The Doom That Came to Cowtown

Mixed Feelings
I rejoined Weight Watchers a few weeks ago. Well, technically I never quit, I just skipped going to meetings for several months. Anyway, I knew I was up a lot but I also knew that if I looked at the numbers, I'd get depressed (I make despairing remarks about my weight all the time, but getting slapped in the face with the facts always crushes me). So I resolved to go, and to just have them tell me if I was up or down. Provided I was constantly going down in weight, I could feel good about myself without having to see how Jabba-like I've become.

This worked until this week, when - out of the corner of my eye - I saw that they added a star to my weight record. So I looked. I'm down five pounds since returning. Yay me! Except, I'm down to 255.5, which means I was actually ten pounds heavier when I restarted than I thought I was. I'm currently five pounds higher than my estimate. Boo!

So I'm not sure how to feel about all that. It's a little like running for an hour only to reach the starting gate. Sure, it's an accomplishment, but it sure is discouraging.

In other fitness news, I've decided to do the Victoria half-marathon again. Given how close it is in time and proximity to this fall's trip to Leavenworth, I think it's a reasonable goal. Plus, thirty weeks of training for a half-marathon can't help but bring me down to where I can believe someone would find me attractive.

Incidentally, my lowest adult weight was when I went to the UK eight years ago. I've been steadily gaining since then. Maybe when I go to the UK five weeks from now, I'll find where I lost my fitness mojo and bring it back to Canada with me.

Two Computer Gaming Ideas
An actual picture of me.
Two ideas. One is likely already a thing. The second... well, we'll leave it for last.

While attending the Gaming Controversies panel, people touched on the idea of customizable characters. Now this has been a thing for awhile now, but the point the audience member wanted to make was "if you customize your character into a sexual stereotype - is that on you or the developer?". Are developers obligated to be inclusive, or should they respond to market forces? I'm of the opinion that that's not necessarily an either/or scenario. We can be biased while simultaneously ignoring "the market" - i.e. making toys needlessly gender specific when the kids don't care; then using that data to "prove" that girls like pink dolls and boys like blue trucks. Besides, "the market" isn't the be-all-and-end-all of metrics.

The commenter pointed out that one game had a "sexiness" trait that one could use to customize your character. It sounds like it basically increased boob size on the women. Not sure what it would do to the men. Given the number of women I know who appreciate any Marvel actor named "Chris", while simultaneously liking bishōnen, I'm not sure what it would modify. Penis size? Hard to show in a PG game, I imagine.

Why not have your modifiable skills and attributes, in turn, modify your characters appearance, rather than changing their looks directly. You want a stronger character, they look more buff. Smarter? Better choices of dialog. Have the sprites reflect actual morphology. Fast characters look like sprinters; agile ones look like gymnasts, strong ones look like weightlifters or bodybuilders.

As I mention above, I'd be surprised if someone hasn't attempted this already, though maybe not to the extreme I'm describing.

Second idea: Let's say you're playing a Halo-like game where the character is always wearing full body armor. You finish the game and it's time for the big reveal as you stand atop a mountain of vanquished foes as a the sun breaks over the horizon. You pull off your helmet to reveal... A manly white man with blue eyes and a strong jaw!

Assume the game doesn't suck; it gets rave reviews and becomes a best seller.

After the first month, things change. Now there's a random chance they'll get manly white man, or a black woman, or an effeminate Asian man, etc. In fact, all of the visible character traits of the character's face can change. Maybe they're ugly, maybe they're plain or have one eye, or they're tatted up, or have piercings. Their skin and eyes come in any naturally occurring human variation; their hair could be anything under the rainbow. Maybe have ten or so diverse characters with unique looks and back story that players could access online.

Why not do this from the start? Because it needs to get past that initial promotional/review stage with none the wiser. The reveal should be a surprise to the people who could use a little surprise in their lives.

