March 5, 2008

Gary Gygax goes to a Higher Plane

Posted in Fatherhood, Life in Los Angeles, Role Playing Games, Teaching, World of Warcrack at 4:15 pm by loolar

I certainly owe a tremendous debt to Gygax for giving my science fiction/fantasy adolescent mind an outlet; or perhaps he owes me thousands of hours of my life back – either way, I would be remiss if not marking his passing.

I rarely get to roleplay anymore; it seems that with children, most of us who can run a game just don’t have the time to plan it. And most of us have ceased to play the Wizards of the Coast update to the TSR classic rules anyway, preferring home-brewed systems light on mechanics and heavy on flavor. Additionally, World of Warcraft has become a surrogate of sorts, since I still get to see most of the group online.

That said, I’ve been engaging in roleplaying in one form or another since my early teens, which I am forced to admit means in excess of 25 years now (kindly don’t do the math). I actually look forward to teaching my son the idea when he’s old enough, the same way I taught my younger brother. I still believe the game prompts creativity and literary hunger, and anything that gets kids to read is okay with me.

In honor, I’m linking a fun Salon article, mostly for the video at the end – a Warcraft inspired take on “Mahna Mahna” as made famous by the Muppets. For those not in the know, ROTFLMAO means rolling on the floor laughing my ass off; the other gibberish sung by the main character are similarly-inspired bits of email, chat, text and video game words, or “leet speak” (l33t for “elite”).

January 19, 2008

What gives with the stink at John Harvard’s brew pub?

Posted in Fatherhood, Other Stuff at 10:08 pm by loolar

It just goes to show they’re right – you should always ask Dad first.

One Sunday last November, I was in Boston with some friends for a wedding. We were enjoying the football games at John Harvard’s brewery in Harvard Square, for a nostalgic trip to one of our former favorite haunts (all but one of us has since moved away; the remaining holdout now lives far out in the burbs).

Our experience was marred, however, by the apparent stink of manure that periodically wafted through the bar. After repeatedly checking our shoes, we dismissed it as a possible by-product of the local mounted police, brought in whenever the door opened.

I asked my dad (former brewmaster at a brew pub in Ohio), and he immediately recognized the issue. It seems that, after brewing a batch, if you leave the spent grain (the barley) around for a few days (after essentially accelerating the decomposition of the grain by using it to create the wort), it starts the stink up the place – really badly.

And the stink may be pretty close to what we mistook for manure, since you’ve essentially done the same thing to the grain that a horse/cow digestive tract would – brew it in a moisture bath, leaching out the sugars that can be metabolized, leaving behind bacterial waste and spent, indigestible fiber (a few days exposed to air takes care of the bacterial part of the equation).

He says they never brewed on Friday or Saturday if they couldn’t be sure they could get the grain hauled away (usually by a pig farmer), because the smell only took a day or two to develop. So he surmised that they did a brew on Friday, and we got the benefits of it on Sunday.

I’m sure you’ll all sleep better now that this mystery has been put to rest.

December 14, 2007

Christmas Cards and my friend’s kids I’ve never met

Posted in Fatherhood, Life in Los Angeles at 6:06 pm by loolar

Treading on thin ice here – about to offend friends, family, assorted loved ones, etc. Days like this should be savored. Probably spit out, actually.

But hey, when you gotta blog, you gotta blog.

<Rant on>

Today we opened five Christmas cards sent by friends and family (and clearly people far more organized than we). All five shared this same quality – the card was a picture of their kid(s). Not the whole family. Just the kid(s).

Now, don’t get me wrong – being a father of a certain wonderful one year-old, I definitely understand the pride and joy thing. But I also understand that I’m a bit biased in this regard; i.e., I don’t have any illusions that anyone else cares as much as I do (read: gives a shit).

And yet, here’s this new tradition of sending out personalized Christmas cards consisting only of the children of the family. Unless the cards are going to your kid’s friends (or, let’s face it, grandparents – they don’t want to see any more of you, anyway; you fulfilled your purpose), what in Rudolph’s Red Nosed boogers is the point of leaving out the people I know?

Understand, friends and family and loved ones, I say all this only with deep and heartfelt love and lemon drop kisses, etc., but I don’t know these kids. In many cases, I’ve never actually even MET these kids. The person I know – and miss – and would love to see a recent photo of, and I promise not to snort holiday cheer out my nose when I guffaw about your receding and gray hair and extra padding, trust me – is, y’know, the person I actually know.

