December 21, 2015

White Elephant Variant: Barter Elephants

Currently a WIP because I thought of this on my bus ride into work today. I like white elephant gift exchanges, but I always feel like there isn't enough interaction and people who have later numbers in the gift opening process have a huge advantage. So here's my attempt at making a more fun gift giving exchange.
If you try this out, please comment below and let me know how it went. I'm open to any comments or suggestions!

Barter Elephant Rules:
1. Draw numbers.
2. Open wrapped presents in order.
4. After everyone has opened a present, Barter Cocktail Time begins.
5. For the next half an hour, everyone attempts to paperclip < house their way to their desired item and/or negotiate additional perks that would be exchanged in order to sweeten the deal.
6. Gifts are redistributed at the end of the Barter Cocktail Time depending on if any deals were successfully made.

Edit: Changed the name from Barter HolidayTown to Barter Elephants.

October 5, 2015

XOXO 2015 - The Best Conference I've Ever Been To

When I first heard about the XOXO Festival, it was described with a mysterious and mystical air, an elusive and exclusive technology conference in Portland. You had to fill out a form to get the opportunity to go and it boasted speakers AND attendees that were movers and shakers in the tech world. I imagined it was like a turnkey Burning Man camp.

I've had the good fortune of attending Burning Man twice, in 2012 and 2014, so I figured, hell, why not give it a shot, I'm a pretty diverse and interesting individual, maybe I have a shot at buying tickets in the lottery. And it was the best four days I've spent surrounded by strangers with a schedule of activities. Yes, even better than tour-guided vacations.

The very first night, I met Sophie & Jenni from New Zealand and pretty much spent some part of every day of XOXO hanging out with them. They were fun, laid back, and it was easy to feel comfortable around them.

While wandering around looking at the VR games, we saw Brian Fetter and his sister Laura Fetter, who were repping shirts from Brian's game Keep Talking And No One Explodes and looking for people to demo the game. Luckily, we saw them right before they set up shop and pretty much hung out with them for the next hour. Pat Kemp (my partner) and Brian talked video game shop, while Laura and I had a leisurely conversation about all sorts of things and demoed the game to the couple of curious people that wandered past.

Was a blur of social events, meeting people, and DAN DEACON.

Ground Kontrol was free to play, so I got to play some more Killer Queen. I much prefer the setup at the Cards Against Humanity office in Chicago because it allows for more smack talk as well as sportsmanship.

And then I got to experience the joyous wonder that is Dan Deacon. This statement from Dan Deacon's Wikipedia page sums up, but in no way accurately describes, the experience of attending a Dan Deacon concert:
Deacon is renowned for his live shows, where large-scale audience participation and interaction is often a major element of the performance.
As I've been telling people, it was like a giant ice breaker performance art with the two hundred or so attendees of the concert. Afterwards, I was exhilarated and exhausted, my hands hurt, and I couldn't wait to wash my hands extremely thoroughly. I absolutely love performance art and being able to interact authentically with strangers and feel part of a whole. I also had the pleasure of giving Dan Deacon a high-five. I didn't want him to feel left out of the beautiful thing he created.

The start of two days crammed full of inspiring and heart-provoking talks that gave glimpses into the struggles and victories of people from all corners of the creative technology ecosystem. On Saturday I learned "You can better show a thing than explain it."

I was impressed by the diversity of the speakers as well as the diversity of the conference attendees. Apparently, 47% of the attendees were women.

I was extremely fortunate to stumble upon and experience &maybetheywontkillyou, in which you role-play as a black teenager going to the store. It was made by Akira Thompson and I really enjoyed chatting with him afterwards. It's been one of main things I bring up when talking to people about XOXO as an example of an important and necessary creative outreach that should be supported and that space should be made for.

I had a delicious dinner with Samantha Kalman and we talked about the future of Invisible Arcade, an event that I've been helping her put on in Seattle.

Started with the best breakfast burrito I have ever had. Even better, while we were waiting for it from the Fried Egg, I'm in Love food truck conveniently located by our AirBnB, we got to chat with Lucy Bellwood, a delightful individual who did all of the live sketches of the XOXO talks.

On Sunday I learned "Our designs are value systems."

