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November 27, 2007

Three Days And Counting

Only three more days and then I can shave this damned moustache (although calling it such is an insult to moustaches) off. I know it’s all in a good cause, but I just cannot wit for it to be gone. I mean, look at this photo. Look at it. Twenty-two days, three weeks of mo growth, and it’s still a pubescent straggle.

Movmeber the 27th

I promised a photo of myself and the rest of the work gang, and here it is, taken on the 13th:

Movember the 13th, with Colleagues

We've had one casualty already. The ginger-haired guy, second from the left in the top row? He shaved a couple of days ago; apparently his girlfriend objected to the handlebars. A shame; a week ago, he was looking damn impressive!

November 22, 2007

This Mo Is Now Officially Subsidised

Sponsorships! I has some! Props to Daniel O'Connor for his donation, as well as Jayne and Gail at the office who've doanted offline. Jayne's offered me her sponsorship again if I last until December 1st.

You know, it's a bugger, as I was actually tempted to shave the bastard. I will be very, very glad when it comes off!

Anyway, sponsorships mean photos! I'l get one done tonight, and I'll also post a couple taken by work.

But Do You Know What Really, Really, REALLY Annoys Me?

My Xbox 360 suddenly deciding to recommence regular operation just as mysteriously as it crapped out, that's what. Late last night, after trying the Xbox twice only to be greeted with the same flashing-power-light problem and calling Customer Support again to no avail (whatever issue had their systems down on Tuesday night was still affecting them last night), my Xbox suddenly decided to work properly, and I got another good hour of Mass Effect in before going to bed. I tried it again this morning, and it still worked fine.

I've decided to take the bastard back to Harvey Norman anyway. I don't want to be waiting for it to stuff up again every time I play, especially if I'm playing online. If I can return it for credit I'm going to fork out a little extra for an Xbox 360 Elite, for two main reasons: One, Microsoft made some changes to the manufacturing process for the Elite which made it a little more heat and crash resistant, and two (Vickie's going to live this), it comes with an HDMI cable, which will eliminate at least one cable from the rat's nest behind the entertainment unit. The bigger hard drive and extra headset are just gravy.

UPDATE 1:30PM: Turns I was wrong about that Hardly Normal warranty. Unless I buy an Extended Warranty from them, the only warranty available to me is Microsoft's. On the upside, Vickie called me to let me know Xbox Customer Support had finally called back, and I'll give them another ring tonight.

A thought crossed my mind while I was talking with one of the Harvey Norman sales guys today: Take the 360 and my Wii (which no one is using) into an EB Games store and get some trade-in value toward an Elite. I dashed into EB Cairns Central to get a quote, but even with the 360, the Wii, an extra Wii Remote and my Wii games I'd still have to fork at least an extra $250 out to get the Elite. I'm not so sure an extra 100GB of storage and decreasing the number of cables behind our entertainment unit by one is really worth $250.

November 21, 2007

My Position on GenCon Oz

I’ve been asked recently whether I'm going to the first GenCon Australia next year. I have to say, it’s a tempting proposition. For those who don’t know, the original GenCon (which moved from Milwaukee to Indianaoplis, I think) and the already-established spin-offs in Southern California and the UK are major events in tabletop gaming geekdom. Having never been to one, I don’t know whether it’s “The Best Four Days In Gaming” as the advertising states, but the thought of finding out has definitely piqued my interest.

Now, the first version of this post was a long bitch and whinge about various things which no one cares about, basically making excuses. In the end, though, my position on GenCon is this: The investment in money and organisation would only be worth it if I went for all four days, and as Gencon isn't Vickie's thing (yes, I've checked) I'd be going on my own - which means I'd be spending a heap of money to leave my love alone at home for four days (plus a round-trip flight). That’s just not cool.

Hmm. I'm still not quite comfortable with the way I've expressed that. Let my try this: I might go out for a quick drink with colleagues after work, and I might volunteer my time for the Lions Club or the Cairns Youth Mentoring Sceme, and I might hang out with mates (and possibly game) on one day of the weekend. But I don't go out, if you see what I mean, without Vickie. Leaving Vickie for a four-day gaming con in Brisbane, even to hook up with some old mates whom we both love, is definitely going out. The amount of money it'd require just adds insult to injury.

Let me reassure you that Vickie doesn't think in these terms; in fact, I saw her hitting JetStar's website again this evening, probably in response to an earlier version of this post. That's how I feel about it, though.

I know those of you who asked me about GenCon Oz really wanted to see us again, but us is the key word. You'd just be getting me, and without downplaying my own awesomeness I’m not about to keep you all to myself under the excuse of going to a gaming con. Please don't doubt that Vickie and I really hope to get together with you as soon as possible. Next year's GenCon Oz just isn't the right set of circumstances.

Just When I Thought It Was Safe...

