Thursday, December 17, 2015

I Thought Elpis Didn't Get Out! - A Season In Goal

My first season* as a hockey goaltender ended this past Tuesday night, and it's not difficult to pinpoint the spot where things went awry. During the last week of October I had my regular gig for the Mustangs on a Tuesday and a fill-in game in goal the following night with the Scurvy Dogs, the team I usually play defense for. Two game in two nights was a recipe for disaster, but instead I lost the Mustangs game in a shootout, 5-4, and then somehow won the next game 3-1. Both sets of teammates were amazed (although none more so than me) but my exploits did a terrible thing - it allowed them to hope.

See, I went in knowing I was going to be terrible. I'm 47 and learning how to play a high-skill position with a marked lack of agility, lousy equipment, and zero formal training. My goal (ha!) was to keep the score against me under double digits each game, which is not as easy as it sounds. So when my goals given up went in successive games from 9 to 7 to 4 to 1 I got a false sense of confidence. Even worse, my teammates on the Mustangs got it too (the Scurvy Dogs were familiar enough with me to know I'd gotten lucky). Their expectations went up even as the law of averages began to exert itself. I had a couple of pretty lousy games in a row before somewhat straightening myself out this week - giving up 7 doesn't sound sexy, I know, but I faced at least 40 shots and the last two goals came at the end when we were shuffling guys around. I had a guy playing D in front of me who had no idea what he was doing and screened me so that I never saw the sixth goal, only felt it as it clanged off my cup on the way in (hurrah for the double cup. Hur-effing-rah). I ended up with a GAA of 8.22, which is  . . . nah, there's no way to spin that. It sucks, even if a few of my teammates have been gracious enough to suggest that our forwards were not exactly obsessed with fulfilling their defensive responsibilities. All I can do is try to make it better next season.

As for when I'll get that shot, I'm not sure. The Mustangs are on hiatus as the captain takes a season (or more) off and the others move to different teams. I was offered a skating spot with some of my teammates but am choosing instead to go to the adult hockey clinic once a week, where I'll be pelted with pucks by skilled players for the better part of an hour with nobody keeping score. It's the kind of no-pressure reps that I need, combined with a couple of semi-private lessons that Santa is rumored to be bringing me. Maybe that'll make me better. Not likely to make me worse.

* speaking of seasons, if you haven't been watching the just-concluded second season of Fargo you should probably do so when it becomes available again in February. Fantastic stuff.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Bells Will Be Ringing . . .

The chill from the ice felt good, even though the bars of my goalie mask kept me from actually touching it with my face. I was sweaty, repulsively so, with the absorbing band against my forehead losing a slow battle of attrition. It would have been nice to stay there for a while to cool off, to just relax for a bit and take a break from the barrage of pucks I'd been pelted with. But there was a game to finish, another ten minutes to play, so I needed to end my brief respite and somehow manage to release from the tight ball I was curled into. There had been a momentous collision between the puck and, well, my junk. My wedding tackle. My doo-dads. My, for fans of Jennifer Roberson, gehittes. Whatever you want to call it, I'd taken one in the chops.

Of course, it couldn't have been anything like a wrist or snap shot. No, this was a full-on slap shot, which for those unfamiliar with hockey is when a player about thirty feet away or so winds up like a spring and shoots the puck as hard as they can. The primary intent is to blast it into the net, but I'm of the opinion that most figure that creaming the goalie is a decent consolation prize. According to Guinness (the record people, not the beer) the fastest/hardest slap shot on record was clocked at 110mph (by Denis Kulyash of Avangard Omsk during the Russian All-Star game in 2011, in case you were curious and you probably were) and while it's safe to say the one that picked my ticket was nowhere near that zippy, it still packed a punch. I didn't drop to my knees. Not because I'm so manly but rather because I was already dropping to my knees to make the save due to being screened (people between me and the shooter - the offensive team does this on purpose) and not knowing exactly where it was coming from. So yes, part of a goalie's job is to just place themselves in a likely position and hope they get hit. There's enough padding to keep you safe - hell, my chest armor is like +2 splint mail - as long as you don't get hit where it ain't. Now I do have a cup - a Shock Doctor rig that fits right into compression shorts - but it still felt like someone had put a telephone book next to my stuff and hit it with a baseball bat. Kids, a telephone book was a big thick thing people used to use to find phone numbers. The hitting-a-phone-book-with-a-baseball-bat analogy was one that was used to describe the force with which Mike Tyson used to punch people. Kids, Mike Tyson is the guy with the mansion in the first Hangover movie. He used to be a frighteningly scary boxer until the crazy took over. Was I actually hit that hard? No. Maybe? I don't know. It hurt.

My wife Lola was at the game to witness all my goaltending grandeur, watching from the warmth of the upstairs viewing gallery. In the rink below her were four or five women who were wearing 'Slot Rocket Hockey Wives' shirts (Slot Rockets being the unfortunate name of the team we were playing) who were filming the game in addition to cheering and, uhm, howling. This is what Lola told me. I lack rabbit ears. Anyway, according to Lola while I was curled up on the ice they started cheering. Now if I'd given up a goal I could understand that but ladies, my giblets made the save. Hold your huzzahs for positive things.

Since there's no such thing as a back-up goalie in beer league hockey I had to soldier on, and unfortunately said giblets couldn't stop a couple of goals over the next few minutes. I should have made the saves but for some reason the whole 'feeling like I had rusty daggers plunged into my lower stomach' cut down on my mobility. I'd already given up a bunch before, although I could argue that none of those were what you'd call bad goals. Evidently the lunatics I have for teammates agree because they actually cheered me when I lumbered into the locker room after the game, saying it would have been 20-5 instead of 9-5 as a final if I hadn't done so well, and one of those nine was an empty-netter. Clearly they were all either already drunk (a possibility, as again there were a number of beers present on the bench during the game) or are just delusional. Either way works for me, as being a goalie with zero pressure other than to show up and, well, be willing to get up off the ice after taking a puck to the boys, is a wonderful opportunity and a great time.

Except for the whole getting hit in the package thing. I'll have to work on that.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Humble Pie a la Mode, Please

Most of my experiences playing goal are able to be sorted into neat little categories. For example, most of my games go into the 'We're outclassed talent-wise and I'm facing a bajillion shots so just use it as a learning experience' bin, wherein I do my best to ignore how many got past me and focus of why they did and how to stop them next time. Then there's 'Well that went better than expected' which is a variant of the previous one but with fewer goals against. Last week debuted two new slots: "Screwed up some but kept it close enough for us to have a shot' and 'Holy crap I didn't screw it up and we won OMG OMG OMG WTF', both of which are welcome additions.

This week? 'Wow, that was ugly and I basically destroyed any chance my team had in a winnable game'. Not as awesome, that one. I'll spare you the (boring and) gory details, but we lost 9-6 and I should have stopped at least 5 of those. I suppose I should have been surprised given my relative successes last week, but there was some sort of weird vibe going on. Not with my team - the Mustangs are so laid back that not only do they drink beers pregame, one of the players brought three cans to the bench for between shifts. Usually I'm filled with giddy excitement to go play, like a can of Coke someone shook up. I never had that this week, although I have no idea why. The stress of shuffling kids around pre-game? Anxiety over deadlines on a freelance job? Impostor's syndrome being a jerkweed? A million other things going on right now causing me to fret? Maybe, but normally when I hit the ice all that stuff gets left behind the boards. Not so much this time, though, and it showed. We should have won. I should have been better.

Still, I try not to beat myself up too much. First, it's a freaking game. Two, I'm a forty-seven year old doofus with zero flexibility trying to play goal with no training beyond watching a few YouTube videos. I've been doing this for like four months with leg pads that cause other goalies to shake their heads with pity at the sight of them. While I hate disappointing my teammates, I have to be realistic - I'm an old, clueless rookie. A noob. A neophyte. First level goalie with zero feats. It's supposed to be a learning experience and dammit, most of all, it's supposed to be fun. And it's going to be, especially if I can ever remember to bring some GF beer so I can drink too.

Post game only, though. Don't drink and goalie.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Wait, What Just Happened?

So I was wondering how I could top last week's 3 games in 4 nights insanity (not really) when the Hockey Gods decided to share their generous bounty with me. My games for Tuesday and Wednesday nights were both late starts - 10:20 and 10:50 respectively - and deadlines on some editing/writing side work were going to necessitate me getting up at my usual 5am wake up time. But where's the challenge in that, asked one of the Hockey Gods - I dunno, let's call her Netula, Lady of the Toe Drag - and so she smote my Scurvy Dogs goalie with too many other demands to allow him to make our game.

So. Back-to-back nights in goal. Well played, Netula. Well played.

My Tuesday game was with the Mustangs, who seemed inordinately pleased with me giving up an average of 8 goals a game. We were playing a team that was also 0-2 and I desperately wanted to put in a strong showing and lead the team to victory. Well, I spit that bit. Ye gods, I spit it over the boards and out of the arena. Of the three goals I coughed up in the 1st period two were just awful. This didn't help with the impostor syndrome I'm suffering from every time I put on the pads (not to be confused with the impostor syndrome I get while writing or the different impostor syndrome I get while editing or the impostor syndrome I get while GMing or . . . well, there's lots of them. Also, 'impostor' and 'imposter' are interchangeable, although my spellchecker prefers the former). In the 2nd period I got into a better rhythm and started making some saves I had no right to, while a new player wearing a dirty white jersey that looked like your disgusting pillow (don't deny it) started skating circles around the other team. 3-1. 3-2. 3-3 at the end of the 2nd. Dare I hope?

