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The Road to World Conquest: Like minds

October 13, 2011 2 comments

So, this week I attended my first Durham writers meet-up gathering at the Barnes & Noble on New Hope Commons.

I haven’t thought of myself primarily as a writer in a long time. I’ve never really stopped writing, because I certainly created a lot of content for Fallen Earth, wrote poses, descriptions and dialogue for OtherSpace, but all that work has been in service to something else: Game design.

The last time I felt something akin to what occurred Tuesday night was probably more than twenty years ago, back when I sat in that comfortable circle of chairs with the staff of the Valencian magazine at Valencia Community College. This group I met with was the subset that’s specifically interested in science fiction and fantasy. Every couple of weeks, they meet to share what they’re working on and to get feedback from others.

Back at Valencia, where I met two of my best friends, Jeff and Liz, our work was rendered anonymous, photocopied, handed out, and then scored with critiques. Ironically, after a few sessions, the anonymity sort of went out the window because people could spot our writing styles. But there’s no anonymity in this new group, which sits around a table in the bookstore and reads selections aloud before getting feedback.

I didn’t submit anything to read for the first meeting. I just wanted to get a feel for how things worked, study the group a little, and get a sense of the personalities at work. But I didn’t just sit there and listen. When people read, I gave feedback that I certainly hope was helpful. I don’t think I savaged anyone, I just pointed out when things felt too passive or when I wanted a better feeling of urgency and immersion.

As things wrapped up, our group leader took volunteers for reading at the next meeting. I wasn’t going to do it at first, but a few thoughts occurred to me:

* I’ve joined this writers group. So, time to get back to writing. Really writing. This would motivate me to get the ball rolling almost immediately.
* I’m not good at fence-sitting. I want to be in the mix. That means diving right on in. Best way for me to get the most out of the group.
* It’s only fair. Several people read their work Tuesday night and got my feedback, good and bad. They ought to have the chance to return that favor.

So, up went my hand.

I’m now on the hook to write something new to share with the group. It’s exciting. They’re a bunch of good people, sharp and funny, and all interested in improving their work and helping others to do the same. I’m glad that I’ve connected with them.

Now, to write.

The Road to World Conquest: Brody’s World!

September 26, 2011 Leave a comment

I’m trying to bring all my worlds together in an easy-to-manage package.

Facebook friends, Twitter followers, former colleagues from the St. Petersburg Times, new neighbors in the Triangle, pals from World of Warcraft and Fallen Earth, classmates from high school and college – I want everyone to feel welcome in the virtual universe that I’ve created at Jointhesaga.com.

So, to that end, I’ve built a new chunk of grid that I call “Brody’s World,” where new characters created on the MUSH will start from now on. First, you’re dropped in my neighborhood, Watts Hospital. If you want to go to OtherSpace, you walk into my house, up the stairs, into my office, and through the door marked ENTER OTHERSPACE. But if space opera’s not your thing, if you just want to wander around my brain or sit and chat, I’ve got places for that on the grid.

I don’t spend a lot of time on instant messengers like Skype. You will rarely find me using Facebook’s chat feature. But I’m often active on OtherSpace. So, if you want to contact me in real-time, the best thing to do is visit jointhesaga.com 1790 and give me a shout! I’m usually lurking in Brody’s Office.

For useful client software that’ll help you connect, visit this link.

The Road to World Conquest: Juicebox pilfering

August 26, 2011 Leave a comment

So, lesson learned: We don’t park the Juicebox on the street in front of the house ever again.

Last night, I almost moved it back into the driveway next to Catherine’s Honda. Unfortunately, when it occurred to me to do so, I was already fading from the effects of the Benadryl that I’d taken a little while earlier.

When I woke up this morning and took Huck for his walk, I found that the car was unlocked. The glove compartment was open. Papers were scattered on the passenger and driver seat.

No damage to the car. But…yeah, stuff was missing. What they took:

* The Garmin GPS device. It was kind of wonky, anyway. I didn’t use it because the virtual keypad sometimes just didn’t register the touch of my finger when I tried to hit certain letters or numbers. It’s not too reliable. And the guy yelled “Recalculating” way too much. Good riddance!

* The iPhone charger/radio transmitter we picked up in Mobile during our road trip. This let me listen to iTunes over my car stereo while it charged the phone. It wasn’t perfect, but it was useful. I’ll miss it.

* The multi-socket power adapter. This let me plug in my iPhone, the Garmin, and Catherine’s Blackberry charger. I’ll miss it too.

