Best of the Season!
12/28/98: On Christmas Eve, it almost snowed here. Surprised the heck out of us! Cold wind brought little frozen things flying through the air for a few minutes - maybe it was snow, maybe it was some species of frozen rain . . . But, for a few minutes, I felt a kind of elation that's almost embarassing to describe! It was nice.
Sandra and I made fresh soft pretzels that day, and they were so delicious I thought it only fair to share the recipe with everybody that drops by. Enjoy! On Christmas, we made eggnog and the usual feast - and Sandra made us a trifle! I'd never had trifle before, but now I'm keen on the idea of never not having trifle. Yum!
And on Boxing Day (the U.S. doesn't celebrate Boxing Day, but by golly that's what day it was), we had a relaxing day which included visiting our favorite Chinese restaurant, spending a happy time at the public library and a nice used bookshop, and then finally hitting a big slab of concrete in the road in such a way that killed (and in fact, slightly bent) the Toyota. Yoiks! A very nice family took us in from the cold to let us use the phone, though, and we got home safe. Considering how shaken we were after our collision a few months ago, this new vehicular disaster had us laughing, despite ourselves. Some of these roads around here are in really poor repair. Gotta watch that . . .
It really was a Merry Christmas, bent Toyota and all. Here's hoping that yours was as nice (perhaps with fewer bent cars)! See you soon.
12/23/98: Texas feels Christmassy! Monday afternoon, it was hot and muggy - I had the Air Conditioning blasting, and sat around reading books about witchcraft and demonology while sipping ice-cold Kool-Aid. But by Monday night, it was freezing . . . that huge cold front moving down the center of the continent strolled into town in less than an hour, bringing icy wind and little particles of frozen something blowing around in it. Sandra and I were out shopping, and got home quick for snuggles and warm blankets. Suddenly, all the colored lights looked twice as beautiful - Christmas seems more like Christmas when you're bundling up to keep the cold away!
Here on the site, the Gunmetal Blue page finally got an update, in the form of a brief annotated set of links. More soon! And, if you're a webmaster who likes collecting those little link-button doodads for your site, there are some Blue Room buttons available, now! Either snag them from the page, here, or download a tiny tiny ZIP file containing both (addenda, December 28: the ZIP also includes the Risus button!)
On the work-side of things, GURPS Black Magic is going well - nasty spells, curious bits of history, and blasphemy a-plenty (enough for the whole family!) are rolling into place. The inimitable Ken Hite is even sharing a big chunk of his research library with me, thanks to the miracle of UPS. Or rather - thanks so much to Ken!
12/21/98: There is now an automated Blue Room Mailing List for readers of this site! It's not a discussion list of any kind (I don't have that kind of spare time, alas) - just a way for me to send out midnight ramblings, site updates, random recipes, mush about Sandra, and other good things to the regular friends of the Blue Room. See below!
12/16/98: Cartoons are in the air, tonight. And not just holiday specials (although I love those, too - some of the best moments from my childhood were sponsored by Peter Paul/Cadbury). Tonight, I had the pleasure of finally flipping through a copy of the brand-new edition of Murphy's Rules, from Steve Jackson Games. One of the last projects I worked on there, Murphy's is a compilation of some of the most infamous cartoons in gaming - and this new edition has twice as many cartoons as the old one did! This great 'toon tradition is kept alive today by John Kovalic, a cartoonist with a heart (and pen) of gold. It was great working with John on this.
And still more cartoons: the Secret Library page has been very active lately, including the addition of the Blue Room . . . Cartoons? page (where I demonstrate once and for all why I'm not a cartoonist), and "Apocryphal Scenes From St. Nobian's," a fantasy short story (kind of) by Yours Truly. It's not a cartoon, but it's based on one: The classic fantasy-gamer toon Yamara, which used to run monthly in Dragon magazine.
Aside from all that, it really is a wonderful holiday season here in Austin. Sandra and I caught the opening of the Trail of Lights down at Zilker this past Sunday night - we walked, amazed, along with hundreds (maybe thousands!) of other Austinites, enjoying the lights, the fresh air, the music, the hot chocolate, and even a night-time trip on the Zilker Zephyr. We'll be going back, for sure - and here at our apartment, our own lights are twinkling in the windows and on the trees, and it really does feel like home. 'Cause it is ;)
Hope yours is going well, too. Best of the season!
