Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black

The chapter of that title in Order of the Phoenix will no doubt end up being one of my favorite chapters of the entire Harry Potter series. Sirius Black is hands down my favorite character, and thanks to the movies (and to my wife) I also know where the character is taken in this book and I won't spoil it but I am very much looking forward to what is done with the character above and beyond what I've seen in the movies.

This month's more frequent blog posts marks the most times I've posted to this blog in any given month since May-July of 2008 which was coincidentally when the 4th Edition of D&D was released and when I started running my still ongoing D&D campaign. Back in early 2008 we'd also just bought a house, so it's understandable that I had a good bit to blog about back then. Still, these day this blog is just another form of output for me to continue pushing myself to be productive. It's kind of sad to think of these blog posts as being productive, but after going back and reading the ones I wrote in 2008 I am very happy that I recorded what I did of my life back then and am very much looking forward to that moment in the coming years when I look back to these posts. As the last year should evidence, a hell of a lot of things can change in a relatively short period of time. Even just August of last year I never would have guessed where I would be at the end of 2009, or for the first half of 2010 and then onto the last few months. Life has had its up and downs but I consider myself very fortunate that I see a hell of a lot more ups even considering things like my unemployment and financial situations.

Reading update: If GenCon had not set me back, I would be hitting 50% through the entire Harry Potter series tomorrow. Monday of last week I was a full 7% behind schedule but as of today I am at 48% through the series, and 17% of the way through Order of the Phoenix already (I was only 3% through it yesterday). I am pleased with this progress and will most likely be even further ahead of schedule, like I was originally. The truly exciting part is that once I get through this book and The Half-Blood Prince I will actually be reading stuff that I haven't seen a movie about or have any real idea what happens in.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Reading Update (Day 48)

I easily finished The Goblet of Fire last night and updated the progress bars to the right just now with over 230 pages read since Friday, and I'm already 30 pages into The Order of the Phoenix. The end of book 4 is when, almost literally, all of the shit hits the fan for the Harry Potter series. If anyone reading this has NOT read the series already, please let me know and I'll refrain from talking about spoilers has I get into the more eventful books. It's odd for me right now because even with the Goblet of Fire movie I wasn't that into the series, it wasn't until the beginning of the Order of the Phoenix movie that I became really hooked on the whole thing. Once I was sold on that, and all of the awesome things that happen in the fifth movie and then The Half-Blood Prince movie, I had a desire to go back and read through all of the books. It wasn't until Becky decided she wanted me to read Deathly Hallows before seeing the movie that I was inspired to do this whirlwind marathon of reading.

Again I'll say it, this isn't a lot of reading for most people (people who read a lot, that is), but for me reading the 1800+ pages that I've read since early July has got to be a continuously growing record for me.

Random note: The newest Massive Attack CD - Heligoland, which came out in February of this year I believe, is really good. Thanks to Andrew the O who was the one that tipped me off they had a new album, even though I don't think he listens to them he knew they were a band I love and pointed it out to me.

My reading progress at the moment is 3% of the way through Order of the Phoenix (the longest book) and 45% through the entire series. If I had continued with my post GenCon delayed schedule I would only be at 41% so I've made up 4% extra in the last week but still need to reach 50% in the next two days to catch up to my pre-GenCon reading schedule of 1% per day. I don't think that's going to be very difficult, because the fifth book is very engrossing as major events and turning points are starting to occur and things are breaking out of the "school year" format that the first two books stuck so rigidly to.

Friday, August 20, 2010

RPG Mash Up

What started as a joke between Dave and myself, about the several RPGs we'd like to play at the moment or once our ongoing D&D games have wrapped up - Mouse Guard, Dark Sun D&D, and Legend of the 5 Rings - became a hilarious and oddly intriguing mash up of ideas. We dubbed it Legend of the Dark Mouse Sun Five Rings Guard (the RPG), and it's basically Mouse Guard but with the "Guard" being a lot more like Samurai (and having clans as in L5R) and taking place in a desert environment very much like Athas. As a result three days ago I was inspired and drew this:

Legend of the Dark Mouse

Certainly some of the majesty of the idea has worn off now, a few days later, but I still think it'd be a great game to run. Most likely I'll start it in the Mouse Guard system but am also interested in trying it out in the latest L5R rules and perhaps even 4th Edition D&D just to see how they all play out differently. Certainly one cool feature of doing it in 4E D&D would be designing the Mouse "race" and also some kind of Samurai class.

As for the Harry Potter Reading: I am now 69% through Goblet of Fire (I was 43% through it 4 days ago so that's some pretty good progress) and I'm 39% through the entire Harry Potter series. 4 days ago I was only 34% through the series, so I'm doing a decent job of actually reading more than 1% per day lately. If I hadn't stalled for the week of GenCon, I would be hitting 50% by next Wednesday so my goal at the moment is to get as close to that as I can. This seems possibly only because that would mean finishing Goblet of Fire in the next week which is a very clear goal I think I can force myself to get to.

