March 15, 2011

RuneScape Escape

If you don't know about MMORPGs, you've probably been busy with real life.  In a nutshell, they are digital worlds in which thousands (millions for some) of people play simultaneously and there is generally no specific objective. If it sounds boring, you're wrong.

One of these is called RuneScape. Because it has a rich free play environment, I started playing and got hooked for a very long time. I invested a great deal of time and no small amount of emotion into the character I created. Unfortunately, having my attention diverted to the game nearly destroyed my real-life world. So, I haven't played seriously for a long time.  Oh, I've gotten on and seen what changes the game has taken on.  I've done some of the usual tasks for nostalgia's sake. But, the hours I used to waste on it are done.

But my character lives.

My character has a combat level of 100. You can see the character's overall stats in the picture. For those of you who are familiar with the game, you will note that some of the member stats have been leveled. That's because I paid to play for a month. (That was a really bad idea for me.) My character has over five million in gold and, of course, wears full Rune armor. There is better armor to be had for free players now, but I won't be going after it. I'm not sure if five million in gold is a lot anymore. Jagex, the creator of RuneScape, tends to manage the economy of the game fairly tightly, so I suspect inflation has been kept low. All-in-all the character is fairly advanced and well situated.

It would be nice if there was some way to recoup even a fraction of time lost playing this game. I've often thought about selling the rights to the character. One would think that selling it would be my business and mine alone. Unfortunately, it is against the rules. My character can be banned if a sale is transacted and Jagex finds out. It can be banned if I advertise the account for sale. I think that's stupid. The rule is probably there to maintain balance. Nobody likes to play a game in which real life money trumps in-game effort. Selling characters allows for players to pay someone to level up the character and then jump in when the character gets good. Unfortunately, banning the sale of characters leaves obsessive guys like me with very few options.

I could give the character away I suppose, but then there is no recouping of loss. Also, it has been my experience that gifted resources are not treated with the respect they deserve. It takes a lot to earn what my character has. It should take a lot to acquire it from me. My character should have a good owner that will respect the time and effort that went into creating it.

So, in the end, I'm left with nothing to do but lament my stupidity and remember fondly some of the great achievements and experiences I had in the game. My character, on the other hand simply rests in limbo, reappearing from time-to-time when I feel like jumping in—a ghost haunting familiar grounds.

March 7, 2011

Imagine What I Could Do With My Blazing Turkey

Last Sunday, I cooked the second turkey I've ever cooked in my life.  It was also the biggest turkey I had ever cooked in my life.  I wish I had taken pictures before I cooked it.  It was enormous. It must have weighed 25 pounds.  But to me, it was just a challenge.  You see, I had done it before. It's a just a matter of scale.  How much different can it be to go from, oh, 12 pounds to 25?

Turns out, you need a bigger pan.

After thawing for a week in my refrigerator, I got the bad boy out, rinsed him off and prepped him for the pan.  It really amazes me how one of these things can sit in the fridge for so long and still have ice crystals down inside.    That clue, and the fact that the stuffing I made did not fill the cavity should have warned me that I was dealing with no ordinary turkey.  But, confident in my skills, I crammed giganti-bird into my 12x24x2 pan, set the oven to 350°F and went off to church.

Five hours later, we came home to smoke trickling out of the oven door.  My confidence waned.  A quick peek showed that, yes, something was burning, but it didn't appear to be the turkey.  In fact, the magic button had not even popped yet.  Upon closer examination, I discovered that the liquid in my pan was bubbling over onto the floor of the oven.  Aha! This is a problem I know how to manage! My confidence waxed.

While I grabbed cup and ladle, the oven insidiously conspired against me.  Having left the door open while retrieving the requisite equipment, the bottom burner decided the bird was getting a bit of a chill and needed to be warmed up.  It began to glow evilly.  Carefully, I ladled a scoop of the glorious bird's juices into my cup.  Excellent.  Then, I went for the second scoop.