Sure, put your kids in the picture with you; makes total sense (and isn’t that charming). But in the same way your kid doesn’t want to get Christmas cards with my picture, why in Scrooge’s shorts do you think I want to get a picture of your kid?

</Rant off>

Tidings of comfort and joy.

December 10, 2007

TOYS R US invades my privacy

Posted in Customer Lack of Service, Fatherhood, Life in Los Angeles, Toys at 8:54 pm by loolar

Toys R Us attempted to invade our privacy this last weekend.

So on Saturday, Catherine and Logan and I attended a birthday party for the son of our friends, who is about Logan’s age (i.e., just turned one).

A pleasant surprise was that one of the attendees remembered that Logan had just celebrated his birthday, and so presented us with a gift – a $25 gift card to Toys R Us.

Another thing we encountered was that most of the other kids, all a month older or younger than Logan, were already walking, while our son is still a crawler. The mother of the birthday boy showed us his “shoes,” little leather slipper type things with an elastic band. They stay on easily, and provide good feedback through the soles as the little feet are still figuring out how to stay up. We thought they looked like a great solution, especially since our day care center has just told us shoes are required at his new age bracket.

So on the way home, we decided to stop in at Toys R Us and see if we couldn’t find those shoes. Success! Two pairs, at $12.99 each (turns out they were on sale, $3.90 off, for $9.09). We grabbed two pairs and a pack of socks and got into line.

The guy ahead of us used his credit card to pay, and the cashier asked him for his phone number. Interesting, I thought – didn’t they used to ask for the zip code? Well, either way, I knew I would decline to participate. For one thing, I don’t appreciate sharing personal information in front of strangers (the others in line behind us), and for another, a zip code is bad enough – but a phone number? Why would they need that? I shrugged it off as perhaps something to do with his credit card.

Our items scanned in at $25.08 – just 8 cents more than the gift card. Oh well, I break out a buck and hand it to him. Politely, he takes it. The rest of the exchange needs to be given verbatim:

TRU Employee (TRUE?): Thanks. And I need your phone number.

Me: Oh. Well, I decline, thanks.

TRUE: No, I need it.

Me: I’m sorry?

TRUE: I need your phone number to finish the transaction.

Me: Well, I don’t want to give it to you.

TRUE: It’s not me; it’s the computer – it won’t let me finish without a phone number.

Me: For eight cents? Fine… five five five…

(you saw that one coming, right?)

TRUE (interrupting): Yeah, it won’t accept that.

(so this policy has pissed off enough people that so many customers have already tried giving the information number, to the point where this poor minimum wage sap has a reflex reaction to it?)

Man behind me: They want your phone number?

Me: Yeah, he says the computer won’t do the transaction without it.

Man: Unreal.

Man’s wife: Just give them my work number.

Man: Yeah, it’s 661-(I don’t remember the rest, but it was a suitably neutral sounding switchboard number, e.g., ending in a bunch of the same number).

And so we got out of there. I was honestly considering if we were going to walk out when they intervened.

Toys R Us is getting more and more obnoxious.

Our last nightmare experience was how they refused to take certain returns if the items had been bought online (we encountered this trying to return items from our registry on Babies R Us – extras, duplicates, etc.). Not only would they not take “web only” items, we were informed we would have to pay to ship them back, and that the merchandise credit would go to the person who had bought the gift – not us!

What moronic, sub-human, worm-brained, feces-chewing, sniveling twit thought this was remotely customer friendly – and what boob manager approved the idea?

We were faced with returning a $200 crib that would have cost us $75 to ship, and the credit would have gone to the person who gave it to us, not only giving us nothing in return, but embarrassing us to the generous party who had bought it. Yes, we had the baby registry, yes, the item had been bought through our registry, yes, we could prove who we were – and yet still, in an attempt at “fraud protection,” we were treated like so much dirt.

As for this latest twist of imbecilic idiocy, what possible reason can there be for demanding my phone number? Further identity verification in the case of an attempted return? If I have a valid receipt, why isn’t that enough? And for the guy with the credit card, why isn’t his credit card and the receipt enough (or his zip code matching his billing address?)

My zip code, I can see (though still can’t abide), as they try to see where their customers are coming from. But my phone number?

Simply unacceptable. I’d love to hear some comments on this – but my feeling is that we’re done shopping with Toys R Us.