Wednesday, May 16, 2018

UZHHOROD? OR IS IT UZHGOROD? OR IS IT...?

UZH

Depending on who you talk to, there seems to be different spellings to the town's name I'm hanging out in currently.

Everyone agrees on the first three letters, so I'll call it that.

This is because of the horrible Cyrillic alphabet which they stick to despite logic as America does to it's 'Imperial Measurement System'.  Because humans are like that.



After leaving my friends in their little town and heading back to Kyiv (Kiev?  Fuck it) I went back to the same hotel.  "You should have me on file."

They told me I was lucky that I'd booked ahead as there were no rooms left.  They checked my passport and said "We have your booking right here." 

Struck me as odd because I'd made no booking - but fine, I'll go with it.  Weird shit happens to me.

I started pulling out money but the lady announced the room was all paid for. 

Nope, nope, nope.  It could have been that they gave someone else's booking to me or that someone booked for me or they had gone crazy.  I'll take a booking - but someone else's paid room?  Even if I offered to pay it would end up with unhappy people getting there, passports compared and Logan getting the ole heave ho at some strange hour out of the hotel.

After checking the information the lady had I discovered that the "H" in my first name was where the similarities ended in the booking info.

And they have no space.

"Great - let me put my bags into your storage and please call me a taxi."

The whole reason I'd gone to Kiev as to get my passport done.  I'd gotten to spend some time with my friends as a happy byproduct.  So I wanted to head to the embassy to pick up my finally completed passport.

The embassy was about 20 minutes away and I discovered they were closing in ten minutes.  Well, shit.  So I had the hotel call (and put me on with) the embassy and I explained the situation and asked if someone would be around for an additional 10 minutes or so after close.  Yes.  Thank goodness.

So I rush out to the waiting cab, hop in and we set off to - oh.  Well, shit.  He wants to talk to me about Jesus.  I always wish these people would head off to somewhere they could get martyred for their faith when they do that.  It's a win win - they think getting martyred will get them into Heaven.


Where as I am thinking that it will not only get that person out of my face but raise the intellect of the remaining humans a smidgen. 

But it didn't.  He kept nattering on about his prayer did wonders.  "But doesn't god have a plan for everything?" I asked.  "Well, maybe not  this thing."  He responded.  "I thought God knew everything - no?"

Oh the ego of the god botherers. 

So I've just gotten off a three hour train ride.  Found out I have no where to stay.  Might be stuck in Kiev again.  Might not get there in time to get a passport.  And I have some guy trying to convince me that he can 'tilt' the inter-dimensional pinball machine by his actions.  Sure god might already know what will happen - he just likes to hear you beg for it.

I jumped out of the cab (my version which is painful and slow) and headed up to the guard.

"Do you have an appointment?" asked the external guard.

"Yes.  Yes I do." I said looking him right in the eye.

Eventually, I got in to the embassy - ten or fifteen minutes after closing time and a nice lady gave me my passport.  Hurrah! 

Headed back to the taxi.  Thought about it a bit and had the cab driver drop me off at the train station.  Even when I said it in Russian he seemed confused by it.   And then when I told him "The one 1.1 KM from the hotel you picked me up at!"

"You want go to hotel?"  Talking about Jesus had exhausted the finite quantity of his English.

"VOX-ALL!" I said sharply and loudly. 

I got dropped off at the train station.   I was in a fucking mood, I'll tell you.

It may be a Russian custom - not sure - but they have a window and only one person works at that window.  They clutter up a good deal of the window with the notices of when that person will be on break.  When that person is on break, the window is closed.  Rather than being a bit more professional and having more than one person working per window, they close it intermittently.  So you get lines of 20-30 people hanging out waiting for the person to get back from break.

So the wait began.  After half an hour at last the lady could see me.  She didn't want to see me.  No Russian or Ukrainian, no interest.  She sent me to a different window where the lady was...you guessed it - on break.

Mutherfucker, I thought darkly.

Eventually, I got to see the 'international' lady who didn't speak much English.  A couple of important words ('seat', 'wagon', 'no dining car', etc) but why they called it international is a mystery.  Maybe she just had more patience with foreigners.

Wanted a first class (12 hours!) ticket on an express train but I told her (asked and answered three times!) that I did not want a berth I had to climb up to.  I don't climb so good.  I'd actually be amazed if I can climb.  Walking is often rough for me.

Though she kept assuring me it was a bottom berth, I kept thinking I was going to get fucked.

Surprisingly, I didn't!

Anyway, I had a couple hours to kill so I went and got dinner at a fairly fancy hotel.

Went there for this:



But ended up having this (because people were wondering why I wasn't having 'Chicken Kiev' while I was in Kiev).


Honestly - it was underwhelming. 


After the couple hours of downtime, hoped back onto the twelve hour train ($20 to ride across the countryside!) and met some nice people.  It seems that every train ride I go on, I meet people who speak English.  Helpful and nice.  Good deal.

Got a little sleep - but I've nodded off twice so far while writing this.  Let's see if we can push through the rest real quick.

Arrived to morning rain in UZH.  Tried to get a taxi to take me to a place that showed (on my dying phone) as 1.4 or so KM outside of the town center but he took me to a place that is over eight KM from the town center.

Meh!  Tomorrow, I will try to be back in UZH.




A story of Logan in Ukraine:

So I'm out eating with my good friends when I said "Dirka".



Sergey:  "You shouldn't say 'Dirka' to the waitress - it sounds like 'hole' (like 'fuck hole') in Russian.

Logan:  "Oh my gosh I wasn't trying to insult her..."

Sergey:  "I didn't think you were - "

Logan:  "I was attempting to slander an entirely different group of people!"

Monday, April 30, 2018

Back in Kiev

AND OVER TO UKRAINE

I wasn't feeling particularly good on the day I left.  Upset stomach and all of that.

The people on British Airways were kind enough to let me destroy the first class restroom.  I've never been a fan of contortions but fat people on airlines...

Arrived in Kiev, Ukraine.  It was about then I realized I'd totally forgotten to research to find out where to go.

Just touched down in a city - no schedule, no hotel reservations.  What would you do? 

I said 'Fuck it'.  Go with the flow.

Went to the information desk.  "What's the bus into the city?" 

"Bus three two two."  She had me repeat it to make sure I got it.  Went outside and asked around.  Found the bus.  It had no numbers on it and nobody knew what I was talking about.  "City?"  Da.  Cool.

Got on it.

Always ignore or politely get rid of any taxi drivers within the airport unless you are in really unusual circumstances.  They are there to rip you off.  Since I'd arrived during normal business hours (close to noon, two PM something like that) the bus was fine.

Got on it, paid my $4 and sat back to see where I'd end up. 

Main train station.  My escape.  Cool.

While there, I picked up a Ukraine sim card.  It was cheap enough that I've already forgotten how much it costs.  Now I have internet, ho ho ho.

Looked up a hostel, found one that looked pretty good just a few blocks from the train station.  Drug my baggage over there and - it's closed down awhile ago.  Just nothing to change it on the internet.  Questioned the locals, even talked to the lady who bought the place.  My Russian still sucks horribly but I am starting to remember what little I know of it.

Hostels are often fly by night places.

Eventually, I found a place that offered a really horrible shared room for $4 and a solo room that you couldn't open the door all the way for $12 and a larger miserable room that had it's own bathroom and stank for $22.  After staying there for a night, I determined that it would not do to stay there for a week or ten days while the US Embassy worked out my passport woes.

Went exploring early the next morning.  Never book a place for multiple nights when you first get somewhere if you have time - get up early and try to upgrade your situation.

Checked out a chain (Ibis) which wanted $70 to $90 per night.  In Ukraine.  Crazy, crazy.

Went to a fancy hotel and bargained the price down to $34.  It's more than I can really afford (price started at $50 and it is 'high season') and eventually I may move to a place Sergey suggests well away from the city center which costs $23, but for right now, this will do. 

So on day two I got a $4 taxi out to the embassy - which was closed.

I'd forgotten the second biggest holiday in all Slavic countries, May Day.

Those who watched old footage of the Cold War (which I lived through and even worked in) will recall big military parades when missiles would replace the Soviet leader's penis and be rolled out for inspection.  That May Day.

Still a big thing, apparently.

Well, shit.

So now it is Monday.  I have been told to try back on Wednesday.  Maybe they will be open and back then.  Cool.

I hate staying at expensive places and I'm not much into Kiev either.  Looking forward to visiting my friends here then GTFO back to Lviv and then checking out Uzhhorod

In conclusion, it is possible to land on your feet traveling by the seat of your pants - but the more expensive of country you are in the riskier it is.  I would  never do this in an expensive country.




TTRPG OLD WAR STORY

One of the stories I like to tell is about a newbie vampire (not a bright player at all) who shifted into a wolf - and fumbled the roll.

Me: "Good news and bad news - you've shifted into a wolf but you're stuck like that for the adventure."

Him: "No problem!"

And it wasn't - until he came up with what he thought was a brilliant idea and wanted desperately to communicate it to the rest of the party.

