Monday, December 31, 2012

When I got shot

On the evening of December 31, 1996 I was hanging out with a couple of friends of mine.  We were bored and trying to think of something to do, when one of them said to go to their place because, hey, they have more games.  So we went over there and began playing Magic at the small kitchen table.  Most of his family was home at the time and they were doing their own thing.

Eventually we got all drawn into a conversation with a couple members of his family and we got up from our game and just stood around the kitchen.  One, Rich, grabbed a fake red little gun.  The kind that presses against powder packs to make it go "POP POP POP".  Well this one would but it was broken, even with the packs it could not make a POP noise.

He's idly pulling the trigger while talking, when suddenly there were loud POP POP POP sounds.  Rich was suddenly holding his right arm to him, and when I looked down I saw blood on my shirt.  I assumed, as did most people, that it was spray from his getting shot.  Several seconds later, as I was getting dizzy, we realized I had 3 holes in my abdomen and one in my arm.

My friend's father grabs his gun, and we all shelter against walls.  Not that it would do much good, as we later learned the bullets had to have passed through the Garage Roof, Garage wall and Foyer wall to hit us in the kitchen.  Which they did.  One, a rifle round, hit somewhere in a bedroom and landed perfectly in a bag of clothes.  911 was called.  And then my mother (who assumed it was her sister calling her as the Ball had just dropped).

The owner of the house threw his gun up on a fridge as the police arrived, as he did not want to be a statistic, and they cased the place and the neighborhood around.  (Later we found the shooter was on the balcony of the house behind this one, across the alley).  I was taken to the hospital first.  And let me tell you, catheters are NOT fun.  But I was out by 2:30 am, as they saw that the bullets had missed my organs and just traveled through skin and fat.

A surgeon, later, told me they don't remove bullets often anymore unless they have to, due to digging around to remove them tends to cause more damage than the shooting does.  Historically, many people who died of gunshots (especially assassinations) died of the surgery, not the actual shooting.

Four holes in my body.  One, the left most in my abdomen, was the same bullet that hit Rich's arm (which shattered bone, he had to get a steel plate put in).  The one that went in my right arm (stopping a couple millimeters before hitting my bone) traveled through my abdomen first.

I got so fucking lucky.  Several months later, my right arm started to reject the bullet inside of it so I had to go through surgery to have it removed.  That scar is far more visible than the 3 shooting scars I still have.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

That Which Slithers Into Sight 5?

It was over in but a few moments.  The dark void that was, apparently, my public defender flowed into me completely and I could feel its raw power fuse into my being.  Darkness slithered over my eyes and I saw things in a new way. The building around me now looked as if it was rotted and full of mold.  Insects slithered along every possible surface, and cracks appeared in all the walls.

Monday, December 24, 2012

That Which Slithers Into Sight 4?

Upon seeing the featureless black void that was apparently my public defender, I backed as far as I could against the holding cell and stared.  The public defender said to the officer in its gravelly voice, "What's his tox screen look like?"

Sunday, December 23, 2012

That Which Slithers Into Sight 3?

I wasted no time.  I ran out of the building into the outside world.  Feeling the air hit my skin made me realize I left the blanket on the floor in front of my door, "Fuck me."  I ran at my full speed, my muscles not even aching from the four  miles I ran earlier, towards the wooded wetlands only a block from my apartment.  Figuring that was a place I could at least partially hide while I thought things through.  It did not take me long to get there at all.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

That Which Slithers Into Sight, 2?

The blaze of glorious light that emanated from the person before me washed over the area around me.  The gray dirty walls of the hospital now appeared white and spotless.  The area behind him teemed with green plant life that just glistened in the sunlight.  Well, the area that was not a gray parking lot anyway.  Glorious light could only do so much it seems.

That Which Slithers Into Sight, 1?

It turns out my heart weighed as much as a feather.  And thus was I thrown into this midden realm of misery and sorrow.

