Sunday, March 31, 2002

Well, I'm back at Stanford even though I don't want to be. I want to be back in LA where there is art and music and love - not that there isn't some art and some music and some love up here - but that's really just it; right now it seems like there's only some of each of those things. But may the day never come when I do what I want rather than what is right. It's right for me to be back at Stanford now, even if I don't want it. And thanks to M'lak and Ish, I have a portable hug stowed next to my little black box, within easy reach for emergencies.

For those of you who are interested - and, touchingly, there seem to be many of you - the break's roleplaying went well. The IG session was very refreshing; it is fun to see The DM alternate so fluidly between the dark humor (kudos to you if you get the inside joke) of IG and the quirky humor of his Phoenix Earth character, the goblin tinkerer with the facile surname, Skiviyt. And it was fun to play Danielle again. It was just good to be back with that group of characters again, and it was fun to kick butt. I hope by now you don't believe that I actually desire combat - but there is a [legitimate, I believe] part of humanity that imaginative fighting satisfies, I think. And face it (or take my word for it), the IG party is cool.

My Phoenix Earth party isn't precisely cool yet, but there are some very colorful and very real characters in there. I was not as pleased by this first session as I was with my last first session; my DMing simply wasn't as slick. But then again, I deliberately handicapped myself in two ways: one, I deliberately avoided using a coercive NPC; two, my "connecting" NPC (Nathaniel Birkenstock) was not mobile like my last one (Karl) was. All in all I'd say it came out pretty well, and after all it was only the first session. The next one should be more fun, assuming I can find a way to get Maelana Trassini (my sister's character) out of Epistano. Once they're out of the city I think I've got them, and then the real fun can begin. And next session I can have a real fight sequence, too, which ought to be fun for all involved.

In addition, we have all decided that we're finally going to have a big sit-down session and explain what the heck was going on with our various games - namely, Phoenix Earth (mine), Atlantis (Ayudaren's), and Terratopia (The DM's). I now feel comfortable giving folks the whole history of Phoenix Earth - though I'll have to sit down with Eliani and probably Archimedes over a meal sometime and figure out the last couple missing parts - and it'll be cool to find out what was really going on in Terratopia, which was a massive game spawning an entire idioculture and spanning like nine years. And we're going to have one last Terratopia session to close out Book VI (of a projected nine). It'll be fun to play Kalaraen Shadrea again. She was the last of my truly stereotypical characters (i.e., the weird girl with strong religious convictions who wants to be a hero), but I love her anyway. And it'll be fun to have another Terratopia-style fight scenes. The combat in everybody's game has a very distinctive tone that says a lot about the game itself: Phoenix Earth is pretty darn realistic; Infernal Gaslamp is fantastic but within the bounds of possibility; Terratopia is utterly impossible, venturing into the realm of anime.

Today after church (Pastor Scott gave a truly superb message) the Pilot asked me if I was dating anybody. I told him no, to which he said good, find them at church and not at school. Based on what I know of the Pilot's personality and background, I'd lay odds that he said that 'cause he's an adult male and felt like he had to. I laughed and told him that if I found a girl worthy of dating up here I'd do it - which holds for church girls too, of course. How I love being home, where I feel confident enough of myself to say things like that - and feel secure enough to treat dating like a voluntary option, an act of will. I love girls, of course, but why should I date one unless she's a match for me? With friends who are unsuitable as girlfriends (for whatever reason, not necessarily bad - Blue Rose is a fair example of such a case) why not just go on dates instead?

I'm currently reading Robert Heinlein's Time Enough for Love, which is refreshing because reading a Robert Heinlein novel is generally a refreshing experience. If you are a Christian reader, however, I think you need to go into Heinlein works with one concept held firmly in the front of your mind: none of his novels take place in this universe. All Heinlein novels are set in an alternate universe, which generally resembles ours a great deal but differs in one important detail: there is no God. There is an implied Prime Cause (for lack of a better term), but that Prime Cause does not have the essential characteristics of God, Jesus, Yahweh, Maleldil, Elrash - whatever you want to call him.

The Heinleinian treatment of sex is a good example of this principle. In Heinlein's books, fornication is generally approved - even strongly encouraged. He doesn't buy - and I don't either - that it is endemic in human nature that extra-marital sex leads to heartache. Granted in our experience it is - all the stuff that people say about the non-physical consequences of sex is true. But only because we have a culture that makes it true, I think. If one had the freedom to bring up a generation of people believing, say, the doctrine espoused in Stranger in a Strange Land, I believe you could get a community of human beings for whom sex was a wonderful, joyful thing to be shared with whomever one wished. And that's a wonderful thing - if there is no God. Put God into the picture and all of a sudden that wonderful, joyful thing becomes wrong in the vast majority of cases.

However, if you can suspend some disbelief and postulate an existence where there is a Prime Cause but no God, and if you are at heart a reactionary conservative like me who longs for the good old days when heroes were heroes and life was better - reading Heinlein is a wonderful visit with people who think straight. And what a wonderful thing that is. Wouldn't it be wonderful if there was no jealousy and two willing young people could hook up to smiles and encouragement? Oh yes ... if there was no God.

