Monthly Archives: September 2014

Weeding the Emerald Specter Garden

I have been writing columns for this site for quite a while now. They include Life Imitates Wrestling, Ingress Intel, Game Specter, Fitness Specter, Storytelling Specter, and more. I’m about to start going through these columns, though, and weeding out the ones that aren’t getting the hits. If you like something, you might want to start doing some clicking.

Far and away my most popular column is Fitness Specter. I get a consistent clicks on that every single time and I won’t be doing anything about that one but continuing that one into the future. I can actually see me doing ONLY Fitness Specter if the clicks increase to a certain level.

Now that I’ve “marketed” to the right crowd, Game Specter comes in a close second with my popular writing. I planned on doing all kinds of general gaming topics with this but I believe I’ll be doing more along the lines of GM specific evaluations of situations, scenarios, and maybe even some ideas. Column 2 was a big hit with me announcing that I’ll be teaching myself Fate (I have been capitalizing this and I’m not entirely sure why, so I’m going to stop that). Updates have been requested on this, so I’ll be keeping Game Specter around for a while, too.

What is a complete flop? Footie Specter, Specter Fantasy Football, and Ingress Intel are all pretty much getting removed. I figured that the soccer crowd would come here to check out some thoughts… I was wrong. Fantasy football updates? No one cares. Ingress, used as a linkable SEO material, has been nothing but an occasional click in interest (I’m guessing).

I have one that I’m not entirely sure about, too. Life Imitates Wrestling is one of those that started out with big interest and has waned, which actually tells me a little something about the readers. I announced that the column was initially going to be about my “life and times” at work and that is when things were getting hits like mad. As things have gone along, I’ve talked a lot less about what is going on at work, and what that says to me is that the high clicks were from coworkers expecting dirt. Not the dirt they were looking for, or less the type of identifiable dirt they were hoping for, and the interest is gone. Do I keep this one going or ditch the column? I’m going to know for sure by the time THIS little ditty comes out.

What about Specter Who? That one is my little Doctor Who review column and I’ll keep that one around. They aren’t numbered and I’m just going to keep that around to talk about the newest episodes. Hey, it’s my site.

Speaking of my site, there we come to Storytelling Specter. The column gets hits now and then, other times doesn’t get any. What I talk about is really just some general writing topics but is that enough to keep writing the column? Should I be doing something more with Storytelling Specter? Is there something I should be talking more about with that column? Well, funny thing about that… just like with the recent Fitness Specter sprint up to the 50th Mr. Olympia (a fitness Super Bowl, of sorts), I am about to be doing a Storytelling Specter sprint up to NaNoWriMo.

If you participate in NaNoWriMo, then I’m hoping to be your inspiration. The idea will be to release a Storytelling Specter EVERY DAY IN NOVEMBER. Not a lot of in depth analysis, just an inspirational bit or perhaps a spot of encouragement. Will those count as numbered columns? Maybe. We will see… but Storytelling Specter will be around at least through November.

That brings me to the place where I am about to start up some new columns. One that I’ve been waiting for, one that will debut later this year, is Chess Specter. I have a naming theme, why not keep that rolling? Chess Specter will be about chess, duh, and will probably be more about how to get better at chess than anything else. I do follow professional chess and I am actively working on a way to make chess marketable to a viewing audience (a la poker on TV) but I don’t know how much of that will be contained within the column. Since professional chess happens less often than, say, soccer, I think I can keep up with a regular column, ahead of schedule (since most of what I’ve been posting has been written at least 7 days prior, if not earlier), and keep things highly interesting. I love the game and I want to write about the game.

I love soccer and football, too, but I need to be less “ahead” and more analytical to make anyone else get interested in that. I would like to be but I tend to get distracted by shiny and new things often enough to… ooo, look at that… see?

