Monday, May 25, 2020

It is Memorial Day

Summer is book ended by two holidays, Memorial Day and Labor Day. Every Memorial Day I have high hopes for the summer, but usually by Labor Day I am disappointed. You would think by now I would have learned my lesson. This year, my expectations for summer are very low, not because I learned my lesson, but because COVID-19 is here and it is not going anywhere. Sure there will likely be a slow down the infection rate, but it will not go away and come fall, we will see the second wave and everyone will be surprised.

So I would like to turn my attention to Memorial Day itself, not as the beginning of summer, or a day of BBQ, but rather as a solemn day of remembrance. To be clear, Memorial Day is for soldiers who lost their lives during conflicts. Veterans Day is when we show our gratitude to those who survived those conflicts.

I am a veteran, I have been to war, but more importantly, I have seen the results of war. I am going to state clearly and without regret, that war is never worth the end result. I am not going to tell you the United States should not have entered World War II, we had no choice and it was the right thing to do. However, World War II never should have started in the first place. Adolf Hitler's dream of world domination was not on any level worth the lose of even one life, let alone millions. I say the same thing about the 2nd gulf war, whatever reason George W. Bush had for starting that war, was not worth the end result.

I am certain I will receive criticism for this point of view, after all, isn't the world a better place without Saddam Hussein? The answer is, no the world is not a better place, because nothing has particularly changed. The middle east is still a mess and has turned into nothing more than meat grinder for American troops. Certainly Iraq is a democracy now, but it is one that is being propped up by 25,000 American troops who remain stationed there and the billions of dollars a year we send in aid. If we were to withdraw, the people of that nation would likely vote themselves into another dictatorship in just a few years, so no meaningful change has occurred in the world as a result of that war.

I do believe we should remember these men and women who sacrificed themselves and we should show them the respect they earned, we should not fool ourselves into thinking their sacrifice had meaning, because it did not. War should not be glorified, it should be viewed as a failure of humanity.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

RE: Mothers Day Thoughts

My wife and I never had children. It was not for lack of trying, because we did, but my wife's health issues made carrying a baby to term very difficult to say the least. By the time we were in our 40's, her getting pregnant would have been a danger to her life, but going on birth control was not really an option, again, her health issues. So we made the decision that I would get a vasectomy and that was pretty much the end of it.

For myself, I am sad that we never had children, but I cannot say I regret it. I maintain that I would probably have net been terribly good at being a father. I had no real father figure in my life and the one I did have was himself a terrible father. I know I would have loved our children, and I would have done my best to give them the life they needed. However, I don't think I would have lived up to even my own low expectation. Perhaps this is just an insecurity left over from my own childhood where I watched my own father fail at fatherhood in real time. I am sure I would have done a better job than he did, but i could never shake the feeling, that i still would have been bad at.

What I do regret, is not being able to give Shannon children, I know she wanted them and I know she regrets that we never had any. In spite of that, we have made a good life for ourselves and we have many nieces and nephews who only mildly annoy us.

Shannon, I am sorry we never had children, I think you would have been a wonderful mother, who would have more than made up for my shortcomings as father. I am sure you also would have let me name them Fafhrd and Gray Mouser, or Conan and Elric. I love you, Happy mother day.

Mothers Day Thoughts

My mother was a single mom raising 5 kids on her own after my dead beat alcoholic father left. I know she had a rough life raising us, but I also know she loved us and made many sacrifices to make sure we were clothed and fed. I love my mother, she is a saint and as far as I am concerned above reproach. Thank you Mom, I appreciate everything you did for me.


Tuesday, May 5, 2020

My introduction to Tarot

This is page 19 of the comic book Doorway to Nightmare #2, published in 1978 and was my introduction to Tarot Cards.

I have been interested in Tarot cards off and on since then. Shortly after reading this, I bought a deck of my own, a Rider-Waite deck if you must know. Although that deck was lost long ago, I have replaced it and I even own a Crowley Thoth Deck now as well.

Recently DC Comic released all five issues of Doorway to Nightmare on Comixology and I purchased them, because I remembered reading and enjoying them as a kid. Reading though them again, I realize these were very adult comics even for a 15 year old. I also realize that comic books introduced me to a lot of things that I still find interesting today. It is very apparent to me now how influential comics were to my development as a person.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Depression Era Hoarding

When I was a kid, my grandparents saved weird things, plastic bags bread came in, the card board center of toilet paper rolls, scrapes of cloth, to name just a few odds and ends. At the time, I had no idea why they did this, and when I would ask, they would simply reply, you never know when you might need them. This made some vague sort of sense to me, but not really. When I got older, I noticed that other peoples grandparents did the same thing, and learned a little bit about history, I realized they did this because they had grown up during the Great Depression and during that time, you did not throw anything out, absolutely everything had a secondary use.

