Category Archives: Columns

Topics vary but they all will be columns.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 82: Chess Basho UPDATE!

Are you interested in a chess tournament that happens six times a year with a one move per day time control? Are you interested in competing against no less than 11 other players to fight for titles in a sumo-style tournament brawl?

Well, the Emerald Specter Chess Club is for you, then.

And to make life better, here is an update on what’s happened so far in the world of the ESCC.

The Emerald Specter 2018 Winter Basho, also known as the 2018 January Basho, concluded in February and saw the first set of “Sapphire Adepts” added to the list. This led to mass invitations out to the original players with a shot at new players getting involved for the Emerald Specter 2018 March Basho. The tournament hadn’t been “invitation only,” and the original players never really got a shot to return for the second tournament as a whole new batch of players flew in to snatch up the spots.

That leads us to where we are now, with players interested in continuing to build and play while others still wanting in (yes, I’ve gotten requests for inclusion in the future).

First things first, though, let me state that ESCC competitors should sign up to the ESCC group on Chess.com in order to be considered for the tournaments that are invitation only. After 2018, the ONLY way you can continue to be included in the top division will be by being a member of the ESCC group.

That being said, an invitation was sent out to every player who participated in either the Winter or March Basho this year to be allowed in to the invitational circuit. If there isn’t a full roster of 12 players (minimum) who sign up, invitations will be granted to interested parties who make contact with me.

The March Basho finished as such:

ArturFaust – 21
homozzapien – 20.5
anujvaniya78692 – 15.5
biraandrada – 14
King_of_Not – 13
ardirahendro – 13
Aurel1954 – 12.5
Fredl1963 – 9
EmeraldSpecter – 7
PietroSalem – 4
sarotaromchuen – 0
vedantachess07 – withdrew

With this we’d have SIX Sapphire Adepts, just like last time… though we’d only have added one if the original players were still involved (assuming the standings remaining the same in both cases).

Thus, we will begin with a soft reboot of the ladder (division) for the top, depending upon who joins the club and who does not. I will also be starting an “Open Basho” each time to allow for the experimentation of the newer players and for a promotion/relegation system to begin being looked at, as that is also part of the sumo system.

The remaining Bashos in 2018 will continue with the naming structure as the others have (May, July, September, and November) with one caveat: the numbering for future installments will be added. That means, since we’ve already had two Bashos, the Emerald Specter 2018 May Basho will be listed as Emerald Specter Chess Basho 3: May 2018 will be the title. After 2018 ends, the naming will more than likely just be everything before the colon.

I will personally be competing in at least two more Bashos this year, and if my luck with the rest of you remains steady, I’ll probably withdraw just to administer this effort. I’ve enjoyed playing but work took a toll on me by causing me to miss a number of game moves in the allotted time, so I guess I would have done a little better (optimistically speaking) than I actually did.

Anticipating that about half of each group will want to continue participating in the future, I can see a solid 12 player division being constant before we reach November, leading to a need for expansion if the interest continues to grow.

One move per day is the quickest time control I can create without forcing people to be online at the same time to play real time. If we get to a point where real time is something people want to do, I’d consider expanding this into a 12 annual tournament “live tournament” cycle in the same manner as the one move per day, though the two would be separate from each other.

Hopefully things keep looking up.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 81: Audio from Written Word

Plans, plans, and more plans. Things start up, things fall through. Things don’t get started and life tends to get in the way.

“If something is important to you, you make time.” ~ Captain Montgomery Scott to Captain James Kirk in Generations.

I guess I have to start making time for the things that are important.

I’ve been talking about writing and completely producing a 22-page comic book before the end of the year. If I don’t actually start doing that I won’t ever get it done. By this time, I should have had a full script written and working on the layout for the book.

Have I done that? Nope. I have a script started but it hasn’t progressed.

There are tons of other writing projects I want to be knee deep in right now, too, but that falls into the “time isn’t happening” category. that’s also going to be grinding to a halt.

I produced a story for a writing class when I went to college back in 2005. The story was just the beginning of a much bigger venture and I’ve often thought about where that story goes. There are details within that story that I’ve long forgotten about and if I dig the story up to freshen the whole thing up. With a rewrite and some additives with the new details, I think it’s ready to be brought out to the world.

I am going to accomplish these things because I have a lot of stories I want to tell and I’m going to tell them.

I’ve been lax with getting out the Specter Show lately. Not that I’ve really meant to not record or to release shows, with the last episode being on the pathetic end of the scale, I’ve just allowed life to push me around.

Yep, there it is again… life pushing me around.

I’m going to start doing some experimental things with the Specter Show. There is another podcasting idea I’ve had that I wanted to try out and while I will definitely be producing at least one full episode of that idea WITHIN the confines of the Specter Show and if I enjoy it but don’t want to fully make a new feed that is also not going to be getting a ton of attention, I’ll produce a few more.

There is also a “research project” that I’ve been meaning to write up and produce into a podcast. Once again, I don’t want to produce a podcast that gets left to flap in the wind on it’s own feed while I struggle to keep up with what I’m already doing. What’s the idea? It’s going to be me producing long form content about a series of subjects all related to self improvement. That’s as far as I’ll go with the reveal so far and just like above, I’ll probably release the stuff WITHIN the confines of the Specter Show once, maybe twice.

Why within? Well, the Specter Show intro and outro would still be in the episode, and with these two ideas I would basically have a “this isn’t a normal episode” warning. If the content is popular or interesting enough, I’ll break it out into it’s own feed and release the episode sans Specter Show bookends.

I am stating right now that I am going to be getting back on the Specter Show wagon and producing content again, and really working to make content that doesn’t suck.

Moving along to the Greatest Show, I don’t see the group sticking to a “season” format… mainly because only one person outside of everyone in my house shows up regularly. This opens up the Greatest Show format changing into two different format options: a roleplaying session that only Metal and I are part of or me running an interview style show at irregular times with the guests I’ve been unable to work on getting on the show due to (you guessed it) life.

