Saturday, December 29, 2007

12/28 Blues vs. Sharks Game Summary

Well, my tickets have lost their magic. For the first time in six games, the Blues lost when I had tickets to go see them. Most distressing. The sad thing is that they generally played better than the Sharks, but San Jose's goalie, Evgeni Nabakov, just put up the force field and would not allow anything through. That and the fact that the referees had obviously been having too much egg nog sealed the game for the Blues. Honestly, I have been to some badly-called hockey games before, but this one might be the worst I have ever seen. If someone actually committed a penalty they wouldn't call it, but if someone was just lazily skating by they got called for some stupid penalty that didn't really happen. Bizarre.

In other news, I couldn't help but notice that during the second intermission, when they had the trucks on the ice to shoot T-shirts from, the background music that they played was an arrangement of the song "Tank," which was the opening song to the anime Cowboy Bebop. I'm sure they picked it because of their current emphasis on more jazz and bluesy music during games, but I still find it an interesting choice.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Hobby Games - The 100 Best

Hobby Games - The 100 Best edited by James Lowder, 2007, Green Ronin Publishing

This book was a real treat to read. It consists of 100 essays by noted game designers and/or publishers, where they write about one of their favorite games. Even though the title hints that this is a "top 100" listing, it really isn't. In the foreward, the editor notes that the intent with this book wasn't to try to rank order the best games of all time, which wouldn't really be possible due to the different kinds of games (card, board, roleplaying, wargaming, miniatures, dice games, etc.) covered. Rather, each of the 100 writers was asked to submit three games that they wanted to write about, and then they were assigned to write about their highest-ranked game that nobody else had claimed yet. The result is a highly eclectic, yet fascinating look at gaming across the last 40 years or more. Old standbys like Diplomacy, Axis & Allies, and Dungeons & Dragons receive coverage, along with highly obscure games that most people have never heard of, like The Great Khan Game, Renaissance of Infantry, and My Life with Master. The currently popular Euro-style games get lots of coverage, but so do a bunch of old Avalon Hill games from the '60s and '70s. It can also be interesting which games people choose to write about. For example, Tracy Hickman, noted fantasy author and creator of the Dragonlance series, writes about an American Civil War boardgame; or Warren Spector, noted computer game designer, writing about the boardgame Tikal. If you like playing games, this book will provide you with dozens of inspirations for games that you may have never heard of before, but that you will suddenly feel you need to play, since other people seem to love them so much. A highly recommended book.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, everybody! While this season traditionally marks the end of the year, this year it also marks the end of the audit project that I have been working on since November 2006. That was one long project. I'm not sure what next year will bring on that front, but it looks like I might be spending part of winter in Chicago. We'll just have to see. I do have the next two weeks off from work, though, so that should give me plenty of time for rest and relaxation.

Of course, if you are me, relaxation means playing games. Because of that, I have added a little widget to this blog page. If you look on the right hand side, right under the archived blog posts, you will find a listing of games that I have played recently. If you don't care at all about board and card games, then you likely won't give a hoot, but if you also like board and card games then this will give you a chance to see what I have been playing lately. The game names link over to the proper page for that game at, if you want to find out more.

That note aside, I hope everybody has a merry christmas, and a happy and safe new year.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Hewlett-Packard Customer Service, Part 2

I must say, this whole thing has turned out very well. When I got the package to send my laptop to HP in, it came with a notice that said that I could expect it to take six to nine business days for my laptop to be repaired and returned to me. However, I dropped it off for shipping on Monday evening, and it was delivered to me about 1PM on Thursday afternoon. That is less than three days total turnaround, which is very fast. I think the laptop spent more time in transit than it did at the repair center. And, most importantly, the problem is fixed and the laptop works perfectly, now. I'm real happy about it, and I take back almost all of the bad things I said about HP, with the exception of their mainline customer service, which seems to be setup such that nobody actually has responsibility for solving problems, they just pass the buck to the next group. But, all's well that ends well.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Hewlett-Packard Customer Service

Back in June, I purchased a laptop for myself through It didn't come from Amazon, though. It came from one of their partner sellers. The laptop was a great deal, as refurbished products often are. I bought a refurbished HP desktop back in 1999 and it was a great computer, so that didn't bother me. However, when I got the laptop, I noticed that the wireless function sometimes wouldn't work. In fact, it wouldn't even show up in Device Manager; it was like the comptuer didn't even have a wireless controller in it. Sometimes the wireless would work fine, and other times it wouldn't. As you can imagine, this caused lots of problems when calling HP customer service about the problem, as they would just have me restart the computer until it actually decided to work. One time it would'nt work, and they finally decided to send me a new wireless card. Of course, this required talking to a completely different group, which was busy at the time so they would call me back. Three days later they called while I was unavailable, and trying to get a hold of them again proved about impossible. And, of course, the wireless worked some of the time, so I just decided to put up with it and not worry about HP's desire to avoid actually handling my problem.

And then last week, I got an email from HP about a known problem with a few types of laptops, and mine was one of the specific types, and my serial number was in the list of potential problem childs. Sure enough, one of the potential problems was wireless not showing up in the Device Manager. They had established a special phone number specifically for those of us with these laptops, and I called that number and actually got good service. They had me flash my BIOS to the latest version, but that didn't solve the problem. So, they overnighted me a special box with special plastic holders to ship them the laptop (I was quite impressed with the holders: they expanded like an accordion to fit different sizes of laptops, and therefore were fun to play with), overnight FedEx pre-paid. So I packed up my laptop, dropped it off at a FedEx Kinko's on Monday evening, and yesterday afternoon I got notice that HP had my laptop, and I could go online and read that they found my problem as being a defective motherboard.

So, if you have a generic, intermittent problem that isn't easily solved by online technical guides, HP tech support seems designed to stick you in limbo and not actually solve anything. However, once I was put into a group with known problems, tech support was really great and seems to be doing all they can to solve the problem ASAP. I must admit it feels like dealing with an HMO for health care: if you have a standard, known problem (broken limb, knee replacement, etc.) then they already know what to do, you are put into a program for it, and everything is really efficient. If you have some weird problem, though, one that isn't easily diagnosed, then you are hosed because nobody knows what to do with you, since there isn't a pre-documented solution to the problem.

Hopefully this will end will with my laptop coming back to me in full, working condition. If not, I'll air my ire here for all to see.

Friday, December 07, 2007

New Comic Reviews

New comic book reviews are now up on my website. Back in the olden days of yore, I updated that site at least once a month. Today I noticed that I hadn't updated it since August. *sigh*

Sunday, December 02, 2007

General Update

Last week wasn't so hot for me. I didn't feel good a few days, including Thursday when I had a real bad migraine that kept me from going to work. I also had a bad headache today, as well. Unfun. In good news, though, I went to the hockey game with my friend, George, last night and the Blues won 3 - 1, which was awesome, because anytime we beat Chicago is awesome. That makes my tickets 5 for 5 currently, which is a nice change from the last couple years. Actually the Blues are one of the best teams in the entire League right now, if you go by the standings. So, congratulations to everybody! Interestingly enough, my account representative with the Blues stopped by last night to introduce himself, but I had gone to the bathroom, so he talked to George, instead.

In other news, I put up my Christmas tree, today. I wasn't able to decorate it, though, since one of my strings of lights doesn't work, so I will need to replace it. I would replace it today, but the weather is windy and rainy and I just don't feel like dealing with it. So I'll handle it tomorrow.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Thanksgiving Week

Most people would only celebrate Thanksgiving by eating unhealthy amounts of food on Thursday, but I decided to make a week of it. Not the eating part, but the rest of it. My company's local office in St. Louis gave us all Wednesday off, and I already had Thursday and Friday off as holidays granted by the firm nationally, so I decided to take Monday and Tuesday as vacation days. I spent the week sleeping in, cleaning, playing games (naturally), and catching up on reading. For example, I finally finished that Hobby Games Top 100 book (which will be written up shortly), and I also caught up on some comic books that had been hanging out, unread, on the end table in my living room. Stuff like that. It really is amazing how fast the days fly by when you sleep 10 hours a day. Still, everything on my long "to do" list for the week got completed, with the exception of re-arranging the furniture in my bedroom, which wasn't a required item, just something I've been thinking about for a while.

