Wednesday, January 28, 2015

92 Days - Supporting Artist (The Art Quest, Part III)

Supporting Artist

Today I received two amazing pieces of artwork that I purchased at Grand Prix Denver.  Aaron Miller, a fantasy artist (i.e. Magic cards) was nice enough to paint me two custom pieces of art for my Real Magic Deck of playing cards that I've been working on for a while now (for more details, see some of my previous blog posts).  Normally I ask the artist to do a sketch or quick drawing for the cards, mainly due to their limited time availability at Grand Prix's - a lot of folks want signatures/drawings.

While these cards did cost a bit more than a normal sketch/alter, getting something when the artist really has the time to dedicate to it results in some spectacular results.  When I get pieces like this, it really reinforces to me how important it is to support artist.  Not only do you receive something truly special and unique when you support an artist but you also help them continue to be an artist (which can be a very difficult career).  The next time you see something that really grabs you - be it a custom-made magic card, a photograph, or other art piece that moves you - consider supporting the artist.  A piece of beauty that you can experience for years is certainly worth a couple weeks of Starbucks.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

93 Days - Quest for the Ninja Panda

The Quest for the Ninja Panda

Back in August, 2014, I attended Grand Prix Portland, a large Magic: the Gathering event.  It was a great event, many of my friends played and I (and my awesome teammates) nearly made Day 2 (where you play for actual money prizes).  Even my wife flew up to hang out (and do a bit of shopping).

I was very pleased with my play during the Grand Prix. When Sunday rolled around I knew the event was winding down and I decided I'd just play some of the smaller, less stressful events.  Normally when I play Magic (and games in general), I value having fun playing more than I do than just winning.  When someone I'm playing with makes a mistake or I can see an area that I could help them with, I will let them "take it back" and play correctly or provide them advice to help their play.  I had just assumed that this Sunday would just be another relaxing day to play a little bit of magic and socialize a bit with other games.  Turns out I was gravely mistaken.

Nearly every Grand Prix has a charity event on Sunday.  It's a 5-round event that normally starts mid-afternoon (3-4pm).  These events are run for many different charities, but nearly always something in the gaming-genre (such as raising money for ChildsPlayCharity,org).  This particular charity event was raising money for #TeamPanda, a fund to help a young magic player who was seriously injured in a car accident (read more here).

While it might sound fun and motivating to play in an event for charity, these are brutal events.  First, they are remarkably cheap, costing only $20 for a sealed event (normally a sealed event would be $30).  This means that everyone who was nearly out of money will try and scrap together $20 to join to try and hit it big.  This leads us to the second reason these are brutal - the prizes for such a low-entry-fee are really good!  You the normal prize payout for a 5-round event (5-0 gets two boxes [aprox $200]) and there are always extra prizes donated.  Third, this is the event that a lot of people who scrubbed out of the main event on day one and then lost whatever large event they were trying to win on day two join at the last minute to try to "win something" before having to go home.  These folks are generally angry and upset, making for a crazy player environment.  You do have a few folks who do just want to play for fun and enjoy themselves (i.e., normally me).  Lastly, this is a regular rules enforcement level (REL) event, which is another way of saying: Barely any rules at all. All of this mixed together creates a whirlwind of an event.

As I was waiting in my seat to open my packs and start the chaos, the head judge was making his normal announcements ("It's for charity!!") and then he said he was going to show us the extra donated prizes that were going to be included in this event.  He showed off a playmat, drawn by RK Post, I believe.  A 1oz silver magic coin and some magic co-play costumes.

Then he held up this.

Within about 4 nanoseconds my brain instantly went from "Friendly Mr. Anth" to "Kill The Peoples" mode.  I wanted that playmat.  I needed that playmat.  I was going to have that playmat.  I've been playing magic for more than 20 years, and in that time I feel I've learned how to play the game pretty well - I know the rules and have a pretty good win percentage - but I don't consider myself a particular good player, certainly not a professional - but I knew as soon as I saw that Ninja Panda, there was not a player in that whole conference center that was going to get in my way.

I built my deck - more accurately, my deck built itself - I opened absolutely awesome cards; even the universe knew what was about to go down.  Round one pairings went up and I was paired against a somewhat new player; this was her first "big event".  I nearly felt sorry for her before the image of the Cobra Kai leader from Karate Kid screams at me: "No mercy! Mercy is for the weak!"  She made mistakes.  Small ones.  In this situation, lethal ones.  The match was over.  Round two awaited.

