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Emerald Specter 103: Bad Habits Denied

I’ve talked in the past about getting over bad habits and though I’ve been working hard to avoid mine (the time wasting ones with zero benefit), I’m having a devil of a time staying focused on the prize: progress.

I have caught myself at least five times starting to slide into a rabbit hole of time wasting this past week. In fairness, I am off from work (for the last day until my next one) as I write this, which means I’ve had the extra time to stray from productivity.

There isn’t an official medical opinion on this, but I’ve self diagnosed as ADD (no “H,” I am too old to be hyperactive). The reason for this is because even though I can really dive into tasks and get them done, my mind wanders and I often get distracted really, really easily.

A good example of this is that I took a 10 minute detour to work on Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes because I haven’t done my “dailies” yet.

When I was play testing the original BuJoRPG, I was hyper focused on getting that done… and earning XP the whole time, I was motivated to get to the end of the testing phase. I was leveled up. 

During the testing I gained some good habits around the house, I learned the basics of Vietnamese (the language), I was more than willing to do things that I found distasteful (like I have to clean the bathroom later today and I’m not excited about that). I am excited about a cleaner bathroom, though.

Yeah, adulting isn’t the best.

I’ve said all that to say that I have bad habits creeping back in and I need to break that up and get that out of my life again. What I need is BuJourneyRPG testing and to do that I need help with development.

The reaction from the first episode is in: Jodie Whittaker is a hit. 

I was interested in seeing if people would react to her as the Doctor simply because she’s a woman and I actually heard responses that evaluated the episode and her for the merits of the show rather than evaluating her woman-ness.

That makes me happy.

The biggest thing that makes me happy is all the “New Who” fans can stop whining about the classic bent we had with Capaldi… because, you know, Doctor Who started with Christopher Eccleston (eye roll here).

I’ve been a Marvel zombie in the past. There have been some DC titles sprinkled in there, too. I was a super fan of the CrossGen universe right up until the place closed shop (and really wish Marvel would have allowed it to continue without attempting to “reboot” it). When Image popped up, I was all in (with all the titles I could find). More recently I’ve been all in on Valiant (until they started ending titles and restarting with #1s) as well as going all in with Lion Forge’s Catalyst Prime universe.

What does this all mean? It means I give things a try because retreading the same stuff over and over again in the “Big 2” is no longer interesting.

There is a bunch of stuff I am actively waiting for or reading, and I’d like to take a few minutes to highlight what those are with a little reason or two why.

Top Cow’s God Complex is, in a word, awesome. There is a mystery abound, a strange world to explore, and I’m very interested in learning more about “the Gods.” If this one is in my read pile, it rises to the top automatically.

A quirky horror series, Image’s Ice Cream Man is an anthology situation and you can literally pick up an issue without worrying about a “through story” in the series. There might be more going on in this one, but I think if it interests you enough, check it out.

I am still reading Marvel’s Champions, because it’s fresh and has characters in it that I’m interested in (Miles Morales, Riri Williams, Amadeus Cho, etc) and doesn’t have a history to retread. Things are new and interesting… I know I said that twice, but it’s twice as true.

I’m reading DC’s Doomsday Clock, too… mainly because I’m 7 issues in and I love the Watchmen, so hopefully if DC is going to be bringing in the Watchmen, they don’t do it to drive me up the wall. I would really like a Watchmen ongoing but I’m 99% sure that HBO’s Watchmen series is the closest I’m going to get to that.

I was also reading Avengers, mainly due to the Final Host storyline and that because it contained the Prehistoric Avengers. There is still a tangential connection to the Final Host storyline and as long as there is a chance to see the Prehistoric team again, I’ll give it a little more rope.

Why am I reading Avengers? Well, first, I have been a long time fan of team books, with a special place in my heart for the Avengers. This was the one team book I loved getting when I was collecting “back in the day.” With all the reboots, though, I’m not as pleased with how Marvel and DC are doing things, so I’m not giving them as much a chance to entice me into buying these. 

The Prehistoric Avengers, though, are new and interesting. If you think you’ve read that in this segment already, then you should be aware that is the theme of this comics segment. I’m interested in new and interesting.

Aftershock has been doing a ton of interesting stuff, too. I’ve checked quite a bit of it out and I’ve either passed by continuing or haven’t really liked the story being told. Beyonders, though, is right up my alley. This is a conspiracy mystery with a bit of a treasure hunt feel to it… and if there is one thing I like, it’s treasure hunts!

If you aren’t reading Dark Horse’s Black Hammer, I have to know why. This is an epic tale of Golden Age superheroes that get trapped someplace else and their lives they live trying to get out of wherever they’re at… and that is just the tip of the iceberg! Black Hammer is not high on my list for art, but the art has started to grow on me… the story, though, is just too much to miss.

I believe I’m going to be including more comics in my columns because it’ll help me justify why I would want to keep reading a title or move on. There are certain characters that I am interested in following (like the Fantastic Four and Moon Knight) but don’t jump on (or stay on) because of a poor issue. I’d also like to have a solid “yes or no” on new #1s I give a shot (mainly from independents and Image), because everyone deserves a shot.

Look forward to more in the future… I am not putting out a Specter Show yet but a Greatest Show is on the horizon with two returning hosts! Stay tuned!

Emerald Specter 102: Taking Control Back

Life is a mess of crap I’m trying to wade through in order to get to the stuff that I actually want to do. If I could just get winning a couple of million dollars out of the way, I could do all the things that I’d really like to do.

When I discovered bullet journalling, both through a friend and because I stumbled upon it, I started getting better at life in general. My wife would agree with my assessment that I went from being a scatter brained pseudo-help to actually helpful. While I have retained some of that helpfulness, I’ve also did quite a backslide as far as personal progress.

My weight has also launched itself upward and that does not make me a happy camper. When my wife and I changed our eating lifestyle, we both lost weight and were much happier with how things were going. We’ve slowly been introducing back some of the crap we used to eat (i.e. sweets up the wazoo) and as I just weighed myself before writing these exact words, I’m up to almost 300 pounds again.

That is highly depressing.

