>hello mobile republic – my #bclc2014 recap

My library conference experience is not vast. Nor is my comic convention experience. Both pools of knowledge are small enough that they kind of slosh together in my mind, and this year for the BC Library Conference it was even worse because Emerald City Comicon was happening the weekend while I was coming in and getting ready for BCLA. I kept having to remind myself that Kate Leth would not be at my conference.

We did get Arundhati Roy though, so that was awesome.

Conferences are weird for me. I am not a social person. I need a bunch of alone time. At BCLA though, I know people. Cool people! I talked to more people at this conference than I have in Campbell River (outside of work) in a year. It’s like I stockpile all my energy for talking to people to use in these big bursts.

I like to sit in the back of conference sessions and not do a whole lot of active participation. There’s part of me that thinks I should be more like Cynthia Ng who does excellent session notes on a lightning turnaround, but I’m not. I like to let things sit and think a while.

Catelynne Sahadath, MJ Suhonos and Mark Jordan did a great talk on open linked data, and the cool stuff we could use it for (including not paying vendors to do stuff the internet already does) at the policy level and the empathy level and it was such a great talk to hear before Myron and I did ours (user privacy chunk ebooks & DRM chunk).

I cussed far too much in our presentation, but most people seemed okay with it. If you were not okay with it, I really do apologize. I do so much work with kids where I have to be very attentive to staying very clean. But when I have an adult audience, I know I can use strong language. Then my performance mode energy kicks in and the “only say ‘fuck’ one time” recommendation kind of gets forgotten. Again. Sorry. Also sorry for the muppet arms.

I am a bad strategist as my solutions to problems tend to be workarounds, not revolutions. But that’s kind of what’s great about speaking at a conference like this, where interested people who are better at the strategic stuff can do something better with it. I realize I do like getting things out there into the world, for someone else to do something with. I do like to write. It is important. I need to do better at it.

And that’s where the Arundhati Roy closing keynote comes in. She’s a badass and a rebellious dissident and is just amazing. She talked politics and her life and how she declared herself a mobile republic. The best line of her talk, the tweet-sized bit from these two days that will stick with me because it matches up with my already extant approach to life was “Subversion is sometimes better than confrontation, no?”

It was a very good trip into the city (though I’m still a little sad I had to use them as vacation days instead of professional development days). I have webmaker things to bring back for my teen programming. I hung out with people I enjoy. And I almost got into a fight with a racist homophobic asshole publisher (though that was at trivia the day before the conference and was actually crappy).

game review: fiasco

I played my first Fiasco game on Saturday with Jonathan (who’s a boardgamer and RPG dabbler) and Jamie (who had never played a tabletop RPG before). I’d just bought it at Emerald City Comicon, so it all seemed very serendipitous.

Fiasco is a GM-less storytelling game and it’s often pitched as “a game for creating a Coen brothers movie.” Unlike a more traditional RPG, the dice are more of a pacing mechanism than strict determinants of success and failure. Characters are generated through the relationships they have with each other before you really get into the specifics of what makes them tick. The other keys to the game are Needs, Objects and Locations. Each of those, along with the Relationships, are supposed to be things that will get the characters into a huge mess of trouble.

The game rotates through scenes focusing on each of the player characters. Halfway through a Tilt element is added, and then in the end you show what happened. Setting things up is done through a mix of choice and randomness based on the charts in each Playset (which are a basic setting).

Our game was set in the old west. We had a sick lazy Sheriff, his “doctor,” and his deputy. The doctor and deputy were trying to steal Widow Tompkins’ inheritance and get away with murder. The sheriff just wanted some pie (and everyone else at his beck and call). In the end, the doctor got away scot-free, the sheriff was an invalid being tended to by a disgraced deputy.

The game is definitely fun. There’s a lot of choice and everything feels pretty meaningful (as far as sitting around telling stories about made-up people can be). I think the next time we play, I’d want to push our scenes to have slightly higher stakes and stronger conflicts. We could have ramped it up to be a bit more madcap by the end. A gun was drawn in anger, a widow was defrauded, but it never got out of control.

Part of that was just because this was our first game and we were learning the ropes. We sometimes stumped ourselves deciding what the next good scene might be, and we could sometimes go a bit overboard in the establishment, leaving little for the scene itself to do. I can see how with a bit of practice and sense of short clear questions that the scene will resolve this game will produce some awesome experiences. I can’t wait to play again.

book review: cyclist bikelist

I read Cyclist BikeList: The Book for Every Rider in the last session of our Survey of Children’s Literature class. We were talking about informational books.

This book is aimed at middle school kids who are getting into cycling. It’s got a bit about the history of bicycles, and some stuff on how bikes work, which really informs the meat of the book, how to choose a bike. It’s got breakdowns of the differences between Road, Mountain, BMX and Hybrid bikes in terms of tires, frames, the reasons you’d get which. It also has a section on picking a bike shop and the kind of equipment and food that’s good for cycling. I loved the safety section which included the advice to yell and ring your bell at people who turn right in front of you as you’re riding on the street. “They are breaking the law!” the book exclaims. “You are in the right place! Don’t let them intimidate you”

The book was illustrated by Ramon Perez, who was at Emerald City Comicon and my friend got a sketch from. He’s an Eisner nominated comics guy and the illustrations in the book are very contemporary looking. There are also a few photos for things like the parts of a bike.

The book was very good, and I’d definitely recommend it. It’s not targeted at a YA audience, and is more cool for a twelve-year-old than something a fifteen-year-old would want to read. It’s also a bit mroe focused on long-distance biking as recreation than short urban rides, but whatever.

book review: sam & fuzzy fix your problem

I’ve been reading Sam Logan’s comic Sam and Fuzzy for years on the web, but this past weekend I bought the two print volumes at Emerald City Comicon in Seattle. Sam & Fuzzy Fix Your Problem doesn’t start at the beginning of the epic, but at the point where Sam and his talking bear friend Fuzzy are the heads of Ninja Mafia Services, an organization that helps with odd problems like Grrbils, Werewolves and Vampires. This book also switches back an forth to ten years previous when Fuzzy woke up without a memory and ended up working with a master thief named Hazel.

I enjoyed this book version of the comics I had already read. Sam & Fuzzy has always been a comic I let lapse when I go off travelling so I can binge read a bunch when I return and I think it works better that way. Logan has done an excellent job laying out the book and making the story feel like a story and not stitched together daily strips. I’m astounded how much more interesting the flashbacks to Fuzzy and Hazel are when I’m not waiting three days between chunks.

So yes, Sam and Fuzzy is pretty great, and Sam & Fuzzy Fix Your Problem is an excellent place to get on board. You can also go back through the archives on the website to fill in the backstory of how Sam became emperor of the Ninja Mafia (and more).