31 December 2011

Reading Challenges for 2012

I'm going to be joining a number of book challenges in 2012. I'll be tracking my overall progress on my Book Reading Challenges page.

Here they are in no particular order. Follow the links to learn more about the specific challenges and please feel free to join any of them yourself. I've listed them all in one post so you don't have to hunt for all the challenges I've joined and have one-stop shopping for finding challenges that may interest you. Enjoy.

#1: 150+ Reading Challenge for 2012

#2: 2012 Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge from Book Vixen
2012 Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge

Re-reads and crossovers from other challenges are good. Any format including ebooks and audio.

#3: 2012 Read 52 books in 52 weeks
Rule are HERE. You can sign up HERE.

#4: Chunkster Challenge 2012 - I'll be going for the lowest level on this challenge - the Chubby Chunkster. I will probably qualify for a higher level by the end of the year - but I'm playing it safe the first time through with this one.

#5: Get Steampunked! 2012
Get Steampunked! 2012

I'll be going for the Geared level on this one. I like steampunk, but the other books that are on my list for this year won't leave too much room for all the extra steampunk I'd like to read.

#6: Graphic Novels Challenge 2012 - I should be able to read 12 graphic novels during the year.

#7: Non-Fiction Non-Memoir 2012 Reading Challenge

I'm going to be ambitious with this one. I'm going to try to reach the Master Degree level of 25 non-fiction books for this one. This might be actually challenging given the number of other challenges I'll be joining.

#8: 2012 Support Your Local Library Challenge
Not sure what level of this one I can get to so I'll just start by shooting for level one (12 library books). I might make it to a higher level, we'll see how 2012 treats me.

#9: Read Your Name Challenge 2012

Read Your Name Challenge

This one should be easy since I have a short name.

#10: Time Travel Reading Challenge 2012
I love time travel more than just about any other type of science fiction. I will be shooting for the Mind-boggling Voyage: 10 to 12 time travel books level. There is also a nice list of numerous time travel related books on the page for this challenge. Check it out!

#11: 2012 Short Story Reading Challenge - I'll be trying to reach the lowest level on this one, 1 to 3 books (with each book being an anthology of short stories.) I might end up doing more since I'm now writing more short stories.

#12: A-Z Book Challenge

I'll be going with Option B on this challenge. I just can't plan out reading specific books so many months in advance. I never know what will strike my fancy.

#13: 2012 Picture Book Reading Challenge
- I have an idea for a childrens book. It would be a good idea for me to read some to make sure I can further develop this idea. This challenge should help with that. I'll be going with level 1 on this one: 12 books.

#14: Truth in Fiction Challenge - This one might get tricky. The idea is to read a non-fiction book and a fiction book on the same topic. I'll be striving for the Masters Level in this one. Might be a bit ambitious but I will be reading a lot of non-fiction in 2012.

#15: 2012 TBR Pile Reading Challenge

I'll be trying the 41-50 level. I have a large number of books that have accumulated since joining Bookmooch and Paperback Swap a couple years ago.

#16: 2012 War Through The Generations Reading Challenge: WWI - I've read many, many books about the First World War over the years. I've joined this challenge at the 'Swim' level (the highest level).

#17: The 2012 TBR Pile Challenge
TBR Pile Challenge

- Hosted by Roof Beam Reader. I have to pick the 12 books ahead of time and list them here (as well as include links to reviews when I finish reading each book. Here is my list:
1 - A Feast Unknown by Philip Jose Farmer
2 - Tarzan at the Earth's Core by Edgar Rice Burroughs
3 - Frankenstein Unbound by Brian Aldiss
4 - Hadon of Ancient Opar by Philip Jose Farmer
5 - The Divide by William Overgard
6 - Gods of Manhattan by Al Ewing
7 - The Red Baron by Manfred Von Richtofen
8 - Voices From the Great War by Peter Vansittart
9 - Myth of the Great War by John Mosier
10 - Tunnelling to Freedom by Hugh Durnford & others
11 - The Burden of Guilt by Daniel Allen Butler
12 - World War I The African Front by Edward Paice

I've gone with half fiction and half non-fiction. Should be fun.

#18: 2012 Ebook Challenge There are seven levels to this challenge. According to the rules it is possible to move up levels but not down. That being the case I'll start myself at at the second level: CD - 10 ebooks. Shouldn't be too difficult. Last year I used my ebook mostly for short stories and digital magazines; reading 10 or more books on it this years shouldn't be too bad.

#19: Reading Challenge Addicts Challenge 2012
Reading Challenge Addict

Since I'm attempting so many reading challenges it made sense to also join the Reading Challenge Addicts Challenge. Now I need to succeed at as many of these other challenges as possible to get a good grade on this one!

2011 Reading Challenge Results

Well in 2011 I set out to read 100 books. As can be seen below I only reached 60. A few things are responsible for missing the 100; work being very busy over the summer, reading too many magazines, spending more time writing, etc.

I will be starting a number of reading challenges in 2012. Hopefully I'll have better results.

1) The Maker of the Universes: by Philip José Farmer (fiction/fantasy) [Third Sentence Review]
2) Legion of Gold expansion for D&D Gamma World: by Richard Baker & Bruce R. Cordell (Role-Playing Game)
3) The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction: by Philip Athans (non-fiction/writing)
4) The Gates of Creation: by Philip José Farmer; book two of the world of tiers series (fiction/fantasy)
5) A Private Cosmos: by Philip José Farmer; book 3 of the World of Tiers series (fiction/fantasy)
6) The Walls of Terra: by Philip José Farmer; book 4 of the World of Tiers series. Things keep developing and getting more interesting! (fiction/fantasy)
7) The Valley-Westside War: by Harry Turtledove (sci-fi/alternate history) [Third Sentence Review]
8) Short Trips and Side Steps: edited by Stephen Cole & Jacqueline Rayner. An anthology of Doctor Who stories.
9) The Wind Whales of Ishmael: by Philip José Farmer [Third Sentence review]
10) The Blue Max: by Jack D. Hunter [Third Sentence review]
11) The Bloody Red Baron: by Kim Newman
12) Squadron of the Scorpion: by Robert J. Hogan. Book #17 of the G-8 and His Battle Aces series. [Third Sentence review]
14) Libertarianism in One Lesson: by David Bergland (politics)
15) The Pity of War: by Niall Ferguson (history/world war one) [Third Sentence review]
16) The Red Baron: by Richard A. Boning; a brief biography of the Red Baron.
17) The Hussite Movement in Bohemia: by Josef Macek; a history of an uprising in 15th century Bohemia.
18) Armageddon - 2419 A.D.: by Philip Francis Nowlan [Third Sentence Review]; the original source of Buck Rogers!
19) Red Inferno 1945: by Robert Conroy; alternate history where the Soviet Union attacks the Allies in the days before Nazi Germany fell. [Third Sentence review]
20) 1942: by Robert Conroy (Alternate History)
21) The Lavalite World: by Philip José Farmer; part 5 of the World of Tiers series. [Third Sentence Thursday review]
22) Before Armageddon: edited by Michael Moorcock; stories by G.T. Chesney, Jules Verne, George Griffith, William LeQuex, W.J. Wintle, and E. Nesbit
23) A Princess of Mars: by Edgar Rice Burroughs
24) A Guide to Barsoom: compiled by John Flint Roy.A collection of important characters, locations, creatures, and other things from Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom.
25) Riders of the Purple Wage: by Philip José Farmer. My copy included a number of short stories as well; including St. Francis Kisses His Ass Goodbye and UFO Versus IRS.

26)The Desdamona Affair: by Clyde Allison
27)Gamefinger: by Clyde Allison
28)The Golden Fleece and the Heroes Who Lived Before Achilles: by Padraic Colum (mythology/fantasy)
29) Tarzan of the Apes: by Edgar Rice Burroughs

30) When Organizing isn’t Enough: by Julie Morgenstern (non-fiction/self-help)
31) The Next Decade: Where We've Been... ...and Where We're Going: by George Friedman; narrated by Bruce Turk (some interesting geo-political analysis)
32) Physics of the Future: by Michio Kaku. An amazing look into the technology of the next hundred years. (science)
33) Doctor Who: Tales from the TARDIS, Volume 1: by Brian Hayles, Terrance Dicks, Eric Saward and others. (science fiction)
34) Parallel Worlds: by Michio Kaku (science)
35) The Pirate Coast: Thomas Jefferson, the First Marines, and the Secret Mission of 1805: by Richard Zacks; A history of the First Barbary War.
36) America's Secret War: by George Friedman (geo-politics)
37) The Big Switch: by Harry Turtledove. Third book in 'The War That Came Early' series.
38) Into the Storm: by Taylor Anderson; book one of the Destroyermen series
39) Crusade: Destroyermen book 2: by Taylor Anderson.
40) Maelstrom: by Taylor Anderson; book three of the Destroyermen series
41) Distant Thunders: by Taylor Anderson; book four of the Destroyermen series
42) Rising Tides: by Taylor Anderson; book five of the Destroyermen series
43) The Three Musketeers: by Alexandre Dumas (fiction/classic)
44) The Automatic Detective: by A. Lee Martinez. (sci-fi/noir)
45) The First Three Minutes: by Steven Weinberg. (science)
46) Go the F**k to Sleep: by Adam Mansbach (read by Samuel L. Jackson)
47) Desperate Deception: by Thomas E. Mahl (narrated by William Sutherland)
48) Hominids: by Robert J. Sawyer. Part one of the Neanderthal Parallax series.

