Saturday, December 04, 2010

No Excuses

Whyfor no blog for 6 months? Lots of reasons, none of them particularly interesting or good. :) In the interim, I went to Hampshire, England for pleasure and Edmonton, Alberta for work. I opened two exhibits and closed one. I lost 3 of my 5 dart frogs, and bought 1 new one. My diabetic cat went back on insulin, then into remission, then back onto insulin. And my bicycle was stolen.

You might remember my bicycle; I blogged about buying it back in May of 2007, and before that I blogged about my lust for this particular bicycle (or one like it) for at least a year or two. It was the first big purchase I made when I became full-time employed again--my reward to myself for sticking out the 5 years of living frugally with only part-time work and sponging off my parents keeping me afloat. This bike was special in a sappy sentimental way, and also in a this-bike-fucking-rocks kind of a way. I hadn't had a new bike since 1984, and this 2006 Trek FX 7.3 was worth the wait, I have to say.

So when I got out of work on Saturday November 13, I was naturally pretty upset to discover that it had been stolen from the garage, right in front of the garage greeter who isn't always an actual security guard. My friend Sarah--a goddess if ever there was one--drove me around the neighborhood for nearly an hour looking to see if we could catch someone out and about on it, but to no avail. Returning to the museum, I learned that the thief had been caught on camera, and furthermore had had multiple alteractions with our security staff after trying to chain his own bike (yes, he arrived on a bike) to a guard rail fence. When he was told he needed to chain it in the garage instead, he became abusive, and shouted that he was a ticket scalper who worked downtown and didn't have TIME to waste putting his bike in the garage. (Apparently he did have time to steal my fucking bike. And time to get a ladyfriend of his to walk over to the museum and pick his own bike up while I was standing 10 feet away in tears trying to file a security report. It was only later upon review of the camera footage that we realized this.) When we heard the bit about him being a ticket scalper, Sarah said, "You've got to be kidding me. I know him, he walked in behind me from the garage today and I remembered him from when I used to work downtown. He's always scalping tickets near the Circle." (For the non-Hoosiers out there, ticket scalping is legal in Indiana, and any major event sees dozens of guys on street corners downtown offering to buy or sell tickets.) So, wow, I thought. At least we know where he works, sort of, and we have a good picture of him.

It took me a couple days to dig up my serial number, and the police wouldn't make a report without one, so I filled in time by posting REWARD flyers all over the neighborhood around the museum, and visiting the two nearest pawn shops to give them info on my bike as well. Once I'd filed a report, the police department actually assigned a detective to my case, and he assured me he'd come down to the museum to look at the footage and see what he could do... but I was rapidly giving up hope on getting my bike back. I got a copy of one of the stills from the security video myself, and made up some new flyers with my case #, the bike's serial #, the dude's description and photo, and a picture of a Trek 7.3 FX for reference purposes, planning to give them to the police officers downtown and see if that got me anywhere. Then the museum's concierge let me know she had cheap tickets available for that night's Pacer game, and I thought, hm. Well, I'd like to go to the game, and then I'll be able to hand some flyers to the cops who work around the Fieldhouse, so why not?

While the thought had occurred to me, I was really more or less unprepared for the possibility that I might actually find the guy myself. Yet as I tooled around looking for inexpensive downtown parking, suddenly there he was at the corner of Washington and Pennsylvania. My heart skipped, and not in a good way. While I am the first to admit I'm pretty terrible at remembering faces, I'd been staring at his photo on my desk for the better part of two days, and I knew instantly it was him--I'd thought his eyes were closed in the photo, but he actually is a pretty fat guy and his eyes are sort of permanently squinted, and he looked really identical to the photo, right down to the hat he was wearing. I looped around the block just to get another look, and this time I ended up stopped in traffic not 10 feet from him. We made eye contact. I'm sure he thought I was a potential customer for his handful of Pacer tickets, but I looked away and hit the gas as soon as the light changed, and then frantically took the nearest parking space I could find. Ran the three blocks back to the Fieldhouse and found a cop; I was panting so badly that I couldn't really explain myself, but Thank God for those flyers! I was able to hand one to the cop, point, and say "This guy is scalping tickets... gasp... two blocks up on Penn... help me..." The policeman was nice, told me he couldn't leave his post but that I should go see if the dude was still there, then call Dispatch and tell them I needed a patrol car asap. I did, and he was, and I did.

