Games We Play: Moral of the Story, Research

I do not enjoy buying games that require other purchases to use. I try my best to research games before buying them. I suggest everyone takes the time to research a game before purchasing, as games are expensive…often times more expensive than necessary or in relation to the value of the game’s pieces. There are many places posting reviews, unboxing (essentially someone unpacks a game and tells you about it, good for seeing what is in a box), and game play. That being said, from time to time, I fail to do my research or I miss an important fact while researching.

I had researched Warhammer Quest Silver Tower plenty. There is a lot to like about this game especially when you have fond memories of the original game. The biggest hurdle for us, price. Warhammer Quest Silver Tower is a Games Workshop which means, excellent quality, good rules, great art and miniatures, and good paper components. This also means high price. The value for the price is almost always good.

While we were at Motor City Comic Con there was a game vendor who had excellent prices. Seriously, excellent prices. He beat Amazon on everything, which is how we ended up with Silver Tower and Shadows Over Hammerhal, an expansion or separated game depending upon who is talking. I personally feel that Shadows Over Hammerhal is both, you can purchase Shadows Over Hammerhal and have a complete game and/or you can purchase Shadows Over Hammerhal and have new pieces to use.

So here is where the research fell apart, there are two miniature expansions, Arcane and Mighty Heroes. Each consists of 4 or 5 new heroes to use in your game. Now you would think that new miniatures would mean includes all necessary information to play. In other words, you purchase the miniatures and you get whatever cards are necessary to use them. NOPE!!!!

There isn’t even a hint that cards are not included nor is there a hint where to find the cards. The cards contain the information to use the miniatures, no cards, no miniatures. Checking the Games Workshop site…yep no cards. However, there used to be a product…you guessed it, a package of cards for the miniatures in both boxes and a whole bunch others using miniatures from other sets. Unfortunately, the product is no longer available, in the US. In the UK, shipped to the UK, it is.

I, being a reasonably knowledgeable gamer, looked all over for the cards and/or information about the cards. Turns out the cards for Mighty Heroes is in one of the books in Silver Tower. Good. Where are the cards for Arcane Heroes?


Yes, Nowhere.

Not in any of the books from either game.

Not online anywhere I could find.

I am hopeful, that someone reading this will send a link to the information. Until then I have a box of miniatures for a game, that are useless for the game.

Moral of the story, research, research, research!


What Is Your Time As A Writer Worth? Answer: More Than Exposure

Start here and here, if you are interested in catching up with this series of posts about writing, value of writing, and what writing is worth.

What is your time as a writer worth?


nuq ‘oH writer worth poH?

-Thank you Klingon translator…come on writer? Really, no Klingon writers?

Think about that before firing off an answer. When you have an answer, check your number against going rates for people in your area of writing expertise and in your region of the world. How did you do?

Worth is something every writer, thinking about making money, should be thinking about. Sure, nobody wants to talk about money, especially when seeking to get that foot in the door. Why? You did the work, you have bills to pay, you need and deserve compensation for the work you do. So while the convention, may to avoid talking about compensation, TALK about it. Wait for them to offer a number first if you like. Always a good negotiation tactic, but and I cannot stress this, have a top value and a bottom line number for yourself.

Shoot for the top, but go no lower than the bottom line. I can’t give you advice on how to get that top money other than the following common sense: Have your facts lined up. Do not go into a negotiation for your services without knowing the following:

  • your value
  • industry entry level pay rate
  • industry top level pay
  • background information about the people who you may be working with/for (yes, do some damn research before you start looking for a job-I can name ten game companies for writers to avoid off the top of my head because I did the research on how they treat and pay writers)
  • what you want for compensation beyond money, such as benefits if it is a long term gig or a portion of the profits
  • rights. Who owns your work? Who owns the intellectual property you may or may not create while on the job? These are important considerations for me and should be for most writers. If you are banging out little pieces here and there, I am fine with the payer owning them. However, if you create something new, who owns it and how much. Should you leave, do they get to keep the thing you created and run wild with it. Related to that, is your name going to be on everything you write, even after you are gone? What about revisions to your writing? How much control over your writing do you have?

