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landscape

C and I survived the move to Riverside, as did our cat Macavity. Now we're starting to get settled in.

During the trip up I became conscious of an impression that had begun to form during several previous visits. To start with, San Diego is fairly up and down; we lived on a moderate high terrain feature cut into by canyons in many places. To its north is Mission Valley, a very wide river valley that occasionally floods. But many of the city's older areas are elevated.

Riverside is almost exactly the converse. We've travelled around several parts of it, and I have yet to see anything like a canyon. It has a river (hence the name), but I haven't seen any sign of its geological impact comparable to Mission Valley. What we have instead is mountains, or perhaps high hills; look in almost any direction and there's something elevated above the plain.

Driving up from San Diego on Thursday, I became aware that it made me think of the Fellowship of the Ring travelling past the Misty Mountains. There were multiple peaks out to the east that suggested the ones Frodo & Co. had looming over them. (Of course we were going north, which would make Riverside equivalent to Rivendell and San Diego to Isengard!) In the mornings, they're often shrouded in fog or mist, and at times this happens during the day as well.

The other thing that strikes me about the landscape is how green everything is! San Diego is largely coastal, and its climate is roughly Mediterranean scrub to semi-desert, and Riverside is inland and much more a true desert, about 10°F hotter and notably drier. But San Diego has chronic water shortages, with little to spare for irrigation, and yards are increasing going to drought-tolerant vegetation or rock and gravel. Riverside doesn't look as if anyone has heard of drought! There are green trees everywhere, and lawns, and last night when I went out on an errand I realized that sprinklers were running on the grass alongside our street, and water was flowing down the gutter, things that San Diego systematically discourages. I don't think this can reflect the natural rainfall; it all has to be imported water. I can only suppose that the low population makes the import of water affordable in a way that it no longer is for San Diego, a much larger city and county.

Fitting in with this, we noticed that stores, especially in the shopping malls, are utterly huge compared to those in San Diego. The customer population is somewhat smaller, about 70% as many in the county as a whole, so I don't think this can reflect higher demand and sales; I think it must be that land to build on is less costly, enough so that building large isn't prohibitively costly. This fits with the scarcity of large buildings even in the downtown area. Oddly, not far from where we live there are some multistory blocks of apartments that approach true urban density; I think they largely house the UC Riverside studentry. The city seems to have more industry than I expected—north and west of us is what looks like a healthy industrial district—but I think the university is one of its biggest industries.

whimsy

Some time ago—actually about at the time of our last move—C and I got into a discussion of the original Star Trek crew, in the course of which we matched them up with dog breeds. I'm going to record that here, so that I can throw that particular sheet of paper into the trash:

Kirk: German shepherd
McCoy: bulldog
Spock: cat
Scott: Scottie
Sulu: akita
Chekhov: Pomeranian
Uhura: gazelle hound

published again!

Today Steve Jackson Games released the latest of my books for them: GURPS Adaptations. This is a guide to turning published works—novels, epics, movies, television shows, graphic novels, or even rpgs—into GURPS campaigns. Steve Jackson Games paid it the huge compliment of issuing it on the thirtieth anniversary of the publication of GURPS, saying that this kind of adaptation is one of the core missions of GURPS. I'm honored that they accepted my proposal for a full-length book on how to do this.

I felt that I needed examples of adaptation of published works, and I thought it would be better to have the same few works recur all through than to pick examples at random from all of past literature. Everything I used as an example needed to be out of copyright, so I picked works from before the twentieth century: the Odyssey, Water Margin, Pride and Prejudice, Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea, Dracula, and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (the novel, not the film!). This was the result of some debate: The other two works I decided against were Le Morte d'Arthur and The Three Musketeers, both of which would have been very suitable choices as well.

A lot of what I was doing was taking basic concepts from literary criticism and showing, first, how to apply them to a source in identifying its essential elements, and second, how to present those elements in a campaign. Many of these elements got fairly brief discussions, but I also went into some things at length. I had full character writeups for Odysseus, Hu Sanniang ("Ten Feet of Blue"), Elizabeth Bennet, and Nick Chopper (the Tin Woodman); and I had detailed game stats for Mr. Darcy's mansion, the Emerald City, Hu Sanniang's two five-foot swords (from which she took her epithet), the kalidahs, and the Nautilus. I had a lot of fun doing all this, and I hope other people have as much fun reading it—and find it helpful in running their own campaigns in borrowed worlds.

further progress

Since my last post, I've gotten in touch with the utility company in Riverside and arranged to have our electricity turned on the day we pick up our keys. I've talked with AT&T and scheduled a visit from a technician to set up landline and broadband in our new apartment the Saturday after the move. And today, I talked with a moving company representative and scheduled the actual move.