Anyway, on Thursday my friend George joined my brother Mark and my parents for dinner, and then we played Illuminati (a card game where each player represents a secret conspiracy and tries to take over the world; very fun) and Cosmic Wimpout. Quite a bit of Cosmic Wimput, actually. It is a dice game where you choose when to stop rolling the dice and accumulating points, as if you keep rolling you will eventually roll a "wimpout" and lose all of your points.

On Friday I swapped George for my other brother, Christopher, and his wife, Amy. More food was eaten, more games of Cosmic Wimpout were played, and then Mark and I went downtown and watched the Blues beat up on the hapless Vancouver Canucks. I despise the Canucks (not all Canadiens, just the hockey team), so that was a lot of fun. Since both of my brothers live out of town, now, it was good to get to see both of them.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

New Soundtrack Reviews

After a very, very long wait, I have a couple new anime soundtrack reviews up at Anime Dream. You may check them it if you are so inclined.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

My Old Boss Speaks

Well, not "boss" in a direct report way, but as most of you reading this should know, I used to work for the U.S. Government Accountability Office, and I have always respected Dave Walker, the Comptroller General under which I served my country. And what he has to say about our national entitlement programs is certainly worth paying attention to, whether you agree with every suggestion for improvement or not.

Certified Internal Auditor

One of the things I had on my schedule this week while in Dallas was to take the first part of the Certified Internal Auditor exam, which when I pass all three parts I have to take will give me professional certification in my current line of work. There are actually four parts to the exam, but since I am already a Certified Management Accountant, I can waive part four (I still have to pay the fee for it, but they assume I already know that stuff). I had to catch a ride at 7:00 A.M. (requiring me to skip breakfast) out to the University of Texas - Dallas campus, and then I had the exam from 8:30 until about 11:15, when I got finished with it.

Honestly, I found the exam itself to be easier than the study questions I used to prepare for it, so that should be a good thing. I feel like I did well on it, but I won't actually find out for about 2 months or so, since it takes them waaaaaaaaay long to grade all of the exams from around the country. This was also the first time I had to put answers on a Scantron form since I took the GMAT back in 1996. When I took the CMA exam back in 2001 - 2002, it was all computerized, and you got your score within 10 seconds of submitting the exam to be graded by the computer. The Institute of Internal Auditors is still living in the Twentieth Century, though, so it is all graded by hand. Or, graded by a computer that has to be fed by hand. Something like that. Next year they are finally moving to computer-based testing, so I won't have to deal with this again, but it was an interesting blast from the past.

But, bottom line, I feel like I did well, so I am now free to enjoy myself the rest of the week.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Mashed Potato Bar

Greetings from the Adam's Mark hotel in Dallas, TX. I am here all week for training, provided by my company. We've probably got 1000+ people here in the conference center, learning how to do our jobs better. It is about as exciting as these kinds of things can get. Last night five of our partners from across the country formed a band and played songs for us, generally covers of songs from the seventies and early eighties, including the occasional song rewritten to make the lyrics more "relevant" for us as consultants. I'll let your imagination work with that one for a while. Then tomorrow I have the first of 3 exams I need to pass to become a Certified Internal Auditor, so once that is out of the way I will be able to actually relax and enjoy myself.

But none of that is what I wanted to write about. No, I want to write about something that I had never encountered before in my life, before last night. At dinner last night, the conference center had prepared for us a mashed potato bar. A dozen different mashed potato confections awaited our palates. There were garlic mashed potatoes, sour cream mashed potatoes, purple mashed potatoes (no, I don't want to know), sweet mashed potatoes, and the list goes on. It was very, very bizarre. Good (I had the sweet potatoes), but bizarre. They even scooped the potatoes into these fancy desert dishes like you would get raspberries and cream in. Totally crazy. Is this a "Dallas" thing? Does anybody know?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

St. Louis Military Gaming Meetup

Yesterday I spent the afternoon out at South County Mall at the Game Nite store for the inaugural meeting of the St. Louis Military Gaming Meetup group, a sub-group of the St. Louis Boardgame Meetup group. It was organized by a fellow I met a few months ago, Chris Fawcett, and it turns out he is an IT auditor locally with RSM McGladrey, and we have run into each other at IIA meetings, before. He owns around 800 games, which is completely crazy and I highly respect him for it. Anyway, it was a really good time. I played Wings of War (world war I aerial combat) for the first time, and it is a pretty fun game, especially with the miniatures. I also played a little bit of Tide of Iron (world war II ground combat), and it looks good but probably isn't something I will be picking up. Lastly I played a few rounds of Rise of the Luftwaffe, probably my favorite WWII aerial combat game ever. I played pretty much all afternoon with a good guy by the name of Bill Cronin, and we are going to try to get together over the next couple months to play through a Rise of the Luftwaffe campaign, which would be great, as I almost never get to play the campaign games.

Lastly, I ran into Dave Moeller at the meetup, which was cool. I haven't seen him in over 2 years, and we promised to get together and play some games over the Christmas holiday. We'll see if that actually happens or not, but it is looking likely.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Does Your Name Determine Your Fate

I came across a rather fascinating article today that posits the theory that people's initials have an impact on the decisions they make. For example, if you first name begins with a "J" you are more likely to marry someone with that same first initial, to live in a town whose names starts with that initial, and so forth. Researchers also found a link between people whose names start with a "C" or "D" and them getting grades of that score in school. While I realize that there is actual study behind this, rather than it being pure supposition, I must admit that it seems rather daft. Just because a name might begin with "D" can't mean that I am more inclined to aim for that score in school, can it? And if I look at my own decisions in life, the only time this plays out is that when I moved to the Washington, D.C. area I lived in Arlington, VA. However, that was because it was the first place I found a suitable apartment within walking distance of a Metro station. Perhaps, however, I am just not really enamored with my own name, and therefore the link doesn't apply to me. In the end, I am forced to go back to my old statement: "I can't believe we actually pay people to do this for a living."

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Annotated Dragonlance Chronicles

The Annotated Dragonlance Chronicles by Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis, 2002, Wizards of the Coast

I have been a gamer for over 20 years now, and a lover of fantasy fiction for basically as long, but I had never read the Dragonlance books. Part of it was that I never played the Dragonlance role-playing games, and part of it was that I was really enjoying reading other stuff, so why bother? Well, a couple months ago I decided that the series was popular enough, and was approach classic status, so I probably needed to read the original trilogy. At my local bookstore I found this book, a giant (over 1300 pages) omnibus edition of the original trilogy. But there's more! It's called The "Annotated" Chronicles because the original authors (and their helpers) have margin notes all throughout the book. Sometimes the margin notes recount humorous stories from the old days of writing the books (or the game adventures), or what the inspiration was for a specific poem, stuff like that. Other times, the margin notes point you towards other books or short stories that expand on events only hinted at in the books. I personally found it all quite interesting, even though I have never read the stories before.

So, what of the actual story? I thought that it was good. In parts it is great, and in parts it isn't. I didn't really like the ending, for example; it had too much deus ex machina, where things just magically work out, for me to be happy with it. I think I have to agree with the original authors (as denoted in the margin notes) that the second book in the trilogy is the strongest. It just flows great, and has a ton of good character development in it. And, really, that is where the book shines the brightest. All of the main characters show a lot of thought and ingenuity, and I really came to like most of them by the end of the book. For others in my situation, who like heroic fantasy but haven't read the Dragonlance books, I can recommend this one as a good way to enjoy the original trilogy while getting a bit into the mind of the creators. It was a fun ride.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Staining the Deck

The last couple days I have put another coat of stain down on my deck. Specifically, another coat of stain on the base boards. When I totally re-did the deck last autumn, I knew that I really needed to put two coats on the base boards, but after hours of pain-stakingly staining the vertical railing by hand I just didn't want to do it anymore. So, come this summer, the deck started to look really weather-beaten, as it sits in direct sunlight all day, 365 days a year. Also, certain areas with burls and other raised areas got most of the stain wore off of the boards. So, on Monday I cleaned off the deck and on Tuesday I took my can of left over stain and went to town on the boards. And then, with about maybe 3 square feet of boards left to do, I ran out of stain. This was very, very annoying. So today, after work, I picked up another gallon of stain, and after about 20 minutes of work I was done. And I have used maybe 2% of the new gallon of stain. Joy. Obviously, my estimating skills need work, as I was sure that the old can had just enough in it to finish the job.