This is frustrating, folks. I got my Xbox 360 back from Customer Support mid-last week, and aside from a reset incident after I first plugged it in everything seemed to work fine - it's certainly not argued during the many games of Halo 3 I've played since. Yesterday I picked my pre-ordered copy of Mass Effect up (my local EB told me they got it in a little early) - and after ten minutes of play, my repaired Xbox reset itself, stopped recognising the Mass Effect disc and refused to open the drive tray. Same trouble as last time.

Now, in the hope that this might be an overheating issue, I switched the Xbox off at the power point and left it alone for ten minutes, and even put a pedestal fan to circulate air behind the entertainment unit just in case it did turn out to be a heating issue. When I switched it back on, everything worked, and I had an hour of smooth Mass Effect play before I switched it off and let the family have the TV for the rest of the evening, satisfied that I'd found a solution to my console's problems - it must've just been overheating.

No such luck. This morning I got up, hoping to get a little more ME in before heading off to work. I even started the fan up, just in case. As soon as I powered the Xbox up, though, its power light started to flash as if it was opening the disc tray (which it didn't). It seemed to boot up fine, but the power light didn't stop blinking and the disc tray still refused to open. I came upstairs to browse the web and post about the problem on my Gamespot blog, and when I went back downstairs ten minutes later, the console had just reset itself.

I put a call in with Customer Support last night, but they were undergoing a system upgrade and couldn't help me. They'll (hopefully) be calling me back this evening.

Now, it's annoying enough that I now can't play a brand-new game I just bought, but what's also annoying is that I can't hook up with Karl, who bought himself an Xbox 360 Elite and Halo 3 not long before my console went kaput the first time. We were hoping that after I got my 360 back, I could take it over his place and we could have some system link Halo 3 action. That's now set to not happen for another few weeks (with turnaround from Customer Support), but the really, really annoying thing is that, shortly after my Xbox arrived back in the mail, his Elite had a general hardware failure, as indicated by the dread Red Ring of Death. Now, apparently this wasn't enough to actually take his system out, and after a quick call to Customer Support it was restored to working order. But it's definitely not a pleasant sign, especially when most of the bugs that crippled the initial batch of 360 consoles were, in theory, meant to be fixed in the Elite.

So much for the Xbox allowing people to play together...

November 18, 2007

Guba and the Garden Bed

At the beginning of the last post, I mentioned a weekend of garden work. There’s a very big, very good reason for all the green-thumbed activity: Tropical Cyclone Guba, a weather system that’s been hanging around the Coral Sea for the better (or should that be worse?) part of the last week. So far, it’s done us no direct harm, just a lot of cloud and almost as much rain. Still, it is a cyclone, and we’ve been keeping a keen eye on the Bureau of Meteorology’s updates. Over the past four days or so, it’s meandered its way from off the Papua New Guinea shores toward the Penninsula, wandered vaguely south then east, picked up intensity from a Category 1 (Thursday morning) to a Category 3 (Friday evening) then all the way back down to a 1 again (this afternoon). It’s done at least two U-turns, the most recent one putting it back on rough course for the Australian coastline, and current forecasts suggest it’ll meander its way in a curve back north again – away from us, thankfully.

For a good couple of months, we’ve had a huge pile of garden gravel sitting in front of our car port, waiting to be taken down the back and used as a surround for our garden bed. I’ve been treating it like someone else’s problem in that time, but with Guba in the vicinity, I figured that unless I got stuck into it, we would have a potential pile of high-speed shrapnel that would devastate the house should Guba decide to hit the shores anywhere near us. The near-miss with Larry a couple of years ago taught me just how powerful a cyclone can be, so I decided not to chance it and finish the garden bed surround off. This means that, instead of being a metre-high gravel dune begging to be picked up by any cyclonic gust, the gravel is spread low to the ground and surrounded by concrete sleepers and high fence.

As a result, I spent most of this weekend shifting concrete sleepers, shovelling gravel into a small wheelbarrow with a tyre we can’t reinflate and hauling it from in front of the car port to the back of the garden. The result, frankly, looks pretty damned good; I’ve been meaning to take a photo of the garden bed so I can show you all how well it’s been coming along since the last pictures, and now with the gravel border I have even more reason. By the time I finished this evening it was too dark for photos, but I’ll try to grab a couple after I get home from work tomorrow.

Star Wars: A New Campaign

It’s been a pretty damned good month so far. Quite a bit of stuff’s been going on; I’ve just not got around to blogging about it yet. An exhausting weekend of garden work and Halo 3 has cleared enough junk out of the way of the writing urge. Let's kick this off with some gaming.

To start off with, I’m GMing a roleplaying campaign. If you’ve been keeping up with my RPG-related posts over the past few years, you’ll have read about my increasing interest in independently-published RPGs and my desire to run titles like Dogs in the Vineyard, Primetime Adventures and Burning Empires.