Now I need to call San Diego Gas and Electric and Cox and set up termination dates for our service in San Diego. Cox will need to be before the move, as they'll need to have a technician visit our apartment; San Diego Gas and Electric will need to be the day after the move, as we'll probably want power the day of the move.

When we go up next week to pick up the keys and pay the first month's rent, I'm going to want to measure the interior dimensions, so that I can do layouts for our furniture. In addition, I want to treat the carpets with Fleabusters as a precaution against fleas getting established when we move in, and I want to set up a Feliway dispenser so that the new place will be full of friendly cat pheromones. It's still going to be stressful for Taiki and Macavity, but I hope we can lessen the shock.

Other than that, we need to finish sorting through clothes and media, to decide what not to take. I'm hoping we can get that done before the final packing rush begins.

progress

Today C and I went up to Riverside again, getting a ride with our friend JPS, which was a lot more pleasant than taking the Greyhound, despite his not having air conditioning. We arrived not long after 10:30, and spent half an hour or so signing paperwork and asking questions in the apartment complex's office, and they accepted our deposit. So now we have an apartment waiting for us in Riverside! The keys will be ready for us to pick up in two weeks, and we have to pay the pet deposit then, and the first month's rent. We plan on an actual move in just over three weeks.

Finishing up our packing and making the various arrangements is going to be a challenge in its own right. But the really scary thing was not being sure we'd have a place in Riverside to move to. Now that part is past and the rest is administration. I can cope with administration.

We spent a little time scouting out various areas in Riverside for businesses of interest. We've visited Canyon Crest mall, a short way south of the university, when we had lunch at an upscale burger place; they also have an affordable haircut place, a vet that sounds promising, and Cellar Door Books, a store specializing in new science fiction, mysteries, and YA—kind of like a smaller Mysterious Galaxy. They claim to have regular meetings for readers of various types of books, which may be a place for us to meet people.

We spent an hour or so in Fairmount Park, a large area at the north of the city with lakes and waterfowl and trees. It was very relaxing, and it looks as if it's reachable by bus. We went downtown and looked in at the Mission Inn, a hotel that's one of the city's historical landmarks. Finally, we drove south past the community college and looked in at Renaissance Books. This is an even better bookstore for my purposes; they sell used books and other media, with a strong orientation to science fiction, philosophy, and libertarian thought, and C and I saw multiple things that looked desirable. The online reviews contained some complaints about the store not carrying any Marxist literature, but I'm just as happy the owner has the courage of his eccentricities.

Now comes the packing. . . .

nerves

So at this point we have a credit check in progress with one potential rental, and we have two others that are supposed to get in touch with us when they have openings sometime soon. But I'm finding the tension really hard to take. Ideally we'd like to be solidly in place by the morning of August 29; not having things lined up a month ahead makes me uneasy. Getting e-mail from the first place yesterday asking for one bit of information helped—at least they're working on it!—but the sense of relief doesn't last long.

I've made arrangements to go back to Riverside next week and check more possible rentals, if we don't have one pinned down. But I'm not sure how many new openings there will be by then. And apartment hunting in early August seems like pushing it if we want a mid to late August move-in.

I'm really getting an appreciation for why moving counts for a lot of life stress points.

end of an era

Today I went to Comic-Con International (known to most people other than those who put it on as the San Diego Comic-Con). I walked around the dealers' room, bought a couple of things, said hello to a couple of friends, and returned home. I probably won't go back this year.

And I probably won't go back in any future year. Traveling from Riverside is a bit inconvenient, and would require things like cat-sitting arrangements; and hotel rooms are expensive and hard to come by in con week. There's a good chance this is the end of my relationship with this particular con.

On one hand, I don't entirely regret it. There's a reason I'm only going to be there one day. I don't go to panels or events any more; the convention has shifted to mostly running events set up by publishers, filmmakers, and the like, which mostly don't interest me, and I'm told that seeing many of them requires getting into line a couple of hours ahead and waiting, which really doesn't interest me. There are booths I look in on in the dealers' room, but the crowds are so intense that just walked from end to end is painful. The most fun thing about conventions for me is being on panels, but Comic-Con's programming staff no longer puts together panels; they just schedule things that other people have put together for them—and I don't have connections with people they would want to schedule. For myself, I can do everything I want to do at con in an afternoon.