In the interest of looking at the silver lining on this, I noticed that the handrails also probably need another coat, and now that I have essentially an entire gallon of stain, I should be good to go until two or three years down the road when I will need to completely strip and redo the entire deck. Still, I wanted to do this project for free, rather than having it cost me $30. Ah, well, such is life.

Be Afraid. Be Very, Very Afraid

It has come to my attention that a number of my coworkers have discovered this blog. To all of them, I say "welcome!" I will also say that this blog includes a number of in-jokes that you will only get if you have known me for a long time. It was originally put together so my family and friends could keep up with me on my many travels around the country, or "adventures in auditing" as I liked to call them. Now that my current project has had me in St. Louis for almost the entire last year, I'm not having as many adventures as I once did. Still, enjoy your stay here and feel free to add comments on posts that interest you.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Truer Words Were Never Spoken

He's been my favorite player for Arsenal since the start of the season, and now it has been confirmed; Cesc Fabregas is awesome.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

10/27 Blues vs. Capitals Game Summary

The second game of my ticket package this season was not the over-powering performance that I saw two weeks ago, but a win is a win. Brad Boyes scored two goals, and Eric Brewer and Christian Backman also put pucks in the net to seal the win, 3-4, over the Capitals. The game wasn't really that close, with the Capitals scoring their third goal with less than 2 minutes left after they pulled their goalie for a man advantage. Still, the Blues looked pretty good, though the constant problems of too many penalties and sloppy clearing (I'm looking at you, Barret Jackman) haunted the Blues all game. The Blues had to kill off two separate 5-on-3 situations during the game. Yes, they were able to do it, but eventually they will start losing games due to junk like that.

I went to the game with my friend George. We ate dinner at a new pseudo-Japanese place close to where I live that I had been wanting to try, Samurai Jack's. It was really good, I am happy to report. We parked at Union Station and walked to the arena from there, and I learned that when you do that the entrance that you go into literally leads right into my section, 110. No walking around the arena to find your seats, you just keep walking straight. I will have to remember that one for the future.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Fall Foliage, or the Lack Thereof

The high temperature in St. Louis today should be about 63 degrees, so this is the first day that it really feels like autumn. It only took a full month to get here. Anyway, late October is usually a great time to go hiking in local forests, in order to look at the wonderful fall foliage. This year, however, things are not looking so great. Here it is, the 22nd of October, and most of the trees around where I live are still totally green. My tree in my front yard is going a little bit red, and one of the trees on the top of the hill behind my house is a nice orange/red, but that is it. What happened to my fall? Will it not occur until mid-November? Or is it going to be one of those years where I wake up one day and all of the leaves will have died and fallen overnight? I would blame global warming for this, but I have no idea if that would be factually correct. So, instead, I will use my standard environmental bogeyman and blame El Niño.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Lone Wolf

They're here! They're here! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the two first Lone Wolf books (hardback collector's editions, naturally) are in my grubby little hands, and I am happy. These are reprints of the original books from the '80s, though with some changes. First, they have all new art, due to legal issues and so forth. Second, the books do have some new content. The first book, Flight from the Dark, has been extensively re-written, and now consists of 550 sections, instead of the standard 350. The second book, Fire on the Water, is the same as the original edition, but there is an extra solo adventure in the back featuring a minor character, which was not in the original edition.

So, thank you, Mongoose Publishing! It wasn't easy dropping $600 all at once for the mega deal offer (all 32 books, in hardback collector's editions, plus the new novel trilogies, shipped for free once they are printed over the next ~5 years), but it is great to see Lone Wolf in print again, especially since this way I will finally get the books that were never printed in the US during the original publication run.

10/12 Blues vs. Avalance Game Summary

Last night was my first game of the season. I went with a new friend of mine, Ben. We met in Clayton and ate dinner at P.F. Chang's before riding the Metrolink out to the Scottrade Center. It worked out quite well, actually, for someone who hasn't ridden on the Metrolink since 1996. And on the way back after the game we rode in the same rail care as Bill Clinton did in 1994! At least, that is what the commemorative plaque said.

As far as the game goes, the first period was an evenly matched affair, with both teams having solid offensive pressure and good defense, with the score ending 1-1. The second period was definitely Colorado's period, as the Blues played quite poorly during this period. They had three separate power plays, and only mustered two shots on goal in all three of them. That is pathetic. The only thing that wasn't pathetic was Manny Legace's play in goal, stopping all sorts of Colorado shots and keeping the Blues in the game. In the third period the Blues came out flying, and they scored three more goals, to end the game with a 4-1 score. The game was fun ('cuz we won!) and I got to hang out with a friend, so it was definitely a good time.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Hobby Games: The 100 Best

The title for this post refers to a new book out by Green Ronin Publishing, wherein 100 game designers write about one of their favorite games. I just picked it up today, and it proves to be a fascinating adventure. Many of the games I have heard of, but not all. However, before really diving into the book (as you can imagine, a game with separate essays on 100 different games isn't going to be small), I thought it would be fun to join the meme and denote my own prior experiences with each of the 100 games in the book. In the end, it turns out that I have a lot of games that I need to play!


Boldface if "I own this game".
Italics is "I have played this game".
Italic and Bold are "I both own and have played this game"

  1. Bruce C. Shelley on Acquire
  2. Nicole Lindroos on Amber Diceless
  3. Ian Livingstone on Amun-Re
  4. Stewart Wieck on Ars Magica
  5. Thomas M. Reid on Axis & Allies
  6. Tracy Hickman on Battle Cry
  7. Philip Reed on BattleTech
  8. Justin Achilli on Blood Bowl
  9. Mike Selinker on Bohnanza
  10. Tom Dalgliesh on Britannia
  11. Greg Stolze on Button Men
  12. Monte Cook on Call of Cthulhu
  13. Steven E. Schend on Carcassonne
  14. Jeff Tidball on Car Wars
  15. Bill Bridges on Champions
  16. Stan! on Circus Maximus
  17. Tom Jolly on Citadels
  18. Steven Savile on Civilization
  19. Bruno Faidutti on Cosmic Encounter
  20. Andrew Looney on Cosmic Wimpout
  21. Skip Williams on Dawn Patrol
  22. Alan R. Moon on Descent
  23. Larry Harris on Diplomacy
  24. Richard Garfield on Dungeons & Dragons
  25. William W. Connors on Dynasty League Baseball
  26. Christian T. Petersen on El Grande
  27. Alessio Cavatore on Empires in Arms
  28. Timothy Brown on Empires of the Middle Ages
  29. Allen Varney on The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen
  30. Phil Yates on Fire and Fury
  31. William Jones on Flames of War
  32. Rick Loomis on Fluxx
  33. John Kovalic on Formula Dé
  34. Anthony J. Gallela on The Fury of Dracula
  35. Jesse Scoble on A Game of Thrones
  36. Lou Zocchi on Gettysburg
  37. James Wallis on Ghostbusters
  38. James M. Ward on The Great Khan Game
  39. Gav Thorpe on Hammer of the Scots
  40. Uli Blennemann on Here I Stand
  41. S. Craig Taylor, Jr. on A House Divided
  42. Scott Haring on Illuminati
  43. Dana Lombardy on Johnny Reb
  44. Darren Watts on Junta
  45. Greg Stafford on Kingmaker
  46. Lester Smith on Kremlin
  47. Wolfgang Baur on Legend of the Five Rings CCG
  48. Marc W. Miller on Lensman
  49. Ted S. Raicer on London's Burning
  50. Teeuwynn Woodruff on Lord of the Rings (boardgame)
  51. Mike Breault on Machiavelli
  52. Jordan Weisman on Magic: The Gathering
  53. Steve Kenson on Marvel Super Heroes (Jeff Grubb version)
  54. Gary Gygax on Metamorphosis Alpha
  55. Greg Costikyan on My Life with Master
  56. John D. Rateliff on Mythos
  57. Chris "Gerry" Klug on Napoleon's Last Battles
  58. John Scott Tynes on Naval War
  59. Erick Wujcik on Ogre
  60. Marc Gascoigne on Once Upon a Time
  61. Mike Bennighof on PanzerBlitz
  62. Steve Jackson on Paranoia
  63. Shannon Appelcline on Pendragon
  64. JD Wiker on Pirate's Cove
  65. Richard H. Berg on Plague!
  66. Martin Wallace on Power Grid
  67. Tom Wham on Puerto Rico
  68. Joseph Miranda on Renaissance of Infantry
  69. James Ernest on RoboRally
  70. Paul Jaquays on RuneQuest
  71. Richard Dansky on The Settlers of Catan
  72. Ken St. Andre on Shadowfist
  73. Steven S. Long on Shadowrun
  74. Peter Corless on Shadows over Camelot
  75. Dale Donovan on Silent Death: The Next Millennium
  76. Matt Forbeck on Space Hulk
  77. Ray Winninger on Squad Leader
  78. Lewis Pulsipher on Stalingrad
  79. Bruce Nesmith on Star Fleet Battles
  80. Steve Winter on The Sword and the Flame
  81. Jeff Grubb on Tales of the Arabian Nights
  82. Shane Lacy Hensley on Talisman
  83. Douglas Niles on Terrible Swift Sword
  84. Ed Greenwood on Thurn and Taxis
  85. Mike Fitzgerald on Ticket to Ride
  86. Thomas Lehmann on Tigris & Euphrates
  87. Warren Spector on Tikal
  88. David "Zeb" Cook on Toon
  89. Mike Pondsmith on Traveller
  90. Zev Shlasinger on Twilight Struggle
  91. Kenneth Hite on Unknown Armies
  92. Sandy Petersen on Up Front
  93. R. Hyrum Savage on Vampire: The Eternal Struggle
  94. George Vasilakos on Vampire: The Masquerade
  95. Kevin Wilson on Vinci
  96. R.A. Salvatore on War and Peace
  97. Jack Emmert on Warhammer 40,000
  98. Chris Pramas on The Warlock of Firetop Mountain
  99. Steve Jackson on The Warlord
  100. John Wick on Wiz-War

