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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Sean Whittaker's LiveJournal:

[ << Previous 20 ]
Tuesday, December 5th, 2006
1:03 am
No surprise here
Your results:
You are Derrial Book (Shepherd)
Derrial Book (Shepherd)
95%
Dr. Simon Tam (Ship Medic)
80%
Malcolm Reynolds (Captain)
70%
Zoe Washburne (Second-in-command)
60%
Kaylee Frye (Ship Mechanic)
55%
Inara Serra (Companion)
50%
River (Stowaway)
45%
Wash (Ship Pilot)
45%
Jayne Cobb (Mercenary)
35%
Alliance
35%
A Reaver (Cannibal)
0%
Even though you are holy
you have a mysterious past.
You aren't married.
Have you taken a vow of celibacy?


Click here to take the Serenity Personality Quiz

Monday, July 31st, 2006
4:36 am
Flower of Scotland
I've just returned from nearly two weeks abroad in one of my favourite places to visit, and it was unusually hot and muggy in Scotland -- fantastic weather for a visit, since the sun shone nearly the whole time I was there.

My parents only exclaimed about this about 4,217 times, but I forgive them, since they had a huge case of nerves as my little sister got married in what was frankly a nearly flawless ceremony at Fette's College in Edinburgh last Saturday.

Can it really be eight days ago?

Amazing.

Yes, I wore a kilt.

Yes, I even danced in it.

Yes, I might post some pictures soon to prove it.

More later once the jetlag subsides.
Monday, May 29th, 2006
10:31 pm
No Surprise from this quiz
You scored as Nightcrawler. Nightcrawler is a very symbolic X-Man. He is persecuted by society because of his devilish looks, but it is his faith in God that gives him strength. He is a very gentle x-man but he does know how to fight and he enjoys fencing. Powers: Teleportation

</td>

Nightcrawler

100%

Jean Grey

70%

Storm

65%

Rogue

65%

Gambit

65%

Cyclops

60%

Wolverine

55%

Iceman

50%

Beast

45%

Colossus

40%

Emma Frost

20%

Most Comprehensive X-Men Personality Quiz 2.0
created with QuizFarm.com
Saturday, August 13th, 2005
2:42 pm
Since it's another quiz ...
You scored as Toreador. You belong to the Toreador bloodline. Often regarded as vain or shallow, the Toreador are blessed with a striking, almost supernatural beauty. Toreador are so driven by the pursuit of beauty that they are often highly connected with art, music, or theater. While they do have a uncanny ability to seduce and manipulate mortals, many other vampires simply dismiss them as decadant pretty-boys.


</td>

Toreador

92%

Ventrue

75%

Malkavian

54%

Tremere

42%

Brujah

38%

Nosferatu

33%

Gangrel

13%

What vampire clan do you belong to?
created with QuizFarm.com
Saturday, August 6th, 2005
4:18 pm
Ocean Kayaking
I just spent the better part of three days on Thetis Island with my parents, soaking up the sun and spending a few hours each day paddling a kayak around two islands--all this after a fantastic mid-morning float-plane trip from YVR to Thetis. Flight time: 15 minutes with unlimited visibility.

It was an incredible holiday, and it really cheered me up.

We're all very grateful that my aunt and uncle own some property in the Gulf Islands.

And now, back to Vancouver, where I get to tackle my job hunt with a fair bit more energy than I have had in a long time.
Friday, July 22nd, 2005
10:52 pm
Well, it's a quiz




You're Mother Night!

by Kurt Vonnegut

Nobody knows what to believe about you, and you know least of all. You
spent most of your time convinced that the ends justify the means, but your means were,
well, downright mean! And the end is nigh. Meanwhile all you want is to travel back in
time, if not to change, then to just delight in the way it used to be. You are who you
pretend to be. Oh yes, you're the great pretender.



Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Sunday, June 5th, 2005
12:32 am
A film adaptation I was not aware of ...
I'm fairly certain everyone who reads my very infrequently updated journal (sorry! I'll try to write more often!) is aware of the fact that I'm a voracious reader, and that I have a background in artsy university degrees that don't necessarily help in paying the bills. Okay, so the law degree should help, I admit it--but I'm more than a bit disillusioned about what I've found out about the practice of law, and as such I've been gainfully unemployed for a good long while as I take stock and decide just what kind of career I want to embark on. It may still be law; I hate being poor enough that I'll do something as I try to find my muse and get some good fiction written.

Anyhow, where was I? Oh, right. Film adaptations of books.

Well, they often just don't work. [No, really?!] But there's one coming down the Hollywood pike that I'm going to monitor very closely. You see, in my salad days (where does that odd turn of phrase come from?) when I was young, very naive, and even more shy than I am now, I happened to be studying English literature as an undergraduate student. Because I was relatively gifted (if undisciplined, a trait I haven't been able to discard) the English Department at UBC for some reason let me enroll in their Honours program, which meant that I was one of a small group of students who got to take fancy seminars and act like snobs if we felt like it towards the ordinary English majors. One of the really fun requirements of doing this course of study was the requirement of an Honours thesis (basically a mini-Masters thesis) where you chose your own topic, found a professor to supervise you, and got busy on something you found truly interesting. And then tried to cram it into a paper of 50 pages or less. Man, that was tough to do. (But I'm getting ahead of myself.)