But of course there is God, and therefore it isn't a wonderful thing at all. And speaking of things that might or might not be wonderful, I'm about to pick up Joshua Harris' I Kissed Dating Goodbye, to be tentatively followed by Boy Meets Girl. My original reasons for picking up the book are obsolete, but I am still curious what the man behind the courtship fad (I don't mean that perjoratively, but I don't hear courtship being preached anymore so I can hardly call it a "trend") has to say for himself. If his theories are sufficiently noteworthy, I may dialogue with them here.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is enough for one night.

Thursday, March 28, 2002

I'm sitting here listening to City of Angels and feeling content. The speakers overhead are playing "You're Nothing Without Me," which is this awesome duet between the two male leads of the show: a novelist and his fictional private eye alter ego who represents everything the writer wants to be. Anybody surprised that I want to play both of those parts?

This was my sister's final senior play, by the way, which I saw last Friday and Saturday. I was fairly unimpressed by the Friday performance, but closing night was much better. My sister continued the family tradition of providing moral leadership to the company and leading on stage by example, for which I feel justifiably proud of her. I do feel like The Director could have supported her performance (as the play's leading lady\\villain) more if she'd had a better grip on the script, but Stone (the private eye) did a good enough job of playing off her on closing night that I feel mollified.

It wasn't really strange going back to the Chaminade Players, but there were a few slightly weird things. For one thing, there are people in that company who I've never met respect me as the star of the previous generation - for nothing more than watching me on stage two years ago! That's a bit odd, really. It was also funny to think that other folks in the company have been up to the Shrine and seen my signature there ... it's like it hit me at a whole new level that I'm part of the legacy of that company. And for all of that company's flaws, I am proud of that fact. And I am proud of the legacy that my sister left behind, too.

I don't really miss performing on stage, though it might be fun to give it another shot. It'd be fun to have a performing experience that was an honest performing experience. Of course I can't guarantee that a production at Stanford would be that. What I mostly miss is having a chain of command that has genuine give-and-take (i.e., what Polybius called monarchy) instead of democracy. And I can't guarantee that a production at Stanford would give me that, either.

There is a 1/2 inch binder sitting at my left elbow that contains the fruit of my labors over the past several weeks: pages detailing each of the 41 basic weapons and 24 basic armors of Classical Phoenix Earth, and the 260 basic human spells of the game. I have already added a number of character-specific items and spells to that, but it is oddly satisfying to see the official Phoenix Earth binder filled with a new generation of rules that represent a new generation of game. I have almost nailed down the history of Phoenix Earth, and this latest game will take place when the first of the Big Historical Events is only just on the horizon. Alexis Lashrainne has just been born; Vonsus Au'roun is still dashing and substantially innocent, and Karlhoss Modron is still just an ambitious young man. Even G'arthan the Chronicler is a mere three centuries old. It's kind of refreshing to face the world when it is still free of one of the major taints that humanity will put on it.

The session is Friday, and I'm having a bit of performance anxiety. The Modern game was ill-conceived but had some really virtuoso moments by yours truly. I'm sure I'll be fine, but the prospect of crafting a party out of no less than eight characters (Islington will be a part-time player) is a rather daunting task, especially since I've only got six hours to do it in. Still, it will be fun to play with the gang whatever happens. And speaking of playing with the gang, tonight there's an Infernal Gaslamp session, which is very exciting to me since I haven't played Danielle Meroit in forever, and we're in the middle of this very exciting expedition to Antarctica to do what we do best - battle the forces of Cthulhu. It's been too long since the IG party dealt with some good old-fashioned evil. The ability to have a truly evil villain is one of the great things about fantasy, and one of the things that makes it more real than other genres of fiction (inasmuch as the real world does in fact have a truly evil villain). I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday, March 20, 2002

It's currently 0041, and thanks to a small but total computer crash I am still blogging. To recap: I have just finished watching Starship Troopers.

If I want to be a film critic, Starship Troopers is a spotty movie: the special effects are excellent; the acting is sometimes quite good (it is!) and sometimes not; the plot is okay; the depiction of the Federation's military machine is abominable; the feel of the universe is pretty good. But despite this overall mediocrity, I am really quite fond of this movie.

I am fond of it because I do not watch Starship Troopers as a film critic. I watch it as a young man who knows he will not be drafted but is thinking about military service all the same. And more than any other movie - even the very realistic ones, like Saving Private Ryan and Black Hawk Down - Starship Troopers confronts me with the reality I would have to steel myself to face in the armed forces.

I'm not talking about eight-foot arachnids and plastic body armor, of course. Neither the film nor Mr. Heinlein's estimable book has ever been about the time or method of combat, or even the society that gives combat birth (such, at any rate, is my conclusion after reading Expanded Universe), but rather about the timeless quality of the soldier himself, epitomized in the qualities of the infantryman. The carnage, the fear, the unpreparedness, the experience of putting yourself on the line because you've bought into an Idea and then finding out when you're actually on the line that no Idea thought by man is worth it, only the men next to you who are in the same absurd position as you are - those are what I would have to agree to face if I became a soldier, and I would have to agree to face them knowing that I have absolutely no clue what the real thing will be like.

Could I do that? Maybe. But what this movie tells me about myself is that I don't ever, ever want to be in that position. Maybe I'd surprise myself and turn out to have what it takes to be a soldier under fire. Maybe I'd surprise myself even more and come back alive from the experience. But I don't ever want to find out. It makes me respect all the more the people who do face those situations and face them like soldiers - but I don't ever want to be one of those people if I can help it.