We Will Now Interrupt This Blog For... Hockey Season

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the long-awaited time of rejoicing is at hand, as the St. Louis Blues begin the '07-'08 campaign today. Unfortunately, the game is on the west coast, so I will not be able to watch all of it live, since my bedtime is at 10:45. Still, I have hockey again, so life is good.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

New Things

This past weekend I re-arranged the furniture in my living room. The original set-up had the couch about 60% of the way back to act as a "wall" between the living room and dining area (it's just one big room on my ground floor, with a living area in front and a dining area in back). I ended up shifting the TV into the corner between the window and the stairs, and I moved the couch so that it faces the window, so it acts like a hallway between the stairs and the dining area. It makes the room feel a little more open, but I have to run the lamp's electrical cord along the floor, which looks silly. I have part of it covered with the coffee table, but still. Time will tell if I really like the new layout or not, but it was time for a change.

Also, I would like to report that on Monday night I blew my previous bowling high score of 128 out of the water when I scored a 162 in a game with coworkers in Seattle. It certainly helped that I bowled a turkey (3 strikes in a row) in my first 3 frames!

Friday, September 28, 2007

I am defeated

In my entire life to this point, I can only remember one time when I have started a book that I was not able to finish (Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason). It is time to add another book to that list, however: Benjamin Friedman's The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth. The basic theory that the author posits (that when economic growth is stronger, the classic liberal idea of the 'moral society' is also stronger) seems sound on its face, but what has defeated me is the 400+ pages of 8-point historical evidence to back the theory. Almost 200 pages in, and we have finally left the American Experience to delve into the British one. At this point I just can't take any more, so I'm reading Dragonlance, instead.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Economist Debate Series

The Economist, my favorite news magazine, has started a new online initiative, a debate series. Normally this would prove to be a rather dull affair, but I was intrigued when the notice I received indicated that the debate would be in the Oxford Style, which was written in such a way that I got the impression I was just supposed to know what that means. American high school education, you have failed me again! It turns out that in such a thing, all questions from the audience go through a moderator, who decides which questions are actually relevant. This has its pros and cons, of course, but it has to be a sight better than the often-asinine YouTube debate with the Democratic presidential candidates a few months back. When you have a snowman asking questions about global warming, you know that things have gone too far.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Strange Brew

You may recall that in August I received a present from my brother, Mark, of a do-it-yourself root beer kit. Well, last weekend I decided to break it out and try to make my own root beer. I figured that, at the least, it would be good for a few laughs. It turns that making your own root beer produces a product that is different from store-bought product in some noticeable ways. For instance, store-bought root beer is generally force-injected with carbon gas to produce the carbonation. Home-brewed root boot, on the other hand (at least, the stuff made from the Mr. Root Beer kit), is carbonated through natural fermentation of the sugar in the brew. See, you put yeast in it. Yes, yeast. And many of you will naturally figure out that the fermentation means that you are making alcohol. Yes, mom and dad, I am making alcoholic beer in the basement. Granted, the alcohol content will generally come out to 0.5%, which is essentially nothing, but I still found that kind of fascinating.

Actually, I should state that my root beer should have had 0.5% alcohol, but I think I did something wrong, because I am not really seeing much carbonation forming. Granted, I did have problems getting all of the ingredients to properly dissolve, and I don't think the water I used was hot enough to get the process started right. This doesn't mean that my root beer is bad, mind you; it's just really flat. Like what happens if you leave an opened 2-liter in your fridge for 2 weeks. It still makes a decent root beer float, though.

Next time (I have enough materials to make another gallon of beer), rather than mixing the yeast into the entire mixing bowl, I think I will quarter the amount and not add it until the bottles have been filled. This way I can make sure that the amount of yeast in each quart bottle is equal, as I think that might be the problem I had the first time around. One bottle seems to be fine (nice gas pressure build up), while the others show no carbonation activity at all.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sporting Roundup

I know that I don't usually write about sports other than hockey, but some big things have been happening that I feel a need to comment on.

1. With their 3-1 victory over hapless Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday, Arsenal has claimed the top spot in the League table. I like to think that they can win the Premier League this year, but time will tell. Liverpool is looking scary, so we'll see what happens when they meet for the first time.

2. The St. Louis Cardinals are committing suicide, deciding that they really don't feel like winning any games the rest of the year. They will make games exciting, sure, but they won't win. The local pundits aren't writing off the season, yet, but let's be honest; the defending champions are done.

3. On Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers defeated the St. Louis Rams in what can only be described as a painful fashion, at least if you are a Rams fan. I'm a life-long Niners man, though, so I thought the game was fantastic, especially Gore's 4th and 1 run for a touchdown. Someone needs to go back to tackling school! The local fans have the knives out for coach Linehan already, and it looks like Marc Bulger might not make it through 5 games, the way the offensive line is letting people hit him at will.

4. This morning, the US Women's national soccer team won against Nigeria to advance to the next round of the World Cup. Considering last year's embarrassing performance by our men, it is good to see that somebody around here still knows how to play the game.

5. The Blues started their pre-season on Sunday, losing to Hotlanta 3-1. I can't get upset about it, since the preseason is where you use lots of minor-league players to see how they handle the big-time pressures. The good thing is that this means that we are only 3 weeks away from the regular season, at which time regular life will stop for the next 6 months. You have been warned.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Back Home

Yesterday evening Mark and I returned to St. Louis. We had a roughly 3 hour drive from Fresno to Sacramento, and then we flew back through Denver. We got home about 9:00 PM, so it ate up the entire day. The previous two days were spent in King's Canyon and Sequoia National Parks, doing lots of hiking and enjoying the view of sequoia trees (which have to be seen to be believed) and the Sierra mountains. Over those two days I hiked close to 20 miles, which is a lot more walking than I usually do, or at least so my right hip was telling me yesterday when it would hurt with every step. Another sign of age, I guess.