I then spent about the longest 20 minutes of my life standing in the freezing cold a half block from the dude who stole my bike, who remained blissfully unaware of my scrutiny. (If you're wondering why I didn't confront him, 1. He didnt' have my bike with him, and 2. The dude is the size of a mack truck. And apparently has anger management problems, judging from his performance at the museum. I don't particularly want to have my teeth punched down my throat by an angry scalper-bike-thief dude, so I stayed back.) The cops finally showed up, and once again I was able to just give them the flyer, babble incoherantly a bit, and then point up the street at the dude. "Wow," said the cops. "Usually people aren't this... er... well prepared." They strolled over to question him, while I stayed by the patrol car. Then they came back and said since he didn't have my bike they couldn't arrest him, but they were going to run his ID for warrants. Which they did, and there weren't any, but now we had his name and address attached to my case number. WOOT. When they gave the guy his ID back, he protested loudly that he didn't know anything about my bike, or any bike, he didn't have a bike, and this was *bullshit*, and then he walked off. The cops said, "We'll see if Vice is out here tonight. If they are, we'll have them go pick him up and take his tickets. That'll ruin his night." Suck on that, douchebag.

So that's the story of me finding the guy who stole my bike, but not the bike itself. The bike is still missing. My detective brought a photo array to the museum, and two different security staff were able to ID the guy. I haven't heard from the detective since then, though, so I assume things haven't just been open and shut, they got a warrant and went to his house and found my bike. I'm sure it's probably long gone, sold to his dealer or to someone who specializes in stolen bikes. At least my serial # is in the database that the pawnshops check against.

On that happy note--well, Jake asked for it!--I'll leave y'all. Hopefully I can get back on the blogging horse without too much trouble; lord knows I haven't stopped having stuff to say. :)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

And in Other News, Soccer is Still Boring. Film at 11.*

Sorry for the long absence, those of you who are still paying attention (or were kind enough to put me on their RSS feed.) Work kind of sucked the life out of me on many levels for the months of April and May, and I was unable to think of anything witty or pleasant to say for over 60 days straight. However, here's a funny post about squirrels I wrote quite a while ago, which came to light during my Lost Period.

What else is new? Hmmm. I did in fact get paid to draw about a half-dozen maps for a Call of Cthulhu product in their Ancient Rome setting, which was a lot of fun. Will let you all know when it comes out so you can rush to buy a copy. In the process of this I learned a lot more about Photoshop--or at least, how to turn black and white line drawings into something decent-looking with Photoshop CS4. Not a bad skill to have, even if they never call me for another map. My cat's diabetic again--this is bad, but not unexpected honestly, the remission lasted 2 years and that was pretty damn amazing. And I've lost 10 lbs since January, which about knocks my socks off. While I've never worried a whole lot about my weight, I figured the best 40th birthday present I could think of would be to get off my butt and lose a few, and it seems to be working. Huzzah me. Hopefully I'll have something more entertaining to post soon, our exhibit just opened and I'm starting to feel my strength returning...

*Apparently there's some soccer thing on TV right now, and USA has failed to lose to England--which just goes to prove my point. Any sport they can play for hours and still end with a score of 1-1 (or, ye gods, 0-0) is just not my cup of coffee...

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Maybe Twitter IS Useful...

Two weeks ago I was idly monitoring my Twitter feed in the background as I worked on the current Projecto Disastro at work, and I saw a tweet go by from @ab_Chaosium; these are the guys who publish the Call of Cthulhu RPG, and who used to publish the RuneQuest RPG. Those two things together have taken up a tremendous amount of both my free time and free cash since sometime around 1989, so I feel I owe Chaosium a certain debt of gratitude for all the entertainment of the last two decades. The tweet was something to the effect of "We need a quick map drawn for an upcoming publication, anyone out there want to submit something?"

Now, to say I love maps is no small thing. I collect world atlases and geography books; I have a prized 1923 atlas that I use when I run Call of Cthulhu, and a very cool one from 1941 that depicts Countries Invaded by the Axis and Countries Annexed by the Soviets and so on, with obviously last-minute overlays showing changing borders... I have a full set of Carpenter's Geographical Readers, dating from 1899-1920 or so. I draw elaborate maps for the role-playing games I run, when I have time; my favorite is to put them on foamcore and use map tacks to represent player and bad guy locations. So naturally I emailed Chaosium and offered to submit a map. They responded in the affirmative, so I drew them a very quick-and-dirty map per their instructions and fired it off.

Dustin--who's been with Chaosium for ages and who I know I met at some of my 1990's Gencon forays--is a very cool guy and was quick to let me know that they might need some more maps in the near future, and would I mind sending him a few samples of my work. One thing led to another, and I ended up drawing him 3 samples: a straight-up geographic map of Tasmania, an interior map of a 1950's malt shop done entirely in Illustrator, and this:

Now, setting aside the fact that the title font's hard to read, I thought it turned out rather well for a 100% silly map. I wanted to do something illustrative (that is, something with some dimensionality/pictographic depictions of features vs. a straight overhead view.) Once I got started I just kept on adding little goofy bits to it til I finally figured that I'd better stop before I sank my chances with Chaosium completely. But--perhaps not surprisingly, Dustin was amused (by the satellite dish in particular, it seems) and responded by giving me a few small art assignments for an upcoming product. So, what do you know! Twitter led me to a gig where I'm doing something that is pure pleasure for me (drawing maps) and getting to hopefully eventually see them in print from a company whose products I love. Can't beat that with a stick!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Less Fun than Bees

