Sunday, July 26, 2015

Maysville Reading

When I have blocks of time where my normal sedimentary activities aren't taking over, aka binging on hours of Netflix or Hulu, I like to read.

One book recommended to me that I finally finished, was Eat the Frog!



The idea is to finish off your least most desirable tasks and get the day started.

Well, it's slightly more complicated then that. There are other bits that include time management, some good old 80/20 thinking, looking at the three things that add the most value to your company, and others, but yeah, it was well worth a read.

The other one I finished off was Supply Chain Management Demystified. Working in various parts of the supply chain, from the manufacturing, to the packaging, to the distribution side of it, it's always good to 'sharpen the saw' as Stephen Covey would say.



Lots of solid ground advice here and well worth keeping as an introduction and reference piece.

I poked around a few other books as well but didn't finished them so I'll probably touch on them another day when the books are finished.

Nice to be back in Chicago. It's not even that I'm some weird city-boy who has to be active 24-7 but I like having my own bed to sleep in and my own internet to use and my own car to drive.




Saturday, July 25, 2015

Return to Maysville

I did not join my regular Friday Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition group yesterday.

I had spent man hours in the car coming back from Maysville.

It so happens I was very lucky.

On our way back, we say traffic piled up for miles going the other way. Turns out there was a bad accident the previous day and there was still work being done to clean it up. Just goes to show that accidents happen anywhere.

The city of Maysville Kentucky was quite during my time there. I again tried to eat at places that I would not normally venture to in the city.

One of the places I went to was the Old Pogue Whiskey refinery. One of my friends, Kim, was driving. We had never been there before but made it with no problem.  We did not however, know where the actual building was.

Another friend, Chong, and I, walked out of the car and checked out one of the buildings. Was a residential house. She pointed us up the hill with its zig zagging road. In the hot Kentucky weather and it's damp humidity, the remnants of near record setting rains, we climbed the hill panting and wishing we were in better shape.

There were two buildings at the top of that hill. On one side, a huge manor. I believe that was where the majority of things were happening.



the other side was a small store front with a delivery truck being loaded in front of it. That's where we went. One of the workers, I don't know if it was the owner, spoke with us about the longevity of the family formulas. He mentioned how it had a special flavor brought out in part by the water running through limestone. He also provided us with a tasting of the various whiskey flavors that were sold there. All were solid but of course, the best one he had, the Old Pogue, was out and you had to join a waiting list for it.




It was worth the trip and if I had more funds, would have been even more worth the trip. I cannot emphasis how down to earth the employee was. He even let us take some pictures of where the alcohol was being brewed.



I picked up three bottles there were 375 ml each and each one costing $45. Not cheap but it was made right there.

His biggest problem? Capacity. He couldn't keep up with the demand and was constantly sold out. If he were a public company, I wonder what the pressures of the stockholders would due to him? Glad to get what I did though.

In terms of food? I tried to eat at places that were not local to Chicago. I was not have always successful, but I did managed to avoid things that I normally go to.  The place that broke the mold right away in places I've been and will be again? The dreaded Cracker Barrel.

We decided to stop for food on the way out. I had the haddoc, sweet potato, and green beans. Throw in some biscuits and tea and you've got a fine lunch.



No matter where you go, it would seem that chicken is a thing. Maysville was no exception. Here they had Lee's Chicken and they had some fantastic broasted chicken. And sweet tea? You want to talk about sweet tea? Liquid sugar would be about the only way to describe it.


Another place I ate was the Penn Station. Now I hear they have some locations locally but I'd never been to one. Reminded me of the chain the Great Steak and Potato. The fries were excellent and the philly cheesesteak I had was so filling I only snacked for dinner that night.



One of them was the bar/bar food place, Tumbleweeds, right outside the hotel.


I had the beef brisket there. They screwed up on my fries and put a ton of onions and the brisket. The brisket itself was a little fatty. The sauce and the portion sizes were good though and I'd eat there again.

I also ate at a local Mexican restaurant. To the good people of Kentucky, if that's what passes for Mexican in your neck of the woods, you have my apologies.

