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Emerald Specter 115: My Wife is Addicted to Escape Rooms

My wife is addicted to Escape Rooms. I could literally leave this column at that single, short sentence but I felt it was time to out my wife in public and compare her addiction to some of my own.

That, and I wanted to talk about escape rooms.

This header is the only one that really fits, so I went with “Entertainment” and will just roll with it.

About a year ago, my wife wanted to go to an escape room for the first time… and I think it was for her birthday… maybe. I was also interested in escape rooms and was completely willing to go. My brother in-law and his wife (whom I refer to as my sister in-law-in-law) joined us, as well as two strangers, and voila! Fun was had.

Since then, my wife has really wanted to do more (and we’ve done several)… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The escape room we did was themed as an assassin’s apartment that we were investigating and got locked in, forcing us to solve our way out. Two days later my wife and I did another escape room, because she enjoyed it so much, that was us solving a Russian stolen nuclear rod… and we solved that one, too.

A couple months later, we went on vacation to Las Vegas (in an unseasonably warm period of time). During our stay, due to the sweltering heat, we ended up staying indoors for most of the trip and that spawned her looking for escape rooms in Vegas. We ended up doing no less than four, but I’m pretty sure we did five.

After returning home, we’ve been to a place about an hour away twice, winning one and losing one, which has not sated my wife’s appetite for more. As I write this, she’s already asked me to do one every day this week… whether or not she’s being serious is another story. If I said yes, though, I guarantee we’d be at that rooms solving one.

While my wife has gotten addicted to these things, and I do enjoy doing them, I just want to space them out a little more. It’s more fun if we don’t do one so often that I dread them, which hasn’t happened yet but I can see that happening if I give in. I would like to say that I like things in moderation.

That’s where my addictions come in.

I’m addicted to comic books. I’m also recently addicted to tattoos (I got my first one and I’m already planning on getting a second, third, and more). I’m also, unfortunately, addicted to starting new things and not finishing them (i.e. SpecterChess, though that isn’t entirely my fault).

While escape rooms are fun, I’m worried we’ll exhaust our options locally and we’ll end up traveling well out of town to find more to do. That means vacations might turn into escape room trips rather than relaxing entertainment.

I guess I felt I had more to say. I apparently don’t.

I do have fun in these rooms and I’d like to do them but just not so many in such a short period of time.

Emerald Specter 114: The Orville is the Best Star Trek on TV

In this Golden Age of Geekery, we have a bounty of wonderful science fiction to intake. While the TV screen has been previously dominated by Star Trek… but now we have something that is better Star Trek than Star Trek: The Orville.

This is not a popular opinion, but let me explain everything about my opinion.

CBS has recently started a new Star Trek TV series, Star Trek Discovery, and the look of the series is definitely towards the Kelvin Timeline, they have positioned themselves in the Prime Timeline. While this would be something to behold, they put the show behind a subscription service exclusively on an app and that has limited my personal viewing of the show. I’ve seen about half that series and apparently I stopped watching before the “good stuff” happens.

Seth MacFarlane pitched a Star Trek series (supposedly) and got rejected, leading to MacFarlane heading over to Fox to pitch the same basic idea. Thus, The Orville was born. (I couldn’t find supporting documentation but I’ll stick with the here-say on this one).

While Star Trek Discovery has gone in a direction I’ll call “gritty,” the trend among media these days, The Orville has kept the essence of what previous Star Trek has been in the past: exploration of themes. Without having seen the whole Discovery season, I am going to be judging the merits and faults based on what I have seen…

Disco, as some are calling it, feels more like a thematic “dark” for the sake of saying “we’re examine the dark underbelly of Starfleet.” The brightly colored and well lit days of Trek have been left behind for lease flares, monotone colored, and not well lit sets that make the realism seem real. What I witnessed was a stretched out version of a movie, jamming in action and intrigue as if they were presenting us with a movie instead of a TV show. That’s fine, in and of itself, but the lean towards “gritty,” in my opinion, was done for the sake of just being gritty… the thing that everyone complains about the direction most media is heading.

And yet, there are some diehard supporters of Disco, in the face of denying that which they are complaining about.

The Orville seems to have taken off straight out of the Next Generation. In the second season, we’ve seen some expansion into the DS9 or Voyager style of Star Trek, but overall, The Orville has maintained a system of storytelling that has a proven track record without sacrificing the “fun” of what Star Trek used to be.

Now, I’m a fan of the original Star Trek movies because they left the campy stories of the Original Series. Without those campy stories, though, I wouldn’t have a deeper appreciation for the movies like I do.

I am not one of the people out there campaigning for dark and gritty. I do like a little more realism in my science fiction (which is why I love the hell out of the Expanse), but I think Star Trek should remain more like Star Trek. Hell, even the Kelvin Timeline movies are more like Star Trek than Discovery currently reflects.

