In Memoriam…

Six years have passed since the 9/11 attacks and my memories don’t seem to fade. I didn’t know any of the victims personally. I have never been to New York or Washington. I can only empathize and sympathize from afar with the survivors and victims’ family members. So I’m quite amazed at the pain I still feel, when remembering the events. True, genuine, personal pain.

I was in college back then, studying to be a journalist. I had a report to do about TV media coverage on different events,throughout the week, so I had been watching news reports continuously, from the moment I woke up until I went to bed. That day, when I woke up, the first thing I did was to turn on the TV. The first image I saw was the the second plane hitting the towers. There was no comment, no reporter speaking, just that one image. For a moment I almost dismissed it as a commercial for a new movie. I didn’t want to believe that it could be anything but that. And for about two seconds I manage to stay in that mental comfort zone. Then tears started to roll down my cheeks.

I always kept myself emotionally distant from the news reports I watched on TV, no matter how gruesome and horrifying they were. After all, I was studying them. That day, however, I couldn’t stay dettached. If there is one place I think of as the capital of the world, it’s New York City. For me, it has always been the crossroads of the world, transcending its own nationality, welcoming every single nationality, race or creed. It can’t be a coincidence that it houses the UN headquarters. The WTC towers were a part of that image, the place where everybody from everywhere came to do business with everybody from everywhere. So, to me, it wouldn’t have hurt deeper, if the attacks had defaced my hometown.

In the days immediately after, new dimensions of pain were etched in my heart, as the total number of victims was beggining to come to light. Not only that, but also the number of different nationalities touched by the tragedy. That one single event put the entire world in mourning. East and West, North and South, christians, jews, muslims, hindus, buddhists, agnotiscs, atheists and everyone else in between, no one was left unscathed. Globalization had a new meaning that day.

Then, inspiration ensued. The stories of courage and sacrifice of people turned into heroes as they helped others, with total disregard for their own lives, were the first to touch us all. Then, the story of Flight 93 was the most inspiring tale of colective sacrifice for the good of others.

September 11 is the one day in the whole year when I don’t feel a Lisboner, Portuguese, European, or anything else but a citizen of the world, a member of the immense colective miracle we call Humankind, and of life itself. It took an immense tragedy to make me truly understand what that feeling is and how no matter where we are, where we come from or what we believe, we are all brothers and sisters. Nothing else could make me feel so deeply about another human being, that I don’t know and is an ocean away. Nothing else can explain that I’m so touched by this.

To all survivors and victims family members, to all new-yorkers, know that my heart weeps with yours. I want to say thank you to all of you. Thank you for the inspiration, thank you for the unity and the feelings of global brotherhood that six years later still overwhelm me on this day.

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Is it a robot? Is it an AI? No, it’s the King of Geeks!

There is a software called Team Speak that some people use while playing WoW, that basically allows players to talk to each other, instead of writing what you want to say. Due to the lack of a headset and microphone, my husband doesn’t use it, but keeps it on, coming through his speakers, when he’s playing. Sometimes, he asks me to keep him company. So, I spend a lot of hours doing my crochet, with the sound of Team Speak in the background. Now, people are having fun, when they’re playing, and sometimes funny things happen, so people laugh. Except for this one guy. :)

He doesn’t laugh, he says LOL. In the most dettached and bland tone of voice I have ever heard. The same he uses to say just about anything. I mean it has pitch variations, just enough of them so that you can recognize a genuine human voice. I don’t know if his thoughts come to him, in the form of sentences written across a screen, or if he just spends too much time on his computer, or if he has a direct interface between his keyboard and his mouth, but saying LOL instead of just, aah… I don’t know, laughing? 😉

I’m around a lot of geeks, a lot of the time. Despite their strange and odd topics of conversation and the ocasional going off the deep end, they function pretty much as normal human beings (well, most of the time, anyway). This guy takes the cake for me. I cannot fathom whatever benefit is accomplished by what he does… but, hey, I’m not a real geek, right? :)

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Role Playing Games enter my life…

I first came in contact with RPG, soon after I started dating my husband. He wanted me to see what he and his friends were up to, in all those nights “he just couldn’t go out with me”. He had already given me a short explanation of what it was all about, which had registered in my brain like a “boys with toys” kind of thing… If only I had known that about ten years later, I’d be writing a blog about it! :)

One night, as he was preparing to leave for his RPG session, he asked me to come along and see for myself how it all went down. Half curious and half condescendent, I agreed. Fifteen minutes later I was entering a room within the grounds of his Engineering college, looking back at about fifteen male faces, all half puzzled, half embarassed to have a girl in the room, although I already knew half of them from some other contexts. They soon got over it, however, and they all sat down to play. It was an AD&D campaign. The DM invited me to sit down next to him, behind the screen, and he began the session. I don’t remember exactly what kind of characters each of them was playing, but I think there was at least one representative of each of the most played races, a lot of humans and … a minotaur. :)

