Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Time for Skeletons Has Come.......Oh, and Martians!!!

I have mentioned that I have an abundance of Zombies!!!. I have also lamented that my number of Skeletons is sadly lacking. Well, no more. What has held me back is that, if I'm going to jump in, I'm going to go whole hog and get all three games at once. Now I can do it with the assistance of Twilight Creations themselves.

MidEvil Deluxe!!! will include all the skull cracking fun of the complete MidEvil Game in one convenient package. The set includes everything from the MidEvil base set, MidEvil 2: Castle Chaos and MidEvil 3: Subterranean Homesick Blues.

Also announced Martians!!!

So Exciting!!

Friday, March 27, 2009

New Blog—Savage Worlds

I've Started a new blog, currently there is one post—those of you not interested in Savage Worlds and RPGs have been spared my posting all of that stuff here.

Those of you curious about what I posted there—most of it was already covered in This Blog Post, I just expanded it a little to explain the why of the new site.

Enjoy My Savage Worlds Blog.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Camping With Goblins

The Goblins are made of rock but I still found myself repeatedly telling some of the Scouts that I'm okay with RP, but I draw the line at LARPing.

We camped outside Goblin Valley state park in the shadow of Temple Mountain.

(Click Images for High Rez)

In the Morning we Broke Camp and headed into the Goblins.

After Lunch we headed to Little Wild Horse Canyon. This is the First time I'd ever been in Narrows—and it was amazing—so amazing in fact that I forgot to take pictures in the narrowest portions. We didn't have time to do the full Wild Horse to Bell Canyon Loop, so we went up an hour and then back down for an hour.

We headed home afterward. What an amazing location.

Twilight—For What It's Worth

Emily Rented Twilight. Turn away now if you don't want spoilers because I make no Promise to avoid them.

My point of view. I think book three was out before I'd even heard of this series. It never really interested me; don't get me wrong, I like stories that involve all manner of Supernatural Beings—this however is not a Vampire/Werewolf story, it's a romance—and while I'm all for a bit of Romance in my Adventure Stories, I'm generally not looking for escape in a flat out romance story. Something about this whole saga just kind of feels off, and I can't explain it. Most likely it's the raging hordes of Fan Girls—and if there is a group of people that scare me more than Fan Boys and LARPers, it's Fan Girls. That and the wear-all-black, emo, vibe that sits on top of this whole thing.

Having said all that, I went into the movie experience giving this thing the Full Benefit of the Doubt. I wanted it to be good. Mostly it was, but there was some real awkwardness in this interpretation of the source material. I understand what the director was trying to put across, but it just felt uncomfortable. 

The entire first half of the movie, all the encounters with Edward just felt awkward. I know the director was trying to put across that Eddie (is it coincidence that he and Herman Munster's Son have the same name?) had an almost insurmountable desire that he was trying to suppress—But I have to look at it this way, he's been a vampire now for just over 100 years, I got the impression that he was turned by a "Vegetarian" and so he's probably been a Veggie since the beginning of his monstrous career (though he did claim to be a killer...but I think that was just more awkward coping), he's apparently Matriculated quite a number of times—so he's spent a LOT of time surrounded by teenage girls—even if he's Bored to Death (Ha Ha) he's got to have developed better social graces and coping mechanisms by now.

But what do I know. All in all it was an okay movie, I didn't hate it—I got into it, except when Ed was acting weird. The story was compelling enough. Though its execution fell short of its potential, it wasn't enough to make me hate the movie (I'm looking at you Cat in the Hat). 

After watching the Movie, Emily watched some of the Bonus Material and I saw the director and all the awkwardness came into sharp focus—she was putting a lot of her own awkwardness into the character of Edward. I'm sure the next film will greatly benefit from the introduction of a new director.

Now, all this is fine and Dandy, I'm still not going to read the books—not my thing. But let's get to what's really important: There was a trailer for Astro Boy at the front of the DVD—now that's quality entertainment.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Kindle on the Cheap. . . Sort of.

