How to Prepare for PAX

This originally appeared on the old 1oS blog, but I’m updating and reposting it here, as I think it might still be useful. 

Someone asked me if I had any advice on what they should expect when attending PAX, or how they should prepare for their first gamer convention. I do! And some of this advice is also good for any gaming or nerd gathering (SDCC, E3, etc) and some is specifically for the PAX culture. But I hope you find it all helpful.
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The Tangerine Dream: Refinishing the Retronix R-800

I got a great deal on one of the first Retronix R-800s — the Korean-made models of J. Backlund‘s designs — thanks to Kickstarter. Fantastic look, very comfortable neck and body contours, trem bridge with coil-tapped humbuckers — extremely well built and designed for flexibility. The company even threw in a hardshell case as a surprise to backers, custom-fitted to the unusual shape.

The only thing that bugged me about it was the color. The Cobalt Blue turned out to be a lot darker than the prototype photo suggested — “blurple” at best, and to my eye, almost black unless sunlight was shining directly on it. I was really bummed, to the point where I considered selling it, but then realized maybe I should just have it refinished. And so…

Continue reading The Tangerine Dream: Refinishing the Retronix R-800

Operation House it Going: Welcome to Sunkist Manor

Kat and I have been slowly saving for a house for years. We have moved eight times — as our jobs and offices relocated, so did we — and each time, that sapped more of our savings. We aren’t wasteful; we have expensive interests like photography and guitars, and we generally believe in buying quality. So when we finally got serious about looking for a home this year — in honor of our impending 20th anniversary — I think we were in line for a little house karma.

And so, when we found a nice house in the Laurel Park neighborhood of Richmond, on the border of El Cerrito in the East Bay, we put in an offer and it was accepted in early May. A few weeks later, we had keys!

You may have noticed the house is bright orange. It came that way, a recent repaint. I am not going to change it. I love it. We call it Sunkist Manor. And it has an unusual history.  Continue reading Operation House it Going: Welcome to Sunkist Manor

Three Answers to Impossible Gaming Questions

I wrote this editorial back in 2011 for One of Swords and just found it again. Now that the sun has set on 1oS, I’d like to post it here in hopes it might do more good.


I get a lot of questions from gamers every day. I try to answer as many as I can with sourced facts or, failing that, honesty. Sometimes it’s simple stuff that the Customer Support team can handle without breaking a sweat. But if I don’t know the answer and I don’t have much hope of finding one, I’ll tell you so you don’t feel jerked around.  But I have noticed that there are three lines of questioning that I often cannot answer to anyone’s satisfaction. It’s not that I don’t have an answer, or even that an answer does not exist — it’s that the answer is either incomplete or simply not accepted by the person asking. So they ask again, hoping for a different answer that matches what they wanted to hear in the first place. And that doesn’t work out so well.

Here are the answers I have the most trouble explaining:
Continue reading Three Answers to Impossible Gaming Questions

Operation House It Going

For our impending 20th anniversary, Kat and I want to finally own our own home, so Operation House It Going is underway. We have a mortgage broker, a real estate agent, and excellent credit, but not enough money for a down payment. The SF Bay Area housing market is rough, but we are hoping to find a fixer-upper in the East Bay.

As a game reviewer for 15 of the last 20 years, I’ve been happy and grateful but never rich. Life also throws you financial curveballs, so our nest egg simply isn’t what we had hoped it would be. I’m probably going to sell my Les Paul to reach our goal, but there’s something else that might help, too.  Continue reading Operation House It Going

Dan’s tips for social media success

People have asked me if I plan to write a book about being a community manager and using social media to follow up Critical Path. Nope. Critical Path came from leveraging 15 years of experience, after which I thought I’d learned something valuable worth sharing. I’m still a newbie at community stuff.

