Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Marvel Pictures Pics

Saw this on Newsrama on my way home and figured I'd share: Marvel released some stills of its 2014 movie slate today.  Here's the one from the Guardians of the Galaxy:

Mugshot-style lineup from the forthcoming Guardians of the Galaxy.
"Brash adventurer Peter Quill finds himself the object of an unrelenting bounty hunt after stealing a mysterious orb coveted by Ronan [the Accuser]..."  

Paraphrasing the rest: the orb appears to be another piece of the Infinty Gauntlet, and Quill has to team up with a band of misfits, shown above, to keep the galaxy safe.  Wackiness ensues, presumably involving the Kree and a bunch of other space-folk.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Revisiting the Year That Was: 2013's New Year's Resolutions

With the New Year approaching, it's time to take stock of where we are and where we want to go.  Last year, Sally and I sat together and wrote out a short list of resolutions for each of us, and with 2014 coming up, it's time to revisit those old resolutions and take stock of the year that was.

I don't know if Sally's going to share her list or not, but these were my goals for 2013, shared now by way of holding myself accountable for last year's performance.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Fluffy

by Hannah Head
(Sung to the tune of "Monster")

I'm friends with the Fluffy,
who is my pet.

She has so much fur
on the top of her head.

And when she barks, 
you don't know what she said.

And you think she's crazy,
Yeah, you think she's crazy,
Well, that's not fair!

Wa-ooo wa-oo, wa-ooo wa-oo

Well, that's not fair!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Movie and Book Reviews

(or "How I Spent My Christmas Break When I Wasn't Taking Care of My Wife, Who's Had The Flu.")

So.  If you read the last post, then you know that Sally's been down with the flu since Christmas morning.  In fact, I have to take a minute to acknowledge how awesome my kids are, because Sally went down--hard--right in the middle of opening presents.  We'd each opened, like, two gifts when she keeled over.  She literally slumped in her seat, turned green, and then announced that she was going back to bed.  And the girls--without complaint--sat down, had breakfast with me, and waited without complaint--for more than two hours!!--for Sally to get back up and finish opening the rest of the presents with us.

It was amazing, really.

Anyway, since then, the girls and I have been watching movies and reading, almost non-stop.  And Hannah's been drawing.  In order, we've watched:

Friday, December 27, 2013

Ode to Christmas

So, I have been in bed for the past three days with the flu. Not a great time by any standards. By day three I started to think I was getting better, so I did what any normal person would do, I cleaned out my desk drawer. I found missing bills, Get Well cards I never mailed and oddly enough a poem I had written back when I was living in New York City in 1998. I have no idea what its true meaning is, but if you do, have a stab at it and let me know.

 December 25, 1998

I awoke from a dream, quickly
there was a sharp pain, suddenly
No, not of despair or loneliness
far greater, that of remembrance

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Heard on Christmas Eve

Emma: Daddy, what kind of elf is Santa Claus?

Me: Uh...

Emma (crosses arms across her chest):  Dad.  I know the kinds of elves.

Me: Umm...

Emma: Is he a regular elf?  A half-elf?  A fire elf?  An eladrin?  A drow?  I mean, I know he's not a drow.  Is he?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Letter, 2013

Dear Friends,
I hope this letter find you happy and healthy this Christmas season.  2013 has been an interesting and exciting year for our family, certainly full of its share of moments worth sharing.  For one thing, our dog Dixie passed on this year, which made me sad, especially since she was the last remaining member of my family from Tennessee.  But we also welcomed a new puppy into the family, Faith, and she’s brought a lot of joy and happiness into our lives.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas is Ready

Wrapping Presents

The Seeker

Promises to be a busy day.  And while I didn't plan to have to do a lot of Christmas shopping this afternoon, it looks like that's what's gonna happen.

This song isn't about that, but it ought to be.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Engineer Class: A D&D Next Design Experiment (Part 2)

This is my first time trying to design a class for any version of D&D, so go easy on me.  Also, if you missed Part 1 of this experiment, it's here.

Engineers are the brains of the outfit--capable combatants who know how to get things done.  They rely on a combination of their own fighting prowess and invention.  They succeed by using hasty or deliberate obstacles and traps to shape the battlefield and force their enemies to go in a direction that best benefits the Engineer’s allies, and when that doesn’t work, they fall back on their knowledge of alchemical concoctions or the simple strength of their sword arms.
Play an Engineer if you want to be a tough, capable jack-of-all-trades, a person who knows a little of everything who can therefore adapt to almost any situation.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sunday News Clippings

Some of the stuff that caught my eye this morning.

When the Right to Bear Arms Includes the Mentally Ill (NY Times)
This article is horrifying.

