Citizen Pain is in da house

A production 24 years in the making… Citizen Pain! Yes, that’s how long I lived in the U.S. under work visas, then under spouse visas as a resident immigrant. Becoming American has never been something that appealed to me on an emotional level (I’m Canadian, I don’t have to fake it!)

But in recent years I have come to realize just how many rights which I thought applied to residents do in fact apply only to citizens: the right to legal representation, for example. And immigrants can get in trouble for a lot of legal activities, such as supporting civil rights groups, marching and protesting, or using certain privacy software like Tor or Signal. As my attorney and friend said, you can be right about the issue but you’ll still get in a mountain of trouble.

So this year I decided to bite the bullet, particularly since I was hoping to vote after over two decades of paying taxes. Unfortunately, a lot of immigrants had the same idea and my application, though sent in April, was not processed in time. But in the weeks since the horrible November 8 election, the Obama administration worked hard to child-proof the country, including processing as much of the immigration backlog as possible. It was my privilege to be sworn in today as a citizen, on the last tenure day of the president I admired so much.

The oath ceremony took place at the historic Paramount Theatre in Oakland, California, and 1,240 new citizens from 91 countries were sworn in. (I understand that throughout the country, this week was a marathon of such events, thematically linked to Martin Luther King Jr. Day.) We were also able to apply for a U.S. passport and voter registration, so I took care of these items.

To be honest, the ceremony was a little odd, because U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services personnel are trying to be nice, joyful, congratulatory — and until this moment, none of us applicants have seen them be anything but suspicious, stern, and disengaged. As my friend Sean Nittner put it, it’s like having the Department of Motor Vehicles throw you a party! Also, when they were listing the 91 countries of origin, they forgot Canada. Dudes!

After the ceremony and various paperwork, we moved next door to Tiera Mia Coffee for our first caffeine of the day. We took a table in a corner and were having a nice conversation between my husband Edmund, my friends Sean and Dorene, and me, waiting for another friend, Marc, to join us. But then a weird incident happened.

First, this tall guy approached our table and just loomed over us, staring at Sean who asked if everything was okay. The guy said yes, still glaring; Sean gave a few polite words (something like “Good, I’m glad. You have a good day, now.”) It was said in his typical courteous way, didn’t sound snarky in the least. The guy went back to his table and we forgot about the incident.

Then maybe 30 minutes later, he got up, marched to our table and shoved his sandwich (and knuckles) in Sean’s face, then flipped our table in Sean’s lap! Cups and plates went flying, we were splashed and so were our table neighbours, and we all jumped to our feet yelling “What the hell! Why did you do that?” Without answering, the guy spat in Sean’s face, twice! Then he grabbed his skateboard and stomped off, never explaining himself.

The cafe manager called the police and a couple of officers showed up a few minutes later, took down the stories, and viewed the cafe’s surveillance camera footage. The best we can guess is that it was a case of mistaken identity; the guy did not give the vibe of someone looking to pick a fight with anyone, just with Sean.

After some cleaning up and new drinks, and telling the whole story to our friend Marc, we moved a couple of blocks up the street to Agave Uptown, an Oaxacan restaurant where I had made a lunch reservation. Happily, we encountered no further weirdness, and all felt like we had had enough for a while.

As a newly minted registered voter, I plan to keep the phone red-hot with calls to political representatives. Until now my opinion has never mattered; if you’re not a registered voter, your signatures and calls don’t count. But I do plan on being counted now. And I know calls are much more effective than form letters and Internet petitions. So I will use my new citizenship, oh yes I will.

Getting ready for radiotherapy

2016-10-26-19-53-32Last week mom came to visit and check on me. She had not been to California in 22 or 23 years, since a lovely vacation we had taken along the coast from San Francisco to Oregon. She also had not seen me in person since dad funeral in 2008 because the economic crash wiped out our savings and left me either under-employed or too busy holding on to multiple jobs to be able to travel.  (At least we’ve been using video calls in recent years.)

On good weather days, we drove around the North Bay coast: Pacifica, San Francisco, Sausalito, Tiburon, Richmond, Emeryville. On rainy days we went to the Asian Art Museum, shopped for souvenirs, or stayed home to chat and read. Edmund made fantastic breakfasts of crepes or French toast, and authentic San Francisco cioppino for dinner, or we took mom to some of our favourite restaurants. Mom really enjoyed her visit.

