Dead Man Whining


As opposed to the usual meaning of this shout (“Come here, Dad. I need something.”), this one is more at the disgust/disdain end of things. 

That’s because I’m dead.

Not literally, of course.  That would make writing this post difficult, and I would hope that my son would be a bit more concerned if he found me deceased.

No, this one is because my Rebel soldier has succumbed to a hail of blaster fire leaving my son’s solider alone to face this particular wave of Imperials.  We’re playing the new video game Star Wars: Battlefront, and, to put it bluntly, I suck.

I’d like to say that it didn’t used to be this way.  I am a part of the first generation of kids to have video game systems in their home.  I had an Atari 2600.  I had an Atari 5200.  I had the original Nintendo Entertainment System.  Hell, I even had an Intellivision.  The year I was heading into junior high, my family moved to a town that had an arcade within biking distance of my house.

I played A LOT of video games. 

But was I ever really any good at them?

If I’m honest, no.  My best years were probably in college.  Give me Chun Li in Super Street Fighter II Turbo or Sub-Zero in Mortal Kombat 3, and I could do pretty well against my friends.  Particularly if I was semi-intoxicated.  Somehow that made me faster.  Or at least far more annoying.  However, if I was to go up against anyone who really knew what they were doing, I would get crushed.

I didn’t get to play much after college, but several years ago I bought an old Playstation 2 from a friend of mine.  It came with Star Wars: Battlefront 1 & 2, which the boy and I played quite a bit.  I tended to win in head to head matches against him, but he was all of about 8 or 9 years old.  Yay, me.  I could beat an elementary schooler.

And even that didn’t last for long.  He quickly began holding his own and then beating me on a regular basis.

That held true whether we were playing against each other in Team Fortress 2, Call of Duty, or the brand new and oh-so-pretty reboot of Star Wars: Battlefront.  Battlefront does have a co-op mode where the two of us work together against 15 waves of Imperial forces. 

That’s where I began this tale.  Somewhere around Wave 5, I died and had to wait until my son finished off the rest of the wave to rejoin the game.  We muddle through the next few waves (Ok.  I muddled.  He cut through Stormtroopers like Death incarnate.), but then somewhere around Wave 9 or 10, he dies. 

I am left alone and outnumbered, but, despite flailing around like Kermit the Frog in a full-on panic, I manage to take out the rest of the wave, bringing him back into the game.

We finish off the last few waves, which brings up the final stats.  My Son – 85 kills.  Me – 40.

“Huh,” he says.  “You didn’t do that bad.”

High praise from the boy.

But let’s be honest.  I still suck.

- Alan Decker

@CmdrAJD on Twitter

Nathan's Laserium: Best Grey Cup Ever

So as I write this the Edmonton Eskimos are winning the CFL West Final. If they win they go to the Grey Cup! Which is in Winnipeg this year. I’ve never been to a Grey Cup, have you? I never know who is reading this, I mostly assume it’s just my parents and some local friends. Maybe some of you have no idea what the Grey Cup is, or don’t care. It’s ok. I’m a fan of the Canadian Football League but not super passionate. And I haven’t mustered any carepoints for the NFL in quite a while. I tend to have room for only a few obsessions at a time and I’m all about Star Wars, comics and writing right now. oh and board games like Marvel Legendary, if you want to come over and play. We can have a Grey Cup Party! Everyone else can watch the game and we can play Legendary! Yeah! Anyways here’s a hitchhiking story with some relevance to today’s football action. Oh and happy thanksgiving to you Americans! Enjoy the NFL game, Detroit, right? VS the Cowboys? Isn’t that the tradition?



Edmonton hosted the Grey Cup, in 1997, the year I was on my Cross-Canada hitch-hiking trip.

One day, I was heading to Fredericton from Halifax. This was around October 21 or so. My first ride came quickly enough, which surprised me since I had a hard time IN Nova Scotia. Plus there had just been a couple of prisoners escape from the Cape Breton Penitentiary, and one of them looked a little like me. Anyways, this guy asked me right away where I was from.

"Edmonton," I said.

"ESKIMOS!!!!!" he yelled.

"ESKIMOS!!!" I yelled back. When you hitch-hike, you have to have the ability to adapt quickly to any situation. This situation was agreeable enough- I had just been picked up by the Maritimes' biggest CFL fan.