All the projects for this website and related thereto have been sidelined as per the last column. Well, not all of them, but you get the picture that I’ve swept a good many things aside to make room for changes.

That’s where the title of this section “philosophy” comes in. I’ve adopted all the bad habits right back and I’m not pleased with how things are skewing in life. I need to make changes, again.

First and foremost, I need to get back to eating healthy. Cereals for breakfast need to be replaced by our new “omelet in a jar” concept that we recently came up with… having stolen the idea from OreIda.

We’ve loved the ones we made before as our “test” and haven’t made them again since my bag of dehydrated marshmallows arrived… which, yes, is not a healthy choice, especially paired with the bag of frosted flakes that I got from he grocery store. Delicious? Yes. Healthy? No.

Along with that, eating out needs to return to the level we were at when we were still in North Dakota. That means we go back to “once in a while” rather than deciding whether or not to go out on a nearly daily basis. While Portland has a massively wonderful bounty of food options, making things at home is still the best option. (Although, we could do just as well if we weren’t eating American foods and instead sticking with Indian, Vietnamese, actual Mexican, and other ethnically available choices here.)

My route at work has changed from a walking route to a driving route, also. I have a hip issue that prevents me from really doing a ton of walking now and I needed to get off my 15 miles a day walking route. I’m really happy with my new route but I also am not getting the extensive exercise I was before, so I really need to start working out.

Before the switch, I was discussing going to the gym with some of my co-workers… who are all now at my old office and not the new one. They gym in question also went from being “on the way to work” to “completely in the wrong direction.” I have SelecTech weights but I know that I need to start out differently and work within my new capabilities… so that means I’m going to start with bodyweight exercising and move up from there. The weights themselves will get reintroduced but I don’t want to have them sitting in the house (as opposed to the storage unit) while I’m not actively using them.

What I feel bad about was that I was really working in the right direction with exercise… and I’ve not only fallen off the wagon, but the wagon drove away while I was standing in the road watching.

Motivation is the key to success in this aspect. I was following all kinds of bodybuilders on Facebook, watching the Mr. Olympia actively annually, and  I was seeking out tips for doing healthy things whenever I could. My Facebook feed has completely degenerated into political posts and memes, I missed the Mr. Olympia this year for the first time in almost five years, and I haven’t sought out healthy information in more than three years… 

I need to get back on BodySpace.

Seriously, I look like the before picture of the before picture of the guy who ends up looking like Hulk Hogan. I’m closer to “round” than any other shape.

There then comes the point of writing, something I’ve tried to do all my life and have failed at doing all but when I was attending college. I used to write all the time, I wrote all kinds of stuff in high school, and none of that exists anymore (destroyed in disasters). I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo and have even won twice, as I’ve mentioned before, but I need to climb back on the horse and actually accomplish something.

Because if I’m sure of one thing, if I can’t be rich at least I can enjoy creating. 

All of that leads to one thing to help me out in day to day life: bullet journalling. I need to get back to journalling and I should probably do that sooner rather than later.

I’ve been creating myself a digital journal and I’ve been fighting my old habits to keep making progress on finishing it before the end of the year. I honestly need the damn thing right now but as long as I’m still advancing forward, I’m happy. Currently, the journal needs the links created and then I can start putting the basic pages together to start using the journal.

My bad habits keep creeping up on me, though.

I used to create spreadsheets for all kinds of things for no reason. I’ve made elaborate schedules for work, elaborate fantasy football trackers for fun, and I’ve even just dinked around trying out formulas to see what else I could do… that has also led me to using the spreadsheets to track fictional things like the ESPL, the unseen ESFC (Emerald Specter Fighting Championships), the ESFL (Emerald Specter Football League), the ESBA (Emerald Specter Basketball Association), and the list goes on… some of the things I’ve done dinking around with those spreadsheets have led to some of the things that I’ve put out on this website.

Habits keep dragging me back towards dinking around in place of actually accomplishing things, like finishing my digital journal. I’ve spoken aloud several times over the course of the last couple of months to finish something rather than dink around. It’s been an uphill battle.

I’m on the tail end of my week off and I wanted to finish the week by finishing the digital journal. I have a few more days to do this and if I write this down and put the column out I have dedicated myself to getting it done. If the thing is done, I can start actively using it and then I can start getting other things done, too.

My wife has been enlisted to help me with BuJourneyRPG. I’ve got a different approach to how I was initially going to complete the system and she’ll help me make things less “combat heavy” and more “goal oriented task” friendly. Working on this still needs the digital journal and that leads me back to getting it done.

See? I’m already making some progress.

Organizing myself will help things get done. Is there room for dinking around in Excel? Yeah, but not right now. I need to buckle down and start accomplishing things because I don’t want to be a 70 year old who has a bunch of unfinished projects laying about.

Emerald Specter 101: Overloaded

“What the hell are you doing?”

“I’m doing what I need to do in order to get things–“

“No, you’re overloading yourself with crap that you don’t need to be messing with right now. You’re stressed out, fun things aren’t getting done anymore, and you’re losing your hair.”

“My hair is already gone.”

“Metaphorically.”

Yeah, I just talked to myself. Deal with it. I did raise a great point, though, and that is about putting too many things on my plate… shoving aside anything I hope to accomplish, period.

What I’ve put on my plate so far: writing Revelation to release as serial fiction, working on BuJourneyRPG, working on BuJoRPG, working on SpecterChess, working on the Emerald Specter Chess Club, working on digital bullet journals, pushing to get the Specter Show back up to normal, pushing to get the Greatest Show running again… 

That’s a lot of stuff to be working on. 

The important part of what I’ve accomplished in that list: nothing. I’ve got so many irons in the fire that I can’t even keep on a task. I write this column on a regular basis because I need something to keep me writing, but I’ve got hardly a drop in the bucket written in Revelation (or anything else for that matter). I have an alarm that goes off every Sunday at about 5 pm to remind me to podcast the Specter Show… and I end up skipping it because I’m usually busy working on helping my wife out in her business. I’m about ready to start emailing people for the Greatest Show… and I’ve put it off because I’m overwhelmed.

I need to make things really simple.

