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Emerald Specter 107: The ESCC and Chess Basho

I like chess. I know other people like chess, too. I’ve attempted to combine chess with a couple other aspects of sports or presentation to make them more appealing to an audience. That all actually begins with getting players involved, regular players, and making sure that there are firm ground rules for how to do things in these scenarios.

One of those is the Chess Basho experiment. 

I was originally going to write about how this is mostly a failure but things have perked up a bit and I wanted to begin looking back, then coming forward, to see where we’re at and perhaps drum up some consistency that has been sorely lacking.

I am going to go all the way back and look at Chess Basho I (for ease of explanation, I’m just going to use the numbering rather than try to parse out what each event was actually called). Who played, who won, and where did we end up?

Without running down all the particulars, the four Sapphire Adepts were the winner Alexin2, Nikbasketball12, Sim_zama, and dukenukem123. None of them returned for the following tournament and I did invite them.

The tournament was well received, filled up very quickly, and play was fun. I participated in the tournament and finished a dismal 11th out of 12.

The next tournament was Chess Basho II, with almost an entirely new crew of players who joined the system (me being the only returning player from Chess Basho I). With no returning players, the aforementioned Sapphire Adepts were changed being “kyujo” (or absent) in this tournament. The new SAs were winner ArturFaust, homozzapien, anujvaniya78692, and biraandrada. This was also the first tournament I established being a member of the club to be technically promoted. I finished 9th.

In Chess Basho III, I returned again as well as King_of_Not. Mmuse would also first appear here and become part of the returning membership. The SAs were once again brand new as none of the Adepts returned for this basho. The new ones were winner FlashyFerrari, syibil, Pauliow1967, and mapru. I finished 10th.

Chess Basho IV had none of the Sapphire Adepts returning again, so we had a whole new slate of them for this one. They were winner miki1701, PRIMAT_RU, King_of_Not, and EmeraldSpecter (me). This tournament is also a catastrophic failure as the tournament started abruptly, while not being full (there were only 4 players), and was generally thrown out. Technically, though, I am including it as we did have a definitive ending.

Chess Basho V saw myself and Mmuse return but no King_of_Not. None of the Sapphire Adepts returned and that left yet another new slate: winner mrstasky, DarrylAG, DalkyiAK, and Goridulich_Evgeniy. I finished 10th… I also decided that this was going to be my last Basho as a participant because of my other project, SpecterChess, being my focus for the future. (Side Note: SpecterChess will be getting some alterations in the very near future due to my writing of a story that had things going in interesting directions)

Chess Basho VI is the one currently running as I write these words (though it should be over by the time this column is released). Currently, both Mmuse and King_of_Not are participating, and though Mmuse has currently attained the Sapphire Adept threshold, they’ll be too far down the rankings to actually be granted the title. 

This leads me to why I’m writing this big column.

As of about 45 minutes ago (as I write this), I announced and posted on Chess.com the new Chess Basho VII event. This will introduce a few changes to the basho system in the hopes that things start moving forward and people start coming back into the fold… here’s the nifty new logo, too, which will be part of the trophies on the website (and hopefully entire players to keep coming back to earn more of them):

Unlike the logo I had been using, this one is more compact. The trophies simply have a “1st, 2nd, and 3rd” in the bottom right corner of the logo.

What are the changes, though? 

First and foremost, the membership requirement for the ESCC is out the window. No one is joining and the only real reason to have the ESCC as part of chess basho now is to alert those players when another tournament is announced. Players can come and go as they please but the new trophies I’m hoping will start drawing in more returning players (enough to launch a second, invite only, division).

Second, there will be expanded numbers of titled players to allow for those who return to actually achieve what they came to achieve without always being pushed down by much higher rated players that pop in and never return. The new number of combined Sapphire and Ruby Adepts will now be six and that applies to the new Chess Basho VII event forward.