I didn't get as much reading done as I did before becuase I brought my tablet. It was both friend and enemy. It kept boredom away but also distracted me. I'll save what I did read for a future post.

Looking forward to trying out that whiskey at a later date and getting back to some Chicago time. Hope everyone had a better week and got some good gaming in.



Sunday, July 19, 2015

Gaming: 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons and Warmachine

In gaming, I've been in a 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons campaign based off of the Rise of Tiamat.  I'm playing an Old One bound Warlock.

We're still on book one, around the 5th chapter of Hoard of the Dragon Queen.

The GM is kind of not using XP, kind of using it. Sort of an annoyance as I've missed two weeks and am a full level behind the group of new characters that replaced the party that was decimated.

Also annoying is that the game is using critical hits not only for weapons, but also for spells. On weapons the party hasn't been horribly crippled, but have suffered some losses. On spells, we've managed to inflict some impressive critical hits.

But that's a pendulum that will have a vicious swing when it turns back our way.

If I didn't enjoy hanging out with this group, I'd probably wait until we rotated out this game and went into another. I have a good time but the game itself isn't the reason.

In other avenues, I'm a miniature painter and collector. One of my friends has been busting my chops to play more. I've been playing Warmachine. It's a fun setting based in the Iron Kingdoms.

The faction I play, is Retribution.



I've mentioned before that I like the 'angry' elves. The design of their machines are different, being round and smooth as oppopsed to square and chunky.

I've only played a handful of games. I'm still learning the rules. Haven't won a game yet.

But I am going to keep playing. It provides a lot of fodder for my brain in almost every way. The fiction in the line varies. I didn't think too much of my faction's fiction last go round. But the models released? Tops.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Chicago Gameday 41: Earthdawn

Despite playing numerous fantasy settings and rule systems, Earthdawn is one that I never got into. I never read the fiction or owned any of the various supplements. There might have been some reading many years ago based on friends recommendations, but actual play?

That changed a few weeks ago during Chicago Gameday 41. Gameday is an opportunity to play with new people and try new systems. Depending on what's being run, you can even find games you're already familiar with and want to dip a toe in. I generally use it as a testing ground for games I haven't played before.

Earthdawn scenario is described as the following: Your caravan returns to Bartertown to find that your patron has gone missing. Meanwhile, a sinister organization plots the downfall of a kingdom. Do you have what it takes to rescue your boss as well as your paycheck? (Characters provided, rules will be taught).

The pregenerated characters were cleanly written and easy to understand. The GM did a solid job on the sheets. The book itself? Not a fan of the format. It's one of those off sized shapes and in softcover. It's so thick that I can't imagine that it'll hold up long under constant use. It's a book that looks like it could easily have been broken into two or three separate books if they were going for that size. 

Our first combat was an introduction scene against some peasants stealing from us as we made our way to Bartertown and then the actual adventure itself started. It was a good method to use in order for us to get the basics of combat down without a huge fear of poor tactics ending us.

The adventure was fun. I wound up playing a female smith, the 'serious' merchant lord. The GM wrote out numerous bits on how my character felt about the various other characters including her brother who she tended to look down on. I used that to ham it up a bit with my bard brother whose player did an excellent job of making him a whiskey drinking, bar hopping womanizer. 

The system itself is a little swingy. Dice explode. On some actions, you can be roling a lot of dice. The more dice you roll, the more opportunities for an explosion. It's great when it works for you, which it did for the group a surprising number of times.

Not so great when it works against you. Which as my problem with criticals, is that the Game Master is ALWAYS going to be rolling more dice then you. 

Earthdawn was enjoyable and I'd play it again. My friend, +erik labelle has run it for my fellow gamers in the past and if it comes up again, I'll have to take a swing at it. Apparently 4th edition 'fixed' some of the problems like bypassing armor. I've heard that this was a huge problem as you already get penalties for wearing armor in the first place so if someone can bypass it... Not familiar enough personally to say how that works in the long run.

Afterwards, I wandered through Games Plus and picked up a few nick nacks like some Games Workshop Trees, the three 'new' Games Workshop paints and some other bits. I wanted to see what the main difference was between the old and new paints. Haven't delved into that much yet as I haven't used a lot of gold since I bought them. 