"You like the Eskimos?" he asked.

"I sure do!"

"Yeah the CFL rules, eh?"


"The NFL is for shit, right?"

"Yup." Well, I actually don't mind the NFL, but it does pale compared to the Mighty CFL. One might say the NFL is Poo-tball compared to the Canadian game.

"Yeah. Hey man, you think the Esks will get to the Grey Cup?"

"Of course they will!" They didn't.

"That will be the best Grey Cup ever! The Esks playing for the Cup at home in the Commonwealth!" He was right, just five years early.

"Yeah, I kind of wish I could be there, but I'll still be hitch-hiking."

"Oh man, you should go to it. Hey! Maybe I should go!"

"You should! It'll be the best Grey Cup ever!" Enthusiasm is so infectious.

"I will!"


"Oh wait." All of a sudden the bubble burst.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

"I got a little guy, he's only four. It will probably be too cold for him."

"Oh well. You can always watch it on TV."

"Unless . . . what do you think the temperature will be?"

"Uhh . . ." I decided I'd better try and explain some basic meteorological principles to him- namely that it is impossible to predict the weather a month in advance. "It could be anywhere from plus ten to minus ten, maybe even minus twenty in Edmonton in November."

"No, man, I need to know. I can't have my little guy sitting there if it's too cold. Are you sure you don't know?"

"I wish I did, but I just don't. No one does."

And for the next ten minutes we had the same conversation over and over- him trying to get me to commit to a Grey Cup weather prediction, me trying to convince him that I couldn't do that. IN the meantime, I missed my stop. Like I said, you have to pretty adaptable.

"See, I can get the time off and book a couple of tickets no problem, i could do it today. But I need to know what the temperature will be. What do you think it will be?"

"Minus ten degrees." I said, firmly.

"Oh man, are you sure?"


"Oh that's great man, thanks. I can dress my little guy up nice and warm. He'll love it, right? Best Grey Cup ever, right?"

"Best Grey Cup ever!"

Anyways, the rest of the ride went smoothly. Other than football this guy had a true heart love for Sarah McLachlan, a true heart love I also shared. She is from his hometown of course so it was the best of both worlds, Eskimos and Building A Mystery. We decided that Halifax needed an expansion team. We even named it, though I can't quite remember what we called it. The Halifax SarahMcLachlans? No, that wasn’t it. Something with black in it- The Black Schooners or something like that. The Black Bluenoses maybe. I don't know. I eventually made it to Fredericton, and hopefully my new friend (he said his name was Spider) made it to the Grey Cup. Actually, I hope he skipped it, and that he'll be there this year for the best Grey Cup ever. The weather report calls for it to be a nice and toasty 3 degrees.

- Nathan Waddell

Pick of the Week – November 23-29, 2015

After last week’s relatively long Pick of the Week post, I’m going to keep it fairly brief this week.  It’s Thanksgiving week here in the United States, which (and I’m going to be completely honest here) puts me in the mind of food.  Yes, I’m a terrible person for not starting with the “Being Thankful” part.  I get it, but this is my post, so I’m pressing on!

I spent four years living in Louisiana, and while there my feelings on the best main entree to eat for Thanksgiving was changed forever.  Those of you who know anything about Louisiana specialties may know where I’m going with this, but my Pick for this Week is that most excessive of poultry creations, the turducken.

In case you are not familiar, a turducken is a turkey that has been stuffed with a deboned duck that has been stuffed with a deboned chicken.  Cutting into it gives you a beautiful array of meats to enjoy, and the birds are available with a variety of stuffings.  I was always partial to the cornbread stuffing myself, but I know many people are fond of the seafood stuffing.

The popularity of turduckens has spread over the last several years, so you may be able to find a local butcher shop or store that sells them.  If not, though, you can get them mailed to you straight from Louisiana.  For example, here are two possibilities:

Cajun Grocer  (This one has a wide variety of stuffing available.)

Hebert’s Specialty Meats

NOTE: I don’t have direct experience with either of these retailers. 

It may be too late to get a turducken for Thanksgiving, but definitely put it on your “To Try” list.  It is an experience.

