mistersandman: Friends are a nice thing to have... Could you be my friend, too? (happy dance)

In a better world, I would be able to transmute this gif into an icon that didn't suck.

The recent news regarding the new Avatar series reignited my adoration for Avatar: The Last Airbender. I watched a couple of episodes from the second season (my favorite) and I'm pretty much in my happy place! I'm ridiculously excited for Legend of Korra now, except it doesn't come out for another year. Shame.
mistersandman: (SHAME)
So yeah, a lot of the game will probably take place in rural Pennsylvania.  As luck would have it, that's where I am now, on a tortuous nine hour bus ride from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh.  After five hours of driving through farmland and forests, even Altoona feels like a big city.

I've only been in Altoona once, for a Glee Club concert.  I'm surprised how much I recognize--the Sheetz, the bowling alley, the big cathedral, all the familiar sights.  I didn't get a glimpse of the cheap motel that we stayed in, unfortunately. 

Despite introducing me to dreary Altoona, I don't regret leaving the Glee Club.

It looks like lunch is going to be shit from the Altoona Amtran station.

They were selling refrigerated ham and cheese sandwiches for $3.29.  I opted for a bag of Doritos for $.99.  There's half a bag of frozen dumplings at home and I am going to eat them all in about four hours.

I'm going to talk more about me campaign now.  I think it's really helpful to write ideas out.  Usually I can't resist talking about this stuff with my friends out loud but this outlet is much less tedious for them.
Read more... )


Mar. 11th, 2011 11:59 am
mistersandman: (hahaha)
From the BBC:

15 February 2012

Chinese media blocks all information regarding the violent riots that have rocked Nanjing this week, which has left the city in a state of emergency, resulting in widespread death and gruesome injuries.

On Monday, an estimated ten thousand people took to the streets of Nanjing. The exact reasoning behind the origin of the riots is unknown.

Resident BBC China expert Chris Gifford suggests the riots may possibly be a response to an earlier comment by the Chinese government regarding wage adjustment in the months following yet another realignment of currency exchange.

Reporters expelled

The riots grew increasingly violent, with protestors turning on one another, inflicting grievous damage upon one another with their bare hands. The riots began to spread into hospitals and schools.

The violence reached a fever pitch on Tuesday, when Chinese officials declared a state of emergency; demanding all foreign reporters evacuate the city within twenty-four hours.

Media blackout

At last estimate, the uprising has cost over 4,000 lives, but Chinese media source Xinhua has yet to comment.

President Xi Jinping has only recently made a public appearance, mysteriously calling for a faster response to disease control and prevention. Diseases such as yellow fever, malaria, HIV and pneumonia have wracked rural China for years with little government attention.
mistersandman: Friends are a nice thing to have... Could you be my friend, too? (happy dance)

It is seriously the only way to travel. Here I am, reclining in a chair enjoying the strongest internet connection I've had all spring break as I rocket towards my destination in northern New York State. Most of the other passengers are other college students and to top it all off, a lot of them are Canadian. Most exotic, I assure you.

We're an hour and a half into a four and a half hour trip. I borrowed 28 Days Later to help pass the time and for inspiration, but unfortunately, it is a very quiet film and the bus engines are loud, even on the second tier. (Did I mention the megabus is sometimes a doubledecker? so sweet!) So as exciting as it is to hear Cillian Murphy's mumbles about dead parents get droned out, I think I'll stick to the internet and Gemcraft to pass the time.

I might even get some more writing done, since my all-nighter naked sleepover writing session on Monday was about as productive as you'd imagine, I'm about where I was when I last updated you on my big summer campaign.

I think the first session will involve a mission to the small city of Williamsport, PA. I'm trying to decide exactly how harrowing I want the mission to be. This campaign will eventually take Our Heroes to a major city (most likely Philadelphia or Washington, DC) and I want that experience to be memorable as the biggest action sequence of the campaign, with thousands of zombies gunning for Our Heroes' brains.

In the meantime, I have these characters in a small city that may or may not have a large zombie population. They are on a mission to retrieve plate glass from a large storage warehouse at the local College of Technology to help with construction of a new greenhouse back home. The session will end following an encounter with the new "smart" zombies, wherein one player (or more!) will be infected with the Z+ virus.

