ExtraLife Gameathon 2016 – Team Bombshelter

Well, first off, the final numbers aren’t in yet but:

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Yeah. Given that we’re a Canadian team, and that’s in US Dollars? I’m incredibly happy, and proud of my team. Seriously, they all come together at the last minute, and it just works. And they’re brutally generous with both their time and money.

That’s also not the end of the story, either. I’m currently sitting on about $325 Canadian in cash donations from the day-of (we keep a donation bucket).

And finally, if you’re so inclined, you can donate until December 31st, 2016. Just click right about here, and we thank you. Please, remember that this is in aid of CHEO (the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario), so,if you’re Ottawa, Kingston, that kind of area, and have, or know kids, chances are, someone you know will make use of CHEO’s services at some time. It’s a great cause, and we’re always happy to try to help them out in some small way.

So, the event itself!

I must admit, I had some trepidation going into it. It’s been … All round it’s been a rough year – I’ve had a lot going on at work, and personally, and I’m exhausted. So, it was tough to organize this year, and I almost didn’t bother. Almost. But, I had some concerns that we were going to get a super small turn out (we didn’t) that donations were gonna be tough (they weren’t) and that maybe the events time had passed for us (it hasn’t).

Call it a minor crisis of faith.

Well, I did the traditional lessons learned – We sold our pool table (that came with the house when we bought it) last winter, so that opened up a ton of space in the basement. That really made the PC gamers a lot more comfortable (And a lot more comfortable than they deserve! Basement trolls, every one of them). I picked up a couple of sets of folding table LEGS, and built two more “door tables” to provide as much space as I could, and that left us with an extra tabletop space surrounded by bookcases (which was actually really nice, the ambience was pretty great!) The network was strung from the ceiling like a spiderweb (main connection to gigabit switch, out to a gigabit switch on each set of two tables). I actually planned the layout of the house for the event on paper this year, and had myself an honest-to-god checklist, rather than just doing it all in my head. And, it all appears to have worked out fairly well.

So, speaking of that house layout, this is what we had:

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The living room – aka “Xbox Alley”. All consoles, all the time. Three years ago, this would have been the primary hub of activity, this year, not so much. We did have some bodies out sick, though, which made a big difference. Even so, our console division dropped off, which is interesting to note (also, smaller screens showing up this year, with the exception of my own, more on that later).

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Like I said, my own TV was the exception. In the dining room, I took over: That’s 65″ of 4k love – It’s my house, dammit, I’ll play the way I want to. I also knew I was going to have a huge set-up, anyway, because of my racing rig. What you see in front of you was: Xbox360, Xbox:One, Logitech G920 racing wheel/pedals/shifter, LED backlighting on the TV from the powerbar (those are AWESOME), and my Republic of Gamers G571 laptop. I was all set to play pretty much anything. Next to it was @pingoderp’s Xbox360, which basically got used for Portal.

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Family room was a general congregation area, and Rockband/DJ Hero. I was surprised at the turnout for the Rockbanding. Very good though. And the SumoSac’s were, as always, well loved by the kids for flopping out and spending time on mobile gaming, and Nintendo DS.

Basement. I wasn’t kidding. This is where the PC Master Race is shunned… I mean, situated.

Tabletop room 1!


Tabletop room 2!

I ended up not involved (for obvious reasons) but for a number of reasons, we tried a “PokeWalk” – a couple of the parents (primarily organized by @Yumi Kiddo) took a number of the kids to Carleton University to do a few hours of Pokemon Go. It does sound like it went well, and definitely helped us at the house, because it lowered the crush of kids running around for the afternoon (our highest volume of bodies is about noon to 9pm, and it can be a distinct “crush” of people in a relatively small space). I get the impression this went very well, but may have been a horde of babbling kids tearing at the nerves of a couple of parents *grin*

Lessons learned? Always.

