30 November 2006

Seduction Quiz

This one seems to be floating around the internet at the moment. It's amusing.

I didn't think I was such a push-over. Maybe I should ask my wife to confirm...

28 November 2006

Dirty Laundry

No, no. I'm not about to make any sort of spectacular confession. Not without a lawyer present, anyway. I'm talking about dirty laundry, literally. Clothes so filthy and mired with grime and sweat that, given the right climate and a couple more weeks, they'd be able to walk (or slither) about by themselves.

Tonight's the night for dirty laundry. The magic trick, as you might know, is sometimes referred to as washing. This involves water, and a miraculous substance known as either soap or detergent. Where I live, washing takes place in a facility that houses about twenty mechanical washers and dryers. The washers wash, the dryers dry. Funny how that works, hm?

In order to get these contraptions to wash your clothes, you have to feed them hard currency. It costs $1.25 to wash a load of clothes, and another $0.75 to dry them. The entire process, from start to finish, probably takes about 90 minutes. It may seem like a monumental waste of time, but believe me: clean clothes are a necessity.

All joking aside, tonight is Tuesday. A small assignment has landed in my lap, due by the end of the week. Something to occupy my mind, finally. It doesn't pay, but it might lead to grander things in my future if I do it well enough to get noticed. Wish me luck.

I'm having the crew over to play Cyberpunk this weekend. I hope we can manage to get a little trigger time in. I've got the outline for the introductory session ready, but I need to get down to brass tacks. This means writing up NPC stats, all manner of descriptions, that sort of thing. Typical GM stuff.

It's been a long time since I've GMed anything. It feels like it's been forever, in fact. I know that it's like riding a bike, and that you never quite forget how it's done, but I still get to wondering if everything will click. Will the game bloom, or die?

Oh, and one more bit of news: Wizards has announced the impending release of Complete Champion on their web site. This is the one that I contributed to, the one I've been keeping under my hat this whole time. If you're feeling particularly generous, go to Amazon.com and pre-order a copy today.

Perceptive readers will notice that my name is not on the cover of the book. There is, I assure you, an explanation for this. Generally speaking, only four names fit on a book cover. I happen to be the fifth author, and my contribution was also the smallest. As this is a mere mock-up of the final product, there is a chance that my name will grace the exterior of the book with the rest of those talented folks. If not, I'll still have interior credit, for which I'm quite pleased.

An old friend of mine recently asked me if I'd ever like to write a novel. This question is not uncommon, coming from other people as well. The answer, plain and simple, is, "I don't know."

I'm sure that, someday, I'll be hit by a bolt of figurative lightning, and I'll leap up and shout, "Eureka!" Until then I'm happy to freelance, contributing my own thoughts and ideas to existing properties and product lines. If I decide to write a novel, and pursue its publication, I can only hope that my list of freelance publishing credits will help me to get my foot in the door, and lend some air of credibility to my work.

So that's it for now, folks. I've pontificated enough for one night. As always, I'm sure there will be more later on...

27 November 2006

Adios, Long Weekend

Wednesday afternoon, I sat on the cusp of a long-anticipated four-day weekend and thought, "Come Sunday night, I'm going to wonder where the weekend went."

Self-fulfilling prophecy, maybe?

It's Monday morning (or should that be "mourning"?), and I'm up at the crack of dawn to start another glorious week. You never realize how long a five-day stretch of work is until you've spent more than two or three days in a row off. The length of the week seems magnified, somehow, stretching off into an infinity of monotonous tasks. Tuesday arrives an eternity later, and you wonder, "Shouldn't it be Thursday by now?"

Another self-fulfilling prophecy, I reckon.

The long weekend, in retrospect, feels correspondingly long. Thursday including the usual turkey-gobbling with family. Friday was a day of errands, following by listless sloth on my part. Saturday, we drove about, spent a little bit of money, and enjoyed a meal out. Sunday, we cooked our own turkey after what seemed to be days of prep time, and shared it (as well as stuffing and mashed potatoes) with friends.

Having friends over last night, we decided to play some games. I finally got to give War of the Ring a shot; our pal Robert helped me on that account. It seems to take a long while to set up, and we had a few fits and starts as we read the rules between moves. I sat myself in the inimitable role of Sauron, while Rob played the miserable Free Peoples. My evil plans came to naught, however, because by the time we'd gotten the hang of things, it was time to clear the table for dinner.

