steadily grown, and now puts out a decent crop of saskatoons… enough for pies.

One of the things that I wanted to do was to do some renovations on the house. You know, build a deck, get a new countertop for the kitchen. There were some minor issues with the house, but my salary didn’t really allow me to invest for my retirement and also do the kind of renovation I wanted to do on the house. I’ll come back to this.

This year I also made a leap with a very old friend who I’ve known for the better part of 30 years (or more). I asked her to go on a date and she said yes. Since the end of January of 2016 she and I have been going on an adventure that I would say has been the best part of my life. Earlier this year we made the decision to move in together. She too owns a house. We decided that we would live in her house, and I would turn my house into an income property.

So getting back to house renovations and such, I still don’t have the money for large renovations to turn the house into a proper income property. That, and I really don’t want to be a landlord.

It just so happens that my mother was really hating living in an apartment. Too many doors and floors. This year my mom will have been retired for about 5 years. She was looking to buy a house again, but getting a mortgage at her age is more trouble than its worth. My mom needed a place to stay and I needed a tenant. We worked out a deal that if she wants to do renovations, she can, and the rent that she pays would be just enough to cover my mortgage payments (Winnipeg, so nothing ridiculous like you see in Toronto or Vancouver). That rent pays for the mortgage and hydro/gas, and it is still less than she was paying for an apartment.

The house is the perfect size for one person or a couple. My mom has a lot of stuff, but she is paring down now, so once she is down to just what she needs the house should feel comfy for her, like it was for me.

Now that I have that rent coming in, it means I can actually save some money for if I need to do any actual renovations or repairs. Like a high efficiency furnace and water heater. Mom can renovate the look and feel of the house to the way she likes it, and I can take care of the structural maintenance. It’s a good deal, and Mom likes the situation as well.

Shadowrun Returns – Adventure Creation

So last night a couple of friends and I met at The Fyxx in downtown Winnipeg to begin a collaboration on a storyline for the new Shadowrun Returns game that is being released by Harebrained Studios on July 25th. When it comes to games, I am usually just in the role of one of the players. I don’t have much experience in the story telling aspect. I’ll have to admit that it really takes some coaxing for me to contribute, but I think in the end it may be worth it.

I am somewhat familiar with the Shadowrun background material as I participated in a pretty good tabletop version of the game a number of years ago. Generally speaking Shadowrun adventures have a pretty linear progression of going from point A to point B and getting back to point A again without the characters being killed. My failing when trying to come up with ideas for larger scaled stories is that I can’t picture the whole overarching concept. This is where the collaboration helps. I have a good idea about a small aspect of the story, as do my friends. Once we had tabled our ideas, we could then mould our various stories to fit together. The short chapter concept of game story development seems to work really well.

Where none of us had enough to make a full story, our combined ideas came together quite well and we now have a good base for our adventure. Now when the editors become available (and we’ve had our initial fill of playing the game when its released) we’ll be able to put together the parts to our larger adventure. It should be a lot of fun putting together dialogue and the various event triggers. I’ve always been fairly envious of game storytellers and their ability to put together a story that is fun and engaging.

One week to wait! Woohoo!

Trash and Recycling Disruption Update

So it happened again this week. My neighbour’s cable was pulled out of her house again. This caused my cable to sag into my yard again. Good news though! Shaw came by last night and re-installed my neighbour’s cable… and raised the wire high enough so that the trucks can get by without getting snagged!

There should be no further issues.

Trash and Recycling Disruption Addressed

So it took a couple of days for the dangling wires to be fixed in the alley, but MTS did finally show up to do the work. Not only did they fix my neighbour’s dangling wires that had been ripped out of her house, but they tightened them up so that they don’t dangle too low. They are still low in general, however they might be high enough for the trash and recycling trucks to pass beneath without snagging them.

MTS also did some customer checking and came to realize that I don’t have a phone! As such the workers did the correct thing and removed the wire that ran from the overheads in the alley down to my house. So for the first time since I moved into my house I don’t have a wire that dangles down into my yard where I have to duck to avoid it while doing yard work.

There hasn’t been any word on whether the trash and recycling company will be fined for the damage caused.

Trash and Recycling Disruption

Here in Winnipeg the city made a change to how it handles Trash and Recycling pick-up this year. First the city supplied new bins for the automated element of the new trucks that would be doing the pick-up. Then they changed how the schedule for pick-up would work. Instead of having a schedule that would shift with holidays, they changed it so that pick-up for each area of the city was on a specified day of the week. My day is always a Monday.

