Bookwyrm 2015

I had a nice time at Bookwyrm, though there was a bit more of a “working” feel than the cons of my imagination. The first slot I was backup for walk-ins; I prepped City of Danger, but wasn’t needed. Instead, I got to play in a game of The Queen’s Cavaliers run by the author. It came off very smoothly in the GM’s hands; I was impressed by the level of differentiation between skills, well handled via card references and a quick reference page. There’s enough system that it’d take a while to master, but I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Saturday afternoon, I finally got to play Lady Blackbird with Patrick, Will, and a couple visiting from Southern California. I liked it! I can see why Patrick would like to try the system with a little more time; a con slot was quite rushed, especially with rules explanations.

Sunday morning, I was signed up to play in Jeff’s Dr. Disco vs. The Agents of F.U.N.K.. Unfortunately, we had a bunch of last minute walk-ins, and our “on standby” GM hadn’t played 5e or finished reading the adventure. So I ran instead; a couple (and James) played at the start, but Keith and his son soon joined us.

The first mini adventure’s fight was quite difficult–though, in part, because they approached the tower in small groups, which denied them the chance to power through their foes quickly. They saved the kidnapped boy, but were dropped in the process. Fortunately, the adventure mentioned a pair of guards nearby, who weren’t up to a fight, but could at least treat the wounded.

The second mini adventure was a better story, but the kid was acting out; I think he was frustrated by the first adventure’s finale. (So was I.) So there was a lot of his character spiking the scenario and taunting his dad’s character. A less fun finish to the morning.

The afternoon slot I ran Psi*Run. I had a split of 3 experienced and 3 new players; we did fine. Afterwards, a few players mentioned that their creativity was low since it was the con’s last slot. Still, it was a fun session, and the characters mostly got to ends that their players liked.

All in all, it was a good weekend of gaming. (Though I do look forward to playing an Agent of Funk one on these days!) We were pretty wiped by the end, but enjoyed hopping out to join the organizers afterwards. Before next year we need to decide how to get in gaming; this year, the booth did fine on Saturday (because Jennifer was at it most of the day), but Sunday’s sales were bad because we were both GMing the morning slot, and both played for at least part of the afternoon slot, leaving the table bare. Maybe scheduling an employee to run it for a slot, or just having the table present one day, not both… we need to figure out something for next year.

By day, by night

My search is getting to the point where, by day, I have to consider moving elsewhere. I’ve already applied for positions quite a drive away– Bakersfield for the AQE job, West LA and Orange County as plan check engineers. By day, I am reluctant but rational: it is hard to live without income, and there’s nothing around Fresno that’s hiring in my field. Bummer.

At night, I resist with all the fiber of my being. I have something fun going on all the time, a network of great friends and fun activities, a life that is exactly what I’ve worked to build.

On Wednesday, I made a simple dinner that was enthusiastically devoured, every bite. Sourdough bread (Bittman 858), Roast Chicken Parts with Olive Oil (Bittman 640), Roasted Snap Peas with Spring Onions (T&D Willey Farms), and an apple crisp (Bittman 884) [half pink ladies, half granny smith] plus ice cream. Then we played Settlers of Catan with Dad, Ben, and Tress. Jennifer laughed til her nose bled, Tress was in tears. Wood for sheep indeed!

This weekend has fallen into place wonderfully. Tonight I have a fun AT-43 match with Bryan, tomorrow Aces and Eights with Ben, Dad, and Mike, and Mother’s Day in Visalia with Carrie and her brand new daughter.

Does life get better than this?

To sprawl or not to sprawl

An interesting discussion/debate. This round was begun by a Kevin Drum comment on a Matt Yglesias post, but delving into his comments section shows a lot of experience with different areas making walkability work.

I particularly liked the following comment about Irvine from a city planner. It’s a good point about the limits of luring with amenities like walking trails and how much of walkability comes about because driving is difficult. Continue reading “To sprawl or not to sprawl”

Parking Downtown

This is sparked by some interesting history and background on parking in Fresno from Jerry Duncan on Mindhub.

Subject: [MindHub] Downtown Parking Reality 101

There has been some discussion going on recently regarding the cost of parking downtown. For those interested in learning the reality of how it really works, I offer these comments.

