Saturday, November 30, 2013

Now I'm cold...

The Black Dwarves of Ruskva and the Crown of Pluto

Started working on a bit more world-building for our family's D&D Next game and for the next Sneakatara Boatman story.  The story concept has been brewing in the back of my mind for some time now, but it was only last night that I finally started to realize what was missing.  I think this is it.

The Black Dwarves of Ruskva
The black dwarves of Ruskva live in the great caverns beneath Iron Mountain, the highest part of the Kaukasian mountain range, which runs along the eastern border of the Empire of Holy Sentralia.  A race of underground smiths, the dwarves hold two gods sacred--Vulcan, the Sentralian god of the forge, and Pluto, the god of the underworld, patron of their subterranean lair.  Since the time of Badden Sentra, the legendary founder of the Legion of the Red Lord and unifier of the Empire that today bears his name, the black dwarves have also sworn fealty to the Emperor’s personal deity Mars, the Red Lord, and to the Emperor himself.  Indeed, it was Badden Sentra himself who established the dwarves’ Praetorian Precedent, by which the dwarves provide a company from amongst their number to serve as the Emperor’s personal bodyguard.  The members of this bodyguard are consecrated to Mars as an elite unit amongst the larger body that is today the Legion.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Pics: 2013

Ten pounds of turkey, raw and in the pan.

Five Things on Thanksgiving

Five things I’m thankful for on Thanksgiving, 2013:
1.  My Wife.  
Sally is a beautiful woman, which is something that I’ve always found amazing.  I don’t think of myself as a particularly good-looking guy, but I am somehow married to this brick house of a woman, and it amazes me.  Every single day.  And, oh by the way, Sally also has a Master’s degree from Columbia University, and she teaches fitness classes at the local L.A. Fitness.  
I mean, seriously… what are the odds?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

World-Building: Los Legartos of the Rocas del Sol

The good news is that I finished the first draft of "Sneakatara Boatman and the Priest of Loki" a couple of weeks ago.  In the time since, I've re-written another story, "The Tower of Al-Kafiri" and started thinking a bit about the plot for the last story, which I'm tentatively calling "Sneax and Elaina Emboo in the Fire Islands."  That'll be the final story in the book, the one that ties all of the others together.

So.  I have a few basic ideas about the plot, but I've decided that actually playing through some of the plot-points with my kids is an integral part of the writing process both because my kids feel like that gives them input into the way the story's gonna go and because they occasionally give me ideas for characterization that I couldn't have come up with on my own.  So we're gonna try to play a bit this weekend, but before that, I have to actually set the campaign up.  I don't love world-building--it's probably my least favorite aspect of fantasy writing--but for better or worse, I find it helpful to put together at least some of the world structures that I'm gonna use in any given story ahead of time.  Then when I need them, they're already there.

I don't know why, exactly, I decided to stick a lizardman in this particular story, save that I thought that cold-blooded lizard-dudes made a natural warrior caste to the elves native to the Fire Islands.

A Little Pro-Wrestling to Kick Off Your Thanksgiving Weekend

I think I've mentioned before that my kids have really gotten into pro-wrestling of late.  In particular, my daughter Emma really likes Big "E" Langston, who won the Intercontinental Title at the Survivor Series PPV last weekend.

Anyway, I may well put something else up today, but in the meantime, let's celebrate Langston's elevation by watching his re-watching his match from Monday Night Raw.

Monday, November 25, 2013

On the coldest day of the year... man sits beside his Trusty Steed.

Yes, Little Red Foldie, today is the day that we battle the elements. Today is the day that only the strong survive. 

It's 20-degrees  this morning. The conductor on the train just started bitching at me for riding in.  She said (true story): "Didn't your mother teach you any better than that?"

That made me laugh. Because, bottom line, my mother most certainly did not. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Sierra Nevada's DevESTATEtion Black IPA

Fall is great for a lot of reasons, but as the season rolls on, things start to cool down in a serious way, and it can become kind of a drag.  Yeah, Thanksgiving is cool, but Christmas is equal parts family day and absolute stress-fest, and living in Coastal Connecticut, both holidays are apt to come with freezing weather--and even the occasional winter storm.  Add in the fact that the sun is now setting at around 4:30 pm, and that college football is nearly over, and bottom line, late fall has a lot less to offer than does the early part of the season.

