Category Archives: Chess

The Specter Show 029: Heresy

In what can only be called a “plethora” of topics, DJ discusses such topics as the BuJoRPG 2, No Man’s Sky Atlas Rises update, Specter of the Galaxy, the Greatest Show, serial fiction, a PRO Chess League podcast, and more!

Host: DJ Allen
Intro Music: The Idea of You by Nine Inch Nails (from Not the Actual Events)
Outtro Music: The Perfect Drug by Nine Inch Nails
Intro Lead in: Theo Rossi

Contact:
Email: EmeraldSpecter.com@Gmail.com
Twitter: @EmeraldSpecter
Instagram: @EmeraldSpecter

Support Emerald Specter at Patreon!

Thanks for checking this out, you can find more at EmeraldSpecter.com!

Hashtags: #TheGreatestShow #Podcasting #TheSpecterShow #chess @TheoRossi #BuJoRPG #BuJoRPG2 #bulletjournal #NoMansSky #AtlasRises #writing #PROChessLeague

Journal of the Emerald Specter 52: Inspiration Strikes

I am writing these well ahead of time in order to be ahead of the curve, for those times when I’m struggling to keep afloat with all of my tasks. This has been nice to be ahead and I’m going to be making this one a long, long column because there is a lot of stuff that I want to cover.

As the title suggests, this one is because inspiration has struck me since I wrote the last column. I’m talking about BuJoRPG inspiration, chess playing inspiration, working out inspiration, organizing inspiration, and other types… having a weekend off has done wonders for inspiring me to get things done.

Why don’t I stop being vague and start getting into the meat of what this column is about?

The original inspiration for the BuJoRPG was when I came across the website ClassCraft, an RPG system for classrooms that looked interesting. I’ve since watched several seminars and explanations of things in order to get more depth on this subject and I’ve used some of the ideas to expand the intent of the BuJoRPG in general.

This has what has become BuJoRPG Version 1.0 (and currently, the development stages of BuJoRPG Version 1.8, which has not been released for public consumption). I am very near releasing this expansion and I’ve decided (definitively) that this release will NOT be a full version number higher than the original (Version 2.0 should be wholly different than 1.0, thus the new release will most likely be Version 1.8 or 1.9, as that is likely where I’ll be when I do the write up of the system).

Over the weekend that I’m writing this (for those interested in the “behind the scenes,” this is being written on August 6, 2017), I randomly did a search for some YouTube videos that I thought might result in finding someone using my BuJoRPG system… I came across videos that I wasn’t really expecting to find.

There is an app (for mobile and desktop) that I’ve found in the past called Habitica (or HabitRPG, as it was originally known). I watched a video from someone using the desktop version and I listened a lot closer than I normally do. Then, boom, inspiration struck.

As I’ve stated before, I was working on expanding the Quests operation by splitting them into long term and short term. That works, it’s in Version 1.8. I’ve also stated that I’m working on the gear and monetary system, which I’m pretty sure works but I haven’t actually used that in practice, yet. I’m willing to stick that in Version 1.8 for sure just to move on to what I think needs  to be done for Version 2. This means I’m actually setting a release date for Version 1.8 as August 30, 2017.

Soon, right?

There are a couple of caveats that I’m doing that will expedite this process: I’m NOT releasing a new template and I’m only releasing the Rise of the Iron Garden (and the base system) updates. That’s it. Further expansion on BuJoRPG Version 1 will be done by you (the users) or won’t be done at all… progress comes at a price.

Now it’s time to talk about what I want to do with Version 2.

I’ve stated numerous times I wanted to have a character collecting aspect to the game. I have a means of doing this but I’m not going to put it into Version 2, so don’t worry about me rehashing that information again. This is still going to be very much about personal improvement and development, meaning you’re the only “character” in this game… sort of.

You will now have stats. I’ve seen a lot of people adapting what I released and portioning out some of their goals, quests, and other stuff into specific stats. I’m going to full-on put stats into Version 2, which will affect how things interact with the system. Tired of having your HP get knocked out so easily because of how Version 1 works? Version 2 will have a stat that modifies the HP instead of having a base value and damage that is variable based on your level.

Gear will modify things, and gear will most definitely be a part of Version 2. These modifications will change your stats efficacy, stats value, modify your XP earning for stats, and even change the variables that you will be interacting with… meaning there are multiple reasons for having gear!

The concept of the “Dailies” was to complete things that you should be doing on a daily basis (duh). Around my own house, and work, I will be expanding this into Weeklies and Monthlies, perhaps even a Quarterlies or Yearlies (maybe). This will provide different levels of earning XP and expand on what you should be paying attention to for the short, medium, and long term of your self improvement!

Habit tracking is a part of lots of folks’s bullet journals. I’ve seen these used as both habit trackers and progress bars, and since this is an RPG being developed, I’m going to be integrating progress bars in place of habit tracking.

