2010 Year in Review

Happy New Year!  This has been an absolutely amazing year for me.  It’s been a year of transformations both mental and physical.  There have been a number of very distinct visible changes in my life this year.  Most of which are centered around the quality of my life.  I’m getting healthier and going out socializing more.  In general, it’s made me a happier person.

Gaming

It’s no secret that I’m heavily into gaming.  I find them mentally stimulating.  My favorite form of gaming is table top gaming.  For the most part this has always meant pencil and paper role playing games such as D&D or collectible card games like Magic the Gathering.  Then back in 2008 I attended my first gaming convention and that exposed me to a whole new plethora of gaming possibilities.

Sitting down for some MunchkinThis year I started volunteering for the GameStorm Convention as a social network liaison.  This basically means I run their Twitter and Facebook feeds.  Through my new friends in the gaming community, I found out about a bunch of other conventions local to me as well.  I found myself at ConQuest, OryCon, numerous GameStorm Game Days, and even a couple smaller special events.  Many of these I already have on the calendar for attending again next year.

I also discovered board gaming in a way I never have before.  I used to think of board gaming as Monopoly, Sorry, or even Mouse Trap.  If that’s your idea of board gaming, do yourself a favor and look up Fantasy Flight Games, Steve Jackson Games, or Days of Wonder just to name a few.  These companies take gaming to a whole new level.

The best part of exploring these games has been getting to know the gamers I get to sit down and play them with.  The gamer community is filled with creative and brilliant individuals with a common love of gaming.  Every game I’ve sat down to play has been a absolute joy.

My personal game library has also grown significantly as a result.  I play many of these new games with the family but on occasion I gather a few up and head over to friends houses to game with them too.

Motorcycle

I’ve made a few changes to my Electra Glide this year.  Most significant change was a nice set of pipes.  She’s got a good strong rumble now.  I’ve also made the tour pack detachable so when I’m not traveling I can take it off making her lighter and more fun to ride.

We also went for a few rides this year including an over night trip up the Washington coast line with our friends Mike and Amy.  We really enjoy that ride and look forward to riding with them again next year when the weather improves.

There were plans to hit a rally or two as well but those didn’t pan out.  I’m finding I prefer riding in smaller groups with close friends that the big club rides I’ve tried in the past.

Running

Back in July I started noticing the runners in my neighborhood.  I noticed how it didn’t matter whether it was raining or shining, day or night, hot or cold.  The runners would be out putting one foot in front of the other and they always looked happy.  It was as if they all shared some big secret together that I wasn’t in on.

I was walking quite a bit at this point for exercise and was using Endomondo on my phone to track my miles along with Daily Mile for an exercise log.  I was trying to find a way to improve my fitness so I decided to give running a try.  It started out pretty well but I got over zealous and over did it.  I was out of commission for most of September.

I was determined to become a runner though.  Once I could hobble down the bock I slowly started back into the running.  I spent my down time wisely and learned as much as I could about running.  I picked up the book Running for Mortals and it became my running coach.  I also started getting more involved with the Daily Mile community who were a significant source of encouragement and advice.

On December 5th I ran my first 5k at the Jingle Bell Run/Walk in Portland, OR.  The whole process was new and exciting.  I found myself wanting to raise the bar almost immediately.  I’m currently working on improving my distance and pace. I also have a hand full of races already scheduled for 2011 and have joined the NW Running League.

Weight Loss

A not so unexpected side affect of the running has been weight loss.  You just can’t eat junk and expect your body to perform.  On top of that you burn a lot of calories during a regular training routine.  When I started running I was not trying to lose weight but the results are spectacular.

I was 260 lbs. when I started running and on New Years Eve I officially weigh 214 lbs.  I can definitely see a difference when I look in the mirror.  I’m not done losing weight and I’ve got a ways to go before I’m concerned about loosing too much.  Boy is my doctor going to be surprised at my next visit though.

Family

The whole family has been getting in on the gig too.  For the Jingle Bell Run, my son and nephew also ran in it while my wife and daughter walked it.  Since then everyone has gotten the running bug.

My son also goes to many of the gaming events with me.  We also both play in a semi-regular Savage Worlds game with friends.   It’s been an excellent social opportunity for him and a real treat for me to be able to share the hobby.

My sister in law is also currently in the process of moving closer to us.  We’re really looking forward to being able to spend more time with them.  There is talk about having a regular family game night together once they get moved.

2011 and Beyond

The new year should be really exiting.  There are so many cool things going on.  I have half a dozen races scheduled out including the Oregon Warrior Dash is September.  There are a hand full of gaming conventions I’m already signed up to attend.  And there is no shortage of fascinating and challenging games I want to try.