So, you want to be a writer. How much is your time worth? How much are your words worth? You should know that. I do. However, my value is not your value. If you do not know how much your time and words are worth, how do you know when you are getting proper payment or giving it away?

How can you determine your value? This can be tricky, but here are some things to consider:

  • Education, do you have a demonstrable education or degree in your field of writing
  • Expertise, can you demonstrate through samples, and presentation of yourself and your work, that you are an expert
  • Experience, how long have you been writing as a general concept, how long have you been writing about this particular area, have you been employed as a writer, and other measures of experience

A good way to demonstrate all of the above is to have a portfolio. A portfolio is a selection of your work that shows your range, expertise, and experience. Having a portfolio is more than having a collection of stuff. A portfolio is a well thought out process of selecting the best of your work. Each sample should quickly and easily demonstrate your skills as a writer and beyond. Writers, thanks to technology, are expected to be able to do more than just put word to paper. How are your layout skills? Giving any thought to color scheme, fonts, and pictures? If not, I have given you three things to think about. Because when push comes to shove, a writer who can do more than write is worth more than a writer who just writes.

Once again, what is your time worth and what skills do you bring to the table beyond writing?





Forty Minutes, Two Questions, & A Host of Assumptions

“She is a pharmacist.”

“Yes, I am 45.”

My two new favorite sentences. One opens doors and others cause people to drop pens and stare at me maw agape. I spent 40 minutes listening to a sales pitch designed to make me feel stupid and push me where the sales person wanted to go. I like to let people talk. The more people talk the more I learn about them. This sales person assumed because I dropped that Barb and I recently graduated that we were in our twenties and did not know anything.

That set of assumptions, set the sales person on the wrong path to sell me anything. For thirty-minutes I listened and made noises of understanding and affirmation while the sales person told me why one thing was bad, another was less bad, and this was best of all. Best of all had a lot in favor for the sales person. Not once did the sales person ask any information about myself or Barb, the simple fact that we graduated two weeks ago was enough information.

I enjoy people talking down to me. I really do. Rare is the situation where I have not done some research. In this case, I had done a lot of research. I knew what the sales person was talking down to me and I knew more. A poorly informed consumer is ripe for having their wallet emptied. I do not like having my wallet emptied. Never asked anything about either of us nor asked if I was familiar with the product and process. Just graduated, means young and dumb.

Convinced we could not possibly afford the product the sales person attempted to end the conversation with a question they must have thought would have ended the conversation in their favor, “Do either of you have a job?” The tone and facial expression said it all.

The backpedaling, when the sales person found out that Barb does have a job, a good paying job, was awesome. Try to visualize a verbal crabwalk up a greased slope while someone pushed rocks down on them. Suddenly we were people. We were valued customers. Suddenly the sales person wanted to know more. However, having pissed away their chance all inquires but one were shut down, because I wanted to see how the sales person handled the information.

“If I may ask,” the sales person began looking at me, “how old are you?”

“45,” if you have ever heard my deadpan voice then you know this was delivered devoid of anything other than the number.

The sales person’s pen hit the table with a very audible clack. Their mouth literally dropped open. The shock was plain to see. If you are a sales person attempting to make a sale, never show shock at something a customer tells you, especially if it is inconsequential data. Remember that visualization of the verbal crabwalk from above? Yeah, the boulders won. The sales person tried to be flattering, tried to make a connection, tried…but I was done.

I thanked the sales person, picked up all of my information and paperwork that I had put on the table before the conversation began. Paperwork, had the sales person inquired or even bothered to look would have saved both of us about a half-hour and might have gotten them the sale. Shook the sales person’s hand and left.


500 Words At A Time: Do Different

This is the companion to yesterday’s post. This time around what I would do differently…some of this is hindsight. 🙂

Minors: I would have decided upon minors earlier and made a concerted effort to complete them. I would like to be in the position of I didn’t complete my minors because I didn’t like them. That sounds better to me than, “Well I stumbled into them and…” The dot dot dot is the various issues that cropped up as I tried to complete two minors at the last minute, which boils down to scheduling. Ah well. If I could do it all over again, I would stumble into them earlier and get them done.

