Confessions of a Gencon virgin

An event long-awaited is finally coming to pass. After decades of reasons I couldn’t make it I’ll be headed off to Gencon in just a few days. Actually, with just a bit of thought I could tell you the hours until we leave, since it’s just over three days from now as I write this.

To say im looking forward to it would be an understatement along the lines of “Houston, we have a problem”. On the other hand I’m just a bit nervous as well.

For starters I don’t know a whole lot of what to expect. Granted, I know it will be big, and I don’t doubt I’ll have a blast. I also realise I wont be able to do everything in the time I have there. There is simply too much to do.

Sounds like a perfect excuse to come back next year as well. =)

Anyhow, I figured I would post a bit about what I am planning. After the con I’ll come back and post a bit more about how those plans worked out (of blew up in my face…)

For activities I did see a whole lot of things I’d like to do. I did try to listen to the advice of friends and made an effort not to book myself into a corner though.

Thursday will be kinda busy with three activities I’d like to do. Friday and Saturday each have one thing I’m planning on attending, and Sunday is left completely open.  It remains to be seen what will actually happen.

There are a few people I’ve met thru gaming that are going to be there. I’m hoping to meet up with a few, hopefully that goes well. (I don’t see why it wouldn’t, but one never knows). If you happen to be going as well and would like to say hello, drop me a comment here or a message on Twitter (@Dechion) and we’ll figure out a time and place.

I have read some really good advice about the kind of things to pack, which I intend to follow. The readers digest version of what to bring goes something like this:

  1. A change of clothes for each day,
  2. Whatever toiletries you need,
  3. Comfortable shoes,
  4. A comfortable backpack,
  5. A water bottle,
  6. Snacks,
  7. The basic gaming supplies for your games of choice. 

I’m adding a few odds and ends to that list as well. For instance, I plan to bring something to flavor my water with and a basic first aid kit (with a few band aids, some Tylenol, pepto chewables, and immodium.) With that i’ll add in a spoon and some hand sanitizer and I should be just about set. 

I also decided that I’m going to leave my contacts at home and wear my glasses during the con. I won’t have to worry about losing a lens and being blind for the rest of the time there.

Well there it is, the most basic of outlines of a plan. We shall see how it all works out.

Happy Holidays, with a side of Pulled Pork

Good Morning folks,

I just figured I would drop by and say happy holidays to you all, whether you are currently celebrating anything or not.

For nearly the last three years (has it really been that long already?) I have been posting things here. When I started it seemed like I was sitting at the keyboard talking to myself, but I soon realised that was not the case. People stop by, they may comment, they may not, but they stop in and hear what I have to say.

I was not talking to myself after all.

Anyhow, as much as I would love to get each and every one of my readers something for the holidays it’s a bit beyond my ability to do so. At least I can’t get you anything in a material sense.

All I can offer is a thank you for stopping by, you folks make all the writing worthwhile.

Actually there is one more thing I can offer.

I can give you a recipe for some seriously yummy sammiches.

I hope you like it as much as I do.

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Dech’s Crock Pot Pulled Pork Sammiches

Man, I love me some pulled pork sammiches. Just typing this up is going to make me want to go home and cook a batch. As a matter of fact, since I needed pictures for the post I decided to make up a batch and take it to work for everyone to enjoy.

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The Meat

4 pound pork roast (I like a shoulder roast for this one)

Buy it, put it in the fridge, and get cracking on the other stuff. Don’t’ worry, we’ll get back to it. Whatever you do don’t trim the fat off of it, we need it for flavor. The trimming will come later.

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The Rub

1          tablespoon mild paprika (smoked paprika works as well)
1 1/2  teaspoons of hot paprika. (smoked works ok here too)
2          teaspoons light brown sugar
1/2     teaspoon celery salt
1/2     teaspoon garlic salt
1/2     teaspoon dry mustard
1/2     teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2     teaspoon onion powder
1/4     teaspoon salt (I like sea or kosher for this. Table salt will work in a pinch)

Mix the rub ingredients in a small bowl until blended.

