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Archive for November, 2011

30
Nov

St Andrew’s Day

   Posted by: Dan    in Personal

The flag of ScotlandAt the risk of sounding like I’m buttering up my brother or that other guy, today I felt obliged to make a post about St Andrew’s Day – the traditional “feast day” of Scotland’s patron saint and lesser-known counterpoint to St Patrick’s Day.

In Scotland, today is a “bank holiday,” which seems like a less-adhered-to version of Canadian statutory holidays from what I’ve seen.  It is also their national day – an equivalent to July 1st in Canada and July 4th in the United States.

In addition to all of this it is also a “flag day,” which gives the Scottish government the opportunity, on government buildings with only one flag pole, to replace the United Kingdom’s Union Jack with the blue-and-white Saltire (or St Andrew’s Cross), as seen above.

Scotland’s emerging role as an country independent from the United Kingdom is the source of a lot of debate amongst my anglophile and caledophile friends, but no matter its political place right now today is a day of celebrating Scotland’s history, its culture and – yes – even the romanticised versions thereof that are so prominantly repeated in today’s mainstream media by movies like Braveheart.  (Personally I prefer the other Scottish film released in 1995, Rob Roy, which is also romanticised but a bit less over-the-top.)

I have a lot to say about Scotland, and (I’m sure) will be saying it in the months to come, but for now I’ll leave you with a great quote from Rainn Wilson, best known as Dwight from the Office:

Scotland is the Canada of England!

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28
Nov

Character Bio: André

   Posted by: Dan    in D&D

As we posted about in our November 7th article, Mondays for the next little while are being devoted to the Dungeons and Dragons module that we are developing for people who want to get involved with our cause.  The five stock characters who will be included in the module pack all have basic backgrounds that will allow anyone to play them – today’s is our third, with Drew’s character.

André never had to work for much of anything.  Being born into the notable wealth of a minor noble family, his material wants were easily afforded and were freely given.  Even arcane arts, much to the frustration of his mentors, seemed to flow from him despite his lack of understand or study.  He grew up embracing his noble lifestyle and developed a taste for elegant clothing, lavish foods, and refined surroundings.  Unfortunately, much to the consistent embarrassment of his family, he also had a taste for wild parties, eccentric public appearances, and dangerous (and usually unnecessary) acts of bravado.

Many believed André would have made a good lord.  Despite a lack of modesty and numerous acts of embarrassment to his family, he was well loved by the common folk and was known for being both generous and just.  Being the fourth child of his parents however, André learned early on that his importance was modest at best.  This was just as well for him, for stories from the common folk filled with a longing to chase the horizon.  He wanted to experience strife, travel, and storms.  When he was old enough, he told his parents that he wished to delay his eventual marriage so that he might tour across distant lands.  Officially this was labeled as a way to develop new trade and learn of distant lords, merchants, and lands.  In actuality, his family’s sadness to see him go was matched only by their relief to have him gone.

Character sheet: [coming soon]

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25
Nov

Better Know Our Route: Fort William

   Posted by: Dan    in Better Know Our Route

Fort William, ScotlandWith a population of just under 10,000, I found it very difficult to find cities of roughly the same size to compare Scotland’s Fort William to in Canada and the United States.  There are plenty – probably hundreds of communities with between five and ten thousand residents.  But we’ve never heard of them.

Fort William is a port town on Loch Linnhe, a sea loch that lead to its use as the base for warships in the second world war.  The town grew originally around an English garrison put there for population control after the English civil war, its strength based both on its accessibility by sea and its location at the southern point of what is now known as the Great Glen, a walking trail that was essentially the only major route used by highlanders coming down to the lowlands during the middle ages.

Named after King William III of England, the fort gave birth to a small community as many military forts do – which they called Marysburgh after their esteemed Queen.  The town went through several names changes as it grew before finally just taking the name of “Fort William” … this time not for William III but rather of Prince William, Duke of Cumberland, whose claim to fame was a slaughter of Scotsmen on Culloden Moor in 1746.  Culloden is a location we will be visiting later on in our trip, so William will be spoken about more during my post about that.  Because of that history, however, there are occasional pushes to once again rename the town.

The main road through Fort William, High Street

One of the places I am most interested in going while in Fort William is the WestHighland Museum, which contains a lot of about the Jacobite uprisings in the 18th century that we will be seeing history from during the course of our walk – Culloden Moor, as mentioned above, but also in Stirling, Edinburgh and elsewhere.

