07 January 2016

2016 Week 1 Update

As I re-purpose this blog and decide what new things to do with it I thought it might be of value to create a weekly post about my other activities online. Below are the posts to my other blogs for this week. Other Times is an alternate history blog and That Bygone Day is a journal of an imaginary person set 80 years ago reacting to the events of those days. I hope you find them of interest.

*January 1: Friday Flag - Seljuk Empire
*January 2: 2015 in Review

*January 4: January 4th, 1936
*January 7: Invasion of Ethiopia continues & the Supreme Court rules

I will also be going through some long-defunct blogs I had in the past and finding posts that are still relevant in current days. I'll start to post them during the year as I rewrite and clean them up a bit.

I should really get back to book reviews too. There are books that will be reviewed on my other sites, but ones that won't fit on either of them I'll try to review here as time allows.

01 January 2015

The 2015 Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge

I skipped reading challenges in 2014. I was doing the challenge on Goodreads so didn't feel the need to do one here. Now I realize that I should do one and actually post book reviews here. I most likely will not review every book I read in 2015, and there are a number from 2014 I will want to review on this blog.

I've signed up for the 2015 Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge over at thebookvixen.com and will see how things go this time. According to Goodreads I read 62 books in 2014 - it was actually 63 since there was one that wasn't in Goodread's system. So for 2015 I'll try to read 64 books that are 100 or more pages (or equivalent). Rules for the challenge can be found HERE! I'll be signing up for the 'I’m on Fire!: read 16+ more books (or 4,000+ more pages)' level.

Any books I review on this blog related to this challenge will have the 2015 Reading Challenge tag. There are bound to be a few that will be better suited for review at my other blog, Othertimesblog.blogspot.com and in those cases I may create posts leading to the reviews on that blog.

03 November 2014

Michael McDermott For New York State Governor 2014

Please consider voting for Michael McDermott for New York Governor on November 4th. While victory is a long-shot, getting over 50,000 votes will give the Libertarian Party of New York ballot access. That will allow them to challenge the Republicans and Democrats in areas where they run unopposed.

If you do vote for him, please be careful filling out the ballot. The board of elections is screwing us again by having us share a line with another party.

Thank you for your consideration.

08 September 2014

Short Story - Corpse of Mars

copyright 2013 by Sean Sherman

March 4, 1866
He was a veteran of the War of Northern Aggression. The Army of Northern Virginia. The war was over, a loss for his adopted state. Now he and his partner traveled across the west, mercenaries and prospectors.

Things had gone poorly when they prospected in Arizona territory. His partner was killed while on a supply run, a victim of the Tonto Apache. After an insane charge into the Apache camp to recover the body he made his way to a cave in what was sacred ground to the natives.

The Apache pursued him in force, but they began to slow as they approached the sacred ground. The shaman urged the warriors forward, they would be forgiven for violating the ground if they dealt with the white-skinned invader.

The Virginian carried his dead friend's body up the path into a cave. He then turned and took cover behind a boulder, awaiting the Apache. Shortly after they arrived a gun fight began.

The defender's only near hit almost killed one of the braves if not for the interdiction of the bullet by a startled bird. The explosion of blood and feathers made it clear to the brave that he was saved, but for what purpose he did not know. Less than a decade later his tribe would be scattered and he would be the partner of a white Texas Ranger turned vigilante.

The white man realized he was doomed. Outnumbered and outgunned with no hope of rescue. He drew a bead on the shaman who was approaching closer to the cave. He then held his fire when he saw the look of terror on the Apache's face. As the shaman fled, the braves followed closely behind him. What had happened? Given that he was still alive there was little reason to be concerned with the details.

Staring up in the sky he could make out a tiny light rising over the horizon. It was a light he knew well. Mars was rising. Mars, the god of war. That other world always had a hold on his imagination. Being a warrior and a mercenary himself he would dream about what life might be like on Earth's neighbor. As exhaustion finally embraced him and he drifted off to sleep his thoughts were of the red planet.

(image from NASA)

Something happened. Something impossible. Suddenly awoken the man found himself transported to the surface of Mars! His body quickly went into agony in the frigid thin air. The liquids of his body began to quickly evaporate in the low pressure of the alien world. Within moments the thick sludge his blood had become could no longer maintain his body's vital functions, but with the lack of oxygen in the atmosphere serviceable blood would have been worthless. His freezing, unseeing eyes never closed as he collapsed as quickly as he had risen his hand clutching a handful of martian dirt.

4 March AD 2429
Marte 1, the first manned mission to Mars, landed on the red planet. Minutes later the hatch opened and a space-suited man, Comandante Mendelez, emerged. After a few brief steps on the alien world the man plants the flag of Sul Aliança into the dirt. Over four centuries of rebuilding and humanity now, officially, had surpassed its former glory.

Flag of Sul Aliança

Mendelez looked around the new world in awe of his surroundings. The other two men of his mission team take their first steps on Mars. Something caught the Comandante's eye. Over behind the rocks.