That leaves me with at least an hour to fill. One idea that I'm mulling over is introducing some characters that are stranded in Williamsport, possibly in an old bomb shelter. I could even use them to help advance the overarching plot surrounding the new jiangshi virus. (I'm playing around with names--I can understand why people use new and 'exciting' names for their zombies, but just as often these names are even sillier than just 'zombie.' Since my virus originated in China, it would make sense for people to use the name the Chinese used to describe these victims... or not.)

For example, the survivors could consist of a nuclear family where one or all of them are infected. There are a couple of ways I could play that. It could be that one of the children has been bitten. The parents did not have the heart to immediately kill their child and were shocked to discover that their child did not immediately transform into an undead cannibal monster. They praise Jesus for sparing their child because this is rural Pennsylvania. Alternatively, a single parent was bitten and desires to care for their flock for as much time as they have left. They praise Jesus for this reprieve because this is rural Pennsylvania.

In either case, this character would inevitably be wounded in combat and infect one of Our Heroes. This wound would have to be fatal, otherwise these guys would have to follow the players all the way to DC and I don't have the heart to saddle them with a child sidekick and/or a rural hick for the greater part of the journey. At the very least, I can use these characters to introduce the radio that could be used push the "travel to DC" storyarc.

It's a little melodramatic and perhaps too convenient, but then I realize that this whole project is just a vehicle for absurd self-insert antics. Thoughts? Opinions?

Sometimes I wish more than like three people sometimes read this blog. Then I realize how generally terrible my posts are. This is my cross to bear, *alas.*
mistersandman: (Default)

Even in an era of mass-communication, no one can say with absolute certainty where or how the virus began. Anyone you talk to will tell you that the zombies shuffled into their town first, but to listen to President David Petraeus and top military scientist Dr. William Crawford, the epicenter of disease was found in Nanjing. In his now-infamous “Humanity’s Last Stand” speech, President Petraeus called for immediate nuclear action. The collateral damage was astounding, but for the first time in half a century America’s spirits were high, after all, it saved the world from destruction and crippled an encroaching rival in the process.

But the disease kept spreading.

Read more... )

So that's the rough draft of the exposition I'll give my players. Essentially, this is just background and I doubt any of this will come into play as part of the actual game. I just like having this kind of background for the players, hopefully it will help them create a clearer picture of where they're coming, so that I may in turn shape where they're going. There's nothing particularly groundbreaking in this 'zombie origin,' (it owes probably too much to World War Z) though I am sort of proud of the parallels between this and the AIDS virus. Has there ever been a zombie story that played with that before? Well, this one will.
mistersandman: Friends are a nice thing to have... Could you be my friend, too? (happy dance)
So by now you now I have an immense flirtation with roleplaying games.  I've never run anything beyond a few one-shot Dread games and now I'm preparing to take the plunge: a summer campaign!  Those potential party members who have any experience with pencil and paper RPGs have no love lost with D&D, which suits me fine.  I'm thinking about running a modified version of The Window.  The extent of the modification remains to be seen, but I have a friend who's come up with an interesting system that relies only on d6s. Also, since Dread is kind of a tradition with this group, I may find a way of incorporating a Jenga tower somehow.  One idea that I just came up with is to use the Tower as a community health pool.  When someone takes damage, they have to pull from the tower.  Of course, this makes the issue of healing rather difficult.  To be perfectly honest, exact gameplay mechanics are something I plan on working out last.  In the meantime, I just want to get a handle on the setting and the plot of the world. 

As many things do in our modern world, this whole ordeal began on facebook.  There was a large degree of absurdity surrounding who we would want on our team in the event of a zombie apocalypse.  It came to pass that we decided we had to have a ridiculous self-insert RPG to simulate how our particular group would survive a cataclysm.

Somewhere in the babbling of the excited early planning stages, things got significantly less light-hearted.  The basic storyarc of the game goes that the world is recovering from a zombie apocalypse.  Communities of humans scatter eke out an existence from what's left of the world's wildernesses, having forsaken the cities and other populated areas as zombie breeding grounds.  After years of this simple existence, the members of the commune begin to notice that there's something different about the zombies that wander into town.  These zombies are smarter.  They might even be able to communicate.

