Friday, October 29, 2010

Random hireling generator

This is fun. Generates men-at-arms for D&D games, using a mechanic designed to simulate the experience of advertising for hirelings at a local town. Meatshields.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

An essay about The Parent Trap

If this remarkable post about the Disney movie The Parent Trap (with Haley Mills) is good example, I may be stopping by this blog a lot more often. I laughed out loud.

Kicked off Cheerleading Squad in Texas Because She Wouldn't Cheer Her Rapist's Name

A sixteen year old who accused a boy of raping her (he pled to a lesser charge) found herself kicked off the squad when she wouldn't cheer him by name (when he was out of jail during some portion of the proceedings). Ms. Magazine article; article.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tea party longing for a past that never was; problems with our future

Michael Ventura talks about the tea party and the future of the nation in a recent Austin Chronicle column.

"This is subtler than simple racism. I doubt most tea partiers are more overtly racist than most white liberals. Rather, what's at play is an innate sense of worth conferred by one's birth – a status and an identity that have been not intentionally destroyed but inevitably dissolved by circumstances impossible to reverse. The country they want back no longer exists."


"We graduate and fail to graduate hundreds of thousands of unprepared young people every year. This can only make for a population incapable of informed decisions, incapable of improving itself, and incapable of keeping up with what's going on in the rest of the world.
That is not a citizenry. That is a peasantry."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Anthology _Machine of Death_ going for Amazon best-seller status -- buy today to help

This is interesting. Machine of Death is a project spearheaded by Ryan North, author of Dinosaur Comics. I remember when this started, as a themed story contest project. The central theme is about a machine that can tell you when you're going to die.

Anyway, they're trying some interesting marketing based on the fact that you don't have to sell so very many copies in a single day to be an Amazon best seller. Check out the details here. I bought a copy; it's less than ten dollars.

Also...note that it took five years to make this book happen. I keep reading stuff like that...that if you're writing a book, you should think in terms of devoting five to eight years of your life to it. I like that kind of perspective and it's interesting to see it validated. I think knowing that kind of thing could be useful along about year 3 when one's motivation starts to flag.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Joe goes to anime expo

Super funny.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Random city map generator

I'm still in love with random map generators. I guess I fear that at any moment I might be called upon to run a game of D&D without a map.

Any code that produces an interesting map is interesting to me, though. I haven't seen a city map maker before, so this one is interesting.

Dan Clowes graphic story "Mr. Wonderful" for free online

Dan Clowes writes stories whose main characters are typically painfully awkward jerks, and there are some really painful moments in this one. But I really liked how it developed. Give it a look.

By the way, the Times does a weird thing on these comics pages. They put the LAST page of the book FIRST. So, skip that first link labeled 'Conclusion', read starting with chapter 1, through to the end (and note that though the links list 2 chapter 18s, it's really ch18 and ch19). Then after reading the last one, go back to the first link and read that one. Yes, it's worth it.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Knitted skeleton

The complexity and beauty of this knitted form is worthy of note. Also, skeletons are cool. This one was pointed out to me by my lovely wife, whose yarn skeins reproduce like tribbles.

Image is from the artist's page and used to link there.

Man-meeting tips

Here's a link to a Metafilter topic that links to videos of a lady promoting her book about how to meet European men. Unintentional hilarity badonkadonk. Must be seen to be believed.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Alien costumes, "They're Here"

Found this on Flickr today:

T H E R E                                                H E R E

Hellboy on USAToday

Apparently I finally crossed over to an alternate universe yesterday, one in which Hellboy gets put online as a webcomic on USAToday.

I'm so not complaining about this.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"Seven Sexy Cowboy Robots" by Sandra McDonald

Kinda blown away by how warm and funny this short story turned out. Check it out.

Monday, October 18, 2010


Tanya and I saw the movie Red this weekend. Tanya had seen the trailers and we'd both wanted to see it, which was great. I liked the trailers too, even before I saw that it was based on a Warren Ellis book that I hadn't known about.

Totally recommended. 

The premise is great: retired spies suddenly find that they're being hunted down, and have to survive while trying to figure out why.

There are several wrinkes to this idea that I won't go into...I liked, though, how the trailers gave you the right impression while not giving you any plot details. The movie didn't begin the way I expected it would.

I wonder what it's like to be a writer and learn that Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, and Hellen frickin' Mirren are going to be doing a movie based on your book. That has to rock your world.

A quick look over the web suggests that the movie isn't a whole lot like the book. I'll have to see if I can get a copy of the book now. Then I'll have to try not to compare them. :)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

_Aquaman: Once and Future_ by Kurt Busiek

I'm on a little bit of a Kurt Busiek kick. I'm a big fan of Astro City and I feel like I've come late to the party there...though it means I can catch up via trade paperback volumes in the library.