Both of those things are going to be a thing and that is where I’m trying to take the show. Unless the old crew comes back together, or Bob is able to make a regular appearance with me to have a reunion to the “old school Greatest Show.”

I said all that in the writing section to get to the meat of this column. The title, so far, hasn’t made a ton of sense in this column and that is about to change.

Let’s say I’m writing a serial fiction series about a school of wizards… and let’s say that the series gets a little attention from readers who would like more. Let’s also say that the series gets some feedback about people who like the premise but don’t have the time to read all that to get the information.

Well, here is where we come in with the title: Audio from Written Word.

I have software that will combine mp3 files into a large m4b file. If you don’t know what an m4b file is, that’s what an audiobook file is (at least through Apple). I am saying that I’d record the serial fiction into an audiobook format.

There are several things that I need to state about this before I go on. First, my time is not free and I’d be asking for a fee. If you consume even a fraction of the audio that I consume (because constant movement at work allows me to hear things but not really to sit and read things), then you’ll appreciate that paying someone to listen to a reading of fiction isn’t a terrible thing. Second, the audiobook files would be complete “seasons,” like the entirety of the series (season 1, season 2, etc) as one single file… this keeps me from seeing to basically having to produce a podcast release schedule to keep up and I can provide a bigger “hoopla” if I just do the bigger release. Third, I could also start writing the serial fiction as just written word and produce an “audiobook” to compile the season… or after a certain number of seasons I can simply produce and release the audiobook “seasons” after a free launch.

The idea is that if I want to start doing things I want to do instead of just doing things I have to do in order to kinda do the things I want to do then I won’t get 50% of what I want to do done.

My wife is a fantastic business woman. She takes an idea, develops the idea, and starts producing product for sale. In a few months, tops, that idea is now a viable business process that works and earns her a living. These ideas also keep her busy and doing things she enjoys.

I’d like to take my ideas and do the same thing.

The funny thing is that I just showed my wife those last two “paragraphs” and she said it would be nice if I did any of my ideas. Like, for example, my bullet journal ideas (I said I’d like to make stickers for the BuJoRPG… primarily the templates for the first version and the templates for the second version, too). That is first on the list.

I deleted Facebook and Google+ from my phone recently and I’ve been less consumed with anger and frustration as a result. I’ve also had a ton more free time to do other things and I know that is a better thing.

I am also going to be removing one of my two regular games from my phone because I’ve progressed to a point where I don’t think I’ll be getting much farther any time soon. Without progress, I don’t really want to keep grinding because the game isn’t that important AND is getting in the way of doing what I want to do.

See, things are getting better already.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 80: Star Trek

I’ve been listening to a lot of Star Trek based podcasting recently and decided to try another “what would I do” thing.

My DCEU experiment wasn’t as popular as I had hoped, though I hope that it will gain some more views and interest in what I’d do (exactly) with a phase two or three or four.

This experiment? I traveled back in time and discover that there was no Star Trek… at all. Thankfully I have some Star Trek reference material with me and I’m going to bring the world Star Trek… the way it should have been done.

There is no Gene Roddenberry, which initially worries me, but the world must have their Star Trek. Things will be a bit different, though.

The year is 1958, and I heavily invest in the stock market… some well placed investments make me billions by 1961, independently wealthy and ready to make something fantastic.

I present the script for a feature film called Star Trek to be released in 1963. What’s the script? Well, a crew of exceptional people are needed to intercept a phenomenon headed towards the center of the United Federation of Planets: Earth.

If you think you’ve heard of that before, you have. I’m setting the original Star Trek: The Motion Picture in the very first slot… but I made some casting and character changes. This is long before the Kirk and Spock you’re familiar with, so I decided to add something from the history that we’re all familiar with.

The captain of the Enterprise is Robert April, with a few other little sprinkles of interesting around him. Captain Robert April is played by Gregory Peck, who was drawn to the project after the success of To Kill a Mockingbird in 1962, Star Trek being a progressive outlook on humanity’s future. Leonard Nimoy does appear as Spock, and in the role he plays in TMP… but he is a Vulcan who is trying to figure out his place in the universe (as a new Lieutenant in Starfleet). We see V-Ger, all out special effects, and the crew of the Enterprise seems to fly off happily after the film ends.

Part of the deal with this film, which does gangbusters at the box office, is to create a series after the film to further develop the universe. Gregory Peck wasn’t signed to do a series and I didn’t want to have him beyond the movie… because I signed the original crew of the Enterprise (starring Jeffrey Hunter with Leonard Nimoy as a Lieutenant Commander several years later) in the “pilot” called The Cage.

The pilot airs in late 1965, unlike in our reality, and just as expected, Jeffrey Hunter doesn’t want to do more… so we get to advance Spock once again to First Officer/Science Officer under William Shatner as Captain James Tiberius Kirk in early 1966 for the first season of the new series.

Since the network (NBC) isn’t paying for this series, they allow this to run for a guaranteed five years… we actually get our Five Year Mission.

Season One goes off as before, not including episodes Miri, Catspaw, or Shore Leave and the Menagerie is moved later in the season (to the season finale). Season Two also goes off as before, not including episodes The Ultimate Computer or Assignment: Earth. Season Three goes off as before, not including the episode Spock’s Brain.

This leaves us with a gap to fill, which I had planned for already… that is now Season Four, where the stories told in the Animated Series but are reworked to be more adult (less “cartoony”) in nature and be a solid 22 episode season. That leaves nothing for Season Five, though, right?

After working under my guidance for over five years, the writers would be tasked with original stories (I use the word original, only because I know the future here) for Season Five. This would also be a 22 episode season and would be oriented towards exposing the world to the first serialized version of Star Trek, with a few “mini-arcs” present without a “part 1, part 2” scenario.

