Testing….testing….

"This just in..."

“This just in…”

This is only a test. More to come……or not…..who knows.

Daily Fitbit stats

My fitbit #Fitstats for 9/20/2014: 14,521 steps and 6.8 miles traveled. http://www.fitbit.com/user/2WTM3B

Daily Fitbit stats

My fitbit #Fitstats for 9/18/2014: 1,985 steps and 0.9 miles traveled. http://www.fitbit.com/user/2WTM3B

Megacon: 2014

Legend tells of a magical place, a land of wonder, that appears once a year…only for three days….in the tiny hamlet known as Ore-lahn-doe.

The local bards calls it “Mega Con”.

The rest of the world calls it……well, they call it “Mega Con”, too.

 

Since we started going to Mega Con, about three or four years ago, we’ve always just drove up for a day, walked around, then drove home. It’s really hard to get the “whole experience” that way so, this year, we decided to do it “right”.

We ordered advanced tickets and booked a room for the entire con that was, according to the description, only a block away. The Hyatt Regency has to be one of the nicest, swankiest, places I’ve ever stayed. Seriously. Our bathroom mirror had a t.v. in it, for pete’s sake!

There was also four restaurants, two convenience stores, two bars, two pools (a huge one on the ground floor and a terrace one on the third), a tennis court, and a coffee shop. The one restaurant was open twenty-four hours and you could also get room service pizza.

I didn’t take near enough pictures to do it justice, but it was a very nice looking place.

Chalk it up to my not getting out enough, but I was thoroughly impressed by this place. Now, as with things like this, nothing is for free and you really need to watch the budget or things can get out of hand and quickly. We did o.k, though, and still came in at a reasonable rate after it was all said and done.

Oh, I didn’t mention the best part.  We were just a skywalk’s jaunt away from the convention building. That right there made it worth the price to stay.

We came up a day early to hang out and scope out where we needed to go the next day. My wife wound up zonking out for a few hours, so I walked up the road and did a little site seeing at the Pointe Orlando. It’s a little triangle section of about a city block where they had an IMAX theater, a bunch of restaurants and some overpriced “specialty” stores. For anyone from the Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati Ohio area, it reminded me a lot of Newport On The Levee.

As for the convention itself, there were a few snags starting out (which I let the world know via my Twitter account, just as any self-respecting geek would do), mainly with the organization for the ticket lines. We had bought advanced tickets which meant we were supposed to just walk up to the window and then walk into the dealer area. Well, it wasn’t quite that easy.

We stood in line for an hour and a half, actually wrapping around in a circle, before we could even get down to the place where you picked your tickets up.  We asked a few of the volunteers if we were in the advanced tickets line (because it was a huge jumble…no kidding) yet no one could seem to tell us ‘yes’ or ‘no’. About an hour into it someone who actually knew something started directing us to the entrance….where we took the escalators down to another line to actually pick up the tickets. That line, thankfully, moved a lot quicker than the upstairs “hurry up and wait” line and was still quicker than the V.I.P. line….which I would have been hacked off had I paid all that money and they only had one window dedicated to servicing said ticket holders. Anyway, we get up there and they give us, for three days, an armband. Most other conventions I’ve been to give you a badge (then graciously sell you a lanyard to go with it) to wear, but Megacon give you a piece of thick paper to put around your wrist. Of course I started asking if they were o.k. to get wet…I mean, discouraging people to bathe is last thing you want to do at a sci-fi convention.

Trust me…there are stereotypes for a reason, when it comes to this one.

After the ordeal of collecting our tickets, the rest of the convention was pretty enjoyable. We saw some of the stars from the original Battlestar Galactica, my wife went to see James (Spike from Buffy) Marsters while I went to an…….interesting……panel revolving around the Nintendo 3DS game, Animal Crossing: A New Leaf. While I did feel just a tad out-of-place due to my lack of anime cat ears, it was still fun.  We tried to make it to a World Building for Your Novel panel, but it was clear from the huge amount of people in line in the hall that we weren’t all going to fit in the extremely small room they had set aside for the event…..things were getting a bit cramped as it was, so I didn’t want to add to the claustrophobia. Instead, I went down and got a quick sketch by one of my all time favorite artists, George Perez. He was, as he had been last year, collecting money for The Hero Initiative which is a great cause. Last year we got a Wonder Woman for my wife. This year, we got a Batman for me. After that I checked to see if Darwyn Cooke was over at his table and he was. He was also engulfed in a mass of con goer flesh and had almost as long a line as George Perez. I figured I’d come back to get him to sign my copy of New Frontier. I should have just waited as we wouldn’t see him for the remainder of the convention. I’m not sure if something came up or he was just late, but on Saturday and Sunday we went by his table, at least, a dozen times and he was nowhere to be found. Oh well, maybe next year.