Third, players will be able to earn points based on their returning statuses. So, for example, since Mmuse and King_of_Not keep coming back AND they seem to achieve the Sapphire Adept title thresholds, they won’t lose their titles to players who haven’t returned to other tournaments. Using King_of_Not as my primary example, they have participated in 3 tournaments and will have 3 points over players who have not returned in the past. Mmuse also has 3 for returning. If they both achieve the Sapphire Adept threshold in Chess Basho VI then they’ll both be given the Sapphire Adept title, which they will continue to hold as long as they return for Chess Basho IX.

But what if they don’t place in the top 6? Not placing in the top 6 would be unfortunate, but will not disqualify them. Players in the top 6 who haven’t participated in more than one tournament will not earn the Sapphire Adept title. If more players start returning more often, this point system will be reevaluated.

Finally, the tournaments will no longer begin on the same days as actual sumo tournaments. The tournaments (starting with Chess Basho VII) will begin on the first non-holiday day of the month. If participation starts ramping up, there will be a consideration for 12 tournaments a year rather than just the 6.

This is still an experiment and I’m hoping that something comes of it sooner rather than later. I’m willing to run this tournament schedule for up to three years (we’re already done with year one) to see if this is worth continuing afterwards. The concept is solid, the participation just needs to be ramped up.

Emerald Specter 106: The Haunting of Hill House

If you have been under a rock or haven’t decided to jump in on the Netflix train ride to glory, then you might have missed one of the best series to be produced in the last decade.

I’m talking about The Haunting of Hill House, an original series produced by Netflix that is gloriously eerie where it needs to be and is generally a spooky experience.

I guess if you’re not into horror, then maybe the series isn’t for you but overall, I’d say you should still give the series a shot because I’ve heard it described as “This is Us, but horror.”

Warning, there is no non-spoiler section in this one. Sorry.

The Haunting of Hill House, which is apparently based off of the novel by Shirley Jackson, is the story of the Crain family and their experience with Hill House. There are a ton of layers to what is going on and this review isn’t going to do the series justice but should be enough to get you interested in checking it out.

Just like This is Us, the story jumps around between the present and the past. The past is around when the Crains bought Hill House to flip it, with five kids to live while the process was going on. There are things that don’t make a lot of sense at first when you’re watching early on but will make you go “I didn’t see that coming” as the season wraps up. 

Again, I said that there are many layers to this show.

The present is about everyone all grown up and how they have developed over the years having experienced the house and are dealing with the consequences of what they’ve experienced.

Here’s where the spoilers come in.

The oldest son has written a book about their experiences and no one else in the family is real happy with that.During the flashbacks we learn that the mother has died, and you find out why in the last few episodes, but you also come to understand that the House is really the main reason why things are happening.

Each of the kids is dealing with the loss of the mother, dealing with how their dad has turned out, and is coping with the whole experience in their own little ways.

Needless to say, everyone is severely screwed up.

We, along with the family, start piecing together what actually happened in the house as the series progresses, learning about the history and events that have taken place in the past from both the past and the future perspectives.

A careful eye will find all the hidden ghosts in the series, too, though I haven’t rewatched the series yet to find them for myself.

Yes, this is something you’re going to want to rewatch at least a couple times because there is so much going on!

When my wife and I were watching, we made some guesses about some things and got just as many right as we got wrong. There are layers to this story and I’m so glad Netflix poured cash into this project.

This review isn’t as long as the last one because, though I have not bothered hiding spoilers, I don’t want to get too deep into the weeds here. Go watch the series.

I’m also excited for season 2, which I’m hoping will explore more of the past BEFORE the Crains get to Hill House!

Emerald Specter 105: Black Sails

Starz has had a stellar TV series that I happened across about four years ago and the show was Black Sails. If you like pirates and are interested in HBO level quality of a show about them, then you are in luck.

This is my review of the entire series (as the fourth and final season has long since ended). We (my wife and I) just finished watching the last episode a night or two ago (as you read this).

Black Sails is the story of how Long John Silver got to the point where he’s at in Treasure Island, along with a good mix of actual historical events as well as actual historical pirates.

Yes, Black Sails is a prequel to Treasure Island.

The non-spoiler review is actually pretty short. You get introduced to all of the “main players” right off the bat and some new ones straggle in after a season or two, then you see where the background of Treasure Island gets built, and finally we end up in a place that (for those who have read the book) is more familiar to us.