- Alan Decker

@CmdrAJD on Twitter

Thanks for the Inanities

Since this week marks Thanksgiving in the United States, I thought that I would spend this column going over the things I am thankful for, but then it occurred to me that you probably don’t care.  I don’t mean that in a bad way, but really we all say the same things when asked what we’re thankful for.  It’s usually some combination of our significant others, family, friends, health, and employment.  Maybe something especially great happened to us in the past year, or perhaps we’re getting past something truly awful.  Whatever it is, I decided that you probably didn’t need to read “I am thankful for my kids” from me when pretty much everyone with kids says that.

Instead, I’m going to go a bit more pointless and talk about some of the less important things that I’m thankful for.  Shockingly, most of these are going to be pop culture related.

I am thankful that Big Finish Productions is bringing David Tennant back as the Doctor.  I’ve never been able to focus on audio books, and I haven’t had an interest in Big Finish’s long-standing line of Doctor Who audio plays starring Doctors and companions from the classic era of the series.  Recently, though, Big Finish got the rights to use characters from the 2005 relaunch.  River Song, as voiced by Alex Kingston, is going to show up in a story with the Eighth Doctor, which is great.  However, what really has me excited is the return of David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor.  Even better, Catherine Tate is coming back as Donna.  Listening to THIS SAMPLE CLIP posted Radio Times made me very, very happy.

I am thankful that I decided to give Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris a chance this season.  I like NPH, but the idea of a variety show didn’t really appeal to me.  Still, I decided to check the show out and found its eight episode run to be incredibly enjoyable.  It was live television with all of the potential for problems that come with it.  In one episode, a stunt involving a giant inflatable slide had to be canceled due to wind, and audio problems occasionally hit their Sing Along Live segments.  Still, the shows were fast moving and fun, propelled along by NPH’s seemingly-endless energy and enthusiasm.  Also, I was amazed at the lengths they went to filming bits with unsuspecting audience members weeks and even months before they found themselves pulled into the show.  There aren’t a lot of shows that my kids and I watch together anymore, but we all wanted to see what NPH and company were going to do on Best Time Ever each week.

I am thankful that Supergirl decided to completely ignore the tone set by Man of Steel.  Yes, the series still is trying to find itself narratively and has a bit of a Superman problem (I don’t have a issue with him staying out of the way while Kara figures out how to be the hero she will become; although, he could offer some mentoring.  Come on, Clark.  She’s your cousin!  I do, however, have a hard time believing that an entire prison full of alien criminals could crash on Earth and that Superman wouldn’t do anything about it.), Supergirl has remembered one crucial thing that the most recent Superman film (and, judging by the trailers, the upcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) forgot: superheroics should be fun!  While Clark spent most of MoS moping, Kara truly enjoys her powers and that she can use them to help people.  Ever since I was a small child, I’ve wanted to be able to fly like Superman.  Now I want to fly like Supergirl.  She at least looks like she’s having a good time.

I am thankful that I stopped watching Gotham last season.  I try to avoid negativity, and I’m not one to hatewatch a series.  The completist in me has stuck through some shows that I’d pretty much lost interest in, but that’s a habit that I’ve been trying to break.  Life is too short to spend watching something out of some bizarre self-imposed obligation to see it through.  No one else cares.  From the helpful and generally hilarious recaps of Gotham on, it looks like the issues that drove me away from the series at the end of last season have, if anything, gotten worse.  With The Flash, Supergirl, and Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD taking care of my superhero fix, I’m happy to leave Gotham to the viewers who actually enjoy it, while I appreciate having that hour of my life back. 

Finally, and more personally, I am thankful that I went to South Dakota this past Summer.  When planning a vacation, South Dakota isn’t usually the first place that comes to mind.  Sure Mount Rushmore is there, and then…um…  That’s where most people’s knowledge of the state ends.  Maybe they’ve heard of Badlands National Park.  Those two locations were pretty much the extent of my familiarity with South Dakota.  What I found upon traveling there and spending 4 days driving around the state was gorgeous country that was so very different from my home in the mid-Atlantic.  As someone who loves just getting in the car and driving, I enjoyed the long stretches of interstate bordered by flat landscapes that allowed me to see for miles in every direction.  The Black Hills in the western part of the state were almost the opposite with beautiful lakes, tree-covered slopes, and, of course, the man-made marvel that is Mount Rushmore.  One of these weeks I should post some of my photos from the trip.  While South Dakota had never been on my list of must-sees, I’ve very thankful that I did.

