Science Fiction
In C. S. Lewis's essay "On Science Fiction", he says about the label of 'escapist': "I never fully understood it till my friend Professor Tolkien asked me the very simple question, 'What class of men would you expect to be most preoccupied with, and most hostile to, the idea of escape?' and gave the obvious answer: jailers."

And yet I normally read Science Fiction (Speculative Fiction... whatever) to view the world from a different viewpoint. Not so much to escape it, but to break the molds of the prevailing worldviews and see how things might be... for good or for not-so-fricking-good.

All the Cliches in Mind
Dean-lo once mentioned he'd like to exorcise the demons of Science Fiction forever by writing a single (serious) novel that includes every single tired cliche in the genre...

... to which I mentioned that it'd be great to do the same thing for Fantasy (goodbye Tolkien wanna-be writers and all you Forgotten Realms / Dragonlance trilogy aspirants).

Here are a few excerpts about the subject matter from this link.

Predictability, you see, even though we use the term disparagingly, has become in recent years a very bankable commodity in SF and fantasy publishing. The publishers know the public knows what it wants: it wants more of the same. Safe books. No surprises. Familiar surroundings from page one. And this means that even writers with considerable literary pretensions have had to learn the Art of the Predictable as part of the basic equipment of their trade. In Gene Wolfe, who is rather a subtle writer, this only results in the occasional irritating embarrassment; in Stephen Donaldson, who is about as subtle as a lead brick, it results in contemptible gaseous claptrap. Examples follow in due course.

Well, by this stage, you're probably bouncing up and down in your seat with barely-continent excitement, thinking, "Wow, am I really going to learn to write like Stephen Donaldson?" I have to let you down as gently as I can and say no, it's not quite as easy as that. You have to remember that Mr Donaldson's spent years learning to produce a book so flatulent you have to be careful not to squeeze it in a public place. All I can do in the time available is to offer instruction on the first and most important element of crummy writing, which is (as my title suggests) bad plotting. I can't promise that by the time you've read these pages you'll have learned to write significantly more stereotyped characters, or that your style will have become significantly more leaden and clich├ęd...

and my personal favorite section..

Anyway, the first of DC's great plot generators is almost too famous to warrant discussion, except that the sheer artistry of the concept is rarely appreciated in full. I'd like you to think for a moment about red kryptonite. There was a time when the hues and varieties of kryptonite were being boosted daily by new kryptonological discoveries, but I think green and red were the only ones that really lasted the course. The effects of red kryptonite, you remember, were as follows. Each individual chunk would affect Superman, but no-one else, with a completely unpredictable effect that would last exactly forty-eight hours. He would then revert to normal and that particular chunk of red K could never affect him again. The brilliance of this only becomes fully apparent when you translate it all into plot terms; because forty-eight hours happens to be the average timespan of a story in a DC comic.
2004: Crucible
It's one of those things that doesn't seem like a time of change, or impact... but it is.

I'm looking down the barrel of a busy year: the home stretch of the NCC project, the clean-up of two other projects, trying to keep the clients of two finished projects happy, finishing two other lingering projects, and helping clean up the pipeline for the Tech group. And then there's the consulting proposal. I also wanted to write something for the Palancas (maka-submit lang... okay na), help coordinate the New Worlds thing in January and AEGIS anniversary.

And that still doesn't include the responsibilities for the two family corporations.

Focus! Focus! Focus!

2004: Beginning the Monkey
Also, our little gaming group (the GB3-LS33KERS?) is off on a little experiment inspired by SIGLO. For the month of January, each one of us will GM a game with the themes of beginning (new year) and puzzles (year or the monkey).

An adventure involving a puzzle-box, perhaps?
Enter Sandman
Bought a compilation of Sandman last night from Powerbooks GB4, and lent it K8. You see, K8 hadn't really been immersed in Sandman lore... and now I've inflicted upon her readings of "Three Septembers and a January" (Emperor Norton I's story), and "Thermidor" (Orpheus and Robspierre).

Hopefully, after this she will be interested in reading the remaining TPBs.
Comic Screams
It just occured to me that there are a variety of comic book screams. They include:


Any more?
Primal Scream

Whew. Feel much better. Kinda funny how these cheap therapeutic tricks help.
Physics, Optics, Predestination, and Free Will

"When light goes through optical systems, it finds the path of least time, taking short cuts in glass and water, where light travels slower, and longer paths through air... "

It's a bit mystifying to know that light can do this unerringly. Because in order to do this, light already needs to know its ultimate destination before beginning its travel path. Any minor corrections along the way results in a path that does NOT take the path of least time. So the beam of light could be considered to be predestined to get to a particular destination.

However, it turns out it's not really a principle of "Least Time" given that light sometimes takes a path that takes longer than the most efficient path. Rather, it's a principle of extremes.

Is this a reflection of free will? We are destined for the same place, but we have a choice... the longer road or the faster road? Or are free will and predestination merely aspects of the same phenomenon... one that we cannot comprehend?

Or am I just stressing about nonsense?
Ron Marz, Green Lantern, and Everything
An interesting interview concerning the entire tenure of Ron Marz on Green Lantern... Emerald Twilight... and lotsa other stuff here.

For the record, while I really hated what Hal had become during the course of the series... I thought that it was exceptionally cool that he took out so many other Lanterns and even Sinestro during his breakdown.

None of this detracts from my liking Kyle Rayner's Green Lantern, who may not have had a great mask but did use the ring in far more creative ways than Hal did. I especially liked the "Slamtrack" bit which knocked out Mongul.
Guerilla Writing: Fading Suns - How the Wolfgirl Lost Her Eye
On my workdesk, there is a picture of a young girl. Her hair is unkempt, her teeth are uneven, and her lips are curved in a half-sad smile. Her eyes used to stare out at me, wild and challenging, as I endured each day as a Guild Reeve.

