random thoughts from vancouver

I have a late call today, so I have some time to write. Yaaaaay. Here's a few things that have been on my mind in the last, oh, 36 hours or so.

So that silly thing Paul and Storm and Adam and I did sort of took off, didn't it? I'm thrilled that so many people found it as entertaining and amusing as we did; it was a lot of fun to put it all together.

You know, it almost didn't happen. Storm suggested it on Thursday, and I was on my way to Vancouver on Friday, so I wouldn't be able to do my part until Saturday, and we were positive that someone else would beat us to the punch. It was pretty cool when Saturday morning rolled around and nobody had done our joke, yet, so we all soldiered on. Paul and Storm took their photos backstage at a show, Adam did his picture in his secret underground evil genius lair (it's not a secret that he has one of those, right? Because if it is, let's just forget that I said that, okay?) and I just figured that I'd bug Felicia to take my pictures … but she was working second unit all day Saturday, and I had to figure out a way to do it all on my own.

First, I tried holding my cell phone camera, but that didn't work and left me with just one hand to gesture and stuff, so I thought that I could maybe use photobooth on my Mac. I knew it would look like I'd used photobooth, so I thought it would be fun to take advantage of that and embrace its limitations. That's how I ended up putting in all those fake backgrounds. (I have to say, the Paris one is my favorite.)

The app I used on my iPad is called Penultimate. Molly Lewis turned me on to it, and for what it does, it's totally worth a couple bucks.

I also wanted to make sure that The Chive was properly credited: we're just standing on their shoulders, riffing on their original idea, and this obviously wouldn't have happened on its own.

Speaking of w00tstock: I just heard that the San Francisco w00tstock shows are selling out, fast. Thursday has more tickets available than Friday, but I'm pretty sure both shows will be SRO, because SF seems to really like our show.


Yesterday, Stan Lee had a cameo on Eureka. I can't divulge any details, but I can say that he's one of the nicest people I've ever met – certainly the nicest living legend – and he was just wonderful to everyone. It was adorable how excited and nerdy everyone in the cast and crew was, and how great Stan was to all of us. Also? The cameo they wrote for him was just fucking perfect. I just know it's going to kill when this episode airs.


Facebook continues its all-out assault on its users' privacy with the new Places feature, which is (of course) on by default, with no warning. Lifehacker has the lowdown, including how to turn it off. As I've said before, if you dig Facebook, I'm not going to give you a hard time about it, but I strongly encourage you to turn this feature off. The world doesn't need to know where you live, and when you are (and aren't) home. Also: Fuck you, Facebook, for turning this on by default and not warning your users about it. You're one of the most profoundly immoral companies in the history of the Internet.


When I was at Gencon, I got to play this storytelling RPG called Fiasco that is simply amazing. I will write an entire post about it in the near future, but until then, check out Gnome Stew and Critical Hits for posts about the greatest storytelling RPG this side of A Penny For My Thoughts. One of the great thing about Fiasco is how easy it is to write settings for the game, like this time traveler setting my friend Will is developing. (Warning: if you haven't played the game, this is not a good setting for your first time.)


I keep running up against content and licensing restrictions, since I'm in Canada. It's making me show my rageface a lot, but that's a rant for a Techland column, I think. The short version: it's really fucking stupid to apply geographic restrictions to the Internet, which is sort of its own place that doesn't give a shit about geography. Media companies could go a long way toward combating piracy simply by acknowledging this reality and making it easier for honest people like me to watch the goddamn on-demand videos they bought from Amazon while they were in the United States, regardless of what country they're currently visiting.


I've been taking pictures and Twittering like crazy from the set. If you are interested in that sort of thing, you can follow me on Twitter for more updates than you ever wanted to see.


One last thing: Slacker Radio works just fine in Canada (go Slacker!) and I've been enjoying the hell out of my Camera Obscura and Catherine Wheel stations. The problems I used to have with the Android app have all been fixed, and it's been a real joy to walk around Vancouver, streaming music right into my head. (Right now, it's playing Maps by Yeah Yeah Yeahs, which is weird to hear outside of Rock Band.)

It's unlikely I'll have time to write again before the weekend, so let me take this moment to wish you all a great weekend. Take deep breaths, and be kind.

Thanks for spending this moment with me.

80 thoughts on “random thoughts from vancouver”

  1. I have to agree about Facebook. They are one of the most vile and determined to continue being vile companies on the face of the earth. They want to steal your privacy and they keep showing that they aren’t embarrassed to do it either!