As you can see, this is getting more complex and (hopefully) more fun.

To Do lists are a big part of self improvement, for example, I need them for things around the house (or related to chores, shopping, etc) to be sure I’m not forgetting things. Thus, they’ll be integrated into Version 2 in a big way.

In Version 1, XP was really the only reward for doing stuff… in Version 2, you’ll get rewards of XP, coinage (I say that because I don’t know what the money system will be called, yet), powers, gear, and all kinds of neat stuff. This is to encourage you to break out of habits that you might have fallen into that aren’t the best for progress.

Like what you’re reading so far? Well, maybe I should get to the good part.

I’m going to make the “sheets” for the BuJo in Excel. I’ve created my own personal template in Excel and I’m going to make the interactive (i.e. automated calculations) in Excel, too. I said this from the beginning that I was working towards making a BuJo in an electronic version to take care of all the tracking for you.

What am I still writing for? Get to it… I will, right after I explain the rest of the column.My feedback has come back on the PRO Chess podcast host possibilities… and it’s a no. So, I’m going to do this by myself and hope to attract someone at a higher level than I am to participate as well.

I’ve started back in on Chess.com‘s tactics puzzles and I think I’ve gotten a little better just over the past week or two. I’m going to continue working on them in the hopes that I actually slow myself down a bit during my actual games, which I’d like to point out that I’m now looking at the games as “tactics puzzles” in order to keep the same mindset with both the puzzles AND the games.

Having said that, I totally “checked out” on my games this morning and made two disastrous blunders that are going to set my rating back a few points. I didn’t look at the games the way I just told you that I was and so I now have to pay the Iron Price (Game of Thrones reference for the win).

I’m also going to fully integrate chess into the BuJoRPG.

Wait, what? You just spent most of this column talking about the BuJoRPG and you’re going to talk about it in the chess section, too?

Yes. Read on.

I am building BuJoRPG Version 2 for me, specifically. That means the battles are going to involve some chess, development will involve some chess, and hell, I may even make the layout look a little more chess-like, too. Developing my chess game will also help me develop my self improvement, which is also part of my goal to be better overall.

Chess is a game that is a good mental exercise to keep your mind healthy, keep critical thinking at the forefront, and help you treat “moves in your life” more like a game of chess. Want to get that promotion at work? You need to be thinking three moves ahead because the competition isn’t, which gives you the edge.

I haven’t decided exactly how integrated chess will be at the early stages but I’m hoping that I can make it a bigger part of the BuJoRPG, which would help me be more active with my own journaling.

Look, I made a header for the end of the column! It will help tie the loose ends together.

I didn’t mention the inspiration as much in the chess segment, but that was an inspiration to start back in on the tactics puzzles. I know I need to slow down to get better and I need the tactics puzzles to be able to identify the tactical advantage I can get, figure out how to pursue the end result, and force my opponent into doing what I want them to do in order to achieve my goal.

Simple, right?

Inspiration has been coming in waves. I wrote a chapter on my serial fiction and was inspired to write more, though I had to back off to accomplish other things. I read a little bit about something I do not want to explain right now, but I did the research to find what I needed to know and I’ll tell you about that once I have a better idea on how to put into words what I’m trying to accomplish. The Jon Jones win got me inspired to watch more UFC. The NFL season returning soon has inspired me to get things done to watch the games that I’m going to want to watch during the season. A new podcast I found has inspired me to get more involved with my soccer viewing, too!

Find out what you can use to inspire you and hopefully the BuJoRPG Version 2 will get you moving in the right direction, too!

Journal of the Emerald Specter 51: Battles and BuJoRPG

Another Journal entry is being made and you’re here to read it, for which I am thankful. There is another dose of this and that, with some larger pieces of the puzzle being more prominent, I’ll still be covering a plethora of topics.

As a note, I’ve seen my traffic dip even further down. I knew that things would taper off but I was hoping that some would come here to see all kinds of stuff, not just come here for a singular purpose. I’ve got a lot of interests and I guess I was hoping that there would be “something” that would keep readers coming back. Maybe what is contained within this article will help with that, at least in a couple of the subjects.

I’m starting out with the one thing that has kind of dominated my week. As I write this, I’ve dove deep into the game to get my mind working in the direction I need in order to grow my chess.com rating from the meager “mid-1100s” and back into growth. I’d like to be back up to the “mid-1200s” pushing to get over the 1300 hump again, and that means playing games and studying.

I’ve joined a number of chess clubs on chess.com, some of which were because I was looking for regular players to play against (without the randomness of just opening up a game). This includes my continued membership in the Team USA, US Veterans Chess, and Team USA: Northwest groups. I’ve added World League, Chess.com Chess League, Rose City Chess, Chess.com iOS Club, Knights of the Square Table, Knightmares Finest Chess, Chess.com League, and the PRO Chess League.

That last one is the one I’d like to expand this article into… a little history needs to be dropped, first.

