Monthly Review, March 2022

Padre Island National Seashore

Hey, third month in a row! This might just become a habit, after all.

Health

The beginning of the month felt a little rough, body-wise. The whole pandemic thing hasn’t been great for me (or, you know, anybody), and I feel like I’m still physically recovering from the long bouts of isolation and depression over the last couple of years. I don’t know if I got a touch of long covid or anything, but I’ve been more exhausted than usual, my breathing sucks, and I’m always just kind of bleh feeling. I backslid on my don’t-eat-all-the-sugar diet, and ate all the sugar for a couple of days, and that just fucked me all kinds of up. But, I’m back on it, feeling better overall, and the giant stack of pills I take every day seem to be doing their jobs, so that’s good. Oh, and apparently milkshakes are totally devastating for me now, boooo.

I haven’t been exercising as much as I should, but I got as good a thumbs up as I could expect from the dentist, just a little filling next month, so, whew.

Work

Same as always, at the working end of the big fullstack bootcamp machine. Took my class through the first two phases of javascript and react — a bit more than half of them made it past the first bit, and all but one passed phase two, so I think I’m down to ten-ish students from twenty-one at the beginning of the cohort. That’s good for me — it lets me spend more time with each student, give them more support and a better experience, and so on — but I’m still struggling with the fact that we’re kind of straddling a line between “we’re going to teach you everything you need to know to become a developer” and “if you don’t come in with a particular set of skills already, you’re going to have a rough go of it”. We should be either giving them better pre-work and assessments to enter the program to let them hit the ground running, or dramatically alter the structure of what we do (and the length of the program) to be more inclusive and allow people to genuinely come in with nothing and build up from there. Either way, there are a lot of flaws with the way we’re teaching folks, and with the way we’re assessing the things we teach, but like I said, I’m on the ass end of the whole process, and my technical knowledge and experience with teaching sadly have little effect on any of that. So, gonna do the best I can do with what we’ve got, I guess.

The instructors (but not the lecturers?) also had to take a day off for a “personal development day”, which is either not at all what you would expect, or worse than you think it is. Most of the day was people reading their slide decks to us on topics that most of us are already fully immersed in, so, massive waste of time and resources, and frankly, a bit insulting. But, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Since most of my time there is spent only interacting with my dozen or two students, it’s easy for me to forget that we’re just a tiny appendage on a mid-sized company, and companies are monsters. I’m not gonna go into any details, but it gets pretty rough. But, getting paid is good, so here I am.

Home

The long-term home repair projects continue. I haven’t drawn up a big multi-year budget for this or anything yet, so I’ve got to keep an eye on my bank account while I set these up, but they’ve got to get done sooner or later, so I’ll figure it out one way or another.

The two biggies this month were getting a bunch of trees trimmed back (for the first time in… like eight years?) and getting my roof replaced/repaired. That was… a lot. Hopefully that’s going to be the biggest single expense in one shot, fingers crossed. The work was all fine, and most of it happened while we were out of town, so it wasn’t super disruptive. I jumped on the roof first because going top down seems to be a good strategy, and I called a critter removal service out a few weeks earlier, and he said that the roof was so messed up that there was no way that he could do anything that would be effective until everything got fixed. So… he’s next on the list now.

Oh yeah, and the only attic access was in the closet in the back office, which is always a pain to get into, so I cut a hole in my ceiling by the door in the front office and installed another access panel. That took longer than I thought it would, because my stud finder neglected to find the stud running right across the middle of the hole, so I had to cut that out, and run some 2x4s for bracing around it — those are probably 45-ish year old beams up there, and they are rock solid. So, that’s done, I had to do the trim twice because apparently you can’t cut things longer, but I wound up making my own trim out of some old 1x2s I had lying around and routed them to look pretty, so that was fun. That’s one of the advantages of owning a house instead of renting — if I want to fuck up my ceiling by just cutting a hole in it whenever I want, I can!

I also started cleaning out the wood shop a bit, so I can actually do some stuff in there again. I build a shed out front to keep all my reclaimed and usable scrap wood in, so it’s not just taking up valuable space in the ten by fifteen storage hole that I crammed a workshop into. My first project (aside from the ceiling hole stuff) was a little squirrel picnic table for my friend Stephanie, so hopefully I’ll find some more time to get down there and get back at it.