Then, in spring of 1971, Star Trek leaves the air as a cult favorite. Fandom grows around the concepts and a clamoring for more is put out into the world. Hints of a movie are released in magazines and newspapers and work begins on Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. As final touches were being added for the 1982 release, work on Star Trek III began behind the scenes in secret. Since I’m paying for the special effects, I spare no expense to ensure that the version I (we) remember doesn’t look decidedly less awesome than TWOK.

As Star Trek II was a hit, rumors about the ending were running amok and the revelation that there was another Star Trek movie deep in production was released to the population, drumming up hype early. Since the special effects were going to be far better than the original versions, I had high hopes for this installment.

In 1984, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock hit screens and received a positive series of reviews, not nearly the showing I had hoped but better than the one in the original timeline.

Did I already start work on the fourth installment of the series and the end to the “trilogy” of post-series Trek? Yep.

In 1986, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home hit screens and was lauded as being the best Star Trek movie by non-fans. Fans still looked toward TWOK as the granddaddy of movies, but the reception allowed everyone to come and enjoy a wonderful movie. Behind the scenes, the next version of Star Trek was already being worked on.

Once again, since I’m paying for the whole thing, I sit down with some television executives to work up the next Star Trek for public consumption. The series would be shown on ABC this time, with Patrick Stewart in the lead role as Captain Jean-Luc Picard. I set up Star Trek: The Next Generation with the idea that I’m fixing what I know didn’t work in the original timeline. The show debuts in 1987 on ABC and becomes a hit.

Only side notes about this series. Uniform designs are from the original third season to completely avoid the spandex design. Special effects were spared no cost and the plan of seven seasons was followed through. The cast was informed when they came on board that they would be expected to do a few feature films after the show’s run, which they had no issues with. The final note is that Season Two’s introduction of Polaski as a replacement for Crusher was scrapped, instead adding Polaski as an additional character in the medical department. This altered the show’s timeline a bit as she became a part of the remainder of the show’s events rather than just up and disappearing.

While the Next Generation is on the air, 1991 sees the release of Star Trek V: The Undiscovered Country into theaters. Our original timeline makes this the sixth movie, but since that story had some issues, I opted to remove it from the timeline. This sees the retirement of the main cast of characters but also gives us Captain Hikaru Sulu, who was optioned for the sixth installment of the film series as the lead.

Before I go into that, though, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine premiers in 1993 with a new cast and runs at the same time as Next Generation. The series starts off with a positive outlook and runs as remembered in the original timeline. There was a rider in the contracts in this version, though, that required theatrical appearances of the cast (if not as a whole, then in other productions).

In 1993, George Takei and the on screen crew of the Excelsior (to include Tim Russ as an ensign science officer) in Star Trek VI: Lions of the Night, where the crew is forced to fend of a Kzinti invasion of Federation space. If you know about failed projects, then you’ve heard of the concept here (see Memory Alpha, scroll down for this project).

Since I’m the one developing this and paying for the whole thing, I’m saying that my attempt to bring a large solution to Star Trek’s movie future utilizing the original cast has hit it’s first bump. While the reception of critics was poor, fan reception wasn’t great (but fairly positive). My attempt to make a sequel with George was met with resistance from George himself, thus I moved on with the next idea…

As Star Trek: The Next Generation wrapped in 1994, plans for their first foray into movies was at hand. While filming the finale of the series, the crew was also filming their first movie: Star Trek: Generations. Unlike the original timeline version, less emphasis was put on Picard’s family, the “space ribbon” is a little more defined, and time inside the ribbon progresses to avoid the weird situations we saw inside it originally. Shatner does appear as Kirk but isn’t pulled out by Picard, rather feels the need to help on his own and joins Picard in saving the day (ending in his certain death).

More well received than Lions of the Night, Generations was given more leeway with production because of the previous installment. Little did the world know the next movie was under development!

On the TV side, Star Trek: Voyager was placed onto TV screens in 1995 and would run for seven seasons. There would be continuity ruining episodes removed from the series as a whole and as with DS9’s cast, the rider for feature films was in place to guarantee a Star Trek feature film future.

In 1996, Star Trek: First Contact was released and was definitely better received than Generations. In 1998, Star Trek: Insurrection was released with far better special effects and notes on how this is a “return to Star Trek’s message” roots. This movie, my version, was much better received than the original due to more action being added to the script and a deeper mystery element to draw in the audience. Was it considered the greatest movie? No, but it was more popular.

As Deep Space Nine was wrapping in 1999, the cast didn’t want to do a “DS9” movie series. The “appears in other films” contingent was enacted and some plans were made for the next two movies. Yes, TWO movies. Voyager wrapped in 2001.

Directly on the heels of the ending of Voyager came the new series Star Trek: Enterprise, featuring Scott Bakula of Quantum Leap fame leading a new crew of an experimental Enterprise on missions exploring the galaxy. The Xindi storyline would be introduced much earlier than the  original timeline and the series would run for six seasons, since I am paying for the whole thing. There would be riders for movies as well, as would be the standard since DS9. The show would end in 2007 with the formation of the Federation.

In 2002, Star Trek: Nemesis hit the screens and before you roll your eyes at me… this one was much different. Shinzon, a Reman warlord and scavenger, returns to Romulus with a new ally: a rebuilt Lore. Lore aids Shinzon in taking down the Roman government, a hostile takeover, and then takes a fleet to Federation space for the first salvo in a planned war. The Enterprise-E is forced to fend off the attacks by leading a counter-attack (joined by the Defiant with Colonel Kira, Lieutenant Ezri Dax, Chief O’Brien, Dr. Bashir, Lieutenant Nog, and the commanding officer Captain Worf). When hope looks lost, Data sacrifices himself to blow up the lead ship with Lore on it, leaving an unprepared Shinzon to die and the rest of the hijacked ships to retreat. The Federation and the Roman Empire begin peace talks in the wake of the “old guard” being wiped out.

