Thursday, June 28, 2012

Back to the Future Day Hoax

As an interesting note...yesterday, June 27, 2012 was falsely identified as the day that Marty McFly went forward in time to in Back to The Future II.

This is a hoax...check your nerd facts folks!  The correct day is October 21, 2015.

"If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits 88 miles per hour... you're gonna see some serious shit."    - Dr. Emmett Brown

Well Doc, you might in about three and a half years...

Dammit...there better be hoverboards in 2015!



Monday, June 25, 2012

This Week's Geek on Monday (hopefully!)

Hi all...

Should have TWG out this evening...I'm actually without 'net at the moment (other than cell phone and that's spotty)...teaching anatomy and physiology at a summer camp for middle schoolers in eastern Colorado this week and haven't got the wireless access set up quite yet!

Hope to be online today...


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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Wired June Issue...Articles of Note

Got my June copy of Wired last's some articles/features of note:

  • New word:  Phablet.  Refers to big smartphones designed to double as tablets, such as the Samsung Galaxy Note.
  • Clive Thompson does a really interesting piece on 3D printers and a guy who got a MakerBot and decided to start designing his own miniatures and fabricating plastic copies of them based on his brother's Imperial Guard figs from WH40K.  Then he started sharing the design files for free on the web.  Games Workshop quickly sent a takedown to him citing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  The article is a great discussion about 3D printers and the legal complications that are going to start coming about with them.  Some great comments to the article online to read as well.  Not sure if I read it on this particular article, but saw someone comment somewhere that for the ~$750 you can get a MakerBot for, you'd spend less than what it takes to buy a decent Imperial Guard army from GW.  May be some truth to that...
  • Fantastically interesting article on Facebook and the argument that they may stumble into legal issues in terms of monopoly laws (the legal kind that Microsoft and AT&T ran into, not the game with Boardwalk and Baltic Avenue).
  • Cool interview with the guys at Unreal and their latest video showing the possibilities of the new Unreal 4 engine coming out.  
  • The main cover story this month is on 'How to be a Geek Dad.'  Some cool nerdy craft ideas for you and your kid.

And as's just fun to read Wired...



Friday, June 22, 2012

Comic Books Today, Print or Digital?

So as some of you may know, I essentially dropped out of collecting and actively following comics back in the mid-90's.  I even went back about 8 years ago and e-bayed off some of my bigger titles I had down in the garage, mostly my first issues of Spawn, some Sandman, and so on.  (These things happen, you just move hobbies and interests now and then). 

At any rate, I've been having a bit of a urge to start reading a few titles again...Iron Man (my number one title I've followed since I was a kid, and have the largest collection of in the garage), maybe Spidey, Hulk, perhaps some Batman/Dark Knight (I know, I mentioned a DC title).

So a bit of my current conundrum is read them in print, digitally, or perhaps both.  With the advent of the iPad, digital comics took a whole new turn.  Suddenly there was an app that delivered beautifully displayed comic books that are wirelessly and near instantly delivered to my tablet, and require no bags or backs or storage boxes.  Frankly, they can be gorgeous, and extra functions liked 'guided view' (where I tap and the comic guides itself from panel to panel in a more artistic flowing fashion than is feasible with print) is pretty cool.  But as a child of the comic book that I could hold in my hand and flip to the back to read the ads for x-ray glasses and Grit magazine, there's something that requires having a print comic.  I used to wait impatiently to run down to my local comic store and get the issues out of my subscription box that the store automatically put there for me when they arrived.

Both options are huge in my eyes right now.  The digital comic is something to be embraced with open arms.  Aside from all the perks of instantaneous delivery (let's be honest...such is no longer a luxury, it's an expectation of our world - deal with it), gorgeous art medium, and a full sized comic book store at your fingertips larger than any brick an mortar store could be, digital comics are also a fantastic source for new artists and writers, and I've had the opportunity to read some really good new comics, ones that would have a helluva time coming to print and to store in the days before digital comics.  Now, it takes near nothing to produce a digital comic that can be given away free if necessary for fans to peruse - and new artists and writers can more easily break into their professional careers this way.  But print comics will (hopefully) always be.  A comic book is something to be read, to be collected, and to be cherished.  This digital vs. print debate is akin to saying that there is some amazing artwork that can be done with the obviously extremely advanced paint and drawing programs and apps and displayed beautifully on tablets and such, often with added extras like motion and video, so we should do away with physical art using oils, watercolors, and charcoal.  Why look at Matisse, or Da Vinci, or Rembrandt, or Pollock, if we can have digital artwork?  Simply enough, because one art medium simply doesn't replace others - rather it adds to the whole that is art.  In the case of digital comics, this has happened as well.  Digital comics doesn't replace traditional print adds to the entire art form.  To suggest that we should stop printing X-men comic series because we can now have X-men in all their glory on my iPad is ludicrous.  Instead, the suggestion is that I can choose how I read and collect my comics - either in a box in my garage with individual protective bags and sleeves or on my tablet with all the extras that come with digitals.  Or, in many cases of comic fans I've read and chatted with, both.

Which is most likely what I'll do...



Sunday, June 17, 2012

Voyager 1 Spaceship Approaching True Outer Space

In 1977, Voyager I launched from Earth and headed to explore our Solar System, and while the game plan was to have it continue on some day if it continued to function, it always seemed pie in the sky.