NaNoWriMo is coming up… that’s National Novel Writing Month, for which I’ve participated in almost seven times. I’ve “won” twice. Those were my first two participations. With the help of a friend in the Iron Writer Challenge Facebook group, I’ve been challenged to write something… anything, and we’ve both agreed that due to NaNoWriMo coming up, that is when I should write it. Jason, the owner of BrickCommaJason.com, has told me to write until the book is finished. We will see how that works out with me just doing this as a NaNo novel.

That means Revelation is sidelined… because Jason also said that whatever I ended up writing needed to be something I’m not “married to, as an idea.” Revelation is something I have been kicking around, so I’m not writing it.

The Specter Show, I can tell you right now, isn’t going to be recorded until I’ve got the correct time and figure out what the show needs to become… because what I’ve been doing isn’t enticing to anyone, I’m guessing. Updating things week after week isn’t a show I wanted to rely on… so now, it is on hold.

The Greatest Show is a different story. That has a reason, that has a format, and that has a reason to keep being made. So, rather than continually wait for things to smooth out and figure out what the hell I’m waiting for, the instant that Nurmagomedov-McGregor is over, I’m setting up shows so that we get back on the air.

Having looked around the Internet a bit, I’ve seen that I’m nowhere near the first one on the digital journal creation train. I can’t possibly have a digital journal with BuJoRPG and BuJourneyRPG built in before 2019, so I’m finishing my own digital journal and I’ll decide what I need to do to get fully operational ones on the market when I can… 

Which leads me the BuJoRPG and friends… I need a chance to clear things off my plate and look at this with fresh eyes. BuJourneyRPG is my top priority and that needs to be stepped back from and evaluated a little better. I want it to be everything it can be and I can’t do that the way I’m going forward.

I’m sorry if this was a downer. I’m sorry if you can here looking for inspiration and hope that something was getting done. 

Let me start again and actually finish something.

Emerald Specter 100: Finally

Who would have thought I’d get all the way to 100 with a column that is basically about nothing? Sure, I talk about things that are involving my life, projects, and it provides me with a place for some personal commentary, but #100?

I’m going to talk about a variety of topics, so buckle up, folks… we’re going on a ride.

If you haven’t figured out that I’m a giant Doctor Who fan by now, then you must have been visiting the wrong website for years because I loves me some Doctor Who. 

Since we are about to experience our first female Doctor in the series, there has been a bit of a divide among fans. Everyone who is an actual fan is willing to watch the show and see if Jodie Whittaker is interesting in the role (like I want to see) is in one camp… and the rest are misogynists.

Why does the Doctor have to be a man? When Tom Baker was getting ready to leave the role, he said (during an interview) that his successor could very well be a woman. That was in the late 70s/early 80s. Here we are over 30 years later and people are out there complaining about something they haven’t even seen yet.

The concept of judging something before you know what it is baffles me. Completely. It’s akin to a four year old complaining that broccoli tastes terrible when that four year old has never had broccoli.

Back to the fun stuff… 

Materializing a new season on October 7.

On October 7, 2018, Jodie Whittaker’s era of Doctor Who begins and I am so excited… more for the fact that Steven Moffat is no longer in charge than anything else, but I am genuinely interested to check out what’s in store for the new season.

Chris Chibnall, the new show runner (known previously for Broadchurch), said that there won’t be any returning villains this first season. None. There has been a heavy reliance on them over the course of this New Who and even though they seemed heavily involved in Classic Who, there is so much Classic Who it’s difficult to understand that there were many appearances because the Classic Who stuff ran for over 25 years.

I’m excited that there won’t be any Daleks.

The Daleks are, arguably, the reason that Doctor Who wasn’t cancelled way back in the 60s. They took the UK by storm and have allowed Doctor Who to develop into something we all understand today. The Daleks, however, are so over used. There have been WAY too many Dalek stories in New Who… and I’m not even talking about the ones where they make an oblique or cameo appearance, I mean Dalek stories proper.

That being said, I’m hoping Chibnall does what Moffat was incapable of doing: bringing back some of the villains that deserve some more development. I’m talking about villains like the Rani, Omega, the Black Guardian, the Meddling Monk, and Salamander.

If you don’t know who those characters are, then you have allowed Moffat to dictate to you what matters to Whovians. Let’s not forget those that had so much potential and weren’t used again because the show was cancelled (or actors died).

I’m also excited for some new monsters. So far, we’ve gotten some greats in the Gelth, the Silence, Weeping Angels, and the Vashta Nerada. There have also been some epic misses under Moffat and Davies, like the Slitheen.

We need new monsters and villains, especially some good ones. I wouldn’t even mind a couple seasons without seeing classic monsters, even though that means I’ll miss my favorite Cybermen.

I decided to make a more inclusive “sports” category than one for each of the sports I enjoy (football, soccer, sumo, MMA, racing, etc). This one will also be about more than one sport, so I’m killing a couple birds with the same stone on this one.

There is a Sumo Game that I play online every other month when the Basho is taking place. I’ve participated in 6 events, with my last two being less than desirable results. I’m hoping to get better at this and return to winning ways, because I like the way things are run there and the game is generally fun.

I have also witnessed a fair amount of change since I’ve been watching sumo again. While I was paying attention way back (when ESPN was running it), you’d see nearly all the same people at all their same ranks time and time again. It was good but there wasn’t much movement (or at least that is what I perceived at the time). Now? I’ve gotten to see someone become a Yokozuna, seen at least two new Ozekis, and there is massive movement in the top division.

Having access to someone posting the events on YouTube (Kintamayama) is also a huge help, because I get to see every day and all the events in their entirety rather than only catching a broad recap from a major network.

On the soccer front, I’ve been watching more Manchester United on the NBC Sports app (at least until this weekend, when they’ve started peddling their overpriced “Gold” garbage). The last time I got to watch this much Manchester United they were flying high under Sir Alex Ferguson… my, how we’ve fallen.

I also have the look like I don’t understand the hype of Mourinho, too.

Manchester United has gone from a “score when it counts” type of team to a “score once and hope the other team doesn’t score” mentality. Jose Mourinho is no Sir Alex and I’m worried that the club is going to falter for another decade before figuring out what to do in his wake.

