You may have noticed a few changes around the blog recently. I’m updating the basics for the first time in years pending a migration – so I’ll be experimenting with new templates, and art choices. Keep coming back for more in the coming weeks. I intend to start taking things seriously again around here.
It’s been two nights going with dreams of the same vein.
Both dreams were in separate places, both had separate casts, and both seemed to have different threads, but the core value was the same.
Both were about books.
I won’t go stand up on my usual soapbox to talk about how awesome reading is. I think you’ve got enough of that. So, instead, I’ll just get to the point: both dreams were about rescuing books.
In the first dream, I was headed home from Massachusetts, visiting friends. I’m not the religious sort, but I’d stopped in to a church, probably to ask directions or beg the use of a restroom. I got in, no problem, no one stopped me, and on my way through, I came across a filing cabinet, and atop it sat the ill-fated and oft-maligned box set of TSR’s ‘Spelljammer.’
Now, I’ve no particular love of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. It’s a lackluster system in my personal opinion. But, it had some remarkable worlds that went outside of the ‘wizard in the tall tower’ genre. In particular, Planescapes, Ravenloft, Dark Sun, and even the epic flop that was Spelljammer all caught my eye at various points. And, of all places to find Spelljammer, there it was, casually resting on a filing cabinet in a church.
And, to think my first thought was to steal it. Right inside the church full of nice, pious folks who had let me come inside without a care.
I immediately chastised myself. Stealing inside a church. I may not have a lot of real warm fuzzy feelings about church looking back on things, but stealing from one was a page too far in the book of hypocrisy. Of course I wouldn’t steal from a church.
Then I saw the room beyond the filing cabinet. It was full of books the church had collected for ‘safe keeping’. And by that, I mean to use as examples in their sermons of icons of wickedness. Possibly to burn. Mostly to keep them out of the hands of good, god-fearing kids who might otherwise discover them in local heathen bookstores.
Then, I knew I had to steal them. Books being kept away from hands to read them doesn’t sit well with me. Books want to be read. And banning a book just makes me want to read it all the more. In my waking hours I have little patience for bible-thumping folks who mistake creativity and wonder for idolatry or devil worshipping.
The problem was that I was arriving just as the congregation was gathering, and in the end I had to leave the church – too many churchgoers had shown by the time I realized what had to be done. I remember standing in the parking lot of the church as the dream unravelled, furiously trying to think of a way to bust out those books. But a solution never came. And I came to in my bedroom, feeling like I had failed.
It bothered me all Saturday. I had let those crazy people hoard those books, keeping them from the people who needed them. Books they thought led to devil-worship. Books they thought would corrupt the young somehow. I was upset by a fictional, personal failure. That’s the weird thing about dreams – it seems odd and upsetting to betray them, intangible though they may be.
Then came the second night.
I was in un-Philadelphia. Oh, it was Philadelphia alright. I knew it in the way you do in your dream bones when you’re in those dreams – but it was too different, altered. There was an old university district lined up next to a disused canal, and it was filled with old crumbling buildings. It was somehow to the east beyond the Delaware, as if Philadelphia had somehow spilled over the river in Manifest Destiny gone terribly wrong, forcing itself into Camden and planting it’s flag. In this district, myself and a group of others found ourselves urban exploring, creeping into and out of dead end streets with condemned properties. As we wended our way through these places, we found small communal places. And in these places we found shelf upon shelf of books. Most were old and moldering, barely held together. But, as we searched, I found old roleplaying books from my youth between decaying encyclopedias and Chilton manuals. I remember picking up an armful of Exalted splatbooks and thinking ‘Shannon will want these. I can’t leave them here.’ Somehow, I knew that the people who’d seeded these books were long gone and that the books were homeless now. It would be a shame to leave them there – though I’ll admit I took a thief’s pleasure in knowing that some of these books would be mine.
Then the bad people came. You could tell they were bad people by the weapons they carried. Bats and boards studded with rusty nails and lengths of barbed wire. They chased and hunted us through the districts, and to make good on escape we were forced to shed some of the books to lighten our load. I managed to keep a clutch of them this time, safely tucked under my arm while we made our escape into better parts of town.
