30 April 2011

Behold the Caffe Ninjacano! []

The other day I "created" a drink on Starbucks.com, the Caffe Ninjacano. It's a "ristretto quad grande, one shot mocha, one shot hazelnut caffe americano" in Starbucks-ese. In my language, it is just "awesome."

Today, I ordered one. I'm sipping it as I compose this post. It is better than I'd hoped, even if it cost $4.23.

Picture below; I suspect the barista may be an anarchist, but he still brews a mean Ninjacano.


23 April 2011


Okay, not really...I have actually seen worse, but only in movie theater lobbies and food courts.

This space, at a local mall, used to be a marginally decent arcade...no fighting games, after they removed an old Tekken 5 machine, but at least dance dance revolution (the real version), time crisis, and skeeball, among the various ticket sources (yes, there was a ticket counter). A while back, it finally folded. The sign above the entrance which was visible during remodeling showed two futuristic laser guns, so my friends and I all assumed it would be a (very small) laser tag arena.

We were wrong. Pictures speak for themselves.

This is the sad state of arcades today. It's a horrid catch-22: to get customers, they need good games (fighters MADE arcades, practically), but they can't afford/are not willing to spring for it if they don't get customers...


14 April 2011

A Busy Mind...[]

So I'm working on converting over a very large amount of content to my site: all my conlang stuff that used to exist on an old Angelfire site. Won't even post the link, due to horrid design and oldness...

Of course, by "converting," I mean "redesigning" and "redoing" for the most part. Will take quite a while. At least this will give me an opportunity to polish up a lot of this content.

Also working out ideas for those novels I keep meaning to write, which is a related project as they're set in one of the worlds I created for several of my conlangs. Good stuff.

In unrelated news, I've picked up The Name of the Wind, since a certain webcomic recommended the series. Good reading so far. That's always a good sign.


11 April 2011

For another thing...[]

Suddenly, they were surrounded by zombies. Bill dropped his pop bottle on the ground, his hands desperately grasping for anything nearby to use as a weapon. Deb hastily grabbed a chair, although with the weight of these cafe chairs nowadays, it would be difficult, if not impossible, for her to brandish it viably. Rick pulled out the taser he kept on his person at all times (for reasons that nobody else seemed to want to know) and hoped that zombies would be stopped by electricity.

They weren't.


And I'm free....free-writing...[]

The crows were mourning the sun's last wind-swept rays over the barren hills of Tolan iLahnin, where stood the mighty Citadel of Rin-Kored. The earth was groaning. Iron wheels tore apart the loose-packed road that led to the last mine, and on them road Destruction. Ten great horses pulled the mighty wain as their master drove them mercilessly, determined to reach the mine by nightfall. Destruction waits for no man. There were rumors of a new danger approaching, from the mountains of Bhetkalen. Destruction knew no fear but the unknown. He raised one hand to shade his eyes as the evening sun bit into them, just before it vanished behind those very mountains. Giving the beasts another lash with his other hand, he wiped the dust from his brow, the dust that had become an ever-increasing burden since he left Tán Losin with his cargo. His cargo.

They had been silent for the entire journey; Destruction knew the benefits of silence. It helped that he did not need to speak to them, for he did not, in truth, wish to know entirely why they needed passage to the mines, and the last mine in particular. Another lash for the horses, and the West Mine came into view, its timber entrance-way the only thing that marked it from the surrounding hills. To the east, the Citadel was just barely visible, having been built when the easternmost mines still had any silver in them. Greedy axes had torn the virgin ore from its resting place and laid the east hills barren. Destruction could not claim that he had not helped, for his iron-wain was one of the many which made regular trips from the mines to the port city of Tán Losin and back, each trip another robbery on both ends.

Destruction brought the horses to a halt, and they stood still, waiting for another signal from their master. A porter called out from the watchtower. "What business?" he demanded in a weak voice that creaked with caution. It was not an idle question; the West Mine had been closed for the past month, after the far tunnels had caught fire, and it was only the promise of vast undiscovered riches deeper down into the hill that had kept it from being abandoned entirely. The roadman known as Destruction called back. "Old crows for the nest." He had been given the words, and from the porter's response, it appeared he had spoken them aright...


09 April 2011

The Good Old Days...[]

I remember AOL 3.0. I'll just put that out there. I remember 28.8Kbps modems, AOK keywords, and that voice saying, "Welcome!" "You've got mail!" and "Good bye; see you soon!"

We got the internet in 1996; started with CompuServe, but then got pushed onto AOL. Being that I was the resident techie in the house (comparatively speaking, you must understand), I was given an adult admin account, so that I could fix things. Therefore, I wasn't limited to the few keywords and limited browsing of a kid or teen account. Even so, one of my favorite places on AOL was undoubtedly the Blackberry Creek Comics by Kids keyword. Never before had I been given the opportunity to publish my creative works for the world to see.

It must also be understood that at this point we were still on our first personal computer, the Macintosh Quadra (800 I think...and yes, that means I did, at one point, own a Mac), and the most advanced image editing software to which I had access was Kid Pix 2. Didn't get me very far, in other words, but it did what I wanted it to do (until I got a scanner in '00).