What happened next is much like what happens in a Jerry Bruckheimer film at the height of the action sequences. Apparently turkeys are laced with heavy doses of napalm.  (Which would explain a lot of other things if you think about it.)  I jostled the ladle and spilled some of the juice onto the wicked burner.  My entire visual frame filled with a raging inferno.  This turkey's ancestors had reached up from the bowels of Hell and sought to drag me into the fiery depths to endure their torment with them.  I beat them back with the ladle.

When I wiped the sweat from my brow, I found that I had not come through unmolested.  My brittle eyebrows came away in my hands.  My hand had suffered two minor burns.  Short though they were, my forelocks had retreated so hastily that they curled back on themselves.  Sources say that the sight was laughable.  (Said source also did not hesitate to demonstrate laughter as proof of his claim.)

Bowl of Turkey Meat
Alas, the story is not grim.  Though the turkey's button never popped, we did eat the fowl creature.  I ripped its flesh from its bones and ground the bones into the sewer.  What remains is a bowl of meat large enough to feed an army for a week...or perhaps a father and son for a day or two.  See the picture of the bowl.  The fork is added for scale. The tiles upon which the bowl sits are 8 inch tiles.  The picture really doesn't do the magnitude justice.

Unfortunately, now there is a thick layer of volatile, jellied turkey napalm on the bottom of my oven.  Best not to use that self-cleaning feature just yet, I guess. Work to do. Ew.

March 1, 2011

Convict Muses

This past weekend, I had the great privilege of meeting and chatting with a man who spent 25 years of his life serving time for accessory to murder.  We talked mostly about his case and his re-acclimation to life when he got out.  He was incarcerated in the 70s and released comparatively recently. In one anecdote he related, he got into trouble for getting too near a car.  The owner had remotely locked the doors. That caused the car to honk. He thought someone in the car was honking at him, so he approached the car.

There is no training for these men when they are released. They are simply set free. For them, it is as if they had stepped through a time machine. Personal computers did not exist when he went in. There were no CDs, DVDs. In fact, these things were just waning. Giving out a cell number must have seemed like a prison reference. The space shuttle and the Concorde were new.  Rocky movies were just getting started.

Many of these newly freed men, having developed no new social skills in prison, simply return to their old neighborhoods, find any former friends that might still be alive, pick up the same patterns and end up back in the same place.  This guy was different.  He set himself up in a small village and surrounded himself with a few older men who became his mentors.  He gradually worked himself back into society until now he has purchased his own house and has no trouble finding work. He has even written a book!

But, that's not all of it.  Our man experienced a bizarre case.

I'm careful not to say that he is not guilty.  He never said it.  He simply explained that he had a bizarre case and carried around the court briefing to show it.  Lorenzo was an insurance salesman.  He helped out his friend.  His friend was arrested for murder. His friend said that Lorenzo knew about the murder.  His friend later testified that he had lied about that. This so-called friend was incarcerated for two murders. Neither of those where the murder for which he was arrested. Lorenzo was sentenced to life.

That's right, there were three murder cases.  Two for which Lorenzo's friend was incarcerated. One for which Lorenzo was incarcerated.  But remember, Lorenzo was convicted of accessory after the fact.  So, the man who lied on Lorenzo was never convicted of the murder for which Lorenzo was incarcerated as an accessory.  We all know how that's possible.  But, it doesn't seem right to me.

I made this comment to him about being in prison for 25 years for something he didn't do: “That could make a man awfully bitter.”

His non sequitur response floored me. I felt it touch a nerve in me. I was shamed by it.

“There's a lot of people in prison,” he said, “They just aren't behind bars.”

NOTE: Lorenzo's book is not about his prison story. Also, it is self-published, so caveat emptor. He told me he is writing his prison story. When that becomes available, I will probably buy it and read it. Watch my blog for the announcements. I'll try to remember to post an update here.