Graphic Novels
49) Planetary: All Over the World and Other Stories: by Warren Ellis,John Cassaday, and Laura DePuy.
50) Planetary: The Fourth Man: by Warren Ellis & John Cassaday
51) Century: 1910: by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill
52) Planetary Vol. 3: Leaving the 20th Century: by Warren Ellis & John Cassaday
53) Planetary: Crossing Worlds: by Warren Ellis & John Cassaday
54) Planetary: Spacetime Archaeology: by Warren Ellis & John Cassaday
55) Marvel 1602: by Neil Gaiman
56) Marvel 1602: New World: by Greg Pak & Greg Tocchini
57) Marvel 1602: Spider-Man: by Jeff Parker & Ramon Rosanas
58) Java Joint: by Jolly R. Blackburn, Steve Johansson, David S. Kenzer, and Brian Jelke
59) John Carter of Mars: Weird Worlds: written by Marv Wolfman, art by Murphy Anderson, Sal Amedola, and Joe Orlando
60) John Carter of Mars: The Jesse Marsh Years: written by Paul S. Newman, illustrated by Jesse Marsh

24 December 2011

Review – Sherlock Holmes A Game of Shadows

Last week I went to see Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Overall the film was a disappointment. While there were times I laughed at the comedic elements of the film I later realized that this wasn't Sherlock Holmes.

While Robert Downey, Jr. has an interesting interpretation of the world's greatest detective the film too often fell into a campy feel. I can live with the camp.

The first real problem was the violence. The number of people killed by Holmes & Watson was staggering. At one point Watson is firing what looks similar to a BAR at German guards at a weapons plant. I lost track of how many people he slaughtered with a weapon that wouldn't be developed until the tail end of the First World War (about a quarter century after when this film takes place).

Inside the factory where that battle took place were enough artillery shells to last part of a weekend during the Great War. Some of these shells appear to have been capable of deploying chemical weapons..... another thing developed after the War was in full swing many years later.

In any case gun play was uncommon in Holmes canon. It seems to be the first course of action in this adventure. The explosions and shooting were very out of place.

There also seemed to be no real mystery involved in the story. Holmes knows that Moriarty is up to no good at the start. Most of the film is just to drive Holmes into confrontation with Moriarty at Reichenbach Falls. Basically a bad retelling of “The Adventure of the Final Problem.”

On the plus side I did enjoy the musical score. So many movies these days have forgettable music, it's nice to have a movie with something more memorable. Earlier this year I saw the new Conan and was disappointed at the crappy music, nothing like the awesome score by Basil Poledouris. Musical scores these days leave much to be desired especially compared to what we had in movies twenty to thirty years ago.

So to summarize; if you liked the first film in this series you should at least enjoy this one. If you didn't like the first film you'll probably dislike this one even more. Overall I give it a 4 out of 10.

*Nice music
*Good action flick if you forget it's a Sherlock Holmes film

*Too much bloodshed by Holmes & Watson
*No mystery involved
*Moriarty's moronic plot
*A little too silly at times

18 December 2011

Making good use of Atomic Blast in COH

I've had some luck advancing Technobabe in City of Heroes. A few months ago I picked up the Atomic Blast power from Radiation Blast. I wasn't impressed with it. The endurance drain and reduced endurance recovery made it less than useful for me. Many times minions would still be standing after the blast, admittedly in rough shape, but it didn't seem like a great power for a Defender.

Now it is one of my favorite attack powers. I just learned how to make up for the endurance drain with the use of inspirations and then activating Accelerate Metabolism or Power Sink to recover additional endurance. I can be back on the attack (or healing myself and teammates) before survivors of the Atomic Blast can recover. I had a friend a couple weeks ago notice how using Atomic Blast didn't seem to phase me.

Now as an added bonus I have the Burnout power from the Speed group. When activated this power recharges all the powers in my primary and secondary power sets.... including Atomic Blast.

I can now set off two Atomic Blasts in short order with minimal drawbacks to myself except using about a third of my inspirations and having a couple toggle powers turn off on me. Few things can survive the dual blasts.

It's gotten to the point now where I use a handful of defensive inspirations to buy me the time to draw multiple mobs together to really nuke the heck out of them all. Technobabe is turning into a real combat character; I have no trouble soloing with her like I did back in the day.

I'm just glad I stuck with Atomic Blast. As I've mentioned it did not impress me much when I first used it, but now it is awesome. I've got it slotted for six enhancements and in a few more levels I'll be ready to find just the right set of invention enhancements to make it even more deadly.

If you play City of Heroes I hope this helps you out some. Are there any other tricks anyone has picked up using this power?

11 December 2011

December 2011 Update

It has been a bit since my last post. Life got very busy so posting took a back seat to other things.

One of the things that kept me busy was working on a short story for possible inclusion in an anthology. Problem is I don't like the current state of the story so I'll probably miss the deadline. That being the case I'll eventually post it online.

I'm also cleaning up my online presence. Last site I have to consider is MySpace. I would have deleted my profile there by now but I have a couple friends on there that won't do Facebook or other sites I'm on. I guess I should try to find something constructive to do with MySpace. Any suggestions?

Catching up on my reading is also taking up time. Needless to say I'm not going to reach 100 books for this year. I believe I'm up to 54 and I'm in the process of reading Tarzan of the Apes, Divide and Rule, and The First Three Minutes; that'll get me up to 57 and over Christmas I should be able to get one or two more in. It would be nice to reach 60... but when I was a kid a 60 was a failure, I'll need to get 65 for the 'D'.

This year has been a terrible one for table-top gaming. I have a once-a-month-or-so Mutants & Masterminds game I run and an occasional Pathfinder or Star Wars game. I really need to get some more gaming in soon. Hopefully 2012 will allow me to fit some extra games in.

The purge of old computer files, comic books, DVDs, and other crap continues. It's nice to have shelf space back. I'm getting more brutal in getting rid of DVDs. Since I quit Netflix over their price increase I've given Amazon Prime a spin. So far so good. No need for me to keep all the DVDs I had accumulated over a decade I'm selling them for what I can get through a couple avenues such as Swapadvd.

The comic books are becoming more difficult to get rid of. All the ones I had which had any value I've sold. The remaining ones are not worth the effort for what little cash I can get for them. I may have to come up with some sort of project to get rid of them, something artistic.

In any case since I've given up on that short story deadline I can now spend some more time updating my blogs. Perhaps with something more interesting than just a list of the reasons why I haven't been updating them....

16 November 2011

Comic Book Binding

As I finish the purge of most of my comic book collection there are a few series which I intend to keep. The problem is that in the future pulling out all those dang plastic bags with individual issues and trying to read them I'd much rather just pull a single book off the self instead.

That's where comic book binding comes in. Now pretty much every comic book from the last thirty odd years is just about worthless. I've been to enough flea markets and toy shows to see the dozens of long boxes with comics marked down to a quarter or less. I don't own any old comics anymore, the ones with any value got sold.

Since they have no value now there is nothing wrong with having them bound. I know some collectors will shudder thinking of messing with comics like that, but luckily many more feel as I do.

So why should I spend twenty-odd dollars binding a bunch of worthless crap together? Well since these are the comics that survived my final purge I plan on reading them again in the future, possibly several times over the years. Binding them in hardcover format will help protect them and make it nice and easy to read. They will also look really spiffy on a shelf - no more comic boxes.

The first series I plan on having bound; the poor series that will get experimented on; is The Champions. My copies are in rough shape. They are old reading copies. Covers are still attached, all pages in good order. Hopefully there will be no problems in binding them.