If you like you can scale up the recipe and make a good-sized batch of this, simply store in a mason jar with “Dechs BBQ Rub” written on it with a magic marker.

Actually if you are going to go with the Mason jar idea, make enough to fill it about half way up and then just shake the heck out of it. No need to dirty a bowl. Also, a second lid with holes popped into it makes an excellent shaker for the rub; just remember to put the sealed cap back on for storage.

Now we are going to grab the pork roast out of the fridge, rub this generously on all sides, wrap in aluminum foil (shiny side in) and put it back in the fridge. Leave it at least 8 hours, preferably overnight. I rubbed this one down on a Sunday evening for cooking Tuesday.


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The Sauce

We simply have to  have sauce, what’s BBQ without sauce? Overcooked meat?

1            cups apple cider vinegar
2/3       cups water
1/3       cup ketchup (I prefer store brand for this)
1/4       cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 1/2    teaspoons salt (once again, I prefer sea salt or kosher salt here)
2            teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1 /2       teaspoon ground black pepper
1 /2       teaspoon ground white pepper (if you don’t have it just sub in more black pepper instead)
1             tablespoon liquid smoke

Making the sauce is simple. Put it all in a pan on the stove under low heat and whisk till the brown sugar and salt have dissolved.

Once again making extra is easy; just make sure you store it in a proper container. Once again, a mason jar with “Dechs BBQ Sauce, Use with caution, Shake before use” written on it with a marker is a good choice. In my case I make a batch four times larger and store it in a half-gallon jug I once bought beer in. It just fits if I let it cool off first.

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The Slaw

Now this pulled pork is designed t be served with slaw. Like peanut butter and jelly both the pulled pork and the slaw can stand on their own, but they are much better together.

We want slaw, we need veggies. Go ahead and round up:

1  big head of cabbage, finely chopped.
1  medium sweet onion, finely chopped
1  medium bell pepper, finely chopped
2  carrots, grated

Take the chopped veggies and pot them in a mixing bowl, we will get back to them in a minute.

Grab a pan and combine:
1       cup apple cider vinegar
2/3  cup olive oil (I suppose you could use regular oil, but I like the olive for this one)
1       cup sugar
1       teaspoon celery seed
1       teaspoon dry mustard
1       teaspoon salt (same as before for what I prefer)

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until everything is good and dissolved. Pour over the veggies and toss. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, preferably overnight.

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The Cookin’

Now we have made are slaw and our sauce. The butt has been sitting at least over night in its rub wrap. It’s time to get busy.

If you are using the oven or you have one of those fancy roaster oven type slow cookers, like a Nesco cooker, that have an actual temperature gauge set it for 325 for about 6 hours. Using a meat thermometer in the center (away from any bones) monitor the temp as it runs up to about 185-190. Once it’s there lower your cooking temp to maintain 170-180 for about three hours.

 If you are like me and all you have to work with is a crock pot with high and low settings go with High while using a meat thermometer to let you know when it makes it to 185-190. Once it does, drop it to low and cook for an additional three hours at an internal temp of 170-180. Probably about 6 hours total, but your mileage may vary on that one depending on your crock pot.

Once it has had a few minutes to rest up grab a pair of forks and shred the roast with them. Take any bones or bits of fat you see and give them to the dog, put all the meat into (or back into) your crock pot or Nesco cooker. Add the sauce we made yesterday. This takes patience to do right, but it’s worth it.

Good, just checking.

Anyhow, put the shredded meat into the slow cooker, stir in the sauce, and heat on low for anywhere from an hour or so to overnight, stirring occasionally.

The Servin’

Take a nice big roll and pile some BBQ on it, add some slaw on top and cover it up. Toss a pickle spear and some chips or fries on the side for an awesome meal.

 

Happy Holidays, Enjoy =)

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Thank You

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month the guns fell silent across europe. The Great War, or World War One as we were to later call it, had come to a close.

It was decided to mark that date as a reminder of the sacrifices of those who served their countries. Today is the ninety second anniversary of that day.

In the United States it is called Veterans Day.In other parts of the world it is known as Armistice day or Remembrance day, but the reasons for the day remain the same.