The zombie virus is evolving.  The transformation process has become much slower.  Almost every part of the patient's immune system is dedicated to fighting the disease, but no matter how hard they fight, they can only look on in horror as they lose their ability to recover from injuries, lose sensation, and ultimately die.

Predictably, one of the party members has been infected with this strain of the virus.  The community leaders wish to kill her, cheerfully, in fact, for she is one of the leaders of a faction that is gaining strength in the community.  As the debate rages, a curious broadcast crackles on the radio.  A prominent military doctor, long believed to be dead, issues a warning about the possibility of a new strain of zombie and asks for participants in a new study, potentially to find a cure.

The base is located in the ruins of a major city.  The journey alone will certainly result in the deaths of not only the infected, but her supporters as well.  The community leaders assent and the journey begins!

Now I just need to come up with a map and enough plots to fill six three hour sessions.
mistersandman: (watchmen)
Man, my spring break kind of sucks so far.  Felt great to get out of Pittsburgh, felt great to be in Philly... and then I realized that none of my friends' breaks intersect with mine.  With limited options for entertainment, I've decided to clean out my music library.  I've got 1203 songs on my iTunes right now, which isn't as huge as some people's, but is way more than I actually listen to.  Thanks to the Carnegie Library, I've been able to acquire whole albums for artists whom I only like one song.  Case in point: I just got all of Arcade Fire's album Funeral.  It's okay.  The whole thing strikes me as a little pretentious. I know they're trying to be upbeat, but I can't get over the feeling that it is generally lifeless.  I have no taste in music, but I think I'll keep it in case it grows on me or if I ever need background noise to drive to.

So far, I've gotten 1203 songs to 950.  The culling continues tomorrow.
mistersandman: (Default)

I went to see an excellent presentation of renowned gospel singer Mahalia Jackson's life and work on Sunday.  Outside the theater, there was this long array of paintings taken of the Cathedral of Learning.  The Cathedral of Learning was supposedly originally built to put the University of Pittsburgh on the map, but it is most useful today as a Drunk Compass, leading the sloppy and the disheveled back to campus. 

A couple of kids invited me to a meeting with a lawyer to discuss my old slumlord, Saad Ibrahim.  These guys were trying to get a class-action lawsuit started against him, but predictably, it would cost more time money to pursue than it would to cut our losses and shake our fists in futility.

But on the upside I got a great view from this high rise.  You can see the raindrops from the thunderstorm that ended an hour before I took the picture.

mistersandman: (Default)
I should have been in bed an hour ago because in a few hours, I'm going to be playing a new RPG made by my friend.  It's going to be pretty freeform, a lot like my much-beloved DREAD (why haven't I done a DREAD post yet?), but most of the gameplay will center around d6s.  Apparently there will be some sort of horror element, but with six players I don't know how pronounced that element will actually be.  In my experience, it's much easier to maintain tension and inspire horror when there are fewer balls to juggle. 

PS I like my new default picture so much!  So much!

mistersandman: (Default)
Still recovering from a nineties party last night.  Nobody told me it was a costume party until we were about to leave.  Even if I'd had time to prepare, I probably wouldn't look as radical as this very cool kid:

sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo cool

Speaking of awesome throwbacks, check out this Great Gatsby NES game!!

mistersandman: (hahaha)
I might have mentioned that I'm in a history writing class.  I might have mentioned that it's a history of wilderness preservation class.  What I haven't mentioned recently is that I've 脱离苦海.  I got my professor to allow me to write a paper on the effectiveness of the Chinese government's response to water shortages.  (HINT: not very well!)

I spent a great deal of time today running about and making this paper a reality.  First I had to meet with my professor, who's been very supportive.  He's interested in the politics of water usage in the United States.  He's intrigued by the seemingly universal strife between the core and the periphery.  The man is possibly one hundred years old.  He looks like a liberal Clint Eastwood.  During one lecture, he paused to growl, "I don't like Obama.  He's too conservative for me."