Bear's Your Uncle
12/11/98: Since Uncle Bear's Toybox was nice enough to put my praise for their site in big letters for all to see, I figured it was high time I gave them a plug here! They've got one of the niftiest sites around if you're into role-playing games or related strangeness - including one of the best listings of free, available-on-the-web games around (including my own Risus, of course!), SF/Fantasy themed fonts, "geek personals" (okay, that one's a little unsettling) and regular reviews of games, books and more. What's not to like?
Some random news: There was a hole in the "old news" archive here at the Blue Room, a handful of updates back around the time of the car accident, things I'd written off as lost forever (I guess I was a little distracted at the time . . .) As luck would have it, however, the consistently-impresive Google! search engine has an archive of this page that included those exact entries, every last one of them. So, if you're one of the readers that likes to keep track of these little notes, the collection is now fully up to speed.
Oh, and have I mentioned that I've made recent updates to the Bookshop? 'Cause I have (about a week ago, actually; I just forgot to mention it).
12/10/98: Five years ago today, computer gaming changed: Version 1.0 of DOOM, a game designed by Sandy Petersen (of Call of Cthulhu fame) was released to the public by id software. The DOOM shareware, while no longer on the cutting edge, remains a testament to the perfect combination of style and substance - a game loaded with atmosphere and action that challenged the mind as readily as the trigger-finger. And, while I know it makes me sound like a fuddy-duddy to these modern youngsters ("Back in my day we didn't have necks! And we liked it! If we wanted to know what kind of demon was at the top of the stairs we had to just go and fight him!") - I still don't think DOOM has been equalled, much less improved on (except by DOOM II . . .)
Okay, it's a funny thing to celebrate, but there you are. I've been playing DOOM since its arrival, and I'll be playing it for years to come. If you've never experienced it (or just haven't in a while) do yourself a favor and get it! You can get DOOM or DOOM II for less than $10 each these days in the Retired Software bins . . . and the original Shareware is still out there, waiting to suck you in. And if you happen to own a copy of DOOM II, you can still play my levels, too - click here to download Blue Room DOOM, the current Beta of my "megawad" project. Even Sandra designs DOOM levels now and then! Fun ones! It's a family thing ;)
Dr. Lucky Dies Again
12/07/98: Mom's visit went well . . . in addition to fun stuff around Austin (riding the Zilker Zephyr at Zilker Park, enjoying a few good restaurants, wandering Central Market and the shops on Guadalupe), we killed Dr. Lucky three times (or rather, Sandra killed him twice and Mom killed him once - but I got to weaken him a little, first . . .) and we enjoyed lots of holiday cheer in advance, as it were. We've got lights and music everywhere, and it feels real nice around here.
It was strange picking Mom up at the airport, though! I've run and played GURPS Flight 13 so many times that my noggin is filled with "virtual" memories of Robert Mueller Municipal Airport (mostly involving alien creatures and gunshots) - but this was the first time I was ever really there. I kept looking into the shadows for Beast Children. Yeek!
12/03/98: I'm happily doing a bit of housecleaning this afternoon, since tomorrow night, my Mom is flying down to visit! Long-time readers will know that this will certainly result in a game or two of Kill Dr. Lucky, and will give Sandra and I the pleasure of showing Mom around Austin! And, now that I'm no longer an SJ Games employee, I'll have plenty of time to get the place spiffy for her arrival (and time to write the rest of GURPS Black Magic in the coming weeks). It's shaping up to be a pretty nice holiday season.
What's that, you say? Back up, you say? Yeah, it finally got to be a bit too much. I am, when it comes down to it, an honest writer. At SJ Games, I didn't really get to be either. This is the way it should be.
11/29/98: The holiday season is officially upon us, so up go the lights! Here at home, we've just put the Christmas tree up (both of them - our little ceramic tree, too!) and I'm about to go light those up, too! It looks to be a wonderful holiday season, if the start is to be an indication. Make lists, check them twice, and check in here for more soon!