Party: "What's the matter, boy? Is little Timmy trapped down the well?"

Him: "I want to write with a stick in my mouth!"

Me: "Tell you what - you're in a super unfamiliar form. It's really awkward for you. But I'll make you a deal. You can stick a pencil in your mouth and write in the dirt outside. If any of the players can read it, then your character can seamlessly communicate."

The other players were of no help, rolling in laughter and suggesting the wolf try 'interpretative dance' to communicate. No - the stick didn't work.





OLD EGYPT STORY

Desert story.  OK - this is a real life story (maybe it can be used in a game) that happened to me back in the early 90's. 

I was in Egypt with two fellow travelers.  Two of us had decided that the anal ways of the third traveler were getting to us and if he died, we were strangely comfortable with that.

At that time (maybe now, didn't try last time I was in Egypt) it was possible to ride horses in the literal shadow of the pyramids.

The guy renting the horses asked us about our horse riding skill.  I told him I'd ridden a bit - while no expert I was comfortable on a horse.  My friend Mustafa had never ridden before but was agile.  The other guy we were thinking about maybe killing (I hadn't mellowed back then) Hunter claimed to be a 'great rider'. 

So we got on the horses and were ambling along.  Mustafa seemed comfortable and he asked the guy in Arabic (he was fluent) if it were possible to make the horses go faster.

The horse master renter guy had a stick with a bit of string tied to it and a knot on the end of the string.  He flicked it and I swear, it sounded like a gunshot.  No idea how.

Suddenly, the horses were at a full gallop.  I enjoyed it (fuck cantor, walk or gallop are the only good speeds) - Mustafa had his arms spread way too wide clutching the reins but seemed to be doing fine.

Hunter was obviously uncomfortable at this speed.   He attempted to slow down the horse by giving it plenty of reign, moving his weight a bit forward, lowering his head and lifting his rump.  In short, things a jockey wanting to win the Kentucky Derby might.

Mustafa and I both began chanting 'die' as Hunter's saddle began to be displaced with the weight as Hunter began to slide off the right of his horse.  Big,  head sized rocks zipped by.  Eventually, the horse became so overbalanced with the 'great rider' it had to slow down.

Mustafa and I were both disappointed.  At that point, Hunter decided that traveling by himself to a different continent might be better.  Everyone was happy.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

UKRAINE PLANNING

[Story from when I was living in Cambodia.  No idea why it didn't get published but here you go.]

MOUSE OR RAT?

Thinking that I am well use to Asia.

Picked up my shirt and a mouse or rat (I don't know vermin) scurried out from under it and ran off. 

Didn't flinch or yell, just started 'old man grumbling', shook out shirt then put it on.  Then, remembered the whole 'black death' thing, took it back off.  Got clean shirt.  More grumbling.

Went down to desk, told them about vermin. 

You can really tell when the whole language barrier thing kicks in.  Once you get off the well trodden paths, it's all barbed wire and thorns.  Googled a picture of a mouse and said 'in room now'.  Googled a picture of a mouse trap.  "Need!" 

I have no idea what he said after that.  With things off of the West Germanic or Latin language trees there is a chance.  With Khmer, no chance unless they are saying 'thank you'. 

No - I have no idea what language tree Khmer is from.  The one I found seems a bit more euro-centric. 

Anyway, after I'd left, the desk guy went into my room and put a plate with some cheese surrounded by sticky stuff.  Apparently it works really well as the mouse was caught by the time I'd returned from my walk.

If things like mice, cockroaches, poisoned water (I've managed not to get conjunctivitis so far by treating the water as partial poison) etc bother someone, I do not recommend traveling on a budget to Asia. 

Heck, even those who are traveling on a lot more money might get sick as I found out from my buddy Carolyn. 

Note - I personally still think it is worth it (traveling to Asia) and I'm looking forward to reading Carolyn's thoughts on it when she gets those down.

But I wanted to warn the more...mmmm.... discerning.



ONCE IN ENGLAND

It was time for me to do some research on my next jump.  I had decided on Ukraine.

There is a little city named Uzhhorod in the far west of the country that looked like it might bear some hanging out in.  And it is somewhat close to Lviv.

The problem is that airports like to put you back from whence you were.  I deeply suspect that the people are a bit anal retentive and rock back and forth violently if people don't do things in the normal fashion.

I wanted to fly into Lviv then take a train to Uzhhorod however I discovered there was no USA consulate there.  Only in Kiev.  Seven hours away.  Super.  So I would have to fly in to Kiev then take a seven hour train to Lviv then further transport west to Uzhhorod. 

I could either spend close to double for my plane ticket to fly into Kiev then out through Lviv or I could just suck up a couple days transport and go into and out of Kiev. 

What a pain in the ass.

I would like to get my passport updated however.

Yes, I know I could go back to Tblisi (Georgia - the country not the state) and get it done there however after spending close to a year there I think with the exception of perhaps visiting some friends briefly in the future I would instead want to explore other parts of Georgia when I go back.  I do like that country.

So it looks like I will be stuck on a lot of trains and such. 

Speaking of that, after the 1980's, the cost of trains in Europe (western Europe) became stupidly high.  For short scenic trips, probably great.  Looking at the travel time (a few hours vs over a day of travel) I'd rather go by air anyway.

I think I'll get enough train travel in Ukraine.

More when I figure out more!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Thoughts and Reminiscences

I am currently in Cambodia.  Three more weeks to go here then it's back to England.  Hopefully, I've missed out on some of the worst of the cold parts though February is going to still probably be fairly miserable.  We'll see when I get there.   I am looking forward to getting to see my buddy Matt again.







Cambodian Bottle Shop



I always talk to local folks

a) with some respect (they are humans - but still) and

b) as though they can actually understand more English than they let on.

[Also, people notice I tend to slow down my rate of speech by say 10% and I use no 'sayings' and such.  Just very vanilla speech.  I've been told often more than once per week I am super easy to understand compared to other English speakers who just talk loudly.]



A lot of people don't.  No idea why.  It could be that they are dicks. 



So I am buying some pineapple juice ($1.50/L) at a 'bottle shop' (not really as these are in cardboard) and was noticing the way the lady was 'messing up her English' with Cambodian was not consistent. 



"Why you speak English so good?" I asked.  I was trying a sideways tack because saying "Why are you faking a bad accent" probably wouldn't get me far.



The old (60? +?) lady gave me a long contemplative look and said "I use to live in the United States."



"For how long?" I smiled.



"Twenty years."



We both had a good laugh.  Since that time, I've noticed when she talks to me it is a lot more 'fluent' than she is talking to other tourists though softer.  I have suspicions why but don't really care to ask her.  Don't even know if she is conscious of it.  Code switching and all that.







Rant on spending money



Was talking to an Ozzy.  He asked how much the rooms were at Viva.  I told him for a long stay you can get them for as little as $13. 



He told me the place he was staying in was $80 per night.



I'm thinking "How?  WTF are you getting extra for that?"



Don't get me wrong - if my budget was a lot more, I'm sure I could find a way to spend it but here?  It doesn't make a lot of sense to do so.  To me.



Yes, I've met the kind of people who paid an extra $20 per night for the exact same room I had but theirs had a nice garden outside of it they would pass on their way in or out.  No - they didn't spend any extra time in the garden.  They did not sit around and take drinks in it.  They would just briefly pass it on the way into or out of their room.  So that moved their room price up to three times what I was paying.  And they felt it was worth it. 



Things Logan just does not understand.







The story of Logan's Leg



DISCLAIMER: I only tell this medical story because someone may find it amusing. If you are sick about old people telling you what their medical problems are and thinking "Well, shit - hurry up and die then you old bastard", know I am right there with you. There is nothing more tedious than old people telling you their woes and not being able to shove them into a Futurama style Suicide Booth. If I was getting standard medical treatment in western style hospitals (as I have for some things in the past) you'd never hear about it. This might provide some mild amusement or illuminate you on what getting medical treatment is like in other countries. So please don't shove me into a suicide booth. I don't have a quarter on me anyway.



Decided to go see the doctor because the muscle in my right leg was hurting. Kind of a burning. Usually it kicked in after I'd walked 4-6KM but I'd felt a bit while I was trying to sleep. Since it is getting worse, figured I'd go to the doctor and see what is up.



Since it was DEC 30th, I was informed there would be no doctors around (at all) for a few days. I'm not sure who it was I got to speak with. He had a white coat and a doctor style mask so I figured he must be OK.



He asked me to write down what I wanted to tell him. This is a normal tactic for people who went to a middling or crappy school that teaches foreign languages. They often have teachers whose pronunciation is so horrible that nobody can figure out what they are saying. That's what happens when the school is too cheap to hire a foreigner. So the reading and writing end up exceeding the speaking - especially when the student talks to natives and discovers how bad their teacher sucked.



"You want drugs? Good drugs for pain?" he asked.



"I'd like to find out what is wrong first - also I take other drugs - will new drugs like old drugs or no like?" I asked. It sucks to try to figure out about harmful drug interactions with someone who I don't share a fluent language with.