So, now that I am back home, I am able to settle into my standard routine, again. The day was filled with buying food, doing laundry, and cleaning the basement, all pretty normal stuff. There was one new thing, though; tonight was the first night of my Japanese conversation class. Yes, I am heading down that path again. I learned that the self-paced stuff I tried a few years ago wouldn't work for me, because I need an underlying reason to learn the stuff. Being in a class means that I know have the underlying reason of not looking like a fool, which is a very good reason, in my book. So we will have to see how that goes. I was very surprised at the number of people in the class (over half) were learning Japanese because their son had married a Japanese woman and they wanted to be able to talk to their in laws. It was always a son marrying a Japanese woman, and never the other way around. That seems odd to me, but there you go.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

King's Canyon

Greetings from King's Canyon National Park, about 60 miles east of Fresno, CA. Yes, the internet extends out to even here. This also marks the first time that my wireless card in my laptop has agreed to work in the last two days, which is why there was no blog post yesterday.

On Thursday Mark and I drove down to Big Sur, on the central California coast, and did around 7 miles of hiking. We got to see some great scenery, and one trail that we took peaked on a bluff overlooking the ocean. It would have been even cooler if it wasn't so hazy, but such is life. We also took a small trail to see a place where a waterfall dumps out onto a beach, which was pretty cool. We capped it off with dinner at Denny's, and then crashed.

Yesterday was the day of the whale-watching trip, and we were successful, getting to watch a pair of humpback whales for a little under an hour. We couldn't see the entire animal, of course, but one of them did poke its head out of the water once and we got dozens of views of them breathing and showing their tails. We also got to see a school of over 20 dolphins, a bunch of sea lions, a sea otter, jellyfish, and a bunch of birds. It wasn't cheap, but it was worth it. We then spent the rest of the day driving east to get to King's Canyon. We took the "scenic" back route, which involved lots of windy mountain roads. It was a lot of driving, but we finally got here. We are staying in a 2-bed cabin in the park, close to the market store, lodge, and restaurant. I'm sure Mark would rather be camping, but I want the warm bed at night to sleep on.

Today and tomorrow are all about hiking and looking at giant sequoia trees.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Monterey Aquarium

Today, Mark and I stayed within the Monterey Peninsula. The day started pretty lazy, with a late start due to lots of sleeping. Then we headed down to old Cannery Row and we spent about 4 hours at the aquarium, which was pretty cool. We saw lots of fish and jellyfish and otters (both sea and river). We also saw one of the ugliest fish ever, the sunfish. Seriously, the picture in no way does it justice.

After that we lazily drove out to Carmel, where we found a great candy shop, saw lots of great beaches and million dollar houses (just about every single house in the town), and we found the nicest super market in the entire world. It was a Safeway, but a top-end gourment Safeway. it was very nice. We then capped the day with too much "I Love the '70s" on VH1, which can't be good for our mental state.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

On the Way to Monterey

Today my brother and I took to the road to get down to Monterey, where we are spending about 3 days. First we hiked up to a cliff overlooking the bay, hoping to get a view of the Golden Gate bridge, but so much fog had rolled in off the ocean that we couldn't see anything. We did get to check out some old gun emplacements (with the guns long removed), though.

After that we drove over the Golden Gate bridge and then had lunch in Chinatown at some random Chinese restaurant which shall remain nameless because it wasn't all that great. After that we hit highway 1 down the cost towards Monterey. Once we got away from the clouds the view of the ocean was gorgeous. Mark and I found one spot where we could look out over the ocean for along way on either side, and we took a trial down to the beach where I found a nice shell I took with me and I got to touch the ocean. Very cool. I had forgotten how deep blue the ocean can be.

After that we finally got to Monterey, where we crashed in the hotel for a while before heading out to find dinner. It turned out that there was a street festival of some kind taking place down by the pier. We both got some lamb wraps for dinner, and I got to try this one guy's homemade root beer. Oh, and I gave my change to some homeless guy. All told, a successful day. Tomorrow, we hit the aquarium.

The Golden Gate

Greetings from the Marin Headlands, outside of Sausalito, CA, four miles north of the Golden Gate bridge. Yes, the journey into California has been successful, so far. On Sunday we flew into Sacramento with no problems and then drove to the Napa Valley, where we saw dozens of wineries (including a couple I had actually heard of before), and then we drove into Santa Ana where I promptly crashed at the hotel. I fell asleep before 8PM, which is unheard of for me, but I did wake up at 2AM Pacific time to catch my flight, so that most likely had something to do with it.

Yesterday we drove west from Santa Ana to catch California highway 1, which runs along the Pacific coast. We stopped at an overlook on the ocean and got to drink in the cold, windy Pacific coast that I remember so well from childhood. We also got to see a bank of fog roll in, so thick that the rocks off the coast were no longer visible. After that we had lunch in some small town along that coast that was packed with Labor Day tourists, and then we drove out to a a campground north of the Muir national monument and hiked down the hill to the Muir visitors center, and then hiked up back to the campground. Luckily, my right foot (with the tendinitis) survived that OK.

Last night we stayed at the Marin Headlands hostel. This is my first experience staying at a hostel, and it kind of feels like college. The room had four bunkbeds for a total of 8 beds, and there were four people staying in the room last night. There are communal bathrooms. But there is wireless internet, so I get to actually make a blog post. That, and my wireless is actually working today. :)

Later this morning we will drive over the Golden Gate bridge into San Fran and then make our way south to Monterey, where we will be having base camp over the next few days. Hopefully the Labor Day crowds will have dissipated and there won't be hordes of people there to deal with.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

California or Bust

Things have been pretty quiet lately for me. There is work, and playing games with friends, and then more of both. Tomorrow, however, I get on a plane to fly out to California with my brother, Mark, for an eight-day tour of the central part of the state. We will start in Sacramento, head west north of San Francisco, head south to Monterey, and then head east past Fresno, before finally hauling tail next Monday morning to get back to Sacramento in time for our flight back to St. Louis. It should be lots of fun. There is a lot of hiking planned, as well as a whale watching trip into the Pacific from Monterey. In fact, the only day that isn't planned is tomorrow. We arrive in Sacramento at 10 AM, and then we have all day to meander our way out to Santa Clara. That should work out for us, though, as we will have time to reset our internal clocks to Pacific time and to buy food and stuff. I might not get to blog during the trip, but if not I'll give you a rundown once I get back.

The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian

The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian by Robert E. Howard, 2003, Ballantine Books

Even though I have liked heroic fantasy for years, I was very late to the game when it comes to the Conan stories. In fact, before I read this book, I had never read an original Conan story by Howard himself. I had heard a lot about them, of course, and I had read some comic book adaptations and a short story written in more modern times by a different author, but nothing by the original creator. However, last year I read and thoroughly enjoyed Howard's Soloman Kane collection (also by Ballantine), so I figured it was time to give Conan a try.

After finishing this book, I have to say that I am impressed. Howard writes with a certain unique drive that just pulls you in and compels you to keep reading. I also appreciate how Conan is the hero of the stories but is generally not shown as a nice guy. He is a mean, tough barbarian who kills people without second thought and really does not fit in with civilized society at all. The only thing that bugged me about this collection, and this is a minor gripe, is the fact that the Conan stories don't really fit into any overall timeline. The way that the stories were handled really struck me like the way the TV show "Seinfeld" was written. Specifically, you have your set characters, and then they get involved in various schemes and have to deal with it. At the end of the story, everything resets back to the beginning. So, in one story, Conan will be a king, in another story he will be a pirate, and in a third story he will be a mercenary. There isn't really anything to tie all of the stories together. As I said, that is a minor gripe, but I figured I should point it out.

