The Ben Cube Part 1

As you may or may not know I enjoy playing Magic: The Gathering.  I’ve had my ups and downs with it, my days where all I’ve wanted to do is play Magic over and over again.  Days where I didn’t even want to look at a Magic card.  Even worse were the days where I was ignoring important personal things for Magic or just wanted to take my cards out back and set them on fire.

It’s that beautiful love/hate relationship many of us have with our hobbies.  It can end up more on the side of hate with our friends and significant others if it gets TOO much in the way though.

Regardless, I used to be a reasonably competitive player.  I wasn’t one who was going out to big tournaments but I did keep up with what was going on in the game (which players refer to as the “meta game” or “meta”), building and rebuilding constructed decks into fine tuned machines and reading draft theory about what was best to draft.  Eventually I began to grow tired of the competitive scene and got out of more competitive playing.  This likely also had to do with losing the community I had at Amazing Wonders Gaming & Hobby Center, my favorite place to play Magic, since we had a good group of casual and more importantly a nice group players who didn’t take the game as seriously as if it were their full time job.  Not that there is anything wrong with that, but it’s not my scene and it’s not the type of Magic I enjoy.  I enjoy Magic somewhere between the kitchen table, which is a phrase that is used to describe very casual Magic players, and the more competitive scene, where players grind out what are called Planeswalker Points in hopes of receiving invites to big tournaments and events.

Needless to say after 2 years of playing Magic and dumping literally hundreds, probably $1,000+ into the game I was looking for something to do with my collection of cards.

This lead me to the thought of creating what is called a Magic Cube.  A Cube is a collection of cards that you shuffle together and draft.  What’s a draft?  In a sealed draft players will open a pack of Magic cards, choose a card from that pack and then pass it to the left.  This is repeated until all of the cards from that pack have been chosen.  Then additional packs are opened two more times being passed to the right and for the last pack back to the left.  Players then build their decks, or libraries, from these chosen cards.

Thoroughly confused?

Leave me a comment and I can get you caught up before part 2 where I go into more detail about what makes up the Magic cube and some of my thoughts or theory behind what I’m attempting to do with it.

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I Love You Baby

It’s Valentine’s Day and as I sit alone in a hotel room my thoughts are of my girlfriend, Rebecca.

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This is Rebecca and I at Rainforest Cafe in Nashville.

For reasons that still amaze me, she loves me and I love her.

We met a little over two years when she walked into the local game shop The Rusty Scabbard during our board game night. My initial impressions of her went as follows as I looked up from our current game:

“Wow, she’s cute… But if Paul blocks me off in Boston I’m screwed!”

It’s hard to say it was love at first site but as time went on we developed a friendship. There were many nights after board games spent at Marikka’s where we talked about whatever was going on. School, work, games we had just played and people who came to the game group. It’s something that we both find ourselves missing a lot now that those nights are few and far between to non existent.

She showed up sometime during the Fall semester and was around a lot but when the semester was over she went home to Elizabethtown and I was still here in Lexington. It was during this month of her being absent that I realized something. I missed Rebecca. I mean I REALLY missed Rebecca.

She came back from break and after threatening to kill myself if she didn’t come back to board game night she found her way back to the Rusty Scabbard. From here there were many nights in the month of January spent flirting with each other from across the table at Marikka’s, catching each other looking at the other during board games and eventually a night where I invited her over to make her dinner after work. After the initial shock that I wanted to cook her dinner she accepted and came over.

After a wonderful night I began to talk myself out of it. She’s too young (Rebecca is 6 years younger than me), she isn’t out of college yet, we’re in two different points in our lives… I decided to cut it off before it could go any further.

Later that week Rebecca texted me and wanted to talk. She came and met me in front of Amazing Wonders Gaming and Hobby Center, a game store where I spent a good deal of my time, and we talked. Eventually she convinced me to give “us” another shot. A week later we were “officially” dating.

A few weeks later this picture was taken:

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No one was actually hurt taking this photo. Though this is one of my favorites.
Photo credit to Mick Jeffries.

The rest as they say is history. I love you Rebecca, and I’m happy that you convinced me that we should date (twice, though that’s another blog post).

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I’m Gone to Carolina In My Mind

In less than 12 hours we’ll be loading up the car to head to North Carolina. It’s a trip I haven’t made in a few years and I’ve made
various excuses as time has gone on.

It’s been in the last few days, and really the last few hours, that I realized that one of the reasons that I haven’t gone was that I couldn’t bear to say goodbye to my grandfather again.

Don’t misunderstand. This isn’t like saying goodbye to your sister or your aunt. My grandfather has been getting slowly weaker for years. We never quite knew when “the big one” might hit for him. For years when we would go to North Carolina I would tell myself that this may be the last time I would see my grandfather. 4 or 5 times over “this might be the last time you’re going to see your grandfather alive, you better go to North Carolina.”

The last time I saw my grandfather the final thing I remember him telling us was that we could stay there and talk all we wanted but to keep it down because he was going to bed. It was funny in his way… I guess you had to be there.

We had been sitting at his kitchen table, telling stories, cutting up and laughing for about an hour or two after church. Many stories were swapped, mostly by my dad, uncle and aunts. However I did manage to reminisce about the time we got Will’s “ears pierced” when in reality all we had done was get him a fake earring to freak out his mom.

In that moment when he was walking away I was very content. I realized I was happy with that moment being the last time I would see my grandfather alive if it had to be. Surrounded by some of the people he loved the most I imagine that he would be fine with that moment if it were to be his last as well.

However, as I went back to his office to sleep on the fold out couch, with his collection of books, his typewriter and a creepy picture of a severed head that I never completely understood (but man it gave me the willies as a kid) I said my goodbye to him.