The other kicker with Disco is something that Marvel Comics fans currently have an issue with: continuity. Rather than adapt the media to tell new and interesting stories without being bound by what has come before, fans of Marvel and Disco insist on continuity laded storytelling. In the case of Disco, I want to point out that this means that Spock’s Brain, a highly derided OS episode, is absolutely canon. How the hell does THAT fit with the new dark and gritty storytelling?

All in all, The Orville is better Star Trek than Disco. I’d rather watch The Orville than Disco. The lack of access to Disco has a lot to do with my hard stance on this, but even if Disco had more accessible options, I’d still be leaning towards The Orville.

I am a fan of telling stories without needing to point to hundreds of episodes or issue to tell the stories. If Disco had been something outside of the already established continuity (like, if they didn’t try to jam it between Enterprise and the Original Series), I probably wouldn’t have as much of an issue with the series.

Disco suffers from what Star Wars is currently doing: filling in all the gaps. Rather than just let us assume what happens in between movies (in the case of Star Wars) or series (in the case of Star Trek), they have the compulsion to tell us about every second of everyone’s lives from start to finish. I don’t need that and no one else should, either.

What were the intricate details of what happened between the end of Enterprise and the start of the Original Series? Who cares! Move into the future, look FORWARD, don’t look backwards…

BuJoRPG Dev Blog 001: The Beginning

You’ve waited for it, and it’s here.

I looked at the poll and I decided that everyone would be happy with a bit of video AND a blog, so I’m starting with the blog portion and I’ll do videos now and then. So, let’s get to the goods.

Unlike the original BuJoRPG, I boiled down the BuJourneyRPG to four basic Attributes: Physical, Mental, Social and Emotional. They are abbreviated as PHY, MEN, SOC, and EMO accordingly. These are the basic building blocks of what you’ll be working on to advance yourself in the BuJourneyRPG experience.

At the heart of BuJourneyRPG, just like the original BuJoRPG, is a conflict resolution system. Each of those attributes has three sub-attributes that serve specific roles. Those roles, first, are offense, defense, and recovery. PHY has Power (PWR), Fortitude (FOR), and Vigor (VGR). MEN has Will (WIL), Stamina (STA), and Vitality (VIT). SOC has Charisma (CHR), Control (CON), Resilience (RES). EMO has Faith (FTH), Piety (PTY), and Spirit (SPR). Each of the sub-attributes are listed as offense, defense, and recovery.

Some of you might be saying “conflict resolution” is just a fancy way of saying combat. Well, yes… but without a conflict resolution system, I can’t move this forward in a direction that will allow for advancement against “obstacles” in a conflict resolution scenario. Combat, specifically, is a PHY situation. Combat, though, is simply physical conflict resolution. You still get three other attributes without “combat.”

It’s a small start, and this is all for this installment, but I am still working forward towards the next update. I probably won’t wait for a full month to update again, as I’m in a fast paced development stage.

Stay tuned!

Emerald Specter 113: I’m Not Watching the Super Bowl

This was going to be called “the State of the NFL,” but I wanted to cut to the chase and just say, in the headline, what I’m really looking at this year. I’m not watching Super Bowl LIII.

I am not a Patriots fan. The sole time I rooted FOR the Patriots was the season that they could have gone 100% undefeated. They failed, so I haven’t rooted for them since.

This past weekend, the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots have advanced into Super Bowl LIII and all my interest in watching the game evaporated in one fell swoop. Let me give you a little background on why I’m giving up this year’s Super Bowl.

The refereeing this playoff season has been atrocious. I have never witnessed so many blown calls and blatant favoritism towards teams than I have during this year’s playoffs. One shouldn’t leave the calls up to the officials but when the officials are ACTIVELY working against some teams, what are you supposed to do?

I personally have split loyalties (if I have any at all). I live in the Pacific Northwest, so I am on the Seattle Seahawks bandwagon, as well as being a long time Atlanta Falcons fan. Honestly, though, I’m just looking for a good game. In many cases, I’ve gotten to see those good games.

If you were to step back and take a look at the NFL, and really were unbiased, you’d see that the difference between the #1 team and the #32 team in the NFL is almost nothing (relatively speaking). Almost every game in the NFL these days is a nail biter that comes down to the very last play or the very last minute.

Really? That smacks of engineering excitement.

When was the last time you saw a legit blowout? I’m not talking a 14 point lead, I mean 63-3 or 42-7… big blowout. My guess is that you’ll be tracing your way into the 90s because since the late 90s, the NFL’s team gap has closed incredibly. The number of “close games” has risen from 10-15% to almost 90%.

Don’t tell me that’s BS, because it isn’t. The percentages aren’t invented for the sake of this article but they aren’t far off. Every single NFL game I watched this 2018-2019 season came down to a last second field goal or an OT win. Every. Single. Game. How is that even possible? The odds of that have to be astronomical!

Every game that I saw of the Patriots specifically seemed to lean in the Patriots favor, like there is a vast conspiracy to keep them relevant for longer than they should.

A comparison would be the WWE from the 80s to the present.