But that day is now on the horizon. Voyager I is on the verge of leaving the edges of our Solar System. The data coming back from the 35 year old satellite indicates that it is approaching the point where particles of matter in space are no longer carried by our Sun's solar winds, but rather by the interstellar cosmic winds.

This is actually big stuff. This will be a new achievement in human space exploration...when a spacecraft from Earth leaves our solar system for the first time. Voyager I will continue to broadcast data until 2020, but will travel on silently for a very long time. In some 40,000 years, the spacecraft will approach another star...a new sun in another system.



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This Week's Geek - Calypso

Just a quick note of apology for no posts these past couple of days, and for making This Week's Geek a little (ok, a lot) off the beaten path of all things nerd.  But this is one of those times when you have to use your platform to talk about things important to you...particularly those things that make you who you are.

Our eldest dog, Calypso, passed away Thursday.  She was nearly sixteen years old, and who we have often called 'First Dog,' as my wife and I brought her into our family just shortly after we had 'gotten serious' and moved in together, so Callie has pretty much been with us since Alexis and I have been a 'we.'  (Freya, our second dog, who I picked up at the local shelter just after we bought our first house the next year, just turned fifteen herself).  It's hard for me to believe, but I realized yesterday that Calypso had been with us for well over a third of my life, so much so that it seems like Callie (and Freya) have always just been by our side.  Callie was an amazingly sweet and life-loving Yellow Labrador and one half Siberian Husky, and her constant happiness and joy were infectious to everyone that met her.

As she grew older, her hips (for non-canine folks, hips are the rear legs, shoulders are the front ones), grew increasingly weak and finally about four months ago she got up one morning and had some big discomfort in her neck and back.  We took her to the vet a day later and she had compressed three or four of the vertebrae in her back, and this was arguably the end result of previous injury that slowly progressed to this point.  Over the course of the next day or two, Calypso lost complete function and most sensation in her back half, and was effectively paralyzed in her rear legs.

We thought this was probably the end, but Calypso surprised us (and would continue to do so for the next few months).  Callie adapted quickly to a new harness that we got for her which allowed one of us to carry her paralyzed half using a handle built into the rear of the harness and she could walk forward normally with her front legs while walking beside us.  The harness also has a handle over her shoulders, so we could easily use both handles to transfer her when needed, such as getting into the car or going down stairs.

Calypso got so good with the Help 'Em Up harness that we were able to go for hikes again on the trail, and our last one was a beautiful one up a portion of a favorite trail in Golden Gate State Park.

Calypso also tried out a canine wheelchair for a number of weeks, and after learning how to operate it, she would go for short walks in the wheelchair which helped strengthen her front legs, though she preferred the harness to the chair.

Aside from the fantastic care Callie got from Dr. Bethany Yurek and the Jasper Animal Hospital, much of Calypso's success after the paralysis also came from a rehabilitation program at Canine Rehabilitation and Conditioning Group (CRCG).  Callie attending weekly, and sometimes bi-weekly, therapy sessions, where she received things like E-stim therapy to help keep her rear legs from atrophying, an 'Endless Pool' swim tank where she could swim against a current, and an underwater treadmill, where she could exercise and condition her front legs while being supported by her own buoyancy in the water of the treadmill tank.

Callie loved going to CRCG, and immediately got excited for the car ride down to the facility, and often pulled me along from the parking lot into the front door (of course it may have had something to do with the fact that we usually went somewhere for a treat after a rehab a Bambino cheeseburger slider at Good Times).

Calypso amazed us with her courage and determination with the rehabilitation program, her ability to adapt and learn to walk with the harness and wheelchair, and her continued happiness and joy and just being outside now and then to sleep in the grass.  She was a great example of the spirit that dogs and other animals can demonstrate to us humans.  I have been and will always be deeply touched and significantly inspired by Calypso's resolution and mettle, particularly for her advanced age.

However, we knew that Callie had a limited amount of precious days left with us once the full extent of her condition was known.  At the time her paralysis fully manifested itself, we told each other that any time we had with her was a blessing and a gift, even if just for a few more days.  As it was, we were given nearly four wonderful and amazing months to be with her.  One of the side effects of her paralysis was that she was very prone to urinary tract infections (she no longer had control of her urinary and sometimes fecal functions due to the paralysis) and the second infection she got about five or six weeks ago was extremely difficult to treat.  The infection and the antibiotics needed to keep it at bay slowly wore Calypso down until finally a week or two ago she simply had lost the energy to keep going.  She could only walk a few yards with me using the harness, and spent most of her time on her side sleeping all day and all night.  She began to exhibit signs of chronic discomfort, and some new neurological effects also began to manifest.  After a day or two of discussion of what we were seeing, Alexis and I decided that Calypso was telling us it was time to go, and we took Callie to Dr. Yurek for a final time so that our brave and tenaciously determined dog could finally be at peace.