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Bright Cold Day in December

"And so, whether you are here to stay, or passing through on your way to parts unknown.                                Welcome to America. It's safer here."

The National Rifle Association was founded in 1871 partially in response to just how badly Union recruits fired their rifles.  They organized rifle clubs in various states to improve marksmanship.  Historically they were about gun training and safety.  And in fact have many former generals amongst their Presidents and even a former President.  

Then in 1977 something changed.  They changed from gun safety to "SECOND AMENDMENT!"  They became more of a lobbying organization of gun manufacturers and not gun enthusiasts.  But they knew how to talk to their members and pull the wool over their eyes.  This organization, this group that used to count Ulysses S Grant as a President, began to state that gun laws were how the jackbooted thugs of the Federal Government would take away their members freedoms.

Many people bought this line.  The second amendment suddenly was re-interpreted.  It was now an "Everyone can have guns" amendment rather than an "Organized Militia" amendment as it had been interpreted often historically.

And now they wish a National Database of The Mentally Ill.  That was distinctly mentioned in their press statement.  So if you're mentally ill, you must register on a national database.

They wish for a Good Guy With A Gun in every school.  There are over 98,000 schools in the US.  If you were to pay one person minimum wage to be at each school for 8 hours a day, 180 days a year, it would cost US$1B.  And I am sure you would not pay only minimum wage to this position.

They are advocating the beginning of a police state.  The same group that tells its members that the President is going to take their guns.  The same group that implies a fear of jackbooted thugs of the government everywhere. They now are advocating it.  

They also are advocating that the media is to blame.  That movies, that video games are to blame.  That the First Amendment is less than the Second, because Two is a bigger number.

Doublethink, after all, is the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in ones mind simultaneously and accepting both of them.  This is today's NRA.

Sometime before the New Year, perhaps tomorrow, I will write the story of how I got shot.  The bullet inside of me has been rather sensitive the past few days as if it wants its story told.

Monday, December 10, 2012


So it looks as if the Washington Post is going to paywall itself.  It'll follow in the famous steps of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, but the less famous steps of the regional papers as well.

This is a long time in coming, unfortunately.  I hate paywalling.  I want to be able to get my news and as I am but a poor man I cannot afford the variety of subscriptions.  But as I am sure most of us have noticed, newspapers plain and simply suck.

It started in the '90s.  The '90s, when only the Nerds were online (Online year: 1995 for me) yet the newspaper industry was blaming online (And cable) for their dying profits.  Back at that point the newspaper industry was earning large net profits.  Profits that most industries would (And possibly have) kill for.  But Wall Street's mentality is if your profits shrink, you are dying.  And while that can be argued to be true, if your profits shrink but every other industry would still kill to have them, you might be okay for the time being.

Now there were many answers on how to regrow the newspaper industry at that point.  However the tycoons decided to cut. (This is where the root for my immense hatred of Wall Street comes from).  The various papers began to cut bureau reporters.  And that satisfied the ravening beast in New York some.  But eventually it asked for more sacrifices.

And this is what began to kill off the newspaper industry.  The papers began to get rid of their high seniority reporters due to the level of pay.  Bean-Counter logic.  The downside is that journalism, true journalism, requires relationships.

So the veteran police reporter that's now laid off and replaced by some fresh reporter?  All the relationships that reporter had with the police station goes away, they don't magically transfer to the new reporter.  So tips, off the record conversations, on the record conversations, anonymous conversations...they all go away.

But it's not just the police.  It's city hall, it's the state capital, it's various community organizations.  The cutting of the highest paid reporters caused the papers to have no relationships.

For instance: I recently cancelled my subscription to the Indianapolis Star.  Why?  It was nothing.  Anytime I complained by their lack of community reporting they would talk about the incidental "lifestyle" crap that they continued to add.  Yes, restaurant reviews are nice to have.  What is going on, what is worth going to, all very nice to have.  But for some reason they figured actual news was not important, it was best to keep adding to the lifestyle section.