A Literary Journey of Sorts.
This journey starts with a game. A game I have mentioned before and with which I am a little obsessed currently. The Game is Savage Wolds, and it is a Role Playing Game. One thing that sets Savage Worlds apart is its simplicity which lends it well to a Pulp Fiction Flavor. (Another thing that sets it apart is that it is not tied to any particular setting, meaning it can be applied to all manner of settings—High or Low Fantasy, High or Low Sci-fi, Pulp Fiction, Superheros, Pirates, Spies, Etc. Etc. Etc.)

Pinnacle Entertainment Group really accentuates the Pulp Fiction Feeling of their system, by publishing Game Settings to go along with their Core Rule Set that really fit into that Genre. The Most Obviously Pulp Setting they have released is called The Savage Worlds of Solomon Kane.
So, who is this Solomon Kane? He is a Character created by Pulp Fiction Author, Robert E. Howard—of Conan and Kull and Solomon Kane Fame. Conan never really interested me, Kull never interested me because I thought Kull was just like Conan, I can blame the Movie Kull the Conqueror for that. I'll just Quote Wikipedia—it's an interesting twist: "Kull the Conqueror is a 1997 fantasy action film about the Robert E. Howard character Kull starring Kevin Sorbo. It is a movie adaptation of the Conan novel Conan the Conqueror, with the protagonist changed in the face of Arnold Schwarzenegger's refusal to reprise his role as Conan and Kevin Sorbo not wanting to redo a character already played. (This is ironic, as the very first Conan story, "The Phoenix on the Sword", is actually a rewrite of the Kull story entitled "By This Axe, I Rule".) Note however that the Kull story, "By This Axe, I Rule", is very similar to the story line of this movie, and is a more likely basis for the movie."—though the characters are similar, they are not the same. 

I had heard of Conan, and Kull—but not Solomon Kane; turns out he is a very interesting fellow indeed. Solomon Kane is a 17th Century Puritan that wanders the World to Fight and Vanquish Evil. Now that's a story I can get into. Funny thing, I was first introduced to a pulp fiction author in high school. My friend Justin told me I should look into H.P. Lovecraft—and I've been meaning to read him ever since. Anyway, after reading about Solomon Kane, I decided I liked the concept enough to actually read the stories—I always want to read more, but find myself doing other things and not committing time to reading. The great thing about Pulp fiction, is that the bulk of it is short stories.

I began looking on Amazon for a Compilation of Solomon Kane Tales, there's a lot of them, but the first one that I thought I might be interested in—due to its completeness—turned out to be a no go. I was reading the synopsis on the site and when I glanced at the price it seemed perfect, 80 cents. Now that can't be right, I thought to myself, and that's when I noticed it was a Kindle Version. I guess if you're going to sell the Hardware for $400, you've got to sell the books cheap. 

So I kind of gave up. I never actually planned to buy a book in the first place; I was just curious as to what was out there before making my trip to the library. Meanwhile I had glancingly noticed that there was an app for the iPhone that allowed the reading of Kindle Files. I filed this away in my mind under things I'll probably get in the eventual case that I actually end up with an iPhone or iTouch. (I filed it mentally right next to a dice rolling application that I saw when I looked up if there are dice rolling applications already available when it occurred to me that that was a really cool idea for an app, and that I should pursue it if it had not already been done, which it had.)

A few days later this was all simmering in the back of my head when it donned on me that with the latest update for the Zune they added Games. Which means the Zune can run "Apps" of a sort, and I got to wondering if people had Hacked that ability for non-gaming goodness, and I wondered if someone had added eBook abilities to the good ol' Zune. The answer is no—not that I've found, at least. (Frankly I find that the Technical Abilities of the Zune are greatly under appreciated and under implemented, even by Microsoft. The device could be used for so much more than they let it.)

But there was another solution. The Zune has a picture Gallery, and a search for eBook and Zune very quickly leads to instructions for converting eBooks to Images. This piqued my interest and I tried a few of them. The one that suits my usage is simply called eBook to Images. It has default settings for a number of portable devices that can display pictures. 