In 2005, the United States Chess League (USCL) was formed to be a United States “nationwide” organization for team chess play. The league expanded over the course of 11 years to include 20 teams, running in a similar fashion to the other sports leagues of the United States.

I say 11 years because in 2016, the USCL announced a change to include the entire world worth of teams, and changed its name to the Professional Rapid Online Chess League, or PRO Chess League.

In 2017, the PRO Chess League ran 48 teams through a seven week chess season, ending in a five week playoff season to crown the St. Louis Arch Bishops the 2017 PRO Chess League Champions. The biggest development in the PRO Chess League over the USCL was the inclusion of some of the biggest names in chess today competing, including World Champion Magnus Carlsen (Norway Gnomes), Wesley So (St. Louis Arch Bishops), Hikaru Nakamura (Miami Champions), and Fabiano Carauna (Montreal ChessBrahs).

The 2018 season is going to be organized in a different fashion due to the confusion of having 48 teams. There will only be 32 teams for this second season, 24 automatically qualify to participate, and the other 24 will battle for their chance (along with any new teams that may spring up) to be one of the final 12 teams to compete in the 2018 season proper. This is as close to a “promotion/relegation” system that PRO Chess League will get, though I will be very interested to see how this format works.

Along with the analysis of my own personal games through this column (perhaps a separate column in the future), I have approached someone about being a co-host on a PRO Chess League podcast. Depending upon how that contact works out, I would be interested in making the podcast the “official” podcast, then be able to have access to official video, commentary, and interviews with the stars of the league.

If this approach ends up not panning out, I’ll still attempt to do what I’ve stated above, just as a solo host, and I’ll still try to get the podcast labeled official. The thing I lose without the co-host is the analysis of someone who knows what they’re doing at a much greater level.

I do have other option, I just really want to work with this person.

No game to analyze this time, I have several games going at the moment and I’ve earmarked a specific game for analysis (which, as I write this, is still underway). Stay tuned.

I haven’t been into the UFC as much this year as I have in the past. There was a long run of the past four or five years where I was actively watching matches, following certain fighters, and making sure that UFC was “appointment viewing.”

In 2017, I’ve only watched two UFC events and I’m a little sad about that.

Writing about the UFC is something I enjoyed doing, following the UFC has been much more interesting than following boxing (for fans of mine who don’t know my history with boxing, I used to be a devout follower of the sport… until hugging and terrible matchups started ruining the experience). I want to dedicate myself to at least commenting on the UFC a little as I work my way back to following the big fights and upcoming superstars.

So, onto a little commentary…

UFC 214 was a nice way to break back into the UFC for me, allowing me to see some of the best fights in a while. Cyborg beat the hell out of an undeserving Tonya Evinger (I have a column about my disgust with her shell of a victory in Invicta over an opponent by the Missouri Sports Commission rather than getting it done in the ring)… good job Cyborg. Woodley defeated Maia in a match that was mostly boos by the crowd but I understand why that one turned out the way it did. Finally, the main event of the evening was the much anticipated rematch between Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones, something that has been scheduled at least twice before but failed to happen. This will be the focus of this segment.

Despite seeing what Cormier has done against opponents as the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, I really considered Jon Jones the champion since he never lost the belt… he was stripped of the belt. Having no Jones in the UFC has been an experience that I don’t want to experience again… but the problem was Jones’ inability to stay clean or out of trouble, which is all up to the man I considered the champion going into this fight. The closer this fight came to happening, the more I worried that one of these guys wouldn’t be able to fight due to an injury, something that has happened to Cormier a lot in his reign.

With the win of Jones to regain his UFC Light Heavyweight Championship, we return to the situation we were in before Jones started having “out of ring” issues. I look forward to seeing what else Jones can do now that he’s back with gold around his waist.

The event, overall, was epic.

The biggest traffic getter on EmeraldSpecter.com is, by far, the BuJoRPG that I released. I continue to test, expand, and bullet journal. The traffic drop off that has been steadily declining is the traffic coming to the site for bullet journaling specifically. I can’t argue that I made a good move developing the BuJoRPG, but I’d like to keep the hits coming…

Testing and development in the BuJoRPG system has been changed in a slight way. If I tested the way that I tested the first time, you wouldn’t see another BuJoRPG release until almost the end of 2017. I don’t want to wait that long, as a result, I’ve modified how I’m testing things to be able to develop the BuJoRPG system a little faster.

I don’t know why I didn’t do things this way in the first place.

I’ve modified the Quest system, breaking it up into long and short term lines. XP varies for each of them and I think that I’ll be fine leaving the system the way I am currently using it (as of this writing).

A promise of bringing in “gear” has caused the biggest delay in the next release. I am doing a “real time” test of the money system (RPG money, not real money) to be able to acquire the gear because I want to see if the acquisition of the initial items is realistic and gives you something to shoot for… and I’m liking what I am seeing so far.