One of the upsides of the season, though, is the fact that we tend to get some of the year's best beers.  My absolute favorite of these is Sierra Nevada's Estate small-batch, fresh hop seasonal.  I've been wondering for a few weeks now when we'd start seeing it in stores, so you can perhaps imagine my surprise when I saw not "Estate" but "DevESTATEtion," (6.7% ABV) an apparently fresh hop Black IPA seasonal in a bottle that looked like Estate's bottle, but capped with black wax instead of Estate's traditional green.

I step in close and see the following:

Friday, November 22, 2013

Five Things on a Friday: Very Early Christmas Edition

1.  I can’t believe how early the Christmas season is starting this year.  
I mean, it’s no secret that retailers make the lion’s share of their profits during the fourth quarter, and that they therefore want to push the start of their prime selling season back as far as they can, but this is still the first year that I can remember seeing “Black Friday” sales that actually start on Thanksgiving.  Or, in the case of Macy’s, even earlier.  Macy’s “biggest sale of the year” this year is actually onWednesday morning, from 9 am to 1 pm.  
I ask you, who the Hell can get to Macy’s at 9am on a Wednesday?  Don’t people have jobs?

Macy's would like your business this year.
At our house, we’ve dealt with this in two ways:

Friday Hair Metal: Present Tense

I have no idea what this song is actually about, but for me, well, today promises to be one of those days.  A day when I'm struggling to live in the moment and just be...

There were newer versions of the song on YouTube, but this one looked like the best, most professional recording, so there you have it.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fantastic Run Today

The good news is that the inserts in my shoes worked--really well. I've been struggling with ankle problems on and off for about six months now, and while a friend of mine recommended inserts a while ago, I didn't actually get around to trying them until today. But today was GREAT, I ran a little over four miles--without pain--and I felt fucking terrific afterwards. 

Talk about a Runner's High!  I felt higher than a kite. Partly it was because I ran without pain, but mostly it was because I ran, and it was beautiful outside, and sometimes it just clicks out there. I didn't run particularly hard or fast, but I ran well, and I was pretty damned excited about it. I still am. 

But then I started coming down off that Runner's High maybe an hour later, and it's been like falling off a cliff. I can't ever remember feeling like this--almost hung over--but there it is.  I almost feel sick, and I know it's just the endorphins, or lack thereof.  Strange, right?

Anyway, I totally need to either go run again or else sleep it off somewhere until I can get some real food in me and maybe a beer. What do you say?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Picture Perfect Barbie Family

Hannah took this picture on Sunday of her ideal "picture perfect Barbie family."  Afterwards, Sally and I joked with her that it looked like Ken had two wives, that maybe something freaky was going on, but Hannah said that, no, they just had a teenaged daughter. In which case, mom got married young, that's all I'm gonna say.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Sally's First Post

Last month I asked Dan if I could start a blog on his blog site, and his answer was "Yes, but what are going to write about?"  I looked at him like a monkey lost in a jungle and said, "I don't know.  I guess I will write about what I know best...  Health, fitness, good eats, wine parings, shopping, and pretty much everything you don't write about."

For the past month I have been thinking about what my first post was going to be, and basically, I would love to write about many things. I have even written up articles in my head a few times. And since this is site of lists, I decided to write a list about what I am going to write about.

Here are the first five topics that I'd like to write about:

Monday, November 18, 2013

I Finally Figured Out...

...what was wrong with a scene today. It's from an older story, literally been bothering me for years. Unfortunately, now I have to re-write the whole thing from scratch, but what can you do?

Anyway, at least now I have something to work on tomorrow morning. 


This whole writing thing makes me feel like a madman. And obsessing on the details like this can't possibly be good for a guy's personality. 

Did I mention that Sally's first post is going up tomorrow?  It totally is. Be up at 5:00am. 

I've already read it. It's cool. Look for it. 

Five Thoughts on Offseason Training

The offseason is in full swing, and it's been a good, long while since we've done anything about triathlon on the blog.  But I've personally been back training for a couple of weeks now, and that has me thinking about my goals, both for the offseason and for next year.

With that in mind, here are five thoughts on offseason training.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Why is Untapp'd Addictive?

Because they give out merit badges!

