I’ve been playing Dungeons & Dragons since 1980. That’s a bunch of years, dozens of characters, lots of GMs, and more adventures than I can recall. (I’ve also played other RPGs, including Twilight 2000, Vampire, Shadowrun, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Yes, there’s a TMNT game, and it’s beyond fun.)
Like any other seasoned gamer, I have war stories. I have war stories for days, and I was recently trying to decide which is my favorite. What was my greatest gaming moment ever (to date, anyway – I still play, and you never know, right)?
If you were watching TV on December 30, you may have seen this:
If you checked back the next morning you could have seen this:
The Marshall fire, driven by Category 2 hurricane-force winds, burned more than 6,000 acres, destroyed 1,000+ buildings (homes + commercial), cost well over a half-billion dollars in damages, and – miraculously – only killed two people.
Yesterday, finally, I drove up to look around. Here, in no particular order, are some observations.
1: Close to home. We often use the phrase. In this case, though…
See that little blue house icon the green number one is pointing to? I lived there for a year when I moved back to Colorado in 2007 or so. It’s untouched. But the red to the right shows the burned homes between it and the Home Depot. The one next door is where my landlord Tom lived.
This was the biggest shock of the day. Based on what I had seen and heard, I thought all the houses along that road were okay.
I don’t know if Tom sold everything or if these were still his properties. He was a nice guy, and I hope he’s okay.
2: Rock Creek. I know wildfires can be capricious, and as you can tell by looking at this map, this one was no exception. The big blue area noted by the number two is a huge residential subdivision. My good friend Anders and his family used to live in there, and for a while our company offices were in the basement. When I look at how the fire was behaving, I have no idea how it avoided that section.
3: Davidson Mesa. I used to take my dog walking in the park on Davidson Mesa every morning. It’s hard to see that all those houses down the hill on the west side are gone. Likewise, everything across McCaslin to the east and along the northern side of Centennial Parkway…
I remember watching the fire coverage on TV and trying to visualize where some of this activity was taking place. But I haven’t lived there in a while, and almost none of the reporters had any clue where they were or what they were looking at. So yesterday was the first chance I had to really get the map straight in my mind.
4: By the skin of our teeth. I think one of my biggest surprises yesterday was realizing how much didn’t burn. I’m sure the people who own houses further east along Via Appia were terrified. Had the wind not died down there was a lot more waiting to be burned. And had it jumped S. Boulder Rd. to the north…
5: Old Superior. The fire was disaster for … well, just about everybody. But it was great news for the developers who have been trying to buy out the old Superior neighborhood for years. There was a core of old, run-down historic homes owned by people who liked it that way and who were. Not. Gonna. Sell. Meanwhile, progress built up around them.
6: WTF? No, seriously. Look towards the bottom where the number six is. Look at that small line of fires along Coalton Road. Then look at all the real estate to the north that’s untouched. I’m not a fire expert or a weather expert. I know these things behave strangely.
(My first thought was that I could imagine a suspicious fire marshall looking at the map, scratching his head, and going out to the west end of that line and snooping around for signs of opportunistic arson.)
I used the phrase earlier – close to home. The reason we were watching this portion of the area so closely is the the spot indicated by 6a. That’s where my girlfriend’s best friend lives. That the fire didn’t jump Coalton was a massive relief at my house (also hers, I imagine).
She can look out the back window and see ruins. She can see just how close the inferno got. And she’s grateful for the fire crews that lined their trucks up along the road and, in a scene a little bit like Gandalf facing down the Balrog, said to the fire you shall not pass.
On 2.2.22, this guy, who was born in ’61, turned 61. (I’m not sure, but this may make me the antichrist.)
That’s 22,314 days. 22,314 days before that it was New Years Eve, 1899, and people were living the final moments of the 19th century.
As my birthday approached, I got to thinking. It’s probably common enough, once you reach a certain age, to reflect on all that has happened in the world during your lifetime. Something made me ask the next question: what about the 61 years before that? Take my birthday as the center-point, and compare the span before with what’s come after.
In 1899, William McKinley was president. Joe Biden would be born 21 years later. My great-grandfather Charlie was eight.
A majority of Americans lived in rural areas. 44,628 days later, there are very real questions about whether the damage we’ve done to the environment is fixable.
Indoor plumbing, telephones, and cars were rare. Only the well-off could afford an automobile, for instance, and the manufacturer options included a variety of household names:
Top tech innovations in the last decade of the 1800s included the escalator, the zipper, the Cinematographe, and the motor-driven vacuum cleaner. The zeppelin and the air conditioner were right around the corner. The first successful radio transmission happened in 1901. Now we engineer genomes and know a staggering amount about the first seconds after the Big Bang. Don’t get me started on quantum mechanics.
The Wright Brothers also weren’t due up until 1903. Last week, a Chinese spaceship crashed into the dark side of the moon.
On Dec. 31, 1899, the US was closer to the Civil War than World War II.
I was lead writer on a “future of cybersecurity” guide recently published by my company. In it, I talk about artificial intelligence, quantum computing and cryptography, deepfakes, a trillion-IoT device world, hackable pacemakers and insulin pumps, flying taxis, autonomous killbots, an “i-condom,” and lots more fun stuff to keep you up at night. Some of it is very near-future (as in, less than a decade). Some of it is already happening.
Why is this important?
Heck if I know. It probably isn’t. We all know things have changed, are changing, and will keep changing. We know the pace is vertigo-inducing, we know the scale is epochal, and we may feel it’s all we can do to hang on.
And we all have our own frames for thinking about it. For managing it.
This is mine, and it’s been a fascinating exercise in personal perspective.
In case you’re wondering, 22,314 days from today is April 9, 2083. It will be a Friday.
Some people have noticed – and commented on – the fact that sometimes I’ll ask if they know X when I could look it up myself.
They’re right – this is something I do. Routinely. Sometimes they respond with impatience, asking me if I know there’s a small mobile device I can use to access the sum total of human knowledge and that I have one in my pocket, or on the table in front of me, or maybe even in my hand. There’s even a snarky Web site for those who want to take the derision a little further.