After tooling around the vendor area a bit more in search of the card game, Love Letter (the limited edition version…which we found), we went back to the room and prepared to meet my wife’s nephew and his new girlfriend for dinner. This was one of the big highlights of the weekend for my wife and I. Christopher is someone we don’t get to see as much as we’d like. He’s a very bright young man with a level head and an eye for the future. His girlfriend is, truly, a gem and I can see that they really have something special between them. A good time was had by all.

On Sunday, we checked out and headed back over to the convention for one last pass. There were fewer people in the vendor area then on Saturday, so we were able to check out more of the booths that we had skipped on Saturday due to the throng of people pushing and shoving. We picked up a few games we had been eyeing, including another version of Love Letter and some tee shirts before heading back home.

Going up and staying a few days, in my opinion, is definitely the way to go to a con if at all possible. We had a great time and will probably being doing the same next year, if we’re able.

With that, we watch this mystical place fade into the distance once again. The magic, the wonder, and a good chunk of our funds fading with it.

Until next year, Megacon, until next year…..

 

 

 

2013 in review!!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,700 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 45 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Finally!!

Come on in and grab a keg...

Come on in and grab a keg…

I did a post a while back about Bizzard’s foray into the CCG (collectible card game) market…..called Hearthstone.  I said it looked pretty cool and, now, I know for sure that it does.

How do I know that, you ask?

Because I finally got into the beta! Woohooo!!!! [horns toot as fireworks go off]

Now, I won’t gripe and complain about how long it took for my beta invite ahem ….no…instead, I’ll just focus on just how cool this game is.

If you’ve ever played Magic:The Gathering, you’ll find quite a few of the same game mechanics in Hearthstone. For example, creatures have ‘summoning sickness’ when played (meaning they cannot attack until the turn after you lay them down) unless they have an ability called “Charge”. This lets them attack right away and comes in handy quite often.

Some of the other card abilities are:

  • Taunt: If the other side attacks you, with a minion (their name for a ‘creature’) or if the Hero wants to attack, they must attack this minion.
  • Windfury: This minion can attack twice in one round.
  • Deathrattle: When this minion dies, it causes another effect (damage, etc.) to go off.
  • Battlecry: When a minion is played, a special effect goes off.
  • Divine Shield: A minion ignores the next damaging attack.
  • Enrage: The minion gets attack bonuses if it is damaged.

These are just a few of the minion abilities, there are more and each adds to the overall strategy of gameplay.

Another variation from M:TG is that the player or, in this case, the Hero can attack as well….equipping weapons, doing damage, etc.

This brings up the Hearthstone Heroes……or the role you take on, depending on which deck you decide to battle with.  You can play any of the nine classes, each represented with an iconic World of Warcraft character.

Pick an icon...any icon....

Pick an icon…any icon….

You have:

  • Warrior: Garrosh Hellscream
  • Shaman: Thrall
  • Rogue: Valeera Sanguinar
  • Paladin: Uther the Lightbringer
  • Hunter: Rexxar
  • Druid: Malfurion Stormrage
  • Warlock: Gul’dan
  • Mage: Jaina Proudmore
  • Priest: Anduin Wrynn

If you’re a WoW player, you probably notice the conspicuous absence of the Monk and Death Knight class as well as the Pandaren race. I’m guessing these may show up in future expansions.

Each hero has a different “hero power” corresponding to how their class works. For example, Gul’dan can draw a card, at the cost of two life…such is the price of being a Warlock, Anduin can heal two points, Thrall can drop a random totem every round (provided you have two mana to spare), each with different abilities.

The fuel for powering these abilities, as well as casting spells, dropping minions, things like that is something else that should be familiar to Magic:TG fans. It’s called mana. though it doesn’t quite work the same way as it does in M:TG.  You start off with just one mana point (don’t worry, there are some decent cards that only cost this amount) and gain one each round, up to ten. After you spend your mana, it refreshes at the beginning of each new round.

