Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hey Ya!


I am a fan of Scrubs, (I'd be a bigger one if it had not been for Scrubs:Med School) and stuff like this was the reason why. Cougar Town is very much the spiritual successor and worth checking out (it even features a Ted cameo).

Convoy City

Convoy City
Across the wastes rolls the massive, mobile motorcade known as Convoy City. In the wake of the Comet, a few survivors lucky enough to have vehicles and fuel banded together for protection. Over the years, the small band grew until it became the great caravan that it is today. If it is on wheels, it can be found in Convoy; from simple carts and wagons pulled by oxen and stranger beasts, to converted tractor trailers, machines of war and even a converted locomotive known as Steam Hall.
The mobile city rumbles along at a snail's pace, rarely making more than twenty miles a day and can stretch out for miles. Outriders and scouts on motorcycles and dune buggies can be found ranging ahead, while a ring of tanks and other armed vehicles provide protection. There are even a couple of helicopters and ultralight aircraft that can scout from the air or provide air cover in case of an attack.

At the heart of Convoy is the converted steam train known as Steam Hall. Owned and operated by the man known only as The Baron, the massive Victorian engine sits atop four giant treads and pulls close to fifty cars. The cars are a motley collection from the history of trains and range from basic box cars carrying cargo, old subway cars for regular passengers, to luxurious accommodations from the golden age of rail, all spliced between heavily fortified cars bristling with weapons. No one knows what powers the train, only the Baron and the mute man known as the Engineer have ever been seen coming out of the engine room.

There is no official leadership to Convoy, but a group known as the Driver's Council meets every few days in one of Steam Hall's more luxurious passenger cars. To sit on the Council, one has to be invited, or powerful enough to force your own way. The leaders mostly argue over routes, mediate disputes and air grievances. The Baron rarely attends these sessions, but when he does his word is never questioned and where Steam Hall goes, Convoy City follows.

If Convoy has a weakness, it is in its voracious appetite for fuel. If it burns, some vehicle on Convoy uses it for power and the city can easily strip a smaller settlement of its resources. While they usually trade or pay for what they take, acts of theft, plunder and piracy are not uncommon, especially around smaller communities that are less able to defend themselves. Still, Convoy City is a welcome site in most regions as it brings needed resources, news, and for some a chance to escape and see the world.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Kids in the Hall Saturday

I gotta lose some weight. I'm overdo for a haircut, I'm feeling out of shape and my wife bought me a large bar of dark chocolate for our anniversary, so this one seems particularly apropos.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

MEGAWEAPON


Wasting a perfectly good Sunday afternoon watching MST3K on netflix, I came across this beast, which I thought would be ideal for a Gamma World or Mutant Future game.

Image Source
Megaweapon is a sentient dumptruck built by the fascist regime, OMEGA, in the post apocalyptic future of the film Warrior of the Lost World’

Its armour is impervious to small arms fire and most missile weapons. Its only weak point is its undercarriage, which would require a 40 megaton direct hit to take it out.

It is equipped with three short range flamethrowers. Its wheels are puncture proof and will crush anything they drive over. As a roadblock Megaweapon is extremely effective, provided there is no room to go around.

Megaweapon also has a top speed of 20kph. The flamethrower has a max range of five meters, can only shoot straight ahead and is located six feet off the ground. Its undercarriage is nearly one meter off the ground making it easy for someone to slide underneath. Its belly has numerous fuse and junction boxes are easily accessed and opened with a common Phillips screwdriver. Pulling two or three of these fuses will stop Megaweapon in its tracks.

Megaweapon is also able to repair itself, that is part of the magic that is, Megaweapon. If you take the time to get to know Megaweapon, you will find that he is actually quite friendly and outgoing, with a charming, self deprecating sense of humour. Megaweapon makes an ideal babysitter and is a fan of Indy car racing.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Titain Flythru

GREAT GOGGLY-MOGGLY!
A brief but gorgeous clip of what it would be like to fly through a Titan, an alien being the size of a small moon from John Varley's Gaea Trilogy.

A short flying thru Titan from Jean-Paul TĂȘtu on Vimeo.

Titans are hollow and support a self-created ecosystem along the inner shell. The strands you see in the film hold the whole thing together and come to giant knot in the middle that is the seat of the Titan's conciousness. Sounds bizarre, and it is, but is the basis for the most incredible science fiction I have ever read.