Thus, it may come as some surprise that I'm running Star Wars: Saga Edition, a game about as un-indie as I can get (it's from the same company that publishes the venerable Dungeons & Dragons). I played it at Spring Revel Down Under at the beginning of October and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I’d like to say that I enjoyed the session so much I bought the rulebook except I caved into my gamer-geek urges and bought the bloody thing the day before.

Anyway, my players are Simon, Patrick, Tracey and Sam. We played our first session last week at Simon’s place (it’s central for the rest of us, plus Simon can’t yet drive). The original plan was to get together fortnightly and alternate Star Wars with D&D, giving Simon’s wife and fellow gamer Cristel a chance to play something she’ll like (it's not that she hates science fiction, it simply fails to interest her). However, between our prep session and the first play session on the tenth, my players decided they wanted to do Star Wars fortnightly instead! I’m glad they’ve got confidence in me as a GM (it makes me more confident), but it’s a bit sucky for Cristel. Still, she’s happy playing Warcraft III against her daughters.

So, based on our discussions and the characters my team came up with, I created Tarmadan Sector. If RPGs are your speed, you can find my notes on our progress in this RPGnet forum thread. If not, try it anyway, but you might get a little lost in the jargon. Our next game is on this coming Saturday, and I've got a little prep to do in the meantime; I'll post about it when i give myself a chance on the RPGnet thread.

From RPGs to consoles: At the end of October, may Xbox 360, which has been acting pretty flaky for most of the month, finally decided to stop co-operating; the disk tray would not open no matter what I tried (well, except the old standby of straightened paper clip in the manual release hole). A call to Customer Support later and it was wending its way to New South Wales for a warranty repair. I got it back in operating order around ten days later. I was worried about the group of Halo 3 players I’d become part of would get too far ahead of me in skill and experience points, but between Call of Duty 4 and Mass Effect (which a couple of them managed to get their mitts on a few days earlier; I pick my pre-ordered copy up on Thursday), they wound up with other things to distract them. In fact, half of them are still distracted - although, once I get Mass Effect myself I have the feeling I will be too.

November 12, 2007

What, No Takers?

I don't believe it! Six days in and so far nobody's figured me growing a moustache is a good enough excuse to part with a few dollars! Come on, folks, this is me! The whitiest guy you've ever seen! The longest I've been without a shave is (maybe) forty-eight hours! I figured at least some of you would be in just for the novelty value!

You don't believe me. That must be it. Rob'd never grow a mo, that's what you're all saying. Well, have a look at this:

Cheap Wine and a Six-Day Growth

Okay, fine, it's still not a mo yet, but it clearly has the makings! And it's had twice the number of days than Jimmy Barnes!

If you need a reminder, check out the instructions in this post. Oh, and if any of you lot are in Movember as well, I want to know about it!

November 07, 2007

Movember Sponsorship Info

Here's what you need to know, folks:

During Movember (the month formerly known as November) Rob Farquhar is growing a Mo to raise funds and awareness for men's health and the fight against male depression and prostate cancer. Why...

  • Depression affects 1 in 6 men...Most don't seek help. Untreated depression is a leading risk factor for suicide.
  • Last year in Australia 18,700 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer and more than 2,900 died of prostate cancer - equivalent to the number of women who die from breast cancer annually.
  • Men are far less healthy than women. The average life expectancy of males is 5 years less than females.

To sponsor his Mo please go to http://www.movember.com/au/donate, enter his registration number which is 160452 and your credit card details. Or you can sponsor him by cheque made payable to the "Movember Foundation" clearly marking the donation as being for his Registration Number: 160452. Please mail cheques to: PO Box 292, Prahran VIC 3181. All donations over $2 are tax deductible.

The money raised by Movember is donated to the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia and beyondblue - the national depression initiative which will use the funds to create awareness, fund research and increase support networks for those men who suffer from prostate cancer and male depression.

Movember culminates at the end of the month at the Gala Partés. These glamorous and groomed events will see Tom Selleck and Borat look-a-likes battle it out for their chance to take home the prestigious Man of Movember title. If you would like to be part of this great night you'll need to purchase a Gala Parté ticket.

More info is available at www.movember.com.

Movember is proudly grown by Commonwealth Bank, Holden, Schick and VB.

Movember is proud partners with the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia and beyondblue - the national depression initiative.

November 06, 2007

A Passion for 'Tache-ing

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, observe ye this greasy skinned, sleepy-eyed visage carefully:


'Cos over the next few weeks it's gonna be changin' like it's never changed before. Why, you might ask?

I've signed up for Movember.

Yep, you certainly read right; I am now a Mo Bro. A mate at work has organised an office team, and even the general manager has got behind it (no word yet whether he'll actually sign on, though). So I reckoned I'd throw in as well; after all, it's not the World's Greatest Shave For A Cure, which I've been banned from entering.