It didn't take me long to home in on a topic where I could tackle material close to my heart, and I also managed to have my paper supervised by a brilliant young professor with whom I got along like a house afire. (What made this project such a joy was that she shared my enthusiasm for the topic and specialized in the area, too! Sometimes best-laid plans really do work!) So I considered a few authors like C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, and so forth ... but settled on a trio of authors who wrote about the medieval world and just dove in. What made my research topic so ambitious was that I could easily have just written the paper on just one of them: but no, I was foolish enough to go with three. They were: W.B. Yeats, Sir Walter Scott, and Guy Gavriel Kay.

Now, the first two authors need no introduction. Yeats is an absolutely brilliant, justifiably famous poet (I regretfully had to rewrite my paper without him); Scott was the first wildly successful antiquarian medievalist who popularized historical fiction in the nineteenth century, and remains well-known even today; but Kay--who is he? you might be asking yourselves.

It just so happens that Guy Gavriel Kay was and is a comtemporary Canadian fantasist, originally from the Toronto area, with a background in Medieval Studies (as I recall he has a Medieval Studies degree from the U of T). His literary career has mostly consisted of re-imagining medieval history by taking important moments in Western European history and fictionalizing them in his own, alternate worlds, sometimes but not always dosing them with magic and/or supernatural elements. Along the way he's tackled the rise of the troubadours in southern France, the Byzantine re-conquest of Rome, the career of England's Alfred the Great ... Anyhow, with some missteps along the way, I wrote my paper, got a decent enough grade (even though we all agreed that I had bitten off a bit more than I could chew).

So what about this film adapation?

Well, as it turns out, I belatedly discovered (more than a few months since the January announcement) that one of Kay's novels has been green-lighted for pre-production aiming at a 2007 release of a film based on his book about the Spanish Reconquest: The Lions of Al-Rassan, which happens to be one of his best efforts as a novelist, and one nicely suited for a film in the same vein as The Last Samurai. Ironically enough, it has the same director attached, so at the very least we can hope for a similarly first-rate effort in cinematography.

To sum up, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this project doesn't get screwed up. It could well be a spectacular film, if they do it right.
Sunday, May 1st, 2005
12:23 pm
The first Vancouver Kotei is in the books ...
Short version, as I still have to recover from sleep deprivation, follows.

Turnout was mildly disappointing at 48 players, as we had hoped for 60+; yours truly stepped up at the last minute to make the numbers even. Andrew Ornatov and his wife Caroline had put together a truly awesome set of prizes such that everyone who was there walked away with a bunch of swag. Danny Walker yet again was first-rate support staff and a wizard with the pairings/reporting.

The event ran a little long as the elimination round games slowed to a crawl at times and went the full 3 games. Because our venue closed at just after midnight, the third and deciding game of the finals was adjourned to a nearby coffee bar, Calhoun's, where Patrick Naayer (Unicorn, loyalist since Imperial Edition) narrowly won over a skilled Crane opponent named Ata (who has been playing for only 4 months).

The event was fun. I think my retirement from L5R as a player is a done deal, but I would like to stay involved as a tournament organizer.
Friday, April 15th, 2005
8:23 pm
Another Quiz
Ultimate Gamer!!
GM says drop 2d10, aanndd... you roll 89% !

What, are you a first generation gamer? Did you own the brown box?!
Whatever you do in your spare time, gaming seems to be your job. Either
you looked up the answers or you're the best of the best, the type that
makes other gamers strive to know more. Just don't let the knowledge
overwhelm the newbies, it tends to push them from the hobby.
We all bow before you. You are the living nat 20, congradulations. I'm
going to flee the scene now ;)



My test tracked 1 variable How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 86% on dice
Link: The Real Gamers use Dice Test written by luminasita on OkCupid Free Online Dating
Monday, April 11th, 2005
4:56 pm
Sean's Full Kotei Report
Another year, another Seattle Kotei. I’ve managed to attend every one so far, each time making the 2 ½ hour drive from Vancouver, and this year was yet another great event run by the inimitable Leon Phillips, taking over from the great job Dan Tibbles has done in past years. If you only want to look at the decklist, please go look for Josh Gaydos’ decklist instead of reading on, as we played virtually identical decks at the Kotei. As I recall I played one different event than he did (Ki-Rin’s Exodus vs. A New Wall) and my fate deck featured one Kharmic Strike.

Executive Summary

I ran the table in Swiss and well into the elimination rounds, going 13-0 to reach the semi-finals until I got paired up with Sean Raycraft, playing corrupt Khol Wall (the eventual winner of the tournament, and a first-rate person to boot). I made a grievous play error in game one to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and repeated that dubious feat to abruptly be knocked out of the tournament and squelch an all-Mantis final (which would have resulted in a negotiated tie, obviously, as Josh and I had no desire to play a mirror match with identical decks.)