If I were going with my original schedule of 1% per day, and aiming to finished right before the last movie comes out (Nov. 19th) then I'd need to be 8% through the series right now. Therefore the way I see it I am actually 31% ahead of schedule and that's a pretty damn good buffer for me to work with!

Monday, August 16, 2010

New Drawings

My friend Quinn (who runs the At-Will blog about awesome 4th Edition D&D stuff) has asked me for artwork a few times, also I've bugged him to ask me for artwork, but in the past as usually happens with me I didn't get any of them done in time. Last night I resolved to change that, here is the result.

What Quinn asked me for was a corrupted purple dragon, named Etherkai, that is nicknamed the "Nightmare Dragon". Here's what I produced in a little under 2 hours last night.

Etherkai Black & White
Black & White - pencil on drawing paper, done in about 30 minutes.

Etherkai Colors
Colored Pencils on drawing paper, done in about 20 minutes.

Etherkai the Nightmare Dragon
Some Photoshop work to get rid of the texture I wasn't a fan of (especially in the sky).

Etherkai the Nightmare Dragon (Final)
More Photoshop work to make it darker and to make the dragon appear more "scarred", at Quinn's request but I was planning on doing something like this anyway.

Considering the total time invested, about 2 hours last night though I did a bit of sketching over the course of last week to get a pose and layout I liked, I'm pretty damn happy with this. I'd love for the dragon to have more action to it, and to add a bit more interest into everything, but it was do THIS or not do it at all and I've promised myself I'd get more things done like this even if I'm not 100% happy with how they turn out.

Reading update: I'm 43% of the way through Goblet of Fire, putting me at 34% of the way through the entire Harry Potter series. Still "behind" where I was originally in my reading schedule but very much ahead of schedule to finish before the first Deathly Hallows movie.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Post GenCon-itus

Dave, E, and I traveled together to GenCon this year from Wednesday morning of last week through Sunday evening. We flew in earlier than usual and flew out later, which was a huge help though I still can't help but feel like staying through Monday would make things even better (sorry Becky!), but my plans for next year will be interesting as I imagine Becky will be coming along with us.

I had a LOT of fun at GenCon this year, even more than the previous two years. One contributing factor was that many of our high school friends came along also which added a more personal and comfortable feel to being in Indy. Also, they are hilarious people and there always end up being some ridiculous stories. Another big factor was the people who live around the country/world that we know through RPG blogs or who work at WotC that we get to see in person only once or twice a year.

I didn't end up buying all that much this year, which is a good thing, and I could not find a suitable present for Becky which is a problem I'm still dealing with. :D I did buy the latest issue of Kobold Quarterly, an excellent magazine that we also have an ad in. It's always incredible to see something relating to Critical Hits in a physical print format. I hope some people see the ad and check us out! I also bought the Mouse Guard RPG book, which I've wanted for a while now and was convinced by the fact that they only had 5 copies left and those were the LAST of the first printing of the book (excluding those that may be in game stores, but still). Adding on to that is the fact that I got to play the Mouse Guard RPG for the first time when Phil ran it there, and I enjoyed it even more than I expected.

I bought a copy of Mike Shea's DM Tips book with artwork by our friend Jared, great writing and good tips combined with cool artwork is a huge success in my book! Lastly I made a quick decision and bought the D&D "miniature" for Orcus, the demon prince of undeath. I'm really glad I did, because it's pretty damn cool to just have around and to look at, plus I'll end up using it as much as possible in my D&D game now! I ended up spending a lot of my free time at the con hanging out with Trevor from Wizards of the Coast, which resulted in some hilarious moments and I hope we get to hang out even more at future conventions. As if he weren't cool enough, he also sent me two prints (on canvas) of D&D artwork that I still need to hang up in our house, but one of the is a painting by Wayne Reynolds and is SIGNED by him. It's beyond kickass!

The last thing I need to mention about GenCon is my chance encounters with celebrities. It started on Thursday or Friday night when I was walking down the street and walked right by Felicia Day and then Wil Wheaton (about 30 feet apart from each other), very glad I was paying attention at that moment. Then on the last day there, Sunday, I was having a late lunch in Noodles & Co. with Trevor and Chuck (also an amazingly cool guy) and Wil Wheaton came in and had lunch there. It was very hard trying not to stare but also to not be staring somewhere else in an awkward way. Flying casual is what I should have done. Those are only the first two parts of my chance encounters with Wil, as Dave, E, and myself were looking for food in the Indianapolis airport and found two tables where we could eat, then E and I were floored to realize we had just sat down right next to none other than Wil Wheaton! Thankfully Dave had just talked to him at the convention that morning, and apparently Wil loves our website (awesome.) so we chatted with him for a little while. Then Wil offered us half of his pizza because he wasn't feeling well, so yea we totally got to finish Wil Wheaton's pizza. I know it's a weird ass thing to essentially brag about, but I think overall it makes for a good story!