The dreams reflect a part of me I suppose – I’m a librarian of sorts (an intensely disorganized one) as I’ve discovered. My books are my chosen wards; some I ‘rescue’ for posterity, others I acquire for my own edification and personal advancement, and some simply because they seem like friends in a curious, inanimate way. And when it is their time, I let them go freely to the folks who need them. After all, books are meant to be read and shared (no matter what DRM policies say), that’s a part of what make physical books wonderful.
I wonder if perhaps I will sleep tonight and dream again of strange library adventures. I wonder what books I shall save, and who will read them, and to whom I might pass them on to.
Me: Hi, Slim. Why don’t you pull up a seat?
Slim: Don’t mind if I do. Thank you kindly.
Me: I’m gonna do a little talking out loud if you don’t mind. The interview is for posterity and I’m trying to get as much as I can down. It might sound, I dunno… weird.
Slim: I’m gonna level with you – you cannot out weird me.
Me: I thought as much – but better safe than sorry.
Slim: Know a lot about that too. But, go on. Do your thing.
Me: Okay. This is interview one for Back Roads. Interview subject is a caucasian male. Apparent age is around thirty to thirty five years old, approximately six foot one. Pale complected, dark hair and eyes. Hair kept short in a rustic cut. Wears a black cowboy hat, denim jeans, red button down shirt with a black vest and cowboy boots. He’s a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll.
Slim: [Coughs] Mostly rock and roll. Country’s been done to death. Tired of it. It’s all they play on the circuit Butch and I run.
Slim: Yeah. I guess you could say he’s my road partner.
Me: So you travel around a lot.
Slim: Almost my whole life.
Me: Well, let’s start at the beginning. Where were you born?
Slim: Tennessee western territory.
Me: Not just Tennessee?
Slim: No sir. But, that ties in with the next question. Go on ahead and ask it. I don’t mind.
Me: Alright, when were you born?
Slim: August nineteenth, eighteen forty-six.
Slim: Yes sir. We headed out West when I was just a kid and helped found the Republic of Texas. Daddy rode with Sam Houston hisself.
Me: That seems unlikely.
Slim: Honest Injun. All true. Ain’t the weirdest part of the story, tell you that.
Me: So that makes you…
Slim: One hundred and sixty-six this August.
Me: [Whistles] Bold claim. What’s your secret? Clean living, exercise, diet?
Slim: Definitely not clean living – though that’s a fine aspiration. Not exercise, but you could say there’s something to the latter.
Me: The diet?
Slim: Yes sir.
Me: Can you elaborate?
Slim: Blood. Preferably human blood.
Slim: Like I said on the phone. I’m a vampire. The genuine article. Fangs, toughness, power, undying.
Me: Wow. That’s a bold statement.
Slim: Also a true one. You didn’t believe me when I told you that? You think I’m nuts?
Me: I’ll admit, I didn’t believe you. But, when someone comes to you with the belief that they are a vampire, you’re going to at least hear something interesting. Even if its not true.
Slim: I can’t say as I blame you. It’s a tall order. But, it is a hell of a good story if you got a spell.
Me: I got some time. Lemme get a drink from the barista.
[Recording ends – picks up again]
Me: Okay, so, I have my drink refilled, and I gotta take you off track from the backstory first and ask a couple more questions.
Slim: Yeah – anyone who meets a Nocturne is gonna go through this. [Chuckles] So go on. I know you got a vampire checklist you’re itching to go through so let’s just get it done and then we can talk about how I got to be what I am.
Me: Okay so. Let’s hit the popular ones. Reflection?
Slim: Yep. I’d be a fine mess if I didn’t have one.
Slim: Nope. Don’t do shit. Same with garlic, holy water and silver. I’m just dandy with all of those.
Me: Stake through the heart?
Slim: Just pisses me off. Handy though when some shitheel gets a mind to off me and thinks the job’s done. Oughtta see the look on those son’s o’ bitches faces when I come up from behind.
Me: Wow. So, fire?
Slim: That hurts. But, no. Don’t necessarily do the trick. I been burned a couple times. Slow to heal, but I’ve made it out every time. I dunno what’d happen if a fire ashed me out. Never done that.
Slim: I dunno. Never had that happen. Thankfully most idiots go for the old stake through the heart routine.
Slim: Nope. Speak from experience on that, though obviously it gives me a real bad headache [chuckle].
Slim: That’s complicated.
Me: Care to elaborate?