I've gotten three just this weekend.

The Land of the Free.
For trying five beers from the same domestic brewery,
in my case Sierra Nevada.

Playing the Field.
For drinking 10 different beers in a row.
Taste Crazy.
For trying five different beers in a 24-hour period.  Ha!

LinkedIn Profile Update

I don't know that I necessarily think LinkedIn is a useful tool, but I've still spent some time updating my profile this morning.  When I set it up, I was thinking of it as a way to try to get more freelance writing work, but I've not spent any time actually looking for freelance work, and if I'm being honest, I'd really rather spend the time working on "War Stories from Wanderhaven."  For better or worse, I'd very much like to get that out next year.

But.  You never know who's looking at this online stuff.  Hence the update, which will hopefully make the thing a little more professional-looking.  At the very least, they're giving me a chance to get my resume out there; I might as well try to make it a resume worth reading.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Found on G+

Ten Books that Everyone Should Read

One of my classmates asked for book recommendations yesterday on Facebook.  That seemed like a decent place to start with a blog post, so here we go.

My list of ten books that everyone should read.  And by everyone, I mean everyone who's interested in the same things that I'm interested in.

1.  Altered Carbon.  Whenever someone asks for a book recommendation, I always respond with "I always recommend Altered Carbon."  My opinion?  Altered Carbon is the most important sci fi novel to come out in the last twenty years.  The book is a cyber-punk murder mystery set in Los Angelos in a far flung but imminently recognizable future, and like all good sci fi, it's at least as much a commentary on the world today as it is somebody's musings on the future.  Addded to that is the fact that Richard K. Morgan uses language in a way that makes me groan with envy, and well... there you have it.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Friday Hair Metal: Patron Lady Beautiful

Crazy busy today.  Real engineering, real analysis, even a touch of actual design.  On top of that, I spent the ride in this morning re-writing a piece for "War Stories from Wanderhaven."  So this might be it for the day.  We'll see.

It's still one of my favorite songs--Drivin' & Cryin's Patron Lady Beautiful.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

D&D Next Homebrew: More Oaths for Paladins

In the course of writing my most recent short story for my kids, “Sneakatara Boatman and the Priest of Loki,” I wound up with a little conundrum.  The story was based in part on a little D&D Next campaign that the kids and I played through while we were on vacation up in Maine, and in that game, I played my character, Nathaniel, as a paladin of Loki.  I did it that way because my kids were huge fans of the Avengers movie, and as a result, I knew that they’d get a charge out of my playing a character devoted to a villain with which they were already familiar.  And also, it seemed like an interesting character choice—a good way to give the character a little bit of an edge.

However, in the current D&D Next Playtest Ruleset, there aren’t rules for playing anything that even remotely resembles a paladin of Loki.  I mean, you can play a paladin and take a few pains to try to add a bit of trickster-like sneakiness to the build, but mostly, trying to a play a paladin as an antihero is going to be a matter of roleplay.  That’s fine as far as it goes, but it’s not like we don’t have the tools to try to gin something up that’ll be a little more effective.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I Totally Know What's Wrong with Agents of SHIELD

Seriously.  I do.

I imagine that the conversation went something like this:

Marvel: We want you to develop a TV show. Because the movie was such a hit. We want to strike while the iron is hot. 

Whedon: Can't be done.  I'm flattered that you asked, but weekly TV doesn't have a big enough budget. And I'm a totally hot director now. No way am I doing TV again. 

Baby, It's Cold Outside

I was packing my stuff last night for this afternoon's lunchtime run, and I realized that it's gotten cold. I put in pretty much everything: tights, beenie cap, gloves, Under-Armor base layer, wind-briefs...  The forecast says mid- to upper-30s around lunch today, so maybe I won't need all that stuff, but I practically froze last night walking back from the train, so over-packing seemed like a reasonable idea.  Plus, it was only 26-degrees when I woke up this morning.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Last Thoughts on Veteran's Day