I’ll keep watching and hoping they finish with a Premiership Championship again soon but I’m realistic enough to understand that probably isn’t going to happen for at least another two or three years.

The 25th Anniversary marks a rough patch for the UFC as well as a milestone.

I’ve been watching more UFC lately, as well as more One Championship and more Invicta FC. In a bizarre sequence of events, my interest in each company has taken some weird turns to return me to a place where I thought things might not work out so well for the UFC… but they will… ish.

There is a column on this site about the UFC seeing a loss in interest coming on the horizon. While I still feel strongly about the ESPN deal being terrible for the UFC, I don’t really think they have the competition that I thought they did only a couple of months ago.

In a bizarre turn, the One Championship organization has started doing some really weird things with their events. They are, for Western audiences, essentially the UFC of the east. One is WAY more popular in Asia than UFC, to the point that some Asian Continent residents don’t even know what the UFC is… 

What weird things, you ask? How about scheduling a headlining fight containing the WBC Super Flyweight Champion Srisasket Sor Rungvasai battling Iran Diaz. Regular, boring ass boxing as the MAIN EVENT of an MMA organization card? What the actual fuck is going on? Am I in bizarro world?

The whole reason I enjoy MMA is because it isn’t boring ass boxing. Boxing, where the waistline has crept up to just under the nipples, is sluggish and very awkward to watch. There is a lot of hugging that happens and not in the fun, punch someone in the face kind of way like MMA.

Why would you schedule a boxing main event on an MMA card?

One has also been doing kickboxing on a regular basis lately, too… as well as Muy Thai, and other fringe (I use that to mean not large scale) style fights. I was okay with a little kickboxing, but if One is going to turn into a “we are just combat sports, not MMA” then I’m probably going to start watching more UFC… 

Until the ESPN, that is… because I’m not paying ESPN to watch UFC.

I will be posting the Chess Basho VI: November Basho in the next few days, which will mark the first basho where I’m not going to be participating. As I write this, I am in dead last of the Chess Basho V event and I’ve decided that maybe it’s time for me to let the others go… and maybe, hopefully, get some advancements through the system as a result.

There is an ulterior motive in this “retirement,” too.

Last column I mentioned that I’d like to start reviewing ALL of my chess games, and that means I’m hoping to go for events and opponents that will help me improve. As of last night (the day I am writing this), I beat a 1400+ player in an event because I decided to try something different (rather than going with the knee jerk reaction move). Look, I’m already learning.

The idea of reviewing every rated Chess.com game is to see, in real time, my advancement through the ratings and how I am either getting better or worse… because, I am currently “better” but I expect a dip in the near future.

I am also (already) looking at dropping the SpecterChess events from weekly to bi-monthly (every other week). If I’m reviewing every single one of my games (single, one off games as well as tournament play), then I can probably keep up the pace… but with the current mode of how I’m doing things, I am having issues finding similarly rated opponents.

Time will tell.

The Greatest Show will be returning. This week, not next week or the week after, is when I’m going to start recruiting guests. I’ve got Kirby Krackle interested in joining me, Dan Berry (the creator of Verdacomb and TOFUzilla), and possibly even Dirk Manning. These may be at the “normal” Saturday evening time, or in the case of Dirk (for example), I’ll be having it whenever I can.

As far as whether the other hosts will be joining me for these is entirely up to their availability. In a similar vein, I’ll also be bringing back the shows WITHOUT special guests because I want to get back to talking geeky with other folks on a semi-regular basis.

The Specter Show has not been recorded in a few weeks, again… I’m getting ready to put out episodes of other things in that feed, so there will be content coming. I have some prep to do before that happens, though.

Once again, I’m going into a holiday season without an idea of how things are going to work out. I’m in a new office at work, on a new route, and unfamiliar with the “holiday season” of my new route, I’m expecting to be overwhelmed.

I’m retiring from this new office, in 15 or so years, so I’ll get a feeling for how the holiday will work out in the future. Knowing that after this year, I’m hopeful that planning can be done for the things I like to do.

See you all for #101!

Journal of the Emerald Specter 99: Getting Back in the Groove

You were all beginning to wonder if this column was coming, weren’t you? There is a milestone coming up and I wanted to make sure that I pushed myself to get back to writing at least once a week, as well as other things.

Why don’t we get things started?

The time of year when packages start flowing like water is fast approaching and that normally means my time is going to start shrinking for other things. Work is work but that doesn’t mean I can’t be doing things outside of that.

I had popped back in to podcast about a week or two ago for the first time in months. There hasn’t been another show, as this column has been written, but I’m going to be recording a few of them in the next week or two.

Why? Well, I need to start the Specter Show back up full time and I also need to start banking the SpecterChess episodes so that I’m ahead of the game. Speaking of chess…

The Emerald Specter Chess Club is about to start moving along without me actively playing. All ESCC events, at present, are set up like sumo basho events and I’m personally finding it hard to keep competing with the wide variety of different playing strengths that tend to sign up for these things.

I’m going to keep running the events, but I’ll be essentially “retiring” from the ESCC basho play. As of this writing, Chess Basho V: September 2018 is currently running, with only two more banners created for the future… I do plan on continuing to run the bashos until it catches on. The next one is already on the horizon:

Most of the reason I’m going to “retire” from the ESCC active play is SpecterChess. I’ve stated that the rating is only a number but rather than have my own rating fluctuate all over the place between SpecterChess events, I’m going to start reviewing all opponents… and that means I’m also going to be needing to not play so many “non-reviewed” games.

SpecterChess 1 has been announced formally, and you’ll start seeing each event from here on out announced weekly. I’ve got a format for how I’m releasing all these and I need to stick to it in order to be ahead of the game. Honestly, if I don’t get ahead of this, the SpecterChess events will probably go from weekly to monthly and that with slow things down too much, in my opinion.

There haven’t been anymore sign ups for this, yet, but I’m confident that I’ll get the audience I’m looking for by perseverance.

Ah, the thing that most people come to this site for: BuJoRPG. I’ve made a little progress on things but I want to take a step back and talk about a recent email that really made me think.

