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....
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