Anyone else check out conventions for the opportunity to see how games play? Any great stories come out of that? Any horror stories? I have to say, in terms of horror stories, I've been lucky. Very rarely have I had any issue, either when playing, or running. It's like the people I'm playing with game there to enjoy the game and play it as opposed to being terrible people.

Anyway, thanks to Games Plus for hosting and I'm looking forward to hopefully going in the future. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Missed Session and I avoid the TPK

TPK is short for Total Party Kill.

Two weeks ago, I was away on business so missed the game. It also meant missing the XP and getting up to 3rd level.

This week I was ready to go and made the mistake of thinking, "Man, wouldn't it be awesome to take a nap and be super charged for the game?"

After the nap my body was like, "No son, that's no nap, it's actually time to go to sleep." While my back pain has been more manageable, at the end of the week, it catches up to me quite a bit and rest is good. I'm also still recovering from the actual trip out of state.

So I let my friends know I wouldn't be making it and promptly fell back asleep.

Next day, the text. "TPK."

Turns out that there were some failed stealth rolls, some villains played intelligently, some lack of information among the players, and well, my friend running the Hoard of the Dragon Queen, got to have his first TPK in 5th edition.

When I was running the Mines adventure from the starter set, when the party was in the tower and the dragon breathed on them twice, thanks to letting a player reroll the 'charge' on the breath weapon, it was almost a TPK.

But this was a true TPK.

So now the DM is allowing everyone to make new characters starting at 2nd level, the level which I'm currently at.

I can't complain too much as I missed two sessions.

At this point, the people who wanted the 'Blood and Steel' critical hits might be rethinking things as one of them lost an arm to an attack. He then tried to hide in shadows and the GM is very "no nonsense" as he had the guards just follow the blood trail and finish off the hiding rogue.

It's just like those who voted against it said, "the number of attacks coming against the players is always going to be greater than those the players make." The sheer number of attacks, from the lowest level weaklings to the most powerful elements in the game, have the ability to strike critical hits. In such a situation, the players will always lose.

On the other hand, 5th edition characters are much easier to make, manage and level up than previous editions. Still, it would be nice to have some official character generators for the game to make it even easier if you know what I mean.

For other players out there, have you had any recent TPKs? Was it something stupid? Something that the party could have avoided?

How does the GM handle bringing in new characters? Same level? One level behind? Start at first regardless of the levels involved? Something else?

Me? I'll be curious to see what the group dynamic is now. Despite the threat of critical hits, it looks like the group is making more up front fighter types as opposed to what was in the party before. It'll be interesting to see for sure.


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Maysville Kentucky: Part II: The Foods


So travelling to Maysville Kentucky for a week required work to, you know, pay for food and stuff. There are a couple of different ways companies handle this. For the hotel and transportation, the company paid for that through a company card used by our team leader. Good deal right?

For the food, they gave us cash. So much per day.

Then I forgot the cash at home.

Sigh.

When I eat when I'm out of the city, I try to go to places I wouldn't normally eat at when home.

On the way out to Maysville, we stopped at a gas station with a ton of different places. I wandered over to Larosa. It's a pizza chain not native to Chicago and it's nearby regions. I had a three meat personal pizza. Very good.



One of my friends had a half-sandwich and salad. He enjoyed the salad but almost wept when he saw the sandwich due to its puny size. He's used to eating at a local place by work called Eastern Style Pizza with its massive (both in size and cost) grinders.

Once we got to Maysville, there was talk of stopping at Walmart to purchase good so that we could save the cash given to us.

I spent a few bucks and sent my goods home with one of my friends. See the team leader wanted to watch a Black Hawks game. He's like, "Hey dudes, it's on at 6:00 PM so show up!" He decided to go to Applebee's.

M'eh. I've eaten at Applebee's many a time. It's not the worst food on earth or anything but it's also by far not the best. I had fish and chips and the blondie for desert.

The next day though, I decided to have a turkey and cheese sandwich as that was the foodstuff i had purchased from Walmart. My friends wanted to go out and eat. Kind of defeated the purpose of going to Walmart if you ask me.

