Friday, February 28, 2014

Did You Know (Paraguay 1)? Also, Updates

There is no postal service in Paraguay? This explains why I have no mail box.

People still get things delivered, of's just delivered by courier or whatnot (when my wife needs stuff for her work, it's often hand-delivered by a person coming down here from the USA anyway). That's just nuts. I mean, thank God for the internet! It's allowing countries like Paraguay to enter into 1st World realms of business and enterprise even without the infrastructure of mail carriers...or even decent roads!

It really is the infrastructure that's missing...there's plenty of money here (and monied individuals). The neighborhood in which we live is chock-full of BMWs and Mercedes vehicles (mainly SUVs with tinted windows), absolutely huge houses with security boxes/guards on every 2nd or 3rd street corner and high, high walls. But the streets (for the most part) are absolute garbage, and the local parks (more like vacant lots) are entirely overgrown and unkept, and it is a resident/owner's responsibility to upkeep (or build) any sidewalks in front of their homes...and few bother. The tax rate here is one of the lowest (if not the lowest) of any country in South America, and decades of government corruption has resulted in little money going to those public works most Americans take for granted. I'm not sure if I've actually seen police officers here, but there sure is a lot of private security forces (everywhere from the shopping malls to the taxi stands).

There's a lot more that can be said on the subject, but I'll abstain for the moment.

The point is, there's nothing I can mail to anyone (or have mailed to me) without a postal service while I'm here: email is it (thank goodness my house finally came on-line...yesterday, in case folks failed to notice the post). I will be back in Seattle for a couple-three months beginning mid-March, but then I'll be gone for a year (till May 2015).

While I'm away, someone IS doing my mailings for me, so yes, you can still order books while they are in print. I'm strongly considering doing a couple more print-runs while I'm back next month, in order to make sure there's plenty of books on-hand for delivery, but we'll see. Sales of print-books (and PDFs) have definitely slowed down...especially for 5AK...but I figure a lot of that has to do with my lack of marketing and persistent absence from the on-line community the last few months. On the other hand, I've continued to get email requests for print copies of the B/X Companion and PDF copies of The Complete B/X Adventurer, and it would appear there are dollars to be made on both those items if I can just get my shit together...something I'm hoping to do.

In fact, I'm going to get to that right now. Well, right after I wake up my family who has drastically over-slept (at the moment it's 10am, Paraguay time).

Thursday, February 27, 2014


It’s been a while.

As I write this I have no internet and have had no ready access to the internet for more than a week.

Not that this matters a whole heck of a lot…when you have little-to-no free time, there’s not much use for the internet except to listen to your local (Seattle) sports radio station, basking in the ongoing afterglow of a Super Bowl championship. The fact is, it is only recently that my child has become enrolled in daycare here in Paraguay and so I have been mostly on 24 hour nanny duty since we got down here (i.e. since becoming unemployed). Most of my waking hours have been spent playing Legos or Batman or Spiderman or Pirates or “Star Wars guys” or Zorro or soccer or the usual care and feeding of a small child. Since our interaction has been limited by environmental constraints (we were in a hotel until about a week ago) and his limited vocabulary and depth of experience (he just turned three last month)…not to mention short attention span…it has been a somewhat constant source of inconvenience and frustration.

I’m sure I will look back on it as one of the happiest times of my life, and a very cherished part of my personal history. How many parents wish they could have more quality time with their children…at any age!

The experience (especially the heat and surroundings) reminds me of a time way-way back in my life. When I was very young - six or seven years of age - my family spent a week or three in Kuaii (one of the Hawaiian islands for the non-initiated) due to my father’s work taking him out there for some type of convention. We were put up in a house, and aside from memories of coconut pancakes and body-surfing with my father, the thing that stands out most vividly is the hours I spent playing with little plastic soldiers on the cool tile floor of the house. 

They weren’t actually soldiers; they were cowboys and indians. But you probably know the type I mean: one-piece, single-color, molded plastic miniatures in various action poses. The indians were mine, of course, while my brother had the cowboys. I always preferred the indians (and to be clear I am aware of the politically correct terms associated with our indigenous Americans, but these are the stereotypical toys I’m talking about, complete with war bonnets, buckskins, bows and knives…hardly a historical, factual representation of our Native peoples) to the cowboys in our games. I can recall we (my brother and I) had a couple “Lone Ranger” action figures at some point (the 13” type with actual clothes and plastic horses) and I favored Tonto over the proverbial masked man. I have never really been a “gun guy;” I’ve always been drawn more to swords and knives and bows and axes (tomahawks) when it came to weapons and the indians were easily the action guys of choice. 

[not that I don’t (now) enjoy a good Spaghetti Western shoot-up or game of Shadow Run, but in real life I can’t even stand the touch of a handgun…they just feel “icky” to me, and I have no idea why. Perhaps I was killed by firing squad in a past life…or maybe I shot a loved one or something (accidental or not)]

Anyway, my brother and I (he was a couple years younger) would play out little wars and adventures (cooperative) with these little plastic figures, spending hours making up stories about these two cultures and their interactions with one another. Not all of these were of a hostile or action-oriented nature…as I recall they had other dramatic events happen (flooding rivers, starvation, etc.) and our little “people” would have to figure out ways to survive. My brother and I developed stories and characters on that cold tile floor in the Hawaiian heat and humidity, and had a helluva’ time doing it.

We spent a lot of time making stories in those days, pretending all sorts of things. Once, I can recall my mother finding my brother and I crying in our downstairs hallway because we’d been playing out some sort of fantasy where we were on a raft in a flood (or river) and everyone had drowned/died and we were very sad. This would have been before age six or seven probably. 

