Monthly Archives: March 2013

Daredevil Volume 3

Daredevil by Waid volume 3

The third volume of Mark Waid’s Daredevil collects issues 11 through 15 of Daredevil volume 3 along with issue 6 of Avenging Spider-Man and issue 10 of the The Punisher volume 8. The Omega Drive continues to be a driving factor, but Waid manages to get other unrelated stories into the comic while still keeping the focus on the Omega Drive.

The story flows seamlessly between the three different series without the art or writing changing styles drastically. By the end of the collection, the Omega Drive story arc comes to what I assume is a conclusion for the time being. It comes as a nice bit of a twist as well.

My favorite story in this book was unrelated to the primary story arc; as Matt talks to his date about his friendship with Foggy, he recounts his college days. It goes into the details surrounding a professor lying in an attempt to get Foggy expelled, Matt risking his college career to defend Foggy, and Foggy repaying Matt. I’ll withhold the details, but it’s a great story.

In the second volume of Mark Waid’s Daredevil, my favorite story was also one unrelated to the main arc of the Omega Drive. The best Daredevil stories seem to be the ones that don’t cross-over with the rest of the Marvel universe. In addition, Waid intends to return Daredevil to the swashbuckler he once was and to take him out of the darkness. I think the dark stories work better. Despite preferring a harsher tone, Waid’s Daredevil continues to be interesting and fun. In the final of this collection, we definitely see some dark things happen to poor Matt again as the story arc changes.

Three degrees of separation to Simone Legno

Last weekend I ate at one of my favorite restaurants, California Shabu Shabu in Costa Mesa. It’s a fantastic shabu shabu restaurant with great service, fantastic food, and incredible decor. This location features awesome paintings all over their walls along with a cool collection of custom vinyl toys and other toys. I love it.

As we approached our seats during this last visit, one of the employees commented that we must be tokidoki fans. Of course we are! We each had a tokidoki shirt, and I was wearing a tokidoki hat. We made a couple more comments and proceeded with our dinner. At the end of our evening as we were leaving, he talked to us again. He mentioned WonderCon, and we spent a minute talking about that. Then he got on the subject of the artist behind tokidoki, Simone Legno. Apparently his girlfriend (or maybe it was his ex-girlfriend) once dated Simone Legno. That’s pretty cool! He mentioned that Simone was a cool guy, but I’m not sure whether they know each other personally or just through mutual friends. Regardless, I thought it was fun to run into someone who knew Simone!

The Colonial Union and the Conclave discover a possible mutual enemy in A Problem of Proportion

Scalzi’s eleventh episode of The Human Division has the Conclave and Colonial Union meet in an officially unofficial backchannel discussion. Unfortunately, they’re both attacked. It seems likely that whoever set the attack wanted each side to think it was the other. While they investigate who was behind the attack, they come across some interesting finds aboard the enemy ship.

Any episode that features the Conclave is interesting because it’s a different side than that which we normally see. Not only do we get the Conclave in this episode, but we get Conclave interaction with the humans, which is always interesting. While we still don’t know who’s behind the attacks or their motivation, we’re getting closer. Now that the Conclave and Colonial Union each realize that someone is attacking both of them, I expect the tensions to rise. Of course, the fact that there are only two more episodes left in The Human Division make that even more evident! I suspect we’ll get very close if not find out directly who it is and their motivation in the next episode. If only Tuesday could come faster.

Scalzi shows us Phoenix in This Must Be the Place

In This Must Be the Place, episode ten of Scalzi’s The Human Division, we get our first look at the human capital of Phoenix. In the Old Man’s War universe, humans are the only species that have used a planet other than their homeworld as their capital. We’ve known about Phoenix since the original novel, Old Man’s War, but This Must Be the Place is the first time we’ve seen it.

Hart Schmidt travels home on leave to Phoenix to spend a holiday with his family. We meet his politically powerful father and rich family, and through them, we see Phoenix politics. I love that we get to see so many new aspects of the universe Scalzi has created in The Human Division. The episodic nature of novel allows Scalzi to jump to different areas and show us different perspectives. We’ve been back on Earth, seen Phoenix, and listened to debates within the Conclave. These three episodes have been my favorite of the novel so far. I don’t know where Scalzi will take me next, but I’m looking forward to it.