Those that know me know I have difficulty with uncharted social situations.  This year is bound to take me way outside of my comfort zone.  In addition to all of the large public events such as the races and conventions I’m attending, I also plan to run some games at some of the upcoming conventions too.

It is also my wish to start working on getting the house suitable for company so I can host a game night here.  Having attended a few similar events, I’m exited about the prospect.

So here’s to 2011.  May the new year bring you all you dream of.

Jingle Bell Run 2010

Back in July I decided I was going to become a runner.  I started out with the C25k program but switched half way through to a program outlined in Running for Mortals in October.  The goal of this program was to run in a 5k race.

On December 5th, 2010 at 8:40 in the morning I was standing with my son and nephew on Nato Parkway near the World Trade Center in Portland, OR.  We were at the starting line with a couple thousand other runners who came out to participate in the 2010 Jingle Bell Run.  My running partner, who was going to do the race with me, was running late.  At 8:51 am the horn sounded and I took off on my first 5k race.

The Jingle Bell Run is a charity run for the Arthritis Foundation.  As a team we raised $350.  The event ended up raising  $125,777 in donations.

The plan was for the boys to run at their own pace with the priority of sticking together.  They were to run four minutes at a time with two minute walking breaks.  I, on the other hand, was going to run the race in intervals of walking for one minute after every five minutes of running.  My wife and daughter were in the race too participating as walkers so they didn’t get to go until the runners were out of the way.

Things were progressing slowly at first.  It was so congested in the beginning that I barely felt like I was even running.  I was also feeling pretty good at that point so when the opportunity arose, I started passing people.  One at a time I keept inching forward.  Soon it was the boys turn to walk so they dropped off.  When I was my turn to walk I decided to skip the first break since I was feeling so good.

I ended up not resting until after I reached the half way point and started heading back towards the finishing line.  As I walked along I kept my eyes out for my running partner because I knew she couldn’t have been too far behind me.  I did spot her heading toward the half way point but there were so many people that she couldn’t hear me when I tried to get her attention.  Knowing she wouldn’t have wanted me to hold up for her I decided to run for five more minutes then walk some more to see if she caught up.

I was thrilled to see her coming along behind me just before my walk period was up.  She hadn’t seen my wife who had her racing chip though.  As luck would have it, just then I saw my wife heading the other direction.  As quickly as we could we ran over and got her chip and racing number then hit the road towards the finishing line.

I think I could have run forever that day.  In spite of months of dealing with calf and shin injuries, I felt strong and confident.  As the finishing line came into sight we picked up our pace for the big finish.  My sister in law was standing in the crowd cheering us on as we got close.  I can’t say for certain but I’m pretty sure I had a huge smile on my face all the way.  I was so excited that I didn’t think to look at the clock at first so it wasn’t until a few days later when the official results were posted that I learned that my official finish time was 00:37:32.6.

We waited at the finishing line for the boys.  Impressively they crossed the finishing line only a minute and a half behind us.  Their official time was 00:38:56.0.  I couldn’t have been prouder of them and made it a point to tell them so.

Once we got their chips turned in we headed over to the pavilion for some snacks.  We had some time before my wife and daughter would cross the finish.  Runners were still coming in.  The race provided bananas, bagels, and cheese for snacks.  After some discussion we decided to walk up stream to see if we could meet up with my wife.

It was a couple blocks down the road when I saw my five year old daughter running in our general direction with a huge grin on her face.  I thought she was running right to us when I noticed she wasn’t going to stop and instead waved as she went by.  I looked up and saw my wife running after her and it was obvious that she wasn’t prepared for that level of activity.  A quick word to the boys and the three of us caught up with my daughter and ran with her.

I was surprised to watch her run the entire distance to the finishing line.  Smiles the entire way as she weaved through the walkers.  As I crossed the finish line a second time, this time with my youngest.  I took her up into my arms for a big hug and told her how proud I was of her too.

This was an experience I’m not going to ever forget.  Since then I’ve gotten the racing bug and have signed up for another race at the end of the year and have plans to run at least half a dozen more next year.  At least one of them will be the 2011 Jingle Bell Run.

Savaged Country

Last night was our biweekly Zombie Run game.  It was perhaps one of the most fun sessions we have had yet.  I’m going to try to be real careful not to reveal any spoilers for anyone wanting to play Zombie Run.

As I previously mentioned, this gaming group consists of a variety of levels of experience.  For half of the players in my group, this is their first role playing game.  The group makeup has changed slightly and we have a couple new players in the group now too.  One of the new players is my son and it was fun to have him at the tale with us.