Housing: My love hate relationship with our house and housing environment is well documented across this blog. In the end, if I had to do it all over again, I would not live on campus. Too many problems beyond my control or at times control of the powers that be. Apathy would best describe housing management that and a complete lack of power to do anything of meaning with problems other than file paperwork and hope that someone higher up takes notice. Suffice to say the bad of living on campus outweighs the good.

Research: I love the research that Paul and I did. Totally unlike every other form of “research” required of me in the last five years. I would not do the research any differently. Every “seat of the pants” moment shaped the project and my understanding of how research can be done. What I would do differently, is when the “No” came in, which ended the research is to go my own way and find anyway possible to continue on until I was satisfied. I gave up and I would change that.

Have a Plan: I went into this with no plan other than making sure that Barb graduated. I did not have an end game plan. Hell, if I did not get my degree that was fine with me. Until it wasn’t. At that point, I still did not have an end game. Graduate school, sure. But why? No clue. Then came teaching which I like a lot. Plan to become a teacher? Not really, kinda hoping I backed into it on accident. Well shit, that didn’t work. Now I am looking at a graduate program, for real. Perhaps if I had an end game plan when I went in I would have been on the graduate school teaching plan a lot sooner. Then again, flying by the seat of my pants has been a theme.

Job: This one is a hit or miss. When I received a paycheck a lot went very wrong around here even as a paycheck helped out. Hard to explain, but getting a paycheck for the research became something I had to deal with for two years afterwards. Why? The paycheck for the research was not actually a job, but a grant. Suffice to say a lot of institutions wanted to know about the “job” I had. I can only imagine having a job would have been a lot worse.

This list is little things and all related to choices I made or didn’t make for one reason or another. Nothing major at all other than the minors, but attempting to complete them was like many things, accidental in that I didn’t expect….well expect anything at all. Color me surprised. 🙂




500 Words At A Time: Research, Nemesis (Corrected)

Nemsis in MinneapolisLike all good movie series there has to be an end. And like all good movie series there has to be at least one death to signify the seriousness of the story, this is the end of the research posts and the death of my research. Hopefully, someone somewhere will pick up what we did, dust it off, and in the grand Hollywood tradition reboot. Until then…

The immediate aftermath of the presentation was a sigh of relief that it was over. There was a request by a member of the school library for a paper. Unfortunately, the person in charge never, to my knowledge, gave specifications or responded to emails in a timely fashion. The paper was written, at least a rough draft. Research paper writing is not a style I enjoy writing in, no allowances for snark, and the more I wrote the more I became convinced that there wasn’t enough for a paper. A preview of things to come for sure, but the research was at the beginning.

There was talk and consideration of moving onto graduate school. I am not a researcher and more importantly I am done with school. This semester is my last unless something really damn interesting shows up at my door. Such as an aging Jedi, two robots, and a mission to save the galaxy from the latest galaxy destroying event caused by the Klingons, Romulans, or some new alien species.

Most importantly, there was talk about the next phase. Remember, the goal, the ultimate goal, was to get my brain scanned and that had not happened yet. Thus, with our exciting initial data we needed to move onto phase two which would have been larger and grander in scope. Of interest to me, beyond one step closer to my ultimate goal, was the larger scope, the move away from my blogs, and other people writing and using voice-to-text to see if the effect was limited to me. Our plans were grand, but doable. There was the issue of where to find a lot of volunteers, but plans were in the making.

Meanwhile, I went with Paul to attend the conference in Minneapolis, home to great sushi and an elevated walk-wayslashshoppingslashrestaurant scene that closes on weekends. I got to see how a school supports student research, got some interest from people and schools in the results, and generally left feeling better about the research than when I went. On the plus side we did get to see MA•Chet•TE! And for the last time, it is only cold in Minneapolis when it is cold in Minneapolis. It was not cold then.