In 2004, an extragalactic threat would arrive to test the Federation. In Star Trek: Revelations, the Enterprise-E is commanded by Admiral Picard, who leads the fleet to take on what they discover to be machines… the machines, in fact, that created V-Ger. Enterprise is joined by Defiant (Worf commanded as before), Voyager (commanded by Chakotay and filled with the rest of the Voyager crew), and Titan (Riker’s new command). A fundamental “man vs machine” theme would run through this one and man would win… at a high cost. Defiant wouldn’t make it out of the conflict, Voyager would be severely damaged and several crew members would have died, as well as Enterprise suffering greatly in the results. Deaths of characters would include Kira, O’Brien, Nog, Paris, Chakotay, and Neelix. Picard and Admiral Janeway would have Riker seek out any remnants of the invasion, gaining the crew of Dax, Harry Kim, Seven of Nine, and a newly promoted Captain LaForge.

This movie, while not hated, wasn’t the blockbuster I was hoping for. Critics gave it generally favorable reviews but fans panned it stating “too many characters died” in the melee. Taking that under consideration, I put into production one more movie before my time in this timeline ends (due to being very old and in poor health by this point). I also opted to delay the release of this movie by an extra two years to ensure the highest quality.

In the summer of 2008, Star Trek Beyond hit the screens to thunderous applause. Unlike the original timeline version, which was part of the reboot franchise, my Beyond was a continuation of the timeline I’d already started. Audiences were stunned when the Enterprise NX made it’s way towards the planet Kismet, where they are forced to battle a fleet of ships that act in coordination with each other. The ship crashes on the surface of the planet as most of the escape pods are sent safely away. Those who did not make it were T’Pol, Trip, and Reed who learn that there is a species of cyborgs mutating the inhabitants for an impending invasion. Fast forward to the 24th Century, Captain Riker in command of the Titan comes upon Kismet while investigating and discovers that there is a large station in orbit of Kismet sending signals out of the galaxy. Some spy work from the crew and a battle cripples the Titan, forcing it to crash onto Kismet’s surface. They manage to disable the cyborg and mutant populations, as well as send a signal that this galaxy cannot be conquered to prevent another invasion. We discover that this was the “advanced party” for the machine invasion and mutants were being used as slave labor.  The film ends with a goodbye to all the franchises we adored along the way and the reigns of Star Trek were turned over to Paramount for future plans.

That’s a hell of a ride. I’d love to hear some feedback on my non-original timeline versions of movies and I’ll be back again in the near future.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 79: 13 Reasons Why… I Reflect on My Own Past

There have been multiple times I have wanted to write about the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why but I wasn’t done watching the show then. As I write these words, I’m watching the last episode and I’m far enough through the show where I can comment on the aspects of the show that I am going to end up commenting on.

So, there will definitely be spoilers in my column, so if you don’t want to be spoiled in any way, shape, or form then you shouldn’t read further. The point isn’t to talk endlessly about JUST the show, the show sort of sparked a thought in me to write about my experience growing up. This may also involve some current events, but I’m not promising anything.

If you have been under a rock, there is a Netflix show called 13 Reasons Why, which is about a teenage girl who committed suicide and left a series of tapes to the 13 people who basically caused her to go through with the act.

There is a central theme of the suicide, and while I’ve had my own personal tragedy in this area, that isn’t what I want to talk about. My primary concern here is really not going to talk about the suicide at all, but to talk about what the culture of the school is like and how that relates to what I experienced.

I may talk about more of the show, too, but that is why I’m putting words out there into the world. This goes under “Storytelling” because I used the show to launch into this and this is a story about my experience.

When people on TV talk about a “small town,” they’re talking about something in excess of 50,000 residents. I am from a small town, the population was roughly 3,100 residents. SMALL. If you did something, the “trope” of everyone finding out about it actually happens in a small town. A TRUE small town.

I graduated from high school before 1995, and that’s about as specific as I’m going to get in an open forum like this. My high school, which I’ll just call “Smalltown High School,” or SHS… there were 63 people who graduated in my class. There would have been more but some didn’t make the grade and ended up getting alternate diplomas after the fact.

When watching 13 Reasons Why, I see a class of kids interacting with each other in a large groups (whether or not they were really close or not) and I look at what I experienced. In the show, there were the tight-nit jocks hob knobbing with the cheerleaders and both groups would  routinely mistreat the nerds (or the “nerd-like”). Everyone generally treats everyone somewhat respectfully in the flashbacks, though things tend to be a little less so after the tapes start getting circulated.

How is this relevant to me?

When I was in high school, there were better than 75% of the class that I’d been in kindergarten with, so we basically grew up together. After we got into high school, we segregated into the social groups that existed with the rest the high school. At the time, those groups were jocks, preps, nerds, and “loads.”

The jocks were, predictably, the ones who participated in multiple sports throughout their high school years. Some were track, basketball, cross country, football, hockey… there may have been a few other sports back then that I can’t really recall, but they were primarily involved in the sporting events (often as many as they could be a part of).

The preps were the socially active members of the school, participating in all kinds of clubs, cheerleading, and they almost exclusively held the top slots in the “grade point average” race to be valedictorian. While not exclusively, this group was largely populated by the girls of the class… they were the ones who spent the most time concentrating on their studies and social interactions. I wasn’t ever part of this group so I only have an “outside looking in” perspective on them.

The nerds were the socially awkward group, very often only interacting within their own group and often being left out of the clubs and sports. Nerds were picked on relentlessly, depending on who they were and how much they would resist. Interests here revolved around things that have nothing to do with school and being at school very rarely played any part other than being a distraction.

Lastly, there were the loads. This was originally a derogatory term for the rebellious kids who participated in partying with drugs and openly with alcohol. I say “openly” because the jocks drank almost as much as the loads but their offenses were often looked past, looked over, and generally considered “too good to touch” when it comes to partying. Jocks and loads rarely, if ever, commingled. Jocks couldn’t afford the “bad press.”