For a town its size it is still the second-largest in the highlands, showing exactly how populous the treacherous northern half of the area can be.  In comparison only one city in the highlands makes it into the top fifty list of cities and towns in Scotland – Inverness, which we will be skirting the edges of but not actually visiting, on our way from Loch Ness to Culloden Moor.

Join us next Friday for Adam’s bi-weekly Q&A, and in two weeks for our next Better Know Your Route article.  Visit our Facebook page to vote on your preference for the next location examined!

24
Nov

Thanksgiving

   Posted by: Dan    in Personal

While our Canadian Thanksgiving was taken up by a two-day walk, today is Thanksgiving for our neighbours to the south and in honour of that I am going to post today what I had wanted to post a little over a month ago – the things I am most thankful of this year.

We will get a picture like this of us.  Oh yes.  We will.5. J.R.R. Tolkien.  This year I am thankful for Tolkien and, to a lesser extent, Peter Jackson, who brought Tolkien’s story to a much broader audience than those who could slog their way through Bilbo Baggins’ eleventy-first birthday.

Tolkien took mythology from all over Europe and turned it into a story for the day – not a new concept by many centuries (likely many millennia), but the way he did it was world-changing.  He made mythology acceptable to greater society as a new type of “speculative fiction” the likes of which had been seen in Stoker, Shelley and Verne in the past; he made elves more than cobblers and brought goblins out of shadows and into nightmares.

Read the rest of this entry »

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23
Nov

Movember Update III

   Posted by: Paul    in Charity

We are now more than two thirds of the way through Movember and my ‘stache has reached ‘full grown’ status.  Of course, I will continue to let it grow for the rest of the month and end the month with one more final update.

With the awkward growth face over with, and most of the people I see regularly getting used to the moustache, I often find myself forgetting that it’s even on my face.  That’s why when I get a reaction, it surprises me again.  The shock leaves quickly though as I remember that it’s there.

The most recent of such reactions was at the office, when a couple members of our R&D team were at my  building for a meeting.  I ran into them walking by the boardroom on my way to lunch.  Some laughs happened and I remembered “Oh yeah, the moustache.”Movember 21st

“Do you know what you look like?”

“No,” I responded, thinking of lots of things I’ve heard so far but wondering where this was going.

“A 70s porn star.”

Surprisingly, this wasn’t the first time I had heard that exact comment.  What is it with specifically combining the 70’s as well as porn star with the moustache?  While I have had a few random comments about the 70’s, I haven’t heard porn star without 70’s attached to the comment.  I wasn’t alive back then, so I suppose I’ll never know.

I ran into the same person the next day.  “When’s your movie coming out?” he asked.  Other than men’s health and prostate cancer awareness, at least this moustache is also bringing comedy into my life.

Even though diseases like prostate cancer are very serious and men across the globe are growing moustache to bring awareness to this problem, it is important we find joy in life.  Growing a moustache is a silly way to bring awareness to a real problem.  Follow this link to a Penny Arcade comic that explains just that!

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22
Nov

Childhood Inspirations

   Posted by: Drew    in Personal

Since my research into whether or not we can carry torches around safely and within the bounds of the law has hit a bit of a wall (and by that I mean I have no clue whatsoever and no idea where to look) I thought I’d share a bit more of a personal note today. I mention in my own bio about having enjoyed many fantasy stories when I was younger. This was heavily influenced with what I now describe as a borderline childhood obsession with dragons. I don’t mean any of these as book reviews, because in truth I barely remember what they were about. All I can say is that they were something I enjoyed somewhere between the ages of 5 and 15.

 

I thought I’d start with a book from my very early youth. The Muffin Muncher by Stephen Cosgrove. In truth, being that this is a vague recollection and it took me numerous Google searches to even recall the title, I was pleasantly surprised at being able to still find it in print. Admittedly a muffin eating dragon isn’t exactly the mighty beast most of us might picture in high fantasy novels, but it was still one of my early favourites (and to be honest, you’re pretty much getting whatever books I still remember). I’m not going to lie, I likely only owned this book because I saw the front cover picture and went “Mommy dragon buy buy buy!”. Maybe moments like that is why bookstore owners got a twinkle in their eye when I returned.