To honor those who would take it upon themselves to go into harms way so that others don’t have to, to stand the line saying “this far, no further”. To run towards danger while others run away.

I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to all the people, whatever their nationality, who have taken it upon themselves to defend their country, whichever it may be.

Simply by donning the uniform and doing your job you have earned my respect.

Even if the most dangerous thing you ever did was to fight off the crushing boredom of waiting for a battle that never came.

Thank you.

It’s worth your time

Good morning folks.

I am not here today to talk to you about my feelings on the most recent changes to World of Warcraft.

I am not going to go into how I have fallen out of love with the Hunter class, since it was changed so drastically, or what class my new Worgen will be come Cataclysm time. (Looking hard at a Druid at the moment.)

I am here to talk about something you can do to kill some time tomorrow during server maintenance.

I am here today to talk about politics.

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Now before you fast forward down to the comments section to flame-spray me for not talking about games hear me out.

I am not going to try to tell you how to vote.

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Ok, that’s not true. Actually I will tell you how to vote, or at least how I do it.

The machines that record the votes at my local polling place call for me to close a curtain, insert a card I was given, flip a toggle switch next to each candidate I am voting for, and then pull a lever.

Depending on which poll workers are on staff that day the next step may or may not be receiving an “I Voted” sticker, or possibly a cookie.

If your polling place uses those same style machines, I just told you how to vote, just not who to vote for. 

If they use something else you are on your own.

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And now for storytime.

Many moons ago, when I was taking civics in school, an interesting debate happened.

The professor was teaching what the book said. According to the text there were three branches of government. The Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches to be exact.

One of my classmates proceeded to argue that this was incorrect. This student was both an accomplished member of the debate team, and quite an intelligent fellow. On the occasions that he would get a debate session going with either the civics or world history teachers we knew we were in for a good day in class. 

On this particular day he argued that there was in fact a fourth branch of the government. He made the case that not only was this fourth branch a part of the government it was in fact the largest branch as well as the final check in the system of checks and balances.

The Electorate, those who vote.

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That day of sitting in class going back and forth about whether the Electorate is actually a part of the government or not has stayed with me for well over 20 years now. To this day I firmly believe that the student was right.

I am a part of the government, I am part of the Electorate.

In all seriousness I believe voting in every election from the President of my country to the neighborhood Alderman is not just my right, it’s my duty.

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Originally this part of the post was where I plugged in links to virtually every site I could find that compared the various candidates for office in tomorrows elections. Then I realized that some of those sites may be viewed as somewhat biased in the topics they chose to contrast.

To avoid any hard feelings, accusations of bias, or misunderstandings of my intent I pulled the entire section.

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Instead of a wall of links you can follow I am going to simply ask this of you.

Look up the parties and candidates you will be asked to choose from. 

Compare them, contrast them. Look at what they plan to do in the future, and at what they have done in the past.

There are quite a few websites, including most major news outlets, that have side by side comparisons of many of these candidates. In fact, those are what I considered linking.

As you read try to treat the whole process like it is an interview, and you are trying to pick the best person for the job based on their resume and work history.

Oddly enough, that is exactly what you are doing. Picking those that most closely match your vision of how things should be. We, as a group, are essentially hiring those that the majority of us  think will do the best job.

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One thing to make clear before I sign off.

I don’t care whether you choose to vote a straight party ticket, or even which one you choose.

I don’t care if you pick and choose individual candidates in each race.

I don’t even care if you do a write in vote for Mickey Mouse.

Just please, stop by the polls and cast your vote.

It’s your voice, your choice, and your duty.

It’s worth your time.

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My thoughts on Blizzcon

For starters, no I was not able to attend. In fact, I did not even get the live feed like I did last year.

For that I am profoundly grateful. Not that I did not attend mind you, I would truly have loved meeting up with everyone that was there. It would have been a blast.

Hell, I like the idea of a meetup enough that I might just go to a midnight launch instead of doing the direct download just to do so.

