Chatter #77: April 30, 2003

12/14/2001 — I started the Chatter section on July 27, 2000 when I noticed that the rest of my site was sometimes getting cluttered with lots of text. I'm a talkative guy, after all! So now I talk about my life here, instead of all over the place. Originally this was one huge section, but in December of 2001 it simply became too large to remain as one page, and I broke it into dated sections, as you can see. —>PM

April 30, 2003

Awful April

So many bad things happened over the last month that it paralyzed my will to write...or do anything. There's no way for me to write Chatter without talking about all that crap, but if I do, I'll have to relive it all. But I don't want to give up writing Chatter, so I'm screwed.

Oh well. Here goes.

Free Fall

I have an odd habit: when I'm depressed I sometimes listen to a single song over and over, literally for hours at a time—sometimes for days. Right now I'm listening to a song by a local Boston band called Tribe that broke up long ago. Like several other bands I like a lot, they made a couple of great albums, never quite broke through to the mainstream, and broke up. The Vapors and the Cavedogs are another couple of bands that fit that description, as does the singer Annabel Lamb—not the teen lead singer of Bow Wow Wow, but the other one, the one you never heard of (okay, she didn't break up, but disappeared after her second album—which is a pity, because her music was beautiful). I'll write more about the Vapors one of these days, incidentally. Probably in Peter's Non-Game Favorites.

Anyway, for a long time there has been a song I've heard on the radio once in a while. It was really catchy, with an almost Indian (that is, native American) chant and very strong hooks; sort of alternative-sounding but different, one of those songs that was really perfectly put together. But radio DJs almost never say the names of the songs that they're playing any more (probably because Clear Channel doesn't make money from it), so I've had to develop my skill at picking out unique bits of lyrics and using those to find out what a song is called and who performed it.

Anyway, this particular song didn't have an obvious title in the lyrics. You know what I mean: in some songs the title is just completely obvious. Not so with this one. But every time I heard the song I tried to catch enough of the lyrics to ID it.

I also kept thinking that I'd probably already got it, because I was sure that this had been a pretty big hit on alternative radio. But since I couldn't remember the title or group, I had no way of finding it.

Finally, not long ago, I heard it in decent listening conditions and got a line from it: "look at your face I hardly know you". A quick Google later (I searched for lyrics "look at your face I hardly know you", if you were wondering), I discovered that the song was Joyride (I Saw the Film) by a Boston band called Tribe. But for some inexplicable reason they'd never made it on the national music scene; I suppose that the song only gets played locally because there are still some local fans. It's certainly a rarity, anyway.

I don't know how long I'll be able to keep it up on my site, but here's an mp3 of Joyride. It's just under 3 megabytes, by the way. I've been listening to it constantly as I write this.

Okay, on to the bad stuff.

The RPG Gateway (Sucks!)

As I wrote in the last installment...ah, screw it. I really don't feel like writing about that any more. Short version: many of the editors are assholes, and I got pissed off and killed all my vote links a month ago. Since then they finally (FINALLY!) re-set the voting, so once again Pete's RQ & Roleplaying! is listed. Some people out there are still voting for it, apparently, because it showed up on the list again (come on, did you really think I wouldn't check? Please.), but some people (I suspect the editors, because they appear to be grudge-holding bastards) are voting against it, because it has been moving down the list.

I'm stuck. I really despise the attitudes of the editors on the RPG Gateway, and have no reason to support it; vote links on my site lead my readers to a crappy site that isn't worth their time. At the same time, some new people do come in when the site is listed in the Top 50—not many, but at least three or four a week (the site currently averages about 350 unique visitors per day). Still, I hate to miss people. What to do?

I don't know. But for now, I guess I could put the vote link here, where only die-hard readers will find it (who else would plow through all this chatter, after all?), and urge you to vote (a "5" would be nice; anything else will drive down the overall ranking). You can vote once every 24 hours, so if you really need something to do with your spare time you could bookmark the link and vote daily. But only once per day, please; any cheating results in the cheated-for site being eliminated, which is draconian and just one reason why I've come to dislike the RPG Gateway.

Quick vote link

Group, Goddammit!