"Last April, workers at Middlesex Hospital in Connecticut called the police to report that a psychiatric patient named Mark Russo had threatened to shoot his mother if officers tried to take the 18 rifles and shotguns he kept at her house. Mr. Russo, who was off his medication for paranoid schizophrenia, also talked about the recent elementary school massacre in Newtown and told a nurse that he “could take a chair and kill you or bash your head in between the eyes,” court records show...

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Pictures from our Anniversary

The view from our room, on the 42nd floor.
Sally and I had a drink overlooking Times Square before we went
downtown for dinner.
Saw these last night at Dean & Deluca's in SoHo.
Saw these snacks, named for our daughter, in SoHo.
Me and Sally after our run this morning.  We went from Times Square to
Central Park, up to the Reservoir, and back.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Five Things on a Friday: Anniversary Edition

Happy Friday everybody.  And hey!  It's almost Christmas!

1. US Economy Expands at 4.1 Percent Rate (ABC News.Com)
“The U.S. economy grew at a solid 4.1 percent annual rate from July through September, the fastest pace since late 2011 and significantly higher than previously believed. Much of the upward revision came from stronger consumer spending… primarily in the area of health care…

The third quarter rise in the gross domestic product… was the best performance since a 4.9 percent increase in the final three months of 2011.”

Friday Hair Metal: Rush

I think I might've played this song before.  But not this video.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Mazarian the Magician

Been reading Jack Vance's Tales from the Dying Earth this morning. A friend recommended it to me on Google+.

Interesting book. I wasn't completely sold on it until I read that it had inspired some of Michael Moorcock's work, but now that I've started, the thing is like some kind of fanstasy fever-dream. 

While we're talking, can I mention that I was practically the only asshole riding his bike through the blistering cold in the Park this morning?  I saw one rather serious-looking rider and one other commuter, and that was it. 

Also: why does it feel like the air is thicker when it's cold, and why is the wind always in my face?  Argh. 

Anyway, it's a slow-looking Thursday and almost Christmas, so the pre-Holiday malaise is on in full in the City. So that's all I got for today. 

What's up with you?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Designing the Engineer Class: A D&D Next Experiment

I wrote a series of posts last week called “13 Things I’d Like to See from D&D Next,” and I’ve gotta admit, I was more than a little pleased with the response.  I posted the link to the D&D Next Community on Google+, and folks there seemed to dig it, chiming in all week with comments about one or more of the ideas that I’d mentioned.  
The Warlord class—or perhaps Fighter subclass—got the most attention, but I personally was most interested in the discussions that arose around the idea of an “Engineer” class or subclass, envisioning the thing in military terms as mobility, counter-mobility, and survivability specialist.  To which I got comments along two basic lines:

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Snow in NYC

Sketch in my Notebook (Part 7): Escape!

I (finally) finished drafting "Sneakatara Boatman and the Priest of Loki" this week.

I have a process.  I write in the mornings, usually while I'm on the train on my way into the City.  Then I come back the next morning, re-write what I wrote the day before, and start writing again.  When I finish something, I put it aside--hopefully for at least a month--to try to get some perspective on it before I go back for the first re-write.

That first re-write is tough.  That's when I'm trying to fix scene structure, address holes in the plot, and generally make the story work better.  But it can be hard to see what works and what doesn't, especially since I know how the story ends, so the thing holds no surprises for me.  It was even tougher this time because this latest Sneax story took so long in draft that I couldn't let it sit for a whole month.  So I tried to compensate by putting it out to a few trusted test-readers, but they mostly liked the story as it was...  Not helpful.  I mean, it made me feel good, but I mistrust people's kindness.  The idea that the story achieved its purpose perfectly the first time through is ludicrous.  It doesn't happen--ever.

Anyway, it's that first re-write that I finished with the Sneax story this week--for better or worse--and afterwards, I very much felt like I needed to get away from Wanderhaven for awhile.  I love writing for my kids, but the Sneax stuff is decidedly YA-lit, and that's got a certain tone.  I wanted to change that tone, stir up my internal monologue, and so...

I let Dr. Necropolis come to my rescue.

Warning: This next bit is definitely spicy.  There's quite a bit of salty language and associated nastiness.  Also, if you've not read the preceding chapters of this project, there is no way that you'll be able to follow this week's piece.  The other bits are therefore archived in the Sketch in My Notebook section.

You have been warned.

The Return of Dr. Necropolis
Chapter 6: Escape!

They threw him into solitary almost immediately.  Literally threw him.  Fat fucking Grossman and his partner, that asshole Little, pitched Frank headlong into a tiny cell down in Solitary Confinement.  He slammed face first into the wall and saw stars, was briefly dizzy and a little nauseous afterwards, having just had his ass kicked by a superhero on top of everything else.
In spite of everything, Frank laughed.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Christmas Time

CJ2K: Unexpected Reappearance

I don't know who's gonna win this game, but this part, at least, I like.