You may be wondering, why seeing how other schools support their student researchers was a thing for me, but allow me to…At the end of the year, the student research in all departments* was put on display in a hallway outside the amphitheater. There people could come for the event (yes, more pinwheel sandwiches) to see what the students had done. Faculty and administration would be there. Paul wanted his department head to see the research and we hoped the assistant Dean of the school would see it as well. The department head was interested in the research. The assistant Dean ran, or should I say, speed-walked through the whole hallway display until someone grabbed his arm causing him to come close to falling down. He was more interested in…whatever it was I have no clue. At the Minneapolis conference there were entire teams of students and professors, it was a sight to see. **

Now I have to be honest. I thought that original research with an interesting and exciting initial conclusion and far reaching effects would be something that Ferris would want to throw money at because it would be something that the school could hang their hat on, point to, and say, “Look we do original research here and with undergraduates too.” That was my mistake or misunderstanding, which is why when our application for another Summer Research Fellowship Grant was denied I went into an apoplectic rage.

There was talk of finding other sources of income, but given the labyrinthine nature of paperwork at Ferris, seeking outside funding seemed like more work than progress. That is my opinion. Mostly though, I was tired of fighting with the “school” again. Fight for classes, fight to write about sex, fight over the nature of education, and so on…the school, was beating me down. So I did what I always do when the game isn’t fun and people don’t want to play, I quit.

260440I packed up my toys, the research, and moved onto other things, such as getting out of here. Right or wrong decision is up to you. For me, it was the right decision. I am glad I did the research. I am glad that I stretched beyond what I was doing. I am glad that Paul took a chance on me. I am proud of the work that we did.

* For the record, there were three of us with non-science research. 😦

** I have a faulty memory, which is why I am glad people point out where I get things wrong. Corrected was the department head being interested and dean to assistant dean.

500 Words At A Time: Research, The Undiscovered Country, Part 2

Here is my take away from my presentation, not my take away immediately afterwards, but now years later, it caused me to get better. In the aftermath, however…

I arrived with family in tow, holding crushing my presentation. I was sweating like a pig due to the heat and the extreme nerves. I was overly sarcastic and the nervous energy of the other presenters did not feed my inner energy like normal, only accentuated my nerves. On a walk around the IRC with Paul, where we got two bottles of water for the price of one…which I would later drink along with several other bottles of water like a man just out of the desert or a man determined to drink away his sins…my nerves only ratcheted up.

I like to present first. If I do well, the bar is raised for everyone else. If I shit the bed, everyone else can do what they want. Regards, I went first and I can relax. I did not get to go first. I had to wait. Waiting is either a calming effect for me or a “I need to get out of here and I will go through anyone and anything that stands in my way” effect. This was the “get out of here.” The people who went before me looked good in their suits. They spoke well about subjects that went way over my head, at least in a fifteen minute way, and most of all they came across as if they had their shit together.

We had decided to do things differently, instead of thanking everyone at the end of our presentation, ours was at the beginning. Why, because I believe in thanking people first, not after I have done something. Plus it was a style choice. Unfortunately, the lady in charge had remarried and had a new last name, which I couldn’t remember, as I suck as names.

Our turn came up and Paul gave me the best introduction I have ever gotten. I don’t know if I thanked him for that, thank you. It meant a lot, even as in my nerves and that brain haze that preceeds either a great moment or a shit the bed the bed moment, I edged down to present, my notes crushed in my hand. There was no clicker.

I need to move when presenting. Dynamic energy gives me…is who I am as a presenter. Trapped near the podium, I felt even worse. And then I had power point issues, I don’t recall what they were exactly, but I do recall commenting on them, which got a laugh and that was a small start for me. The intro went exactly as I expected, awkward and flat. The explanation of the data went as I expected, halting, stumbled, and awkward as I tried to remember the terms and what they meant. My crumpled notes, I have no idea.