Pre-Kotei Stuff

Going to the Seattle Kotei every spring for the last several years has increasingly become all about seeing old friends and not so much about shuffling cards and staring across the table at what nasty tactics and strategies my opponent has in store for me. Unfotunately, this year several of my best friends that I had originally met playing this zany card game had retired from the hobby or were stuck out of town. (You know who you are) Consequently, I was not as enthusiastic for this year’s trip as I had been in years past.

Once I discovered what my travel schedule would have to be, my enthusiasm plummeted even further. On Wednesday April 6th I got up at 6 in the morning, and was dropped off at the bus station at 7:15. I waited 90 minutes to board the bus heading south across the border, grabbing my first item of “food” at a McDonald’s in several years for breakfast. Four excruciatingly boring hours later I disembarked at the Seattle train station (currently undergoing massive renovations and about as unpleasant as construction sites usually are). Waited there for 75 minutes to board a train southbound to Tacoma, where I’d be staying with Leon Phillips. Arrive at Tacoma at 2:30 pm. Am met at the station by Leon, who is shockingly without his renowned whiskers. Happily pile into his car, get to his house, rest and recuperate until the early evening when my friend Josh Gaydos arrives, and we begin the process of testing out Mantis raiding decks for the Kotei.

I was of mixed feelings about playing Mantis raiding at the Kotei. Like Josh, I deplore a competitive environment that strongly discourages Mantis decks which focus on battle interaction. (My favourite deck of the past few months had actually been a Temple of Hoshi enlightenment build which was simply too slow and too fragile for a stiff test at a Kotei, but was tremendously fun to play.) So I resigned myself to going back to my tried-and-true non-interactive Mantis raiding deck which tries to avoid opposed battles at every turn while clamping down with stifling board control as soon as possible while destroying provinces. So, in short order I have my deck tuned for what I expect from the playing field and spend the rest of my time helping Leon prepare for the Kotei, all the while shamelessly raiding Leon’s fridge. Saturday morning arrives all too soon, as I struggled to fall asleep to Josh’s horrible snores (having the bed instead of the floor proved to be a mixed blessing!), and we drive north to the venue, half-awake yet happy as we listen to some first-rate Celtic music that Josh has painstakingly compiled over the years.

Saturday, Swiss Rounds

Round 1: Erik Carlson, Shadowlands, Spawning Grounds/Jigoku/Black Heart

Erik was playing Leon’s infamous infinite combo deck featuring Yajinden, P’an Ku, the Egg of P’an Ku, and various other despicable onis that cause all sorts of chi loss. Fortunately for me, I got a Tsuruchi Etsui (best pirate personality in existence) out on turn two and have two copies of Rend the Soul in hand. I strip away 5 provinces while killing or locking down every shugenja that Erik brings into play. My good luck charm of a French foil Yoritomo Katoa exp. backing my stronghold seems to be working well so far.

1-0, haven’t lost yet.

Round 2: Terron Williams, Crane, Kakita Dueling Academy (Wind/Sensei?)

I don’t remember this game. I’m fairly sure it was over in short order, as I have an excellent match-up versus all but the most agressive Crane opponents who realize that bringing out a personality on their second turn, even at reduced if necessary, at the expense of economic development is essential to try and foil early Mantis raids.

At the end of the round, Josh Gaydos and I twist Jeff Alexander’s arm to join our team as a third Mantis (the fourth member was Riley Bushman, we let get away with being a devoted Phoenix player with a famous “Riley combo of 5 uniques that spell doom to pirates”). All of us were former playesters for Jeff, but he doesn’t go for Team “Ex-Playtesters Fired by Jeff”, so we settle on Team Bitter Flower. We go on to take the top team prize, some lovely dragon crystals.

2-0, haven’t lost yet

Round 3: Spenser (last name unknown), Crab, Tani Hitokage/Tenshu/Black Heart

Interesting match, yet Spenser made a failed early attack where he swung at one of my 8 strength provinces with only 8 force and bounced. It wasn’t a game-breaking mistake, but it didn’t help. I was able to use Yoritomo Matsoru to keep Yasuki Hachi trapped in a province, and Yoritomo Takaro was consistently clamping down on his gold supply as Tsuruchi Etsui and Shosuro Maru controlled what personalities he did have on the board.

3-0, haven’t lost yet

Round 4: Sam Chen, Crane, Shiro Giji/Mihoko/Left Hand

Sam is a first-rate Crane player who beat me in a mirror match two years ago in Seattle at the end of the Gold Edition era, back when I was playing my original clan from the Jade arc all the way until Diamond rolled around. (That year I piloted my military Crane build to a top 8 finish at San Francisco and won the Calgary Kotei, where I was able to choose to promote the only Mantis, Yoritomo Katoa, to the Imperial Court. All the other Mantis personalities were unfortunately by then corrupted by the Shadowlands Taint.) I am happy to see Sam discard a pair of early Doji Hayakus from his provinces. Although Sam hits me with a double dose of Refugees and an Outer Walls, I am in full control of this game almost from the outset. All of my pirates make appearances to full effect and I take his last province while he is only at 26 family honour.