I dared. And, lo and behold, we took the lead with ten minutes left, at which point the clock began to run backwards. Okay, it didn't really, but that's what it felt like as the next five minutes crawled by. I made a few more saves but eventually their ringer came in on a breakaway and scored as I got some but not enough of his shot with my glove. DAMMIT. The next few minutes were fraught with tension any time the puck came into my zone, but we made it to the end of regulation tied at 4 and I was rewarded with . . . a shootout. For those who don't know, at rec levels hockey games that end in a tie are settled by a shootout, which consists of each team sending in an unimpeded skater alone against the goalie. This lasts for three rounds and the winner is the team who scores the most (or gives up the fewest, to keep you pedants happy). My team suggested to the other guys that they both leave the ringers out of this, which they agreed to and promptly disregarded. He came in second, after I had miraculously stopped the first guy, cruising in until he was about 15 feet from the net. I'd been drifting back, as I've been taught to do, and maybe I should have been more aggressive because the SOB cranked up from there and let loose a slapshot. At least he was skilled enough to hit the net instead of me. My team missed all three of their chances and thus we lost, but my captain was absolutely exuberant because we'd only lost by one. This team had a rough season in the summer, methinks. Anyway, thank goodness for low expectations.

In the locker room a guy I didn't know (and, if I'm correct about who he was, played with all the speed and skill of a three-legged sofa) said to me, "Yeah, during the 1st period I was watching you and rolling my eyes, thinking 'what the eff is up with him?' But then you buckled down over the rest of the game and man, you really showed me something." Uhm, thanks? So glad to be blessed with your approval. Maybe if you backchecked occasionally I'd be even more impressive. MAYBE.

Wednesday morning at 5am found me tired and cranky. When I was done editing it looked like I'd slit someone's throat next to the monitor. BLOOD FOR MY EXHAUSTION. I hit the ice at 10:50pm against the unknown quantity of the House team. When I was on the House team, we went 0-17. Last summer, they went 5-3 and made the playoffs. No idea what you're going to face. I just wanted to avoid letting up the early goal and putting us in a hole. Of course that meant a minute in one of their guys came in on a partial breakway and ripped a shot destined for the far corner. It should have gone in, but Netula took pity and allowed me to kick my right foot out and deflect the puck away. And so we were off.

Much like last week, we dominated. And also like last week, we couldn't score. Their goalie made some great saves, but we missed a slew of open nets. This made me even more nervous but I just kept turning shots away. We broke through late in the 1st and I knew I had to try to keep them off the board for 30 more minutes.

It almost worked. We absolutely peppered their goalie with shots but he made save after save. Our best player was stymied on numerous breakaways. On my end, Lady Netula continued to smile at me as they missed at least three nice cross-ice passes that should have been goals. I saved a bunch as well, but finally they broke in 3 on 1 and a shot tipped off my glove and went under the crossbar, almost exactly the same as the tying goal from the night before. This happened with 11 seconds left in the 2nd. 11 seconds. Grrr.

The tension continued to build until about 5 minutes into the 3rd period, when we scored on a power play  to take the lead. That increased my anxiety because I didn't want to blow the lead again, but we (like how I use 'we'? Like I'm the one out there scoring) chipped in another to give me some breathing room and then tacked on two more to finish it off. The final was 5-1. By virtue of having the one truly awesome scorekeeper/board operator (he not only blasts a computerized foghorn on goals, he also plays music during breaks in the action. I may or may not have been dancing to One Direction out there. Results are inconclusive at this point) I see that I made 20 of 21 saves on the night for a Lundqvistesque-like save percentage of .952 (I will take this with a grain of salt as he has the other goalie only facing 19 shots, which is probably around 40 short of the actual total). I finished a game having given up one goal. Unthinkable, and largely due to my teammates who did just about everything right all night. Maybe we're getting better or maybe the House team was just terrible. Either way, I'll take the win. My first. Hopefully not my last.

Despite my sparking goals-against-average of 2.50 for the pair of games the position of goalie for the Scurvy Dogs was and remains Chaz's, who is so much better at it than I am that it's almost discouraging. Still, my knees aren't bitching too much today and I've accomplished something I always wanted to do, even if the scoresheet says Chaz did it.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

4, 3, Part 3, Whatever

So, third game in four nights. The evening off had helped to lessen some of the creaking from my old bones, and I figured I'd be set anyway as my team has a roster with 17 skaters on it. Hell, just to be safe I told one of the subs to come as well. Now if all 18 showed up that would have made for a crowded bench and there would have been kvetching about playing time.  There's never really enough of it, is there?

Well . . .

I use a service called Teamsnap to keep things semi-organized for the Scurvy Dogs. It lets me send out group emails, tracks our schedule and sends out reminders, and, perhaps most importantly, lets everyone mark their availability (or lack thereof) in one place so we have an idea what kind of numbers we're going to have. I didn't think we'd have a full squad - we almost never do - but my hope was that they're be enough players so that if I needed to skip a shift, it wouldn't be a problem. Because, again, who wouldn't want more playing time?

Well . . .

Little green checkmarks that meant people were coming kept changing to red no-shows. At the drop of the puck we had nine players. Nine. How'd we get there?

out - in Texas
out - unknown
out - in Scotland
out - sick
out - wife had to give lecture, had to watch kids
out - unknown
out - seeing Anthrax (or some other metal band)
out - unknown
out - showed up to play but forgot his pants. I cannot make these things up. He forgot his hockey pants. Of course he was a defenseman. Why does that matter? Read on, my friend. Read on.

So, what does a reduced roster mean? Well, leaving the goalie out of the whole equation, nine skaters breaks up best as two sets of  forward lines (three players each) and the three defensemen sharing the two spots, which means someone is always going to be doubleshifting. To exacerbate the quandary one of my fellow defensemen, a little bit older but the best of us anyway, admitted he was feeling 'a little under the weather' and would appreciate it if we could give him breaks if he needed them. Right. So, our games are 45 minutes long and since you have two defensemen on the ice at all times that means there's 90 total minutes of playing time to be accounted for. Between three players. Including one who wasn't feeling well. Ye gods.

I have no idea how much time I actually played. Kind of a blur, really. I know I started the 3rd period and didn't come off until over six minutes had elapsed, which is regoddamndiculous. Bad things happened during that time as our opponents scored twice - the first two goals of one of the most enjoyable games I've ever played in. It was evenly matched for the most part, but it's with stunned recollection that I say we absolutely dominated the first ten minutes of the game. Crushed it. Made them feel like, well, like we usually do in the first ten minutes of the game, scrambling around as the other team keeps the puck in for what seems like an eternity. We did everything right, everything -  except score. I made the best pass of my life to a wide-open teammate but the ensuing shot hit the post. The goalie made saves on shots he never saw. Chaz was terrific too, and it was 0-0 until the 3rd. We finally bashed one in with 2 minutes left and pulled the goalie, but they tacked on an empty netter and I had the only loss out of the three this week that bothered me (I'm choosing to ignore that my teams were outscored 16-1. Irrelevant. It would be boorish of you to mention it again. Boorish). It was a game we could have won, maybe should have. I'm willing to shoulder a good chunk of the blame. I had a great first periods, methinks, but as the game wore on I started to miss passes, overskate pucks, make lousy passes of my own, and torpedoed a power play chance in the 2nd. Fatigue? Maybe. Getting accidentally slewfooted by a teammate didn't help either, but in the end I still had the familiar joy that always grips me when I take the ice. A win would have been cool, though. Maybe next time.

My legs put up a mild protest when I got up at 5am, but either I'm in shape or the naproxin is keeping them in check for now. I reckon I'll know the answer to that in a few hours when it wears off.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

4 Games, 3 Nights, Blah Blerg Part 2

A philosophical question for you: what makes one a jerkweed? I'll give you an example to fuel the debate no doubt raging within you right now. You are a skilled hockey player, playing in a division you're too good for but man it feels good to see your name on top of the goal-scoring leader board, amiright? Your team is up by 7 goals - SEVEN - in a game against some hapless schmucks and there's only like 45 seconds left but hey, if you bust your ass and skate as hard as you can RIGHT NOW you can have a breakaway on their obviously inexperienced goalie. So of course you do just that, you kick in your special turbo-skakin' strides and bust in all alone, making dekes and shaking left and right before tucking that puck right between the goalie's pads.  Man, that felt good, right? But it does beg the question - are you a jerkweed?

Well, at least one of my teammates thought so and got up in his face right before the faceoff to my right a few seconds later. Possible jerkweed was completely unrepentant, and there was some shoves before the ref came over and - what? The hockey-minded among you are asking wait, why was the faceoff to your right instead of at center ice? Because I stonewalled that son of a bitch. The sexy explanation would be that I read his moves and gave him nothing, but the truth is I guessed correctly and, after dropping to the ice, slammed my leg pads shut as the puck was going through them, getting enough to have it squirt out to the side and miss the net. This moment of triumph didn't make up for the other seven goals that had previously gotten past me, but it was a nice way to end the night. The first goal I gave up was the first I've been truly embarrassed about, a dribbler I should have already been butterflied for. Most of the goals that were scored were of the weird variety - rebounds the went the wrong way and were jammed back in; a pass I blocked that went directly back to the passer who made a better pass the second time; making a nice glove save I one side of the net but admiring myself a little too long and having the ensuing rebound go all the way to the corner on the other side for a guy to shoot into the open net; and so on. My teammates seem happy as hell with me - evidently we're giving up 4 less goals a game on average, and while I do get frustrated when I give up easy goals (and not easy goals, and really any goal, to be honest) I am having so much damn fun out there that it's impossible not to enjoy. There is zero pressure to be great - zero. It's the perfect learning environment, albeit one with a wicked learning curve.

So, back to our quandry - was our friend #88 a jerkweed? If you ask my teammates, absolutely. I've never been in the position where my team has had an obscene lead and an opportunity to score so I can't say I know the feeling. I can say that as a goalie learning the ropes (boards, whatever) I was happy he came in on the breakaway. I need the reps, need the practice, and I'm not going to improve my people taking (much deserved) pity on me. But I suspect my opinion might be slightly influence by the fact that I stopped him. 7-0 looks much better than 8-0, no?