Titan
The Ringmaster is a space-ship on its way to explore Saturn's rings when it encounters an unknown moon. When they move closer for study, the ship is attacked by something which rips apart the Ringmaster and pulls the crew inside. When the ship's captain, Sirroco 'Rocky' Jones, awakens she is lost naked and alone. The book follows Rocky as she explores this new world, eventually discovering what happened to the rest of the crew, becoming embroiled in a was between two native species and finally climbing the mighty strands that hold the world together to confront the Titan herself, a being who calls herself Gaea.

Wizard
Chris is insane and Robin has seizures. They are both tourists, of a sort, who have come to Gaea to be cured of their bizarre medical conditions. But Gaea only cures heros and the two set out on an adventure around the inner rim of the Titan. They are accompanied by Gaby, one of the orginal crew of the Ringmaster, and Rocky, who is now known as the Wizard. The problem is that the Wizard is a drunk and Gaby has plans of her own. This trip might not be exactly what Robin and Chris had in mind.

Demon
A nuclear war has devistated earth and Gaea has become the last refuge of humanity. The problem is that Gaea is also insane and walks around looking like a fifty foot Marylin Monroe. Is it even possible to overthrow a god? Rocky and her small band of rebels are going to find out.

Kids in the Hall Saturday

I can't watch a Zombie movie anymore without this going trough my head.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wishful Drinking

I think I would have bought this book for the cover alone

I am not ashamed to admit that I have a certain fetish for gold bikinis thanks to Ms. Carrie Fisher.

But as an aspiring writer, I have also followed her post-Star Wars career with great interest and "Wishful Drinking" is definitely on my Xmus list, if only for the awesome cover. The AV club has an interview with her, HERE.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

In lue of content, a few comments on what I am reading...


Once again I have opened the well worn pages of my copy of 'The Game of Thrones' and what has really taken me by surprise is just how re-readable the book is. Reading the series over again at the release of every new book to remember who is who and why, seems to be a ritual every GoT fan go through and I had honestly had expected it to be a bit of a chore this time, but I'm delighted at just how strongly it is holding up, for now. There are some plots I'm remembering, like Dany's struggle with the Dorthaki(sp?) crones, which I remember were a bif of a slog even the first time through.

I'm curious to read the GoT RPG now, because while the series is fantastic, I am unsure that it would translate into a traditional roleplaying setting. There is almost no magic and very few monsters or dungeons to explore in Westeros (though they do exist), but most of your foes would be people and a heavy dose of politics. It would certainly make for an interesting game for players like myself who are used to a more Tolkenesque or Gygaxian world.


On a somewhat related note, I've also recently finished 'I Shall Wear Midnight' by T.Pratchett which offers a much different view of humanity. I've noticed that humans are rarely the 'evil' on Discworld. Bad people certainly do exist there, but more often than not, they either scared, stupid or just mean enough to be used, guided or preyed upon by an outside force. The book opens with a fairly horrific scene involving some pretty graphic domestic violence. However, by the end of the book, the perpetrator involved gets at least a modicum of redemtion without having to face any real consequences for his actions. He seems to feel guilty for everything he has done and is going to try to do better in future. Is that really enough for the years of terror and pain he put his wife and daughter through?

Actually, the whole subplot involving Amber, her family and her powers starts off strong yet ends up dangleing. It gets replaced by Tiffany fighting off yet another faceless threat. This girl defeated WINTER in the previous book, I never seriously felt she was in any danger from a mere ghost, and unfortunately the book doesn't seem to think that she's in all that much trouble either.

This is by no means a critism (I practically worship at the feet of Sir Terry), but I think I would have had tied the two plots together by having the ghost posess Amber's father and have him rile up all the people of the Downs against Tiffany. This would have meant that instead of a horror in the body of a homicidal maniac, she would have had to face the very people she's helped over the years, but who also turned an old woman out of her home and let freeze to death in the dark. Maybe that would have been a proper challenge for the girl who took the Hiver through the Black Door.

Gameraid!
The Rabbit Pendant

"the hare runs into the fire"
This is a gold, rabbit-shaped pendant. When held up to the light, it always looks like it is reflecting fire light or flames. When worn, it protects the wearer (and anyone touching them) from all forms of fire and heat, so long as the weater is running. If the wearer stops running, even for an instant, they will begin to take damage as normal.