4-0, haven’t lost yet

Round 5: Jim O’Neil, Crane, Shiro Giji/Mihoko/Left Hand

(Leon announces that he is cutting to the top 32. I know that I’m almost certainly making it to the second day)

Jim O’Neil is someone I met at the Calgary Kotei which I won two years ago. Back then he was a fine Lion stalwart who gave me a real scare in the elimination rounds, where a timely Counterattack won me the game. My previous round gave me plenty of practice for this one. Jim has some minor trouble with early gold but makes the intelligent decision to buy early copies of Doji Hayaku at reduced cost, which are always trouble for pirates to face. Nonetheless I am able to overcome his clever use of his sensei and the defensive attrition he is able to pull off. The last Crane province is taken when Jim is also at about the 26 mark in family honour.

5-0, haven’t lost yet

Round 6: William Moyer, Unicorn, Khol Wall, Right Hand

William had an excellent start with a first-turn Pillar of Flesh seeing play, and had me playing defensively from the beginning. This is always a bad sign for a raiding deck which is designed to be aggressive. Things were looking exceedingly grim as he had seven personalities on the table to my two, and had 3 provinces to my 1, as Latomu exp was just ruining my game left and right.. However, after indiscriminate use of his corrupt gold and two uses of Feign Death, he was sitting at -18 with a dishonoured and bowed Loruko in play. I look at my solitary fate card in hand: an Ambush. I make the only possible play and immediately slap it on the table before he can use his Kaeru Fields. Williams tries to straighten using his region during the Ambush, but after Leon rules that he isn’t allowed to do so, William has no answer for my desperation play and I escape by the skin of my teeth.

6-0, haven’t lost yet (barely!)

Round 7: Nathan Peever, Crane, Kyuden Doji/Gozoku

Nathan is a good friend whom I always like to see when I travel to Seattle. We share an enthusiasm for agressively-played Crane decks that feature dueling and the ability to attack, and we’re both former playtesters. Plus, he’s one-half Canadian so he’s innately a better person for it. He’s a superb Crane player, obviously.

Unfortuanately, I don’t get to avoid the curse of the Swiss, as Nathan’s deck decides to lose unilaterally. He never gets a gold start worth mentioning, and only 3 Crane personalities see play the entire game. This was an instance where packing Outmaneuvered by Force cinched the game for me. This was a trend that would continue in the elimination rounds.

7-0, haven’t lost yet.

I am top Mantis, the #1 seed going into Sunday, etc. etc. Obviously I am pretty pleased going into the second day, and many of the Canadian contingent prove yet again that we can play L5R pretty darn well.

Sunday, Elimination Rounds

Top 32: Mike Retke, Dragon, Temple of Hoshi/Uso/Voice

Mike was a very pleasant opponent from Portland Oregon if I recall correctly. Unfortunately he didn’t have a very good matchup as my deck excels at avoiding his battle duels by controlling his personalities on the table with movement, naval actions and lockdown effects. 2-0

9-0, haven’t lost yet, avoid the Swiss curse.

Top 16: Dylan Allen, Crane, Kakita Dueling Academy, Mihoko, Voice

Game 1 of this round was perhaps the best game I played in the entire tournament. It became a long, drawn-out slugfest where we traded board control. At one point he nearly emptied my fate hand in a duel, which was awfully good for him. I am able to weather the whirly turn of death where mutiple No Victory reinforcements arrive, outlast most of his duels, and slowly move in for the kill. At one key point I was able to use an Outmaneuvered by Force to cancel what would have been a decisive use of his stronghold to fetch a duel. Game 2 was much less stressful; I got a much better start and was able to quickly prohibit any dueling shenanigans by any of his duelists. 2-0

11-0, haven’t lost yet

Top 8: Nathan Rice, Crane, Kakita Dueling Academy, Mihoko, Right Hand

Nathan came out both on Wednesday and Friday to test his deck at Leon’s house, and he quickly learned the lessons that buying an early Doji Saori at reduced cost is well worth it as a tactic to stall the crucial early raids. This was perhaps my second-best game of the tournament, and very similar to my last round matchup with the added disadvantage that my Shogun’s Fealty was a dead card against him. I had to struggle to outlast a total of 4 Doji Saoris causing me grief throughout the match, along with Asahina Sekawa exp., but all 3 of my Shosuro Marus survived until the end-game where I finally broke through. Nathan showed fine sportsmanship as I plunked down an Ambush while at -18 honour before I checked my honour total. He permitted me to take it back, which was just one of many instances where the competitors exhibited real virtue. The second game balanced on a razor-sharp edge, yet it was determined very quickly. Again, Nathan purchased a Doji Saori at reduced cost on his second turn, while I was unable to purchase a pirate and had to settle to purchase a Yoritomo Chimori and some gold. Knowing that I couldn’t permit his dueling engine to survive, I immediately played the Ambush/Naval Invasion/Overwhelmed combination to get Saori off the table. From then on, I was able to flood the board with pirates and roll his provinces in short order. If I hadn’t made that decisive early move, I likely would have lost the game to an early onslaught of No Victory reinforcements. 2-0

13-0, haven’t lost yet

Top 4: Sean Raycraft, Unicorn, Khol Wall/Black Heart

This was the match I dreaded all along, (not nearly as much as Crab/Umasu, but dread it I did nonetheless). Unlike Josh, I had a pretty good idea of how Unicorn decks work in the current environment. Unfortunately, like Josh would do in the finals, I made some game-losing mistakes against a first-rate player who made fewer mistakes than I did and thoroughly deserved to win the tournament.