11/26/98: . . . And cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie and (of course!) stuffing . . . and, once again, Thanksgiving finds me with a lot to be thankful for. This past weekend was the first anniversary of the day I wed Sandra, and Sandra is enough blessing to keep me humbly thankful for a lifetime. I'm also thankful for the Very Good News I mentioned the last time I wrote in this space (below), and I'm thankful for the keen new scanner that Sandra and I got each other as an anniversary gift! It allowed me to add a new page to the site, after all (and allowed Sandra to add some really beautiful visuals to her site, too)!
We had a great weekend together, celebrating. We went and picked up our ceramic Christmas tree, for instance. You know those ceramic places they have these days where you just go in, buy a piece, and paint it right there? We went to one of those a little over a week ago and painted up a cute little ceramic Christmas tree. The kind that lights up! It was good fun, getting paint all over us and making a mess of it, but it came out very pretty! On the day of our actual anniversary, we had even more fun - we went to a hockey game! You just haven't lived until you've seen Guano Man fire prizes into a crowd, and it looks like the Austin Ice Bats have earned two new fans . . .
So anyway, all this rambling has the upshot: I'm happy. Here's hoping you are, too. Have a great holiday.
Some Very Good News
11/17/98: As a lot of Blue Room readers have noticed (I've gotten a lot of very nice email), I've been a little scarce around here, lately - an update here and there, a new recipe now and again, that kind of thing, but not the kind of regular presence I used to keep when Sandra and I lived in Virginia. Most of this is because my employer - Steve Jackson Games - keeps me plenty busy (and often, not a little stressed). Such is life . . .
One of the biggest sources of that stress has been Pyramid, SJ Games' online gaming magazine, which I was called upon to edit under "emergency conditions" after the company's unfortunate layoffs this summer. Now, though, my niche at the company has become better-defined (it involves a lot of graphic design, production work, and sundry editing jobs), and things have stabilized enough to let me step down from that august post, and to let us bring Pyramid's previous editor, Scott Haring, back into the saddle. This means Sandra gets a not-quite-so-beaten-to-death hubby in the evenings, and (cross your fingers) it means I'll have a little more left to give the Blue Room. More recipes, more gaming stuff, more random foolishness. To everybody who's written me with encouragement - thank you! And to everybody who's written me with kudos on my stint on Pyramid, more thanks again! It was heady stuff, walking in the footsteps of Derek Pearcy, Pyramid's creator. I hope my work did justice to his.
And there's more good news. Remember that Tarot deck I've been working on? The latest issue of Newsweek (the November 23rd edition) gave us a plug! Not too shabby! When you see it on the newsstands (it's the one with the spiffy silver car on the cover), pick up a copy!
11/4/98: Two new items today. White Wolf just sent me author's copies of Digital Web 2.0, the latest supplement for Mage: The Ascension. I wrote the Storytelling chapter, and sundry parts of "Site 3," which I'll leave to the clever reader to determine. It looks nice - I don't think I ever expected to write in anything with a Bill Sienkiewicz cover . . .
A more signifigant item: My Unlimited Mana article, which first appeared in Pyramid #9 and has gained a lot of popularity since, has been translated into Italian. The Italian version is worth clicking on even if you don't read a word of the language, just for the snappy graphic treatment it was given (no, I wasn't thinking of scantily-clad Shirow babes when I wrote the article, but if the original Pyramid treatment had used this art, it would have sold better). As always, the English-language version is available at Craig Roth's site!
On the Other Side
11/1/98: On the other side of a couple of things . . . On the other side of Hallowe'en, first of all: Sandra and I had a great day of restaurants and bookstores and even one bowling alley. At sunset, we went into the heart of downtown Austin, had supper at Stubb's BBQ, and then walked over to sixth street, where crowds were parading, both in costume and in civilian dress. We joined the throng and wandered among the nuns and undead and devils and other sundry folk (including two folks dressed up like the two halves of the Titanic - egad). It was really nice weather for it - warm and clear, with music spilling out of every other door and the lot of it illuminated in neon. Good fun.
But, Sandra and I are on the other side of something else . . . Our first year of living together as a couple. On this day in 1997, Sandra and I arrived in Fredericksburg, Virginia after a long voyage (via car and ferry) from Newfoundland. Last year, we spent Hallowe'en in Delaware. This year, we spent it in Austin. Life's funny that way ;) The year from then to now has been the best time anyone could ever hope for. Thank you, Sandra. I love you so very much.