But I do like that I get offered pain killers everywhere I go. Better than getting offered euthanasia. I fear that may be the next step for a lot of doctors when they see me.



So I wandered off. Decided to just suck it up, hope it wasn't a harbinger of something more serious and just walk around.



Happened upon a clinic. "Fuck it!" I said.



"Money consult doctor?" I asked after establishing their English skills. Most foreigners get frustrated when people don't speak their language. They then refuse to simplify what they are saying and speak more slowly. These inconsiderate people need a slapping.



"Five dollars." I then confirmed it a couple times with hand signals until I was sure this was correct. Nothing better than when they don't know the difference between five, fifty and five hundred. But yeah - five bucks.



Great. I sat down and watched them try to take my blood pressure.



My arms aren't that big but I make Asian people look tiny. I think I could actually eat one of them. Sure, I might be hungry again in a couple hours but - oh gosh was that insensitive and racist. Fortunately, I am old. Not as bad as your old racist grandmother who still refers to blacks with slurs but still. OK - I'm fat. Huge.



Though my arms aren't all that big it was still more than the little BP collar they had could take.



Ever watch some lady try to hold a stethoscope, pump a blood pressure collar and hold it together all at the same time? That's great entertainment.



They brought a bigger one and did it. They didn't tell me what my BP was or comment at all on it. I wonder if it was a 'yes' 'no' thing for them. "Does the patient have blood running through their system? If yes, continue on. If no, get payment first then continue on.



The doctor's English here was a bit better than the other place. Told him my problem. "I think your blood is not moving around on that leg so well." Neat.



Logan: "Well, walking helps, right?"



Doc: (Pause) "Not you."



Logan: (Pause) "Shit. Well, I'm still going to walk. I'm too fat."



Doc: (Shrugs)



Logan: "Any way to test this to see if you are right?"



Doc: "Not here. Maybe Thailand."



Logan: (Named off other hospital).



Doc: "No - not in Cambodia. Need to inject tracer fluid and watch."



Logan: "Shit."



Doc: "I give you drugs. Keep legs up. Sleep with legs up. Sit with legs up."



Logan: "I can't do the legs up thing but I'll take the drugs." (What a world where the best medicine can do is 'keep your legs up.)



Cost of medicine: $6.25.



No idea if they will help but I was told to take them for a week.



[Follow up after all the medicine was taken.  If they did help, they managed to do so covertly.]







FLASHBACK - GERMANY



(Sometime in the late '80's or early '90's.)



Back in the old days when I lived in Germany, I was riding a street car.



Yeah - they have them.



Anyway - there was some guy who was trying to make a left turn and made the mistake of going into the street car lane.



The street car run it's bell at him several times but he just sat there - waiting for traffic.



The street car driver radioed in, then slowly advanced on the car and pushed it out of the way.



Needless to say, the driver was freaking the hell out. Germans LOVE their cars. And his was being destroyed.



Everyone in the street car was wildly cheering.



The polizei showed up and arrested the driver.



It was excellent! They are really in to keeping their schedule there.







FLASHBACK - IL - 90's?



Long ago (15 years? More?) I was with some young lady - don't remember who - it was a co-worker - driving in my car down the highway when I was literally surrounded by police cars. One in front, one in back, one on each side. And they just kept their pacing. Because I always drive at or under the speed limit (and have never had a warrant out for me), I just kept driving.



The girl freaked the fuck out. "What's going on?" she demanded.



I looked at her and said something lame like "I have no idea." I wish I'd said "You know - I should have probably told you that I smuggle uranium." or something like that.



I think the cops either didn't notice me, were fucking with me (likely) or just wanted to give me a brief police escort.



Eventually, (maybe they ran my plates or just got bored) they all sped away.









PRICES (Cambodia)



Haircut:  $1.25 (away from tourist area)



Dinner at Viva! Mexican restaurant:  $4 to $8 for normal things though I think they've got a $15 steak I've not tried.



Beer:  $.50 to $1.00 depending on where you go.



Room:  Fancy hotels are approximately $30 to $50, depending.  Viva! offers walk in rooms at $20, $18 with a special, $15 with a different special (no idea why two different specials) and $13 per night for long term (a week or more?) aka $403 per month (yes they want that $3).



Tuk Tuk:  If you don't get sick of everyone always asking you if you want a tuk tuk (pronounced "Took, took") ride you are simply not human.  Rather than flipping off the people is bad.  Just ignore them completely or give a tiny shake of the head.   These guys are often more beggar than taxi.  They are interested in getting money in a big sort of way.  Taking someone for a day in Angkor Wat is the dream for them as there are a lot of super dumb people who will pay a lot more than the $20 it should cost.  They are usually not very educated.  Things like maps and business cards written in their native language tend to confuse them and they will often have to have a small conference while holding it upside down and trying to figure out what it means.  They just want their money.  Every dollar over one or two you pay for short trips shows how little you know how to haggle.  If you don't haggle a price in advance, expect to be charged outrageously at your destination.  Which they may not know where it is when the journey starts but they really want your money.







BOWING (for people not use to it)



As I was hanging out in Cambodia talking to people I was thinking "I bow so often that I'm not even noticing it half the time".  So I wanted to put together a quick guide for people who don't grow up in cultures that deal with it.



While various specialized cultural things may vary or dispute my claims, I've found "This fucking works".  Everyone knows you are a tourist and when I do these they seem very pleased and the feeling is that I am 'fitting in well enough'.



Neck bow - call it an exaggerated nod.  This is either for people younger than you, people in service industries (ones that hold open doors, wait staff, etc) and passing stuff.  Down, count to one, up.



15 degrees vs 30 degrees.  These are from the waist.  (The degrees are how much your body moves.)  The smaller one is for things like meeting a business person, etc.  Normal 'we're equals' stuff.  (For those who are wanting to say 'wait staff are people too' yes they are but their job is overriding it as far as how much you bow.  If you want to soothe your conscious, tip them heavier and they will get the fuck over it.)   The 30 degree bow is the 'big one'.  Meeting in-laws, apologizing for fucking his dog to death and shit like that.



Most westerners confuse people when they are doing too big of bow to the wrong people when then have to re-calibrate to deal with that person by at least matching their bow.  If they are hesitating then bowing that means you are fucking it up and doing too big of bow and they are doing a big one to match so that they are not seen as rude.



For a quick westernized translation:



Neck bow = friendly smile

15 degree = handshake

30 degree = handshake and apology or "Oh my god I can't believe I am meeting you".





EXCELLENT QUOTE



Disclaimer:  Logan did NOT come up with this - it was some clever Canadian lady.



"Every day you spend actually traveling (on a plane, in a bus, etc) is a day wasted."



























Wednesday, November 22, 2017

SUPERFLUOUS THAILAND VISITATION

SUPERFLUOUS

Yeah.  Got to use that shit in a title.  And it meant what I wanted.  Suck it, Pulitzer prize committee.



SE ASIA 'CLOCK'
These are Logan's observations.  While I have had some other travelers agree with them (or at least think they were humorous) you may have your own ideas on these.  Good.  Here are mine:


Sunrise minus 2 till sunrise: The only people up at this time are generally tourists dumb enough to think that something is more special at sunrise. Or want to be able to brag to people they saw x at sunrise.

Sunrise till ten: If you enjoy seeing closed shops, this is the time to wander around. Most shit you want to see and do is closed.

Ten till sundown: Some stuff open, a lot of people on siesta. They don't call it that here but avoiding the big angry orb in the sky is smart.

Sundown till sundown plus three: This is the time to go and see and do everything. Hell, a lot of stuff doesn't open till this time.

Ten till midnight: Sensible drinking at nice places.

Midnight till four: Poor choices, increased chance of bad shit.

Four till sunrise: Only the truly desperate are out and about.



PHARMACY ADVENTURES

In Thailand, they have either tuk tuks (see 'pro tip' below!) or 'meter taxi'.  As I've probably said in the past, both are often  (usually?) staffed by insistent beggars and rip off artists.  Especially the ones parked around tourist areas.  After being told they wanted to charge me five to ten times what the journey should cost and hell no they won't use the meter I decided to instead catch the water taxi to the hospital.  It is on the opposite side of the river near Khao San Road.

For those not in the know, Khao San Road ("Co like 'cope'" and sometimes spelled Khaosan Road because 'reasons') is the fluffy bunny tourist area.  If you aren't here for whoring or getting your perverted fix, this is the place.  Family friendly and all.

Since this is the tourist spot, the prices are a lot higher than other places.  I asked where to get medicine (as it is restocking time) and was told to go to the hospital - they have many pharmacies near there.

I chatted with various Thais when I made it across the river taxi (step lively or die horribly) and was directed to one.

A fellow customer told me I was very lucky to be at this particular pharmacy as it is the cheapest one in Bangkok.  I told her I was freakishly lucky.  Four different medicines for a year, about $100 to $125.  They were only missing one.  Since I will eventually be back to Bangkok (possibly to meet a friend as well as catch my eventual plane back to Jolly Ole England) I may end up swinging back by there to get the missing medicine if I can't find it in Cambodia.

