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The Celebration of Love, Trust, Partnership, Tolerance and Tenacity

February 16, 2010 2 comments

About this time two years ago I was driving to the Portland, Oregon Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Days Saints to marry the love of my life when she called me on my cell phone.

“We can’t do this,” she said to me (or something to that effect). I had only a moment for the shock and disbelief that she might be backing out to register before she clarified that her father (who was driving to Portland from La Grande) was stuck about two hours from Portland because his truck had broken down.

Fortunately an LDS wedding is a relatively small and simple affair, so we moved the time later in the day without much difficulty. We had scheduled the wedding and the reception several hours apart and the new wedding time fit nicely into the new schedule. We even still had time for our family luncheon between the two — of course, Melissa spent most of the luncheon time on a couch trying to sleep off the flu she had caught that morning, an illness that would last throughout the week of our honeymoon.

It seems that many of the best things in our lives have started with little disasters. Melissa and I had our first real conversation talking about all how depressed I was over some bad personal and family situations. On our first date we missed hearing one of Melissa’s favorite Jazz singers because that night the restaurant she was singing in (which didn’t normally take reservations) was completely reserved. I spent too much for not-so-great food at Greek Cuisina* and we saw the catastrophe that was Ghost Rider.

Who would have thought that failing so miserably would actually bring us closer together? Both Melissa and I later admitted that we went home from that date feeling really good about the night — and of course we later began dating and got married about a year after that first date.

The little disasters continue, but always seem to end in something better than if we were blessed with smooth sailing. I lost my job a year ago this month, but now I own my own business. Labor was a multi-day ordeal for Melissa, but now our son Isaac is 4 months old and almost crawling. Decisions we had to make during that labor started us on an early path of putting his needs above our own, and I am convinced that we treasure him more because of it.

So here’s to the little disasters — they got me where I am today: celebrating a second year with my beautiful bride, happier than I have ever been.



*This is not to say that Greek Cuisina didn’t have good food, just that what we ordered was not.

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RPG Saturday: The Serial One-Shot – Coraline 2: Electric Boogaloo

February 13, 2010 1 comment

RPG Saturday is a weekly feature which discusses issues related to role-playing games using movies, television, etc. as examples.

Note from Michael: It’s still Saturday for one hour (Pacific Time), so this still counts as an RPG Saturday post!

In my last RPG Saturday post I made a passing reference to the serial one-shot, and I want to talk about that a little more.

Unlike most RPG campaigns, a “one-shot” adventure is not an ongoing story. When the adventure ends, the story ends too — which opens the game up for all kinds of situations and outcomes that a GM normally wouldn’t include in an ongoing campaign. Character deaths, for example, are more acceptable in one-shots, as are games where the characters are the villains or are ridiculously overpowered. Many movie plots work great as one-shot games but not as extended campaigns — Jurassic Park was a good one-shot movie, but an ongoing campaign would be difficult.

A “serial one-shot” is a bit of a hybrid between the one-shot adventure and the ongoing campaign. The story doesn’t necessarily end at the end of the adventure, but each adventure is self-contained enough that if the story does end the players won’t feel like anything was left unresolved. Going back to the movie example, a serial one-shot would be a movie and its sequels.

One good thing about a serial one-shot as opposed to an ongoing campaign is that months or years can pass between adventures, and instead of role-playing that time the players simply update their characters for the next installment of the game and keep going.

…and that’s where my Coraline idea comes in.

The Setup

So you were able to keep your characters on track. They explored the Other World, learned some of the history of the Pink Palace Apartments from Wybie and ultimately defeated the Other Mother. Now years have passed. The characters have grown up. They have jobs, homes and families of their own.

The Hook

One day a character’s home is strangely quiet. Little Emma is gone! The character searches the house frantically, screaming Emma’s name…and then finds a doll dressed just like Emma, staring out from under Emma’s bed with black button eyes.

-OR-

Each of the characters goes to answer a knock at the door. Sitting on the porch is a small package wrapped in brown paper. There are no return addresses, no postage stamps…no sign of a letter carrier. They each take their packages inside and open them to find a little doll, dressed just like them, staring up from the box with black button eyes.

No matter how you set it up, that kind of cool opening scene is tough to do with an ongoing campaign — largely because it’s really hard to role-play all the time between adventures. It can be especially cool if the players weren’t expecting a sequel to the first adventure, and since they aren’t expecting a sequel to this adventure, their tension levels will be lot higher.


RPG Saturday: How to Keep Your Players on Track – Coraline

February 6, 2010 1 comment

RPG Saturday is a weekly feature which discusses issues related to role-playing games using movies, television, etc. as examples.

Button Your EyesHave you ever wanted to play something entirely different than a standard RPG scenario? Not just getting away from the hack-and-slash, but something outside the whole larger-than-life character thing? Ever think up something quirky and fun that would totally be blast to play, but were afraid that your players would totally ruin it?