I had a physical therapy class on Friday, shortly after mom flew back to Montreal. It was a very small class, you can only have three or four patients at a time. I learned a series of exercises I should do every day to help heal properly and avoid lymphedema.

A Facebook friend sent me skin cream for radiation effects, a very kind and thoughtful idea. I would not have thought of it otherwise, but moisturizing a few days in advance and then throughout the radiation treatment helps manage the skin burn effects.

On Monday I had a CT scan to get every movable part of the equipment (and of me!) properly positioned for radiation therapy. My chest was decorated with a variety of pen marks, then three little dots were tattooed to help line up the beam. I asked for the full Maori style but they turned me down.

On Tuesday I went shopping for bras and books! Now I have better support while I read Usagi Yojimbo

Next week I have the simulation appointment on Tuesday (a dry-run of the whole radiotherapy sequence) as well as a meeting with a nurse to talk about preventive care during treatment, followed by a Herceptin infusion. Radiotherapy starts for real the next day.

A little walk for my health

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As I recover strength after chemotherapy and in preparation for surgery, I need to exercise a little. My medical team has recommended that I walk at least ten minutes a day, something that is laughably short when one is in good health but tiring for me right now.

A doe leaping to flee.
A doe leaping to flee.

This afternoon we went to walk along San Andreas Lake near our home. I walked a total of about twenty minutes (slowly) then spent some time sitting under a tree, admiring the view while Edmund was taking more of a “real” walk. Butterflies and dragonflies were flitting among wildflowers, and I saw a good deal of wildlife.

The deer seem to have a neighbourhood association rule: only one doe and her fawns at a time. The first doe I saw was standing guard while her two fawns played; suddenly I saw her raise her head and alertly look around, then I heard her call a challenge a few times. Then she leaped around and bounded to collect her fawns and flee.

A moment later, another doe with a single fawn emerged from the opposite direction and came to claim what appeared to be a choice spot. Then they too eventually left when yet another family showed up.

Overhead I saw a red-tail hawk lazily gliding in circles on the thermals, looking for prey. Later on Edmund pointed out a couple of bald eagles fishing and performing aerobatics near the lake surface, soon followed by the unavoidable turkey vultures hoping to get a free meal.

I was tired when I came back and had an hour’s nap.

Our friend Phantom

Phantom_shelterTwo years ago today, Give Me Shelter Cat Rescue posted on Facebook about Phantom, a black cat who had been left at a San Francisco animal shelter, reportedly after spending fifteen years with the same people. An older black cat with a blemish (a supposedly benign tumour above his right eye), terrified of the brouhaha at the shelter and therefore not responsive to humans: he didn’t stand a chance. He was was going to be euthanized unless someone stepped up immediately to adopt him. Fortunately, a friend (thanks, Brian!) re-posted and I responded that Edmund and I would take Phantom. It was a Saturday; the volunteer from Give Me Shelter Cat Rescue later said that if we hadn’t piped up right then, Phantom probably would not have made it to Monday.

Phantom was terrified of his change of surroundings at first, and not too keen on sharing the house with two other cats, but he has the most amazing growl and established his little space. (No actual cat fights occurred, just occasional Sturm und Drang.)

Later visits to the veterinarian revealed that the first vet we saw, who had dismissed the tumour as benign, was an idiot. It was a mast cell tumour, and although our (current, really good) veterinarian removed everything she could, the tumour was too deep to completely excise. It’s slow-growing but some day Phantom may have full-fledged cancer.

But in the meantime, oh! What an awesome cat! He is such a lovely friend. He loves to follow us around, curl up in physical contact with us, especially between Edmund and I. Edmund is his favourite but I do get quite a lot of cuddles too. We’re so glad he came to live with us! Thank you, Give Me Shelter Cat Rescue volunteers.

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Filming gamer habitat

In more fun activities yesterday, we toured the Walnut Creek Marriott with Big Bad Con and filmed raw footage for a Kickstarter video. As announced a few days ago, Big Bad Con will take place at the Walnut Creek Marriott this year; we were pretty much bursting at the seams after five years of growth at the smaller Oakland Airport Hilton. The contract was signed so it’s official. I’m using a stock photo here but soon the footage will be available. The hotel has lots of nooks and crannies like this where you can chat, exchange stories, or set up a private game. It’s a beautiful space, the personnel was nice and helpful, we’ll have more space, people are coming up with new ideas — it’s going to be another fantastic convention.