I was part of three of these groups. The first two years of school, I fit tangentially into the jocks because of my participation in cross country. I say tangentially because I would really have called myself a nerd for the totality of my freshman year. That changed my sophomore year when I became a load, full force.

Let me step back a minute.

Everyone in my graduating class, for the most part, got along until we reached high school. Things really took a turn when we were full fledged high schoolers. Many of them got worse as the years went on.

On 13 Reasons Why, the class was far more intertwined than my own experience. I am not without a point of reference for the camaraderie the show displayed. The grade just below mine  were almost completely united in their caring about being friendly with each other. Watching them, honestly, made me a little ill… the show would be what they were dialed down and a bit closer to my own experience.

The group of people that I was hanging out with in the first year of high school with the nerds because I hadn’t really managed to be interested in many other things. One thing I was, though, was lazy and nerdy… so I wanted to get out of taking PhyEd and there were four classes one could take as well as two years of a sport. So, here I come cross country!

Did I suck? Yep, but I did my two years (and the four classes, by the way) to avoid PhyEd as I wanted. But during that whole time, I was picked on… though I’ll say that I was picked on by the worst possible people to be picked on by, so at least I was choosing the best… worst?

In the show, Tyler receives LESS torture than I had for the first year of high school. Then, something wonderful happened. A random person in algebra asked me what I was doing one Friday night. I’ll call him Smith, because it’s a generic last name and because it was his last name. That Friday night had me hanging out with the loads and I loved it.

And the bullies left me alone. Completely.

Did I do drugs? No. I did enjoy the hell out of some alcohol, though, and invented Dr. Peppermint (between one to two ounces of peppermint schnapps per 20 ounces of Dr. Pepper… and before you say “that sounds gross,” try it. I’ve introduced no less than 100 lifelong Dr. Peppermint lovers to my wonderful concoction who swear by it… and I discovered it by accident).

In the show, the class seems to be broken down into only two real groups: the jocks and the not-jocks. Granted, we don’t get to see a large cross section of the class, as I am sure there are more than 63 students in that class. We get to see the jocks (Bryce, Justin, Zach, Montgomery, Jeff, Marcus) interacting with some cheerleaders (Jessica, Sheri), some outcast types (Skye, Tyler,  Ryan), and a few people who fit into other categories of “not-jocks” (Sheri, Courtney, Alex), most of which end up working with each other in some form or fashion to keep the tapes a secret.

There wasn’t much diversity portrayed on the show. Real life was more broken down than that, as I explained.

What I wanted to cover, I have. I didn’t have an experience in high school that was portrayed in the show. I don’t have friends from high school I still talk to (the last one turning out to be a social justice extremist who doesn’t listen to reason)… the ones that I still talk to, mainly those of the “load” social group I belonged to, all have their own things going on and we are cordial.

The closest experience I have to relate to what I witnessed in the show was the Navy. Even though I fundamentally disagree with some of the views of my brothers and sisters in the Navy, I would still rather hang out with and talk to them than some of those people I was in high school with.

This was a longer post and didn’t really fully explore what I had on my mind. Honestly, I could write a book on what I had on my mind and unfortunately I know that I won’t really get that done, either.

Hopefully someone gets something out of this, though.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 78: My Version of the DCEU

Many moons ago, I posted an article stating reasons why the DC cinematic universe would fail (now known as the DC Extended Universe). I mention something along these lines a couple other times on this website, but I wanted to address what I’d have done with the DCEU if I were the one running things…

So, why don’t I write about it?

Rather than storytelling, this one really deserves to be under “movies,” since I’m talking about building up the DCEU on the big screen.

First, the rules. I am proceeding as if the DCEU has failed, meaning the releases of the already slated movies after Justice League are no longer going to be released… or already have been and have had little success. Since I’m not worrying about release dates, I’m just going to list them in the order I’d release them, with a little explanation here and there.

So, without further ado… the first movie.

Superman: Man of Tomorrow

This is not exactly an origin story, since we don’t need to worry about origin stories. Why? Well, with Superman: The Movie and Man of Steel, I think another origin, “proper” origin, is unnecessary. The tale of this movie would be Lex Luthor fighting to rid Earth of the last Kryptonian. His new mechanized suit of armor, in conjunction with aid from Brainiac, would be an epic team up against Supes on screen. There would be easter eggs galore in this one, mentioning Wayne Enterprises, the Lantern Corps (plural), Themyscira, Mars, and more. One of the most important hints will be that there is more going on in Earth’s history than we know.

Stinger at the end of the credits? You bet… this is a big plan, and that means setting things up properly. The end credits scene is the planet Apokalips moving out of orbit.

Wonder Woman: Warrior

Not a period piece like Wonder Woman was, this one is all about Diana coming back to Themyscira to fight off an assault on the once hidden island… led by Giganta, or so we all are led to believe. The real brain behind the assault is actually Gorilla Grodd, who is after a very specific artifact hidden in the island’s vault (the Cosmic Rod). Giganta doesn’t manage to escape but Grodd obtains the item and absconds with it to places unknown.

Our stinger shows Grodd passing the Cosmic Rod over to Devilance, who takes it through a portal.

The Fastest Man Alive

Barry Allen… AND Wally West (the Flash and Kid Flash) are pitted against Reverse Flash, who came from the future in order to stop “something terrible” from happening. The terrible thing is the Earth splitting in two from an attack, but Reverse Flash’s solution is to remove the “Speed Force users” from the equation, including himself. On top of this bombshell future villain, Captain Cold is busy trying to steal a special key… which would unlock Mr. Freeze’s prison cell in Arkham Asylum, but he fails when Jesse Quick and Bart Allen (Impulse) foil the attempt.

The stinger on this one reveals to us that Granny Goodness turning from a spaceship monitor showing Apokalips and states that “he’s coming.”