The players have a feedback option that includes "I'd like to complain about how the main character looks in the finale". They click the button, which opens a MessageBox:

For the last 60+ hours, you've played a genetically enhanced super soldier wearing powered battle armor in the far future. Does it really matter what they look like underneath?
No game designer would ever do it of course, because profits. Still, I can dream.

And if they wanted to play it again, they could do so, choosing a character they haven't played yet.

CCEE 2015 Impressions, Part 4 - Boobies, Joy, Exhaustion... I'm Spent.
An actual picture of me.
Saturday was the best day of CCEE so far, with only the faintest whiff of bullshit. But let's not dwell on that.

I am a little in awe of the huge amount of talented people at this convention. The costumes were gorgeous, the panel discussions informative, the big guests were uniformly funny and entertaining, and everyone I talked to was a joy to be with.

I managed to break my fear of talking to people long enough to chat (briefly) with several artists and get their autographs. I got a book from Jennie Breeden, Danielle Corsetto, Bruce Timm signed, and a print from Laurie B!.

It was only later when I realized that every single book involved nudity or outright porn. Which is odd since I kind of lamp-shaded it with wendy_licious the day before.

"I want to get a naughty book signed by one of the creators. Can I get you to stand next to me so that she doesn't correctly identify me a solitary, middle-aged, basement-dwelling, pervert?"
"Of course."
All in all, it went smoothly, which says a lot about their experience with fans, rather than my level of nervousness.

Later I saw Q&A sessions with some of the big guests of the show: Steven Amell, Ming-Na Wen and Brett Dalton.

Steven Amell was the third celebrity at expo to surprise me with their normal voice. He sounds like Oliver Queen in all of the "Flashback Island" sequences on the show. He was funny and gracious and a good sport with some of the more outré fan requests. Best question/answer:

"Are you as good an archer as Oliver Queen?"
"I've been practicing since we started production, so I'm getting better. Steven Amell is not as good as Oliver Queen, but he's better than Hawkeye."
I howled.

Ming-Na Wen and Brett Dalton were both fun. They bantered with each other very well. And Ming is a lot of fun, in total contrast to her Agents of SHIELD character (That's why they call it acting). Best line from a panel full of great lines? This one:

"Brett has the smallest bladder in the cast."
"What can I say, I like to stay hydrated"
I tweeted that and it ended up being the single biggest retweet I've ever written. Unfortunately, it (the quote, not my tweet) lead to a number of pee-related questions.

As an aside, I was thinking that Ming was astonishingly good looking for a 40-year old. Turns out I was wrong - she's 51. Damn.

Finally, there was the costume contest. It was a showcase of fantastic workmanship, even in the novice and youth categories! Like I said above - I'm a little in awe. And also kind of sad that I have no crafting talent whatsoever.

While the judges were off judging, they had an Iron-Costumer contest (which, if you're familiar with Iron Chef, you should know exactly what the contestants were in for). That is a great idea, and is exactly the sort of costuming-related shenanigans that will keep the target audience around for the time it takes the judges to do their thing.

I was taking crappy-ass pictures with my phone for the first quarter of the contest, until I realized that I was focusing so much on getting the picture, I wasn't really enjoying the costumes. Since there were professional-grade photographers all around me (I imagine some even work for CCEE), I decided to shut the phone off and just watch. If I want to see pictures later, there'll be better ones online than the ones on my phone. I'll know better next time.

After the expo closed, I grabbed a car2go and joined some friends for sushi.

CCEE 2015 Impressions, Part 3: A Turd in the Punchbowl
An actual picture of me.
One of the Saturday panels I was on was Gaming Controversies. I went hoping to hear something lucid about Gamergate and it's ilk. In fact, the panel was a bit deeper than that, though it was concerned with it.

I haven't linked to any Gamergate synopsis. Let's just go with misogynistic douchebags think that they're the victim when people object to them being misogynistic douchebags. They lash out at anyone who doesn't enthusiastically endorse their campaign to silence any woman with an opinion on the internet.