As far as this specific collection goes, I have no complaints. Printed in the large-form trade paperback format, the book contains excellent artwork to accompany the stories, and the text is superbly edited and typeset. The book also contains extras such as maps of the land, an original history of the Hyborian Age written by Howard, and early drafts of numerous stories, for those who are interested in how stories changed over time. Overall, this is a fine collection that any fan of fantasy fiction would be proud to own.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

New Comic Reviews

New comic book reviews have (finally!) been posted to my website. I just haven't read much lately that was worth writing about.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Sure, I like root beer. But...

So, I got my birthday present from my brother, Mark, today. Yes, my birthday was back in June, thank you for noticing. Anyway, I opened the box and discovered this.

Words fail me.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

105 in the shade

After a rather nice July, St. Louis has finally gotten its traditional summer weather of ridiculously hot and humd days with no rain. Yesterday we set a daily record for 105 degrees in the shade. It was 112, if I remember right, outside of the shade. I realize that the Midwest gets hot summers, but this is rather ridiculous, especially since it has been 100+ for over a week now. Today is supposed to be cooler, only 95 or so, so it will probably feel like October after the brutality of the last week.

At times like this I would like to take a minute to thank the memory of Willis Haviland Carrier, inventor of the modern air conditioner. Truly, this man was performing the work of God on this planet, to come up with such a marvelous invention to keep us from being driven stark raving insane by our brains boiling in our heads in 100+ degree heat.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Foot Pain

One of the unfortunate happenings this year, especially over the last couple months, as been the fact that I have developed tendinitis in my right foot. I started having pain off and on in my right foot probably late last year, but it was always pretty minor, and would only crop when I was putting too much pressure on that foot during exercises. A couple months ago, however, it really got quite bad, to the point that I went to see my doctor and he sent me to a specialist who diagnosed my problem.

Unfortunately, nobody really seems to know what to do with it. Giving advice to "not use that foot" really doesn't help when I need it to walk. I had actually gotten it into some decent shape a couple weeks ago, but then I tried to use an elliptical running machine at the gym last Monday and I really screwed it up bad. The tendon was obviously swollen on Tuesday and is still giving me enough problems that I have gone back onto the pain medication my doctor prescribed. Hopefully I'll figure out a way to get this thing fixed without having to go on disability from work to spend six weeks staying off of my foot.

Are You Ready For Some Football?

That is "football" as understood by the rest of the world, of course. Now that I have Fox Soccer Channel in my cable package I get to watch a fair amount of English Premier League matches every weekend, if I want. I watched the season opener between Liverpool and Aston Villa Saturday morning, and then today I woke up at 6 A.M. to catch the first game of the season for Arsenal. It was a nail-biter all the way. Arsenal's goalie made a horrible play to give up a goal within the first minute of play, and Arsenal didn't even it up until there were less than 10 minutes left in regulation. Fulham's goalie played crazy good, but in the end even he couldn't hold Arsenal back forever. As with all things EPL, you can read all about it courtesy of the BBC.

In other sporting news, I got to take my friend George to the St. Louis Cardinals baseball game yesterday in my company's luxury box. The partner I work for even gave me the parking pass, so we got to see the game for free, eat for free, and park for free. Not a bad day, really, especially since the Cardinals won in commanding fashion. It started with a little bit of video games, then EPL football, then baseball, and then some anime and comic books to cap it off. Today is studying for the Certified Internal Auditor exam (joy!) and resting up as much as I can on my right foot.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Not Dead Yet

I feel happy!...

Anyway, so, yeah. How are you? I have been quiet lately because I have been very busy. Last week at work I had to pick up the slack for a colleague who was out sick. And then on Friday there was a big party at work as it was our annual day to announce promotions and toast all of the new managers and stuff. In addition, last week I signed up for a conversational Japanese class, and I bought a 10-game pack to see the Blues this season. I'm not sure that there is really anything else to report right now. Stuff is happening, but nothing out of the ordinary that would make me think "ooh, I gotta blog about that!"

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Hockey is Awesome

I realize that this is the equivalent of saying that breathing is good for you (i.e., everybody with a brain already knows it), but in the doldrums of July it is worth mentioning. As I sit and ponder what games to buy tickets to for the Blues this year (Paul Kariya! Woooooo!!!!!!), I ran across this article at NBC Sports, and I thought it was worth sharing. For the record, my favorite player name is Miroslav Satan (last name pronounced with the emphasis on the last syllable, sa-TAHN) for reasons that should be obvious. The only fault with him is that he has never played for the New Jersey Devils. I mean, honestly; Satan NEEDS to play for the Devils. It would just be right and proper. Radek Bonk is a good name, too, especially for a sport that involves slamming into people at high speed.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Political Dimensions

For many years, I have been a low-grade fan of internet personality quizzes. I don't seek them out, but when I come across one I have to take it, unless it is something obviously stupid, like a quiz to determine what kind of Teen Beat reader you are. So, when I found a quiz to determine what kind of Conservative I am, I figured it would be fun. Of course, these things are always rather partisan, but that is the way it goes. It turns out that I am a Free Marketeer, a.k.a, a fiscal conservative.
How to Win a Fight With a Liberal is the ultimate survival guide for political arguments

My Conservative Identity:

You are a Free Marketeer, also known as a fiscal conservative. You believe in free-market capitalism, tax cuts, and protecting your hard-earned cash from pick-pocketing liberal socialists.

This isn't anything that I didn't already know, so that means that the quiz is at least mildly accurate. However, in the interests of fair play, I decided to take the sister quiz to determine what kind of liberal I was. This was more difficult, as for some of the questions I didn't have an answer that felt right. For example, I didn't like any of the bumper sticker choices. That caveat aside, I come out as a Social Justice Crusader.
How to Win a Fight With a Conservative is the ultimate survival guide for political arguments

My Liberal Identity:

You are a Social Justice Crusader, also known as a rights activist. You believe in equality, fairness, and preventing neo-Confederate conservative troglodytes from rolling back fifty years of civil rights gains.

The interesting thing about this is the fact that these two results, supposedly from completely different ends of the spectrum, are not actually opposed to each other. One can believe in low taxes and fiscal responsibility and still believe in civil rights. Good luck finding a political candidate, at least at the national level, that pushes such views, though.

Game Day

I haven't had a day like Sunday in quite a while. It was church in the morning, and then games all day. It started with a brief game of Culdcept on my PS2, and then I went to one of the monthly meetings of the St. Louis Boardgames Meetup Group, a rather large (300+ members) local organization that meets at various locations around the area to play boardgames. I played a couple games that I had never played before (Fire & Axe, and Railroad Tycoon), and I even won one of them due to a high risk / high reward strategy actually paying off in Fire & Axe. Very nice. Then, after that, I went to the house of some ladies I know from church, where 20+ people were playing Apples to Apples and various games on the Wii in the basement. And after all those games, I still found time to play another brief game of Culdcept yesterday in between laundry, cooking dinner, and going to the gym. What can I say, it is my thing.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Still Alive

It has been two weeks since my last post, so I figured an update was in order. I still have pain in my right foot. It doesn't seem like the cast actually did any good, so perhaps the problem is more in the way I walk or something other than just a one-time problem. I am currently wearing some kind of sling that helps raise the arch in my foot, to see if that helps any. Only time will tell.

For the 4th I drove out to Columbia, MO, and visited my friend Angela, from my old college days. We hung out in town during the day, and then she invited some friends over and we had a cookout, and then we saw the fireworks at the football stadium with one of her roommates. I must admit, the hamburgers that Angela made might be the greatest hamburgers I have ever had. The fact that they were made from meat from a cow from the family farm in NW Missouri does mean that the meat was fresher than what I can get at my local supermarket.

In other news, for the first time ever at my house it is the middle of July and I still have a green yard. It is amazing what can happen when you are actually around to water it everyday. The downside of watering it everyday to keep it green is that I am having lots of problems with weeds. There is the one variety of ground-creeper that just keeps cropping up. Every day I am pulling more of it out of my yard. Ah, well, that is the price of success, I guess.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

A New Experience

I have been having foot pain in my right foot for a couple months now. Finally last Friday I went to see a Podiatrist, who determined that I have tendonitis in my right ankle. So, I get to wear a "soft" cast on my right ankle. This is basically a cast that isn't completely hard (like you would get if you broke a bone). It is flexible, but only somewhat. So, I can get around, just not well. It also itches, which is a problem, since I can't take it off to scratch. Oh, well.