Someone who lives fairly close to me, generally speaking, asked if there would be anything BuJoRPG related that wouldn’t involve combat. She asked for, literally, a “female version of BuJoRPG.”

I had to take a step back to look at things before I answered.

RPGs, roleplaying games, are generally “armor up and physically combat” enemies. The BuJoRPG is less about outside sources of combat but still involves a sort of combat. The original version is more about self improvement and is really about conquering your personal hangups, but BuJourneyRPG was going to be more story driven.

It was also going to involve various amounts of combat.

Thinking about the process, the “lady BuJoRPG” for the original would be dropping a template for it that didn’t involve the standard RPG tropes. That is easy enough and has now become the number one next release for BuJoRPG (version 1). But I didn’t want to limit myself there… 

BuJourneyRPG has always been envisioned as being a “go here, fight that” type thing. I’m in the process of writing up the combat rules and combat will definitely be a heavy component of making successes. So, to “girl-ify” BuJourneyRPG, what would I need to do?

Looking at the situation as a whole, I really had to put thought into what I’d need to do to remove combat. It’s essential in BuJourneyRPG. I did come up with a theory, though, and that is a simple modification… to the definition.

Combat is actually a conflict towards a resolution. So, essentially, combat doesn’t need to be physical.

In BuJourneyRPG, you have four attributes that you’ll need to work on in order to balance out your life. Those are Physical, Mental, Social, and Emotional attributes. Each one of them can be involved in combat… and now combat is expanded a little.

With the first attribute, Physical can still include actual standard RPG combat. Swords, shields, battling opponents, and winning the day. In the case of the other three attributes, though, combat is completely different. Mental combat can be working out puzzles, Social combat can be conversational in nature (rather than physical), and Emotional combat can be things like meditation. Combat doesn’t need to be the default thought when someone says “combat.”

The request adds another dimension to the BuJoRPG situation that I think will make things far more interesting for those using the system. I’m really glad I got that email.

The Specter Show will be getting back into full swing soon… and I’m going to be doing all those things that I said I would be doing before, meaning that the Specter Show is going to largely become an eclectic collection of audio experiments and may even form into some sort of narrative as things go on.

One thing I’m not going to change until I reach the end, though, is naming the shows after Nine Inch Nails songs.

SpecterChess has taken over the old PRO Chess League podcast feed and won’t stop until they need to in order to reach a proper end (or, I hope, someone else will pick up the flag and run with it when I’m done). Once I get closer to the event narrowcasts, I’ll remove the old PRO Chess League shows and it’ll only be SpecterChess. I might be inclined to include ESCC reviews in the feed, too, but that isn’t going to be anytime soon.

The return of the Greatest Show is on the horizon, kids. After having attended Rose City Comic Con a little over a week ago, I’ve got a few people I’ll be hitting up to come on the show, as well as getting the crew together more often for shows. There is a caveat with this, though… we won’t have a solid recording time again.

Way back when Bob and I launched the Greatest Show, we literally just recorded when we had time and posted the shows. Fast forward five years and we’ve been stuck in a rut with only appearing live on Saturday nights… that used to happen weekly but we’ve lapsed because lives have gotten in the way. We are going to be returning to the “recording when it works” model.

Live viewership will probably be next to nothing, which is what needs to happen to make this work. I’ll entice the listening and viewing of the show, though, by returning to the giveaways again. I have given away a free box of stuff to Tab from Ohio and I’d like to give away more.

I have written exactly nothing since the last Specter Show. My ability to sit down and write has been replaced by sitting and doing things to help my wife fill orders for her business.

Honestly, money making projects come first, so I don’t actually mind too much. If you want me to put more effort into this site’s output, I have a Patreon link to the right you can click on… which means I’ll need to start posting the content there (I’ve been a little lax).

I’ve been thinking of my serial fiction that will be released as a “series,” in the vein of a TV show. There are serial works I’m simmering on the back burner that I’ve termed “one shots,” like movies, and while I was cleaning up something on my computer the other day, it dawned on me that all my serial fiction projects are one shots.

See if you follow me.

If I am writing an urban fantasy serial fiction (I’ll call it Street Wizards for this example) with the idea that it’s a TV show, I’m inclined to think of the project as open ended and more “episodic.” Sure, things can stitch together and there is probably a larger arc going on, but it’s really being less cohesive and digestible in smaller chunks.

If I am writing Street Wizards as a one shot and releasing it, still, as serial fiction, then there is a bigger plan at work. The one shot means there is one large and cohesive story running through the whole project without the consideration for whether or not there will be a sequel. 

I’d started writing my first work as a one shot and the second one as a series. I like the first one a whole lot better so far.

On the Specter Show, and in a past column, I mentioned that I was writing the fiction in solid 1,000 word chunks with the intent of writing to 80,000 words. Well, folks, that isn’t a good way to format this (seeing as the first story has progressed to about 1/3 of the way into the story and is sitting at around 6,000 words).

The first story isn’t going to have an 80,000 word run. I know that now.

My first serial fiction story is called “Revelation,” which will be released in larger chunks than 1,000 words and will run as long as it needs to in order to finish telling the story.

Now that I’ve announced it and released the cover image, maybe I’ll get back into this thing and do it up right.

First things first, I need to go back and add in more context and content to what I’ve written, because 6,000 words and being a 1/3 of the way through the story isn’t quite what I was looking to do. There was a lot of descriptiveness that I skipped over in order to get to that point and I’d like to go back and add in that descriptiveness.

My goal with Revelation is to release between 2,000 and 5,000 words at a time. That isn’t too long, it isn’t too short, and should be interesting enough to keep people coming back to check out the next segment. Revelation is a literal one shot, as in when the story is over there isn’t anything else to tell. There is a beginning, a middle, and a solid end. Once you read the whole thing you’ll understand why that is a thing.

Once that is finished (the writing), I’ll read through and make sure I have no spelling errors and grammar makes complete sense. After that, I’ll start releasing the fiction weekly in as many parts as is necessary. Once the release schedule is set up, then I’ll start writing the second serial fiction, which may allow for sequels… unlike Revelation.