I also plan a couple more experimental things to do with this first project. It'll take me a few weeks to prep these additional details. I'll also have to find a book binder with experience with binding comic books. Hopefully they will give me some pointers and help me with the additional things I'll want done with this book.

As this project gets closer to becoming a reality I'll post some more details. When it is finally completed by early 2012 I'll be sure to post some pictures.

For more information on Comic Book Binding check out the Comic Binding thread on The Comic Forums.

Have you ever had comic books bound? What were your experiences? Any regrets?

09 November 2011

A funny thing happened on the way to my short story

Monday was a good day for me in terms of getting some writing done. The problem was I got inspired to write a short story instead of working on a 5,000 to 30,000 story I need to have written and polished by December 15th.

I did average about 1,000 words an hour and got the rough draft of the story done. The beginning needs a little work. I also have to make sure the foreshadowing in the story works as well as it seemed to as I was speeding along on Monday. I love the way the second half of the 5,000 words turned out..... it's just the first half that is giving me doubts.

The problem was research. Getting inspired late Sunday night as I was dozing off to having a finished draft 24 hours later didn't give me time to do proper research. I'll clean it up as well as I can this week. Hopefully at some point in the future I can interview someone with firsthand knowledge of some of the settings of the story to make it better.

A quick synopsis: A junior congressman gets assigned to the Ways and Means Committee and eventually uncovers a conspiracy. It has a good amount of action. I also personally like the climax and ending of the story.

If I can get it in really good shape I may even try to get it published. Failing that I'll be sure to post it to this blog - or at least post a link to wherever I end up uploading the story.

The Strange Thing About Inspiration
I wasn't planning on writing a short story. As I've said I have another writing project I have to finish over the next month. It's just the idea was so interesting to me and pieces seemed to fall into place I had to write it.

Some authors are asked where they get their ideas. I don't have a shoe box under my bed where I keep them. You just have to learn to recognize the idea for what it is and be willing to experiment.

The story I've finished does have a little bit more behind it. A friend of mine posted something on his Facebook page about some of the things he was planning to read. He mentioned a story by one of my favorite authors. I went to my self and pulled that book and then remembered there were other short stories in it.

I spent the night reading one of them. It was very creative and very well done. It got my mind wandering in some strange directions. Thrown into the mix was an odd concept from a Green Lantern comic I never read from 1985.

The quick bit of research I managed gave me some locations, ideas for interesting situations, and even the name for a supporting character. That same research forced me to change other things about the story. The main character is now from Colorado instead of Arizona.

Other bits came from writing dialog for the characters. You may have something planned when you start a scene but when the characters start talking and interacting with each other you realize something else should happen instead. It may sound silly, but when you are typing away at full speed you don't have time to plan out the dialog and consider the possible responses; your instinct takes over and your characters almost write themselves.

It's tough to get into that zone sometimes, but the results are usually very interesting. Typing away at a scene and not knowing how its going to end until your fingers stop clicking away on the keyboard.

08 November 2011

Another Election Day

Since I've been eligible to vote I've voted in every election except for one. Even back in the old days when I owned some stock (before I had to sell them to get the money for the down payment on a car) I would try to vote for the Boards of Directors and on any other proposals if the mood struck me.

Today before work I went out and did my civic duty. It was not one of the better years for choice. There were many uncontested races. Luckily someone from the other party ran for town supervisor an another for town board. Don't know how they'll do, but at least there was an option.

No real third party candidates in my area. The only so-called third party lines with candidates were the Conservatives, Working Families, and Independence parties... but the almost never run their own candidates, they instead keep nominating a Democrat or Republican.

If all those who didn't vote started voting for actual third parties it wouldn't be long before we actually had a third party. There is no way a third part can be legislated into existence. Also don't make the mistake I have in past years of voting on this alleged third parties that just nominate the D or the R, if no one votes on their lines maybe they'll give some real options of their own or go away.

At least the contested races on the county level seem to be going my way right now. I'll have to see about the town in the morning.

31 October 2011

Happy Halloween

I hope everyone has had a great Halloween. Mine has been a bit on the slow side. Work has been a little busy so I ended up just staying home tonight. Watched a couple of movies, played some City of Heroes, and took care of a some odds'n'ends.

The first movie was The Night Strangler starring Darren McGavin. That and the Nightstalker (and the whole Kolchak tv series) are part of my usual October viewing.

For the second movie I went for something I haven't seen in a number of years, Love at First Bite. While it is difficult to claim any movie is the best ever made given the number of different genres and styles out there I believe it is safe to say that his one is easily the best movies starring both George Hamilton and Richard Benjamin.

As for City of Heroes; the annual Halloween celebration is ending soon. I got in some last minute trick-r-treating and did some missions to begin moving Underpants Lad back to hero after his brief career as a vigilante.

I think for next year I'll have to come up with an elaborate costume. That gives me 365 days to come up with something cool.

23 October 2011

That time of year again!

It's that time of year again! Time for the Halloween Event on City of Heroes. All of the cool stuff from previous years is still around plus great new content for 2011.

Over the last few days Underpants Lad, Technobabe, and a number of my other characters have been trick or treating, fighting zombie hordes, and defeating supernatural invasions of Paragon City. Tonight I hope to make my way to Dr. Kane's House of Horror.

I've also been collecting the Halloween salvage and spreading it out across all of my characters so that they can all eventually unlock their extra costume slots. Much of that salvage is very cheap at Wentworth's in game, now just costing a few hundred influence instead of 50,000 or more. A good example of how supply affects prices.

Just wanted to remind people this event was going on now, ending around November 2nd or so. Now that City of Heroes is free to play it might be a good time to check it out.

06 October 2011

Third Sentence Thrusday #11

Third Sentence Thursday

"So far as I can recollect I have always been a man, a man of about thirty." A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

These is more to John Carter than just astrally projecting to Mars/Barsoom. He doesn't seem to age and doesn't remember his childhood. This could possibly be influence from Edwin Lester Arnold's Phra the Phoenician, another un-aging character.

Here's how Third Sentence Thursday works:

1) Take the book you are reading now and post the third sentence
2) Review this sentence anyway you want (funny and silly reviews encouraged)
3) Post a link to your sentence to Sniffly Kitty's Third Sentence Post for this week.

13 September 2011

Books I read way back in 2008

As I continue on my reading challenge for 2011 it is beginning to look unlikely that I'll get anywhere near 100 books. Part of the problem is all the gaming and reference books I don't fully read cover-to-cover. Second is how busy work has been this summer, my reading time has been cut considerably. Finally are all the magazines and journals I read from month to month, lots of good reading time spent on periodicals which aren't counted for the challenge.

In any case I did find a list of many of the books I read in 2008. I thought I'd post it here. It helps show that while I'm not going to succeed with my current challenge, I at least am reading more full books than I did a few years ago.


1) Illusion of Victory: by Thomas Fleming. Actually I started reading it in 2007, but I'll be done soon. It's basically about American involvement in World War I and shows Wilson to be possibly the worst President we've ever had - except for LBJ.

2) Star Wars on Trial: by David Brin & Matthew Woodring Stover. This book wasn't all that good. David Brin had well thought out arguments but Stover would resort to personal attacks and brining up things that had nothing to do with Star Wars. It didn't help I went into the who thing on Brin's side, I wanted to see a good debate, but just had my original opinions confirmed.

3) The Superhero Handbook: by Michael Powell. A humorous look at getting into the superhero business.

4) Rising Sun Victorious: by Peter G. Tsouras. A collection of ten alternate histories for the Pacific War where the Japanese manage a victory.

5) Pale Blue Dot: by Carl Sagan. An interesting book on the future of humankind in space. There were points where I didn't like Sagan's writing style, but a good book overall.

6) King Leopold's Ghost: by Adam Hochschild. History book about the murder of approx. ten million people in the Belgian Congo.

7) MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers: by Joseph Gibaldi. I'm reading this one from cover-to-cover to make sure I'm up on the latest style rules for research writing.

8) From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain: by Minister Faust. This book is turning out to be better than I thought it would be. Dr. Brain, the leading therapist for super powered individuals has to help the world's most powerful, and dysfunctional, super group.

9) The Prisoner of Zenda: by Anthony Hope.

10) Rupert of Hentzau: by Anthony Hope. This is the sequel to Prisoner of Zenda. It has been great. You have to read Prisoner of Zendafirst, but this book was not what I expected it to be.

11) Paris 1919: by Margaret MacMillan. The victorious Allies from World War I setting things up for the second war as well as creating Iraq, Yugoslavia, and Palestine... I don't think they got anything right.