Tuesday, March 19, 2002

Remarkably, the mosquito is alive. I encountered the poor thing trying to scramble up my window to reach the relative safety of the outside. Apparently it didn't occur to her tiny insect mind that she could fly up the window instead of trying to walk up it. But with the help of my Empire Earth tech tree card I lifted her up to the window and set her free. I had the perfect opportunity to smash her with Simba's water bottle, but she just looked so pathetic trying to climb up that glass that I couldn't bring myself to do it.

Finals are over and went pretty satisfactorily. Out of deference to those of my friends up here who aren't feeling quite so confident about their exams, that's all I'm going to say about that. Feel free to ask me if you're curious, though.

It is now time to finish up the magic packet for Phoenix Earth. I have not one, not two, but three human mages in my party - and two more characters to go! By and large I feel good about my characters, and the first session is beginning to take shape in my mind. I need to figure out who this elusive quarry that Twilight's chasing is, though. Definitely have to figure that out.

There's some other random stuff running through my mind but I'm not sure I feel like writing about it right now. I need to talk to M'lakMavet about an idea, though.

Saturday, March 16, 2002

I just got back from the dining hall, where they had not only some excellent broil but finger jello as well! In addition, I'm listening to Point of Grace in Steady On, which is truly an excellent album. Of course I'm naturally inclined to favor the vocal stylings of a Christian women's quartet, but really, these ladies are extremely good. In control, blend, and range of vocal expression I know of no contemporary vocal group that is their equal.

Today I invited Kathelia to bring her mage mistress along to the first session of Classical Phoenix Earth, which will be held on March 29. She was very excited about that, which made me happy. I finished writing up a quick packet about combat in the Classical game, which [predictably] Kharmak has already read through and [equally predictably] contained one or more typos which [most predictably of all] Kharmak pointed out to me. Oh well, nobody's perfect. What I need to do now is get the magic packet done, especially since I have at least three human mages in my party (Kath's healer/telepath from the Azure Eye, Lionell's dowrider from the Blood Maw, and Maclaeden's swordsman from the Silver Wrist).

Unfortunately I have to work first. All this talk about Phoenix Earth has got me yearning for home, but sadly there are two finals to get through first. I'm not worried, but I will have to work at them for th next couple days before I can really launch myself into what I would truly like to do.

There is a winged six-legged interloper buzzing around Vladimir (mine and Simba's ceiling light smiley). I am generally tolerant of our diminutive six-legged friends, but this one looks suspiciously like a mosquito and therefore her life is forfeit provided I don't have to expend any great effort tracking her down.

Finally, for your convenience, the Comforts of the Day list is provided at left. It is a quick way for me to acquaint you with the things that make me feel good and feel loved. In addition, it will hopefully provide you with a ready-made list of nice things to do for me should you ever feel inclined to do so. I personally find it very frustrating when I want to do something nice for somebody but don't know what would make them feel loved, so here's my own small contribution to solving that problem.

Thursday, March 14, 2002

The date is March 14, the time is 1816 Zulu, and I have just returned from the last Social Dance II class of the quarter. We spent the morning waltzing, swinging, two-stepping, foxtrotting, and hustling. I didn't dance with all of my favorite partners but I danced with quite a few. I had a very cool hustle experience with Thomasina, when I tried to imitate something I saw Alanna doing and ended up doing windows\\face-turns in hustle. The footwork didn't quite work for me but it did for her, and she thought it was way cool. I'll have to figure out how to do that with my own footwork so it works. And I got to dance with Thalassa, which was charming as always. I wish the Alaskan had been there, but oh well. And, after two quarters, I finally had a dance with Miss Lodge that didn't involve her cringing. I really like hustle and club two-step, and I'm interested in porting over some of the figures from there into swing. I'll bet I could figure out a way to do it.

Ah, but the final dance of the morning ... oh my yes, that last waltz. I danced it with Blue Rose, who is a very good waltz partner. I do forget sometimes that she prefers a different frame than most of my other partners (I suppose, even though nobody's complained, that I should try her frame out on other girls and see if they like it better). The music was good, and the waltzing was pretty good - not the best dance I've ever given a girl but pretty smooth. So why am I filled with a honey-sweet heart contentment?

She closed her eyes.

Allow me to elaborate. In a waltz that works, closing your eyes brings an already soaring experience to a whole new level. I've felt a little bit of it in a waltz that didn't work, so I can only imagine what it must be like for one that does. It also commits yourself to dance entirely by feel, which is implicitly saying that your partner is good enough to lead by feel. Of course that means that you as a couple only have one pair of eyes (the follow's) scanning the room, and the follow can't do anything to save herself from collision. So for a follow to close her eyes in a waltz is pretty much the supreme compliment you can give your partner. It is not one that I have ever been given before, even on dance floors that were mostly empty. I have harbored a secret hope, which I have shared with no one, that this quarter I would be good enough to be counted worthy of that supreme compliment. I haven't breathed a word of that to anyone; Rose couldn't possibly have known. So I will say again:

She closed her eyes.

And that fills my heart with a deep-seated contentment, puts a faint knowing smile on my lips, and sends me soaring into a bright and wonderful day.

Tuesday, March 12, 2002

Well, it seems impossible, but I've come up with fully 126 spells for Phoenix Earth. That's all six Inner fields, the ones that deal with matter. Sure, 63 of those haven't been written up yet, but I have the concepts and that's the important part. Now on to the Outer spells, those that deal with energy.