Vince McMahon took the WWE from long, slow build ups in their matches to putting on live shows with top star vs top star on a nightly basis. This allowed them to market themselves as excitement personified but it also peaked and now they don’t have anywhere to go but down. You can’t maintain this sort of thing indefinitely, and though they’re treading water, a fall is imminent.

The NFL is in this predicament.

The New England Patriots have been a dominant force in the NFL since 2001, when they won their first Super Bowl. Since then, their worst record has been 10-6, with their average being 12-4 over these past 18 years.

Major sports franchises that can pull off four championships and eight championship appearances over the course of 20 years are either legendary planners or are manipulating the system (or having that system manipulated for them). Since the Patriots have been caught, not just suspected, of cheating at least twice, I’d say that manipulation is the more likely scenario.

Now let’s move into the 2018-2019 season specifically.

The number of close NFL games this season, out of 256 possible regular season games, was 104 (that’s 40%). Those are games decided by 7 points or less, and that is based SOLELY off the score (so if the game was basically over and the losing team managed to score, I didn’t take that into account). Don’t you think this is a tad on the high side for a percentage?

The average percentage of draws in major soccer leagues around the world is less than 25%, and 25% is considered high. Draws should be much closer to the norm, considering the difference in the teams should technically be similar to the NFL.

Yet, soccer has vast gaps between their club abilities and draws are low. The NFL has turned into a manufactured “excitement factory” like the WWE and when it peaks, it’ll be hard to keep up with that level for an extended period of time.

Now let’s move to the two specific NFL Conference Championship games. First, the Saints and the Rams.

There were multiple, and I do mean more than 5, times when the referees completely screwed up the calls on the field. While some calls were in favor of the Saints, there were more that were in favor of the Rams, including a game busting helmet to helmet hit that was clearly pass interference that wasn’t called… and if that blatant call wasn’t flagged, then someone needs to lose their job.

The Saints were clearly the strong of the two teams and they were flat robbed of their Super Bowl chance. I don’t care about the Rams OR the Saints, technically I should be rooting against the Saints because they’re in the Falcons’ division. I should also be rooting against the Rams because they’re in the Seahawks’ division. I watched the game for what it was, a shit show that favored one team into the Super Bowl.

In the Chiefs and Patriots game, there were so many calls that went against the Chiefs you’d have thought the Chiefs were the best team in NFL history and they needed the other team to be aided so there would be a decent game (otherwise it would have been a blowout). The Patriots weren’t some no name team that happened into the AFC Championship, so the slanted calls (which are a NORM for Patriot games) were too blatant.

The Chiefs were also victims of terrible officiating. If it was a big play that would have benefitted the Chiefs, it went in favor of the Patriots more than 75% of the time. Why did they need to take the clearly better team away to allow the Patriots to slide into the Super Bowl for the eighth time in 18 years?

The reason I’m not watching the Super Bowl is because the two teams that deserve to be there were flat robbed by the NFL and referees. Both games had the inferior team win due to terrible officiating. This should be a Saints-Chiefs Super Bowl and not a Rams-Patriots one.

I have already been asked “what about the commercials?” What about the commercials? The Super Bowl commercials haven’t been interesting for almost a decade and they release the commercials separately AND online already negates needing to watch the game to see them at all.

Seeing the Patriots in the Super Bowl goes to show that someone’s manipulating something and they are Patriots fans. I’m tired of seeing the Patriots be so good for so long. If I’m looking at them objectively without including anything but win-loss stats, the Patriots is not only the greatest dynasty in the history of the NFL, but also the greatest dynasty in all of American sports. For the last 18 years, the Patriots have dominated and won consistently over their run and until Tom Brady retires and Belichek retires, they are probably going to be going for much longer.

I’m tired of them. I’m also disgusted at how they, and the Rams, got to this Super Bowl.

There’s no point in watching the Super Bowl this year. I’m going to predict the game will be decided by less than 10 points, will be won (most likely by the Patriots) by a last second field goal, and there will be no less than two highly questionable calls that result in the ending.

I can’t wait to read about the game the day after to see how accurate I was… and I’ll post a followup to this prediction to see how close I was… if I’m right, I’m Nostradamus reborn.

Or maybe I see the writing on the wall when no one else wants to see it.

Emerald Specter 112: Back to Podcasting

I’ve written something like this before and I’ll likely write something like this again in the future. The point of everything is really planning out what will happen when and being ahead of the curve.

Podcasting is coming back and I need to change my philosophy on accomplishing what I’d like to get accomplished in 2019… sorry, STARTING in 2019.

The Specter Show stopped coming out on September 3 ,2018 and has really not gotten started back up yet, despite me talking about it like it was right around the corner again. I’ve had lots of plans to make things move forward but when I haven’t done anything due to holiday issues, the fact remains that I’m woefully behind on producing podcasts again.

