Saturday, December 25, 2010

Thought of the day 1:
When you are in the business of providing services to clients that include items that have to be continually maintained you absolutely cannot count on your clients to keep up with important renewals and registrations on their own.

Client: "This domain is vital to my business. If it expires I lose my website, my business crashes, and my children will fucking STARVE! You can be responsible for that right? I just don't have time."

Thought of the day 2:
I seriously need to stop drawing pictures of naked women and stick figures fucking in my meeting notes. That kind of thing is probably not considered appropriate in the work place.

Thought of the day 3: 
The expression, "We're the country's first and only..." is fucking moronic. If you're the first, it implies that somebody did the same thing after you. If you're the only it implies that no one's copied you yet, and maybe no one wants to. Therefore you can be either "The First" or "The Only" but not both at the same time.

Another thought of the day (Christmas Edition):
The holiday morning's rituals concluded I sat down to my computer to try out one of my gifts. I also perused my favorite site for independent artists, As I was browsing Deviant Art I checked in on one of my watch list, an artist who works in comic books, and is in high demand for his cover illustrations. As much as I like his work, I think this trend of hiring one artist to draw a cover illustration, and another artist for the actual story art is the height of bullshit. It's nice to see artists getting work, but comics are books that are frequently judged by their cover. It brings out my inner squirrel wrath when I see a book with a gorgeously illustrated cover and buy it only to get it home and open it to find the interior art could have been drawn by my nephew (who is almost seven months old).

Christmas Geek Speak
Inspired by true life events. In my other life I work in technology. That sounds more impressive than it really is. I'm not a programmer or developer or anything snazzy. Although I'm more savvy than average, and against my best intentions, I have been molded into a business person. Even so, I'm occasionally called upon to write text explaining one function or another in a piece of software my company developed. One such email with user-facing content led our client to respond with "...this is great! You get to explain this to users who still don't understand...I'll send those calls to you...heee." Yeah. Laugh it up. The conversation went on from there. I think this cartoon sums it up nicely.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

All that I thought I knew

A Crisis of Faith

Hard as I try to avoid using this space as a means of airing my personal pathos, sometimes it's unavoidable. In the absence of being able to turn to Someone with Answers, I'm putting this out into the universe in the hopes that Fate breaks character and uses it for something other than kicking me in the balls.

I'm losing my Faith.

By that I don't mean "faith in God" I lost most of that ages ago. I don't mean faith in others, I place a great deal of faith in the wonderful people around me. I mean faith in myself. Faith in my mission and what I'm doing this town in the first place. I mean I'm losing faith in my abilities and in whether or not I even know who I am anymore.

Now that you're thoroughly depressed, let me explain where this is coming from. Today someone told me, "I hear you used to be an actor." Used to be. Naturally my immediate response was, "I am an actor." He got all shocked and I immediately started to question myself and equivocate, "Well...I have acted." It went on in that vein for a bit, but it raised the question. What the hell am I doing? There didn't used to be a doubt, but four years in the same job, several raises, the fact that we're starting to look into buying a condo, and so on; I don't know if I can claim to be an 'actor' anymore. I have acted. I love acting. But as I get older the odds that I will do so professionally, and provide for my family doing so, become remote.

I don't know if I'm that person anymore. All I know is that as I work at my day job I know that I am categorically not the person my job wants me to be. Much as I wish I could be that person. I ache to have been born the guy who gets excited about money and numbers, selling and closing the big deal, profit margins and growing a business. Much as I have learned and grown as a business person, I will never be that person. I will always be someone cut from a different cloth from the rest. A square peg in a round hole. Someone who Doesn't Fit. I keep doing it out of momentum and necessity.

I know that what keeps me in this pattern is fear. Fear that if I Make A Change it will mean failure, destitution, and the loss of everything that's important to me. Lately though another thought has occurred to me. What is scarier? The idea that I might change things and fail, or the idea that I might just keep going as I have been and never try at all?

I don't have The Answer, or I wouldn't be writing this.  Do you? If so I'd love to hear it.

Next blog post returns us to our regularly scheduled rants about Apple, comic book reviews, and comic strips.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Random Stuff and The Curse of the Murse

This will be a long one. You have been warned.

Geek Speak
I'm trying something a little different and putting the cartoon first. Also, this post really did go a lot longer than I thought it would. If I like this layout I may stick with it. Regarding the cartoon, it doesn't take a lot of explanation; my wife referred to my laptop case as a "murse" and I thought that was funny. This comic leaped fully formed from my head onto the page, much like the birth of a Greek God, but with less pathos or promiscuity.

Geek Speak

Questionable Content:
Do not read this blog go to this website, click the "First" link and start reading: This comic has effectively devoured most of my day today and a fair number of my evenings this week. There are a LOT of jokes about indie rock, most of which fly right over my head, but the rest of the time it's mostly about the characters, their relationships, and shenanigans.

Random thought of the day:
I've decided that burnt orange is not a color. It's an extrusion into our dimension of some elder evil entity, perverting the world through grandmothers who buy shirts of this hue for unsuspecting grandchildren. This subtle devil then so corrupts these helpless little old ladies into insisting their children wear the Shirt of the Abominable Shade to family gatherings. Be warned. Your cousin in that awful shirt at the family reunion is actually robed in pure evil. 