In Brightest Day: Green Lantern

Hal Jordan, John Stewart, and Guy Gardner convene on OA to plan a reunion on Earth but are forced to deal with a direct threat to OA when Atrocitus and Sinestro lead the Red and Yellow Lantern Corps on an assault, where the main focus is trying to get into OA’s vault to liberate the Book of the Black. The attack doesn’t succeed… but while Sinestro makes a second, more intense “last ditch” run at the vault, he cracks open a cell holding Larfleeze, who wreaks havoc in the aftermath (escaping, eventually, with the Book). Jordan decides to stay on OA to help fortify the planet, Stewart heads towards Earth to investigate the other oddities happening, and Guy Gardner tries to follow Larfleeze to wherever he’s heading.

We have two stingers in this one, the first one is “mid credits” revealing Saint Walker (the Blue Lantern) is also headed towards Earth after Sinestro, who received a message from Earth. The second stinger, at our traditional end again, is Larfleeze towing a trapped Guy Gardner towards Apokalips.

Shadow of the Bat

Batman is plagued by a new threat, the Court of Owls, terrorizing Gotham and trying to rid the city of their self proclaimed Dark Knight. When Bruce Wayne can’t handle the onslaught of the sheer number of Owls, he enlists the help of Robin, Nightwing, and the Birds of Prey… together, they rid Gotham of the Court but unfortunately releases some Arkham prisoners (Scarecrow, Solomon Grundy, and Mr. Freeze among them).

The stinger? Yeah, it’s got just one… and it’s Lex Luthor on the phone saying “I think we need to form a Legion.”

Justice League United

Well… we got to this one in a similar fashion to Marvel, but the point isn’t to do something different, the point is to do something big. Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, and Cyborg are enlisted by Flash to help stop the future disaster from happening, one step which occurs “now.” The Legion of Doom (Lex Luthor, Solomon Grundy, Brainiac, Captain Cold, Cheetah, Sinestro, Gorilla Grodd, Black Manta, Scarecrow, and Riddler) unleashes their fury on the world, which causes the Justice League to fully form (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg, Martian Manhunter, Flash, and Green Lantern John Stewart) to fight them back into submission. The fight causes a tear in spacetime, which unleashes Bizarro, allows Sinestro to flee through it, and shows the League the impending threat of a fiery world heading towards the Solar System.

There are three stingers in this one… the early credits scene stinger has the League giving the “watch” over to Martian Manhunter while the rest of them go to deal with the repercussions of the Legion of Doom. The mid credits scene gives us Nightwing and Robin talking about heading to deal with a new threat, hinting at the “Titans” coming soon. The end credits scene gives us a full on view of Darkseid demanding that he deal with the threat personally… that threat being the Justice league.

From here, I’d introduce the Titans as a team, head back for some sequels (Wonder Woman darling with Cheetah and Giganta, Batman figuring out his legacy by recruiting Terry McGinnis as a trainee against Riddler, Flash going up against Captain Cold or Savitar, Green Lantern Corps dealing with the Blackest Night and Black Hand, Superman facing off against Bizarro, Aquaman and Black Manta going at it, and introducing characters that really need to be introduced to blow the doors off the DCEU like Shazam, John Constantine, Green Arrow, and Doctor Fate… just to scratch the surface).

And Darkseid hasn’t even gotten to Earth yet! He’d be the Justice League sequel villain, or maybe even the third one.

In just my tiny little run of movies, though, I’ve introduced a slew of characters that can either be expanded upon in other movies or ignored for other introductions all together. Hell, “mini-DCEUs” could spring up following each character (a-la Sony’s Spider-Verse).

What do you think of what I would have done?

Journal of the Emerald Specter 77: Life Strikes Back

Things are not going as well as planned… hell, I can’t even plan at this point. When life gives you lemons, you’re supposed to make lemonade. Unfortunately, I have no water or sugar, so I’d just be squirting sour juice into my eyes and that’s already what it feels like, so I’m not really digging that idea.

That, and I’m not big on lemonade.

The biggest thing to suffer in the attack on my free time is the BuJoRPG.

There is, in place, a plan for me to accomplish a certain series of things by certain points in time to complete the thing that everyone is really waiting for: BuJourneyRPG. I’d really, really like to get moving forward on that and I’m continuing to spin my wheels trying to just get through work.

So, I’m anxious to unveil SOMETHING about BuJourneyRPG, so I’m going to drop the “cover” of the BuJourneyRPG book… revealing, also, the “logo” for the new system.

Are you ready?

I chose to go with a library look and that lends to the idea that the system will be the basis for a slew of options. That means the “templates,” which are the “splats” that you’ll be somewhat familiar with as a concept if you’re an RPG fan, and those will help build the “library” of content.

This past weekend was supposed to be my “long weekend,” but I was denied one day of that and I had another project which HAD to be started/completed and that limited my ability to do a lot of extracurricular activity.

The time is being scheduled, though.

Without getting fancy, here is the first ever “ESCC Banzuke” (rankings) from the first ever Emerald Specter Basho (previously called the Winter 2018, though shall also be known as the January 2018):

Sapphire Adept #1 (East): Alexin2
Sapphire Adept #1 (West): Nikbasketball12
Sapphire Adept #2 (East): Sim_zama
Sapphire Adept #2 (West): dukenukem123
East #1: tom36adams
West #1: pantheon-67
East #2: AlCzervik
West #2: ANTE1990
East #3: OlegMalikov1965
West #3: mancroft
East #4: EmeraldSpecter
West #4: bespaly

As you can see, I placed second to last (since this is literally just a finishing listing from top to bottom, which the first rankings was always going to be)… and we had one player, bespaly, break Chess.com’s fair play policy and forfeit all of his games. Other than that, I think things went swimmingly.