The legs held up okay, but my knee was barking by the end of the game. Last night was a much appreciated evening of rest (although the sensei at my son's karate school offered to have me jump in on the adult class and I'm going to tell you the temptation was damn near overwhelming but playing on two hockey teams is going to have to suffice for now) before tonight's game against the chippy Hoboken Rockets. The penalties, they shall flow.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Four Nights, Three Games, One Old Man

The scheduling gods, capricious at best, decided it would be ever so fun to have me play three games in four nights this week. They also thought it would be in my best interests to make all of the contests be against top-flight teams as well. Additionally, they realized the experience wouldn't be complete without having me take the kids for a long hike AND have me run around a lot coaching Zack's soccer practice right before game #1.

Okay, those are on me, more of less. But the shore trail along the Hudson was gorgeous, if a little chilly from the arctic wind. Lighten up, Fall. It's mid-October. Save that frigid crap for December. Still, it was a bit less strenuous than the route we'd taken last time, known simply as the 'Long Trail.' That charming little diversion features a mile-and-a-half climb that nets you 560 feet in altitude as you hike up switchbacks. Maybe next time.

Game one was last night, the opening contest of the Fall/Winter season for the Scurvy Dogs. We drew the Eagles, a team that went 8-0 in the summer league and lost in the finals. They feature a guy we refer to as 'Mini-Gretzky' since he goes about five-foot-nothing, even in skates. His height doesn't keep him from being ridiculously good, obscenely so. He can easily skate from end to end with us being no more than traffic cones to be navigated around, something he did numerous times during our game. If you're saying, 'Hey, aren't you guys in the beginner division? Isn't that unfair?' I will ring the bell and hand you a virtual kewpie doll. It's grossly unfair, but he gets away with it because he's smart enough not to score goals. I know that sounds counterintuitive to winning, but he's so good that anytime we brought the puck into their zone he'd take it away, skate through all of us, then pass it off to one of his teammates in  prime shooting position. It's unbalancing and discouraging, and there were more than a few smirks on our bench when Joel gladly took a tripping penalty on him late in the third. I know, I know, I sound like I'm whining. Well, I actually am whining, but it's tough to play a game knowing that even if we somehow kept it close, he could more or less put in a decisive goal whenever he wanted to. In fact, in the locker room after the game I suggested that next time we played them we should all just skate over to the bench the first time he got the puck and shrug.

Despite Mr. Superstar we played a decent game. They scored on the first shift but we recovered and, if not making them worry about our offensive prowess, kept them off the board for the rest of the period. Was our defensive play better? Yes. Did Chaz stand on his head? Double yes. Still, 1-0 at the end of the first was mighty impressive. They scored early in the second - we have a thing about letting up first-shift goals, it seems - but we hung tight until about the mid-way point, when the gates cracked open, a bit. The final was 6-0, not too bad and certainly better than the debacle when I played goal against them in the summer. Those antics are reserved for tonight, as I don hockey's version of the 'tools of ignorance' and defend the net against a team Jeff described as, 'Really good. Also, complete assholes.' Ye gods. When do I get to play goal against an actual bad team? Not tonight, it appears. See you on the other side, gang.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

'I Know - There's a Problem With Your Face' - Life Between the Pipes, Game 1

(Bonus points if you can ID the title quote without Googling it. No cheating. I'm watching you . . .)

To say I'd been looking forward to playing goal for the Mustangs would be an understatement. While I love playing defense for the Scurvy Dogs as well, the few times I've swaddled myself in 40 pounds of protective gear to have talented people shoot hard rubber discs at me have proven strangely addictive. In a weekend that sorely, sorely needed distractions the planned ones got disrupted by the storms, so time seemed to crawl until Tuesday night's 10:50pm start time. Yes, that's late. Not the latest start time this season, though. And I pay hard-earned money to do this. Well, okay, as a goalie I don't. But I pay with DEVOTION. And sweat. Hoo boy, lots of sweat.


I met my new team (plus one defenseman I snagged from the S-dogs) and immediately approved of their decision to take the edge off with a pre-game beer (not for me, alas. Stupid gluten). They seemed like a decent bunch of guys who were thrilled that I'd managed to meet the crucial qualification of showing up. Our foes would be the Goats, with their vaguely Satanic logo. Not at this game, though, because while they already have like 12 jerseys they were sporting new ones that were awesome, done in the style of those crazy-ass Phoenix Coyote jerseys from years ago. Shit, like 3 people are going to get that reference. Hang on a sec, let me be all full service here):
of course, those aren't as cool as this glorious mess:

That is a hell of a jersey right there (Yes I know it's technically called a 'sweater.' Shut up). I would get married in that thing. You see someone standing in front of you in that thing and you know you're getting someone on the cutting edge of taste and style. Where was I? Right, the Goats. Playing for the Goats were my S-dog goalie Chaz and my co-captain/friend/little brother Jeff. I was determined to keep Jeff from scoring, because that's the sort of weird competition thing dudes do sometimes. I would stymie him! Keep him off the scoring sheet! Send him home in tears, demoralized and broken!

He scored one minute and twenty-one seconds into the game. 1:21. Ye gods. What a bastard. My fault, as I let a shot/pass/something from the corner kick through my pads to where he'd set up camp in front of the crease. He was there all game, pretty much. I felt like I was sitting behind him at a horror movie called IT CAME FROM THE FACEOFF CIRCLE or something like that. We fell behind 2-0 pretty quickly on that goal and another I should have stopped as well, but then suddenly we started pressuring them and I managed to get in the way of a few pucks by accident and at the end of the 1st period it was 2-2.


In the second period one of their guys juked me so effectively on a breakaway that I thought my frantic scrambling back might have slipped a disc in my back. But lo, we tied it up again and so it remained until about 5 minutes left in the period, when my face decided to get in the act. The puck was shot around the boards behind me, and as I tried to slide across the crease to follow it I stumbled a bit, which turned my body in that direction. The Goat who received the pass unleashed a wrist shot from on the goal line. From that angle, it couldn't break the laws of physics and go in unless it got some help. A deflection off a teammates' stick, or anyone's skate, or, well, my mask. He lifted the shot and it pinged off my cage, going sideways into the goal as if he'd planned it. MAYBE HE DID. In any case, we were behind AGAIN. It stayed that way until we took a penalty a few minutes into the 3rd period and they scored on the powerplay. That pretty much opened the floodgates as their guy-who-is-too-good-to-be-in-our-division decided he needed to skate through our entire team, do a toe drag (it's a fancy hockey shot), and beat me. He had so much fun he did it again. Then he did it a third time but passed to an open teammate instead as I flailed around. ALL IN THE SAME ONE MINUTE LONG SHIFT (or maybe a little longer, it's all a blur). Oh, my goals-again-average. And this a contract year!

The final was 9-3 and at least half, if not more, were goals I should have stopped. My teammates seemed thrilled with me anyway, which could be warning signs of visual deterioration or mental issues. In any case, I get to do it again in two weeks. What's that? I have games Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday night that week? WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG. 47 year old legs work better when you play 3 games in 4 nights, right? Right?

(title quote answer - Big Trouble in Little China, of course)

Monday, October 5, 2015

Tatt's Where It's At

Joel Greengrass and I have been friends since the 4th grade. Well, to be fair that's just when we first got to know one another, as I was his safety. Since during the New Jersey winters kids couldn't go outside after lunch but teachers still needed their break from their students someone came up with the bright idea of assigning a 'safety' to each class to be in charge. Consider the insanity involved there - I was a 4th grader in charge of 25 other 4th graders locked in a classroom for 45 minutes. It should also be noted that there were 4th graders in charge of classrooms filled with 1st graders - somehow this was approved. It was about the level of chaos you would imagine it to be. Joel, in particular, was the architect of my discontent. It was not fun for me, and I extracted my revenge by becoming best friends the following year when we moved on to middle school. Fool!

We've remained friends since then, through good times and bad times and other times when I probably didn't deserve to have him to put up with me. He was the best man at my ill-fated wedding to the Practice Wife and showed up when Lola and I eloped. In short, I'd be hard-pressed to think of time when he wasn't there for me. That's what friends do, right?

Almost a decade or so ago he was diagnosed with MS. As anyone who knows him might expect, Joel decided against sitting in a corner and bemoaning his fate. Instead he's continued to live life with as much passion and joy as he can. Hell, we even learned how to skate, grabbed hockey sticks, and formed a team together. He's blessed with a deep support system: his wife and kids are some of the most wonderful people I've ever met; his parents and siblings are so amazing that I more or less finagled my way in as the 5th child; his friends love him unconditionally; and pretty much everyone else who comes into contact with him, personally or professionally, gains from the experience. The amount of money raised for MS research in his name has been staggering. Simply put, he's an inspiration.

Lately complications from the MS have been making his life more difficult, and I started wondering what might be a good way to make sure I've got his back until he finally beats this thing. And so:

This is the logo of his support network, emblazoned on countless t-shirts, sweatshirts, frisbees, key chains, and, now, my right arm. The design is by Dave Bamundo and the ink was done by Scott Hill at Scott Hill Tattoo (funny story, that, as there was a mix-up with our new babysitter right before my appointment but hey, kids LOVE tattoo parlors. Actually, it's a well-lit, clean, very nice place on the main street of a ritzy town. Becky was fascinated by the procedure. Father. Of. The. Year). May Joel hang around as long as this tattoo does.

I now have three tattoos, which I believe marks me as either 'unsavory' or 'disreputable.' Perhaps both. That little sliver of poppet on the left is Becky, who wanted her own version - in henna.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Old Friends

Despite the day and title this is not about 9/11, so no trigger warning needed. Most of this was written Thursday morning as I took a break from working on my book/petting Chalupa, who has decided that my lap is indeed structurally sound enough to support him as I try to work at my desk. So brave of him.