With the response I’ve gotten and what I see others using the BuJoRPG system (with or without modifications), I am seeing if there is anything else I’d like to include as I stray closer to putting together the next edition of the system. I’m working with version 1.8 at the moment, so I think that I may be releasing “2.0,” whether or not the changes are significant enough to call it “BuJoRPG 2.”

I think using the version system, I can leave the door open for “sequels” in the way I just used that… Ver 2.0 vs BuJoRPG 2…

Things are definitely looking good and I’m excited to show you all what I’ve got coming out.

I stalled in starting working out when I said I was going to start. Work hours ramped way up on me three days before I wanted to start and I was freaking exhausted when the actual day rolled around. I really wanted to have something specific to report, but I guess I’ll just pass along what the plan is for the start of the next week.

My week starts on Saturday. This keeps my postal week, bullet journal week, and workout week all on the same rotation. I don’t want any confusing day changes just because a “traditional” rotation for working out starts on Sunday. My workouts, my week.

The plan for the week looks like this:

Saturday – Legs
Sunday – Rest
Monday – Back and Biceps
Tuesday – Chest and Triceps
Wednesday – Rest
Thursday – Legs and Abs
Friday – Shoulders

Friday is going to be a rest day until my shoulders stop hurting. I have an impingement in both shoulders, with my left shoulder being exponentially worse than my right, I don’t even think I could do half the exercises that I ned to in order to work them out… I’m not super worried about my shoulders being worked out right now, since I’m no longer working for a “swole look,” I’ll just be making sure most of the groups even up.

If you’re wondering about cardio, that is an interesting topic. I am a letter carrier for the post office and I basically have cardio going on all day long on days that I work. I’ll be doing some form of pre-workout cardio in addition to all that, but I am leaning heavily on my job to provide the majority of the cardio as I start back out on this journey again.

The other important part of this journey is getting back to clean eating. Due to my wife locking down the spending in our house (we maintain a specific dollar amount in the checking account as we put regular amounts in savings each paycheck), we started going back to eating at home more often than not.

Several years ago, when I had issues eating dairy in any form, my wife and I started eating much better. My working out was accompanied by even better eating and we haven’t stopped eating the quality foods that we switched to (when we eat at home), allowing us to see weight loss on days we eat at home (for me, at least).

Any diet is a lifestyle change, if that diet is to work. As soon as you go back to eating the garbage you were eating before your “diet,” you’ll start regaining all your nasty weight again. This is something most people aren’t aware enough to understand. This is why most people fail at their weight loss goals.

All in all, I’m eating out far less… the money constriction is a blessing in disguise. I just need to lay off the sweets now and I’ll be back to eating completely clean.

Baby steps, I guess… baby steps.

I’ll close this column out with the storytelling header. This won’t talk about the serial fiction, though, this will be about the BuJoRPG.

Wait, what?

The base system for the BuJoRPG will be without a storyline, but the templates won’t. I’ve said this before and I’ll continue to hint at the possibility for EVERY template to have a story.

The one I’m most interested in is the Wuxia template, though. I’m going so far as to release the title of this next version of the template… that title will be the Rise of the Iron Garden.

Interested in learning why? Well, that is also allowing me to elaborate on the initial Wuxia template story, then I can properly build up each successive expansion.

This is short, but I hope it was interesting.

The Specter Show 027: Mr. Self Destruct

Heading towards a single topic show, DJ “The Emerald Specter” Allen briefly talks about some topics before getting into the meat of the show: chess. Chess.com, chess playing, chess podcasting, and more!

Host: DJ Allen
Intro Music: The Idea of You by Nine Inch Nails (from Not the Actual Events)
Outtro Music: The Perfect Drug by Nine Inch Nails
Intro Lead in: Dirk Manning

Contact:
Email: EmeraldSpecter.com@Gmail.com
Twitter: @EmeraldSpecter
Instagram: @EmeraldSpecter

Support Emerald Specter at Patreon!

Thanks for checking this out, you can find more at EmeraldSpecter.com!

Hashtags: #TheGreatestShow #Podcasting #TheSpecterShow #chess

Journal of the Emerald Specter 50: Welcome to the Journal

Since this is a journal of everything I’ve been doing, want to do, and will speculate about, thus begins the old “Emerald Specter” column in the new “Journal of the Emerald Specter.” You are not incorrect when you see “50” behind that, because this is the 50th edition of this column (even though it has a new name).

I whipped up a “graphics package” for this column and as you can see, I’ve decided to begin with the “aged paper/olde timey log book” look. If I decide to switch up the look, I’ll just go ahead and do that without any further “big announcement,” because aesthetics aren’t worthy of a big announcement (unless it’s for the whole website).

So, since we’re here on a new column pushing forward with a new format, let’s see what we have involved with our headings that applies for today.