Round two I was paired against an older gentleman, who was quite nice.  It was not a good day for nice.  Sadly for him, it seems as if his deck was made of blank cards - he played very few cards, and those that he did, I dealt with in quick fashion.  When we were done, he thanked me for the match and actually said that he was surprised with the way I played that I wasn't still in the main event. I really appreciated that, and even commented that to me, this was the main event.  Did I mention I wanted that mat?

My third round was probably the most enjoyable (not the most fun, that was round four).  I was playing against a stuck-up, pretentious, 30-something punk who was putting other players down and basically making a fool of himself.  He was saying how great he was, how many Pro Points he had and how he would have made Day 2 in the main event, but he got game losses for stupid things and that the judges (referees) were incompetent and did not make rulings in his favor.  I swear, in my head I heard Mr. T. say "I pity da foo!"  He made dumb mistakes.  I did not let him take them back.  He made bad plays.  I stared right at him the entire time, asking him frequently "are you sure you want to do that?" and "I want to make sure, you are done, correct?".  His mind started to crack.  I did not stop for one second.  The match is the best of three games, and I won game one after a long battle.  He scrapped a win in game two and we went to game three.  It played out basically like this:

Turn 1: I play small pointed stick; attack.
Turn 2: I play medium pointed stick; attack.
Turn 3: I play thermonuclear warhead; smile evilly; attack
Turn 4: I play Deathstar; attack
Turn 5: I put away my cards and get ready for round four.

Round four was one of the most fun matches I had not only that day, but over the entire four days!  I was paired against a younger Asian lady, who when she initially sat down acted very "Oh! Hai! I've never played this game before, I must be very lucky!".  When we got our match record sheet, I looked down and saw her DCI number and commented: "Six digits huh? Guess you've been playing for a while."  She smiled and was about to say something disarming and then looked at the paper and saw my DCI.  She stopped smiling, she looked at me and said: "This will be a fun match."  She quickly changed gears in both her attitude and relaxed play style and we had a absolutely back-and-forth battle.  Other players actually started watching us play, it was very Rocky-esq.  We only played two games, and while I was playing some of the best magic I've played before, I was also just a bit luckier than she was that day.  After winning the second game, I felt mentally exhausted.  And I still had one more round to go.

Turns out, that the last round was remarkably anti-climatic.  My opponent, who turned out to be a semi-pro, but just missed playing in Day 2, had not realized that I (to quote my favorite movie ever, Blues Brothers), "Was on a mission from God."  I proceeded to draw perfect magic cards, while he drew, what I can only guess were, Uno cards, some Subway coupons, a dry cleaning ticket and a three-of-clubs.  He was, to use the technical vernacular, smooshed like a bug.

After winning I think I must have sprinted to the prize collection area.  The guy behind the counter was fumbling around trying to find the boxes to give me and I wanted to scream at him: GIVE ME THE PLAYMAT!, but I kept my cool for nearly 8 seconds after he handed it to me before I screamed "It's mine!!!"

I've won a lot of stuff playing magic over the years, but I can say without a doubt, this is one of the proudest and most awesome trophies that I've ever won!

Go Ninja Panda!

Monday, January 26, 2015

94 Days - My Friend Math

My Friend Math

I realize that today's update is actually a day late, but I wanted to have all my numbers "crunched" before posting.  Today is the 7th day of my 100 Days project and I decided to look at some of the numbers from this first week.  I'm not planning on doing this every week, but a few times throughout the project.  I thought it would be fun and informative to see what objective data I could get from this week.  While I have numbers and information, I would be hard-pressed to try and interpret it to mean anything other than I really enjoy math and statistical data.

Current Days: 7
Blog Posts: 7
Facebook Posts; 7
Tweets: 7

Blog Views: 239

*This really surprises me - I mean, I'm glad folks are reading this, but I had no idea that many people were reading my randomness.

Photos Posted: 32
Flickr Views: 464

Photos Taken: 33 (unposted)

Dinner Cooked: 4

Board Games Played: 7

Paintings Started: 2
Paintings Completed: 0
Hours Painting: 4.5

Hours Typing: 9

Those are all of the metrics that I've been tracking so far, but I'm sure I will think of more random things about this little journey to quantify!

