19 October 2011

A little laugh

You all may have read about the Iranian plot to kill the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. using a Mexican Drug Cartel assassin, who may or may not have been a CIA operative.

Here's how I imagine the information changed hands:

CIA Assassin: So an Iranian intelligence officer and an assassin walk into a Mexican bar looking to assassinate the Suadi Ambassador.
FBI Agent: What’s the punch line?
CIA Assassin: I’m the f***ing punchline!

13 October 2011

The Prophecy

In Maelstrom a prophecy one hundred generations in the making binds a demon to Theldun, a wizard born in the sacred month of Galorn. Can he fulfill the prophecy before the world drowns in blood

Three times the Great Usurper Rise
Twice the false heir slain
Once the Son burnt
One side the world claim

As it was written so shall it be

Into the hands of government shall be given the Sword
forged in the blood of a hundred generations
Born on the last day of Galorn
The Sword will slay the Usurper
or serve him.

When the Line is broken,
The Great usurper shall wash the world in blood.

16 September 2011

Combating Idiocy one post at a time

Now and again I come across an article that someone posts on the old Facebook. In the recent year or so, opinion articles bashing women have become increasingly common. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is an impending election year, which for God alone knows what reason, brings out the unfortunately misguided opinions of some particularly vocal right-wingers. Another factor is the constant fear of change that is intrinsic in human nature. Jealousy could also be a factor, since women have fared better in this stormy economy than men. (Only 8.5% of women are unemployed as of June 2011 versus 9.5% of men, although the tables may be turning).

Whatever the reason, many of these articles have a handful of non-sourced statistics concerning women's voting habits/rearing goals/why they should be in the kitchen demmit et cetera, et cetera. The fact of the matter is that the working woman is here to stay, and if you can't handle it, then scoot over because she CAN do your job and given the opportunity she will. No amount of internet chatter to repeal the 19th amendment or bring us back to the morally "upright" 1950s will change the times.

As for the lament of the man-boys running around in society, maybe we should take a better look at how we're doing as father figures rather than blaming an "increasingly" socialist nation for coddling them.

08 September 2011

D&D Seen through the innocent eyes of a Kleptomaniacal Paladin

A journal of Adventur-iness for Brunin the Beautiful (I don’t think she’ll like that title.)

Day 1: I made it to the town of Grenton and met up with some very interesting people! We have two fellows that are just like our Flying Friars (although I think these are a bit more serious minded, one of them keeps picking me up before I wander off. I’m not sure I like him). One is named Caedrus - He’s an elf! We have two elves in our party in fact. Caedrus and Nailo - Hey! They’re both monks. I wonder if only elves become monks? Well, I guess Caedrus is only half, but that still counts.
We joined the Order of the Blazing Spear. The contact is named Matthew Stillspirit - he’s a monk, too. Hmm, our party is very monkey.
They say the gods caused all the devastation around here. I wonder if that’s true? They always seemed so nice when any visited our town. Maybe that’s why everything was so dark outside of town and all the wanderers appeared in the town square? If I ever die, I’ll ask and try to tell you, Brunin. Wouldn’t that be exciting? I’ve never died before.

Mission 1: We went to Lemley and helped them defend their magic well that gave people the ability to be almost as strong as I am! I had to guard it while everyone else went off and got stabbed and had fun. I was disappointed. Although I did finally climb the watch tower without getting lit on fire! That was an experience. I could see for almost forever. I wonder if that’s what the gods feel like?

Mission 2: I heard that the rest of my group met a Xorn! It’s like an earth-frog that falls on paladins. I’m lucky I wasn’t there. Vinny Crude cut it up some good - he can use two weapons at once. I’m very impressed. I might lose an arm or two. Thimble is really funny. She’s a half-orc that was raised by halflings - they’re our less curious cousins. They don’t have as much cool stuff in their pouches as we do ( I know, I checked).

Mission 3: I’m a detective today! Pentrian Greathammer, Detective for hire. We found a magic bow that this jerk stuffed inside a lizard. Can you imagine that? A lizard big enough to ride around on and all this ranger can think to hide inside it is a lousy bow? He had a real lack of imagination. (Morty the Shorty, our dwarf bard, and my best friend is riding the lizard now) He mentioned your name after I punched him in the balls (He also gave me a really wicked scar! He was kind of a sweetheart, aside from being a murderous jerk and possibly having kidnapped you). I explored my mean side a bit today. I threatened people with losing their jobs if they didn’t listen to the super-ultra-mega important revelations that I had. They didn’t listen for some reason. I think they were too impressed with my body. I wonder if I scared them to silence since I was naked? Maybe I should always threaten people while not wearing pants!

Mission 4: Paney told us of a light bubble-bauble in this orc town. So it was our job to sneak in all quiet-like. I jumped over the back gate with Flex *Tear stains this area* Flex died!!! The bastard bugbears killed him. It’s all that stupid Cock-god’s fault (that wasn’t really his name, it was Hauk’gawd, but he was a jerk!). It turned out that Hauk’gawd had become a wizard and taken over this orc village. They raided dozens of caravans and were a big menace. I almost died, which is when Flex defended me to the death. I will always remember him. I raised him since he was a puppy, and he followed me home. I hope we go to Drethal soon; I hear that you were held prisoner there. Although, I imagine that lasted for all of about three minutes until you got bored. I wonder what turned Hauk’gawd into a wizard? I bet the item was cursed. He looked all kinds of ugly before we killed him.