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I am grateful I did not spend the money to watch an event where the keynote presentation was about what it means to be a geek. Where I would have to spend hundreds of dollars and hours in line to get told these amazing truths about how playing with Transformers as a kid molded me into the mighty geek I am today.

There was very very little information to be had about things I care about within the game. I know I would have had a blast if I had been there, actually hanging out with some of the folks I only know through the web. On the other hand I would have felt kinda cheated by the live stream. To be honest, I was fine reading coverage of it on Twitter and various blogs in near-real time.

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When I was thinking about this I decided that I might very well try to get out there next year. Well, that’s  assuming I actually adapt to the post 4.0 Hunter and start having fun again before I give up completely.

If I go though, I won’t be going there for Blizzcon.

I would be going for the meet-ups and such that happen afterwards. If I want to see the action I will order the live stream and watch it from the comfort of my hotel room. It’s far cheaper, I won’t have to stand in any lines, and I am always guaranteed a seat where my 5’6″ self can actually see whats going on.

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More likely I would spend the days nappping and the nights out meeting people.

Thats what I would be taking the vacation to do anyway.

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Why are you reading this instead of playing SC2?

Hiyas,

If you havn’t heard from me in a while, there’s a reason for that. I was playing ball with my kids the other day when I demonstrated the fact that I am no longer a teenager. Hell, even my 30’s are behind me now.

In short, things went badly and I managed to really trash my knee.

Like torn MCL and possibly chipped and/or cracked femur trashed.

Like MRI’s and wondering wether it will start to knit on it’s own or wether I am looking at surgury trashed.

How does that effect the site?

Well, pretty much everything I had even partially written is sitting on a flash drive that is locked up at work.

Guess where I am not allowed to go for a while…

Anyhow, A while back I sent in a short bit of Starcraft related fiction for Big Bear Butt’s contest. The somewhat updated copy is sitting on the aforementioned flashdrive, but I was able to get the original from the “sent items” folder on my email account.

With Starcraft 2 launching today it seemed like as good a day as any to post it.

After all, BBB did suggest posting it. I learned a long time ago not to anger the bear. (then again that long ago Scoutmaster was telling us not to anger bears that might actually eat us, but I digress) 


In the original Starcraft everyone I ever played with had a favorite mission in the campaign version. Mine, particularly the first few times I played it, was ‘Desperate Alliance” from the Terran campaign. The objective? Still be alive in 30 minutes when the dropships came. I love a good defensive battle, especially against the Zerg.
 
Here is a little bit of something I put together about that mission. It is very very rough, only partially complete, and generally needs much polish. However today is the day Starcraft 2 is coming out so you get stuck with it as is. Hope you like it (or at least get a chuckle out of it)
 
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The moonless nights were as black as coal on the grey and desolate world on which they had found themselves. Sergeant Gideon recalled thinking how peaceful it seemed, not a bad assignment at all after some of the places he had plied his trade.
 
The world was a desert, or at least as much of it his men had seen. It was a great place to sit and watch the stars during your downtime. Funny thing about the stars, they always look so peaceful from far away, twinkling in the sky like diamonds. That was before he had started to travel them, now he knew he held few illusions about finding a distant paradise.
 
A few weeks ago things started to seem a bit off. First a few scouts and then an SCV had gone missing. Since then patrols had been stepped up and folks had been much more on edge. Second platoon was just coming back from a three day sweep of the area.
 
Three days walking through a desolate landscape without seeing anything that could explain the disappearances. Oh well, he thought, at least Don and Janice from mining control would be interested in the Vespane gas vent they had discovered. For once keeping radio silence made sense, he looked forward to seeing the looks on their faces as he showed them the vids he had taken.
 
Topping the rise Gideon lurched to a stop, taken aback by the scene before him. Supply buildings sat torn and melted, their contents littering the area. The barracks was nothing but a blackened shell. Flames rolled through great gashes in the sides of the command center. Broken vehicles littered the landscape.
 
Then there were the bodies.
 
Dozens of torn insectile bodies formed lines from the shattered ring of bunkers that had encircled the base all the way back to the ruins of the burning command center. Scattered here and there an armored figure or two lay motionless, weapons still close at hand.
 