Games

This feels like it’s been a pretty light month for making things, but that’s why I do these — both to remind myself that I did actually do stuff, and keep myself accountable if I wind up not doing the things I want to do.

First, I released a bunch of old maps on itch: an index card dungeon project, some older full-size dungeon maps, and a bunch of geomorph tiles I did a while back. These are all around 2013-ish vintage, so… they’re fine. I just wanted them out there for folks to use if they like.

The main thing I spent time picking at this month was writing up the Powered by Moose and Squirrel SRD. Inspired by Epidiah’s twitter thread on the matter, I picked up a copy of the Bullwinkle and Rocky Party Role-Playing Game and gave it a look-through. It’s actually pretty brilliant — I’d heard about it before, but never really gave it much through past “oh, that’s a funny thing”. Epi breaks down a bunch of things that are great about it, and I thought the idea of an SRD (system resource document, a barebones version of the rules that other people can build on) based on the system would be amazing, and nobody else seemed to be picking up on it, so if I wanted it to be a thing, I’d have to do it myself, so I did! (See also Epi’s thread about how it’d be a perfect system for a Soulslike RPG.)

Of course, the game is still under copyright, and the Rocky and Bullwinkle IP is nowhere close to available, so I did my best to strip out the mechanics without touching anything that might be in violation. I obviously couldn’t do a full clean-room version of it, but I think it came out pretty good, hitting all the bits and pieces while keeping the tone of the game. It still needs a fair bit of editing, so I’ve started on one or two little PbMaS games based on available properties — Winnie-the-Pooh just entered the public domain this year, and those stories are absolutely charming and wonderful, so I’ve got an early draft of a game for that, and another that I don’t have cleared yet, so we’ll see how that goes. Maybe next month?

(I fell into a bit of a slump in the latter half of the month, writing-wise, but I feel like that’s a good start. We’ll see what April brings.)

Playing-wise, I played and my usual weekly games — The Between on Friday evenings (follow our stream!) and Stars in the Dark on Saturday mornings. They’re both so good, I’m so happy to have found groups of such great players to play with consistently.

I also got into a couple of Trophy Gold games on the Gauntlet — the Anchor of Fohn and the Sea of Dust. I really like the Trophy games, and I’ve played and run them a bunch, but I still feel like I’m getting my head around them in some ways. Like, I’ve got the mechanics down, and I know how the flow of incursions and sets and whatnot work, but it feels like there’s some piece of clunk in there that isn’t quite clicking for me. (Which I should work out, because I have a space bounty hunter hack of TG mostly written, so I guess I’ll have to keep playing!)

I also played Back Again From the Broken Land with the designer as part of the gauntlet’s open gaming weekend, and that was lovely. (I’d also signed up for a game of Lancer that fell through — I really want to play that sometime soon.) Again, this month felt a little light, game-wise, even though I had on average two or three games a week. This is part of my ADHD brain feeling like I’m overwhelmed with things to do all the time, while actually not doing as many things as I’d like (yay, executive dysfunction), so I just need to try to keep my expectations at a reasonable level and just be cool about it, i guess.

Finally, the biggest thing was that I winnowed out over five hundred board games from my collection (see above), which is about half of them, packed them into twenty-five medium moving boxes, and shipped them off to Noble Knight Games to sell. That was… a lot. I haven’t gotten a quote back from them yet, and again, I’m trying to set my expectations appropriately, but it still should be a good little chunk of change. (That will immediately get sunk back into home repairs, sigh.) I’ve still got a room with shelves on both walls literally overflowing with games that I’m not playing, but at least they’re a bit more manageable now, and I can actually walk through the room without tripping over piles of crap.

