23 July 2010

Gamers With Heart

The following is cross-posted on my other blog, WNC Heroclix, and I'm forwarding it on behalf of GameHearts:

GameHearts is a public benefit nonprofit organization committed to providing alternative forms of entertainment to adult members of the Kalispell area for the purpose of promoting adult sobriety. The program achieves its directive by providing free and low cost gaming activities in a supervised non-alcoholic, sober environment, along with access to gaming accessories that are provided without cost to the participants. In fact, beginning players can learn and obtain free gaming materials solely for playing.

The primary games that the program uses are tabletop customizable games, such as card and miniature games (CCGs and CMGs), though there is also a strong interest in promoting role playing games (RPGs), as well. GameHearts is working toward the betterment of our region through encouraging alternative gaming activities amongst participants on Friday and Saturday nights, as opposed to frequenting bars and casinos in the area, as well as to inspire decision making and problem solving abilities by teaching and promoting educational and strategic games and activities, using CCGs, CMGs and RPGs as alternative entertainment.

GameHearts does more than promote just sobriety though – it opens up an entirely new facet of the population to these kinds of educational and interactive games. People who would otherwise never know what a game like Magic, for instance, was really about now get free exposure to the game, complete with lessons and a beginning deck. Without an initial investment to begin playing, our participants have little obstacles in playing and interacting with other players. Since GameHearts is primarily a nonprofit, the bulk of our participants eventually find they need to purchase materials we simply do not have, since we are not interested in maintaining a full service retail business. As such, GameHearts also helps boost the overall market shares of the industry by introducing new and motivated players into the environment.

Of course, being a charitable organization, GameHearts is always looking for donations of excess cards, figures, rulebooks and other gaming accessories to use in teaching and promoting these games, though also for any other collectible genre material that can be used for fund raising. Additionally,since gamers are a largely diverse and wide-spread community,the program relies upon inter-community associations and contacts to aid it in advertising the program's existence and its needs to those whom GameHearts' staff alone may not be able to contact. Essentially, any gamer, collector, retailer or manufacturer who may acquire excess materials from these kinds of games represent potential contributors to the program, and it is the program's hope that individuals within the gaming community will help in soliciting the program's efforts to other sources. And the more support the program receives, the greater the service it can provide.

Donations made to the program are tax deductible, since they are made to a community benefit nonprofit organization. The IRS allows for up to 50% of donations fair market value as tax credit. GameHearts assesses the value of each donation and issues receipts upon request for this purpose. The only requirements for donations is that the material not be worn, as these materials are considered “marked” in game play, and that individual donations not exceed $5,000 each (a rule of the IRS, not GameHearts itself). Otherwise, any gaming material is accepted and assessed, regardless of its rarity (ie, commons, uncommons, rares, etc.) or the game from which it comes.

For further information about GameHearts and the service we provide, please feel free to visit the program's website at:  http://GameHearts.org/

Thank you for taking the time to review the GameHearts program, and it is hoped that anyone reading this information will both assist in our efforts and help spread the word to others who may also share an interest in supporting GameHearts' cause.

God Will Find You

Father John Powell, a professor at Loyola University in Chicago, writes about a student in his Theology of Faith class named Tommy:

"Some twelve years ago, I stood watching my university students file into the classroom for our first session in the Theology of Faith.

That was the day I first saw Tommy. My eyes and my mind both blinked. He was combing his long flaxen hair, which hung six inches below his shoulders. It was the first time I had ever seen a boy with hair that long. I guess it was just coming into fashion then. I know in my mind that it isn't what's on your head but what's in it that counts; but on that day I was unprepared and my emotions flipped. I immediately filed Tommy under 'S' for strange... Very strange.

Tommy turned out to be the 'atheist in residence' in my Theology of Faith course. He constantly objected to, smirked at, or whined about the possibility of an unconditionally loving Father/God. We lived with each other in relative peace for one semester, although I admit he was for me at times a serious pain in the back pew.

When he came up at the end of the course to turn in his final exam, he asked in a cynical tone, 'Do you think I'll ever find God?'

I decided instantly on a little shock therapy. 'No!' I said very emphatically.