Improv to the Future!

If you didn’t watch Improv to the Future tonight, go back in time and watch it! Improv to the Future was an improv show celebrating the Back to the Future movies and hosted by Alex Foster. It was at the STAGEStheater, which I didn’t realize was somewhere I’d been until I got there tonight.

As one of the first to enter, I passed the clocks lining the edge of the stage and took a seat in the front row. They were synchronized to each other but not accurate. Eight o’clock came and went, and the show didn’t start as scheduled. Suddenly, Alex Foster ran to the stage, frantically checking the clocks. They were slow! He was late for the show! It was time to start!

The show itself was hysterical. I particularly liked the portrayal of a Back to the Future scene set in feudal Japan. My favorite scene of the night was Doc and Marty starring in a 50’s style educational video on the dangers of time travel. If you’ve ever been worried about becoming your own grandfather, this educational video would be perfect for you. If you’re like me you’ll get pretty worked up as you see Doc seductively play the role of your grandmother, but you’re going to have to try to resist as Doc lies back and spreads his legs in the air. Spoilers incoming – the solution is apparently to kill your grandmother and collect your inheritance early.

After the show I decided to read about Back to the Future online. Now I feel hyped to rewatch the movies. It’s been years. And then there are those adventure games. The only problem with Thursday night improv is that after an evening full of laughs, I need to get to sleep for work tomorrow.

The Human Division #9: The Observers

In Scalzi’s ninth episode of The Human Division, The Observers, some Earthling observers come aboard a Colonial Union ship and watch Abumwe handle negotiations with an alien race. Unfortunately, one of the Earthlings dies and it appears to be a murder. If they can’t figure out what happened, it could be bad for the Colonial Union.

We’re nearing the end of The Human Division with only four more episodes, and we still don’t know who’s causing all the trouble. However, there’s definitely an overarching plot, and we see it here again. This episode continues the juxtaposition of Earth and the Colonial Union, which is one of the most interesting aspects of the Old Man’s War universe. In addition, we see the continued escalation of the unknown threat. Of course, we still have a number of questions. Who would want to kill one of the Earthlings? Who posed as Earthlings and wanted to blow up the ship previously? Who killed the radio host on Earth? Who tried to set up the CDF to look like the aggressors in the first episode? I’m hoping for some basic answers to these soon so that we have a few episodes full of action. We’ll see what we get tomorrow.

Archery lessons

archery

gem and I took archery lessons this weekend! I haven’t used a bow since attending a summer YMCA camp in elementary school, so it had definitely been a while.I was surprised that it wasn’t physically difficult at all, although I guess we had bows for beginners. It was pretty fun! I wasn’t very good, but on the other hand, the sights were a little screwed up. I don’t think I’m ready to buy a bow, but I’d enjoy coming back in the future.

Google kills Google Reader

We launched Google Reader in 2005 in an effort to make it easy for people to discover and keep tabs on their favorite websites. While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined. So, on July 1, 2013, we will retire Google Reader.

via Official Blog: A second spring of cleaning.

My brother, James, brought this terrible news to me. I love Google Reader. Earlier today I mentioned to gem that Google Reader is a great tool, and that more people need to use it and RSS feeds in general. Reading individual sites requires you to remember to check them and to see content in various layouts. For most sites, the content is what matters, not the layout and style. RSS feeds allow you to grab the content without the need to bother going to the site.

Google Reader is a feed aggregator that shows you all the feeds to which you’re subscribed and their items. You can also organize them into folders to sort. I have 272 subscriptions. I’ve read 2,306 items in the last 30 days and 104,820 items since March 2, 2008. That’s a little over five years that I’ve used this wonderful service.

I read jokes, gaming news, a ton of WoW blogs, US news, world news, tech news, and more. Google Reader also allows you to tag items and star items. There are two tags I use all the time – “suggested reading” and “show gem.” You might be able to guess what “show gem” is; I mark items that I want to show gem later.