There were other things that I wanted to do on this site, too.I am going to focus, though, on doing the things that are going to be the “bread and butter” of this website. There is writing that goes on every Monday to write a novel (which can be produced into an audio series for release on this website). There is an active video podcast that happens nearly every Sunday LIVE on Google Plus Hangouts (the Greatest Show), which is the only real hold over from the transition. I am working on audio technical stuff to do a regular audio show LIVE on (THE show for this site, which I have named but I don’t want to say anything about yet). I am getting ready to relaunch WAFFLE for the new year, but there is stuff that needs to be worked out before I make that announcement. There is a lot of things going on that I really want to do but I am someone who can’t do all of them by myself and maintain a full, working life.

That is where I start asking you to go to patreon and support the site. Bob and I need the money to be able to dedicate more time to podcast. We are also assembling a group to do actual play podcasting, allowing us to bring you stories and systems from a variety of GMs and perspectives. If you want entertainment, and I want to provide that entertainment, then I ask for some help through patreon. I donate to others, not a lot, and I’d hope that what I provide to all of you would be worth your donations.

Now that I’ve laid out a little bit of what I think is going to go on here, I’ll stop the yapping and get back to work.

Thanks for reading!

Fitness Specter 11 – Full On Fitness

I have talked a lot about this and a lot about that as part of Fitness Specter. I am absolutely lifting weights and I have been eating much better than I used to but in the last few weeks, I have fallen off of the “extreme dedication” wagon to languish in the “do what I say, not what I do” type of territory.

As of tonight (well, the night that I actually sat down to write this), I am climbing back on the wagon and I’m going full on fitness.

I had a serious discussion with my wife, who for all intents and purposes is my nutritionist, and I made the conscious and vocal decision to eat 100% clean. That means a very close examination of everything I put into my body. Every calorie. Every gram of fiber. Every milligram of protein. Every sugar. Every fat. I am going to be the picture of healthy eating… when I get back from my vacation.

For anyone in the dark, I am going on “vacation” to look for a new place to live. Yes, I’m house hunting, and while I’m away I can’t guarantee I’ll have access to the correct foods to eat clean.

Where I’m going I won’t have a Gold’s Gym, so I’m also starting to design my workout around the idea that I’ll be doing this from home. I might have access to a gym but I want to have a contingency plan.

The decision to go full on fitness was born out of the fact that I’ve been spinning my wheels for a while. I have a gut that I wanted to have gone by this time and that gut is still there. There were another 30 pounds that I wanted to have gone by now and I’ve actually GAINED 30 pounds since I reached my all time low (this millennium). So much is wrong with my situation and if I don’t jump all over that I’ll end up back in the 300 pound arena loathing life. Being fat sucks. I don’t want that and I’m going to do something about that.

I am limeflavored on BodySpace,’s social network. If you’d like to join me, request to be my friend. I plan on having all kinds of motivational quotes, motivational pictures, and I plan on making that THE place for fitness with your friend, the Emerald Specter.

Have you thought that this column was hardcore before? You haven’t seen anything yet. I am about to become “that guy” who is going to be going gung-ho and making as many others jump on this bandwagon that I can. I want to prove to myself and to the world that I have what it takes to change this sad, flabby body into a work of art.

I will share what Im doing. I will share what I’m eating. I will share my progress with you at every turn. I don’t know about sharing my fat photos on this website, open to the world, but I will be sharing them on BodySpace. In fact, that is the best place to see progress photos. I will make taking them a priority so you can see that progress is being made. I may even consider competing, if I’m happy with the direction.

Don’t wish me luck. I won’t need it. I will succeed.

Get fit with me.

Moving and Why People Don’t Seem to Get It

Do you know me?  Well, then you know I’m leaving North Dakota as soon as I possibly can.  I have my destination in mind and when I can actually leave, I’m gone.  There are several reasons for this and I would like to talk a little about those here.  First, though, let’s start with a little “Q&A” that I normally end up answering… and yes, people ask some of these stupid ass questions expecting to convince me to stay.

What if you don’t like it there?  Well, I know for a fact I don’t like it here, so why would that matter.  If I don’t like it there, I’ll move.  Simple as that.

You know it rains there (in the Pacific North West), right?  Well, I don’t have to shovel rain, so it can rain all it wants.  I don’t like snow.  I don’t like the cold here.  I don’t want to suffer to live someplace just because I’ve always lived here (except for three glorious years).  Why would I punish myself to stay in North Da-toilet?