Apple Shenanigans, or Everyone Should be Very, Very Afraid of Apple and The Jobs
The fervor over all things Apple is driving me bananas. I have a number of friends who will disagree with this, but I cannot wait for this apple fad to die. Do I have anything in particular against Mac, per se? No. Why would I? A Mac is a thing. It cares about my grudges about as much as I might care about hatred directed at me from a coffee table. As an operating system Mac is ok, I've just never seen anything in it that I found to be a terribly compelling reason to switch. Do I have a problem with any of their products? For the most part, no. They make decent computers and some fun toys (let's just be honest here; the iPad is more a toy than a tool). My problems with Apple have more to do with the company than what they sell. Here are just some general thoughts:
  • Overall misrepresentation of their products. The Macbook Pro, for example, is running an Intel Core i5 or Core i7 processor (the new models, any purchased before 2010 were running the older Core 2 Duo). Apple would like you to believe that Macs are somehow different, or special, or in a class by themselves. They're not. For the most part, they're using the same hardware you'll find in any mid-to-high end PC running Windows. Since Apple started using Intel components there is virtually no difference between a Mac and PC under the hood! In fact, I could easily run Mac OS X instead of Windows 7 on the computer I just built. Make no mistake, all Apple is peddling is their bullshit aesthetic.
  • Misrepresentation of system security. One of the selling points touted by The Jobs and the Disciples of Apple (DoA) is the apparent security of Mac over Windows. "Mac's don't need anti-virus," is the battle cry of DoA, worldwide. This loses some credibility when hackers at CanSecWest exploit vulnerabilities in Mac OS and Safari, bringing down the Mac within minutes on a pretty consistent basis. As the Mac star continues to rise the DoA can only rely on 'security through obscurity' so much longer. 
  • Draconian user and developer agreements. No shit; the developer agreement for programmers wanting to create apps for the iPad not only required the development device to be secured to a table, but the goddamn table to be bolted to the floor. That's just the tip of the Jobsian iceberg. There are other things, as well. Programmers can develop using only one language set. Programmers can only develop apps using certain development tool kits. The list goes on. 
  • Media control. Given the requirements for the iPad how does Apple allow a developer working for them to wander off campus with a prototype of the next iPhone in his pocket. When said developer then gets drunk and loses it at a bar, how does Apple then not take him out back and behead him slowly using dental floss? How does something like this just happen at a time that it can steal all the press away from HTC's launch of the Droid Incredible? The world may never know, but I like to picture The Jobs sitting behind a massive white desk with no hard edges stroking a genetically engineered hypo-allergenic cat that doesn't shed on his black turtlenecks and muttering things like, "soon my pet, soon, it will all be ours."
  • Unprecedented control over delivery channels and the developer community. This, seriously, this gives me the screaming heebie jeebies. Let's follow this as logically as possible:
    1. Apple under the direction of The Jobs releases the iPod. After a rocky start it crushes all other portable media devices. Hell, even I have one. Like I said, I don't have anything against the products, and they make some nice toys. 
    2. iTunes, despite having serious performance issues and a number of other, even more aggravating flaws, becomes the number one seller of music in the country. 
    3. With the massive success of the iPod, followed by the iPod touch, Apple launches the iPhone. Despite a rocky start due to bad design and poor service from AT&T, the iPhone goes on to become wildly popular.
    4. The Apps Store opens up marking the availability of an unprecedented means to consume content on a portable device. The rallying cry of Apple becomes, "We have 200,000 Apps! What have you got?"
    5. Apple launches the iPad a device meant solely for wireless media and content consumption. A battle begins with Apple's once good friend, Adobe, over Flash support. Apple refuses to support Flash, claiming that everything can be accomplished through HTML 5, javascript, and CSS. These are standards, it should be pointed out, that are (as yet) unsupported in the majority of Internet browsers. It should also be pointed out that while most video is encoded in H.264 (Apple's 'open standard' poster boy), it is displayed in a Flash container.
  • Do you see what's happening here. Slowly, incrementally, and in collusion with consumers (with or without their knowledge), Apple is gaining control over the standards under which content is developed, the delivery mechanism for the content, and the means in which the content is consumed. If their management of apps in the App Store is any indication they are also well on their way to controlling the content itself. We've actually started to see them exert this influence with actions such as going to the recording industry and telling that bag of assholes (I have no love for the RIAA, either) they would not carry any music in iTunes that was also made available in other delivery mechanisms. While they didn't name any names, this was pointed at Amazon, the number two music sales vehicle in the country. 
So the bottom line of this whole thing is we are very much in danger of allowing Apple and, by extension, The Jobs, to take control over what we see, how we see it, and where it comes from.  Scary stuff.

    Sunday, April 18, 2010

    Confessions of a Rock and Roll Pariah and some Speaking Geeks

    I am a Rock and Roll Pariah:
    There's no one reason I could point to and say, "that's it, that's why I hate the guy," but David Lee Roth really bugs the shit out of me. He makes me want to change the radio station. This means that any Van Halen song that comes on the radio with Diamond Dave as lead singer automatically gets turned to something else, while any Van Halen song featuring Sammy Hagar's pipes gets turned up. I have the same problem with Breaking Benjamin. Anytime they come up in my Pandora station I hit the skip button. No good reason, I just do. In some circles I believe this makes me a Rock Pariah*, a wandering outcast in the golden land of sweet riffs and face-melting solos. Shunned by the rock elite who dismiss Van Hagar and sing "Free Bird" around bonfires built of Nickleback albums.

    *It probably cements my status as a rock Pariah to admit that I actually really like this song. I just think it's fun.