On Wednesday I figured the perfect way to top off a day spent working outside in temperatures in the mid-nineties paired with oppressive humidity would be an hour and a half long soccer clinic. Well, no, I'm mixing that up with 'sense of obligation combined with zero knowledge about soccer,' but in any case, there I was at 6:30pm, standing in a field consisting mainly of dead grass and dust along with forty or so others. While I've coached football, baseball, and softball already this was my first foray into soccer and man, soccer clubs in small NJ towns are weird. There's a strange sense of, I don't know, slightly embittered archness, like they know it's always going to be treated like football's little brother in the US but it's the WORLD'S GAME and all that. Me, I've never been a fan. I played the version in which someone got so bored playing it he picked up the ball and ran with it instead. Remember to pour out a forty for William Webb Ellis who not only created the game of rugby but also didn't fight it being named after the school he was at instead of himself, because playing 'Webb' or 'Ellis' would have been weird.

So this was a participatory thing, run by reps from the nearest Major League Soccer team. The Red Bulls, I think. Yeah, the professional team is named after a crappy energy drink. The guy running it was good at what he did, gently mocking but engaging as well. After a few opening comments he told us the general plan and advised us, if we'd brought them, to change into our cleats.

It'd been a long while since my softball days and the only cleats I'd had lying around the house were my rugby spikes, so I'd brought them. Note the name: spikes. Since I was a scrummie I wore boots that featured eight inch-long metal studs designed for digging into the turf as so not to be moved. Well, also for stomping on the nancy-boy cleats of any back who got caught up in a ruck or a maul. Purely accidental, of course. Ahem.

Past gougings aside, I pulled them out of my bag and sat on the baked earth to pull them on. They were a little more worn than I remembered and it was a bit of a struggle, as it always had been, to get my foot all the way down, but . . . damn, they still fit as if I'd bought them custom made. I could say it was like slipping into a comfortable old shoe, but, well, redundant. It was like, uhm, wearing a familiar, well-broken-in baseball glove, of picking up a pen that fits your hand well, or the way you sink into your mattress at night. Not just any mattress, but the one you shopped for, the one that supports you just right, the one that makes you sigh as you settle in.

Evidently my boots came equipped with a nostalgia button as well, because as I laced them up my face split into a grin as rugby-related memories came in a flood: my first post-practice naked birthday Zulu dance, complete with a face-first flop into a mud-puddle (and subsequent walk back across campus); the drink-up at West Point in a cabin in the woods surrounded by a platoon armed to the teeth; standing with my NoJo brothers drinking celebratory beers in the encroaching darkness under the RFK Bridge on Randall's Island, having just crushed Brooklyn to punch our ticket to Nationals; coming to on a pitch in West Orange, having just been knocked out cold by a teammate's heel to my temple.

I never said they were all pleasant memories.

I'll always treasure having had rugby as a part of my life. Giving it up was a tough choice, but at the time I had too many things on my plate in addition to being twice the age of some of our newer players. The spirit was willing, but the flesh was spongy and bruised*. Plus I couldn't justify vanishing for an entire Saturday 20 or 30 times a year any longer - not fair to my kids. So I hung up my boots until now, where they trotted out with me onto a soccer pitch.

They didn't make me a good soccer player. Hell, they didn't even make me a bad soccer player. I bumbled through drills, understanding how poorly I was doing wasn't the point. I kicked balls in the wrong direction, too far, not far enough, with too much English, with not enough English. It didn't matter. My job is the kiddie version of a cat wrangler, keeping them happy and occupied while they run around. My head coach is a lifetime soccer player and they actually give us Red Bull coaches as well, so I just have to show up.

In my cleats.

* hat tip to Futurama

Friday, August 28, 2015

Ice To Meet You

Yesterday was a rough day for me at work in a physical sense. First there were the bees - SO MANY BEES - and the gift of multiple stings they shared with me. After escaping them I noticed that my left foot hurt and when I got around to peeling off my boot and sock I saw that during my flight I'd somehow managed to break one of my toes (a side note - this is not as big an issue at it might seem, given that I spent years playing a game that featured me in things called 'rucks' and 'mauls' and included 29 other dudes wearing metal cleats. Since I retired from rugby the scale has slid to the 'MORE days with zero broken toes' side of the ledger. All digits, really. I'm sure some of my OW friends recall me showing up to an afterparty sporting a thumb that was pretty much black in color). Later I was pounding on a brake drum with a ball peen hammer (this is my life ::shrug::) and a sliver of metal shot off, nicking my forearm. The cut was tiny - maybe a 1/4 inch - but blood more or less geysered from my arm. I got it under control, but a huge welt rose up around it. With my right knee doing some freelance barking of its own as well, I was kind of a wreck. Certainly in to condition to play hockey last night, right?

There is something about lacing up my skates and getting out on the ice that seems to soothe all my ills. I have no explanation why. There have been nights I've headed to the rink feeling like my guts were trying to escape through my belly button but once I'm out there, sweating while surrounded by chill, my body enters some sort of zen state. Of course sometimes I play like I'm meditating, but that's part of the learning curve. It's been almost two years since Jeff, Joel, and I first started wobbling on the ice together, and it's been a hell of a fun ride. Are we better? Hell yes. Are we good yet? Hell no. We have our moments and our mistakes. Last night was our final game of Summer season and while I was generally happy with my play, I had a few screw ups that grated on me like sand in a swimsuit. There were a couple of giveaways; I didn't get a few clears out of our zone; some of my passes were about as accurate as Carly Fiorina's 'facts' about climate change (why are people interested in someone who took a successful company and drove it into the ground?); I let a backpass get past me at the blue line when we were pressing for a tying goal.

Fine. More than a few.

We played a good game against a team close to our level in ability, hamstrung by some folk taking shifts that were WAYYYYYYYYY too long. If you're playing hockey correctly then after about 45-60 seconds you should be so exhausted that getting off the ice will sound wonderful, but we had players staying out over two minutes and wandering all over the place. There's times when you can't get off the ice for fear of giving up too much of an advantage, but this wasn't the case. I had to keep being That Guy and yelling about shift times on the bench. I don't want to be That Guy. I like our team. We're fun. We're usually happy. We don't care that we're terrible (but getting better). Still, repeatedly taking too long shifts is pretty much just one thing - selfish. That's something we don't need.

Selfless, now, that's okay. Our poor goalie Chaz deserves so much better - we lost 3-1 last night. One goal was a one-timer on a blown assignment that he had no chance on. The second goal deflected off some jerkweed's thigh (spoiler - it was mine) during a penalty kill. Also no chance. The final goal was an empty netter after we came THISCLOSE to tying it. Lola was watching from above and said the puck was 3/4s of the way across the line after one shot. Arrgh. Seriously, though, with an inept clown such as myself as 1/4 of his defense corps Chaz still posted a goals-against average below 4. To put that in perspective, my GAA in 3 games as his backup is 9.33. I can't believe nobody has poached him from us yet. SCURVY DOGS FOR LIFE

In the laugh-for-the-day category, Jeff is trying to hook me up with a team at another rink who needs a goalie. They are afraid I won't want to play with them because they 'aren't good enough.' Oh, you wonderfully silly people. Call me up and give me the keys to the crease. We're going to get along just fine.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Things and More Things

I have Things to write about. Should it be hockey? Writing? Both, you say? That way lies madness, my friend, but let us not go gentle into that goodnight. Yes, I'm punchy. Hockey game + staying up late to take kids to not see comet detritus (disappointed in you, Perseids ) + STILL getting up at 5am to write/edit/pet Chalupa = tired Kit.

Writing: On the horns of a dilemma. I'm still chugging along on the edit/rewrite of Big Stupid Book, heeding the advice of all three colors of my beta reader Traffic Light. While keeping the stuff that Yellow and Green liked I am addressing the issues Red raised - namely getting conflict in earlier and also showing why the protagonist doesn't end up going the spandex route. It's going well, but the problem is that my creative juices have fired up again and I have a couple of short stories demanding to be written. I need more hours in the day and more energy, but at least I'm doing quick outlines of the ideas so that they don't vanish from my porous memory before I can write them like so many, many others. Waiting to hear back on two stories that are out and for another to be published. Hurry up and accept stuff, editors, so I can write self-congratulatory tweets. IT'S WHAT THE WORLD WANTS.

Hockey: man, the line between having a good game and screwing everything up is so damn fine. More so at goalie than defense, but I was having a decent game last night as we played a team close to us in skill level. Well, we were missing Gary, our ringer, and they were not missing their ringer, who may or may not have been named Gary as well (I just checked. He was not a Gary). He was the difference, but we'd actually kept him off the board and were tied at 3-3 with 10 minutes left. And then some JERKWEED made a good read and pinched in to steal a bad clearing attempt but MISSED THE PUCK, which led to a 3 on 1 the other way that our heroic goalie Chaz stopped but somehow got beat on a bad-angle rebound. Again, I MISSED THE PUCK, just had my stick go right over it. Ye gods. We almost tied it but they punched in another before adding an empty netter to seal their win. Still, we played pretty well and when we didn't Chaz was there to cover our behinds. I think having set lines eliminates a lot of confusion for the forwards, and the line of Brad, Kevin, and Ryan (not Kyle, as I wrote on the combat tracker strips I'm using on a white board. That's right, fellow Scurvy Dogs, I'm a total nerd and play D&D and other games like it and your names were on something geeky ahahahahahah) had a second strong game together in a row. I guess this means we won't be letting Kevin go back to Duke. Sorry, man, I understand college is important and all but thie is BEER LEAGUE HOCKEY we're talking about here. Adjust your priorities, man. Anyway, we should knighting Chaz for his work in net or something. I'm missing a goalie opportunity next week as we'll both be away but I'm sure my family won't mind if I have us leave DC at like 1pm so I can make my game and then drive back down that night, right? Ha no.

