Thursday, October 30, 2014

My D&D Mythology

When I first created a D&D campaign back in 2004, after having only a session and a half of experience, one of the first things I did was sit down and create new deities for my campaign setting. The D&D books have their own deities like Pelor, Whosit, and Whatsisface, but none of them really called to me.

Oddly, I was familiar with the Dragonlance setting long before I started playing D&D, and their deities seemed way more interesting. Moreover, there was a theme of balance in that setting that attracted me. Rather than simply lift Paladine, Takhisis, and the rest straight from Weis and Hickman's pages, though, I created my own pantheon using the Dragonlance one as a loose template. The result was 18 deities, two for each alignment. I'm going to talk about the general mythology in this post.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Story from my Second Job

I spent a couple of blogs talking about the process of working at a grocery store, but I think stories are far more interesting than explanations. So, I'm going to tell you about the time the store's muzak brought me back from the brink of despair.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Working Through Gamergate

We just launched a Kickstarter this morning. It's incredible. In less that 15 hours we're already at 83k, very close to our goal. I wouldn't be surprised if tomorrow I woke up to find us at 100k, with nothing but stretch goals for us from here to the horizon. It was, in short, a good day.

So it bothers me to no end that I still can't stop thinking about Gamergate. It's there, it's active, and it's affecting people I care about. So, I've decided to sit here and work through my thoughts on the matter. Buckle up: I'm about to get Freudian.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Movie Review #41 - The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

I think the Hunger Games series is a pretty solid Netflix movie series: I'm good with watching it online, but I wouldn't go see them in theaters. So, yeah, I watched Catching Fire today on Netflix. I was a bit surprised to see it had a runtime of over 2 hours but, then again, any movie that's adapting an entire novel should probably run a bit longer, otherwise it may feel rushed. Books are dense.

Anyway, short review: although it seems a bit ham-fisted with its overtones, the movie made me think about few things, proving itself to be a bit deeper than it would seem at first glance. As far as action movies based on young adult novels go, I'd put it on par with some of the better Harry Potter films.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Second Job, Part 2: Rouse's Supermarket - Stock

In my time as a service clerk, there wasn't much cause for paying attention to the store beyond the line of cashiers. The only experiences I had with the stock crew was when they sometimes returned from their lunch break as a group, laughing and pushing each other around, and the time I was struggling to push a line of shopping carts when one of the stock crew showed me how to do it properly. (Turns out it's hard to turn a line of 7 shopping carts since their back wheels have a fixed direction, but if you lift the line from the back you eliminate much of that turn resistance.) So, my impression of the stock crew was that they were rowdy, yet helpful.

That first impression was confirmed when I got promoted to their ranks.

Movie #40: There Will Be Blood

People have been telling me to watch some Paul Thomas Anderson movies for a while now, so I finally did. A quick look at his filmography shows a pretty wide range, but I chose There Will Be Blood since it comes most recommended, followed by Boogie Nights.

Short review: this is a ponderous movie that focuses on an unlikable character, but without, say, Llewyn Davis's musical numbers to make you sympathetic. That's not to say it's bad--not at all. It's a fascinating descent into madness and greed. I recommend it to anyone who can sit through ponderous movies.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Second Job: Rouse's Supermarket

Shortly after my mom started allowing me to drive her car, I decided to use it to drive to school one January morning. It was cold (in the Louisiana sense of the word), and the back window was frosted over. Unable to see back there properly and too impatient to wait for the window to clear up, I ended up backing into the side of my sister's car.

The damage wasn't severe, just cosmetic: there was a large dent in her driver's side door. The repairs would cost about $500, though, which was quite a lot to a kid just starting to drive. So, I started putting applications out there and, eventually, one of my sister's friends got me a job at a supermarket.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Launching a Kickstarter

Have you ever launched a Kickstarter? Odds are that you haven't, but if you have then you understand when I say that it's one of the most stressful events in the world.

When I woke up this morning I was expecting to launch a Kickstarter, having spent all night setting the page up and giving moral support to Jeff and Steve as they finished the video. We decided to push back the launch until Monday because, if there's one thing more stressful than launching a Kickstarter, it's running one. So, we decided to take this weekend as our last restful respite of the year. The Kickstarter will be running up until around Black Friday, at which point our holiday season begins, so I'm not expecting to sleep again until January.

Anyway, let me tell you about Kickstarters.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Barenaked Ladies at the Arizona State Fair

Most of my experience with state fairs comes from watching Charlotte's Web when I was a kid. It's all livestock, barbershop quartets, ferris wheels, and a smörgåsbord-örgåsbord-örgåsbord, oh what a rat-ly feast.

Well, yesterday the Barenaked Ladies played a concert at the Arizona State Fair, so Laura and I left work early to head to Phoenix and check out the fair for a while before going to the concert. So, let's go down the list of what I was expecting to see there, and we'll see how the reality measures up.