I finally got fed up and I have not missed it.  (Well except for the fact they robbed me. I called, cancelled my subscription and they cancelled it instantly despite me having paid for 3 more weeks.)  And I am really curious what their subscription rates are like now that they've raised their rates and paywalled their website.

But that long rambling bit aside...Due to the place the industry finds itself now, the Era of Free News is coming to an end.  Paywalls are coming and seem to even be necessary.  If the papers have good publishers, the money might go to actual reporting and an improving of content.  But if they don't, it'll just be a magazine in grayprint.

Speaking of magazines.  As I am sure most of you know, Newsweek has dropped their physical magazine.  So how will they make money?  They're currently floating a plan to make the Daily Beast paywalled.  Yes, even the Daily Beast, mostly an opinionated place, will be paywalled.

This is the end, my friend.  Free News, the era of free information is at an end.  And while it could be argued that the free information is what led to the crappy reporting of the past decade plus, I think this is still a thing to be mourned.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

D&D Nerdery 2: Savage Opakaw 3: The Ruination

The Words of St. Galain

  1. Lo, the darkness took over the land.  The races three were now divided and shattered into many more.  Where stood the Elves now stood beings of such grace as the Eladrin.
  2. But in this time of darkness grace would not be tolerated to exist upon itself.  And the Eladrin and those untwisted had to face with a darker cousin.  And darker still were the Fomor.  And the chains they began to place upon their cousins.
  3. Silence let it's oppressive weight be felt during each of our sermons and even our holiest warriors began to have doubts.  
  4. The darkest thoughts of our flock magnified during this period after the Shattering.  The faithless grew amongst them and spread their foul words through the minds of the grieving.  And the presence of the demonborn was an insult to our Faith.
  5. And as the doubts and the dark thoughts magnified and the demonborns very existence mocked us, that negative energy coalesced into a being.
  6. A being darker than the Fomor.  One that made the demonborn seem more a blessing than a curse.  And as befitting its darkness, it hid in the shadows and twisted further. 
  7. Whole settlements of humans marched to the sealed mountain homes of the Dwarves, at the base of the God's river.  They began to war upon the very earth that sealed the dwarves in.  
  8. And once they penetrated, dark beings of tusk and putrid skin flowed outward and massacred the makeshift army.  
  9. Every last soul was lost that day, and that statement is true to its core.  For these beings, these Orcs, piled every last body into the Holy River.  And there the Darkness revealed itself.  
  10. The mountain of bodies melted down into the holy waters.  Putrid diseases of kinds never before in our lands spread from the waters.  
  11. The black waters spread quickly, infecting every last settlement it passed through.  Those unafflicted fled to the safety of the forests to the north and south. 
  12. Those afflicted died a painful death even our most powerful prayers could not alleviate.  And as our flock saw once again our power questioned, the lack of faith spread further.
  13. In response we walked away from our duty to tend the flock.  We stopped our attempts at alleviating the pain and suffering of the afflicted.  Peace and Love was replaced with Revenge and Justice.
  14. We assembled an army.  At its core our best clerics, now praying for guidance in battle.
  15. Defending them and being the strong backbone of this army were our former Temple Defenders, now dubbed Paladins of the Faith.
  16. The most fervent amongst our new warriors were declared to be Avengers.  For they shall avenge all the insults done to our peoples and our Lord.
  17. We marched up the desecrated river and warred upon the Orcs that served our Enemy.  They fell before our righteous might and on we marched.
  18. Up the mountain of bodies that our blades created.  Up to the Enemy itself, who gazed down from the base of the river he conquered from our Lord.
  19. Our mightiest prayers were uttered, calling for the holy light to cleanse the darkness from our land.  And our prayers combined and unleashed such radiance from the heavens.  Our hearts lifted at the sight.
  20. And then sunk at the reality.  For as the radiance hit the Enemy, it was taken inside and twisted.  Suddenly that radiance was made Dark and unleashed upon us.  
  21. Many of our warriors fell instantly at the touch and rose again to fight us.  The fallen's holy powers were twisted to that of darkness.  And each of us who were touched by their blades would fall and rise again to make war upon our fellows.
  22. As all seemed lost and our holy army began to break, a light broke out onto the heavens.
  23. A voice spoke out to me, asking me to accept the God within my Heart.  I did so and as I did I felt myself swelled with such power.
  24. I heard my voice speak out a word from a language I had never heard before, and the Dark One recoiled.  
  25. A Gate of Silver appeared in the sky and swung open, revealing behind it a large host of angelic warriors.  The warriors flew over our fallen comrades and turned them to ash, and we stood in place as we watched them fly upon the Dark One.
  26. The Dark One, however, fought back.  Those we thought invincible fell before his blade, but did him great damage as well.
  27. And I knew then that it required more than just a spoken word, no matter how holy, to defeat this one.  I climbed up the mountain as the angels and the Dark One warred.
  28. Upon reaching the summit I threw myself at the unholy thing that so insulted our Lord and invoked all the power I had felt the God grant me.  
  29. A Blade of silver and light appeared in my hand and plunged into the chest of the Dark One.  I felt the coldness of his being began to infect my soul.  I pushed away and flung myself backwards, watching as the light enveloped it.
  30. And so the war was won but with cost.  The Angels streamed back through the gate and closed it.  Our Holy Order given a new task.
  31. For the river is still unhallowed and beings of dark power and death now roam along its banks.  The core of our land now rendered inhospitable.
  32. But we remain.  We remain under the lands and fight back.  Our Lord, now reviled amongst our former flock, strengthens our will with this holy cause.
  33. Soon the river shall turn blue again, and the darkness that has enveloped us all will finally cease.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