There's a lot of swearing in this issue of Chatter, isn't there? Probably the most ever.

There's good reason for it.

I haven't been able to play or GM for years. YEARS. Do you have any idea how hard it is to run a gaming website when you can't game? It's virtually impossible to create a new scenario when I don't have anyone to create a scenario for. I miss roleplaying more than I can say.

My old game group is in Boston, and if you've read many issues of Chatter you already know the story—in fact, you're probably sick of it. There are fewer gamers in the world these days, I think, and damned few in the northern Rhode Island area.

But after years of searching, I recently found one, and then another, and then a third turned up. All of them about my age, all interested in a similar style of roleplaying, all willing to give RQ a shot (we were also going to play D&D3 and D20, which would have been good to learn). We started writing back and forth, making plans for a weekly game—which is a very hard thing to do for adults with responsibilities. There's so little free time! And making everyone's schedule mesh was sheer torture. Even when we did work out a schedule, we continued to have problems. One gamer in particular kept canceling for various reasons.

Finally three of us met at my house for a first session (the fourth guy was unavailable since his wife was about to have a baby). I was really looking forward to a good game—I can't tell you how much—and even though we only rolled up characters that evening, it was fun. The next session promised to be really fun.

But the next week the gamer who'd cancelled the most game cancelled again. Disappointing, but the re was always next week.

And the next week, just hours before the session was to start, I got an email from the same guy dropping out completely.

That left two people, since the fourth (now third) guy had a newborn baby to deal with. We talked it over in email and agreed to keep looking for more people. But three weeks ago I sent an email to him and the other guy, and never heard back from either of them again.

What happened? I don't know. But I'm really pissed off and disappointed. And I'm coming to believe that I will never, ever get to roleplay again for the rest of my life.

For a moment I even considered killing this site and trying to forget about gaming altogether. But there are too many great people who've written to me about this site, or have written something for it; I get too much back from them to let things go now.

There is still a tiny chance that someday I may be able to game again, I suppose. We might someday be able to afford to move closer to Boston, although I have my doubts. Or I might find some new people in the area, although I don't really have the heart to start looking again right now. I looked for years before I found those three, after all.

There is a local game group (and by "local", I mean they're based about 15 miles away) which has game days; but they do all sorts of games, not just RPGs. They have game days every so often; I could take "To Kill A Monster" to one and see if anyone was up for it. Might meet some good gamers that way. But right now I cannot shake the feeling that any attempt on my part to find a game going is utterly doomed. Not rational, I know, which is particularly ironic since I'm a rationalist; but that's how I feel.

Okay, on to the next awful event.

Oh My Car

For many months my car had been making a terrible clattering noise when I turned the wheel; as time went by the clattering grew louder and louder, and finally it was clattering even when I was driving straight. Why didn't I have it fixed, you ask? Why risk my life commuting 120 miles per day in a car that gave every sign of impending catastrophic failure? The answer is simple: money. I don't have any. Our mortgage payments are huge, a killer, even though the interest rate is very low and the house was one of the cheapest on the market these days. Gas and oil for the car ran a good $140 per month or more depending on how much George W.'s oil buddies felt like screwing the American people at the time, and parking was another $175 on top of that. Our oil payments turned out to have been underestimated, so that they went from a monthly bill of $90 to $278 overnight, with a $500 adjustment payment due right away. Our credit-card debt soared, and because we were late on a couple of payments those bastards at Discover suddenly started tacking on a HUGE interest rate—we'd had no idea, but it was in the fine print of our contract (yes, we were stupid, I know).

We'd made some positive adjustments: we finally emptied out all my old stuff from storage, saving $93 per month (I'm going to miss that crazy old WWII machine-gun factory, though—it had the only manually operated elevator I've ever been in, and I was pretty good at running it). I finally paid off the loan from my credit union that I'd taken out to cover some of our wedding costs; that saved us $53 every two weeks. As you can see, though, those savings were nowhere near enough to cover our increased costs. I had a few hundred dollars put aside which I'd gotten in various ways—birthday presents and such—but those quickly went for food and bills. So we were completely destitute, reduced to charging groceries on a card with an insane interest rate.

And my car was in trouble.

