Monthly Archives: January 2015

Fitness Specter 20 – A Week in the Life

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I decided to try a little experiment. What this is will be a hypothetical account of what a week of my life will be in 2015. I am writing this ahead of time, so I may already be doing this. Again, just a little peek at what I think might work.

Monday morning: wake up at 0500, do 50 burpees, shower and eat a bowl of Special K with almond milk. Have a protein shake. For lunch, eat a chicken breast and some rice. Get home from work, do 25 burpees and lift (comprised of back and biceps lifting from home). Have a protein shake. Do 25 more burpees and shower.

Tuesday morning: wake up at 0500, do 50 burpees, shower and eat a bowl of Special K with almond milk. Have a protein shake. For lunch, eat a chicken breast and some rice. Get home from work, do 25 burpees and lift (comprised of chest and triceps lifting from home). Have a protein shake. Do 25 more burpees and shower.

Wednesday morning: wake up at 0500 and run a mile (if it’s freezing outside, then I run in place or run around the room), shower and eat a bowl of Special K with almond milk. Have a protein shake. For lunch, eat an orange, a banana, and a chicken salad. Get home from work, do leg work (leg day, exercises that can be done from home to work the legs). Run a mile (again, as before, in place or around a room if not outside). Have a protein shake.

Thursday morning: wake up at 0500 and run a mile (you know the drill), shower and eat a bowl of Special K with almond milk. Have a protein shake. For lunch, eat a chicken breast with some rice and broccoli (you thought I was just copying and pasting?). Get home from work and do 50 burpees before lifting (another back and biceps day). Have a protein shake.

Friday morning: wake up at 0500 and do 25 burpees, shower and eat a bowl of Special K with almond milk. Have a protein shake. For lunch, eat a chicken breast with some rice and broccoli. Get home from work and run a mile before lifting (another chest and triceps day). Have a protein shake.

Saturday morning: wake up at 0700 and do 50 burpees. Leg day again, do it right after the burpees in the morning before a bowl of Special K with almond milk and a protein shake. For lunch, I can eat whatever I want… probably a sandwich from Erbert & Gerbert’s, Subway, or some other healthy little ditty that isn’t “too” cheat meal. Near the end of the day, run a mile and have a protein shake.

Sunday: rest. Eat healthy all day but maybe include some eggs and meat for breakfast instead of cereal.

I don’t know if I’d include having more than burpees or running for cardio if I’m not going to a gym. I could include some stairs but there is a single staircase I have to work with away from a gym and that would be a lot of up and down. I may use them, though.

So, what do you think? I think it sounds like I’ll be getting fit.

Lift it.

Chess Specter 4 – Chess on TV

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The BBC used to have a show on TV called “the Master Game,” where they’d recreate a chess game that would be interesting to watch (paced well, commentary, great players, etc). Here’s a link to an episode that isn’t ideally what I’m looking at to do for chess in the modern day but there is a basis for what we can do if we look at it. Watch this.

First and foremost, one game per episode. If we have more than 30 minutes to work with, we might be able to fit a second game in (basically, one game per 30 minutes). We can get the commentary from the actual players as to what they were thinking, which would enhance the experience, but I think that the expert commentary (from GMs or our own “experts”) would be interesting as well. Hindsight is always 20/20 but the game should be interesting.

The Master Game isn’t the end all, be all of chess on TV. It is a way to present chess in an interesting manner. Ideally, in the world we live in, we wouldn’t even need a major TV network to jump on board to help this out… we could just put these out on YouTube or Vimeo and get ourselves going as often as possible.

Let’s say my little idea has gotten 4 players interested. We have 30 minute episodes we will put out on YouTube. If we have one single event, in a round robin, we have 24 games that get played (two games per player, one as white and one as black). That would be 24 episodes at 30 minutes each. If we hold events at least monthly, we could be running the YouTube channel release schedule at every week day (Monday through Friday) highlighting whatever game you’re on.

Why don’t we expand that a little? We have our 24 games played, and thus, 24 episodes ready to go. If we look at, say, January of 2015, we have 22 week days to release episodes. Take holidays off, we have 20 days to release episodes. Thus, our 24 games are now rolling into the second month and if you’re watching on day 20 rather than day 1, maybe you’ve forgotten the drama of that first game. Let’s add us a little “our story so far,” or an ESPN style “SportsCenter” segment on that 30 minute episode, bringing us up to about 45 minutes. If we have enough content, we turn that extra 15 minutes into an extra 30 and we’ve got ourselves a real “here’s why this matters” federation going on.