    Terminology I can do without
    I really wish people would stop referring to PowerPoint Presentations as 'decks.' You can't shuffle it, and some lowly sailor isn't going to come by with a mop to clean it up. It's a presentation. Please leave the officious corporatese at home. No one is impressed. Oh, I'm sorry, you have an MBA? How foolish of me, you are special. Here's your cookie.

    This week's comics
    This week we take a look at three new (or new-ish) comics. One of which I don't particularly care for, one for which I have mixed feelings, and another that I feel confident in recommending. The comics this week are Greek Street #1, Escape from Wonderland #4, and Zen #1.  

    Greek Street #1
    Publisher: Vertigo
    Written by: Peter Milligan
    Illustrated by: David Gianfelice

    I want to go on record as saying that I had high hopes for this book. Legendary Greek stories and characters retold against the backdrop of a gritty urban landscape. This has been done well in other works, with other mythological figures, like Neil Gaiman's outstanding book American Gods, or John Updike's classic The Centaur. Sadly, the creators responsible for Greek Street have neither the literary gravitas, nor the cleverness of either Updike or Gaiman. In fact, the only really positive thing I can say about this comic, is that it only cost me a buck.

    This statement hardly needs justification beyond explaining that the first panel of the first page is topless strippers in mid-gyration. What follows shortly after is some intensely expository and overly melodramatic dialog about the old stories which, "aren't through with us yet." You can practically hear Andrew Lloyd Webber warming up the hard rock symphony to score the scene. At which point we are introduced to 'Eddie,' a street thug who is ultimately seduced by a woman who turns out to be his mother, and who he accidentally kills in a struggle. Eddie...Oedipus...get it? Things do not get better.

    I find this book offensive on many levels. Aside from the obvious misogyny it leaps enthusiastically into the same trap most other books designated 'for mature readers' struggle to avoid. Namely, it is an excuse for excessive foul language, nudity, violence, nudity, shock value, and nudity. The book is trying so hard to be hardcore that it utterly fails to tell a story, much less entertain.

    Escape from  Wonderland #4
    Publisher: Zenescope 
    Written by: Raven Gregory
    Illustrated by: Daniel Leister

    I'm reminded of an iconic comic book villain who's big screen counterpart once said, "I don't know if it's art, but I like it." Honestly, I'm not too sure about that second part, either. My opinions are mixed on this book. It falls into some of the same traps as Greek Street in that it's story uses characters from a classical work. As a result, some of the character concepts seem a little forced, like the main character who's name is "Calie," which is an anagram of 'Alice.' Like Greek Street there are some moments that reek sex for the sake of a puerile thrill.

    Where this book succeeds is in not attempting a straight retelling of the story of Alice in Wonderland with awkwardly bolted on urban grit and profanity. Instead the creators use recognizable characters in a familiar setting and mold a unique story around them. The tone of Escape from Wonderland is more frightening than you might expect from a story based on what is generally considered a children's book. This issue in particular has some genuinely creepy moments, and some gruesome images. These moments are accomplished with a genuine flair, and obvious passion, for the horror device of adding something macabre to an ordinary setting. In one such scene, Calie's mom brings in the groceries, and in the next panel intestines have burst through the blood-soaked bottoms of the paper bags. Though this issue comes at the end of a much longer body of work, making up a trilogy of stories, the degree to which the characters are fully developed, with clearly defined relationships is impressive. In the end this book accomplishes what the first issue of Greek Street failed to do; it makes me want to read the rest of the story to see how it ends.

    Zen #1
    Written by: Steve Stern
    Illustrated by: Bill Maus
    Published by: Zen Comics Publishing

    I feel like putting this book in with the other two is a little unfair. Kind of like a pit fight featuring a frail, elderly cat with one tooth, a fit but slightly dumb pit bull, and a tiger armed with a fifty-caliber machine gun.

    Anywhere the previous two books are weak, this book is strong. The plot of the book features several interconnected stories, with each story is told from the perspective of a different main character. Central characters to each of the stories fall under the heading of protagonist, antagonist, and undecided. All of the characters have well developed personalities and their own unique point of view. The characters also have clearly defined relationships, making the book as a whole a strong, character driven narrative.

    The illustration is somewhat less realistic than the other two, but this doesn't impact the appeal of the book in any way. Instead, it appears to be a conscious decision on the part of the creators to go with a more-cartoony, slightly over-the-top artistic style. This gives the book a cinematic flow and feel that would affect the reader differently with more realistically rendered artwork. I strongly recommend this book as one that is as fun to read as it is to look at.

    Geek Speak
    I don't think a lengthy explanation of this cartoon is really needed. If only shaking the pencil could actually dislodge creativity, and cause it to flow effortlessly from my hand onto the page. Alas, inspiration is a fickle mistress, and she has too many lovers to devote much time to any one of them. It's probably fair to assume that anyone who endeavors to make others laugh with a few carefully chosen words feels like this from time to time. Oh well, back to trying to dislodge some funny.

    Friday, April 16, 2010

    Inexcusable delay

    To those following my blog. There is a new post coming. I swear. I'm not lying to you. See...this is my honest face. I don't really have a good excuse for how long it's taking me to put out the new one, except that I'm working slowly. Like a turtle on a keyboard.