Anyway, beyond creating my own comics was the joy of reading the efforts of others. A few truly stuck out from the crowd of amateurish scribbles, and these still live in my memory today.

Which is a good thing, since the site was dismantled, reborn, and killed again...no more. Fortunately, I did manage to snag a few of my favorites before they all died:


Aaron #40
Aaron was probably my first favorite. It was a sci-fi epic about an alien...thing that crashes to earth, which the titular character uses to power his experimental power suit. It works a bit better than expected, and soon Aaron, along with his best friend Stump (real name forgotten) are fighting evil (a corporation? been too long). Well-done (if simple) artwork, and an engaging storyline. It shall be missed.

Lester & Barkley

Lester & Barkley #1
When I saw Nickelodeon's CatDog, this was what first came to mind (and it came out years earlier, so I still say Nickelodeon "stole" the idea). Rational, sophisticated cat and his fun-loving, excitable dog housemate. Best story arc: Lestermorphs, the Animorphs crossover/homage. At the time, Animorphs was the best book series ever (according to me), and this predated even the TV show.

The Trio

The Trio #33
One of the better-drawn comics (although certainly largely a copy/paste comic), this comic revolved around a trio of characters (I really can't even remember their names, although apparently one was named Reggie). The cast eventually grew, as all sitcom casts do.

There are others for which I didn't save images, but were awesome nonetheless:

Sqidsy and Slink

Managed to find the artist's website, with new(er) comics of this series, but it started out MS Paint-style. Sqidsy the Squirrel and Slink the Snake had crazy adventures...I think. So long ago, but it's one of the names I remember most clearly.

Some Assembly Required

Wow...this one was awesome, and one of the few that I actually remember ending. It went out with a bang – Karim, the villain of the series, blew the cast (and a large chunk of the world) to smithereens, and the last comic ended up with them in the afterlife (some in one place, two in...the other). Also, spiky balls. That is all.

So yeah...there's now a Facebook group for BCreek CBK Alumni...so there's still hope. Still hope. May we never forget.


06 April 2011

Game Of Thrones "Exclusive" Sneak Peek (HBO)

Well, they changed the deserter, changed the prologue a bit, and aged up Robb and Jon, but the Wall, Winterfell, and everything else look amazing. Couldn't have picked a better Ned Stark...[]

05 April 2011

It Shall Be Epic...[]

I've been re-reading A Game of Thrones in preparation for the HBO series starting later this month, and I've rediscovered several things about the book, some of which explain why I became captivated by the series (and am eagerly awaiting the long-delayed fifth book, set to be released July 12, 2011).

The Song of Ice and Fire series is set on a parallel earth in a parallel medieval setting and involves epic battles, knights, evil sorcerers, conquerors from across the sea, fallen civilizations, and dragons. However, The Lord of the Rings it is not (although both authors are British and have middle initials R. R.).

Despite the superficial similarity, A Game of Thrones and its subsequent novels are not high fantasy, all noble lords and quests. The books are dirty. They involve incest, rape, illegitimate children, eunuchs, treachery, tragedy, and above all graphic and senseless loss of life of not only "good" characters but leading protagonists (one of whom will be portrayed, interestingly enough, by Sean Bean, who also portrayed one of the few important and "good" Tolkien characters to be killed permanently). Good does not always triumph, and in fact it's not always easy to tell who exactly is good.

Each chapter is named after one of the characters, and the narrative is told via his or her perspective, though still in the third person. While this doesn't always give multiple views of the same action, it does bring about some troubling moments for the reader (troubling in the best way, that is). At the start, the reader is fairly sure who are the "good guys" and who are the "bad guys." It's the Starks, noble and honest, versus the Lannisters, devious and heartless. Yet early on an ambiguous character is introduced in the small form of the dwarf Tyrion Lannister, who, while no paragon of moral behaviour, is portrayed (when the author's perspective is behind him) as thoughtful, loyal, and almost kind, especially to the downtrodden and rejected. It is quite jarring when the suspicion of murder falls upon his shoulders, especially because the reader has actually no reason to doubt its truth. Later, when Tyrion is captured and tried for his alleged crime, however, the author has had a whole chapter from Tyrion's perspective to re-sympathize him to the reader, making it difficult to know for whom to cheer when his sellsword friend must duel to prove Tyrion's innocence.

I think the strangest point came later in the book, when the Starks and Lannisters were at open war. Treachery of the worst sort has led to the death of the king by the queen (a Lannister) and the imprisonment of the head of the Stark family. Tyrion's capture by Lady Stark has furthermore prompted the Lannister household to move against them. From the chapters before, which describe how cruelly and maliciously the Lannister's act, one watches as the young Robb Stark leads his troops into battle to defend his house and rescue his father eager for them to win. Then the chapter turns, and the reader is once again behind Tyrion, seeing him thrust into battle by his stern and unloving father. When the Stark battle horns sound and the armies clash, it's nothing short of jarring to realize that you are now hoping desperately for a Lannister victory. Then several more chapters down, you're on the opposite side of the battlefield, once more cheering on the Starks.