Buying in bulk raised some eyebrows.  I was asked if I would be taking it back to my home country, maybe reselling it, etc.  Note that they were still going to sell it to me - they were either just curious or were looking to get cut in on the deal.  After assuring them it was all for me for the next year and that I had no home they gave up on that line of questioning.

So I got most of the medicine I need.  Hopefully, I can get the rest at some point soon and not have to worry about it for another year.

What is shocking is that the meds cost less on the open market here than I'd have to pay with the VA (Veteran's Affairs) office footing most of the bill in the USA.  Folks get mighty ripped off there for some rich people's stock prices.

Cambodia note on pharmacies:  The ones in Cambodia seem a bit grittier and it is a fucking epic quest to find something.  Seriously, you may end up wandering to eight different shops to find one thing you need.  While this isn't bad if you are a fat fuck and need to either eat less or burn more calories and fucked if you're eating any less sooooooo....



PRO TIP

I've come across this when dealing with people who have never been in SE Asia.  "Tuk tuk" is pronounced 'took took' - like "I took your pudding."  No idea why it is spelled the way it is.

No idea why it is said this way but book readers sound like idiots when they mispronounce it.  Because drivers are constantly trying to get you into one by stating what it is, anyone spending more than an hour here has heard the correct way of saying it at least a dozen times.  And probably has developed some rage.



WHAT AM I DOING IN BANGKOK?

Heroic Cthulhu.

Recorded in London, England and put up on youtube.  Both audio only and audio with visual formats.

These are TTRPG's which have been recorded and people seem to enjoy watching or listening to.

Currently, I am working on the second season.



WHEN SUDDENLY

Through the magic of staggering out when I write this thing, I am suddenly now back in Siem Reap Cambodia because well, fuck Bangkok.  I've really been there too much.  For like $8 a night I was staying in a pretty miserable room with a fan.  For $13 a night I now have AC and a mini fridge and the room looks really nice. 

And beer is cheaper than water (at restaurants/bars).  Seriously.

The current price for beer is fifty cents.  If you buy a water at a store it is maybe thirty cents (Cambodia uses the US dollar as it's currency - yes, really) but at restaurants it is generally seventy five cents to a dollar.  It's nice to see that the price of beer (and rooms) haven't increased in the last seven years here.  I know I've not been making more money.

Siem Reap seems to me to be a bit more squalid and trashy than it was.  Not sure why that is.  I don't mind squalid and trashy - it's generally cheaper to live in places like that.  Wondering what is causing it here though.  Due to various physical ailments nobody else gives a fuck about (take a lesson old people) my walking has been cut down to about a third of what it was.   Plus breaking my foot twice.  By stepping on it.  Too fat for my own feet.  (Note - if you make a joke about the physical ailment, you might be able to get away with mentioning it but it had better be a fucking short joke you rambling old bastards!)

Now I'm staying at my favorite restaurant, 'Viva!' in Pub Street within the heart (there's not much else) of Siem Reap.  I'd often seen signs advertising the place for $20 per night and figured I'd treat myself for a night while I looked for  something more affordable.  Haggling got the price down.  If you can't haggle, learn to be rich instead!

The manager of Viva! even gave me a card for 15% off of the food (in perpetuity) since I'd been a customer here for years.   Though grateful, I was thinking "It is NOT easy to get one of these fucking cards!" 



RAINY SEASON VS DRY SEASON

A lot of people hear 'rainy season' and say 'eek' because they think they're made of sugar.  While I don't recommend wandering around in SE Asia's rain (you'll probably get sick - a lot of things here can make you sick) it normally does not rain all day.  It normally rains for an hour or two then it's done.  And the temperature is much cooler.  Of course you then have to deal with tons of standing water (they are not good at making roads or sidewalks or gutters here) and 'squirt stones'.  Long time readers of the blog will remember those are the loose pieces of sidewalk that get water trapped under them.  You step on them with one foot and dirty water squirts onto your other shoe, leg, friend, etc.  That's what I call them anyway and they are fairly prevalent.

Right now (NOV) it is on the cusp of the two seasons - the only two they have.   The rainy season is ending and the dry season beginning.  Neat.

It's great that I've managed to procure lodging now and will be paying in advance because the great 'wander around' time for the ordinary person (New Years) approaches.  They don't really do much for Christmas out here other than a few expats and it's not a holiday I care about.  Actually, none of them are (you people need an excuse to drink?  What's that all about?) except where it impacts travel.   New Years is a huge one.  Get your lodging early, pay in advance.  Don't go anywhere.  Hunker down.  Buy some provisions (alcohol, water, snacks) in advance so you don't have to worry about it.

Ensure your place is rented out for these holidays - preferably in advance - or you'll end up paying a premium for the week before and after.  Unless that country celebrates Christmas - then a week before Christmas till a week after New Years is premium time.  Plus, all of the transport will be crowded or possibly even sold out.

The next time I will need to travel won't be until February.  At that point I will head back to Bangkok, go to the airport then fly back to England.  And hang out there making Heroic Cthulhu season 2.



THAI TRANSLATION

'Sausage' = shitty hot dog.  Think one of the cheap ones in the bargain bin that rednecks turn up their noses at.

'Ham' = think about a piece of Oscar Mayer bologna, inexpertly heated up (ie part hot and part cold - somehow rather than just being lukewarm).

'Egg' =  the 'eggy' taste will be double or triple what you are probably use to.  Plan accordingly.



PRICES

(As of OCT/NOV 2017!)

Water taxi, 15 baht.  Note - make sure the boat is pointed in the direction you want to go.  They do NOT turn around.  (At least not where I was.)

Decent place to stay, nothing fancy but great internet, 300 baht.  (That's less than a cheap meal at a lower class English pub.  Really.)  Note that the internet in Viva (Cambodia) seems better.  Weird.

Beer - half a dollar.  Contrast with Thailand's three to four dollars for a beer and wonder why anyone fucking goes there to drink.

Within shops, you can get loads of different alcohols for around ten to twelve dollars per bottle.  [They do have wine here but there is way too much to know about wines to mess with them for nice wine.  I've not yet started mixing red and coke yet though that may happen in the future.  Or not - I have enough of that in England to keep me happy.  Also, they don't have any (that I've spotted) truly cheap (four or five dollars a bottle) wine here though I've not really been looking.  Most seems to be around twelve to fourteen dollars at a glance.]

Tuk Tuk (Cambodia) - for short rides if you're giving them over two dollars, you're horrible at this.  Seriously.

Friday, October 27, 2017

BACK IN SE ASIA

BACK IN SE ASIA

I arrived back in Thailand today and it is amazing how fast the old protocols were invoked.  I'm not sure when I was last in SE Asia but it doesn't seem like long ago.

After landing, I was out of sorts and needing a lie down.  Eleven hours or longer of sitting in a small seat is not a huge amount of fun.

The heat was like a crocodile attack.  Sudden and unexpected.  (Should have I expected it?  Yes.  The rational part of me did but...wow.)

Turns out that while I was gone, the old King of Thailand died.  Today was the end of the one year long death rites the country held for him.  I gave my condolences to a police inspector I met and he seemed pleased.

Since some members of the royal family were to drive by, all of the locals (and me) had to sit along the sides of the road.  Better than trying for everyone bowing.  Yeah, I got to have a cop help me to leverage my bulk up after it was over.  

Because they were having this big celebration, the normal bus that goes all the way to Kao San Road (main tourist place in Bangkok to stay) only went part way.  From there it was walking time.  About a kilometer and a half with all my shit.  During the noon day heat.  Yea.

Heatstroke has been suffered in the past so when it is approaching, I know the feelings and signs.  Did a few stops at 7-11's (best shop in Thailand) to re-hydrate.

Began to play the 'how much is this place' game.  It's a lot easier with a rolling suitcase though I miss the backpack a bit.

Eventually, found a place for 250 baht ($7.50) per night, shared bathroom and not a great place.  Staying here currently.  After getting the room, I took a cold shower in the communal bathroom then passed out for a few hours.

Midday naps are back.  

After I woke up, I wandered around playing the 'can I do better' game and picked up a liter and a half of water.  Eventually, found a place for $4 more per night that is loads less depressing and noisy.  We'll see how it sleeps.  Until I've stayed a night or two at a place, there is no final rating.

Although I didn't feel hungry, I went and found some vegetarian food to eat (spring rolls) and had a pineapple shake.  Total price, 150 b/$4.50 USD.


The protocols:

If you don't prepare (and give plenty of time for your body to adjust) for a big weather change, you will suffer.  Hydrating helps.

For 'adventure visiting' (no plans, just show up), find a place that will sleep 'for a night'.  A lot of BS can be put up with for one night.  Drop bags there, then go find a better place.   Remember that the only places that have much of an internet presence (at current) are the expensive ones.  The difference between the expensive and cheap places to stay is often 'the person running it knows how to advertise on the internet'.  And a bunch of money per night.