We know that Calypso is somewhere now where she is her old self again...running full speed and jumping higher than any dog I had ever seen before, taking long naps in the grass of mountain meadows, and always in search of her next snack.  My greatest wish is that there is some opportunity for Calypso to have a chance to be a part of another loving family as she was of ours, and to bring the immeasurable joy and happiness to their lives that she brought to ours every day.  I'm pretty confident that in our world where there is so much needless pain, unnecessary suffering, and mind-boggling cruelty (much of which we often inflict upon one another), that there is still some form of process that allows a boundless spirit such as Calypso's to return to us and help us balance out such a lopsided equation.  Without the Calypso's in our lives, the universe is a cold and empty place indeed.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Denver Comic Con Arrives!

After a number of years of prep and expectation, the first ever comic book convention in Colorado comes to the Colorado Convention Center in Denver.  The inaugural Denver Comic Con is this weekend, June 15 to June 17th.  That's right faithful readers, take dad down to the Convention Center and get his geek on for Father's Day!

It's actually surprising that it's taken this long for a premier comic book convention to actually come to the Mile High City.  Aside from a gaggle of comic book artists and writers, D.C.C. will host animation and voice talent actors like Billy West (Futurama) and Tom Kane (Star Wars The Clone Wars), and TV and Film names like Bruce Boxleitner (Babylon 5), Colin Ferguson (Eureka), Kristin Bauer (True Blood) and Jasika Nicole (Fringe).

Aside from hundreds (literally) of exhibitors, don't miss the Nerd Rock Music Festival at the Hard Rock Cafe on Saturday night, the Costume Shindig, or grab a beer a the Breckenridge Brewery where they have the official D.C.C. brew, the Fantastic Pour (no, I'm not kidding).

I'm DJing weddings on Friday and Saturday, but I may be tempted to run down just to say I was at the first Denver Comic Con...maybe... :)

Check out the website at Denver Comic Con and download the guide on .pdf.

See you there...



Monday, June 11, 2012

Bag of Holding Messenger Bag

From the Overlords of Nerd-ville at ThinkGeek comes the latest item that I'm adding to my ThinkGeek wish list...

I present to you, the Bag of Holding Messenger Bag!!!

If you're a true nerd (like yours truly) you'll immediately appreciate this item. If not, take the time to read the description, grab a set of RPG dice, and head down to your local game store for a little D&D. After the second or third time you get encumbered by trying to carry all the loot out of a dungeon you just crawled, you'll gain the deep appreciation we all have for the ubiquitous Bag of Holding!



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Sunday, June 10, 2012

This Week's Geek: Warhammer

In The Grim Darkness of the Far Future, There Is Only War

"It is the 41st Millennium. For more than a hundred centuries the Emperor of Mankind has sat immobile on the Golden Throne of Earth.  He is the master of mankind by the will of the gods and master of a million worlds by the might of his inexhaustible armies.  He is a rotting carcass writhing invisibly with power from the Dark Age of Technology.  He is the Carrion Lord of the vast Imperium of Man for whom a thousand souls are sacrificed every day so that he may never truly die.  Yet even in his deathless state, the Emperor continues his eternal vigilance.  

Mighty battlefleets cross the daemon-infested miasma of the Warp, the only route between distant stars, their way lit by the Astronomican, the psychic manifestation of the Emperor's will.  Vast armies give battle in His name on uncounted worlds.  Greatest amongst his soldiers are the Adeptus Astartes, the Space Marines, bio-engineered super-warriors.  Their comrades in arms are legion: the Imperial Guard and countless planetary defence forces, the ever-vigilant Inquisition and the tech-priests of the Adeptus Mechanicus to name only a few.  

But for all their multitudes, they are barely enough to hold off the ever-present threat to humanity from aliens, heretics, mutants -- and far, far worse.   To be a man in such times is to be one amongst untold billions. It is to live in the cruelest and most bloody regime imaginable.  These are the tales of those times. 

Forget the power of technology and science, for so much has been forgotten, never to be relearned.  Forget the promise of progress and understanding, for in the grim dark future there is only war.  There is no peace amongst the stars, only an eternity of carnage and slaughter, and the laughter of thirsting gods.

 Prepare For Battle, In a World at War
"This is a dark age, a bloody age, an age of daemons and of sorcery. It is an age of battle and death, and of the world's ending. But it is also a time of mighty heroes, of bold deeds and great courage.

But these are far from civilised times. Across the Old World, from the heartlands of the human Empire to ice-bound Kislev in the far north, come rumblings of war. In the World's Edge Mountains, the orc tribes besiege gold-loving dwarfs. In the east, the dead do not rest easy, and there are rumours of rats that walk like men emerging from the dark places of the world. From the northern wildernesses there is the ever-present threat of Chaos, of daemons and beastmen corrupted by the foul powers of the Dark Gods...

The Warhammer world is rich with history and legend, aeons of bloodshed and conflict have shaped both its surface and its denizens into a world of relentless battle. It is the battleground between the forces of Order and Destruction, where vast armies clash in mighty battles with the fate of the world hanging in the balance.

Many races wage war upon the face of world, each fighting for a different cause or purpose. Some fight for freedom and the safety of their citizens, some for the joy of slaughter or to slake an insatiable thirst for carnage. Others do battle for the entertainment of the Dark Gods, seeking the enslavement of all mortals."

Well all that is well and fine, but just what exactly are we talking about here?