I sit and write this column before my attempt to finish out “episode 2” of the serial fiction that I’m working on. My third editor has actually received episode 1, and much to my delight, has already begun reading what I sent. That has encouraged me to move forward and get episode 2 done and work towards the ending of season one.

In the world of No Man’s Sky, I’ve been playing randomly zipping through the galaxy while I wait for the update 1.3 (Waking Titan) to drop… and I’ve really gotten enthusiastic about my game again. I played for six hours over the course of the last two days and I’m looking to really push into the game again today to see what else I can accomplish. The storytelling elements for the narrative are still falling into place, too, as I work out the bugs of where the story will go. I can only do so much on that front at the moment, though, because without knowing what will be added to the game, I don’t want to plan an air tight story that can be upset with the slightest “new shiny” being added to the game.

While the next storytelling piece technically belongs under this heading, I’ve determined that it needs to go under this one, instead:

I have been testing out the processes of the new things I’m working on, and even though I am really, really early in the testing process, I think this is going to be a good development. Knowing that things are going as well as I think they are, this will bring me to what ties this segment into the above segment.

As promised, new releases of the BuJoRPG would be accompanied by “story elements” to build up a narrative that anyone using the system can participate in. The “base system,” or the system without a template, won’t get this story element but I have begun working on the barest of an outline for the BuJoRPG: Wuxia template and the Untitled BuJoRPG Space template… yes, new template for a new release.

Do you have a template idea you’d like to see? Well, there are two ways you can see that come to fruition for future releases… the first one is to create the template yourself and send the link to me so that I can share that with the world (full credit to you). The other is to email emeraldspecter.com@gmail.com and float the idea at me, giving me something to consider for future releases.

The return of SpecterFit! As prophecies many moons ago, I have resurrected the column in the form of a segment in the “flagship” column of the whole site. I had a hard time filling up my personal column size requirement (periodically) before, so now I’m going to do this as large as it needs to be as part of THIS column.

Starting yesterday (as you read this), I began working out again at home to get in a weight loss mode intending to lose another 15 to 20 pounds before deciding on a gym in my area.

In North Dakota, where I came from, there was a Gold’s Gym that was on the way to work. That made going to the gym before work super convenient and I was energized to go because I had no excuses for missing.

In Oregon, I don’t have access to a Gold’s Gym in a reasonable travel distance. I am searching for other gyms in the area to visit, before work preferably, and that will allow me to get the workouts done before draining myself for a long day of delivering mail.

One thing that I realize is that I didn’t really know what my focus for going to the gym was… was I going to gain mass muscle and get “bigger?” Well, yes… was I going to lose weight and get slimmer? Um, yes… and there lies the problem.

Weight loss is all about making a number shrink to achieve a poundage that fits with the body image that makes me healthier in general. The simple way to achieve this is to lift weights for toning and load the rest of the workout with cardio (the primary means of burning the fat).

Trying for muscular gains is a whole different ball of wax. Muscle weighs more than fat, and so if I’m both trying to lose weight and gain muscle, I can’t really concentrate on the number that shows up on the scale. I wasn’t thinking like that in North Dakota and now that I’m thinking about that here, I really need to decide which one I really want.

While I would love to be bulked up like professional bodybuilders, I think that the shedding of the weight and toning up the muscles that I already have should be my primary focus. That means I’m not looking to lifting the heaviest amount of weight I can as often as I can to build impressive looking muscles. I have gained some mass in my arms and legs, but not nearly what I hope to gain in the process… and I’m sorely lacking in “an ass.” Like a lot of males in the modern day, my glutes have shrunk in the absence of my cross country running from high school to zero running for anything other than a cardio boost before lifting.

What I’m saying is that I need to shape some of this body and once I attain that short goal, maybe then I can look at bulking if that is still something I’d like to do in the future.

Unless you’ve never read anything I’ve ever written on this website, you know that I love the game of chess and follow the professionals in a casual way. That means I know who Magnus Carlsen, Vladimir Kramnik, Vishwanathan Anand, and Hikaru Nakamura are, where they generally fall into the hierarchy of modern professional chess, and which tournaments that they participate in but I am not so much into following the “break down every game” of the tournaments they play in.

I am, however, going to start seriously investigating my own games and seeing if I can present them in the way that I think pro chess can be presented to the world at large for a larger audience.

That leads me to ask you all who are reading that play the game: would you like to play a game or two of chess with me?

I am a member of chess.com and I have a paid account, meaning I can play quite a few games at a time. You only need a free account to play me and I believe you can play at least a couple of games at a time without worrying about needing to play more than that. I invite all levels of player, and at the time of this writing, my current chess.com rating is 1191 (I’ve had a bit of a dip due to several losses in mini-tournaments that I was one of the lowest ranked players in… I usually run between 1175-1300).

The reason I would want to “play a couple” against you is to analyze both a game where I play white and one where I play black.

Finally, I end with one of my favorite sports: sumo.