Other Writing: If you're not reading the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl I'm going to suggest that you maybe go ahead and do so. It's being written by Ryan North, author of Dinosaur Comics and the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Hamlet book, who is also an EXCELLENT JUDGE of stories about Machines of Death and so on. It's a series presented with tongue firmly in cheek and a hero who doesn't look like she just stepped out of a Victoria's Secret catalog. Terrific stuff. I'm reading it on Comixology but I'm sure it's in your LFCBS as well. I mean, this issue had Cat Thor. CAT THOR.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Biscuit, Meet Basket

The law of averages surely dictates that sooner or later I'd do something that would result in a goal while playing hockey, no matter how inept I am. I've probably come closer to scoring on my own goalie than I had against the other team, as I can think of at least two times I've put clearing attempts off our own posts. I used to get a little bummed out about the fact that I couldn't score a freaking goal but I'm trying to become more zen about hockey. After all, I'm 47 freaking years old and playing against kids half my age on some nights. I try to balance out the bad assessments with some positive notes, although some nights are more difficult than others.

For instance, last night my skating wasn't great. They had a fast dude who beat me to the outside twice, although one instance was aided by my defensive partner bowling into me and sending us both to the ice. Comic merriment for all! But other aspects were good, like, uhm, well, okay I blocked a lot of shots. And my passing wasn't as bad as having a case of dysentery or anything. Plus, I read a play and roared intot he slot as one of my teammates fed me a beautiful cross ice pass that I somehow managed to one-time without falling over or missing (note: a one-timer is a hockey shot wherein the recipient of the pass shoots the puck without stopping it. It's a bang-bang play that usually happens too quickly for the defense to react to, and the fact that I pulled one off absolutely flabbergasted my teammates. Rightfully so, to be fair). My shot was dead center of the goal, which was unfortunate because the goalie got over to make the stop, I was ever so vexed. That should have been it.

Instead, the magic happened with an innocuous wrist shot from the point that floated in serenely and somehow dipped through the goalie's five-hole. My first goal celebration consisted of just shaking my head and laughing, happy to be off the schnide but wishing it could have been something a little more epic. Hell, a few seconds later I actually got off a decent wrister that would have been a little more respectable, but that one he stopped. Oh well. A goal is a goal and a win is a win, and both are rare enough for the Scurvy Dogs that we have to appreciate each one. Ye gods, we have a legit chance at .500 this season. We have just a good as chance of going 2-6. WHO KNOWS? All that matters is that they haven't had to carry me off the ice.


Thursday, July 30, 2015

Lazy Summer Days

Updating once a moth is pretty lazy , I admit. Busy in many ways, not the least of which is diving back into my stupid book after cranking out some new stories to garner rejections. About a quarter of the way through the re-re-re-re-rewrite. Optimistic I'll get it right this time, or at least closer to right. Whatever that is. Still waiting for one outlet to publish a story they bought from me two years ago - the editor and his wife have been having extreme health issues so patience is easily found on my part.

Becky leaves for a week of sleepaway camp on Sunday. This is something she requested and I'm proud of her being brave enough to go without knowing another soul there. Any trepidation I feel is tempered by the fact that it's the same camp I went to and counseled at when I was an early teenager, and my memories of the place are pretty much golden. Chalupa is going to be most confused by her absence, though. The big doofus sleeps in her room in front of her bed every night, like a freakin' watchdog.

Hockey is hockey. We had a great time up in Vermont at the Hockey Fights MS tournament, somehow going 2-2. It was funny to see the looks on the faces of the non-Scurvy Dogs players when we got housed by teams from Philly and Montreal - welcome to our world, gang. My goalie training is suspended as my regular games are on Thursday nights as well, so I'll have to wait until September to have people shoot multiple pucks past me again. My one week of vacation is coming up, with Hershey and DC our destinations. Kids are excited. Trying to decide if I can be enough of a superdad to ride the Great Bear with Becky. Oy, the motion sickness from the upside down stuff. Ye gods, I have issues.

Gaming has been great - between house cons and our usual gaming group we've been playing all sorts of fun stuff. Last night was Elder Sign, wherein amazing luck and skillful playing allowed the others to overrride my usual crappy rolling and allow us to bitchslap Nyarlathotep back to sleep. Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn, y'all. I also splurged and, for the first time in my life, bought a reasonably powerful PC. It's totally for writing and editing and not at all for Pillars of Eternity which is SO PRETTY AND FUN LIKE BALDUR'S GATE GREW UP AND GOT EVEN MORE AWESOME.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Embracing the Red

In this post I had discussed the reactions from the beta readers of my would-be book, including the scathing comments from the one I dubbed Red. It's not surprising -- to me, anyway -- that I've dwelled on that a bit. Part of me said he was 100% right and I needed to rip it all down, while another part said that he just didn't get it and that I just had to nod my head and keep on keeping on. Seeing things in such black and white is impractical, though, and instead I think I'm going to gravitate toward a happy medium. No, my protagonist isn't going to become a superhero, but I'll create the reason(s) why. I will punch up a little more excitement and action in the first half of the book, and I will maybe do some more pruning. As an author I understand that I'm never going to make every reader happy, but what Red said disturbed me enough that I need to get the manuscript to a place where I'm happy with it first. So, another draft. As Madeline Kahn said, 'Why not? Seven's always been my lucky number.'

Meanwhile, there's been other actual writing going on when I wasn't prepping games for two cons in a three week span. I just sent off a story for a contest because why not, and I'm re-editing the one that drew a positive rejection from F&SF. Maybe I'll write other things as well. Maybe I'll get off my ass and finish my site so I can hang out my editor shingle WHO KNOWS. Who knows indeed.

Speaking of cons the one I went to last weekend was simply awesome. Played a game I instantly bought for the kids (and for adults who like silly games, and drinking, and combining those two passions) called Terrror in Meeple City , formerly known as Rampage. You're a monster trying to destroy buildings, eat meeples, and beat up other monsters. Your breath weapon? Your breath (not the smell. The force of it). Want to jump on a building? Drop your monster on it. It's silly, ridiculous, and fun. If you have kids, why don't you have this? Aren't you sick of Monopoly yet? (you are)

Okay. Summer hockey starts next week. Playing goal game 2, although now that the Rangers traded Talbot away I might be needed at the Garden . . .

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Ant Vomit and Pocket Plutonium - Running Games at Pegcon

So this is a post (written at 5am so the typos are totally features and not bugs) that'll show how I live in two completely different worlds, as it's all about RPGs and not about sports at all. I guess that makes me like Chris Klewe, except I can't punt all that well, aren't famous, and am not the hated foe of the Gamergate losers. So, friends and family who don't share my gaming passion, feel free to scratch your head in bewilderment or make 'Big Bang Theory' jokes. It's okay. I accept and embrace the duality of my nature.


This past weekend I attended Pegcon, a gathering of 50 or so wonderful gamers at a big ole house in Newton, MA. The couple that runs it decided long ago that the best way to celebrate their wedding anniversary was to fill their home with their friends and play games, and damned if they're not on to something. It's the sort of event wherein the structural integrity of the building is threatened by the constant rumbling of laughter, and your ribs are in danger of being cracked by the hugs of people you don't see often enough. At a 3.5 hour ride from NJ we're only a middling commute - we have folks from Maryland, Las Vegas, California, and even England. Sometimes Canadians, but not this time, I think. Regardless, let me get back to the matter at hand, in which I embraced lunacy and decided to run games in two systems that were brand new to me.

The first was Robin D. Law's Hillfolk from Pelgrane Press. I'm not going to lie, it took me several readthroughs of the rules before I could grasp what was going on and what needed to happen for the game to work. It's a little like Fiasco is that the game is driven by conflicts and conversations between the players, but  intended to be a bit more serious. The suggested starter game is as a tribe of, well, Hillfolk, in Iron Age era Palestine. Using a well-crafted mod designed to ease a group into play was far too logical for me, of course, so instead I made things extra weird by picking a different mod by John Scott Tynes that made the players . . . ants. I used his castes and the threat of a zombifying fungus, but chose to have the players be ants that were suddenly Awakened with human-level intelligence. I was concerned that this game was going to flop on its face. I am happy to report that it did not.

My players were superb, overcoming my initial moment of terror when I cited shows like Sons of Anarchy, the Sopranos, and Justified as examples of what we were trying to make and was met with blank stares from everyone but the Emmy-winning writer at the table (all tables should have one of those, BTW She's awesome). Our game wasn't as gritty and dark as the sample campaign in the book, but we had plenty of conflict along with our humor. The Assassin was trying to come to terms with the sensation of new feelings and his extreme ineptitude at expressing them. In addition, he was addicted to the healing vomit of the Honeypot. The Honeypot, who completely broke the table by spending the first 30 seconds screaming in horror as he realized why they kept giving him so much food (they become immobile larders for the colony), was trying to find a different role in life. The Soldier, who had seen all of his fellow soldier ants die around him countless times while he somehow lived on, decided that there was a Ant God and that he was blessed with immortality. In trying to convert the Communications ant on this he didn't skip a beat when she admitted she had awakened them via a chemical mistake, first saying she was the instrument of the Ant God and then later anointing her as the actual Ant God, a title she accepted after a while. The Assassin and his Tank brother sparred constantly. The Engineer clashed with the Soldier over the replacement limb she'd made for him when the Assassin had torn it off in a berserk rage . . . there was so much delicious and hysterical conflict. Drama tokens, given to the person who loses the discussion, were a nice way to be rewarded for conceding an argument and allowed the Honeypot to shoehorn his way into a conversation in a much more cinematic manner. At the end we went back and decided whether or not the characters had each achieved the desire they'd written down during character creation, and it gave a nice coda to the session. The procedural system used for resolving outside conflicts is interesting but had a bit of a flaw (unless I misread the rules about it, which is entirely possible). There's a clever red-yellow-green system that's used which forces the players and the GM to either be strong, middling, or weak in a conflict - all three have to be used before you get them back again. A deck of cards is employed as well. On the GM side, for the PCs to win a easy fight they have to match the color of the GMs up card (they may or may not know the difficulty, based on what's gone on before). If it's a middling fight, they have to match the suit. For a difficult fight, they have to match or beat the value of the card, and that was our issue. I understand the math behind it - for easy you have 25 cards you can draw to win; for middling, 12. If I draw an Ace or a King there's only 3 to 7 cards that can beat me - BUT - in four difficult level fights I drew 4, 4, 5, and a Jack. Aside from the face card, the other fights were too easy. Maybe let the GM draw 2 cards in secret and play the best one? I would consider house ruling it like that next time. That being said, it was an absurd amount of fun. Not for shy, quiet players, though. Your PCs need to be invested and involved in Hillfolk, which mine were. Good time.

