Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Yule Tide Swag Day

So, I have a joke.

A Catholic, an atheist, and a Muslim sit down in front of a Christmas tree. Suddenly, the Baptist busts into the room and says:

"Happy Yule Tide Swag Day!"

OK, so it really wasn't a joke, it just sets up like one.

In all seriousness though, what do you do when the holiday season rolls around and you have friends from so many walks of life? Do you exclude them? Do you truck on and hope for the best?

No, because that is foolish. This holiday is supposed to be about being together, and about peace. Also, presents. Giving lots and lots of presents.

Thus I proposed a year or so ago that we switch out the name, toss on a new label, and bingo! All inclusive holiday that can mean whatever you want it to. No more having to list 60 different holidays that all land in or around the end of December, no more "war on Christmas".

Now, you might ask, what is the point if it isn't celebrating (insert religious reason here)?
Well, here are a few starters for you:
1. You are alive. (Good going by the way, its a rough world out there)
2. You have an excuse to gorge on an insane amount of whatever tickles your fancy. Why have a turkey, ham, or goose when you could have Basalmic battered fish? (or nachos, a personal favorite)
3. All those small things that you forgot to sweat over, but ended up working out in the end.

The list goes on. If you can't find a single reason to celebrate, then you are probably one unobservant individual. Even when things are awful, they could always get worse.

Thats what YTSD is all about. It is about stepping back, taking a breather, and not taking yourself too seriously. It is a time to put all of the bullshit aside and toss the noisy dog on the other side of the fence a new ball or treat.

If that isn't worth celebrating, then I don't know what is.

Monday, November 24, 2008


I would first of like to congratulate SpaceX on the successful mission length testing of Falcon 9.
You can read about it here, and I encourage you to watch the video. It is awesome, like most fireballs, but this one just happens to be a fireball of PROGRESS!

In other news, these crazy biologists just can't stop impressing me with how much evolutionary theory can push us forward, not only as people, but as a species.

I can understand why this kind of thing can scare people some people, but any trepidation I have personally is overridden by the excitement at the future these kinds of advancements offer.

Last week we had the first successful transplant of a body part formed entirely from stem cells, and already someone else is waiting for the same procedure.

THIS is what the future is based on, and something that the US needs desperately to bring back into focus. It is my fondest wish to see the Obama administration undo a lot of the damage of the last twenty some odd years, especially the Three Mile Island disaster of the Bush administration's science policies.

Speak up people, and let the leaders you elect know you are ready to move on, and boldly step into the uncertain future holding the reins of knowledge.

A lack of an artist last week.

So, I have already failed at bringing you a new artist every week.

So, to make up for it, I will bring you many.

With the holidays approaching and money tight, there are still ways to get expressive and wonderful gifts for people. Sites dedicated to hand made goods by really talented artists could really help out strained wallets, and show that you have a thoughtful insight into the person you are buying for.

Etsy- a good site with not too many ugly sweaters. The soap, jewelry, and ceramics are some of my favorites to look at. Also comes with handy guides in the form of favorites and treasuries.

The Pear Project- online store, recently started I believe.

Smashing Darling- another recently started online shopping are for hand made goods.

So get crafty this holiday.

This was what we should have feared.

While we were all occupied with who was receiving money in the bailouts, we weren't paying attention to the why.

Thus, when the bailouts came, so too did more hands asking for their own pie, not just a piece of what was there. It also failed to address the actual problem of poor government regulation, fiscal policies in both the gov. and private sectors, and not to mention company responsibility.

Now, some people have their suggestions as to what the problem is, from wars to atheists, but that for the most part is either excuses or scapegoating.

The issue is large, complicated, and rests on all of our shoulders. Thus, as one we must push back against the avalanche set off by those initial bailouts.

Vote these assholes out of office so we can have some peace of mind that things like THIS will stop happening.

To use terminology that the Republican's are fond of: It is a slippery slope we are standing on.

It does not help fill a hole in your yard if you fill it with dirt from a hole you dig right next to it.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Week... three?

Maybe? I can't remember any more. I have been playing Fallout 3 for what seems like eternity, and after finishing the game for the first time, I must say I am ready for a second go around.