I was lucky enough to be invited to lunch with a small group that included Andrew FergusonTony ZhouSpike Trotman, and Nicky Case, all of whom were fun and interesting to talk to. At one point, we had an entire table discussion on the difficult question of whether or not to have kids. From the conversation, Tony recommended that I watch (in order) Rosemary's BabyThe Babadook, and We Need to Talk About Kevin. I watched the first two just yesterday, back to back and am waiting for the third from the library. So far, I'm no less fearful of having kids, but the good news is that I'm no more fearful of having kids than before either.

At the Electric Objects Salon, one of its curators, Darius Kazemi, gave a tour of the exhibit, which was fascinating, especially because I had gone through the exhibit on my own earlier and missed so so much of the backstories behind each piece. Also, I love tours.

Finally, I spent much of the rest of the night, and a couple of hours on Monday, talking to Rachel Nabors and had her draw on my XOXO badge.

In Conclusion...
XOXO to me was a four day conversation that I had about my place in the world and how I can make it better. I was deeply inspired and humbled by all of the authentic and engaged discussions that I had with everyone that I met, not just those that I mentioned here. If you ever get a chance to go, I would challenge you to take every opportunity to talk with someone because at its core, XOXO is about people.

February 16, 2015

Death Becomes You

D&D Next with Ben Robbins.
Start from the beginning: Slave Galleys Suck
Previous Session: Magic: Not for the Faint of Heart

They followed the crowd to the mysterious death and found the entire town outside of the deceased leather worker's house/shop. Gephart, the governor of Port Halke, was anxiously wringing his hands and looking flustered, but no one paid him any mind. Everyone was quietly talking in groups or standing somberly stone-faced. Wallach, a sturdy individual that was viewed as somewhat of a hero among the workers, was surrounded by men that were barely keeping their frustrated and somewhat frightened anger under control. They glared at the trio as they approached.

Not ones to be cowered by such blatant and undeserved hostility, Kelti, Titus, and Visage made some perfunctory small talk and then casually asked, "Does anyone know what happened here?"
When their question was met with suspicious shrugs, they looked at each other and remarked that perhaps the answer laid inside. Most shrugged indifferently and waved them towards the entrance, but some cast fearful glances at their inquiry. These strangers who were so recently shipwrecked certainly have a healthy sense of morbid curiosity.

Once inside, it was obvious that the cause of the poor leather worker's death was tied to whatever ailment had befallen Morrow, the town wizard. The leather worker's face was contorted in a similar horrified scream of terror. However, upon closer inspection, they noticed that there were black fingerprints that marred his thick neck, which were barely covered by his stiff collar.

Shaken to their core, the trio turned to leave and were met by Korlav, who shook his head at their audacity and warned them that rumors were being spread by those suspicious of their intent. Whispers of black sorcery and ill-fated midnight jaunts spread quickly.

As they walked past Wallach, he gave them a side glance and muttered loud enough for them to hear, "He was a good guy. Maybe you don't know how good you had it." The lackeys surrounding him nodded grimly and their hard stares followed them until they walked out of view.

They went quickly past the wizard's hut and grabbed a few books for Visage. Titus spent the afternoon in the longshore house, playing dice with sailors, while Visage managed to learn two spells from the books. Kelti, always one for reckless adventuring, decided to take a walk by herself. She wandered by the graveyard and sees a figure hunched in the distance. As she got closer, she realized with a start that it was Morrow, still very much dead, but no longer unmoving.

Before she could wrap her head around the impossible sight before her, Not-Quite-Morrow lurched towards her and wrapped his cold fingers around her neck and tried to choke the life out of her. A yell escaped from her lips before her throat was shut off. Luckily, she was able to break free of him before she lost consciousness and she desperately shoved him back before running back to the house for help.

The townsfolk were wild with fear after hearing her story and immediately set off for Morrow's hut to burn it down to the ground. As the crowd gathered around the burning hut, a scream pierced the air and soon the entire crowd was trying to get away from undead Morrow who had joined them. This time they were prepared. They circled Morrow and hit him with a hammer, breaking both his arms and finally he was still again. Visage knew that the only way to keep the dead from rising was to make sure they had no more bodies to inhabit. They spend the rest of the night digging up the dead and burning them in the hut fire.