I maintain that this will be a club that has some exciting chess being examined and played. If we have our commentators doing their bit to promote and hype the club as a whole on top of our daily (week day) release schedule, I think we can draw some real buzz.

That’s with JUST FOUR PLAYERS. Imagine what we’d be looking at with 16, 50, or 100 players! Sure, we’d have to pick and choose what we display, then, but at least we could have choices to make!

Your move.

Storytelling Specter 8 – Your Universe Isn’t Marvel

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Just like the title says, you aren’t Marvel. You aren’t DC, either. Image doesn’t have a shared universe and the best analogy I have is you’re like Dark Horse… you have the basis of a shared universe, but you still don’t have a publisher. In the simplest terms, stop thinking you have something as interesting to others as interesting as you find the idea.

As with my last column, I let you know that I have been working on a comic book shared superhero universe for the better part of 20 years. I have created things that, in my head, are epic and ready to make the leap onto the big screen in some awesome movie magic. That’s all in my head, though, and I need to stop thinking that anyone is even going to be interested in what has been rolling around in my noggin for the past 20 years.

I need to make a single monthly comic that tells the story of my entire universe from start to whenever I decide to finish it… that means telling the origins of every single character, creating epic villains that are more epic than just being in my head, and making sure that I am building towards something that I find interesting. Is that something you’ll care about? I don’t know, I haven’t written it yet.

Following the Marvel Cinematic Universe model of superheroes, I wanted to have a monthly title that led into several “graphic novels” that would be like the MCU movies. Well, the reason the MCU movies are awesome is because those characters have decades of interest behind them and people know where they come from. People are interested in seeing motion pictures about those characters. People have a known commodity. They don’t know my heroes. They won’t care unless I write something interesting.

The single monthly is where I need to go.

Now, don’t let me “downing my own work” deter you from checking out my stuff. I’m trying to make myself understand that in order for anyone else to care I need to make something worth caring about. For that to happen, I need to write a compelling story. I need to create compelling characters. I need to make you look at my universe and say “yeah, that looks cool.” I need to make you care.

Right now, you don’t care.

Forget the road map that I had built up in my head as the way to go. Forget the stand alone stories that I was going to tell in graphic novel form to make my own version of “movies” that would punctuate my universe. You don’t know where these characters have come from and you don’t know where they are going. I can have a grand plan, I just need to roll that out in steps rather than hoping you know where all their history is hidden.

I am the only one who knows their history. I’d like you to know, too.

Thanks for reading.

Write on.

Game Specter 10 – Stealing Ideas

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If you were a multi-million dollar making film creator, you’d probably not need to worry about running a vampire political intrigue game for your friends. Since you aren’t, or at least if you’re reading this I suspect you aren’t, maybe you want to steal someone else’s idea and put the trappings of whatever game you’re playing over top of it.

Yeah, I’m telling you to steal your ideas.

I want to run a vampire game for my buddy Bob and his two or three friends. We’ve decided on some political intrigue and I really can’t think of anything to use for a game as the backdrop, so I decide we aren’t going to play and we never talk again. Wait, what? No, that doesn’t happen. I go out looking at movies, books, and other games I’ve played and I steal something to put the trappings of vampire on top of that.

Silly you, thinking I’d just pack up and go away.

I go out and I grab the Godfather and say to myself “let’s turn this into a vampire game.” Vito Corleone turns into the Prince of the City, who is fighting for ultimate control against the other four major factions fighting for power. The Prince is Invictus, he’s battling the Carthians, the Dracul, the Crones, and the Sanctum for ultimate control of the city. The Prince has decided that he’s been doing this too long and goes to choose his successor, who will ultimately be the one running the city in the end (Michael Corleone… or maybe the players are each some piece of that successor). If we are going along the Godfather line and one of the players is the chosen, maybe that player is manipulating the other players as well as slowly taking down each of the other groups to leave the Invictus as the only real power left in the city.

Doesn’t that sound like an interesting game?

What about something less “legendary movie” as a source?