Mission 5: We had to go to Avwa and meet a Corporeal Agzu (he was also a Corporal, I think). Their Lord Mayor Kopiv went missing. It turns out he was a real life thief, and he stole from his constituents and everything! They had missing hammers and daggers and all sorts of stuff. We found him in the basement along with over a hundred dead bodies that used to be people with bones. Now they don’t have bones, all because Kopiv summoned them down there to die at the hands (tentacles really) of a Bone Sucker. What was most amazing was that Kopiv didn’t believe himself to be evil, when he clearly was. I ripped off his hands trying to get him away from a machine that summoned people to their deaths. Corporal Agzu didn’t like me very much, but his brother sure did! Also, we returned a boat load of stolen items to their rightful owners. I knew my talents at finding things was a great asset to the world!

Mission 6: A compound filled with Orcs, bugbears, gnolls, and ogres alternated raiding and helping villages at random. Their leader, Za’onis, turns out to have been having his men, including his 2nd in command (Zab’iz), drink Joker’s fluid, which makes people forgetful and angry and helpful all at separate times. A huge man named Antwulf joined us and killed lots of orcs, even when they were helpful. He also shot Pwny. I was happy when he left. Also during the mission, I got your letter. I am coming to save you!

I taped the letter here so I wouldn’t lose it:
The next morning you wake up to find a pair of letters placed on your nightstand, the first bearing the symbol of Tobias Shadowblade and the second a crude seal of the family of Hillsong. You are torn between the two but choose duty in place of desire and open the former.

My child in arms,

This letter was retrieved on a trail near the Balinthian and old Fallenthian border near the Great Sea, which is a good ways from your home if I can remember correctly. It had your name on the front and our symbol cleverly and ever so mildly embossed on the back. The seal has not been broken but I can only sense... Alarm and trepidation coming from within it. I hope this finds you in good health and good spirits, as I believe you will need it.


You aren't exactly sure what he is trying to say, why would you need good health and good spirits to open a letter that was probably sent by Brunin?! Why is it alarmed? What does trepidation mean? Oh well... You'll ask Eloric or maybe that interesting dwarf Morty later, they'll know the meaning. Your left hand finds a random pouch to slip the letter in while your right darts to the letter you've longed for all along. You take a brief moment to touch the seal, which is rudely interrupted by a loud voice from down the hall. Your eyes lock on the door and you snap your head left and right a couple times to gain a better angle to see if anyone is there. No one... how boring. When your eyes return to the letter, you discover it has opened itself and placed itself firmly between both your hands in a manner making it easy to read. Brunin must have learned a magic trick while you were gone! She must be looking for magic too! You gather all of your concentration and plunge yourself into the letter.

My dearest Pentrian,

I miss you so much! I'm sorry I haven't written as often as I wanted to but I don't even know where they sent you! You sought out a world of adventure and it turns out you didn't even need to leave! Maybe a year and a half after you left we had SO MANY VISITORS! They came in one large group, all sorts of interesting creatures! Black skinned elves, giants with two heads, a blue skinned ogre, someone in dark robes with a completely black face or maybe it was no face (I couldn't see it), and lots of elves, humans, and orcs! We welcomed them with a feast! Well, with what food we had. They had so many interesting stories and had so many questions. They sounded a lot like you! It made me miss you when they asked about if we had seen any magic or knew about that organization you joined. I didn't say anything, just like you asked (although I almost forgot.) Near the end of the night there was a lot of accusations that they were missing stuff and that we stole it! Can you believe that? Who would do such a thing? Which reminds me, one of them must have slipped one of their cloaks into my backpack at the dinner table! I wish I would have known who did it so I could have thanked them! It was nice and silky and green and his this really shiny and pretty symbol on it. It was a circle with a mountain inside of it with a lightning bolt coming from the side and the point ended on a guy on his knees in the middle of the mountain. Then above that was an eye with a sword facing down in the pupil part. It felt really nice! Oh and everyone had that symbol I think! Some had it on their weapons, some on their armor... OH one guy had it poking out a little bit out of his forehead! It looked red... he must not be very good at magic. That night there was, wow I've never seen so many bones... some of them are even moving around... walking almost, anyways that night there was a LOT of noise and commotion. People screaming and others laughing. I didn't know what was going on but I was so tired I didn't want to go check. When I woke up, that man without the face was standing above me next to my bed. It sounded like he was talking... but talking to my brain, it was SOOO amazing! He said I was coming with him on a great adventure and that others were coming too! Can you believe it? Someone came to our village and OFFERED US ADVENTURE! He didn't give me very long to pack, he became grumpy after my 3rd backpack and said "We have no time to waste." What a bore... As I left the house, I figured out what all the noise was about! They must have had an awesome party and bonfire! Everyone was passed out on the ground! Well not everyone, your Uncle Tavin Crowhammer was laying down on this strange X shaped table with ropes around his ankles and wrists. The ropes were tied to four horses... he must have gotten REALLY drunk like he can get sometimes and they had to lay him down or something. Anyways, there were a lot of weapons laying next to everyone too and they dyed the ground red and brown with wine and beer! They loaded me up in a wooden carriage with wood bars from top to bottom. There must have been fifty of us in there, your dad too, they must have known that we like to look around all the time and that's why they gave us this wide open cart (although I've been standing for like 5 days and they won't let us sit or lay down.) I couldn't see your mom at first, but then I saw her as we were leaving town. She was laying facedown next to four really big orc looking guys and arrows were all around her... some even looked in her. They must have been drinking and playing with those sucker arrows... Who knew your mom could outdrink 4 orcs? Oh and I think the party got out of control at the town hall... It was burned down... It took forever to build that I hear! So after we left town, we've been traveling south for 5 straight days with no rest or bathroom breaks and we just finally turned east. Everything is, have you ever experienced like a walking dead thing with tentacles? Cause it's hugging your dad right now, through the bars. I don't think he likes it, he's making a lot of hoopla. Oh he's quiet now, he must have realized it just needed a friend. Everything is so dark and dreary here. I don't think I like this adventure so far, but hopefully when we get to where we are going it will be a lot more fun! I asked them if I could send a letter out and they said no! NO! Can you believe that? Well I just HAD to write you so I'm just going to throw this letter behind our carriage and hope someone finds it and gets it to you. I miss you so much Pentrian! I can't wait to see you again. I hope you are having a wonderful adventure! I will write you when I get to where we are going.