What does (the Pacific North West) have that we don’t?  Well, YOU for starters.  The people are nicer, the driving is less idiotic, the state isn’t solidly a “red” one, and I don’t have to constantly run into people I know.  I don’t like North Da-toilet, I hate this place and I want to leave.  Nothing short of a guaranteed 7 figure salary will get me to stay here.  NOTHING.

What is better about there than here?  That’s a long ass list, but let me get that started for you.  The people aren’t self important and entitled.  There is a focus on creativity and the whole city encourages people to be unique.  Big box stores aren’t allowed because they promote a corporate atmosphere and that isn’t what they’re about.  The area is far more pet friendly.  There is a professional soccer team that I will more than enjoy going to often.  Driving isn’t a competitive sport like it seems to be in ND, whereas I mean that if you hop in your car you need to get where you’re going faster than anyone else on the road and you’ll cut anyone off you can in order to “win.”  There’s more to do.  Things aren’t closed until noon on Sunday because of some old, white men who are heavily religious deciding that needs to be the case.  The number of days which that particular area goes below zero is zero.  And still, best of all, YOU aren’t there.

What are you going to do for work?  The ONLY reason I am still here is because I need to get to a particular status at work to transfer out to where I want to go.  I’m not quitting, I’m not hoping to find something when I get there, and I’m not looking for work when I get out there.  I’m a postal employee, there ARE options.

I don’t like North Dakota.  I’ve never liked North Dakota.  I lived in Mississippi for 3 hers (actually stationed there, so not the entire 3 years) and those were the 3 best years.  Mississippi sucks and that is better than ND.  I don’t want to raise a family, the cost of living is cheaper where I’m going, I can be more creative, I am in a population center without being suffocated, exercise is a way of life and not a complex daily decision, I am near a professional sports team that will enjoy going to see on a regular basis, and most of all: it’s NOT A SNOWY FUCKING WASTELAND.  There is nothing in North Dakota for me.  NOTHING.  ABSOLUTELY FUCKING NOTHING.  Why would I stay?

Think about that before you open your pie hole and try to convince me to stay.

Game Specter 3 – Three Pieces of the Same Game

I have always wanted to create my own gaming system.  Though I wanted to write this time about FATE and what I’m learning, I’ve come across some stuff that I really wanted to comment on and since that’s game related, I’ll do a Game Specter on it here, instead.  You get to go on a magical journey into the world of my own personal “home brew.”

GameSpecter300Way back in 1995, I started working on my own little gaming system.  Because I was in love with the White Wolf mechanics, I based a lot of what I was doing off of that… initially.  There had been vast and sweeping changes since then and now that I’ve gotten to know FATE a little more intimately, I am going to integrate that into the system as well… pieces or ideas from it, at least.  But that isn’t what I wanted to talk about.

Why I bring this up is that I am in the process of preparing to move out of where I live and move someplace else.  Part of doing that means I need to clean out where I live (i.e. my house) and that has revealed some interesting things I didn’t realize I even still had.  Enter my game system, discovered in a box at the bottom of a pile behind tons of stuff that was uncovered in the emptying of the house.  Yeah, I have a renewed interest in getting that thing moving forward.

I was a fan of White Wolf’s meta-plot, and though I tried to come up with one on my own, the idea of my system would give that as an option but be able to be used on many things like FATE is.  I found the meta plot three days ago and boy did I put some detail into the descriptiveness, meaning I could have a group running exactly what I envisioned because the notes tell me what I need to know to do that…

My system has some quirks.  I wanted to use different dice for different levels of skills.  For instance, and just as an example, you start out by using a 1d4 to roll for a particular skill… you have a 50-50 chance at success.  You roll a 1 or 2 and you fail, you roll a 3 or 4 and you succeed.  When you “level up,” you start using a 1d6 to roll that skill… and the 1 and 2 are still the only fail options, meaning you got better at that skill.  A 1d8, 1d10, 1d12, and 1d20 later and you’re rocking the hell out of that skill, though with the bigger dice the fail does grow (8 has 1, 2, & 3… for example).  And failure isn’t all bad!  You advance either with 10 successes at that skill or 3 successes and 3 failures! Yes, we ALL learn from failing, why wouldn’t you in a game?

