Archive for August, 2013

Possible New Format

August 31, 2013

In conversation today, I have discovered a possible focus for this blog as apposed to the random rambling of my usual posting.  It probably won’t start for a while, but I am thinking of posting combo games.  That is to say, I will take two different board or card games, and find a fun way to use the pieces and the important parts of the rules from both games an create a new game from that.  Game design is a hobby of mine, specifically board game design and I think that this would be both incredibly interesting and also a lot more useful to potential future careers than what I am currently doing.  This would of course slow down the posting rate, as I would actually have to put time and testing into the games, but hopefully each post would potentially create a great deal of fun for people who had access to the pieces of both games.  I will begin working on a few of the potential fusion games and once I have written a few I may make that this blogs focus.  For those of you following the dungeons and dragons campaign log, I will also continue to post that as well and I suspect other random things as well when the mood strikes me, but should I actually be able to do this I will not be forcing myself to write a post about something different every night.  Hopefully this works out and is fun.

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Twilight Imperium

August 30, 2013

As I am not sure if I have mentioned it before, I am a board game aficionado.  I own a high number of chess variants and such along with several more modern games like Settlers of Catan, World in Flames and Twilight Imperium.  I recently finished a game of the last member of that list and I figured I would talk about how awesome the game was.  

The backstory of twilight imperium is fairly simple.  The galaxy was ruled for many years by a race of aliens called the Lazax.  They were generally benevolent though absolute in their authority.  Eventually however their strength faded and a rebellion wiped all of the lazax off the face of their home world Mechatol Rex.  Though the Lazax were gone, the beurocrasy and political structure that they had created remained.  All of the other races in the galaxy were now in a race to become the new rulers of the galaxy.

The goal of the game is to get 10 points, but these points are largely gained through completeing various objective cards, both public and secret.  These objectives might be military in nature or economic or political or scientific.  The game is wonderful in that it allows many kinds of play.  Their are a host of different space ships for those interested in conquest, but their is also a fairly large tech tree, a voting system in which ones political strength and politcs skills can allow new rules to be added to the game, and various methods of setting up trade agreements and improving economically.  Add this to the space exploration and planet conquering that occurs in the early game, and it becomes a game that has a ton of option as far as how to win and how to play.

Their are a bunch of different races, each of which has their own backstory, special powers, starting units, starting technologies and starting planets.  The choice of race also determines the value of your trade agreements along with netting you a special technology that only you can research.  The races include the Lion looking Merchant race the Hacan, and the Turtle diplomats, the Xxcha.  You can also play as humans, space vampires, the borg, space gypsies, bug people, a sentient disease and many many more.  

I won’t get into how turn order and such works, though from a game design perspective that is also fascinating, but suffice to say, the game is designed so that even though the game can take from 6 to 12 hours to play, individual turns are quick and you have choices to make and ships to buy fairly constantly.  

All in all the game is extremely well designed and fun.  It can be a bit of logistical nightmare to get enough people together enough times to actually finish a game, but its worth the effort, and is in general an all around good time.  

Wanderin’

August 29, 2013

So, for a number of different reasons, I will be without a home for a couple of months starting in about two weeks of time.  I will be doing a good deal of couch surfing, so I should still have internet and be able to update this blog, but I figured I would kill two birds with one stone tonight and figure out what kinda stuff I am going to carry along with me while I am moving from house to house.  This will likely be more like a wishlist and will have to be pruned to have space, but so be it.

A few changes of clothes:  I don’t want to be horribly smelly or anything, but taking a lot of clothes takes up a lot of space, so I may be just getting new shirts to replace old ones instead of washing them, as that might end up being easier or more convenient.

Shampoo, Conditioner, Body Wash:  For the same reason as above.  I want to make the people who I am staying with as happy as possible, and while I will have to use their showers, if I can use my own cleaning stuff that will help a bit.

Laptop:  Fairly self explanatory.

A Plate, A Bowl, Some utensils and a Pot:  I do not want to be involved in whatever arcane ritual is involved in the dish washing of the various places I will be staying.  By bringing my own stuff and washing it after I use it, I can eat without either feeling bad about dirtying stuff and without getting roped into doing dishes.