Your childhood bestest friend,
Brunin Hillsong

Mission 7: SAVE BRUNIN: I was informed that I had to complete my current mission before I could go save you. I am not sure I understand how RoMaD works. They said I would betray my knighthood if I went to save you instead of killing the current smelly ogres. They really miss the whole “save the damsel in distress” part of being a knight, I think. That seems to be the main tenet of being a knight. Oh well, I think most non-kender groups get caught of in the letters of the rules. It would seem to me that spreading love was the main goal of RoMaD, and magic is just their vessel to carry it. I mean, we go out and get things by helping people to help other people, thus engendering good feelings, right? So shouldn’t saving love be as important as spreading magic? More important really, since they all say magic got us into this mess.
We are only three days away from the town that should have information about your caravan. I sure hope I get there in time. I got a new riding dog. I named him Bro-flex. He looks so similar to Flex! I think they would have been good brother dogs.
I am coming. Please don’t die, okay?

Mission 7 (Continued): We found out what the symbol Brunin mentioned in her letter was (“It was a circle with a mountain inside of it with a lightning bolt coming from the side and the point ended on a guy on his knees in the middle of the mountain. Then above that was an eye with a sword facing down in the pupil part.”) The symbol is for Mountains of Magic- they’re basically the evil version of us!
My dad told us that Brunin was sold to a half-elf named Taflien, who is one of the gifted. Taflien lives in Dolqol and thinks that Kender are the key to bringing back magic. Apparently, he’s been doing horrible tests on Kender to unlock magic? I don’t really understand any of that, but what I do understand is that Ulrik Exantus, who sold Brunin into slavery and sold the rest of my town to various bidders, is directly involved in the death of my father.
I didn’t get there in time! I couldn’t. I did everything I could to help him. But the door was locked and he was dying. I’m glad Vinny was there; he pulled the iron bars right out of the ground so I could at least talk to my dad before he died. The stone didn’t work to save him, and my healing didn’t work to save him. I couldn’t save him. What if I won’t be able to save Brunin? I don’t know what I’ll do then.
It’s going to all end good, though. It has to. The gods wouldn’t protect us from that awful war only to let us die like this. Why would someone want to kill us? We find people’s lost things and cheer up the people that are sad - like those people in Yakuhz. Morty the Shorty played his awesome music and made people happy so that I could talk to them more. That is until Anzwulf and his dwarf buddy started killing everyone. It would have been better if he had actually succeeded in killing Ulrik maybe. My detect evil doesn’t work to find him, but how could anyone that enslaves other people for money be even slightly morally right? Laws be damned! It’s wrong.
I have to go finish getting everything ready for my dad’s funeral. I’ll write more later. I’ll need to buy more pouches. My dad didn’t die with his on, so I’ll give him mine. They have all kinds of interesting things in them. Maybe he can trade for some more colorful clothes with Uncle Tassl- *Tears stain the end of the entry - rendering it unreadable*

Mission 7(Conclusion): We freed all the slaves in Ulrik Exantus’s house and tracked him back to Yakuhz. Rustle led a team to dispatch an ambush, then I burned the house to the ground.

Mission 8: We arrived in Dupaws with a day to spare. Brunin is still in Dolqol, I hope. Dupuws is barely a day’s ride away. Irzi Woolmuk, a lizard wizard, and his pixie friend Torfkin are our new RoMaD handlers. I think we will find them supportive to helping find Brunin. Although, they seem to have no knowledge about Mountains Of Magic. Such an oversight seems terribly inconvenient. We sold the loot from Ulrik’s house for about 4000gp for each of us. Art sure is expensive.
Irzi handed us each a set of magical gear and told us to hunt down an ogre barbarian named Jaogel. The bastard gelled Vinny, before we could put him down. Vinny Crude will always have a special place in my heart for helping to break open my dad’s cell. We found a pair of funny gauntlets on the rampaging Ogre. When I put them on, my arms bulge. It’s not an altogether unpleasant experience. We can pay ten thousand to keep them, or trade them for a five thousand gold reward.
I have to go bury Vinny. At least he died with his pouches on.

Mission 9: Vinny’s funeral` was interrupted by RoMaD agents! It was the craziest thing. I couldn’t believe how rude they were, stabbing people and being all grr! “We’re stoned out of our minds!” Stabbity stab stab. I jumped over the fire and stabbed one. Pault was handy and killed one dead. The monk of Curds and Whey helped out too. It was a real group effort. I stayed and finished Vinny’s funeral but everyone else left to make sure people got back to HQ safely.
Bwix was our contact in the district of strangeness. Everyone except him talked openly about being RoMaD, and they were all super distracted. I don’t know what was wrong with them, but Rustle and Pault found out. Bwix had bought a pair of cursed rings from a M.o.M. demon agent, who masqueraded as an orc. It turned out that his wife was changing everyone with he touch. I saw the M.o.M. insignia on the ring box, snatched the box, and high-tailed it to murder that evil orc.
The demon murdered two more kender and wrote an inscription in blood on the wall of the Flying Talon inn. A Kenku translated it from Abyssal for us: “The wife is the key; the kender have the power; with their power combined the portal will open.”
We returned to Bwix’s house, to find that it had exploded. The demon had reclaimed the cursed rings and run downstairs. Rustle did most of the killing.

