Thursday, April 30, 2015

TV Review: Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD (Episode 2.2.9)

Boy, Agents of SHIELD is one confounding show, am I right?  You know I am.  This week’s episode, “The Dirty Half-Dozen,” was probably my favorite episode to date, but man, they did it with all the elements that drove me crazy in season one.  Is that Godfather-style ironic reversal, or simple character growth, or was this just the very best that the show has ever been?  I don’t know.  Season two started so much better than almost all of season one, but then we came back from the Christmas break, and suddenly the show wasn’t an ensemble anymore, it was—again—the Agent Skye Show, with backup dancers courtesy of Phil Coulson and the crew at SHIELD.  

What’s weird is that this week they really made that formula work.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Sketch in My Notebook: The Order of the Blackened Glaive (Part 11)

Our story so far...

Drakar has been forced from the Sentralian Military Academy because of his half-demon heritage.  However, angels of the goddess Nyx visited him in a dream, commanding him to seek out Fortress Abbadabas and the fabled Order of the Blackened Glaive.  Drakar traveled south to the city of Jakara, where he met a girl--a young wizard named Elaina Emboo.  


Having saved Elain from certain death, she and her ship, the Trident sailed with Drakar towards Fortress Abbadabas and his destiny.  Now must leave the ship and Elaina behind...

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Every Writer's Nightmare

This was in Dear Prudence today.  It's every writer's nightmare, but probably not for the reason you'd think:

Q. I Don’t Like My Friend’s Book: My friend recently self-published his first novel. I bought a copy to support him. I really, really hate to admit it but I didn’t care for it. In fact, I didn’t even finish. I got through half of it before I gave up, read the last couple of pages, and put it down. He needs an editor badly and overall, it just wasn’t well-researched or plotted. In fact, he self-designed the cover in Photoshop. He wants to know if I liked the book, and honestly, I don’t know what to say. On one hand, I don’t want to tear him down because I know how proud he was of writing the book. On the other hand, I feel like he needs to know that he needs to improve on a few things. Is there a way to broach the subject without hurting feelings? Or do I just drop the issue and lie to him?

Monday, April 27, 2015

NFL Preview: NY Giants Schedule

Coming off last year’s 6-10 season, the NY Giants face a #3 schedule.  They play the other teams from the NFC East twice, the AFC East, the NFC South, and 2014’s #3 teams from each of the other conferences.  

The NY Giants logo is simple
but iconic.
Of course, it’s always hard to predict what’s going to happen in the NFL, and that’s doubly true of the Giants, a team that has twice snuck into the playoffs in recent memory, only to then turn around and win the Super Bowl.  However, with Victor Cruz coming back, Odell Beckham Jr looking like a world-beating wide receiver, and the offense in general into its second year under OC Ben McAdoo, this is a team with a chance to do well.  There are still important issues on the offensive line—Eli Manning is not the kind of quarterback who thrives when he’s running for his life—and the Giants need to find a way to reinvigorate their pass rush, but on its face 2015 looks good.  It helps that the level of competition in the NFC East is liable to be weaker this year given that the Washington Redskins are in total disarray and that the Philadelphia Eagles currently have Sam Bradford, Mark Sanchez, and Tim Tebow as their would-be quarterbacks.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sunday in Review: A Few Quick Notes

More from my Twitter feed.  Wasn't planning to do this today, but I've got a breakdown of the NY Giants schedule coming out tomorrow, and Avengers: Age of Ultron releases Friday, so some of this is timely to other stuff that's happening on the blog.

You probably look at the blog like a salad bar--take what you want, leave the rest.  That's fine, but it's not the way that I look at it.  I think of it as a single, coherent work with plotlines.  So when I see something that makes sense in context with other stuff that's happening or that's already happened, it makes sense to stick into one of these round-up columns.