The good thing about this is that I had already gotten permission to work from home the last couple days, so I didn't have to worry about finding dress shoes big enough for me to fit my cast into them. I can get into my athletic shoes (barely), but I don't know if the dress shoes will work or not. I will have to find out on Friday, since I have a meeting I have to attend, but we shall see.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Random Stuff

So I turned 33 yesterday. The years are creeping up on me. The good news is that people have finally stopped asking me what college I go to. Man, it is just so hard to look a decade younger than you really are. I'm sure you will all agree with me on that.

My big birthday present was one to myself, a new laptop. The only problem with it is that the wireless doesn't work. After about 2 hours with HP tech support, they are going to be sending me a new wireless card that I get to install myself. Hopefully the problem really is with the card, and not with the connector or the on/off switch. If that is the case, I will have to ship off the laptop for service.

And I knew that my laptop was coming when my fortune cookie on Tuesday night said "Good things come in small packages. One is coming to you." Of course, with a broken wireless card, I'm not sure that I can call that a "good thing." But it could have been worse; it could have been like this:

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

#1 Again

Last year it was baseball and crime. This year, it is water. Yes, St. Louis, MO, has the tastiest water in the nation, according to a group of mayors. I'm sure there are better distinctions out there, but we'll take it. I still claim that the Washington, DC water was some of the best I have ever had, and is better than the water in St. Louis, but obviously a majority does not agree with me.

Monday, June 25, 2007


Those who know me well know that my entertainment interests follow a cycle, whereby I will be really into one thing for a while, and then drop it like a bad habit for a number of months, before getting all into it again. For example, I may read dozens of comic books and graphic novels for a month, and then hardly look at any for the next three months straight. I will then play a video game obsessively for six weeks, and then not play another game for six months. Then I might watch a lot of anime, and then watch hardly any in order to focus on every Gold Cup soccer game on TV. This behavior is normal for me, and has been the case for as long as I can remember.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, it is time again for console RPGs! Last week I realised that it had been over a year since I had played a console RPG, so I decided it was time to take the plunge again. Also, my birthday is in a couple days, and I am taking some time off from work without any real plans on what to do, so I figured a long weekend of video gaming would be nice, since I haven't done that in about a year-and-a-half. So, I headed out to my local Best Buy and picked up Xenosaga III, the final chapter in the Xenosaga series. I played (and mostly enjoyed) the previous two games, so it was a no-brainer.

I played through the prologue and first couple chapters over the weekend, and I like the changes that have been made to the system, especially over Xenosaga II, which just wasn't as good as it should have been. The voice acting is better, the story is tighter, and the music is noticeably better, as well. All in all, it should be a good time.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


My least favorite season, summer, is once again upon us. Some folks may wonder why I like summer the least of all seasons, especially considering that my birthday, and the birthdays of both of my brothers, falls within the summer months. Also, summer as a child meant that there was no school, so I could run and play (or sit and read, as was my wont) without worries of homework going undone. To those doubters and scoffers, I would like to submit as people's evidence the fact that summers in St. Louis routinely see high temperatures in the high 90s (with the occasional 100+) with 98% humidity, on average. Ah, the joys of living in a river town! The beautiful (aka, incredibly muddy and nasty looking) Mississippi! The (better looking than the Mississippi) Missouri! The (floods all the time) Meremac! The healthy and virile mosquitos! Yes, what could possibly be better?

At some point in my life I will be wealthy enough to be able to afford to commute to Canada for the summer (or, at least, west central Virginia). Alas, I am not yet so blessed. So, the season of suffering begins.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Visionary

Here is the film I was in last weekend. Be sure to look for me in the third scene!

Monday, June 11, 2007

The 48 Hour Film Project

Ladies and gentlemen, I can now add "screenwriter" and "actor" to my resume. Why? I was involved in the St. Louis 48 Hour Film Project this weekend. A guy that I know asked if I wanted to be involved, so I decided to help write the script for the film on Friday night. For those of you who have never heard about this, the concept is to create a four to seven-minute film, and you have a total of 48 hours to do the whole thing. Right before kickoff, each team is given a genre (we got "superhero"), and every team in the grouping is given a character and a line of dialogue that has to be used in the film. This can lead to some interesting creative decisions, as sometimes you have to force things to use the character or the dialogue.

I was with most of the team on Friday night to write the actual script, and then on Saturday I got to play the role of the boss. The highlight of the film, to be sure, is when I get turned into a cricket. Yes, through the magic of film, the bad guy turns me into an insect. Gripping drama, to be sure. After my team wins the grand prize I'll be sure to post again letting you know how we are blowing the prize money.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

New Comic Reviews

New comic book reviews are up on my website.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Memorializing the Weekend

It was a good weekend. It rained quite a bit, but after last year's drought I will take all the rain I can get. It probably also helped that all of my planned activities were taking place under cover. On Saturday I hooked up with the small council for some gaming, and then on Sunday I met up with my friend George to see the movie Hot Fuzz, which was the funniest thing I have seen in a long time. Very much recommended, but also very much not a date movie. This film is like 300, in that it does very well on a list of top movies for men, but women will probably be scratching their heads.

Then on Monday I met up with my younger brother at my parents' place in Arnold. We played Memoior '44 and ate grilled chicken and mushrooms and turkey sausage. It was all quite good.

In other news, my older brother and his wife, Amy, have moved down to Florida, so I no longer have someone close by to get my mail for me when I am out of town on business. Good thing I am not traveling these days, eh?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

New Anime Soundtrack Reviews

After a very long time, which is partly the fault of my editor but mostly my own, I have a couple more soundtrack reviews up at Anime Dream. You may find them here.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Geico of Cable

For a number of months now, I have been unhappy with my cable bill. The service is fine, but I have been paying over $75 a month for a bunch of channels that I never watched. I had thought about moving to Dish Network satellite, which would get me pretty much the same channels for around $60 per month. I had been waiting until after the hockey season was done to make the switch, as Dish wasn't going to be able to get me Versus without paying a lot more money.

However, I decided to call today, since my bill came and it reminded me how much I don't like paying $75 for TV every month. So I called and asked the nice lady on the phone what I could cut out of my package to get under $60 a month. We looked at dropping the Family tier, we looked at going from Expanded basic to just Basic basic, and pretty much I was going to have to drop the channels I actually watched in order to get my bill low enough. I was bumming about this, when the lady offered to cut $21 off my bill every month as part of some "promotional" package since I had been a customer for 2 1/2 years with a good payment history.

So, a 15-minute call saved me a couple hundred dollars on my cable bill. In fact, since my target was $60, I added a sports tier that will get me Fox Soccer Channel (along with some spanish language sports channel that will likely get me even more soccer) for $5 a month. That still got me below $60, so my little phone call got me more of what I want for less money. I wonder what else I could save money on with a 15 minute phone call?

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Auction Ends

Well, my recent comic book auction was not much of a success. Usually, every time I get a bunch of books together and sell them one or two series will really catch on for some reason and get bid up higher than I expected. That didn't happen this time, though the Supergirl books looked for a while like they might make that run.

The one thing that did make that run wasn't even a comic book. Back last year, I had picked up a used copy of the old Thieves' World RPG setting boxed set on eBay for around $20, and I was surprised when it came to find that it actually contained 2 copies of everything, except for the character guide, which had 3 copies. So, I turned around and sold off the extra books and maps. For over $20. So, it's like I got my own set for only the price of shipping! Sweet!

So, in the end, I guess I did have one good item, and I made enough that I can buy the Memoir '44 Terrain Pack and Desert/Winter map Pack and have a few cents left over, so I can't really complain. Well, I can still complain, I just don't have a good reason to do so. As my family can attest, that has never stopped me from complaining before!


Cartomancy by Michael A. Stackpole, 2006, Bantam Spectra

The second volume in Stackpole's latest trilogy is even more convuleted than the first volume was. There are literally six different plot threads weaving throughout the book, and while at the end of the book a couple of them come together, the whole "plots within plots" flow of the story really makes the book feel like the middle of a larger story. About a third of the way through the book you just know that there is no way things are going to get wrapped up properly, and the attempt really isn't even made. So, your enjoyment of this book will completely revolve around how much you enjoy the setting and the setup from the first book.