Warhammer (also known as Warhammer Fantasy Battles, or WHFB) and Warhammer 40,000 (WH40K, 40K, etc.) are two tabletop wargames published by Games Workshop in which two players (or sometimes more in team-style play) field armies of 25mm -28mm scale miniatures (25mm scale is also 1:76 or 4mm or 00 gauge; 28mm scale is also 1:65 or S scale).  Typically a gaming surface, board, or table is 6 feet long by 4 feet wide and is often decorated with miniature scenery to add flavor and terrain effects to the battlefield.  Both games have core rulebooks necessary for play, and 'army book' supplements are available with rules, statistics, and stategies for fielding specific armies.  Players ('generals') measure out distances in inches on the playing surface for things like movement and missile fire (which may include magical spells in the case of Warhammer), and combat is resolved with comparing various army unit statistics with a random element added through the use of six-sided dice rolls (ala the 'randomness of the battlefield') and the occasional use of 'scatter dice' for artillery style weapons - cannons, catapults, artillery platforms, etc.  The game is turn-based and divided into distinct phases, typically phases such as Movement, Declaring Charges, Shooting, Assault, and so on are used.  During each phase players take turns completing their actions for that phase.  A complete set of phases for each player constitutes one full turn.

Typically armies are collected, organized, and fielded based on a point system.  Players agree on the number of points to be played in a given game, typically anywhere from 750 points to 3000 points, but can be less to suit the player's taste.  Usually the more points agreed to means the longer the game will take to complete (but not in every scenario).  Players then select their troops to field to equal the maximum point allowance of the agreed upon points for the game.  Typically, the 'stronger' or more powerful a unit, the more points it is worth.  The point system theoretically allows for a 'more balanced game' as a general can only field points up to the maximum allowable.  For instance, Eltharion the Grim is a very powerful hero character in the High Elves army and when mounted on Stormwing (his Griffon steed) he is worth 495 points - just a single unit.

However, a regiment of 20 Skeleton Warriors lightly armored with with a command of Musician, Standard Bearer, and Master of Arms is only 130 points, so for the price of Etharion that we listed above, we could field nearly 70 Skeleton Warriors in three to four separate units.

While Eltharion will most likely take out many Skeleton Warriors at a time in just a single attack, the sheer number of Skeleton Warriors eventually may simply overwhelm the Grim Hero.  This is the basic idea behind the point system to balance battles between various and diverse armies.

And there are many armies to choose from!  WHFB currently includes 15 armies in its pantheon, from the stubborn and steadfast dwarfs that settle their grudges on the edge of a massive battle axe or the thunder of the cannons, to the chivalrous Knights of Bretonnia riding down their enemies in massive cavalry charges, to the barbaric Orc and Goblins whose uncountable numbers of greekskins come crashing down in unstoppable waves to their foes - often with a Troll or Giant swept along for the ride, there are many colorful armies to consider.  WH40K brings 14 armies from the darkness of the 41st Millennium, where the immortal, soulless Necrons rise from stasis in ancient planetary tombs, elite warriors of the ancient Eldar streak into battle on Guardian Jetbikes and Wave Serpent Skimmers, and legions of war-hungry superhuman Chaos Space Marines dedicated to the obscene God of Chaos march from the Warp alongside the warped flesh of Daemon Princes.

Beyond the thrill and pleasure of actual tabletop battle in 'playing' WHFB and/or 40K, there is the other side of the hobby.  Armies are collected, usually over time, and the assembly, painting, modification, and collecting of your army (and in many cases, armies) is a pretty big pastime in itself.  Buying new miniatures usually means some assembly; most armies come are cast in plastic and must be removed from the sprue and assembled with glue.  Some minis are cast in resins and even some are cast in metal.  Painting is no small affair, and this is nothing like painting model airplanes when you were a kid.  Games Workshop's Citadel paint line has some 145 paints in their range, including specialty paints like base, shade, glaze, and texture paints.  Reaper Miniatures' Master Series Paints has 216 colors in their core color set.  Preparing your miniature army can also go beyond mere painting...there are bases to be textured and decorated, conversions and modifications of existing pieces to suit your mood, and even sculpting of your own miniatures if you're so inclined.

Some players spend most of their time painting and collecting, and very little actual gaming.  Some may hardly paint their armies at all, but are at the gaming table multiple times a week.  Tournaments are common, and some players travel around their local, regional, and even national and international tournament circuit.  Often games are easily had by just heading down to your local game store for a few hours, where many stores have tables set up just for miniature wargaming.  There are even Games Workshop game stores, and these usually have anything and everything a crafty general may need to bolster his forces.

The main differences between Warhammer Fantasy Battles and Warhammer 40,000 have mostly to do with theme and some style of play.  Obviously WHFB is set in a more fantasy setting - a dark medieval realm filled with orcs and goblins, elves and dwarves,  vampires and skeletons, and knights and spearmen.  Magic plays a major part of Warhammer, and wizards are common on the battlefield.  Dragons and griffons swoop from the sky, and regiment of sharp-eyed High Elf archers might stop the charge of Ogre Mournfang Calvary before they are trampled into the ground.  Giving shields to your Spearmen of the Empire may turn back the axes of the Minotaurs when the fighting gets up close and personal, but the halberds of  the Dark Elf Black Guard will probably cleave those simple shields in two. 