The Nagoya Basho ended with Hakuho winning his 39th Yusho (tournament victory) and setting the all time win record at 1049. I’m happy for him and I’m also interested to see whether or not he’ll retire now (since he’s accomplished so much) or if he’ll wait until he starts doing worse in competitions just so he can make that win record so high it’ll be hard to top?

Time will tell.

I wanted to include a bit about this, even though there isn’t a basho going on right now, because if you have any interest in sumo at all, NOW is the time to start watching. There are several new, young sumo wrestlers (rikishi) that have entered the top division (Makuuchi) in the past three months that are worth your attention.

Ura and Ishiura are the two “little guys” really making waves right now, and even my wife comes to the TV to watch Ura’s matches with me (because he does some wild moves, things I’ve never seen anyone else do, much less at the frequency with which he performs them). Ishiura does some wild stuff, too, but he’s seemingly struggling to stay consistent as Ura is as far as competing at the high level he started out at.

The next tournament is in September and I would suggest you check out Kintamayama’s YouTube Channel for the “daily digest” releases (for those of us who can’t see anything near a live feed or an all encompassing “recap” of the matches). He’s the best.

* * *

I should have a “breaker” graphic for the finale of the column, I’ll work on that for next time… and as NFL season starts up I’ll talk about football, as Premier League season starts up (same season) I’ll talk about that football, and so on… if it interests me, it’ll probably be in this Journal of the Emerald Specter.

Toodles.

Emerald Specter 25: Round Up

coveremeraldspecter

I embark on the 25th Emerald Specter column without a specific topic, but I’ll be doing a lot of writing… so strap yourself in, this ride is going to be all over the place.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought, lately, to covering topics on a regular basis on the site. I have seriously toyed with doing a political column/show on the site and it was only this morning that I have decided that would consume an enormous amount of my time to produce, so I’ve decided not to cover that. However, I will be posting a political thing here before Trump’s inauguration… specifically dealing with the promises he made on the campaign trail and we’ll revisit those when his term as President is over. Everyone who supported him supported those things, as well as his misogyny, bigotry, xenophobia, and racism… we’ll see if the ultimate liar holds up to his promises or buckles under the weight of actually being the President.

Along with that topic, I’ve also been considering covering the sports that I enjoy watching as a reporter… specifically the UFC, One Championship, the NFL, sumo, the Barclays Premier League, MLS, and professional chess. Once again, that would eat up an enormous amount of my time but that is still on the table. I don’t need to report all the injuries, the play by play, or anything like that… covering sports is different than, say, politics, but I’m still not committed to doing that, yet. Starting out small would be the preferred way to do that, obviously.

Dude, you’ve talked a lot about nothing so far and you’re already almost 300 words into this column. 

Yes, I am, but I’m far from done.

My SpecterFit column went into the 40s for numbering and then just suddenly stopped. There are a couple of reasons for that but I’ll concentrate on the real barrier first: free time. SpecterFit requires that I put a little more effort into it than just a regular column and since I’ve gone back to delivering mail rather than supervising, I am finding it hard to squeeze all the things in I want to do in a day. This column, the Emerald Specter column, has been written ahead of time for the past month or so and as I write this I’m only a single column ahead (where I was four ahead when I initially got this thing back up and running). The other thing that stalled out the SpecterFit was my attempt to resurrect WAFFLE in the SpecterFit form… something I just don’t have time to organize and run like I did before. SpecterFit will return with less soul crushing “dictating from on high” and will morph more into a “tips and tricks” type thing. I’m also probably going to go with the “Nerd Fitness” type thing where I relate fitness to something you can geek out about in the process. Time will tell.

In the world of comics, I collect myself some titles. Spider-Man (the Miles Morales one), Moon Knight, Harbinger: Renegades, and I’m looking into a few others. Yes, that’s two Marvel comics and a Valiant. I really, really want to review comics and whatnot but with me only having three titles, and DC not really having anything that interests me at the moment, I don’t think I’d be doing the medium a service. I also don’t believe that many people would follow that, so I’m going to hold that on the back burner… the WAY back burner.

Where does all that “I’m not doing this” leave us? Well, it lets me cover the items I am doing and explain what is probably coming down the pipe in the near future.

Obviously, the Emerald Specter column is living and still breathing, so I’m going to go ahead and say this is safe to stick around for the future. This would be the only column that is currently running regularly and I’ll surpass the SpecterFit column in numbering before I pick that one back up. I think the self titled stuff should all be higher numbered than the other stuff, don’t you?

The three year running Greatest Show is doing just fine, too. We’ve just finished episode 102 as I write this and we’re going to be entering some non-typical shows into the mix so that we aren’t exhausting our discussion topics weekly. Episode 103 will be a Greatest Show Fight Series event (GSFS), which will be all of us in the UFC 2 game simulating a fighting event. I’m talking about this in the “coming soon” tense but you’ll have already seen it because we needed to take a week off for Thanksgiving. We will have more shows like that, some that are different in nature, some that will happen between discussion episodes, and then there is what we discussed on our last episode that will be likely helping us through the next 100-150 episodes (at least).