D&D Nerdery 2: Savage Opakaw 2: The Shattering

The Shattering


What follows is a concise summary of the shattering, using both that which our own forebears recorded for us and the tales that have spread amongst the savages.  We have extensively trained both tale-tellers and enterprising wizards to leave our ivory tower and find all manner of knowledge now lost to us.  


The existence of Dragons had long been hypothesized due to the artwork of pre-imperial times.  But our guild, as well as most scholars and philosophizers  decided that the depictions that were deemed dragons were just overly stylized crocodiles.  Many state that if we had known we could have been prepared, but what followed their arrival none could have been prepared for.

Over the ocean they came and they instantly decimated our seaside towns.  Those were our weakest defenses, of course, as only a few existed and seaside trade had proven to be more of a loss than a profit to our merchants.  

The tales of the few survivors told of us majestic lizards, streaming out magic that even the oldest and most talented of the elves would have found impossible.  They were larger than the oliphants and the colours of their scales gleamed in the light.  The number we were told was low, just but 6, yet the entire seaside was in ruins.  And after that attack they had disappeared for weeks.

We immediately went to work going through our oldest tomes for any information on these new invaders. And as we found nothing we watched in horror as panic spread quickly throughout the empire.  The elves, those that live the longest and have the best histories, were thought to have covered up their existence and demagogues in the streets riled up ancient racism against them.

But just as gang violence began to rear its head in the streets the dragons showed up again, their foul breath and warping spells worked along the elvish forests.  And the magic was so great that even the elves in the towns along the river and our towers began to be warped. The ones outside of their forests ended up melting down to the horror of all, the ones inside their forests split into divergent species.  The chaos of the change caused the elves to drop out of the Empire and cease all contact and trade.

The nobles could not agree on what to do next and many ideas were proposed.  This gridlock led to little being done except an emphasis on archery training, as well as our own training in more destructive magics.  The clerics put further effort into contacting their deity, but even Its agents were not responding to the spells.

However the next attack would split the humans and dwarves apart.  The dragons once again attacked human lands, and their nobles began to formulate a desperation plan.  The dwarves, meanwhile, began to study transmogrification magics in a vain attempt to help the elves.