The problem, though, is that SecuROM is an absolute NIGHTMARE and causes more crash errors than I care to count. It will stress your system, not to mention the hoops you have to jump through if SecuROM decides you are running emulation software.

It is invasive, keeps your system taxed in an already taxing game, and makes it rather a pain in the ass to just INSTALL the damn game.

I recommend you buy the game off of Steam so that you at least don't have the invasive kernel-mode driver that will decide your life needs to be a living hell.

I must say that Bethesda has lost an enthusiastic customer for future releases. As will any company that continues to not see the light and punishes their customers and not the pirates who steal their software.

DRM DOES NOT WORK. The pirates bypass it, and ENJOY doing so. Your customers are the ones left holding the bag on your fuckhead decisions. You know, the people with the money who actually PURCHASE you product.

Well, I wish I had thought of it first.

But here it is! Someone who has a blog just as dedicated to eliminating the misinformation spread by David Kirby and his filthy hordes.

I present to you, by way of Orac: The Age of Ignorance!

If you care about stopping these pro-infectious disease loons, the go forth and contribute your voice in the comments and make sure your voice is heard against these frothing masses of stupidity.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Its the most wonderful time...

I get so damned sick of hearing about xmas. I really do. The crazies all seem to come out, especially those on the far right to declare that their holiday is being taken away because some liberal assholes are trying to include all of humanity in their acknowledgment of the holiday season.

Damn them!

Well, the Humanists up D.C. have stolen a bit of their thunder by placing some bus ads up declaring: "Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness sake."

Wow, what a novel concept.

You see, despite what people ignorant of history outside of fairyland might tell you, Jesus is not the reason for the season.

We can thank Saturn for gift giving, those crazy pagans and their Yule logs, geese, and another delicacies, not to mention that jolly man with the one work day a year job: Santa Clause.

So, when you walk around this November and December, go out of your way to wish people a happy holiday season. If it riles them up, and they start to bitch about stealing xmas, or how they don't celebrate [insert holiday here], just remind them to take a page out of Mr. Wheaton's book: "Don't be a dick."

Maybe we should somehow frame the holiday around that, but I don't think "Dontbeadicksmas" has the same flow.

Dungeons and/or Dragons

I enjoy playing Dungeons and Dragons. A lot. Like most RPGs it allows a chance to tell a small piece of a story inside of a world, whether you are a player telling the story of your character, or the DM guiding players through a world of your design.

What makes DnD particularly interesting though, is that the world is only roughly outlined, so that an infinite number of stories can take place inside of it.

This can be a very daunting set of shoes to step into, especially for a DM. This is the role I enjoy filling, as a writer, but even someone who decides they want to step up has only overcome the first hurdle.

From the get go, you are stuck in the middle between letting your players choose their own path through the world as they play and trying to tell a coherent story. Now, some fix this by leaving everything open ended and just handing their players a map and a couple of hints.

This can be fun for players, but it tends to get rough fast if there is any friction within the party and it means a lot of work in advance for you.

The way I tend to try and work it is by striking a balance between the story and the freedom of open world questing. I use the story as an overall frame that, instead of putting the players on a railroad into what I demand they enjoy, it just nudges them in various directions.

One good way of doing this is by having a lot of minor quests for players to accept or decline as they see fit. If the story sends them to a town that also happens to be the center for some strange occult activity, then they can decide to investigate. Along the way they may find a dispute to try and settle, or maybe a criminal on the loose that needs catching.

All the while, tie it back into the main story, by perhaps giving up a little information that will help them as a reward. Also, I try and make these the quests that reward them with the monetary types of treasure, while the magic items come in through the story.

The other thing to do is have multiple ways in mind that they can complete a given objective. If there is a mad leprechaun on the loose, perhaps they can pay him off, negotiate with him, or simply divert his energies elsewhere. Not everything has to end on the point of a sword. (Unless your players want that, which is cool.)

Now, I mentioned rewards a moment ago, which brings me to another point I hadn't thought of.
Players want to feel that their actions are noticed, so it is deathly important for you to pay attention to small things they do. Reward them for clever sayings by tossing a little bit of extra gold their way, or perhaps an action point for fast thinking. These small rewards go a long way to encourage players to think on their feet, and really helps with their immersion into the game if they feel like their actions have real consequence.

