Sunday, November 28, 2010

Wheel of Time Thoughts

I am now 51% through Wheel of Time book 6 - Lord of Chaos and I'm starting to progress a bit faster (as usual). It's usual because right around half way through most of Jordan's books he starts to really pick up the action and build to the finale (go figure, right? Who would structure a book that way? Oh, everyone? I see...) so I'm naturally inclined to keep reading and to read more often through out the day.

I generally avoid talking much about what I'm reading in WoT because I want to avoid spoilers for anyone reading this, but my continuing discussions with Becky are enjoyable and I'd love to have some of those here as well. The other big problem is I really don't want anyone in comments here or in discussing it to spoil anything for me, so please keep in mind that I am only half way through Lord of Chaos and I'll probably have Becky read any comments here first (though I'm assuming there won't be any, so no big deal) just in case!

For today I'm not going to spoil anything big, but still if you don't want any spoilers from WoT up to and through book 6 don't read the rest of this paragraph. Minor Spoilers now: I find it very fascinating that Jordan waited until about 380 pages (38% through the book) into the 6th book of the series to finally reveal that Tigraine was Rand's mother. You find out in book 3 (IIRC) that his mother was a wetlander that entered the waste and became a maiden of the spear, and that his father was an Aiel, but the reveal in this chapter of book 6 is pretty damn important. It's important because you also find out that the Aes Sedai Gitara Moroso was the one that foretold the Dragon being reborn, and that she sent Tigraine's brother (Luc, OMG another big thing that I can't wait to find out more about) to the north and she then sent Tigraine away from Caemlyn so that Rand would end up being born on the cliffs of Dragonmount (or wherever). This is all super important not just because it explains the events that led to Rand's birth, but also because after that Gitara Sedai is the one who set Suian's and Moiraine's plans into action which is really the whole set up for the beginning of Eye of the World. Thus, to me this revelation of events is really what began the whole series of books and so to me this is easily one of the most important chapters of the series so far.

Spoilers aside and done with, I just like looking at the fact that Jordan waited until this book to reveal the beginnings of the events in Eye of the World. I'm not saying I think he should have done it sooner or later, just marveling at how and where it was done. Also that it was done in a sort of casual sense with just a noble woman in Caemlyn talking to Rand and mentioning something to him. Other things that really interest me are how much the Forsaken are characters in these later books, and how the only holdovers from the 2nd age are essentially the bad guys.

All of that just makes me want to read faster, so that's what I'm doing! I won't be finishing this book by the end of November (only 2 days away, geez) but I should wrap it up sometime in early December. This time of year is always rough for scheduling and running D&D, and I am amazed that right around this time last year I was struggling so much with scheduling that I was on the very brink of canceling the whole campaign. Thankfully (VERY thankfully) Josh rallied his roomates and came up on December 5th last year for their first romp into the Elemental Chaos, which was extremely fun and resolved me to keep things going. This year I am content to keep it going even if I don't run once in December, though I very much hope I can.

In other news Thanksgiving was very fun this year, we went to Becky's grandmother's house and had a fun time with all of the family and especially hanging out with their cousins. I'm hooked on the Sam Adams Winter Variety boxes - not just to get the 2 bottles of sweet, sweet Chocolate Boch that the O got me hooked on (thanks Andrew :P ) but also because I love the Winter Lager and pretty much every other variety in there.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Numbers Make Me Hot

Okay, so it's me and by now if you're surprised by me analysing numbers, specifically when they can be charted to a graph (perhaps even in some sort of Graph Chart!) that involves chronology, then you clearly don't know me well enough!

Apparently I started this account on Blogger almost exactly 4 years ago on November 20, 2006. If you'd asked me when I did that, I would NOT have said that long ago at all. It was mostly a whim, but I could probably already feel Critical Hits growing in a different direction and my personal blogging "needs" would need to be filled somewhere. I remember I asked Dave for name suggestions and he almost instantly shot back "Incorrect Blitz Input", and it was one of those times where solid gold just materializes first and foremost in the idea process. Thank you Dave for that, it was perfect and you seemingly conjured it from no where without any effort what so ever. If you don't know the reference, go play Final Fantasy 3 (6 in Japan) and you should be able to figure out who my favorite character was.

Oh, I also started a Blogger account because Dave and several other people who were (and are) some of the only people I believe actually read this were opposed to reading Live Journal. Also I'd gotten a bit tired of the good old LJ, it felt novel at first but quickly started to feel more dated than anything else.

The weird thing then was that I didn't post here until January of 2007, and even then I only posted a whopping 3 times in that whole year. By 2008 this blog had existed long enough that it needed some justification for existing, so I started a meager effort of posting here about once a month, but quickly started coming here to post very short musings or thoughts I had (which are usually funny in retrospect) resulting in 39 posts total in 2008. My biggest hopes and fears then were all focused on my upcoming D&D campaign, which I'm thrilled to say is STILL going! 2009 dwindled back down to a total of 8 posts, but this was also the year that my day job quickly took a downward turn and ironically is when I probably needed something like a personal blog the most, but I neglected it instead (thankfully it neither eats/drinks nor breaths, otherwise it surely would have died). This was also the year that I first got the spark that the blog could be used as some sort of "Reading Journal" where I post about my progress through current books, and I added the progress bars on the side there that have no become some kind of addictive drug that I must update whenever I read, and I read so that I may update them and progress along the bar further. It encourages me to read, so it's a good drug! Right?! RIGHT?!?