A Small Game Board and a DS:  Entertainment and portable recreational activity.

A few books:  Same as above.

Food:  Unless I can fit a cooler into my bag, I will be restricted to stuff like rice, canned food and ramen.  I might just bring my rice cooker and a bag of rice so I am certain to have a meal every night and I don’t have to go shopping that often.  

Toothpaste, Deodorant, Razor:  More stuff to keep me clean and pleasant.

Pillow and Blanket:  So I always have a place to sleep, even if their is just a floor.

I’m sure there are thing I am missing that I will discover as I travel, but in general this is what I could think of off the top of my head.

(Re)(De)Construction

August 28, 2013

OK, so if you are familiar with the basic idea of a Deconstruction and Reconstruction in the context of a piece of media, then feel free to skip this post as I am pretty much defining terms.  They are interesting terms and are often not understood, but still, there is not much to see here if you already understand their meanings.

Alright, with that out of the way, lets start with the idea of a Deconstruction.  Effectively what a Deconstruction is is a examining of a certain trope or idea and a finding of all of the flaws and problems that would occur if such a thing were to actually occur.  That definition is a bit obtuse, so I’ll use an example, perhaps the most iconic example.   

Lets start with the basic idea of the Super Robot genre.  The basic idea of the genre was that some group of chose pilots would end up driving super special robots in order to save the world.  Often times these pilots would be kids.  There are many examples out their of shows and manga and such in which the basic idea of “kids pilot giant robots to save the world” is the premise.  One of the most famous anime of all time, Neon Genesis Evangelion was a deconstruction of the genre.  While a typical show might have the kid hero’s reject the call of heroism for an episode or two, ultimately they would pull through and save the world with little mental stress or psychosis.  This was not the case in Neon Genesis.  The question that the show asked more than anything, was, “How crazy would the situation of piloting a robot to save the world make you?/How crazy would you have to have already been to get into that situation.”  The main character is extremely apathetic about his job of world saving pilot, and all of the characters have very serious mental issues.  These issues are not immediately apparent, but as the stress of saving the world every few days adds up eventually everyone cracks and you get to see what all of the stress has been doing to everyone.  It is a very good show and a lot of fun in my opinion, but it is also highly depressing in many spots and has one of the most well known mind screw endings out there.  Another classic deconstruction is Watchmen.  It is a comic book about what the world would be like if it had super heroes, and all of the messed up reasons that people would have to become super heroes along with the grisly ends that many who chose that path would meet.  

Now that a deconstruction has occurred, the Reconstruction can occur.  Reconstructions are often either reactions to specific deconstructions or turn out to be the overarching ending of a piece of media that first deconstructs and then reconstructs a genre.  Basically, what a reconstruction does is accept the criticisms of the deconstruction and then either show how the basic idea can work anyways, or alter the premise just enough that the fundamental idea of the work can still be functional.  To complement the Neon Genesis example, one of the most iconic reconstructions in modern days is Tenga Toppa Gurren Lagann.  It is a show about super robots.  Lots of sucky things happen to the main characters, and situations develop that mess with their ideology and such, but through determination and talking to people and the physical incarnation of manly spirit, the hero is able to remain sane, save everyone and lead the universe to salvation.  Gurren Lagann is a very powerful reconstruction in that it shows how all the crazy awesome stuff can still happen even in the face of some of the cruelties of life, but reconstructions can be more subtle, finding ways to show that the worlds in deconstructions aren’t as bad as they look, or even deconstructing deconstructions to show that the basic idea can work as long as you don’t make a few key assumptions.  

All in all both deconstructions and reconstructions are a part of the way that ideas and media work, and tend to strengthen ideas by analyzing them closely.  Ultimately they are a bit of a cycle, with flaws being found by deconstruction being fixed by the reconstruction.  Then more flaws are found and then fixed.  I would recommend reading the tv tropes article on both subjects if you want some more examples and a better idea of both.  

Dungeons and Dragons Campaign Log #8

August 27, 2013

So, though the party had their own airship, it was slightly broken and would not work unless it was fixed.  The group thus used the prince’s personal airship to take a visit to the gnomes, who lived in flying castles and had at this point invented guns.  They got to participate in a fight against some sky elves, learn a bit about firearms and eventually get their ship fixed.  The price for the fixing was their help in getting a young paladin woman to a sacred stone that she wanted to gain power from.  