The panel was given by a collection of academics who studied Gaming culture. They were interested in how abusive online interaction occurs, what triggers it, and the ramifications of it. Others were more concrete in that they were focused on some of the issues directly (for example, sexual tropes in gaming, hence gamergate).

The panel itself was OK. The problem was that each of the panelists had a different focus, and by the time they each had introduced themselves and given their opening speech, we had used up 30 minutes of the 45 minute talk. It could have benefitted from either a unified approach, more time, or both.

During the Q&A period, one fellow got up and wanted the panelists to address how Social Justice Warriors were quashing dissent and censoring people. This was such a warped statement that it gave my brain that chewing-on-tinfoil sensation. In fact, it was so fractally wrong that I couldn't immediately come up with a proper rebuttal - I couldn't load enough information into one statement to encompass everything.

I tweeted about it and got a response from some jerk who wanted to Sea Lion me. I engaged briefly and then remembered that I had better things to do. Enjoying the rest of the expo for example.

I later learned that there was an organized bunch of GG assholes that decided to "infiltrate" the expo and got their asses kicked out the day before. I imagine the guy at the panel was a supporter - albeit not enough to show his solitarity by leaving the expo (and I wholeheartedly encourage any Gamergate supporters to boycott CCEE - vote with your wallets, misogynistic douchebags). Good on CCEE for doing that - not much point having a zero tolerance for abuse policy if you don't enforce it.

CCEE 2015 Impressions, Part 2
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Day 2 started with some good news, wendy_licious wanted to buy my spare VIP pass! Yay, con buddy! A quick trip to her work to pass it off and I was off to Expo.

The first noteworthy thing is that Friday is not Thursday - there were a lot more people on the floor of the Roundup Centre today than yesterday - I was lulled into a false sense of security there.

A few patterns emerged. First, I tend to peer over everyone, not making eye-contact. Partially this is just taking advantage of my height to take everything in. The down side is that almost every person I've run into so far has basically had to walk up to me wave in my face. I literally did not see any of them while they were trying to get my attention.

Similarly, my hearing continues to be superhuman under conditions of no white noise, and absolute shit in the din of a crowded room, as evidenced by the people above who were yelling my name.

I also put together a few mental quirks while discussing my reluctance to talk to any of the artists/celebrities.

"I never know what to say. I can't just walk up to them and say 'I love your stuff', that's hardly original."
"Why do you need to be original - artists love having their work validated."
"Really?!? They don't find compliments to be profoundly embarassing?"
"Why would they think that?"
"I do."
All this while talking to someone I know at a booth that was right beside a web cartoonist I really like.

I managed to miss the Parade of Wonders (it was Downtown, and I had some weird notion that it would end at the Stampede Grounds). OTOH, there were so many people cosplaying at the event that you didn't need to see the parade.

Guests that I watched included Graham McTavish, the Queens of Darkness, and last minute guest, Neil Patrick Harris. All where really good guests. NPH in particular was entertaining as hell, even managing to not let Mayor Nenshi upstage him.

I'm really warming up to Expo, especially being a VIP. Definitely thinking about returning next year. Two more days - we'll see how they go, but I expect wonderful experiences and glittery rainbow unicorn farts.

CCEE 2015 Impressions, Part 1
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I'm a little buzzed from beer, so this might be choppy.

I've never been to the Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo before. This year I decided to dive in head first with a VIP pass.

Got in early and wandered around the floor of the Roundup Centre before grabbing my giant swag bag. There was a serious amount of stuff in it.

Being a VIP gives me a quite a few perks in addition to swag. One of those perks is the VIP lounge. They warn you that they're not liable for stuff left in the lounge, but having been in the lounge, I think it's relatively safe for leaving stuff that isn't jewelry or personal electronics. I was happy to leave the giant bag in the lounge.