WH40K is set far in the grim and dark future, where legions of genetically modified super human Space Marines and the uncountable ranks of Imperial Guards rush to battle with aliens from far flung galaxies and the evil and chaos that spews from the Warp.  The Lasgun, the Guass Rifle, the Heavy Bolter, and the  Ion Cannon move amongst the massive tanks, heavy skimmers, and anti-gravity gunships that rumble across the scarred and ruined battlefield.  When forces come together in close combat, the chainsword, Choppa, and powerfist rule the day.

The style of play between WHFB and 40K are another difference.  40K is a skirmish game, meaning that individual units of soldiers move about one model at a time in no particular formation.  WHFB is purely unit based, and almost always move in formation.  40K relies heavily on shooting (guns and such) where missile fire usually not as large a component in WHFB - though some fantasy armies are 'shooty' by nature.  Close combat is somewhat more tactically important in WHFB, as lining up a perfect charge can make an enormous impact on the outcome of the battle in WHFB, and as WHFB is done with units in formation, not every model has the ability to partake in close combat during the charge as they can in the skirmish setting of 40K.  There are many more opportunities for WHFB units to break ranks and flee in panic than there are in 40K.  And again, magic is solely a part of WHFB (there's actually a 'Magic Phase' in FB), although one could argue that the psychic abilities of some 40K units mimic magic to some degree.  All in all, both games have similarities and differences, but make no mistake, they are two different games with different strategies and play styles.

Both Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 are great geeky hobbies, and I often find myself switching back and forth between each game.  Sometimes it's my 40K Orks with their ramshackle Trukks filled with a mess of roaring and cackling Ork Boyz and led by a trio of screaming Nob Warbikers wielding Big Choppas looking for a fight that make me spill the green horde onto the smoking alien battlescape.  But I always have to return to my noble High Elves whose golden armored archers rain volleys of death into the ranks of my opponents as the battlefield crackles with the magic wielded by my mages...the greatest living wizards of the realm.  Either way, WHFB and WH40K aren't just games, they're really absorbing hobbies of collecting and painting, and tactical skill and strategy, and often it's a very sociable and enjoyable pastime.



Saturday, June 9, 2012

Ray Bradbury Dies at age 91

One of the biggest names in the history of Sci Fi has passed away on Tuesday.  From Something Wicked this Way Comes, to The Martian Chronicles, to Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury often shunned the title of science fiction author.  He was well-known for classifying the distinction between science fiction and fantasy, in that science fiction is what is feasibly possible, and fantasy is not.  Bradbury claimed that the only true science fiction piece he had written was Farhenheit 451, where a future could exist in which owning and reading books is against the law.

Bradbury is credited with 27 novels and well over 600 short stories in his bibliography, and was one of the most celebrated science fiction authors of all time.  The obituary in the New York Times classified Bradbury as "the writer most responsible for bringing modern science fiction into the literary mainstream."

Interestingly, Bradbury was well known for a distaste and skepticism of modern technology, which resulted in his refusal to allow his works to be transferred into a digital medium.  He is quoted as saying,

"We have too many cellphones. We've got too many internets. We have got to get rid of those machines. We have too many machines now."

When Fahrenheit 451 came up for publishing rights renewal in December of 2011, Bradbury conceded this point and allowed the work to be re-published in digital form, as long as it was available to any library patron for free download.  Fahrenheit is the only book by Bradbury currently available in digital medium.

For my part, Fahrenheit 451 was one of those seminal sci-fi books of my childhood.  I thoroughly recommend to anyone they give it a read...and I'll be going back and giving it another spin myself in the coming weeks.

Ray Bradbury, dead at age 91, but leaving a legacy that will be remembered for all time...



Background for this post credited to:

Thursday, June 7, 2012


Saw Men In Black III today...a hoot, and highly recommended. However, through the entire movie I swore that Boris the Animal was being played by Sir Richard Branson...



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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

New SimCity due out in early 2013

In the worlds of SimCity, the best of the bunch was SimCity 2000, which every once in a awhile I trundle out and play for an evening.  The others that followed weren't bad (I'll admit I never really bothered with SimCity 4), but there was just something perfect that they got with 2000...just the right mix of challenge, open and unlimited development of your own city, disasters, etc.

Note the protesters picketing City Hall here...

However, the next iteration of this classic looks worth trying.  Kotaku has a nice little review with some in-game stills that make me want to lay down some roads and build some power stations.  The city looks alive, with great animations (I love the pic of the fire department at the scene of the fire with hoses spraying water.)  Most interesting may be that the 'point' of the game may end up seeing how one city with a set of environmental and social standards can survive and interact with the other cities of the realm.  The online possibilities could be huge...
Looks like fire spreads from building to building pretty easy, so you better have your optimal fire department coverage set up!

It's great to see old, beloved franchises continue to be updated.  Sometimes these are fails, but sometimes they can be like putting on an old t-shirt and remembering how much fun you had wearing it late at night while you stared at that computer screen...

Hello again Maxis!!!  Huzzah!!!



Monday, June 4, 2012

Just When I Think I'm Out, The Pull Me Back In!

Ahhh mother pusbucket!!!