There are other complicated things I could tell you about this thing but that would have me droning on about my home brew for pages… and I don’t want to do that, at least not here and now.  I do plan on finishing this thing and maybe I’ll do a kickstarter to release it… or something.  We’ll see.

Until then, roll on.

Storytelling Specter 5 – Plotters and Pantsers

There are two types of people, I’m told, that typically do “big” writing (i.e. novels, series of novels, etc).  I’ve decided to do a little personal analysis as I talk about plotters and pantsers.

StorytellingSpecter300First and foremost, let me tell you what the hell a pantser is: that is the type of person who doesn’t plan out anything before hand and just writes by the seat of their pants.  Yes, that is directly opposite of the plotter… so, column over, right?


When I started writing many moons ago (I say that because of a funny thing I like to say: when someone says “back in the day” I say they’re talking about a Wednesday) I was a pantser and I knew it.  There was very little that I knew before hand (other than a general direction) and in the case of the mysteries I wanted to write, I wanted to be as surprised as the reader.

Wait… what?

Yes, I wanted to write a mystery without knowing who did it and how they did it.  How in the hell am I supposed to write something like that without knowing where I’m going?  Well, that’s when I started writing a whole lot better.

I wrote by the seat of my pants, letting every action scene just sort of happen and having several of my really good ideas be completely controlled by where my characters wanted to go rather than where I wanted them to go.  Have you ever had your characters run your story?  It happens and I understand when people complain about things like that.

Since I’ve grown in my writing endeavors, I’ve turned (with some excitement I might add) to plotting.  Rather than writing on the edge of my seat, not entirely certain where I was going with my stories, I now plot out things a lot more so I have not only a general direction but key points to get to at each stage.  How detailed to I get?  Well, that varies on the story.

I have gotten as deep as detailing the contents of entire scenes, making sure certain beats were hit in order to set things up for the next scene or series of scenes.  I’ve also been dialed back enough to work with just scene titles, that way I can write the scene, then start writing up to the next scene and still give my characters some free reign.

Sometimes the characters are that interesting.

In the end, the method you use really depends on how you work best.  If you work well with pantsing your way through your stories, keep doing it!  Why would you stop doing something that works for you?  If you are getting the results you want, don’t change.

Do you like the idea of plotting things out?  Try it.  Maybe you’ll discover that you write BETTER doing things those of us on that side of the fence already do.  Maybe you’ll even get a lot better and sell that first novel in the process.

Who knows?

Write it.

Fitness Specter 10 – Mr Olympia

I’m not here to debate about whether or not professional bodybuilding is steroids vs natural, I’m not here to figure out who the best Mr. Olympia in history is, and I’m not here to tell you that one guy has been doing things way better than another.  Hell, the Olympia competition has branched out into all kinds of other fitness related things outside just the base bodybuilding of the men.  What I am here to talk about, though, is the Mr. Olympia competition (event, etc) and why that should matter to you, the fitness minded individual.

FitSpecter300Joe Weidner started the International Federation of Body Builders (IFBB) and the Mr. Olympia competition as a way for the Mr. Universe winners to compete against each other.  This is a difference between amateur and professional, too, but there is no doubt that the best and biggest in the world of bodybuilding have all come to compete for Mr. Olympia over the last 50 years.  This year is the 50th anniversary of the Mr. Olympia competition and I decided that on the morning of the kick off of the event (it starts 11 hours from when this is posted) that now was a good time to address the Mr. Olympia and why it matters.

Professional bodybuilders, particularly the ones who compete in the Mr. Olympia competition, are masters of the human body.  Forget whether or not you think they’re too big or they are doping or something else, and forget whether or not these people are wasting time bulking up.  Think about the idea of people being able to control how the body develops, muscle building, and they also know what to put into the body (for nutrition) in order to best facilitate that particular muscle growth.

