Friday, August 29, 2014

PAX: First Impressions

This is going to be the 9th PAX I work, the 10th PAX I attend, so I feel like I've seen good PAXes, bad PAXes, and everything in between. At this point, I feel like I can maybe start predicting how these things will go before they begin.

This PAX looks like it might be pretty cool, and I'll tell you why.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Road to PAX: Eugene to Seattle

Eugene is a pretty small town in Oregon, and I would normally have passed right through it. However, when I was looking for a place to stop, it was at just the right distance form San Jose. So, I figured why not? The hotel turned out to be an interesting motel with cabin-like rooms and California king beds, which was pretty neat.

That said, my primary concern after waking up was to make it out of the state without having to stop for gas. So, I skipped breakfast and returned to the Interstate quickly, hoping to finish my trip as soon as possible.

The Road to PAX: San Jose to Eugene, Oregon

After getting the van's window repaired and picking up Robbie Benson's equipment so he can perform at our booth, I finally started on the road out of California. Whereas on the way into San Jose the road was kinda boring on I-5 and kinda neat off of it, heading north out of town was kinda the opposite.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Road to PAX: Bakersfield to San Jose

This was originally going to be a much longer trip, but alas. Regardless, I had the pleasure of driving the four hours or so from Bakersfield to San Jose in a permanent state of "windows down." The journey from the valley to the bay area is mostly uneventful, but it gets pretty neat near the end.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Break-In

Yesterday, after posting the previous blog, I checked out of my hotel and returned to the van, ready to make the trip up from Bakersfield, through San Jose, and to Medford, OR for the second leg of my journey to PAX.

Unfortunately, what I found when I approached my van altered my plans a bit.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Road to PAX: Tucson to Bakersfield

Yesterday I made the familiar drive from Tucson to Bakersfield, the first of a three-legged journey on the way to Seattle. I'm driving by myself, as usual, along with a van stuffed with merchandise.

I'm going to describe that trip here, in case you're interested in the visuals.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Immersing Yourself

I'm a jack of all trades: I can do a lot of things pretty well, but I'm really not a master of anything. It's the thing about myself that frustrates me the most. I've at times been an artist, a writer, an actor, a salesman... yet I've never completely dedicated myself to any one skill.

The funny thing is, I know how to do this. I've simply never decided on what to immerse myself in.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Come With Me And We'll Be in a World of Pure Imagination

I've officially been playing D&D for a decade now. I've spent two and a half years running my first campaign, a two-and-a-half-year-long learning experience that pretty much hooked me from day one. After a hiatus, the next campaign likewise lasted 2.5 years, and subsequent campaigns lasted until they had to end for one reason or another.

You can't spend that long with a hobby like that without examining what it is about that hobby that keeps you interested. I mean, I've been playing D&D for 1/3 of my life now. How many other hobbies have I maintained for this long? And with such fervor? Almost nothing.

Impacting the Life of Another

A while back I looked into the Big Brother program. The program tries its best to assure potential Big Brothers that they can have a huge, positive impact on the lives of these kids by hanging out with them for a while. This concept is very appealing to me, because having an impact on another person's life is one of the most impressive things a person can do, in my opinion. Even though I don't think I can commit to such a program, it made me think about what it means to change someone's life.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Embarrasment of Putting Yourself Out There

One of the most difficult parts about writing blogs is overcoming the fear of putting myself out there. There's nothing quite as vulnerable as a person who has taken a part of themselves--a thought, a piece of music, a work of art--and put it on public display.

The Salute

When someone arrives or leaves we generally acknowledge the activity, whether we're the ones coming, going, or staying. There's often a verbal acknowledgement: "Hi!" "Bye!" "Hey!" "Later!" However, making noise at each other isn't enough. We almost always have some sort of hand gesture to go along with these greetings and farewells.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Movie Re-Review: Chasing Amy

Last night, which browsing Netflix with Laura, I settled on Chasing Amy. I hadn't seen it in a while, and Laura had never seen it at all, so it seemed like a good choice. I remember liking the movie quite a bit when I saw it the first time, and I've long considered it my favorite Kevin Smith film. Watching it now, years afterward, I've got a new perspective on the movie.