Those are the kinds of thoughts I was having when I finally rented Coraline from the RedBox. Sure, it would make a great one-shot game (possibly even a serial one-shot), but let’s face it: the story just wouldn’t go the same way once you involved players. While Coraline happily wolfs down a turkey dinner her first time in the Other World and eagerly returns the next night, players will start looking for a way to kill Other Mother the first time they see her button eyes.

So how to keep things from devolving into a race to see who can a kitchen knife fastest? Your first and best bet of course is to feel out your players ahead of time, sketch out your hopes for the game  (without giving away too much) and see if they’ll agree to go along. However, there are some elements built into the story itself that help keep things from going completely off the rails:

The characters are children

With 11-year-old characters, your player won’t have the stats to mount a physical attack on Other Mother. You also take away a lot of other in-game considerations: the characters obviously will have no weapons, no vehicle and no real influence over NPCs who aren’t their age or younger.

Helpful NPCs

Coraline’s apartment complex is full of bizarre characters who can point any but the most wayward players in the right direction. Wybie is a source of hints and rumors (things he hears from his grandmother), Miss Spink and Miss Forcible know some folk magic and Mr. Bobinsky delivers messages from his mice. Any of these NPCs can suggest courses of action for the players and subtly urge them to action, or help them get back on track if they’re totally lost. Once in the Other World, you can use the Cat, the Other Wybie and even Other Father in much the same way.

Other Mother’s Endgame

What if the players never go through the little door in the first place, or run back after going through the first time and refuse to return? To give them a little incentive, we can have voices whispering in the characters’ rooms at night and items disappearing. If they’ve decided not to go through the door, they probably still won’t, but it’ll be really creepy. When they still refuse, that’s when Other Mother grabs their parents.  If you want to build the suspense leading up to the parents disappearing, you can have other people in the apartments disappear first.

In fact, one option would be having all the above happening before the first time the players meet Other Mother. If she already has all the people they care about by the time they meet her, it’ll give them incentive to play along with her nice act at first — and make the encounter a lot more tense.



How Measure 67 Will Hurt Me

January 15, 2010 Comments off

I’m a little late joining this conversation, but here is the bottom line (for me, anyway):

I was laid off in February of 2009, and my friend Scott was laid off in April that same year. Unable to find new jobs, we started a new business designing websites. We made a grand total of $1,050 for the entire year — about $300 after expenses. As an LLC, our minimum tax on that $300 that we have to split will be $150.1

I was denied my unemployment, my savings are dwindling and I have a brand new baby in the house. I don’t need this problem too. Vote no on Measure 67.

Update: Scott tells me that we did not collect that $1,050 until after the the beginning of the new year, so those revenues will be taxed in 2010. That makes our income for 2009 about -$700, and we will still have to pay $150 in taxes simply for being an LLC.




1. “2009 Corporate Tax Law Changes.” Business Taxes Home Page. Oregon Department of Revenue. 14 Dec 2009. Web. 15 Jan 2010. <http://www.oregon.gov/DOR/BUS/corp_tax_changes_2009.shtml>

For My Son on His First New Year

December 31, 2009 Comments off

My vague understanding of the Japanese literary concept “mono no aware” is that knowing something is temporary makes it more beautiful, more poignant. A flower’s beauty is more powerful knowing that it will wither away and vanish, and that knowledge tinges its beauty with a bit of sadness.

I think that no one may understand mono no aware better than a parent. I cherish every moment with my beautiful baby boy, but I cherish them even more knowing that those moments are fleeting and that I am watching your “babyhood” slip away and disappear. While you will always be my son, you will not always be my little baby boy. I will have new joys and new adventures with you throughout our lives, but this time will never come again. Knowing that is what makes it so beautiful and precious.



The Hunt for Gollum

May 8, 2009 Comments off

This morning I was finally able to fit this into my busy schedule:

Made on a budget of only £3,000 (about $4,500 as I am writing this), The Hunt for Gollum shows that you don’t need government subsidies, production company backing or even aggressive merchandise licensing in order to produce a successful film. It also shows that fan films do not have to feature poor acting and even poorer cinematography as their most redeeming features.

I’m particularly impressed with how the fight scenes were handled. The average person tends to hold back a little when staging a fight in order to be sure not to actually hit their partner. Not only did the crew in The Hunt for Gollum put forth an active effort to overcome this shortfall, but any actual punch-pulling was cleverly discussed through creative camera cuts and occasional slow-motion.

The casting is decent, although Adrian Webster doesn’t have the strong features I think the lost King of Gondor should, nor does Rita Ramnani have the angular ethereal beauty that one would expect for Arwen. Gandalf looks spot on, and Patrick O’Connor does his best to imitate Ian McKellen.

I only have two real, though minor gripes: 1)  Gollum doesn’t thrash nearly wildly enough when captured, and 2) some of the night scenes (particularly during the last ten minutes) are too dark — you may want to turn the lights out and the screen brightness up when watching.



He is Not Here, But is Risen

April 12, 2009 Comments off

Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre.

And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments:

And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among dead?

He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee.