Saturday, September 24, 2011

Geek Gear: The Blade Runner Umbrella

When I think about what led to my geekdom, I keep getting drawn back to my father. As a child, I watched a lot of things with my family. With my mom and grandfather, we watched stuff like Early Edition, Everybody Loves Raymond, and Touched by an Angel. With my dad, though, I remember Star Trek: TNG, DS9 and Voyager, Babylon 5, and wrestling. We'd sit on the couch watching the original Star Wars films for days when it came on TV. I was indoctrinated into the world of Sci-Fi from my earliest memories thanks to my dad. One of his favorite movies is Blade Runner. It wasn't one I saw until I was older, but when I finally did, I loved it (what I could understand at that point, at least). Now, it's been a long time since I last saw it. I remember the plot, the characters, but some details escaped me. Like the umbrellas. I didn't remember the shafts of the umbrellas were lasers until I found this.

Thinkgeek Blade Runner Umbrella

Yeah, I'm not going to forget the umbrellas anymore. Because I want one. I know what Dad's getting for Christmas this year.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

You Never Forget Your First

Do you remember your first ever session of D&D?

I got introduced to tabletop gaming the summer before I started college. Once every week, I went to the local store to play some random game with random people. We'd play three sessions, then new games would start. The store sold every tabletop game you could imagine and I got my hands dirty with some less common ones. Over three months, I lost two characters to one DM (the man had an actual "graveyard" for his kills!) One of the last games I joined in there was a classic D&D. We spent the first session just making our characters. I'd only used pre-made ones so I needed a lot of hand-holding. At the end, though, I had my first D&D character, a half-elf rogue named Ranel. The next Thursday, I sat down with the group, dice and character at the ready, to go on my first D&D adventure.

If you asked me what we did that game, I couldn't tell you. There was some kind of dungeon crawl, possibly some undead. What I do remember, though, is the pair of immature kids' characters making jokes at my character's expense across the table from me. When I got fed up, I simply said, "Cut it out. You know I could kill you both in your sleep." One scoffed back, and the DM stopped the game. "I just want to see something. You two, roll listen checks. You, move silent check." We rolled. DM looked at our results. "Congratulations, you failed your listen checks while sleeping. If this were actually in-game, Ranel would have slit both your throats with coup-de-graces."

Surprisingly, for the rest of that game, those two kids left me alone, and Ranel eventually moved with me to college, becoming my character for DM's game. She eventually became the leader of the team and continued to survive until level 25 or 26, where the game went on hiatus indefinitely from being epic-level broken. I think I owe some of my love of rogues to her, and even though I'll never remember who the DM was, I owe him one for that little interruption to show that girls can game with the best of them.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Character trait: Addiction: Pinning

In the Battletech tabletop game, during character design, you can buy traits. Positive traits improve prove your character and cost points. Negative traits give your character personality and earn you more points. Of course, they limit how many negative trait points you can earn to avoid people taking them all, but picking a few can make a game much more interesting. If I were to stat out myself realistically, I'd definitely have taken the Addiction trait. So let's get this over with...

Hi, my name's Indeah, and I'm addicted to the internet. There's always something online taking up most of my time. A game (or two), a forum (or five), or some kind of social networking site. A few weeks ago, I saw on one of my forums a thread about a new networking website called Pinterest. The girls on it were raving about it, and those of us not on it were curious. I asked a forum friend for an invitation, and later that day, I sat down and logged in. I've been hooked bad ever since.

So what IS Pinterest? It's a kind of site where you can store and share all your online favorites through saving, or "pinning" a picture and some text. You make boards with a topic as specific or general as you want and download a Pin It button to your browser. Find something you like while browsing around? Click Pin It, select what picture you want to pin from the page, what board you want to pin it to, and some text to describe it. When you next go to Pinterest, your pin will be there on that board, and clicking the picture will take you right back to the site you got it from. It's wonderful for saving foods you want to make, craft ideas and directions, home improvement directions, inspirational quotes, or just pictures you like (Yes I have a board just for geeky pictures. It's currently filled with Star Wars stuff). If you're bored, you can scan the things other people have recently pinned and repin anything you like to your own board. Whatever you pin is shared with your friends and followers. You can follow people who post stuff you're interested in, so you get quick access to things you might like. Likewise, people who like what you pin can follow you. You can follow specific boards or all of theirs for each person.

It's still being set up and improved upon, so joining is through invite only. You can get one from a friend who's on it already, or you can request one from the site and could take a few minutes or a few days, but it will come in. You can put in your interests and it'll suggest some people to follow. You can also search for your friends and follow them. The site can be tied into your Facebook or twitter accounts, or you can set up a completely separate one. It's very user friendly and quick to pick up. I can tell you from first hand experience, it's incredibly hard to put back down. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got some pinning to do.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Ravi here.