In the first game, Sean got an average start while I got a very good one. I had managed to take the first province using two Tsuruchi Etsuis and by bowing his whole team with the help of a Shosuro Maru. Unfortunately, I made a crucial mistake by not using Death of Ryoshun before he declared an attack on his turn, and one Turong + two Larukos made mincemeat of both Etsuis and Maru with movement tricks. This completely changed the outcome of the game as I would have inevitably have taken two more provinces on my next turn and had complete board control, had I properly nerfed Turong’s ability to drag my bowed personalities into battles where he could kill them.

In the second game, it was again a real barn-burner of a game where the outcome was completely up in the air. Again, I made an error in judgement which cost me dearly, as I mistakenly failed to attack a province where he had a flipped-up Sorrow’s Path which had yet to attach. Had I done so, I would have narrowly won the exchange of provinces and forced a third game. I had a second opportunity to correct my mistake by using a Tireless Assault on a Shosuro Maru to sacrifice to the Sorrow’s Path, but I miscalculated on the attack when I could have taken both of Sean’s remaining provinces. Instead, I only took one of them and he was able to destroy my last province by excellent use of the Black Heart and Cavalry Reserves. Sean exhibited excellent sportsmanship here by letting me take back an action in the final battle, but it proved futile on my part, as I still lost. 0-2

13-2, finish 3rd overall.

Conclusion

Leon ran a great event. I was loaded down with some excellent loot on the way back north to Canada, and I even managed to get it through Customs! I urge everyone who had a good time at the Seattle Kotei this year to do their best to travel up to Vancouver for the first-ever Kotei in BC on April 30th. Andrew Ornatov has ensured that the prize support will be phenomenal, and we hope to follow Leon’s great example of how to run a Kotei properly.

Miscellaneous Props:

Josh Gaydos, for proving yet again that he knows what he’s doing with Mantis.
Leon Phillips, who let me stay at his house, eat his food, and borrow a couple of cards for my deck.
Sean Raycraft, an exceedingly pleasant and honourable opponent. Congratulations on a job well done.
Andrew Ornatov and his wife Caroline, who amongst many other kindnesses kept me well-supplied with much-needed caffeine on Sunday.
Danny Walker, best support person at a Kotei I’ve ever seen.
All of my fellow Canadian players from BC and Alberta who came down and made a customary fine showing.
All of my Seattle/Team Issues friends who made an appearance, however brief.

Miscellaneous Slops:

Josh Gaydos, for proving that he can forget that Tsuruchi Etsui has a raid ability.
Ian Ryan, for not being there.
Wolfgang Baur, ditto.
Everyone responsible for the horrible train & bus service between Vancouver & Seattle.
12:10 am
Seattle Kotei
Leon Phillips, good friend and an even better host for yours truly during my stay down south for the last few days, just pulled off a great job as the tournament organizer for the 2005 Seattle Kotei, which is known to L5R fans as the Everything to Gain tournament. I'll have more to say on this once I get some sleep, having just arrived home after a busy few days on vacation, but I did manage to place 3rd overall amongst 117 competitors. Now if only my undefeated record had lasted past the semi-finals, I would have been very pleased. It's always tough to lose games where you have to blame yourself for play mistakes and not simple bad luck.
Friday, April 1st, 2005
3:41 pm
D&D Class Test
Monk
You scored 90 Holy, 47 Tactful, 87 Natural, and 40 Arcane!
Awkward at low levels, an unstoppable juggernaught at high levels, you are the monk. I think an honest attempt was made to make the kind of monks you always see in those awesome movies from China, but really, they came up with something pretty weird here. You are so in tune with the natural harmonies of this world that you can destroy *anything*... sure, you can hit for subdual damage, but where's the fun in that? At the end of the battle the fighter wipes his sword clean of blood and resheaths it feeling pretty hard-core... until he looks over at you and sees you standing in a pile of maimed and unconscious bodies, completely unarmed, and entriely placid-faced... Fighter: "Well fought, Brother Learned Fist! Ha ha!" *said ill-at-ease* Monk: "There, in the trees... a baby morning dove just took it's first flight while I was disembowleing this ogre with my quivering-toenail... so beautiful... or did you not notice?" Your main function in the party is to keep things a little awkward for everyone else.




My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:


You scored higher than 97% on Godliness

You scored higher than 46% on Tact

You scored higher than 83% on Harmony

You scored higher than 44% on Arcane
Link: The Which D & D Class am I Test written by effataigus on Ok Cupid
Wednesday, July 21st, 2004
9:13 pm
American Presidential Politics
My father came home with a big grin on his face and insisted we take a look at this.