    Tuesday, March 02, 2010

    Comic Booking Penny Arcades While Speaking Geekly

    Comic Books
    Since being introduced to them in the seventh grade I have had a passion for comic books. The art of telling stories through words and pictures is a passion that has driven me for most of my life. I am, after all, an actor (by training); as such storytelling is not only a passion, but my chosen vocation. As a regular feature of this blog I would like to talk about comics. This may extend into a podcast at some point, but for now I'm going to put it here in my blog. Each week I will discuss three different comics. For the most part I'm going to pull these from indie publishers, as the major titles of The Big Two (DC and Marvel) are covered pretty well by these guys.

    This week I bring you Anna Mercury 2, Joe the Barbarian, and Red Herring

    Anna Mercury 2 (Issue #1 from Avatar Press, written by Warren Ellis, illustrated by Facundo Percio) This, as the title implies, is a follow up to the Anna Mercury mini-series of 2008. Anna Mercury is a leather-clad hero who travels between parallel worlds. She works as an agent for a government entity whose mission is to prevent advanced weaponry from being used by less primitive worlds. The introductory issue to the new series drops the reader into the middle of the action, then transports them, J.J. Abrams style, to an earlier point so the reader gets to see the back story. I'll admit, I didn't read beyond one issue of the first mini-series, mostly because it sold out before I could get my hot little hands on it, and I get the feeling that it's somewhat important to have read that series before diving into this one. That said, I feel there is enough ground work in this issue for me to pick up the next in the series. The writing is solid and out of the gate the story leaves you on a type of cliff-hanger that is unusual for the first issue of any series. The artwork by Facundo Percio is not quite as solid as the writing. The artwork is by no means shoddy or poor, but there are some panels that feel rough or rushed. In any case, it's not enough of a problem to prevent me from recommending this series.

    Joe the Barbarian (Issue #1, from Vertigo, written by Grant Morrison, Illustrated by Sean Murphy) Ok. Let's get this out of the way now. Yes, I am aware that Vertigo is a subsidiary of DC, and by extension can be considered an arm of the DC Branch of the big two, or a toe at the very least. Let me be clear that, as much as I can, I'm staying away from flagship titles of the big two, and books published under their label (unless I feel they are particularly noteworthy). With that disclaimer out of the way, I'd like to talk about this book. Joe the Barbarian is about a boy who suffers from diabetes. When he doesn't get his insulin he enters a dream world where the lives of his toys (and he has many) are as real and as dangerous as his own. The first issue is worth a read. The writing is terrific, and the artwork is some of the best that I've seen in any comic book. To sweeten the pot, Vertigo is offering this book at the terrific 1991 price of $1.00. If you hate it, you're out a buck, but I'll hazard that you'll feel this was a dollar well spent.

    Red Herring (Issue #2, from Wild Storm, written by David Tischman and illustrated by Phillip Bond) This is the story of the Maggie MacGuffin (yes, like McGuffin) and a mysterious man who has rescued her from government conspirators that want her dead, or so we think. It's not really clear what his motivations are at this time, nor is it clear that she's any safer with him than she would be if he hadn't saved her. The writing in this book is solid and sets a taut, suspenseful tone. The characters have clear, well fleshed out relationships and objectives. On the whole, this comic book represents what you would like to see in good one-hour dramas on television. If you're quick there are a number of puns throughout the book that are funny if you pick up on them. The artwork is somewhat cartoony and without a great deal of shading that lends it kind of a Saturday morning cartoon feel. Not like the silly ones about talking animals learning life lessons, but the cool ones like the Batman/Superman adventures (pretty much anything Bruce Timm has touched, really). While it's not the most astonishing illustration I've seen, it does serve the tone of the book, and actually offsets the grittiness of the story in a way that makes it all the more enjoyable. On the whole, I'll be picking up more issues of this one and I strongly recommend that you do the same.

    Where to get comics
    My favorite place to get comics has always been in a real live comic book stores. I realize that we're vat growing agoraphobics in the LCD glow of computer monitors these days, but it's true. Your best bet for picking up comic books is now and always will be in an actual, honest-to-goodness, real-life store that requires you to leave your home (yes you can leave your computer running, just make sure you're visiting an inn before logging out of WoW). If I were to recommend one place to get comics I would recommend going to Emerald Knights Comics & Games. The guys at this store have an awesome selection, with many, many back issues. If there's something you'd like to read that's not on the shelves or in the back-issues, just ask them to order it for you. They'll even send an email when your books come in.

    Penny Arcade
    Just this last weekend I had the opportunity, nay, the privilege of attending the Penny Arcade book tour. Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins, better known to the world as Gabe and Tycho, flew in to Los Angeles to promote their book, The Splendid Magic of Penny Arcade at Meltdown Comics. I'm a recent convert to the church of the Penny Arcade, and like many a recent convert I am a devoted follower. Tycho's caustic examination of popular culture, and gaming culture in particular, never fails to be entertaining. Gabe's illustrations of the adventures of their iconic alter egos set off Tycho's words in perfect harmony. As cool as their work on Penny Arcade is, it is a pale reflection of the creators themselves. They are grounded, affable, and approachable, and they graciously signed books, or whatever their fans (like me) brought them to sign. After the signing they fielded questions from the audience, a couple of which even came from me. I was there for a while and what transpired warrants a blog post all by itself. I'll get to the highlights of the evening another time, but I want to leave with one observation. Geek culture is just that, a culture. This fact is never so evident as when we come together to gather around our heroes and icons, and celebrate our culture together.

    Geek Speak
    So, a while ago I had a random thought on the baser drives of martial arts masters. Basically, the thought that leaped, unbidden and unwanted, into my head was this question: when a kung fu master takes a dump, is he practicing the ancient and venerated art of Dung Poo? With that I give you today's Geek Speak.