In less than 12 hours I’m off to say goodbye to him for the last time.

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2 years

So it’s been 2 years since I’ve updated this thing. I don’t know why I stopped blogging but I would say that life got in the way. I worked at a game shop for a while (we closed back in October sadly), I fell in love with an amazing young woman and I’ve maintained my job at EAS/Corrisoft. Pretty standard stuff and I guess that I haven’t felt like there’s been much worth writing about.

That and for the past 2 years I’ve been struggling doing really any writing, work related, recreational or otherwise.

So I guess now that the pleasantries are aside (How are you, btw?) I’ll get to the point of why I’m writing tonight.

My grandfather is dying. For real this time.

Paw-paw has had many scares over the years. I haven’t made the reunion in North Carolina for a couple of years but every year when I would leave I would remind myself that this might be the last time I would see my grandfather. I remember standing in Cosmic the day that dad called me and told me he had some bad news. I braced myself that something had happened to Paw-Paw. However that night was a phone call letting me know that my cousin Will had left us all too early.

Every week or so for years when I would think to ask dad how everyone was in North Carolina. Most of the time they were fine however he would let me know about Paw-Paw’s latest scare or how Ma-Maw was having some sort of surgery or the like. He’s a tough old guy and for that reason he turned 91 yesterday.

I don’t know how many times I’ve walked into my manager’s office and told him “My grandfather has taken a turn for the worse. I may need to pick up and leave for North Carolina any day now.” Everytime Paw-Paw has proven that statement unnecessary.

Today my dad asked me if it was okay that I was on the list to be a pallbearer at the funeral. Of course I told him it was fine, I have no problem doing it.

In some strange way I was actually a little honored to even have been considered.

My grandfather is an astounding man. Not only has he lived to the age of 91 he’s served in the military, played minor league baseball, worked as both a postal worker and a fireman, has founded a church and helped to raise six children who went onto have a ridiculous number of grandchildren and great grandchildren whom I am glad to count myself amongst.

When this man who has achieved an incredible amount in his 91 years on this Earth dies *I* will be one of the few to carry him to his final resting place. The place where Paw-Paw will finally get what he has deserved for all these long years of struggle and pain as his body has weakened: An eternity of rest and a place in heaven with his lord and savior.

In the end, that’s all I want for him. It feels selfish for me to want him to remain on this Earth for one more day and in a lot of ways I want nothing more than for him to finally be at peace.

When that day comes it will be my greatest honor to help transport him to his final physical resting place.

Edit on Sunday, February 10th 2013 at 10:17pm:

As of this afternoon Ernest “Paw-Paw” Parks has left his mortal body behind. He will be missed.

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An Open Letter to March Madness Marching Band Contributors

First off I just want to say, It makes me ridiculously uncomfortable asking people for money.

With that said, I sent a version of this letter to KC Crosby of the Lexington City Council yesterday after she helped to spearhead an effort to get March Madness Marching Band some much needed funds for our trip to Austin for HONK! TX.

Mostly I wanted to share it with everyone so that if you have already contributed I could thank you. You’re helping to make a really cool and very special dream come true for a lot of people, myself included. If you haven’t and may have been thinking about it I hope I can give you a few more reasons to.

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GM Wrap Up – The End

In a completely meta-game moment here I will say that I know I have been slacking off severely. Let’s just say that our intrepid adventurers have killed a lot of people to get to where they were tonight. They met a night club owner, brothel mistress, rock stars and a former prize fighter to get to where they are. Along the way they’ve had many laughs and wackiness has certainly ensued.

So the players have come a long way from Azrael’s night club. They’ve fought many people and come a long way to their final show down with Arachnid. Little did they realize that all along that one in their midst was unknowing giving advice to the enemy…

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Happy Birthday You Little Girly Man

Will would have been 21 years old today. And in 4 days it’ll be 4 years since he left us.

Will was my baby cousin and unabashedly he was my favorite. We shared a special bond and I will be forever grateful for the time I had with him.

It’s hard to think that it’s been that long. Just saying it even brings tears to my eyes today. Of all the people in my life I think Will has touched me the most. There are times when life is hard and I think of Will and his strength allows me to carry on. In his short time with us he taught us more than we could ever know about perseverance.

I’m not sure that I could say anything better than my father, uncle and aunt did a few years ago:

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The Good Life

I’ve had this post in my head for the past couple of months I think. It occurred to me sometime in September that I was supposed to be married in October. Then October rolls around and it’s the month I was supposed to be married, still on my mind. October comes and goes, November is here and it’s still on my mind. Something about it won’t leave me alone, so I’m finally putting it down into words.

It almost feels like that last mental milestone in my brain had to be passed up before things could be completely closed. The last chapter had to be written even if there was nothing to write. Blank pages in a book. It’s a little hard to express really.

One thing comes through in all of it though:

Life is good. Life is damn good and I am one lucky and blessed guy to be able to lead the life that I am because of it not coming to pass.

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GM Wrap Up – The Turtle Twins

This week saw our intrepid adventurers squaring off against the first of the remaining 7 Arms of Arachnid! After sneaking into the hub and fighting off the first wave of security the group found themselves facing off against none other than Max and Kurt aka The Turtle Twins!

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GM Wrap Up – And Here We Go…

This week featured many exciting developments for our characters as they left behind the Jolly Good Bread Factory after a fight with the second in command of security at the facility and his SWAT team. Are Tony and Susie done for good? What kind of future does Bishop have in store for him and why did someone want him dead so many years ago? Where the hell did Detroit disapear with Janet Li anyway? All these questions and more answered in this weeks installment.

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