Sunday, March 31, 2013

Triathlon Articles

My editor finally put up the collection of articles I sent him for Triathlon.About.Com last month.  I've already update the Triathlon page of this site, but if you want to see the new stuff, here it is:

A Beginner's Guide To Lap Swimming Etiquette

A Beginner's Guide To Race Nutrition

Yoga for Triathletes:
Personally, I recommend the guide to lap swimming.  Not necessarily because it's a great article but more because I started getting pissed when I was writing it, thinking of all the ways that people drive me crazy in the pool.  So it's probably got a little bit of attitude.


Sunday Comics: Bronx Angel--Politics By Another Method (Page 26)

Bronx Angel: Politics By Another Method, page 26.
Click here to see this page at fulls size.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

News & Notes for Saturday, March 3rd, 2013

I have about decided to sign up for the full century at this year's Tour de Cure NYC.  My company is one of the big corporate sponsors, and a guy I really like is in charge of the event for the Company Team, and more to the point, given that I can't seem to shake a sore left knee, I think focusing on an event that doesn't involve running, at least for the early part of the season, is probably a good idea.

I mention this because I am kind of procrastinating right now.  I need to get up and start getting ready for this week's ride with the YMCA Tri Club.  But it's cold, and I really don't want to get up just yet.

So anyway, as I was saying, I finally got around to reading the last two issues of Dan Slott's Superior Spider-Man yesterday, and I gotta say, Slott now has the series firing on all cylinders.

Superior Spider-Man #5 kicks the new
series into high gear.
Like a lot of fans, I was seriously annoyed with Amazing Spider-Man #700.  That's the one where Peter Parker dies, and Dr. Octopus takes over his body.  It's a typical brain switcheroo-type story, but it was annoying because they used it to end one of the most successful comics series of all time,  really building it up  this particular issue as the end of the Peter Parker era in Spider-Man's life.  

Not that most fans thought that Parker was disappearing forever.  Comic characters are killed and ressurected at such an astounding pace these days that it's hard to take the whole idea seriously.  But.  The Parker vs. Octopus story arc had been going off and on for over one hundred issues, so for Slott to blow it off with Peter Parker losing was freakin' unbelievable!

But he did, and now we have a new series, and judging from the letters column, I felt about  it just about like everybody else did.  Which is to say that  I wasn't a fan of the way Peter Parker's life ended, but at the same time, I've learned to trust Dan Slott as a writer.

And finally, with issue #5 we can begin to see why that was a good idea.

With Otto Octavius driving Parker's body, we begin to see the mad scientist that Peter always could've been but was too nice and too goofy ever to become.  Otto has become something of an all-seeing Big Brother for the people of Manhattan, with a combination of super-science, his borrowed body's native spider powers, and a real mean streak on behalf of those who're bullied by others.  Truly, it's a life that Peter Parker could've lived if his origin story were written as a super-villain's origin.

It seems clear that Peter Parker is coming back, and sooner rather than later.  I'm looking forward to it as much as anybody, but for the time being, I'm enjoying the ride, too.

Finally, I also read R.A. Salvatore's new book this week, The Last Threshold, and it was a hot mess.  It should've been called "The Dark Elf and the Random Journey".  Or maybe, "In Which Drizzt Fails to Break Up With His CrazyAss Girlfriend, Finally Driving Her To Kill Him."

Cover art for The Last Threshold.
It's really too bad that the book isn't as exciting as this image.
I won't say that I didn't enjoy the book per se, but it didn't have a central plot, and although Drizzt is definitely the protagonist, he isn't in many of the interesting scenes, nor does he resolve any of the plotlines.

Honestly, this book reminded me of the first of the Laurel K. Hamilton Anita Blake novels that was all sex.  Those drove her fans away, and I think this one will drive Drizzt's fans away too.  I mean, I got this thing from the library, and I still feel cheated.  The book was a waste of time.  More like this are just gonna open up the doors to new authors in the Forgotten Realms, though at this point, I think I'd welcome that.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Friday Hair Metal: Civil War

YouTube recommended this week's Friday Hair Metal piece because those brilliant boys at Google have apparently figured out that I am a big fan of G'n'R.

I am, by the way.  I'm the only person I know who really, really likes Chinese Democracy.

But that's not our purpose today.  Today we ask: "What's so civil about war, anyway?"

Also: I don't think there's gonna be any Friday Mad Science this week.  The week itself has gotten busy in  the last 24 hours, and in any event, I don't want to write about either Gay Marriage or Cypress.  And there really ain't much more goin'on.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

D&D Next Adventure Concept: Gang War in the City of Brass

Anybody have any clue how one might go about successfully pitching an adventure module at WotC? That'd be a great freelance project, and I could use a break from writing about triathlon.

My go-to move as a DM is to drop the party into a war between two factions, both of which are initially trying to kill them. They can then fight or negotiate, either working for one side or playing both sides against the middle.

The concept I'd like to pitch is no different. Shar has been making inroads into drow society, converting large swaths of males away from the Lloth and thereby threatening the matriarchal hierarchy of some of the smaller drow cities. The party gets caught up in this, and the subsequent campaign leads first to the Shadowfell and then on to the City of Brass, culminating in a nasty little gang war where the Party attempts to establish itself as it's own entity amidst the chaos of the city.

This is my thought for my current campaign, anyway. I thought it might be fun to write it up as a freelance assignment, though.

Your thoughts?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

GI Joe: Retaliation

The Now Playing Podcast reviewed the first GI Joe movie this week, and in light of their discussion--and my own enjoyment of that first film--I suddenly find myself excited for this weekend's release of GI Joe: Retaliation.

Of course, my favorite part of the first movie was Rachel Nichols as Scarlet (and specifically the way that the first movie kept using her cleavage as almost its own character for what were obviously gratuitous reasons), and she's not even supposed to be in the new film, but whatever.  I watched the Conan movie almost exclusively because of Nichols, and that's two hours of my life that I'll never get back, so who knows what that proves?  I still like Rachel Nichols, but probably not enough to go see a whole movie again because of her.

Anyway, according to the early buzz, the new movie hews closely to the old G.I. Joe comics from Marvel back in the 1980s.  Given the success of The Avengers, that's probably a solid marketing choice, but I'm not gonna sit here and pretend that I was some huge fan of the 80s comic version of the Joes.  I just wanna see a decent movie, and if this one has both The Rock and Bruce Willis, well, here's hoping.

Movie Posters

I found these on Major Spoilers.

And Hell, I didn't even know they were making a movie version of Ender's Game.  How cool is that?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Castle on a Cloud (Concert Edition)

There are times when I worry about my kids.  My wife and I are both pretty accomplished people, and it's kind of a cliche that your kids are destined to disappoint.  In our case, it's not so much that I buy into the cliche as that I don't want my kids to be pressured by whatever Sally and I have done with our lives.

Because we've done a lot.

Look, I'm not some stage parent.  I don't feel like forcing my kids to do upteen hours of morning practice, or really anything else, so that I can feel better about the stuff that I didn't quite accomplish with my own life.  Sure, Sally and I have frustrations in our lives--who doesn't--but I think we're confident enough in ourselves and in the directions that we've taken with our lives to realize that it is what it is.  You run the best race you can, and when it's over, that's it. At the end of the day, I can live with that. I'm not ever going to be the Secretary of State, but a bunch of people have run their first triathlons because of my inspiration and coaching, and that ain't bad.  And I helped save New York City electric ratepayers a billion dollars a couple of years ago.  That was kind of a big deal.  I mean, there's more, but you get the idea.

Bottom line, I want my kids to be happy.  I don't want them to be pressured to keep up; I don't want them to feel like they're not whatever it is that Sally and I want them to be.  If they let themselves down, then that's one thing, and I understand that as well as anybody.  But I don't want them to think that they're letting us down.  We're good.  We've got our own lives and our own crap.