  • the couch in the family room can’t be on the west wall – kids would jump onto it, and bump the wall-socket network cable, taking everyone out down in the basement
  • Rockband, even on a smaller scale, is still a success – IF it’s separated from all the other gaming, because it’s loud, and not everyone wants to listen to it
  • upgrading the connection (from 27/3 to 60/10 made a huge difference, and no one had any issues beyond the bumping from the couch).
  • consoles have dropped off, tabletop has grown hugely, and PC gaming staged a notable increase
  • it remains a huge amount of work to set up. Like…. a lot.

    How much? Well, take a look at the pictures, and you see what goes into the rooms. We move furniture around. the networking consists of eight gigabit switches, and somewhere around 700 feet of Cat5e. Four of those switches were new this year. We upgraded the connection, as noted, and that costs money. Ok, sure, I wanted that too but. There’s the hydro – November is our biggest month of the year for obvious reasons. It’s about an extra fifty percent of our monthly bill, for that weekend. Food, that we lay in, beyond what other people generously provide.

    And mostly… time. It takes A LOT of time to set up, tear down, organize, lead, and fundraise for. Probably 130 hours of pure, physical set-up and tear-down, plus time talking to people about the event, what we’re doing, how we’re doing it.

    This is the thing. We’ve now done this for five years. And it IS a lot of work. And early on this year, it was somewhat disenchanting to see the… lack of enthusiasm. And I know, times get tough and get better and we have good years and bad years.

    But, what I know at this point is, to turn the house into a charity fun-house (which is really what we do) for about eighty people coming and going (which is about what we have) costs me. Well, us. It costs money – I spend about $200/year now – it was more three years ago, but now we’re down to just replacing broken/obsolete things, and any hardware needed. It costs time as noted.

    But you know what?

    It’s still worth it. It really is. The event comes together, it’s really fun, we have a great time, there are some great moments, and once we’re doing it, I’m reminded of just how awesome the people I’ve surrounded myself with, are. I’m incredibly fortunate. And that good fortune is one of the reasons we still do it, despite the work, the frustration, and the inconvenience. Because we can, and it is just work, frustration, and inconvenience, and we can deal with that.

    Because at the end of the day, we do something good, and that’s really worth it. Especially right now.

    So, will we do it again?

    Well, at five years? Yeah, we’re totally going to. I’m not completely sure what form it’ll take. We may have some other options for a location coming up. Something that would really take the pressure off us in terms of the intrusion of the event into our home for weeks. I’d miss having the event at home, for sure, but it’s grown to a point now that it may really not be viable to keep doing it at home. However, a bunch of other stuff will have to come together for that to work, too.

    Cryptic much? 😀

    At the end of the day, we do it for CHEO, and I think we do an amazing job. I haven’t heard what the numbers are for fundraisers for Ottawa, for CHEO specifically, but we are regularly near the top. Which means we really are doing something good for the world, and for our community.

    Pretty much every parent we know has made use of CHEO’s facilities at some point or another, and those that haven’t? Likely will. It’s that kind of facility.

    So, one more time, with feeling, if you want to drop a few bucks, it would be hugely appreciated. Just click that link up there at the top. You know the one. Go on. Click it. You know you wanna. Makes you feel good. Doooo iiit.

    Seriously, if you’d thought about it, but didn’t get around to it, now’s the time! so, please do, if you can.

    And yeah, we’ll probably be back next year.

    But for the moment, I’ll leave it with this. I’m wicked proud of my team. Players, fund raisers, donators, all. All amazing. Thank you again Team Bombshelter, you’re awesome, and I don’t do this by myself.

  • Friday Wants: All The Things Edition

    I’ve not done this in a while, so, lets enjoy ourselves with crass consumerism, and unrealistic expectations, shall we?