Generally speaking I am pretty happy with the results. I take my trash and recycling out the night before and in the morning on my way to work I roll my lovely bins to the edge of my drive in the alley. When I come home usually my trash and recycling have been picked up… Until the last couple of weeks. My trash still gets picked up, but for the first time in the four years I have been in my house I’m having an issue with the trash pick-up.

Twice in the last three weeks either the garbage truck or the recycling truck has taken out overhead wires in the alley right behind my house. Thankfully the wires that run to my house haven’t been pulled out, however my cross-alley neighbour hasn’t been so lucky. The first time it happened it just caused the wires that run to our houses to droop far too low. Last night however, the wires were hanging again, but my neighbour’s phone line was literally ripped out of her house. We found out that the trash pick-up company that had hit the wires had not informed the city of what had happened and that my neighbour had to contact the phone company personally to request they come and repair the damage.

It is my hope that when the phone company comes out to repair the wires that they will figure out a way to raise them. I am also hoping that the company that is running the trash pick-up for the city is going to be charged for their negligence. The old trucks used to make it down these back lanes without difficulty. The new trucks don’t look like they’re any bigger. Come on guys, it may not be a glamourous job, but it is a very much appreciated job when you do it well.

Rogue Bunnies have gone Rogue!!

Well, the final head count for my Rogue Bunnies was five. On Friday I got a couple of pictures and I left my little neighbours to their evening. As I picked up my computer bag from my visit, all five decided it was time to move on. My bunnies have abandoned their little hole which means I am now free to mow my lawn, for which my neighbours are probably quite grateful.

I actually managed to hold on to this little guy before he and his siblings decided to venture into the world.

Rogue Bunnies Photographed

Ok, I managed to get a few photos. Of course the little beggars aren’t really keen on being photogenic, but I did manage a few that showed how cute they are. I now know that there are at least four and they’re still quite young and about 4 inches long each.

Rogue Bunnies have Invaded!

Similar to last summer we have experienced very little rain here in Winnipeg. As a result there has been little need to cut the grass in my yard. Since I haven’t been quite as diligent in my lawn keeping duties some of the local wild life has taken the opportunity to use a small corner of my yard as a place to raise a family. I have wild bunnies in my yard. I noticed that something had been digging in the lawn by my composting pile. When I investigated further I found a little burrow that was making squeaking noises. On close inspection it appears that one of the local wild rabbits that regularly make a feast of my plants had given birth to a number of itty bitty bunnies.

I have been keeping a lazy eye on their progress and endeavouring to get a decent picture of my new neighbours. However with the rather brown condition of my lawn and the very brown colour of the baby bunnies my photos have been pretty much dark brown with light brown edges. I startled them yesterday and one of the bunnies bolted. I am hoping the mother bunny managed to round up her wayward child and deposited it safely back in the warren.

For the foreseeable future I will not be mowing the back yard.

I am back! Let’s try WordPress for a change!

I have been away from writing online for a couple of years now, however since part of my job is to look at the various trends in content management I am going to be testing my skills with WordPress for a while. The company I work for has developed its own custom CMS which is simple to use and very straight-forward in its approach for our clients. The idea is that our clients don’t have to know anything about the underlying code or functionality. We provide the tools, they use them. WordPress has a similar view on what a CMS should be, though they go about it quite differently. While the editing functionality is very straight-forward, the interface can be a bit confusing to the average user.

By setting user privileges  to lower levels the people handling content must rely on an editor or administrator to publish their information so the content person can’t screw up. As  someone who builds sites for a living, I fully understand the frustration that can come from creating a clean, well structured site only to have the client accidentally butcher the design by having too much power. The problem there is that the WP administrative interface can confuse the novice user to the point where they become afraid to use the system because it can be a convoluted process to find the information they want to edit, and then have to wait for a person with higher privileges to publish their work.

The advantage of WordPress for smaller sites is that a basic set of editors is all that is really needed. The work that I do is far more customized. We build exactly what the client wants with customized code. While the plugin library for WordPress is very extensive and somewhat robust, the plugins are built by people who are using it for their own purposes which may not match up exactly to the next person’s thoughts on how the functionality of the plugin should work. While a company like the one I work for has the knowledge base to make changes to plugins, we have to keep in mind that any updates made by the original creators of the plugins will continually override any customizations we make.

If a site is small and only requires the basic functionality of a few well constructed plugins we are more than happy to use WordPress. As soon as a site reaches a certain size, 20 pages or more, we find that the custom approach seems to work better. I’m not saying that our system is better or worse than WordPress, but they are meant for two different types of sites. The average blog with a few content pages is perfect for WordPress. Corporate sites with member access, document management, event calendar and advertising require a more custom solution and while WP can do all of those things with its plugins it’s just easier to give the client exactly what they want instead of trying to fit their expectations into a WP box.