Now, this goes the other way also. The hardest part of the job is punishing player behavior, because you don't want to feel like a nanny that has to tsk their players. The problem is, if they decide to derail the game, especially if the whole party is not in on it, then it is time for you to step in and handle it. This can be done in or out of game.

For example, if the party has been dealing with the King of Wagonville, and one player decides that the king's blood pressure is too high and stabs him a few times to alleviate the problem, then that puts you in a rather tight spot. Do you allow the player's action to stand? Or do you tell them that their psychotic behavior causes him to turn into a weevil?

The best answer is to let the players decide, since to be honest they were the ones wronged, not you. (No matter how pissed you are that they derailed the work you put into a game.)

Remember, the game is about the players in the end. Without them, you are just left as a writer with a loose idea. (This has its own merits, but we all know how I feel about writing.) Make sure that they understand from the get go what you expect, and keep checking to make sure they are having fun, and things should go smoothly.

Good luck DMs!

Artist of the Week

I thought about it, and I have decided to try and have a new artist featured every week that has some how impressed me. Look forward to more of these (almost) every Friday.

Ptolemy Elrington is an scrap artist that just blew me away when I saw his work.

I have seen some terrible scrap art in my time, but it is gentlemen like Mr. Elrington that remind me that all mediums have their wizards.

You can see more of his work here.

Just look at that damned owl! Brilliant, sharp, and just a little intimidating.

Great job Ptolemy, and I hope to see much more of your work in the future.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

This could be interesting.

George R.R. Martin is an interesting writer. I haven't read as much of his work as I would like to have (or should have), but what I have has impressed me and hung around in the back of my head.
Now it seems that HBO has bought a pilot based on his work called 'Thrones'.

I don't usually keep up with television, a bit of House, Battlestar, and Burn Notice with a sprinkling of Heroes will usually be enough as long as it isn't too often, but Kristin decided that I had to watch their series True Blood.

It is interesting, to say the least. The acting is campy without being awkward, and the story is... well it is slow. The production quality is top notch though, and I will most definitely be looking forward to see that applied to the works of Mr. Martin.

So, here is hoping we get something interesting and watchable out of the deal.

Just pull that lever.

Chuck Norris is a never ending font of humor. Whether in the form of silly internet jokes or wonderful little short stories.

But nothing comes close to the man himself. The depths he plunges of self parody and the just insane comments that border on the surreal that shoot out of his mouth almost daily are enough to tickle anyone's funny bone.

Today is no exception.

Ever the comedian, Mr. Norris proceeds to tell our President elect how to do his job. Its great! He basically tells him to do the OPPOSITE of everything Obama ran for! What irony!

This bit of masterfully crafted piece of prose is brought to us by that house of laughs, the World Net Daily.

Thanks again guys.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008



The Gnome is a diligent servitor in the court of the Hippo of the Fallen, exacting her will that all corpses should be disposed of, lest move in with their still living relatives and become a bore who sits about whining about dead rights and how cold it is.

But these people don't even believe Gnomes are real! GNOMES! Angels, demons, gods, and souls are real, but not Gnomes? What a line to draw!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Discussions of game design.

I was having a discussion with my dear friend Eric, when the subject of Fallout 3 came up.

Apparently, his roommate is upset that the game wasn't perfect or up to whatever standard he expected, so the retribution he garnered was to get angry and play the game int he most exploitive fashion possible. ('Efficient' was the word used.)

This seems indicative of the consumer side of the gaming industry as a whole. They bitch and moan about how they can't turn off various frills or features, and this some how ruins the entire game. But they cannot actually vocalize what it is they DO want.

Take, for example, the menu display in the above mentioned game. Your character raises his arm, and looks at his pipboy. I'll pause for the gasps to pass.

Now, there was a complaint lodged in the discussion that you could not skip this brief graphic before the menu was displayed for you.

My only response to this is: Bethesda makes graphically impressive games, so they tend to stick in a lot of graphical bells and whistles. If you do not like graphical bells and whistles, then Bethesda does not make games for you. You are not the intended audience, and so would probably find another game fun.

There has been an argument long raging as to how much is necessary for a game.