12) Sherlock Holmes: the Complete Novels and Stories volumes I & II: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I have to go back and read the stories I skipped over the first time through.

13) Write is a Verb: by Bill O'Hanlon. This is one of those books on writing a book. It is actually one of the better ones out there.

14) The Power-House: by John Buchan. A very interesting tale of a powerful world-wide conspiracy set in London.

15) The Wreck of the Titan: a.k.a. Futility. By Morgan Robertson. Similar in some ways to the story of the Titanic, but written years prior. In some ways better than I was expecting, in others it was as bad as some reviews I read.

16) Dracula: by Bram Stoker. Despite being a huge horror/monster fan as a kid I don't think I actually read this until now. I love the format of this novel.

17) The Thirty-Nine Steps: by John Buchan. Murder and espionage just prior to the outbreak of The Great War.

18) Master of the World: by Jules Verne.

19) The First Men in the Moon: by H.G. Wells. Proof that Wells does deserve his place on the list of great science fiction authors.

20) When Gravity Fails: by George Alec Effinger. I'm not much of a cyberpunk fan, but I did like this book.

21) Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint: by Nancy Kress. Just another one of those 'how to write' books.

22) Men's Adventure Magazines: A collection of hundreds of images from post WWII men's adventure magazines from the Rich Oberg Collection. Some cool stuff.

23) Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce: by Stanley Weintraub. The story of the spontaneous celebration of Christmas along some of the trenches during the Great War.

24) Churchill: Wanted Dead or Alive: by Celia Sandys. History of Winston Churchill in South Africa during the Boer War.

25) The Historian's Toolbox: by Robert C. Williams. All about the methods and craft of historical research.

26) Assignment: Eternity: by Greg Cox. A Star Trek novel. Not as good as I was hoping it would be.

27) MicroNations: The Lonely Planet Guide to Home-Made Nations. This book is interesting. There are a few real micronations in it and a large number of silly ones.

28) The Gladiator: By Harry Turtledove. The latest in his Crosstime Traffic series. This book was written much better than the last couple in the series. It was quite good.

29) Greenmantle: By John Buchan. Second in the series of Richard Hannay novels. Very interesting given the geo-political situation a century later.

30) Mr. Standfast: By John Buchan. Third in the Richard Hannay series. German agents are infiltrating a British pacifist group during the Great War.

31) The Eternal Lover (a.k.a. The Eternal Savage): by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

32) The Third World War August 1985: by General Sir John Hackett & Other Top-Ranking NATO Generals & Advisors. A very interesting book written in 1978 giving a detailed description of WWIII given the geo-political situation in '78 and where the authors thought it could lead.

33) Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72: by Hunter S. Thompson. I don't think I finished this one. I'll have to go back and do so at some point.

34) Ishmael: by Barbara Hambly. A Star Trek novel that crosses Trek over with the old TV show Here Come the Brides. Cameos from various characters from sci-fi and western sources. Much better than Assignment: Eternity.

35) 1984: by George Orwell.

10 September 2011

Victory at the Dome

Tonight two roller derby bouts were held at the Dome Arena. In the first the Rochester B-Sides took on the Albany All-Stars B Team and in the other the Roc Stars took on the Rideau Valley Vixens from Ottawa.

The first bout was an overwhelming victory for the B-Sides. They crushed the Albany B-Team 227 to 32. That 227 is the highest score I've seen to-date in a roller derby bout. The All-Stars didn't seem motivated at all, there were times their jammers seemed to have trouble passing their own teammates. There were only a handful of times that they managed to get the lead jammer spot, and many of the times they did a B-Sider jammer would be hot on their tail. In the second half their game did improve, but they were so far behind at that point it didn't matter.

The second bout was a much more active and physical game. The Vixens pulled to an early lead and kept it to half-time. Both the Vixens and Roc Stars were doing their part to keep the penalty box officials company. At half-time the Roc Stars were trailing by about 15 points and it seemed that the Vixens would eventually win. However in the second half the Roc Stars came back with a vengeance. They slowly began to dominate the track and eventually pulled off a victory, 160 to 103. A close and exciting game.

Two great bouts and a musical interlude between games. All-in-all a great and inexpensive way to spend an evening. Victory for the local teams in both bouts was a bonus!

06 September 2011

Car Shopping

One of these days I'd like to buy a car because I want to not because I need to. My current vehicle is on its last legs, but it has served me faithfully and with little trouble for nearly five and a half years.

However, since it has been paid off for a few months and the warranty expired everything is going wrong with it. Option one is to pay over $2,500 in repairs to get possibly another year out of it or to get a new vehicle. Looks like a new vehicle is going to win out.

Still in search & research mode but I've narrowed things down a bit. My natural paranoia and experiences should keep me from getting screwed over too bad.

Still, this added, unexpected expense is going to officially postpone my vacation for yet another year..... hopefully summer 2012 will be when I finally take it.... more realistically summer 2015.

05 September 2011

Spirits of the Dead

Here is some writing I did in March 2010 for a local writing contest. I didn't have too much time to write it at the time due to obligations at work so I decided to get a little experimental with it. Ended up getting first place.


By Sean Sherman

The 113th is escorting a squadron of bombers on their return form an attack across the German lines. A swarm of Hun fighters streak down at them from out of the afternoon sun. Bill Maddox watches the incoming enemy. This is going to be his first dogfight as they will have to try to keep the enemy away from the bombers.

The two squadrons clashed, machine guns blazing. Maddox tried to stay with “Mad Dog” Harris, his wingman. An Albatross D.V cut across him several of its bullets cutting into Bill’s craft.

Oil from the damaged engine sprayed into Maddox’s face, covering his goggles.

The sound of machine guns fills the air with a symphony of death.

Scarf up to clean goggles.

Smell of smoke from a nearby burning plane.

Can’t find “Mad Dog.”

Bullets whistle past in the frigid air.

Hun spotted.

Enter kill position.



Screams as burning German fighter spirals to the awaiting ground.

Shaken by the close passing of another plane.

More bullets fly past.

Movement at the left.


Albatross dead ahead.

Guns jam.

Begin hammering guns.

Strafed by German.

Warm. Blood flowing down arm.

Grazing hit.

Plane streaking past guns screaming after an unseen enemy.

Guns working again.

Circle around.

Enter the melee.

Target acquired.



Out of control plane on collision course.

Violent dive to the right.

Spinning out of control.

Warmth between legs.

Plane stabilizes.

Climb back up towards fight.

Sudden move from right.

Turn and shoot.

Direct hit.

Black smoke pours out of target.

First kill…

Time nearly stops for Bill. The battle now sounds a hundred miles away. He can almost see the individual bullets casually floating through the air. A puffy black trail being left by his crashing victim. That is when Maddox realizes that he has just found his wingman.

Shock and terror grip Bill as his brain comprehends what he has just done. He looses sight as his wingman goes down across enemy lines. His limbs feel like they weight tons. He can’t force himself to turn and follow Harris down.

As Bill drifted he began to loose too much altitude. Boche anti-aircraft guns open fire. The sounds rattle Bill out of his trance. Before he can climb away his plane is hit by enemy fire. He begins to go down. The engine is destroyed and the little remaining fuel begins to burn.

Maddox manages to pull up the nose and get the extra distance to the British lines. As he makes a rough landing in his burning aeroplane he voids the contents of his stomach onto his controls and legs. As Allied soldiers arrive to help he looses consciousness.

Five days later Bill Maddox was in his quarters near the aerodrome. No one had said anything about what had happened to “Mad Dog.” No one had seen that Bill was the one who shot him down.

His own wounds were superficial and he was due to fly in to-morrow’s dawn patrol. Unfortunately his new obsession with whiskey may cause him to be grounded.

As Bill gets started on the night’s drinking Major Thomas enters the room.

“Major.” Said Bill as he saluted.

“Maddox.” Said the Major as he returned the salute and then seated himself in a nearby chair.

“I know that getting shot down can be a traumatic experience, Bill. If you need a few more days you can have them.”

“Thank you, Sir.” Said Bill as he sipped from the bottle.

“However,” said the Major as he takes the bottle form Bill, “this is hardly going to make you better.”

“It makes the ghosts go away.”

“What ghosts? I wasn’t aware that you’d killed anyone.”

Maddox pulls the whiskey back away from the Major. He takes a long swig from the bottle. “I killed Mad Dog.”

After a along moment passes without any words.

“You didn’t kill him, Bill.”

“Yes I did. I was scarred, confused. I saw a plane and fired. It was Jack. I murdered him.”