'Why not,' he responded, 'I thought that was the product you were pushing.'

I let him get five steps from the classroom door and then called out, 'Tommy! I don 't think you'll ever find Him, but I am absolutely certain that He will find you!' He shrugged a little and left my class and my life.

I felt slightly disappointed at the thought that he had missed my clever line -- He will find you! At least I thought it was clever.

Later I heard that Tommy had graduated, and I was duly grateful.

Then a sad report came. I heard that Tommy had terminal cancer. Before I could search him out, he came to see me.

When he walked into my office, his body was very badly wasted and the long hair had all fallen out as a result of chemotherapy. But his eyes were bright and his voice was firm, for the first time, I believe.

'Tommy, I've thought about you so often; I hear you are sick,' I blurted out.

'Oh, yes, very sick. I have cancer in both lungs. It's a matter of weeks...'

'Can you talk about it, Tom?' I asked.

'Sure, what would you like to know?' he replied

'What's it like to be only twenty-four and dying?

'Well, it could be worse.

'Like what?

'Well, like being fifty and having no values or ideals, like being fifty and thinking that booze, seducing women, and making money are the real biggies in life..'

I began to look through my mental file cabinet under 'S' where I had filed Tommy as strange. (It seems as though everybody I try to reject by classification, God sends back into my life to educate me.)

'But what I really came to see you about,' Tom said, 'is something you said to me on the last day of class.' (He remembered!) He continued, 'I asked you if you thought I would ever find God and you said, 'No!' which surprised me. Then you said, 'But He will find you..' I thought about that a lot, even though my search for God was hardly intense at that time. (My clever line. He thought about that a lot!)

'But when the doctors removed a lump from my groin and told me that it was malignant, that's when I got serious about locating God.. And when the malignancy spread into my vital organs, I really began banging bloody fists against the bronze doors of heaven.. But God did not come out. In fact, nothing happened. Did you ever try anything for a long time with great effort and with no success? You get psychologically glutted, fed up with trying. And then you quit.

'Well, one day I woke up, and instead of throwing a few more futile appeals over that high brick wall to a God who may be or may not be there, I just quit. I decided that I didn't really care about God, about an afterlife, or anything like that. I decided to spend what time I had left doing something more profitable. I thought about you and your class and I remembered something else you had said: 'The essential sadness is to go through life without loving. But it would be almost equally sad to go through life and leave this world without ever telling those you loved that you had loved them.''

'So, I began with the hardest one, my Dad.. He was reading the newspaper when I approached him.. 'Dad'.

'Yes, what?' he asked without lowering the newspaper.

'Dad, I would like to talk with you.'

'Well, talk.

'I mean . It's really important.'

The newspaper came down three slow inches. 'What is it?'

'Dad, I love you, I just wanted you to know that.' Tom smiled at me and said it with obvious satisfaction, as though he felt a warm and secret joy flowing inside of him. 'The newspaper fluttered to the floor. Then my father did two things I could never remember him ever doing before. He cried and he hugged me. We talked all night, even though he had to go to work the next morning. It felt so good to be close to my father, to see his tears, to feel his hug, to hear him say that he loved me..'

'It was easier with my mother and little brother. They cried with me, too, and we hugged each other, and started saying real nice things to each other. We shared the things we had been keeping secret for so many years.

'I was only sorry about one thing --- that I had waited so long. Here I was, just beginning to open up to all the people I had actually been close to.

'Then, one day I turned around and God was there. He didn't come to me when I pleaded with Him. I guess I was like an animal trainer holding out a hoop, 'C'mon, jump through. C'mon, I'll give you three days, three weeks.''

'Apparently God does things in His own way and at His own hour. But the important thing is that He was there. He found me! You were right. He found me even after I stopped looking for Him.'

'Tommy,' I practically gasped, 'I think you are saying something very important and much more universal than you realize. To me, at least, you are saying that the surest way to find God is not to make Him a private possession, a problem solver, or an instant consolation in time of need, but rather by opening to love. You know, the Apostle John said that. He said: 'God is love, and anyone who lives in love is living with God and God is living in him.'