Since I drive Sebastian into town with me one day a week to stay with my parents, I was naturally particularly concerned. I don't want anything to happen to my baby! Nor to his father, if I can help it.

One day I was driving home and the car was worse than ever. The rattling metal noise was constant and loud, and suddenly the wheel started jerking in my hands, trying to plunge the car to the right. I held on tight and made it home, but there was no way to fool myself: I couldn't drive it any more. I had to get it repaired.

But the news from my mechanic wasn't good. BOTH front axles were shot and needed immediate replacement, which would be expensive: nearly $500.

My family helped us out with that; I never know how to tell them how grateful I am when they do that, and I guess they probably know how I feel anyway. I hope so. The best way I can think of to repay them is to try to be as good to Sebastian as they've been to me.

The car also desperately needed three new tires, so on my next payday I went to BJs and bought three new tires for just under $150.

My mechanic had also replaced the brake pads. Driving with three new tires, nicely tightened-up brakes, and no more awful rattling felt wonderful—it was like driving a whole new car. I started to enjoy the three hours I spent commuting each weekday.

One week later as I was driving in to work on route 295 something happened. The car suddenly lost a LOT of power, slowing from 70 to 45 in the high speed lane. The engine sounded rough. What could I do? I kept driving. The car had trouble going up hills, but if I floored it on a straightaway I could get it up to 60 MPH, slowly. Once I was off the highways I noticed more changes. The entire car was shaking violently. When I stopped at traffic lights the engine sounded like it was dying, or stalling; the car never quite stalled, though. I went to work, and then afterwards drove home and took the car to the mechanic. I desperately hoped that it was something minor, a tune-up perhaps.

But when my mechanic called it was bad news. The engine had blown a cylinder; it was terminal. Rebuilding the engine would cost upwards of $2,000.00, and replacement would be at least $1,200.00. Both quite astronomical amounts, far out of our reach—and replacement would be with a motor of the same approximate age, pulled from a junked car and with no warranty. Hardly something I could rely on for my commute, even if I could afford it!

My options had dwindled to just one: the train.

So now I get up at 5 AM, slowly drive my car (for as long as it lasts, after which Teri will have to drive me every day) 25 minutes to the train station, pay $2 per day for parking, and sit on a hot, sweaty vinyl seat with my knees jammed against the seat ahead of me for 70 minutes. I used to ride all the way to the end of the line and take a 20-30-minute shuttle to work, but I found a shuttle for my workplace at the Ruggles stop that's only a ten-minute ride; as a result I get into work at 7:45 in the morning. I leave work at 3:55 PM and catch the shuttle back to Ruggles for the 4:19 train; usually I have to spend the next 45 minutes standing, as the train is packed by the time it reaches Ruggles (the other way I'd be sure to get a seat, but due to the quirks of the commuter rail schedule it would take me an extra hour or two). Speaking of which, I'm really starting to hate most of humanity, at least on the train. I stand there near the door waiting for a seat to open up, and when it finally does I get perhaps five minutes of rest before some 90-year-old comes and stands right in the middle of the aisle. Everyone else with a seat (most of them younger and far thinner and fitter than me) studiously ignores him, but my conscience won't let me rest; I have to stand up and offer him my seat (which he takes without a words of thanks) and I get the pleasure of standing there, being THE ONLY ONE standing there, for three more stops until finally a seat opens up. I hate people.

If I'm lucky, I get home by 5:40 PM.

There is no plus side to this. Don't you dare say that there's a plus side. But once my payroll deductions are straightened out, I figure we'll save about $175 per month in car expenses; the cost is an additional hour or two out of my day, reducing my already miniscule free time (and time to spend with the baby) to nearly nothing, and the loss of most of the little freedom I had left.

It's hard not to feel that life sucks sometimes. Fortunately I have a digital recording on my digistick of Sebastian going "Mooo!" in his precious little voice. I need something like that to keep me going.

I know that my life could be worse, of course, but that doesn't mean that all this doesn't suck. Not to mention the depressing effect of living in a country which is rapidly being transformed from a democracy to a dictatorship. Don't get me started on that.