Mission 10: We went to a place called “Dickwad” but they spelled it “D-i-q-o-d.” I’m not sure quite how that works out. All the people there are super nice - AND rich! Thornwin, an half- elven Koi-Lord, gave me a horse figurine, which I tied to my top knot. I have almost as cool stuff as Great Uncle Tasslehoff now! Thornwin wasn’t terribly happy when Tic-Toc went swimming in the fountains, though. He poisoned the Crocodile in fact! Which was okay, because one of the people we needed to find was poisoned too, so he explained the antidote to us.
Oh right! The mission. So we went there to find Agent Coulomb (“Q”) and Nayej. They went missing after trying to smuggle some items from the nice people of Diqod back to RoMaD. It turned out that they befriended the wrong people, and one of them got dead, while the other got poisoned. Captain Bromad (Vinny’s replacement) also befriended these same wrong people, but he had us to back him up, so it was okay. It turns out that an agent of Mountains of Magic was there! He convinced Mayner the Barman at the Charging Hippo and Tinthian to join him in his mad quest for power. They stole the things that Q and Nayej stole, and then smuggled them back to MoM. One of the gate guards, Terrence, hid the trafficking, and when confronted by his partner, he sliced poor Johnathan to ribbons! Well, I high-tailed it to Mayner’s house, since Flex could track Terrence, and what did I find but these thieves attacking my friends? I charged in and helped clear that garbage out, but Rustle, Nailo, and the Captain all had it well in hand even before I got there.
Also the Captain destroys doors with his shield! How cool is that?

Mission 11: “The Town-melter” I got really behind on writing to you, since I’m so busy trying to find you! We haven’t had a real rest in a very long time. I’m writing during my night watch, which is maybe why Pault sees everything way before I do. We went to Dabmoore a few missions ago, and we discovered that a dragon had been murdering and melting towns in the area. A super-tall Grey-elf Half-dragon named Xorvin helped out an apparently useless mayor. The mayor I described as “short as the devil” which ended up being apt, because he was an evil dragon! (More on that later). Anyway, Xorvin attacked us when we got too close to the truth beneath Dabmoore. He hovered in the air and tripped my friends with spiked chains. Rustle helped a lot by launching a black ray at Xorvin. That really took some spring out of his step. The Grapist (some crazy that we met in Dabmoore and is REALLY angry) did a good bit against Xorvin. Captain Bromad convinced the mayor to change the name of the town to Dromadia and instructed us when to duck and dodge - not to mention dip and dive - in order to avoid the jerk’s swinging chain. Pault made a good effort, but it’s really hard for him to reach tall with his scimitar - or kukri, however he calls it.

Mission 12: “Durmuk” - The entire town was controlled by a mind-flayer! I found an ancient text on Mind Flayers in the Library. I think they lost it, because it’s in my pouch now. Anyway, this is what a Mind Flayer is http://penny-arcade.com/comic/2009/06/22. Also, I set a barn on fire! It was really, super-duper sad. So many horses were dead. People just stopped feeding them and left them tied up, so they starved to death. I wouldn’t want to starve to death. I went hungry for a few days when I got lost going to Tobias Shadowblade’s house. There’s not much to eat around Mincordia. It’s all blackened and gross. There were lots of these things that called for “brians” all the time, too. Brian must have hurt them real bad.
Also I saw two halflings beat a kender to death! Can you imagine the treachery? Short people need to work together to do big things, and these halflings betrayed a sacred trust. We saved one kender, named Darrell from Hyreese. Can you believe it? There are more Kender than just our village. Isn’t that exciting? But, they’re all being abducted and murdered and being painted across the walls and floors for eldritch rituals too. This problem is way worse than I thought. Darrell got smashed to goo along with Tic Toc when some ettins attacked us, trying to get Darrell back. Right after the attack, I got a vision of you being tortured, so I ran to the underground bedchamber of the Mindflayer to save you. We saw a bonfire and so many kender just kneeling there, waiting for death from the Mindflayer.

Rustle killed the Mindflayer, though. The bastard ate a lot of captured kender before she put him down though. It was really sad.

Mission 13: “Return to Dromadia” (Formerly known as Dabmoore). The Short as the Devil Mayor is a dragon! Pault lashed it with his blade, Rustle killed it dead as it fled from our might, but not before I almost died twice and Flex had to leave to the Celestial Realms - so I won't see him for a really, really long time. It’s really interesting being so close to death; I’ve almost met Moradin four times now. His waiting room is filled with all sorts of shiny things. I’m sure some things jump into my pouches, but so far I haven’t been able to find any after I wake up. It’s the most surreal-est dream-type thingy ever. Also, we found some papers that said Ulrik was here in Dromadia.

23 August 2011

Unsaved Unwelcome, because JC was all about seclusion, am I right?


During an internet search today, I found a particularly enlightening website about the Christian faith. http://www.landoverbaptist.net

I'm all for churches having websites and an open place for honest discussion, but sites like this remind me of how Atheists and other religions look at us. We're a bunch of nuts. If the average "God-fearing American" found some of the statements on this website posted up on, oh say, an Islamic website, they'd be afraid of suicide bombers training at these churches.