Kids in the Hall Saturday

I think we've all had conversations like this...

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Re-Learning to Fly


Believe it or not I used to be quite good at this ... moreseo the guy on the right

It was always my intention to get back into Aikido after I had moved out East. For almost four years I had thrown myself hard into the practice – maybe too hard in retrospect – but I loved every second of it it and I continue to cherish the people I practiced with and the lessons I learned.

 

Then came the move and life got pretty busy for a while. With conflicting schedules, rotating shifts and everything else I never could quite seem to find the time. I did find a good Yoskishan Aikido Dojo just out of town, but it was a little far, and to be honest I've never been comfortable with Yoshinkan's formal style. A friend took me to his Bujinkan ju-jitsu practice once or twice and for a while that looked like it was going to have to be it if I wanted to practice anything. Not that this would have been a bad thing, the Sensei was good and I would be able to practice with my friend … but it wasn't Aikido.

 

But sometimes things do work out in your favour, and the new job meant no more rotating days or night shifts … and it just so happened to only a few blocks from the Aikikai Dojo. So last night, I finally plucked up enough courage to get back on the tatami for the first time in three years.

 

I ended up arriving a little early and was waiting out front, ruminating on some old memories when I suddenly and completely blanked. I couldn't remember squat. I couldn't remember if the first move was ikkyo or iriminage, and for the life of me, I could not remember the name of the Sensei who had broken my nose.

 

This really freaked me out since I had always been quite proud of my relationship with that Sensei. It started when I stepped off the mat to speak to a friendly, middle aged Japanese man who wandered into the dojo one sunny Saturday morning. Turns out he was a Yondan (fourth degree black belt) fresh from Japan. Three years later and he accidentally breaks my nose as I am trying my damndest to skewer him with a jo staff.

 

And I could not remember his name - nothing, not a syllable.

 

I put it down to being overtired and nervous about practice and it probably was. Then something did occur to me, it's a phrase that comes up often in books about Aikido or Buddhism that I've read: Beginner's Mind. Put aside ego and everything you've learned before and approach the new class as a new student.
It wasn't a huge revelation; it just seemed like a good idea. So I stopped worrying about which move was sankyo and which one was nikkyo and use the opportunity to approach everything with a fresh pair of eyes.

 

I tried to "unlearn what I had learned", which can much, much harder than you think.

When it came to doing the techniques, I tried to approach them as if I'd never seen it before in my life and when it came time for me to take falls, I did them as easily as I could. It wasn't perfect and I couldn't always keep my mind from racing ahead, but at least it gave me a sense of direction as I take my first steps back into doing something that has given me so much enjoyment, but without the good friends I'd made along the way.

 

Going easy was probably as good idea anyway because today I am as sore as balls. I could feel every little fat cell giggling around my middle with every move and every extra pound as it hit the mat. But I think what really killed me this morning was the stretching! I have the hamstrings of an arthritic octogenarian.

 

As I tried to let it all go, something inside relaxed and sometime about halfway through the warm up, I remembered Sensei's name.  

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Coconuts


Coconuts are a rare, yet extremely useful item to have. Much cheaper than an actual horse, and not actually magic, all they require is a willing servant, an active imagination and the shell of an ordinary coconut, hollowed out and cut in half.

However, coconuts can be difficult to get in temperate climes, and using them does make you look like something of an idiot. Once the coconut is readied, all that is required to use them is a servant, henchman or slave to follow approximately three feet behind clopping the coconuts together in a horse-like rhythm and the absolutely firm believe that you are riding a horse while acting accordingly (holding reigns, prancing, mounting and dismounting etc).

This allows both the ‘rider’ and the servant clapping the coconuts to travel at the same rate as a horse (approximately the pace of a brisk skip) for up to eight hours a day without tiring. Nor does the “rider” have to worry about the costs of feeding, grooming or boarding a horse, though they must perform those actions as if they do. Over short bursts, the rider can even run as fast as a horse’s gallop, though for only a period equal to their own stamina.

The rider must maintain the illusion that they are in fact, riding a horse at all times, no matter how adamantly anyone else tries to point out how silly they look. If the rider looses the ability to pretend they are riding a horse, the coconuts will no longer work for them or their servant.

As noted, these are not strictly magical items and will not register with detect magic spells.