Now that I had software, I needed books. First and foremost on my mind is Solomon Kane. Now the works of Robert E Howard are from the 20's and 30's, and copyright on literary work from that time is a little up in the air, and different for different parts of the world. I figured it was old enough to be in the public domain and started looking online for Solomon Kane Stories. (From what I can tell, this Document indicates that most of the works are indeed in the Public Domain)

I started at Project Gutenberg (Australia), because Wikipedia mentioned that there were some stories available there. But their search function bore no hits. So I spent a couple hours while we watched T.V. one night looking here there and everywhere to no avail. Then the typical happened, I hit upon the right Search parameters and boom, there I was, back at Project Gutenberg (Australia) which is where I thought I had started, staring at a list of Solomon Kane stories.

So I have converted a number of eBooks to Images and have loaded them on my Zune. I like it, though there are some quirks. I have no way to bookmark where I am, in hindsight I probably should have added page numbers (an option in the software), but I thought it would be confusing because the software doesn't handle text formatting as well as I had hoped, it can get confusing, because there were page numbers already in some of the documents and a heading at the top of each page that got inserted into the text. I can ignore all that, but the one thing I have trouble with is the way it handles hard returns. . . it ignores them, which turns bantering dialogue into a difficult to follow mash up of sentences. I got used to it fairly quickly but my reading comprehension suffered a little on the first few pages. 

So I have myself a Kindle Alternative, on the Cheap because I already had a Zune. A Zune that was free—most people don't get that price. So for me, this is a Kindle on the Cheap, for you. . . results may vary.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Traffic I Have Seen

Okay, so this is going to be Unabashed, Blatant, Self Promotion.

I signed up with Google Analytics some time ago—I was curious as to the level of Lurking that was going on.
I don't get a lot of comments on my blogs—which I completely understand. I am a Lurker myself.
Admittedly I only started keeping up with people's blogs when I joined Plaxo, by my brother's invitation.
I liked it so much that I tried to evangelize the site, and I did get a fair number of people to join, what I liked about it, was the fact that once I got everyone to join, I'd never have to visit the site again, as it sends me a weekly update—which is great for Grandma, by the way.

Anyway, my Plaxo evangelism hit a brick wall when it came to my sister—she flat out refused—I even tried a little bartering when it came to her invitation to join Twitter (the offer still stands unanswered). She stated that she liked using her RSS feeds and didn't need another service.

My biggest beef with RSS, was that I had to use some program and it was only setup properly on one computer. Then I discovered Google Reader—I could access all my RSS feeds from any computer. I was still a little annoyed that I had to access the site to get updates and that prompted me to dive into iGoogle—which I'm still annoyed about, it loads slightly slower than standard Google, but I've resigned to it now.

So the following is a list of people whose sites I've lurked on (in no particular order): Emily, Annj, Gary, Ryan, Brad & Anisha, Michael, Niki, Andria, Natalie, Heidi, Katie, Brandon & Tiffany, Brian, P & S, Bonnie, Megan, and Nicole——You Know Who You Are.

I read 99% of the Blog Posts all the way through. I don't comment much though.

So, back to the matter at hand—I was curious as to how many of you out there were Lurking, So I set up Google Analytic.

Thus far (about two months worth of statistics) the Most Hits I've seen in a single day is 15 on this site—which I currently consider my main site.
Also I have one hit from Canada.

On my Web Comic Blog (Which I secretly agonize that no one reads) the most hits recorded in a single day is four—and I've received one hit from Russia.

On my Sketchbook blog (Again, I secretly agonize that no one looks) the most hits recorded in a single day is three—and I've received one hit from Iran.

(I'm starting to think I have a reader masking their true IP address)

I have one more site that I am monitoring. It is a better version of my Web Comic, using Wordpress and the Comic Press Plugin. The most hits registered in a single day is two—and I'm reasonably sure that both of those are me. The site is not quite ready for prime time—and I'm no web page designer, so progress is slow. But if you want to visit it, it's located here. Eventually I'd like to make that my main blog. Funny thing about that blog—there's a Christmas post that kept getting Spammed until I added a little 1337 speak to the Title.

So there you have it: Unabashed, Blatant, Self Promotion—mostly because the hits from Canada, Russia, and Iran were interesting to me.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

An Ode to a Commode

As I walked down a street this morn' to work.
My mind engrossed in gaming podcast themes.
A sight before my eyes caused me to smirk.
Before me an unusual sight it Seems.
For in a place reserved for parking cars.
There sat a throne of porcelain, glazed white.
Beneath historic buildings time forgot.
So peaceful under fading morning Stars.
As sun chased dark, replacing her with light.
A prank intends to tempt someone to squat.