10/30/98: This time, Happy Hallowe'en for real! And some more good news: While preparing the Silicon Valley Tarot deck for the printers, it was realized that there was room for two more cards. We took advantage of that space by including the rules for RAM on them (you may recall me mentioning it the other day). This means that (A) the Silicon Valley Tarot gets a "value-added" bonus (a game you can play right away when you open the box) and (B) Steve Jackson has finally seen the wisdom to publish a game design of mine ;) May you all have more Treats than Tricks . . .
10/27/98: Which, in this case, means Happy Hallowe'en! I'm a few days early, but things have been busy making spooky Tarot stuff at work, and I may not get to tend to the Blue Room here until the weekend. So, dress up, wander the streets, get lots of candy, and enjoy this creepiest of all festivities (with the possible exception of United Nations Day). Also, enjoy some good news - Risus (my free RPG) got a very nice review in RPGnet this week. RPGnet is the very best free gaming magazine on the web, and it's an honor to be so honored. Thanks, guys!
10/21/98: One of the projects I've been working on at Steve Jackson Games is the print version of the Silicon Valley Tarot, the fortune-telling tool for the Age of Dilbert. Being the SJ Games in-house Tarot Junkie, I was assigned as the project's editor, and have been working with creator Thomas Scoville to make something nifty that will hopefully be in stores in time for Christmas. And I've been a busy little Tarot editor . . . writing the book's instructional text, designing logos, laying out the little teensy booklet, all that good stuff. And now I'm designing games and writing articles to support it. Good fun! Tonight, Sandra and I played hands of RAM and Crash, two of the Tarot games I'm working on, and I got to find out that Sandra is a very handy playtester ;) More on all this soon; just wanted to post a heads-up for those who've been wondering what the heck I've been up to.
10/12/98: In Canada, it's Thanksgiving right now. As many of you will have heard, Sandra and I have plenty to be Thankful for right here in Texas, since we were in a scary car accident last week - got a Ford SUV crunching into the passenger-side door (I was the passenger). No injuries for anyone, thank goodness, but we're plenty rattled. Plenty to be thankful for, like I said.
It's a quiet evening, here. I cooked up one of my specialities, Chicken Pot Pie -Appalachian Style (Simple Version: Make your favorite chicken stew, put it in a casserole dish, cover with rolled biscuit dough, bake for 20-25 minutes at 425°) and Sandra and I are hanging out, playing games, and contemplating grocery-shopping. Nice.
More updates soon; here's a new recipe to tide you over for a while. Thanks very much to everybody who's written, and yep, we'll be fine.
Back From the Grave
10/6/98: This afternoon, I got an email from David Lewis, the sysop of cybercity, the Blue Room's original home, explaining that cybercity was to be shut down, for good. Obligations at home had left David with no time to maintain the site, and within a couple of hours, cybercity (and the Blue Room with it) were gone, vanished into the ether, leaving David Lewis with much more time to spend with his family. As reasons for shutting down servers go, that one's pretty good.
Now, another couple of hours after that, here we are at Illuminati Online. This is bound to confuse some folks for a little while - there is no "We've Moved!" page at the old URL, and all the search engines will take a few months to catch up with us, and so on. The three main points to remember to help make the transition:
If you spot a dead internal link or other bug resulting from the move, drop me an email and I'll address it as soon as possible. Watch this space for more of the usual. Thanks for tagging along!
10/5/98: Had a good weekend, very restful. Sandra and I caught a movie (the fun animated film, Antz), did some shopping, got some errands done, all that kind of stuff. Sunday night, we visited friends and had some chow (I prepared one of my faves, Swiss Enchiladas) and played games - Robo-Rally, Kill Dr. Lucky, and Adel Verphlichtet. Verphlichtet is also known as By Hook or by Crook - a great boardgame from Avalon Hill, unfortunately not very well-known, which you should get quick while Avalon Hill is still selling off the last of its stock!
Speaking of which . . .