“Even if he was dead that wouldn’t be murder. The Huns are responsible not you.”

“If he were dead?”

The Major pulls a telegram out of his pocket and hands it to Maddox. Bill begins to read.

“He’s alive! The Germans have him at a hospital…. They had to amputate his leg.” Maddox stands and begins to pace the room. “It’s all my fault.”

“Nonsense, Maddox. I told you it was the Hun’s fault. Do you think you are the first man to accidentally shoot a buddy?”

“I don’t care if I’m the first. It doesn’t change what I did.”

The Major now stands and places his hand on Bill’s shoulder. “If you want to make things up to Jack I’ll tell you what you can do.”

“Yes… yes, Sir.”

“You can go back up there and bring down two German planes. One to avenge Jack and the other to make up for the one you should have gotten last week.”

“I don’t know. What if I shoot another one of our planes?”

“You won’t. You’ve learned a very important lesson. Besides if you don’t go back up then Jack was shot down for nothing. You owe it to him to take his place in the squadron.”

“Alright. I’ll do it.”

“Do you want to go up with the dawn patrol to-morrow, or do you still need a couple of days?” asked Major Thomas.

“I’ll go with the patrol, sir.”

“Good man.” The Major walks to the door and then turns. “Just so you know it’s not going to be much easier to shoot down a German. Before this war is over you’ll have your fair share of ghosts. The spirits in a bottle can’t make the spirits of the dead go away. You have to take comfort in the fact that with each victory we have the war is that much closer to ending. And then we can put several million spirits to rest.”

01 September 2011

Third Sentence Thursday #10

Third Sentence Thursday

"But on Earth and on other planets of the pocket universes, the hills, mountains, valleys, plains, the rivers, lakes, and seas, seldom altered." (The Lavalite World" by Philip José Farmer)

Sounds like they are on a world with an evershifting landscape. Given that the book is called the Lavalite World it brings images of clumps of matter shifting, breaking off, and merging back with each other just like a lava lamp.

Here's how Third Sentence Thursday works:

1) Take the book you are reading now and post the third sentence
2) Review this sentence anyway you want (funny and silly reviews encouraged)
3) Post a link to your sentence to Sniffly Kitty's Third Sentence Post for this week.

30 August 2011

COH Profile - Technobabe

COH Profile – Technobabe

Last time I introduced my highest level character on City of Heroes, a character named Underpants Lad. This time I've go my second highest level character from the last seven years on the game:


Level 30 Technology Defender

Technobabe gained her powers from collecting and modifying alien technologies. Now she carries these gadgets to fight for justice and against bad things across Paragon City. These devices, and her own tactical genius have helped lead to the success of her supergroup, the Thursday Night Avengers (her teammates helped too).

Radiation Emission: Radiant Aura, Accelerate Metabolism, Radiation Infection, Mutation, Enervating Field, Lingering Radiation, Choking Cloud, Fallout

Radiation Blast: Neutrino Bolt, X-Ray Beam, Proton Volley, Cosmic Burst

Speed: Hasten, Super Speed, Whirlwind

Concealment: Stealth, Invisibility

Radiation Emission: Radiant Aura, Accelerate Metabolism, Mutation, Choking Cloud, Fallout

Radiation Blast: Neutrino Bolt, Irradiate, Aim

Leadership: Maneuvers, Assault, Tactics, Vengeance

Teleportation: Recall Friend, Teleport Foe

Leaping: Combat Jumping, Super Jump, Acrobatics

Day Job Powers: Day Trader Teleporter, Enhanced Day Trader Teleporter, Revive Ally, Midnighter

Temporary Powers: Stealth Suit, Extinguisher, Taser Dart, Holiday Cheer, Mystery Gift, Build Snowbeast (x3), Ouroboros Portal, Holiday Spirit, Revolver, Call to Justice, Stun Grenade, Gabriel's Hammer, St. Louis Slammer, Hand Grenade, Summon Teammastes, Plasmatic Taser

Inherent Powers: Brawl, Surge, Dash, Quick, Rush, Jump Pack, Pocket D VIP Pass, Base Transporter, Ghost Slaying Axe, Nemesis Staff, Clockwork Pet, Walk, Shadowy Presence, Sprint, Rest, Vigilance

Inherent Fitness: Swift, Hurdle, Health, Stamina


Technobabe has had two primary costumes. The first one had different color variations over the years as she moved around to different supergroups.

Here is her original costume when she formed the Thursday Night Avengers in 2004:

Here is her current favorite costume:

She has been a difficult one to play in the past after the Thursday Night Avengers temporarily disbanded. It was nearly impossible to solo missions and team-ups with random people sometimes don't work well, especially if they have a preconceived idea about how a certain archetype should be played. For the most part she is a support character which did not lend itself well to soloing.

Now that the game has introduced alternate builds I was able to create a build specifically for solo play while keeping one optimized for team play. The change in the way difficulty settings work allowed me to tone down the danger of my own missions so I could have a better chance to be successful.

With all of that she is actually fun to play now, and since Underpants Lad is pretty much maxed out now she is one of my primary characters right now. The two others I play on a regular basis are villains. One is an Arachnos Spider while the other one I think I'll introduce next time – Doctor Dastardly!

27 August 2011

Writing Update

I'm planning to enter a short story contest in a couple of weeks. Last week I wrote the first draft of my story coming in at just over 2,000 words and for the contest it has to be under 4,000 so I have room to work with.

For my genre I've chosen science fiction. I also decided to write something that didn't involve alien worlds, spaceships, bug-eyed monsters, or ray guns. Something that I guess would be hard sci-fi. It involves string theory, theology and takes place on an alternate Earth.

I have been lucky enough to have some people in a writing group I belong to available to read the draft. We all shared each others potential entries for the contest in hopes that at least one of us will win something.

Responses for mine were overall positive, but I've got lots of notes to go through to clean up some problems with the story. Luckily I have nearly 2,000 words left available if needed to fix these problems.

Overall I'm happy with how the story is turning out. Maybe I'll even end up winning the contest. I'll let everyone here know if I did when I find out. If I don't I'll post the story on this blog in December or January 2012 for those who are interested.

25 August 2011

Third Sentence Thursday #9

Third Sentence Thursday

"This was when soldiers were the most vulnerable, and the tightly packed men in each of the dozen assorted craft knew that a hit anywhere would impact on something soft, meaty, and human." (Red Inferno: 1945 by Robert Conroy)

This sentence pretty much sets the tone for the whole tone of the book. Despite the anxiety the men feel in this opening chapter of the book they cross the river without incident. However the rest of the book is filled with the horrors of war as the Soviet Union attacks the United States in the last days of the war to destroy Nazi Germany.

Here's how Third Sentence Thursday works:

1) Take the book you are reading now and post the third sentence
2) Review this sentence anyway you want (funny and silly reviews encouraged)
3) Post a link to your sentence to Sniffly Kitty's Third Sentence Post for this week.

24 August 2011

COH Profile - Underpants Lad

I've played City of Heroes since the first months it came out over seven years ago. There have been large gaps in my play time due to limited finances or having a computer that could no longer handle the game well.

Over those seven years I've made many characters but only a small group of them advanced beyond 10th level. Only a limited few made it to 20th or beyond. I was determined to get at least one character to 50th level - that ended up being Underpants Lad.

A friend of mine created a character called Cptn Underpants. I decided to mimic the appearance of his character, except make him much, much shorter. I made him to be the kid sidekick, thus Underpants Lad was born. I did choose a different power set than the Captain. Lucky for me too. Dark Melee and Regeneration work wonderfully together.

Despite that it was a lot of trouble getting up to 50th level. I accomplished that feat about a year ago. Now I have played around with much of the current Incarnate system and have spent a huge amount of influence to slot enhancements that give me all sorts of additional bonuses. On top of that he has a huge collection of temporary powers.

Now I am able to focus on another character. Underpants Lad is going into semi-retirement. Here is where he stands right now:

Underpants Lad (Level 50 Mutation Scrapper)

Description: Little Billy Johnson was Cptn Underpant's greatest fan. After months of hero worship ( and collecting all of the various Cptn Underpants merchandise), Billy's latent mutant gene activated, creating a miniature version of his favorite superhero! As Billy grows in power, he is mutating even further.