As he moved around to look at the strange object he swore. His profane language transmitted to nearly every radio and television receiver on Earth minutes later. What he saw defied all logic, the desiccated corpse of a human! Examining the corpse and its possessions it was apparent that it was a man from nineteenth century United States. An impossibility.

It would be a mystery humanity would never be able to solve.


07 September 2014

13 of the top 10 books that stuck with me

I've been tagged me with the challenge of listing the 10 books that have stayed with me. I read a lot of books every year so the list would be very long. I'm sure I've forgotten some important ones that should be included, but I'm already over my limit. Given my natural generosity and disdain for rules I'll be giving a list of 13 instead of 10:

1) AD&D Player's Handbook (1st edition) – by Gary Gygax: This probably had the most influence on me overall, the others will be in no particular order.

2) Tarzan Alive – by Philip Jose Farmer: Farmer is one of my favorite authors. While the first of his books I read were in the Riverworld series Tarzan Alive helped increase my interest in his works and the concept of the Wold Newton Universe.

3) How to Start Your Own Country – by Erwin S. Strauss: A great book on micronation. I've been hooked on the topic ever since. 4) The Art of War – by Sun Tzu

5) A Princess of Mars – by Edgar Rice Burroughs: This one covers all of Burroughs works and my general love of old pulps.

6) For Want of a Nail – by Robert Sobel: My introduction into the area of alternate history. Written as an actual history book from that alternate timeline. I've now read a multitue of alt history books and even have a blog on the topic.

7) The Pity of War – by Niall Ferguson: World War I is a topic I've read dozens of books on. There are so many good ones. This one isn't the best, but it is very good and did get me thinking about things a little differently.

8) Of the City of the Saved – by Philip Purser-Hallard: One of my favorite books in the Faction Paradox series. Faction Paradox is what Doctor Who could be if they got some really creative people working on it.

9) The Crying of Lot 49 – by Thomas Pynchon: Equal parts bizarre and awesome. Also has the kind of ending I love and tends to annoy many others.

10) Physics of the Future – by Michio Kaku: One of my favorite books from my favorite scientist.

11) In the Country of the Blind – by Michael Flynn: A book filled with interesting characters, conspiracies, and great supplemental material in the back. Winner of the 1991 Prometheus Award.

12) 1632 – by Eric Flint: In 2000 a West Virginian mining town is transported to the middle of the Thirty Years War. Amazing start to a large series.

13) The Seychelles Affair – by Mike Hoare: I like Mike's various memoirs and articles especially about his experiences in the Congo. This book covers a failed operation and time in a South African prison. Some insights in this one not in his other books.

As for challenging anyone else to listing their top 10 books - I challenge anyone who actually feels like doing so.

23 July 2013

Imaginary Flags

I have a series of posts over at Other Times about flags from alternate timelines. There are some interesting designs there. The name of each flag contains a link back to the original blog post describing that particular flag.

Flag of Sul Aliança

Flag of the Russian Federation

Flag of Res Publica Romana IV

Flag of the Habsburg Hegemony

Flag of Strumicvar

UN Battle Flag

Flag of Pan America

Flag of Neuschwabenland

22 July 2013

Book Review - Harry Sullivan's War

(image from Amazon.com)

Harry Sullivan was one of the companions of the Fourth Doctor Who (the Doctor with the scarf). He worked with the Doctor and U.N.I.T. on a number of adventures. In 1986 he finally got his own book - written by Ian Marter, the actor who played Harry on the show!

Ian Marter wrote a number of the novelizations of the old Doctor Who episodes. I've read his novelization of the Enemy of the World story since I'm a fan of the second Doctor and that story was incomplete in its original format. For this story Ian gets to create an original tale - one that does not have the time lord making an appearance.

It has been a decade since Harry last adventured in the TARDIS. He has left U.N.I.T. and has recently been transferred to a NATO research facility that develops chemical weapons. Harry is involved mostly on the antidote side of the research. As he begins working at his new position in a facility up in Scotland strange things begin to happen to him, including attempts on his life. Instead of notifying his superiors of the attempts he sets out to unravel things on his own.

Before long Harry is on the run from a terrorist group as well as from his own government which now suspects he is the actual spy. There are long chases across Scotland and into London itself. At times it seemed like I was reading a John Buchan book..... at least until Harry would say something stupid like "Oh my giddy aunt!" Hard to picture an action hero constantly using a line like that. Harry is also completely clueless - it goes beyond the expected amount of ignorance involved for a mystery, but he has such limited information about what is going on there is no reason for him to not immediately call his superiors.

I have trouble figuring out the exact motives of the villains. After spending time trying to murder our hero they then go to great pains to capture and imprison him. I'm not sure exactly what they wanted with the nerve agents they stole... I think the bad guys had a bit of a falling out as one faction became more violent than the original group. The group also used paintings by Van Gogh as a symbol of their organization.

Harry was way too gullible to the manipulations of the femme fatale of the story. He has a couple of encounters with Sarah Jane Smith as well, but they seem to be just 'friends'.