If I’m going to be bodybuilding in any form, I’m going to be listening to Phil Heath, Kai Greene, Jay Cutler, Branch Warren, and guys like that because they know what they’re doing.  They’ve PROVEN that they know how to get the job done.

These guys know how to build muscle.  They know how to shape a body and they know how to eat in order to shape that body.  If you want to be something more defined than what you are or if you want to be some sort of Greek adonis, you want to enlist the advice of these Mr. Olympia competitors.

Like I said, I’m not going to debate whether they are natural, doped, sane, crazy, or anything of the sort.  I’m just talking about big guys that know how to make their physiques look exactly the way they want them to.

I’m interested in becoming an aesthetic looking individual who is healthy and fit.  In order to accomplish that, and the whole reason for the Fitness Specter writing on this website, I want to do things like the Mr. Olympia people are doing, just not to that extreme.  I want to look good, be strong, and feel good about everything I’m doing.  I want to be healthy.  I want to be fit.

That is why Mr. Olympia matters.  Those guys are paving the way for the rest of us to do things correctly.  They are making sure that we can all eat correctly without being forced to eat what governments have deemed “safe for human consumption.”  It’s time to be better than that.

Lift it.

Fitness Specter 9 – Methods of Madness

Do you think that using body weight training is the only way to go?  What exactly are your thoughts on using exclusively machines to build that physique?  Is your philosophy to exclusively use free weights to become a monster of the gym?  I look at all these questions in the most exciting Fitness Specter to ever grace the computer screen… on this specific day at this specific time for this specific reason.  Let’s LIFT.

FitSpecter300There are lots of different views about what methods are best, but one thing that everyone can agree on is that as long as you’re building that fitness you’re doing what you need to be doing.  Some people swear by the machines because of the “precise movements,” others swear by the free weights because you control the movements from the start to the finish of the move.  Those who believe in body weight training only think that they might not need anything else and seem to be doing pretty well without weights.

The truth of the matter is that each of these has a place in your routine.

Bodyweight training, in my own personal opinion, is good if you don’t have access to a lot of equipment or are working on a part of your workout that requires using something that weights can’t easily be integrated into.  I am big on the idea of using bodyweight training when I go away on a vacation, as relying on a fully fledged gym isn’t a likely scenario, especially on a budget.  If you’re using this type of training, then you probably have a really good idea what you’re doing because you really have to know in order to get the most benefit out of your training.

Machines are handy, too.  There are precise movements that can be attained using only machines.  There are movements that the body specifically needs in order to strengthen muscles or build specific muscles, even machines designed to target ONLY those muscles you’re looking at building.  What could be wrong with that, right?  I mean, if the machine is targeting the muscle you’re looking to strengthen, how can that be wrong?

Free weights have long been seen as the way to go, though, and they are the method most relied upon by professional and amateur body building competitors alike.  The pros and competitive amateurs all utilize some sort of machine integration, too, and some even do the bodyweight training with that, but the free weight is where they get their most benefits.  The free weights, too, are what I’ve decided I need at this point in time.

With free weights, I do get benefits with the lift and the put down.  I’ve not met a machine yet that can do an effect compound movement (like a deadliest), though my own experience is fairly limited.  Every gym you go to has free weights, too, while not every gym you go to has the machines you need.  Free weights are what builds champions and I am fervently pursuing this method as my primary method for the time being.  Maybe if I get to the level where I’m happy with the results I’ll get more into a combination of the three.

Lift it.

Fitness Specter 8 – Road Workouts

Sometimes you have to leave town.  Sometimes you have to leave town for an extended period of time.  There are even sometimes when you can’t get yourself to your gym when you go out of town.  This column is all about working out options that don’t involve going to a gym.

FitSpecter300Not everybody has the same options but you need to be active while you’re away anyway, meaning you need to have yourself an “out of town” plan for working out.  I have one and I know that I’m about to be going out of town… well, at least for this example.

Or maybe I am actually going on a trip.

The idea is to continue things as closely to your routine as possible.  Or if you’re doing some sort of super power lifting bulking up program, maybe you just want to go to a gym.  They’ll have the weights you’re looking for… this column won’t.