Though most would walk on by with naught a thought.
I had to pause and think about the scene.
Without one in our homes we'd not be caught.
Though we don't think of them as very clean.
Without these humble seats how would life be?
Now You may think I joke, but it's no jest.
In winter we don't have to make a trek.
John Harrington I tip my hat to thee.
For re-inventing flushers for The West.
A most under appreciated tech.

My Musings over, I was on my way.
Resumed my walk to work, mind back to games.
The Darkness of the Night it turned to Day.
If you dismiss this tale no one shall blame.
Just don't forget your useful household drain.
It's always there to help in your relief.
No honor has it ever had bestowed.
But life without would be a major pain.
And that's the very theme of my motif.
Behold this is my ode to a commode.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Muppet Theory That Everyone Must Read

Generally this is a place where I showcase my thoughts, but this stream of thinking I came across is something everyone should have bouncing around the back of their skull.

First, Read this comic.

Then Read this Blog entry, which I shall Quote here:

From PVP, by Scott R. Kurtz

— February 25th, 2009

Back in December of last year, I wrote a comic strip based on a theory my friend Rob has always held that all Muppets fail at doing what they want to do most. Rob has emailed me with additional data to support his thesis:
“Wait, I was just thinking that Yoda is a Muppet. As with all Muppets, everything he does fails. He talks about how Anakin is troubled, but still lets him become a padawan and a Jedi. He works closely with Palpatine AKA Darth Sideous without ever so much as thinking twice. He’s the general of the so-called Clone Army, which kills all of his Jedi but Obi-Wan. He [messes] up the fight against Sideous.
He doesn’t want to train Luke. Then, when he does want to train Luke, he doesn’t want Luke to leave. If Luke hadn’t left, the whole rebellion could have fallen.
Not until Yoda dies do things go right for the rebellion against the Empire. Yoda’s rise is the rise of the Empire.
Dude is a Muppet through and through.”


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

For Those Who Keep Telling Me to Stop Drawing in Meetings.

I've been telling you for years that it helps me pay attention. Now I have Proof. 

From Wired:

A Sketchy Brain Booster: Doodling

By Brandon Keim February 26, 2009 | 8:46:24 PM

Good news, doodlers: What your colleagues consider a distracting, time-wasting habit may actually give you a leg up on them by helping you pay attention. 
Asked to remember names they'd heard on a recording, people who doodled while listening had better recall than those who didn't. This suggests that a slightly distracting secondary task may actually improve concentration during the performance of dull tasks that would otherwise cause a mind to wander. 
"People may doodle as a strategy to help themselves concentrate," said study co-author Jackie Andrade, a University of Plymouth psychologist. "We might not be aware that we're doing it, but it could be a trick that people develop because it helps them from wandering off into a daydream."
Andrade's findings, published Thursday in Applied Cognitive Psychology, are an interesting wrinkle on cognitive load theory: The mind has a limited amount of attention to give and, once occupied, stops processing other stimuli. 
Cognitive load is exploited by magicians, whose verbal and physical flourishes distract from sleight-of-hand. It also explains why driving while talking on a hands-free headset is no safer than driving while holding a phone. And it could be the reason why doodling is so much better than daydreaming. 
"It takes a large cognitive load to daydream. That has a big impact on the task you're meant to be doing," said Andrade. "Doodling takes only a small cognitive load, but it's just enough to keep your mental resources focused on the main task."
Andrade's team asked 40 people to listen to a recording containing the names of people and places. Afterwards the people wrote down the names they could remember. 
While listening, half of the test subjects were also required to shade in shapes on a piece of paper. Afterwards, they remembered one-third more names than test subjects who didn't doodle while listening. 
"The exciting thing is that people actually got better while doing two things at once," said Andrade. "Doodling is not as bad a thing as we might think."
Citation: "What does doodling do?" By Jackie Andrade. Applied Cognitive Psychology, Vol. 23, No. 3, Feb. 26, 2009.

See, I'm gonna Doodle in Meetings for life.

