23 July 2013

Imaginary Flags

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

Flag of Sul Aliança

Flag of the Russian Federation

Flag of Res Publica Romana IV

Flag of the Habsburg Hegemony

Flag of Strumicvar

UN Battle Flag

Flag of Pan America

Flag of Neuschwabenland

22 July 2013

Book Review - Harry Sullivan's War

(image from Amazon.com)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12 April 2013

Kingmaker Update

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

here is the current borders of their kingdom

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

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

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

21 March 2013

Third Sentence Thursday - The Mad Goblin

Create your own banner at mybannermaker.com!
Make your own banner at MyBannerMaker.com!

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

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

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

19 March 2013

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

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

Meme form brokeandbookish.blogspot.com

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

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

14 March 2013

I've got a new blog up and running. It involves alternate history. New worlds I've invented, reviews of alternate history books, revies of role-playing games involving alternate history. It's just starting out but I have my first post up involving a change in events during the First World War that leads to a victory of the Central Powers. Much more is to follow in the coming months and years.

It can be found at Other Times.

Please check it out, follow, and leave comments.


15 January 2013

Book Review: My Ideal Bookshelf

At the end of last year I won a copy of My Ideal Bookshelf from a giveaway on Goodreads. I've finished reading it and here is my review:

My Ideal Bookshelf was edited by Thessaly La Force and was filled with art by Jane Mount. Over a hundred people wrote about their ideal book shelves, filling a page with their thoughts. Across from each essay is one of Jane's paintings of that particular person's 'ideal bookshelf.' I have to admit that most of the people who participated were unknown to me, but I did know of a few of them beforehand.

One page to describe about ten books and why they were chosen to be on that person's ideal bookshelf is not much space. Many didn't cover all of the books illustrated for their shelves. At first I didn't like that - I thought that they should at least explain why each of books were chosen to be on their top list. However, as I made my way through the book I realized that the essays were fine the way they were. They had to be kept to one page, more than that would have spoiled the nice layout of the book. In some cases the best essays were the ones that didn't even describe any of the books on that particular shelf but instead described the general thoughts the person had on books in general.

If I reviewed this book after only reading the first fifty pages I might of only given it two out of five stars, but as I reached the end I 'got it' and began to really like the book. It was also nice on those occasions when I spotted a book that was on one of my shelves. My final review of this book is 4 out of 5 stars.


Here is my sketch of the ten books that I would put in my 'Ideal Bookshelf' as of January 2013. Included on that shelf are the following:

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Players Handbook: by Gary Gygax. Dungeons & Dragons had a big influence on my early life. This well-worn tome had to make the list.
Myths of the Modern Age: by Win Scott Eckert. A series of articles and essays about the Wold Newton concept. One of my favorite recent things.
Guns, Germs, and Steel: by Jared Diamond. A great reference that aided me in developing various alternate timelines for some role-playing games.
For Want of a Nail: by Robert Sobel. An awesome alternate history that was written as if it were an actual history book form that alternate world.
Recarving Rushmore: by Ivan Eland. A very good analysis of the Presidents of the United States from a completely different set of parameters than most other rankings.
The Martian Tales Trilogy: by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Classic sword & planet.
How to Start Your Own Country: by Erwin S. Strauss. Great reference book for micronations
The Pity of War: by Niall Ferguson. One of the better books on the First World War in recent years.
The Crying of Lot 49: by Thomas Pynchon. Just the right amount of strangeness for my tastes.
The Guns of the South: by Harry Turtledove. A great story about time travel and the American Civil War.

09 January 2013

Paragon City

City of Heroes has only been dead for over a month now and I still miss it. I've been giving the Star Wars The Old Republic MMO a try and it has been very entertaining so far. I'll have to see how group play goes with some of my friends.