Level Up: I Believe in IPA

Is it weird that I'm really fired up every time I get one of these crazy merit badges?

You get this one for checking in with ten different IPAs.

Drink Locally

The "Local Flavor" merit badge from Untappd.  Five beers from a
local brewer?  I think that's what it's for.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Getting our Christmas Tree

We went to get our tree today...

Go Army, Beat Navy!

The game is today at 3:00pm.  Navy is favored by eleven, but this year's Army team has been very good in spots.  I have hope--perhaps irrational.  

The girls and I are going over to watch the game at one of my classmate's houses, and well, regardless of how the game itself comes out, I at least have high hopes for the beer and commradery that'll be shared.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Five Things on a Friday: Meet the Donut Family!

Amongst the news-worthy items: TSA fees will increase, a good bit of sequestration is being unwound, and Federal workers are going to have to pay more for their pensions going forward.  Not sure exactly what that means, but it particularly sucks for my friends who’re still in the military.  I feel for them, but then again, it’s also the way the whole world is headed, and that sucks, too.  Bottom line, we might want to take care of you when you’re sick, but no one wants to pay for your care.  By the same token, we want you to have enough money to pay your bills when you’re too old to work, but no one wants to be on the hook to provide the money.  And no one wants you to actually retire, we’re all just supposed to work until we die.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Sneak Peak: A Wizard of Wanderhaven

Here's a sneak peak out of "War Stories from Wanderhaven."  I shouldn't share it, especially considering that I'm still working on it, and this is still very much a draft, but...  I really like the way this bit has come off.

So here we go.


A Wizard of Wanderhaven

Elaina Emboo sat at the top of Master Marconi’s tower, looking out through leaded-glass windows.  Past the bustle of Market Square, she could just make out the sprawl of Wanderhaven’s docks in the distance.  The city was alive down there, she knew, but all was quiet at the tower’s apex save for the occasional gust of wind that rattled the heavy wooden window panes.  Elaina held a copy of Oittougliae’s Magical Transformations open in her lap, but she wasn’t reading it.  Instead, she stared out into the distance, looking at the water.  Somewhere out there was a ship called the Argo, and on it was Elaina’s best friend, a tiny sprite-girl named Sneakatara Boatman.
“Miss Emboo.  I take it that you’ve finished the reading for the day?”

Thirteen Things I’d Like to See from D&D Next (Part 3)

9.  Deep gnomes
I love svirfneblin.  I thought that it was beyond weird that they never got support from 4e, especially considering what a huge part the race plays in R.A. Salvatore’s work, work that has become the absolute bedrock of the D&D playable world.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Thirteen Things I’d Like to See from D&D Next (Part 2)

5.  An “Engineer” class or subclass
Maybe this is the same thing as the Artificer class, I don’t know.  But I think of Engineers in a military sense, in charge of mobility, countermobility, and survivability.  That’s not exactly what an Artificer does, but there is room for it in the game.  For example, an Engineer might open doors, not by picking locks but by using acid or maybe just a crowbar.  Maybe he also employs hasty magical obstacles or traps to help the party shape the battlefield.  I also think the Engineer class would mix potions or alchemical concoctions for use as magical grenades.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Sayings from the Wisdom of Loki

The Wisdom of Loki has become one of the cornerstone concepts of the book I'm writing, "War Stories from Wanderhaven."  In the back of my mind, I picture it as a kind of anti-Bible, a justification for all kinds of nastiness and base revolutionary acts.  

After reading about Loki some over the weekend, I've started thinking of him less as a simple trouble-maker and more as the ancient Norse version of Karl Marx. He's a guy who doesn't have a stake in the established order, who wants to overturn everything and ultimately winds up fighting on the wrong side of Ragnarok

Thirteen Things I’d Like to See from D&D Next (Part 1)

1.  A Swordmage or other close-combat Mage build
I’ve talked about this a few times in the past, but bottom line, I liked the way Wizards of the Coast (WotC) developed both close-combat arcane classes and ranged arcane classes in 4e.  The Swordmage is, of course, the most obvious example, but even the early Warlock builds offered high hit points and a focus on close burst or short-ranged spell attacks.  That made for an interesting dichotomy in the arcane classes, and it also added a bit of a challenge for those who played close-combat “squishies”.  

Monday, December 9, 2013

Hannah's Christmas Trees

Anatomy of a Long Workout

I did my first long workout of the new triathlon season this past weekend.  As long workouts go, it wasn’t a particularly hard one, but it was my first brick[1] in several months and only the third time I’ve been back in the water since before the offseason started.
If you’re wondering, the workout turned out to be:
  • 200 SKIPS[2]
  • 8 x 100 @ 1:30, every 4th 100 tempo pace
  • 4 x 100 pull @ 1:30
  • 100 warm down
Stretch, and then long slow distance (LSD) run, 6.75 miles (59:30).
Anyway, while I was in the water, it occurred to me that there might be some folks out there who are new to this triathlon thing and are maybe looking for some pointers for designing their own long and/or brick workouts.  With that in mind, here are four things to think about when you’re putting your own long workouts together.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

News Round Up: Six Things That Caught My Eye

Some stuff that caught my eye this morning...