Kids in the Hall Saturday

How to be a Doors fan

The problem with writing

is that it is an inherently solitary pursuit, and nowadays I don’t seem to get all that much time to be solitary. Even now, with my wife just out the door for an evening shift, there is a litany of things I should be doing including, but not limited to, mowing the lawn, cleaning the car, scooping the poop, setting up the cat house, vacuuming, washing the floor making dinner, tidying up, finding that lost prescription, get caught up on work emails and generally taking care of the two cats and two huskies currently clamouring for my attention.

I have no idea how my friends who have families still find time to play video games or do their hobbies. I don’t even have kids, besides the fuzzy ones, and I barely have time to read anymore. Being a grown up sucks.

My wife bought me ‘I Shall Wear Midnight” by Terry Pratchett for Xmus of last year, and it is only come to the top of my to-read pile recently. I quickly buzzed through the first three books in the Tiffany Aching series (‘Wee Free Men’, ‘Hat Full of Sky’ and ‘Wintersmith’) and had forgotten how solid the series is overall. Yes, it is suppost to be a young reader’s series, but it is a highly mature one. ‘I Shall Wear Midnight’ starts out with some of the darkest stuff I have ever read in a “Kids’” book, and I am not talking about fairy tale dark like cannibalistic witches or the devil taking a soul, this is real life, horrific stuff. The other theme that runs through the series is the loss of self or loss of memory, which given Sir Pratchett's battle with Alzeimers is absolutely hearbreaking.
My wife also picked up “A Dance with Dragons’ because she works in a book store and the hard cover has dropped to 30% off, which meant I had to load in the complete Game of Thrones into my e-reader and start getting caught up all over again. I was surprised at how reluctant I was start into the series again since I must have read it at least three or four times in the past and I still genuinely love it, but I think I’m getting a little gun shy over the sprawling plot and multiple threads.
I know that the series had gotten away from Martin a bit (my original copy of ‘Game of Thrones’ has the series as a ‘coming soon’ trilogy), and I sincerely hope that he has taken these five years to hammer out a conclusion to the series that lives up to the build up. I dread another “The Wheel of Time”, or a television series like ‘Lost’, “Battlestar Galactica” or even “The X-Files” where the series become almost impossible to watch over again because you know the ultimate finales are such a let down.
In my heart, LOST ended like this


When I have time I also go skimming through Netflix for old Doctor Who and MST3K and as I write this “Doctor Who and the Aztecs” is on in the background. This is an adventure with the first Doctor and it is interesting to see how much, and how little the series has changed. The Doctor is a cantankerous old bastard with a mischievous gleam in his eye and is generally smarter than everyone else around him, but he does make some serious mistakes. His companions are often more of a nuisance than help, and sometimes treated with outright contempt, and he obviously plays favourites, treating Susan, his Granddaughter with more care than his human companions who are more or less just along for the ride. The issue of the Doctor’s family is one that comes up from time to time and it is known that he has a cloned daughter and Susan, who by all accounts is his natural Granddaughter, both running around through time and space somewhere. I’d like to see this addressed at some point (both where some of my first guesses for River Song), but I’ll live if they aren’t. Sometimes a little mystery is a good thing.

What is interesting about ‘Doctor Who and the Aztecs’ is that is just the Aztecs. Modern Doctor Who has conditioned me to look for the aliens, but this series comes from a time when Doctor Who was also a history show and the ones where he went back in time where meant to introduce kids to history without having to throw in an alien monster and a lot of running. It’s a little refreshing actually.

The plot is fairly simple, The Tardis appears inside an Aztec temple and Susan and her teacher Barbara wander out first, marvelling at the artefacts and finding a hidden door. They are followed shortly by the Doctor and Ian to find that Barbara has been deemed a goddess and the rest of them her servants because only gods can come OUT of the temple. The problem is that the door is one way, and they know have to find a way back to the Tardis before a treacherous priest discovers that Barbara is not a god and sacrifices them all.

There is some of the silly, ‘oh, look at the colourful primitives who don’t know any better’ stuff here, especially from Susan’s teachers, but it is actually countered by the fact that every time Barbara tries to "improve" things she makes things worse and and by the Doctor, who lectures her and Iam on trying to interfere or alter the past.

The appearance from the temple would make a good hook to introduce characters to a setting like Talislanta or Tekumel.