Dark Melee: Smite, Shadow Maul, Siphon Life, Touch of Fear, Dark Consumption, Soul Drain, Midnight Grasp

Regeneration: Fast Healing, Quick Recovery, Dull Pain, Integration, Reconstruction, Instant Healing, Revive, Moment of Glory

Leaping: Combat Jumping, Super Jump

Concealment: Stealth, Invisibility, Phase Shift

Body Mastery: Conserve Power, Physical Perfection, Focused Accuracy, Energy Torrent

Accolades: The Atlas Medallion, Crey CBX-9 Pistol, Portable Workbench, Portal Jockey

Set Bonus: Large Improved Recovery Bonus x 4, Moderate Improved Recharge Time Bonus x 4, Huge Improved Regeneration Bonus x 3, Large Accuracy Bonus x 3, Large Improved Regeneration Bonus x 3, Large Increased Health Bonus x 3, Moderate Increased Damage Bonus x 3, Moderate Increased Health Bonus x 3, Huge Increased Psionic Res Bonus x 2, Large Increased Endurance Bonus x 2, Small Improved Recovery Bonus x 2, Small Increased Health Bonus x 2, Huge Increased Negative Energy Res Bonus, Impervium Armor, Large Fear Duration Bonus, Large Improved Heal Bonus, Large Improved Recharge Time Bonus, Large Increased AoE/Fire/Cold Def Bonus, Large Increased Damage Bonus, Large Increased Negative Energy Res Bonus, Large Increased Psionic Def Bonus, Large Increased Psionic Res Bonus, Luck of the Gambler: Recharge Speed, Moderate Accuracy Bonus, Moderate Energy and Neg Energy Res Bonus, Moderate Immobilize Resistance Bonus, Moderate Improved Jumping Bonus, Moderate Increased Psionic Res Bonus, Small Increased Psionic Def Bonus, Tiny Improved Knockback Bonus, Tiny Increased Health Bonus, Tiny Smashing and Lethal Resist Bonus

Temporary & Other Powers: Day Trader Teleporter, Enhanced Day Trader, Resonance Disrupter, Confiscated Beanbag, Wedding Band, Holy Shotgun Shells, Warwofl Whistle, Electomagnetic Grenade, Raptor Pack, Stealth Suit, Stun Grenade, Web Grenade, Low-G Pack, Jaunt Initializer, Raptor Pack, Web Grenade, EMP Glove, Stun Grenade, Mutagen, Extinguisher, Shivan Shard, Holiday Spirit, Holiday Cheer, Build Snowbeast, Raid Deploy Pylon, Mystery Gift, Plasmatic Taser, Drop of Power, Drop of Resistance, Drop of Vitality, Electromagnetic Grenade, Shotgun, Ouroboros Portal, Cryonite Armor, Rock, Seduction, IR Goggles, Fiendish Glare, Rock, Med Kit, Rock, Stealth Suit, Nectanebo's Curse B, Vanguard Psi-Bomb, Gabriel's Hammer, Envenomed Dagger, Hand Grenade, Recovery Serum, St. Louis Slammer, Clockwork Connection, Molotov Cocktail, Revolver, Plasmatic Taser, Pwer Analyzer mk III, Fear Incarnate, Jet Pack, Kinetic Shield, Brawl, Surge, Dash, Quick, Rush, Jump Pack, Pocket D VIP Pass, Base Transporter, Ghost Slaying Axe, Blackwand, Rikti Pet, Assemble the Team, Walk, Shadowy Presence, Sprint, Rest, Critical Hit, Swift, Hurdle, Health, Stamina

Incarnate: Desitny – Rebirth Core, Lore – Seers Total Core, Interface – Diamagnetic Core, Judgement – Void Total Radial, Alpha – Spiritual Total Core

Badges: 670 (including the Medic badge I got before 50th level. Not an easy feat for a scrapper. I've since did a respec to swap out healing powers for concealment)

Overall Arena Rating: 1515

Hours on Patrol: 1,048 (over a period of over 7 years.... about 3 hours a week that works out to, not as bad as it sounds.... okay maybe it does sound that bad!)

21 August 2011

I'm Back!

It's been a crazy month for me. Numerous things kept coming up which really cut into my online time. Now that I've recovered from everything, and had a really fun day yesterday, I'm ready to return to this blog.

I'll be posting more book and writing related posts. I'm doing some more writing and plan to try to catch up on my book reading challenge for this year. Additionally I'll continue the Mutant Arena series and make some more gaming posts.

The goal right now is to try to post at least four or five times a week at least until the end of this year.

Right now I'm reading Red Inferno 1945, an alternate history novel by Robert Conroy. It's pretty good so far; I'll post a review after I'm done with it.

21 July 2011

Third Sentence Thursday #8

Third Sentence Thursday

"This statement requires elucidation." (Armageddon - 2419 A.D. by Philip Francis Nowlan)

Well I suppose that this statement may indeed need elucidation. Elucidation means to make something clear. That takes care of the meaning of the above sentence. In context of the story it is Anthony Rogers attempt to clarify his unique position in history. Being a man born in the 19th century, fighting in the Great War in the 20th and finally coming out of suspended animation in the 25th century.

This book is the original story that started the future 'Buck' Rogers; the source of all future Buck Rogers stories and inspiration for other characters like Flash Gordon.

Here's how Third Sentence Thursday works:

1) Take the book you are reading now and post the third sentence
2) Review this sentence anyway you want (funny and silly reviews encouraged)
3) Post a link to your sentence to Sniffly Kitty's Third Sentence Post for this week.

15 June 2011

2011 Book Reading Challenge Update

We are quickly approaching the middle of the year. At this point I've finished reading 27 books out of 100 for the year.... falling a bit behind schedule on that challenge.

The new MP-3 player I have is helping me get through a few extra audio books, which for the 'reading' challenge count towards the total (Heck, even 'graphic novels' count). Unfortunately magazines, newspapers, and other periodicals don't count. I don't want to neglect the various magazines and journals I read just to get a couple of extra novels finished.

Still, there is a chance I'll reach 100 at this point. The summer should be good to get in some extra reading and get some more miles logged on my out-of-date e-book.

I would do some reading at the gym, but the new machines they've installed have limited room for books now that they have put in shelves and ports and crap for peoples' Ipods. I have to bring shorter books (by height, not page count) so they will fit in the reduced area. I would bring my MP-3 player and listen to more audio books, but I know it will be too noisy in the gym and I'd have to crank up the volume, which is something I don't want to do. I've been two machines down from people where I can hear the music coming from their little head phones over the sound of our machines. That's got to be murder on the ears.

Are any of you participating in any book reading challenges? If so how are you doing now that we are reaching mid-year?

09 June 2011

Third Sentence Thursday #7

Third Sentence Thursday

"For us in England it came too late." (The Battle of Dorking by G.T. Chesney)

Something for the people in England came too late. Dorking is a city in southern England. The warning must be of foreign invasion. Question is wether it is the French, Russians, Germans, or Martians that are invading.

This story has been collected with other examples of 'Invasion Literature' in a book called Before Armageddon.

Here's how Third Sentence Thursday works:

1) Take the book you are reading now and post the third sentence
2) Review this sentence anyway you want (funny and silly reviews encouraged)
3) Post a link to your sentence to Sniffly Kitty's Third Sentence Post for this week.

08 June 2011

Review – The Wind Whales of Ishmael

Here we have a sequel to Moby Dick. Now I have to admit I never read Moby Dick. I carried it around in my backpack for a few weeks during high school but could never read very much of it. It seemed long and boring, and I'm sure now that I'm older I might appreciate it more. All I knew about Ishmael was the “Call me Ishmael” line.

Philip Josė Farmer wrote a very different story as the 'sequel.' Ishmael is the lone survivor of the sinking Pequod. He is rescued by another ship. Not long after that the rescue ship slips through reality. It arrives in a possible distant future of Earth, long after the oceans have mostly evaporated away. The rescue ship falls thousands of feet to the slimy salt below destroying a sky ship in the process. Ishmael manages to be the only survivor of this second disaster.

The rest of the book is about Ishmael's explorations of his new world and learning to deal with the strange creatures and natives. He uses his now unique knowledge to help the native tribe that adopts him. The whole story has the feel of something written by Edgar Rice Burroughs (including a beautiful high priestess).

The format of the book is unusual in that it is not broken up into chapters. It is one long non-stop adventures without and breaks. It is also much shorter than Moby Dick, making it a very quick read.

Cools Stuff:
Strange creatures inhabiting the sea of air. Trap filled dungeons. Airships. Pulpy goodness.

Final Analysis:
If you are a fan of Burroughs you'll probably like this book. If you loved Moby Dick you might not, but then again it is a quick read and might end up surprising you.