In any case, last weekend I was working on all sorts of maps and compiling data for numerous table-top games I'm involved in and I got distracted by a question: Where the heck in Rhode Island is City of Heroes Paragon City? No scale on the map that came with the game, and the zones don't always measure up in game to match the map as well as I'd like. Finally, using Independence Port as a basis I determined the size of Paragon City. Next was finding a place in Rhode Island that would fit its unique geographic features.

Finally I took a thumbnail of the Paragon City Map, made a few minor adjustments to it and then merged it to a random map of Rhode Island I found on the web - the first one I found that had a scale. I got the city scale to match the state map scale and combined the two. Here is the result:

I did have to make some minor alterations to the coastline to get Paragon City to fit. The biggest change was to connect Conanicut Island to the mainland. Worked out pretty good.

Did you ever play City of Heroes? What game do you replace it with these days?

04 January 2013


Tonight my Kingmaker campaign enters its nation building phase. After spending months clearing out the local wilderness the party is finally ready to establish a new city and barony in the Stolen Lands.

Hopefully the rules for developing this nation will keep all the players entertained. I'm a little worried that the system doesn't give characters in different positions more to due to chart the destiny of their land.

I will most likely be adding a Kobold kingdom near the players. I want to add a bit more diplomacy to the campaign. The only thing is they plan on talking with Chief Sootscale and will offer him a position in their government. Inviting in lawful evil NPCs to help rule your kingdom... not always the best idea!

Hopefully I'll be working a few normal encounters into the evening. There are lands near their capital that will need exploring. It will be fun to see how things develop in the coming months.

I'll be sure to post updates, including maps as the campaign progresses.

03 January 2013

Third Sentence Thursday - Freedom and Virtue

Create your own banner at mybannermaker.com!
Make your own banner at MyBannerMaker.com!

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

I'm reading some non-fiction this week.

"Frequently, these respective facets seem symbiotic, if not completely compatible, yet on occasion these two perspectives appear distinct, separate, and irreconcilable." Freedom and Virtue page 79 (near the beginning of an essay by John P. East)

This sentence comes form John P. East's essay "Conservatism and Libertarianism: Vital Complements." It seems to capture that at first glance, especially to an outsider, the two philosophies may seem very similar. However, when one digs deeper many very incompatible opinions quickly surface.

01 January 2013

2013 Book Reading Challenges

Yesterday I posted about my near complete failure at the book reading challenges I undertook in 2012. 2012 was a crazy year for me including having to get a new job and taking on too many other responsibilities.

I've got things more under control right now and have a better idea on how to participate in multiple challenges. So here is the list of ones I'll be entering for 2013!

1) the JUST FOR FUN Reading Challenge 2013 over at Goodreads.

2)Book Vixen's 2013 Outdo Yourself Challenge. I'll need to read at least 61 books in 2013 to win this one.

2013 Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge hosted by The Book Vixen

3)The 2013 Ebook Challenge: I'll be going for the CD level (reading 10 ebooks) in 2013. Shouldn't be a problem.

4)2013 Audio Book Challenge: I'll be going for the Married-Listen level of 26 or more audio books. In past years this would have been difficult but with my extra time at the gym and speakers set up in my painting room I should be able to make more use of my listening time.

5) Nerdy Non-Fiction Challenge 2013: I'll be trying for the Dork Level - reading 7 to 10 books form four or five of the categories.

5) Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2013: I'll be careful on this one and only go for the Pike's Peak level (12 books). Last year I discovered I had a tendency to read new books or books from the library instead of my TBR pile.

While it isn't required I list the books I plan to read I thought I'd at least list six that I do plan. For course this may change as the year progresses.
* The Seychelles Affair by Mike Hoare
* More Than Fire by Philip José Farmer
* The Other Log of Phileas Fogg by Philip José Farmer
* Doctor Omega by Arnould Golopin
* Callahan's Crosstime Saloon by Spider Robinson
* Lincoln's Flying Spies by Gail Jarrow

I'll be sure to post more reviews in 2013 than I did in 2012 to share what I discover in my new year's readings.
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