    Geek Speak

    Sunday, February 28, 2010

    Update Coming Soon

    There is a new blog post coming soon. I swear. No really. Cross my heart. You believe me right? I have an honest face. That's why it's so very easy to lie to people. NO WAIT I DIDN'T MEAN THAT!

    Friday, February 19, 2010

    Of Things Lost and Found, and Speaking of Geeks

    From the department of Lost and Found
    For a little while there I thought that I had lost my treasured eight gigabyte thumb drive. For anyone who doesn't know me that's a big deal. Like leave my cave and chase after short fuzzy people while muttering about a "precious" or some damn thing, kind of big deal. Not for any bad reason, either; I keep most of my writing on this thing. I don't save much of anything locally anymore. Most of my writing is either done in Zoho Office, or it's done in another program like Celtx or MS Word (though lately I've been thinking of switching to and saved to my thumb drive. With that in mind you can imagine that losing it was a bummer. Also for those who don't already know me, I teach a martial arts class. Well, that night I had to go by the home of my assistant instructor because he had been kind enough to drive that night, and my cell phone had fallen out in his car. I thought something similar might have happened with my thumb drive. My thought was, in my hurry to get ready for class (as I was running late that night) I might have slipped it into the pocket of my training pants, which is something I never, ever do. At any rate, I didn't find it right away so I figured it gone. What bothered me about this more than the thought of losing years and years of writing was the possibility that I'm capable of being so incredibly careless. If I can fail myself to that extent, how might I have failed someone I care about, and to what degree. The question still haunts me. However, I did end up finding the errant flash drive. It had fallen into the laundry bag next to our bed. Since finding it I've undertaken to copy all the writing that is most important to me to a file folder in my Google Apps account. I'll update these files periodically. I've also created a DropBox account and copied my most important files to this folder as well. The question of my potential for carelessness still haunts me, but the story ultimately has a happy ending and a valuable lesson.

    Geek Speak
    This strip will take a little explaining. A while back I had this really awful dream, the kind of dream that sort of makes you wish you could scour your brain. In this dream I was the kind of guy that might make you long for the days when public hangings of criminals were more commonplace. The kind of guy that the good people of a small town get together to quietly lynch, then bury in dotty old Mildred's petunia bed. In this dream I verbally abused and badly beat my wife, all of which was witnessed by another woman in the room who ran for it to call the cops. To stop this second woman from calling the cops, this dream sociopath version of me gave pursuit with the intention of beating her to death. Charming isn't it? Needless to say I woke up breathing heavily, covered in sweat, my hands shaking, and just repeating over and over, "What the fuck was THAT all about?" Later, though, as I was thinking about it, something funny occurred to me. I know, "beating your wife then murdering the witness, that's fucking HILARIOUS!" stay with me here. Most of the time I think I'm a pretty decent guy. I'd even go so far as to say I'm one of the good guys. If I can have a dream like that, what do bad guys dream about? I mean really bad guys. What do murdering sociopaths who kick puppies have nightmares about? Do they wake in a cold sweat from horrible dreams of...selling cookies at a bake sale? Helping a blind person with their grocery shopping? Quilting? That struck me as kind of funny, which lead me to today's Geek Speak.

    Geek Speak

    Monday, February 15, 2010

    Prima Guide to Webcomics about Aged Dragons and Geek Speak x2

    The Book of Dragon Age: Origins
    In a fit of frustration and moment of indulging in some retail therapy (always a bad decision, always, even if you do end up buying something your wife really needs), and picked up the Prima guide for Dragon Age: Origins. Perhaps not the best use of $25.00. When I picked it up, it was in the hopes that the video game sages of Prima-who spend their days in unwashed diapers playing PCs and consoles endlessly so that us mere mortals might actually stand a chance of completing one of the damn things-would have some as to the best strategy to defeat the brood mother. Sadly, it was not to be. The book offered the same basic advice I had from the wiki. Which is to say, "this is a tough. fight. Load up on health poultices." Thanks sparky. I'd worked that much out for myself. Unfortunately, it has no recommendations as to the best way to acquire said health poultices. One of the annoying things about the game is the fact that shopkeepers will actually run out of shit. If you've purchased all the health poultices offered by a particular shop, that's it. You're screwed if you ever have to go back. At this point I have to stock up on health poultices the best that I can and return to fight the brood mother. There are two ways this could go that I can foresee.

    1. I fight the brood mother. It's a tough battle but my new stock of health poultices help to pull me through.
    2. In lieu of tearing my hair out trying to defeat this vomitous bitch queen, I may just change the level of difficulty and move the hell on.

    Webcomics worth mentioning
    Ever since I was introduced, really introduced to comics in middle-school, I have been seriously into story telling through sequential art, and comic books in particular. As with most thirteen year old boys I was particularly excited about boobies. But that's a different subject, we're talking about comic books. Initially I was particularly fascinated with superheroes, as I think most boys my age were (those who were reading comics, anyway). In recent years I've kind of moved away from that and started seeking out either new spins on the superhero story, or other types of story told using comic books (graphic novels if you feel like gilding the lily a bit) as a medium.