95 Days - Framily, Food and Fear

Framily, Food and Fear

This weekend was the first after starting my 100 Days project, and I knew that it was going to be a bit chaotic (in both a good and bad way).  This weekend was a "framily" birthday celebration and I knew we'd have a lot of folks over as well as a lot of amazing food!  Theresa (with a little assist from me) even cooked a hand-made lasagna - that was just epic!  Others were bringing Chinese food, Guatemalan food, a crazy-array of snack and goodies, plus we still had Swiss chocolate!  I knew that I was going to eat this amazing food, multiple times in fact, and that was a serious concern for me; I was actually a little afraid of how this was going to impact me.

Over this first week, I felt that I was doing pretty well in the "food" area.  I cooked meals three days, including utilizing leftovers (go tacos!) and we had dinner out, but those were social events that were planned way in advance that we knew were going to involve dining out - not just "screw it, let's go to McDonald's" things.  I also knew that this weekend was going to be a big potluck feast and as such there would be lots of leftovers to see us through Sunday; the healthiness-factor was a bit to be desired.

As everyone arrived Saturday morning/afternoon, they each entered with a smile, a hug, and a giant pot of food!  My fear level instantly went to "11" when the first guest walked in and had two full bags of Chinese food piping hot.  My fear was this: I believed that I had two choices in what I could do.  First, I could just throw all logic and thoughts on my health out the window and begin the 14 hour "grazing-fest" that would be the day and feel horrible about it afterwards.  I would beat myself up about it for days later and try and "balance" it out by eating 11 pounds of celery for the next four days and exercising so much that I hurt my back.  Second, I could attempt to avoid eating anything unhealthy and basically isolate myself from everyone (food is a big part of our social events, so to not eat while we are all socializing is a major faux pas).  I could and try and only eat the veggies (many of which are not healthy as one would think - I'm talking to you Buttered Bourbon Baked Carrots!) and avoid all of the processed carbs and sugars.

I really wasn't happy with either of these two ideas.  I remembered my 99 Words project and I though of which would I would add today - Balance.  I decided I would eat the dishes, a little of each, balancing the good with the "bad" (tho, nothing was bad).  Someone actually made my plate up for me, which took a major element of stress off of how big of a serving should I give myself of each thing?  She was nice enough to just put a little of each dish on the plate.  When asked if I wanted seconds, I declined - I knew I'd have to eat more later in the evening so I put off my "seconds" until the next meal, whereas in the past I would have had both.

I also focused more on fruits for desert than cake, but I didn't feel bad, nor did I berate myself for having a small piece during the main celebration.

I took from this experience, that while I still ate unhealthy, mentally I felt better about the process and I definitely feel that I did better than I've done in the past.  This improvement gives me encouragement for the next event that I'll do even better.

Bonus Tip!

If you know you are going to be in a similar situation, one thing that I forced myself to do was drink more water than I normally do.  This helped me avoid sodas and other unhealthy drinks.  It also helps to feel more full throughout the day, as well as helping you avoid dehydration. Lastly, it allowed me to vocalize (even if only a little bit) that I was trying to be a bit healthier: "No soda for me, I'm good with water! Thanks!"

Saturday, January 24, 2015

96 Days - Games! Part 1

Why I Love Games, Part I

I really love games!  Just about any type really; board games, card games, dice games, CCGs, social games, you name it and I probably have played it!

One aspect of games that I enjoy so much is teaching games.  I enjoy teaching games for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, I feel when I have to teach a game, it gives me a better understanding of the game.  I know I really need to have a good grasp on the game to be able to explain the rules and methods behind a game.  Secondly, I really enjoy getting people excited in playing games and I believe the first way to get someone into gaming is to teach it in a fun and exciting way.  Lastly, teaching games has really helped me improve my skills as a trainer and facilitator.  I have used many of the methods I've picked up teaching games over the years in my work.

I was very happy tonight to both teach and play a couple of new games with friends.  It reminded me that when I was a trainer, I received many accolades.  I look forward to future game days!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

97 Days - Basel Paper Museum (Switzerland)

Basler Papiermuhle (Paper Museum) 
Euro Trip, 2014, Part 1

Today is my first photo project for 100 Days of Me!  We recently got back from Europe and rather than waiting 2-3 years before I get around to actually editing pictures, I thought I'd actually do them in a somewhat reasonable amount of time!

As to not cause my brain to explode trying to edit them all (near 6,000 total shots), I've broken it up into small chunks.  Now you get to experience some of the fun we had traveling in Switzerland and France!  