First a little history. Before the current administration took office in 2001, parking downtown really was a mess. There was a serious shortage in the number of spaces (there were only 5,680 stalls total in downtown) and what little the City had was filthy and unsafe. The structures were covered
in graffiti and none of the elevators or escalators worked. The parking meters on the streets had been removed and replaced with two hour of free parking (supposedly to bring people back to downtown). When I attended then State Senator Jim Costa’s Downtown Task Force meetings on Downtown
Revitalization in 2000, we found out that this “free” parking was being used primarily by downtown employees who would park on the street, leave work every two hours and move their cars.

The number one complaint we heard then about downtown was that there was no parking and they were right. In addition, parking rates were so low that no private parking structures could be built because they wouldn’t pencil out. When the current administration took office the downtown parking problem became one of our first priorities for downtown. As Chairman of the Fresno Redevelopment Agency, I worked very hard with the Mayor to develop a plan to solve this problem. We knew that without an adequate supply of clean, well maintained and affordable parking, the revitalization of Downtown Fresno would never happen.

The execution of this plan over the previous seven years has resulted in some pretty remarkable results. First, since 2001 the City has added 3,600 additional spaces of parking downtown in parking lots and parking structures. Did you know the new Convention Center parking structure cost
almost as much as the baseball stadium?

Second, because we raised overall parking rates to a still very competitive and reasonable level building private parking structures now made economic sense and 2,900 new stalls have been added by private companies. It is important to note that these private parking structures were the first ones built downtown in over 40 years and didn’t cost the taxpayers one cent.

There are currently 12,180 parking spaces available in downtown Fresno (an increase of 115% since 2001). Of the 12,180, 4,280 are privately owned and 7,900 are operated by the City of Fresno.

The parking fund, which operates as a separate cost center, is currently running a $5 million deficit which is currently being subsidized by all the taxpayers in Fresno, even those who don’t come downtown. The recent increases are part of a 10 year plan to try to break even. It has been the
City’s objective to reasonably pass on as much of the cost of providing parking downtown to the people who actually use it.

Even with the increases, Downtown Fresno is still one of lowest cost places to park in North America. Don’t believe me, look here: link.

It was interesting to me that someone suggested we place parking meters in other shopping areas around town to raise money. The reality is that unlike Downtown Fresno merchants, those merchants who are not located in downtown are paying for their customers parking. The cost of providing “free” parking to their customers is passed on by their landlords. If you shop at any shopping center outside of downtown, you are paying for the cost of the parking when you buy something because the business owner is passing on this cost in the price of their goods or services.

If the cost of lower parking is that important to the business owners downtown, they can provide their own parking (it is a requirement of development everywhere except downtown Fresno) or form a parking assessment district to raise funds to lower the cost of parking in city lots. I’m sure
the City would be willing to look at reducing the parking cost by the amount they raise.

Jerry Duncan

Recent semi-related links:
Livable streets report
Street design goals
Thinking about parking (DC)
Gas and the suburbs
Midnight oil
Suitcase bike
CA High speed rail analysis

Olive Press found and a discussion of improvements

Thinking about parking: A DC blog discusses how dedicating fees to local improvements instead of the transportation fund gains a lot of support from local businesses, etc. The article also includes a discussion of how to set fees in congested areas and more.

On a happy note: The Olive Press (which closed on May 1) is now open and serving lunch inside the 2039 Ultra Lounge. Unfortunately, the waitresses don’t seem to have made the transition.

Twice in one week

Bad news. You remember how I mentioned over lunch, Dad and Ben, that the Mexican place [Vallarta] around the corner from me was closed? I walked by it today and it remained closed, with chairs stacked on tables, a chain dead bolted around the door, etc.

But even worse? I continued walking to the Olive Press, and found that it too is closed. I ate there Monday, but it looks like they’re gone. The Java City shop owner across the street told me that they’re done.

Not good news for downtown lunch fans. While there are several good options still around, I’m sad to see the two of them go. [And suspicious about the Olive Press– I wonder if the end of construction on Kern and the completion of the Virginia Hotel around them raised their rents and drove them off.]