Man_yelling_at_computerHowever, instead of giving up, which was a thought, I pushed through the intro, the explanation of the data, the power point, and finally got to my comfort zone; the process. There was a slide where a man is yelling at his computer (similar to the one to the left). When Paul showed me the slide I laughed. When I showed the audience the slide I laughed again. The laugh helped me. That was when the cow story came out and the rest of the summer came out like I had hoped. I like to move when presenting and I like to gesture, especially if I have something to gesture at. During the process section, I moved away from the podium and I gestured over my shoulder at whichever slide was on the screen. Later during the Q&A section, I kept gesturing, even when there wasn’t a slide there. When I finished, I looked up to a see of blank faces. That is what I saw. Then a hand and another.

Fish CancerDave Schrock (I do believe that was him way in the back; if I am wrong someone correct me), asked the most interesting question, “was I disappointed that the readers did not notice.” * Presentation is not my strength, answering questions is. That question was a gift, because I got to answer that and a few others. I sat down drained, dehydrated (those bottles of water gone), and feeling defeated. After the presentations, which included the horrifying; give fish cancer, cure them, and give them cancer again presentation and the equally horrifying: break a rats back, toss them into water, and wonder why they can’t swim straight presentation there was, you guessed it, pinwheel sandwiches.

Standing in the hallway people congratulated me, I did not feel like I deserved it, but more importantly which only resonated later, people asked me more questions about the research. Like I have said, at that moment I felt like I had failed, but later I realized while not my best moment, it did what it was supposed to do, get people interested enough to ask questions.

So what happened to the research? You guessed it again, another 500 Words…

* My answer then and now, is no. I was never disappointed that readers did not notice. After all nobody noticed when SeattlePolyChick was using voice-to-text so why should they notice when I did. I was disappointed, by the lack of response to the survey, but I take the blame for that, as I could have done a better job informing readers about the survey and it’s importance (at the time) to me.

500 Words At A Time: Research, The Undiscovered Country, Part 1

There is something different about giving a presentation in a classroom situation and giving a presentation in front of a audience; students don’t pay attention. The end of summer rapidly approached. Our research had results, pretty exciting results for not expecting to find anything. And I had to prepare for the end of the Summer Research Fellowship presentation. Only problem (s) were we got our data with two weeks to spare, we were still having problems explaining what we were researching and why our findings were exciting to other people, and because of my lack of familiarity with statics I was having a problem explaining to myself what the numbers meant. Oh and did I mention the power point, probably not.

At that time, I had not created a power point as a visual aid for any presentation. I don’t like power point. I understand that there is an expectation for the usage. I understand that power point is an alternate way to present information. I also understand that power point is often used poorly, as a crutch for poor presenters, and can muddle a point quicker than flubbing a word or forgetting a sentence. I want people’s attention on me. Unfortunately, a power point presentation was a requirement for the presentation.

Once again, Paul came through, creating a power point presentation that I familiarized myself with, that went with my speaking style and our sense of style. Unfortunately, I was not able to practice enough with it. I knew I needed to be more familiar with integrating power point with the actual dialog. Speaking of which, no matter how many times I wrote out what I wanted to say, it never sounded right. Presentations are a lot like shopping for a card, I know when I have what I want. I did not have what I wanted.

Couldn’t explain what the research was in a way that didn’t sound overly convoluted, to my ears. Had problems explaining the results, in part because I did not understand the stats that went with them, thus the words sounded off to me. I could explain all of the processes and observations because I was part of that and understood what happened. Let’s just say that instead of my usual cocksureness I was not feeling it, even with practice. Then there was the clothing. By now you are familiar with my style of dress, not formal. Formal wear makes me uncomfortable and like I am attempting to be a faux me.

Time for a recap: I had to use a power point, which was excellently crafted by Paul. I had a presentation to give with information I felt confident to give, information I felt less than comfortable to give, and an intro that did not sound right. Last, but certainly not least, I had to dress in a manner not conducive to confident me.

0460099_32063_MC_Tx304The location of the presentation was auditorium in style. The picture should give you a clue as to how it felt. At the bottom of a pit looking up at faces, which got smaller the further away they were. As a bonus, I did not have to use “dad voice” to be heard and as far as I knew, there was going to be a handheld clicker for the power point which meant I would at least be able to move about in my uncomfortable clothing…