“Playing pretend” on the playground was a common pastime of my friends and I, probably up until age 10 or so (when we were hardcore into D&D)…we were never much for shooting hoops or playing “flyers up” or four-square. If we used monkey bars at all, it was solely to navigate some imaginary obstacle (lava being the usual favorite) during our adventures…as knights or elves or Star Wars characters or Indiana Jones types or even Willy Wonka. Nothing so mundane as “cops & robbers” or “cowboys & indians” would have satisfied us.

My son seems to have the same “play pretend” itch I always did…almost always involving superheroes (Batman and Spiderman are the favorites), and often involving firefighting. Of course, he’s also exhibited a profound fascination with the ritual of the Catholic Mass, and likes to march around holding a cross, chanting “Amen, Amen” or hand out Eucharist wafers to people (though this behavior was more regular when we were still in Seattle).Encouraging his play, participating in it, and trying to steer it in positive directions (“Batman doesn’t shoot people with guns” or “a superhero’s priority is to help people before fighting bad guys”) has been a priority for me the last few weeks. 

And occasionally constructing paper batarangs.


But now it’s time for me to button down and get back to work. D has his school, and we’ve almost got our house and schedule in order. I’ve made some commitments to myself to get up early and focus my head in the right place. Even though the internet is still not working (latest glitch: no power to the router and the electrician can’t make it today due to heavy rains and random flooding throughout the city), I’ve had the chance to use the WiFi at the office down the street from our house. Mainly I’ve been using it to check on long-neglected email and catch up on the book orders.

[FYI to folks who placed orders in February: your books were mailed out from Seattle on Monday]

But now it’s time to get back to writing. And for myself, writing begins with this blog.

It’s time for a reboot.

When I first sat down to start Ye Old B/X Blackrazor blog, I wrote out a list of 100 potential topics to post. I did this because my prior blog (combining astrology with professional sports) had dwindled and dried up within three months after starting strong. I wanted to make sure I had enough I wanted to say, before actually throwing my hat into the ring, so to speak.

I probably only made it through half that original list before the ideas for blog topics took on a life of their own (responding to comments, reading other blogs, picking up new books, following the gaming industry, off-topic world events, etc.). Still, I knew that if I needed it, I could probably pull out the list and get back to the 50 or so posts I never got around to writing. It’s a comforting thought to have…plus, just the act of writing the list gets the creative juices percolating a bit, you know?

Well, that list is long gone (or, more likely, buried somewhere in an old notebook in my Seattle home). This morning after breakfast, I sat down and wrote up a new list of 100 topics (“Reboot” was the first item on the page), and I’m hopeful that these will lead me back into regular blog posts…which will feed my other creative endeavor of writing and designing games. It took me a little effort to start, but it was worthwhile…already my brain is starting to get back into “game mode” which it’s been lacking of late. I’m actually pretty excited about a number of the ideas on the list. And some are actually B/X related! Yes, really!

[there’s also some good stuff about wolves]

All right…that’s enough for now. I’m going to try to get this sent off today…which means going down the street before D gets home from school! Later, gators.
: )

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Super Bowl, Super Game

It is 9:30am local time, which means 4:30am in Seattle, meaning most of my friends and family back home are probably still snoozing, perhaps with dreams of Seahawks bouncing around their noggins. After all, the big game is a few hours...and from all the accounts I've been able to gather, the city is a little football crazy at the moment.

People who know me know that I'm usually crazy about football and the Seahawks year round anyway...regardless of whether or not they're in the Super Bowl. So it is perhaps ironic that I've been out of the country since January 16th, bopping around Chile and Paraguay and Uruguay and (now) back into Paraguay. A couple things folks might want to know (I'll probably elaborate on South America in later posts): it is damn hot here (summertime, thanks in part to the reversal of the seasons) and most folks don't give a rip about American football. I've got a few dozens/scores of channels in my hotel room

[quick side note: I am fucking sick to death of living out of hotels]

and at least six or seven of them are devoted to sports. And you know what they'r playing?

Soccer. Soccer. Tennis. Soccer. Soccer. Racing.

Yes, yes...I don't expect Latin America to care nearly as much about football as the U.S. (it's been Super Bowl media week the last few days and I'd expect a ton of coverage on the ESPN channels back home). But do they really care more about what's going on in Italy's local soccer league? Or who's currently leading in Formula Four? Come on!

No, they play the (playoff) games on the television here...I was able to watch Seattle's smack down of the Niners in the NFC championship game. But there's no other news coverage. I didn't even get to see the presentation of the NFC trophy, as they switched away to cover French premier league soccer. France?

But is what it is, and American football is probably a tough sport to figure out if you haven't played it or watched it for years. It's a lot more complicated to get into then soccer where the goal is to stick the ball in the net of the other side...or racing, where the object is to be faster than the other guys. I didn't fully grasp the rules of the game till I was 10 or so and I grew up going to Seahawks games at the Kingdome with my folks from the age of 7 or 8. My son enjoys the games immensely, but he really only knows to yell loud on defense and that touchdowns are good. And he recognizes the 'Hawks by color and logo, of course.

For folks who do understand the rules and nuances, football is immensely satisfying and much more interesting to watch unfold on the field than other sports...even though there's lack of accessibility to the average person. Perhaps the sport of cricket is the same for the cricket fan; I've never been able to figure out that one myself (admittedly, I haven't tried terribly hard).

There's a parallel that can be drawn between this subject and gaming, by the way.

Unfortunately, that parallel is going to have to wait for a later post...right now, my family's up and I've got to help get them ready for church. I never bother praying for a Seahawks win, but I do like to ask no one (from any team) suffers injury. And world peace, of course...can't forget that!

Later my American readers: hope you all enjoy our semi-national holiday! Go Seahawks!