We are going to start roleplaying on the air.

In episode 102, I ran Bob and Metal Jesus through character creation for a game called Green Team, which is utilizing the White Wolf Storyteller system and is a story of my own design. Metal Jesus and Bob will also be running stories but mine will be the first one. The likely format of this bad boy is probably going to be a three hour show, beginning with a half hour (or solid hour) or witty banter, followed by two hours of roleplaying, then either just ending the show or finishing with another half hour of witty banter as a “wrap up.” While my story will be the one pushing the first few episodes like this, I’m hoping a rotation of games will fall into line so that if I don’t feel like running the game, I can certainly play instead.

Moving right along… the Specter Show.

I’ve been talking about doing this damn show for over a year now. I was going to launch the show in January of 2016 and as I write this in late November of 2016, you can see not one episode has been produced. I am going to launch this show, I am just trying to figure out when would be a good time. The topic will be whatever the hell I want to talk about, some will be longer, some will be shorter, but I’m aiming for a 30-60 minute weekly show to start things off, with the intention of running five episodes a week (Monday through Friday) as if I was on the actual radio. I’d like to be on the actual radio, too, so that is part of why I’m angling the show to be what I’ve just said. Wouldn’t that be fun?

And now for something completely different: the ESPL. I’m going to run the ESPL, expanding the depth of the league, for at least 10 years. That will be 10 seasons of the characters gaining specifically assigned positions, the league growing to be at least the two tiers I’ve already announced, and hopefully attracting others that want to be involved. Ideally, I am interested in knowing if anyone out there wants to jump in and take the reigns at some point in the future. I’m not depending on this, I’ll certainly just close the place down when I’m done running the thing, but I am enjoying the logo design (kits are coming in the future, too, kids) and running the simulations. Running this has also encouraged me to run something else I’ve been interested in running for some time…

An MMA simulated league. Unlike the ESPL, though, which is designed to basically be a simulation of realistic teams in a realistic scenario that is completely plausible… and the ESPL was specifically designed to be a way for me to create logos and practice my graphic design skills, the MMA league would be different. I’m going to change the MMA simulation to be more embracing of the digital nature of what I’m doing. That means instead of Heavyweight, Middleweight, Lightweight, etc for weight classes, I’m going to base them more off of digital denotations like Gigaweight, Megaweight, and Kiloweight. These will be “digital fighters” and I’ve already been setting up the framework for what is about to blast onto the scene here at Emerald Specter.com. As with the ESPL, the digital MMA will be an outlet for my graphic designing in the form of the “fight posters” for the events. The ESPL limits me to logos for specific clubs, where the MMA league will be about drawing attention to a more general design for posters and whatnot. If you saw some of my WAFFLE posters, you saw that I was heading into a beautiful era of graphic design… unfortunately, I’ve not had the outlet that I did before.

I want to simulate sumo, too, though I don’t have a graphically specific reason for doing so. As I write this, I realize that the other two leagues were for a specific reason (as would an American Football league, if I decided to launch one of those). I’ve also toyed with another racing league (NASCAR-esq, I have the groundwork laid but I haven’t been driven to design anything for it yet) but that is on the back burner.

Finally (what, finally?), I’d like to talk about the writing that I’ve been trying to get to forever. I really want to write novels, short stories, comic scripts, movie scripts, television scripts, and whatever else but I’ve stalled out consistently and that has left me in a bit of a scenario where I’m not really sure how to accomplish what I’m after.

NaNoWriMo is almost over and I’ve written a grand total of just under 6,000 words, which is 44,000 short of the 50,000 word goal. I need to set up a time and place to write and I need to write a specific amount of words or pages in that time in order to be allowed to move on. If I took a Sunday, for example, and woke up at 8 AM, wrote until I got 5,000 words done and then shifted into the Specter Show, after which I went into simulating the ESPL and the MMA leagues (or designing that which needs to be designed, as that is mostly the point of why I’m doing them), and then finished the day with whatever else I wanted to do, that would be a nice schedule. It shoots one entire day out of the water for doing much of anything else, but with NFL season running right now I’ve not really got a lot planned on a Sunday other than watching a game or two and staying home. No harm, no foul… I just schedule a bunch of other stuff in there and make it a productive day.

If you’ve read this far, then you’re a trooper or you really wanted to know what the hell I was going to write about. Thanks for sticking with this as long as you have and I’d like to tell you that I’m almost double my normal column word count… I try to write about 1,000 words and this sentence is in the 1,800 range, which is pretty sweet. I won’t keep writing, though, I’ve got more to do and writing isn’t going to help get that done.

Until next time, think on it.