But on the other hand, I do regret it, in a deeply nostalgic sense: It was at Comic-Con, in 1984, that C and I first spoke with each other at any length. We might not be together now had I not run into her in the lobby of the old convention center. I suppose we have a truly fannish relationship . . . and my life would have been immeasurably poorer without it. So thank you, Comic-Con, and best wishes.

moving

Two days ago I made my second trip to Riverside to look for apartments. C's sister-in-law's mother kindly spent the afternoon driving me around, and we looked at around a dozen places, at most of which I talked at least briefly with the rental office. This was a lot more productive than my first visit, where I only managed to see five places in roughly the same time, relying on walking and buses.

Finding a suitable place has been a challenge! I selected places to visit by finding them listed online on any of half a dozen rental listing sites; but some of the places I visited had no actual openings, or nothing available until much later in the year. There were also several complexes in an area that C's sister-in-law recommeded to us, but that's 45 minutes from UC Riverside by bus, which C says is too stressful to deal with. And those areas also are more spread out, in a way that assumes you drive everywhere.

However, I just spoke with a manager at the place we liked best on the first visit, and she thinks they're going to have an opening shortly, and have several more coming up. This place, and the best of the places I visited this week, both are willing to do credit checks at no charge, and then accept applications (with fees, of course) if we pass. So we've completed the forms, assembled the many pieces of paper, and I hope to send this all in within the next hour, after some scanning.

The ideal date for us to move in would be 25 August; that would let us do the initial settling in before the first thing C has to do at UC Riverside as an incoming student, and it would give us a month to get organized before actual classes start.

Wish us luck!

references

A few days ago I had a dream in which I was picking a name for a location in a roleplaying game, and I decided to call it "Sadler Wells." Then I woke up and it occurred to me that "Sadler" was the surname of Sarah Manning's foster mother on Orphan Black. . . .

cast of characters

When I was writing GURPS Social Engineering: Back to School, I learned about St. Trinian's. This started out as a series of cartoons that inverted the moral tropes of British boarding school fiction, portraying a school where all the girls were bad, and indeed openly bad. Shortly after the cartoons stopped appearing, the first of a series of films appeared: The Belles of St. Trinian's. Among other things, it established the trope that the headmistress and her brother were both played by the same actor. Much more recently, a roleplaying game based on it came out: Hellcats and Hockeysticks, set at "St. Erisian's."

This sounded like fun to me, so I invited several of the women in my gaming circle to play wicked schoolgirls. I gave them their choice from a set of largely pregenerated characters, for which they got to assign the last two of twenty skill points and choose names. And here's what I got:

Samantha Derbyshire ("Sam"): An American exchange student sent over to learn proper British horsemanship. Cheerful, friendly to almost everyone, a bit too touchy-feely for British reserve. Character class: Horsey Girl. Best skill: Veterinary 3.

Sabina Ivanova: A Russian exchange student from a crime family, with a strong sense of payback and a habit of alluding cryptically to her grandfather. Character class: Mafiyya.

Tanqueray McCleary ("Tank"): A chav from the North. Her mother wasn't sure who her father was but remembered what she was drunk on during Tank's conception. Extremely dangerous in a fight. Recruited for her abilities on the hockey field. Character class: Hockey Girl. Best skill: Games (Team Sports) 5.

Tora Takahashi: A Japanese exchange student from an old aristocratic family, now fallen on hard times for reasons she was unable to discuss. Educated in traditional arts. Character class: Samurai. Best skills: Art 3, Games (Team Sports) 3.

Pansy Winterrun: Comes from an upper middle class English family; gives hints about her uncle's role in intelligence. Speaks in a "girly" voice and appears naïve. Character class: Sweetheart. Best skills: Drama 3, Social Studies 3.

(Skill values range from 1, Beginner, to 5, Master. I haven't bothered to list top skills lower than 3, Professional. Skills tend to be broadly defined: Veterinary includes riding and training horses, Games (Team Sports) covers hand to hand combat, and Social Studies includes seduction and reading people.)

We had a lot of really lively roleplaying and some vivid demonstrations of just how much outlawry St. Erisian's girls are capable of. It was a great game and all the players would like to have another someday.

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