First Job: Working for Dad

Long before I was old enough to get a job legally, I was in need of money. There were games I wanted to buy, and my weekly allowance simply wasn't cutting it.

Luckily, my dad was a self-employed shrimper at the time and could use the help of an enterprising young mercenary. So, my dad became my first boss.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Staying Calm - Tips from a Professional

Not long ago someone asked how they could be "calm and serene" like me. I responded as truthfully as I could at the time, giving a sort of non-answer. "I'm not as calm as I look," I explained. "What calmness I have is my own, and I don't know if it's something I can teach."

That said, it's something I've been thinking about, so I'll try to explain my thought process. I still don't know if my demeanor is mostly environmental or if it's genetic predisposition, and usually calmness isn't something I have to think about at all. However, I'll try to convey what I think about when I actually take the time to do so.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


I read Cracked articles a lot. They're generally funny and often on-the-nose, even if the titles of their articles are clickbait, and sometimes their research is questionable. Still, it makes for good reading material when I'm bored and stuck somewhere for a while.

Sometimes, though, the articles really make me think. Not long ago, in fact, David Wong wrote an article called 7 Creepy Ways Corporations are Turning You into an Addict, which is maybe worth a read if you can stand the advertisements on the Cracked website. (The phone app is about 70% less obnoxious.)

Today at some point I thought to myself, "man, I really wish I had some Sweet Tarts," which, along with that article, was kind of a kick in the pants to explore my own addictions.

The Dark History of Fangamer

These days, Fangamer is a nice company in which its employees are all friends with each other, we help each other out, we all get health, dental, and vision insurance, and we make enough to live fairly comfortably. None of us are starving, in other words. We still have a ways to go before we reach what Reid calls "acceptable living wages," but since most of us live in Tucson where the cost of living is very low, most of us are doing pretty alright.

However, this was not always the case. Fangamer had its act together by the time I came to Tucson, but I've heard stories of a Time Before, when life was difficult and every month was a struggle.

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Different Sort of Terrorism

Last week, after months of logistics, we finally launched the Gaming's Feminist Illuminati shirt on Fangamer. Most of the delay in its release involved a long sampling process as we received and ordered a variety of different types of shirts that we've never carried before, but in the last few days leading up to the launch we spent some time shoring up our defenses. We had witnessed first-hand gaming's anti-feminist cabal attacking high-profile people for their support of women in gaming, and now we were potentially inviting that wrath upon ourselves.

We were all at least a bit worried, some of us more than others. Still, we braced for impact, set up two-layer verifications on most of our accounts, and hit the launch button.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Selflessness is Selfishness

Two things about that title: first, selflessness is not always selfishness. It's kind of a conditional thing. Second, selfishness in this context is not a bad thing.

What I mean is that sometimes being selfless can lead to long term gains after short-term losses while being selfish can lead to long-term losses after short-term gains.

Wait, let me start over.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Movie Review #39: Dear Zachary

I never noticed this documentary on Netflix until Reid recommended it to me. He recommended it as a really good documentary that he never wanted to watch again. Then he shivered, which made me think it was some sort of horror story.

Most of the time when I watch a movie I really like, I can see myself watching it again and again later. However, every once in a while you get a Grave of the Fireflies; a movie that's good yet tragic, and I definitely don't want to watch it again.

That applies to Dear Zachary. This film is very interesting and engaging (wonderful qualities in a documentary), but it's also very sad. Well, it was sad to me. Laura was angry by the end, while I was wiping away tears. Regardless, there was a powerful emotional response, which is one of the best things I can say about any movie.

Movie Review #38: The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

The third in Terry Gilliam's loose trilogy on imagination's impact on different stages of life is The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. Whereas Time Bandits focused on childhood and Brazil focused on middle age, Munchausen focuses on old age. The movie is available on Netflix if you want to check it out.

Short review: after seeing Brazil, Munchausen was definitely a step down. It's a fun adventure movie that feels a bit like The Goonies or The Neverending Story (though that may be because those are all 80s movies), which is to say that it's pretty fun. To be honest, it's simply not fair to compare Munchausen to Brazil, but I can't help it. It's like watching literally any anime right after watching Cowboy Bebop: it's just going to fall short by comparison.

That said, if you're a big fan of 80s adventure movies like The Goonies and The Neverending Story, I think you'll enjoy The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Fix-It Culture

"Give a man to fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." This quote, paraphrased from the works of a British author from the 1800s named Anne Isabella Ritchie (and not, in fact, from Chinese philosophers), is a terribly difficult lesson to learn, especially for Americans. We are largely a take-action sort of people, determined to fix any problems we see. Sometimes this is a good thing, but there is such as thing as too much of a good thing, despite what fans of excess may tell you.