What they do is up to them.

Which is maybe why it's so satisfying to see Hannah succeeding in something that she cares about all on her own.  I may worry about her or wonder what her future is gonna be, but then she hits the stage--completely alone; the youngest, smallest girl in the entire show--and just blows the roof off the place.

Every.  Damn.  Time.

And then I take a deep breath.  

Truth is, the kids are alright.  I can live with that.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Tri Training Diary: 3/18 to 3/24 (Week 2)

This was one of those weeks when Real Life got in the way of triathlon.  I’d hoped to put in 140+ pts this week, but between a now-nagging knee injury, the need to do our taxes, and a bunch of family stuff, it just didn’t happen.  In fact, by mid-afternoon Saturday, I got the distinct impression that Sally had sort of had enough of this triathlon crap.  She looked ready to trade in the whole thing for a little piece of mind and a couple of boxes of Girl Scout cookies.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Avengers: Battle for Earth

Emma and I totally kicked ass on The Avengers: Battle for Earth today.

I have no idea where this picture came from, but
that girl playing Ms. Marvel is hot!
(But don't tell Sally I said so because she gets a
little crazy about that kind of thing.)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Friday Mad Science: All Finance, All the Time

This thing with Cypress only seems complicated.  In reality, I think it’s pretty straightforward.  
The Flag of Cyprus
Like Iceland, Cypress is an island-nation in the Eurozone that doubled down on investment in the banking sector until the banking sector made up most of its domestic economy.  This makes some sense in the current, post-modern world because banking is one of those sectors that relies very little on anything other than faith and confidence and a bit of well-trained staff, and little European island nations seem to be able to come by these things in great abundance.  Moreover, while larger nations may have things like natural resources, or a large, well-educated work force, or maybe a large, poorly-educated but extremely cheap workforce, island nations must pretty much either trade or starve.  In the modern world, “trade” has really meant “international finance”.  So, bottom line, Cypress was--and is--part of the Eurozone, and like a lot of smaller, more successful Eurozone economies, they went all in on an industry where they could compete and thrive.

Friday Hair Metal: Ask Not For Whom the Bell Tolls...

It tolls for you!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Google Feeds is Gone...

Now how the fuck am I supposed to figure out how many RSS subscribers I have?

I was up to thirty!  That may not sound like a lot, I know, but if you wanna see how many it really is, start a fucking blog of your own and see how long it takes you to get thirty subscribers.  It's not as easy as it looks!

The flipside of that, of course, is that the Google Feeds subscribers weren't driving any ad revenue, and that sucks because those were without doubt my most loyal readers.  And let's not fool ourselves.  Everyone loves ad-revenue.  Granted, it takes something like a miracle to get to the $10 that Google demands before they'll send you a check, but still.  I'm about a buck-thirty away, so...  Maybe I should be happy about this feeds thing?

But, y'know.  Meh.  I  mean, $10 is a good goal, and I've been looking forward to that check for like six months now, but even so, it's not like it's real money.  I think I'd rather have readers.

Eh...  Who am I kidding?  No one's reading this crap!  You'd have to be a mad person to come here.  Heh.

Odds and Ends: 3/21/2013

Well, it's good that my wife and most of my co-workers are finally feeling better. They'd all been down with something that they almost all said was allergies but that I personally feel pretty sure must have been a virus.  Because now I've got it.  And while I don't feel too, too bad, my head feels like a block of wood, and my nose is getting sore from too much blowing.

I know that's exciting stuff, but there you have it.

As if the little cold weren't enough, I went and hurt my left knee on Saturday's long bike ride.  I had a plica in my knee a few years ago, and it feels very much like a recurrence--which is good from the standpoint that I already have the appropriate brace and know how to treat it, but it's bad because knee injuries off the bike are pretty rare.