The rest of Phoenix Earth is shaping up quite nicely. I had a conversation with Twilight on dwarven kingships that lasted for over an hour, and it was almost entirely improvised. That's always an exhilarating feeling, even if I did contradict myself once. Then I improvised five cities into existence with Kathelia. If you ever have a conversation with me about Phoenix Earth you might find it amusing to try and figure out in the back of your mind how much of what I'm saying I made up on the spot, particularly if the conversation is via AIM.

Kath is so silly! She's worried that she won't play well, or I won't like her, or somehow she'll end up botching her first chance to be in a roleplaying game. Without saying that she's in straight off, allow me to point out a few things from my conversation last night with her regarding her character:

1). The current idea of the character is a 33-year old mage of the Order of the Azure Eye specializing in healing and telekinesis (Inner Restorations and Inner Immaterials). That is a far cry (and a far better cry, in my opinion) from her first impulse, which was the fey elven warrior stereotype. This character is not only more useful to the party (it's technically very challenging to add a healing non-player character to the party; far better if the healer is a player) and has a lot more room to grow as a heroine.
2). One my skills as a DM is my ability to throw out an answer to a question about the world in an instant, or usually seconds at most. The reason is not because I know every little detail about my world, but rather that I know what my world feels like and can therefore decide pretty quickly which of the possible answers to a question feels like the right one. During our conversation I was throwing questions about her character at Kath pretty quickly - not because I was trying to quiz her or anything, but just because she answered so quickly! She didn't know everything about her character either, but she did know what her character felt like. And that's the key to being a good player.
3). At one point in our conversation Kath referred to her character as "I." That usually doesn't happen to a new player for a few sessions or so, and it's an important milestone. It marks the beginning of the player feeilng comfortable participating in the game as an actor rather than a distant narrator.

So yeah, I predict that Kathelia will fit in just fine.

In an unrelated note, Shanah's pledging a sorority on campus called Chi Omega. The funny thing about that is that Chi-O was formed because a bunch of girls decided they needed a sorority 'cause a bunch of their guy friends had formed a frat just for the heck of it. Apparently Greek letter societies are supposed to make their names actual Greek acronyms, but the sisters of Chi-O just picked two they thought looked good together; they don't stand for anything. Now probably they don't want them to stand for anything, but I don't know many words that start with omega so I decided to look some up and see what acronyms I could make. I came up with the following: chariessai horazdousai, or "graceful\\charming girls who bloom with youthful beauty." That amused me; I don't know if it amuses you.

Sunday, March 10, 2002

I am surprised to note as I write this that I have a happy tear in each eye. I am currently listening to the "Lord of the Dance" theme from Michael Flatley's show by the same name. I am quite fond of Lord of the Dance - in fact, in my opinion the only thing that is wrong with that show is Michael Flatley himself. Figures that the man who is arguably the world's greatest Irish dancer would also be a slimeball. Fortunately for me, the first time I saw this show performed was at Epcot (I guess technically that should be EPCOT) Center at Disneyworld, FL. Well actually it was only excerpts from the show, but it was way cool, and most importantly it was Lord of the Dance sans Mr. Flatley. I have a very distinct memory of wishing that Thea was there with me. Which was silly, of course, since I'd known for several years at that point that Thea and I wouldn't work out. But believe it or not the Disney Boardwalk (where we were staying) is an incredibly romantic location - I would definitely be happy having my honeymoon there. Actually I want to have my honeymoon there. So you can see perhaps how it made me think of Thea, who is one of only two girls in the world whose scent I still remember. I miss my Dragon Girls. I definitely feel like God has separated our life paths deliberately, but sometimes I miss them all the same. It would be nice to go back two or three years for one more movie date with Princess, back to when I didn't feel uncomfortable hugging girls I was fond of - and when I didn't feel the need for hugs quite so acutely.

It's funny to think that at Stanford nobody has replaced Thea and Princess. I guess I sort of figured deep down inside that I'd always have my Dragon Girls to turn to. But even deeper down I guess I knew that part of growing up would mean that they and I would go our separate ways. As I said in my speech at the 2000 senior breakfast, "Some of our classmates will become faces at a high school reunion, some school rivals, and some total strangers." Well, neither of them have become school rivals. I hope they become faces at a reunion instead of total strangers.

That wasn't at all where I intended this post to go, but I'll leave it standing because the Dragon Girls form an important part of my life history and after all the purpose of this blog is to acquaint you with the parts of me that you wouldn't otherwise get acquainted with. However, the purpose of this blog is not to rant. I am not down with ranting or venting in public, and I definitely consider the Internet to be a public place. If I wanted to rant in writing, why not take out a piece of paper or open up Word? No, if I ranted on a blog it could only be for one reason: because I wanted other people to see it. But if I've got something to say to another person I should say it to him or her in private, not to you. I am thinking specifically of the following line in my last entry:

Not the best the group is theoretically capable of doing, mind you, but our directors aren't stringent enough with us (and our coffers aren't full enough) to permit us to record the best we're theoretically capable of.

Now, that was plain unacceptable. It wasn't right for me to use this space to express my dissatisfaction with parts of core's directorship, and thoroughly at odds with my behavior outside of this blog. So I apologize.