Two camps have come about, as well as a six million mile gray area in between the two. The first, is the bare essentials, minimal graphics, game play focused. The other went for a more cinematic, movie like approach focusing on immersion in a world or story instead of new or innovative game play mechanics.

I don't particularly care for chocolate pie. So, instead of going to one of the best chocolate pie bakeries in town and telling them about how displeasing their product is, I go to the eclair shop and purchase their delicious confections.

See, it solves the problem, and sends a very clear, concise message to the pie baker that his product is not going to earn him my money. Then, when a product comes along that you do want, you do appreciate, then you give them your money, and keep them in business.

Seems to me to be a far more grown up way of dealing with a situation.

And on, and on, and on....

Texans, and humans in general, need to lay the hell off.

There is no evolution debate. Not about evolution itself, just the nit picky details. There is no need for the School board to form a science advisory board with three non-scientists on it.

None. It just hurts children.

So, to use a bit of their rhetoric: Do YOU want to hurt CHILDREN?

No? Then write to your local reps and get this shit thrown in the trash where it belongs, and keep god where it belongs, churches and imaginations.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Fallout

So, one of the problems with being home with a sickness is that you are really unlikely to get jack shit done that is productive. I keep saying 'oh, I am sick, I can write a lot more than normal!' but this is a dirty lie. It is difficult to stay focused or be on top of your game, and since I feel dismal anyway, it doesn't help to make myself feel worse by writing badly. (end of terrible excuses here)

So I play games. The most recent is one that has been on my wish list for TEN DAMNED YEARS.
Fallout 3.

I must say, it is great. Maybe not well worth the wait, but since I had to wait it at least did not disappoint. The characters are amusing, the situations range from gritty to hilarious, and most of all the game is FUN to play.

It is difficult for me to say that, since normally I am so hard on games, but it is. It is just plain fun to play. Whether I am out harvesting Super Mutants or trying to fix a leaky pipe, the game delivers.

Now, before you go 'but but but! the problems!' let me just say, I know. The game is buggy, I hate SecureROM with every fiber of my being, and it is so hard to be evil, that staying neutral in the game makes cracking walnuts with your ass cheeks look like a breeze.

Sure, you can just run around shooting everyone, but where the hell is the fun in that? Who is left to extort, take advantage of, or annoy? Where is the mastermind? Or the brigand? Our Mephisto of the Wastes?

These are things that can be fixed later though, so pick up a copy and play. Now then, I am going to go and pretend to get back to work while I relive the joy of ten years ago.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Catch up!

So, I have been sick the last week with a strange and undefined allergic reaction to... something. So I have been out of the loop.

But what a week it has been!

Elections are over, so I think we can all breathe a little easier knowing we are not going to be choking on election fumes for another three years. Obama won, which, while I am unsure as to if this is a good thing, it is a hell of a lot better than McCain. Especially with the off chance McCain bites it while in office and we were to be left holding the bag with Sarah Palin.

That woman embodies everything I hate about the current incarnation of the Republican party.

But enough! It is over, done with! Now there is only the future to watch. While some will complain about Obama's 'socialist' behavior, he is still conservative by most measures. What I hope to see him accomplish is to tear loose the reins of power in this country from the vultures who have forgotten We the People. That is change I can believe in, and if he can accomplish it, then Mr. Barack Obama will forever live the hearts and mind of this nation.

Now, Prop 8 and the other pieces of horse shit flung onto ballots around this country is another story altogether.
People, this is the year 2008. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that people being gay doesn't hurt you at all. Marriage is an archaic word and practice that really has no place in government what so ever. It should be between you, your spouse, and your various gods. You can't really say that your god did it first (unless you are some ancient people with some evidence on hand) since familial unions have been around for a long time. Just look at how tribal relations work.

So, for fuck's sake people, give it a rest. The only difference between you and a gay person is who you want to go to bed with. The only reason you are up in arms over this is because of a two thousand year old book that some people believe in and others don't. This isn't a christian nation, never has been and hopefully never will be. It should be a nation of freedom, where you can be what ever the hell you want and no one can tell you otherwise, provided it doesn't hurt someone.

Stop letting your book get in the way of treating your fellow man with respect and love. The world needs all the love it can get right now, so telling people that their love is wrong kind of defeats the purpose.