This is the last “Journal” entry. The column, as announced on the last Specter Show, will return to just being called “Emerald Specter.” I’m going to be moving to making an individual cover image for each edition, and I started with this one. I liked the comic book theme and decided to shrink it to fit the dimensions of the website more.

Sitting down and writing these columns is cathartic. I get tings in order, I get enthusiastic about doing the things I say I’m going to do, and I an motivated to get things moving right away.

I’ve been dragging my feet a little on the digital journal and that is going to be worked on heavily over the next couple of weeks. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but I should be a lot further along than I am.

For now, thanks for reading.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 98: Social Statuses

This might be a weird column title and I’m not really sure how long this one is going to be… I had a plan to write something that wasn’t necessarily geeky but was related to something I’ve seen a lot of in the media, as well as had a fairly recent live interaction with: teens not quite having a grasp on what really matters.

Having been, at one time, in a high school and vying for that ever important “social status” in a somewhat controlled environment, I have an important point to make about that search for status: it means literally nothing.

That isn’t entirely true.

The only people to whom a social status from high school are people who never intend to leave the place where they attended said high school. In small towns, I’d even extend that to include moving to anywhere within a 100 mile radius. In North Dakota, that applies to the entire state… because, having formerly lived there, there isn’t much there.

Have you ever looked at someone who has lived in a small town all their life and thought they were cool? I’m not talking about the guy who is a good father (or mother), who attends PTA meetings, who does what they need to do in order make it through life because they didn’t have the option to leave… I’m talking about that guy who still has the mullet, who drives the pickup truck he had in high school because he thinks it still is a status symbol, the guy who is working construction around town because that’s the best job he could find, and he’s still hanging out with high schoolers (or at least keeps showing up at a lot of the parties they’re at).

Teens believe high school is the end all be all of everything. If they have lots of friends, they’re winning. If they are considered popular, they’re winning. If they have a successful academic score, they’re winning. None of these things affects your life outside of high school.

Sure, an argument can be made for friends sticking with you afterwards, making you happier. An argument can be made for academic success leading to bigger or better paying jobs. You don’t need either of those things to achieve those ends, though, because high school doesn’t matter.

Let me tell you a tale.

I grew up in a small town, a little place where “small town” actually means small. My graduating class was 63 people. I first tried my hand at academic excellence but had pressure beyond my control (bullies), so I shifted gears and started hanging out with the… infamous crowd. While none of those friends were largely desirable in social circles, they were my people because they alleviated the pressure.

During the “era” I grew up in, there were three basic social groups: jocks, preps, and the loads. Jocks were what you’d expect: sports players who were adored by the community for their participation. Preps were more or less what you’d expect: the social standing masters, the academic successes, and they held all the “political” sway (Valedictorian, class president, event organizers, etc). The loads were the ones that need the most explanation, because they encompassed a large portion of the rest of us: some where drug users, some were drinkers (most, actually), legal troubles often plagued them, and they didn’t spend tons of time in school.

I hung out with the loads and traded some of the “social capital” I had for some awesome results. First, the bullies all but dried up… because why would you antagonize the guy with the undesirable friends? Second, I ended up learning a lot of stuff about life I wouldn’t have gotten from either of the other two groups (things too numerous to list here). Third, I have more friends from that group to this day than I have from my actual graduating class.

There are a good number of classmates I won’t ever talk to again… because they’re assholes. There are a good number of classmates I won’t be talking to anymore, ones that I have given a chance on Facebook (for example), because they’re close-minded assholes. There aren’t more than a handful of former classmates that I actively have any contact with, and some of them are just giving me the “pity friending” on Facebook because they might think I need it. I don’t.

I have a job that I enjoy and have been doing for over a decade now, in spite of my academic history. My college education, which I took in order to just use the money from my GI Bill before it ran out, has absolutely no bearing on any job I’ve had since getting the degree.

What I’m saying is that high school doesn’t matter, socially speaking. The cheerleaders having a beef with you and being bitchy at you constantly isn’t going to have any bearing on your life, unless you remain in that place where you grew up. Which actually leads me to the most important part of what I’ve talked about so far: staying at home.

When I graduated from high school, I joined the Navy. It got me the hell out of my hometown and gave me a great experience meeting vastly different personalities, going to places I never would have thought to go, and I didn’t need to associate with any of the “poisonous” relationships from high school. Life got better. WAY better.

While it took me 15 years to accomplish the goal of leaving North Dakota (convincing my wife), I succeeded in leaving North Dakota forever. The place, from my point of view, is just now entering the 19th century (yes, 19th), they’re closed-minded, and opinions (if they didn’t match everyone else’s) didn’t matter.

You know what? I don’t care. I live in Oregon now, Portland to be specific, and I’ve never been happier.

High school had no bearing on anything that I’m enjoying, or dealing with, today.

So, when you think high school is the most important thing in the world, socially speaking, think again. It’s only important “right now,” it won’t matter in a decade… or two… unless you never go anywhere after you graduate.

Stretch your legs, grow a little, and get away from home. You might just understand that there is a better “home” out there for you with less toxic people and all of them don’t care about high school social structures either.

Live a little.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 97: The Bullet Journal RPG Updates

There are a great many out there that are going to read that title and breathe a sigh of relief that something is coming. Well, I’m here to lay down a little bit of information and let you know that “winter is coming” and that may throw a wrench into the works. 

Without further ado, let’s get into the meat of what we need to discuss as far as BuJoRPG, BuJourneyRPG, and what the future of updates look like from this point on.

At least you can be happy that I haven’t forgotten about you all. 

I introduced BuJoRPG early last year with a promise to expand it as I had time to do so. That has proven to be a bigger task than I realized and some things have obviously gone awry in the attempt. The big push for me is still BuJourneyRPG and that’s probably where the focus is going to be for the foreseeable future.

The problem is that I haven’t gotten much of a chance to work on it in the past three months. That is a quarter of a year gone without hardly opening the document that I am writing the instructions in.

Complaining that work is taking up all my time isn’t even much of a problem. I have limited hours at work now due to an injury and the rest of my “work time” is helping out MadeByTricia.com produce her stuff. Life is pretty full because business is picking up.