2010 started off the same as 2009, with me newly into my unemployment - though I did manage to post twice in January (rays of hope in the darkness I suppose). It wasn't until June, with new (dream) job in hand that I returned here to chronicle some of my deeper thoughts - specifically about unemployment and precisely how badly the architecture industry was hit by the downturn in the economy. I'm happy that from June to now I have managed to get 2010 up to 29 posts (30 now with this one going up).

With the advent of my Harry Potter reading marathon, and now my Wheel of Time push to finish before the final book is released (which I'm well ahead of schedule for), I am happy to say that I will have at least the most simple reason to update this blog as a record for my reading progress. It gives me hope, because if I can get into the habit of reading and progressing on that, and updating here, then I can transfer these habits to my other interests as well -namely art and drawing, which is something I've been struggling with for longer than any of my blogs has ever existed.

There is always hope for that, no matter how long I write about wanting to get it started. As Phil says to me sometimes, which does drive me crazy but it's good advice, "stop talking about it and do it." Coming from the Chatty DM, a person who talks quite a bit, I take it as learned and very good advice. Now to stop writing about it and follow it! :D

Reading Update: I read over 60 pages today, to make up for some of the slack I had earlier in the month, and am now 37% of the way through book 6 - Lord of Chaos.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

One Year Later

This past Friday, November 19th, marks exactly one year since I was laid off from my last job. It's interesting to me that it feels like a very long time ago, but also doesn't feel like it's been nearly a year since I worked there. If you haven't read my other posts from the summer of this year, what followed me being laid off was 7 months of very stressful unemployment and worrying, though it also managed to be LESS stressful than my former job was for various reasons. Thankfully, back in early June I was hired by the company I work for now and things have been going along fantastically!

With Thanksgiving coming up this week, it's no real surprise to me that I don't remember the holiday season last year very clearly at all. I'd just been laid off, and was starting into my job search full steam and also getting unemployment (and continuing health insurance) worked out. This year things are on the upswing and continue to look up for the future, so I imagine this holiday season will be one that sticks with me for a while. As I continue to do posts on here over the next year, I'm going to make it an ongoing goal to reflect to the same time frame of the last year and compare how things are going. Obviously this time last year things were not so good, and so perhaps it is this year for Thanksgiving that I have more to be thankful for than I have in many years previous.

In more regular news, we went to a midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, which was enjoyable. It is the first Harry Potter movie I've read the book before I've seen the movie, and it's a distinctly different experience though many of the changes or bizarre plots that I completely understand now still irk me because I know if I hadn't read the book I would have had major issues with the movie.

I've also finally (and hopefully) winterized my Trident Maple bonsai tree that I got back in late June. I'm really hoping it survives the winter in good health and I can really take care of it and shape it through the spring & summer next year. It's in a bed of mulch inside of a clear plastic container on our back steps, because we don't have a shed or anything to protect it from the more harsh weather while it hibernates. The tree was probably one of my first gifts/purchases after getting the new job so I really hope to cultivate it for many years to come!

Reading Update: I slacked for the early-middle part of November because of some new D&D books I got and wanted to read, but I'm back on track for Wheel of Time book 6, Lord of Chaos, and am currently 23% of the way through it. This means I probably won't finish it by the end of November, but hopefully by some point in early December and then I can start into the next book before the end of the year!

Monday, November 08, 2010

Short Story & Reading Update

The old television screen flickered to life, pale lines of blue light skittered up and down on the glass and eventually formed a fuzzy image of an old man's face. His dull, sunken eyes displayed a weariness from unkind years as he gazed through the screen at no point in particular. The image fractured into abstract lines of blue, white, and black briefly as Theresa turned the dial at the bottom of the set, eventually conceding that the picture could get no clearer. Most days she didn't bother turning it on, but whenever it rained she couldn't help but want to see her father's face. She used to sit for hours on his lap, listening to the rain on the porch roof or to one of his many stories about times before she was even born.
She held her hand up to the screen just before the image of her father did the same, she'd memorized the recording over the last few years and liked to pretend that it was just like when he was alive. Suddenly she felt foolish and removed her hand, watching as the recording ran on and his hand remained up to the glass for several minutes. She liked to marvel at the details of the hand, even through the fuzz of the old tele-screen, at the way his fingers twitched and moved as she watched. It was the same every time, of course, but after years the routine itself made her nearly as happy as the image on the screen. She pushed the stop button at the bottom of the screen and as the image faded it played the same recorded portion it always did after you stopped it, the sad image of her father waved as it flickered and the screen became dark. As Theresa packed her things for work she wondered how bad her commute would be due to the rain, and if she'd feel like re-loading her father's tube when she returned home or if she'd load her mother's as she often did.


