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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!

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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.

The Road to World Conquest: Distracted

August 23, 2011 Leave a comment

Three weeks without a new blog entry? Seriously?

I could understand this level of neglect for someone who has a job. But for one of the unwashed masses living off unemployment, it’s totally unacceptable.

What else have I got to do, after all? Watch soap operas? Those are all getting cancelled and replaced by infomercials. Take a walk outside? Don’t you know the terrible things that await people who try to cross in traffic? Or, perish the thought, look for an actual job? I’m really enjoying all this free time listening to Huck bark at squirrels, rabbits, joggers, fluttering leaves, wind, cracking asphalt, satellites in high orbit…

Actually, I’ve been plenty busy.

First, thanks to some very generous backers, the OtherSpace Kickstarter project was a success. So, next Thursday, a new story arc will start, underwritten by sponsors for the first time! We’re still looking for more OtherSpace sponsors, though, so if you’ve got a few dollars burning a hole in your pocket and you want to help enable my caffeine addiction, I’ll return the favor by putting your name in print and maybe sending you some OtherSpace swag!

Second, in preparation for the arc, I’ve been busily building a new grid on OtherSpace for the city of San Angeles on Earth, where most of the action will take place during the next few months.

Third, I’ve been looking for so-called “real jobs” in the video game, journalism, and public relations industries in the Raleigh/Durham area. No word back on any of these opportunities so far. Maybe they’re waiting until October to see how the fiscal quarter wraps up. Maybe I’m too old. Maybe I’m not math-inclined enough. Whatever. I’d just like some kind of feedback that provides either hope or closure.

But, you know, the Roy Neary part of my brain – the part that wants to build mountains out of mashed potatoes and chase UFOs across the country – that part doesn’t want me to settle for a real job.

That’s the part that made me go online and order a new magnetic Jointhesaga.com sign to slap on the side of the Juicebox so I could drive around town advertising OtherSpace. It’s the part that has me reaching out to Triangle gaming enthusiasts and local colleges to build word of mouth. And it’s the part that, emboldened by the success of the Kickstarter fundraising effort, decided to add the element of tiered sponsorship and rewards to the new JTS website.

It wants me to do what I do best for a living. It wants me to finally turn what I’ve been doing as a hard-working hobby for 13 years into a serious paying concern that does more in the long term than just give me a little extra spending money. Here’s me telling the universe: I want to build something that can support OTHER people, not just me.

I think it can happen, especially if I work on building more local support in the Triangle area as well as continuing to promote OtherSpace throughout the Internet.

Meanwhile, I’m definitely hedging my bets. I spend a good part of my mornings looking through websites for job opportunities, each and every day, because it’s the responsible thing to do. But I’m also spending a good chunk of time simply promoting my project, whether it’s on Twitter, Facebook, this blog, or by slapping the sign on the side of my car while I drive around Durham on my way to the UPS Store, Southpoint, or the Duke trail.

I’ve also signed up with a freelance writing gig site, just on the offchance that I can land some quick-and-dirty/no-long-term-committment jobs.

So, all that stuff has kept me kind of distracted from the blog.

Sorry!

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: Stayin’ Alive

June 13, 2011 Leave a comment

Catherine really doesn’t want me to die.

Now that she’s in Huntsville for a hiatus during the next couple of months, she has seized control of the kitchen.

The refrigerator and pantry are fully stocked with ingredients that she’s using to make three healthy meals a day, keeping me well clear of fast food and soda as much as possible.

She worries that I’ll drop dead if I don’t stay on top of my diet. It’s sweet of her, and I don’t mind going along with it because the woman can cook and I can cope with being spoiled.

So let’s not tell her that dying young doesn’t really run in my family. Don’t mention that Mama Bess made it to her 90s after a lifetime of deep-fried Southern cooking, sugary cakes, and sweet tea by the jug.

Let’s keep quiet about my hard-drinking, cigarette-smoking Grandpa Jack who made a long run of it too.

Best we hold these secrets close to the vest.

Don’t want to ruin a good thing!

The Road to World Conquest: Plan A

June 11, 2011 Leave a comment

It’s time to stop putting off Plan A.