Media

Things I’ve watched:

  • Severance (a horrifyingly too-real sci-fi-ish office thriller, one of the best things I’ve watched in a while)
  • Our Flag Means Death (Taika Waititi’s adventure romantic pirate comedy series about Stede Bonnet and Blackbeard, whoops, I mean this is the best thing I’ve watched in an even longer while)
  • Free Guy (fun, but forgettable vr/gta comedy with Ryan Reynolds)
  • Season 2 of Upload (same as above — fun, forgettable, vr/afterlife comedy)
  • Firebringer (a weirdly catchy low-production musical from the group that did the H⚡️P thing a while back)
  • Fetchin the Crown (a play by Chris Fontanes/Bottle Alley, their first at the Vortex theater)

I’m gonna count VR games as “media”, I guess. We played our usual Saturday morning rounds of Walkabout Golf, Cook-Out: A Sandwich Tale, Demeo (a bit), and Ragnaröck. That last one is still giving me lots of good daily exercise, too — my watch seems to think that half an hour of playing virtual drums is the same as running a mile and change, and I’m not gonna tell it any different.

Other Stuff

I’d planned a surprise date for Nic and I at Peter Pan Mini Golf nearby, but I planned badly. It was a Saturday night not too long before the hordes descended upon us for SXSW, so it was too packed to even think about parking there, and nobody looked like they were mask-wearers, so we bailed and went looking for something else. We tried a few different places, with similar luck, until we wound up at Pinballz for a bit, which was a ton of fun, and then grabbed a little bit of candy for dessert at Toy Joy (see my sugar crisis, above), and that was great. It’s really nice to be able to do stuff like that with them, nobody losing their shit about plans being ruined, and not having to have a perfect date go right to save the relationship or anything. (I have no idea what that feeling is like. *cough*) Anyway, it was great.

A couple weeks later, Nic and I took a little “vacation” trip down to Padre Island and Port Aransas for a week or so. It’s a three or four hour drive, but it really doesn’t feel like it for some reason. I drove most of the way, but I still get my weird high bridge vertigo thing, so Nic took over for the last/first little bits getting on and off the islands. They set up an airbnb for us on Padre, so we checked out the national seashore parks and toodled around a bit, but we were kind of in a little desert village there, and there wasn’t much for Nic to walk to during the day, so we eventually moved to another airbnb in Port A, and then a hotel when that one ran our a day earlier than we expected, whoopsie. I was still working all week, so I mostly just hung out inside during the days while Nic looked at birds and stuff, but we did get to have some pretty okay food (shout out to my man Colton at Stingray’s) and finally play some pirate-themed mini golf (in the real world, instead of VR for once), so it was a nice change of scenery for a bit.

After the trip, we braved an impromptu dinner at Loro here nearby, which was fine. The food was pretty good, not too super expensive, and although it was … you know, the way it is, and there wasn’t a lot of masking going on, we managed to sit outside away from the bulk of it, and had a fine little time.

The chickens are still cute and sweet, but they got pretty stressed when they think that they have to sit on a week’s worth of eggs while we were gone. So. Many. Eggs.

I took Pai to some school things — she’s doing some prep work doing painting and making props for the upcoming prom (which she is dreading), and went to a thing with her where some folks from the University of Nottingham tried to get kids from her school to go there for college. It sounded pretty cool, actually, and Pai seemed like she might be into it, but we’ll see how she feels in three or four years, i guess.

Plans

Oh, man, plans. Okay. Mostly the same day-to-day—going to work, playing my weekly RPGs and VR games, etc. Oh! I’m going to try some intermittent fasting for the month of April. Nothing too extreme, just limiting my eating hours from noon to 8pm. We’ll see how it feels, and go from there.

I’m also signed up for a MIG welding class at Asmbly, which I’m really looking forward to. Aaaand, yeah. I’ve got some game projects and other stuff I’m poking at, but no solid “plan” for any of them, so I’m just gonna poke at the stuff and see what comes out. I should sign up to run (and play) some more games on the Gauntlet, too, so, yeah, put that on the list.

House-wise, I’ve got the critter guy coming by again, and then I guess I need to figure out what comes next. Probably attic insulation and then, ugh, maybe looking at replacing the windows and doors with stuff that isn’t single-pane and full of holes? Sure, okay, why not. That’s probably super cheap, right?

RIGHT?

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Teacher, Game Designer, Performer, Developer, all the things.

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Marc Majcher

Marc Majcher

Teacher, Game Designer, Performer, Developer, all the things.

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