    Lately I've been keeping my eye out for webcomics. These are largely self-published, independent stories, told in the form of an online, illustrated serial. The ones listed below are the best I've read to date:
    • Girl Genius - bar none my favorite on this list. Drawn by Phil Foglio and written by his wife, Kaja.
    • Looking for Group - Seriously takes the piss out of the fantasy genre and fantasy gaming, especially WoW. Looking for group is frequently hilarious, but does struggle with its identity. Sometimes this comic is side-splittingly hilarious, other times its run out and buy some HIM albums level of "takes itself seriously."
    • Sequential Art - Written and drawn by the excellent Phillip M. Jackson. This is a more traditional comic strip that is typically updated a couple of times a week.
    • Penny Arcade - Check it out, read the archives, 'nuff said. These guys will be at the Meltdown in Hollywood on the 26th. I'm going to be there.
    Geek Speak x2
    In light of the fact that I felt it necessary to take down my last cartoon, because you never know who is watching, I'm offering two Geek Speak strips with this post. This first one was done as I was thinking about how an encounter between a bunch of l0w-to-mid level adventurers and a giant might end. This would have to be a party that had been successful enough to get cocky, but not so successful as to stand a snowball's chance of actually taking a giant. Honestly, I'm surprised more encounters don't go this way.

    Geek Speak

    Click on the image above to view the full-sized version.

    This next cartoon came to me when I got to thinking about the infamous smoking beaver shot from Basic Instinct. To date still one of the most boring movies I have ever seen. The action of the movie breaks down kind of like this:
    • Sharon Stone is screwing some guy
    • Michael Douglas is investigating a crime scene
    • Intense dialog
    • Infamous smoking beaver shot
    • Intense dialog
    • Sharon Stone is screwing Michael Douglas
    • Intense Dialog
    • Michael Douglas is screwing some other woman who, I think, is supposed to be a forensic psychologist but delivers her lines like someone who once heard that there was such a thing.
    • Normal Guy is ready to tear his eyes out just to make something fucking interesting happen.
    Just before the most famous shot from this movie Sharon Stone asks a bunch of police investigators if they're going to arrest her for smoking. Then she uncrosses her legs in the most unmotivated, gratuitous up-skirt in the history of film. Anyway, her line got me to thinking about being arrested for smoking. Who would do that? The smoking police? What would the smoking police look like, and would they have their own version of S.W.A.T. for handling difficult situations? That lead me to draw this, the second Geek Speak entry for today's post.

    Geek Speak

    Friday, February 12, 2010

    Geek Speak Redacted

    It's a sad fact that you never know who is reading these blogs. Sadder still that something I do on my own time, for the entertainment of myself and my friends, could potentially be used against me and the people I work for. Ultimately, I feel this is a risk I can ill afford to take at this time.

    My position means that I have to be very careful and self-policing with regards to what I post on these pages. This means that I can never, ever post anything remotely critical about either the world's largest purveyor of operating systems, or the world's leading search giant. Even something that is exaggerated for comic effect, and intended to poke fun at either or both of these companies could offend someone at either company. This could damage the relationship my employer has with either of these companies and ultimately lead to me being dismissed. As a result I felt it necessary to remove yesterday's cartoon. I hope you had a chance to enjoy it.

    I think everyone loses out in this situation. Not the least because I feel that these major tech giants should be criticized from time-to-time, when it is appropriate to do so.

    Thursday, February 11, 2010

    Endless Neighborly Dragons Geek Speaking

    ragon Age
    Yes, I'm still playing this freaking game! It's huge. I mean just monstrous. As a casual gamer you can literally be playing this game for months. Take it from me. I'm currently in the Dead Trenches, which can officially lick sweat straight off a donkey's balls. Holy crap on a communion wafer this level is difficult. I'm not talking run-of-the-mill hard, I'm talking about blood-pressure spiking, snap the controller in half, go kick the entertainment center levels of fucking brutal. Two words. Brood. Mother. The disgusting, flabby, six-titted, whore can't move, but she has all kinds of tentacles and 'spawns' new enemies for you to fight on a regular basis. In a vain effort to find a strategy that worked I did some looking online. Foolish mortal. All of the strategies can be boiled down to, "Have plenty of health poultices," of which I have ONE. I've already bought all of the poultices available from the various sellers in Orzamar, which means I have to leave and try to find health poultices out in the world. Then I can come back and try to tackle her royal grotesqueness.

    Being neighborly
    We (my wife and I) don't live in the greatest of neighborhoods. This is really nothing new for me, which is actually kind of sad now that I look at it written out. Even so, there are times I find it entertaining, like today. When I left to go teach my eskrima class there were a couple of random derelicts sitting on the cement enclosure that surrounds the front yard of the building next to ours. This congress of cleverness consisted of a man and a woman. As I was walking out the woman was shouting obscenities and ranting in the man's direction. Most of which I don't remember except this little nugget, " not a fucking faggot, you don't say that kind of thing about my nephew mother fucker, fuck you you fucking..."

    You get the idea. She continued in that vein for longer than I would really want to recount on these pages, anyway.

    Unaccountably, and completely unbidden, the old Sesame Street song, "The People in Your Neighborhood" just popped into my head at that moment. Which made me laugh. In some ways that might actually have made me look crazier than those two.

    Geek Speak
    (Comic strip redacted)

    Geek Speak

    (Comic strip redacted)

    Saturday, February 06, 2010

    Pepsi Goes All Natural (sort of) and Geek Speak Debuts

    Pepsi-Au Natural-For Now
    Look at Pepsi cans right now. They're sporting the classic blue and red logo on a white can, with one new addition. On a bright yellow band that bisects the nostalgic logo the liquid confection container proudly boasts that it is now made with real sugar! For a limited time!