It was a little sore after Saturday's ride, but I didn't think much of it and ran on it Tuesday. It was a little sore during the run, but I stopped and stretched and felt okay. But the. It hurt like Hell Wednesday morning, even while I was riding into the office on my foldie, and I started getting scared. So I babied it yesterday, and it seems better today--but still a little stiff. At this point, my plan is to wear my brace for Saturday's run and hope for the best. I mean, this is exactly the wrong time in the season for an injury that keeps me from training, but what can you do?

Finally, I changed my LinkIn profile pic yesterday. I basically decided that the picture of me crossing the finish line at the Westport Tri two years ago just wasn't appropriate, manly though it obviously was. So I took a picture of myself in he office yesterday. It's not great photography or anything, but you can see it below.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Shadow-Infused Draconic Brass Golem

I've been running a D&D game on Myth-Weavers for the last few years.  Since 2006, I think.  Honestly, I'm not sure.  But I know it's been awhile.  It's not a new thing.  

Anyway, we recently converted the game over from D&D's 4th Edition to D&D Next, the experimental playtest rules that Wizards of the Coast is currently beta-testing, and in the course of adapting to the playtest rules, we re-imagined our Party's characters from the 14th Level Paragon Bad-Asses that they were into 7th Level Not-Quite-As-Bad-Ass-But-Still-Quite-Potent PCs now.  It's been an adjustment both for me and for them, but I think we're all starting to get into the groove.  

That said, I've been building their first real, full-sized D&D Next dungeon, and I wanted to cap it off with a super-awesome monster.  The problem is that most of the monsters in the playtest's Monster Manual are kind of generic, and I'm not yet exactly sure how the homebrewing rules work.  So I went to the D&D Next Forum on Google+ looking for some inspiration, and while I got a couple of ideas that I really liked, the one I went with was the Shadow-Infused Draconic Brass Golem, which guards the gateway between the bottom of the Fire Temple in the Shadowfell and the Fire Cult's main temple in the long-promised City of Brass.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Japanese Birthday Dinner

Triathlon Training Log: 3/10 to 3/17 (Week 1)

Interesting week.  We had a new guy show up at practice this week, Jay.

Jay's young, ran in college (I'm assuming Cross Country but didn't ask), not yet married, no kids.  He's training for the Ironman Lake Placid, and I'm not gonna lie, hanging around him has been a little intimidating.  He is, at once, both my personal nightmare and the best kind of student to have.  Nightmare because here's this kid, more than ten years younger than I am, and his best thing is my worst--by far.  But he's the best kind of student because, let's face it, not every adult athlete is easily coachable.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

LinkedIn Profile

My LinkedIn Profile
One of the things I noticed this past week on Google+ was that most of the +'ers are using their LinkedIn profiles as their home pages for the site.  That struck me as weird, but then I was talking to one of the other members of the Blog Tips community about it, and about blogs in general, and she said that she makes her living primarily on LinkedIn.

What the Heck?  How on Earth does one make a living on LinkedIn?

Anyway, all of this inspired me to (finally) put together my own LinkedIn profile, which you now absolutely have to go look at because I've spent far too many hours tweaking it for it to just get ignored.

Question: Does anyone actually use LinkedIn?  What's it for, anyway?

Sunday Comics: Bronx Angel--Politics By Another Method (Page 23)

Bronx Angel: Politics By Another Method.  Ch. 2, Page 1.
Click here to see this page at full size.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Saturday Bike Ride & Snow!

Nice bike ride today.  A touch over thirty-five miles with the first thirteen miles being kind'a climby.  But that was the point.

My only complaint is that it was cold, and in fact, even a little colder than the weather dudes had forecast.  We started at maybe thirty degrees, and by the end of the ride, it was maybe thirty-five.

Still, I can't complain.  I enjoyed myself thoroughly, and I feel like we got done what we needed to get done out there.

But now it's snowing!  What the heck is up with that?!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Friday Mad Science

It’s been an interesting week for Asian propaganda.  