So, today I want to talk about America's fix-it culture.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Super Smash Bros 3DS - First Impressions, Part 2

I stopped talking about the new characters last time because I covered five of them and there's still 10+ to go. So, let's jump right into it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Super Smash Bros. on the 3DS - First Impressions

Smash Bros isn't a game you can "finish," so waiting until I'm done with the game to start talking about it doesn't make much sense. However, I've unlocked all of the characters in Smash Bros for 3DS, and I've completed all of the challenges on panels 1 and 2, so I'm not exactly new to the game at this point either. It's been a little over a week since I got the game, so let's talk about it.

Politics: Taxes

Whew, I hope this is the last blog I write about a politics for a while. I'm guessing that for every one reader who takes an interest in these subjects, two more are just waiting for me to get back to writing about movies, video games, and... alcohol? My most popular post in the past few months was the one about alcohol? Well, alright.

Anyway, I feel like I should cap off my series about macroeconomics by talking about the primary goal of both supply- and demand-side economics: generating tax revenue.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Demand-Side Economics

Last time we talked about supply-side economics: its theory, its practice, and its fate. It's a policy with lots of data we can study to measure its effectiveness, and although it's hard to draw real, hard conclusions from policies that are constantly being altered by people who can't come to a consensus, the data suggests that it has not been terribly effective.

So, now I'm going to discuss another theory. To be honest, it's not a theory with a lot of data behind it, so consider this whole thing speculative. That said, I think it's a policy based on reason, and it's designed to leave as little to chance and trust as possible. In short, it's a safer policy than supply-side economics, though I think the results would be more rewarding than anything supply-side economics ever gave us.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Supply-Side Economics

In my previous blog post, I noted how I believe that a larger number of immigrant workers would not be detrimental to the economy. What I did not clarify extensively was an economic policy that would need to be in place for this to be the case: a demand-side economic system to replace the current supply-side system. However, in order for this to make any sense, first I'm going to have to explain supply-side economics, which should at least be generally informative since, once you know what it is, you'll recognize its effects all around you.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Politics: Immigration

Even when I was living in Louisiana, a state that shares no borders with other countries, the problem of immigration was a hot topic. People are pouring over the borders of Mexico to escape that hellhole, and they're coming into our country to work longer hours and for less pay than any Americans are willing and legally able to work. All this while having their kids, who don't speak English, come to our schools that we pay for with our tax dollars, visit our charity hospitals, and just generally take advantage of all of the freedoms we've earned. Also, it's illegal, and the problem is that the government needs to just start enforcing the law.

Except, it's really not that simple at all. I think we will need to completely reevaluate our approach to immigration in this country. And, if we do, I think immigration can help to fuel the country's growth rather than drive it into the ground.

D&D Session #43: Dead Ma'ari

Last session ended with the arrival of a familiar face aboard the party's airship. Just as the party was about to enter the Gate heading toward the Realm of Stone, a tall, gangly man named Miles appeared. Miles was chamberlain to Mal, who was a prince in the Realm of Air. Mal's true father, a powerful wizard, switched Mal with the newborn child of a king and queen. Mal's father planned to use Mal to take over the human kingdoms, but was thwarted by the Hot Water Party.

Kirtan kidnapped Mal and brought the cunning child to the Nexus, along with the Hot Water Party. However, apparently Mal's true mother, a powerful wizard in her own right, wishes for her son to be returned to her. Miles is searching for Mal on her behalf.

Also, Miles is a Ma'ari demigod, though he doesn't really act the part.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Movie Review #36: World's Greatest Dad

Bobcat Goldthwait is probably best known as being that comedian with a high-pitched voice. However, his comedy career ended about 20 years ago as far as I can tell, and he seems to be primarily a television and movie director these days. Or, alternately, a panelist on the radio program Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me!

This is the first movie of his that I've watched. Short review: wow. It's not a perfect movie, but if you like dark comedies like Life Aquatic, you'll probably love World's Greatest Dad. It was hilarious and poignant. You can watch it easily on Netflix.

The History of Rome Podcast

Yesterday I listened to the 179th and final episode of the History of Rome podcast. Naturally, that means I need to review it. For a quick review of the quality, though, allow me to illustrate my opinion like so: The total experience is about 74 hours of content, which I started listening to on my trip up to PAX 49 days ago. So, that's a little over 1.5 hours of podcast every day for the past month and a half. I wouldn't do that to myself unless it was a good experience.