The humans desperate plan was pulled off first, as the noble families of the empire summoned many outsiders to plead with.  The outsiders instantly ruined the capital as they fought amongst themselves, and the demons that were left agreed to fight for the Empire.  For a price, of course.  They formed a plan of attack and waited.

The dwarves at this time, having seen the damage the demons had already done, balked and withdrew to their mountain strongholds.  There they tested the magic they thought would save the elves, but instead it twisted them as well.

And as for the desperate plans of the humans?  It could be argued that it succeeded.  The dragons attacked once more, and the demons teleported themselves as well as battle mages and the soldiers to the site of the battle.  A dragon actually fell that day, and those that remained cast their horrible warping spells.  And these spells interacted with the natural resistance of the demons, causing some of the essence to bounce back upon the dragons.  The whole battlefield erupted and once the spells were done none remained the same.  The dragons, demons and humans ended up mixing and creating new species.  The humans outside of the battle remained untouched.

This was enough to cause the death of the empire that was.  But to fall as far as civilization had required a few more steps.  The most damaging of these additional steps was the fouling of the river.

Friday, December 7, 2012

D&D Nerdery 2: Savage Opakaw

No one living now can remember as far back as that which was.  Opakaw now just lives in legend, handed down from storyteller to storyteller through the generations.

To hear the tales of it now invites the listener to envision the paradise that that empire must have been.  It is stated that it was an empire ruled by families of humans, elves, and dwarves.  Each race living in harmony with the others, despite them all living in different parts of the realm.

The humans, of course, founded their cities upon the river that the empire took its name from and its tributaries.  They were industrious and expanded quickly.   And ever seeking out better materials and better methods of which to do things.  Which led them both to their future partners.

To the south, of course, were the elves.  The forest was thick but still traversable, unlike that which we find ourselves in today.  And the elves were very knowledgeable with their magics and the humans quick learners.  Through the bond forged over magic the elves and humans banded together, and the first division of the races began with that as the two even bred together to create a half-breed.  First reviled, these half-breeds eventually began to be lavished upon.  Many of the later Consuls were from their stock.

And to the north were the dwarven smiths.  Found by the humans as they traveled further up the Opakaw seeking the source of the minerals that would occasionally wind up in the river.  And there they found the Dwarves, living along the mountains that formed The Roof Of The World.  There they mined and smithed, and the best metals in the world were theirs to command.  Desiring the access to such resources, the humans welcomed them into the fold.

And soon the realm was at rest.  The three primary races stood in harmony and the tales tell us all was at peace.  Common knowledge, even now, states that a citizen could traverse from one end of this empire to another and worry not of any hazard befalling them.  Bandits were unheard of, and dangerous animals warded off with magical tokens freely available to all.  The God, with its benevolence, shown down its light upon all of civilization.  Do not give me that look, for I have not named It nor would I.  But It must be included for a tale to be complete.

A true peace, a strong empire that lasted for a thousand years.  So the tales say, anyhow.  Some hint at even longer.  The tales state such fantastic things were commonplace.  The water was always crystal clear and the food could be kept for days on end.  Diseases were unheard of and it was said that a common man could live for a hundred years without troubles.  Paradise indeed.

But tales of paradise do not get told without dwelling upon what happened to paradise.  And there are indeed many tales of how that paradise got shattered and of how we ended up as we are now.  But that is for tomorrow as the night draws us to our sleep.

Please remember to keep that fire well lit for it will ward off the lizards.  And those who stand guard tonight; do not break the circle for that is what will keep us safe from the dangers of this jungle.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

D&D Nerdery: Winterthur Part 2: PC Races


Winterthur, as most cities that formed the old empire, is a human dominated.  Other civilized races may have turned inwards but it does not mean they do not exist.  This here is a listing of the various races in the Players Handbook and the Players Handbook 2.