The humdrum life of several vampires in the city goes on without much ado. As if by chance, a long time “legend” of the city returns hunting for the lupines that he’s famous for hunting. He brings with him his team, which are slowly taken out by these crafty lupines and your player characters, including his best friend, which spins him into almost a catatonic state. The player characters help trap the lupines as they make their last desperate attempt to “root out the evil of the vampires” from “their” city. The catatonic vampire joins up with the players just in time to get rid of the lupine scourge.

Sound interesting? Yeah, that’s the storyline to Critters 2: The Main Course. I just took a terrible movie and made it into a decent sounding vampire game. There’s stuff everywhere out there, why not look a little?

All in all, you don’t need to come up with something from scratch. Steal the ideas. Critters 2 isn’t a great movie but there are story elements that would make a good vampire game. Hell, you could make a good non-vampire game out of it. Just look around.

Game on.

UFC Specter 3 – Better Than Boxing

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I have traditionally been a big boxing fan. When the UFC first started way back in 1993, the novelty of the whole thing wore off rather quickly, especially when you looked at the fact that the guys who rolled around on the mat more than anything else were doing most of the winning. How is rolling around on the mat exciting? It isn’t, so I was into boxing, where you had to stand up and punch your opponent into unconsciousness.

Boxing has a fatal flaw, though. The “big fights” happen so few and far between that you almost get lulled into unconsciousness yourself waiting for one of the big fights to happen. Who wants to watch something that happens between “Joe Nobody and Mike Nevergonnabe?” Yeah, there are thousands of guys vying for supremacy in boxing and because of that you hardly ever get to see anything interesting.

The UFC was different. Right around the end of 2013 I got into the UFC to take my mind off of things that were going on in real life. There were more big name fights happening more often and rather than thousands of fighters fighting to be the best, you only had the best of the best going for the UFC gold. The UFC, being a private company, only keeps the best of the best on the roster, so when you have two fighters fighting, they are more than likely worlds better than anyone else. So, you don’t have to watch anything but the UFC, though some other companies claim to have some of the best… I disagree, but we can do that.

The UFC is starting to water down a bit, though. Nothing like boxing but as long as the UFC retains their single championship structure with top ten contenders fighting for a shot, I think they’ll be alright. Boxing has 4 or 5 organizations, each with at least 1 champion per division, and that means that are thousands of nobodies fighting for championships that will never be remembered by the end of the event, much less in long term history.

When you look at UFC history, the early years mar the organization as a whole, in my opinion. The spectacle that was the original Ultimate Fighting Championship event all the way through, let’s say, UFC 30 were more or less a side show that happened to be marketed as something of a spectacle than an actual sport. When Dana White took over is when the UFC really started looking interesting.

If I understand how the fights work, too, it’s Dana White “strongly suggesting” that two people fight. If that means he walks over to Jon Jones and says “it would be in your best interest to fight Daniel Cormier” as his next fight, I’d say that is the way to go… short of just stating “your next fight is against Junior Dos Santos, live with it.” What could be more interesting than just making the fights and letting people beat each other up? I’ll take what I can get.

So, isn’t UFC better than boxing? I think so.

It’s time.

Fitness Specter 19 – Cardio Talk

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I’ve talked about cardio before, several times actually, and I think it’s time to delve a little bit more into the idea of what cardio is and what you can be doing to do “cardio” all the time. Cardio is more important than actually lifting the weights, you know.

Cardio, in its simplest form, is simply getting the blood pumping at a higher than normal rate. You can do something as leisurely as walking or something as intense as hundreds of burpees. If you sweat during your cardio, then bravo. You don’t NEED to sweat, though. Cardio is just getting your heart rate up a little. The more cardio you do the more fat you’ll burn (as long as you aren’t eating bad calories to make up the difference). Cardio has more to do with weight loss, in the end, than bodybuilding, but bodybuilding needs cardio in order to be effective.

When some people talk about doing cardio, they really mean they’re going for a run. Whether that is for a mile, ten miles, or just a jog around the park, they’re talking about putting on some comfortable clothes and running somewhere. Cardio, though, is more than just running. In fact, if you are only running, then your body will get used to that and stop burning as much fat as you’d like, meaning you should be doing more than just running. There isn’t anything wrong with running, mind you, but at least you’re doing something that is cardio. Just don’t RELY on running as your sole source of cardio.