The Greatest Show hasn’t put out an episode since June 25, 2018. That is the longest break in shows since Bob and I had a little over a year break way back in the early days. Technically, this was when the “season” was supposed to end but, honestly, another season should have started and be at least a few episodes in.

There is an impending SpecterChess podcast coming, too, but let’s start at the beginning with my longest running podcast: The Greatest Show.

I was attempting to build a live viewership with the season format, since we occasionally got a few viewers live to the show. Gifts were sent out to the only viewer interesting in participating in the free gifts and while I have more free gifts to give, I am giving up on the live podcasting model in favor of just producing more quality content.

I’m basically giving up on a release schedule to make sure we have the content without forcing everyone to get together to just talk about 2 weeks of news or so. The other issue with forcing the Saturday night broadcasts was that some hopeful guests couldn’t get on the show due to the time it was on, leaving me scrambling for interesting people who could fit into the previously rigid mold.

People I’d like to get back onto the show who have already been on (linked to their episodes): Eddy Webb, Dan from Fear the Boot, Quinny, Jason Brick, Miss Miniver, and co-founder Bob. These are just the recent ones (recent is relative) and I would love to have them all swing back by for another go at a time of THEIR convenience.

New guests I’m hoping for in the future (also at THEIR convenience): Dirk f’n Manning, Dan Berry, Brandi from GamersTable, Eric from GamersTable, Derek Russell, Money Flippin’ Matt Richards, and Daniel O’Brien. There are others I’d like to have on the show but I’m not going to make some sort of exhaustive list for you to look at…

If nothing else, I’m looking at getting back together with Bob more regularly to go back to the roots of the show and get things rolling forward again.

Moving on…

The Specter Show started as a place for me to just talk. Yep, no real direction and that ended up showing that was more true than not when I wouldn’t have anything super important to talk about on the show. I want to give the Specter Show more direction but I don’t necessarily want to give the show a reboot because I’m okay with the sketchy past and I’d like to keep the numbering.

That leaves me in a predicament. BuJoRPG talk will be getting it’s own platform in 2019, I’m fairly sure this is going to be a YouTube thing but I’m waiting for the voting results to come in, so I don’t want to concentrate on BuJoRPG development in two places when one is more than sufficient. I don’t want to talk about nothing every time, or a roundup, when I can be talking about something specific because I really need to focus on a topic to bring in the listeners.

Since I play both Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes and the newly released Assassin’s Creed Rebellion, I was thinking of putting out some content on the “gaming” side of things in their own podcast… but I can just make these the Specter Show instead, put out a YouTube feed (also pulling off the audio for the audio feed) and there’s my built in content. I do play UFC 3, too, as well as a few other things here and there, but I do both of the first mentioned two on a daily basis.

Sound good? I think it does… at least it gives me a little to work on for the future few episodes.

SpecterChess is the former PRO Chess League Podcast feed that I am trying to bring attention to my own chess improvement, making chess more about the excitement and matches, and moving towards getting others involved in a UFC-style presentation for the sport.

The big plan was to have grand “events” weekly that would be presented as if they were all PPVs. Initially, I was the only one on every event and after Christmas struck me, the grand format is being paired down to something a little more manageable so that I can produce what I’ve promised and run a little more free form after that… because I bit off more than I could chew and didn’t get a chance to preproduce what I wanted to have done by now.

As I write this, you should have a few episodes of that out by now but as I write this, I still haven’t produced a single episode of the series despite having done the prep work for the first 9 events.

Christmas really sucks.

Finally, there’s the coming Dev Blog for BuJoRPG. There should be lots of poll numbers in by now and I should have been working or at least planning the first episode whether that is in YouTube or on this site. I think I’d rather do YouTube so that I can show while I talk but I’m okay with typing, too.

If this does turn into a YouTube thing, I’ll put out an audio version, too, and then I can have content coming out regularly for multiple things on this site while I work on more content in the background.

Podcasting is coming back. Now that I’ve typed this all up, I’m hoping that I can get to work on at least one of these so I can get back into the habit of doing stuff. I’m digitally bullet journaling and that will help organize my life back towards what I want to do rather than just limping along lazily towards some incoherent goals loosely laid out in the future.

Emerald Specter 111: Are You Ready For Some Football?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or you don’t really follow anything except college sports, then you can’t possibly know that we are about to be inundated with American football… like, a lot of it.

The undisputed king of professional American Football is the NFL. They have 32 teams, 16 games per team per season, a well watched playoff system, and the most watched sporting event annually (i.e. the Super Bowl). Fans are so diehard for the NFL that they also watch the annual NFL Draft (where new players are selected from the college ranks), the NFL Scouting Combine (where said college players show off their skills), and even the NFL Schedule Announcement (where they literally just tell us the upcoming schedule for the year).

I also watch the NFL and am a fan of both the Atlanta Falcons and the Seattle Seahawks (I was originally just a Falcons fan but moving to the Pacific Northwest, I also joined the Seahawks fandom).