Went to a writers' workshop that was mostly no-shit-there-I-was stories from the theatre crowd. Then rushed to the other side of the Expo to see Jewel Staite answer questions. She's funny and articulate and well grounded and had a few thousand people hanging on her every word for an hour. Well worth the time and running to get there.

After closing, I met SA at the Hop in Brew for a drink and had a wonderful conversation. I might actually be relaxing around her.

All in all a good day. Still haven't sold my extra VIP pass (and I'm starting to think I won't), and I haven't checked out a lot of the Expo exhibits yet, but I intend to do so tomorrow. Still, i'd rather do all that and not be lonely. Alas.

"...Without Batting an Eye a Man Will Refer to His Dick or His Rod or His Johnson"
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I'm posting this because there's a good chance I know at least one other person suffering from this, and this might prompt them to do something about it.

So I've been vaguebooking about medical problems the last few months. Here's what's been going on. Be advised this is about my genitals, so if you don't want to hear me talking about that, you should leave now. Short version: No one dies from it, it's treatable, non-contagious, and mostly a quality-of-life issue more than anything else.

All About Peyronie"s diseaseCollapse )

"I went to the Doctor and he told me I had to stop masturbating. I asked why, and he said 'So I can finish my exam'."

Whirlwind Vancouver Vacation, Spring 2015, Part 1
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About a month ago, JumpOn Flyways offered a trip to Vancouver on the Easter Weekend. The price was right ($124 each way), the timing was good (Thursday after work, until Monday evening), and if you got in quick enough, you could take $50 off the bill (I didn't). The catch is they use a crowdfunding model - if they don't fill about 75% of the round trip flight, the trip doesn't happen. Obviously, this trip happened.

The flight was spartan (no food service, so the flight attendants mostly gossiped with each other), and due to conflicts with (I think) the airport, we ended up having the flight rescheduled an hour and a half later. This put me in Vancouver just a wee bit too late on Thursday night to do anything social. I checked into my hotel and ended up have a cocktail, salad, and creme brûlée in the hotel lounge.

This morning I wandered around Coal Harbour briefly, then met garething, stephtopia, Ryanzilla, somejauntypolka, and CS for brunch at a really good diner on the edge of Gastown - Deacon's Corner.

Sadly, that was my last chance to see Steph this weekend as she had a previously scheduled trip to Edmonton that began this afternoon.

Afterward I hung out with Ryan some more, visiting Forerunners, The ComicShop, and Drexal Games. I also discovered that Ironhead Athletic had closed/moved to parts unknown. Drat. My current IronHead pullover is rapidly wearing out after five years of loving use and I was hoping to pick up a new one.

I walked back to my hotel after that, which was a bit of a hike (4th and Arbutus to Coal Harbour) and relaxed for a while before heading off to Kadoya Sushi for supper. They had one of the most delicious rolls I've ever eaten - the Maple roll (Salmon, Cream Cheese, Smoked Salmon, and an amazing sauce). Getting there did provide me with a brief moment of sadness - The Love Bucket was permanently closed.

And now I'm back in my hotel room writing. First LJ entry in quite some time.

Banff Dining Recommendations
Consumer Whore
At lunch today, a friend asked me for my recommendations for meals in Banff. So here is nine (couldn't come up with ten unless I really stretched) recommendations for places to eat/spend quality time with friends. I've limited it to places that I've been to in the last ten years.

1) Three Ravens (at the Banff Centre).

I'm listing this one first, because it's my favourite for high-end dining. The food is superb; the service excellent without being obsequious; and the view can't be beat. Go on a clear summer evening and you'll have a panorama view of pretty much every inch of Banff, from the Banff Springs Hotel to Mt. Norquay. Here's a photo to tempt you:
Fillet of duck Bordelaise maitre d"butter. Yum-yum. Duck polonaise under glass. Mmm-mm. - Bugs Bunny

2) Maple Leaf Grill (Banff Avenue at Caribou street in the King Edward).

