Obdormio.com Unwasted Hours

8 October, 2012

Managing Time

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

Predictably, writing about my D&D withdrawal didn’t alleviate the problem so much as exacerbate it. I have passed the week with the possibility of a game swirling around my head, a maelstrom of ideas and notions and desires. Of course, it always comes back to the same stumbling block: I don’t have the time.

Or maybe that’s just what I tell myself? When am I ever going to get more time? Could I do it if I just managed my time better? There’s probably no question that I could squeeze out some extra hours if I accomplished that, I am terrible at time management. Or, viewed from a different perspective, I am great at it, and really do need quite a bit of time to just digest.

I have, fearfully, toyed with a thought of jumping in with both legs and just see how much of a train wreck would result if I did try to do everything I wanted. This is a busy and important year in my education, my final year at University, and there are quite a few things I need to do and write over the course of this fall. I have, for many years, bemoaned the fact that NaNoWriMo takes place in November – the only moth that could possibly be worse for it is May – but in this dread fantasy of late I actually try to do it again this year. After all, it is lots of fun.

And maybe I could try running a net based game on top of that? It couldn’t hurt, my fevered brain whispers, what’s the harm in trying. That’s an argument that’s hard to counter with just a general feeling of impending doom, but you have to work with what you have.

Of course, maybe I’m overestimating the amount of work such a game would be; it’s not like I have any experience running one. Maybe it could be a slow runner, where I’d only have to post up a thing once or twice a week. Maybe I should just post an ad and see where it goes?

Of course, I have no real plan yet. My explorers idea is just that, an idea, not fleshed out at all. If I send players out to explore the world, I ought to have some world for them to explore as well, it seems to me. I could go against my every instinct and try to wing it, but I don’t know if that would end up fun or just messy.

I realise, by the way, how self-indulgent and spoiled I am – oh, no, not sure if I have the time to play a purely entertaining game on my magical electronic box – but I am blessed with a fairly drama free life, so this is what I angst about. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have wallowing to do. See you next week, when I’ve probably already posted an ad at this rate.

6 September, 2012

Five of a Thing: More Comics

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

A while ago, I linked to five comics I like a lot. As I mentioned at the time, I actually read a bunch of comics, and once had a huge list of recommendations up here. I won’t go back to that untenable system, but I figure I can easily give you five more. Just like last time, these are in no particular order, so there’s no declaration of one as better than the others; they are all great comics that you should check out.

chainsawsuit

It’s both hard and easy to describe chainsawsuit, as it isn’t really about anything. There little to no continuity, and is mainly an outlet for the absurd and simple and hilarious jokes author Kris Straub can’t fit into his more story-focused works. It actually started as a parody of indie comics, but has become its own fantastic thing by now. Hit the random comic button a few times, and you’ll quickly know if it’s your cup of tea.

Outsider

On the opposite end of the scale we have Outsider, a story-focused long form science fiction comic about a young man on a first contact mission. When his ship is destroyed, he is the only survivor, and is suddenly humanity’s representative to the aliens who pick him up – aliens in the middle of a galactic war. Fine space opera, that unfortunately doesn’t update very often.

Rice Boy (and Sequels)

If you haven’t read the beautiful and surreal Rice Boy, you have really missed out. A wonderful fantasy story, somewhat reminiscent of Tove Janson’s Moomin-stories, filled with strange and impossible creatures and lands and adventures. Two more stories set in the same world are available on the site, one of them currently going, and they’re all recommended.

Skin Horse

Black ops social services. The world is full of mad scientists and their creations, zombies and genetic mutants roam the land, and the government will be there for them come hell or high water. This very funny tale of classified bureaucrats is a spin-off of the also-great Narbonic, but can be read as a stand-alone. Just read through the cast page, all right? I’m sure that will sell you.

Myst: The Book of Atrus

All right, maybe I’m cheating slightly here, as I have already recommended this comic in a different post all of its own. However, since I wrote that recommendation based mostly on expectation and enthusiasm, the comic has continued to update and grow, and has become something that I can very easily recommend regardless of my Myst enthusiasm. If you still haven’t given it a try, I wash my hands of you.

So there you have it, five plus comics all ready for reading. Now let’s just hope this post won’t have any unintended consequences

16 August, 2012

Indulging Geeky Habits

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

Gallifreyan circle writing

OK, admittedly, this post is going to be me indulging in a bit of weird geekery.