I have a friend who is in the final stages of terminal cancer at the moment. She was one of my best friends in the last couple years of high school, but we fell out of touch and despite occasional second-hand news of one another, it stayed that way until I got my current job at the museum, where her older sister also works. Via her sister I heard about my friend's first bout with cancer, her remission, her marriage and kid-having, and then the recurrence of illness nearly two years ago and the ups and downs that have followed. She and I talked about getting together for coffee or something in these last couple years; we played a little phone/email tag, but never quite worked it out. Then a couple weeks ago they finally discontinued her chemo, and that, as they say, is that.

I'm not going to post here about my friend being a cool person (though she is) or how genuinely sad the prospect of her death at age 38 seems to me (very.) What I've been thinking about more has to do with the assumptions we make on a daily basis that affect how we go about dealing with serious shit like death. I think one of the reasons I'd not been hugely proactive about getting in touch with my friend over the years had to do with my assumption that we were Very Different People from who we'd been when we were friends at age 17. And therefore, what would we have to talk about? The people we all were in high school are long gone (or so we imagine--hell, so we hope, right? I was a wildly moody little cuss for 4 straight years, and I seem to recall everyone else being much the same.) Add into that the fact that dying young is pretty fucking horrible, and pretty well beyond my ability to wrap my brain around, and I assumed we really, REALLY would be strained for conversation. So I was worried/depressed about about the coffee.

My assumptions, as it turns out, were complete crap--I'm happy to report this. First off, we haven't actually changed all that much. She's married, with two kids; I'm a long-term bachelor who likes small children in smaller doses. She had a job with tremendous organizational responsibilities; I am lucky if I can remember to tie my shoes in the morning. But at the core, we're both smart, we both laugh at a lot of the same things, and we still (I hope!) like one another's company. I realize a lot of high school friendships generate heavy baggage which it's best not to unpack later in life... but probably one of the few plusses of our not having stayed in touch is that I really don't remember much of the stupid shit. I remember that there WAS stupid shit--and maybe I just have a terrible memory, but honestly the details are long gone, and I don't think it was more than just the usual dumb crap kids do and say when going through the exceedingly painful throes of teenagerdom.

The other assumption, that the fact of her impending death would make normal interaction impossible, was also mercifully crap. I've been lucky enough to get some time to visit with her in the last couple weeks, and while her illness is always present, it's not in charge of the conversation. Today I found out how she met her husband (I'd been wondering!) Last week we had discussion of where to find the best milkshakes in town. I can't think of a better way to spend some time with a friend, dying or not, than sitting around, catching up, and shooting the shit for a while. :)

So the long and the short is, if you're ever in a situation like this, DON'T BE AN ASS. Quit assuming you know how it'll go down before you even make a move. Call your friend, forget whatever that dumb high school shit was, and go bring them a damn milkshake and some conversation. You'll be glad you did.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

I'm Wearing Bees! On My Feet!

I haven't bought new tennis shoes in years; though I gave in to the lure of 2 pairs of Keens over the last two summers, and I finally bought new shoes for work after *cough* nearly a decade--remember I was out of work for 5 of those years, I didn't NEED nice shoes--but I've been a loyal fan of New Balance since college, and frankly every time I went in the shoe store and looked at the racks of New Balance, I thought urrrghhhhhh. So..... very..... bland.... It was as if there had been some kind of horrible bleaching accident at the women's shoe factory, so that every shoe had had any sign of color and life bled from it, leaving only tiny pink or blue accents here and there, near the eyelets and so on. But in looking at the Adidas Star Wars Originals collection online (it was for work! seriously! well, it was AT work) I felt a deep-seated desire for new tennis shoes. Since the Luke Skywalker pilot orange ones were not available, I settled for these.


I am totally in love with these shoes, even though they're a tad too small (they were on clearance, limited sizes available.) They're like bees. Shoe bees. Deadly yet beautiful foot bees.

I also bought a pair of ASICS, which are cool though shinier than I was anticipating. I will wear them happily. But the bees.... the bees will be saved for special occasions...

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Oh, Dear.

I seem to have left my blog unattended for far longer than I'd really meant to. This seems to have corresponded with a period of Holy Crap What the Fuck at work, so I'm blaming it on that... But my new year's resolution is Blog More! So I should be all over that in 2010.

. . . .

New Year's was over a month ago, wasn't it? Aw, hell.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Happy Binary Day!

Woooo! It's 011010!

Yeah, ok, that was pretty lame...