A lot of the fans who watch the NFL also follow college football (I do not follow second tier sports, and because the college players are all trying to get into the NFL, college football is by definition second tier), so there is already a monster sized addition to the already monster sized NFL.

But that isn’t the only football coming to us in the next few years.

Announced some time ago, the Alliance of American Football will begin playing games in February of this year and will provide hungry football lovers with a chance to watch more football. This is an eight team league that isn’t looking to compete with the NFL, simply add on to the existing structure and maybe, if at some point they want to, become some sort of farm league for the NFL.

I’ve already chosen the team I want to follow for the AAF, specifically the San Diego Fleet (for it’s Naval and nautical themes). I’m interested in seeing how the league does and whether or not it’s got the hutzpah to stay around for long enough to catch the attention of casual fans. The league will be running on CBS (I don’t know if this is mainstream CBS or an app).

But that isn’t even the only other league coming!

Way back in 2001, Vince McMahon launched the XFL as a “more extreme version of American football.” The concept was a decent one but the actual results were lackluster. Presentation was a little hokey, attendance at events dropped off as the season went on, and some of the rules were dangerous, to say the least. The league was built, ran, and folded in the span of two years and though word was out that there was an attempted revival in the mid-2000s, nothing popped up.

Why am I talking about the XFL? Because the XFL is reborn as a brand new league.

All previous eight teams were scrapped in favor of building something a little more stable. The XFL has a new website, they have some new goals, and Vince McMahon is only tangentially involved in the process. Though some of the hokey rules are still around, I think this version of the XFL has an actual shot at being something that lasts… except we already have the AAF.

Apparently Vince McMahon announced that the XFL would be reborn in this new fashion a while ago and I only recently heard about it. The AAF responded by making sure they would launch a full year before the XFL in order to directly compete with the XFL. Yes, both leagues will be running at the same time of the year.

Though all this wonderful football is coming at us hard and heavy, we are still probably going to see one of the two new leagues (AAF or XFL) fold in competition and the other might remain around to see if it’s possible to survive as a “Spring version of American football.” As long as they aren’t competing with the NFL, I think one of these leagues has a chance.

Competing with the NFL is the reason other leagues went out of business in the past.

I’m excited to see what is possible with these new leagues, and I’ll be watching them both for at least one season. The AAF seems to be more aligned with working with the NFL while the XFL just doesn’t want to prevent anyone from going wherever they want (due to contracting only yearly and allowing players to join any league they want).

Time will tell.

Emerald Specter 110: Reprogramming the Eating Machine

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I’m fat.

Don’t say “oh you’re not” or “you can’t be” or whatever. I’m fat. I feel fat, I look fat (to me if to no-one else), and I want to make that stop being a thing.

I have done it before, and I can do it again.

Back when I lived in North Dakota, I decided to stop being fat one day and my wife joined my quest to get healthier. We were walking, being more active in general, and we were eating way better than we had been. If you look at some of the archives of this website, you’ll even find examples of how good I was feeling about the whole process.

Then I moved to Portland, Oregon and things just seemed to fall apart.

Portland is not at fault, mind you. I am. I went from being a rural mail carrier to a supervisor, which added a level of stress that saw my weight balloon up and my eating habits that I’ve developed so carefully to melt away. Walking also almost completely stopped, and if you’ve read my last column, walking has become a problem for me now.

In North Dakota I lost 91 pounds. In Portland, over the course of the last three years, I’ve gained just shy of 100. That is not a thing that makes me very happy.

This time I am going to have to do most of the work through food and that means I need to reprogram the eating machine that is me. Since I have impulse control issues, portion control issues, and a nasty habit of searching for sweets all the time, this is going to be interesting to see.

I’ve already started the process with my attempts to make better choices.

Starting with breakfast, I’m trying to eat less sugary things. I had ordered a bag of dehydrated marshmallows because I saw Lucky Charm Frosted Flakes at the grocery store one day. While I do have a couple of bowls of marshmallows left, I am thinking that they don’t get to be part of this new process and will get to be thrown in the trash.

Instead of cereals, though I will have a few now and then, I’ve started leaning more towards what my wife and I call “Jarmelettes.” We put diced peppers, diced ham (or sausage), some shredded cheese, and between 2 and 3 eggs into a short wide mouthed jar and microwave them (I’ve talked about this in a previous post). I have also started having toast now and then and I’m hoping my breakfast woes are all but a memory.

Moving on to lunches and suppers, I am still in a rut with my wife where we end up having pizza rolls, Tombstone pepperoni pizzas (my guilty pleasure), or eating fast (junk) food a lot instead of making food at home. I am not a big fan of the fast food and as long as we’re going out I am trying to steer her more towards sitting down (where the possibility of eating better options is an option) rather than just default to easy. Now that Christmas is over, this should be achievable.

I need to get back to eating more salads. I need to eat more balanced meals. My lunches are already mostly made at home but I want to get suppers to the point where we were at before we moved: preplanned and sometimes even preprepped.

This cannot be achieved alone.