Gameplay is pretty simple. On your turn you lay down minions, cast spells, use effects, or whatever else you can do that costs mana. You also get a chance to attack either the opposing hero or their minions, depending on your strategy. Even if you’ve never played a collectible card game before, the tool tips, in-game, pretty much spell everything out for you. After just a couple of games you’ll start coming up with some strategies of your own, depending on which Hero you’re going with.

Around the board....

Stormcrow’s eye view….

As you play, your character ‘levels up’ and you get access to more powerful cards. You also earn gold by doing quests, such as “do 100 points of damage to enemy minions” or “win two games against another player with a Rogue deck”. You can use this gold or real world money,if you’re behind on your questing, to purchase more cards. Now, since everything is digital, I’m not sure how/if you’ll be able to trade/sell cards or things like that.

Of course, this post is only scratching the surface of the ‘simple complexity’ this game offers and we have to remember that, since this is still a ‘beta test’, some things can (and probably will) change.

I will say, though, that this is probably one of the most polished beta games that I’ve yet to see. So far, I’ve only seen one ‘bug’ (involving missing letters in tooltips) that was gone the next day.

All in all, this is a very fun game…..easy to learn, but with enough facets and dimensions to keep it challenging. I’m really looking forward to the final product and know what I may be doing with some of my free time when it comes out.

Until next time….

Please Stand By…

 

please-stand-by

Almost three months since a posting over here. 

That needs to be rectified, pronto like Tonto. 

Speaking of the Lone Ranger’s sidekick….or vice versa, as evidenced in the recent film….I might put up a post, or two, about some of the recent movies I’ve seen.

  • The Lone Ranger
  • Lego Batman: DC Heroes
  • R.I.P.D

Stay tuned…..

Star Trek: Into Darkness

"She's breakin' up, Cap'n!"

“She’s breakin’ up, Cap’n!”

So, we finally saw  Star Trek: Into Darkness and I have to say, I was very impressed.

Without giving anything away (even though others didn’t mind doing so…especially as to the identity of Mr. Cumberbatch’s character…ahem), here’s a brief rundown.

The Good:

"Damnit Jim, I'm a doctor not a ____"

“Damnit Jim, I’m a doctor not a ____”

  • Karl Urban as “Bones”. For me, he’s one of the most entertaining parts of the film and doesn’t get near enough screen time. I think DeForest Kelley would be proud.
  • Kirk gets to be Kirk and not a shadow of William Shatner. Thank God, as I’m not a Shatner fan….besides T.J. Hooker, of course. Loved him in that!
  • Overall look of ‘the future’. Things look futuristic, without looking “too” futuristic. If that makes sense. The words ‘retro future’ keep coming to mind.
  • Simon Pegg: Again, I wouldn’t call myself a “fan” of Pegg’s. I don’t dislike him or his work, I guess, but I don’t seek it out, either. He makes a great “Scotty”, though, and has some of the best bits in the film.
  • The story. I like when we get to see ‘layers’ in the Federation and find out that not everything is as ordered and regimented as they appear. There are dissenters.

As an added bonus (at least for me), Whovians will see a familiar face for a small bit.

The Bad: 

  • Spock. Not so much Quinto’s performance….I think he’s, actually, pretty good as our favorite Vulcan….it’s the whole idea of the character in a relationship. It just comes across as ‘forced’, to me. Also, on the subject of Spock, (Highlight after for semi-spoiler….)  I hope his cross-dimension doppelganger isn’t used as a “deus ex machina” in every installment.   
  • The Enterprise…..once again….gets shot up, to say the least. I’m hoping that’s another trend from the old franchise that doesn’t make it’s way into this one.
  • The story. Yes, it was both good and bad. Mostly good, but there were a few bits that were pretty predictable and you didn’t need to be a fan to see them.

That was, for the most part, all that I found ‘bad’ about this flick without getting into ‘nit-pick’ territory.

The Ugly:

  • The Klingons…..but in a cool way and I was glad we got to see them in this universe.

All in all, this was a very entertaining film with a solid cast. While I, usually, gripe in a ‘get off my lawn’ sort of way when Hollywood does their “re-imaginings” I can’t really complain much about their latest offering in the Trek series.

Since Paramount has said “make it so” to breathing new life into the Star Trek franchise, I’m just glad that  J.J. Abrams is sitting in the captain’s chair.

Until next time…

The bread is a lie….

It’s been a tough month for us and finances are tighter then they’ve ever been at our house. So, when the wife told me she was bored last night, we decided to do something we’ve been talking about doing for a good while now.