I use “suggested reading” to mark WoW posts that I’d like to consider for my weekly post on my WoW blog highlighting blog posts from other sites. Once a week I look through the tag, decide which to use, and remove the tag from the current items. You can also e-mail people from Google Reader. This is also really useful.

One of the coolest features are they keyboard shortcuts. There are shortcut keys for selecting articles, e-mailing, tagging, marking read/unread, and more. It’s super helpful and easy to use. Google Reader’s also a web app, which means you can access it anywhere. An installed program wouldn’t be anywhere near as useful. I use it at home, at work, and on my phone.

Folders, tags, and stars are very useful for feed organizing. I know there are other RSS readers, but I sure hope there’s one with a feature set that rivals Google Reader’s! I don’t blame Google for this. If people don’t use this service, it’s understandable. I blame all of you that don’t use it. You’re all terrible people.

D&D: The Five Stars: Session 2, 3/10/13: The Kobold’s Terror

Session 2 of the D&D Campaign The Five Stars, Sunday, 3/10/13.

After looting the bodies of the six kobolds, the party waited until dawn to talk to Farmer Jek about what happened. He was quite thankful and told them to come back in the day for their bacon. The party wondered if there could be more kobolds and thought about looking for their nest. Jek let them know that Mayor Renault knew more.

The party went to the mayor’s house to talk to him about the threat. Mayor Renault told them that bands of kobolds sometimes attacked travelers, but that the kobolds hadn’t come this close to town for many years. He said that they lived in the canyon to the south. Moonwhisper made it clear that they’d take care of the problem for a price, but the mayor seemed to think that this was between the party and Jek. Moonwhisper agreed and said that they’d just let the town get attacked and inform everyone that they wanted to help, but the mayor didn’t think it was worth considering. The mayor backtracked at this. The two haggled, and eventually came to an agreement. Mayor Renault would give them 15 gold, backpacks and bags, canteens, flint and tinder, and a tent if they agreed to travel to their lair and get rid of them.

Having stayed up all night at Jek’s farm, the party returned to the Foamy Ale Inn to nap. When they awoke, they returned to Jek to pick up their bacon jerky and then met the mayor’s courier who brought bags, canteens, flint and tinder, and a tent. They spent the rest of the day resting, and in the morning they set out for the canyon. They were told it should be about a four hour work south – two hours through open terrain and two hours through forest.

On the way through the plains, they ran into a hobgoblin and two goblins. Wasting no time, the group immediately attacked the goblins. Moonwhisper got badly hurt, but Button was able to heal him after the battle before the group continued toward the canyon. The march through the forest was uneventful, and they reached the canyon in the middle of the day. Rather than running straight into the canyon, they scouted along the top, searching for a possible lair. Finding a cave, they launched rocks into it. When there was no response, they ventured down themselves.

Cautiously, the group entered the cave. A lone kobold stood unmoving in the cave, and two tunnels led off of the room. The kobold carried no weapons and stared blankly. The party engaged the kobold, attempting to hurt him. Unfortunately, their attacks, even when seeming to connect, didn’t seem to harm the kobold any. Now in close combat, they noticed that something smelled very bad in the room. The kobold hurt Sunshine, so Gemmeli commanded her to stay away. The group continued to gang up on the kobold, but they barely scratched it. Eventually realizing that the kobold was a zombie and seemed to be unaffected by their piercing and bludgeoning weapons, the group escaped.

This was a fun second session. Thinks went decently well, which I can say only because no one died. I wanted it to be a surprise that the kobold was a zombie, but I wasn’t expecting it to be that difficult to defeat. I eventually tried giving clearer and clearer hints, but I probably should have spelled it out earlier. I wanted the kobold to be freshly undead, so there wasn’t a ton of physical signs. The zombie kobold had 5/slashing damage reduction. I hinted at the damage reduction, but when we finished I gave the specifics so they’d know. I think the group also learned to consider their enemies before immediately engaging.

Also, Joe and Steph brought bacon jerky to eat to fit the fact that the party obtained some bacon jerky. Pretty fun!

D&D: The Five Stars: Session 1, 3/3/13

Session 1 of the D&D Campaign The Five Stars, Sunday, 3/3/13.