Join the crowd. I don't know whether to laugh or cry, because the satire has a dark edge to it.

http://www.jibjab.com/
Saturday, June 19th, 2004
1:14 pm
Google Mail
So, the ever-generous Monkey King invited me to try Gmail. I can hardly wait to fool around with it! My Hotmail account is long-abandoned to spam, and my current primary e-mail account has traditionally experienced a fair bit of lag in sending out messages.

Tools that work well, with no fuss, are priceless time-savers.
Tuesday, June 15th, 2004
9:27 pm
Sean's Lesson on How Not to Win a Kotei Two Years Running
Sean's Lesson on How Not to Win a Kotei Two Years Running

Preamble

So, the Calgary Kotei was just held on June 12th of this year. As
some may recall, Leon Phillips and I (Sean Whittaker) made the very
long drive last year to attend the Calgary Kotei, and it was
tremendous fun. Leon finished third with his now-infamous Phoenix
Rats deck, and I managed to avenge his loss in the finals by beating
Greg Wong with my Crane military deck (popularly known as Shiro's Heroes,
although my build specialized in daimyos, not champions) and name Yoritomo
Katoa to the Imperial Court. The TO had booked a fine restaurant for an
after-party, Leon and I unashamedly flirted with the cute waitress as we
happily chatted with the nice local L5R crowd, we drove back the next day
listening to Enio Morricone's classic soundtrack to "The Good, the Bad, and
the Ugly". I had a grin on my face the whole way back, as we drove through
the glorious Canadian Rockies in the bright sunshine, enjoying the conceit
that I was the tough gunslinger from out of town who rode in and
demonstrated who was boss.

One year later, Andrew Ornatov instigated the "Beat Sean" campaign
to make sure a Canadian didn't win another Canadian Kotei. This
obviously meant that the number of skilled American players
participating was going to rise dramatically, and that the field was
going to be both much bigger and much more formidable. I hardly
minded, because it meant that the road trip was going to be
tremendous fun and the "Beat Sean" campaign was going to be
bookended by a lot of partying.

The Traveling Party

Canadians:
Sean Whittaker
Chris Braun

Americans:
Andrew Ornatov
Caroline Bowker
Jeremy Holcomb
Danny Walker
Jake Bowlin
Chris Porowski
Ian Ryan
Alvaro Erickson
Shawn & Amy Hopkins

Greg Wong, last year's other Calgary finalist and all-around good
guy (he was very gracious in defeat last year), had very nicely
arranged crash space for the dozen travelers coming from BC (myself
and the incorrigible Chris Braun) and Washington (three car-loads of
Americans invading for the evil purpose of defeating any and all
Canucks on their home ground). So, with a set of directions to
downtown Calgary in hand, the road trip began very early on Friday
morning.

Alvaro Erickson and Ian Ryan show up at my door in Vancouver to pick
me up mid-morning, after an early crossing of the border. We quickly
head off eastwards to Abbotsford to rendez-vous with the rest of our
caravan, who have stopped there to pick up our other Canadian
passenger, Chris Braun. Since we're running a bit late, we quickly
hit the road, but a few minutes later Chris' girlfriend Tam calls to
give us the bad news that Chris has absconded with the car keys. So
two thirds of the caravan are stuck with another delay as they have
to double back.

Since our car is full of three hungry people who have not yet had any
lunch, we decide to stop at Meritt for a meal and we relay that info
to the stragglers so they can meet up with us. Now, Meritt is a
pretty small town in the interior of BC, but we were still
incredulous when we watch an elderly woman cross the town's major
intersection against the light with her walker full of some
groceries, all the while just staring down at her purchases. When
that hilarious obstacle finally gets out of our way, we pull into a
local pub and order some beer and food while Ian and I play a couple
of test games (I need to gain more familiarity with the Earth/Tao
enlightenment build I've decided to play). Annoyingly, we learn by
phone that Danny's decided not to stop to meet up with us, so we're
left to ourselves to finish up our lunch and catch up on the road.

We manage to do so at Golden, several hundred kilometers and a bunch
of spectacular scenery later, which is the last town of any
significance before we reach Alberta. Danny "I'm in a hurry" Walker
receives a lot of merciless grief from us as we remind him that he's
*never* been accused of being in a hurry before. I take on the
driving chores and inflict Alvaro and Ian with a selection of
Morricone music which I had taken pains to purchase the day before,
and I dream of duplicating my victory of last year.

We manage to reach Greg's 28th floor apartment in downtown Calgary
only an hour late, at 11:30 PM local time, after the scenic drive
through Banff National Park, complete with a couple of bears and deer
by the side of the road at various times. We all happily get settled in,
and have a late-night conversation, a couple of test games, and so forth
before getting some sleep at about 3 AM. I spend a lot of time
staring at Greg's impressive server which has a terrabyte of anime
in it while trying to go to sleep, and decide that I want to look
through some of it the following night.