If you don't have a large bottle of water (make sure it is sealed when you buy it or suffer later) in your room, you will suffer.  Use this both to drink and brush your teeth.  Most people don't have horrible shit (literal) happen to them for using tap water.  Perhaps you won't either.  How many days of your carefully horded vacation time would you like to wager against saving thirty cents?  If you use the entire bottle to brush your teeth with.  (Hint:  You've done the hand motions for getting water out of the tap so many times it has become muscle memory.  Drop a cloth over the tap, balance the cap for the water on the tap or something to disrupt this process.)  [For those staying at really posh places, they may think the 'poshness' of their taps means the pipes the water comes from are also new and posh.  Again, would you like to bet on it?]

Go vegetarian for your first night in a place or eat something 'simple'.  Hopefully not American fast food.  Try to rise above that.

Don't forget to get a 'stupid card' from where you are staying.  This is what I call the business card of the hotel.  If you just want to remember the name, great but keep in mind that they don't have a lot of copyright laws here so if 'The Walden' is doing good, several other people may decide to name their place the Walden as well.  Yes, really.  Also, most people in the world seem to be absolute rubbish at making and reading maps.  Keep that in mind when you are looking at the handy map on the business card and wanting someone else to look at it as well.


More later!







Thursday, September 7, 2017

THE GRIM NORTH

CURRENT STATE OF AFFAIRS

Wanted to do a bit of an update.  Otherwise, people might think I'm dead or no longer interested in my blog.

Both are untrue.

Yes, we are all a bit surprised I am still alive.  I average about one near death experience per year.  Or Death averages one 'near-Logan' experience a year - depending on how you look at it.

As to why I haven't been posting much, two reasons.

First, I was visiting friends for a few months as I went through the USA.  I didn't want to intrude on their privacy.

My life is pretty public.  Anyone reading this blog should have a pretty good idea what kind of person I am and how I feel about most things without me being worried about losing a job or some crap like that.  I am able to be honest.  And I don't mind having a spotlight shone upon my life.  I am a fairly 'public persona'.  Not saying many people in the public know me but if they wanted to look they could surely find out about me.

The people I went to visit didn't sign up for that.  They just wanted to hang out with Logan for a bit.  So I didn't report on stuff going on.

Second, I've hit the point where I am not encountering much new stuff.

I am not tritely saying I've "been there and done that" for there is plenty I've not done and many places I've not yet been.  However I would need to go and do some new stuff to get new information.

Just the other day I was discussing my post England plans with Matt and said I'd be going back to Thailand and Cambodia over the holidays because fuck the cold and that I was a bit bored of it.  He said that he wishes he could travel so often to the far east as to become 'bored with it'.

Which struck me as very odd when he said it.  I forget that I am now considered 'decently traveled'.

For those wondering how many countries I've actually been to, I stopped counting both the number of countries I'd visited and my age when I hit fifty.  Why continue counting?  Do I get a cash prize at some certain number of countries?  When I hit ten years of non-stop travel?  When I get to throw a spear at someone?



WHAT AM I DOING NOW?

I got brought to England to run a tabletop roleplaying game for a buddy of mine.  He's taking care of room and board for this.  Nifty.  For the five of you who can't get enough of Logan, you will be able to eventually see the campaigns as they are being recorded and will eventually be released onto Youtube.

So I will be doing that for a total of just under three months (visa runs out then) and then traveling to Thailand/Cambodia (the only countries I seem to enjoy in SE Asia) and hang out there for 3-4 months then fly back.  I already have my return ticket.

The next break from England I may end up going to somewhere in Eastern Europe (I enjoy EE) that I haven't been before.  I'm pondering Croatia.  I need to research it - but it is outside of the EU (as soon England will be BWAHAHAHA) and does have a Roman Colosseum I wouldn't mind seeing.



WHY IS LOGAN HAPPY ABOUT BREXIT?

Well, because the Brits have decided to fuck themselves and it may just make my life a wee bit easier.
The first thing that will come about because of this include Britain no longer being part of the Schengen Area which means that I can visit England then go to a different country within the Schengen area.  I am sure that someone out there who is upset at my joy might counter that it could be hard for me to get into England.  Given how many English retired people are still living abroad (bunches) in the Schengen area, I'm thinking that I will be OK.  Despite racist, nationalistic, xenophobic and nostalgic idiots wanting to cut England off from the rest of 'globalism', it is impractical.

The second thing is that the British pound sterling will do a face plant.  Looking at what happened to it when there were just rumors of an upcoming Brexit then when they announced the vote for Brexit, I believe there is a very good chance the pound may sink to as little as 1-1 with the Euro.  For me, this would be decent new.  Better if I had more money - but I don't.  So I will keep an eye on it and buy a bit more if it does indeed face plant.   Even if it doesn't, I think it will be a significant amount of time before it can climb back to anywhere close to what it use to be.



THE GRIM NORTH

My travel mentor is named Adam.  I've known him for close to six years now, having met him when he owned a hostel I stayed at back in Ukraine.  I went out to stay with him for two nights in Lancaster.  Who else remembers the War of the Roses?

Anyway, they call this area 'The Grim North'.  Half the day it rains, the other half it is overcast.  Horrible weather.

I had some unusual sleeping arrangements which Adam took pictures of and posted on his Facebook.  I am going to repost them here, along with his comments:


So Logan comes to stay for a few nights.....but as many of you know he snores like a bastard....and you live here.



...so you put him in a tent outside in the yard on top of the 4x4.



...and laugh and laugh and laugh...



...watching Logan get into his new accommodation...





...and so doesn't break his neck going for a midnight wee....You give him his own WEE WEE BOTTLE...



...and everyone slept happily ever after.


End of Adam transcript.  And yes, that is real pee in the bottle.  Don't tell Bear Grylls!

Once I got into the tent, it was comfortable - aside from the rain lashing down and a drip forming from condensation on the window.  Later this was fixed.  Getting into or out of the tent for someone fat and crippled - not easy and a bit painful.   But we made it work!

A note about peeing into bottles.  There is a technique.  Also, you get about two pees into one bottle before you are in the 'danger zone'.  Take several empty bottles to bed with you.  If you are cold, it can make a 'hot water bottle'.  Make sure the cap is on tight though...



IN CONCLUSION

So that is what I've been up to.  I realize that a lot of people would like to see more consistent posting but interesting stuff doesn't normally happen on a consistent basis.  And I'd rather post now and then than to just have a bunch of crap.







Sunday, July 16, 2017

DYSTOPIA RISING REVIEW 2

For the previous Dystopia Rising review on the Wisconsin chapter, see previous blog entry.


DYSTOPIA RISING REVIEW #2

Arrived Friday with Seth P. and got checked in.  Didn't get to hear all of the initial player talk because they wanted us down in NPC camp when it was about half way through.

Wasn't disappointed to leave the player talk because it was the same rambling thing as pretty much all player talks.

Sat around NPC camp waiting for them to get their shit together, wondering why I left player talk.

Had a decent time NPC'ing though if any of the good NERO chapter owners I know saw so many (10-20 at any given time) NPC's sitting around idle they'd have lost their damn minds.  I really think you need someone with the mindset of 'ready shoot aim' to run the NPC camp.  Instead we have 'ready aim aim aim get distracted by unimportant shit aim aim visit with people aim aim fire'.  What a waste of manpower.  I kept imagining chapter owners Seth and Derek screaming "What the fuck is everyone doing milling around here for an hour?"  (Note - anyone who gives you excuses as to why I will say 'sorry, I sat there and watched - no excuses.)

Went to bed around midnight because my NPC shift was done and I was tired.

Saturday I hung out until I started to get extremely bored.  Had been told (in the player briefing) "If you get bored, go to NPC camp and we will get you on something".

The first time this happened, I was given a very small stack of very common crap to go sell for commission.  I did.  Neat.  I'm playing a merchant.  That works.  Better than sending in NPC merchants who don't go around trying to get the best price for things and keeps the new guy busy.

Got a job offer within five minutes from one the biggest trading houses in this game.  Disappointed the big boss when I told him I didn't live in the USA and wasn't going to be back.

Went back, asked for something - anything - else to do.  Was told to wait, there would be something.  Three hours of waiting later and nothing.  Outrageous.

Decided to go NPC again because hey, maybe I can make someone else's adventure suck less.

Did a bit role as Rick (of Rick and Morty).  It made me cringe a bit but on Sunday had a dozen or more people come up to me and compliment me on it.

Then, I went in for a different role.  Turns out they were going to have a big combat mod and didn't have anything non combative going out.  "What about something for all the people who are non-combatants?" I asked.

I was given a doctor who was suppose to just hang out, not advertise they were a doctor and bandage people up when they came back from the combat mod.

The lack of plot's creativity, preparation and ability to think on their feet astounded me.

While in game playing a very low key doctor, a staff lady asked me if I was having a good time.  I replied "No."  When she asked why, I told her what had happened.  She said I should go to the head story teller and tell him.

"I don't think he's going to be interested in talking to me." I said.  She told me "It's his job!" so I went in to talk to him.

He was getting ready to go out for the big fight when I told him I needed to talk to him out of character in his capacity as head story teller.  He told me he wasn't interested in talking to me just then.  I pushed through anyway and gave him a quick summation.

