May 28

Chess

A while back I kind of slow-marathoned the entire Twin Peaks series. Toward the end, the game of kings (that would be chess, if the title didn’t give it away) came into the show. Between that and a book I had coincidentally been reading at the time (and which I sadly cannot at the moment remember), I got an interest in the old game again. I signed up for a chess.com account and downloaded the app to my phone, and I’ve been keeping at least one play-by-post style game going at all times.

Through chess.com, I was introduced to the game of Chess 960 – a variant of the game with the back row semi-randomly reorganized into one of 960 possible positions. It also got me interested in trying Arimaa (though I still haven’t given it a try), and brought back my love of Proteus (sadly out of production), and prompted a few potential chess variants of my own (none of which are fully baked).

All said, rediscovering chess has been great for keeping my mind active. But, that’s never been my problem – focus is, and chess hasn’t helped much.

But it’s fun!

May 25

“Not all men”

So fucking what? Listen, if your policy on sex is “put out or die” then you are not and never have been a nice guy.

I really don’t have much new to say on the topic of misogyny, but I won’t sit silently.

Guys, if you’re getting mad at women for putting their guards up when they literally never know who may or may not bring a painful and abrupt end to their lives, you’re wrong. Massive earthquakes don’t hit every day, but we still build our houses to withstand them. If you’re angry at the “bad” men for making the “good” ones look scary, you’re still wrong. Men are not the victims here.

If you’re mad because a full half of our population is treated as less than human, now we’re getting somewhere.

Let’s make “not all men” into “not any men.”

May 21

Paperback Swap

Thanks largely to my father, I’ve been an avid reader for as much as my life as I can remember (if not more). I imagine that stands to reason, since I also enjoy writing – in my experience, there aren’t a lot of people who take up writing if they don’t have a deep appreciation for books. As far back as elementary school, I was reading books that many adults considered to be “too long” or some other synonym for “overwhelming.” I’ve donated more used books to more libraries than I imagine most have read or visited.

I know a fair number of people with double- and triple-stacked bookshelves, and some who had read an old favorite so many times that they learned how to rebind it with packing tape and cardboard. I’ve never been much for re-reading a book, no matter how much I enjoyed it. Time spend reading a book I’ve already read is time spent not reading a new book, after all.

During some spring cleaning, plotting for a yard sale and posting a few odds and ends on eBay, my roommate introduced me to Paperback Swap. She had been using it for some time, along with one of their sister sites, Swap A DVD. Figuring that I had nothing to lose but my clutter, I registered and posted a couple dozen of my used books.

The way it works is that you post a book by ISBN (one of those numbers by the barcode). When some other user happens to want that book, the system notifies you and requests that you ship the book to the recipient-to-be. Sending a book gets you a credit, and with that credit you can request a book from somebody else. The site itself goes into much more detail, but that’s the basic gist of it.

Postage is paid each time by the sender – when you mail one out, you have to pay for it, but when one comes your way, it’s free to you. So far, I’ve yet to send or receive a book that cost more than $3-something to ship, but that will of course vary depending on size, weight, distance, et cetera. It is certainly more than the cost of a first class stamp, but half or less than the cost of a new book at the store. In addition, you can still get a hold of books no longer in print.

Everything I’ve received has been in solid condition, some of them even looking to be unread. And I give my word that I only ship out quality books in kind. I highly recommend that you drop by and give them a shot.

The only problem is, since I’m getting a one-to-one trade, it’s doing nothing to reduce my clutter!

Mar 12

Too many irons, not enough fire

Been a while! Work’s been keeping me busy, but primarily it’s been a lack of focus. There’s just too much that I want to do, and in jumping from project to project to project (to project to project), I’m just not getting any of them done.

Obviously, writing. I’m still excited about Frantic Sin and the series it’s inspired within my mind, I’ve just been a bit stumped on revising and all of that, which only made it easier to get distracted by other projects.

I seriously want to learn other languages, especially Spanish, German, and Japanese, but not only is this time-consuming, I don’t have a regular way to use anything but English, so whatever I learn is quickly turned to rust. And it distracts from my writing.

I’ve tried off and on with music again in various forms and contexts, but that hasn’t been much of a major thing for me. Been a while since I tried my hand at art, but I actually reached a point where I decided that yes, I can learn to do it, but it isn’t high priority enough and I’ve got too much else already on my plate(s).

Working on a board game, that one’s got me (and a group of alpha testers) pretty excited. And, speaking of games, it’s long been a goal of mine to create a text-based dungeon-crawl RPG like the good ol’ days, but QBASIC / QB64 really aren’t proving robust enough for everything I want to do, and learning a new language is just one more thing to do.

And, to top it all off, there’s the problem that with so much to choose from, I can never decide on one thing to get done. Add a website into the mess, and you can see why there hasn’t been an update since Statham Day.

Anyway, hopefully this update will be a turning point and I can get some kind of focus back.