I put up a letter Friday afternoon, and folks really responded to it.  I'm glad.  I'm pleased that folks felt like they got something from it, even if it's just an acknowledgement that I haven't forgotten about them.  I haven't--of course, I haven't--but it's a big world, and we all wind up alone in the dark from time to time, and it's easy to feel alone.
With that in mind, one of my classmates put up a link on Facebook to an article that another of my classmates (Mike Stajura) wrote for Time Ideas, which seems to have filled in the gap for Newsweek's old "My Turn" segment now that Newsweek no longer runs in print.  The article is about how difficult it is to leave the military and transition to civilian society, and it is right on.  To quote briefly, when you leave the military, a lot of what you come to take for granted--socially and professionally--just sort of goes away:
"Gone, suddenly, is the cohesive structure that existed to take care of you. Gone is that strong sense of social security. Gone is the sense that, wherever you go, you know where you fit. Gone are the familiar cultural norms. Gone are your friends from your ready-made peer group, who are just as invested in your success as you are in theirs."
That’s true, even for guys like me.

Monday, November 11, 2013

I Miss My Dad

Happy Veteran's Day, Dad.

Me and my dad at Airborne School, 1993.

Memorial Day, 2012.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Route of All Evil

We got a babysitter last night, and Sally and I went to Two Roads Brewery to sit down and have a few beers.  Wow, right?  It was pretty awesome.  Sally got a glass of their No Limits Hefeweizen, which we both like, and it came in a .6L glass that looked almost as tall as a half-yard.  I ordered a round of their Octoberfest, which tastes a lot like a spicier version of a brown ale and was good.  I also ordered a sampler of their winter seasonal, the Route of All Evil Black Ale.

Oh man, that one was terrific.  I liked it so much I ordered a glass.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Updated "About Us" Page

I've been meaining to update the About Us page all week, ever since Sally asked me to put her on as a Contributor to the blog.  That's finally done, but I'll spare you the trouble of clicking over to see what I wrote.  It's reprinted below, if you're interested.

And yes, I did use the format from the old-school Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe to format these bios.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Friday Mad Science: Over-Saturation and Polonium Poisoning

Word hit the street yesterday that Marvel is putting together a bunch of new TV series for Netflix, including the long-awaited small-screen adaptation of Daredevil (DD).  I'm assuming that this means they're gonna adapt my favorite comic series of all time, the Bendis/Maleev Daredevil because in addition to adapting DD, Marvel is also putting series featuring Jessica JonesLuke Cage, and Iron Fist, all of whom are Bendis favorites from series that ran concurrently with (or shortly after) his DD run and occasionally appeared in each other's books.  Jessica Jones’ book Alias was supposed to be particularly good, so although I’ve never read it, that’s an adaptation that I’m looking forward to seeing.  Anyway, each of these series is gonna run thirteen episodes (i.e. the House of Cards formula), culminating in a mini-series that Marvel has called The Defenders.

Veteran's Day Letter

We had a bunch of snow days last year, and as a result, we missed some school days.  To compensate this year, Stratford, CT, cut down on the number of the holidays the kids have--which is fine, but one of the holidays that they cut was Veteran's Day.  Hence the need for the following letter.

To Whom It May Concern:
My children, Hannah and Emma, will not be in school on Monday, November 11th, because it is Veteran’s Day.  
It is little remembered these days, but Veteran’s Day actually began as Armistice Day, the holiday to celebrate the end of the Great War, later known as World War I.  World War I was arguably the most horrific and pointless war in human history, and its failed peace led--at least indirectly--to the Second World War and to many of the international boundary-related problems that humanity still faces today.  World War I also set the conditions for the Russian Revolution, which in turn led--again indirectly--to the Cold War.  These are the kinds of historical realities that I think my kids need to spend a day thinking about, and indeed, I suspect that this is at least a part of why the federal government declared the day a national holiday.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

This Week’s Picks (NFL Week 10)

We were doing this segment regularly, but then I had to travel one week for work, and I forgot all about it while I was gone.  I didn’t even make picks in our office pool that week, so I had to come back the next week and pick SIX games instead of just three.  That was last week.  I went 2-4 and dropped to 11-16 on the season, out of a tie for first and into third place in our office pool.
What I’ve learned from this exercise is that picking against the spread is harder than it looks.  Bookies, as it happens, know what they’re doing.  No surprise there; I’m just acknowledging the obvious.
So.  Is there any good reason to read through these picks?  Maybe.  But I don’t that I’d bet money on them.  Take that for what it’s worth.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Wednesday Writing Update

If you're wondering where I've been all week, I'll tell you. I finally buckled down and finished the draft of "Sneakatara Boatman and the Priest of Loki".  I'm happy to have the draft done but feeling rather more neurotic than usual about whether or not it works.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

I Fell This Morning

It happened right as I got on the bike. Stood up to pullout into traffic, put power to my pedals, dropped my chain, and bang.  Down I went.  Ugh!   The cab driver behind me stopped and stared. I felt like an idiot. Frankly, I was lucky the guy didn't run me down.