* Size XL Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band souvenir T-shirt from the greatest hits collection that I picked up a week or two ago. I liked to let Huck lie on that when he was in the back of the car. Smelled like wet dog. I won’t miss it.

Things they didn’t take:

* The car title. Yay!

* The hub caps. Woo!

* The checkered silver and black tie draped over the back seat. Not my favorite tie, but glad it’s still around.

* The basketball on the floorboard. Apparently, my thief was just a gadget freak and not at all into fitness. I suspect he’ll pay a price for that in the long run.

This is the first time I’ve been the victim of a property crime since the 1990’s, when thieves stole my Honda Accord and took it joyriding around Tampa while playing death metal on my cassette player.

Welcome to Durham!

The Road to World Conquest: Crime may not pay, but at least it’s not extorting me like being a good guy

August 25, 2011 Leave a comment

I’m breaking the law.

My Alabama license plate expired at the end of July after we moved back to Durham, North Carolina. I’ve been trying to get new NC plates since we got here, but suffice to say that this has been…challenging.

Last week, I reported to the DMV with my old NC license plate, my Alabama car title (which I had just received after getting my Alabama plate in March), and a checkbook to cover the cost of the new tag. The amiable old man behind the counter looked up my license plate number and informed me that Wake County had a tax block on reissuing a tag. Apparently, I owed some money to the county from 2010. He didn’t know how much. Also, the system seemed to think that my GEICO car insurance had been cancelled, so I would need to bring in a Form FS-1, which I would have to request from the insurance company.

That day, I called the tax office and discovered that I owed about $6 somehow. Paid it immediately, removing the tax block. I called GEICO and requested the FS-1 so that it could be mailed to me.

Yesterday, the FS-1 form arrived. I had everything I needed!

This morning, I jumped in the Juicebox. When I got to the tag office, however, I realized that I had brought everything except the FS-1 form. Not to worry. Luckily, I live just a few blocks from the DMV. I drove back home, snatched the form from the box on the kitchen counter, and then made my way back to the mall.

The clerk this time was a kindly middle-aged woman with bleached blonde hair who took my old NC tag, my driver’s license, my GEICO FS-1 form, and my Alabama title. She started filling out a form on the DMV computer. Then she told me that because I hadn’t turned my tag in after moving to Alabama, and because the system showed my insurance as being cancelled, I would have to pay a $100 fine for driving without insurance before I could get a valid plate.

I’ve had car insurance the entire time. However, I shifted it to the state of Alabama after moving there.

“Can I make that fine go away if I can demonstrate that I’ve been insured the entire time?” I asked. “Because I have. My coverage never lapsed.”

“Oh, sure, you can do that,” she said. “You’ll need to get an FS-1 form from your insurance company.”

I pointed to the one on her desk. “Already did that, didn’t I?”

“That’s not for the right date,” she replied. “You have to get one that proves you had coverage on 1/22/11.”

“Really not making this easy for me,” I said.

“At least you’ll save the hundred dollars,” she said.

“Maybe,” I said. “Can I get a temporary tag?”

“Not without that form.”

“So maybe I’ll save $100, but maybe I’ll have to pay a fine for driving with an expired tag,” I said.

“I don’t know how much that would be,” she said. “I’m not a police officer.”

I checked the web. Non-moving violation fines like that can cost up to $500, but it’s probably more in the neighborhood of $150.

Now I’m back to square one. Gotta call GEICO again, swim through the bureaucracy, and snag a different FS-1.

It shouldn’t be such a hassle to try to be a good guy.

“Where did you get your Sharpie?”

July 27, 2011 Leave a comment

I had occasion to discover an amusing graffiti exchange in the men’s room of the Snug Harbor jazz club in New Orleans last week:

YOU ARE ALL SCUM-SUCKING CONSUMER WHORES.

Where did you get your Sharpie?

SHOPLIFTED IT.

The Road to World Conquest: Goin’ to Carolina in my car

July 14, 2011 2 comments

I’ve survived several killing attempts by Alabama.

It couldn’t take me out with tornadoes. The ruthless heat waves didn’t melt me. And I made it through the gall bladder crisis largely intact.

But I can take a hint.

So, on July 25, the movers arrive to haul my stuff to the place I’ll be sharing with Catherine in Durham – back in North Carolina.

I met some great people while working at Bit Trap. I’ve had the opportunity to reconnect with my cousin Donna and her family. But life’s taking me back to the Eastern time zone and away from the crazy weather of the Tennessee Valley.