Lots of Canadiana here, from the points blankets on the walls to the well cooked game in half the entrees, this is a good solid choice if you don't want to hike halfway up a mountain. If you like bacon, or caesar salads, make sure you order theirs.

3) The Bison (Bear street).

The Bison and the Maple Leaf grill are sisters and it shows. They're very similar. I find that this is the more casual of the two. Great food and decent patio. Also some unique treats, like their breakfast pizza:
As with a lot of things of this nature, it wasn"t as good as the sum of its parts

4) Banff Avenue Brewing Co. (Banff Avenue at Clock Tower mall).

Hanging out with friends for a few drinks and some philosophy? Go to Banff Avenue Brewing. Hipster snacks, nice entrees and probably Banff's best selection of in-house beer.

5) Melissa's Missteak (Lynx street, across from the Banff Park Lodge).

Breakfast food, and lots of it. If I'm driving to Vancouver, my routine is to have breakfast here and grab the "Unmmissteakable" Bran Muffin to go - it makes a mighty fine meal on it's own.

Allegedly they're a steak-house too, but I've never been there for anything other than breakfast.

6) Eddie Burger Bar (Caribou street at Banff Avenue in the King Edward).

Order the hamburger. Trust me on this.
Bison, goat cheese, bacon - offending multiple world religions was never so tasty

7) Athena Pizza (Banff Avenue at Clock Tower mall).

Not up to a high-end dining? Need to feed a family cheap? Got young kids? Well you could go to the olde spaghetti factory, or you can go to Athena's, which is the same cost but way better. It's a family pizza place - you know what it's like.

This was also the favourite place to end a Banff field trip when I was in the UofC Geology program. That was a lifetime ago, but it might still be true.

8) Waldhaus (on the edge of the Banff Springs Hotel golf course, an easy hike down front the hotel or up from Bow Falls).

The restaurant is traditional German fare - so get you're Schnitzel and spätzle and sauerkraut here. The pub downstairs is a great place to drink a crisp cold lager after a hike to Bow Falls with friends on a hot summer's day.

9) Grizzly House (Banff avenue, north of Caribou).

This joint opened up the year I was born and the decor hasn't changed since. It's a swinging sixties joint known for it's fondue and inter-table telephones (to arrange partner swaps with). There's even telephones in the washrooms. I haven't had the Exotic Fondue Dinner yet, (shark, alligator, rattlesnake, ostrich, frogs legs, buffalo and venison), but it's on my bucket list. Easily the restaurant most likely to offend. Also the one most likely to allow you to dine in the nude - though given it's hot-oil fondue, I wouldn't recommend it for the same reason you don't cook bacon naked.

Annual Vacation Dilemma, Electric Boogaloo
An actual picture of me.
The flip side of having to burn vacation days before the end of this financial year (defined by my workplace as April-March), is that next year promises to have too few days to do everything I want.

First, I need to take a salt-and-peppering of days to cover Calgary Expo, Avacal Crown, Avacal Coronation, and my birthday.

Next, I'm taking two weeks to go to the UK, tentatively in June.

I'll probably take at least a week off to go to Leavenworth Oktoberfest.

That pretty much blows all of those days away, including the five "banked" days I get for not using them this year. It's also fairly heavily weighted for the first seven months of the year. Next winter is going to be long.

I could potentially shorten the UK trip to ten days (but why?), or skim a few days off of June Coronation (I'm taking the whole following week off, because of the way work allocates holidays and the fact that Canada Day is on a Wednesday this year.

It also means there's some things I can't do. Avacal/Tir Righ War for example - I just can't make it work. Also, I usually dedicate a week in Vancouver. I probably can't do that either - though I can manage a few long weekends, because I am not failing to go to Vancouver for a year. I'm hoping JumpOn will have some deals this year.

Anyway, not sure which is the feast and which is the famine. I guess it depends on whether you're counting days saved or days well-used.

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