I’m not a fan of railroading the characters into the story line.  I prefer to lure than lead.  Unfortunately this group of players is extremely shrewd.  When I try to lure them into the building where the action is, they smell the trap and head the other direction.  The problem is, the story is inside the building.  If they keep walking around potential trouble, things are going to get pretty boring.

Last night was not one of those days fortunately.  I gave them the plot hook and they took it line and sinker.  Things got very tense and they tried to make a break for it.  In the end we had a nice conflict at an abandoned mini-mart between the players and a truck full of well armed thugs.  The leader of which was a “wild card” armed with a menacing two barreled shot gun.

There were some serious casualties too.  One of the players was nearly fatally wounded.  Two of the players have an ongoing issue as well.  Both were bitten by zombies, one more seriously than the other.  Their long term fate has yet to be revealed so I won’t go into much more detail just yet.  It’s fair to say, however, that the players are paranoid that their friends could end up becoming zombies.  These fears are not undeserved.

Their destination is Phoenix and they are getting awful close to their goal.  They have picked up some friends along the way.  Soon things will come to a head.  Will our heros build a brighter future or leave the world in ashes?

Running Injuries and Momentum

So I screwed up this week.  Apparently I’ve done my leg some disservice with some poor decisions.  From my previous entry you’ll note I mentioned running a mile in the mornings before work.  To lay out the whole picture you need to understand that my C25k runs are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at dusk.  This is also not something my body is used to doing so I’m still building the muscles and endurance to do this.

Tuesday morning I went for my morning run and, due to time constraints, I changed the route significantly.  The new route included some steep uphill sections which I powered through.  Also consider that since this was the morning the day after my evening run, it had been less than 12 hours since the previous run.  There was no time for my body to recover and it did not appreciate this along with all the extra effort and I damaged the muscles in my leg as a result.  Nearest I can tell it’s shin splints.

Shin splints are not uncommon among runners and they’re very painful.  There isn’t a whole lot that can be done for a quick treatment.  There are some exercises you can do to help strengthen your shin muscles but that doesn’t help once you already have them.  The only real treatment is rest.

There are a few things you can do to improve the situation though.  Lee wrote an excellent blog post of how to deal with shin splints over on therunningcouple.com.  In addition to his advice I’ve also heard from a couple sources that walking on your heals for a couple minutes also helps.  Personally I found there to be some truth to this for me.  It does seem to reduce the pain enough to allow you to move about when it’s really bad.

Try as you might, however, there are no quick fixes.  I’ve postponed morning miles until I get a better handle on this.  Wednesday’s C25k run was delayed a day.  It’s been difficult but I’ve been scaling back walks as well.

My issue is momentum though.  I’ve been moving along through C25k pretty well.  I’ve become totally addicted to running at this point and the thought of skipping a run devastates me.  It took a lot of convincing to get me to postpone my Wednesday run.  I can’t put into words how passionately I don’t want to lose momentum.  This is incredibly important to me.  I am changing who I am and I love it.

Last night I was feeling well enough to try my C25k run.  I changed the route to one that was fairly flat.  I focused my pre-run stretching on my shins and calves.  When I started out and through the run I was feeling pretty good.  We had to drive to our running location and we had a quick stretch before the short drive home.

When I got out of the car, I nearly collapsed from the pain.  My knees were shaking and my lower legs were refusing to hold my weight.  I went straight to putting ice on my legs soon as I got in the house.  Half an hour of iceing and massaging my lower legs worked wonders but things are still quite sore even today.

Tomorrow night is my next scheduled run so this has to heal up quickly.  I don’t have the years of training and conditioning that allow me to just put it off for a week or two then just pick it up where I left off.  I’m doing this thing.  I have to.

Beginning Runner and C25k

I was over at the Running Couple‘s blog reading about why you would want to run a full marathon when I realized, I have a story to tell and a blog to tell it on.  I’ve been on a “get off the pot” kick lately so I bring you my story:

I’ve decided to make a major change in my life.  I have decided to become a runner.  While I was inspired by a gadget, I was enamored with the simplicity of it.  I realized that of all the various fitness options at my disposal, running offered the most benefit for the least trouble.  All I had to do was put shoes on my feet and go outside.  One foot in front of the other and I was off.

I kept making excuses in the beginning about wanting to lose weight first so I wouldn’t damage my back or knees.  Making excuses isn’t starting though and that bugged me a lot.  It was something I wanted but I just didn’t know how to start.  At 260 lbs the only thing I had going for me was a little endurance from being a walker.  I was way out of shape for the task at hand.