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Friday, April 24, 2015

5 Things on a Friday: Not Even a Dollar-a-Year Man

This week has been busy as Hell.  It's taken me a full week to start feeling like myself after a long weekend spent screwing off with my buddy and our families, but I'm finally back--in mind and body both--and now it's Friday.  Yeehaw!

Hope you guys have good weekends planned.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Army Football Preview: Closing Out Spring Practice

There wasn’t as much news as I’d expected out of last weekend’s annual Black and Gold spring football game.  Given West Point’s attempt to drum up publicity via the controversial “rebranding” event, I thought for sure they’d follow up with a flood of new “Army West Point” branded merchandise and a gaggle of make-work press releases covering the happenings on the various sports teams.  So far that hasn’t happened.  You can get a hat or a polo shirt with the new logo on it if you really want one, but for the most part the Army Sports Store is still filled with the same crap it’s always had.  90% of this carries the outgoing logo, but at least that stuff looks like it was designed by someone on purpose.  By contrast, all the gear with the new logo is strictly rudimentary, like it was designed by one of Nike’s summer interns and printed on demand by CafePress.Com.  Why Nike/West Point couldn’t synchronize the new season’s clothing and merchandise rollout with the logo rollout is something of a mystery to me, but then again, so is the decision to launch a logo with four separate design elements.  Clearly no one with an actual working knowledge of design was consulted during the so-called “design phase” of this new branding thing.
Frankly, if these guys can’t help themselves, I’m not sure that I should be helping them, either.  And yet here we are.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Pictures from Gettysburg

Our trip to Gettysburg was terrific.  It was great to see old friends, walk through history, and visit Hershey Park afterwards.  We went with some old friends that I hadn't seen in years, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  So did my girls.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Gettysburg

The Battle of Gettysburg is one of the most important, most misunderstood events in American history.  People always talk about the brilliance of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, but in the same breath, you always hear Gettysburg as the one time that he really screwed up, that maybe if things had gone differently on that third day, the whole course of the war might have changed.

Perhaps in the short term, but I doubt anything changes overall.

Friday, April 17, 2015

5 Things on a Friday: Trying to Buy into the New Brand

By the time you read this, I will be enjoying some much-needed time off with one of my very best friends in the entire world.  As I type this, I'm sitting on a train headed into New York City for work, and I can't wait for the weekend.

Happy Friday folks!  Hope you have a good one.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Sketch in My Notebook: The Order of the Blackened Glaive (Part 10)

Our story so far...

Drakar has been forced from the Sentralian Military Academy because of his half-demon heritage.  However, angels of the goddess Nyx visited him in a dream, commanding him to seek out Fortress Abbadabas and the fabled Order of the Blackened Glaive.  Drakar traveled south to the city of Jakara, where he met a girl--a young wizard named Elaina Emboo.  


Having saved Elain from certain death, she and her ship, the Trident sail with Drakar towards Fortress Abbadabas and his destiny.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

D&D Story Starter: The Demon's True Name

Wizards of the Coast ran an Open Call for designers a few months ago.  My submission was good enough to get past the first cut--from approximately 250 entrants to 38 finalists--but not good enough to get past the second cut--from 38 finalists to 9 newly approved designers.  C'est la vie, non?  For better or worse, this is why I work as an engineer.

Anyway, the open call had a few requirements.  Would be designers had to write two encounters, one combat and one non-combat, involving ruins, an elf noble, orcs, a manticore, a pit trap, a secret door, and either exploration or conversational elements.  I may be leaving something out, but that was the jist of it.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Tri Training Log: 4/4 to 4/12 (Week 4)

The good news is that I finally managed to get back out on the bike.  The bad news is that I did it largely because my right knee was so sore after running on Friday that I was afraid to try to run again this weekend.  I'm getting concerned, but the coming week is a scheduled Rest Week.  That at least gives me the chance to maybe heal a little.  We'll see where we are after that.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

#goARMY

I spent a little time redesigning the blog this morning, and as a result, I gained enough space at the top to build a new archive page.  I decided to call it #goARMY.  You can see the results below.