Slim: [Shifts. Looks uncomfortable] Yeah. It can kill me. But… it ain’t like the pictures make it out to be. Sunlight takes away everything. Everything. I don’t just mean it burns me up and scatters me on the wind. Nothing of the sort. If I were to go out into the parking lot and wait for sun up, you’d see not so much as a spark. No light show, nothing.
Me: What would I see?
Slim: Well, you’d see the wreck of a man. All of my powers go away. I turn back into a human for most intents and purposes.
Me: That’s it?
Slim: Bible truth.
Me: Doesn’t sound so bad.
Slim: I got a lot of people like to see me dead. Comes with the territory.
Me: I think I get the picture. So all someone has to do is kill you in the light of day?
Slim: [Sighs] Pretty much. You found me sleeping in the sun or wandering on the side of the road during daylight hours you could poison me, slit my throat, or put a bullet in me and it’s over. S’why I try and keep a low profile. People start going around knowing about all my dirty laundry or god forbid my past caught up with me… it can all go to Hell in a hurry. But, that ain’t the worst part.
Me: How so?
Slim: Remember how I say it takes everything? It takes my memory too. I can’t tell you what I’m like by daylight. I don’t remember anything. I find myself in strange places if I don’t find someplace dark enough to hunker down during the day. Butch though… he tells me that I go kind of crazy. He’s seen it on a few occasions.
Me: Like violent crazy?
Slim: Sometimes. Mostly out of panic. But mostly he says I’m scared, disoriented. Confused. Apparently, the human me doesn’t know anything about vampirism. Doesn’t have any of my memories. Has some of my old life rattling around in there though. The twenty-first century rattles the shit out of him. Scares him senseless. Those people you sometimes find, wandering around, dirty, raving, incoherent, oblivious to everything around them? Willing to pay dollars to donuts that they’re Nocturnes. Just wandering around until the sun dips back beneath the horizon.
Me: That’s not what I expected.
Slim: Yeah. It makes it hard. But, I got Butch to help. Vampires are seldom solitary creatures. They require a lot of propping up. Reliable help.
Me: Do you have powers to help with that?
Slim: Sadly, no. Well, I don’t. I hear that other Nocturnes have different abilities.
Me: That’s the second time you’ve said that word. What was it again?
Slim: Nocturnes. Collective word for the various types of vampiric critters in the world. Occultist term. Little pretentious you ask me. But, there you have it. I’m just one kind of Nocturne. There’s weirder kinds than me. Do the homework sometime. Every culture’s got a different vampire ‘myth’. You dig deep enough you’ll find that some of them are real. Izzy – a contact of ours out near Sedona – says I’m what occultists would call a Western vampire. Or, Eurotrash as she sometimes calls me, which I take offense to on more than one level. South American vampires, Chinese vampires, Native American vampires, all different. The Chinese ones are wicked scary sounding and the ones south of the border? They don’t even pretend to be human. Part of the reason so many Mexicans are hot to get outta Dodge, I suppose. Vampires down there are shitting where they eat so I’m told. Not my problem though.
Me: Interesting. But, we’re getting off track. The checklist. Running water?
Slim: Bullshit. How’d a fella like me make it from Texas to Delaware without crossing a goddamned body of water?
Me: Good point. Uh… transformation?
Slim: You mean like bats, mist, rats, wolves? No. Again, at least I can’t. Izzy though, she tells us about Vagr – another kind of Western Nocturne – that can. So can some of the Native American ones. Butch met one once, but that’s another story.
Me: Sunlight do the same to them?
Slim: Some of ‘em. Again. The information I can give you is kind of specific to me. Anne Rice got that part right at least. The blood touches each vampire differently. I can only speak to myself. Izzy could tell you more.
Me: Okay. Fair enough. One last question though before we get into history.
Slim: Fire away.
Me: How often do you, you know… have to drink?
Slim: Less often than you’d think, though if I get into a tussle, if I use my gifts or if I get caught out in the sun, the tank gets lower faster so to speak.
Me: Makes sense I guess. Oh, and I lied, but there is one last detail. How about, you know, the day to day stuff. Eating, going to the bathroom, drinking –
Slim: Fucking I reckon on that list too?
Me: Well, since you bring it up, sure. Add it in.