Without going completely on healthy eating, I do need to move more than I do. I cannot go for the multiples of miles walks I used to because my hip just won’t have it. Simply getting up and moving around more often should be helpful and I am determined to start doing some Tai Chi in order to ease some of the ailments I’m currently suffering.

It works for old people, why can’t it work for me, too?

Sorry this column isn’t as meaty as the last one, I just need to get things out there in the aether to start moving in the right directions.

Emerald Specter 109: Back to the Bullet Journal

What a strange and unexpected twist of fate that has befallen me in the prior 2018. After having a great push with BuJoRPG, BuJourneyRPG, bullet journaling in general, and getting things all moving in the right direction, I fall off the wagon in 2018… hard. Almost no journaling was done.

I need to fix that.

Without jumping directly into the meat of the story, let’s have ourselves a segue. Let’s talk a little about life.

In 2018, I had a really good year at work… until I didn’t. Recovered from a sprained left foot, I was starting to really get into the swing of the route I would have been perfectly happy retiring from (a walking route) and then something strange happened: migraines.

There was a four day span of time where I had a migraine so bad (nearly constant through the four days) that I couldn’t do anything productive. The fourth day sent me to the hospital where I received an injection of the prescription I now have in case these return again. My migraine went away within 15 minutes and hasn’t come back on since that bad. The cause? Brain swelling. I’m a little concerned that the doctors didn’t seem more concerned at brain swelling but I can’t complain since the migraine hasn’t been crippling since…

Until yesterday, that is. I’d already taken other medicine and couldn’t take the prescription but things finally cleared up with a hefty amount of water and some foot (in a darkened room). Headache tangent over.

After my four day migraine incident, I started having problems getting through my route. My hip was really starting to hurt by day’s end and there was an accompanying shooting pain going down my leg that also wasn’t helping matters any. Prognosis? My hip bones are degenerating and I have bursitis… I probably also have a sciatica issue (the shooting pains), but that isn’t diagnosed.

So much for walking my happy 15 miles per day.

The hunt then began for a route that I could do that is a driving one. We call those “mounted” in the post office and I seriously started looking for one because I didn’t want to stop working or switch to a new career path again. My 15 mile a day route was in the second closest office to where I live and I happened across a route that was THE closest to where I live… and got the route.

This office is the smallest in the city and that usually means retirement type routes, older carriers, and people who just want to sail their way out the post office on the easier side of life. While this wasn’t what I discovered is the case, there was a route that I happened into that has given me a new lease on working.

I am pretty sure that I’ll be retiring off this new route.

Starting a new route always has some growing pains and since I won the route bid basically right before the Christmas season, I was going to have harder pains than I normally would… which is fine, because I’m now out of the season and I’ve got a strong handle on the route.

I say all that to say that work has been a load of ups and downs that I’m finally settling into a pattern again.

On the journaling side of things, the old office I worked in had us working in excess of 12 hours on a regular basis from January until just into May of 2018. That left me almost no time for journaling, of which I started a brand new one for 2018 with a Doctor Who theme… Journaling just wasn’t happening.

With this non-stop workload, I also had almost no time for BuJoRPG or BuJourneyRPG development, though I did release a cleaner looking “book” for the rules of BuJoRPG version 1. I was well into doing the same for the inaugural BuJourneyRPG when I hit a snag and wasn’t able to progress much.

I discovered digital bullet journals and made my own custom journal with the intent of heading into 2019 journaling. The digital journal will be something I develop for sale with the release of BuJourneyRPG (as well as some digital BuJoRPG journals), with the game built right into the journal. This doesn’t mean all the calculations will be done for you, but it does mean that you won’t have to worry about finding the rules (as they’ll be baked into the journal).

Once I had the digital journal set up (bare bones for me), I moved to starting something else that will benefit all the BuJoRPG fans out there: learning Swift.

Swift is the programming language for iOS to allow me to make apps for the iPhone and iPad. Since I’m obviously pointing towards creating the BuJoRPG into an app, this will be something that benefits the entire community and allow me to update things in the app (as well as making some of the calculations happen more automatically rather than everything being manual).

Yeah, that kind of defeats the idea of bullet journaling, but I’m keeping the heart of the actual journaling manual while making the gamified portions easier.

That leads me into the meat of this column…

I know what you’re thinking… damn, this column is already getting long. Well, keep on reading because now I’m going to start talking about what you came here for: BuJoRPG.

Earlier this week I posted a poll about how you’d like to get your BuJoRPG Dev Blog. While one option is video and would technically be a vlog, I’m not playing semantics and just allowing you to choose how you want your Dev updates.

The blog would contain pictures when applicable but be a lot of description about what is being worked on. While the video would obviously also be visual, the idea here would be to have my personal digital journal on screen with information while I’m explaining what is being worked on and how I arrived at the decisions I did. I’d also be talking over this and I gave this as an option because I think it would be popular and draw in more fans due to YouTubers looking for bullet journal stuff.