With that I will return you to your regularly-scheduled activities.  Be thankful for that if you want.  I won’t be offended.

- Alan Decker

@CmdrAJD on Twitter

Nathan's Laserium: Thumb

This is an old story, if it even really stands up as a story. No real conflict or anything.
But, you know, speaking of hitch-hiking. It's from sometime in 2006.

Billy was bored. He sat in the backseat of his parents’ car, watching the endless boreal forest zip by outside. The trees weren’t tall enough to be spooky, and the green wasn’t bright enough to be pretty. Just lots and lots of trees, all the same. They hadn’t seen any animals since yesterday. On the seat beside him was a discarded Game Boy with all the games he had beaten several times over. He sighed, but didn’t bother to ask if they were there yet. He knew they still had a long way to go.
“What the heck is that?” asked Mom in the front seat. Dad turned down the music, as he always did when Mom pointed out something to look at. Billy straightened out of his slouch to catch a look, too. “Whoa!” he said. Dad’s jaw just dropped a little. Mom said matter-of-factly, “It’s a giant! And he’s hitch-hiking!”
Up ahead there stood a very, very large man. A giant. He was wearing a jean jacket and had a leather backpack slung on one shoulder. Dark hair and a few days’ growth of whiskers on his face. With his right arm extended, thumb up, he looked just like a university student trying to hitch a ride, except that he was over 300 feet tall.
“Can we pick him up, Dad?” The question snapped Dad out of his shock.
“Of course not, Billy. There’s no room in the car for someone that big. And he might be dangerous.”
“Oh come on, dear. I’m sure he’s a very nice young fellow. If he was dangerous, I think he could just step on us and be done with it. I say we pull over and talk to him at least. Maybe he’s hungry.” Mom’s logic concerning the potential danger of the giant seemed irrefutable, and Dad also knew that it would be useless to point out that they had nothing that could possibly satisfy the hunger of a giant, so he decided to pull over.
“Yay!” Billy cheered.
The giant courteously knelt down to talk into Mom’s unrolled window. “Thanks for pulling over! Where you folks headed?”
Dad was about to say something evasive and non-committal, but Mom cut him off. “We’re heading home to Fernie- that’s where Grandma lives. School’s out for the summer and Jim and I are both teachers up in Yellowknife, so we have a couple of months of holiday. How about you?” Billy sat wide-eyed in the backseat, hardly listening to Mom’s rambling answer. He was studying the giant’s big blue eyes and scruffy hair. He couldn’t believe how cool this was.
“I’m going to Giants’ Stadium in New York to try out for the team. Nah, just kidding! I’m heading to the Rockies myself. Do some camping.” The giant was enthusiastic but polite, and he didn’t want to assume anything.
“Well,” Mom said, “we’d love to have you join us, but you’re, you know, a little big . . .”
The giant laughed. “Well, this is sort of reverse hitch-hiking- I’ll give you a lift in exchange for helping me get to where I’m going- maps and signs are a little small for my eyes to read without a microscope or magnifying glass or something.”
Dad made a choking noise, and Billy said his hundredth “Wow” and Mom giggled and said “Sure! Give us a lift!”
So the giant very gently picked up the car, being careful not to press too hard and dent the sheet metal. He placed it on his palm, holding it like a waiter holding a tray. Billy’s stomach did a little flip as they rose straight up nearly 300 feet. For the first time the potentially scary things about this situation were making themselves clear to him.
“Comfy?” asked the giant. Mom gave a little nod. “Alright then, let’s go!” And the giant started walking down the highway, strolling at nearly the same speed as the posted limit.
“Hi little fella,” said the Giant, talking to Billy. “My name’s Grant, but people just call me Thumb. What’s your name?”
Billy was determined not to be scared, but his stomach was still a little grumpy from the sudden disruptions, so he was inclined to be less charitable than a few minutes ago. “It’s not ‘little fella’, that’s for sure.”
“Billy!” said Mom, “Be polite to our guest.”
Billy’s initial sense of wonder was quickly turning into sullenness. But Thumb was amicable and good with kids. “I didn’t mean anything by it, Billy. Everyone is a ‘little fella’ to me, even your Dad!”
Billy inwardly thought this was very funny, but wasn’t ready to reconcile just yet. He looked at Thumb suspiciously, and asked “Aren’t you scared of bears?”