Being the wild and crazy people that we are, we decided……..

 

…………..to make some bread.

 

Yes, seriously….and, no, that’s not a euphemism for anything else. We decided to bake some bread and see how it would turn out.

I bought my wife a bread machine for our first Christmas (back when she had to be gluten-free due to allergies), but one of the pieces got lost….in a botched loaf, we’re assuming….so it doesn’t work anymore. Of course, you don’t need a machine to make bread.

So, after we decided we were going to try to eat healthier, we decided to cut back on the breads and pasta and, since we weren’t eating that much bread anymore, we figured that making our own and freezing it could not only be a cost saver, but could also ensure we knew just what was going into our bread in the first place.  Have you ever read the label on a loaf of store bought bread??

1

“The slice is right”, my @$$!

The first thing we had to do was find a simple bread recipe. So, I went to my old pal Google and did a search for “simple bread recipe”. The third one down was a very simple recipe from a great site called “The Simple Homemaker“. Sounded legit to me.

It looked very simple and, best of all, used very few ingredients. It called for:

  • 2 cups warm water, not hot or you will kill your yeasty friends
  • 2 teaspoons yeast—a packet contains 2.25 teaspoons–close enough.
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 5-ish cups flour, all-purpose is fine unless you wish to alter it for health reasons

The instructions were clear and, best of all, laced with humor that gave us a chuckle as we read them.

After the wife checked to see if we had the ingredients (I was convinced we didn’t have yeast…but we did…though short, a bit, on flour), we went to work.

Neither one of us have much experience in bread making so it was…..interesting…to say the least. I made the mistake of not flouring my hands before starting to knead the dough, with sticky results.  When we realized we were short on flour, we substituted a bit of corn starch into the mix, which I was convinced was going to be the death knell of the whole thing.

Now, the recipe calls for cutting the dough up and letting it rise separately….which we didn’t do. We left it in one lump and then cut it in half when we realized it was getting pretty big. Then, we remembered we didn’t have any bread pans, so we used a glass casserole dish sort of thing and a cookie sheet.

The whole time this thing was cooking, I was convinced (between the corn starch substitution and the haphazard rising of the dough), that it was going to be a bust

I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong.

We took it out and it not only smelled great, but tasted even better. We cut it up and I think I ate three slices then and there.

We bagged it up and put some in the freezer and the rest in the fridge. Now, I’ll admit, it might not look all that great (I’m blaming the corn starch!) but don’t let that fool you….it made up for it’s questionable looks with taste.

Yum!

Yum!

 

Something simple that tastes good….can’t beat that!

You know you’re old when someone asks how you spent your Saturday night, you tell them ‘by baking bread’, and you mean just that!

 

Until next time….

A bit of a break…

ticket

The fish stopped biting, so it’s time for some coffee.

 

O.k, so I’m going to have to admit it.

April and the A to Z Blogging Challenge, sort of hit me with a ‘one-two’ punch. I was bound and determined to keep up posting here while still posting, every day no less (except Sunday), over on my writing blog. It was double duty (hehe…I know…I said ‘doody’), but felt like triple duty.

While I really enjoyed the A to Z Challenge, it left me a bit drained blogging-wise….especially here, where I’ve been trying to adhere to a schedule to, mainly, keep my writing daily.

After giving that situation another look, I’ve decided that I’m going to need to dial back my blogging schedule just a bit and, especially, over here where I don’t really have any sort of interaction/feedback from anyone else. Not to say that was the reason I was keeping this blog going…not at all….it was about the writing and getting into the habit of doing it, daily.

That said, what I think I’m going to do is scale my entries over here to once a week if I have something of interest to post. That’s also been a bit of the problem, as well….I just don’t have anything that I find interesting to write about and hate to have to try to force something. It just never turns out to my liking when I try to do that.

I’ll still be writing, but want to get back to my actual “writing”…of stories and such….and stop writing so much about ‘writing’.

I haven’t decided if I’m going to ease up the entries on my other blog, where I post Monday, Wednesday, and Friday…..that’s still up in the air.

While I’m feeling a bit of ‘burnout’ when it comes to writing, I want to make sure I’m using the writing time I’m spending, to further my projects along.

So, things won’t be dying over here at TPE, just slowing down a bit.

I’ll keep the coffee brewing but, for now, it’s gonna be decaf😉

 

Until next time….