Now you’ve got to remember that I had NEVER been in close contact with anything related to medieval fantasy before. And I had a grown man before me saying he was pretending to be a minotaur… with a pair of fifteen-inch horns. Not only that, they were all trying to get into a tube-like transporter, akin to the pneumatic tubes used by the postal service. It should be propelled by a giant spring coil attached to  the wall, that was completely ruined. I bring to notice that we were in a room full of engineers. So, they tried to fix it, so that they could use it.You can’t imagine how fast the conversation became a discussion about the physics behind a spring coil… :)

So, now, I’m looking at a guy who’s supposed to be a minotaur with fifteen-inch horns, discussing Hooke’s Law. By now, I’m laughing hysterically and completely sold on the whole concept. Two weeks later, I was playing my first character on a Shadowrun campaign and I haven’t stop playing ever since. :)

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Different Priorities…

This little pearl of RPG history came to my mind, as I was writing this last post. Some years ago, some friends of mine were playing an AD&D campaign and one of them got engaged. For weeks, he would come in, play for a little while and them go off to meet his girlfriend, to take care of something or other relating to the wedding.

One of these times, he came in saying, “I can only stay for half an hour. We’re meeting the caterer today”. and he sat down to play. Three hours later, his girlfriend enters the room, with a half puzzled, half furious look on her face. “We waited for you for an hour and a half. What are you doing?”, she asks. He looks back at her, with a desperate stare, half dazed, “You don’t understand. I lost my spell book. I can’t leave till I find my spell book!”

She’s was a wonderful girl, and the wedding went on as planed. They’re still married, I think, though I don’t think he played much after that… :)

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The Right Metaphor…

Men and women have a hard time talking to each other. That’s a given. No matter how bright you are, if you’re a woman talking to a man, or vice-versa, the words coming out of your mouth are going to trigger different concepts in your counterpart’s brain. Even the things we worry about are going to be different.The best we can do is find paralels and metaphors to relay different meanings. And that’s not always the easiest thing in the world to do. But there is hope. :)

The other day, during one of our D&D sessions, I saw a small light at the end of the tunnel, when a (male) friend of mine, who’s been playing a wizard, after spending some time looking at his spell list, says to the table, “Now I understand how a woman can say she’s got nothing to wear, in front of a closet full of clothes.” So there, they can understand what we’re saying. It’s just a matter of finding the right metaphor! :)

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Yet another show of geekdom…

Just when I thought there was nothing my geek hubby could do that would surprise me, he goes and pulls a rabbit out of his hat. Last night he showed me some pictures of a wedding he attended. They were WoW (World of Warcraft) screenshots of a wedding held on the 18th, between two WoW characters. If that wasn’t enough, my husband, with his Forsaken undead priest, was the officiating minister! I’ve been at a loss for words to describe the whole new level of geekdom this entails… I’m still pretty much without words to describe the utter sense of twilight zone I felt. If you would like to travel to a whole new dimension, check out his latest blog entry.

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When even geeks call you a geek…

“Sigurd> a sprite is anything not static
<SRElysian> a sprite is a variable object                                                                                                                                                                          <SRElysian> be it 2d or 3d
<TorMuck> a sprite is a fu**ing soda
<TorMuck> you god damn geeka*s bastards”

 in www.bash.org (#14258)

 

A couple of days ago Iwas talking to a friend, describing to him the different games we played at our RPG retreat and I mentioned “Dust Devils”.  He didn’t know the game and I told him it was an indie game. “It’s a what game?” was his response. At that moment, every single conversation I witnessed between my husband and any RPG player not familiar with The Forge or with RPG theory discussions, became different in my mind. We’re the créme de la créme of Geekdom! Even geeks think we’re geeky! :)

Actually they find my husband geeky, I’m only considered guilty by association. However, a lot of what I deemed strange or odd events, were suddenly  much easier to explain. Empty looks and blank stares from people I had labeled as ultimate geeks, now had a context. Worse… I’m becoming more of a geek myself, than I ever deemed possible… 😉

 

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Back from a geek vacation…

So I’m back, after a ten-day vacation with a group of geeks. During that time, we hardly went out of the house, playing at least two RPG sessions a day. Between sessions, I cooked, while the guys “rested”, with a book, or in front of the TV. Which is to say, they turned into couch potatoes… :)

I was the producer for our PTA season, which was a great experience for me, and made me appreciate a little more all the different GMs I’ ve played with over the years. A heartfelt “thank you” to all of them and their hard work. :)

Now for a few war stories of my life in Geekdom… :)

We arrived there late at night, so we got into the house, assigned rooms, made the beds, and that was it for the day. The next day, after lunch, we decided to go to the local café and find out where we could buy some amenities, in the village. Note that we haven’t played a session yet. 