It's not that the TRUE CHRISTIAN(TM) Church is inherently violent, but there are some things listed on the site that should at least encourage a pause.
- A Forum badge for "Punched the most Queers"
- "The information presented here is Biblically accurate. Opinions concerning ... flagellation, stoning, destroying enemies of GOD utterly, without mercy, and other activities inherent in Christianity are subjective and may differ from yours or others' opinions; therefore be warned that you must exercise your own judgment as to the difficulty and your ability to safely protect yourself from the inherent risks and dangers."
- Anyone who speaks against the commonly held opinions is banned and listed as "Enemy of God, Aeternal [sic] damnation assured"
- True Caucasian Christian award

Just for fun, let's look at Jesus's ministry, because hey! if he didn't have an effective ministry, then who does, amirite?

As for punching homosexuals, let's look at this as a question: Who did Jesus punch? Well, as far as we know, nobody. Although it is possible that he whipped some folks.
He didn't even dislike people different from his fly Jewish self (Yep, Jesus was a Jew, for those of you playing the home game. He probably had dark skin. He didn't speak English. Also, Jesus was homeless. Bam! Your mind, it is blown). He associated with all types: Samaritans (John 4), Tax Collectors(Luke 19), and a whole slew of other sinners. Punching people isn't really encouraged in Christ's doctrine - turning the other cheek is (Matt.5:39). Also, Paul (whose epistles are the go-to for sex-based discrimination on this site) doesn't ever miss his days of killing and imprisoning people that believed differently than he did.

Stoning and destroying without mercy? Didn't Jesus stop a stoning?

Christ wasn't really about judgement, as the go-to Gospel verses John 3:16-18 state:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son."

So Christ's purpose was to love and save the world, not condemn it. Hmm, shouldn't we Christians make that our main goal, too?

22 August 2011

Caffeine and Paranoia

As fate would have it, one can actually be allergic to Caffeine. There are a lot of symptoms for Caffeine allergies, most of which closely resemble mental disorders (Schizophrenia, Paranoia and Manic-Depression taking the cake).

You might be thinking, "Well, that seems far-fetched." And you'd be right. It does seem far-fetched, but then again so do paradoxical reactions. Caffeine is by far the most available mass-market stimulant, and for most it is exceedingly effective, blocking your ATP receptors, thus not allowing you to realize that your body is drained (in essence giving you "energy"). For a few unlucky individuals, it makes them exhausted, and then there are those poor souls stuck with an allergy.

Imagine, if you will, your morning cup of coffee with a demon sitting in the cup, laying in wait down at the bottom of the delicious nectar of life. You look at your watch. Oh! You're going to be late! You down the last mouthful of coffee and swallow that demon right up. At work you are as productive as always (after checking farmville, of course). Something's different today, though. John, in the cubicle across from you, keeps giving you this look. Like he knows something you don't. You stare hard at him. John smiles and shrugs, before ducking back to his computer screen.
The boss walks by and talks to you about how valuable your work is to the company. You stare at him in wild-eyed terror, then you get back to work. In the reflection of your monitor, you see him talking to John. John laughs. They're plotting. Maybe the company is downsizing? That must be it. You're going to be fired; you're sure of it. No, that's crazy talk. You've been a loyal employee for several years now. Sure there was that rough bit, when you applied to see if you could get another job, but - wait. What if Boss found out? Well, he can't fire you for looking. Besides, the workplace morale went up, and you didn't even get another offer anyway.

You spend the rest of the day sipping coffee and working steadily on your TPS reports. John's glances become increasingly conspiratorial. Eventually, you just kick off work and go back home. Wife is home early. Maybe your boss called her? She looks concerned. You ignore her and eat some dinner quietly. If you're quiet enough maybe she'll slip and say why she's concerned.

While getting ready for bed, you catch your reflection looking at you funny. You duck beneath the counter and brush your teeth. But the mice might eat you if you stay too still. You do something like a crazed bottle dancer from Fiddler on the Roof, and you somehow manage not to choke to death on your toothbrush.

Now imagine that your day went like that EVERY TIME you drank coffee. Especially on days after a long night out.

Yep, Fate's a cruel harlot.

13 July 2011

Upon the "completion" of one's first novel

Intrepid Readers,

I have recently finished typing up my first full-length novel (weighing in at somewhere over 70k words). I have to say that I'm a little disappointed. This is for several reasons. (1) I don't in fact feel the huge weight drop off my chest because (2) I have to go back and edit AGAIN. For some reason, handwriting my entire novel, reading it and then editing it while I typed did not turn out to be a magical formula for flawless writing. In fact, I have more editing than ever to do because (horror!) I enlisted the help of other people to read my novel and give me feedback. So, now I have to go through and sort out all the comments from other folks and meld them into my novel to make a more cohesive and perfect narrative, which no matter how I labor, will never be the masterpiece trapped in my head.

Apparently, I must delve into the strange world known as Networking and do research to actually sell my novel now. The books say that this is the real hard work. I'm not going to lie; I am terrified. Some agents and editors are rumored to eat men twice my size in a single bite. Good thing Writer's Digest has a list of Preditors and Editors I can look into.

On the brighter side, I now can go through and edit my fourteen year old cousin's werewolf novel. (Which weighs in at 45k words and a decade earlier than my work - quite impressive, really).