Once I had Dougherty's blessing, I met up with my friend Mary to brainstorm ideas for sources.  Mary has a much greater interest in the environment than I.  I might even go so far to say that she has a greater interest in China than I, if you'll believe it.  I quickly took this picture on my way to the cafe that she'd holed up in:

mistersandman: (Default)

My friend Angela used to live near this cliff before she dropped out of school.  I can't count the number of times I looked over the cliff on the way to her house.  The road crumbles at the end of the cliff abruptly, as if plans for a bridge were quickly scrapped or they realized what a terrible idea it would be to send a road down the cliff three days into the project.  Now there are these toppled cement pylons to prevent anyone from inadvertently driving into the valley.  The cliff faces directly east and Angela and I always planned to look at the sunrise together. 

We never looked at the sunrise but we had a lot of good times together.  It was so jarring when she told me she wasn't coming back after Thanksgiving break.

mistersandman: How would you feel if you had to put on a really stupid hat? (comical hat)

So my friend Richard and I followed our good mutual friend Anna to her job in Squirrel Hill because that's where the cheapest grocery market is. And I guess we like Anna.  Under the pretense that I was going to buy something (LIES), Anna convinced her boss at Gamestop to put Marvel vs. Capcom 3 in the resident Xbox 360.  Awesome times. 

Of course, we're immediately pestered by this eight year old kid who had to get in on the action, which suited Richard just fine because he was tired of kicking my ass.  The kid asks how to play the game.  I ask him if he's played Marvel vs. Capcom 2 or perhaps Street Fighter.  He has no idea what Street Fighter is.  Nope.  So we get down to character pickings.  After a round or two with Richard, I've already fallen in love with Amerterasu and Magneto and I immediately put them on my team.  The kid picks Deadpool and Wolverine because they are soo cool.  Fair enough.  After I give him a good licking (purely by accident, I mashed a lot of buttons), he decides he'll play me using my team.  Only he doesn't know who Magneto is.


How does a kid know about Deadpool but not Magneto?  What are kids watching these days?  I've never felt so old in my life.
mistersandman: (watchmen)

That's quite a sight to wake up to.  School wasn't canceled, alas.  My Stalin professor drove from Akron, Ohio to give a 9:30 lecture, only to discover that less than a fourth of the class was there.  I don't blame them.  His lectures are getting more and more divergent with reality.  Today he was telling us that the only reason people in the West talk smack about agriculture collectivization is because they think that it was a maneuver the government pulled at gunpoint to gain control over people's lives.   I suggested more practical flaws in collectivization, but he wasn't having any of it.  He went so far as to suggest that there was never any famine in Soviet Russia. 

What can you expect from someone who confuses Adam Smith for Ayn Rand?

Pretty routine week so far.  I'm working on a four-day stretch without going out to eat, which is unfortunately pretty good for me.  I'm way too lazy when it comes to cooking.  It says a lot when a lemon-pepper-corn-tuna casserole on rice is a major undertaking for me (but a delicious one!).

mistersandman: (Default)
Only a week left in February, I'm sure everyone will miss this photoseries more than me!

I'm spending a lot of time at my friends' place - they've been so kind as to donate blankets to the end of creating a shantytown for me. Great times.

We got a "wintery mix" today -- Clouds became rain which became hail which became snow. Don't really have a lot to say right now. I'm starting to learn how to knit from [personal profile] magneticwave ; my ultimate goal is to knit some hats for my friends. I still have a long ways to go, though. Learning to knit is something I arbitrarily put on a list of things I wanted to do in college. It seems like a useful skill to have?
mistersandman: (Default)
After I wrote my last post, I wound up going to a friend's house and playing his new pencil & paper RPG Clockwork Soul until 4 AM.  Great time, bad for my already dismal sleep debt.  Woke up at two, knew I wasn't going anywhere today.  Here's a picture of my backyard.


There are some moments that are too transcendent to be spoiled by the written word.
mistersandman: (Default)

Went to the Vagina Monologues yesterday, deftly directed by [personal profile] treesahquiche and performed by a variety of talented folks. I was dying from the night before, when I stayed up just about all night writing my Stalin midterm essay, but I somehow found it in me to stay awake well past three so I could guarantee I'd be late for the psychology study at eight today.