As soon as we stepped outside the front door, my husband enthusiastic exclames, “Hexs!”. I looked at him, half worried that I had lost him to the geek side of life for good, reality having been turned into a mere nuisance. He smiles at me and points to the ground. I could have hit him when I saw the hexagonal tiles! :)

Then there was the trip to the supermarket. It started out OK, with me running around between ailes, getting what we needed and three geeks pushing a cart behind me, while they talked in two languages inaccessible to mere mortals: bitish (the language of bits and bytes) and gamish (the language of games, be it RPG, boardgames or computer games). That´s when I made a big mistake. We needed some things from the deli counter and I decided to save some time, so I left my husband at the counter to order some ham, while I got the rest of the things we needed from the aisles. I left them there with a tingling sense of dred, but I brushed the feeling off, as I walked away, having confidence in my hubby’s inteligence to make any decision needed. :)

A while later, that nagging feeling came back, as I watched him walk in my direction, with a self-satisfied grin on his face and a pack of ham in his hand. Sure enough, it was the wrong kind. According to him, he asked the lady at the counter exactly what I told him too. But then, she presented him with… options. So now, he had to choose. Unable to do so, he kept answering “I don’t know.” to every question she posed. Finally, the lady gave up and chose for herself, giving him the cheapest kind of ham, in an effort to keep him out of trouble with me. She succeeded, in a way. When he told me his tale, I couldn’t stop laughing, so he got away with it. :)

Before we headed out, one of the participants in the trip had asked me to hover around me in the kitchen, so that he could pick up some tricks. I agreed, a bit surprised that any of them would show any interest in anything as prosaic as cooking. And sure enough he did so… exactly once. He started asking me what I was doing, so I kept describing the different steps of preparing the dish, as I was doing them. Until I looked at him and saw the most utterly complete blank face I ever saw in a man. I would have kept going, nonetheless, but I couldn’t stop laughing. :)

I’ve got loads of other stories about this retreat, and I’ll keep writing them in the future. But for now, this post is already long. My husband said he would post an in-game account of the retreat, for those of you who would like to know more about it, so take a peek at his blog. If it isn’t there already, it will be soon.

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Casual conversation with a geek…

Have you noticed how hard it is for geeks to make casual conversation? Today we went for dinner with a friend couple, and at a given point, someone made a comment about the temperature having dropped and the night breeze having got cold. My husband answers, “It’s never cold in Lisbon. In Novogorod it’s cold; in Novosibirsk it’s cold, but not in Lisbon.”

Now, it never crossed my mind to answer anything but, “You’re right, it’s getting colder” or “I still think it’s hot”. Certainly, it never crossed my mind to name two obscure russian towns to illustrate the difference in temperatures at different latitudes in the planet. But, hey, what do I know? :)

Anyway, we’re leaving for our RPG retreat later today, so see you in about two weeks. :)

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Preparing for departure…

For those of you who are used to reading my husband’s blog, you’ll know that every year around this time, we prepare what we call our RPG retreat. Usually, it means that for about a week, we find a place outside of Lisbon where a group of us stay and do almost nothing else than playing role-playing games. Usually that means me and a bunch of men.

 Last night, my place hosted the character and setting preparation meeting. If you know men in general, and geeks in particular, you’ll know that, for them, nothing else is needed, when you’re leaving town for a week. Everything else falls on the category of “operational details”, which are not at all important. Guess who’s stuck worrying about them? :)

From my point of view, yeah, playing’s fun, but I still like to eat and sleep on a clean bed. Which means it’s up to me to find out if there are any clean sheets available when we get there (it’s a holiday house, so unoccupied most of the year), and just how close is the nearest supermarket. From their point of view, they feel confortably sure that “someone” will cook and make food available, and I’m convinced they don’t find things like beds to be something they should worry about at all. Don’t take me wrong, they’re all very nice guys, and if tell them to, they’ll take care of stuff. It’s just that somethings are beyond them. :)

On a different note, this retreat will be my first opportunity to be a PTA producer. I’ve never been a GM or anything of the sort, so I’m kind of nervous about it. On the other hand, it´s probably an easy way to try the head of the table for the first time, so I’m looking forward to it. I’m sure my husband will give you an accurate report of how I did, when we get back.

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