Now, we see whether or not anyone returns to compete in the Emerald Specter 2018 March Basho, which is scheduled to begin as soon to the spots are full. There are still only 12 slots available, and since bespaly is out, the first one to join who wasn’t re-invited is welcome to join the fray. If some others don’t rejoin (allowances will be made for keeping their rankings if new people join first), then the experiment grows with a wider array of possibilities.

I’m curious if anyone would be interested in hearing a solo RPG actual play podcast? The idea crossed my mind that I’d like to publish the results of my solo RPG adventures (which I haven’t started playing, yet)… but I would need to know something: is the interest (if there is one) in the actual play part, or the story being unfolded as play continues?

The actual play would be me, on mic, playing the game of choice vocally and you’d be privy to all the rolls and mucking about. Unless you’d rather hear the results (moreso), and then the focus would be on the results of the story and I could more work out a sound effects option in line with the narration that would be part of the production.

Which would you rather hear? Would you like to hear anything of the sort?

In the end, I’m playing the game. Whether or not anyone else hears what goes on is entirely up to the potential audience.

So the Greatest Show appears to need a re-envisioning. Not a reboot, I’m not starting numbering over or wildly changing anything, yet. There is going to be a few more shows with (at least) myself and one or both of the Kevins. If I can’t get the rest of the cast to come back on, then I’ll be working on the changes that need to be made.

As soon as I get a chance to actually work on guest scheduling, I’ll do that, too… but work is a problem.

Let’s end with a few things regarding “work.” Ideally, especially outside of the peak season I’ve referenced so often, work would be a long day on Mondays and Tuesdays, then a crap shoot for shorter days the rest of the week, leaning shorter most of the time.

That is not what has happened.

I won’t get into the logistics or the specifics of what is causing the problem, know that I’m a side effect of a personnel shortage on certain days and the problem is actively being corrected, though not for at least another week or two.

What I do want to get into is the fact that I’m being too flexible. My wife will tell you that I give in too easily and I’m about ready to stop being so nice about things at work. I am not on the “special over time list” at work, so I shouldn’t be getting near the amount of over time I currently am… mainly because I don’t want it.

I’m going to fix that by waking up a little later in the morning. I’m going to be rushing in the morning because strolling in early enough to hang out isn’t what I want to be doing anymore. That means I can stay up a little bit later at night and, you guessed it, means I can work on things after work.

Wake up, get ready, work, supper, prep the next day, watch a little TV, and work on BuJourneyRPG… days off, get a little house stuff done and work on BuJourneyRPG.

Time is coming and it’s because I’m going to make sacrifices on how I operate to get them done. That shouldn’t be how things work.

Expecting a Journal of the Emerald Specter?

With the re-release of BuJoRPG and my diligent work on the next version’s “base,” I was unable to get a column written up. I’m hoping that the new BuJoRPG book is sufficient for this week and I’m also hoping that I’ll have something similar to release NEXT week, as well as a proper journal entry… or two, since I am not entirely sure I want to fall behind on this one.

Stay tuned!

Journal of the Emerald Specter 76: Radio and Podcasting

Before 2000, the real way that people could be heard in large numbers really deals with two mediums: TV and radio. Since TV was infinitely difficult to get on, mainly due to the fact that you needed to look prettier than average to even be on the boob tube, radio was the best means of getting your name out there is “bigger than average” numbers. Even radio was a high bar to get on because stations wouldn’t just bring anyone in… they’d have some “established talent” or people that knew people to get in.

Podcasting really started taking off in 2004 or 2005, putting radio on notice… and now anyone can get their voice out there.

Why the history lesson? Because I’d like to discuss a little something about radio, podcasting, and me.I technically started podcasting in 2001, when I had a wrestling column that I used to write and for four mighty episodes I turned that column into a “radio show on the Internet.” In 2003 I ran a 35 episode “actual play” / informational podcast called the Podcast of Darkness with two “players / cohosts.” A few years later I had a whole slew of podcasts that all eventually died, some of which I want to resurrect, and others which never will. Now, I have the Specter Show, the PRO Chess League Podcast, and the Greatest Show.

Now we’re all caught up.

I moved to Portland in 2014 to get the hell out of North Dakota. When we lived there, though, I did try to get on a morning radio show (my own, really) for an hour that would have had me on the air before work (the post office) Monday through Friday. I asked, was told I’d have my sample podcasts I’d given reviewed, and they were never reviewed. I kept pushing and pushing to get an answer and I kept getting told “we’ll get to it.” It’s over 5 years later and I still haven’t been given a response.

The main reason I chose to podcast is that I could get better at being on the audio format (and some cases in video) in order to build myself up to the point where I could talk about nearly any subject. There are a few things I stumble over, like the PRO Chess League Podcast episode 4 disaster, and I’m still getting my ducks in a row to do something that I’ve been thinking of doing… I’ve been thinking of it for some time now.

I listen to the Geek Out Loud podcast… Steve Glosson has been doing both radio and podcasting for about a decade (maybe longer?) and he’s got a plethora of shows. One of these is the Big Honkin Show, which is the podcast version of his radio appearances (which, when no longer on the radio, continued as a solo podcast).

What does this all have to do with you, DJ?

I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a “multiple times a week” podcast… a single show that happens two, three, or five times per week.

If I can’t consistently do a single show, or three, once a week (each), how can I possibly do a show multiple times a week? Well, there is where the tricky part comes in, then I’ll discuss a little more about the process.

Right now, I would normally record the Specter Show and the PRO Chess League Podcast on Sundays (back to back). The Greatest Show is normally on Saturday nights, though our idea would be to record on a more flexible schedule so that we can get more varied guest list to join us from time to time. If something happens on a Sunday that leads me from home, the recordings normally get delayed or cancelled all together… if I get off late or can’t get anyone else to jump on as a cohost, the Greatest Show normally gets cancelled, too. That variable schedule means cancelling is easier than it sounds.