So this month's White Dwarf arrived in my mailbox, and much to my delight and dismay the front cover gloriously displayed a picture of an Ork Bommer.  While I've seen the Ork Fighta/Bommer on Forge World before, GW has now officially released the Ork Bommer (as well as the Space Marine StormTalon and Necron Doom Scythe for regular play)  The Bommer and StormTalon have official codex updates in this month's WD, and new model kits are out for all three.

The Ork Bommer comes in three configurations:

The DakkaJet - a dogfighter variation

Ork Bommer
The Burna-Bommer - an incendiary bomber
Ork Bommer
And the Blitza-Bommer - a dive bomber
Ork Bommer

I say both to my delight and dismay; I'm salivating over getting my hands on one or more of these as they look uber-orky cool, yet it's that old GW well-played trick that just keeps you coming back for more as I've put down my 40K Orks for a while as I'm developing and way behind painting my Warhammer Fantasy High Elves.  But a squadron of three of these streaking over the tabletop gets that grin on my face when it comes to 40K Orks...

Then again, at $46.00 a pop, it might be a couple of months before I can justify picking one up...I think...



Top 10 Most Iconic Comic Book Covers Blog Post

Really cool blog post in the Huff Post this morning authored by Brian Cronin....

  1. Action Comics #1 (Superman's first comic)
  2. Crisis On Infinite Earths #7 (George Perez cover of Superman holding Supergirl's body)
  3. Amazing Spider-man #50 (Spider-man No More! issue)
  4. Fantastic Four #1 (Ushered in the Marvel Age of superheroes)
  5. Wolverine #1 (Frank Miller's perfect cover for Wolverine)
  6. Amazing Fantasy #15 (Spidey's first book)
  7. The Dark Knight Returns (Frank Miller's awesome cover of the Dark Knight Series)
  8. Uncanny X-men #141 (The culmination of the alternate X-men universe)
  9. Flash #123 (The introduction of the alternate universe in DC comics allowing the old superheroes to return to us.) 
  10. Giant Size X-men #1 (The first issue showing the new team of mutants that became the most beloved.)

Great, great article...take a minute to read it!!!



Sunday, June 3, 2012

This Week's Geek: Star Wars

In the spring of 1977, I sat in a dark theater near the mall in Greeley, Colorado, and the words in yellow block letters that slowly scrolled upward on the screen to a crash of rising classical music read:

Epsiode IV: A New Hope


 Little did I, or probably anyone else at the time, realize that what was about to follow those words would change the way we watched movies and thought about things like science fiction and special effects forever. 

To say that the Star Wars franchise has a cult following is really an understatement.  Seriously, take the definition of 'cult,'  

"an instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing, especially as manifested by a body of admirers"

What doesn't jive here is the 'body of admirers' bit.  Star Wars is doesn't just have a following, it's pervasive throughout our society.  Everyone...and I mean EVERYONE knows who Yoda is.  Even the least nerdy person you know will at least roll their eyes at you when you say, "Luke, I am your father!"  In the 35 years since Episode IV first hit the big screen, there's been five more movies (with the subsequent series of movies on tape, DVD, Blu-Ray, and so on), the animated theatrical release of The Clone Wars and its subsequent television series, video games, comic books, novels and 'non-fiction,' toys beyond counting, an unbelievable market of collectables, and probably a whole lot of stuff that I've forgotten to mention.  Whether or not you think the movies themselves are actually any good really doesn't matter does it?  It's not just a series of's a franchise.  Wait, let me restate's a cyclopean monolith under whose shadow everything else that came after it resides in.

To be honest, there simply isn't enough room to cover everything Star Wars in this meager post.  In fact, entire blogs and websites are written and dedicated solely to Star Wars.  There may not even be enough space here to even talk about why Star Wars is such a universal lifeblood of nerds and geeks worldwide.  But I'll give it a shot...

These are in numerical order but for no particular reason or significance...mostly its just as they came to mind.