Of course, this movie doesn't count toward my 52 new movies for the year since I'd seen it before.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

D&D Session #41: The Hall of Mischeif

After over a month without any D&D sessions due to one event or another, we finally got the chance to pick up where we left off!

The party was exploring a cave beneath the Citadel, a star they flew toward after escaping from a land crawling with huge, seemingly invincible titans. They planned to simply kick their human and elven passengers to the curb, but their supervisor Kirtan was interested in the Citadel and wanted some more information about the place. So, he offered the party an extra runic tattoo as a reward for checking it out. When the gate to the citadel turned out to be closed and unopenable, the party found a cave below the city that might offer answers.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Being the Comic Relief

In the wake of Robin Williams' death a lot of people have brought up the idea that comedians are often very sad, lonely people on the inside. I don't know how true that is, but I do have a story of a sad, lonely kid who, desperate to find a personality, decided that he would be the "comic relief."

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Meeting People in MMOs

I re-subscribed to Star Wars: The Old Republic recently, and I almost immediately got pulled into a Flashpoint (a sort of highly-scripted group quest that isn't related to any one character's story). I was still kind of getting the hang of playing again, so it was kind of a trial by fire. Still, it reminded me of one of my favorite aspects of playing MMOs: getting to know people.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

D&D 5th Edition Character: The Sorcerer Politician

Last Friday I picked up the Player's Handbook for the new edition of D&D. As a dungeon master it's my responsibility to familiarize myself with new systems to see what sort of things and determine if they're worth trying out. While I had little interest in 4th Edition compared to 3.5, so far I'm actually liking 5th. It seems to be solving a lot of the problems with both 3.5 and 4th in an elegant way, and just reading the book is giving me ideas of characters.

So, in this post I'll be describing one of those characters that manifested while reading one of the classes.

To note: I'm actually not done reading the new PHB, so my understanding of the system is still limited. To that end, I won't be going too deep into the mechanics or build of this character.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Movie Review #30: American Movie

Yesterday, when I got home from work, Jeff, Lindsay, and I had a rare shared room-mate experience. This time it was because Jeff invited us to watch a documentary called American Movie. I'm pretty well caught up on my movie quota at the moment, so I wasn't expecting to write another review this soon. Still, a movie is a movie, and I should write this up while it's still fresh in my mind.

Short review: this documentary about the making of a movie is a different sort of documentary; it focuses on real people doing something real which, much like real life, is sometimes fascinating and funny, yet occasionally boring. I'd recommend this to people who enjoy having a peak into the lives of other people.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Robin Williams

Celebrity deaths almost never affect me much. They almost never mean much to me to begin with, even if I'm familiar with them. I'd like to think it's because I'm not that impressed by celebrity, and that might be the case. However, after today I think perhaps the biggest buffer between myself and the death of a celebrity is that those other ones who died didn't have a large effect on my life before they died.

That was not the case with Robin Williams. So, I'm going to dedicate this blog to remembering him.

Movie Review #29: Super

After watching Guardians of the Galaxy I heard that the director, James Gunn, got the gig after someone saw his previous film, Super. That combined with the fact that I recently listened to a WTF episode with Rainn Wilson led me to find Super on Netflix. (Afterward I realized that Gunn also wrote and directed Slither, which I also enjoyed.)

Short review: Super is a strange, intense film that can quickly go from hilarious to horrific, sometimes both at the same time. It's wild, unpredictable, and raw. It is the very definition of a dark comedy.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Political Discussion: Abortions

I almost never talk about politics for two reasons: first, political opinions are generally closely held and personal, and there's generally nothing to be gained by voicing them. If someone disagrees with you then you may have just lost a (potential) friend. If someone agrees with you it doesn't affect their opinion of you at all because of course you agree with them. The truth is the truth, and we generally don't hand out gold stars to everyone who agrees that the sky is blue.

My second reason for never talking about politics is because in many cases I'm simply undecided. It's irresponsible to decide a stance on most of these hot button issues without taking the time to really think about it, do some research, and really analyze the conflict. To be honest, I just don't have the time to form opinions on everything responsibly, so I defer.