Friday, October 10, 2014

To Be a Jedi

I've been talking a lot about Star Wars lately, between The Old Republic, The Clone Wars, and Stoicism. So, I think it's worth exploring what it is about Star Wars that attracts me so much, even after watching the prequels and subsequently watching Mr. Plinkett's reviews of the prequels.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Movie Review #35 - Star Wars: The Clone Wars

In 2003, Genndy Tartakovsky created a series of animated episodes called Star Wars: Clone Wars. His distinct style, used to great effect in the Samurai Jack series, was applied to the Star Wars universe, telling stories that happened between Episodes II and III. I never got to see this series, though I sorely want to. It looks amazing.

A few years after that series ended, though, George Lucas decided to create another animated series that takes place in the same time period. It was computer animated and had no connection to Mr. Tartakovsky, so I wasn't that interested. However, the movie that kicked off the series is on Netflix, so I decided to check it out.

Short review: well, it's not the worst Star Wars movie? It's not good enough or important enough to the Star Wars canon for me to recommend it.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Call Your Mother

I pretty much never call home. I am, in short, the traditional kid who left home and is too busy to pick up the phone once in a while. I'm not averse to talking with my family, though, I just don't think about it much. Whenever someone calls me, I'm almost always more than happy to drop what I'm doing and get updates on what's been going on back home.

Today, my mom gave me a call. It's strange, but although I spent way more time with my mom than with my dad while I lived in Louisiana, now that I'm gone I find I talk to my dad far more than I talk to my mom. So, since I wrote a blog post about my dad a few months ago, I think it's worth talking about my mom for a bit.


I've been listening to The History of Rome podcast for the past month or so. I'll be doing a full review of the series once I'm done with it (Atilla has just been introduced, so the end is nigh), but a while back during the reign of Marcus Aurelius I learned that he was a fan of Stoicism. Marcus himself, the last of the Five Good Emperors of Rome, was by most accounts an intelligent, good man whose greatest failure was not keeping his son, Joaquin Phoenix, from succeeding him as emperor.

I have often been called stoic myself, and though that word means something different today than it meant 2,000 years ago, I feel a deep connection with that ancient philosophy.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Princess Peach

For the past couple of days I've been getting reacquainted with my main fighter from the past several Smash Bros installments: Princess Peach. After reading an article about her recently, it occurred to me that perhaps I should detail my own history with this character I may or may not beat you with on Smash Bros. (I'm not really that good, but my friend code is 4296-3311-2359.)

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Movie Review #34: Brazil

There's this cool theater in Tuscon called The Loft, which is an independently-run theater that shows primarily limited-release films, art house films, and movies with very specific audiences.

They also like playing old movies, and often show cult classic films at night. It's really cool to be able to see movies in a theater setting long after that chance seems to have passed.

So, last night Laura and I went to see the Terry Gilliam classic Brazil. Short review: this movie hits every note powerfully. It's consistently funny, even when it's terrifying, strange, or outright depressing. If you want to see something you've never seen before, something unapologetically beautiful and dark is a way that Tim Burton can only dream of, the you should maybe see Brazil.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Star Wars: The Old Replublic, Another Saga Over, Part II

With a Imperial plot and a couple of Sith Lords now properly lightsabered to submission/death, and with hutt now free to eat the last remaining species of a nearly-extinct animal so a criminal can find some treasure, let's see what the rest of the crew was up to on Nar Shaddaa.

Star Wars: The Old Republic, Another Saga Over

About two months ago I renewed my subscription to Star Wars: The Old Republic for 60 days. That subscription is coming to an end, and I have no plans to renew it just yet. In short, I have things to do, and the game is quite a distraction.

That said, I made a lot of progress with my characters in the game. All eight of them are at about level 30 now, and I feel pretty accomplished about that. I've never sunk this many hours into an MMO before, and while it's not a habit I intend to maintain forever, the story aspects of SWTOR keep pulling me back, inviting me to see it through to the end.

That said, I'm going to try to review what I've done so far.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Gamestop's Incentives

I spent several blogs going over Gamestop's Circle of Life, the cycle that drives business for the company. As a part of that I explored two of the most notorious things expected of Gamestop employees: convincing customers to pre-order upcoming games and subscribe to their discount card.

I did not, however, make any mention of the incentives the company gives its employees to make such sales. That, I figured, was worth an entire blog on its own.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Mailroom Day

Today, and every Thursday, is my Mailroom Day. It's a concept I came up with to diversify the workload in Fangamer's mailroom, and I think it's been going well. More or less. It was implemented near the beginning of the year, so I think it's time to take stock of its efficacy.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Predictably Irrational

The human mind is a fascinating thing. Though I like to think I have a pretty good understanding of how most people think (or, at least, how people react to certain stimuli), I love expanding that knowledge whenever possible. In particular, I love hearing about experiments in behavioral psychology: the methods, the results, the conclusions we can draw; the whole shebang.

So, when I started listening to an audio book of Predictably Irrational on my journey to and from Seattle a month ago, I was in for a real treat. In short, the book was all that and more.