“Scared I’ll step on one and squish it.”
“Have you ever squished a bear?”
“No. Have you?”
Billy couldn’t stifle his giggle. “No, silly!” he said. Then, “You don’t eat bears do you?”
“Nah, I eat sandwiches that my mum made me before I left. Want one?”
The thought of Billy eating a giant sandwich was too much. He started laughing out loud, unable to help himself. Mom joined him, and Thumb smiled. Even Dad was coming around- a process aided by the fact that his fuel efficiency had just improved considerably.
Soon an easy and comfortable conversation kept the travelers occupied as Thumb’s giant strides ate up the miles. Dad helped Thumb stay on the right highway, reading the signs for him and telling him to take this or that exit. Once there was a bridge spanning a ravine, and Thumb let the car and its occupants down so they could drive across while Thumb went down into the valley, crossed the river, and climbed back up on the other side. Everyone stretched and then they were back on the road.
“Mr. Thumb?” said Billy. “Do you know any good stories? About giants?”
“Sure, I know tons of stories. You probably know lots of them, like about Paul Bunyan and Jack and the Beanstalk and all that. But did you ever hear of a giant named Pan Gu?”
“Pangoo? No, I never heard of him. Who’s he?”
“In the olden days, in China, before they built the Great Wall, they used to believe that the world was created by Pan Gu. At the beginning of time, they say that everything was nothing, or maybe, nothing was all there was. Anyways, the only thing that existed was a big egg. Inside this egg lived Pan Gu, and he lived there for, like, 18,000 years. And then one day he got annoyed with being inside that egg so he smashed it open with a huge axe he had.”
“Rarrghh!” said Billy, imagining he was Pan Gu.
“Yeah, exactly. So now Pan Gu was free of the egg, but there still wasn’t anything for him to do, except hold the sky up so it wouldn’t crash back on the ground. He did this for another18,000 years! Till one day he keeled over dead.”
“Blargh!” said Billy, and he pretended to be dead in the backseat of his parents’ car, eyes screwed shut and tongue lolling out of his mouth. Mom laughed.
“So what happened was, Pan Gu’s body became the world- all the mountains and rivers and lakes and stuff. That’s what the Chinese used to think, anyways.”
“Did you know Pan Gu? Was he your Dad?” Billy asked.
“Nah, that was a little before my time. It was even before your Dad’s time!”
“Hey!” said Dad, but he had enjoyed the story too, and was happy to be included. “Have you ever been to China, Mr. Thumb?”
“No, but I’ve always wanted to go. I’d love to hike the length of the Great Wall, you know? If I was allowed. They’d probably want to make sure I didn’t kick any of it over. But even more than that, I want to go Antarctica. I always thought it would be cool to go to the exact South Pole and do a handstand.”
“Like Atlas!” Dad thought this was very funny. But Billy didn’t get it, and asked, “Who’s Atlas?”
As Thumb told the story, Mom looked over at Dad and smiled. It had been a very pleasant drive so far. At one point Thumb saw a big bull moose that was wading in a lake, and they stopped to watch it for a while. “I love animals,” said Thumb. The moose wasn’t concerned about the giant’s presence, but eventually it wandered away and they continued on.
It was starting to get dark and soon they would need to stop at a restaurant for something to eat, and then think about finding a campground for the night.
During a lull, Billy said, “Mom, when I grow up can I go with Mr. Thumb to the Antartika?”
“Antarctica.” Mom corrected. “And if it was alright with Mr. Thumb I don’t see why not. But you better start saving up your allowance now! It’s pretty expensive to go there, and you can’t exactly hitch-hike.”
Billy yawned and said, “Okay.” Thumb winked at Mom.
Dad said, “Well, Mr. Thumb, we’re glad we picked you up, but you can drop us off at this little town here so we can go in and get some supper.”
“Awww Dad!” said Billy, but Thumb nodded and let them down, so delicately the shocks didn’t even bounce.
“It was nice meeting you all! Have fun visiting your Grandma.”
“Wait, Mr. Thumb!” said Billy. “I didn’t know there was any such thing as giants . . .”
Thumb looked at him, and grinned. “There are giants in the world, Billy," he said,"And other things too.” With a wave, Thumb turned and walked away. Billy waved back, watching until Thumb was out of sight.

- Nathan Waddell