What I’m looking at are two, maybe even three, alternatives to your normal routine.  There’s the “cardio the bejesus out of yourself” but if you’re out of town for more than a week, trying to cardio that much will just be terrible.  Why not use your bodyweight as the weights?  I’m talking about pushups, pull-ups, and basically looking at utilizing things in your hotel room.  Maybe the chair allows you to work your triceps (dips), the chair may also be heavy enough to curl (biceps), though only slightly different chairs in mind for that one.

What about bringing along some weights?  I’m not talking about staking your car full of weights that can help fulfill your biggest desires while on the road… grab some medium weight dumbbells that can help you tone some muscles and build other muscles.  If you have access to them, how about the BowFlex SelecTech dumbbells?  They have multiple selects for weight options and dumbbells can help with all kinds of exercises (curls, extensions, flyes, presses).  They would pack well, too.  In their absence, though, I’d bring a single set of medium weight dumbbells (lighter than your max so you can use them in multiple ways).

Make sure you continue the cardio while you’re away, though.  Even though I don’t recommend only doing cardio I suggest you don’t stop the cardio while on vacation.  You won’t be able to do as much as you have been doing but you really shouldn’t try to go as far as you normally do.  That may make you look a little crazy.

Stay fit, don’t take the week off… don’t take two weeks off… don’t take lots of time off because when you climb off the horse the horse tends to run away and you have to catch the horse.  I took six weeks off and getting back into the gym was really, really hard.  In fact, I had to have a slight kick in the ass to climb back on the horse.  That was the reason for the extensive horse analogy.

I’m back on the horse, though, and when I get a chance to take a trip, I won’t stop working out and you shouldn’t either.

Lift it.

Fitness Specter 7 – Pump Up to the Jam

I don’t know anyone who works out that doesn’t listen to some music while they’re doing so… in fact, there is so little people interacting with each other at the Gold’s Gym I go to, I sometimes wonder if anyone really goes there because they want to.  What I’m saying about that they probably want to workout at home… but that isn’t what this column is about… this column is about work out music!

FitSpecter300I’m what you might call a mixmaster.  I create “mix tapes” of music that I like listening to and quite often that spills into things like workout music.  In fact, I’ve curated two “workout albums” of music that I’d like to share with you and let you know that I’ve started working on a third one… but let’s not get ahead of myself.

My musical collections are known as “Pumped,” which gets me pumped up and ready to go just reading the title.  On Pumped (volume 1), I have a collection of music that really gets me motivated to lift some weights.  Golden Dawn by Ministry is a nice “wrestling theme music” style song to build me up and leads off my swing.  Next comes Good Vibrations by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, and if you’re laughing, just think about how energetic the music is and don’t listen to the lyrics while you’re working out you have nothing to laugh at.  I’m Bad by LL Cool J, followed by Bangarang by Skrillex, and Right Round by Flo Rida are next in line and just rocking enough to keep you through the “initial rush” of the beginning.  You’re then treated to Cowboys from Hell by Pantera, More Human Than Human by White Zombie, Pound the Alarm by Nicki Minaj, Welcome to the Jungle by Guns and Roses, and Go Cut Creator by LL Cool J are the “pump back up” you need to get through towards the end portion of your workout… you’ll be waning a bit by this time but don’t stop, and that’s what the music is designed to do.  Applause by Lady Gaga, Turn Me On by David Guetta and Nicki Minaj, Starships by Nicki Minaj, and I Don’t Wanna Stop by Ozzy Osbourne round out the music.

I won’t delve into the second list of music in this column but I want you to know that group is designed for a different reason.  Pumped is different from Pumped 2 because I wanted them to achieve different ends.  What do you want your music to achieve?  Staying energetic is important, especially if you’re going solo, and if you’re at home then it’s even more so important.  There is so much that you need to think about so you don’t have to think when you’re working out.

If your thing is country music, I’d go with the more “rocking” country music.  If you like rap, I’d suggest going with the heavy and faster beat rap.  If you’re like me, and you like a little bit of metal with some electronic sounding stuff, I’d start putting together this list and see how it works for you.  Let me know, too.  I’d like to see if my music works for others, too.

Lift it.