Starz, as an HBO-like channel, also went and added all the wonderfully adult language as well as plenty of nudity just like one would come to expect from a big budget production like this.

And now, I should move forward into the spoiler review.


Your warning is now, this is the SPOILER section.

Captain Flint (fictional, from Treasure Island), Billy Bones (fictional, from Treasure Island), and the crew of the Walrus (fictional, Treasure Island) end up with a passenger named John Silver (fictional, Treasure Island) who ends up becoming part of the crew.

They are all pirates from Nassau, a city in the Bahamas where the pirates have built their Republic (this is fact). In charge of the island is Eleanor Guthrie, the daughter of a man who organized the pirates into something less random and something more civil. Eleanor, as well as her unseen father, are real.

Among the other pirates that hang out in and around Nassau are Charles Vane (real life pirate) of the Ranger (his real ship was called Lark), Jack Rackham (real life pirate, known as Calico Jack), Anne Bonny (real life pirate), and Benjamin Hornigold (real life pirate and mentor to Edward Teach… Blackbeard).

Nassau has a brothel where a lot of scenes happen (both for the gratuitous nudity and the story development for meetings between characters) and Fort Nassau is under the control of Hornigold, who uses it to fend off ships who aren’t welcome on the island.

There’s a Spanish ship carrying a lot of gold, known as the Urca de Lima (real ship), which is discovered by the pirates and becomes the focus of their attention… because they’re pirates.

While the pirates feud amongst one another, there is an understanding that they are strongest when they are together, so don’t think that feuds will cause irreparable rifts between anyone. That mirrors real life… for more, you may want to read The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down.

The whole while, John Silver is slowly becoming the scary and powerful pirate we know he is in Treasure Island, which is a transformation worth watching as the series goes on.

There are spectacular naval battles, political intrigue, examples of what kinds of things people at sea faced in the 18th century, and for those who need a little nudity, there is some in every season (though, as is typical with HBO shows, the amount decreases as the seasons progress, giving way to the actual story).

As a series, this was surprisingly excellent in a way that I hadn’t expected Starz to produce. HBO has a track record of producing content like this, and I’m sure if I subscribed to Starz I would find more interesting content there (I watched Black Sails through my Hulu subscription). 

If I had to give the series as a whole a star rating, I’d give the series a 5 out of 5. Sure, there were some slow parts and drawn out pieces that took away from the spectacle. Some of the historical stuff isn’t accurate, either (like Blackbeard’s final appearance didn’t actually happen the way they showed us), some of the integral pirates necessary to be more historically based were missing entirely, and after we’re given some examples of what pirates dealt with we’re pushed into pure story instead of noting how those things didn’t go away. Overall, though, I’m still giving the series a 5.

There is so much awesome packed into this series that I can’t even contain my enthusiasm. I wanted more than 4 seasons but I understand that the story didn’t have more story in it… I would have been less happy if there was a season 7 that just sort of padded itself to last to get to the “good stuff” in a finale. 

That’s the one thing I wasn’t disappointed in at all: there is very little stretching of the story for the sake of stretching the story.

Emerald Specter 103: Bad Habits Denied

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah, adulting isn’t the best.

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

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

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

That makes me happy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emerald Specter 102: Taking Control Back

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

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

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

That is highly depressing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I need to get back on BodySpace.

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

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

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

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

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

My bad habits keep creeping up on me, though.

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

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

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

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

See? I’m already making some progress.

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

Emerald Specter 101: Overloaded

“What the hell are you doing?”

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

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

“My hair is already gone.”

“Metaphorically.”

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

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

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

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

I need to make things really simple.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me start again and actually finish something.

Emerald Specter 100: Finally

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to the fun stuff… 

Materializing a new season on October 7.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time will tell.

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

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

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

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

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

See you all for #101!

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

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

Why don’t we get things started?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was also going to involve various amounts of combat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See if you follow me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For now, thanks for reading.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 98: Social Statuses

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

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

That isn’t entirely true.

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

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

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

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

Let me tell you a tale.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Live a little.