On one hand, I was glad I was awake so early, simply because it allowed me to enjoy so much of the day. We've been enjoying uncannily great weather this week. This time last year, we were suffering through a snowpocalypse, now it is bright and breezy. Our reprieve is only temporary, unfortunately. It's supposed to snow on Tuesday.

I thought I'd take advantage of the gorgeous weather to travel to the Waterfront to pick up some yarn to knit a wedding present for my future stepmother. Getting to the Waterfront is simple. Getting out can be hell. Only one bus that passes through the Waterfront will take you back to Oakland. This bus comes once every hour or so, if it's on time. When it is not on time, you are treated to a tortuous parade of buses headed anywhere but home.

I hate waiting.

Lines don't bother me. A line moves, it's a human progress bar that slowly drains. Being totally at the mercy of someone else's leisure drives me nuts. So I struck a deal with the devil and took a bus that said it was headed downtown, for the sake of momentum. So it was that I wound up on a thirty minute tour of the outskirts of Pittsburgh. It was incredibly depressing. The shores of the Allegheny river are covered in abandoned factories and warehouses, relics of better days when businessmen packed more than one white shirt because the soot that made the sun set at nine in the morning would turn a white shirt grey before lunch.

I took some pictures downtown, but none of them turned out very well because I didn't get to downtown before dusk and the sun had more or less set.

The dark and foreboding building in the back is the Pittsburgh Plate Glass company building. If I ever direct a movie, that is where the bad guy will live.

You're It.

Feb. 17th, 2011 03:36 am
mistersandman: (Default)
I didn't tag any of my posts at first because I didn't know what kinds of posts I would make later and it seemed banal to make a tag for every element of those posts.  It's one thing to tag entries that are in a 'series' like my photo project or my superhero obsession, but cataloging beyond the immediately superficial requires some thought.  Any suggestions?  I'm definitely going to make a China tag.  I seem to do a lot of arbitrary reviews of things that I read/watch.  Should I make a separate review tag for different media or should I just have a generic "review" tag?  THESE ARE SERIOUS QUESTIONS THAT ARE KEEPING ME AWAY FROM STALIN WRITINGS.  I'm also tempted to make a This Is Stupid tag, but I fear I would abuse it.  Oh well.
mistersandman: Friends are a nice thing to have... Could you be my friend, too? (happy dance)

So most of my night shots aren't very high quality and come out kind of blurry, but I like to think of them as artistic. It's like a watercolor in real life! This building is Posvar Hall. I spend a lot of time here because it is where the history department is located. Man I sure do love history.

"I sure do love history" was in effect, how my page-long letter to Scott Westerfeld went today. Unsatisfied with sending out ten letters begging for work (four of which have already declined), I sent him a letter telling him how much I enjoyed his Leviathan YA series. I also asked him a bunch of dumb questions about Russian Communism and Chinese politics at the turn of the century. I'm not sure if I have enough good will left in my heart to gush about the series right now, but I will certainly try!

Anything to keep me away from that Stalin paper.

The premise of Leviathan is incredibly cool. It's so cool that I'm willing to forgive some of its weaknesses. Basically, it presents an alternate history where the two sides of World War I were not just divided by stupid alliances and divergent colonial interests, but also by their different paths down awesome technology trees. The Triple Entente became the Darwinists, people who exploited Darwin's discovery of DNA (???) to create huge fabricated war monsters. The Central Powers became the Clankers, who run around in large walking machines. The books are all beautifully illustrated by Keith Thompson, who also sure loves history!

Oh, and if you are at all curious about the music that I'm currently listening to, do yourself a huge favor and check out this new album: STRIFE!  It takes you to happy places, happy places where you don't have a paper due in a few hours.

mistersandman: (watchmen)

Attempted walk with [personal profile] treesahquiche thwarted by icy paths. I took a couple of pictures during that excursion, but this is my favorite.

Pretty sure I was half-asleep all day today. I took this picture in the Graduate School of Public Health, the most obvious location for a class on Stalin.
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