You Know What This Country Needs?

A third political party. I don't want to be a Democrat, and I don't want to be a Libertarian. Where the Hell is the party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and George Bush, Sr?

I'm fine with being a RINO (Republican in Name Only), but the fact that NO ONE seems to want to defend the interests of those who want limited but still efficient, effective government--at all--is utterly disturbing. All this ideology/theology above all else is a serious problem.

As a RINO, you want to support an organization like CPAC. But when they've got their heads up their asses, what can you do but back the President?

Friday Hair Metal: Rest Stop

You ever been in one of those relationships where, what you really want--honestly--is to just get out of the car at the next red light and run screaming into traffic?

Sometimes I think that's a universal feeling; sometimes I think it's just me.

Anyway, this is one of my favorite songs.  Unfortunately, Mr. Thomas talks about hitchiking for a good two-and-a-half minutes at the start of the video, but it's still by far the best version of this song I could find.

One of the nice things about being an adult, about being married to an adult, is that you don't get stuck in those situations anymore.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Look at Two Roads Brewery

Two Roads is a new brewery in Stratford, CT, and I've become a big fan.  They're literally right down the street, so for me, this is about as local as beer gets.

As I've written before, my favorite Two Roads beer is their Honeyspot Road White IPA, named after the road that my kids' school is on.  I've been struggling to sum up why I like it so much, so I think I'm gonna let somebody else take a turn.

So there you have it.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Legend of the Five Brothers

I wrote this short story to be the Prologue of a longer piece based loosely around the plot line of D&D Campaign I've been running for the last few years.  The story was gonna be about a group of mercenaries sent to do a rough job in a rough port city called Caer Lucan.  In a larger sense, we'd follow the break-up of the once proud Free Cities as they were slowly conquered by the Shallantyr Empire, a kind of fantasy stand-in for Rome.

But I'm starting to think that I don't really have time to write much new fiction.  So for the time being, this piece has to sort of stand on its own.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Triathlon Training Log: 3/4 to 3/10 (Rest Week)

This week was a Rest Week, though it really started on Sunday last week.  So I did manage to get in one real swim workout.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Best Part of a Workout when you can finally sit down and stuff your face afterwards.

Today's calorie-source of choice is Two Roads Honeyspot White IPA, a light but still strongly hop-forward beer that's brewed right here in Stratford, CT.

According to the local liquor store guy, Honeyspot is Two Roads' best seller. I believe it. It's a nice beer.

Bounded Accuracy and Magic Items in D&D Next

I put the following out to my gaming group for consideration this week, and since it seems like a lot of folks come to this blog to read about D&D Next, I figured I'd drop it here as well.  If you have thoughts on the game--or thoughts on my thoughts--I'd love to hear them.

I don't know how many of you guys are familiar with the concept of Bounded Accuracy, but it's one of the fundamental properties of D&D Next. Essentially, instead of WotC using the kind of ever-increasing math-porn systems that they've used in the past in terms of AC and to-hit statistics, they are now keeping ACs, attack bonuses, and skill DCs bounded within a relatively small range. Hit Points are now the source of balance in the system.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Friday Mad Science: How I Got Into College (Part 1)

This week’s Friday Mad Science is gonna be a little different.  First, because there’s nothing in the news this week that I feel like talking about.  But also because folks have been asking me recently about getting their kids into college and about scholarships. It’s come up in conversation a bunch, and so since it seems like there’s not much else going on, I thought maybe I’d take some time and tell my story and give my thoughts on the rest of it... for whatever they’re worth.  I don’t know that I’m some kind of expert on either getting into college or getting your kid a scholarship, but I had kind of unique experience, and I’m happy to share what I learned.

Friday Hair Metal: The Final Countdown

This song is on Just Dance 4, and against all odds, my kids love it.  Hannah especially would be super-excited if she knew I was playing it here.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

I Can't Think of Anything to Write About Today.