Moonwhisper Johnson, a paladin working for the Church of the Five Stars, was assigned to stay in the town of Harver, located between Geldor, Lira Lake, and Lida’s Step. A half-elf raised by his human father, he had recently been speaking with his sister, Gemmeli the bard. Gemmeli lived with her elven mother in the Azsant Forest, and the two had been writing in hopes of meeting and getting to know each other better. Now that he was stationed in one location for a longer period of time, Moonwhisper invited Gemmeli to meet him. Gemmeli came to Harver and stayed with Moonwhisper in his room at the inn, for which the Church paid.

Two weeks later, Moonwhisper and Gemmeli have been socializing in the small town. One evening they sat in the common area of the inn, drinking and eating. The two met a gnome druid, Button, who was currently renting the other room in the inn. She had left the Gnomelands in an attempt to explore the world. Gemmeli entertained her companions by telling a limerick that jested at Moonwhisper.

Moonwhisper was a man of the Light,
And for the church he would fight.
But on his off days,
He’d teach alter boys ways
To please him all through the night

– Gemmeli the bard

The tavern keeper mentioned that a farmer, Jek, has had animals going missing. Moonwhisper claimed that in the tavern a man with a crossbow entered and tried to shoot the mayor. He claimed that he jumped in the way in his armor to deflect the arrow. To his claim, someone replied “that sounds like bullshit.” Moonwhisper didn’t argue.

Upon learning of the farmer’s dilemma, the three decided to pay him a visit, taking Gemmeli’s dog, Sunshine, with them. They learned that some of Jek’s pigs and goats would go missing almost every night. They tried to think of a plan, which at one point consisted of tying a bow around a pig and leaving it as a gift.

Button decided to use her druidic training to speak with the pigs. The pigs were scared of scary people who came at night. They were also hungry and enjoyed the mud. Apparently pigs weren’t very smart.

The party demanded bacon for their services, and Jek said they could have a pig. Moonwhisper Johnson convinced Jek to let him explore his home in hopes of finding a way to make a trap. They settled on a different plan. Button hid in a tree while Moonwhisper, Gemmeli, and Sunshine hid on the porch and waited. Sunshine saw something and growled. Moonwhisper detected evil. When Button saw six creatures approach the pig pen, she entangled them. That’s when they saw that they were kobolds!

Button drew first blood with her crossbow from the tree. Gemmeli managed to obtain the first kill. Moonwhisper was proud of the fact that he was the first to kill without the kobold having taken direct damage from anyone else in his party. The party was able to defeat all six kobolds. After Sunshine killed the last kobold, Moonwhisper proceeded to exclaim that he killed the last one. Gemmeli believed him, but Button managed to see through his lie!

The first session went surprisingly well. Everybody used their abilities correctly. As you might guess, gem played Gemmeli. Joe played Moonwhisper, and Steph played Button. For someone who wasn’t familiar with the game at all, Steph managed to initiate combat and draw first blood. Impressive!

Also, the Diablo III soundtrack works well for Dungeons & Dragons.

Kills: Six kobolds

Achievements
Button: First combat
Button: First blood
Gemmeli: First kill
Moonwhisper: First kill of an enemy who hadn’t taken direct damage from someone else

D&D: The Five Stars: The Church of the Five Stars

The Church of the Five Stars is one of the two primary religions in the human kingdoms. It worships five deities known as the five stars:

  • Lida, the Jewel of Creation, goddess of creation, good fortune, and wealth
  • Azsan’mira, the Great Mother, goddess of life and nature
  • Yandir the Traveled, god of travelers, music, and merchants
  • Palrah the Light, god of reason, logic, and morals
  • Random, Lord of Chaos, god of luck and chance

The church uses a picture of an open hand surrounded by five stars. Their motto is “One must approach the Five with an open hand to receive their gifts.”

The Church of the Five Stars teaches that during the Dark Times the five gods were worshiped independently. Followers of one didn’t believe in the others. Each god demanded respect, and believers, each wanting to bring glory to their god, turned on each other. Many people died. Thanal, a human prophet, was blessed with a vision of peace from all five. He saw that happiness could only be found through the worship of all five.