When I was a young writer, I admired Harlan Ellison for this gimmick he devised, wherein he would park himself at a typewriter in the display window of a bookstore and spend the day churning out fiction. Sometimes, he’d draw inspiration from a reader for a title or theme. Then he’d just run with it.

I can’t say I’ve ever been comfortable in the skin of a traditional writer who labors best in solitude. So, when I used to ride to high school on the bus, I’d share outlandish stories that I wrote about my friends. When I worked at Walt Disney World, I turned day-to-day task ledgers into collections of creative missives that a friend of mine says he still has in his Tennessee home decades later. Back in the BBS days, I’d post message board epics on Vic DeGiorgio’s Philosopher’s Stone. At Valencia Community College, I partnered with Jeff Stanford and Liz Sentz to write fiction. After college, I became a journalist, putting out stories with a byline day after day after day for thousands of readers of the St. Petersburg Times. When newspapers started a serious decline and the Internet began its meteoric rise, I turned my attention back to creative writing with an audience. Instead of a school bus, though, it was an original-theme space opera MUD with a focus on collaborative storytelling rather than quests and monster-slaying. I called it OtherSpace.

It’s been online since 1998. Save for the occasional server crash, it’s been consistently running for 13 years – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. That’s a lot of history gone by, in game and out. Three U.S. presidents. A madman blowing up a colony world. YouTube. A rift crisis threatening to tear the universe apart. Hulu. Everyone fleeing an invasion force aboard a giant lifeboat called Sanctuary.

OtherSpace outlasted my first marriage. It bridged the gap between my careers as a reporter and computer game designer. It was around before World of Warcraft and EVE Online.

All this time, I’ve rarely had the opportunity to treat OtherSpace as a day job. It’s always been more of a hobby, something done just for fun. It wasn’t practical to call it a job. But, make no mistake, it is work. Some of the best work I’ve done, I think, but it’s still work to pump new energy, new worlds, new characters, new stories into OtherSpace.

Now, I’ve got the chance. Thirteen years later, we’ve got Kickstarter.com at our disposal. So, I’ve kicked off a fundraising project with an eye toward subsidizing the next major arc project on OtherSpace, which I plan to run from Sept. 1-Nov. 30, 2011.

If we land the funding in the next 30 days, I’ll start working on pre-production for the arc – Across the Multiverse. It will be more ambitious than any that has gone before on OtherSpace, through major events, news articles, and short stories. And I’ll work it like a full-time job during that period, intent on giving every participant a chance to shine and experience an epic adventure that might make their characters into the legends that future players will talk about.

I think the time and the circumstances are ripe to get the support necessary to make this happen.

So, help spread the word and make sure OtherSpace: Across the Multiverse meets that 30-day goal!

The Road to World Conquest: Dogs and Cats, Living Together

June 7, 2011 1 comment

I may have hit on the secret of Huck and Sienna safely – and peacefully – cohabitating.

For the past couple of weeks, ever since the third “litter bombing,” when Huck flipped the cat’s litter box and spread the contents all over the kitchen and living room floor, I started an experiment. The experiment began with a premise: It’s not just anxious behavior, it’s personal. Sienna and Huck never really got along, but until recently they had a “mediator,” for lack of a better word, in Elsa – Sienna’s sister, who I had to let go after she suffered a seizure that left her in a coma.

Elsa loved Huck. They got along great. Sienna could cope with that. She just lurked behind the couch and let her sister handle the big polar bear dog.

Now that Elsa was gone, Sienna no longer had that barrier and Huck wanted a playmate. That wasn’t a role Sienna could fill.

So, Sienna got in the habit of occasionally relieving herself on the couch where Huck liked to sleep. My theory: Huck decided to wreck her litter box in what might equate to “dog revenge.” He just didn’t realize that the revenge affected me far more than it did Sienna.

It occurred to me that maybe I was just anthropomorphizing the animals just a little. Still, I figured, what the hell? Experiment time.

During the day, I segregated them. I left Sienna and her litter box in the side of the apartment with the bedroom, the bathroom, and an open door to the laundry room where she could reach her food. Huck got the living room, kitchen, and the stairwell leading down to the front door.

And, what do you know: Peace in our time!

The couch hasn’t been soiled lately. Huck has stopped tearing things up. They seem to get along most of the time now when I get home and open the doors, allowing them to mingle again.

Apparently, they just needed their own space.

Whatever works!