Curse those meddling kids.

After dinner (which turned out quite well, thanks), my brother in law, Adam, as well as Rob and myself, tried out Cthulhu 500. We played that until my son went to bed, after which we pulled out the Lord of the Rings boardgame. With my wife included, we managed to account for four hobbits. The first two boards seemed easy, but Shelob's Lair messed us up good. By the time we'd made it to Mordor, it was a forgone conclusion that we were all going to die. A series of very bad tiles destroyed Sam (me), Pippin, and Merry, leaving Frodo to witness Sauron's ultimate victory first hand.

I've actually played in a game of Lord of the Rings where we made it to the end and destroyed the ring. I think this must've been a stroke of luck, because I can't imagine ever doing so again. As much as I enjoy the game, I have to wonder what the statistical odds of success are. They can't be high.

After the game ended, we kicked everyone out, cleaned up house, and went to bed. It was a late night, and here I am some six hours later, tired and somewhat maudlin about the long weekend that passed me by. Another two hours in a warm bed next to my wife sounds like some approximation of Heaven, but I'm too responsible to call in and make a half-assed excuse in order to delay the inevitable.

To the shower with me, and then to the orthodontic salt mine I go.

22 November 2006

The Blues

I'm feeling incredibly glum today. It's little secret that I've been feeling glum a lot lately. There are a number of things on my mind, and while no single one can be blamed for my gloomy mood, taken together they present a formidable host.

I suppose I need to pull myself up by my bootstraps and make things happen. It's increasingly obvious that my problems aren't likely to solve themselves. Half of them, though, involve waiting for something that I am unable to otherwise hurry along. The other half might be solved by quick (or, at the least, imminent) action on my part.

Forgive me for not making a list of these issues. Some of the things on it will appear far too trivial to the average joe, I'm sure. It hardly helps that I'm tired. I must not be sleeping enough, or perhaps I'm getting old. I've come to appreciate a late morning or afternoon nap on the weekends. I fear that I will eventually find myself nodding off in movie theaters.

Thanksgiving is tomorrow. We're feasting with my family, as is the norm for this holiday. I look forward to four days away from the office, though I'm sure they will pass by all too quickly. I have little planned, aside from attending tomorrow's meal.

Incidentally, Fantasy Flight Games is having a holiday sale. Most items are available for $5, and this presents several good deals. I myself have succumbed to the temptation of cheap games. You can even buy the Fireborn books for $5 each, if you so choose. Even though I didn't write them, I must issue a heartfelt recommendation for the books in the Blue Planet line. You can pick up the entire series of Blue Planet books for $5 each, which is practically theft considering the high quality of the title.

Back to work...

21 November 2006

Box Office Hobbits

And so it appears that Peter Jackson will not be directing the movie adaptation of The Hobbit, after all. I am somewhat disappointed by this, as a live-action version of The Hobbit would be a spectacle, indeed. I’d be really interested to see a CGI Smaug in action.

I’ve been a fan of Peter Jackson’s for a long, long time, well before he was thrust into the limelight by his adaptation of LotR. Bad Taste was the first movie of his that I’d seen. While Dead Alive (titled Brain Dead everywhere but the USA, AFAIK) wasn’t really my cup of tea, I enjoyed both The Frighteners and Heavenly Creatures. Still haven’t seen Meet the Feebles, and King Kong, while pretty to look at, was somewhat long IMO.

I guess I appreciate his low-budget work more than his high-budget films. Don’t get me wrong, I respect his attempts to bring Tolkien’s world to life. He got a lot of it dead to rights, but I also feel that he got an awful lot wrong. I don’t want to go into specifics: this entry isn’t intended as an item-by-item critique of Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. We’ll save that for another time.

There’s been a serious lack of good live-action fantasy flicks. I can name but a handful that are, in my estimation, worthy: Conan the Barbarian, Krull, the Harry Potter films, Ladyhawke, Beastmaster, and Excalibur are but a few of my favorites. There are even some movies, such as The Sword and the Sorcerer, that I absolutely adore, but which are admittedly horrible when taken on their own.

Back to the topic of The Hobbit: I guess that New Line will recruit another director for the movie. I wonder who it will be? Will the fact that Jackson isn’t directing it detract from its success? Only time will tell.