The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug Reviews Round-Up (ComicBook.Com)
The first reviews for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug have surfaced. The early reviews of the film seem to be mixed with the film currently holding a 64% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Some critics are finding The Desolation of Smaug to be a huge improvement over the first Hobbit movie, while other critics appear to be disappointed with The Hobbit franchise completely. Here is a round-up of some of the early reviews.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Watching the SEC Championship Game

With Sierra Nevada's DevESTATEtion.
Auburn is killing it.

A Cry for Love, Found on Twitter

You may find that, but it doesn't come cheaply or easily.  Truth is, our love follows our effort.  People love their kids because of a burst of oxytocin at birth, yes, but also because kids are so much damned work that it's hard to walk away from that kind of commitment, no matter how hard your heart.  

Unfortunately, the reverse is too often true for adult relationships.  We want the connection to be metaphysical and instanteous.  We want it to click and be easy.  It isn't.  Not because attraction is fleeting or because the thrill of the chase fades.  Because the world is complicated, we have to work if we want to eat, and we have to take the kids to soccer practice or singing lessons.  We get exhausted, and then the simplest answer is too often to push one's partner off until tomorrow.

As humans, we live life in moments.  It's possible to work today to achieve our ends tomorrow, but that choice comes with costs.  If you are unable to make your spouse the most important person, place, or thing in your life, then what is that saying about the state of your love?  How is that love "inconvenient, consuming, cant-live-without-each-other love"?  This is why love is work.  Not because people--even our best friends--can be pains in our ass.  Rather, because making love work requires making love a priority.  

We live in a busy world with a lot of distractions.  Fact is, lots of folks just aren't up to the commitment love requires.
As an aside, I didn't realize that the quote above was from an episode of "Sex in the City" until after I had this response written.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Five Things on a Friday: Amazing Spider-Man 2 Edition

1. The trailer for Amazing Spider-Man 2 is finally out.  
If you haven’t seen it yet, well, it looks pretty good.  
Electro is one of those villains that gets treated like a relic by a lot of today’s comic writers, but as Brian Michael Bendis showed with his first arc of the New Avengers, he can be plenty terrifying.  I like the treatment that they’ve got in this movie quite a bit, as well as the fact that they have Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield) looking like he’s barely holding on by the skin of his teeth.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Kurt Angle vs. Chris Jericho - WWE Championship Match

I'm sort of at a loss today and probably gonna be more than a little short on time.  So...

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Stuff I've Been Reading

Jonathan Hickman's epically cosmic Avengers' tale Infinity finally ended this week, for once with a wholly appropriate bang.  A lot of times, the Big Two comic companies tend to use these big events to launch ideas and/or new series going forward--and this one did that, too--but Infinity was also a self-contained story, magificent in breadth and scope and yet detailed enough to provide all of the characters with their own moments.

I dug it.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A Working Introduction

I started working on the introduction to my book this week.  The book's been through a couple of working names lately.  Right now, I'm leaning towards either "War Stories from Wanderhaven" or "War Stories from the Western Isles," but I haven't decided yet and don't need to.  Anyway, there wasn't any real need to write the Introduction as of yet, but I had an idea for how it might go over the weekend, and I figured that by the time I wrote the idea down, I could've just drafted the whole things, so there you have it.
I'm not promising that everything that's in here is gonna wind up in the book in this form, but this is sort of what I'm thinking.  If you have time and thoughts, I'd appreciate some feedback.

Monday, December 2, 2013

I am so sick of hearing about "Cyber Monday"

For fuck's sake, nobody needs any of this chincy crap, and none of these so-call "deals" is actually any good!  Really, all this relentless advertising is doing is stoking my loathing for all things retail, and I already hate almost everything.  I want to like Christmas; I don't want to be some kind of evil Scrooge. But. All this fucking retail hype is driving me absolutely batty, and we're not even close to Christmas yet. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Our library

This is our library, newly rearranged.  Sally bought a new couch for the living room this week, so we put the loveseat that had been in there into the library.  But that meant moving all manner of furniture around in there, and while we had the place empty, she steam-cleaned the rug.  

I should also mention that she stripped both the walls and the window frames herself and then stained and painted the place, also by herself.  That took oodles of work, but the results speak for themselves.

Our library, newly rearranged.
Most West Pointers have an "I love me" wall.  I have a bookshelf and a corner.