Our first stop is at one of the coolest places we've ever been!  It's the Basler Papiermuhle (the Paper Museum); it's both a paper and printing museum and a working print shop!  They still make paper by hand and use awesome antique printing machines (and techniques, such as marbling paper!).  We spent over two hours running around acting like 7-year-old's at a toy store.  Theresa got to actually make paper, run a small printing press and marble paper!  

If you just happen to be hanging out in Basel, Switzerland, you should absolutely go visit!  


(If you prefer to view them on Flickr, you can do so here)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

98 Days - Awesome People are Awesome

Awesome People

There are times when I meet people for the first time in a social environment, such as a poker night or a friends cocktail party and I ask them: "What do you do?" and they answer "Oh, I'm a singer" or "I'm an actor/actress".  I think that's pretty awesome - I sound like a drowning cat if I try and sing and I don't think I could act my way out of a wet paper bag.  I file that information away in my head and it sits there quietly, saying "Yep, that's a singer."  It never says "OMG! You totally know famous person who sings the awesomeness!!!".  I think this is because when I'm playing cards with folks, or chilling having cocktails, or otherwise just socializing with folks, they don't normally bust out singing (or acting) and show off how awesome they are.

Tonight was different.  Tonight I got to see the awesome - and a lot of it!  I went to a show tonight and got to see some good friends of mine, who I knew were singers/actors but never really got to experienced their awesomeness before.  They blew the house down.  I was so excited to not only get to hear them sing, but to really understand that they aren't just singers, but Singers (big capital "S"!).

Being in the presence of someone who is an expert at their craft is always such a joy.  I want to thank my friends for letting me be a part of such a wonderful experience (even if just as a bystander!)  Melissa, Ben, Tom, Peter and all of the rest!

I include this as part of my 100 Days of Me, because it's both inspiring and motivational - if you practice, are dedicated and have self-esteem, great things can happen!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

99 Days

For the first time in over five years, I decided that I would do some painting today as part of my 100 Days for Me project.  Back in 2009, Theresa and I took some painting classes at the local community college and they were quite a bit of fun, except for the fact I really disliked what I made.  (Theresa's work was awesome!).  I think I was trying to hard to paint in a way that wasn't comfortable for me.  I have an issue with depth perception and rendering things in three-dimensions.  And when you're being asked to draw/paint objects, that can be tricky.  For this project, I'm going to try to be a bit more abstract and enjoy myself!

The painting is called "99 Words".  Every day I'm going to add one "word" to it, be it literally or conceptually.  The painting will be done on the 100th day of my project.  I have no idea what it will end up looking like.

For my first word, I chose "Patience" for a few reasons.  Normally when I'm working on an art project I try and complete it as soon as possible.  For this project, I want to slow down and enjoy the process, not just the end result.  I also need to learn patience for this whole experience.  Last night after posting day 1, I immediately thought about what I need to do for the rest of the week and starting mapping out what I needed for the entire project.  I need to patience to realize that this project needs to be more organic and not to force the process.  I threw away the map, and I'm going to let tomorrow (and the rest of the week) just "happen".

99 day to go.


Monday, January 19, 2015

100 Days for Me - Day 001

100 Days for Me

2015, a new year, and for me it will be a “decade” year – the year I turn 40!  For this exciting year, I’ve decided to work on a pretty big project – I want to be and feel like a better version of myself!  Normally I’m not really into the whole “self-help/self-actualization” thing but I believe that we have the capacity to be so much more.  I’ve learned that the most restrictive force in many peoples’ lives is their own mind (i.e., self-doubt, lack of desire, negative attitude, willpower, etc.). 

I consider myself a logical person, almost to a fault – when something is wrong or someone is upset, I usually try and see it in “black and white” terms and think: “If thing X is making you sad, just don’t do it anymore.”  I might consider what they are doing to be illogical, but perhaps to them it’s not about logic, but something else.  What I’ve never done before is question “why” people, myself included, do some of these crazy things.  I have these arguments with myself; I know I do things that I really shouldn’t and I understand that they are completely illogical (and even harmful) and yet I still do them.  What I’ve decided is that I need to learn how not to think in just “black and white” concepts, but realize there is a whole lot of grey out there! 

To help myself with this, I’ve created a special kind of project (as you know, I love projects!) called “100 Days for Me”.  I realize that it sounds a bit self-centered, and to be fair, it is a bit, but it is also a tool that I hope will help me be a better person. 