I struggle to get up all-too-early the next morning at about 8 AM,
but I manage to get up and out the door as Greg's girlfriend Diana
volunteers to drive Ian and myself to the tournament venue in plenty
of time. I quickly head to the food court to grab a coffee and
muffin to start the day. I happily meet up with some of my close
friends from Vancouver who had driven out to Calgary a couple of
days earlier than we did, and we catch up before the tournament
starts.

The Kotei

So, the tournament gets going with registration, and so forth. I
happily renew acquaintances with many familiar faces from last year.
Unfortunately, the TO announces that we have a strict time limit as
we need to vacate the venue by 8 PM. This precludes the elimination
rounds (top 8 only, as the field was 50 players) from being best
2/3. The finals ended up being only one game, which was simply
deplorable.

Round One: Jarred Moore, Kyuden Doji, Underhand.

Jarred gets a first turn Sacred Grove and brings out Matabei and Mai
exp. by turn four. Matabei becomes a courtier and quickly hands out
a 5 honour loss via a Rhetoric'ed Ambush. The next turn, he attaches
Kenshinzen and Blade of Truths. I could've handled either the
dishonour or the PK engine, but not both. 0-1.

Round Two: Matt Cragg, Kyuden Doji, Left Hand.

This game went much better for me. I quickly got out Fire before he
set up defenses against it, and then dropped Void and Air. Since he
had five provinces and presumably also had enough personality kill in
battle actions if I only attacked with one personality per battle, I
played Tribute to guarantee I had enough disposable personalities to
guarantee presence for Strategic Crossroads to go wtih my pair of Outer
Walls to drop Water. 1-1.

Round Three: Danny "I'm in a hurry" Walker, Spawning Grounds, Black
Heart.

This is where I earned the sword (now known as "The Steak Knife")
for Best Mistake of the tournament. I got off to a really good start
and played all of my Rings except Fire before Danny got me down to 3
provinces, because he flipped almost every holding in his deck as he
tried to bring out big evil things to kill me with. I was only one
card away from dropping Fire, but I needed a second Words Cut Like
Steel to cycle in to my hand, and it was stubbornly at the bottom of
my deck. But hey, my Refuge of the Three Sisters pops up in one of
my provinces, and I have my one Show of Good Faith in hand. I
casually point to his bowed Fushiki no Oni, who has 5 chi, and play
the Show of Good Faith. I try to sack it to the Refuge to win the
game (I have two Temple of the Ages in play to bully-duel my way to
Fire). Danny points out that I can't do that because the Refuge
requires an unbowed personality. I announce to the world that I am a
very stupid person. I sit around for the next 3 turns without
drawing what I need as the slavering Onis and Iuchiban strip me of
my remaining provinces. 30 province strength wasn't nearly enough. 1-
2, and my quest to repeat appears doomed.

Round Four: Matt Cruikshank, Temple of Hoshi, Right Hand.

Probably the best game of the day. He wrecks my day with Turn of
Fortune three times (using one Shrine of the Eternal in the
process), but I manage to drop Fire and enlighten only because he
didn't have a 4 focus value card in his hand at the crucial moment.
2-2.

Round Five: Parker Wells, Razor's Edge Dojo, Voice.

My deck runs like clockwork and I easily have enough cards in hand
to discard to his stronghold. 3-2.

Round Six: Caroline "She Who Graciously Provides Me with Orange
Chocolate and Alcohol" Bowker, Morning Glory Castle, Left Hand.

Caroline says she isn't sure how to play versus Enlightenment, but
she makes the very, very savvy decision not to bring out any
personalities against me, save one that she quickly sacks to her own
Refuge. This means I can't play Fire. She manages to gain
tremendous amounts of honour very quickly through fortuitous early
events, regions, and honour-producing holdings. I make a crucial
mistake that prevents me from destroying all of her provinces: I use
Kyuden Tonbo when she is at 38 honour with an unbowed Noh Theater
Troupe. I use Tribute and proceed to blow up her Naga Storm Mirumoto
Mountain, but can't quite muster up enough force to take all her
provinces the following turn. I would have been able to do so
otherwise, as my trio of Temple of Ages were giving three of my puds
4/4. 3-3.

So, the tournament ends with Greg Wong finally coming through with a
first-place finish at a Kotei after a tough second-place finish the
year before, and a demoralizing loss to Ian Ryan at EtG4 earlier
this spring.

The Party After

We then head to the Keg for a steak dinner with Greg, his girlfriend Diana,
and her brother. The long wait to get seated very much alleviated by
all the eye candy going in and out of the restaurant. Jake announces
to me that the trip has been worth it just to see all these
attractive Canadian women. (I mock-wipe the imaginary drool off his
beard, with no success.) The antics of Ian & Chris were hilarious,
and in cheerfully poor taste, which causes our table to be convulsed
with laughter most of the time, or pretty embarrassed by some of our table
companions. Dinner is particularly good, although Shawn
isn't terribly impressed by the beer on tap (he cleverly doesn't
even try to defend weak American beer, and truthfully it wasn't all
that good as Canadian beer goes). We have a nice waitress, Katie, who got a
big tip for putting up with Chris and Ian (I thought Caroline would
turn around and stab Chris at one point). I duck out early to
retrive both my gear and Ian's from Shawn's car, who is leaving
early to go back to his hotel: I re-enter the steakhouse casually
carrying the Big Steak Knife with a big grin on my face.