  • SeaSucker suction bike rack. Watch the video. How freakin’ cool is THAT?? I saw one of these in use on a Genesis Coupe on Sunday, and the only issue is, you still have to store the front wheel inside, because the ‘attachment’ to the rack is with the front fork of the bike. Otherwise, EXCELLENT option.
  • 7″ tablet, probably the Aceri A100 iconia, Stereo screen/tablet relocation kit, and the various bits’n’pieces that are involved in the installation in my car. This is something I really want to do in the next year: with an off-line map-pack for the tablet, and the right set-up, this completely replaces an external navigation unit, while providing a ton of other functionality. And, the install will be fun and educational!
  • Stance SS Coilovers, because I can set my own ride-height and damping stiffness, and replace the nearly-completely-shot stock struts in my car.
  • Competition Clutch Stage 2 kit, because my clutch sucks. ’nuff said.
  • Coasties.com Coaster brake conversion for my fixie/single-speed. Because, awesome, and no more brake levers/calipers. Bad, because only their most expensive set (outside of custom made) has the right front and rear spacing. These in black though? Yum. Although a custom Red, or even my car’s Mirabeau Blue would be awesome.
  • SuperLux LED taillights. LED is good, and I love the look of the superlux on my car.
  • Stephen King’s Doctor “Sleep”. Because new Stephen King, obviously.
  • Chuck Wendig’s “The Blue Blazes”. Because, it’s the only thing on my reading list from this summer I didn’t pick up yet.
  • Nikon 35mm f1.8 The ‘true’ 50mm lens based on a DX format SLR (the 50mm f1.8 is actually a 75mm on my camera, due to the size of the sensor). Me wants.
  • Which would probably go well with the 20mm f/2.8D, which I’ve borrowed, and am in love with.
  • And hey, while I’m dreaming of camera stuff: Nikon D7100 body-only Because my D70s is now eight-going-on-nine-years-old and is really starting to show that age. I’d really like to move up to more light sensitivity, a more effective sensor, and a lot less left-over noise in the image. I’ve said that for about four years now though, and I’m still soldiering on with the D70s.
  • I gotta admit, again, while I still really like my Canon G12 as a “walk around” camera, if I’d waited a year, I’d have had a micro four-thirds machine like the Samsung NX300, or Lumix GX7.
  • Laptop. Mine is almost dead after eight years. Now, that will need some research.
  • Air Tools. I grabbed a compressor from a friend last year, and still haven’t used it, because, no tools. So, I need: an impact gun (1/2″, maybe?), 3/8″ or 1/2″ air ratchet, , and definitely impact sockets in 1/2″ metric and 1/2″ imperial.
  • [FRIDAY WANTS] Bikes & Stuff Edition

    Yes, my crass consumerism gets the better of me again, so here’s the “stuff” I want right now.

    NOW, DAMMIT. GIMMIE GIMMIE GIMMIE! EASY CREDIT TERMS!

    1] Bike lock. I’m picking up the new bike in the next few days, so it’s time to outfit it properly. I think I’m just going to grab a good chain and lock from MEC, probably the Planet Bike 2m chain and Mountie Mini Lock, or Mountie Mini w/1m chain. I need to get a fix in my head in how long a metre of chain is, wrapped around something though, to see if it’ll do the job for me.

    2] Helmet. I got a decent streamlined helmet for distance riding, but I think I want a different style for traffic riding/commuting. probably something like this one.

    3] The larger MOGA Controller. The smaller one, the Pivot was a swag/give-away at PAX East (how awesome is that??) and it is brilliant, so I really want to get the larger one. Especially as I have a coupon for 25% off.

    On Being Haunted: So, I Starred In The Story (The Real End)

    Earlier, I posted the final piece of the story, the haunting that’s been going on in my life. I had a hard time with that, now that I know what (and who) happened to me. So, here’s the REST of the story, because I can tell it. It’s not personal in a way I can’t talk about publicly, but I wanted to leave some of the mystery there for a little while. Specifically, I wanted to preserve the story that’s been told for my benefit. I figured that the best way to do that was to finish the telling my part in the story with a little mystery, and then explain it separately.

    So, if you don’t want to know the final details of the elaborate (and awesome) hoax I’ve been subject to, then you should stop right about now.

    Kept goin’ hunh?

    Ok, so, the story so far is that I have, over the last three months, received a series of package. If you don’t know THAT much, go here and read the first seven or eight parts, and then read the Conclusion, here. What has happened is that the lovely @dogandgarden, despite all her protestations (and my belief) to the contrary, has been pranking me. For my birthday, in October. Out of spite.

