Feb 032009

Saturday was Cody’s birthday. Our plan for the evening was dinner at La Campania, one of the ritziest restaurants in Waltham. It comes highly recommended from my company’s president, known for his refined palette. Before heading over, we had a mini-present-opening, where Cody opened the presents she received from her family while I folded laundry (very exciting, I know). I then took the opportunity to present her with the birthday/anniversary/Valentine’s Day gift I got her: a pair of small, gold-and-aquamarine earrings. She loved them. They match both her eyes and a blue turtleneck that she has, which I had in mind when I bought them.

We headed out to dinner after that, dressing up a bit. Those that know me will know that I do not dress up lightly. I had made reservations a month ago, so there was no wait when we arrived and were seated. Their wine list was bigger than their menu and most of the offerings were by-the-bottle, which ranged from $30 to hundreds of dollars. We selected the Riesling off of their by-the-glass list (La Vis was the name), which was quite tasty. I have had Riesling before, but Cody had not and she enjoyed it.

We knew we were in for a treat when the bread arrived. Their bread is layered with prosciutto! They also serve, instead of butter, a dish of real olive oil — it was even slightly green! — with olives in it. It was excellent! We decided to be decadent and order a foie gras appetizer. We had both heard about foie gras — mainly from Top Chef — but never had it. When it arrived, we realized that we had been seriously missing out! It literally melted in our mouths. One of the most amazing things ever.

For dinner, I ordered Veal Saltimbocca with mushrooms over creamed spinach. Cody ordered lobster risotto. My dish was exceptional and despite its portion size (which was much, much larger than I expected), I managed to eat almost all of it. However, the real star of the evening was Cody’s lobster. It was unbelievable! Cooked to perfection, with just the right combination of flavors. I was quite envious.

For dessert, we finished with a hot chocolate soufflé a la mode. Imagine the best brownie you’ve ever eaten, served with ice cream, and that’s about where it was.

After dinner, we went home and watched movies. We first watched 21, the Kevin Spacey movie about the MIT students who counted cards in Las Vegas. It was quite good! After that, we spent an hour trying to decide what to watch next and we settled on The Matrix, since neither of us had seen it in a while and we had been talking about it. We had both forgotten how deep the first movie is. The sequels were pale imitations, but the first one has some real philosophical meat to it.

Sunday was Cody’s and my third anniversary. We got up around 2pm (while not late for me, it was quite late for her; we’re both worried she might be coming down with something) and made breakfast — actual breakfast. Coconut-and-macadamia-flavored pancakes, bacon, and eggs. While eating, we started watching the final episodes of Deep Space Nine. At about 5:30, we took a break — just before the final episode! — and went shopping for dinner. We had decided, because of how amazing the lobster risotto was at La Campania last night, that we were going to try and make scallops risotto, using the large bag of frozen scallops we had in the freezer. We found a recipe online and took off for the grocery store.

Cooking was a fun adventure and we each had plenty to do. The recipe works well for two people, as there seems to be two people’s worth of work to do at all times. We managed to set off the smoke detector at one point, due to the steam/smoke/whatever generated by the scallops cooking in olive oil, but that just added to the adventure. Then the moment of truth came…and it was spectacular! Our version was, perhaps, even better than La Campania’s, because we ourselves had made it. We were giggling with how delicious it was. We accompanied the meal with some Three Blind Moose and finished watching Deep Space Nine. We then watched the final Star Trek movie, Nemesis. Cody has now seen all of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and all 10 Star Trek movies. I don’t want to subject her to the horrors of Voyager or Enterprise, so she’s as Trekked up as she’ll ever be!

After that, it was pretty much time for bed. All in all, it was a fantastic weekend.

Favorite Characters

 Posted by at 14:42  No Responses »
Apr 302008

In the previous post, I discussed the origin of Nigel, a character I play in a space cowboy-themed game. I adore Nigel and playing him is a joy. There have been just a handful of such characters, and only Nigel panned out as such a character during the course of play. Instead, these others grew into interesting characters after I had stopped playing them. Rather than disappearing from thought, they lived on and developed on their own.

The first character that became more than my own in-game avatar was Fornan Dejat, a Cardassian character in a free-form Star Trek IRC game. Dejat’s personality was based on (one might even say copied from) the character of Elim Garak from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Dejat was a defector to the Federation from the Cardassian Union and a former member of the secretive Obsidian Order. This made him a priceless asset to Starfleet Intelligence. He would go on to be the helmsman for the titular ship of the game.

Sadly, little of what made Dejat a great character came out in-game. My greatest joys with Dejat came through writing out-of-game “logs” (akin to play-by-e-mail posts, though concerning a single character and further fleshing him out). I had the notion of anti-Cardassian sentiment among the ship’s enlisted element, which might have gone on to become its own subplot had I not abandoned the game due to waning interest. Dejat, despite my frustrations in both my own inability to execute the character as I imagined him and the lack of opportunity afforded him for expression, nevertheless lives on as one of my favorite characters.

The second character that made a lasting impression is an even more bizarre case than Dejat: I’ve never played her as I imagined her. Instead, I created a variant version of her from the seed idea and played that version. Despite that, Belle Lamairian lives on. I hope to find the opportunity to play the real version in the future.

Belle is a young woman intended for a fantasy setting. The version of her that saw play, Belle Hammason, was the orphaned, adoptive daughter of a great swordsman. While tasked with much of the housework in her youth, he would grant her wish to learn swordmanship. When he was murdered, she vowed to avenge his death and set out to do just that. After enlisting to guard a caravan and becoming mired in a web of suspicions, the caravan master ejected Belle and two companions from the guard. The three were later set upon by some of the caravan’s less savory guard elements and two of them — Belle included — died.

The GM gave me the option to let Belle live, but at the point I knew I had taken the character in the wrong direction from the beginning. I moved on to a different character. In retrospect, I wish I had kept her and tried to develop her into my vision for what she was meant to be. In some strange way, I think doing so might have resulted in a very different social path for that particular gaming group.

This meager description doesn’t do justice to the person living in my imagination, but I offer it all the same. Belle Lamairian (the proper Belle) is based in broad strokes around the appearance of the character Sorsha, from Willow, though without the whole “daughter of an evil queen” aspect. She’s also similar in many ways to Lord of the Rings’ Eowyn, though again from a more common background than Eowyn’s. She’s young, spunky, and a hot-headed (to match with the redhead stereotype). She fancies herself much better with a sword than she is — she’s a teenager, after all — but as she adventures, she grows into its use and becomes one of the greatest swordsmen alive (another concept inspired by Willow, though this one from Madmartigan).

My final mention for this entry is someone to whom you’ve already been introduced: Nigel. I detailed Nigel’s origin and unlike the other two, he’s an active character. The first great moment I had playing Nigel came early in our first session. The group had made its way into a seedy establishment to meet with an even seedier information broker, who tried to poison the biologicals (Nigel’s word for non-robots) with an offering of hors d’oeuvres. Nigel’s sensors picked up on this. As they began negotiating the price of the location of a particular bounty, the broker demanded 70% of the bounty’s payout. Naturally, we found this unpalatable.

Before much could be made of the situation, a loud alien bashed his way into the cantina and started yelling at our informant. The captain hid behind Nigel during this, but Nigel was content to watch it play out.
Once the alien had finished his rant, and seemed prepared to act against our informant, Nigel calmly tapped him on the shoulder and, with no ceremony at all, punched him out cold. Nigel then turned to the informant and said, “Thirty percent.” The informant replied, all to happy, “Thirty percent!”