I am very close to finishing my work for this quarter. I should be done with Reading & Writing Poetry by the end of the day (only four more anthology pages and then I'm through, except for possibly a revision of the open form poem I wrote just now), and then there's just another two or three hours or classics reading. Once I'm done with that I'll just have my Greek and classics finals. Fortunately I have gotten back into "it's time for me to be at Stanford" mode. But in a little over a week I'll definitely be back in "it's time for me to be home" mode, and won't that feel good?

Saturday, March 09, 2002

I'm not recording today because I'm too sick. Yesterday I wasn't quite so sick, so even though I definitely wasn't in total control of my voice, I did okay. Today I really feel like I'd be more of a hindrance to the process than a help.

By and large recording went well yesterday. The sops finally got a part of "In the Light" that they'd been having trouble with since the beginning of the song, and it sounded quite good. Apparently some of core was very dissatisfied with portions of the songs, but that's to be expected. I myself am very dissatisfied with plenty of stuff that they've signed off on in our final product, but that's fine. I've never been in a production where I wasn't dissatisfied with significant portions of the work, and there's no reason to start now.

The reason I feel I can say that is because I don't think the point of performance art is to create a good product so much as to create a product that the audience will appreciate. That much I think we've accomplished, and in any case I think that what we're going to be selling to people is the best we could do. Not the best the group is theoretically capable of doing, mind you, but our directors aren't stringent enough with us (and our coffers aren't full enough) to permit us to record the best we're theoretically capable of.

What about the argument that this CD is supposed to be a ministry tool? Well now, I'm not sure what I think of that. I certainly don't buy the argument that Christian music can be legitimately targeted at nonbelievers, or really even at seekers. So far as I've been able to determine, Christian music is nothing more than prophecy, and prophecies are not for unbelievers but for believers. If a song (and I'd like to point out that none of the songs we're doing is original, except for two original medleys of songs we didn't write) on our album is used to pique somebody's curiosity that's fine, but I still think it's a fallacy to target Christian music more at non-Christians than Christians.

As for the CD title ... well, I don't like it and I don't understand what it means, but I'm not going to protest it. We had a concept committee for a reason, and if the group is going to persist in running itself like a republic then it had best accept that republics have disadvantages as well as advantages. To challenge the title now is either to say that we won't accept the rules we laid down for ourselves or else to say that the concept committee failed to discharge its duties in good faith. I am prepared to do neither of those things. And, as I think about it, I own plenty of albums whose titles I wouldn't have picked. Center of My Universe? Speechelss? Behind the Eyes? Free to Fly? That doesn't mean I like the albums any more or less. Nor was I put off by the choice of album title; I bought those CDs because I like the music on them and I like the artists who made it. Which, I would argue, is precisely the reason that people will be buying our CD.

I finished Inner Restorations yesterday and was pretty proud of myself for coming up with 21 distinct healing spells. I think I'm going to shoot for 21 spells per field, plus any ideas that my players contribute or ideas that simply must be included beyond 21. This morning I brainstormed 21 spells for Inner Statics, the magic of earth and of binding, and I'm writing those up.

Thursday, March 07, 2002

Well, my life is going quite well. I'm all but caught up on my classics reading, Greek is proceeding apace, and except for one more poem in poetry and four more anthology pages, I'm set for that class too. Frustratingly, not all of my friends are blessed with such a stress-free existence. This isn't frustrating so much because they're stressed as because I don't know what I can do to bless them.

Ah, you say, but you don't have to bless them. And if you say that, good for you, because you have hit the nail on the head. If that were truly all I were concerned about, I would be content with interceding on their behalf in prayer. But my fix-it complex has come into play here, and what I really want to do is give them a switch - that is, something that will make them forget their stress, overriding it with a sense of love and security. My motives there are partially altruistic (I want them to have peace of mind) and partially selfish (I want to feel useful), but entirely human. Well, at least I'm aware of it.

So anyway, what's really frustrating me is that I don't know how to give people switches. In at least one case last year, all that was necessary was for me to hold the person in question. Now I feel like people just don't know what would comfort them, which is bewildering to me because I'm not used to people being so oblivious to the way they themselves work as to not be able to tell someone else what comforts them. But I suppose I can't really complain if people refuse to cater to my fix-it complex, so I'll just have to settle for interceding in prayer.

I've started to work on the human spell list, which is daunting. This could take me a while ... I've got six spells in one subcategory of one magical discipline (the disease subcategory of Inner Devastations) which has five subcategories. If that turns out to be average, that will give me thirty base spells per discipline, of which there are twelve. Think I can crank out 360 basic spells before March 20? And Inner Devastations is one of the more basic disciplines, too.

Work in the religious field is going somewhat better. Fortunately the two eastern religions are fairly straightforward. Faesi, the new eastern religion, only has one deity, Juylit. Juylit is roughly modeled on Ahura Mazda, which makes him a pretty straightforward kind of god. And the old eastern religion, the worship of the pantheon known as the Rae, is deliberately vague. The deities of the Rae were never very well defined, being inspired by the kind of divine vagueness that allowed the Egyptians to combine or redefine deities more or less at will (e.g., Amon-Ra, or Hellenistic Isis). It's the worship of the western gods that's giving me the most trouble, those twelve deities whose worship originated in Celahui, the City of the Gods. The twelve Celanni are Olympian-inspired and fairly well defined: three gods of war, three of home, three of nature, three of urban and trade life. The catch is that having decided that, I need to figure out just what each of them is the god of. The Celanni are not supposed to cover the whole world (one of the strengths of their worship is that it leaves lots of room for local gods to fit into the picture), but I need to decide just how much of it they do cover, and how they're portrayed.