Keep on writing,
-Thomas Mercurial

26 April 2011

Isaac Asimov on the Limits of Imagination

Today I started reading Isaac Asimov (shock!). I find it at once encouraging and dreadful that our imaginations at once can out predict technology by decades and also fall behind by decades. In Asimov's short story "The Dead Past," he posits a machine called a "MultiVac" which can store data and recreate it in hard copy in a few minutes. With even a smart phone and a printer several minutes would be a gross over-estimate of the requisite time to perform such a task.
Among the things which Asimov created in this short story the only thing which hasn't been invented yet is a Chronoscope - a device by which one may actually watch and listen to the past. Pretty cool, right? Wrong. As Isaac Asimov points out the past begins this instant and travels backwards. This device would allow anyone to be a Voyeur or a spy or any number of things from which we are at least moderately able to defend ourselves against. In a world with such a device privacy would be literally a thing of the past.
The only thing that Asimov didn't expect was a culture of exhibitionism and voyeurism. Such a culture has gripped the world of the internet. Anywhere you look, it's apparent. Even Facebook has "Get a Hot Date Tonight" ads in the side bars - or perhaps I should say especially Facebook? You see, the internet has developed a culture that has not realized that it exists outside of the box the says "Teh Interwebz." People frequently post on Facebook about their rampant sexual encounters or their binge drinking/drug use/vandalism. There is an entire generation that wants to be exposed - but only from the privacy of their own corner of the internet. For some reason there is a HUGE disconnect for people (us Millennials especially) between what we do on our computer and what happens in real life. We assume that because everything is password protected that no one else that can affect our lives will see it.
Perhaps the Chronoscope would be a relief for this subculture of the internet. All of a sudden, they wouldn't have to bother with facebook or twitter updates about how baller their lives are. They could just advertise that they were doing X to Y and then let people tune in on their home chronoscopes. Oh wait- they already can thanks to the magic of home webcams.

-Thomas Mercurial out.

22 April 2011

Well we're screwed.

Being the astounding academic that I am, I tend to read quite a bit of dreadfully serious philosophy. By cross-referencing these completely legitimate sources, I have discovered that this world is indeed ripe for a reckoning. I cannot help but assume that Dr. Gene Ray is in fact the Nostradamus of our time, and only Randall Munroe can widely broadcast such a dire message. In less than a hundred years, war will be beginning. Dr. Gene Ray, himself above god, is of course immortal and will be the one to - in the colloquial - "set us up the bomb."
I doubt very much that Nostradamus was a huge fan of self-fulfilling prophecies, but if you want to be accurate you have to do it yourself; time is simply too fickle a mistress.

13 April 2011

National Undergrad Lit Conference

Howdy folks,
I got back from NULC (National Undergraduate Literature Conference) a couple weeks ago. It was amazing to get the opportunity to hang out with so many serious writers. It was also gratifying to know that I blew all of the non-serious writers out of the water. There were a few people that went simply to be able to say they went.
No joke, one girl had a two page story about a dog, from a dog's perspective, about not having food or water for almost a week. There were a few problems with the story logistically, but the one that stood out in the minds of my group was the lacking conflict. What pray tell, makes a short story except a conflict? Without a conflict there is no story. On the bright side, Chenoa, a woman from my group, got to finish her entire story because of the extra time.
This was my first time reading any of my prose aloud. It's a fairly unsettling experience. Although, I must admit that I still find reading my own poetry aloud much more jarring. Poetry is a much more direct window into the soul than prose. It's almost impossible to write poetry outside of one's own experience, while my prose is almost entirely outside of my experience (obviously, people must be based on people, whom I've actually met).
My sister totally rocked her poetry reading. I'm ridiculously proud of how well she did. Her tone and attitude was spot on for her pieces.

25 March 2011

Roleplaying Games IRL

Hello intrepid readers,
This will be my first post using the delayed publish feature. I thought about asking you all to tell me if it didn't post, but then I realized that was about as useful as asking those absent to raise their hands and be counted.

I've played Dungeons and Dragons for the majority of my life at this point, and I've come to realize how much more grounded in reality I am now than I used to be. Some people may wonder at this since I'm now trying to eke out a living as a writer, instead of pursuing mechanical engineering.
Allow me to explain, I used to want to live as a D&D Hero. You might be thinking, "Well, Thomas, doesn't everyone want to be a hero?" or "What's wrong with that?" For those of you with these thoughts consider this:

EVERY day of a Hero's life is enforced TORTURE.

(Notice dramatic spacing) That's right, folks! Every single day of an RPG Hero's life is another day in Hell. Get a limb hacked off? Cure Light Wounds and get back in there, champ!
Rotting while still alive? Cure Disease, then keep fighting!
Did you finally die and earn eternal rest? WRONG! Raise Dead will rip you from the embrace of your god and put you back on this world where monsters and evil outnumbers decent folks 400 to 1.
I mean, if you think about it, healers are like Afterlife-Nazis, "No eternal rest for you!"

All this is not to say that one shouldn't play Role Playing Games, because of course they are massively enjoyable, but one shouldn't want to live in one of these worlds. Unless, one is hugely masochistic, because with cure light wounds the pain can go on forever.

18 March 2011

Lessons to learn from the Upcoming Movie "Hop"

If you all haven't seen the trailer yet for the movie Hop, you can watch it here. From this trailer we learn from whence jelly beans really come: Easter bunny poop. There are three lessons we can learn from this about jelly bean companies.

Lesson 1: Off-brand jelly bean companies either a) hire people to walk around collecting easter bunny poop or b) (more likely) kidnapped a few of - no doubt - large number of easter bunny progeny and force feed their ill-gotten rabbits until they poop enough jelly beans to fill dime store plastic eggs for pennies on the dollar compared to name brand companies.

Lesson 2: Jelly Belly is a questionable company that either uses animal husbandry to force mutations into the Easter Bunny genes, OR Jelly Belly subjects their easter bunny babies to injections of different chemicals to make the poop taste like mocha.

Lesson 3: This you should already know. Bot's Every Flavor Bean Co. is the devil. How else can you explain mixing regular rabbit poop with easter bunny poop? I mean come on.