Honestly, though, I posted the poll because I don’t know what would be more popular.

On my end of things, I’m not on Facebook in 2019. I just decided I didn’t need that kind of negativity in my life and I’m going to move into the new year without worrying or arguing about what others think and do. This will give me untold free time as I won’t be mindlessly scrolling a news feed and can work on RPG stuff instead.

Back on track, I want to also note that there is a “branding” conversation that I’ve had with myself and I want to explain things before I continue because I’m getting tired of referring to multiple items in a single sentence.

BuJoRPG (version 1) has been the base version and when I use that term, I’ve really been referring to just version 1 in that sense. BuJourneyRPG is technically BuJoRPG version 2, which is why I altered the name slightly so I didn’t have to constantly say “version 1 or version 2.” BuJourneyRPG will always be BuJoRPG 2.

What I’m going to be doing about talking about things is no longer referring to them by their separate names every time. If I use BuJoRPG, I’m going to mean either version 1 or BuJourneyRPG unless I’m specifically calling out one or the other. I am also doing this in the event that I start working on a BuJoRPG version 3, meaning I don’t want to be talking about three things by typing BuJoRPG v1, BuJourneyRPG, and BuJoRPG 3. See? That’s a lot of typing and now that I’ve stated that, let me move on.

The purpose of V2 was to expand what I’d already created in V1 so that you could have something interesting to do in order to “level up” when you weren’t working directly on your self improvement. I was thinking more of the “stuck at a relative’s house for a holiday and can’t self improve” type of situation but I quickly let V2 go nuts into more detail than that… almost allowing you to skip self improvement all together.

That isn’t the point of V2. You still need to be working on improving yourself as the base and that’s the reason I started involving my wife into the development of BuJourneyRPG.

I’m going to save all the technical talk for the Dev Blog, which I originally planned to release on January 1, 2019 but wanted to know what was a better option for those out there: reading or viewing. When I get a decent sample size (more than 10, ideally about 100 but I’ll settle for a small outcome), then I’ll start putting out content in that manner.

Since I’ve already gotten a fair ways into V2, I am bringing at least the basics with me into development with my wife on board. This will give us a launching platform to start working towards what I think will be my best BuJoRPG yet (with only one other version, that shouldn’t be hard).

I’ve got a new iPad Pro for 2019, with pencil, and I’ll be working on some art for this project as we go. My art is not as awesome as I would like to believe but if I don’t start migrating from using other people’s art, I won’t be able to sell things that I own because I won’t own all of it wholesale.

In 2019 I will make progress with BuJoRPG. I want to be able to have at least a beta release of BuJourneyRPG by the summer, otherwise have a full and completely working version out by December at the latest. Since I’m journaling, I can schedule time for this and keep track of my progress.

Though I’m not going to be committing to anything at this point, I’ll be jotting down some thoughts and ideas for a BuJoRPG 3 possibility while developing 2. Just some concepts or directions I’d like to go in, nothing as far as putting those concepts into practice for the time being.

If I’m going to think of myself as a company (with BuJoRPG as my product), then I have to start thinking of doing things like a company (like being knee deep of a version or two in the future than is actually out in the world).

Answer the poll and let’s get 2019 started going in the right direction!

Emerald Specter 108: Creating a BuJoRPG Dev Blog

Once again, I delve into the world of bullet journaling and BuJoRPG (and BuJourneyRPG). Before I get started into the meat of this article, it’s important to understand what has been happening and why this subject (the one in the title) came up.

First and foremost, the “Christmas season” is my busiest time of year. I assist my wife with her dog and cat treat business (if you haven’t checked it out, I suggest you go there).

I also work for the US Postal Service and that, by default, means that I’m super busy (due to the much, much higher volume of packages this time of year).

Just these two things combined would be enough to break many people but I also have the added things of keeping up with certain games (I’ve invested a lot of time into Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes), social things I want to participate in (things like movies I want to see), work related meetings to attend (union related), and just everyday house maintenance.

There’s a lot on my plate this time of year… and to set myself up for success next year, I’ve decided on creating the BuJoRPG Dev Blog on this site. Let’s get to the meat of the column.

My initial plans for BuJourneyRPG have hit a snag that I just didn’t have time to fix before the holiday season washed over me like a tidal wave. Sure, there are fixes for these things but the overall idea is that I needed to start thinking of how I wanted to change that system in order to make it work with what I originally planned.

I also received a message from someone asking for a “chick version” of BuJoRPG… more on that in a bit.

Up to this point, I have not asked my wife for help on creating BuJourneyRPG. I haven’t really gotten any help from anyone, and that let’s you peak behind the curtain to learn the fact that all of this has been 100% me since the get go.

When I asked my wife to jump on board this little adventure, she was excited and I made the decision that BuJourneyRPG, while definitely still “adventures on top of self improvement” needed to be far more dynamic than the limited scope I was initially planning.