 

 

 

Next up is the Paper Bag Princess. I’m sure there are many of you out there who recall Robert Munsch’s books fondly. I know I did at least, and this one had the added benefit of having a giant green lizard in it! When looking this up I find it’s often describe as being a good book to read to young girls because it flips the princess cliche around. Maybe the social ideal melted into my head in a subtle manner but…to be honest…I tended to get weird looks when I told people about it as a kid. I think it was mostly because I was rooting for the dragon.

Gotta give me some credit though, for those of you who recall how it turned it out…Princess Elizabeth might as well just have let the dragon eat Prince Ronald. Might well have been doing the kingdom a favour.

 

The last one was a personal favourite of mine, and lately I’ve been considering actually seeing if I can’t locate some of them again. Before I ever played anything like Dungeons and Dragons, I used to frequent the library looking for books from the Lone Wolf series by Joe Dever . I use to also enjoy the old Choose Your Own Adventure series, and Lone Wolf was much like that but with an added touch of skills you selected as you went throughout the books. Ah yes, before I was ever introduced to dice…there was a page at the back of a book where you were suppose to close your eyes, turn your pencil upside down…thrust it downwards and hope to God you didn’t die. I have a tendency to assume anything I did when I was 10 years old has since been swallowed up into a forgotten void…so I have to admit I was shocked to discover not only where these still in print…they are still being written. This walk down memory lane may prove to have future consequences on my spending habits.

 

I did a lot of reading as a child. Heck, sometimes it was even the book the teacher told me too! It was quite a note of frustration for both my teachers and parents. I could spend 3 hours in an evening finishing off these books…but there was simply no time for the half hour assignment based on it afterwards. I wonder how well I actually could have done if I had submitted a book report about how I saved the world in Lone Wolf #2 with nothing more than a broken stick and a frying pan?

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21
Nov

Character Bio: Declan McBrearty

   Posted by: Dan    in D&D

As we posted about in our November 7th article, Mondays for the next little while are being devoted to the Dungeons and Dragons module that we are developing for people who want to get involved with our cause.  The five stock characters who will be included in the module pack all have basic backgrounds that will allow anyone to play them – today’s is our second, with Adam’s character.

Declan McBrearty grew up under the stern but loving eyes of his mother and uncle in a city of moderate size near to where the adventure begins.  His mother, uncle and father (before his passing) were adventurers alongside Dherek’s father before settling down in the same city that they grew up in.  Raised as a city boy, Declan always felt constrained by the tall granite walls and towers of the city and often took excursions to the nearby towns for some ‘fresh air.’  As he grew and fostered a strong love for the outdoors these trips became more and more lengthy with Declan ranging away for months at a time.

The skills he learned to keep him alive while abroad were either self taught or, more regularly, gleaned from his father’s journals.  His father, a ranger before him who died adventuring had left behind a bevy of journals detailing his exploits as well as all he knew about the natural world.  Dec cleaved to these like holy scriptures and by the time he had left his adolescence behind he had become a skilled ranger, tracker and outdoors man.

Character sheet: [coming soon]

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19
Nov

Q&A

   Posted by: Adam    in Questions

Hullo Hullo,

First of all let me start by apologizing that this is two days late.  I looked everywhere for these blasted questions, thinking that they were being forwarded to the email account that I check daily.  I was of course wrong and when I found them in the wee hours of the morning I decided that I had best put off in favour of sleep.  But now that I’ve found them I can actually do something about them.  Round 1, Fight!

Question the first!

From Alex in Toronto, she asks, Why Ireland and Scotland?

Good question!  Why?  Because I didn’t even ask it when Daniel first brought this idea screaming and kicking into the real world.  I’m so taken by the British Isles that I didn’t blink twice upon hearing.  I believe my only thought was BOOYA!  But that might have been the drink talking.  In answer though, Scotland and a quick start in Ireland was decided on because of their historical relation to the Medieval Epic idea.  And I believe more importantly that the language of the natives being our language was also a strong deciding factor.  After all I’d hate to get to our first stop in town and have to speak very s..lo..wly… and LOUDLY to everyone I meet.  I mean, duh.

Question two!

Why are we dressing in costumes?

Didn’t understand this one at first.  When I asked Daniel his response was “Yeaahh, I knew you didn’t read the site so I figured I could keep it a secret until we got out there and handed you your outfit.”  In other news Paul will now be leading our quest!  Daniels has gone on…um…vacation.  Yeah.  Yeah that’ll do.