Anyway, as I set my profile up under my work e-mail, I don't have my user-ID to hand. But rest assured, as soon as I get the details from the office tomorrow, I'll be posting a sponsorship link up here - I know there are quite a few of my readership who'd pay to see me grow a moustache, or even a goatee. In the meantime, please browse the Movember website and find out more about the charities that your money will be assisting.

Oh, and watch this space for yet more photos of my face fungus.

November 04, 2007

If I Can't Play, I Can Get Motivated

Although I am 360-less at the moment, I can still find ways to itch my scratch. With thanks to the fine ladies and gentlemen of Bungie, here's one of them: Halotivational Posters, a site set up (as may be obvious from the title) for the publication of motivational posters created using screengrabs from Halo 3. I nearly wet my pants several times reading it. I've learned that all a poster needs is an incoming rocket to set me off.

November 03, 2007

Gardens and Gamorreans

The 360 went in the post to Xbox Customer Service on Wednesday, so with any luck I should have it back by mid-November. I doubt I’ll have any trouble; Podge’s 360 got all Red Ring of Death on him a few months ago and he got it back in fairly short order (the refund of the repair charges took a little longer, though).

Which has, of course, given me more time to get some other things done. The first is to get back into the garden; I mowed the lawn and fixed the fence of a smaller garden bed near the front gate that we turned over a couple of weeks ago. Tomorrow is whipper-snippering and clearing the yard of dead leaves (not to mention dog poo – Vickie’s granted me the household title of “bomb disposal expert”).

I’ve also got back into RPGs. I think I’ve already written that the “Prelude to Defiance” module I played at Spring Revel Down Under back in October had me keen on playing some more. Well, thankfully I have my chance. On Saturday October the twentieth, I trooped up to Edge Hill to get together with Simon and Cristel, Patrick and Tracey, and Sam to make characters and do a touch of world-building for the Star Wars campaign I’m going to run using the Saga Edition rules. I’m pretty happy with how we went, although I still think I could’ve done a few things better.

It was good seeing Simon and Cristel again. Sam, the player I’d met at last year’s ReefCon and played “Prelude to Defiance” with at SRDU, was already at their place when I arrived, and Patrick and Tracey turned up not long after. Once we were settled I started asking questions about what everyone wanted to play. As there’s a lot of Star Wars to go around, with thirty to forty years of history in the movies alone, “when” was a big question. Between Sam’s preference for a home game that would tie in with the RPGA’s Dawn of Defiance adventures and Tracey’s wish to play in a galaxy dominated by an unopposed Empire, we decided to start the campaign three years after the end of the most recent film Revenge of the Sith.

While we were discussing options, I noticed that Cristel was looking very lost. I’ve known for a while that Cristel’s tastes in fiction and RPGs are pretty exclusively fantasy, but while chatting over Windows Messenger Simon reassured me she’d be good to play, so I figured Star Wars was fantasy-ish enough for Cristel’s palate. In reality, Star Wars is so not Cristel’s taste that the movies utterly failed to make an impression on her when she saw them (I’m pretty sure Cristel’s Star Wars is the Lord of the Rings films). All our talk about stormtroopers and jedis and wookiees and forces was going straight over Cristel’s head, and after some discussion I said I’d hate to make her play something she wasn’t really into.

Thankfully, it looks as though Cristel’s taste for fantasy will be filled soon. During the session, Sam asked who’d be keen on some D&D, which got Cristel’s interest immediately. Simon and myself weren’t far behind in sticking our hands up. Our plan is to get together for gaming every fortnight, alternating between Star Wars and D&D.

Anyway, we spent the rest of the session hammering out character basics and some notes on our home sector. I was aiming to build up the sort of group “consensus of coolness” on setting and characters that I see in actual play reports of Primetime Adventures when groups build their games from the ground up, but we were hampered when Tracey had to dash off part of the way through to see her mother, leaving us with less discussion time.

Another potential problem has cropped up since. I’ve been sending the odd e-mail and developing the sector of space we’ll be playing in, when I realised today that there were two preferences in collision. As I wrote above, Sam wants a home game that ties into the Dawn of Defiance campaign the RPGA is publishing (and that the game at SRDU was tied into) so that he can use his “Prelude to Defiance” character in both (which the RPGA is cool with, by the way). The problem is that the ten Dawn of Defiance modules are released on a monthly schedule, and as we’re playing Star Wars once a month, we can either play in our home-brewed sector or the Dawn of Defiance modules, not both.

I’ve e-mailed my players asking which they’d prefer. Our next session is November 10th; I need some sort of call on who wants what ASAP so I know whether or not to start statting out NPCs (and so that, should we decide on the DoD campaign, we can get a friend with Herald-level RPGA access to download the module and send it to me).