Tom, could I ask you a favor? You know, when I had you in class you were a real pain. But (laughingly) you can make it all up to me now. Would you come into my present Theology of Faith course and tell them what you have just told me? If I told them the same thing it would not be half as effective as if you were to tell it.

'Oooh.. I was ready for you, but I don't know if I'm ready for your class.'

'Tom, think about it. If and when you are ready, give me a call.'

In a few days Tom called, said he was ready for the class, that he wanted to do that for God and for me. So we scheduled a date. However, he never made it. He had another appointment, far more important than the one with me and my class.

Of course, his life was not really ended by his death, only changed. He made the great step from faith into vision. He found a life far more beautiful than the eye of man has ever seen or
The ear of man has ever heard or the mind of man has ever imagined.

Before he died, we talked one last time.

'I'm not going to make it to your class,' he said.

'I know, Tom.'

'Will you tell them for me? Will you tell the whole world for me?'

I will, Tom. I'll tell them. I'll do my best.'

So, to all of you who have been kind enough to read this simple story about God's love, thank you for listening. And to you, Tommy, somewhere in the sunlit, verdant hills of heaven --- I told them, Tommy, as best I could.

If this story means anything to you, please pass it on to a friend or two. It is a true story and is not enhanced for publicity purposes.

With thanks,
Rev. John Powell, Professor
Loyola University , Chicago

The Friday 56

I found this via my lovely wife's blog of randomness and she found it on Shiloh Walker's blog who found it at The Bookaholic Zone who got it from Storytime With Tonya & Friends which, as far as we can tell, seems to be the originator.


* Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
* Turn to page 56.
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post that sentence (plus one or two others if you like) along with these instructions on your blog or (if you do not have your own blog) in the comments section of this blog.
* Post a link along with your post back to this blog.
* Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

Once again, equally distant from me are multiple gaming books (including a GURPS book, three HackMaster books, and a slew of video game cheat books), the only other book in the pile is the one I'm currently reading which is In Defense of Food which I used last week.  So I think I'll go with GURPS Basic Set Characters Fourth Edition:

Double-Jointed: As above, but more so.

That's actually pretty funny out of context.  It's from the Advantage "Flexibility".  If you would like to learn GURPS and live in or near Asheville, NC then I'd be glad to have you in my next GURPS campaign.

The ABCs of Frank

I just stumbled upon this survey that made its way around Facebook about a year ago and thought I'd offer up my answers just for fun:

A - Age:  34

B - Bed size:  Double King Craftmatic

C - Chore you hate:  Can't think of one.

D - Dogs names:  Meekay, Patch, Ginger

E - Essential start your day item:  Cereal

F - Favorite color:  Blue

G - Gold or Silver:  Silver

H - Height:  5'10"-5'11" depending upon posture

I - Instruments you play:  Guitar, penny whistle, harmonica, voice.  Instruments I play well: none of the above currently because I don't practice enough.

J - Job title:  Wannabe author.

K - Kids:  None yet but my hopes are high.

L - Living arrangements:  With my wife of nearly eight years in the house she inherited.

M - Mom's name:  Mom, Malinda, Lindy, or Malindy depending upon who's talking.

N - Nicknames:  I don't think I have one

O - Overnight hospital stay other than birth:  16 days after shattering my spine back in '97.

P - Pet Peeve:  Hypocrites and selfish drivers (which, sadly, is about 99% of drivers today).

Q - Quote you live by:  Through faith you have been saved by grace and not by works. -Ep 2:8-9

R - Right or left handed:  Right

S - Siblings:  3

T - Time you wake up:  Whenever I get around to it.

U - Underwear:  Yes, I wear underwear. What kind is none of your business. (I'm stealing my wife's answer for this one because she said it so well. *g*)

V - Vegetable you dislike:  Asparagus, artichoke, eggplant, and lots of others.

W - What makes you run late:  Oversleeping or being unable to get up due to excessive pain, passengers not ready on time, heavy than expected traffic, construction.

X-rays you've had:  I think my entire body has been x-rayed over the course of my life.

Y - Yummy food you make:  Breads, cakes, cookies, stir-fry, pies, healthy stove-fried chicken.  I love to bake.