Seriously though we figured what can we do to stand out and make this walk something unique.  Daniels idea of recreating heroes walking from one point to another on their mission to save the Realm was perfect.  Not to mention we’re all rather nerdy and keen to dress up like certified BadAs*#@!  Aww come on I can’t say RADIO EDIT!

Question three!

Will you be doing this again if it goes well?

I picked this question because it does relate back to the first two questions about location and costumes.  The answer is, while knocking on wood, a hopeful yes.  Without being too premature we would probably endeavour to do this kind of fundraising again.  But on second and subsequent times doing it in different locations and with different themes.

Question four!

What part of modern living will be hardest to live without?

This question also comes from Alex.  My first response was to laugh in my computers face.  Rudely.  The honest answer would be ‘every damn thing’.  That or the Internets.  Honestly though I think it will come down to something simple or small.  Like always reaching for my watch or my cell that I’ll never find no matter how much I reach there.  I’ll probably be feeling phantom rings the entire time we’re out there.  Other than that though I would have to say a book.  I’m always reading something and the idea of not having a book to unwind with at the end of a day sounds bloody dreadful.  Maybe I’ll smuggle one through in Daniels luggage.  Perfect.

Question five!

What are you looking forward to most during this trip?

The hotel in Edinburgh.  Without a shadow of a doubt.  Oh.  Oh you definitely said during the trip didn’t you?  Right.  Never mind then.  In that case I would have to say all of the new experiences and sights.  I’m sorry if that’s an obvious answer.  I’ve never been across the pond so actually being where my family is from (Ireland) is going to be incredible.  I’m also excited to see how the watch system works and what it will be like to stand guard and tend the fire all night.  I’ll probably suck at it and read the book I’m smuggling out there.

Thanks very much to everyone who took the time to read this and hopefully enjoy it.  I actually enjoyed writing it.  I know, I’m as surprised as you are.  Please feel free to write in this week and I’ll have some fresh questions and answers up by the Friday after.  See you in fourteen days!

Wait…TEXT REDACTED!

Cheers,

Adam

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17
Nov

Training Walk: November 2011

   Posted by: Dan    in Training

Since June, the Wayfarers have been doing monthly training walks en masse – or, at least, with as many of us as we can wrangle on any given weekend.  October’s training walk on Thanksgiving weekend yielded phenomenal results, and a number of pictures that can be seen on our Facebook page – but it was a month ago, now, so it was time to go out again.

Yonge street in the morningIt was a sunny, mild day, but 9am was still too early for me to be meeting my brother at a Tim Horton’s in the heart of uptown Toronto.  It was just the two of us for the morning – everyone else but Drew had prior engagements, and Drew was in bed with a mild case of food poisoning.  We took a meandering route downtown, getting almost to the lake before turning west and then just circling around to the Duke of Richmond pub, one of my favourites in the core.

I have stated before (and will surely state again) that I love my city.  One of the things I love the most about it is also something I hate – that it has no one identity.  New York City, Chicago, Boston and LA all have a “feel” to them that you can see in distinctive architecture and are recognizable in film and photographs… Toronto, on the other hand, is a popular filming destination because it can be any of those cities and a thousand others.

Because of this, though, you can walk for a few short hours in some of the busiest parts of the city and see completely different neighbourhoods – the hippie haven Kensington Market, hidden behind the bustle of Chinatown; little Italy just south of little Korea, the financial district, the Annex… and, incidentally, none of these were where we walked.  All of these are downtown, but there is so much “downtown” that we completely bypassed all of those areas and still walked almost all day.

At lunch we were joined by Drew, feeling much better, and our friend Dave Pound.  We all ate and relaxed a bit for a longer lunch than planned, but a good one.  Soon we headed back out, armed with some flyers to give out at some establishments we had made a list of before leaving the pub.Andrew is being made to pose.  He disapproves.

It was a good walk, and while Andrew had to leave early the remaining three of us walked until my GPS said we had walked for 25km – or what I thought was 27, as I mis-remembered the length it had said during the morning’s walk.