Questions rolled around in his mind as he took in what remained of the base. With a trained eye he could follow the course of the battle that had been fought here. There had been no rout, and Charlie company had given much worse than it received.
 
“Corporal! Get me an uplink!” Gideon called.
 
“On it!” One of the armored figures separated from the group and headed to the wreck of a nearby ship.
 
Here and there came a dull thump as ammo stored in burning buildings and vehicles cooked off. Sergeant Gideon found himself wondering if having the second platoon gone had been just too much when the time came.  
 
In the flickering light of the fires that raged across the base three dozen armored men hunkered down, taking cover in the wreckage of a burned out line of siege tanks. They moved slowly, carefully, taking positions to guard themselves against the creatures that had done this.
 
 
“Tommy! You got that uplink working yet?” called the sergeant.
 
“Working on it boss… Got it!” called an armored figure from the wreckage of a nearby transport.
 
Static filled Gideon’s helmet speakers as the long range circuit came to life.
 
 
 
Pressing the transmit key he spoke slowly and carefully, far more calmly that he felt.
 
“Mayday, mayday.  This is research outpost one one four broadcasting in the clear. Any Terran unit please acknowledge…”
 
The static in his ears sputtered as a faint voice came on the line. “Outpost one one four, this is Mar Sara admin. What is your situation?”
 
“Returned from patrol to find outpost one one four destroyed, no survivors. Requesting airlift for my patrol, myself and thirty-five others.”
 
“Roger that one one four, diverting a transport to your location, eta two hours.” Crackled the speaker, faintly.
 
As he was speaking he began to notice something. Here and there the firelight began to reflect from the tops of the ridges on both sides of the valley.
 
Eyes… Hundreds and hundreds of eyes.
 
A hundred or more Zerg came pouring over the ridge tops like waves cresting near the shoreline. The firelight glinted off of countless claws and carapaces as they swarmed towards the marines.
 
The guns of the second platoon came to life, beating out a staccato sound of flying metal. Dozens of Zerg screamed and crumpled, adding their bodies to the piles already littered about.
 
As he started squeezing off rounds himself Gideon hit transmit once again.
 
“Mar Sara. Broken Arrow, I say again Broken Arrow. One one four is being overrun. Request immediate evac.”
 
“Sorry one one four, two hours is the best I can do.”  Said the voice on the radio, unconcernedly.
 
Seconds later the long range link sputtered and hissed in his ears. “One one four, this is Arcturus Mengsk. The Sons of Korhal are nearby with two dropships. Your call, we can be there in a half hour.”
 
“Roger that Mengsk, bring ‘em in.” Called Gideon.
 
Keying his mike over to the platoon freq Gideon called out. “Thirty minutes till evac people. Take cover in the wreckage and hold what you got. Watch your ammo. One shot, one kill, make it last!”

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Blizzard likes Farmville, too bad we are the sheep

I am pretty sure that this will be my last post about Real ID and it’s implementation into the forums.

EDIT: Blizzard has since announced that real names will not be required on the forums. Also I do not plan to quit the game at this time. I am removing all the other hasitly written edits to this post in an effort to make it half assed legible again. Anything else on this topic will be rolled into its own post.

Not because I don’t have anything more to say after this, but because the next thing I say will be goodbye. Actually I had a long talk with my kids that possibility yesterday and we all agreed that would be the next logical step.

Just as an FYI Blizzard, even a couple of WoW loving teenagers like mine can see how monumentally stupid this is. They are willing to quit as well, and are simply waiting for me to make the call when to pull the trigger on all our accounts.

The thing with that is that Blizzard could care less.

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The conversation, particularly with my son, got me to doing a lot of thinking on this.

Not about how stupid it is, because it’s not stupid. We just see it from the wrong point of view.

Not about how people are going to get hurt, or even how likely a few will die as a direct result.

There was one question my son asked that flipped a light switch in the part of my brain that loves making buckets of gold in the auction house.

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He simply asked “Why are they doing this?”

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Such a simple question, and yet not.