But I can tell you the one thing that I know works wonders, but many people and brands get wrong. And I can sum it up in three words. Continue reading Dan’s tips for social media success

Every one of your stupid complaints about the Ghostbusters reboot, shot down in flames

So, new Ghostbusters project is finally getting off the ground. It’s a reboot with a female cast, from Bridesmaids director Paul Feig.

Naturally, the internet lost its shit.

I saw a lot of moaning, criticisms, and prejudgments, and conveniently, most are summed up pretty neatly in this GeekTyrant article by Joey Paur. I generally like GeekTyrant’s coverage, but this particular post is as selfish and misguided as it gets. Let me break it down:  Continue reading Every one of your stupid complaints about the Ghostbusters reboot, shot down in flames

My PAX Prime 2014 schedule

Yes, I’ll be there! So will Kat!

FRIDAY 8/29 | 8:00PM – 9:00PM | HEDGEHOG
Game Show Night: Jeopardy!
This…is…Jeopardy! Well, no it’s not – since all the answers and questions are going to be about gaming and geek culture, it’s more like Mild Peril. The contestants will be you, the PAX attendees, so bring your thinking caps to this panel—you might be on the show! Just don’t wear anything that will clash with host Dan Amrich’s incredibly blinding red jacket. Part of Game Show Night at PAX Prime 2014!

Note: This is the middle block of Game Show Night, between Pyramid and Blankety Blank. The show really starts at 7 — but show up early if you want to be considered as a contestant for any of the games!

All three games will be livestreamed on Twitch here, starting at 7pm on Friday night! 

SATURDAY 8/30 | 2:30PM – 3:30PM | SPHINX
Help Design Game Journalism Story!
You’ve been invited to help design a games journalism simulator, a majestic open-world universe featuring Doritos-stained keyboards and fantastic bribes for reviewing games. This satirical panel, featuring game press veterans, invites the audience to participate in the faux-design meeting, allowing for honest and humorous discussion about some of game journalism’s most persistent myths.

SATURDAY 8/30 | 5:30PM – ??? | TABLETOP FREEPLAY
Our annual PAX tradition continues — The Great Dalmuti! All are welcome, as it’s a card game you can learn on the spot. Or watch this. But we’ll do that for a while Saturday night.

SUNDAY 8/31 | 8:00PM – 9:00PM | WYVERN
Three Old Guys Play Falling-Block Games
Join us for the 30-year history of falling-block puzzle games, from the genre granddaddy Tetris through clones and milestones like Columns, Super Puzzle Fighter, and even a few you’ve probably never heard of before. As usual, our panelists will demonstrate how not to play.

Jethro Tull, Metallica, and the 1989 Grammys: The Last Word

Someone recently brought up Jethro Tull’s win over Metalllica at the 31st Annual Grammy Awards as a way to discredit Grammys. I think there are many more valid reasons to discredit the Grammy Awards. But the reality of the Jethro Tull Grammy win is not quite as cut and dried as “Metallica lost to them so that’s dumb.” And yes, I say this as a biased fan of the band, but I was a budding music journalist in 1989, so I was watching this very closely. Since it has become a musical history punchline, I feel the need to set the record straight. Whether you like Metallica, Jethro Tull, both, or neither, stay awhile and listen…
Continue reading Jethro Tull, Metallica, and the 1989 Grammys: The Last Word

The Mystery of the Nearly-Broadband House

Whenever Kat and I talk about the house we will one day own — that is, the house we hope to buy once we get off the rental treadmill — we have agreed that one necessity is that the entire place be wired for broadband. I want Ethernet jacks in every room so we can stop relying on flaky WiFi for all our various computers, video streamers, game consoles, and whatever else comes up later.

We found a great place in Hayward for the move back to the Bay Area, and I immediately noticed that the walls contained both coax barrels and RJ-45 jacks marked DATA in most rooms. There’s even one in the kitchen.

Could I be that lucky — is this house wired for broadband? Well, if I am and it is, I haven’t figured out how to make it work. And this is where I need your help.  Continue reading The Mystery of the Nearly-Broadband House