Monday, March 02, 2009


If you can't stand spoilers, you really shouldn't read this at all. I make no promises to not spoil something. There is a chance that I might not spoil anything at all, I don't really know what I'm going to write other than I am going to write about Coraline. (So I've read over the Blog and there are no Spoilers—feel free to read)

Some background information first.

Coraline is a Novella.

Apparently a Novella is Longer than a Novelette and Shorter than a Novel. I find it amusing that there are such distinctions. I find it equally amusing that there is disagreement among different literary grand-high-mucky-muckies about the defined length and differences. I find it immensely amusing that mostly this boils down to word count.

Coraline was written by Neil Gaiman.

I became familiar with Mr Gaiman when he was working on The Sandman at D.C. Comics. The Sandman was part of what D.C. Comics called Vertigo, a group of comics that were a little more Mature in their themes—marketed to late-teens to early adults. The Sandman was primarily a story about Morpheus, the anthropomorphic personification of Dream. I used to think of Gaiman as a Comic Book Author that went on to write Novels and Film Scripts. Now I see him as I see Walt Disney—a Storyteller that works in any Medium he can.

Coraline the Movie, is Directed By Henry Selik.

What do you need to know about Henry Selik? Directed The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach and now Coraline. In a world that increasingly turns to the Flash Bang and Pizazz of computer generated 3D animation. Henry Selik keeps pushing the envelope and technology of an old-school style of animation that most consider past its time. I'm drawn to his work in the Same way I'm drawn to Tim Burton's work. It speaks to me in a way that I can't quite put into words.

So, now that I've moved far enough down that any Spoilers will be below the bottom of the browser for most visitors. I can start actually talking about Coraline.

I loved it. I laughed a lot—but I wasn't hearing laughter from those around me. I guess they just didn't get it.

The best way I can think to describe this story, is a Creepy Alice in Wonderland. It had a "rabbit" hole, a Cheshire Cat, "tea" parties, an alternate world, and a Mad Queen.

Part of what these Stop Motion Masterpieces have, that their Computer generated siblings don't is a certain sense of stylization—not only in their visual representation, but in their movement as well. The lack of motion blur in stop motion turns every frame into a work of art.

Another thing Coraline has going for it is the fact that it was shot in 3D. The new 3D technology is leaps and bounds ahead of the 3D of yesteryear. It uses a Digital Projector that is equipped with a special modulating lens called a ZScreen [that I couldn't find much information about] which circularly polarizes alternating right eye and left eye frames at 72 frames per second, per eye (that's 144 frames per second folks). This creates a 3D effect when combind with circularly polarized glasses worn by audience members. You can even turn your head and it won't break the illusion.

What that means is you won't get a headache caused by other 3D systems. Nightmare Before Christmas 3D is still the Best 3D experience I've ever had, but I suspect (since both films used the same 3D technology (Real D Cinema)) that if I had sat further back, the Coraline Experience could have been a little better.

It's Nice that the 3D experience is finaly less of a gimmick. I can only think of one shot in the whole movie that seemed like it was pandering to the 3D experience. The thing with 3D is that they generally purposefully include shots where something comes out into your face, it's forced and un-natural and always feels out of place and unnecessary. I think that's why Nightmare Before Christmas 3D stands out so much, It was a great film long before it was 3D.

What I want to know is, where's my Lord of the Rings and Star Wars in 3D? I read that they were being converted and were supposed to be released starting 2007.

So this Dark and Creepy Alice in Wonderland style story is filmed in 3D, directed by Henry Selik, who directed Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas. Interestingly enough—Tim Burton is currently working on Alice in Wonderland—also to be released in 3D. Burton is Making the Film for Disney, says he never liked the Disney version (Walt wasn't terribly fond of it either). It will feature Live action, Stop Motion Animation, and Computer Generated Animation. It is being shot with traditional cameras and will be converted to 3D. Richard Zanuck (Producer) explained 3D cameras were too expensive and "clumsy" to use, and decided there was no difference between converted footage and those shot in the format, which was one of the big draws of Real D Cinema in the first place.

Okay, so I haven't really said much about Coraline. I liked it. I liked it a lot. I've Rambled a lot.