Running helps build endurance. If you are running more than three miles a day, then you’ve got some serious endurance going on and you’re not burning as much fat. Try throwing some burpees in there instead of going for a run. Don’t know what those are? I had to look this up the first time I heard the term, too, don’t feel bad. THIS is a burpee -> Click Me. Do 20 of those and do you think you’ll not be breaking a sweat? What are you, Superman?

What about biking? Yes, biking gets the blood flowing, too, and my wife prefers we do this for cardio. I, unfortunately, don’t get as much out of biking as I’d like, but I’m willing to bike with her wherever and call it good. I hope to sweat when I bike and she’s not going to go off-roading with me on her bike, so I’m stuck there.

Aerobics? Yoga? Jumping jacks? Yep, all cardio. Have I widened your idea of what you need to be doing to get your blood pumping? When you think cardio, think moving your entire body in some sort of physical activity that isn’t necessarily lifting weights. But there is some lifting that can be done with cardio, too.

There’s a joke: what do you do for exercise? Lift weights. What do you do for cardio? Lift weights faster.

You CAN lift weights faster and get some cardio out of that, but don’t think that you can use that as your only cardio. I’ve done that and you don’t get as much out of the experience. You really do need some actual cardio.

Lift.

Chess Specter 3 – For the Rest of Us

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Is my attempt to make a “entertaining version of chess” for the best players in the world? Have you ever thought that the Grandmasters of chess would be interested in doing what I’m proposing? No. This is chess for the rest of us.

There are several levels of players in the world of chess. When I refer to the “Grandmasters of chess,” I’m talking about the players who actually have “titles.” If you don’t follow chess, I mean that they have earned the right to be called master in some sense… like master, national master, international master, and grand master. Those players, using “Elo rating numbers,” would be above the 2400 mark. In comparison, I’m a 1300-ish player, so those are the REALLY strong players. If you’re playing at a 2400 level, you aren’t really going to need to be doing what I’m proposing with chess… I’m talking about the players playing at or under 2000.

First, let me break down the “levels” of chess I’m talking about. At the “pawn level,” you’re playing between 0000-999 as a rating, the “knight level” is 1000-1199, the “bishop level” is 1200-1399, the “rook level” is 1400-1599, the “queen level” is 1600-1799, the “king level” is 1800-1999, and anything above 2000 is “expert level.” While it would be fantastic to have people involved at the king or expert level, I’d say that the majority of the individuals I’m going to get involved in this might be somewhere between the bishop and queen levels.

Any chess organization has a dedication to expanding the game to as many people as possible. I’d be looking to expand this to gather in as many people as I could teach the game. I’m talking about a real life “teaching chess to others” scenario that is right along side the “action on the board” style storytelling. Again, keep in mind, these are REAL GAMES being played by REAL PEOPLE who just happen to want to act like a character to make the game more interesting.

I’ve been given a lot of skepticism over this idea over the years. At each skeptical note I’ve corrected or adapted something to make that skepticism lessen and hopefully help convert the skeptic over to my line of thinking. At only 500 words per column, which is what I normally shoot for, I can’t really get into the deep territory of this that I’d like to, but I have a column about chess now that I can talk about in little 500 word chunks.

Referring back to my levels, the people at the expert and king levels would compete with each other, though I’d anticipate the “early joiners” of this club wouldn’t be as “characterized” as the rest of the roster. I see them more in the “teach you how to get better” role and allowing the focus of the action to fall on the lower levels. Ideally, I see chess being entertaining in a review type episode (on a TV scenario) between two people that are likely to make mistakes that a “street level player” would make. What’s more interesting to someone who can point and say “I can beat that guy.” Could you? Step on up to the board.

We will talk more about this idea in future columns… I’ve already gone over my 500 word mark.

Your move.

Specter Who – The Capaldi Review

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Let me start off by giving you the order in which I would rate the Peter Capaldi episodes for Doctor Who. They are, from worst to best: Robot of Sherwood, Deep Breath, Into the Dalek, In the Forest of the Night, the Caretaker, Kill the Moon, Death in Heaven, Listen, Flatline, Dark Water, Time Heist, Last Christmas, and Mummy on the Orient Express. Yes, this is how I’d rate all of the Capaldi episodes to date and yes, I liked Mummy the best.