Anyone who has ever worked on anything worthwhile understands that everyone needs some downtime, too. I am no exception. I’ve gotten back into playing No Man’s Sky (they just released a new update called NEXT) and I’ve been playing that now and then.

I’d also like to be playing some UFC 3, but I haven’t really gotten the chance to learn how to play in order to actually play the game. That is a big want for me as well.

But that has nothing to do with Bullet Journal RPGs… at all. Just me needing a little space to breathe.

I’ve been trying to make time to work on both BuJoRPG and BuJourneyRPG and because I’m stretching myself thin in trying to do that, I need to make a decision. BuJourneyRPG will be completed before I do anything else with BuJoRPG at this point, and there is another little caveat in there that you weren’t even aware was a thing until now: digital journal creation.

I’m making custom digital bullet journals, or rather I will be doing so. Both my wife and I have my first two that I made and I’m going to make that a thing that will be released on this website for the future as a possibility for you to purchase. The process takes a lot of time (links, creating or manipulating the graphics, deciding on the design elements, including everything that needs to be included, etc) but once I get a template set up, changing out the “pretty bits” should be easier. This means that I probably have to start working on this now.

While I’m watching TV before bed with my wife or have a lot of time to sit in front of a computer watching whichever sport is on TV at the moment (soccer, NFL, sumo, UFC, ONE, NASCAR, etc), I can be making the framework of the digital bullet journals. When the framework is done, then I’ll be able to sub in graphics to make a few options for you all to decide what you’d like.

In between that and 2019, I will be getting two weeks of vacation from work. Undoubtedly, my wife will occupy a chunk of those weeks doing stuff for her business, which is completely fine. I am, however, setting aside a single 24 period each of those two weeks (they aren’t connected, so one 24 period per week) to finish up the BuJourneyRPG sourcebook. That means that I’m hopefully actually going to be releasing BuJourneyRPG by Christmas (what a present, right?).

Stepping back a bit, I mentioned the digital bullet journals for two reasons: 1, they are a thing now and can actually be taken anywhere without any worries of messing up a physical journal and 2, I can include my BuJoRPG and BuJourneyRPG special releases in them… so if you use the system and you want access to the rules (sourcebook) or one of the expansions, you’ll be able to get those in the digital bullet journals. They won’t JUST be in them, but they’ll probably be in them.

Time management is something that is supposed to be a big part of the Bullet Journal experience. I haven’t even gotten a chance to use my digital journal a whole lot yet and that is because I have no damn time to do it. I need a chance to step back and work at what I need to get myself back in line.

If you took notice, I used my new graphics package for the headers on this column. I was going to “boom!” introduce them all at once but I’d rather roll them out in little bits as I start migrating towards the site refresh. Some things won’t get updated yet (like the comic book cover) but they’ll be updated soon enough.

First, though, I need to work on producing what I said I’d produce.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 96: The MMA Battle

If you’re looking for some pithy commentary on an upcoming UFC event, you’re looking in the wrong place. Well, you’re probably looking in the wrong place.

What I’ll be talking about today is actually about how the UFC will be up against in the coming years. This is the battle between the UFC and ONE Championship.

Many, almost universally in the western world, consider the UFC the best MMA organization in the world. There are plenty of outliers, though, many of them also in the western world… but the biggest organization in the eastern world is actually ONE Championship.

If you’re not familiar with them, ONE Championship started as ONE Fighting Championship… which they changed due to linguistic reasons (since English isn’t the dominant language in Asia).  ONE has a stranglehold on the east, much like the UFC does on the west, and there may be a time coming soon where ONE actually starts pushing into the UFC’s market.

I mentioned the biggest reason in the UFC-ESPN column I wrote a couple weeks ago. With the ESPN deal for the UFC includes removing them from a more mainstream audience, ONE Championship has done something remarkable… and just the opposite:

ALL the events and ALL the fights will be free on their app.

The barrier, as one could imagine, is that some of the names won’t be immediately familiar with American audiences. I was tempted to say “western audiences,” but only those who are wearing blinders don’t realize some of the best fighters are actually in ONE.

Ben Askren, whom I do not personally enjoy watching fight due to his style, is one of the top 5 welterweights in the world and is the current ONE Welterweight Champion. Martin Nguyen is their version of Conor McGregor, he’s the ONE Featherweight and Lightweight Champion. Aung La N Sang is also a two division champion, holding both ONE’s Light Heavyweight and Middleweight Champion. Angela Lee is the ONE Women’s Atomweight Champion (for those wondering, that is the next division lighter than Strawweight).

I could certainly list a lot of fighters and all of their champions, but I won’t keep going on that one. The “octagon” is more of a circle and you’re going to see all kinds of talent from the newest of new to the most experienced of fighters.

Some people like watching Bellator or Invicta, as well as Professional Fighters League (formerly World Series of Fighting). They’re all big organizations, they all have their own niches for fans, and they all have great fighters. There aren’t a lot of them that are paying top dollar for their fighters, though, which is why the better ones tend to end up in the UFC.

ONE is paying top dollar AND they are the “go to” organization for most Asian countries. China, for instance, is having many of their up and coming fighters go straight into ONE. With China having been cut off from the world so long, there are a ton of athletes that will be joining the rest of the world’s biggest organizations and making waves (like Yao Ming).

Let me stop trying to sell you if you’re not interested in anything outside the UFC on the fighters. The events are free, literally free. If you like fighting, why not give some of them a shot? It’s not going to cost you anything. I’m pretty sure all the previous fights (or at least the more recent ones) are also free. Free. You can watch people punch each other in the face for free.

Give it a shot.

I think that the UFC’s ESPN deal may end up having a few people go on over to check out ONE, since they’re free, and maybe ONE can start getting a bigger foothold in the western world.

Having seen many of the events in the past, I’m a fan of MMA in general and want to see great fights. I like Invicta, I like ONE, I like UFC, and I like watching good fights.

Does ONE have duds? Absolutely. Is the whole event worth checking out? Sometimes, but normally you’re going to be interested in the last four or five fights, just like UFC.

Give is a shot. It’ll be worth a little bit of your time.

Testing the New WordPress Editor: Gutenberg

Since this is going to be the future, I decided to drop in with a little bit of content… well, random and perhaps sporadic content.