Our trip back to Greg's for yet more socializing is delayed as one
of the locals who is providing crash space, Britain, had to duck out
to a bank. It turns out he ended up walking the better part of an
hour to find a functional bank machine, so we just paid his bill for
him and cram a whole bunch of people into two cars and drive over to
Greg's, where the anime videos start playing and the alcohol
continues to get poured. Greg graciously agrees to trade me some of
his extra Dragon foils, which makes me happy, and I proceed to drink
some of Caroline's fine liqueur and some vodka and orange juice (in
healthier proportions to what ChPow drinks!). Britain eventually
arrives to join the party.

Eventually the party ends and we grab a bit of sleep. We proceed to
take Greg out to breakfast the following morning, congratulate him
again on winning the tournament, and start the long drive home.

--Sean Whittaker

"What do you mean, I need an unbowed personality to use the
Refuge? . . . Doh!"
Wednesday, February 25th, 2004
10:21 am
Baseball
So, Spring Training has begun.

Over the last few years, my love for baseball has re-awakened. I used to go see games at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto with my dad in the early to mid-80's, but when we moved back out to Vancouver my appreciation for the sport waned as Little League became a distant memory. Aside from going to the odd daytime game at venerable Nat Bailey Stadium, where I did see quite a few future Major League stars (and the sunshine, cheap beer and hotdogs were always the real reason for going), my love affair with baseball was definitely off.

But recently I've become newly interested in the intricacies of the game from an intellectual standpoint, and I've spent more and more time educating myself on trying to understand pro ball. I'm now participating in 3 roto leagues, and I've made a special point of seeing my first game at Safeco Field in Seattle, and I even managed to catch a game with Jake in Oakland last summer as well.

Prediction for my Blue Jays this year: 88 wins, best third place team in baseball.
Friday, February 13th, 2004
7:14 am
Birthday!
This is it. I'm 30.

Woke up early (before 7, even!) to speak with parents.

I'm a little bemused that it took me at least three days to really recover from last weekend's ski trip.

Anyways, I'm looking forward to a productive day. I'm full of energy, ready to tackle some outstanding projects (some mundane chores, others a bit more creative), and there are some solid plans for a fun night out with a half-dozen good friends involving good food and good drink.
Sunday, February 8th, 2004
9:32 pm
A weekend of blissful skiing
Too stiff to type much. :)

My birthday is in five days, and I'll be turning 30.

I celebrated this landmark a few days in advance with my father in grand style--we spent two fantastic days skiing at Whistler, capped off by a surprise early birthday present, a pair of gorgeous new skis. Shweeeet!

More later when the soreness has vanished.
Saturday, January 31st, 2004
12:17 am
A short visit
I had the pleasure of playing host for the afternoon to a friend of mine from Tacoma, originally hailing from NoCal, by the name of John Gizzi. He and his wife are considering a move across the border to Vancouver later this year.

John is a fellow baseball fan who has been playing the game all his life, and a shrewd participant in several fantasy baseball leagues. He is also the Oakland A's fantasy correspondant for ESPN.com. We originally met online via a baseball blog we both contributed to, and I managed to meet him in person last summer when I was in Seattle. We happily continued our friendship at Safeco Field as we watched the Mariners beat the Boston Red Sox in an exciting game that featured a grand slam home run by !Ichiro.

So naturally we spent a good part of the afternoon discussing the potential move north, and another large chunk talking baseball. We also managed to squeeze in lunch at Olympia Pizza, a regular haunt of mine, and a nice cup of coffee at the Blue Parrot as we walked to and from a couple of bookstores on 4th Avenue. We wrapped up his visit with a walk at Jericho Beach and a last cup of tea with my mother at home before John ventured out for some final errands downtown before he returning home to Tacoma.
Thursday, January 15th, 2004
12:10 am
Playtesting and other activities
While I keep working on my legal research project in eventual hopes of submitting it for a much-delayed first class grade at law school before I apply to grad school, I am also acting as team lead for a group of Canadian enthusiasts playtesting for Legend of the Five Rings. We just concluded a meeting where we played some test decks and talked cards while having dinner at a restaurant out in Surrey. We picked on old standard in White Spot, which provided unlimited pitchers of Coke and a corner table to spend hours talking and testing cards.

At the same time, I need to lean on some of my connections to secure a few freelance jobs doing legal research, or a full articling position, before I embark on a full-blown move to grad school or an associate position at a firm where I can get the opportunities that I want. I need money coming in for a change!

If I can't land something that satisfies my intellectual ambitions in the real world, I'll definitely opt for more school. Ultimately, of course, I want to channel my real-life experiences into writing fiction about the human condition. Getting out of my current rut and this extended bout of writer's block is my chief goal, bar none.
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