03 March 2011

Drink in, writing out

Occasionally, a writer must take a break from rewriting in order to maintain sanity. I find myself in such a predicament now. I've been editing and rewriting my first novel "Wizard Storm" for several months now, and frankly, rewriting, while rewarding, tends to numb the mind after a while. The characters keep talking and telling one how awfully they have been misportrayed. I'm actually caught in such a predicament with the main character Theldun, whose fall and tentative redemption makes up the main driving force for the story. The problem is, he doesn't fall far enough when he gets redeemed. Of course, I intend to remedy this later by a second, deeper fall from grace, but Theldun insists that he is incredibly bitter and venomous. Theldun's venom isn't shown well enough. So I now face the question, if I show this young wizard's venom more fully, will that cheapen his redemption?
Honestly, the answer is yes. He hasn't been shown enough of the redemptive force to actually choose life over death. To try and address this issue, I took a rather... drastic course of action.
I blinded him.
Theldun, of course, wasn't thrilled with the outcome, but the action scenes are much more interesting with a mostly-blind character's life on the line. Perhaps with Theldun's healing, his eyes will be opened to his inner brokenness?

05 February 2011

Stellar Cookies

The process of creating a star is like baking a chocolate chip cookie. The basic “dough” for the star is called a nebula. The nebula is a cloud of dust and gas, predominantly hydrogen (“Stellar Birth,” Case Western Reserve University – hereafter called “CWRU”). The first step to creating a star is to wait until conditions are right. If the star was a cookie, this would be the step of preheating the oven and making sure to check that one has all the needed ingredients.
At some point a star or shockwave will move through the nebula and pull all the ingredients together. This event is like the craving one sometimes develops to bake chocolate chip cookies. Once all the ingredients have come together and the conditions are right (the oven is preheated), then the universe uses gravitational collapse as one would use one’s hands to pack all the ingredients together tightly and to mix them correctly. Gravitational collapse kneads the dough into balls for ten thousand to one million years. During this time, the star dough cools itself by emitting radio waves and infrared radiation; however, the gravitational collapse will continue to heat the star dough despite the dough’s attempts to cool off. This is due to the continual contraction of the star dough, which increases the heat. The radio waves and radiation shooting off the star dough can be thought of as the water which bakes out of the cookie dough.
While gravitational collapse happens, the star dough will spin with increasing speed, flattening the ball of star dough, just as a cookie will flatten out during baking. At this point the chocolate chips will become visible. At the center of the flattened star dough will be the largest chunk of chocolate: the protostar. The other chocolate chips will orbit the protostar; these chocolate chips are called “protoplanets.” This stage is also called “Pre-main Sequence” (“Stellar Birth,” CWRU). If the dough has enough of the right ingredients, then the protoplanets and the protostar will continue to undergo gravitational collapse for about 50 million years until the internal temperature of the protostar reaches about 18 million degrees Fahrenheit (~10 million Kelvin) (“Stellar Birth,” CWRU). At this point, hydrogen fusion will begin, and the protostar will become an actual, stable Main Sequence star (“Stellar birth,” CWRU). The solar wind will blow away any remaining nebula dust around the star. One might note that since there is no air in the vacuum of space, that “Solar wind” is a misnomer, but that does not stop these charged particles from shooting out of the new star at speeds exceeding “1.5 million kph” (“Glossary”, CWRU). At this point, the star dough has become a solar system cookie. This cookie will last for anywhere between 5 and 10 billion years, until the star explodes. (A good chef will avoid such an outcome with their cookies.)
If the dough does not have enough ingredients, then the protostar will become a brown dwarf. A brown dwarf is a failed star and, much like a chocolate chip cookie which is lacking some ingredients, is little more than a hot, useless lump. The surface temperature of a brown dwarf is about 1800 Kelvin which is roughly one one-thousandth of the heat needed to create an actual star. Some scientists blame brown dwarfs for the missing mass of the universe. This missing mass, also called “dark matter,” claims almost 25% of the weight of the universe (“Stellar Birth,” CWRU). It is important to note this rather encouraging news, because if one’s chocolate chip cookies turn out right more than 75% of the time (with respect to mass), then one can count oneself as being better than the universe at making cookies.

Works Cited
"Glossary." Journey through the Galaxy. Case Western Reserve University, 11 Jan. 2006. Web. 27 Jan. 2011. .

"Stellar Birth." Journey through the Galaxy. Case Western Reserve University, 11 Jan. 2006. Web. 27 Jan. 2011. .

27 January 2011

Epic of Ice Eyes the Blinded One

Here is a Skaldic-style poem for your enjoyment.

This poem is a Skaldic Poem, which carries with it several burdens.
-Trochees: A skaldic poem is (ideally) in Trochaic trimeter. This one is just in trimeter as is.

-Archaic language: At times this will sound incredibly dated. That’s supposed to happen.

-Alliteration is key. Norse poetry especially prizes Consonance as a tool for sound. Rhyming doesn’t matter one bit to this Norse form.

-Kennings: A kenning is a turn of phrase whereby you call something by something else. (e.g. Driving-Tyr is actually Thor, or Hanged-Tyr is Odin, or wave-horse is a boat.) This means that one character will have many names (Odin has in excess of 100). Below is a list of the names associated with the main character:
Winterbreath’d warrior, Ice-sharp eyes, Ice eyes, The Blinded One, Winterbreath, Sword-wielder, Shining Light, the Hero, Battler for Balance.

Lo in the days of old,
of Æsir and the Helm
of Blinding Faith, Guard’ans
of the Balance arose
to face the dreadful Plight.
‘Twas said that a man tipped
Balance ‘twixt Good and Ill.
This man awoke the Dead,
wrested the immortals
from their slumber.