  2. I love when Americans come to Canada and are enraged by the lack of Hulu, Amazon on demand, Netflix, etc, etc.. Canadians have bitched about it since we first couldn’t access them. Why do they think we loves our torrents so much? Thanks for bringing some attention to one of the stupidest geo-locked travesties. We get all your shows, all your networks, and all your movies up here, but it would be a disaster if we could watch them on your websites.
    Funny (not funny) thing – I was visiting a friend in the States when Steam had their big summer sale on. I tried to buy something ON MY STEAM ACCOUNT and it wouldn’t let me because my current location didn’t match my home address. WTF Valve? You build a great online-delivery system and jam THAT into it? Because there’s no way I could possibly be visiting another country and want to access you store.

  3. Last night I got a chance to play Steve Segedy’s Vegas playset for Fiasco with a bunch of new players, and it continued the game’s streak of damn good fun. I made the decision last week that I’d like to get real good at writing Fiasco playsets, and so I keep tinkering with them when I should be doing other things.

  4. Thanks for the random thoughts Wil.
    I agree about content restrictions in Canada… it especially ticks me off because I live here and have to deal with it all the time (aka the Big Bang promos you posted a while back)
    If we can see the show on our actual TVs why can’t we view it online? (Jon Stewart is another one that drives me nuts)

  5. I recently moved from Detroit to Toronto, which has been awesome so far. The only downside is Canadian Amazon is awful, no Hulu, and no Netflix. Hurray for only licencing content for play in the US. So now, instead of watching stuff legitimately, they’re encouraging everyone to pirate stuff. That’s pretty much the only way I’ll be able to see you on Eureka.

  6. DRM is awfully silly & has no hope of actually preventing piracy. It just inconveniences honest people.
    I must say that while I smirked a bit at The Chive’s little hoax, y’all’s little spoof made me cackle out loud. Mighty, mighty funny. Thanks for doing stuff like that for our amusement. I can say without reservation that I completely appreciate it. :)
    Have fun in Vancouver!

  7. sadly, all I will do is mimic what Astin said.
    It enragulates me. It’s not just television and movies; it’s also Internet radio. I’m surprised we’re allowed to access the freaking Library of Congress.

  8. My creative brain is fully engaged in developing Fiaso playsets (as evidenced by all the OMG ANOTHER IDEA FOR FIASCO emails I keep sending you.)
    I *love* that this game is so expandable, and that Bully Pulpit is encouraging it.

  9. Now you too know the pain of trying to consume digital media legally in Canada! Want to watch streaming episodes of Star Trek on CBS’s site? Not available in your region! Hulu? Not available in your region! NBC.com to watch clips from SNL? Not available in your region! Even some music videos on YouTube of all places are blocked due to “licensing restrictions in your region.” I do my best to not be a filthy pirate because I respect the fact that, hey, creators have to eat too, but these sorts of things REALLY stretch my patience.

  10. As a Canadian, I completely understand your frustration. Really all I want is dome damned Netflix (coming to Canada soon, thank gods) and to be able to stream content from network websites. A lot of tv shows can’t even be downloaded in iTunes outside the US which leaves me saying “I TRIED to be good. I TRIED every legal way to get this content; but you’re basically ASKING me to obtain it illegally.” So silly. You’re right. Geographical restrictions make no sense on the internet.

  11. Just bought my tickets for Wootstock SF for Friday! (woot!!!) I was there for the very first Wootstock 1.0 and this time I’m bringing my BFF since the first one was so awesome! For me, Wootstock compared favorably with Spamalot. Just sayin’.

  12. Canada is one of the worst places in the world for media restriction. I believe it’s due to the fact that even though it’s right next to the US it has wholly different contracts that are owned by individual TeeVee stations. It’s rather frustrating even living here with most of my friends (internet and real life) living in the US and discussing all the amazing media services available to them. Not to mention several times a week being linked to something that I cannot see even though I’m less than 35 miles from the US.
    Anyway, since you’re in Vancouver you should check out the CBC Radio3 podcast if you haven’t before, I highly recommend it for a good dose of great Canadian music.

  13. Thanks as always for the Facebook heads-up. I find Facebook to useful as a tool for keeping in touch with people I might not otherwise to give it up, but yeah, the privacy issues are a nightmare.
    I was pretty frustrated to not be able to use Hulu when I was traveling in Australia last year, but the U.S. isn’t the only country guilty of this sort of thing – as an American who loves British television, not being able to access the BBC’s iPlayer from the States is a huge bummer.

  14. What’s scary about Facebook and the Places feature on by default is that even if you turn it off for you, you MUST remember to turn off the ability for your “friends” to tag you in a location as well.
    … I just wonder how long it’ll be before someone tags a friends in a dubious location as a joke, and then all hell breaks looks.