I also picked up some Belvita snacks. They were for work along with some power bars. They made an edible if unimaginative lunch for most of my time down there.

I did break down and go to Big Boy for lunch one day when I forgot my power bars.


Big Boy is another chain, this one a hamburger one, that is not native to the Chicago region. Fair food. Better than McDonald's and a nice atmosphere.

We wanted to take in at least a little of the 'local' cuisine so went to Bluelicks Battlefield or something of that nature. One of the guys who'd been out to Maysville before told us how great it was.

He was dead wrong. It was a tiny buffet style dinner with very dried chicken and mediocre mashed potatoes. Only saving grace was the apple pie was good. But $20 for apple pie, especially when drinks, like soda, are not included? We didn't go there again.

Last day there I picked up a few things of the alcoholic nature and finished off a 4 pack of Kentucky Ale.


There was some hard liquor purchased as well but I haven't gotten around to that one yet. Saving it. I'm afraid I can't really drink on a weekday if it's 'the good stuff' because like the old song goes, the more I drink, the more I drink, the more I drink.



On the way out, we stopped at the Waffle House.



Looks like this is another chain. It was across from a McDonald's. I was surprised at how busy the McDonald's was considering how good the Waffle House signature waffle's were. On the other hand, I paid extra for the country ham and it was so salty I could not finish it. If I can't finish something you know there's problems.

If I had brought cash, I might have spent more. Might have spent some time in the nearby bars or gone into downtown for the steak house I'd heard good things about.

Still, there's always next time!

It was good to try out a few new chains and to see what the local were eating.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Maysville Kentucky Trip Part One: The Books I read

I found myself recently having to do to Maysville Kentucky for work.

During that trip, I managed to finish reading two nonfiction books that I'd been dragging feet on.

The first was The Black Swan. A book from author Nassim Nicholas Taleb that talks about the unexpected.

It's a nice read for the most part. There are a few bits where he gets into some math theory that I was like "What?" but the majority of the book was enjoyable.

One of the things I like is that he talks about a LOT of different things on his roundabout way of looking at the unexpected.

For example, he talks about how when many companies merge that things run smoother. Until they don't. And because these companies are now merged and under one umbrella, when something happens, it usually has a much larger impact.

Like say banks failing due to some crisis or another? Yeah... he's good.

So good that in between when I bought this and read it, he's come out with a second edition.

Sigh.

Seems to be a problem I have where I pick up an interesting book, read it, and then the second edition is already out. It'll be a while before I get to that as Nassim has several other books out that I'd like to read over.

Another example of things that were 'thought' provoking if you will, is the author noting that after the unexpected thing happens, how quickly we are to narrate a story of how if someone had seen X, Y, and Z, that it could have been stopped or prevented. The need to craft stories out of failure is powerful.

The second book I read was the Loyalty Effect.  The Loyalty Effect is written by Frederick F Reichheld. I picked this one up after reading Firms of Endearment. Another book I had finished recently that just came out with a second edition.

Reading the Loyalty Effect, I imagine that it too will have a second edition in the near future. It's about 20 years out of date in terms of the data its relying on to make its points.

It's main points though?

That corporations profit when they have a chain of loyalty going on.

1. Loyalty to the employee. That's a shocker eh? When you treat the employee right and give them motivation and the employee is a good fit for the company, it actually pays out more to the company to keep such employees, even during tough times than sacking them for short term profits.

2. Loyalty to the customer: A lot of this is in providing value to the costumer. Mind you, much like I say that the employee has to be a good fit for the company in #1 above, the same is true here. It's not that you want to bend over backwards for any costumer, but if you can keep your customers happy and keep them coming back? It's a profit generating machine.

3. Loyalty to the company: This one is a little more difficult for me to put into words because the book notes that when you are a publically held company, the pressure is always on to make those short term goals but in essence, you don't want to ruin what makes the company one which earned the loyalty of customers and employees because then you're investors are going to abandon you anyway because you're not going to be turning the profits you were when you were taking care of 1 and 2 in the first place.

Some good reading and I was glad to finish them off and get some new books into the click.