The second game I ran was the brand-spanking new Katanas and Trenchcoats by Ryan Macklin. This one is based on the glorious cheesiness of Highlander and I spent most of my time laughing while reading the rules. I had a tough time deciding whether to pre-gen the characters or have the players make them up on the spot, but in the end I settled for a hybrid and gave them skeletons to drape clothes on. For my part generation was easy and FUN - the inspiration for Batman; an actress so good one of her many roles was Jesus Christ ('Oops.'); an ancient warrior trying to come to term with SO MANY DAMN GUNS; and so on. They wrote up even more great background stuff and terrific Thrones of Comfort - things special to them that the SM would never mess with except for when we do because of course we're going to (although in this instance I didn't have to because the PCs kept moving the plot along). Overall, the session went well, I think. Saturday night is a tough slot - everyone has two four-hour sessions already under their belt for the day and energy starts to flag a bit, but my players were great. My wife, suffering from brutal sinus issues, had to bow out during the first fight (of course she's playing the Zulu character who saw her entire village wiped out by the British and she left right before they run into the RMCP Black Ops who are led by a guy in full RMCP regalia) which left me with 6 PCs, still a big number for this system. Still, I felt it worked pretty well. The PCs, Immortals all, were at the mansion of another Immortal. An uneasy agreement to abandon killing each other for the possibly non-existent 'Prize' was put into place 50 years ago, so this was just a friendly gathering that got ugly when three of the waiters, who turned out to be Vipers in disguise, used what later proved to be Fey magic in concert with one another to Permakill the host (and my wife's PC, since she was leaving anyway). After a good fight they questioned one and discovered they were hired by the Twins, a pair of Twilight-influenced Hungarian vampires. At the airport they were surrounded by the RMCP Black ops and I expected a big fight but the doctor made good use of her Always Another Pocket/Pouch ability to produce some weapon-grade plutonium, which made the RMCP back down. They flew to labs in San Fransisco to determine the makeup of the death balls, then went to the Vampires, where through careful negotiation  (and some brooding) they found out another Immortal had hired the Vipers through the Twins (another scene that could have been a fight, but wasn't). They jetted to confront the Immortal, who welcomed them with open arms and was shocked that 2 Immortals had been killed - he thought it was a joke. After talking (another expected fight that didn't happen - I had were-jaguars, were-rheas, were-poison-dart-frogs, were-giantbirdkiller spiders, and a were-badger!) the PCs found out who had contacted him to hire out the job - an Immortal-wannabe in Australia  who, when confronted in the final scene, revealed that he had made a deal with the Fey and transformed into a massive dragon that could Permakill Immortals, which is exactly what happened to the NPC one who went with them. If we hadn't been running late and close to midnight I would tossed in a few more Vipers with death balls (they had to be in a triangle around the Immortal and all squish the balls at the same time) but it was about time to let them succeed like the badasses they were. The players had a few quibbles with the system but I kind of liked it as it really encouraged them to describe what they were doing. All in all, a pair of great sessions, at least for me.

On Sunday I was part of the scariest horror game EVER. It was set at Fenway. THE HORROR, THE HORROR oh god the Sox are terrible this year. Okay, sports friends, all the geeky stuff is over for now. Let's talk save percentage and VORP.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Three Headed Monster

I've been bad about writing lately, both here and in a creative sense. My morning writing time has been gobbled up as I prep two games for a house con , both are new to me and thus tossing up a learning curve to deal with. Kobolds, I know. Dramasystem with fractious ants as PCs? Not so much. In the meantime my novel waits for me, finished and ready for an agent . . . or is it?

I had three beta readers make it through the entire thing. Having never had beta readers before I don't know if that's a good or bad number, but as I didn't bother too many people to try in the first place I think it's fair amount. A few people started and dropped off - that's okay too. I'm not so enamored of my work that I think it beyond reproach, like this guy with the best meltdown since the woman and the Greek Seamen. Seaman. Semen. Whatever. *  One reader got a few chapters in and pegged it as a 'dog book,' and wasn't interested. It's not a dog book - I mean yeah, it has dogs and all - but the fact that he felt that it was is more of a failing on my part than on his. I can't please everyone, but I do need to have as broad an appeal as possible. So, tinker tinker tinker.

The three who made it (survived?) are all people I respect, wildly talented in their own arenas of both work and creativity. All three are artists/creators in their own right. They came away with pretty much a stoplight of opinions; one loved it, one liked it with a few reservations, and one pretty much hated it. Obviously the one I need to focus on is the latter, who for the sake of clarity here we'll refer to as Red. Red sent me a very positive email after the first 6 chapters, which made his complete reversal all the more shocking in the detailed mauling he gave me later. Note I'm not saying he was wrong or out of line. He was very forthright and honest, which is what I'm looking for in a beta reader. I'm not the type to get huffy or angry when someone critiques my work - hell, I refrained from responding to someone who, in writing a 'review' of the story I had in Machine of Death, a) admitted she only read the first paragraph; b) got three details wrong from that brief bit of reading; and c) GOT THE TITLE WRONG. But I digress.

The question is, what to do now? Do I agree with some of his points? Absolutely. I know it takes too long to get going in a traditional sense. I was trying for a long, slow build, but may well have overdone it. Also, the minor character based on The Practice Wife could and should be excised at this point. Back when I wrote the first draft that split was fresh and raw, and there was a lot of projecting going on. It's not that we're bestest buddies now - I haven't spoken to her in 15+ years and I'm just fine with that - but it just seems kinda petty at this point. Those two examples are just the beginning of the salient points and concerns Red raised.

Other things, though, aren't as clear cut and clash with the comments from Green and Yellow. The first one that comes to mind is Henny, the male best friend. Red found him non-important and unworthy of interest, while Yellow flat out loved him and thought he needed more screen time, so to speak. Green understands and empathizes with the lead character's desire to keep his powers a secret, while Red blasts him as a selfish coward who isn't thinking about anyone but himself. They're both right, which makes deciding on a course of action difficult. The book isn't an origin story for a new superhero, but maybe I need to put more into why he isn't zipping around in spandex. Again, I'd been foolish not to pay heed to thoughtful advice.

In other words, I type with a wry grin and a weary shake of my head, I'm a lot less done than I thought I was. I am eternally grateful to my betas because not only is it awesome to read a raw work, it's something special to take the time to offer thoughtful feedback. Much appreciated, Green, Yellow, and Red.

* I cannot recommend enough that you click on that link and read the lunatic rantings of the biggest ego you may ever encounter. The 'author's' basic argument is that his getting a 1 star review is indicative of society collapsing and the rise of evil. You may thing I'm exaggerating. I assure you I am not.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Time Between the Pipes: The Old Man Learns Goalie, Part 3

Don't think, Meat

It figured that for my second game as a goalie I'd catch the league-leading, undefeated Rubber Duckies as my opponent. We'd been warned that they were young and brash, cocky and talented, showboats and hotdogs. To further complicate matters the match had a 10:45pm start time last night and we ended up going in with only 10 skaters. When I'm playing D that makes me happy, because I'm going to play every other shift.  But against a fast and young team, we were going to get slowly ground down.

I started by getting my leg pads three-quarters of the way on before realizing that, despite paying attention to what I needed to do, I'd put them on the wrong legs. Well, they were the correct legs - mine - but reversed. The pads, not my legs. As each pad consists of six straps, a shoelace threaded through the skate blade bracket, and a velcro strap or two this isn't a quick and easy process. Finally ready, I clomped out to the rink and slipped my hand inside my glove, only to discover the little no-stink ball I'd put in there. Argh. Back to the locker room to drop that off. Back to the ice, where the zamboni was nearly done. Take a drink of water. Realize that I've left on the cap - which at this point is a cap from one of my daughter's markers, and since I've lost a bunch before possibly the only one left I can steal which fits - and head back to the locker room to drop it off. Lumber back out, sweat already pouring down my face. One of teammates notes I still have my bright yellow skate guards on. Hell, I managed to TIE IT IN PLACE with the toe lace. I managed to get them off without removing pads, and said teammate was nice enough to save me yet another trip back to the locker room.

Quite the auspicious beginning.

The game started, and so did the goals. I'd put my pads on correctly this time - well, the second time anyway - and they were loose enough to allow me to properly butterfly. I noticed, during warm-ups, that as opposed to last week when I just stayed on my feet and played the angles, I was now more inclined to drop to a butterfly but questioning when to do so. Given that shots would soon be coming in excess of 60mph having a moment of hesitation was not optimal. More troubling was the ache that had already started in my right elbow, the weight of the goalie stick aggravating my tennis elbow.

Wait. There has to be a better term for that. I don't even play tennis and dammit, this thing hurts but that's such a wussy name. Lateral epicondylitis sounds much more impressive, no? Kinda sounds like a sex move, though. "He thought he knew what pleasure was before she blew that away by shifting him to a lateral epicondylitis." Yeah, that's hot all right.