"If that's what they got, that's what they got." he replied.

"That's shit." I responded.

He shrugged and wandered off.  When I reported back to the staff lady who had encouraged me to go speak to him, she was indignant but also unable to help.

Despite the huge number of NPC's (every PC serves a four hour shift, every story teller an eight) this is very much a 'make your own fun' game.  Weak.

Spoke to some veteran players who have been regularly traveling around the country playing.  They told me a couple interesting things:

The plot/NPC's here was average or maybe even a bit better than many other places.
It takes between four events and a year and a half to start getting involved in any plot.

Every time they started to talk about plot, they spoke of things like 'this large thing needs to be built in order to keep some bad thing from happening'.  I said "That is not plot - that's a game mechanic to soak up excess treasure."  After a couple times of that, they wanted an example of plot.

If you don't know what a plot is you probably haven't had any.

Also, at a dinner after the game, I carefully monitored conversation between eight other people (I wasn't in the conversation) and did not once hear anything about plot.  That tells me quite a bit.


At around eleven at night, I decided to put a bullet in the brain of that day and cut right the hell to the next.  Sitting around was starting to feel like some sort of open air prison.


At check out, the director (owner?) of the game asked me what I thought about the game.  I responded "Great PC's, community, interesting system.  Useless NPC camp."  She thanked me but had zero follow up questions.  "I'm sure I'll hear about it later." she said.  This kind of told me "Nobody else is saying anything negative, thanks for your money, piss off."  Why owners ask for feedback when they don't care enough for follow up questions is a mystery.  Ego stroke?  Trying to be polite?  "How is your day thus far?"  I don't know.


I did have many many PC's thank me for NPC'ing and praise various NPC roles I did.  That was nice.


In conclusion:

Outstanding community/people
What appears (with my limited knowledge) to be an interesting system
Loads of time sitting around a table hitting it with something
Absolutely no plot


For some people (actually, many judging by how DR is blowing up these days) this might be just fine.  For me, having a really awesome character in DR would be like having a super nice house in Kansas.  Super nice - but you're still in Kansas.  It's not like I'd want to go to Kansas.  For any reason.  Same with having a nifty character (and system) in a dull fucking world.  Not something that appeals to me.


Side note:  Not sending this to the DR chapter I went to (nor advertising it at all) because I've seen the results of this sort of thing before.  You either get a 'sorry your event sucked' letter, or that plus a litany of excuses.  Or some sort of cold letter.  Whatever.

I really don't care if they get better.  I don't live in the USA and am not coming back for years (if I make it back) and thus have 'no dog in this fight'.  The people who play it seem to love it.  To me (plot wise) it was like a really shit NERO event where the plot team is busy doing a circle jerk instead of running things.  The only reason I wrote this is that there are several people who wanted my opinion and knew I'd give them the unvarnished truth as I saw it.  I'd give it a D-.














Monday, July 3, 2017



PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE RACISM

In the last blog (read previous blog) I'd mentioned that many people in the USA had 'passive-aggressive racism'.

Here's a meme which illustrates that:








ANOTHER MEME

Thanks to David H for providing this one.


THIS IS TRUE.




DYSTOPIA RISING  (AKA DR)

My buddy Seth kindly arranged and paid for me to go experience Dystopia Rising.  This is a new LARP I'd never heard of before so I was curious to find out about it.  More so as it seems to be a fast growing game that has a lot of people excited.

Other people heard I was going and asked me to give them my opinions on it.

I took a lot of notes during the game for that purpose.

A couple of disclaimers:  Thus far, I've only gone to one chapter (Wisconsin).  Another visit to a different chapter is scheduled in a couple weeks.  Also, unlike in the NERO larp, I don't have a bunch of chapter owners who are friends I can get that behind the scenes point of view from.  So this is pretty much all from a new guy who was dropped in to it.

Also, since I've played a couple of decades of NERO, I will make tons of comparisons between this LARP and NERO as it is my only real basis for comparison.  So you're going to get a bunch of those.

Lastly, if you've never played a LARP, I'd suggest expanding your experiences and trying one out.



WELCOME TALK

Back in the old days, NERO use to do a 'welcome to the site and event' chat.  Due to poor planning, laziness, people arriving at various times or whatever I've not seen much of this in the last decade.

They did a welcome talk where in addition to the usual information I got to find out two interesting things.

1)  The first rule of DR is 'Don't be a dick'.  Good first rule.
2)  Second thing is that the only verboten topic in DR is sexual assault.  It doesn't exist period.  Fine - there is some pretty dark shit here (cannibalism, zombies, betrayal, etc) so this one thing is the 'too far' line.

And they have a 'safe space' for people who are overwhelmed at logistics.

Neat.  Fine.



NEWBIE ARMBANDS

One idea which had sounded great but due to poor execution (they forgot to bring them) completely fell flat was 'blue armbands'.   These would be passed out to newbies who would wear them for some amount of time.  Not sure if it was three months, three events or something else.  Till they were no longer complete newbies.

The stated purpose of these would be so that newbies could get help dealing with battle calls, the world, skills, etc.  Also (and much more interesting) so that experienced players would know they were newbies and make an effort to get them integrated into things.  Maybe give them simple missions so they could pick up a little coin or whatever.  Make them feel like part of the family a bit so they might come back and bring their friends.

A brilliant idea blown because nobody thought to bring armbands.  Given the importance of newbie retention (and those newbies bringing their friends) I find it quite astonishing they don't leave them in the vehicle or NPC camp stuff.



THE NEWBIE RUN

They had about ten newbies (which the experienced players called 'new fish' for reasons never explained to me who were asked to gather after the mildly disorganized (as all I've been to have been) player talk finally ground to a halt.

One of the people running things (was he the chapter owner?  I have no idea) talked to the newbies, offered to answer any questions and then told us he would walk us into town.

We were at the 'depot' (logistics) and would be headed into 'town'.  It was a long fucking way, especially for my fat ass.

Along the way were a couple very small groups of zombies which the experienced guy used to try to teach the newbies the basics of combat.

Eventually, we made it into town and were taken to a bar/food place known as the 'Lemonade Stand'.

The lady who ran it had a brilliant idea which again fell upon it's face.   Partially due to execution, partially to not getting buy in from the townspeople.

She told the newbies that if they grabbed a towns person and brought them to the Lemonade Stand that both the newbie and towns person would get a free drink.  Obviously, the intent was to have the newbie and towns person be able to chat - at least for however long it took for the drink to be drunk.  Maybe the newbie could ask questions, maybe the towns person could find out something about the newbie - who knows.

While all the other newbies milled around trying to work up the courage to ask a towns person for a drink (maybe having it the other way around might be nice - don't know) I grabbed a random towns person and asked him.  He agreed, got his drink, passed it off to someone else and wandered off.

"Well, he doesn't seem to give a fuck about me."  I thought and moved on.  With my free drink.  Damned fine lemonade.  Sweet, sweet lemonade.

Later that night, I decided to try to get some sleep.  Not a whole lot seemed to be going on and the town seemed to be mostly milling about or whatever.  At that point, the fuckery started.

After I went to bed in the 'hostel' (thirty or more mattresses laid out on the floor) lock picking window climbing in zombies made it inside three different times and were beating on my fellow sleepers.  Since my character literally had no combat skills, I just tried to get some sleep during the carnage.

I was doing alright until the violin started at eight AM in the goddamned morning.

So now I'm on four hours of sleep.   Meh.

Nobody else was screaming in rage or murdering the violinist so I just got up and went with the flow.  It turns out that someone (I forget who - sorry) was making really great biscuits and gravy for the camp.  This was great because there was no 'meal plan' at this event.  Lots of different people brought their own food.  You could buy food at the Lemonade Stand, but that cost in game money and newbies do not start with any in game money.

I still regret not getting a second helping of biscuits and gravy even though everyone was threatened with death if they did.  So good.  So good.



MY CHARACTER

Although Seth had encouraged me to read the rule book or even help build my own character, I decided after looking at their thick assed rule book (3cm?) 'oh hell no'.  Seth made my character who was a tinkerer.  My character had the ability to make basic shit and repair shit.

Also, he made my character a 'rover'.  This is pretty much a person who travels a lot.  Good fit.  The required costume for this 'strain' (like a race but not) is that they have to wear a lot of scarves.  Bandannas seemed close enough to me and since in real life I am kind of a rover, I own a bunch of these.  I knotted several together and made a loop I put over my head and one arm to mark me.

Because I was feeling super lazy and would only be going to two total sessions of this game before going back to Eurasia, I decided to just use the back story of my NERO character and have him on this world.  Since magic and all the fantasy realm stuff (aside from zombies) wasn't going on, he would figure he was having a weird hallucination or something.  Having Lumsie talk about insane stuff would be fine I reasoned because chances are great anyone living in the DR world should have heavy PTSD and quite a few different types of insanity.

For two events, it would work.