On my to-do list: see Casino Royale. I’ve heard a lot of good things about the latest Bond flick, and I’d really like to get to the theater within the next few days and see it.

Oh, by the way, I did get to have breakfast with my friend Dave, and we talked a good deal about many things, especially Cyberpunk. Talking about it with him made me want to play it, dammit. I yearn for the old days. We had some good games back then, I tell you. I don’t know if they’d be good by today’s standards, but they definitely served a purpose, and they continue to live on in my memory.

So, yeah…we have to get Cyberpunk rolling, and soon.

17 November 2006

Video Game Quality

It's a good thing I got those XBox games cheap, I tell you.

Don't get me wrong, I've really enjoyed the Brothers in Arms titles (even though I think that they were a bit on the short side), and Midnight Club 3 is a lot of fun (I'd probably've paid full price for it, in fact). In the case of Medal of Honor: European Assault, though...I've played through the first scenario, and I've pretty much had it with the game.

As far as FPS games go, there's always a little bit to get used to. The controls, for instance: there are always minor variations on the way the controller is set up. I can deal with that. I have to say, though, that the Brothers in Arms games have spoiled me in relation to WWII-themed shooters. They're twenty times better than European Assault. Not to mention, European Assault is campy. The squad interface is primitive. The animations fall flat. The level of realism is pre-kindergarten (taking out a tank with a frag grenade? Pah-lease!).

I figured that, even with the silliness of the game, I could probably play through it and enjoy myself. I wasn't expecting much for my $10. The sad truth is, I can't. I'm going to yank the disc out of the XBox when I get home, slap it in its case, and put it up on the media rack to collect dust until I decide to give it or throw it away.


My Amazon order arrived yesterday. Pieces of Eight looks as neat as it looked at Gen Con. I can't wait to try it out, though I am a bit uncertain how I should stack my "deck" (as your coin-comprised "ship" is called). The instructions detail the different coins and their varied effects, but they don't provide any ideas or examples for how one should put a deck together. It's going to take some experimentation on my part to figure out what works.

Cthulhu 500 is going to be entertaining. It's a simple game that will be fun to try out. Maybe tonight.

Tomorrow, I'm going to try and see if I can do something about my radiator leak. I'm no vehicle expert, so I can't rightly say if it's fixable, or if I should just put a bullet in the car and be done with it. More on this mechanical enigma later on. Right now, I've got to clock in from lunch and get back to work. Huzzah.

15 November 2006

Soup Night

It's tortilla chicken soup night here at the Astleford household. I've been hard at work, slaving over a hot stove, since I got home. My wife is chasing my son around, making him laugh hysterically so that he can't stand up on his own. Soft music is playing on the stereo, and the paper cut from this morning's session of filing (at work) is screaming bloody murder because I got jalepeno juice (or salsa or something) in it.

Gen Con SoCal is not in the cards for this weekend. Sorry, folks, I just ain't doing it. My car has a radiator leak which, combined with its general unreliability as of late, precludes me from making the drive. Not that I would have gone were my car in tip-top shape; I'm sure I would've made some other excuse, either due to finances or (most likely) time.

This doesn't stop me from seeing a friend of mine on Sunday, though; a guy that I only see at conventions named Dave. Dave is an Aussie that I met at the very first Gen Con SoCal. He was a player in a massive Cyberpunk 2020 game that I was helping to run, and by chance I ended up moderating for his table towards the end of my evening out. I'm not sure when he noticed my name, but he recognized me instantly as "Ocelot," author of a handful of homebrew Cyberpunk articles from "back in the day."

As neat as it was to be recognized, it was also a bit uncomfortable. Granted, it would've been a heck of lot more uncomfortable if he'd expressed negative opinions about the design work I'd done in my youth. I managed to get over it, though, and he and I have since become friends. In the years following, he moved from Australia to the USA, and now lives a few scant hours away in the Arizona outback. On his way home Sunday, Dave plans to stop by my place, and we're going to head out for breakfast. It'll be good to talk with him again.