Anyway, it only took a minute and a half for them to score, although to be fair there was a giveaway maybe 10 feet in front of me and I didn't have a chance. Despite my flailing it was only 2-1 after one period, but then I started the second period by making a good save on a partial breakaway but then not realizing the puck was at my feet. It's tough to keep track of the puck, and at least one more went in the same way. I gave up a bunch of goals on breakaways - there were a LOT of breakaways - which I don't get upset about, and then 2 or 3 that just beat me and those I am upset about, because that's just crappy goaltending on my part. One right through my legs. Right through my legs. Some were because I was getting caught in the middle of my warm-up plight - to drop or not to drop? I was also not butterflying correctly, especially on a slide - it's drop and slide, not slide and drop. Sliding doesn't work well if, you know, you're not on the ice. And so I gave up goals. The final was 10-1, which is not the worst score I've been part of. While there had been a bit of chippy play we didn't see much of the hot-doggery we'd been warned of - they were just very good. In the post-game handshake one of the kids - ye gods, they all looked like they were in high school - apologized for juking me so badly on a goal that my hip ended up in Essex County. When I waved it off he said they should have been playing a division or two higher, a sort of honesty that is surprising to hear in this league. When I told him this was my second game in goal he seemed shocked and said I'd made 33 saves - why he knew this, I don't know. Maybe he kept track. Maybe he made up a number to make me feel good. Either way, it works.

So last Spring we went 0-8 and didn't even come close to winning a game. This Spring we went 2-6 and  were at least competitive in almost all of them, including this one. My regular goalie will be back for Summer and I'll hit some clinics to keep learning while shifting back to defense. Giving up 16 goals in two games isn't great but hey, you gotta start somewhere.

(The quote up top is from Bull Durham, which I shouldn't have to tell you. If you haven't seen it you should. I will not, however, accept the nickname 'Nuke.' You may call me Ebby Calvin, though).

Monday, June 1, 2015

Time Between the Pipes - The Old Man Learns Goalie, Part 2

The distinctive smell of gasoline hit me as soon as I opened the garage door, and with a sigh I noted that within the increasingly cramped quarters the one gallon container I use for my lawnmower's supply was tipped over. Well, a couple of days with the door open would get rid of that, right? It's not like it all spilled onto, say, my hockey bag.

Not all of it.

Our goalie had discovered he needed to check into his vacation spot today as opposed to tomorrow, so my career was going to start 5 nights earlier than planned. I was nervous but excited, and by the time I'd gotten into my pads (only one redo) I was pumped to be out there, although maybe part of that was being high from huffing fumes. Despite the best efforts of Febreze I still smelled like the inside of a carburetor because, as Lola put it, 'You can take the goalie out of the junkyard but you can't take the junkyard out of the goalie.' So, reeking of boneyard cologne, I headed out to do battle. I even remembered to stretch a little while the zamboni cut the ice.

We lost 24-1. By the end of the second period we switched from a puck to a beach ball and they covered me with double-sided tape but I still couldn't stop anything. To keep it from getting any worse the other team used 3rd graders in the last period but they still lit me up . . . these were my fears about how it was going to go. I was worried about whiffing on a soft dump-in from center ice, or an easy wrister, my teammates looking down at the ice as they muttered about missing Game of Thrones for this. By some miracle, none of that happened. Aided by my team playing tenacious D, I craned my neck around to see that 7 minutes in the score was still 0-0. What? Shut-out hockey during my first game! Amazing! Remarkable!

They scored on me 14 seconds later. It was a breakaway, as they learned my ability to butterfly was a questionable thing at best. At the 13 minute mark I gave up one of the ones I'd want back, a low wrister on a partial breakaway that I should have dropped or butterflied on instead of letting it take me short side. Off the faceoff they dumped, chased, and fired a pass from behind the net that a better goalie would have kept from going to the open guy cruising the slot. We got one back before the buzzer, so at the end of one period it was 3-1. Not terrible. I could handle averaging this and keeping it from double digits.

Note: my recollection of when and how these goals scored is sketchy at best and possibly made to look much more competent than I really was. It probably looked really impressive when I'd let a shot from the point whiz by wide without flinching, but more often than not it was because I didn't react in time. I'm old and inexperienced. At the after-game beer stop one of the guys said he'd graduated high school in 2003. 2003. I almost hit him with my cane.

There was another long stretch of me not coughing up a goal in the second, for whatever reason. I managed to stop a breakaway before the guy decided that if the puck wasn't going to go in he and I should instead. The bubble burst at the 7 minute mark - again - when I made a decent save by butterflying - I know, right? - and then just looked at the rebound sitting about five feet in front of me as if I'd just propositioned it and was waiting to see if it was going to go home with me. Someone on the other team played the role of stalker ex-boyfriend and took it away from me. Goal. Let the deluge start.

But it didn't. We (it's we, believe me. My teammates blocked a lot of shots) played well, even when we were pressuring them in their zone and I was freaking right the hell out because we only had 4 skaters on the ice but nobody could hear me yelling because it was the second period and the bench was far away. My stupid tennis elbow made it difficult to smack my stick on the ice. Ye gods, I'm a mess.

The 3rd period featured more goals via breakaway, which I would definitely classify as an issue and great news considering the team we're playing Thursday is supposed to be a bunch of cocky jerkweed kids who skate like the wind, but whatever. As the final seconds wound down and flat-out oceans of sweat drained down my face one of their players zoomed in on a breakaway (they never let up. with 2 minutes left they had 3 forecheckers deep, and with a minute left one jerk was hanging on our blueline. It's okay if that sounds like gibberish. Just say 'okay hockey yah' and read on). I'd stopped him earlier and I really don't know what happened this time - I want to say I pokechecked as he shot, but I have no idea - but the puck deflected over the net as time expired. Behind me, the final score read 6-1. A goals-against average of 6 isn't going to land me in the Garden anytime soon, but . . . I have friends who are wonderful singers, skilled illustrators, amazing writers. The feeling I got when I made a kick save off the end of my toe (so what if it was probably going wide they can't see that from the bench shut up), or took a hard slap shot off my stick and deflected it into the corner, or snapped a shot out of the air with my glove, it has to be what it feels like for them to hit that difficult note and nail it, or sketch Lady MacBeth and be able to see that mixture of ambition and insanity on the page in her eyes, or cranking out a phrase that you know is going to resonate with the reader. Or maybe not. Those are things that last, while this game is in the books, soon to be forgotten by most. But not by me, not just yet.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Time Between the Pipes - The Old Man Learns Goalie, Part 1

     Back when I was 17 I spent a summer working for Manpower, a temp agency. The jobs were mostly office based but the physical ones tended to fall my way, as I was young and presumably strapping. One day myself and another guy were hired out to a small nursery for a one-day job. The gig was unloading a truck and sounded like a nice break from the indoor filing borefests I'd been having. The morning of the job was hot and humid, the temperature above 85 degrees before 10am. We helped the owner unload a small load of bushes while we waited for our main job, and even with the heat it wasn't so bad.
     Then our truck showed up. It was a full-sized tractor-trailer, and inside were bags of peat moss. At first that didn't seem like it would be a problem - the bags were only forty pounds, although they were each the size of a footlocker. And so what if the entire trailer was stuffed to capacity with the things? Forty pounds. Big deal.
    Well, it turned out that this load had come down from somewhere in Canada that didn't believe in summer because the bags were all frozen. Solid. I can't give you an accurate recalibration on the weight but ye gods they were awful. The owner of the nursery had figured that hiring two dopes at 14 bucks an hour was cheaper than renting a forklift and man, he worked us until we dropped. I have never sweated as much as I did on that day., and that includes playing in a rugby match in South Carolina where the temperature on the field was estimated to be at 104 degrees at kickoff.
     Last night, my first time ever as a hockey goalie, came pretty close.
     I have always wanted to be a hockey goalie, and having started with all this ice-related nonsense a year and a half ago this moment seemed inevitable. I'm not trying to replace the goalie for the Scurvy Dogs - we lucked out in that category and got a guy who is both very good and infinitely patient with us floundering around in front of him, and I wouldn't dream of trying to push him out. But when he got new pads and offered me a more-than-fair deal on his old stuff, I couldn't resist, and once I'd gotten the rest of my gear (I splurged a little on the helmet because I'd like to keep my head in one piece, thanks) I jumped on last night's opportunity. It was a pickup game, which meant that I played 90 minutes straight. The venue switched from one 15 minutes away to one 40 minutes away, but I got aided by thunderstorms canceling the kids' games and letting me get out a little early. On Route 287 I didn't just see a spectacular rainbow, I saw a DOUBLE rainbow - WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
     The play level of the guys in this group is a little above what I'm used to, so I figured on a long night. I managed to get my leg pads on with only one restart, and thank the powers that be for online tutorials. There are more straps on those things than at a bondage convention. I even remembered to put my jock and hockey pants on first. With a nervous sigh, I headed out on the ice. One of my Scurvy Dog teammates was there, and he was nice enough to pelt me with shots during the time I should have been stretching. Then about 90 minutes of non-stop action started, and . . . well, a play-by-play would be pointless. The first real shot I faced beat me waist-high blocker side. Then, through a combination of my defense bailing me out and some lucky flailing, I managed to go ten, maybe fifteen minutes without anything going past me. Well, past me into the net. Plenty went past but were wide. My attempts at butterfly - which a style that focuses at dropping to your knees with your legs splayed out to either side - was more of a caterpillar, but I've been told that gets easier and more comfortable with time. I missed some saves I should have had, stopped a few shots I shouldn't have, and fell in love with my posts, which made a sweet pinging sound each time they kept pucks out. I made a complete and total tactical error by leaving my elbow brace at home - when I'm playing D I have an elbow pad that mimics the support, but my goalie chest/arm armor - there's no better way to describe it - doesn't do that, and by the end of 90 minutes my tennis elbow was screaming from hefting the heavy stick. A puck managed to find unprotected space on the one time I managed to correctly drop into a butterfly, drilling me in the lower abdomen about three inches above my Stanley Cup. At least the ice was cool when I dropped my head to it. I gave up more goals as the night wore on, a combination of getting a little tired paired with players on the other side starting to make cross-ice passes on odd-man rushes - if you don't know what that means, just understand I wasn't good enough to react and make the saves.
     I get to do this again next Thursday, as our real goalie is away and I will stand between the pipes as my 2-4 Scurvy Dogs play the 6-0 Rubber Puckies. Am I going to get shellacked? Almost certainly. Will I miss saves that Chaz would have gobbled up? Without a doubt. Will the scoreboard operator take pity on me and stop posting goals once they hit 9? Hopefully. Is it going to be awesome? Absolutely.
     Back to the sweating. Before I left I stepped on our scale - 193.1. It was a snacky weekend, I make no apologies. After I got out of the shower at midnight last night? 186.4. Who needs peat moss?