This was a reboot of the whole Aquaman story, most of which I'm ignorant about (he got a water hand? What the hell do you do with a water hand?).

(This particular story doesn't contain a water hand.)

Anyway, this story was pretty good. The only quibble I'd have is that it introduces a new Aquaman who is made out to be a great deal like old Aquaman reborn, but it doesn't do much of anything to set up the new guy. I dunno how it should have gone though. It had a good plot, and the new guy's plight is pretty interesting. He's a guy who was raised in isolation because of his birth-defect-need-to-breathe-water, who gets tossed into the sea by a storm that kills his family.  I think we needed to spend some time with him in his normal life before we meet him in the crazy undersea adventure world of DC comics, where his buddy is a humanoid shark named King Shark.

Not to diss King Shark. He was my favorite character, and the cover art of him is great. I'd like to build a facsimile of the spear/sword thing he's holding.

If this whole setting appealed to me a little more, I could see following along to volume 2 to see if it fills in some more background and really grabs me.

Funny thing: I was checking this book out at the library, and the fellow checking me out said, "Aquaman? Who's that?" He said he recognized some other superheroes, but not that one. Aquaman, of course, never gets any respect, which is the reason for a reboot.

I had a similar reaction to the John Constantine: Joyride book I read recently, and perhaps this explains why not everyone is as much in love with The Ultimates as I am: The Ultimates is an Avengers reboot, and the Avengers have some heavily iconic Marvel characters. I know the Marvel history better, I've read a lot more Marvel comics, I revere them. So a reboot of those is an easy sell. The DC reboots don't have any such chords to strum.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Two photos of wee me

My dad just sent me a couple of photos from when I was very small, about three years old.
Theory here is that I'm being punished.

Dad says this was my catch. If so, that's basically more fish than I caught in the whole rest of my life.

_Mouse Guard: Fall 1152

This book was a disappointment. It had evocative art and I'd seen it around and had high hopes for it. I liked the images of mouse towns nestled in the woods.

But the story was opaque. It seemed like a lot happened between chapters and was implied rather than stated, and I didn't feel like I really got it, nor did I ever feel invested in the characters.

UPDATE 10/19/10: My thirteen-year-old son thought it was great, it turns out. He asked me to find him some more issues.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Two years in prison

One guy's report about his time in prison. Well worth a read.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

My fam without me at a playground

These pics are from June 2010.

Lily, Dad, Tara

Ethan, Lily

He ain't heavy, he's my grandson

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

_Bad Luck and Trouble_ by Lee Child

I hate to describe the Jack Reacher novels as revenge fantasy books, not because it's not accurate, because it totally is, but because it sounds so sordid. These books are tons of fun and they're edge of your seat thrillers.

But what I'll remember about them now is that I gave one ... this one ... to my dad, and he said he couldn't put it down.

Seeing my dad's reading tastes and my own start to overlap a little is one of the pleasures of growing up. Back when I was reading revenge fantasies like the Demon Princes novels of Jack Vance, and my dad impounded one of them for a while because of its lurid cover, I couldn't have predicted this would happen. (It was The Palace of Love. Those are great books, by the way.)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Misconceptions about publishing, by Charles Stross

Charles Stross, author of the Merchant Princes series, wrote a series of blog postings on the topic of misconceptions about publishing, and you can get to them here.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Nesting bowls turned on a foot-powered lathe

Spend a few minutes watching this video of a fellow making bowls on person-powered lathe. I thought it was fascinating.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

"Who in Mortal Chains" by Claire Humphrey

This story has a pretty ambiguous ending, and yet I found it satisfying. A strong woman character who operates in an unstereotypical way.

"Who in Mortal Chains" from Strange Horizons.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Constantine, _Joyride_ by Andy Diggle, and other hard-boiled wizards

So, I've started to take an interest in the John Constantine: Hellblazer series. But I still haven't read all that much of it. This book is by Andy Diggle, whom I've also started to take an interest in.

It was good. However, I see on the cover that there's a quote from Brian K. Vaughan, one of my favorite comics writers, saying it's a "Must-read." Well, it didn't feel that way to me. On reflection, though, I suppose that violent adulation of this comic would stem from the fact that it's supposed to rebuild the character of John Constantine and take him back to his roots.

Well, I didn't read the roots, so that stuff doesn't have much impact on me. Maybe I should take a look at this book later.

I have to say though the more I read about Mr. Constantine, the more I am interested in the character. He feels like a hard-boiled mage, similar to that Chicago wizard, what's his name.. oh, yes, Dresden. The Dresden Files guy. I should like the Dresden Files maybe more than I do. I read three and a half of those books, they were pretty good, but they didn't grab me as much as some other things I was reading at the time. So I'll probably take another look at Dresden sometime.