31 May 2011

City of Heroes Underworld

Paragon City can be really strange at times. Mutants, wizards, mad scientists, aliens, and other bizarre types can be found wandering its streets and rooftops. Large walls and force fields protect the city and thousands of heroes hold back the tide of evil. However things are not always as they seem as was learned by the not-so-altruistic hero Captain Cash.

Despite his rather low security clearance level Captain Cash made his way to take a day job at Portal Corp. After three weeks he quit and made his way back to the mainland. Instead of taking the ferry he decided to just swim to Talos Island. At one point during the trip the world gave way and he found himself not on the surface of the water, but instead falling through a blue void.

He landed on a flat blue surface that matched the sky in color. It was a very disorienting experience. Not knowing where the heck he was he began to look around for any sign of the world. Sure enough floating high in the sky were what resembled the protective walls of Talos Island.

Using his rocket pack Captain Cash flew up to examine the strange objects that were floating in the sky. Perhaps they were a link to home. He had to escape this strange realm. As he reached the upper range of his rocket pack he noticed doors on a floating object. He had to discover what those were.

Luckily his cell phone was still getting a signal in this other-worldly nowhere. He called a heroine calling herself Sister Blister to fly up to examine the doors. She arrived and had no trouble reaching the strange sets of doors. Unfortunately they would not open for her and no force could break them.

Investigating further, Sister Blister continued to fly up and hit the upper limit of the seemingly endless blueness. Part of her body passed through the strange barrier. Eventually she is able to make her way through the barrier and back to 'reality.' Captain Cash is still trapped.

His trillions of dollars unable to help him in this strange un-universe, Captain Cash calls out to whatever powers may be able to help him. “/stuck” his calls and his call is answered. He is spirited away, his senses tell him back up, but where he ends up is a place few heroes have returned from. The Captain found himself in a vast circular room filled with doors. A fountain of information spewing out the stuff of artificial life. Captain Cash believed he had found the source of the universe!

After spending a long period of time exploring this strange chamber and its unworkable doors Captain Cash came to a sudden realization. He checked his cell phone's GPS and discovered he was just inside the Talos Island Arena. He now attempting to come up with ways to gain influence with his incredible discovery..... so far other heroes don't seem to care....

(interesting glitches in MMOs can sometimes distract me)

19 May 2011

Third Sentence Thrusday #6

Third Sentence Thursday

"Corn cakes, fried ham and eggs were heaped on plates before them." (Squadron of the Scorpion by Robert J. Hogan)

Breakfast time for G-8 & his men. Looks like they'll have a little time to socialize before the next fiendish plot is unleashed by the Kaiser's scientists.

(image from www.vintagelibrary.com)

Here's how Third Sentence Thursday works:

1) Take the book you are reading now and post the third sentence
2) Review this sentence anyway you want (funny and silly reviews encouraged)
3) Post a link to your sentence to Sniffly Kitty's Third Sentence Post for this week.

27 April 2011

Planning a Supers-Steampunk game

Now that I have a bit more free time I can now start some new projects. One of them is preparing for a one-shot role-playing game in about two-and-a-half weeks. A friend from out-of-town wants to game again and I'll be piecing together the game.

So, I asked him what he wanted to play and the two things that came up were Steampunk and a supers game. Well, why not combine them. I'm still deciding on the system (it will probably end up being GURPS) and I have to make sure everyone has characters made up before game day (don't want to burn game time making characters, especially for what may only be a one-shot). Oh, and then I have to design the adventure.

All I've determined right now is that the campaign setting will be May 1881. Right now I'm going through my notes on that period and designing the setting. There are going to be some divergence from real history thanks to the introduction of super powers and steam-tech. I'm going to get the basics of a world set up and then we can decide where the heroes are based. Then I get to design the wicked villains.

Since over the last few years I've been reading a lot of sci-fi and adventure stories written in that general era I may have quite a bit of material to draw from. It has been months since I've been a gamemaster, so this little project has been a great outlet for some pent-up creative energy.

Who knows, It might end up being good enough to become more than a one-shot and might be the genesis of another one of my multi-year campaigns (and if not I'll be able to then channel some creative energy into creating that world too!).

Now if you'll excuse me I have some research to do and some notes to take :)

21 April 2011

Third Sentence Thursday #5

Third Sentence Thursday

"He stood before what appeared to be the station's sole permanent building - a weathered structure that presumably at some dim time had served as a railroad storehouse" (The Blue Max by Jack D. Hunter)

'He' is Bruno Stachel, a German aviator arriving at his first assignment. The station has one permanent building which means there are numerous temporary structures scattered about the area. While the area may have once been a bustling railway station it now serves a much different purpose.

I just finished up this book last night. I really liked it. While very different from the movie there were eerie similarities. While I still like the film the novel is much better (which I suppose is nearly always the case).

Here's how Third Sentence Thursday works:

1) Take the book you are reading now and post the third sentence
2) Review this sentence anyway you want (funny and silly reviews encouraged)
3) Post a link to your sentence to Sniffly Kitty's Third Sentence Post for this week.

20 April 2011

Invasion Literature

Now that work has slowed down and I have some more free time I plan to get back to reading and writing some more. One genre I plan to focus on this summer is Invasion Literature. Basically those are stories about the home country being invaded by some outside force or nation. H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds is an example, but I plan to focus on stories involving fictional wars between real nations. No aliens for me this time around.

I also want to read more than just the short list for the genre on Wikipedia, sometimes there is some good material in overlooked novels. The problem is where to get titles & author names for my search.

Luckily I stumbled onto the Tea and Tiffin blog where KapitanMors wrote a nice introduction to the genre and listed a few good starting places for continued reading.

It will hopefully be an interesting journey and a nice break from all of the World War I history books I've been reading.

Does anyone have a suggestion of any good books of this genre, particilarly ones that were written before 1914?

07 April 2011

Third Sentence Thursday #4

It's Thursday! That meens it's time for:

Third Sentence Thursday

Here is the third sentence from a book I read a couple of months ago. My current book reading speed will still be a little slow for the next couple of weeks.

“Robert Wolff knew that there could be no horn or man blowing upon it behind the sliding doors.” (The Maker of Universes by Philip José Farmer)

Wolff hears something that can’t possibly be real in a confined space behind some sliding doors. What is the true source of the sound and will Wolff open the doors to find out?

Of course he does open the doors and his life will change forever as a result. This is where the whole World of Tiers series began. I’m so far into it I’ve nearly forgotten about Robert Wolf, the character Kickaha becomes the primary protagonist by the third book. In fact Kickaha steals the show in the scenes he has in The Maker of Universes.

Here's how Third Sentence Thursday works:

1) Take the book you are reading now and post the third sentence
2) Review this sentence anyway you want (funny and silly reviews encouraged)
3) Post a link to your sentence to Sniffly Kitty's Third Sentence Post for this week.

05 April 2011

Random Writings

When times allows I am part of a local writing group. Over a year ago we broke from our usual routine and picked some random news clippings and images and spent about five minutes writing a quick story about them. Below is what I managed to write in the time allotted... didn't keep the scraps and image that was the inspiration:

My favorite place in the world is the amusement park by the sea. Why is it my favorite place? It is where I had performed the marriage of my best friend to his wife while still wearing my hospital gown.

It was a strange few days leading up to that point. On Monday I was driving to work and was thinking about my friend's upcoming wedding and wondering if his new wife had a sister. Music was playing on the radio and I tapped along with it on my steering wheel.

Unfortunately I have terrible rhythm and lost control of the car. I braced for impact and heard metal and plastic crunching as my car collided with a nearby van.

Inside the van were a group of terrorists who were planning mayhem on our fair city. My accidental intervention spoiled their plans.

As they prepared to get their vengeance upon me another person appeared, guns blazing. He wore a tuxedo and had a pistol in one hand and a plastic lawn flamingo in the other. He splattered the brains and innards of my adversaries across the landscape, a single eyeball bouncing down the road leaving little read splotches as it went.

I thanked the man for the rescue but he was totally drunk and fell into the nearby ditch. An envelope fell out of his pocket marked "Ultra Secret."

I opened the envelope... not sure why, but I learned of a terrible plot by an evil organization to take over the world and this drunk with the plastic flamingo was supposed to save the day.

As I decided what to do next the plastic bird began to speak. It was no ordinary lawn ornament but was a talking computer with built-in satellite phone and toaster.

The machine told me the next stop on the mission, a nearby yak breeding farm. From the map that printed out I saw that the farm was located deep in a desolate swamp far from the wandering eyes of civilization.