Before leaving, though, Catherine and I are taking advantage of our geographic base of operations to launch a road trip to Birmingham, Mobile, and New Orleans. We’ll pack Huck in the Juicebox and spend about a week on the road. I’m looking forward to it!

Then, once we’re back, we prep the apartment for our departure. On July 26, I should be back east of the Smoky Mountains in my previous stomping grounds.

What happens after that is up in the air. I’ve got several opportunities – some in journalism and public relations would keep me in Durham. One would keep me in the video game industry, but would require me to move to Austin, Texas.

One adventure at a time, though. I’ll worry about that situation once the road trip’s done!

The Road to World Conquest: Hot time in the old town

July 3, 2011 Leave a comment

Really, I’ve got no one to blame but myself.

When I bought the tickets to the U2 concert in Nashville, I did so with full awareness of the show date (July 2) and its location, in an outdoor football stadium that would be packed with about 44,000 people.

It was hot all damned day. It was hot when I walked Huck around the Belle Meade plantation west of town that morning. It was even hotter when Catherine and I roamed the streets of downtown Nashville, stopping in honky tonks and barbecue joints along Broadway. Granted, it was somewhat cooler by the time we joined the throngs on the field around “The Claw” for the U2 show, which would kick off with Florence and the Machine around 7, but it was still damned hot.

They didn’t provide chairs in the general admission area. We were on our feet, mostly, although there was one hippy couple that brought a blanket to spread on the ground in an admirable (but largely vain) effort to establish their own little patch of turf. Catherine offered to get drinks while we waited. I asked for a Powerade. This probably wasn’t a great idea, in retrospect. After she got back, the stadium continued to fill. We were about 50 feet back from the outer ring of “The Claw.” Not a bad position from which to view the show, really!

But then the problems started.

First, we had the people weaving their way up to the front, stopping every once in a while to pretend to look for their imaginary friends way up at the front.

Second, we had a brief encounter with Vomit Woman. She was a short woman with stringy hair, a cup of beer in each hand and a loopy look in her eyes as she approached me and Catherine and promptly coughed-snorted-spewed chunky brown liquid on us. It got on my socks and the right leg of my shorts. It splattered Catherine’s shirt.

“Sorry,” the woman managed to blurt, still clinging desperately to both beers and not worrying so much about whatever grossness was dangling from her right nostril. She pushed her way past us toward the back of the crowd while Catherine and I just sort of stared at each other in disbelief.

I tried cleaning some of the gunk off Catherine with my shirt, but it wasn’t working, so she departed to get a rag and water from event staffers. While she did this, Catherine informed the staff to be on the lookout for the woman, who might be in dire medical straits.

A little while later, about two rows up from us, a woman fainted. Her boyfriend helped her up and started leading her back toward the first aid station. She made it about 40 feet before passing out again. People nearby assured us that she hadn’t been drinking, but may have been overcome by the heat.

Florence and the Machine came out and played their set. I wasn’t too familiar with their stuff, but I enjoyed what they played. When they were done, U2 crew members started prepping the stage and lights for the main event. We were about 10 minutes from showtime when I told Catherine: “I think I could use another water.”

She gawked at me and said, “We need to talk about your timing.”

I nodded. Then I tried to explain that in the past few minutes, I’d felt drained. Hot. Everything … everyone around us … seemed to be closing in. I felt astonishingly claustrophobic. A little dizzy. I didn’t think I could wait until after U2 began their set. I needed to get out of the crowd now.

I don’t remember a whole lot about the next minute or so, except that Catherine got a very determined look on her face and helped me stagger and weave my way through the crowd toward the outer perimeter of the field, where people could buy beer, water, and pretzels. I’m pretty sure I stomped all over whatever the hippies with the blanket had spread out for their pleasant evening at the show. I felt vaguely bad about that. I would’ve felt worse if I had fainted on them.

Thin crowd on the perimeter, thankfully. We found an empty keg where I could sit for a few minutes, breathe deep, regain my bearings, and wait for Catherine to pick up another bottle of water. When she returned, I poured some water over my head, then drank judiciously. I soon felt better, well enough to relinquish my keg chair so that I could stand on the outskirts of the crowd with Catherine and watch the show.

From our vantage on the perimeter, we got to see at least a dozen other people falling prey to similar issues. One guy was rolled out on a gurney. Another left in a wheelchair. A husband helped his pregnant wife to our area, and she looked as miserable as I must have.

I went through two more bottles of water before the show was over. I really enjoyed seeing U2, but I could have done with just the one encore this time.