The ending was a bit confusing and involved a fight around the superstructure of the Eiffel Tower that might of looked good in a James Bond film of that era. Again, there is no reason for Harry to be anywhere near the villains at the end, it was a job for the British Secret Service. And despite how idiotic Harry could be at times the villains are even dafter as they follow through with their meeting in Paris after all that happened in the book.

Overall I liked the book. While it failed in may ways to be a good thriller and the story was confusing there was an enthusiastic energy that made it fun. It is also nice to see something in the Doctor Who universe that doesn't revolve around the alien-of-the-week trying to destroy or dominate the Earth. Big thumbs up for not creating a story involving that. It was a nice attempt to expand the universe and add elements from genres not normally associated with Doctor Who.

There were too many questions at the end. What about the potential medical discovery Harry made? What was the Brigadier actually doing in the villain's hideout? What about his friend's wife - was she involved in the conspiracy? What was really going on?

If you are a big Doctor Who fan it is worth the read. If you just want a thriller novel set in Britain then you might want to try The 39 Steps, or the Power-House instead, you'll most likely be disappointed with the action in this novel.

12 April 2013

Kingmaker Update

It has been some time since I first posted about my Kingmaker campaign for Pathfinder. We are now getting close to the end of book two of the six book adventure series. Tonight the party continues its explorations.

here is the current borders of their kingdom

They are bordered on the east by Varnhold and surround the three-hex large Sootscale Kingdom. The Sootscales are kobolds and have access to a silver mine. I've overhead the players mention a couple of times the desire to gain control of the mine.

Explorations currently are taking place to the south and west of the capital, all around the Tuskwater. They've been leaving that area underdeveloped due to their rush to encircle the Sootscales and secure the border with Varnhold. Hopefully by the end of May this year I'll be ready to start book 3 of the series.

Once work slows down for me a little I'll have to see what I can do to get the campaign maps into Campaign Cartographer 3 or something similar to aid in keeping track of the constantly changing maps.

21 March 2013

Third Sentence Thursday - The Mad Goblin

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1) Take the book you are currently reading and open it to a random page. Share the third full sentence on that page. (If there isn’t a third one – like at the end of a chapter or a blank page – you can share the third sentence of the book or just choose another random page.) Feel free to share more than one sentence, if you feel the need to do so.
2) Review this sentence anyway you want (funny and silly reviews encouraged)
3) Post a link to your sentence at Words I Write Crazy
4) Visit one or two of the other blogs to check out their third sentences!

"It was a lizardlike reptile with a long slim snakelike body about five and a half feet long." from The Mad Goblin by Philip José Farmer

So far this has been a great adventure story. One of the sequels to A Feast Unknown.

19 March 2013

Top 10 books I just had to buy but still haven't read

I've decided to give this meme a try. It might motivate me to actually read one of these books.

Meme form brokeandbookish.blogspot.com

To be fair a number of these are Kindle versions but they were all impulse buys nonetheless:
1. Radicals for Capitalism by Brian Doherty - I want to read this... it's just a very long book and I let too many things distract me.
2. The Restoration Game by Ken MacLeod - a nominee for the Prometheus Award. I was trying to read all of the nominees that year... didn't make it.
3. Dreadnought by Robert K. Massie - another big book on World War I. While I've read dozens of books on the war I've always favored reading about aircraft or the more obscure fronts of the war. I've been ignoring the Dreadnoughts for too long.
4. The Political Philosophy of Bakunin edited by G.P. Maximoff - It can be interesting to read about early anarchists and revolutionaries and comparing them to the ones we have today. Bakunin was going to be a project for me a few years ago.... a project that still needs to be finished.
5. The Seychelles Affair by Mike Hoare - Hoare's memoirs of the botched invasion of the Seychelles.
6. Tolkien and the Great War by John Garth - The Great War and J.R.R. Tolkien; how have I ignored this on for so long?
7. The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life by Daniel Terdiman - Years ago I considered trying out Second Life. It even has its own currency that can be exchanged with US Dollars. Never followed through, and even today doesn't seem like a good use of my time.
8. A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome by Alberto Angela - Bought this one for a role-playing game campaign I was running set in ancient Rome. Game lasted two sessions book remained unread.
9. Scapegoats of the Empire by George Witton - the memoirs of an Australian officer run through a British military kangaroo court during the Boer War. Basis for the movie Breaker Morant. Love the movie, not sure if I need to read the book.
10. Tales of the Far West by various authors - An anthology of short stories for the Far West role-playing game setting. Looks like an awesome setting, just have to find time to read this someday.

I have to take some of the one on this list that are physical books and either trade them on Paperback Swap (where I'll just get credits for other books I won't read) or I'll have to donate them to one of the local libraries. Might end up being the library since I now take better advantage of the books they store on their shelves so I don't have to. Got through a few books recently (one I have to return by the end of this week) and it didn't cost me a dime. Before going into a bookstore be sure to intentionally look at your library card or keep it on top of your credit card - it can save you a lot of money in the long run!
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