I began thinking about this, because several weeks ago when this whole COVID-19 thing came into the broader public awareness, and people began hoarding toilet paper and it was getting difficult to get, while I had plenty to last me for several weeks, I felt that I needed a backup plan. I was hoping that once everyone had filled up their spare bedroom with boxes and boxes of toilet paper, they would realize they were being stupid, but I was not going to count on that. I went on Amazon and saw that basically all toilet paper would take 4-6 weeks to be delivered, I ordered an 18 roll bundle and figured it was going to be more like 6-8 weeks, which I ended up being right about. At the time, I was thinking, that was going to be cutting it close and that where I started thinking about plan B.

A few days later, I had just been to the drive through at McDonalds and when I opened by bag, there were napkins, I pulled them out and went to toss them in the backseat, where I had accumulated a small pile. I keep them, because you never know when you will need them, wait this sounds familiar and my plan B solidified in my brain. I would save all the napkins I could get by hook or by crook.

Here we are now, 6 weeks later, my toilet paper from Amazon has arrived and here is my accumulation of napkins.

I think my grandmother would be proud of me.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Postmortem on my FaceBook Reading Challenege

I finished all the book recommended to me at the beginning of the year by my FaceBook friends except 1. My very dear friend Alan recommended VMWare for Dummies, I did not read this book because my sense of the world right now is somewhat bleak and I really need good escapist fantasy, and VMWare for Dummies just seemed to much like work to me, too real. So I am very sorry Alan, I apologize, in this respect I have failed.

The biggest surprise of the challenge was Looking for Alaska by John Green. This book took me by complete surprise. This is not the type of book I generally like, I did not enjoy my teenage years very much and so I am not inclined to like books about the subject, I generally cannot relate. But Looking for Alaska was a genuinely good book with some interesting insight into the teenage psyche, mind you, I still cannot relate, but it was a good book anyway.

The biggest let down was Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach, this book did not work for me in any way. The subject matter did not bother me at all, but I found the authors humor annoying and writing style to be completely wrong for this type of book. Stiff was hard to read and undeniably bad.

All Systems Red by Martha Wells was a big hit with me, I have always enjoyed her writing and this book is some of her best work, its fast, its funny, its well worth the time to read. The Circle by David Poyer was a book I wished I had liked better than I did, it was not a terrible book, it really just failed to draw me in.

I really enjoyed this challenge, it was fun reading books my friends enjoyed and sharing experiences with them. I hope everyone followed the links from FaceBook and took the time to read my reviews. Thank you to my Niece Elizabeth for suggesting I review the books when I read them as part of the shared experience. I am definitely doing this again next year

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Review: A River Runs Through It and Other Stories by Norman Maclean

A River Runs through It and Other StoriesA River Runs through It and Other Stories by Norman Maclean
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Oh my god, I am glad to be done with this book. This book was a serious slog for me and the biggest problem is, even after finishing the book, I am still not sure what it was even about. I am not going to apologize for not liking this book. I did not like for the same reason I do not particularly care for Steinbeck and Hemingway, they are people who talk and talk for hours, but never say anything consequential, they don't talk about anything meaningful. This is all fine and dandy in a casual conversation with your friends, but when reading a book, it is really boring.

I will say Maclean is a serviceable writer, his prose is clean, it easy to read and the story does flow well, even if it takes him 3 chapters to get to a point, not the main point, just a point. However, the subject matter was just not engaging in any sense. Not every bodies life is worth reading about, 99% of us live quiet boring lives, in which there is maybe one good short story. Maclean decided his story was worth 240 pages and it really wasn't.

Okay, I suppose I have blown this book up enough. I can see why people like it, it is low key, very folksy and I am sure there is a decent audience out there for books where fly fishing is a metaphor for life. It is not a stressful book to read and if I were in the right mood, this would probably be a nice book for a slow Sunday afternoon read in a warm quiet place. This is probably the books saving grace.

View all my reviews

Monday, April 6, 2020

Review: Far-Seer by Robert Sawyer

Far-Seer (The Quintaglio Ascension Book 1)Far-Seer by Robert J. Sawyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Far-Seer is a very good book. The story explores the the affects of science on society as old beliefs and faith are replaced by and with scientific discovery. On earth this took centuries and in many ways still goes on today. In Far-Seer, the reptilian race of the Quintaglio must make this journey in decades rather than centuries. The writing is smooth for the most part, there are some rough spots, but nothing that interrupted the flow of the story for me. The characters were a tad on the shallow side, but this is often true of books that are intended as series instead of stand alone books. What the author really excelled at in my opinion is world building. I really liked the culture of the Quintaglio, he did a very good job of laying out the political structure, the religion of the Quintaglio and the world they lived on. If you are looking for something different and enjoyable, this is the book for you.