The 100 Days for Me project is conceptually an easy project to be a part of – over the next 100 days I’m going to focus on taking better care of myself.  This can be mentally, emotionally, or physically, (and likely all three).  I’m going to try and create an environment that helps me feel better.  I am also going to try and limit my exposure to things have been known to cause a negative impact on my well-being.  I’m going to do tasks that in the past I considered “silly” or “stupid” because I think part of getting better is letting go of old, negative ideas and experiences and gaining some new and exciting ones.

Just as important as what the 100 Days for Me project is, it’s just as important as what it is not.  It is not an excuse for me to isolate myself from other people or to blame others for how my life is.  It is not to compare my goals and achievements against anyone else’s.  This is not a race to become “perfect” in 100 days. 

For me personally I have these goals as part of my 100 Days for Me project:

  • Write and share something every day about my 100 Days journey
  • Enjoy taking photographs
  • Cook more meals
  • Complete art without self-judgment
  • Improve my health
  • Be positive

That’s it!  It was much easier to type those goals than to think about what it is going to take to accomplish them!  I might not know how to achieve each of those goals, I remind myself of the last goal – be positive, and I know that 99 days from now each of those goals will realized in a positive way and I’ll be a better me.  

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Art Quest - Trophies from Denver

Happy New Year to all!

2014 ended in a crazy way.  In early December, we had a strange convergence of luck and work that ended up with us going to Switzerland and France for a couple of weeks.  We got to visit some amazing museums and sites.  We even spent Christmas at Notre Dame Cathedral.  After our European trek, we came home for a few days (literally), and then packed back up and headed to Denver for New Years Eve - and Grand Prix Denver!

Important Note for California's heading to Colorado during late December - It's frickin' cold!  Not silly "San Francisco" cold where you actually think about putting on your windbreaker jacket.  It's not even the "East Bay" cold when you have the Starbucks barista leave the cup cozie off your double-latte so it will make your hands toasty.  No, this was Stupid Cold.  It was Negative19.  I'm not going to type "-19", because that little "-" isn't powerful enough to impress how cold it was.  I'm using the whole damn word for this one!  Negative Nineteen Frickin' Degrees!  Cold.

Just in case I'm being too subtle here, NOT flip-flop and t-shirt weather.

Well, after getting over the insane weather condition and celebrating the new year, it was time to head to the Grand Prix, both to play some Magic and continue my quest of getting more cards for my Real Magic Deck!  After researching, I discovered there would be 4 new artist for me engage in the quest.  I though since it was so bloody cold, that the Grand Prix wouldn't be too full - I was epically wrong.  The lines for some of the artist were considerable - I guess without some difficulty it wouldn't be a quest!

The first artist I was able to meet was Jeff Miracola, who did two fabulous cards for me.  I requested the two of hearts (as Beebles) and the two of clubs (as Slivers).  The Beebles has already become one of the favorite cards in the set.

Next up was Jim Pavelec.  I requested the five of diamonds (as Dragon Roost) and four of spades (as Frost Marsh).

Chris Rahn, who was not listed on the website as being in attendance was a great surprise.  The unfortunate part was he was constantly swamped with fans.  I was finally able to wait in line long enough to get one card done, but was unable to get the time to get a second card.  For his one card, I requested the Queen of clubs (as Nylea), and while he was crazy-busy I think he did a great job.

Lastly, I met Aaron Miller, who like Mr. Rahn was frequently busy with lines of fans.  I was able to meet him during a small lull on Friday and asked him for two cards; the King of diamonds (as Ajani) and the ten of hearts (as Chained to the Rocks).  After he flipped my binder of all of previously completed cards, he offered to do full-paintings of the two cards I requested.  I totally jumped at the offer!  I love sketches and drawings, but any time I can get a full art card I always take it (see the Steve Argyle cards).  I knew these would take a considerable amount of time, so I basically left him be until Sunday afternoon.  Sunday afternoon I went to collect the cards, and I was saddened to learn that he just didn't have the time to finish them.  He showed me the sketches that he started and they looked awesome.  He was really excited to work on them and wanted to be able to spend time to complete them correctly.  He even offered to ship them to me (for free!) once he was done - so I certainly couldn't say no!  So, I'm awaiting these two pieces to arrive, and as soon as they do I'll post some pics of them.