After some research I found out about the Couch to 5k interval training program.  It was started by the folks over at Cool Running.  C25k takes you from a couch potato to being able to run three miles non-stop.  It does this with three workouts a week that are a combination of walking and jogging.  Each workout lasts roughly 20 – 30 minutes and you should hit your goal at the end of week 9.  Speed is not important in the program.  The key is building strength and endurance.  Best of all, the program is also very beginner friendly.

I had been using a cool GPS tracking application for a while to measure the speed and distance of my walks called Endomondo on my Android phone.  This application tracks speed, distance, and route traveled and then optionally uploads the information to a fitness oriented social networking site.  Naturally it also has the option to update Twitter and Facebook if you wish.  The application is available on many platforms including iPhone and Blackberry as well.  The idea of using this wonderful application to track and create a history of my runs added to the fun factor.

Following the program during the run can be accomplished a few different ways including the simple use of a stop watch.  Being who I am, I found an application for that instead.  The Android C25k application comes in a free and paid version.  For the couple dollars it cost and after having tried the free version, I got the paid version.  The application is simply a fancy timer with audio cues and has the entire program already in it.  It keeps track of the days you complete for you so you don’t have to wonder which one your on.  You simply select the week and day you’re doing and press start.  After that, it will chime when it’s time to run and when it’s time to walk.  It couldn’t be easier.

The running has been going well.  I just finished week 5 day 1 last night.  This Friday will be my first non-stop jog for 20 minutes (2 miles roughly).  The route I have to work with is not level ground at all.  The steep hills add quite a bit of challenge to the process.  In a way, I prefer it that way as it adds an extra sense of accomplishment to each successful run.

In addition to C25k, starting this morning, I’m trying to run a quick daily mile in the mornings to start my day.  This is entirely optional and due to my enthusiasm for running.

The weight loss is finally starting too.  I’m eating better because my body isn’t happy with the junk I feed it now.  I’m not focused on the weight though.  I didn’t run to lose five pounds.  I lost five pounds because I’ve been running.  I don’t think of it but it’s fun to watch.

I’m excited that I can do this.  The whole family has been very supportive.  My son runs with me and even my nephew who’s visiting with us for the week has been coming along.  Who knows where this will take me next.  A 5k marathon is not out of the question at this point.

Zombie Run First Session

I ran my first full featured Savage Worlds game this weekend.  While I’ve run improvised games for one or two players before this was the first time with a scripted plot and a full group.  Specifically I ran a module called Zombie Run for a group of five players who ranged from first time players to experienced returning players.

Zombie Run is a zombie survival game in the spirit of Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland.  The players start out stranded on Manhattan island finding themselves running low on basic essentials like food an water.  It didn’t take much for the players to decide they needed to find a way off the island.

The party had a very diverse makeup.  Because we had so many first time players and I wanted a very specific mood to the game, I pregenerated all the characters for the players in advance.  I asked all the players for a profession (archetype) and a hobby to describe their character.  Using this as a premise, I made five novice level characters.

First up was the stripper with a heart.  She was stripping to put herself through medical school.  Beautiful and charismatic, she’s the face of the group though she does possess a clumsy side.

The rodeo clown participates in civil war reenactments when he’s not dodging bulls.  He made a living putting himself in danger to protect others.  He’s heroic to a fault and as good a man as you could hope to find.

The red neck was in the big city visiting his cousin the truck driver.  You’re not likely to come across a bigger pair of nut cases from the country.  Their both really good with vehicles but while one is scrawny and a crack shot with a rifle, the other is a huge monster of a man who’d rather walk right up to you and bash your head in with a wrench for crossing him.

Finally there is the doctor.  With a horrible bed side manner, while he really knows his stuff, he’s gotten himself black balled from every major hospital in NY before the apocalypse.  He’s mean, cold, and calculating.  Regardless he’s an awesome ally to have when you’re on your last breath.

The first session went very well.  They haven’t left Manhattan yet but they’re working on it.  My favorite part so far was when they have sedated the rodeo clown to keep him from making trouble for the rest of the party when they threw their fellow survivors to the zombies in order to make a get away.  The inner group dynamics for this game are going to be brutal.  To make things more interesting, one of the party members has developed a major phobia of Zombies.  This happened when the party found themselves swarmed by zombies on a dark road with the car stuck on a fallen lamp post.

Everyone is looking forward to the next gaming session.  My expectations of the group include more conflict between the doctor and the rodeo clown, more random chaos caused by the cousins, and some brilliant negotiations from the stripper as she leans how pivotal she is to the groups success.  I can’t wait.

Skating Obsessions

I’ve become obsessed lately with skating.  It started about three months back when a coworker of mine convinced me to throw some skates on and give it a try.  I hadn’t skated since I was a kid and even then I never really got the hang of it.