    You see, in late September, I decided I wanted a tactical axe.

    I totally dig tools, tools are AWESOME. And who wouldn’t want a good axe? Especially when it’s a military/law-enforcement grade one. Especially when one has a zombie-plan, and explains it when people actually ask what it is, because one has a “Ask me about my zombie plan” hoodie.

    Obviously, the “one” is me.

    @dogandgarden was not thrilled by this idea. I have no idea why.

    So, she contacted a fledgling company called The Mysterious Package Company, and gave them some details about what I like, and the way I think. And they did the rest. She was in contact with them the entire time: while she didn’t know exactly what was coming to me, she knew when it was going to happen, and was party to their reactions to my responses, via here. And, of course, via my blog. Like I said “fledgling” company. So, they’re still learning. And it appears that I provided a treasure-trove of information on reactions, by blogging.

    Which, honestly, is wicked cool.

    I, apparently, frustrated the shit out of them, and her, and a few others who were “in on it”, because I didn’t “get” one of the clues properly.

    But, you know what? That’s ok.

    I cannot imagine what a full-on, theatrical, shoot-for-the-moon experience from these guys would be like. Keep in mind, @dogandgarden got a mid-range package from ’em.

    There were, actually, a couple of points at which the whole thing, (and keep in mind, this is just stuff via the mail) creeped the ever loving shit out of me. The repeat of the flyers, specifically, while I still didn’t ‘get’ what I was supposed to do, just really wierded me out, because it was appropriately stalker-y. “OH, you didn’t pay attention the way I wanted you to when I sent two flyers? Ok, here’s SIXTY. I’M WATCHING YOU”. No note, nothing. That is, well, creepy. What this was (and what I missed), was that this was an invitation (and a kick in the pants) to interact. It’s been suggested to me (because a few people know about all this now, and know that I know, that they know, that I know and ohmygodinfinityloop) that I could have sent a ‘demo’ to the recording company, which may have solicited more/different responses. It never even occured to me. I have a feeling that, given the voicemail message at the website’s phone number, a mucisian would have connected the dots better than I did.

    But, despite that, I know where the story ends.

    It’s different than what @dogandgarden envisioned. But I know, from the clues, in my mind, where the story ends. I may even write it, just for kicks.

    But the good Dr. Moran? He ain’t dead. Not entirely. Not properly. And I’m pretty sure he wants his hand back, and the formula with it.

    Seriously, insane props and respect to the guys/girls of The Mysterious Package Company. They did pretty damn much everything right, even when I didn’t play along properly. I had a freakin’ fantastic time, and I’m NEVER going to be able to match what @dogandgarden set in motion for me.

    So, here you go. The ACTUAL contents of the final Mysterious Package.

    Mysterious Package2

    Mysterious Package3

    The ‘personal message’?

    Yeah, dead giveaway. There’s the aformentioned tactical axe, but also, in the style of The Rubberbandits – Horse Outside. I introduced her to the hilarity of the Rubberbandits, and the phrase “Fuck yer subaru, I’ve a horse outside” has become meme-like to us. It’s our language. We’re weird like that.

    I was really torn on putting this out in public, I’ll be honest. I’d hate to ruin someone elses experience. At the same time, I really, really wanted to give credit to these guys, they did an unbelievable job. For the group of people who will, actually, really appreciate this kind of interactive/transmedia experience, they are gonna be awesome in the long term. The attention to detail? Totally stunning. There was no point at which I questioned the veracity of the material. My suspension of disbelief was maintained the entire time. In fact, I’m kinda disappointed it’s over, and I’m really, really envious of anyone who gets sent a package. It’s a mother of an experience.

    On Being Haunted: The Final Chapter

    So, I got another message on Thursday night. It’s very specific. This is the final utterance from the source. The story is told.

    This is what I received:

    The Seal

    Inside, a simple card, logo the same as the seal.

    Mysterious Package

    And that’s it, that’s all, and I understand now. I know how the story ends.