  1. Lightsabers.  Dude, not sure I need to really expand on this.  A sword with a laser instead of a blade.  Take everything that we grew up with - tales of chivalry and knights errant, samurai warriors upholding their honor, kung fu movies with feats of amazing martial prowess, it was suddenly all there with battles in bars filled with aliens and duels to the death on space stations the size of a moon.  Only this time, the swords glowed with amazing color and could cut through anything.  The first one we saw was handed down posthumously from father to son just like in the old days...and little did we know who dad was.  Any Star Wars fanatic worth his lunchbox would sell his soul to the dark side for a chance to have a lightsaber.
  2. Yoda.  We all started to roll our eyes when the guy with the second most imitated voice showed up in a swamp in Episode V figuring that George Lucas just couldn't get away doing a space movie without having at least one little green man in it.  But lo and behold, the greatest Jedi Master of all time was he.  If you doubt me, then you didn't see Episode II.  Who da man?  Yoda man!  Geek Lesson #2 of Star Wars is that size does not matter.  The greatest thing can come in the smallest and unexpected packages.  A poor moisture farm boy from a backward planet can become the last Jedi, one of the biggest scoundrels in the some backwater port town can become one of the ultimate heroes of the galaxy, and the greatest Jedi Master of all time can be a little green guy with big ears that lives in a slimy mudhole and sounds like Frank Oz.  That means a lot to every nerd that got his skinny white butt bullied by some jock in junior high.  (BTW, Geek Lesson #1 is always keep the international merchandising rights.)
  3. Jedi Mind Tricks.  "These aren't the droids you are looking for."  Big brains win over weak minds.  'Nuff said...
  4. Good vs. Evil.  Let's be honest, you can't go wrong with the classic tale of bad guys vs. good guys.
  5. The Slave Girl Leia Scene.  The wet dream of every eleven-year old boy is the scene with Carrie Fisher in that metal bikini.  Again, it's less geek than was even mentioned on that episode of Friends...
  6. The Force.  It can lift rocks.  It can rip equipment off a wall and throw it at your opponent.  It can shoot lightning out of your fingertips.  It can choke people that are smarting off to you.  Simple enough, Feel the force around you...
  7. Boba Fett.  Paging Mr. Fett...Mr. Bob A. Fett.  And yes, I do want a armored suit with a bunch of gadgets that can do all sorts of ridiculous things, including a rocket pack.  The king of the bounty hunters...let's see that Dog guy stand up to Boba Fett.
  8. Space Combat.  It was the 1970's, and let's face it, from the opening scene of the Imperial Destroyer chasing Princess Leia's rebel ship, the space scenes blew our minds.  We sat in those cheap theater sits entranced with the space special effects.  And to be honest, we still do...
  9. Aliens.  The best aliens overall.  Not sure you can name another movie with a pantheon of memorable aliens like this.  Sure, we'd like to forget a few (Ewoks, a bunch from Episode I, etc.), but overall, from the Sand People to Mos Eisley to Jabba's Palace, the aliens of the Star Wars Multiverse are awesome.
  10. It Looks Real.  Face it...we stumbled out of that theater in '77 and were bedazzled.  Why you ask?  Because we looked up at the sky and actually believed that somewhere, far, far away, this really happened.  Why believe this and not Close Encounters or The Spy Who Loved Me (both of which also came out in '77)?  Because Lucas knew (and still knows) how to do it.  It looked real.  The proportions are right...when an AT-AT comes lumbering down on a bunch of guys in an icy trench, it looked right.  Other things made of these that I've often read about and swear to even to this day is that everything looks normal.  That means it looks used.  It's often dingy and dirty in the Star Wars Multiverse.  There is rust on things.  Things are often malfunctioning.  When people shoot at things, they miss.  How about this...people do dumb things.  Even though it was actually a mistake on the actor's part, the scene where a stormtrooper hits his head is a classic example of, this #$% looks real!!!  And because it looked real, we loved it even more! 

This could go on and on with no ending in sight.  Suffice it to say that Star Wars is the pinnacle of all geekdom the main event at the nerdapalooza.  Many may argue with me on this point, but theirs are hollow arguments.  If you'd like to debate it, meet me on Skywalker Ranch and try and tell me why Star Wars isn't the king...

May the Force be with you...



Saturday, June 2, 2012

Games Workshop Stumbles Into The Digital Arena

So...the big news that hit my inbox this morning was that "Games Workshop Has Gone Digital."

All well and fine if you know what Games Workshop is.  Which, if you're a proper nerd, you do.  If you don't, here's a quick rundown:

Games Workshop (GW if you're hip) is THE tabletop miniature wargame company.  Now before any fellow gamer geeks start throwing their measuring tapes at me, let me frame that statement.  While there are a gadzillion of other fantastic tabletop warfare manufacturers and systems out there, many of which I own or have played, there are no tabletop game manufacturers out there that can come close to the success of GW.  So roll a D6 and accept the simple fact that GW is, whether you love them or hate them, the one of the Kings of Dorkdom.  Games Workshop publishes two main game systems, Warhammer, often called 'Warhammer Fantasy Battles' (WHFB) and Warhammer 40,000 (WH40K, or often just 40K).  Not to take away from their third 'main' system, they also publish The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game.  Additionally, GW produces a ton of other stuff, game aids and supplements to support their games, a huge line of paints and modeling supplies (remember...this is miniature tabletop gaming - so miniatures are assembled, painted, etc.), their own expansive line of fiction based on the WHFB and 40K universes, their own magazine called White Dwarf, and a raft of 'Specialist Games,' which are kind of one-off games either from past games they've developed and still support, some role-playing games (RPG) - often based on their own multiverse.

There'll obviously be future discussions of all things GW...but for now, back to this post.

I alluded briefly above to the rather tumultuous love-hate relationship between GW and the gamer community, and this is important to take into consideration for this post.  For some time now, GW has oft been accused of things like price gouging and tactics designed to continually soak even their most dedicated players of their usually meager funds.  As one common saying in the back of many a game store goes, "There's a reason it's called Warhammer have to have a minimum annual salary of at least $40,000 to properly play it."  We're not going to delve too deeply into this heated debate (we very well may on later posts), but suffice it to say I have some enormous respect for GW's general business model, yet still shake my head at some of their marketing, product, and pricing decisions.