Well, that's enough for now. Off to practice my music.

Tuesday, March 05, 2002

[big grin]
I got to dance with Alanna today in Social II! *squeal* Alanna's taking Social II as a lead this quarter, which means I don't usually get to dance with her (also taking the course as a lead and all). That'll be me next winter (er ... that is, I'll be taking it as a follow), but I don't know that I'll be at her level. She's such a gracious partner! And she can follow anything that's even vaguely well led - we were doing hustle today and she was the only person I successfully (read: smoothly) transitioned with into a half-turning basic instead of a full turn (i.e., 180 degrees and back again per eight counts instead of 360 all the way around). That doesn't mean the other ladies in the class are inept follows; it just means that Alanna is a goddess. When somebody like that compliments you it just makes you sigh a happy sigh. *happy sigh*

The past twenty-four hours have been one "score!" after another. First and foremost, score one for God for doing His thing in Testimony. No, I'm not going to elaborate on that further. But the situation sounds pretty good to me.

Second, score one for me for finishing the Classical Phoenix Earth arms and armor list. At last! I feel pretty satisfied with the mathematical balance of the weapons, so hopefully the gear featured in the game will be varied and cool. Only play-testing will tell, of course. Third, score one for me for crafting a Phoenix Earth that my sister is interested in joining! A historic event, ladies and gentlemen: a real live girl enters my game (The DM's games have historically had at least one female player for most of their respective existences)! Fourth, score one each for Mr. Clean and Lionell for coming up with cool characters to use in the game. I would have expected the Order of the Blood Maw to appeal more to Islington or Kharmak than Lionell, but as soon as I started describing it Lionell started drooling. And I really like what he did with it.

I discovered something funny about the currency in Phoenix Earth. Two things, actually (have you noticed that I discourse in lists?). One, the sarat (the highest denomination of coin in the game, weighing approximately 30 grams in gold) is almost exactly equal to one third of a year of unskilled labor. There are twelve doksi (silver coins worth about a day's worth of manual labor) to a single gold cossa, and ten cossae to a single gold sarat. So in 365 doksi divided by twelve equals 30 (well, 30 and 5/12) cossae, or three sarasi. That means the sarat actually works quite well as a coin that originated to pay taxes to the city of the same name during the reign of the famous crusader-conqueror Arkard the Harbinger. Isn't it delightful when a world comes together that way?

Second, swords in this game are really expensive. A bronze short sword will cost you about ten cossae (120 man-days of labor!) - it could take a man a whole year to save up enough for that! A steel great sword will cost you 200 cossae, just over six and a half years of continuous labor for a farmhand. But of course steel is supposed to be expensive and farmhands generally don't own swords. So what this actually means is I've scaled my prices more or less correctly.

Oh happy day! Let the world-building begin!

Sunday, March 03, 2002

It's late and I should be going to bed, but I'm not really feeling like going to bed right now. Simba's not in the room and I can sing to my heart's content without bugging him, and I think tonight I might actually have sung enough to content myself. I'm currently listening to my Disney playlist and feeling rather content.

I already gave most of the Viennese story to Kathelia, but I suppose there are others who are at least vaguely curious and since I'm not going to bed I guess I might as well post it.

So, to begin with, the night was pretty good. It wasn't the best night of my life and it certainly wasn't magical, but it was pretty good. I'm glad I went, glad I saw Shanah show off her stuff with partners who are good enough to let her be as good as she is. I'm glad I was able to do some good last night. I didn't go away sighing happily though, so if you want a story of a magical night you'll have to check out somebody else's blog. I recommend Blue Rose's. No, I'm not going to link you.

The day began with Shanah picking me up and driving me to Town and Country to pick up a purple rose for Dr. Lear. As a couple we had a pronounced purple theme going on, and the rose was so pretty that when I saw it (accompanying Archimedes on his corsage run) I couldn't resist. Shanah was on a tight schedule, of course, so I intended for her to drive me to the other florist, then to this one, then leave me so she wouldn't be late and I could just walk back. Naturally she refused. I don't know the details of her day so I can't say if that was a responsible decision or not, but it was certainly sweet of her. That's my Sweatshirt Girl. During the pickup, Rose called and asked if we could pick up her boutonniere, since her day was ... well, "hectic" sort of kind of begins to describe it. Everything would have been fine had the flower shop not messed up the order on the first try. Ai ya ... just like at my senior prom!

Anyway, for certain young ladies the whole getting ready thing was quite harrowing, but for myself it was really very mellow. I had time to do some more dev work on my equipment (yes, I'm doing worldbuilding at the same time: as of right now I not only have the geopolitical situation in Italy figured out, but I have a basic history of the past couple hundred years sketched out as well), take a shower, shave, and dress at a most leisurely pace. I even managed to get my bow tie straight enough that Rose didn't come up and straighten it, for which I commend myself.