I do think the hard-boiled mage template has legs, though. I really like Glen Cook's version of it, Cold Copper Tears and so forth, with the mage private investigator Garrett. Looking these up now, I see that the series, with its three-word titles, has episodes called Angry Lead Skies and Cruel Zinc Melodies. I wonder if Mr. Cook is regretting the title pattern now. It's got to be difficult to keep coming up with new ones. I know that one consequence of that title pattern is that the title and the book aren't tightly linked, so I have trouble remembering which plot goes with which title. 

Thursday, October 07, 2010

"Swan Song", short story about sex ed

What's it like to teach sex ed to a bunch of drone students? This excellent and exceedingly short story muses on the kinds of dangerous daydreams one might have as an aging teacher facing that task with a bunch of no-account youth. It's from Monkey Bicycle, a fiction webzine.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

They've come to replace our ping pong players

Take a gander at this promotional web page and its video about the Newgy Robo Pong 2050.

Now, let's walk through this. They're not marketing it as something heavy-duty pong players might want for practice purposes, so much as they are aiming at fun-for-the-family. Somehow they think that you increase togetherness by getting a ping-pong table, and then making it possible to play solo. It's really odd. Also, they offer it as the working mother's solution to the difficulty of getting exercise.

Settlers of Catan, on the Microsoft Surface

Video of people playing Catan on Microsoft's fancy multiuser touchscreen thing. Oh, and with a celebrity from 30 Rock.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Did you know?

Did you know that if you use a glue gun while wearing sandals and watching TV, and you take your eyes off the glue gun for a minute, and the glue drips onto your foot, and the dripping glob of burning glue slides down the side of your foot causing increasing pain, and you grab the glob of glue with your fingers to get it off your foot, then you can burn both your hand and your foot in the span of a few seconds?

Guess how I know?

Books of Magick: Life During Wartime, book 1

Now this book really piqued my interest. It make me want to delve much deeper into all the John Constantine sagas. However, it should be said that this seems to be a quite different, alternate John Constantine, and what I like about this book is the stuff that's different. Basically we're looking at a world of magic where humans are under siege, and there are magical analogies for real-world horrors. For example, cluster spells...with the same danger to noncombatants.

This is the sort of thing that could be great or silly, but I liked how this was handled. It's dark and detailed and lovely.

The book sets up lots of intrigue and flips between John Constantine as a besieged leader versus the Faerie Queene and her awful minions. Props for Zatanna as a spy/terrorist, kicking butt.

Monday, October 04, 2010

There are Islamic community centers being built right here in America!

I've been lackadaisical in following the supposed furor over a religious community in New York building on a site they've already been using, that happens to be near the sight of the downed Twin Towers. So I missed this wonderful Jon Steward riff on the situation:

I love how he points out that Americans have protested mosques just because they are mosques, in a NIMBY sort of way.

Twitter activism overblown; realities of online activism

I thought this New Yorker article (link below) by Malcom Gladwell was really've probably heard that Twitter was thought to be a big deal in Iranian protests in 2009, but in fact almost everyone twittering about Iran was in the West. Gladwell talks about the difference between getting people to do difficult things -- like a protest where you could be beaten or arrested -- and getting them to donate a little money or express an opinion. He says big distributed networks are good for the later, but you need a hierarchy for commitment.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Short story "The Dungeon Master" in The New Yorker

A short story about D&D in The New Yorker. It's a pretty good story. It's not really about D&D, of course, so much as it is about angsty teenagers, but still.

Saturday, October 02, 2010


What's not to like about dwarves? Especially free dwarves. These came from a stash that my friend Chris decided to get rid of, by donating them to deserving me. This forced me to become deserving, by actually painting some of these miniatures.

UPDATED 10/3/10....

I can't believe how much angst I've built up over my Warhammer army. It's so full of...goals and issues and things I want to fix and am I willing to go play a game with strangers at the hobby shop and get trounced a few hundred times since I'm not actually very good at wargames yet.

There's a suprising amount of bullshit in my head over this stuff. I should focus on how very much I enjoy building and painting the miniatures, and how miniature figures have shown me that there's a whole branch of modeling, distinct from building cars and planes and spaceships, that I love and that I didn't know about until I tried it with the Warhammer models.

Friday, October 01, 2010


Pal Mikael, of Birding on Broadmeade, recently went to Port Aransas where he took some striking photos, including this one of a pair of Crested Caracaras. Would you believe you can take a photo like this in Texas? Photo links you to the Flickr set.

Crested Caracaras