I was also lucky that it got cold this week. I was wearing jeans. As it is, I got a little scraped up, and my knee's a bit stiff, but it's no big deal. If I'd been in shorts, though, it would've been a whole different story. Yikes!

Lesson: Everybody falls.

Man, I hate that one. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Shoot!  I'm almost done!

I wish I didn't have to work today, so I could finish writing this stupid story.  Been working on the damn thing for almost three months now.


Weekend Update (11/4/2013)

Before we get started today, you might've noticed that the name of the blog has changed.  Sally asked me last week what I thought of the idea of her posting some recipes and other healthy living-type stuff here, and I told her that I thought it would be great.  I don't know how often she's gonna get to post, but I'm happy to share my space with her and look forward to seeing what she has to offer.

With that in mind, I'll be changing some stuff around in the next few weeks to make it less my blog and more our blog, but for the time being, she's at least got Editorial priviledges and can post if she feels the need.

Looking back, it was a pretty good weekend.  Busy for the most part, but that's how life is.  We had a lot of fun, too, and really, that's all I can ask.

We started Friday watching WWE Smackdown, and as much as I don't want to make this a blog about pro-wrestling, I've got to admit that Smackdown entertained.  The show started with John Cena cutting another of his promos, this time against the Real Americans, and for once, I thought he was pretty good.  But then Damien Sandow came out and started woofing, and in as much as I guess the WWE brass was trying to capitalize on the momentum from the match that he had with Cena last week, I personally didn't think it worked.  I mean, we already saw Cena beat the guy with literally one hand tied behind his back, so how much of a threat can Sandow really be at this point?  Sometimes, you get a moment, and if the moment is missed, it's gone, and it won't come back.  Take that for what it's

Sunday, November 3, 2013

I Should Have Written This Morning

The girls are at a local Girl Scout camp right now, having had their first sleepover last night. The house is actually quiet right now--for once--because I have the place all to myself.  But instead of working, I'm sitting here reading comics and soaking up some down time.

True story: I spent $79 at the comic shop yesterday.  Hadn't been in a month, and my Pull List was two issues deep for several of the titles I'm reading.

I ask you, who can write when they've got four issues of Infinity and two issues of The Superior Spider-Man to catch up on?  Certainly not me. The temptation to just sign here and act like a lump has been entirely too great.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Friday Mad Science: Giving Myself a Deadline

I mentioned yesterday that I’m trying to put out a book some time next year.  That’s not supposed some huge secret, but in case you don’t follow the blog every day, yeah, it’s true, and it’s been a major focus for my writing lately.  The book is gonna be a set of fantasy short stories, tentatively titled “Tales for the Lair” or maybe “Tales from the City of Wanderhaven”.  I’m not quite sure, yet, but it'll be something like that.  I think.
I’ve wanted to do a project like this for years, but I realized that the time had finally come a little over a month ago.  Two things went into the realization.  First, I’ve known for a while that I’m a decent writer.  But I feel about my writing much the same way that I feel about being a triathlete.  I know that I’m better than the average Joe, but that doesn’t mean that I’m particularly close to being good enough to do it for a living.  That said, I feel like my writing has taken a big step forward this year.  The stuff I’ve given out recently has mostly gotten responses along the lines of, “Holy shit! I can’t believe how good this is,” and frankly, given how crowded the marketplace is for fiction, that’s where I think a writer needs to be in order to have even half a chance.  I’ve worked hard at becoming a better writer for a good, long while now, but it's also been important to try to be self-critical and to try to hold my work to the same high standards to which I hold other writers.  This year, I feel like I’m finally reaching an acceptable, marketable standard, and so I’m finally ready to give this publishing thing a try.

Sally's Jack o'Lantern

Friday Hair Metal: Right in Two

Not the most exciting video.  Sorry about that.  I like this song, though.