Slim: I’m biologically dead so long as the sun doesn’t hit me. So, no, I don’t eat, drink or shit. Can’t. Only blood does the trick, though I can swap out animal blood for human blood for a little bit before I get the itch to get a real meal. Deer is good, I’ve gotten by on possum, though it’s shit for taste, like flat beer. As for getting it up, I can, but, it’s a waste of blood and, to be honest, I don’t care. The drive for that kind of thing just blows away on the wind. Next to blood, sex is… boring.
Me: That’s awful.
Slim: That’s unlife. Is what it is. You get used to it after a while. I get by. Besides, I got some good people on the road to take my mind off the worse parts of the condition. Izzy and I, we don’t always get along all the time but she understands me better than most anyone cause of what she knows. Butch, he gets on my nerves something powerful sometimes, but we always help each other out. You think I got problems… you should talk to Butch sometime. If we didn’t have each other to lean up on, we’d be in a fine fix.
Me: Well, we’re here to talk about you, so we’ll leave Butch out for now. But who else is in your circle?
Slim: Well, most of them are out west in Arizona, Nevada, Utah, the godforsaken state of Colorado and Death Valley. There’s Eddie Saguaro. Cavey. Auntie Bellum – corny, but that’s her CB handle. All of our family so to speak is out West. The Road takes us all out there a lot for reasons beyond my ken.
Me: The road?
Slim. Capital R. Yeah. I could explain it to you, but… let’s keep it simple. You wanted my history, right? The story of where I’m from?
Me: Yeah, I think I got all my questions out of the way about the condition, so let’s meet the man.
Slim: The man’s a good a place to start as any I suppose, and the Man will take you to the vampire, and the vampire will eventually take you to the Road and the truth will out. Gimme a second though. I’m gonna catch a smoke then come back in. We’ll pick up then.
[Interview part one ends]
So, I recently experienced a wonderful reoccurrence in my life. Since sarcasm travels poorly via screen, I’ll let you in on the fact that the above is incredibly sarcastic. My feet are of a poor configuration. Due to an inward turn to my large toes and a particular fold of skin at the cuticles, I chronically suffer from deep and painful ingrowths from time to time. Compacted by the fact that I’m diabetic, it means I have a zero tolerance policy of them when they come around. As a result, the podiatrist took his pound of flesh so to speak (closer to an ounce) and a sliver of nail, and as a result I had quite a bit of couch time to cruise about Netflix whilst keeping my foot raised.
When I watch Netflix, I’m typically going about one of two pursuits: catching up on television, or watching documentaries. I indulged the latter whilst recuperating. In doing so I watched a particular documentary called ‘The Corporation.’
It was about what you’d expect. It’s primary focus was on the negative aspects of the corporate phenomenon of which there are many. But, one of the more amazing aspects was that they broke down several of the less redeeming features of corporations and compared them with known psychological symptoms. When you list all of these symptoms and run them through the paces, you get an almost textbook definition of an oft mentioned but not always understood (or even strictly defined) diagnosis: psychopathic behavior.
It’s not far off really. Inability to maintain relationships (downsizing regularly, closing plants), disregard for one’s environment (pushes for deregulation, pollutant dumping), not caring about consequences of their actions (ignoring important testing results; Flint, Michigan), uncaring in the face of suffering (what happens to the company town when the mine closes). Psychopaths have no care for other’s well-being. They only care about doing whatever it is they want to get what they’re after, usually power, money, influence, or a combination of the three. They narrowly focus on their goals at the expense of anyone else and have no compunction about how to get to what they care about.
Filter a view of the corporation through that data using the examples above and you find some shocking similarities between corporate action and psychopathic behavior.
It kind of outlines why it is that in my fiction, corporations are often an antagonistic presence even on their best days. It’s perhaps a bit of a broad statement to say that they are the perfect villain.
Hypocritical of me to say though, isn’t it? I work for one. Odds are, you do too. Just about everyone does, and if you don’t, they’re touching your lives in other ways. They cannot be escaped in this day and age unless you want to retreat to the ever-shrinking wilderness and live without any on-grid presence.
But, when you break a corporation down to its essence, it’s not a person. It doesn’t have empathy or conscience, even if the thousands of people who make it up do. It can’t be psychopathic because that’s a label we use for people. Yet the similarities are uncanny insofar as behavior goes when looking at how a corporation behaves and how a psychopath behaves.