  15. The UK isn’t much better but at least that’s an ocean away so kind of expected. The only good thing the Murdoch empire has brought was that US TV series come over a lot quicker, in case of the last seasons of Lost and BSG even within a week.
    In reverse, UK services aren’t available elsewhere, either. Also understandable.
    However, what’s completely wrong is putting restrictions on content you’ve already bought (like Wil’s amazon movies or anything you buy on itunes).
    No wonder people are turning to piracy.

  16. You know, I dutifully go check my settings on FB every time I hear about more of their asshattery, but every time I get there, the thing that’s OMGAWFUL is never automatically turned on for my account. This one wasn’t either. Maybe because all the rest of my settings are set to “Just Friends” this one is too? /shrug

  17. That photo discourse was pure entertainment of the highest quality (+20). Thanks for that. :) The Chive, eh? I remember seeing this sort of thing by a fellow called Andrew McDonald as a clever trick to write a note in your camera in case it gets lost (as a message to the potential finder). I love how these things evolve. Ah, internets, you really are awesome, you know that?

  18. Elizabeth,
    Facebook can’t steal what you willing give them. Oddly enough, you signed in with Facebook to this site, so they must not be THAT bad.

  19. I was glad to see I’m not the only person who still uses the phrase “I’m sad that I’m flying.”
    How quickly these things get lost on the interwebs.

  20. You can see why content pushers wouldn’t want you leasing content for 5 Elbonians groats and then watching it in the US, but once you’ve paid in dollars, God’s own currency, it’s petty and pointless to block you watching it while you’re banished to some frozen third world hellhole where they barter with penguin beaks and such.

  21. I wish there was a way to convert my family and spread-out-all-over-the-world friends to something other than Facebook. My husband and I are military, so we move around a lot and have to rely heavily on the internet to keep in touch with everyone. Thanks for the heads up about the newest FB feature!

  22. Quick note: The “friends checking you in” thing is a bit more complicated than it seems. If you haven’t checked in at a place before, it doesn’t actually “check you in” too. It just turns into the same thing you get when you mention someone in a status update. So, say, it doesn’t show up on your wall or for other people to see in the Places app.
    So you can’t, for example, tag in your buddies at a strip club and have everyone see that in the Places application. Unless they’ve already tagged themselves there before, but that’s a different story. You can still “mention” them, but you could do that in a status update or other post already.
    I definitely agree that this behavior is crazy confusing tho’, and should be better documented at the very least.

  23. Many of the local SF geeks are really looking forward to the w00tstock shows. There’s a goodly amount of convention/gamers that have signed up.
    We’re really looking forward to getting our Geek On. Most of my contingent has purchased tix for either show.

  24. As soon as I finished my first game of Fiasco I was already buzzing with ideas for my own playsets. Plus there are some that appeal to me more than others, so the more there are, the more that’ll stand out as “play me!” Will’s time travel is one that I’m eager to get to, for instance.

  25. The spoof of the white board quit was epic! I LOLed throughout. *g*
    I agree with the above comments about media restrictions in Canada. I live 18 blocks from the US border in BC, yet there are so many things I cannot access online. Friends and websites will direct me to a link to see a trailer or clip from some show, I’ll click on it and… oops sorry, (insert company/product/network name here) is not available in your area. It gets very frustrating. The fact that you actually purchased the right to watch something and then were unable to do so due to your current location is even more ridiculous!
    I wonder if the reverse will hold true when I visit the US later this month… will the things I bought here in Canadaland refuse to play while I’m there?
    While you check out CBC’s podcasts, make sure you check out Stuart McLean’s Vinyl Cafe podcasts too. Full of music and funny short stories about fictitious record store owner Dave and his wife Morley. Definitely worth a listen.

  26. I feel like the day I learned to play Maps on expert drums was a major turning point in my life/rock band career. No matter how many harder songs I have played since, I will always remember that moment of triumph/aghh my leg is going to fall off.

  27. Yes, as a Vancouverite I frequently add “Gonna watch a crapload of Hulu” to my US vacation plans.
    Hope you had a lovely time in our city. Did you get a chance to try the Guinness cheese? It’s quite good!

  28. you are right on all acounts. Facebook is becoming more sketchy by the day and the lack of internet accessability here is frustrating. In blocking out the American content the Canadian government has cleared a path for Canadian creators and artists to promot their work as well (this isn’t limited to the internet, it is true for TV and radio content as well). Apparently this was done to keep us involved with our *sigh* ‘culture’… (ya it’s okay to laugh at that). By law in Canada 35% if all media content must be Canadian.
    We have overstepped the boundries, however, of attempting to do the same with internet service. The internet should not be governed.

  29. Well, so much of it is fan-driven, and it’s free publicity, really. Any company these days that doesn’t encourage fan work is being pretty foolish. With Fiasco in particular, so much of it is based on lists that you don’t even need the designers to be amazing writers—just good designers. It’s really a good starting point for people. And pros can crank out a good playset really quickly. Something for everyone!