I  discovered a couple downsides of my character as I went through play.  First, for 'basic stuff' there was zero market.  The next tier up of goods was plentiful and cheap - nobody wanted basic.  Also, repairing a basic suit of armor means sitting around at a work bench tapping one thing on another for ten minutes.  Why nobody was using that time to say build real actual chain mail (or something useful) escapes me.

Also, extremely cheap people said that repairs should be done for free.  If people don't repair the armor of the fighters, it is argued, then the zombies will over run and kill everyone.  I responded that I needed money to buy food.  Whether I died from hunger or zombies didn't seem to be that huge of a distinction in my mind.  This did stop the tightwad and made him think a bit.  After that, I just told people 'will repair armor for food' and everyone seemed happy with that.

I didn't go hungry.

Note that my 'build shit' skill (not the official name) did get me one quest - which took all Saturday.  (See below, 'the quest for the doctor's bag').



ECONOMY NOTES

Although I was told it is changing, there seemed to be two types of people at the event - rich and poor.  I personally found two rich people.  Everyone else seemed to be (or said they were) dirt assed poor.  I sat down and spoke to one of the rich merchants to find out what the deal with the economy was.

In NERO, it is a 'murder economy'.  All treasure originally comes from killing monsters.  DR flips that on it's head.  Killing monsters is the drain on the treasure.  Treasure comes from farmers, brewers, scroungers (etc).

A note on scroungers.  Back in the old days of NERO, some times staff would go out into the woods and leave module cards or perhaps even treasure.  This eventually tapered off because it was extra work, some cards and such were never found - or acted on, etc.  Basically, thin staff and laziness.

In DR, they have an entire profession whose job it is to go out and find crap lying around.  They can take a certain amount/kind of stuff and must leave other stuff behind.  Staff does indeed leave stuff lying around for them to find.

Stuff in DR is priced in 'money'.  "This costs one money."  A couple people called it 'credits'.

All but the yellow cards are examples of various money.  Each is printed on a credit card looking/feeling/size hard plastic tab.   Hopefully, someone in management has been clever enough to make larger denominations but the only ones I've seen are ones, fives and tens.  The yellow cards are scrap which are almost always worth 'one money' each.

Food costs - a drink or a taco, 1 money.  Double stuffed taco, 2 money.  Nachos with lots of meat, 3 money.

At the low end, the economy is pretty simple:  1 money = 1 scrap = 2 herbs.  That's really all you need to know.  Of course if someone has bought up all the scrap or herbs, the price may alter.

Talking to a PC merchant, I found that mid level characters with the right skills, connections and the ability to be able to do things like pretend to farm a ten by ten section for hours of real time can make about ten money per hour.  This is OK but for clever folks they can make that in minutes with the right deals, travel and such.  If I lived in the USA and played this game a few times a month, I have no doubt I could get there.  But since I don't and won't...

One thing the wise merchant did say is that the only real limit for him was actual time...



DAYTIME AT LAST (SATURDAY)

During LARPs, Saturday generally goes one of two ways - either people are busy running modules or they are sitting around 'role playing with each other'.  In NERO, this generally means 'a shit event without much plot is going on'.

People seemed to be mostly sitting around talking to each other here but unlike NERO events having a decent time doing it.  Weird.  I admit I have no idea why.

I have been assured that there is plot going in.  Unlike NERO, I didn't see groups regularly (or even irregularly) wander off on adventures.  Certainly, there was no 'town adventure'.  (For the record, IMO 'town adventures' were almost always super lame and best avoided.)  I've been told that the plot build up is more subtle and such here.  People that use to play NERO and now play DR tell me that DR is more of a 'sustained investment' than NERO plot.


LOGAN'S QUEST FOR MONEY AND FOOD

I went back to the Lemonade Stand because there was food there.  I reasoned that where there is food, there may be some way for me to get food.  It seemed very unlikely that Seth and I would leave the camp to get food - there seemed to be nothing (other than a bar which if you live in a small town you probably need) there that served meals.

So I needed to get some food.

They had something like a job board there.  Small medallions with things printed on them.  One was 'sell ten newspapers'.  I forgot to ask how much this would pay or read the reverse side of the medallion which would have told me.

I was given ten newspapers and went around selling them for one money each to various PC's.  To help them to want to buy the paper, I would make up various outrageous headlines ("Pretty girl buys newspaper, read all about it!" type of thing.)

After selling them, I went back and received...one money.

Well, fuck this I thought.  I'd felt lucky to have sold off the previous ten newspapers and had no desire to spend another half hour or hour to try to sell ten more.  Fortunately, they also gave me a lemonade.  Probably because they saw the look on my face when I got paid.

I decided to try to use my character's abilities to get some money going so that I could buy lunch.  The biscuit and gravy I'd had earlier helped but hunger would come later so I had to hustle.  I began the quest for the Doctor's Bag.  (Play dramatic music).



THE QUEST FOR THE DOCTOR'S BAG

After asking around, I found that a guy who claimed to be the head of the tinker's guild was working at a workbench.  I went and asked him what needed doing.  He tried to recruit me to the tinker's guild.  I explained that I was a rover, not around for long and probably would never be back.  I failed to mention that unless he could actually provide work I saw no benefit at all to joining any guild.  He said that he did have some work but since he didn't have any glue, he didn't have anything for me.

I asked him how much he was paying for glue.  Five money.  After going around and talking to some other people I tried to get more money out of him but he was firm on five.  He eventually agreed to give me the five and I would get the glue for him using that money.  Fortunately, the 'rover' strain has a thing where they won't break their word if they shake on it.

One herb was needed to make glue.  No herb was initially available but eventually I managed to talk someone in to selling me two for one money - the standard rate.

To make glue, I needed a brewer.  Found a farmer who could do basic brewing - but he had no distillery.  So I had to find the brew thingee.  Found it but hey, it's not free to use.  So I had to rent the time as well as pay the farmer to brew it.  Ended up with two glue brewed for four money (including the cost of the herbs).

Now in order to get the cards that say 'glue', you have to take the brewer, the card for the distillery and the card for the herbs and walk your happy ass to the depot (aka 'logistics') which is a long way away through potentially zombie infested areas.

Super.  My one coin of profit had to go to tipping the person the farmer had an arrangement with to help guard us.

But eventually, I had two glue - one extra!

I went back to the head of the tinker's guild and presented him with the glue.  He seemed a bit surprised as he'd heard there was no herb left in town.  "Where is the project?" I asked lest he lose focus and wander off - a common adventurer problem.

Eventually, he got me a blue print for something called a 'doctor's bag' and all of the stuff to build it, including the glue I'd just gotten.  He told me he'd pay me five money to build it.

Considering how long it took just to get the glue made (including walking, finding people, haggling, etc - couple hours) I was less than thrilled but assured that was 'standard guild rate'.

Well, fine.  I hoped to then make a total of ten money off this deal - five for putting together the doctor's bag and hopefully selling the head of the tinker's guild the extra glue.  The glue wouldn't expire for an entire year and I'd been told that it was used in a wide variety of things so...

So I spent time making the 'doctor's bag'.  Normally this would have taken thirty (??) minutes but since I'd learned the skill 'educated', that knocked a flat ten minutes off.  After finishing up tapping a small bottle on a work bench with the blueprint (like a NERO formal scroll in many ways) and materials (components) in front of me I was done.

Not really.

No, I had to make the trip to the dreaded 'depot'.

Hey, fortunately, a large group of people were also headed that way.  I could tag along with them.  Super.

Seven people fucking died.

I managed to (very very slowly) escape and help raise the alarm.  Other people came and looted the bodies of their friends.  The massively powerful twenty damage swinging skull faced zombie who was leading three beings covered in blood had wandered off.  Note that my starting hit points (amount of damage I could take) started at eight so I can only presume that had I been hit, my family in distant lands would have also taken damage.

Fortunately, the lady who owned the table (and got the tag for the table - needed) still wanted to go to the depot.

{Because the players need to visit the depot all the time in DR, it use to be manned twenty four hours a day.  Because some of the people weren't sleeping at all, they knocked it down to a mere twenty hours per day to try to convince some of the staff to sleep.

NERO people, let that sink in.  They have enough staff to keep a desk manned by usually two people twenty hours per day.  Yeah.  On top of that, NPC'ing is mandatory.   There is no whining about needing to do it.  It is an expected part of the culture.  Being able to opt out is possible but the event costs twenty dollars (20USD) more and there are a limited number of 'opt out' slots.  Mind blowing.  Note I'm not saying that they are actually using all these NPC's well - I have no idea.  I didn't see many of them.  Perhaps they were creeping around in the woods.  Maybe there were modules going on of which I was completely unaware.  I'm not sure if the NPC shift is four hours or longer.  [For non-gamers I am sorry I could not find a good definition of 'module'.  Generally, it is an entire or part of an adventure in which a group of PC's go out and do stuff.]}

So, at long last, I got the doctor's bag card.  As is normal with pretty much every LARP I'd done in the last couple decades, after a big attack the roads are safe for an hour or so.  The three of us wandered back to town.