Aside from my car acting up, I also got the results of my latest blood test. Don't worry, folks, I'm not dying or anything. At least, not yet. In fact, I guess I'm pretty healthy for a fat guy who does little else but type all day. That is, except for the levels of triglycerides in my bloodstream. Who knew this stuff could kill you? So I'm going to be heading for a low-fat diet in a matter of days, which is pretty much what I've been doing for the past week or two, anyway. Not that I've noticed a difference.

This past weekend, I went to the first movie I've seen since V For Vendetta. I've been a big WWII buff for a while now, and I realized last week that Flags of Our Fathers had been out for a while. Overall, I enjoyed the movie. It was a good mixture of grueling battle scenes intermixed with a story that was somewhat removed from the rigors of war. I was especially interested in the film for two reasons. First off, my grandfather was a sailor aboard an LST that landed at Iwo Jima; and secondly, there have been few good "modern" films that center soley on the Pacific campaign.

By "good 'modern' films" exploring the Pacific aspect of the war, the only one I can really think of that I approved of was 1998's The Thin Red Line. I'm probably the only person I know who liked the movie, though, being as it was largely tropical eye-candy interspersed with the self-reflection of the characters and only sparsely populated with combat scenes. There have been other films, sure, but I consider the majority of them (including the banal, Titanicesque Pearl Harbor, and John Woo's overly fiery Windtalkers) to be cinematic crap.

If you can think of other worthy "modern" Pacific theatre WWII flicks, by all means, let me know.

Okay, so past that, what else is up? Hmm. I ordered copies of Atlas Games' Pieces of Eight and Cthulhu 500. I regret not buying Pieces of Eight at Gen Con this past August, and so I'm making up for it now. As for Cthulhu 500, we can always use another light-hearted card game for those occasions when RPing is not on the agenda, but gaming of some kind is.

I also discovered that there's a re-make of Conquest of the Empire, which was the Roman equivalent of Axis and Allies when I was but a lad. The new edition looks damn fine, and along with a rules update (as well as some expansion, from the looks of things), it's definitely on my list of games to buy within the next month or two.

So I'm babbling tonight, yeah. There's very little of consequence for me to say, actually. Schwalb is heading to see Queensryche tonight; I never figured him for a QR fan. I've seen Queensryche live on two occasions, the second of which included a backstage meeting with 3/5ths of the band. They seemed like a great group of guys, and it was a good show to boot.

I've got some stuff to do, so I guess I'll cut this post short. There will be more later, I'm sure.

10 November 2006

Okay. So It's Been A Month. So What?

As I sit here, watching the special edition of Aliens while my wife puts my son to bed, I'm trying to think back over the past thirty (or so) days and put everything into perspective. I guess there are some folks who might want to know what's been going on, at least from a gaming and/or writing perspective.

In mid-October, we (meaning, myself, the wife, and the boy) flew to Pennsylvania to visit family. Just prior to leaving, I'd posted an entry, complaining of earth-shattering news that I couldn't speak about. Well, I still can't speak about it, but there's even more earth-shattering news that I have already spoken about here.

If you're impatient, skip to the bottom of that entry and read for yourself. That particular news item has more or less eclipsed every other news item that might have arisen before and after.

The future looks bright, insofar as work (writing) is concerned. I'm in a sort of holding pattern at the moment, which allows me to concentrate on other pursuits. That isn't to say that my future, insofar as everything but work (writing) is concerned, looks particularly bleak. It doesn't. Leaner, maybe. Hungrier. But bleak? Naaaah.

Such "pursuits" in recent weeks, thanks to all of the XBox titles at the local Borders being on sale for 75% off, have consisted of a lot of video game playing. Titles such as Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition and the Brothers in Arms series of WWII FPS's have featured prominently. I might feel like a side of beef, sitting there with a video game controller clenched in my sweaty paws, but the price was right. I love a bargain!

I also picked up a copy of Fantasy Flight's War of the Ring boardgame. Haven't played it yet, but dammit! For as much as it cost me, I'm going to, even if it means marching all the way to Mordor.

As for gaming, there hasn't been much. With Thanksgiving (and, after that, Christmas) on the way, I'm sure that scheduling will become a royal PITA. And so it goes.

That's the sound of Newt screaming as her father is revealed to have a facehugger stuck to his mug. It seems to say to me, "Gary, wrap this up and do something else for a while before your laptop battery sputters. So, for now, adieu. I'll get back to the rigors of posting on a more regular scheudule. I promise.