A prototype website image… that I’m probably not going to use.

There are a great many things that I think will be beneficial using the new post publishing things. That isn’t too terrible… I won’t mind giving this a little more time to get used to, though… 

The next installment of the Journal of the Emerald Specter (that comes out tomorrow) will be the last one written with the old WordPress editor… if Gutenberg is the future, then I guess I should start working towards that end.

Maybe a theme change would be in order now that the future is here… maybe I can get a website to lay out like the new post editor? We shall see… 

Journal of the Emerald Specter 95: Starship Design

This seems like a weird title, right? A topic that one wouldn’t necessarily see in a column about geeky stuff… right?

Wrong. Starships and their designs are as geeky as all get out and I’m going to say that there is probably going to be more images than any other column on the site, so sorry about the bandwidth usage on this one.

I didn’t want to make a brand new header for this one, so I’m tossing it under the Emerald Specter banner.

Starship design is a thing that has been around as long as the idea of starships has, and science fiction starship design is what I’ll be talking about (not the real space craft). The classic design of what people thought we’d get to space in looked a lot like the missiles we had been launching at each other on the Earth:

Your “rocket” is showing.

This is the “Buck Rogers” and corny B-movie science fiction space technology that people thought would take us to the stars. They had a weird failure to see some of the dangers that this type of vessel would pose but they also didn’t understand a lot about space at the time. Barbarella, for example, used liquids on a dark background as space and there is no liquid in space.

We did get better looking ships when Gene Roddenberry came onto the scene with the now infamous Star Trek. The Enterprise was a great design and an entire galaxy worth of ships came out of the design.

Looks pretty, but the bridge is an obvious target.

Another leap forward was made when George Lucas came out with everyone’s favorite Star Wars, changing up the starship looks from a template (like Star Trek) to just a free for all. The Millennium Falcon was the ship that everyone latched on to as a great look, and it is, but there are so many others that people tend to forget are great looking ships.

A small sampling of Star Wars ships.

There were X-Wings, TIE Fighters, Star Destroyers, Slave I, and a whole lot more. Each one unique, each one with a glorious look, and all of them fit together in the same universe because that’s just how things went.

Several other science fictions IPs have also got great ship designs and have taken those in their own directions. Babylon 5, Andromeda, Battlestar Galactica, and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century are just a few of the options that popped up over the years. They each also had their own designs, flaws and successes alike.

Every single one of these has a good look for space and every single one of them has the same flaw (at least the larger, capital ships): they are laid out horizontally as if they were in constant gravity.

This brings me to the Expanse.

We understand a lot about space, though there is still tons more to learn. We understand how gravity in space actually works, and though the “artificial gravity” excuse works in the universes I’ve already listed, I’m old enough to appreciate the need to experience something a little more realistic.

I really wanted to call this column “How the Expanse Changed the Way Starships Are Designed” but went with a more generic title instead.

The Rocinante (originally the Tachi), is the perfect example of how starships would actually be laid out. Writers Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham wanted to have a more “hard sci fi” feel to the Expanse universe and making sure things worked the way they were supposed to was a start.Click the image to see it full size.

In the Expanse, all the ships are laid out like office buildings (tall) instead of like aircraft carriers (long). When you are under thrust you have gravity, thus you would need to be flying sideways if you were in the Enterprise, unlike the Rocinante that has decks designed for thrust gravity.

Does the Expanse take some liberties with some of the hard sci fi elements? Sure, like the Epstein Drive doesn’t exist but would need to in order for the story to be what it has to instead of a story about people constantly floating around looking for more fuel.

I’ve long tried to design a “cool” looking starship. I have made more than a few attempts at actually figuring out the ins and outs of accomplishing the milestone of having that “one awesome ship” that I can then design an entire fleet around. All of those attempts have been with the horizontal deck layout in mind.

Until now.

Some time ago, I came up with the concept of a “space submarine.” There is no wind resistance in space, so having all the winged looks, fancy domes, and swooping lines of most starship designs would be a waste of time and effort (considering how space is an extremely harsh place to operate in). So, I thought “why wouldn’t we just build a submarine in space and tool around in that?” I had the right idea, just not the right reasons.

When I ran this space submarine idea by a hard sci fi friend, they commented that the ship wouldn’t need to be aerodynamic in space. Well, sure, the space sub is aerodynamic to reduce drag in the water, but we also wouldn’t want to waste a lot of time making the thing look pretty because we need the utility to matter. Function over form, shall we say?

Then the Expanse hit the airwaves and I realized that there can be some extraneous elements on the ship itself but my biggest design flaw was the horizontal nature of the ship. Simple fix: all the decks now go from “port to starboard” rather than “bow to stern.” Throw some shielding elements on the outside (where the unique looks would start to come in), along with some weapons, and the space sub is now a space office tower that uses gravity realistically.

If you think about all the ships used on the Expanse TV show, every single one of them has this same basic layout. So, for example, the Donnager looks like it would be of the “horizontal deck” ilk but is actually just a much larger version of the Rocinante.

Click the image for a larger version, and the Tachi can also be seen in the pic.

The “top” of the Donnager isn’t the dorsal side not visible in that picture, it’s the tip of the ship launching the blue bolts. Everyone on board would have the tops of their heads facing the tip and that is how gravity would work without coming up with an “artificial gravity” excuse to make the pretty ship look the way you want it to… and if you look back up at the cutaway I posted, you’ll also notice the ships are modular!

I’m not saying that the other franchises are bad, I’m just saying that the way I’ll be designing starships from now on is more like the Expanse. I stopped reading way ahead on the books so I can experience the show (which is better than the source material) as the show is released.

There is another book series I read that utilizes realistic and hard sci fi elements into it: Ian Douglas’s Star Carrier. I would love to see this adapted to the screen but I’m guessing the sci fi is a little too hard in that one.

With this new design philosophy I’ve also started rejiggering an old project to utilize the new design process instead of trying to come up with reasons to use the horizontal layout. This has actually affected the “pre-space” history of the story a little, too, which is exciting. Hopefully I can have something written sooner rather than later.