Saturday, April 27, 2013

Review: Old Man's War

Old Man's War Old Man's War by John Scalzi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don't have much to say about this book. It didn't really pull on me strongly in any one direction. I thought the writing was well-done and the story-telling was very well structured. The universe felt kind of "Star Trek" to me though -- you know, like a late 70's or early 80's TV show. Although there is a lot going on in the background, the focus was just on the main character and his small group of friends. And they had very little impact on the world at large. Furthermore, the "science" to this fictional story seemed a little too good to be true, while at the same time having just the right sort of limitations for an interesting drama. Not serious drama mind you; just a little bit of interesting drama.

In the end, I'll probably come back and read more of the series when I don't have anything else grabbing my attention, but it can wait.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

My Once-in-a-Lifetime Story

I recently had a busy weekend where I wanted to be in two places at the same time. I didn't finalize my plans until almost the last minute. I debated back and forth on my decision. But around 4:40pm on Saturday my gamble paid off big time.

Most of you know that I am a gamer and a geek. When I recently switched jobs and lost a lot of vacation time, I prioritized my trips for this year based on how much gaming time I could squeeze in. Therefore, my early April plan to attend PretzCon was important to me because it was a cheap, close trip I could take where I could play lots and lots of games. I actually pre-registered for this convention a full year ago had been looking forward to it for a long, long time.

The difficultly arose when I learned that Wil Wheaton was going to be here in Kansas City the very same weekend as PretzCon.

Although I'm not a big fan girl of many celebrities, Wil Wheaton is the one exception. Starting with my teenage adoration of his character Wesley Crusher on Star Trek Next Generation, continuing through my enjoyment of his blog and books like Just a Geek, my respect for him as a person peaked when he started the YouTube show Table Top where a group of geeky celebrities get together to play games. Obviously, this last bit really hits home for me. So even though I don't care or pay attention to other famous people, Wil Wheaton is the one whose schedule I pay attention to.

In fact, I have tried on a couple of occassions to see him at other conventions. But similary to Sheldon on Big Bang Theory, whenever I plan to attend a GenCon, Origins, or PAX, for some reason Wil has other plans or has to cancel at the last minute. On the other hand, those times when Wil's schedule has been confirmed for one of my favorite gaming conventions, I have usually been busy with family or work. So this recent conflict with PretzCon felt very typical to me -- the one time that Wil Wheaton will be visiting the city I live in is the same weekend that I had plans to be somewhere else.

In the end, I split the difference. I attended PretzCon for one day and then came back to Kansas City for the two days of Planet Comicon. Once I figured out that I was going to gamble on a chance at meeting my favorite geek personality, I decided to help out my local gaming convention, KantCon with manning the Gamer's Haven Library for board game check-outs. We also were handling the sale of raffle tickets at a chance to play a game with Wil himself.

Saturday morning, my friends and I woke up early (despite playing games until late the prior evening) to drive three hours from Omaha to Kansas City. We were all a little sad at leaving so soon, but everyone agreed that although PretzCon would be back again next year, there was no guarantee as to when Wil Wheaton might come back to Kansas. I rushed home, grabbed some lunch, dropped off the rental car, and practically raced to get to Planet Comicon in time for my scheduled shift to help out the Gamer's Haven Library that afternoon. Once there, I checked out the raffle box, and it looked like only a couple hundred tickets or so had been sold so far, so I bought a few ticket for myself just in case. As the day wore on, more and more tickets were being sold. We didn't realize this charity game had been advertised so well. Again, I debated on what to do and decided that I could spend the cash I had been saving for Wil's signature on these tickets instead. The proceeds were all donated to the Hero Initiative, so I figured even if I didn't win, it was for a good cause.

Let me cut out some of the boring details at this point -- my friend noticed that I was losing hope as the raffle box continued to fill with more and more tickets, so she purchased some more on my behalf. In the end, I had a total of 50 tickets out of a box that contained around 1,260. The drawing was scheduled for 4:30pm on Saturday and the game itself to start at 6pm. The rest of that evening is still kind of a blur.

Obviously, I won one of the precious five slots available to play a game with Wil Wheaton. The game we played was Space Cadets, a cooperative game where each player is a crewman with the responsibility of one or two stations of a starship. I manned the Helm, and Will Wheaton managed Engineering and the Jump drive. Although we as a group did succeed our mission, my terrible maneuvers did more damage to our ship than contact with the enemy. I was rightly embarrassed, but still had a great time.

So in the end, my gamble to leave one gaming convention in favor of another comic book convention, turned out to be the right choice. I even was able to personally give Wil a custom dice bag I made for him. It had the Enterprise D on the outside and the colors of the Wesley Crusher grey sweater on the inside. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of it.

Instead, I have Jon Hook and my friend DaNay to thank for the photographic evidence below. Enjoy!