The Church of the True Path worships the same five gods but believes it is the true path to those gods. Its symbol is a star with five rays of light shining down on a road represented by two wavy lines.

D&D: The Five Stars: Background information and race relations

The Five Stars is the name of my Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition campaign, set in a land featuring five deities known as the Five Stars. We began playing on 3/3/2013.

The Land of the Five Stars is heavily populated by three races – the humans, elves, and dwarves. The elves live in the Azsant Forest in the north. From the Azsant Forest flows a river that flows south into Lake Lira with the human city-state of Lira on its east banks. Rivers flow from Lake Lira to the west into the Bay of Geldor along the coast. On the southeastern side of the bay lies the human city-state of Geldor. A final river flows southwest out of Lake Lira to a much smaller lake called Lida’s Step. Water flows south of Lida’s Step into the Karda Mountains.The Karda Mountains run almost the length of the civilized region. In the west, the Karda Mountains are lush, but in the east, known simply as East Karda, they are barren. The area surrounding East Karda is known as the Karda Desert. To the west of the Karda Mountains, between the mountains on the ocean, is a hilly region home to the gnomes and aptly named the Gnomelands. A final river flows west out of Lida’s Step, through the Gnomelands, and into the ocean.

Human-Elf relations

Elves have traveled throughout the human lands and will be familiar with both Geldor and Lara. Lara, being close to the Azsant Forest and home of many magic users, will be very familiar to many elves. Humans stereotype elves as being physically weak and magically strong. While some humans are curious about the Azsant Forest, the elves don’t usually like other sentient races in their land. Humans in both Geldor and Lira will be familiar with elves.

Human-Dwarf relations

The dwarves will be very familiar with humans. Bera has good trade relations with Geldor, so many dwarves will also be familiar with the city of Geldor. Humans will be fairly familiar with dwarves, which can be seen in any major human settlement. In addition, dwarves are extremely populous in Geldor. Some humans of Geldor may also be familiar with their city, Bera, in the Karda Mountains. Humans also know that there’s a second dwarven city-state, and many believe these dwarves to be lower class but don’t know much about them. Dwarves are known to humans for their blacksmithing and gem mining.

Human-Gnome relations

Traditionally gnomes stayed within the Gnomelands or the Karda Mountains. Only recently have they begun to explore the lands of humans. Gnomes are usually curious of humans but some are wary because of humans’ tendency to look down on gnomes. Humans who have been to Bera will be familiar with gnomes. However, gnomes aren’t seen often outside of the Gnomelands or the dwarven territory. Many humans dismiss them because of their size.

Elf-Dwarf relations

Most dwarves that stay in the Karda Mountains won’t be very familiar with elves, although they know of them. Dwarves who live in human cities will be familiar with them. Many dwarves feel on edge around elves, feeling like they’re too formal.

Elf-Gnome relations

Despite tending to stay in their corner of the world, gnomes have begun a relationship with the elves. Looking to learn more about nature and magic, some gnomes look up to the elves. Gnomes are naturally curious and see in the elves a strong sense of responsibility and much knowledge. Elves have let some gnomes into the Azsant Forest to study with them. Similarly elves have traveled to the Gnomelands, but this is less common.

Dwarf-Gnome relations

Dwarves and gnomes have been friends for a very long time. Dwarves consider the Gnomelands to be very rural, while gnomes consider dwarven settlements to be big cities. As such, dwarves don’t travel to the Gnomelands often, but gnomes are quite common in dwarves cities. Gnomes are only other race to be readily familiar with the two types of dwarves, Berai dwarves in the Karda Mountains from Bera and Krarn dwarves in East Kara from Krar.

Scalzi’s The Sound of Rebellion sets focus on tension

In this week’s episode of The Human Division, The Sound of Rebellion, John Scalzi contrasts last week’s humor with a captive soldier and a lot of tension. We might not see the main characters, but we get some cool Colonial Defense Forces action!

The Sound of Rebellion continues the trend of giving clues as to who the antagonists are without revealing it just yet. Without spoiling the plot, I can also say that we get another interesting look at the abilities of the CDF and of BrainPals in general. One of the most fascinating aspects of Scalzi’s Old Man War universe is how Scalzi has explored what having a powerful, implanted computer in your mind would allow you to do.