    This has got to be the dumbest marketing move I've seen in a while. It just begs the questions "Real sugar? What was in it before? Unicorn blood?" and "So...when you stop making it with 'real sugar' what are you going back to? The crap you've been feeding us for the last thirty years? Is there really so little sugar in the world that you can't keep using 'real' sugar?"

    Says the Pepsi Marketing Machine, "There's a sugar shortage, so we're sweetening Pepsi with innocence distilled from baby rabbits. Yes it means cute little bunnies have to die, but it's all in the name of tasty soda!"

    Pluto's a Planet, No It's Not, Yes It Is...
    Apparently Pluto's status as a planet was restored back in March 2009. I think now we're calling it a dwarf planet. It's a relief really. It's never good to leave a mnemonic device hanging; My Very Educated Mother Just Made Nine...

    Geek Speak
    So, I've been working for a while now on a series of cartoons. There's a definite tech and geek/nerd culture bend to the humor of it, but I'm not really married to any single theme. I also haven't necessarily developed a cast of recurring characters, but that might happen more or less organically. I've tentatively titled the series of comics 'Geek Speak.' Partly because the majorifty of them will have something to do with geek or nerd culture, and partly because I think of myself as a geek, and these strips reflect things that I think are funny. Many of them will come from my own life, many of them will be things that I've seen or heard, and some of them will seem like they came completely out of left field. Which, I think, is ok.

    That said, I present one of the first actual 'strips' that I drew. This character probably will be recurring. I think mostly because I like the idea of following the comic adventures of a woman in the tech industry. Tech is a business that is still dominated by men, and jokes about the tech industry while following a male character are fairly...done, if not trite. A female perspective seems to offer something fresh, while also being a fairly rich playground for finding jokes. I hope you agree.

    I'm getting verbose here, so I'm going to stop talking and let you enjoy the first official 'Geek Speak' comic.

    Geek Speak
    (Click the image to see the full-sized version)

    Creative Commons License
    Geek Speak by Isaac Brown is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

    Monday, January 18, 2010

    Interesting Times, or Living in the Future

    Interesting Times
    If I may be serious for a moment, and at the risk of sounding like granddad ranting at Christmas dinner, kids these days are really missing out, and they either don't know or don't care. Walk around any school. Take your pick of any elementary or middle school, just make sure to dress in conspicuously friendly clothes. We don't want anyone slapped with a restraining order or registered as a sex offender. If you just take things in for a moment you will notice nary a kid without a phone, ipod, blackberry, notebook, netbook, iphone or some other electronic do-da or gadget designed to keep them connected to the digital broadcast-net. What I will call here, the 'broadnet.' I know that sounds like a low-end porn channel, but hang with me for a moment.

    People of a certain age, such as myself, have a really interesting perspective on the development of our ability to interact without connecting. Let me explain that a little bit, and just for kicks I'll stick with the 'granddad ranting at dinner' motif. When I was their age we didn't have all these fancy cell phones and knick-knacks. If we wanted to look stuff up, we went to the library. If we wanted to talk to someone on the phone, we left a message on an answering machine or actually talked with that person so they would know when we'd be home and could call. If we wanted to hang out, we actually got together instead of logging on to Facespace or MyBook, or whatever the hell these kids are calling it.

    The point being, we got outside. We connected. It can be argued that we're more connected now than ever, thanks to the Broadnet (like the use of capitalization there? Thanks.). I would argue the reverse is true. We don't connect. We don't get personal. Young people these days may have more friends than ever, if a lengthy friends-list on Twitspace (wow. that works better than I expected) is any indication, but all of those people are kept at a safe distance.

    The saddest manifestation of this is something my wife commented on at some point. She happened to be passing by a couple of girls who were on lunch from school. These two girls had cell phones out and were giggling like mad while they sent a flurry of text messages, the accumulated cost of which will likely be larger than the GDP of a small country. What she discovered as she listened to their chatter, was they weren't texting to friends who were in class, or at another school, or out sick. They were texting each other.

    It might sound strange for someone who works in a technology related field to say this, but I don't believe that technology is bringing us together. Sure, I can talk to a developer in Indonesia about a project without ever dialing an actual phone, and that's pretty cool. I can talk to him about the rainy season and whether or not he had a good weekend, and it's kind of fun to think that I'm hearing a voice from the future (his timezone is fifteen hours ahead of us in Southern California). On the other hand, I remember getting along pretty well when there was no Internet. Games? Just because it didn't come on a disc didn't mean there weren't games. If you wanted something to do, you went outside and found something to do, rather than plopping down in front of the TV and zoning out to bubble-headed celebrity infotainment spoon-fed to us by model-gorgeous women sporting two degrees with a 'D' average.

    I think if we want to do kids a favor, or do something really great for them it would be to take them camping out where there is no cell coverage and no electricity. Even if they have their iphones and laptops, there's no signal and no way to recharge them. Take them out there, play games outside (who remembers hide and seek, or flashlight tag after it gets dark), and sleep out under the stars. Give them some perspective. Some of them might even come around. I bet they'd even tweet about it when they get home.

    Wednesday, January 13, 2010

    From the Department of Hundreds of People Sharing a Single Brain

    I hate the TSA: Meet Mikey, 8 [years-old]: U.S. Has Him on Watch List!