I am a big fan of the TV series Doctor Who. I am one of those Johnny-come-latelies who only started with the modern series, but I am trying to round out my Whovian education by going back and watching a bunch of the old series – it’s slow going, but it’s there.

But that’s not the point of this post. As xkcd has just pointed out, there’s always a geekier level further down.

The modern series of Doctor Who has at several points featured writing in the Gallifreyan language, the native tongue of the main character. These samples of writing have been circles, interlocking in patterns. It looks pretty cool. I assume the people who put it in – would that be set dressing, I wonder? – have some sort of system to make it more than just random circles. At least I hope so. I think I recall someone saying in a DVD commentary that there was one. Of course, if there is one, we the viewers don’t know what it is, because it hasn’t been released. This is where we descend one level deeper – not just Doctor Whoand fictional writing systems, we enter the realm of rampant fandom and the home-made variety.

Some clever cat of a doctor who fan actually sat down and worked out a usable script of circle patterns. His website seems to be down for the moment, but there’s a pretty good explanation of the script here. Now, it’s not really a script with a particular language in mind, it’s mostly just an elaborate cypher for the Latin alphabet – but good enough to include separate glyphs for digraphs like ng, th, sh and ch, and it drops c, so there’s some movement towards phonetic transcription. Since I am not yet quite at the level below, where you’d actually learn Gallifreyan, a cypher is enough of a toy for me. I love this thing, it looks cool and very Who-y. Here’s the name of this blog:

Gallifreyan circle writing

Like I said, this post is mostly just indulging the geekery. Lookit the pretty pictures! I’ve always had a bit of an interest in constructed languages and the constructed scripts that go with them – and as a relevant aside, have a look at Omniglot some time – but this is the first one that’s got me sitting there just playing around with making pretty circles.

Gallifreyan circle writing

Go on, have a go transliterating that back into English! It’s not as hard as it looks. And it’s fun!

13 August, 2012

Fiction: Red Flag

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

“It’s red, captain!” Bill shouted. The blood red flag filled the whole view through the spyglass. He lowered the glass and squinted towards the approaching galleon, already too close for comfort.

The deck was silent. Everybody knew what the flag meant. No quarter given. None would be spared.

The captain scratched his bushy beard with his hook. Some crumbs fell out of it. The rest of the crew watched him, waiting. Bill knew they were all feeling the same thing. Excitement. Expectation. Nerves. All the standard pre-battle jitters. The other ship might have treasure.

“Do we have a red flag?” captain Davies finally asked. Bill could tell from his tone that he was uncertain. The approaching galleon was much larger and finer than their own ship, which was simply flying the old black flag Red Willy had painted a crude skull on.

“We’ve a dark pinkish one, cap’n!” Raving Trevor responded. He was rummaging through the small flag chest, and pulled out a flag of dark but decidedly pink colour.

The captain sighed and scratched his beard again. “Anyone remember what deep pink means?” he asked the assembled pirates. Bill ran through all the flags he knew in his head. Deep pink wasn’t a common one.

“Er, I think it means ‘We don’t quite know if we’ll bother with quarter, we’ll see when we get that far’,” he finally said.

“Nay, that won’t do, can’t look uncertain,” the captain said at once. “Have we any others?”

Raving Trevor rummaged through the chest again, while a sense of inferiority spread through the crew. Bill could see it in their faces, and knew it would be visible in his own as well. The other ship had better flags than they did. And it was bigger. And, he could see now, painted in a rather impressive shade of black. Bill looked down at the brown planks beneath their own railing, and wished they were a just slightly cooler kind of brown.

“We’ve a Union Jack, cap’n,” Trevor said. Bill could tell he didn’t have much faith in the suggestion.

“No, we’ll meet them as honest pirates, not under false colours,” the captain cried to general sounds of assent. He sighed.

“There’s a green one as well.”

“Green? What’s green?”

There was a pause as the pirates puzzled through this question. Bill was sure he did not know himself. After a few seconds, Blue Balthazar gave a small, embarrased cough; he rarely spoke in such public circumstances.

“It means ‘vegetables for sale’, captain.”

“Vegetables for sale?! Why the blazes do we even have that flag?”

“We got it off that potato transport we took a week ago.”

“Oh. Well, don’t hoist it!”

“Aye, cap’n.”

There was another pause. Bill looked over at the enemy ship, which was drawing ever nearer.