After doing some pondering, I also started to realize that I needed to be making notes, or updating things in a more open space, to show that some progress was being made… and then, of course, I didn’t have time to get that started, so I’ve lost a couple of the notes I’ve made already because I made them on paper and paper gets misplaced.

My new idea was to create a Dev Blog, something solely dedicated to working with both versions of BuJoRPG (which I’m pleased to say is still THE reason people come to this site).

Some time over the course of the next two days to two weeks, I’ll create the fancy new header/cover image for the blog and start posting in January (when work slows down enough for me to gather my head together to start putting things into words people can read rather than just being abstract images in my head). 

What’s going to be in the Dev Blog?

I need to let you know that BuJourneyRPG is going to be a revenue generator for me because I can only do so much if I’m not getting paid for the work. That’s 99% of the reason I haven’t gotten much farther by this point than I have. Having said that, the base system is going to be free… it’s the story and developmental elements that are going to cost some money.

Don’t worry, though, I’m not going to be trying to sell you something tiny for an extravagant amount… the idea is to make it an easy decision to purchase because you aren’t taking out a mortgage on the house. Think more “candy at the cash register” than “brand new hard cover book” purchases.

The Dev Blog itself will be about what I need to work on, what is being worked on, and some of the details of that work that is being done.

For example, I might mention that I’m developing a mechanic to represent a magic system. Then I tell you about the options I came up with and that I’ll be testing out those options to figure out the best one. Finally, I may tell you what I’ve settled on and what is coming up next.

Progress!

Is the character sheet mentioned way back when still happening?

Absolutely!

My first character sheet was designed to be something you could keep going back to in your journal rather than recreating the bones of that every time you updated (like I had for BuJoRPG Version 1). I still love the idea and while I don’t have a solid sheet to show you (yet), I happened across a completely awesome sheet while looking for the cover for this column (image seen below).

The full sized image can be seen here.

There is way more going on on this spread than my simple character sheet, but this is only going to make me alter the spread slightly… because there are things on this sheet that won’t apply to BuJourneyRPG (obviously) and things that need to be included that aren’t on this spread, too.

It’s at least something to fire up the creative thinking.

How often will the Dev Blog be updated?

Ideally, I’ll be updating it weekly (or multiple times per week). Unfortunately, free time and creativity do not run on a schedule, so the updates might also come slower than weekly (but no less often than monthly).

The point of the Dev Blog is to update you when something needs to be updated, so if I make massive amounts of progress in a short period of time, then maybe you’ll get five updates one week. If things are moving slower, then maybe you’ll only get three updates a month.

Would anyone else be able to help with the creation of BuJourneyRPG?

I’d like to say yes, but that might also mean sharing the profits. While there is a plan for that in the future, I’m not quite ready for an entire team of people coming on board at this time.

This does not mean that if you make suggestions on how something might work better that your suggestion wouldn’t be taken in and used. Especially with the building of the base system, I would love a little involvement from others.

In fact, let me say that: I would love help with the base system. It doesn’t pay but you’ll help set BuJourneyRPG up to be a success in the future.

As far as the “after the base system is out,” I’ll be interested in developing some basic language learning adventures, weight loss adventures, and other self improvement specific items that would need someone to be fairly knowledgable in creating those. (I, for example, can’t run you through learning French because I don’t know a lick of French… and a French speaker would be able to adapt my Vietnamese learning method into BuJourneyRPG with far more robustness than I could provide).

What about the “chick system?”

I almost forgot to include this in the post!

A woman contacted me about BuJoRPG and asked me for a version of it “for chicks” (her words, not mine). What she was ideally asking for is a system that didn’t have “combat” in it. That lead me to start thinking up some stuff that might be an alternative…

BuJourneyRPG already had a version of “no combat” baked in and I hadn’t realized it until she made that request. Combat in BuJourneyRPG can be physical, mental, emotional, or social… which is more “conflict resolution” than actual combat. There NEEDS to be a system of conflict resolution, otherwise you’re just reading a book or learning something the boring old way.

My wife was happy to hear about the request and that is when I asked her to jump on board the project. When Christmas winds down, for both of us, we can start working on things. 

I do have stuff to post on the Dev Blog that has already been developed and I can post about with the new base system.

Why do you keep saying “base system?”

The idea is that BuJourneyRPG isn’t just a self improvement method like BuJoRPG was. There will be components to BuJourneyRPG that aren’t related to self improvement at all, while other elements will heavily rely on self improvement.

My base system will allow you to participate in different genres of adventuring and self improvement without tying you down to one specific genre.

You might start off in a space opera genre to get the story laid out and then head over to a high fantasy genre for your self improvements for the month. After that, you might hit up a military genre for another self improvement portion and finish up with some adventuring with mythological unicorns for story.

All of those will feed into the base system.

If I’m being honest, I really need some accountability to keep me moving forward. Too often have I promised something only to shove it under the rug to do something else.

I have a touch of ADD.

I look forward to making this happen and finally putting out a version of BuJourneyRPG that everyone will enjoy.

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.