At 1720 I headed down to Dr. Lear's room, corsage in hand and rose behind my back. She looked quite good, really, in her semi-slinky plum beaded gown, and while she didn't like her hair (it had these strands hanging down in various places which I wasn't sure was deliberate or not) I thought it was most becoming. We went well together as a couple, I'd say. We got over to Okada about 1725 or so I guess, where we took some pictures and eventually collected the rest of our group. Archimedes had apparently never worn a tux and didn't know what the little black buttons were for, so I (with thanks to my dear mother and sister) let him borrow one of mine. Sadly I didn't have spare cufflinks, but that's okay. Everybody looked really quite good, and the girls surprised us with pink-white roses. That was very sweet, quiaff?

I had the pleasurable experience of driving Dr. Object to the restaurant in San Jose, and in-car conversation was quite pleasant. Actually for the whole night I was quite pleased at how well the non-Tmony people were integrated into conversation and so forth; it really felt to me like we were one group instead of two. Our party got to the restaurant at 1900 hours, which left us precisely one hour to be paid for and out the door, food consumption optional. I strongly suspect that somebody else (probably Rose) would have taken charge if I hadn't, but it seemed to me that on the night of the Ball she shouldn't have to do that so I decided to dust off the take-charge subroutines and step up. Remarkably we had pretty much all eaten our dinners (my tagliata chianina, thin-sliced beef in this dark sauce, was absolutely delicious; best meal I've had in not-so-recent memory) and had paid by 2000 hours. There was a potential crisis when Dr. Lear realized she had no cash on her, but fortunately my experience at Zany Brainy has taught me that there's actually no hassle involved in paying a single bill with multiple credit cards, or a combination of cash and plastic. So that worked out quite well. Dr. Lear said I looked stressed, but really I felt pretty calm. I had forgotten how good it feels to take charge of things. No wonder people get addicted to it despite the stress it incurs.

Shanah had instructed me on where we should stand to get the best view of her in action, and despite our relatively late arrival the ballrooms were remarkably clear. That meant we got positively ideal seats. The opening ceremonies were about fifteen minutes late (thank you, Murphy) but that's ok. The Opening Committee ensemble was white dress or black tails with white gloves, white vest and bow tie (if male), and red rose boutonnieres. Very cool looking, if I do say so myself. I thought it was amusing that the Dance Master got a louder applause from the onlookers than any other honored guest, including the Austrian honorary consulate and the vice provost of the university. But really, he deserves it. What has the Austrian honorary consulate done for me lately, I ask you?

The Opening Committee moved like machines, by which I mean to say that they looked so tight that they might as well have all been tied to a single remote control. Well, okay, not really, but the next best thing to it. Really, they were very polished. Shanah said that during the waltz it was alternating fields of black and white as everybody rotated at precisely the same velocity - and she was right. Way, way cool.

So then the waltzing began. As I related in an eariler post, Dr. Lear and I waltz and polka together pretty darn well, and she's definitely game for any variation I want to try or make up. The ball rooms (there were two, one for waltz/polka and one for swing) were very large, big enough for several hundred people on each floor - and a good thing too! Goodness those dance floors were crowded! Despite this I daresay that Deirdre and I did quite well in waltzing together and staying [relatively] out of other peoples' space. Dr. Lear's dance shoes were not properly broken in, unfortunately, which gave her blisters. So she danced barefoot most of the night, which ended up working just fine since the floor was quite slippery.

The dance went from approximately 2030 to 0100, and I admit that I started feeling anxious about dancing with other people. Not that I don't like dancing with Deirdre, mind you, but I kept seeing people from Social II (or just Tmony girls) and thinking "ooh, I wish I could dance with her!" And I guess I could have, but I felt an unspoken social pressure (despite the Dance Master's admonition to the Social I class) to stick mostly with the girl I'd brought. The situation was somewhat complicated by the realization that not only was Deirdre's boyfriend present, but he was present with a group of people she knew. Which made me feel a little weird. Not that I felt bad about asking her, mind you! I could launch into a scathing tirade here about proper dance philosophy, but since this is not a forum for tirades suffice it to say that I asked her before they were a couple and therefore I was perfectly justified in going to the ball with her. However, I was feeling a little tied down, and a little like her tendency to gravitate towards the aforementioned group pulled me away from the presence of the people whom I knew. Ah, you will say, but had we hung around my friends she would have been put in my position! And that's true, I admit. I guess what was really getting at me was the cognitive dissonance between being at a social dance and being tied down to a single partner, which is really not the case at most Stanford social dances like Jammix.

We didn't spend an enormous amount of time in the swing room, but I did feel like my swing improved appreciably over the course of the night. That fact made it doubly unfortunate that my only dance with Rose was a swing which was simply too fast. And that was doubly unfortunate by the fact that her date was the Graduate, whom I strongly suspect could have handled a lindy hop even at that pace. Not that I feel competetive with him, mind you, but since the basic point of dancing in my opinion is to show your partner a good time it made me feel bad that I wasn't doing that while her normal partner probably could have. Waste of dance, if you will. But Rose was a good sport about it, which was very kind of her, so I didn't really feel too bad about it at all.