This post ultimately refers to the limited release today of GW products into digital formats.  Most anticipated of this is the first codex published in a digital edition. (A codex is simply the rules, descriptions, and statistics specific to a particular army that a player would choose to field - you need the main rulebook and an army codex in order to play most tabletop wargames).  Until now, all WHFB and WH40K codexes (and rulebooks, expansions, etc.) were only available in print formats, and many players (yours truly included) have yearned to have official digital editions available so we could toss all those heavy rulebooks and codexes on a laptop, tablet, phone, etc.  At last, GW has made that leap - and the star entry to the current digital offering is the Space Marine Codex.  GW now has products available in digital format through Apple's iBooks App for iPad and iPhone.  (BTW, I don't want to confuse this with GW's Black Library which already huge offering of novels in digital format, both through their own App for iPad and iPhone as well as standard ePub formats for Kindle, etc.  What we're talking about here is the game systems themselves, which is big news).  In addition to some other pretty cool things that GW has put out in digital format, the SM Codex is what we all wanted to see.  I've downloaded the free sample, and frankly, it's pretty cool!  GW took the time to not just scan the original book, but instead added some sweet digital fun to the digital edition codex, such as 360 degree views of figures and units, some video, and so on.  Once again, the digital edition is only as heavy as the electrons it takes up on my iPad.  Load the print editions of the deluxe rulebook and two or three codexes into my gamer bag which is already overloaded with templates, measuring tape, various pens, pencils, folders, army lists, uneaten sandwiches, and a ridiculous amount of dice, and my shoulder gets pretty sore pretty quickly.

However, Houston, we have a problem (of course we do, it's Games Workshop).  The digital edition of the Space Marine Codex is $42.00.  That's a lot of greenbacks.  Particularly when you consider that the print edition of the Space Marine Codex retails for $33.00.  That's right, the digital edition costs more, nearly 22% more to be precise, than the print edition.  And that fact, caused me to write the review earlier this morning below that I submitted to the iBooks site:

As an avid Black Library reader both through the iPad Black Library App as well as the Kindle, I've been looking forward to the day when Codexes and other gaming materials for the Warhammer Multiverse would come to a digital platform, especially the iPad.  That day has come, and I was pretty happy when I saw the e-mail in my inbox this morning and ran to grab my iPad...

Then I saw the price of the Space Marine Codex.  Beyond a doubt, $42 is a lot for an ePub of any material.  However, the more concerning point here (and this has been stated again and again already) is that the printed version of this codex currently sells on Games Workshop's website for $33.  Selling a digital version of an already existing printed publication for 21.5% more than the print edition is an oddly questionable marketing strategy.  In most publisher's example, digital editions of print matter sell for less than the actual print edition, not the other way around.  Often there are combined print/digital packages sold as well, such as a magazine or newspaper subscription that gives you both the printed editions and access to digital content for one price, which is often more than just the print edition subscription.  This makes marketing sense particularly if the digital content adds value to the print edition.  But this is not the case either with this digital edition of the Space Marine Codex.

To be sure the digital edition of the Codex is very well done, and the digital content lends itself very well to a platform such as the iPad.  Additionally, the dreams of having all the rulebooks, codexes, supplements, and errata loaded on to my iPad and slickly organized at a moment's touch is finally becoming reality.  Frankly it's one less heavy bag to sling over my shoulder with a couple of army cases and still try to open the door to the game store with.  But at $9.00 more than the print edition, I'm not sure the digital content is worth replacing my codex(es) with.  The weight savings I'll gain won't offset the amount of weight my wallet will be lightened by.

Being an old school gamer from much longer ago than I'd like to admit (let's just say I fondly remember an age where there was no 'A' in front of 'D&D' and everything to play came in a box), I've often been criticized by my Warhammer friends for having a lot of respect for Games Workshop's business model and pricing structures.  While even I get frustrated spending more money on plastic spacemen than I often do on my wife, I do understand (after 20+ years of corporate management) what it takes to successfully operate a profitable company that can keep standing year after year, particularly in a niche market such as Games Workshop - and this is about as niche as you can get.  If you'd have asked me in the early 80's if there would be million-dollar tabletop, RPG, and dice gaming companies with the international breadth and depth of Games Workshop and Wizards of the Coast where you'll pay them $29.00 for 10 grey plastic figures on a sprue less than 1 inch high that you will assemble and paint yourself...I'd have laughed and told you to stop drinking so much Mountain Dew.  But the roomful of those little plastic guys I have assembled and painted proves the  business acumen of GW.

I won't pretend to know what overhead may be involved with retailing digital content through Apple and iBooks (no one can argue that Apple doesn't make money on this like any other publisher), and one does have to keep in mind that GW publishes Codexes on their own, so there has to be an added expense to the publishing of the digital editions through iBooks.  However, there should be a savings on the other side as well, as there is arguably less cost in overall materials.  I'm looking at this entry into the digital edition of Codexes and other gaming materials as a testing the waters on Games Workshop's part, and hoping that they may see that they haven't offered quite enough with this Space Marine Codex to warrant most of us purchasing it at this price.  I'd think there would be those that may do so if it were the same or slightly less price than the print edition, or if there were some sort of print/digital package price.  But at the moment, I'm pretty sure this digital edition of the Space Marine Codex will be collecting a goodly amount of digital dust...

Frankly, my review was one of the nicest...there were many with some pretty foul language.  Not sure where GW is going with this idea...they had, and may still have the opportunity to make a huge splash with the new digital content, but may have already shot themselves in the foot with a twin-linked dakka gun with the confusingly high pricing.  Hopefully they can recover from this misstep, but as I often say about Games Workshop, they may not have to, and they may not care if they do or not.