I turned in the blue print, doctor's bag card and extra components to the head of the tinkering guild.  He paid me.  I asked if he considered our deal complete.  He said he did.  We shook on it.  I then pulled out my extra glue and offered to sell it to him at the same price as the first.  This should be a good deal for him - especially given what a pain in the ass it was to get.

"I don't have any money left." he responded.

For folks that are new to LARPs, here's a hint.  If you present some newbie stuff to a 'guild master' and they claim not to be able to afford it run.  Don't work for them, don't join them and avoid them.  Either they really don't care about you the newbie enough to give you a minor amount of newbie treasure or they are not competent enough to have a decent pile of money sitting around.  Either way, you don't want to get in with them.

So I questioned people, found out who someone else was that was rich, told him my tale of woe and sold it to him.   I figured he was just being kind to a newbie.  But, since it was fresh, something that was widely needed and a huge pain in the ass to get made - I figure both of us did OK in that deal.

After various tips, spending money on food and such, I ended up with twelve money.  Talking to other players, they often claimed to either have made no money or under four on their first event.  No clue what is up with that.



SUNDAY

At NERO, you get up, clean up and take off.  Maybe to eat with others, maybe just go home.

At DR, the culture is completely different.

I woke up fairly early, took a shower and changed into my civilian clothing.  I'd have done well to have a second costume for my character.

Everyone played from about eight in the morning till noon.  Not kidding.

After that, there was stuff to go through.

You had forty-five minutes to clean up the area you slept in.  This had to be signed off by a marshal.

Then, on the character sheet, you had an area you were assigned to help clean.  You go there and do as asked until they are happy and have a marshal sign off on that as well.

Then, as you are getting ready to leave another marshal takes the sheet, checks both signatures and off you go.

I was asked what happens if someone has to leave early and was told they would be assigned some where to clean at that time.

In conclusion, no cleaning means you definitely get no build.  Not sure if there would be any other repercussions.   This is probably a better system than I've seen in NERO where it often ends up with the same few people doing the cleaning for the masses every time.



OTHER LITTLE NOTES

The rules book (which you can buy on site but not the t-shirts for some reason) is available at the site for sale.  Also, it is an 'in game' book they call the 'survivor's guide'.  It is a thick assed book.  There are also other books which are apparently stories and illustrate the world, etc.

If you go to this game, bring timers.  Really.  Everything takes real life time.  You might be at a bench for minutes or hours depending on what you are doing.  Or in a field.  Bring some stopwatches or egg timers.

The economic system in DR is amazing and has a LOT of potential.   They have a lot of stuff which is only available through certain chapters and many things which not only come from only one chapter but are seasonal.

Apparently, you get less XP when traveling.  I'm not sure of the exact amounts but after what I found out, the XP you gain from travel (assuming you are clever) matters 'fuck all'.  It's all about the trades/contacts/money/blue prints/etc you can bring back to your home chapter.  Anyone who has any kind of brains and skill can make traveling well worth their wild.

Unlike (badly run) NERO, it seems that DR has a much stronger team leading it.  Reminds me of 'old fashioned' franchising vs McDonald's style.  In the old days of franchising, you would pay some money to a person to use their restaurant name.  What was served might be completely different.  In McDonald's style franchising, if you don't use the hamburger buns they tell you to, they yank your license and poof - you are no longer a McDonald's.  I have no idea if DR does this but they seem to all be going from one script.

Story Tellers (AKA ST's) have a shift (six hours?) and then play the rest of the time.

I checked on the DR website and for reasons that escape me, they don't have just regular DR t-shirts.  You can only get chapter specific ones.  Weird.

There was a definite feeling of comradery within the DR community.  I don't know about all of the chapters but this one did not feel 'clickish'.  Since the game is strongly set up on 'groups of people doing things together' (to even make fairly basic things) that seems reasonable.

I do personally see a bit of a problem in that (at the moment and in the chapter I was) 'one money' is still considered a bit of wealth.  Will it become less so over time?  Something like 'dragon poker' (or any gambling) I've not yet seen because even a small amount of money is considered quite a bit.

Unlike NERO, the system they use (from my extremely limited understanding) is made for the 'long haul'.  With something like NERO, once players progress beyond level thirty, they begin to get unwieldy - especially with swinging damage.  Example - in NERO, getting to the point of swinging tens doesn't take all that long.  The problem is that these days, there are people who can literally swing one hundred's.  Balancing monster hit points for both the hard swinging groups and more modestly swinging groups is not really possible.  In DR, swinging tens might be possible but if someone is swinging above that (up to twenties is what I'd heard about) they are burning resources to do so.  Also, I spoke with an experienced (300 build/xp/whatever they call it) character who told me that putting things into thirds (one third into body aka HP, one third into skills and one third into mind which is often the limiter for skills and abilities) is the way to go.

Simpler combat (no stupid spell incants) but a much more complicated social/economic dynamic.  I am totally great with that.

I've been told DR is made for groups.  Solo play is super hard but possible.



IN CONCLUSION

It seems that both the system and leadership of DR are light years ahead of NERO.  Also, DR seems to be growing very quickly.  I've heard that a chapter in CA which is only a year or two old has already bought a permanent site.   The numbers of players at DR events seem a lot larger than any of the regular NERO events I've been to or heard about.  Heck, this (WI) was a newish chapter and it had fifty or sixty people.

But what the hell is the draw?

I feel like I've seen a duck floating on the water.  I know that the legs under are kicking feverishly but wasn't able to see them this last event.

Not sure what the draw is with DR.  I feel I am missing a vital piece of the puzzle.  Hopefully, I will find out more at the next event.

For those thinking about DR or have been to an event and didn't like it - I'm thinking, try to find a large event.  Go check out an event of a few hundred people and see if you can find out what the draw is.  Let me know.

I'll put up more after the Colorado event in a couple of weeks.

PICTURES

{{2011}} London, GB | Rail N Sail | Amsterdam, Netherlands | Prague, Czech Republic | Budapest, Hungary | Sarajevo, Bosnia | Romania | Chisinau, Moldova | Ukraine: Odessa - Sevastopol | Crossed Black Sea by ship | Georgia: Batumi - Tbilisi - Telavi - Sighnaghi - Chabukiani | Turkey: Kars - Lost City of Ani - Goreme - Istanbul | Jordan: Amman - Wadi Rum | Israel | Egypt: Neweiba - Luxor - Karnak - Cairo | Thailand: Bangkok - Pattaya - Chaing Mai - Chaing Rei | Laos: Luang Prabang - Pakse | Cambodia: Phnom Penh | Vietnam: Vung Tau - Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City

{{2012}} Cambodia: Kampot - Sihanoukville - Siem Reap - Angkor Wat | Thailand: Bangkok | India: Rishikesh - Ajmer - Pushkar - Bundi - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jasalmer - Bikaner - Jaipur - Agra - Varanasi | Nepal: Kathmandu - Chitwan - Pokhara - Bhaktapur - (Rafting) - Dharan | India: Darjeeling - Calcutta Panaji | Thailand: Bangkok - again - Krabi Town | Malaysia, Malaka | Indonesia: Dumas - Bukittinggi - Kuta - Ubud - 'Full Throttle' - Gili Islands - Senggigi | Cambodia: Siem Reap | Thailand: Trat | Turkey: Istanbul | Georgia: Tbilisi

{{2013}} Latvia: Riga | Germany: Berlin | Spain: Malaga - Grenada | Morocco: Marrakech - Essauira - Casablanca - Chefchawen - Fes | Germany: Frankfurt | Logan's Home Invasion USA: Virginia - Michigan - Indiana - Illinois - Illinois - Colorado | Guatemala: Antigua - San Pedro | Honduras: Copan Ruinas - Utila | Nicaragua: Granada | Colombia: Cartagena | Ecuador: Otavalo - Quito - Banos - Samari (a spa outside of Banos) - Puyo - Mera

{{2014}} Peru: Lima - Nasca - Cusco | Dominican Republic | Ukraine: Odessa | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje - Bitola - Ohrid - Struga | Albania: Berat - Sarande | Greece: Athens | Italy: Naples - Pompeii - Salerno | Tunisia: Hammamet 1

{{2015}} Hammamet 2 | South Africa: Johnnesburg | Thailand: Hua Hin - Hat Yai | Malaysia: Georgetown | Thailand: Krabi Town | Indonesia:
Sabang Island | Bulgaria: Plovdiv | Romania: Ploiesti - Targu Mures | Poland: Warsaw | Czech Republic: Prague | Germany: Munich | Netherlands: Groningen | England: Slough | Thailand: Ayutthaya - Khon Kaen - Vang Vieng | Cambodia: Siem Reap

{{2016}} Thailand: Kanchanaburi - Chumphon | Malaysia: Ipoh - Kuala Lumpur - Kuching - Miri | Ukraine: Kiev | Romania: Targu Mures - Barsov | Morocco: Tetouan

{{2017}} Portugal: Faro | USA: Virginia - Michigan - Illinois - Colorado | England: Slough - Lancaster | Thailand: Bangkok | Cambodia: Siem Reap

{{2018}} Ukraine: Kiev - Chernihiv - Uzhhorod

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