This is the beginning of a short story I've had rolling around my brain for a while now, and just randomly decided to start writing it with little preparation. This is just two paragraphs for now, but I'll either come back into this post and add onto it or repost these two and add some more on as I feel like. I could just keep it on a word doc and share it once there's more there, but I figure why the hell not just share a quick snippet of it as I write it?

As for my reading schedule I finished 1984 on last Thursday, November 4th so it took me about nine days to get through it. That was a bit longer than I anticipated but still I've already jumped into the Wheel of Time book 6 - Lord of Chaos and am currently 7% of the way into it. Hopefully I'll be able to pick up some speed and finish this book before the end of November, and then get through the next one by the end of the year!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The RPG Market and FLGS's

This is something that may end up on Critical Hits, it's certainly in line with the topics there, but I haven't put enough thought or research behind it for it to go up there. In essence, this is a brainstorming post.

I see a lot of people, especially on the internet, throw around the opinion that the RPG hobby and market are declining and that there are less Gaming Stores (FLGS - Friendly Local Gaming Store is almost becoming an overplayed joke to me now), and very often the decline in the number of gaming stores is one of the first signs used to point to the decline in the industry. I have a lot of problems with these opinions when they're expressed, typically the biggest hurdle is how they're expressed - like the trumpets of the coming apocalypse or impending doom, often with the sense that it's already happened and it's too damn late to do anything about it. Some of the latest of which have finally bothered to put some numbers behind their argument, but I still have only seen the present day stats which they then compare to non-solid conjectured numbers that could just as easily be thrown there simply to prove the person's point. Example: this quarter's top-selling print run of books in 2010 was 5,000 books, but back in the day we used to wipe our asses with 5,000 books every day so clearly the market is declining. Decent stat/fact compared to conjecture = point proven. Wrong, and this angers me.

The number of gaming stores in the US may have declined over the last few years, I don't know about that but it is something that I'll concede because I can believe it, however I do not believe in the proof that less gaming stores means the hobby and market are declining. To me the obvious reason is because there are a lot of other, often better places to get your gaming books and supplies from and so gaming stores just aren't as needed anymore. No matter what anyone says, gaming stores are not there to propagate the hobby, they're not there to get new people into your favorite game, and they're definitely not there as hubs for gamers. Gaming stores exist to sell games. All of those other things were developments of the era that gaming blossomed and the necessities of the people at those times.

The internet is most likely the biggest force pushing gaming stores out of business, and it is funny because though a gaming store's only real purpose is to sell games they are almost certainly losing business because the internet can also duplicate the other roles that gaming stores have traditionally served. Gamers love to get together and nerd-talk together, and the internet definitely serves up a whole helping of that (like this post, for instance, and every other place on the internet ever pretty much).

In much the same way that people point to the decline in gaming stores as the first sign that the hobby is in decline, many of those people therefore argue that if gaming stores go away the hobby will go away also. For the most part these are inter-supportive arguments, but if you throw away the first one (like I do and discussed at the beginning of this post) I still cannot completely brush aside the second argument. Gaming stores surely help propagate the hobbies in many ways, but also people generally argue that gaming stores get lots of new gamers into the hobbies. I'm not entirely sure I agree with this, the odds are that if someone is going to a game store they were going to find a part of the hobby anyway. That said, a game store is certainly useful for people (often "kids") who come there to buy Yu-gi-oh or Magic cards are very likely to then stumble upon things like board games and RPGs like D&D and BAM, that's the...ahem, magic of gaming stores right there.

However I'd also venture to say that having D&D books in the larger book stores like Borders/Barnes & Noble are at a higher chance of reaching even larger audiences. I bought my first RPG books at the local Walden Books in the nearest mall, and went there almost weekly to check out the books and see what was new and pick up my occasional copy of Dungeon or Dragon magazine. I did that, and THEN I'd go to a gaming store to pick up my Magic cards. Now if we look at things from the internet side, you'd have to be absolutely nuts to not realize the fact that in the last year or two Penny Arcade has certainly brought a decent number of new or borderline gamers in to the D&D hobby. That alone lets me know that even if every single gaming store in the US goes out of business, the hobby will still exist and there will still be a market for RPGs.

There very well may be less people playing tabletop RPGs today then there were 5 years ago, and that number may be lower than they were 10 or 15 or even 20 years ago, but when I read people talking about how the hobby/market is in decline what I really read is that the hobby/market AS THEY KNEW IT is in decline. For many of those people, if they cannot go to a local gaming store every once in a while, then the hobby might as well be dead. What I'm much more interested in reading about, and talking about, is not how the RPG hobby/market is doomed or dying or been dead since 4E raped its mother and killed its daddy but rather how the RPG hobby and market are going to look when they're alive and being played 50 years from now.

I mean holy shit, for a hobby that started out with a bunch of people in a basement stapling pieces of paper together so they could play games, people sure do seem terrified of the hobby becoming a bunch of people in a basement with stapled pieces of paper playing games together.