My car still operated so I proceeded to the swamp wondering what my next move should be. I was not -

(That's where it ended due to the time. We then took turns reading what we had wrote. I never went back to that story until I flipped through an old notebook to-day. Any comments?)

24 March 2011

Third Sentence Thursday #3

Another review of the third sentence of a novel.  To-day is...

Third Sentence Thursday

"The whaling ship was on its last, its vertical, voyage."  (The Wind Whales of Ishmael by Philip José Farmer)

Looks like this book is starting off with a ship sinking.  Not a bad start, and to be expected from 'science fiction's incredible sequel to Moby Dick.'  Only poor Ishmael survives to witness the sinking of the Pequod but his adventures appear to only be begining.

Book cover illustration by Bob Habberfield

Here's how Third Sentence Thursday works:

1) Take the book you are reading now and post the third sentence
2) Review this sentence anyway you want (funny and silly reviews encouraged)
3) Post a link to your sentence to Sniffly Kitty's Third Sentence Post for this week.

23 March 2011

Doctor Who - Short Trips & Side Steps

This book is a collection of Doctor Who short stories published in 2000.  It is really a mixed bag of stories; some good, some not so much.  I'll be brief in the descriptions of each story and try not to leave too many spoilers.  I haven't read any other Doctor Who novels so I don't have anything other similar writings to compare them with.

A Town Called Eternity: (by Lance Parkin & Mark Clapham) The sixth doctor and Peri travel to an old west town called Eternity.  The Fountain of Youth is reviving dinosaurs and the Master is running around causing trouble.  Overall about average.... maybe a little better since it involved the Master and dinosaurs.

Special Occasions: (by Gareth Roberts, Clayton Hickman, Norman Ashby, David Agnew, and Steve Buford) Some holiday themes short stories.  The only one I cared for involved the Doctor leaving a present for the Brigadier on Christmas Eve.

Nothing at the End of the Lane: (by Daniel O'Mahony) A story involving Barbara Wright and parallels the first Dr. Who episode.  Not bad, but I'm not sure exactly what the author was going for.

Countdown to TV Action: (by Gary Russell) I couldn't stand this one.  The Doctor was constantly referred to as Doctor Who and he even called himself that on one or two occasions.  I think this one was my least favorite of the bunch.

The Queen of Eros: (by Trevor Baxendale) The Doctor is captured by an evil queen who wants to force him to marry her.  Not a bad story as the Doctor tries to use his growing influence with the queen to try to change the society of her world.

The Android Maker of Calderon IV: (by Miche Doherty) I thought this was one of the better ones.  On the short side but a great story.  Written from the point of view of the villain. Not only was this one of my favorites from the bunch, but Mr. Doherty was kind enough to leave a comment below explaining some of cultural references I didn't get in some of these stories. Be sure to go down into the the comments after reading this post for more details.

Revenants: (by Peter Anghelides) This was a good one.  The Doctor and his companion have to deal with a scientist who is experimenting in things that could damage the timestream.  Some interesting things happen as they caught in a time loop that isn't quite a time loop.

Please Shut the Gate: (by Stephen Lock) The Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe on Mars.  My favorite cast from the show and I could picture them acting out this story.  Well done.

Turnabout is Fair Play: (by Graeme Burk) The Doctor and Peri are separated and have their bodies switched.  Peri has to try to act like the Doctor and defeat the bad guy when the Doctor in her lovely body is nowhere to be found.  A little above average.

The House on Oldark Moor: (by Justin Richards) Another one where the Doctor is referred to as Doctor Who, just not as often or as annoyingly as in Countdown to TV Action.  The story was about average and involves the first Doctor along with Barbara, Susan, and Ian.  A bit of a mystery and a little action to top it off.

Gone Too Soon: (by Christopher M. Wadley) The sixth Doctor has had a vision of the future and realizes he will be regenerating soon.  He uses his remaining time traveling though time and doing things he always wanted to do and interacting with historical figures he always wanted to.  He even travels to the dawn of time and carves 'The Doctor was here' on a rock.

Reunion: (by Jason Loborik) Written from the point of view of a Earth native.  He happens to be one of a number of humans that carry part of a fragment of some alien entity that wants to be reborn.  This poor fellow is pulled into a series of bizarre and horrifying events that he can barely comprehend.  Luckily the Doctor shows up to save the day.

Planet of the Bunnoids: (by Harriet Green) A planet with robot rabbits?  Almost skipped this one.  It actually turned out to be rather good.  The First Doctor along with Vicky and Stephen arrive on a planet where they encounter some strange robotic rabbits.  There is also a strange incorporeal alien who feeds off emotions.  He plans to kill Vicky and/or Stephen to feed off their fear by the Doctor tires to tell the alien that love is a more powerful emotion and would feed it better.  In the end guilt ends up being the strongest emotion of them all.

Monsters: (by Tara Samms) The Seventh Doctor and Ace in AD 2000 London tracking down a monster.  Meanwhile there are a couple of kids getting into trouble and crossing paths with the Doctor.  In the end the alien is destroyed but it seems that one little girl's mother is a monster in her own way.

Face Value: (by Steve Lyons) Aliens with no individual personalities can only gain their own sense of self by stealing the appearance and personalities of others.  They do this on a resort that happens to be on a living planet and things start to get dangerous.  While this wasn't one of my favorites it did have the feel of a Doctor Who episode.  Some bonus points for that.

Storm in a Tikka: (by Mike Tucker and Robert Perry) The Seventh Doctor and Ace get caught up in some sort of battle between some deities/powerful aliens.

Vrs: (by Lawrence Miles) I liked this one.  Creative and the shortest one in the book.  It was also a product of its time given what things were like in the year 2000.

21 March 2011

Back Online

Work has been busy.  My old computer was giving me trouble.

Now I have a new computer and things are good.  Not as fancy as I would have liked, but it's good enough to get me back on City of Heroes and it now allows me to have dual monitor capability.  Having two monitors going is great.  One is the old monitor from the computer which has been replaced, the other was the cheapest one I could find that would fit the limited space left on my desk.

The productivity of my set-up is much higher now, which was the most important part of getting the new computer.  Part of me wonders what it would have been like to buy a super-duper computer and a 48" television for a monitor so I could play COH on Ultra-mode, but I think I can survive without knowing - or wasting money on a television.  Working remotely at home will now be much easier as well.  That will be nice on the really snowy days or days I just don't feel like going into the office.

Just a few more weeks until I have some more free time.  Now that my writing group is meeting again I'm getting motivated to finish the draft of my novel in April or May.  That'll be cool.  Then I can start work on the next project.

So being overworked, tired, and not having a reliable computer has limited my postings on this and my other blogs.  In the coming weeks that will change and I hope to have daily posts up in the near future.

Thanks for your visit.

10 March 2011

Third Sentence Thursday #2

Third Sentence Thursday

This week the third sentence from a history book I've been reading at the gym:

"If the boy from Fife feared at that moment that he might miss the action, however, his anxiety was unjustified." (The Pity of War by Niall Ferguson)
 This 'boy from Fife' was in a hurry to enlist at the beginning of the Great War.  It was believed by many that the war would be over by Christmas.  The boy turns out to be the author's own grandfather who served and was wounded a couple of times.  This sentence is important in setting the tone for this book which re-evaluates the causes and other myths of World War I.

Here's how Third Sentence Thursday works:

1) Take the book you are reading now and post the third sentence
2) Review this sentence anyway you want (funny and silly reviews encouraged)
3) Post a link to your sentence to Sniffly Kitty's Third Sentence Post for this week.

03 March 2011

Third Sentence Thursday #1

Third Sentence Thursday

Be sure to go over to Sniffly Kitty's blog and check out other Third Sentences.Over at Sniffly Kitty's Mostly Books blog there is the 'Third Sentence Thursday' meme. It seemed like a fun thing to try out. The basic concept is to take the third sentence from a book you are currently reading and give a review of it.

"Weeds, even bushes, sprouted from the cracks, but the freeway was still the best route south from the Valley."
(The Valley-Westside War by Harry Turtledove)

Something terrible has obviously happened a number of years ago. When I read freeway I picture a modern road, however this one is in poor repair and even has bushes growing out of cracks and potholes. The 'Valley' brings to mind Los Angeles. Something terrible has happened.

(130 years ago, in 1967, a nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the United States broke out. That was the backstory for this world.)

Here's how Third Sentence Thursday works:

1) Take the book you are reading now and post the third sentence
2) Review this sentence anyway you want (funny and silly reviews encouraged)
3) Post a link to your sentence to Sniffly Kitty's Third Sentence Post for this week.
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