My home email address, as you might have noticed, is firstname.lastname@example.org - so, what's a Sloot? Sloot is a BEM (Bug-Eyed Monster), an important character in the first RPG supplement I ever wrote: Wierder Tales: A Space Opera, written for Tales From The Floating Vagabond, five or six years ago. I bring this up because now is a good time to get it, and probably the last time, to boot. Avalon Hill is now selling a "Deluxe Vagabond Package" for $19.95, which includes the Vagabond rulebook, and four of the steroid-pumped Vagabond adventures, including mine (also the very cool Cosmic Paternity Suit, by my old pal Nick Atlas). The adventures all include lots of bonus toys, too (Where's George? includes a cool little boardgame called Mudslide).
I'll be ordering one or two of these, since with Avalon Hill vanishing from the face of the Earth, it's a good time to make sure I have copies to show off to the grandkids, someday (if Sandra and I don't bother with kids, I'll just show them to unsuspecting children on the street). It's still one of my favorite things I ever got published. Check it out before it's gone . . .
9/27/98: Tonight, after a relaxing day at home (Sandra and I stayed in and played games, from Upwords to Chinese Checkers to Robo-Rally), I fiddled a bit with Gourmand Bleu, the "cooking corner" of the Blue Room. I updated many of the pages to improve readability, and added one item - my recipe for biscuits. Enjoy.
9/25/98: Continuing with our tradition of regular spiffery, the HASTUR page is now updated. All hail the new high priest of HASTUR, Chris Reid!!! Chris'll be taking over Fredericksburg, Virginia's own Car Wars Cult, and the maintenance of the HASTUR website. In the meantime, I'm the Car Wars Line Editor, these days, and the president of the American Autoduel Association. So, Car Wars is definitely in the air . . . Click right here for more (and right here for a crass commercial plug). So, that's one more page spiffed . . .
9/24/98: Progress is slow, but certain. The GURPS page has now been completely updated and spiffed. Further spiffage is forthcoming, including the Crossword page, the bookshop, and all other corners of the Blue Room. Busy busy. Hope this finds everybody well!
9/16/98: I'm at home resting after a couple of tiring days at the office, so I'm taking advantage of the time by making lots of little tweaks to the Blue Room, fiddling with GURPS Black Magic, catching up on my letters, getting a nice supper started for Sandra, and a bit of serious napping. I've fixed all the hyperlinks to Sandra's Page (they had an error in them that prevented her graphics from loading), fiddled with all my email links to update them to my new home address, that kind of thing. So, if you got an automated email announcing a change in one of the pages here, that's probably what it's all about. Some genuine updates will come next, though ;)
9/10/98: Yowza! It's been over a month since this site was updated, due to some technical errors, but that's all fixed, now. Everything is a-okay. The Blue Room once again exists, and I can update it. That said, I don't have anything much to point out in the way of actual updates yet, but stay tuned over the next couple of days!
Some changes have occurred; you may have heard. I'm the editor of Pyramid, now, the Steve Jackson Games online gaming magazine. It's a pay site, and doesn't have much in the way of recipes, but it gets a handful of swell new gaming articles every week, so in that sense it kinda rocks. For recipes, you can still come here . . .
And speaking of things that kinda rock - Austin, Texas, sure as heck qualifies. Sandra and I have really been enjoying our new home.
More soon. Welcome back!
From There to Here
8/8/98: We're here! That's Sandra waving at you from over my shoulder, and that's me (gah!) in the frightening picture on the Daily Illuminator. The past week has included Crescent City Con 13, then the road trip to Austin, then my arrival at Steve Jackson Games. We've been busy! And there's a lot to talk about . . . but . . .
There are also many errands to run and much settling-in to do, so I won't have time this morning to go into detail. For now, suffice it to say that CCC13 was a fun time: I met a nice group of gamers down there, solid fans and good roleplayers to boot. Big thanks to everybody in New Orleans that showed up to make the weekend a nice one! The GURPS game was particularly kickass. The road trip? That could be another web page all by itself, but it was a good time, overall. Sandra and I are both happy to be outside the car, though! And SJ Games? That will be its own web page, in a few days - my SJ Games Diary page. I'm still looking for a good title; feel free to suggest one . . .