Chess Specter 6 – Moving Forward

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I notice an uptick in traffic each and every time a column is published, so I’m going to see what happens when I go bonkers on the same day with a whole bunch of stuff getting put out. Are you ready?

Part of what I like to talk about chess is making the chess game, the event as a whole, something more of a spectacle than the game currently is… because what we have at the moment is a bunch of event at the physical location and some sideways reporting of the event, without any of the hoopla to go along with that.

Look at the UFC… no, really, take a long look at the UFC. While they don’t have the fight card stacked with huge names from top to bottom, they do have the headliners and at least one other big fight on the list and they promote the crap of out them. Why does chess put up a paltry effort in comparison?

Part of the problem, as I see it, is FIDE. The World Chess Federation is run by a corrupt politician, being influenced by corrupt politicians, not really investing in the thing that has them “in a place of power” at all. They want to sit in their ivory tower and look down on the rest of the world because they think no one else can do anything about it.

What about the Grand Chess Tour?

Some of the chess world has said that there shouldn’t be a single World Champion anymore, the chess world should be set up more like the tennis world… a series of tournaments to crown an ultimate winner at the end of the “season.” I’m not opposed to that scenario, but I also like the idea of a single champion.

Here’s where we move to make the UFC connection a little bit more connected. Take the Grand Chess Tour’s three tournament start this year. Is it a small start? Yes. Will it grow? Yes. Can they start promoting chess like chess is the only thing that matters? I don’t think so, but they need to in order to make a big impact. Why not promote so hard that anyone interested in the games can not only watch but WANT to watch.

Right now, the St Louis Chess Club is the one responsible for GCT broadcasts and the biggest downfall I see in their efforts is that there isn’t any means of watching the event after the fact. We have to watch live or we have to hunt, and hunt hard, for the replayability of the event. Is there pre-promotion? Not outside the inner chess circles. Do they have an idea for monetizing their enterprise? I don’t see a clear vision behind it.

It’s easy to be critical, mainly because I’m not involved. It’s also easy for me to sit back and say one thing and not provide an alternative in a tangible way. I will work on this tangible alternative… and I’m waiting for the right opportunity to do this (because I need the footage for this to work).

Your move.

Chess Specter 5 – The Entertainment Equation

chess_specter300I have titled this one something I plan to expand upon. There is some confusion as to exactly what I’m talking about when I talk about turning chess into a commercially viable form of entertainment and I decided to just lay that all out in this column.

First and foremost, get the idea of live chess on TV (I will be using “TV” for any form of video presentation, whether on actual TV or on the Internet) out of your head. Live chess events, unless there is a severe time limit placed on them and some wicked great commentary, are not going to work. Nothing that we can do will jazz up live chess short of making that into something closer to WWE rather than actually just playing chess. Having said that, there are ways to turn chess into something interesting to watch.

I’ve mentioned the Master Game and how they did it. I think that is a good means of presenting chess, especially if there is some great and hard work put into recreating the game for video. There is a more recent effort, though, and an effort that I thought had a lot of potential but ended up being an “Entertainment Weekly” version of chess, which in my opinion didn’t do anything justice. I’m talking about the Xtreme Chess Championship.

The commentary was interesting, the players had some personality, and the players also weren’t rated so highly as to be “politically correct” when they were speaking. What I mean by that is how Anand or Kramnik speaks, like “my opponent is very skilled and he played great.” There wasn’t a lot of “smack talking” but there was still a little bit about the players themselves.

The presentation was too much about getting to very specific points in the game without seeing how we got TO those points. The presentations were too short and not enough talk was done about the game or explored into what should have happened. I’m critical of this effort because there was a lot of potential here and that just didn’t get developed correctly.

Why? Why would the potential not be brought out when they have all the time in the world to work on it? What could possibly be the problem with the game and the people that created the Xtreme Chess Championship?

The people that created this are too close to the game.

The three people responsible for creating Xtreme Chess Championship are Daniel Meirmon, Jennifer Shahade, and Greg Shahade. The Shahades are married chess players and Meirmon is some sort of photographer/videographer… of chess. They, together, are too close to the product they hope to bring to the entertainment side of things. They made what they hoped would work rather than making what will work.

Stop trying to do reality TV. Stop trying to present chess AS IS. Stop trying to dive into commentary like a bunch of IM or GM level players are the only ones watching. These things are what chess players think people want… and they aren’t what people want.

Look at the World Series of Poker, World Poker Tour, and other poker entities producing poker for TV. There is a concentration on the players’ personalities, the important parts of the game, and commentary that is down to Earth. This is the template, but isn’t immutable.

If I had the time, I’d produce the whole experience from the latest World Chess Championship. I do not currently have that time, though, and maybe in the next column I’ll mock up what I would have done instead to make the event a little more “general audiences” friendly.

Until then, though, I’ll let you think about what I’ve already written.

Your move.

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.

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.