Today, I get to talk to you about BAAAAAAALLS OF CAAAAAAAAKE. Okay okay enough of the Duke (for now). I recently tried this delicious cake ball recipe.

UNFORTUNATELY, I was too busy prepping for the party to take pictures, and then I was a little too drunk DURING the party to remember to take pictures. The partygoers ate them all. They also ate all the jelly shots.

Anyway, how to prep this delightfully simple recipe:
1)Bake a cake according to package directions
2)Crumble cake while still warm (not hot, you'll burn yourself, I learned the hard way) into a bowl
3)Mix the crumbled cake with a package of frosting
4)Form the mixture into balls
5)Dip into confectioners coating

I had to do a last minute substitute for 5... I melted some semisweet baking chocolate and drizzled that over the balls. Didn't seem to faze anyone!

REMEMBER! These little buggers are powerful. Sugar highs may be a side effect.

Happy Rolling!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Welcome to the Disc

This has ended up being insanely long, so before we get started, I'll summarize this in a TLDR:
Like fantasy? Like laughing your ass off? Read Terry Pratchett. You'll wonder why you didn't sooner.

When I say "Discworld", what do you think of? If your answer's not "the best long-running fantasy humor series in the world", then get yourself to a bookstore, head to the Sci-Fi/Fantasy section and look under P. Somewhere in there is Sir Terry Pratchett and his simply superb series, the saga of Discworld. Starting with The Colour of Magic and running up to his newest release in October, Snuff, Sir Terry (Yes, he's knighted) has spent over three decades amusing the world with the hilarious adventures of various people living on a flat disc of a world (hence, Discworld), balanced on the backs of four elephants who in turn stand on the back of the Great A'Tuin, an enormous turtle swimming through endless space. And they know this for a fact because they've gone down there and looked.

I've read hundred of books over my life, and not a single one has come close to the way Pratchett makes his characters live, makes you laugh, and weaves flavors of the real world into a fantasy one so well. Everywhere you look in his books, there's a reference to something you know, and if you don't know it, then someday, you'll be somewhere or read something and realize "Wait a second...!" For having over 30 books in a single series, he also makes them some of the easiest books to pick up and read I've ever seen. You can pick up any book in any of the storylines and start reading, and you won't feel like you needed to have read the previous ones to understand what happening. However, you will end up WANTING to read the previous ones.

I'd go into detail about the characters, but frankly there are too many, and you can't just summarize a cast as vibrant and color as the people of Discworld. How many fantasy adventures have you read where the main characters who save the day are old women? His witches, Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg, do it time and time again, and they kick ass while they're at it if they have to. Think the world, history, and life as we know it can be saved by an incompetent, cowardly wizard, the world's first tourist, and a trunk with a hundred legs and bottomless appetite? If there's a magical mess, Rincewind and Twoflower are almost always found in the middle of it, with Rincewind making a manic dash for the end and Twoflower taking pictures of the mess that's coming. How about a thief who's being blackmailed by a congenial tyrant into reforming public services anyway he can think of how? Moist von Lipwig does it in Going Postal and Making Money. And all the while, the most ragtag Night Watch in the world, made up of humans (including one who has letter certifying that he is, in fact, human), dwarves, trolls, vampires, werewolves, and a zombie, led by a human who was raised by dwarves, are hard at work protecting their city and their own by any means necessary. Even Death, yes the skeleton in the black cowl with a scythe, has his own stories (and is the most prolific character, appearing at least once in every book). And really, that's not even everyone. There are several once-offs and other storylines I haven't even mentioned, and countless other minor characters you'll see throughout each storyline (such as the Librarian. He was a man. Now he's an orangutan. Whatever you do, don't call him a monkey) and yet, despite there being dozens of names and faces that show up time and time again, they all have their own personalities, their own stories, you're thrilled when they make it through their next challenge and sad if they don't (hey, Death doesn't just hang around for no reason...except for with Rincewind.) You get to know them all as well as your own family, and you're sad when there's no more book to read.

I couldn't tell you how many years ago it was the DM handed me Guards! Guards! and told me to give it a read. It didn't win my interest, honestly. Then, I read Making Money and was actually hooked. Since then, I've read all but one Discworld book, and reread Guards! Guards! (I liked it MUCH better when I knew the characters and fully understood what was happening). Hands down, it's my favorite series, and I can't describe the admiration I have for Sir Terry, as a writer and as a person. A few years ago, my favorite author was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's. A few years later, he's continuing to write and says he still has at least two more stories in him. As well as writing, he's still traveling, sharing with the world his encouragement for assisted death, and it feels like he's getting things done, or at least raising awareness. He hasn't let a diagnosis stop him at all. I don't know if I could be as strong as he gives the appearance of being with such a horrible diagnosis, but if it happened to me, I know who I would look up to for the strength to keep going. I already look up to him as an aspiring fantasy writer, and hope that maybe, someday, I'll have the chance to meet him before it's too late.