That said, as the future President of the United States of America I'm going to need to develop clear opinions about some of these things. I'm not really sure what all of the issues are, though, so if you're interested in hearing my opinion on a matter, let me know and I'll start looking into it.

In the meantime, recently the subject of abortions has popped up thanks to an Alabama law that would have closed three of the state's five clinics if it hadn't been deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge. So, let's jump into it.

Tucson Parks

There's a bit I once saw on Family Guy in which Peter takes a helicopter tour of Tucson. "Oh look, it's a park that's been paved over!" he says as he looks down, bored, from the helicopter. A few seconds later he passes over the same "paved-over park" again.

Family Guy makes fun of Tucson a lot. I think it's because they've made fun of everywhere else, and all the other places got offended. Tucson, on the other hand, seems self-aware enough to know that it's a town in the middle of the desert, so it doesn't seem to have a terribly high opinion of itself. I'm sure the town isn't universally humble but, come on, it's Tucson.

That said, last week I started riding my bike from one park to another in town for research. In the end I discovered that, holy crap, Tucson's parks are kind of great. Peter doesn't know what he's talking about.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Movie Review #28: 12 Angry Men

This classic called out to me on Netflix last night. It's over 50 years old, two of my lifetimes ago, but 12 Angry Men hooked me enough to interrupt my Bob's Burgers streak.

Short review: Wow. This is a great movie. It's completely engaging from start to finish. I'd recommend it to anyone, but especially anyone who's ever been in a long group argument.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Movie Review #27: Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil

Before Firefly I had never really noticed Alan Tudyk, even though I remembered him from things like Dodgeball and Hearts in Atlantis. Now I can't help but watch everything he's in. He's one of the most versatile actors I know, as evidenced by the fact that he's been in everything from Dodgeball to Hearts in Atlantis. I don't know if I've ever seen him play two roles that were alike.

That said, I put of Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil since it looked pretty goofy at first glance, and I didn't bother to look into it further. However, I actually stopped to read the description on Netflix a while back, and that was enough to put it on my list.

Short review: it was kinda goofy, but in a good way. It's a fun deconstruction of the "cabin in the woods" genre, which I enjoyed a lot despite being only second-hand familiar with the genre.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Movie Review #26: Guardians of the Galaxy

There aren't many movies I go see on opening weekend, but I suspected I'd be seeing this one from the very first trailer. I'd never heard Blue Swede's "Hooked on a Feeling" before, yet I instantly knew I loved that song, and also that it was probably recorded before I was born. As is my custom, from the time I knew I was interested I pointedly refrained from looking into it any further, content instead to experience the real thing when it came out.

And so I did. Short review: this was a really fun movie that expands the Marvel Universe admirably. You should see this movie is you're interested in keeping up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, if you're a fan of Firefly, or if you enjoy movies with a mix of humor, smart writing, and action.

Zelda Dungeons

The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker was one of my favorite Zeldas, probably second after Link's Awakening. I finished Wind Waker HD over the weekend, and I have to say that the remake is exactly what a remake should be: fixing problems and weak points and updating the graphics without losing any of the things that made the game great to begin with. It was really fun to experience the game again, this time with a more critical eye toward game design.

However, there was one part in the second assault on the Forsaken Fortress that bugged me a bit: the fortress is all locked up tight with no way forward. And then an enemy appears. When you defeat it, the doors all unlock and a treasure chest appears containing the Skull Hammer, which further allows you to proceed into the fortress. This exchange baffled me.

Sunday, August 3, 2014


I like animals, but I never want to be a pet owner again. I've owned one pet or another for as long as I can remember, and I'm pretty sure my parents' house is still basically a zoo. Recently I started thinking about the idea of keeping pets, partially because Reid brings his dog Ruby into the office pretty regularly. I have fun with Ruby, which prompts me to reflect upon my aversion to having a pet of my own.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Final Fantasy 7: The Gameplay

I've focused most of the past FF7 blog posts on the story, mostly trying to make observations about the story that perhaps some of you hadn't considered before. Through it all, I don't think I've really touched upon the non-story elements, especially the gameplay. So, in this final blog about the most popular Final Fantasy I'll stop rambling about the story for a while.