All the while, the exiled princess is sold into a marriage by her wicked brother, to a foreign people whose culture she must adopt and whose heir she must bear at a young age. You want her to succeed, and to be able to return home, but you know that if she succeeds, all the characters you care about will be in danger.

Essentially, this creates a great ambiguity on all sides. All sides have reasons to win, and while there are a few characters who seem always to act as "villains," it's never truly clear with whom the reader is supposed to sympathize. Essentially, then, you care about all of the plotlines and most of the characters, which does a lot for entrenching you in the story.

Long-winded there, I know, but that's just the first point. Secondly, the world of A Song of Ice and Fire is rich in detail and history. There's enough backstory to this fictional world to fill whole other novel series (the author has actually produced just such a series, it seems, unconnected, at least directly, to the other series). The history of the continent of Westeros goes back thousands of years, and the populations and demographics that make up the inhabitants therein is shown to have changed as one group conquered the group before it. Each culture has its own customs, religion, and history, such that the whole kingdom (known as the Seven Kingdoms for a reason) is not homogenous. Furthermore, the world of the series is vast and diverse; more diverse, even, than Tolkien's Middle Earth. True story. Fortunately, several appendices and maps help aid the reader. This depth makes the world at once fantastic and believable.

What helps also is that, while there is no connection to Earth history, several familiar motifs give the reader a grounding. Where a new term is introduced, it is given in context, so that the reader develops a working vocabulary, so to speak. In this way, there is more depth in the world, and the growing familiarity with it makes it much easier to relate to characters and become invested in the plot.

Thirdly (and probably lastly, since this post is already incredibly long), there is an immense cast in this series, and even marginal characters are given names, relationships, brief descriptions/backstories, and, well, character. At first, this might seem like a recipe for disaster, but the author is very clever in how he introduces characters. They are introduced in clumps, with each person being clearly defined both with a name, a family, and identifying characteristics. Many also have descriptive epithets (the Imp, Littlefinger, Kingslayer, the Spider, etc.) which give further flesh on their figurative bones. Thus, the cast is not just a long list of names; each person has enough identifying information that relationships and identities remain fairly clear (if one is paying at least modest attention). It's actually quite an accomplishment, being able to get across such a large and well-developed cast of characters.

In any case, I recommend the series, although with a word of caution, as it's not for young eyes. I read it for the story, honestly.


04 April 2011

The Arcade Experience...[]

So on Saturday I posted about my experiences playing Tekken 4 at an arcade. Specifically, it was a Dave & Buster's, where the only fighting game (apart from one of those machines with 20 or so arcade classics including Street Fighter II Championship Edition) was Tekken 4.

For those who don't know, my main character in the Tekken series (and the Soul Calibur series) is Yoshimitsu. I don't play him because I love to win. Since Tekken 4, he has been consistently low-mid or mid-low tier (and accurately so, even if you don't believe in tiers). He's always fun to play, though, even if I almost never win.

There are several arguments for my saying that his low point of effectiveness was Tekken 4. First, he wasn't Jin. Enough said there. Second, many of his moves became much less safe/less damaging from the previous installment, Tekken Tag Tournament. He did gain several new moves, most notably the new moves from Indian Sit Stance, but their effectiveness goes down drastically if an opponent has seen them at all. Even the tactic of going into Indian Sit during the pre-fight and quickly teleporting as "Fight!" is called will only work once or twice. Also, he isn't Jin Kazama (or Steve Fox, although that's more an issue in Tekken 5).

Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised that each time I faced an opponent at that arcade machine with Yoshimitsu, I came out victorious. Two reasons: (1) they mostly picked either Steve Fox or Hwoarang (alias How Wrong), two characters with the speed combo-ability to destroy Yoshimitsu quite easily, and (2) it was an arcade machine, and I haven't played Tekken with an arcade stick in quite some time (hence my eagerness to order one and get back into practice).

I must, however, temper my self-congratulation with the knowledge that all of my opponents were, by their own admission, "not serious Tekken players." It was obvious that none of them had played in quite some time. Therefore, I can't truly claim some great achievement in this.

A small achievement, however, will suffice.

In any case, my experience gave me cause to consider the arcade fighter scene in my hometown, or, rather, the lack thereof. I have a number of friends with whom I will occasionally engage in some console play, but apart from that I must rely on online matches through PSN. The only arcade in my area that comes to mind with a significant number of fighting games has nothing newer than SvC Chaos or Soul Calibur II (although it boasts two Marvel vs. Capcom 2 machines), and I almost never, as many times as I visit the mall where it's located, see either a great number of patrons at that arcade or any players on its fighting games.

It's truly sad, especially because I know there are places in this world, and even in this country, where the arcade fighting scene is still alive and well. The problem is that no arcades will invest in the latest games, and so no player bases can form, thus making it seem unprofitable for any arcade to invest in the latest fighting games. It's the story that transcends history and the world, a tale of souls and...

...never mind. []

02 April 2011

Seriously just won a match at a Tekken 4 arcade machine with my Yoshimitsu vs. a Steve player...somehow...T4 was not the best time to be a Yoshi player...[]