View all my reviews

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Creating a Zero-level Character in D&D 5E

Zero-level characters are just that, the ZEROES of the world. They are the Inn
Keepers and Bar Wenches, the owner of the general store and the sailors manning the ships at sea. Most of these people never earn the 300 experience points needed to obtain 1st level and become one of the truly remarkable people in the world. This system is primarily for building NPC's like Torch Bearers or Scroll Caddies. However, it can also be a challenging way for player characters to start their careers. 


Ability Scores:
Players have 12 points to spend on ability scores, per the Players Handbook, page 13. You may also choose to use the Zero-level character standard array (12, 10, 10, 10, 10, 8)

Race:
The player chooses one of the races from any book sanctioned by the Dungeon Master. Modify abilities accordingly.

Alignment:
All Zero-level characters are neutral. The player will choose an alignment when the character reaches 1st level.

Hit Points:
Zero-level characters have 6 hit points plus Constitution modifier.

Background:
The player may choose a background for his character from any book sanctioned by the Dungeon Master.

Weapon Proficiency:
All Zero-level characters are proficient in a single Simple Weapon.

Equipment:
A Zero-level character begins play with the weapon they are proficient with, a set of common clothing and a pouch with 10 gold pieces to purchase additional equipment prior to play.

Experience Points:
Zero-level characters begin play with -300 experience points.

During play: 
PC's will be given the chance to learn to use weapons, cast spells and pickup skills, prior to becoming 1st level. These abilities will be retained after they become 1st level, but cannot be improved up unless the player chooses the appropriate class. 

Weapon Proficiency: 
Any character may attempt to learn to use any specific weapon by using it in two fights and then making DC 12 Intelligence roll, on a success, the player becomes proficient with that weapon. If the roll is failed, the character may make the roll again after another fight in which they use the weapon. Only one weapon proficiency can be learned in this fashion. 

Spells:
Any character may attempt to learn a Cantrip by attempting to and successfully casting the spell two consecutive times. The character must spend 1 hour studying the spell from a spellbook or scroll. After studying the Cantrip, he may attempt to cast the Cantrip by making a DC 12 attribute roll against the controlling attribute of the spell, ie Wizard spells use Intelligence, Cleric spells use Wisdom, Sorcerer spells use Charisma, etc. Warlock spells may not be learned in this fashion, as they are pact gifts. Upon two consecutive successful castings in this fashion, the character has learned the spell and may now use it, using the normal Cantrip rules. If the roll is failed, the character must further study the the Cantrip for 1 hour and then can attempt to cast the Cantrip again. Only one Cantrip can be learned in this fashion.

Skills:
Zero-level characters roll at Disadvantage when attempting any skill they are not proficient with. Any Character may attempt to learn a skill they do not have a proficiency with. To gain a Proficiency, the character must attempt to use the skill on two separate occasions where the the skill is appropriate to the situation. Upon succeeding at two consecutive attempts to use the skill where the DC was 12 or higher, the character no longer rolls at Disadvantage when attempting to use that skill. After two more consecutive attempts at using the skill where the DC was 12 or higher, the character gains proficiency in that skill. Only one skill may be learned in this fashion.
 
1st Level:
Once a
Zero-level character earns 300 experience points, putting them at zero total experience points, they advance to 1st level, the player has an additional 15 points to increase the characters ability scores, chooses a class and assign an alignment. The player may also choose a Feat as a bonus for going through the process of being a Zero-level Character.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Review: Wool by Hugh Howey

Wool (Wool, #1)Wool by Hugh Howey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Wool is a short story, normally I would have blown through this story in a single sitting, but I actually stopped reading another book to pick this one up, then I went back to the other book and finished it. This probably says something about both stories. However Wool is actually a good read, in just 58 pages the author built an interesting setting, constructed an interesting leading character, and walked us through a compelling story.

I have two problems with this story, first I think this was the authors first work or he did not have a good editor, there were some rough spots that a good editor and another draft probably would have fixed. The second is the primary focus of the story does not really make much sense. I don't think I am giving much away by saying, this is a post apocalyptic society living underground, their only connection to the surface world is cameras that give them a view of the blighted landscape. Periodically the lenses of these cameras need to be cleaned, but instead of sending out trained professionals to do maintenance on sensitive equipment, they send criminals and dissidents out with a rag and Windex on a one way trip. While this makes for an interesting personal story for the main character, it is really kind of silly.

Wool is a good story, well worth the read in spite of the rather minor problems I found.


View all my reviews