I was too depressed to write Chatter for the last month, but for some reason it made me feel better to work on my old zines; I added Rack & Rune #1, 3, 4, & 5 to the Zines section, and The Log That Flies #5 as well. It's funny to think that I originally wrote those zines for an audience of no more than 50-100 people. I never dreamed they'd some day be available world-wide, to a potential audience of millions. Of course, it's likely that only 50-100 people are reading them anyway. If that many.


He loves cows, which he calls "Moo"s. On Saturday mornings I take him to the local dairy, where he can stare close-up at cows in the Dry Barn as much as he likes; well, until I take him away, with the inevitable tears and cries of "Moo, moo, MOO!"

He continues to grow, mentally and physically; still at the top of the charts in every way possible. A few weeks ago (he had just turned exactly one and a half years old) I heard him saying "Pop, pop, pop". At first I just assumed he was talking about my father (Sebastian calls him "a-Pop" for some reason), but then I looked over at Sebastian and got the chills. He had a book open on his lap, Mr. Brown Can Moo by Doctor Seuss, and the page was turned to "He can sound like a cork from a bottle, POP! POP! POP!". I assume he was reciting from memory, not actually reading, but that was still amazing from a baby of only 18 months. Incidentally, when I was quite young I also was noted for memorizing books and giving the impression that I could read.

A lot of strangers on the street have been assuming Sebastian was a girl lately; not because of his face (he has quite strong little-boy features), but because of his beautiful copper-red curls. So finally last Saturday we broke down and took him for his first haircut.

We were dreading it. Not only because we knew he'd cry, but because he looks so precious with those little red curls. And he did cry quite a lot. But to our amazement, the haircut didn't turn out the way we expected. It completely changed his appearance. He'd gone in as a cherubic round-faced baby, and came out as a remarkably handsome little boy!

We saved plenty of curls, of course.

What else? He's creating multi-word sentences ("Plane in sky", for example, and ice cream is "Brr num-num"—i.e. cold food), sings, and is learning letters—he startled me recently by insisting that he saw an "E", which turned out to be a number "3" on a digital clock. He's climbing ladders and going down quite tall slides with almost no fear at all. He loves baths and showers. Bedtime can still be a bit traumatic, but we're working on it—sometimes at night he grabs all the pillows and blankets he can find in the living room and makes a little nest for himself to sleep in.

When you ask him a question he sometimes answers "No". If it's "Are you sleepy?" or "More num-nums?" he can be quite emphatic ("No!"), but if he's not sure what you're asking you can tell that he feels a bit unsure; he knows that he's in a gray area, so it's more like "No...?".

I wish you could meet him.

Your-Site Scare

A couple of days ago I had a scare: I'd completed annotating and posting The Log That Flies #5 as well as the editorial from Interregnum #5, but when I went to check on them they were totally gone. Eventually I found out what had happened: my hosts, Your-Site, had been doing something with a server and had temporarily replaced all the current files of some of their users with backups from two weeks ago. They really should have emailed the affected people, but instead they apparently posted a notice in a relatively obscure forum.

Your-Site wasn't like that when I first signed up with them; I'd been impressed by their openness. They really went the extra mile. But the original owner died unexpectedly, and his widow now runs the company, and I guess she's not as familiar with how things should be done online. If this sort of thing happens terribly often I suppose I might have to look into changing hosts, but I really hope I don't have to do that.


The volume of spam I receive has SKYROCKETTED to something like 40-60 spams per day. At the same time I seem to be getting fewer and fewer real emails. Partly that's probably because I'm way behind on my correspondence myself—I owe a lot of people email. Now that this Chatter is done I can get to work on some of that, as well as catching up on my Chaos Project entries. Speaking of which, I'm still pondering how to collect all those entries and properly format them into a downloadable online book. Suggestions would be welcome.


I recently was extremely clever at work and figured out some Word tricks that were pretty impressive, but there's no time to talk about that now. Maybe next time. Pity, because I don't think anyone there can appreciate just how tricky I had to be to figure this stuff out—they don't have the technical backgrounds necessary (I barely do myself).

Here's hoping that April really is the cruelest month, because I don't think I could take two months like this...

Until next time!

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[email protected] Copyright 2003 by Peter Maranci. Revised: June 13, 2003. version 1.1