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Hate Keeps a Man Alive

It's not hate, actually, and I'm told it's perfectly natural at this point. I'm in the process of rereading my manuscript in order to write the synopsis, and of course because I'm a editor/freakin' loon it's turned into yet another edit. And I hate the book because it sucks and was made with the offal of diseased water buffalo and should only be given as a punishment to our worst prisoners and . . .

Well, I'm told it's normal to feel this way right about now, when the damn thing is written and edited over and over and WHY ISN'T IT ON THE TOP OF THE DAMN NYT CHARTS ALREADY? After the synopsis comes the process of trying to find an agent, and during that I need to get busy writing again, although whether on stories or starting a rewrite of my second manuscript I'm not sure yet. I have one story sold that's waiting to be published (since July, but that's okay because I love the mag and it's people and they had some tough stuff going on) and another two stories out that haven't been rejected yet (jinxing myself there). A friend had a successful writer offer me some advice about getting published, and while it turned out I was on the right track anyway she had some good tips as well. I was very non-demanding with advice requests. I'm not good at asking people for help.

Running my PF game is a challenge between finding the time to prep and trying to keep the PCs challenged, as they're too damn smart and min/maxxed for their own good. At 11th level they're damn near overflowing with crazy-ass feats and abilities, and when the terrible adventure path one of the players who's no longer with us begged for years ago gives me monsters with bow attacks of +13/+10 for a whopping 1d8 +3 damage, it's tough to keep them scared. I'm improvising more and more while following the bare bones of the script. They are not gonna like Grunezellda. And if I ever bring dweomercats back the wizrd might throw a bottle at me. Still, everyone seems to be having fun and that's the point, right? Right.

Almost killed myself with back to back hockey nights. My right knee was an angry customer Tuesday morning. And no, I shan't act my age.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

That Moment

That moment when you're learning a new gaming system and it clicks? Yeah, that. I'd been a little worried about Hillfolk but it all sort of snapped into place last night as I read on. Very PvP discussion-oriented, like Fiasco. I think it'll work well. Trenchcoats and Katanas is going to be about a silly as I expect it to be. In both cases plots are beginning to burble and thicken in my head. I'll still be a wreck about running, though. I always am.

I'm supposed to be going through chapters on my book to put together a synopsis but of course it's becoming another edit as well. Right now I hate the vile load of horsecrap which is certainly the worst thing ever vomited onto a page, which I understand to be the normal reaction about right now. I cannot tell you how grateful I am for my beta readers, who've led me to believe it might not be awful. Well, actually, I can. Thank you, Docstar and Dorian. You're amazing. I have taken down the old version and will be uploading a freshest version for some others who have requested reading it once I can figure out how I managed to get it to work the first time. Seriously, I should just be chiseling stuff into a wall.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

So Now What Do I Do at 5am Each Morning?

Book's done. Well, version 7.0 or so, anyway. I think it's finally ready enough for some agent hunting, as a couple of dedicated beta readers made it all the way through and were kind enough to offer criticism/advice/support. I'm grinding out the synopsis now, or actually rereading the chapters and summarizing them so they can be further drained of life and personality and crammed into a few short pages. The other morning I cranked a new piece of fiction and it felt weird. I have to get back in the groove of writing again.

I just picked up my goalie mask and stick, thus completing the set and ensuring that this stupidity shall come to pass. I have wanted to be a hockey goalie since the first time I watched a game with my father way back when, and I'll probably try it for free at one of the weekly hockey clinics - they always need goalies. Might be a few weeks, as Lola is traveling, but it'll happen. Oh yes, it will happen. I opted for a fiberglass helmet over the cheap plastic ones. I think my head is probably worth the extra protection. Otherwise hockey remains fun - we went 3-13 for fall, which is much better than 0-17, and so far this spring, with no ringers, we're 1-3. I fear that I'm plateauing at my current level of suck. Maybe being a goalie will help, because being pelted with solid rubber discs at 75mph seems like a good idea.

Coaching both the kids in is proving a wee bit exhausting, but here I am. No fool like an eager fool, I always say.

The Xmas smoker is assembled and ye gods, I love it. It's a Char-Grille Acorn kamado and why was i ever smoking with the old bullet type? The thing is like an outdoor oven - I can light hardwood charcoal and be at 500 degrees in a matter of minutes, and it holds temperature beautifully. Incredibly stingy on charcoal, too. Love it. LOVE IT.

Learning two new systems to run in an upcoming house con, both of which may prove to be challenging. One is a sort of variant on Fiasco, better suited for a long campaign but should still be okay for a one shot. I'm picking pieces from a mod that casts the PCs as ants, although it'll be more fun if I make them less 'good of the colony' and more independent thinkers. The other is a goof game based on the movie Highlander and I've got a decent plot in my mind. It was so much easier when I was lazy and ran stuff like Inspectres but I'm trying to grow as a GM. Plus, anything that doesn't have 87 bajillion rules like Pathfinder is a nice break. There's some complications with the con this year but we're determined to work through them, although it means we'll sleep off-site. No Tesla licks at 5am? I FEEL CHEATED.

So that's what is up for now. I'll be more timely with updates. Maybe.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

That Damn Thing on My Arm

You may have noticed I haven't been posting or tweeting as much lately. Okay, you haven't, because your life doesn't center around what I do or don't do. Good. I'd be concerned if it did. ANYWAY I keep getting reminded by the stupid tattoo on my arm that I need to be a man worth knowing. Thing is always there, man, announcing itself in ye olde English and just NAGGING at me. One of the ways I'm trying to get it to shut up - you don't hear it talking? Really? - is by doing my best to erase negativity from flowing out of me. Easier said than done, that.

It's easy to criticize, isn't it? So easy to attack the likes of others to belittle them and make yourself feel better. I am super, super guilty of that in my past. It's a sad way to trick yourself into thinking you're improving your self-worth. You're not, though, or at least I wasn't. Negativity is just that - negative. There's nothing good or positive that can come from it when you're knocking something down with no real benefit for anyone involved. So now before I post anything, I try to take a step back and think, 'Does this do any good at all?' If it doesn't, it gets vaporized. In theory, at least.

Example? Sure. Terry Pratchett died. For whatever reason his work never resounded with me. I know, heresy. It's weird because I like silly stuff like Monty Python and League of Gentleman (well, dark as well) and I tried and tried but he just didn't grab me. I never fell in love with Good Omens - put down the pitchforks and torches - because his parts just seem labored. When he died the net was filled with my friends lamenting his loss and commenting on how much they loves his work. There was a part of me that wanted to acknowledge their grief but also voice my dissenting voice, just for the sake of discussion. It wasn't the right time.It wasn't about me or my opinion. It was about letting my friends be sad and share their grief to lessen it. So I shut up. I almost didn't write this because, well, it's a wee bit passive-aggressive, no? Here, I'll offer this to my Pratchett-loving friends - I'll give it one more try, so think hard and suggest his very best book, the one that's going to change my mind. I'm surprisingly open to being corrected. Hell, I tossed aside the first Game of Thrones after 50 pages until my wife suggested I try it again. She was right.

I'm not perfect at this. I am still going to watch The Soup and laugh my ass off because if you're going to hang a target on yourself, I'm going to enjoy the shot. I'm still going to make political comments mocking the stupidity and greed of our politicians because that's spreading the word, hoping for change. I'm still going to hatefollow a couple of people on Twitter because every time I don't reply to one of their manipulative/self-centered/myopic tweets I feel better about myself for allowing them to continue to live in their world as is. If requested I will offer constructive criticism instead of bashing, support instead of derision, positive feelings instead of a black cloud.

I can't change the world. But I can change my role in it, and maybe that'll help. ::shrug::

Woo! Heavy stuff, dewwwwwwwwd. Ya ever gonna finish that book? Soon. On chapter 34 of 42 with some stuff to add, but it's getting there. The fact that DAW has started accepting unsolicited manuscripts presents me with an interesting dilemma - submit to the slush pile or look for an agent instead. Decisions, decisions.

Coaching both my son's baseball team and my daughter's softball team. Working full time. Playing in two hockey leagues. Trying to finish my book and waiting on others to finish editing theirs. Draconis weekend coming up as well as an MS Walk. That right there is a full plate, my friends.

Sunday, March 22, 2015


Been away so long I hardly knew the place . . . 'tis been neglected. I'll get on that soon. Quick recap - book finished, read and commented on by beta readers, and now going through a final (AHAHHAHA) edit. I have about 10 chapters to go, although I have to add another one as well. Still, it's getting there.

Just finished fall/winter hockey, we're getting better. Still loads of fun. Somehow resisting taking karate so far, especially after a training class with Zack Saturday that included on offer for a few month. If I hadn't started collecting goalie equipment I don't know if I'd ben saying no . . .

Kids are great. Wife is great. Will be coaching both softball and baseball because I'm insane. Doing a D&D-based LARP in a few weeks. Doing my best drag work out of the doldrums. So so glad theis miserable winter seems to be over.

Okay. More soon. Need to talk about trying to be a better person.