Hopefully next week we’ll get a little closer to finding out just who is fighting against the Colonial Union.

The Time Machine

I decided to reread The Time Machine recently because I hadn’t read it since high school. I finished it yesterday, and I was very impressed with the novella. Most people probably already accept the fact that it’s a classic, so I don’t think I need to discuss its merits here.

However, I particularly like some of H.G. Wells’ notions on time travel that I forgot. For example, one of the time traveler’s guests remarks that if the machine simply travels along the fourth-axis, time, faster (or in reverse), shouldn’t they still see the machine sitting there? The time traveler responds that just a fast moving thing barely makes an impression because it moves through your vision too quickly, a time machine traveling through time doesn’t make a deep enough impression on three dimensions to be seen.

In addition, Wells makes some interesting observations about class structure in societies and human progress. What’s our goal? Can we go too far? I don’t have answers, but they’re good questions to ponder.

A birthday celebration at the Dinner Detective

dinner detective

To celebrate gem’s birthday, I got us tickets to the Dinner Detective, a murder mystery dinner show. I’d been wanting to do this for her for some time now because I know she likes mysteries. This was the perfect time!

The show was fantastic. It was incredibly funny and more of a show than I expected. I thought there’d be more mingling (and I wasn’t sure how that was going to be), and there was a little, but there was only 10 minutes or so of it total besides talking to the people at our own table.

Having actors mixed into the crowd meant that you weren’t sure if someone was part of the show or not, which really added to the fun. Everyone wore name tags with aliases. gem chose Charlotte Charles (“Chuck”), so I chose Ned to match her. (It’s a reference to Pushing Daisies.) Roleplaying was encouraged, which was really exciting yet odd. It made the evening feel kind of surreal. Usually when you socialize, you’re getting to know people, and you might make new friends. At the show, I socialized with people without knowing if they were choosing to tell me about the real them or a make believe them. I think it’d be fascinating and fun to throw a party at which each person was supposed to roleplay as a made up person. In fact, it’d be fun to attend a normal party and just make up a personality.

Unfortunately, gem and I didn’t figure out who the killer was. Despite having figured out very few of the clues, Pete actually won!

We didn’t get a chance to take any pictures at the show, but we took one after the show with our name tags still on our shirts. gem is holding her birthday gift from my parents. You can tell that Labbit is smart and distinguished from his magnificent mustache.

Ally Condie reaches her conclusion in Reached

In Reached, many questions about the Society, the Rising, and other peoples are finally answered. The title and cover art are very appropriate with Casia breaking free in her red dress. In fact, if you’ve never paid attention to the covers to the previous books, you really should!

Things don’t go as smoothly for everyone as they would have liked, and there are some large changes in play for the population. I repeatedly wondered how there could be a happy ending for everyone. This is something that plagues any story of a love triangle in which you care about all three. Not every character gets his or her happy ending, but many do.

Condie answers a lot of questions, but she leaves some unanswered. She does, however, reinforce Casia’s grandfather’s statement that it’s okay to wonder. Are there other far away countries, and if so, what are they like? What’s the final outcome? Casia’s story comes to a nice conclusion by the end, but everything isn’t spelled out for the reader. There’s plenty more about which to wonder, which is, I suspect, just how Condie wants it.

And who knows? Maybe she’ll write more in this universe!

Cross-posted on Goodreads.

The Dog King delivers a large dose of humor to the Scalzi’s The Human Division

Scalzi’s seventh episode of The Human Division, The Dog King, returns to the main characters of the novel, Wilson, Schmidt, and friends. When the diplomatic team gets a new assignment and Wilson is assigned to watching a dog, he gets into a bit of trouble.

The episodic nature of the Human Division allows Scalzi to use a different tone in each episode. While the novel and the Old Man’s War series as a whole has always had some humor, the Dog King seems like more a comedy than previous episodes. I think it’s great that with the Human Division we get a variety of types of episodes. Consider that “Everyone dissolved into a puddle of awwwww” is an actual sentence you can read by experiencing the Dog King. Awesome, right?