- Holy crap, y'all, are you reading Order Of The Stick these days? What's up with these daily updates after years of erratic updates and illness-or-injury-related downtime? More to the point, holy crap, the current plotline and the end of the latest strip.
- I've been reading a lot of YA novels lately. Seriously, a lot. Ever since I started the YA books column, publishers have been sending them to me by the boxload. Here's the one I wrote up for February, the one that stood out amid the whole batch: A novel about a teenager who kills himself over and over and can't figure out why it doesn't take.
- Yesterday we had a thoroughly enjoyable day of playing board games at some friends' house in an all-day birthday celebration. Then at night we went to the Chopin Theater with Julia the birthday girl to see The Magnificents, a stage play about circus performers that doubles as an impressive stage-magic show with an aerial segment and some clowning. It's charming, well-acted, sweet, and sad, and I'm very glad I saw it. It felt more than a little like The Fantastics with magic instead of music, and more of a narrative arc. Highly recommended for people in the Chicago area who enjoy close-up magic.
- I got mansplained at today! My CTA pass unexpectedly expired — turns out I needed to click one thing on their website to confirm that my address is still my address — and it didn't work on the turnstile when I left work; the message "expired" kept coming up on the turnstile. There was a lady CTA worker by the gate who came out and checked it for me, and then ran it through her employee scanner and pointed out that it said it expired March 1, and I needed to go to the website and update my address and get a new card. Then she held the gate open so I could walk through. As I did, another CTA guy who'd been sitting in his booth silently watching this whole thing suddenly emerged and SNATCHED my card out of my hand and said "I'LL tell you exactly what's wrong with that card, let ME check it!" and proceeded to re-scan my card, which once again said "expired." He said "You see, that's it right there, your card's expired! You need to go online and update it!" I said "Yeah, I know, I —" and he interrupted to say "It probably just expired sometime in the past couple of days! You should go to the website and check! There's a place where you can access your account and find out…" He kept rambling, giving me the same information but vaguer, while I made eye contact with the CTA lady, who just looked weary. Finally, I took my card out of his hand and cut him off with "Yeah, I know, this lady checked it and showed me. It expired March 1 and I didn't realize, but she told me exactly what to do about it. She's got it covered and she knows exactly what she's doing." Then I thanked her directly and smiled at her and walked off. I do not want to think about what her days must be like.
- Tonight I went to a thoroughly delightful meetup for RPG fans looking for groups or players, and heard an upbeat lecture from a local comic-book-shop owner who runs D&D games for large groups — sometimes 15 players at a time — and for autistic kids. He described how in the former case, he streamlines by going fast, taking suggestions ("What are the walls in the castle made out of? Like, quartz or something?" "Sure, why not? You'd know better than me — that's why you're here in the castle with a pickaxe, right?"), not rolling separate initiatives for each round, and giving people just a few seconds to declare their actions, as though they're playing speed chess. It sounded odd, but he was so upbeat and cheerful and funny that I want to actually try his crazy D&D speed variant.
The case of D&D for autistic kids was even more intriguing. He got into it because of parents bringing kids to try his public-meetup D&D game because they were looking for social stimuli, but it's been so beneficial to the kids he plays with that now he runs special sessions for them, and gets paid as if he were a tutor. He says essentially he incentivizes interactions with the kids who have trouble acknowledging other people — like, there's a bonus to an action if it can somehow involve other players. He encourages them to read each other's reactions to events and gauge behavior accordingly, e.g. "You just fireballed your own teammate. How does he look now? Does he look happy? Maybe you shouldn't fireball your own teammate." (Cass says he can think of 40-something gamers who would benefit from this same learning-to-read-other-people routine.) The overall idea is that he's encouraging the kids to have fun in a social setting — as opposed to at home, interacting with people on computers — and they learn behaviors that they associate entirely with fun, as opposed to the stressful, negative lessons they can get at school. So they're more likely to model the social-interaction behaviors for a couple of weeks or a month after each session, and he's made a lot of progress with them. Again, the whole thing sounds so neat, I wish I could see him at work.
The same guy owns a comics store here in town, and runs a lot of strange events, like a "wine and comics pairings" event which sounds like weird fun. (On the menu this time: What wine goes with Saga?) I'm going to have to try some of those things out as well. And the meet-new-gamers thing went swimmingly as well; I walked away with enough email addresses to fill out an entire game of Dread, the system I'm most into these days. Now I just need to find a free weekend to actually play. Sigh.
I'm-a feelin': busy