Bearing that, in fiction, one can definitely see a corporation as villain. Not that you can’t in real life mind you, but in fiction you can easily make it an antagonist, a villain in its own right. The cyberpunk founders (God bless you, Bill Gibson) certainly saw it. Faceless, uncaring, distant organizations, untouchable by the common man, relentlessly finding and taking what they want behind the face of branding (more on this later). Much like the Terminator, they are without empathy, pity or remorse. They keep on mission until they are destroyed. Makes for a fantastic bad guy.
To toss into the kitty, they also present a dichotomy. These organizations, easily lending themselves to at best amoral and temporal ends, are composed of individual components who do possess humanitas, who have wants aside from power, or its lesser more mercurial cousin, money. These people who serve as the lifeblood of the corporation have their own goals, some just as amoral, but others quite not. The average salaryman wants his check of course, but he usually is looking for his family’s well being, his own causes, his own spirituality; largely, they keep an eye towards a larger, more holistic, picture unlike the artificial armature of which they make up a part. The cogs may be a part of the machine – but they are greater in their individuality than the machine they comprise in all of the human qualities. They have something corporations can never have, yet are inimical, essential, to the function of the corporation. That gives the villain a much needed hook – something to like inside of the villainous package. Well, other than the occasional paycheck. It could even make the idea of the corporation as a tragic figure; good people perpetuating an unfeeling agenda of acquisition.
Lastly, it is easy – incredibly easy – for protagonist or reader alike to hate a corporation. When you present it to a protagonist or reader as a foil, one sees only the armature’s public façade. It’s the only thing the corporation wants people to see typically: The Brand. Marketeers have seen to that. Brands are inherent to the corporation as they were a vital component in embracing a new model of externalization efforts throughout the past three decades. It plays into a wonderful, unexpected kind of villainy once you take the time to look at it through that lens. The façade is one of the most important steps to characterizing the corporation as more than the artificial construct it is, it allows you to almost look at it as something alive. This lets an author use it like a person, even though it is most definitely nothing of the sort. In a twist of irony, you can turn that very concept of the brand into a negative image.
To close though, this article is not meant to say that all corporations are evil. It’s not to say that their pursuit of cash allows them to simply walk over anything in their way. But, you can see in reality that many do, have done and will continue to do the amoral and antagonistic well into the future. And from that reality, you can pull good villains and stories. Art imitates life after all, and to miss out such a grab bag of drama seems wasteful.
You may have noticed by the list of game studios and indy shops on the right hand side of the blog that I’m a bit of a gamer.
I was born at exactly the right time to gain what one might view as a renaissance education in nerdery. I came into a scene in which Dungeons and Dragons was in full swing, when video games were really starting to heat up and with dozens of old standbys that did not involve 126 page tomes or wedges of plastic that didn’t always translate your will into reality. To top it off, as I was working my way out of the public school system, Magic the Gathering hit and I got some of that too. As a result, I learned a little bit about all of them to one degree or another and came to be a well balanced nerd.
In this education, I quickly came to hold Dungeons and Dragons in disdain. I dabbled in it here and there and quickly learned three things:
– Being a wizard (the coolest sounding concept in the game) sucked.
– The game seemed designed to thwart players rather than have fun.
– THAC0 was dumb as hell.
Yes, narrow learnings to be sure. But, bear in mind I was twelve. What the hell did I know?
Turns out I knew a lot. Because sometime when I was in college, TSR gave its death rattle and a company that was rather high profile in nerd consciousness, Wizards of the Coast (owners of the wildly popular Magic: the Gathering collectible card game), swept in to acquire the Dungeons and Dragons IP – presumably to ‘save’ it. There was a great deal of fuss about this. Hardcore dice junkies were appalled at the acquisition as they believed Magic had ruined fantasy gaming by the introduction of card mechanics and that WotC would kill their darling. Then there were gamers who had gone to White Wolf and Palladium systems out of frustration with the panoply of vagaries AD&D brought with it. They found themselves perking up and dreaming about what a little new blood in the mix could bring. Things simmered for a bit, and around the turn of the millennium WotC gave birth (spawned? summoned? re-animated?) to third edition.
If there was rejoicing, I didn’t hear a lot of it.