“Well,” the captain finally said, resigned, “We’ll leave the flag as it is. We’ve no room for prisoners, so try not to give quarter anyway.”

“Aye, captain!” fifteen voices replied. Bill looked over at the other ship again. The men crewing it were visible now, and the sunlight gleamed off polished steel. Bill looked on his own rusty blade in shame. It was unlikely to gleam in any light. Several of the others seemed to have reached the same conclusion; Blue Balthazar was trying in vain to polish away a particularly ugly spot of rust with his sleeve.

“Look on the bright side, lads,” the captain said, his voice full of forced cheer. “We’ll give the lot of ’em tetanus.”

There were new sounds of assent, but less eager now. Bill kept his eyes on the other ship, which would soon be in firing range. The cannons were already loaded, but he could see that the enemy’s cannons were bigger, and also polished to a shine.

Bill sighed. Even if they won this skirmish, the other ship had already taken the moral victory. He could see them fully know. He heard the captain moan behind him, and he could see why. There was no end to ignominy; even the kerchiefs of the enemy were cleaner and costlier than their own.

“All right, lads,” the captain said, with no real enthusiasm. “Fire.”

6 August, 2012

Unfair Quiz

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

I was in a quiz-making mood, and decided to make a very unfair one. I pulled some books from my shelves, opened them at random and chose some vague quotes. Can you figure out which book they came from? If you can’t, the quiz will be snide at you, because it’s unfair. Have fun!

Your Score:  

Your Ranking:  

30 July, 2012

Anno Dracula

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

My summer reading post didn’t list all the books I aimed for this summer. I have a long list of books that sit in my shelves waiting for me, and one of these sneaked into the pile for this year: Anno Dracula by Kim Newman.

Anno Dracula is a pastiche which takes Bram Stoker’s Dracula as its starting point, and posits a world where Count Dracula’s plans in England succeeded. He has married Queen Victoria, placed his own people in all positions of power, has spread his vampiric bloodline far and wide in British society, and placed Van Helsing’s head on a spike outside Buckingham Palace.

In addition to Dracula, Newman draws on a wide variety of other works, as well as on history, placing it in the same sort of genre as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. In addition to the Count we encounter characters like Lord Ruthven, Inspector Lestrade (now a vampire) and Dr. Jekyll. Sherlock Holmes does not make an appearance, he’s been imprisoned due to ideological differences with the new regime. Set in 1888, the novel focuses on the investigation into a series of grizzly murders, where poor vampire prostitutes are killed and mutilated by a figure known as Jack the Ripper. Several people, high and low, take an interest in the case, which speaks to the tensions between the vampires and the living in Dracula’s London, and could potentially spark open conflict.

There’s a lot to like in this book – almost all the ingredients seem tailor made to suit my tastes – so I am honestly a bit puzzled as to why I didn’t like it better than I did. Maybe the problem was that I never really connected with the central pair of original characters – the vampire Geneviève didn’t really feel as weighty as I think she was supposed to. Perhaps the parts I liked were carried more by the familiarity of the appropriated character rather than the strength of the narrative. Wow, that sounded harsh, I did after all like the book! Since the identity of the killer is known by the audience from the very first chapter, the murder investigation didn’t really grip me either. The conflict between vampire regime and general public kept being focused into the murders, however, and only at the very end did we get a few rushed pages of action on that front.

The world was very well crafted, stitching the various borrowed elements into a coherent and quite exciting whole. I do think it a bit unlikely that the title of Prince Consort would give Dracula enough authority to push through his sweeping changes so unopposed, leaving the resistance movement idle until the book gets going. Having Dracula in charge is pretty much a necessity for the story, but if there had been some mention of opposition beyond Van Helsing, I’d be better satisfied. I also wonder that vampirism should become so fashionable, especially since it seems to be common knowledge that Dracula’s bloodline is diseased. That’s minor quibbles, though, I was always turning the page wanting to know more about this world, and some of my dissatisfaction with the book stems from not getting to go as deeply into it as I desired.

I think perhaps my expectations were unrealistic going in – my edition had a really brilliant cover, and a ringing endorsement from Neil Gaiman printed on it twice. Combined with the fact that I loved the idea of the setting, I doubt any book could have lived up to what I imagined. I would still recommend it to anyone who found the cover blurb intriguing, though. It was a fine example of mash-up pastiche.

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