    On Being Haunted, Part 7 (For Real)

    So, right after the last post (like the next day) a large manila envelope showed up. Once again, addressed to “M.R.”.

    the next delivery

    Not a lot to work with on this one. Just the envelope, and forty or fifty of the same flyer as last time, jammed fairly haphazardly into said envelope.

    I guess we’re waiting for the next one.

    I’m Being Haunted, Pt 6

    Well, here we are again. Got a no-return-address piece of mail on Tuesday (This’d be mid-December, actually, I’ve been reaaally busy with work/life, and this is about the first time I got to get all the material together), same M4L (Toronto) postmark, similar labeling. What’s funny is, I can spot ’em in the mailbox now, I’m getting used to the regularity (although, I did figure it’d be a little while until the next one).

    What I got was two copies of a band flyer, promoting a “new release” of a single:

    Untitled

    So, HellSword is a real band. Mad Dog Records, however, may be real, but the site there is a fake. Even if they layout and style from 1996/geocities wasn’t a give away, the whois report is.

    Created 2012-11-13. About ten days after my first encounter, and just about the same day (I’d guess) as the second piece was mailed.

    Under the assumption that at some point, the site will just go away, here are screen caps!

    maddog-index

    maddog-history

    maddog-contact

    So, like I said, the site appears to have been created just for this prank. Again, a couple of bucks, not much more than the postage/shipping was on the third item.

    What have we got there?

    Well, not much. The phone number is legit (I’ve not called it, but someone else has, it gets “Mad Dog Records” voicemail). I’m guessing the email is too. the AOL link does nothing. Maybe that’ll come later, or was put together and then taken down?

    And, I say “legit” as in “they work, and represent what they claim to represent”.

    The interesting stuff:

    On the “history” page, there’s a reference to William “Billy” Savage, son “Randolph Savage”, and “Pianist Gregory Delainy”. Delainy apparently ‘disappeared’ after signing with Big Town Records around 1917/1918, in 1919.

    There’s no record of a pianist (and definitely not a famous one) named Gregory Delainy.

    However, I took a quick boo back through the “patient records”/admission records I was sent in the third mailing and… lookit that. Gregory Delainy.

    Patient Record 4

    Same as the rest, self-admitted, minor mental issues, violence (which doesn’t actually fit the character of what I now know about the Muskoka Free Hospital for Consumptives: It was a cottage community for rest and relaxation (the treatment of the time for Tuberculosis), not an “asylum” as people think today of the word “Sanitarium”) and basically, late stages Tuberculosis.

    The list of bands is varied, and vaguely interesting.

  • Pale Cobra: Only exists on the Mad Dog Records page
  • Hell’s Compadres: awesome name for a band, but only on MDR’s page
  • The Killer Bees: wierdly, a band of rappers associated with Wu-Tang Clan
  • Iron Wolf Snake Only on MDR’s page
  • Rage Inferno: an energy drink
  • The Death: Too generic to search. There MUST be an indie band out there with that name though.
  • Leather Monster: Only on MDR’s page
  • HellSword: A real band.
  • BattleScream: A real band.
  • One Gun Charlie: A neat story of wartime agreements from Vietnam

    In other words, the only connection I can see is the made-up pianist, “Gregory Delainy”. And, interestingly, the spelling of “Delainy” is so distinctive that Google initially only provides results after it corrects it to “Delany”: if you tell it to do “Delainy” only, as you typed… the only reference on the intertoobs is, yup, you guessed it, Mad Dog Records.

    If you google Big Town Records you get compilations of blues music from the “Bob Geddins Big Town Records Story”.

    In other words, along with MDR, it appears “Big Town Records” of Bracebridge, ON is made-up too. There’s a bunch of “Big Town Records” studios, through the last hundred years or so, but all in the states (primarily Michigan and California). Another dead end.

    of course, assuming this is a prank, there may be no REAL cohesion to the whole thing, just a continuing stretch of mailings that vaguely reference touch stones, real or imagined. There may be no ‘lead’ to chase down.

    Unless you, dear readers, have any insights I’ve missed.