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Fate of the Inquisitor, coming up at KublaCon

EDIT: Cancelled due to illness.

Aquila_blackKublaCon is the next big tabletop gaming convention in the San Francisco Bay Area, and it’s held only minutes from where I live. It’s not nearly as strong in the role-playing department as I’d like, so of course the thing to do is add a couple of games to the schedule!

My second game is an adventure for 2 to 5 players set in the grim darkness of the 41st millennium. If you want a Dark Heresy game that uses Fate Core rules and miniatures, this is for you!

70k TwitterI will be using Evil Hat Productions’ Fate Core system and the miniatures rules from War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus which I am about to adapt as open content for Evil Hat.

Here is the blurb for my adventure; I’m limited to 400 characters for the printed program:

Fate of the Inquisitor

Inquisitor Lucanus has led you, his retinue, to the Hive World of Corundum IV amidst an ongoing Genestealer invasion to retrieve a priceless relic from the foul xenos. Now the Inquisitor has disappeared during a brutal firefight and the ensuing cave-in, and you are chased by a Genestealer cult. Will you find your master again? Complete his mission? Call for help? Or die bravely but pointlessly?

This will give me a chance to put our bazillion WH40K miniatures to good use! Here are some I’m considering offering as characters: Callidus assassin, Escher ganger, Sister of Battle, tech priest, arbitor, Imperial guardsman, scout, space marine, beastman, Ogryn, ratling sniper.

If you are a role-player in the Bay Area and you’re in need of some gaming on Memorial Day weekend, check out one my games, and consider adding one of your own to the schedule so I can play in yours!

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Credits: Aquila © Games Workshop; Dark Heresy fan art by Mothmandraws, aka fallenshadow12.

Fault Lines: A Venture City story, coming up at KublaCon

EDIT: Cancelled due to illness.

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This past weekend was DunDraCon but I didn’t attend because I couldn’t afford a hotel room (it’s too far from home to drive safely and still have time to game.) However, KublaCon is the next big tabletop gaming convention in the San Francisco Bay Area, and it’s held only minutes from where I live. It’s not nearly as strong in the role-playing department as I’d like, so of course the thing to do is add a couple of games to the schedule!

My first choice of game is an adventure for 2 to 5 players set in Venture City, a Fate World created by Brian Engard for Evil Hat Productions’ Fate Core system. Venture City is a Fate Core implementation for supers, but whether they’re heroes or not is up to them. Here is the blurb for my adventure (I’m limited to 400 characters for the printed program):

Fault Lines

When a series of small earthquakes rock the city, are they foreshadowing the Big One or the work of some new super being? Either way, your group of low-rent unsanctioned supers may be the only help for the citizens of the sprawl… unless you accept a more lucrative offer from alarmed one-percenters.

Of course, in my version Venture City is just another name for “here.”

If you are a role-player in the Bay Area and you’re in need of some gaming on Memorial Day weekend, check out one my games, and consider adding one of your own to the schedule so I can play in yours!

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Credits: Illustrations by Tazio Bettin.

Convention Report: Big Bad Con 2015

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Badged and proud of it.

I recently attended — and helped with — my favourite game convention in the world, Big Bad Con.  I can’t believe it was the fifth edition already!  And Edmund and I have been to every instance — and have a ton of souvenir pins to prove it.  (You can read Edmund’s description of this year’s event starting here.)

Every year has been better than the previous, an amazing feat of continuous improvement of an already superb convention.  But this year was also organized differently.  Because of a SNAFU with the hotel, negotiations were difficult and a contract did not get signed until mid-May 2015, for a convention that takes place in October.  If you have ever tried to put on an event of this scope, you know that they take the better part of a year to organize, so this was a challenge.  Plus, organizer Sean Nittner had been putting on the convention with a handful of staff for the first four years through sheer personal energy, and I think exhaustion was setting in.