I wanted to review the Capaldi first season because I think it’s important to note how I look at Doctor Who as a whole. I am an “old school” Whovian but I do enjoy some of the new stuff. Let me just go over things and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Everything before Tom Baker was interesting but I could live without it. Tom Baker through Colin Baker is the era I was introduced to, so I am definitely loving that stuff the most. McCoy is a rough watch, in my opinion, but there are some redeemable episodes.

Eccelston was a nice refresher on the whole of Who. I could have loved him more if he’d stuck around a little longer but he was a good Doctor for what we got. Tennant was one of the best Doctors in history. Smith wasn’t anywhere near an enjoyable Doctor to me, but I understand that some loved him. He wasn’t even as good as McCoy, that should give you an idea where I stand with what has come before.

Capaldi was a great big boost from the Smith era. However, Capaldi has needed a little bit of help and as far as companions go, I have NOT been a fan of Coleman. She wasn’t so bad with Smith but she’s been nothing but terrible with Capaldi and I’d replace her as quickly as I possibly could.

The Capaldi episodes haven’t been “run here, then run there, then… oh yeah, here’s the story.” We’ve had a much closer look at the old style Doctor Who storytelling. That is to say that I’ve enjoyed the pacing of this year’s stories. I miss the Weeping Angels and I long for a decent Cyberman story but I did enjoy the Christmas special and Time Heist was a goodie, too. All in all, I enjoyed the experience but we need to get away from talking more about the companion because the show is called DOCTOR Who, not COMPANION Who. If I want a show about the companion, I’ll watch literally anything else. I want them to shift to telling stories that are about the Doctor in interesting ways and I’m hoping Series 9 will be more about the Doctor and less about the companion.

I hope that we can get a little closer to Doctor Who of the past. I don’t mind the difference in storytelling from old to new but if the new Whovians are going to have any appreciation for what has come before. I would also really like Moffat to step down and let someone else take over the show running.

Who cares.

Game Specter 9 – What Do You Want Out of a Game?

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When you sit at the table and grab your dice and look at a character sheet, what is it (exactly) that you’re looking to get out of a game? I’m here to mention some of the things I see, or think I see, when I sit down at a table and hopefully I can attract the types of players (or GMs) that I’d like to play with in the future by doing so.

First, let me talk about the types of people I see with the types of games that I associate them with. Stereotypes are such for a reason, kids, so don’t hammer me for being stereotypical.

D&D players tend to want to roll as many dice as possible, have very little interaction with each other on a roleplaying basis, and essentially just have a “video game experience” by battling for loot. Warhammer players tend to want to do as much math as possible while pretending to call what they do something other than wargaming… they don’t have any interactions with a roleplaying nature and if they aren’t moving actual pieces around on an actual board (or landscape simulation), then they aren’t really playing. World of Darkness players, the ones I’ve encountered, tend to be D&D players who think that all WoD is can be boiled down to “fill in the blank” superheroes (i.e. Vampire superheroes, Werewolf superheroes, etc). Fate players I don’t have an opinion on because my only experience with Fate is listening to the Knights of the Night.

What are YOU looking out of roleplaying?

Are you interested in a competition between yourself and the GM to see who can “one up” the other in the best way? Are you interested in tons of loot, some number crunching, and a butt ton of dice rolling? Are you interested a skeletal story structure that has little or nothing to do with your background and character? Well, if you answered “yes” to any of these things, then you’re the type of player I seem to run across the most and are NOT the type of player that I’m interested in playing with.

When I craft a game, I include your character’s backgrounds. Why? Because if you’re going to put effort into the backgrounds (and if you’re playing in one of my games, you MUST put effort into it) then I’m going to tie you into the story. How better a game could I present than one that directly involves your character on a deep level? Well… you’d be the first to enjoy that.

I understand that there is a market for Warhammer games. I understand there is a market for D&D games. I don’t really feel like I’m being considered when I want to sit down at a RPG table to play because I can’t seem to find the players I’m interested in playing with.

So, the question comes back to you. What are you looking for when you sit down to play a roleplaying game? Are you looking to war-game? Are you looking to compete with the GM? Or are you looking to actually ROLE play?

Game on.