But, it did pick up players and adherents, and furthermore it changed the game, bending it into a new shape. Version wars began around that time with nerds on both sides declaring their allegiances and decrying their respective naysayers from the back rooms of game stores or their parents’ basements. THAC0 was gloriously pilloried and burned while others shouted that the new regime was only about milking the last dollars out of the intellectual property like inheritor vultures. Not being in the D&D crowd at the time I observed mostly from the sidelines. There was a brief and torrid affair for me with Ravenloft when the third edition rules for it got farmed out to White Wolf and I sincerely wanted to learn the third edition, but… there was always something wrong with playing D&D. It just wasn’t for me. It’s the same problem I have with the Beatles. Sure, both the Liverpuddlians and D&D established their spheres of influence. However, that doesn’t mean I particularly go crazy over them either. I was one of the White Wolf kids at that point. It was just a giggle to me.
And so third edition trundled on. 3.5 hit shelves while I was working at Borders, making maps integral which was distasteful to me at the time. And for a time their ‘Chainmail’ system grew out, again sparking new arguments and declarations of faith to ‘the one true system.’ I kept playing Vampire, Werewolf and Mage.
And, then something strange happened in 2008. A friend who had only recently come back to the dice side via a friend’s Call of Cthulhu campaign came to us with books from the newest 4th edition of Dungeons and Dragons. He desired to run a game and was fascinated. He’d played briefly in his own youth but never had a nerd group cohesive enough to stand against his concentration on music (in his defense you meet way more girls in a band than around a nerd table) and had lapsed. He really, earnestly wanted to play though, and I wanted to encourage him. So I joined in with more than a little trepidation.
It turned out to actually be really fun. They’d fixed things. THAC0 (long since banished in third edition) did not rear its ugly, malformed head. Magicians had something to do every turn. Levels were gained at the same speed for everyone, making a Warrior, a Thief and a Warlock truly on the same XP incline. It used maps, which up to that point I did not like, but then saw there was method to the madness. The map actually enhanced the game’s crunch, putting it in pretty clear terms how you could use your specific powers to the best of your ability.
Mechanically, it was amazingly coherent and kept everyone involved. If you were a wizard, you no longer had to hide under the cart after casting a single, unimpressive 1D6 damage magic missile. It was really fun. Fun enough for me to go out, buy the PHB, the DMG and the MM. That’s a hundred dollars worth of books.
We gamed more. We created new characters seemingly every couple of weeks and played Living Forgotten Realms. During this time I created a two-weapon, Genasi Ranger (awesome), a Daeva Swordmage (not as awesome but fun to play) and a Genasi Barbarian (awesome and also dead). Some of us around the table were playing three nights a week on JUST D&D, not including Cthulhu or Rogue Trader nights.
The game is not without its flaws. I am not a fan of the non-combat system which seems to gloss over opportunities for roleplaying. I’m not big on the very limited number of skills. I’m not big on how the guys at WotC would re-release a classic setting then do dick-all with it (Dark Sun, Eberron). But, it satisfied a very specific itch.
And now, hundreds of dollars later (yes – D&D is an expensive ass habit) they’re talking fifth edition.
Now, I’m kind of mad.
I now know how those AD&D folks felt at the beginning of the third edition days. I spent a shitton of cash on this stuff and it will no longer be supported. They’ve moved to a software model – not surprising really as WotC is a Seattle company much like Microsoft. I know I can keep using all my old stuff if I want to. Support for it however will drop off. And my DM has every indication of going to fifth edition when the time comes for it.
They are however taking a tactic I can kind of endorse – going to the D&D community for guidance. This could be both good or bad. It makes me wonder if they will really change things, or forge forward in a vacuum trusting to good old fashioned corporate values (i.e. increasing shareholder value). I would love to see a D&D game divorced from the rigid connotations of class. I would love to see a D&D where you could do something a little less linear (and by this I don’t mean creating a dungeon with multiple forks). I would love to see a system in which gamers could collectively tell stories without having to amass a library of books with dispersed information rather than a centralized core.
Will the fifth edition (or sixth… or seventh? Will I be alive then?) do these things?
Well, let’s find out.
Ossua.com’s blog is now one year old!
In a recent trend of life-hacking I’ve figured out how to microwave a packet (not a cup) of Ramen, which seems like a good thing. I never liked cup of noodle because it was more broth and less actual food. So having a brick of Ramen noodle available via the microwave in the breakroom is a wonderful thing. Mmmm. Pork Ramen.