Z- Favorite zoo animal:  Foxes and penguins.

21 July 2010

The (Near) Future of Roleplaying

I want to run one of the following GURPS games on Monday nights.  Information on all of them can be found on LinoIt which is also the best place to leave feedback.  If you live near Asheville, NC and would like to play then please either post on the Lino, leave a comment, or drop me a line.  Thanks.


Setting: London 1888
Style: Story-based at the start; expected to last 4-6 sessions

PCs will be investigating Jack the Ripper but things will take a very unexpected turn.

Depending on how things turn out, the game could run much longer and develop a very steam-punky "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" feel.


Concept: Rip off Pokémon
Setting: The various Pokemon settings.
Style: Sandbox

Instead of converting the various Pokémon to GURPS, each player will get to develop a custom Pokémon-ish companion which will stay with him throughout his career.

I won't have any particular story or supervillian in mind (at least at the beginning) but instead will let you wander the world and see what happens.


I've got plenty more campaigns that I'd like to run someday but those are the big ones at present. I've also got plenty of room in my monthly HackMaster 5 game at Hillside Games if anyone's interested. The next session is Saturday after next (the 31st of July).

Will the Real fewilcox Please Stand Up

If anyone happens to know the Wilfred Cox that currently owns http://fewilcox.blogspot.com/ and http://itoccuredtome.blogspot.com/, please either put me in contact with him or ask him to either use or delete his fewilcox domain.  I have been fewilcox since 1997 and would really appreciate being able to use http://fewilcox.blogspot.com/ if he's not going to.

Since he hasn't actually posted anything or even filled out his profile since he joined blogger two years ago, I think it's pretty safe to assume that he's never going to post anything and I would really like to be able to use my name rather than having it go to waste.  Thank you.

17 July 2010

The Friday 56

I found this via my lovely wife's blog of randomness and she found it on Shiloh Walker's blog who found it at The Bookaholic Zone who got it from Storytime With Tonya & Friends which, as far as we can tell, seems to be the originator.


* Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
* Turn to page 56.
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post that sentence (plus one or two others if you like) along with these instructions on your blog or (if you do not have your own blog) in the comments section of this blog.
*Post a link along with your post back to this blog.

* Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

As usual, equally distant from me are multiple gaming books (including a GURPS book, three HackMaster books, and a slew of video game cheat books), so I think I'll go with our newly acquired copy of In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan which is stacked on top of all the gaming books:

"(Often to the rousing accompaniment of special chewing songs.)"

That's just ambiguously hilarious enough that I'm not going to post any more of the book (especially since I'm not that far along yet since I'm reading two other books right now). But seriously, go pick up a copy (or at least borrow one).  Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.

06 July 2010

Putting the "Fi" Back in "Sci-Fi"

There are times when I get rather tired of hearing people rant about how unscientific sci-fi shows are. But what they seem to be forgetting is that the "fi" stands for "fiction". Before my accident, I was a mechanical engineering student in large part because of my great interest in science. Even thirteen years later I continue to study multiple fields of science purely for the love of learning.

But that's not what I want out of my sci-fi entertainments. From them I'd rather explore the possible improbabilities of pseudo-science regardless of how well those possibilities are grounded in real science. That's part of why I'm such a huge fan of Eureka.

That's not to say that I can't appreciate when a show or film's creators actually research a topic so that a fictional show is scientifically accurate (in fact I watch a lot of PBS Kids shows for that very reason) but by and large I watch sci-fi more for the escapist silliness than for any semblance of real science. In fact, if I wanted accurate physics then I wouldn't watch any show or movie set in space because I have yet to find one that doesn't follow the “constant thrust equals constant velocity” theory of spaceflight (except for one particular episode of Stargate SG-1 in which Jack and Teal'c are drifting away from Earth at a million miles an hour after their drive shuts down).

There is however one case where a complete lack of scientific understanding gets in the way of my enjoyment of a movie: Wing Commander. In the movie, gravity is always down relative to the vessel. Not to the nearby planet. And not to nothing in deep space. Always to the stupid ship no matter how small.

But other than extreme cases like that, I am perfectly willing to ignore the facts of science in order to enjoy a good “what if?”.