The Big Bad Wolf and the Wolf Pack

So this year Sean started with a call for volunteers which Edmund and I answered, followed by a Kickstarter campaign to make up for the hotel’s increased fees. The KS campaign was a runaway success, with 205 backers pledging $14,050 or seven times the sum of $2,000 Sean was asking for.  He used the extra money to bring in a bevy of guests selected among enthusiastic community builders and diversity champions in our hobby.  Continue reading “Convention Report: Big Bad Con 2015”

Convention Season 2015

Things have changed quickly in the last week or two! Edmund and I are now scheduled to attend at least three game conventions this year.

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Dragonflight

Aug. 7-9 (Seattle/Puget Sound Area)

Attending as staff: I’m doing the program layout for Dragonflight Convention, for the eighth year in a row.  I’ve submitted a couple of War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus events, one in the native setting and one using the Mouse Guard setting. (Official site.)

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CelestiCon

September 4-7 (San Francisco Bay Area)

Attending as guest (ugh, I forgot to send them a picture): running War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus. Hopefully, I’ll have the print book in hand by then, that would be so much nicer. (Official site.)

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Big Bad Con

October 16-18 (San Francisco Bay Area)

Attending as staff: I’m in charge of coordinating GM recruitment for RPGs. I have not submitted games yet because I’m waiting to see if we have any last-minute GM cancellations I need to fill in for. (Official site.)

Blast from the Past: SkyRealms of Jorune

Skyrealms of Jorune 2nd edition - coverFor a retro-themed role-playing game day at Endgame, Edmund chose to run SkyRealms of Jorune; specifically, he used the third edition published by Chessex under license in 1992 as well as some older sourcebooks from previous editions. I had played in a short campaign Edmund ran for me eight or ten years ago, and read a lot of the setting material on and off over the years before and since, but it sure had been a while.

If you don’t know the game, it drew a cult following back in the late 1980s-early 1990s because of its rich and original background, its effort to support fantasy conceits with plausible in-world explanations, and its atmospheric art by Miles Teves as well as Janet Aulisio, George Barr, and others.

But the system, in all its incarnations, was at best clunky and sometimes opaque. There is a lot of jargon, a lot of character sheet scouring in order to locate appropriate skills, a lot of rule mechanics that pull in different directions, and a lot of whiffing.

Despite the system obstacles, thanks to a game-master and two players anchored in modern role-playing aesthetics, we had a blast. Sean Nittner (of Big Bad Con game convention, Evil Hat Productions, and Narrative Control podcast fame) and I picked among the six pre-generated characters; Sean picked Persiphon, a human durlig farmer (the durlig is a labour-intensive crop), and I played “Dark” Mood, a Bronth private eye (a genetically engineered were-bear.)

We were harvesting durlig when a fearful Thriddle went running past us at high speed, before hitting a wall and knocking itself out. We discovered that it was suffering from hypothermia despite the hot Sobayid sun! After giving it care and reuniting the Thriddle with others of its species for medical care, we went investigating what it had been running away from. We found a hole that led to a crevasse that led to a room filled with crystals and a mysterious portal… We stepped through and found ourselves on a Sky Realm in the middle of a blizzard. We fought Cleash, we rescued Persiphon’s five-year old cousin Jessa from being eaten by the Cleash, we found a Shanta preserved inside a large crystal… We had adventures!

Edmund made it easier  to play by giving a large penumbra for skills we did have rather than demanding we use the skills we didn’t have. He also reduced the number of steps needed when we got into combat. The system requires: (1) an Advantage roll to determine who has the upper hand; an attack roll; if you hit, a hit location roll (which Edmund dropped), then a roll to penetrate armour if the opponent is wearing any, and finally a damage roll if you make it that far. Oh, and the defender may have a defense roll to avoid being hurt. You generally want to roll low… except when it’s time to roll for Advantage and for damage.

Because Edmund limited the rolls to where they made sense, and because Sean and I were completely into the modern mind set of “look at the die and narrate what happens,” rather than the old “Must Not Fail Roll!!” we had a great time. We also played our backwater hick-but-gung-ho characters to the hilt. In truth, I would love to play the further adventures of Persiphon and Moody!

For more on SkyRealms of Jorune, read Grognardia’s overview, Grymbok’s “Let’s Read” feature on RPG.net, or The Lonely DM’s review.

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