So it was in the days of Old.
All was lost, the sun grew cold.
He wandered the wind whipped
wastes of white. Trees adorned:
Armor of dross and ice.
Wintered Breath, Ice-sharp Eyes.
He sought the artifacts,
those godly gifts of Grace.

The Battler for Balance,
that man of Ice-sharp eyes,
wintered breath. His will froze
the tide so that he might
break the crashing waves of
that Usurper –Waker
of those that Slumber.
Winter breath set captive
souls free. He claimed the Blade
of Lore – sword of Æsir.
Ice Eyes chased the Waker.
He was entranced by the curséd
gaze o’ he who challenged gods.
Many times did As-disk
rise before the Winter
Breath’d warrior awoke,
hands deep in the blood of
innocence. Crumpling
to the ground, Wintered Breath
Battler for Balance pled
his penance to the gods:
Balance and Good and Ill.
Tyr, that old Judge, deemed what
all found acceptable.
God of the maimed hand struck
the sockets of Ice-Sharp
Eyes blind. Poetry-Tyr
gifted the Blinded One
with a helm. The Helm of
Blinding Faith. “He who can
not see in Darkness is
truly blind indeed.”

So it was in the days of Old,
when all was lost and nights were cold.
He wandered through thicket
and glazed glass glade. To face
the Tigermen – Rakshasa -
on Steeds of Flame, melting
swaths through the air and plain.

Arrows of poison plunged
deep into his chiseled chest.
The Battler for Balance
fell to Hrym’s Brow, his arm
lame as Maiméd-Odin.
The Nightmare Rider bore
death down on him, flowing
fire following behind.
Wintered Breath extended
his bloodied blade, gave gods
his mind. Blaze of As-fire
spewed from his shining sword,
skewered the steed, stopping
the slayer. Slowly his
salvation struck him.
Strength-Odin renewed him,
standing him aright.

So it was in the days of Old
All was lost and the Sun grown cold.
He wandered through dangers,
drifted through whiteroads.
Rumors of the Waker’s Ill
spread to the stout statured.
Demons assailed the Chain.

The Battler for Balance,
his Light shone in the deep.
He found those stout hearted
folk slain by slavering
Loki-spawn, their sin to
succeed. The few dwarves that
survived, slaved at simm’ring
mines. Their chin-pride singed ‘way.
Scorchéd pride spawns searing
justice. Casting off chains,
they clamored for conflict.
They fought the demons and
destroyed. Demise deigned turn
none away. Dwarves
dedicated to th’Deep.
That Shining Light recovered
the Chain. He secured it
in the safety Book-Thor’s
Reliquary. Book-Thor
bequeathed the Blinded One
a boon for brave battle
of Balance. The Book of
Blood, a cursed artifact
written to grant a last
chance to who must rebuild
Balance. Winter Breathéd
Warrior would wage war
against that evil Wizard,
Waker of Slumberer.

So it was in the days of Old
All were lost and the sun was cold
He wandered through dangers,
drifted upon whiteroads
Demons of dross dying
destroyed for the Balance.
The Sword slashed a swath so
that all might be re-found.

Lo, did he chase Waker
of the Slumberer, to
a Keep of Cauldrons and
Cicatrices. Usurper
of the Balance had prepared
himself for Wintered Breath –
blinded Bringer of Light.
Flayed-faced fighters flailed in vain.
No warrior waited
long beneath his wrath-blade.
The warriors were cleaved
in twain.

So it was in the Days of Old,
The As-disk lost, hearts grew cold.
He watched for Warriors,
Shining Sword of Salvation
shone in the Deep. Justice
to the unjust. Just his
duty to Balance.
And still he descended

He descended the Deep
Stair to th’darkness beyond
blindness, but he could see.
Ice Eyes the Wearer
of the Helm of Blinding
Faith. “He who cannot see
in darkness is truly
blind.” He of the Ice-sharp eyes -
that Blinded One said. Years
did the Dark-sighted one
descend, dipping, drooping
‘neath Time’s dilapidated
hand. At long last, he reached
the bottom, an aged man.
His sight was no less sharp,
for he saw true – a gift
from shining god – Odin.
His muscles were weakened
by the weathering and
withering of wasteful
Time. He could no longer
heft the Blade, heavy as
it was with hope. Then the
Slumberer – that old Dragon –
did speak. “You have traveled
an age to find my servant,
the Waker. He is gone.
Time is past. His era
has ended, as has yours.
Mine has begun. Alas,
you cannot see me, servant,
but I survey your shallow
sockets, sagged with sorrow
and strain. Sliced from their seats
for your sins. Surrender
yourself to Solace. Give
up the Ghost.”

So it was in the days of Old
Wintered Breath lost, the sun grown cold
He who wandered the wastes,
now descends to denounce
Usurper of Balance.
Demise deigns to turn none
away. Ice-sharp Eyes grown
old must too his debt pay.

Ice-sharp Eyes – that Blinded
One – surrendered no thing.
He brought out the Book of
Blood, read the pages with
his hand. Hefting his hope,
he hurled it at Slumb’rer.
The Æsir Blade bit deep,
burrowed into the bone
of that Ancient Dragon.
A roar of rage resounded
through the death-thick air.
“Balance must be restored.”
The Book of Blood flew in
the air, as the Dragon
came crashing towards the bleeding,
broken Battler for Balance.
Streams of sun shot from the
Blinded One’s eyes. The Light
lanced that old Dragon, life
leaked from the Slumberer.
Wintered Breath and Dragon
latched together, light with dark.
The Balance was maintained.
Good for Ill. Ill for Good.