  30. FYI everyone:
    I just ran Facebook places on my iPhone. Before I could check in, I have to OPT-IN to the service. It wasn’t a 196 page EULA, it was just a few sentences explaining the privacy ramifications of what I was about to get myself into. One of them pointed out that if you decide to use the service, friends can check you in and you must disable this if you don’t like it.
    Sure enough, while I was able to say I was at X venue with two of my friends, it would not show up on their feed since they have not approved the Facebook places app. They have not opted in or out at that point, so it was defaulted to out.
    I know we all love to believe the hype that X company is evil, but it just doesn’t fit to reality this time.

  31. Canadia and their silly restrictions. I used to travel a LOT in my old life and constantly came upon websites that wouldn’t work outside the U.S. Annoying!
    Lately I’ve only dealt with being up at “areyoufuckingserious” o’clock every day for weeks, as my little peanut is now 18 days old. If you didn’t see the link before: http://gallery.me.com/damon.becker
    Because as they say, pics or it didn’t happen.
    Daddy even wore his dice shirt to the hospital the night she was born, just coincidence. No photos to prove it.
    Have a good weekend, everyone!

  32. Hey everyone – sounds like Facebook is lossing out to Twitter and is trying to get some free publicity (however will this make people turn off their Facebook account forever??? Time will tell).
    LOVED the ‘silly thing’ – was so great to see – am a bit suprised to know that Adam has a secret lair… who knew ;o) (haha).
    Friday here in Aussie and cruising for the weekend! yay – hope you all have a great weekend – smile, breath and enjoy :o)

  33. Thanks for the FACEBOOK information – I went through and crushed my privacy down to just ME! They do share way too much on their and enabling a ‘feature’ without telling you should be criminal.
    What if Microsoft (if that is your flavored OS) decided it was going to turn off all firewalls on it’s OS in the next security patch (an oxymoron I know). Think of the lawsuits and issues that would generate – what is different about enabling access to your personal information on the Internet – FACEBOOK should offer this shit but keep it disabled – make people TURN IT ON first!
    Thanks again!

  34. Facebook places, ah, that’s what has been popping up on my feed telling where my friends are. Really don’t need to know just how many times my friend visits Starbucks.
    On the content issue. I see why Canada would do that. Not wanting their culture over run by the American Culture Juggernaut. Same for the English. Though you’d thing they would share their culture with the world, but no. Thankfully, I live on the border. Really, I can see Canada from here. Just South of Ottawa. Also, means I can’t watch Dr. Who till months after it originally aired, been recorded at homes all over the UK, and then fileshared with the World. Curse you BBC!
    I, also, just don’t get the logic.
    Though this Fiasco thing look interesting. Like I need yet another game.
    Curse you Wil Wheaton!!!

  35. I’ve had one of the toughest weeks in a long time, but your post really put a smile on my face. I will definitely take some deep breaths and remember to be kind (and also not be a dick). 😉

  36. I’m in Vancouver myself this weekend (to see Bard on the Beach), and now I kind of want to try to get into the film studios and see what you’re up to! Being deported, however, is not on our list of things to do….
    And while I was raiding this entry my friend got her rageface on that she couldn’t get Pandora to work here in Canada!
    Thanks for the Facebook heads-up. I don’t know why I’m still surprised when they do this.

  37. I totally feel your pain w/ the geographic blockouts online. Wanna know what makes it even MORE frustrating? TV shows like Eureka. ‘Cause they can be filmed here, we can dodge around the filming sites, provide the locations, provide the crew, etc, but we can’t actually (legit-wise) WATCH them, even on TV until MONTHS after they air in the States. The latest season of Eureka is due to start up here in either September or October. I can’t watch it, or access most of the on-line stuff for it, and it’s filmed in my backyard. Grrrrr.
    Rant over. Hope you’re enjoying your trip up here!!!! Glad to have the geek vibe pumped up around here!!

  38. Wil,
    Good to see that you are working hard in Canada. When you can, get some sleep. Also, good to see that your job has not gotten in the way of the lengths of your great entrys.

  39. I think the default setting for all privacy issues is “Just Friends”. The problem is that not all of our FB friends are actual friends whom we want to know where we live, work, go to school, etc. I’m a teacher, and though I don’t accept any students as friends on FB (I don’t even use my actual last name, as I don’t want them to find me), I have colleagues who do accept students as friends. I really don’t think that any of them would want students to know where they live.
    I haven’t seen this feature in use, so I am not even sure how it works. But if there is even a chance that someone can locate me through it, I am turning it off.

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