This happens occasionally. This particular time, I blame it on Brandon Sanderson, and to a lesser extent Robert Jordan. I'm reading the last book in the Wheel of Time, and after twenty years, it's FINALLY the Last Battle, that's literally the title of the current chapter, and at this point, I'll really want to finish the book because I feel like I have A LOT invested.

So. What, if anything, do you guys feel like talking about?

I know you're out there. I have stats to prove it. So what's up? How's it going out in Internet land?

And if that doesn't work for you, here's a picture of a penguin.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

New Iron Man 3 Trailer

You've probably seen this by now, but although I know it's out, I haven't had a chance yet.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Damn Cancer

I wrote this story for my grandmother.  I don't know that it succeeds, but I did the best I could with it.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Good day on the bike

Got in my first real ride of the season this morning with my Club.  The Y's a little more than nine miles from the house, and from there we rode for about an hour through rolling hills north of Milford.  The weather was a little colder and a little windier than I might've hoped, but it was still a pretty fantastic day.  We worked the hills, and more to the point, I liked being out with my guys.  I don't ask for much more than that in my life.

Some people like to go to bars.  I like to get out on my bike.

Anyway, I'm home now, with thirty-five miles under my belt today and a little more than eighty for the week.  That ain't bad.

But now I'm sleepy.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Friday Mad Science: Ham-Handed Basketball Diplomacy

I wanna be in favor of this crazy “basketball diplomacy” thing that Dennis Rodman is doing in North Korea, but try as I might, I just can’t.  
I mean, you can see the point, right?  North Korea is such an isolated, backward country that whatever we can do to open the place up is probably a good idea.  I have this theory that the best thing America can do to put an end to all the asshole dictatorships of the world is to just send in as manyCokes and DVD box-sets of the Jersey Shore as we can get onto a container ship.  Forget embargoes.  Send in Snooki and the Situation, and when all those poor oppressed bastards realize that even dumb fuckers like those two can become instant millionaires for no reason, revolt is virtually guaranteed.

Tri Club is Looking For New Recruits!

I think of the Woodruff Family YMCA Tri Club as a kind of gateway drug. We give you your first taste for free, and after that, you have to pay.

Case in point: last year, I think we had seven members in the Club. This year, two of them hired professional trainers to try to go further in the sport.

I think that's great, but it leaves me looking to again expand the club and find more folks to introduce to the sport. To that end, I wrote the following for the folks at the Y to circulate to members and maybe to some of the local schools:

Are you looking for an activity for your High School or College age student?

Triathlon is a terrific offseason sport for teenaged and young adult athletes. And the Woodruff Family YMCA Triathlon Club is a great place to learn the basics of the sport. We have members of all ability levels who are ready and eager to help new triathletes learn the ropes. Plus, the Woodruff Family Y is home to the Y-Tri, coastal Connecticut’s premier early season race and a terrific first race for aspiring triathletes.


The Y’s Tri Club meets twice a week: Wednesdays at 6:45 for swim practice and Saturday’s at 9:00 am for either riding or running.

You don’t have to be a great athlete to give Tri a try. But whether you are or you aren’t, we’re prepared to help you be the best athlete you can be.

To learn more, you can visit our Facebook Group. Just search for “Connecticut Triathletes.” We’d love to hear from you.

Beyond that, I'm not sure how to get the word out, but I sure would like to. I mean, if folks know about the Club but aren't interested, that's one thing. But if we're just not on the radar, that to me is an actual problem.

So. What are your thoughts. How do we tell people that Triarhlon club is here, and that we'd love to help them learn more about our sport?

Friday Hair Metal: Get Out!

My daughter Hannah loves Taylor Swift.  So much so that, Ms. Swift is pretty much the only thing she'll listen to.

But the other day, I finally had had enough.  I knew that I had to distract her.  I decided to do it with Jojo.

It worked!

But now it has me wondering... why isn't Jojo famous anymore?

I'm sure Nelly could tell us.  That is, if anyone can find him.