The party flew to the island that the stone was on, fought various opponents, such as goblins, hydras and lizard men on their way to the center, and eventually climbed a tower to where the stone was supposed to be.  The paladin, along with the bard and the elf, all touched the stone and were granted special powers.  The paladin set out on some sort of quest and the party moved on. 

Somehow, the group ended up on another island, this one with an anti technology field.  They traveled though it, fought there way to yet another central tower and then battled a mummy and a naga before releasing a nice cleric lady and meeting a character that would end up having a large effect on the campaign.  The technomancer was an inventor the group found in the basement that invented new things by trying stuff randomly and finding out what didn’t work in increasingly weaker anti technology fields.  What he gives t the group and the consequences of his gifts are the subject of the next log.

A Day of Time Sinks

August 26, 2013

For whatever reason, today was a day with much consuming of time expensive media.  I woke up at 4 in the afternoon, went home, did some stuff and then watched some Law of Ueki, which is an amazing show for many reasons, but is kinda slow and tends to repeat itself.  After watching around ten or twelve episodes of that, my roommates went to bed, but I began watching Idea Channel episodes.  Each episode is only six to eight minutes long, but there are quite a lot of them, and one of them led to me starting to read Homestuck.  I planned to only read for a bit, but I ended up reading what I believe was several hundred pages of the web comic, before I forced myself to quit for the night.  

At that point I decided to try to figure out some of what my new chromebook was capable of and started checking out the app store thing and downloading some things that looked interesting.  One of those said interesting things was a game that had you combining random different things and looking at the possible combinations.  Because of the exponential nature of that sort of a thing, it too took a good bit of my time, though perhaps not as much as it would have if I did not at that point start to feel tired and decide I needed to get this blog post done tonight before I drifted off to sleep.  

All in all, I got some stuff done and I had a pretty good time, but far too many of my activities today could have taken much more time if I had let them and all of them took more than I anticipated.  I suppose free time is something that I have currently so it is all good, but it is a bit weird to jump into all of these time sink sort of activities after having been without much of a computer for about a week.  

 

Peace Corp

August 25, 2013

So, as I said in my post from last night, I finally got assigned a location for the peace corp.  Its been a long process with a lot of errors and mess ups along the way.

Basically, the process began during my senior year of college as I was trying to decide what to do with my life.  I eventually decided peace corp was the way to go and began looking through the application.  It was quite long so I ended up putting it off for a while but eventually completed the twenty or so page long application some time in February of 2013.  After the application was done, I recieved a link to the medical page where I filled out another ten pages of stuff about my medical background.

Several days later, I was emailed, and informed that my application had had a very rare error and that basically all my data had been lost.  Apparently they were able to find and fix the problem after that, but basically I had to redo the whole thing.  After a few days of putting it off, I did so, and filled everything out for a second time.  Everything seemed the same, except I did not get a link to the health form.  It told me it might take a few days, so I waited a week, and it did not show up.  I called the peace corp recruitment office, and was eventually given an email address that I was supposed to send a message about the problem too.  I sent the problem via the email, but received an email the next day saying my message had not been received, but that it would try to send it again.  A month later it sent me another email saying that it had tried every day for a month but my message had not been sent.  So, I sent an email to the peace corp office that I had originally talked to, and a few days later got a phone call explaining that they had gotten the tech guys to fix the problem.  I logged into the medical portal and finally was able to fill out the ten page document that I had already filled out a month and a half previously.

The next few steps went fairly smoothly, with a few forms being filled out and a phone interview.  Then I did not hear from the Peace Corp for about a month again.  Eventually I got an email asking if I was still interested in the Peace Corp as they had sent me a fingerprint package in the mail and I had missed the deadline to send it back by a month.  As it turned out, the landlords of my house were having the neighbors house renovated, and my mailbox had been removed.  I biked across town to the post office and asked them what had happened to the packages that should have been sent to my house.  They told me that the mailbox had been gone long enough that the house had been marked as vacant and all mail returned to sender.  I talked to my landlords, had them put the mailbox back, and then talked to the Peace Corp people and had them send the packet again.  A week or so later I received the kit in the mail, went down to the police department to have it filled out and mailed it back the very next day.  They confirmed the delivery the next Monday and then I had yet another form to fill out emailed to me.