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Blizzard is not doing this to clean up the forums, that could be done in a dozen or more ways that have nothing to do with compromising the identities of its player base.

It also has nothing to do with the evil genius at the helm of Activision-Blizzard sitting in his office twirling his mustache while figuring out new ways to hurt his customers.

In the world of business, especially big money business, it simply does not work like that.

This is about money, and lots of it.

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Businesses make their money by keeping their customers happy.

What  a lot of people don’t realize (or choose to forget) is that the player is not the customer.

The players of Blizzard games (or any company’s games for that matter) are no more the customer than the sheep are the shepherds customer.

They are the resource, the source of the profit.

You, me, my kids, everyone that plays the game are just part of Blizzards vast herd of sheep.

Like the sheep, players need to be fed and maintained just enough shiny new things to keep us nice and docile so that we are still around, still making wool (or paying $15 a month as the case might be).

The stockholders of the company are the real customers.

When you are wondering why in the hell they come up with ideas remember a lot depends on your point of view.

Just as a Shepard would gladly feed a few sheep to the wolves if it ment getting thousands more in return, so Blizzard has no problem losing a few of its long term customers in exchange for a whole lot of new ones.

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The thing to ask is that knowing how many of their sheep they expect to lose, and knowing that the creation and implementation of this is going to cost them considerable capital, not just in cash and loss of developer time but also loss of  goodwill and bad press,  why do it?

What are they gaining?

How does this benefit the customer?

Show me how this makes them money, because that my friends is what is the driving force behind this.

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I know that somewhere, likely in a meeting room in Irvine, the decision to enter social media was made.

Someone standing at the head of a table, likely near a Powerpoint projector, convinced a group of people that this would make the company a profit.

I can see that somewhere the decision to gather all of the gamers that play Blizzard games under one banner was made.

Someone, maybe even the same one, convinced the powers that be that this would generate revenue as well.

I can see the company intentionally making it harder (and i predict it getting ever harder) to keep your gaming separate from any other internet presence you might have.

This like everything else was approved at a board meeting and expected to turn a profit.

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The big question here is not whether Real ID is good or bad.

Just like forcing people to put their real name out there, to essentially out themselves as gamers, is not the issue.

It is in fact the desired result.

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Blizzard is, in my opinion, attempting to overcome the social stigma in this country against gaming and gamers in general. They are doing this by slowly (though not slowly enough, some of the sheep are noticing) becoming one with social media.

That is why they partnered with Facebook.

That is why there are IPhone apps.

That’s why Ozzy played Blizzcon.

That is why Mr. T is still on my television tossing mohawk grenades, and why William Shatner is casting chain lighting.

That, my friends, does not come free.

Blizzard is paying good money to try to make its games more and more mainstream.

How do they see that investment paying off?

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I  believe that this has very little to do with World of Warcraft as a franchise, or even with the Starcraft series of games. I believe that we are starting to see glimpses of are shadows what the Next Gen MMO they are creating has in store for us.

We can’t see the game, but you can see it’s influence like ripples on a pond tell you something disturbed the waters.

The next generation game is going to try to capture the social media crowd as well, and will likely be partially integrated into Facebook. I don’t know how they plan to implement it, I don’t know what the game will be, and I don’t know exactly when it will happen.

But I am not fool enough to think Blizzard doesn’t want to harness the Farmville crowd as well. After all, they have proven very adept at herding sheep.

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Don’t honestly tell me you thought they entered into a partnership with Facebook just because they wanted to do an export friends list feature. 

They partnered with Facebook to make money. That is what businesses do.

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Just like the ripples in the pond told me something made a splash, I can see ripples of corporate policy coming through in some of what is happening.

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Those ripples tell me that social media is the way they are headed, and noting we can say or do is going to stop it.

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In fact, I can guarantee you that on that Powerpoint slide show was a graph.

A graph that showed how many of us old timers they plan to feed to the wolves, and how many more new sheep they will get in return.

Someone smiled when they looked at that graph, said “Let’s do this” and then went and bought the speaker a cup of coffee.

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Just another day at the office.

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