***
Although it's never been my intent to blog a lot about the U.S. Military Academy, I'm an Army Football Season Ticket Holder and diehard Army fan, and over the last few years, I've accumulated quite a few posts about West Point, Army Football, Army Swimming, and the Army-Navy rivalry in general.  These are archived below.

Friday, April 10, 2015

5 Things on a Friday: Age of AppleWatch!

This may be the shortest 5 Things in history. Maybe that’s good; who knows?

***
1. Daredevil premieres tonight!
That’s right.  Netflix’s new series Daredevil is available right now (!), and it’s gotten some of the best reviews I’ve ever seen.  Various media outlets have said that the first two episodes alone would be among Marvel’s finest films if they had been released in theaters. Let's hope the rest is just as good.

I can’t wait!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Army Football Preview: A Brief History of USMA's Brand

Army is rebranding next week, and judging from my Facebook feed, the decision to change the name back to "Cadets" from "Black Knights" has gotten a lot of people confused.  Folks were wondering if this was a racial thing (it isn't), or if it somehow has something to do with better gender neutrality (probably not), but very few folks seemed conversant with the actual facts of Army's football and general sports' heritage.  With any luck, this post will change that.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Sketch in My Notebook: The Order of the Blackened Glaive (Part 9)

Our story so far...

Drakar has been forced from the Sentralian Military Academy because of his half-demon heritage.  However, angels of the goddess Nyx visited him in a dream, commanding him to seek out Fortress Abbadabas and the fabled Order of the Blackened Glaive.  Drakar traveled south to the city of Jakara, where he met a girl--a young wizard named Elaina Emboo.  Having saved Elain from certain death, Drakar headed back to confront Safras, the man who tried to have Elaina killed.  


Drakar feels compelled to visit justice on the wicked for reasons he does not fully comprehend.  Neither does Elaina Emboo.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

D&D: Conceptions of the Drow (Part 2)

Last week, we talked a bit about the origins of the drow in D&D and about their place in classic mythology.  We noted that the drow were first introduced in 1979 in the classic adventure module Hall of the Fire Giant King, and that they then got their first major treatment in the following adventure series, Descent into the Depths of the Earth.  As promised, this week we start developing a new theory of the drow--in fact, we’ll call them the trowe from here on out in order to differentiate them from what’s come before.  With any luck , this new theory will be based a little more concretely on the classic mythos but will still work in context with the extant mythos of my homebrew campaign world of Wanderhaven.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Triathlon Training Log: 3/30 to 4/3 (Week 3)

Not a bad week overall, but we had a lot of rain, so my triumphant return to the bike didn’t go quite as planned.  I still think I got most of what I needed done, however, and given that we’re barely into April, and I’m not even registered for any races this season, I’ll take it.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Army Football Preview: Spring Training

Spring has finally sprung, and that means that football season is far in the distance.  However, I finally committed and became an Army Football Season Ticket Holder, so like a big, fat idiot, I am following the team’s progress as closely as I possibly can.  Word around the Internet is that second year head coach Jeff Monken has put together the best recruiting class in recent Army Football history, so now the team’s return to glory is all but inevitable.  Well that’s the hope, anyway.  Unfortunately, all those recruits are unlikely to do much in the coming season while the season itself promises to be quite a bit more challenging than was the season past.  
Can Army win four games?  Can they win six and somehow sneak into a bowl game?  These are the questions that keep Army Football Season Ticket Holders such as myself lying awake at night.

Friday, April 3, 2015

5 Things on a Friday: Looking for an R-Rated Punisher

Busy week, but at last it's Friday. Let's get to it, yeah?
***
1. Why It Matters That Jeb Bush Defended Mike Pence (Slate)
In the five days since he signed Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a cadre of athletes, activists, and business leaders have condemned and criticized Gov. Mike Pence for ostensibly giving state sanction to anti-gay discrimination…
Okay.  But...

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Quote of the Day

One of my friends stuck this on Facebook yesterday.