I was told that the next time I heard from the Peace Corp I would find out where I was going.  Then, I had to fill out another form and then have another shorter phone interview.  Then finally, yesterday, I recieved the info about where I was going.  The entire process took more than half a year, and there was no less than 3 enormous errors and mistakes in the process.  All in all I am just happy that the process is coming to a close and I finally know where I will be serving.  In any event, whenever I talked with any of the Peace Corp people directly, they were always very nice and helpful, it was just an arduous process.  Hopefully the work will be worth it.

Taking a Holliday

August 24, 2013

No post yesterday and a short one today because I was super exhausted yesterday, and today I finally found out where I was going for peace corp.  I’m going to make a better post tomorrow about the whole process, but for now I am giving myself a break in celebration of finally knowing where I am heading and when I am heading there.  To Liberia in June.

Sabrina

August 22, 2013

The little girl sat in the park and watched the other children.  She viewed them as they laughed and as they played and as they talked.  When the last kid left to go home at night, and the first kid arrived in the morning, the girl watched the children.  

The girl felt sad as she watched the other children, but she could not really seem to tell why.  Every time she would consider the situation that she was in, it seemed as though something would distract her and take her away from that line of thought.  Days passed by and the girl watched, observed and felt sad.  

The girl could recall being with the other children, playing beside them and joining in their fun, but for some reason that thought was always in the past tense.  Though she was only feet from the jungle gym and the swings, she could no more enjoy those parts of the park as she could sprout eye stalks to watch the children while she slept.  She sat on the bench and watched the children and nothing else happened.

The young psychic released his hand from the woman who’s mind he had been reading and asked his instructor, “What happened to this girl to make her the way that she is?”  The instructor looked away for a long bit and then said, “She got in Sabrina’s way.”

Delays, Topics and Self Enrichment

August 21, 2013

I can say with no small amount of confidence that this blog has kept me awake for many many more hours then I have spent actually writing articles for it. It is something I make sure I do every day before I sleep, but it is often the very last thing that I do. Often times I will be done with everything else I want to do in my day except for writing these blog posts, but I will not have thought of a topic for discussion or will simply not be in the mood for writing, so I will delay or put off writing, by staying up and doing various other things that I don’t particularly need to do, but will at least delay the time when I need to sit down and write. In nanowrimo, I at least have a strong idea of what I should be writing about, but thinking of a topic for a blog post can be very difficult for me some times. The D&D campaign log posts tend to occur on nights when I really can’t think of anything else, because while I enjoy thinking back and remembering the campaign and the various wacky adventures, it doesn’t actually take any thought or creativity, as I am simply recalling and then transcribing events that already occured.
Interestingly enough, the writing itself is also not particularly hard. Once I get going on a topic, I generally find that I have an opinion or at least have a few nice anacdotes about the topic. I can go and write three hundred or five hundred words easily, but its finding that topic that is difficult for me. Many of the things that I post are various things I have thought about that I have strong opinions about, but generally I come up with my opinions on the spot in conversation when asked about a topic instead of having to simply bring up a topic or opinion out of the blue. Because of this I tend to be a very good listener, but a bit of a boring conversationalist in one on one conversations. In group settings or when the conversation is about topics that I care about, I am as wordy as the next guy, but when I am alone with someone and they do not bring up something to talk about, I tend to remain silent, as I rarely have things that I particularly want to bring up, though I am perfectly happy to talk on a number of topics if the other party brings them up.
Honestly a big part of this blog is just about me getting myself to bring things up and talk about things that I want to talk about. Occasionally, such as today, this thing includes myself, and while that is likely not very interesting to anyone besides me, I do it just the same. All in all, I’m glad I started this and am quite willing to sacrifice several hours per night to writing delay induced insomnia, if it means I can express myself more fully and get a chance to throw some things that really matter to me out into the void of the internet.