    His mother makes a good point, though. A would-be Nigerian suicide bomber can get on a plane and blow his junk off with an underwear bomb (of the high explosive variety, not the Taco Bell type) but her 8-year-old son can't get on a plane for a family vacation without getting frisked.

    On a related note, the TSA indicates they are creating a new database that will be used for suspects on their no-fly and suspectee lists. The new database will include the person's birth date and gender in addition to their name. Really? It took this long for someone to deduce that a database of fucking terror suspects should include vital information about that person beyond their goddamn name! Who made the first database? Some white house bureaucratic ass-hat's six-year-old? Was she reading from Baby's First Access Database? Couldn't be. Most six-year-olds have more sense than that.

    I will continue to include amusing bits of TSA ass-hattery until they can prove they are doing even ONE thing that actually keeps us safe.

    Alternatives to Microsoft Office
    Microsoft Office 2010 is due to launch (go figure) this year. Microsoft has already announced the price for the 'standard' edition, or what they're calling the Home and Business edition. You can get your hands on this software for one easy payment of $279, or $199 if you download it. For your money you get to install the software on a whopping two PCs. By now you may be scratching your head looking at this and going "What the fuck? Aren't we in, like, a really bad recession? Who the fuck has $300 to spend on bloated, resource gobbling software from Micro$oft?" You wouldn't be alone. PC World published an article today covering inexpensive alternatives to Microsoft Office. "What do you mean, inexpensive," you ask with a cynical sneer. Well, Mr. Justifiably Jaded Consumer, by inexpensive I mean that two of them are free, and the one that isn't is only $80. "What kind of Microsoft Office alternative is free, or comes that cheap?" You sneer at me again, "Don't you get what you pay for?" Well, Mr. Justifiably Jaded Consumer, the answer is both yes and no. Let me explain. There is too much, I will sum up.

    The solutions put forward as alternatives by the good people at PC World are, Zoho Office, and Softmaker. Two of these I've used myself. I'll start with those. In short is made of Oreo crusted goodness. Not only is it free, but it includes applications for word processing, spreadsheets, powerpoint presentations, and (though this is less important to the majority of users) database. Not only are these fully-functional applications in their own right, but files produced in these applications are compatible with similar applications from Microsoft. The cross-compatability isn't perfect but its good enough to pass files created in OpenOffice to people using Microsoft Office and have a reasonable expectation of them being able to work wih them.

    Zoho Office: May I say something sincere, here? Just for a moment? Thank you. I like this application suite. That cost me something but I think I'm stronger for it. Unlike and Softmaker Zoho is hosted online. There's another well known, fully-hosted suite of applications out there but...I like this one better. Why? It's fully-featured, light, easy to use, and offers a huge number of options. Want to write a novel? No problem. In fact, that's what I use it for. Want to put together a basic budget in a spreadsheet? No problem. Want to create a wiki to manage your comic book collection online you dirty, dirty, geek? No problem. Oh, and if you happen to be a devotee of that other online suite of applications, no problem, Zoho and that other suite that rhymes with 'snoogle maps' are compatible.

    Softmaker: Deskside application that offers their suite with word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations for $80. One license lets you install on three computers...That's about all I know about it.

    I was going to go on and recount my adventures in the world of Ferelden and Dragon Age: Origins, but I think this has gone on long enough. Shame. I even had a clever name for the section heading. You will all just have to wait for that.

    Sunday, January 03, 2010

    Aging Dragons, Happy New Year, and a Ten Minute Rant

    Originating the Age of Dragons (SPOILERS)
    Play has continued somewhat in Dragon Age: Origins, and I've even started a third character. The third character is an Elven female mage, but I'll come back to her another time. For a while I was just faffing about with my main character, traveling here and there, and trying to complete side quests to gain experience and level. Just for kicks I tried to complete the Morrigan companion quest having to do with acquiring Flemeth's grimoire. I figure she's going to be tough, but not something I can't handle so I go and talk with her. The conversation goes along the lines of "You're a bad, bad woman and I'm not going to let you kill your daughter and take over her body in some weird reverse Oedipal complex but with chicks I'm not kidding...stop laughing at me...let's fight." To which she is more than happy to oblige and promptly turns into a dragon. The fight goes along the lines of *squish-dead party, dragon picks teeth.* After watching my party fight en flambe a few times I decided she could just keep her grimoire, see if I care, and I hope she chokes on it. I've moved on to Orzamar to complete the "Paragon of Her Kind" mission which should bring the Dwarves into the fray on the side of Ferelden against the blight. That was just so nerdtastic that I really feel it's time to move on before I paint the walls with nerdism.

    Happy Freaking New Year
    It would be disingenuous for me to say this was anything but a crap year. There were some bright spots. I shot a short film directed by a really terrific USC student, and had a blast the entire time hanging out with my great leading lady. There was a scene that I shot for an educational film that'll be used by the Church of Scientology (I am not a scientologist), which was really a fun day and everyone was very professional and cool. Finally, I shot a commercial for Oh Henry candy bars which should start airing in Canada sometime in the next few weeks. Even given that there have been family issues, work is an ongoing struggle, my wife and I have both lost family members, and there have been health issues for enough people that I care about that, on the whole, I'm glad to put this year behind me. Am I optimistic about this year? No. I was very optimistic about 2009, and about half-way through it I found myself wishing I could have 2008 back with everything that went with it. I've been burned too badly by optimism to go down that road again. Instead I'm being practical. I'm taking this year a day at a time, and I"m going to work to make it the best year I possibly can.