Now as an adult, I am surprised to learn that not only am I finding that I can do this but I’m having so much fun with it as well.  Skating comes in a bunch of different flavors to explore as well.  There is really no shortage of stuff to try.

The best part of the whole thing is how it’s a great way to get fit and it’s so fun it encourages you to make healthier choices when your not skating.  Since I started skating I find myself thinking a lot more about what I’m eating and how I’m spending my time.  I can’t say I have a huge weight loss to show for it yet but I’m not gaining weight either.

My nephew has really picked up the skating bug too.  I’ve been having a blast introducing him to new forms of skating.  He’s got a natural talent for it and a willingness to learn.  The video above is from shortly after he got his first blades.

Since starting he’s been tackling various forms of speed and aggressive skating.  Below you’ll find a video I did while helping him learn some basic slalom techniques.  Some day when my skills level is higher I hope to join him in some aggressive skating fun.

As for me, I’ve got a ways to go.  There aren’t any videos of me skating because my skating really just isn’t that interesting yet.  I’m working on it though.  Now the whole family has skates and it’s become a regular event to go hit the rink.  Family skate time has become the highlight of my week.

Holiday Office Goofiness

The Christmas season is finally here and, for once in my life, I am actually ahead of the game.  The majority of the Christmas presents have been ordered and delivered thanks to Amazon.  There is still a little bit of shopping to do at home but even the kids are pretty much taken care of at this point.

On the whole, I’m feeling far less stressed out about the holiday than I’ve typically been in the past.  This sense of good humor has translated into my work place.  Normally there is always much to get done.  Once in a while, the company picks a day to slow down though and yesterday was the “Winter Celebration” event at work.  Essentially it boils down to food, games, and silliness.

I have one coworker in particular, Erin, who is normally remarkably self assured and intelligent.  It’s pretty hard to ruffle her feathers.  As luck has it we caught her during a moment of weakness.  With very little coaxing we got her to try the jumping game in the arcade.  She had no idea how the thing worked and we were highly amused at watching her try to figure it out.

Office pranks seem to be much more common these days.  As insurance becomes more expensive and benefits keep getting cut back, it seems like we are attempting to compensate by adding laughter to the office.  Erin has a great sense of humor which has really brightened up the office.

Does your office have an Erin?  What sort of things to do you do at the office to reduce the stress?

Upcoming campaign for Hellas

I’m currently in the process of preparing to run a campaign using the Hellas: Worlds of Sun and Stone RPG.  I first learned of Hellas during GameStorm 11 last year.  The authors had a booth and I was lucky enough to sit down and play in a game run by Jerry Grayson.

Hellas’s game engine is built on the OMNI system from  Morrigan Press.  The basic premise for the system is all roles are made on a single d20 with modifiers then compared to a single results table.  I feel the simplicity is the systems real strong point as it allows you to focus on the characters and the situation instead of crunching numbers.

The campaign world the adventurers travel in it very interesting.  Here is a quote from their website:

In ancient times, the spacefaring Hellenes and their Gods defeated an empire that threatened the entire galaxy. Now, after centuries of darkness, their enemies have returned for a final reckoning, and only a chosen few — wielding the power of the Gods — stand between them and certain destruction.

The setting is a blend of ancient Greek ideals and theology mixed with futuristic alien races and technology.  It should be noted that Hellas is not Greece as we know it but is simply inspired by the culture.  Because of the game embraces a few adult concepts, this would not be a game for younger players without being heavily modified.

The player characters are constantly striving to find their places among the gods through glory and actions.  And as with ancient Greek heros, it may take generations before the legacy is fulfilled.  The game plays into this by offering a system where after your character dies, the new character gets written into their history and carries on the legacy left behind by the fallen hero.  This might be a son, daughter, apprentice, or even friend of the family.  This is why it is said that the character a player starts a campaign with will likely not be the one they end it with.

I really look forward to running this game with my group.  For anyone interested in trying it out for the first time, they have a preview of the game available for download at their website.  If you do give it a try, stop by and leave your feedback.  I’d love to hear how it went.

Happy Halloween JDMA Revival!

Happy Halloween and welcome back to Bidi’s World.

Back in 2006 I started a podcast called JD’s Musical Alchemy.  The show has been on hiatus for a couple years now for a few reasons which I won’t get into now.  The show was a musical review of great upcoming and indie bands.  Some of the best music you may have never heard of. 

Back in October of 2006 I did a special Halloween episode highlighting songs I felt had a strong Halloween theme.  To celebrate the holiday I’m reposting the episode for you now.  Hope this helps you get into the mood to celebrate.