The best dance of the night, by head and shoulders, was with Thalassa. When I ran into her early in the night she wasn't having a good time; I'm not sure if her date ditched her or if she had just come without one in the first place and was feeling lonely because she didn't have a default partner. Either way, I felt bad - girls should not be left alone at the Viennese Ball, let alone a girl like Thal who had to miss last year's Ball quite against her will. So when I ran into her in the swing room I asked Dr. Lear if I could ask her to dance, and of course Deirdre said yes. So Thalassa and I went out onto the floor and danced a swing to Nat King Cole's "Orange Colored Sky," which I have taken the liberty of memorizing and will have added to my bag of songs-available-on-demand in a day or so. Fortunately I knew a bit of that song already, so I could sing along as we danced. Thal said she was in heaven. Quite frankly, so was I. Thal's a really slick dancer, for one thing, and I daresay we looked great out there. I don't know enough lindy hop to sustain a whole dance of it, but I do know several ways to go from eight-count swing to six-count and back again, and Thal complimented me on my transitions, which made me feel good. She's also a good partner, though, who really makes you (well, anyway she makes me feel this way) feel good about yourself when you dance with her. Take note, ladies and gentlemen! And finally, I admit that I have a fix-it complex of my own, so I'm a sucker for comments to the effect of "I'm in heaven - I'm dancing with a great guy who's singing to me!" Yes, she said that. Yes, it made me melt.

I also managed to get in a waltz with Shanah, which would have intimidated me a few weeks ago but does no longer. My attitude towards her style of following has shifted. Consider the following scenario: you're spinning around the floor, and suddenly your partner pulls you up short. If she hadn't done that, you see as you turn again, you would have collided. Now, you can call that back-leading if you want to, but really it's not. It's just her looking out for you, and trying to make sure you have the best time possible. Things like that happen with Shanah all the time, and once I got over the fact that I can't see in two directions at once I suddenly started enjoying dancing with her a lot. She was feeling pretty down at the end of the night when we danced, but she put on one of those smiles of hers that I love so much, "only for you." Well, maybe not only for me, but in this case it was for me. Not because she felt like smiling but because she knew I'd appreciate it. Which meant that I did appreciate it.

So that was pretty much my Viennese experience. Not a waste of time or money, not really, but I'm not at all sure that I'll go next year. Especially if Shanah isn't on the Opening Committee again.

If I've worked my sentencecraft well, by now you'll be able to figure out that today I was feeling kind of a post-Viennese let-down. Not like post-show blues, where you're sad that a good thing will never come again. More like "what, was that it?" I went to a Veritas Forum lecture to cheer me up, but it didn't really although the paper presented was good. What did cheer me up was going to Twain's Cafe Night.

Cafe Night is a sort of quarterly event here in the dorm whereby various dormfolk gather to enjoy experiencing one another's artsy sides. We have a number of guitar players, singer-songwriters, poets, etc. in the dorm. The performances tonight were, objectively speaking, pretty mediocre on average. But that didn't matter. The atmosphere was very friendly, the snacks were plentiful, everybody was laid back, and I honestly enjoyed hearing every single one of the presentations tonight.

What it reminded me of was something the Director used to tell us before a show: you don't know who's coming out of the dark to sit in your audience, but chances are somebody's having a really bad day. Your performance can let them forget their troubles and send them back out into the world with a smile. I realized that tonight I was that person, and it made me remember, on the level of emotional memory, why performing is worthwhile. It made me want to get up there and share that gift with my dormmates. So I did, at the last minute. I sang "Orange Colored Sky," and it didn't go great but that was really just fine.

It also made me think of Twilight and the Jimmy Jane Blues Party. You know what I'd like right now? To be back in the Valley, sit down with him, a guitar, and a set of lyrics, and sing a JJBP song. Something like "Come On, Betsy." I think it'd feel really good to sit down with my best friend and some music and just cut loose with my voice. Ah, but that'll have to wait, I suppose. Good night, ladies and gentlemen.

Friday, March 01, 2002

Okay, so Kathelia is cute. Way cute. I don't think anyone since Kharmak and Maclaeden has actually been so interested in just the rules of Phoenix Earth. Oh I'm going to enjoy this. But as Twilight pointed out in his indirect way, I have got to get going on the worldbuilding. Thanks to Mr. Clean for helping me figure out how elven magic works, and yesterday afternoon while getting a smoothie with Archimedes and the Wizard I figured out the rules for human magic. So basically all I need now is to fill in the damage specs and modifiers for my bow weapons, then go back and make sure I haven't left any weapons eclipsed by other weapons. Why is that so important? Well for one thing, as Archimedes pointed out, it gives the players something to strategize about. But my players (with the exception of Kharmak and Maclaeden) generally don't strategize about that sort of thing too much, which means the real reason I need a balanced variety of weapons is for style's sake. I just think the world would look dumb if everybody went around using (say) broadswords because that's the best\\most efficient weapon in the game.

I'm way excited about Viennese, but I'm also way excited about the prospect of going home. As the estimable Ms. Tumes has said:

I'm flying home tonight;
I've got a ticket bound for my shore.
I'll leave this town behind
As I wave farewell from above.

Oh, I'm watching the stars light up the heavens
Oh, I think of my family together, and I'm
With the angels.
A ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! I'm going to Viennese tonight!

Okay, so you probably already knew that. What you didn't know is that Dr. Lear and I are going to have such a fabulous time tomorrow! Somehow our rotary waltz became smooth and rotary tonight, which was delightful even though we still have some frame issues. And not only that, but we can polka too! Shanah kind of retaught us the polka (ah, she's the Dancer indeed!), and all of a sudden it works amazingly well! The trick? Don't think of it as hopping; think of it as gliding.

Oh, I'm so excited!