Having a steady two to five days a week means that I’d more than likely be getting up earlier than work on the days that I’d record… or broadcast, since I’m actually thinking of “being live” when I’m actually “recording.” That’s another reason why having a steady multiple day show going on would be something I could do more often, I’d have a live audience. The ideal location for the live show would only be two places that I can think of right off the top of my head: YouTube and Mixlr.

As for what I’d talk about, I already have some ideas. I have always wanted to address “strange news” type of show, commenting on the absurd and weird. There’s always the weekly “each day is a different theme” option… New Comics Wednesday, Throwback Thursday (for some sort of topic about the past, obviously), “Who”sday (for Doctor Who news, thinking of Tuesday), and that type of thing… a regular schedule means I could do weird news along side those other options.

I’d ask for some feedback, but almost never get any when I call for it. If you want to send some, emeraldspecter.com@gmail.com is the email address.

Options are being weighed. Wondering whether I want to short myself 30 to 60 minutes every day of sleep is another thing being considered.

Time will tell.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 75: BuJoRPG… My Head Hurts

Bam! I’m just doing this right from the very beginning and I’m going to take you on a trip, so hop into this imaginary car and enjoy my dulcet tones as I explain to you (in this column) a little journey of what I’m doing and how this is going to work… 

The 2018 Bandit Edition Trans Am… yes, it’s real.

If you’ve been reading along, the last column, the podcast, and now this column, you’ve seen in near real time a thought process as I’ve thought about things (since I’ve had the time to think about them). This is ALL BuJoRPG related, so don’t worry about things that aren’t related to that…

TLDR? Read this column.

I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole recently… literally, about an hour before I wrote this column, I fell into something I wasn’t looking for in order to accomplish something I didn’t know how to put into words… and I am going to be pushing my own bullet journal to accomplish the goals I’m about to lay out for you.

First, I’m not renaming BuJoRPG (version 1)… it will remain as JUST BuJoRPG (“The original, you might say.” ~ Richard Hurndall from Doctor Who: The Five Doctors). I do plan on coming up with a “quick skin” template so that I can do a minimal amount of work to make your templates (i.e. Wuxia, Star Trek, Doctor Who, etc, etc) without spending inordinate amounts of time toiling over these.

If it takes an inordinate amount of time, it isn’t really worth doing, wouldn’t you agree?

Second, I’m jumping up to “BuJoRPG3” and I’m telling you that this isn’t a thing… I’ve got some preliminary ideas but I’m jumping back and letting this one sit until the “2” is complete.

Third, let’s discuss BuJoRPG2… or what I’m now branding as “BuJoRPG: Journey.” I don’t have any graphics made up for this yet, but BuJourney (shorthand?) is going to be the (primary) focus of the bullet journal efforts for 2018 on my site. The “rabbit hole” I fell into is a colored paragraph, if you don’t want to follow that part of the journey, skip the color.

~ This leads me to the rabbit hole… ~

Discovering the wonderful world of the Internet, I needed a printable dotted paper page and found one on Savor + Savvy… and it is in two sizes, which is exactly what I needed. On the page was a “do it yourself” video using those printable pages to make your own journal (which I would love to do), located on ChristineMyLinh’s YouTube channel.

Using just what I listed in the above paragraph, I was going to create a few “template pages” for the BuJourney or BuJoRPG and make them into a DIY book. Specifically for the BuJourney, I was thinking that this would also be usable as the “adventure” booklet (the instructions, in book form, of the “places” you visit to learn the lore of the land that I’d promised) and that would be cool to make. The other item (in DIY journal form) was going to be the modules I was talking about on the podcast linked above, meaning it would be “lore” and an “adventure” book, while teaching you how to get moving on a specific “quest” (like learning a language, doing a “couch to 5K,” etc).

Still with me? Good.

My wife and I ate out earlier in the day (on the day that I wrote this) and we ended up stopping at a fabric store, where I sat in the car to play on my phone. Since I belong to a bullet journal group (many, actually, but the one in question is Bullet Journal Beginners) and someone posted something about loving Boho Berry stuff, I did a search and found her YouTube channel… and the first video I saw was her Unboxing, which leads me to the next step of this rabbit hole.

I had mentioned wanting to put together a “BuJoRPG Box,” complete with instructions, examples, a couple of pens, a couple of dice, maybe some stickers, and an empty journal for you to begin your BuJoRPG or BuJourney in… the Unboxing video made me realize that I was overthinking the entire box idea. I also realized that this might be an opportunity for me to release my modules, specialty spreads (like the TARDIS themed February spread that I created in my own TARDIS themed journal this year), and even release custom “month specific” journals that I was toying with how to implement.

With the way Boho Berry has a “subscription” service, which is all the rage lately, I thought this would work perfectly for BuJoRPG (or BuJourney, or whatever comes next). There would be exclusives in the subscription box, special items from time to time, and even some specially curated items from my favorite BuJo suppliers.

This is just a little bit of something I’m thinking about once I get moving forward on the actual creation of the systems and information to put into the journals as the RPG elements.

~ Now back to our regularly scheduled column. ~

What I’m doing is going to put my biggest effort into getting the BuJoRPG and BuJourney stuff built out as quickly as I can (with a quality I would expect in a finished product) to get the RPG stuff moving again. I go back to work tomorrow (this is the last day of my first week of vacation) and I am confident I can actually get back into a routine starting tomorrow.

I’d really like this thing to end up being more of a business rather than just a hobby… I’m interested in helping people be entertained and getting some improvement done in their own lives, and having the income from this endeavor allow for me to put 100% of me time into this would be spectacular.

Since my columns seem to be heavily laden with BuJoRPG related items (overall), I’m going to break out topic into a bullet journal column (with videos on YouTube, also… maybe), covering general ideas and themes that I’ve come up with. There are a few folks out there doing this and I’d like to melt into the fray, coming up with my own brand of elaborate and useful bullet journal tools.

Hopefully this is something that interests you, too.