According to the GPS program I use, our morning leg was a trip of 13.26km.  Google places it at 11.2km, and while in the past I have trusted the GPS over Google I just can’t this time – the map shows countless “spikes,” where the satellite clearly lost touch with my phone; they must have added up to almost two kilometres of extra walking throughout the course of the morning…

… and almost five kilometres in the afternoon, when I thought we had walked almost 12km and Google tells me it was just 7.3km.  Google may not be 100% accurate on this one simply because of the various stores we visited, I wasn’t completely careful about choosing exact streets on the map, etc., etc…. but it wasn’t “almost 5 kilometres” inaccurate.

Because of all of this, while my mapping program works great in more rural areas – as Paul’s post yesterday showed, for instance – I won’t be using it in the tall concrete buildings of downtown Toronto any longer.  Not to map distance, at least.  Google will be my guide from here on out for that, though this software (which Paul demonstrated in his post yesterday) is very helpful if we want to show a map of what we did.

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16
Nov

The Battle of the Dens Site

   Posted by: Paul    in Amtgard

This past weekend while some of the Wayfarers were off on a training walk, I went home to Sudbury for a visit with my family.  My parent’s property also happens to be the site of Battle of the Dens (BotD), the largest Canadian Amtgard event.

Since Dan discovered a nice app that can track our walks on our phones, I decided to do something I wanted to do for years:  walk all the trails on the site, as well as walk around the tenting areas, parking areas and the open field we use to fight in order to get an accurate map of the area. You can find a link to my walk here.

Battle of the Dens is an event that is now being run yearly (it happened more than once a year when it began) that has been run since 1997.  In the past BotD was run at different locations, but since the summer of 2001, BotD has found a home on the Grylls property.

In order to fit the 150 people that have come to the event in the past two years, a lot of the forest in the area had to be cut down to provide room for tents, cars and fighting.  This map taken from my walk shows the state of the area that most of BotD is spent in. BotD Tenting and Ditching

Two separate areas for camping have developed over the years.  The one closest to the road is now known as the ‘family camping zone’ since it has space for RVs and is furthest away from the fire pits and the nighttime noise.  A larger tenting area is found on the opposite side of the ditch which holds most of the attendees.  Between every event some site work is done, and for next year, I expect the ditch field to be widened a bit and the family camping area to be extended as well.

An orange dot on the map indicates the ‘storage bus’.  This bus was found on the property when my parents purchased it, and is a great place for Wolven Fang to keep items that BotD can use year after year.

Most people who’ve been to the site can picture this area without help from my GPS assisted map.  I’ve even drawn up a map that almost looked exactly like this one, and I’m horrible at drawing things.  The main purpose of my walk was to map out the trails and locate all the structures in the forest that we use for quests, but most importantly, for Battle of the Dens’ main event:  Capture the Flag.BotD Bases

Over the years, the trails have expanded greatly.  The first few BotDs on this site featured just three bases, named Base 1, Base 2 and Base 3 at the time.  Now they are, in order:  Eagle’s Point, the Ruins and Duchy Base.  As you can see from the proximity of the three bases, the field was much smaller then.

The Hut was the next base that was built.  Standing on the rock between Eagle’s Point and the Ruins, a new trail was made that lead directly to the Hut.  As time went on, Base 2 was ignored (the base in the middle got the least use) and fell into disrepair and earned the name Ruins.  The Hut often battled against the forces of Wolven Fang, which used Base 3, so that base gained the name of Duchy Base.

Magnus Blackeagle spent some time and resources on the site and built up Base 1 with some impressive walls.  Since he went on to do so much work on the base, he got to name it and chose Eagle’s Point.

In 2008, the idea came up to try a different sort of CTF game where each team would have to defend two bases.  The Ruins were located poorly and needed too much repair, so Fort  Goldenleaf was born to be
the partner to the Hut.

A couple years later, Fort Goldenleaf would face off against Eagle’s Point (using the Hut as Nirvana) and a new trail and the Control Point were created.  The Control Point was simply a zone that teams could gain points by holding and never earned itself a true name.

This past year, the autocrats did the site a small disservice by severely limiting the amount of field that was useful to play in.  The game was the Hut versus Eagle’s Point with the Ruins as the Nirvana base.  So many more trails and areas could have been used.  Even so, the game itself was still an entertaining defensive game.

It is my hope that future BotD autocrats take this map and use it to help plan their CTFs and their quests.  The BotD site has a lot to offer, and with more hard work and love, can be expanded even further.

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