On the Go
7/30/98: In a few hours, I'm off to the airport to fly down to Crescent City Con 13 in New Orleans. As soon as the con is over, Sandra and I are on the road for Austin, Texas. This means that there won't be much in the way of Blue Room updates until sometime next weekend - the 8th or 9th of August. Wish us luck! Until then, stay happy and stay tuned, because when I do get back here to the Blue Room, I'll have plenty to tell.
7/26/98: This one is one for everybody, whether you're normally here for the gaming, the crossword, the food, or the rambling. Because if we are what we eat, then a very good part of most of us is pizza. My take on this most holy of dishes is now available as a new food article in Gourmand Bleu.
7/19/98: For me, home is where Sandra is, so the upcoming move to Austin is one I'm looking forward to. Since Sandra will be there, I'll be home. However, home for The Blue Room is certainly Cybercity.Com, so I want to officially announce that the Blue Room will be staying right here for as long as both the Blue Room and Cybercity exist. I had considered moving it to Illuminati Online, but decided that uprooting the site from it's "home" here in Fredericksburg just wouldn't feel right. No need to update your hyperlinks - unless, of course, you haven't linked here to begin with!
Another reason for staying here is that I've got a great new neighbor! Shawn Lockard's excellent WEDGE e-zine, the last great bastion of West End Games, is now a Cybercity site, too! This is great news for WEDGE fans, since you can now visit the site without the dreaded Geocities Pop-Up Window slowing your system and spoiling your fun!
On the Risus front, I just upgraded the PDF Version of the game dramatically, giving it a dose of genuine typesetting. The entire game now prints out nicely in six pages! Click here to get a copy of the Acrobat Reader needed to view and print the file!
7/16/98: In order to help with moving costs, I'm auctioning off some wierd junk! Click right here to visit the auction page. Moving is expensive! Make some of my junk some of your junk!
Hotz, Hotz, Hotz
7/10/98: Master game-llustrator Eric Hotz (one of the GURPS Russia artists, but more well-known for his work on Columbia Games' excellent Hârn material) has ventured into the realm of self-authored, self-illustrated, self-produced electronic books. His premiere work, The Red Stag Inn, is now available, so (being a big fan of his) I'm giving him a plug here in the Blue Room.
I'm interested to see how this venture works out for Eric, since I'm considering my own entry into the world of E-Books soon. More on that later!
Declarations of Dependence
7/3/98: Before I get into the other news (and there is news, oh yes). I want to start by wishing a very happy wedding anniversary to Shawn & Marsha Lockard (you might remember them as recent Crossword Godlings). I've known Shawn for a couple of years, now, ever since he put up the cash for my personal copy of GURPS Grimoire in a charity auction a couple of years ago. Since then, both he and I have found wives, and he and Marsha got married a year ago tomorrow! They're both really special pals to Sandra and I, and we'll miss them a lot.
Something that both Shawn and I will miss is West End Games, but you've probably caught wind of that by now. Suffice it to say that my projects with them are, like everything else, on what is probably permanent hold. Goodbye, West End. Paranoia, Ghosbusters, Star Wars and more - you guys put out some of the best stuff ever. In the meantime, Shawn runs the last great bastion of West End, WEDGE. If you're a fan of WEG, you'll want to bookmark it.
Back to that bit about missing Shawn & Marsha . . . that's because they live here in Virginia, just a couple of hours south of us. And because Sandra and I are moving to Austin, Texas a month from now, following my new staff job at Steve Jackson Games. Those of you who like The Blue Room and eagerly anticipate the GURPS CD-ROM should consider this good news, since the chap who does the former will now also be doing the latter, as part of Gene Seabolt's spiffy New Media Department! I'll also be working with shareware authors, doing some archiving work, and all manner of sundry things. I am, as you might expect, very excited about it, and Sandra and I are looking forward to exploring Austin!
What does this mean for the Blue Room? A change of URL, perhaps; stay tuned for that. It will also mean a new regular feature: a weekly candid chronicle of my adventures deep in the heart of everybody's favorite Free Oil State. This will presumably mean changes for HASTUR, too. And Sandra's campaign! And will it impact my projects for other companies? Yep, I've got a lot of calls to make. And Tad & Craig's con? Still unknown. Stay tuned to this channel, folks. More news soon. Much more!