Jun 28

Zombie New Year

It’s officially summer in the northern hemisphere – I know because I had my birthday – and while the undead hordes may have gone into hibernation for the season, it won’t be long until they’re back.

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen – I’m talking about Zombie New Year (as indicated by the title).

For those not in the know, and too riveted to click the link above, Zombie New Year is the night at the end of  the summer when the living dead rise once again from their graves to feast upon the living – or die (again) trying! Being as zombies operate on a lunar calendar (paper would decay underground, after all), the date for ZNY is different every year. It does, however, always fall on the first Friday after the first full moon in August. This year, Zombie New Year is on August 23, 2013.

Mark your calendars, invite your friends, family, and neighbors, and prepare to party as if your lives depended upon it – because they do! Strength in numbers, loud noises and bright lights – these are our defenses against the first wave of the returning hordes.

Get ready.

August 23, 2013.

And follow the #ZNY2013 hashtag on Twitter.

Jun 22

Dr. Awkward – “Different”

I’m not going to lie here – musically, I come from a classic rock / heavy metal background. I only started listening to anything resembling rap (barring an unfortunate Vanilla Ice single in 3rd grade and an ICP album that, in my defense, featured Alice Cooper) when I stumbled across a few choice MC Frontalot tracks on Last.fm about three years ago. Finally, my bespectacled, recreationally-programming, polyhedral-dice-rolling self could relate to rap! I may not have the language to adequately describe the genre, but I can relate to some songs!

And from there, I have steadily expanded my nerdcore collection, merging nicely with my extant power metal about Tolkien collection.

I first heard Dr. Awkward live at a concert in San Diego a couple of Comic Cons ago. I promptly picked up the Next Gen EP and Unlimited LP, and they’ve been a lot more frequently listened to than my Last.fm page indicates (sadly, my car stereo doesn’t scrobble).

"Different" EP cover

That said, Awk’s ranking is getting a hell of a boost from my recent purchase of his Different EP. He offers all of his music at a “pay what you want” price point, and it took me a while to pick it up (it was released last year and I only just now got it) because I was impressed enough with Next Gen and Unlimited that I couldn’t bring myself to not pay a fair price.

I’ve still got three more things to pick up, but I ‘d decided on Different because of “Allegory,” which I’ve already gone into. And despite that, I have no idea what my favorite track is. I’ve only got five to choose from, but they are five high-quality pieces of work, which work together as a cohesive whole as well. The opening title track has a great beat, immediately ear-catching and fierce throughout. “Play” flows almost hypnotically, and is a true earworm of a track. “Allegory” sits fantastically in the middle – this EP is really a well put-together selection, and not five songs stuck together just because. “=” is a beautiful and heartbreaking story of hope in the face of prejudice and adversity. “Credits Roll” brings everything to a solid, introspective, soul-searching close.

All said and done, the best $5 I’ve spent in a long time, and I feel like maybe I should have actually gone higher. I’m actually fixing my iPod specifically because of this EP. An A+ release. No doubt in my mind, Dr. Awkward has a bright future.

Jun 14

“Hangover 3″ Review

Sometimes I get curious about a movie. I won’t be so much interested as I am, well, curious. One good example was The Hangover Part II. I thought it looked stupid (in a bad way), and the only reason I went to see it at all was to see how badly it ripped off the original.

For those of you who haven’t seen Part II, I’ll spare you – the answer is “completely.” Seriously, the biggest joke in the film was that people (myself included) paid for it. F-minus-minus for plagiarism, even if they were their own source.

But, because so many lined up to volunteer as punchlines for The Hangover Part II, there was of course a Part III made. This time, I wasn’t even curious. “Fool me once, shame on you,” all that jazz. Then my buddy gave me the synopsis, and – surprise, surprise – it wasn’t exactly the same thing!

So we went and saw it.

And it wasn’t bad.

This time, they changed up the formula, and made more of a comedy/thriller than a straight comedy. There was a lot less raunchy humor, and the tone was a good bit darker than the earlier installments. Our familiar Wolf Pack hit their established character points, just as previously established, but with a sense of weariness and obligation – both in-universe and out. John Goodman was a high point, and they (quite wisely, IMO) scaled back Zach Galifianakis’ deranged manchild aspect. Does that count as character growth, or is it out of character? Eh, I won’t bother saying.

In the theater, I had fun enough for a Tuesday night. It didn’t bore me, didn’t captivate me, I was in no danger of falling out of my seat from either suspense, laughter, or sleepiness. At the end, I’ll give it a C+. Better than Part II, not as good as the original.

To the filmmakers, congratulations for trying something different, condolences for it not quite panning out. And as a bit of unsolicited advice from an absolute nobody who continues to make these movies profitable, please don’t follow up on the sequel-bait epilogue. I think the Wolf Pack have had their fill of adventures, and the audiences have had their fill of the Wolf Pack. Let it end before pulling a Jason Takes Manhattan.

. . . though, to be honest, I wouldn’t not make Hangover X part of a MST3K-style party night. But try not to let it come to that, anyway.