All of the plots from the initial book are still here, and they are generally going strong. Keles Anturasi ends up moving away from the rest of the group into his own plot thread, and Moraven Tolo heads off on his own (nicely circling back to the woman he encountered at the begging of the first book). The only real twists revolve around some kind of reincarnation idea, where various people discover that they are actually gods, or that they contain the spirits of long dead heroes. Honestly, I found that this plot twist lessened the impact of the story for me. I had come to really like some of the characters, and to find out that they aren't really who I had been led to believe seemed kind of cheap to me.

Still, the storytelling is good, and even though the book is quite long, it didn't feel like I had to slog through it. If anything, Stackpole is getting better at creating characters as he goes along, which seems almost impossible, since that has been the hallmark of his stories for years. I must admit that the world itself could stand some more explaining (what are these 5 princes that keep getting talked about, and why should I care about them?). Still, it is characters, not settings, that make a story, and to that end this story has everything you could want.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Commands & Colors

Back around Christmas time, my brother, Mark, got me the board game Memoir '44 as a present. The game lets you replay a number of battles from the European theater of WWII, and I found that the level of detail, while not something that will appeal to a die-hard, made for a fun, quick game. I also like how you give orders based on order cards, which are randomly drawn. First of all, the cards add a bit of a random element, as you can only give orders each turn to a limited number of your units on the board. Second, and more importantly to me, the use of cards makes it easy to play the game solitaire, as I can randomize orders for the other side. Yes, sometimes the other side ends up making sub-optimal decisions that way, but this is made up for by the fact that I roll atrocious attack dice for my own side, (usually the Americans and British) while rolling really well for the other side.

This same rules series has also been used in a number of other games, including Avalon Hill's Battle Cry and Days of Wonder's Battle Lore. All of these games have been designed by Richard Borg, and they all use what is called the Commands & Colors system. After I realized this, I noted that I had a game in my basement that I had gotten over a year ago, called Commands & Colors: Ancients. I broke it out, and sure enough, it was also a Richard Borg game. Thus, it took me maybe 5 minutes to get used to the rules, and I now have a nice, Ancients wargame (Alexander the Great vs. the Assyrians, Rome Vs. Carthage, etc.) that plays quickly and didn't drive me crazy with the complexity of how a peltast is different from auxiliary javelin unit. And since it uses the same card-driven system, it is easy to play solitaire, just as with Memoir.

So, yeah, not playing any video games these days. Too many board games to play! Now I just need to save lots of money so I can buy all of the Battle Lore stuff.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Comic Book Auction

I have decided to auction off some of my comic book stuff that I don't want anymore. If you're interested in taking something off my hands, check out what I am selling here.

Loves Me, Loves Me Not

Loves Me, Loves Me Not by Laura A. Smit, 2005, Baker Academic

The subtitle of this book is The Ethics of Unrequited Love,, which I thought was an interesting topic for a book. First, because nobody really talks about the topic within the Christian community, and second because that is pretty much the only kind of love I have had the privilege to know. I was therefore expecting a long discussion about how unrequited love arises, how to respond to it, and so forth. While these discussions do take place, there is a second aspect to the book that is somewhat radical.

Specifically, the author takes on the modern Protestant church for its "idolatry of the family," as evidenced by the fact that unmarried people are considered freaks at worst within the church, and harmless but odd at best. The author posits that New Testament teachings show that the unmarried life, which can be fully focused on God, rather than focused at least partially on a spouse, is the new standard for Christians. Jesus was unmarried. Paul was unmarried. Paul even wrote that he felt that being unmarried was a preferable state to being married, though he had nothing against marriage, per se. The author also notes that Jesus told the Pharisess that in heaven there will be no marriage. Therefore, the author posits that the modern church is in a time between the Old Testament times, when everyone was married for societal benefits, and the New Jerusalem times, when nobody will be married. Therefore, some of God's Children in this age will be called to marriage, but some will be called to be NOT married. Mainstream (and even fringe) Protestant and Evangelical churches don't take this approach, often seeing unmarried people as objects of pity or concern, rather than as independent adults of equal value in Christ's Kingdom.

Another aspect of this theory is that an unmarried Christian should consider their singleness to be their default state of existence, and if an opportunity for a romantic relationship arises, the relationship bears the burden of proof, and its pursuit needs to be justified. This is opposed to the general attitude of modern American culture, which posits that being in a relationship is the default condition, and if you choose to stay out of a romantic relationships you need to defend that position as being abnormal. I am with the author all the way on this aspect of her theory, as I have always felt this to be the proper way to approach life.

This is a very deep book, and will likely require a re-reading down the road to make sure that I am properly understanding it. I did find all of it useful, though, and I would recommend it to pretty much anyone in the modern Christian church, whether married or not, as this book is starting a debate that really needs to happen.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Events and Meetings

I have been busier than normal, lately. Specifically, I have had stuff going on in the evening almost every day this week, which his unusual for me. I don't think I had anything going on Monday night, but Tuesday night I had the annual homeowner's association meeting for my subdivision. I have never been in town to attend it before, so I figured I would head out and see what actually goes on at those meetings. Overall it wasn't a valuable use of my time, as it mainly consisted of old ladies complaining about how fast people drive or asking what restaurants are going in to the new development a few blocks away, but I did get to see one piece of actual action taken, as a decision was made to drop the speed limit on our street from 25 MPH to 20 MPH. This was also the first time I have ever darkened the door of my local library, where the meeting was held. You would think, being a book freak, that I would go to the library all the time, but I would rather buy them than rent them.

Yesterday evening I met with some guy who wants to set me up as an Independent Business Owner with this company called Quixtar. Think Amway with a website instead of a catalog, and selling food products and cosmetics instead of cleaning supplies, and you pretty much have the concept. I can sign up all my friends and make tons of money! We can all be independently wealthy in 2 to 5 years! I was hearing a lot of hyperbole, but I did sign up at the website as a customer, in case they have some products that are a good value at a good price. I figure, if they have good stuff, then I can buy some items and help out my friend who originally referred me. I don't think I'll be buying in to the company, though.

Tonight I will be gone pretty much all evening at the end-of-the-year party for the local Institute of Internal Auditors. Nobody throws a party like auditors, let me tell you. Last year we had an executive from the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team speak, and they gave away lots of Cardinals freebies. I won the old Busch Stadium retrospective book, which was really cool. I don't know what they will be giving away this year, but it should be some pretty good stuff. This year our speaker is the IIA president for the entire global organization, so it should be good to hear from him what his opinions are about auditing around the world, what the hot trends are, etc.

In other news, my car is acting funky. Specifically, the fan controller isn't activating right away like it should when I first turn on my car. It waits a seemingly random period of time before working. My father thinks it might be the relay for the fan controller, so this morning before driving to work I located the fuse box and jiggled the relay and the fuses, but it didn't take care of the problem. Hopefully it will hold together until the weekend, when I can spend some real time on it.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Long Weekend

I spent the end of last week in Washington, D.C. attending the LeadNow conference. I tried to write about it on Friday night, but for some reason Blogger kept deleting my text. Overall, it was a good event, and I learned a lot. I was there with the young adult pastor from my church to learn about doing ministry to Generation X and Y, and overall the conference didn't really cover that. It more covered focusing on missions and outreach into our community, which was a good thing, in my opinion.

While there, I took time to meet with a number of my old friends on Thursday night. A good time was had by all, though it definitely made for a late night and an early morning the next day. I am also proud to say that both of my flights were on time and experienced no problems, which is somewhat of a rarity for flights these days.

I also should point out that of the hundreds of participants at the conference, I was one of 10 winners of a complete pack (book, DVDs, leader's book, and 10 participant's books) of the study series Chasing Daylight. It is by Edwin McManus, who I have never heard of before, but it was free, so I will be checking out the book, at least. Not sure what I will do with an entire study kit, other than putting it in my basement.