Now on to the necessary reading update:

Day 33 of my Harry Potter reading marathon, but thanks to GenCon last week / weekend I'm a little bit behind my 1% per day pace, with 30% complete at the moment and 20% of the way through The Goblet of Fire. I'll be attempting to catch up this evening and over the next few days to get back ahead of the daily allotment. However even if I don't catch up, but still read 1% per day from here on out, I'll still be finishing the last book by mid October, which is an entire month before the first part of Deathly Hallows comes out in theaters. This goal looks very readily achievable at this point, and I have already read WAY more pages within a single month than I've ever read before.

The exact number of pages read so far is 1,235 (out of 4,100 total over all seven books). For me this is pretty incredible, though the word count is lower than the books I've been reading lately (Wheel of Time mostly), if I can continue at a pace like this or even better then I have some hope that I can actually get through my "must read" list and even onto some old and new D&D novels. I'll probably check out Bruce Cordell's first, then some books by James Wyatt / Keith Baker (since I know all of these guys now), but I'm also considering going back and checking out the classic D&D books I never read like the Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms books.

Monday, August 02, 2010

August is Here! Already?

25 days since I started reading the first Harry Potter book, and now I've just started the fourth - The Goblet of Fire. This puts me 27% through the entire series, so I'm still slightly above a 1% per day rate which is good. I've definitely slowed down over the last few days, and hitting the first 700+ page book (over twice the size of the first two on its own) hasn't helped. Thankfully with Prisoner of Azkaban the overarching plot has started rolling along even faster so I should be able to blast through the larger books with more ease. I really can't believe how much of the content of these books was either left out of the movies or only barely hinted at so that you'd never know anything about it if you hadn't read the books.

This week, Wednesday morning to be exact, GenCon starts and it should be an incredibly fun time! I need to run out to Kinkos (yes it's not called that anymore, I'm sticking it to the man or something...) and get a small number of business cards printed because I didn't get my act together early enough to get a larger number printed beforehand.

That brings me to a different issue / story, Becky and I moved into this house two years ago and I made one of the upstairs bedrooms my "office". During the summer our upper level is consistently 5-10 degrees warmer than the rest of our house. Our bedroom has always had a ceiling fan so that solves the problem, but my office would get uncomfortably hot during the summer and fall so that it was tough for me to be at my computer for any significant period of time. On top of that, when we got our puppy Freyja the office was still inside of "cat territory" so I couldn't keep an eye on the dog and be on my computer at the same time. This resulted in me not being on the computer at home very much, which wasn't a huge problem but it definitely cut into my work on Critical Hits, playing games online, and working in Photoshop (among other things). All of this to get to the point that earlier this year I decided to move my personal computer and desk down to our basement, which is effectively one big gaming room - it has our TV, two sofas, lots of chairs, game consoles, movies, board games, video games, RPG books, and a big table for gaming all accented by a Rohan flag we got several years ago for our apartment hanging on the wall. So as of early this year it also contained my computer, which has been very handy for running D&D (and using Character Builder pre/mid game) but it also allowed Becky and I to spend time together while one of us plays a game on the TV and the other on my computer. Yes, this is how my wife and I spend time together quite often. We love it. :D

So this left us with an empty bedroom upstairs, that in my unemployment remained pretty much as it had been just without my computer and a few more things stored in it. Then in mid June, I got my awesomely awesome job where I'm working from home and needed to set up a home office. Seems pretty damn convenient doesn't it? I'm glad it was! Okay so the point of this story is that then I had to set up a home office upstairs where my old "office" was, this time with a ceiling fan installed to make it bearable (and thank god for that, it's fantastic!) - this meant my "office" environment was moved downstairs, then moved upstairs again, and in that move a LOT of things have gone missing.

So a lot of my time these days is spent trying to find stuff, and I'm not just talking about physical things even though there are a ton of them, but computer files also. See, even worse is that my home computer got some really nasty spyware and viruses on it shortly after I moved it downstairs (basement herp?) and so I had to reformat it. This has led to even MORE shifting around of folders, files, and now I've been trying to get everything back to some semblance of organization again. All of that explains why I didn't get my business cards sent off to be printed before this week. Good story, right?

Oh and then I found $5. Okay, now it's a good story. (If you don't get it, ask and I'll explain. :D)