Not anymore. A single drop of aqua ignata half-blinded her feral visage.

Her name was Elisha Drummo. Youngest daughter of my best friend's sister. Unlike the rest of her staunchly Orthodox brood, she had fallen in with a heretical religion whose symbol was a winking wolf. She was a Zuranist, full of tricks and pranks and humorously counter-canon comments delivered with a conspiratorial wink.

Perhaps the quirky & iconoclastic nature of the religion attracted her to it. Or perhaps, she'd found kindred spirits in the leaders of the sect on Aylon. Or perhaps, she'd really been granted a vision as she'd so often claimed after sufficient inebriation at our monthly guild get-togethers, prompting her family to hush her proclamations and leave early.

The Guild did its best to take care of the family, to protect it from the fanatic obsessions of the Avesti to cleanse the universe of heresy. But they found out. And her family burned with her.

The Guild, outraged but unable to take direct action, took steps to weaken the Avesti's hold on Aylon. Engineers unearthed proscribed technologies that allowed them to spy on and track all Aylon-bound Avesti. Charioteers reported cargo and personnel movements, delaying them when necessary. Scravers helped acquire and sabotage critical shipments through well-timed accidents. Aylon Reeves delivered petition after petition for sanctions against the Church sect, based on intelligence and the resulting scandals. The Muster conscripted potentially detrmental Avesti witnesses and sent them to the frontlines on Stigmata.

It did not go unnoticed. Avesti retaliation was swift and typically unsophisticated. We fought back twice as fiercely, thrice as secretly. Unable to substantiate any of the accusations, an overzealous Avesti threatened me with immolation in my office. Unfortunately for him, his badly maintained gear malfunctioned and burned him alive. A drop of aqua ignata splatter caught the eye of my wolfgirl's picture, burning and wrinkling it slightly. Such a tragedy.

Finally, success. The Aylon Zuranist movement was spared the more cruel attentions of the Avesti by the Archbishop, who declared it a minor heretical deviation from standard Orthodox practice. It would be resolved by a special team of Orthodox and Eskatonic priests seeking to convert these poor, lost souls.

Now, Elisha's picture greets me every morning, a one-eyed wolfgirl winking at me like Old Zuran himself.
New Week
A packed week this coming week. Hope I survive it.

Aside from work and work, I've got a computer at my parents' home to fix... Christmas shopping, paying off bills, planning and prepping for a X-mas party, and prepping for a game to run...

But I hope that everyone else gets some respite from the pressure of the season. Merry X-mas y'all!
Er, What?
You are Spider Jerusalem.
Spider is THE journalist of the future. He smokes,
he does drugs, and he kicks ass. The drugs are
going to eventually kill him but not before he
gets his way. And his way is the demise of the
failed American dream. Although full of hate,
he cares about his city. All he wants to bring
the world is truth. Spider Jerusalem,
conscience of the City. Frightening thought,
but he's the only one we've got.

What Gritty No Nonsense Comic Book Character are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

I don't do the drinks or the drugs... but I like the character.
Guerilla Writing: Manila Unseen - Buried Past

Seven Panels: Row 1 - 3 panels; Row 2 - 3 panels; Row 3 - 1 wide panels.

Panel 1
Drenched elderly woman sitting in the backseat of the Benz with Emerson. She looks regal, like a well-preserved woman in her 50s. Her clothes are modern-timeless, and she holds a dripping wood-handled umbrella. She's Mrs. Martinez.

Emerson sits beside her, offering his handkerchief... which she accepts.

Caption: Emerson insisted we give her a ride, of course.

Mrs. Martinez: Thank you so much for your help. I didn't think the rain would catch me out.

Emerson: Don't mention it, Mrs. Martinez.

Caption: Bernardo didn't argue, and I needed someone who might have some clue as to what road I was driving on.

Panel 2
In the back, Mrs. Martinez is on her cellphone, gesturing grandly. Lenard drives in the back, looking at the two in the rearview mirror.

Caption: Naturally she insisted that she take us to her home and feed us dinner.

Mrs. Martinez: ... no, Nenita. Four of us for dinner, and please use the silverware we were about to pack tomorrow.

Caption: Naturally, we accepted.

Panel 3
In the back, Mrs. Martinez is sitting primly. Lenard drives in the foreground, pointing at something.

Caption: She was rich, apparently. She divided her time between her house in Batangas and her main residence in Makati. Her nephew lived nearby.

Lenard: Is that it? Is that your house?

Caption: It took us another hour to find the house in the rain. With no idea how to get back.

Panel 4
Very old house with a garden with plants and bamboo clumps and wrought-iron gates in the foreground. Shadows play across the front.

Mrs. Martinez: Yes, it is.

Panel 5
The Benz slides through the wrought-iron gates which are held open by rain-drenched helpers whose faces are hidden by hoods and shadows.

Mrs. Martinez: Welcome to my home.

Panel 6
The gates close, and the car nears the lit front door of the mansion.

Mrs. Martinez: I do hope you enjoy your dinner.

Panel 7
Wide shot of the interior of the house. They are just inside the front door, in the background of the center of the panel. It is a house that is old, and has signs of being remodeled. There are boxes with pictures and trinkets strewn about. In the foreground, the foyer has shelves half-filled with memorabilia. Old pictures line the wall, with gaps in between.

Caption: As soon as we stepped in, the storm intensified. The house groaned softly in protest.
It's VERY cool. Time for some reading and re-reading of the stories. It's interesting that despite being set in different decades, the stories seem timeless at the core. I wonder if that's because of the quality of the writing, or the fact that the Philippine situation hasn't changed all that much... or both?

Anyway, I hope to see this sell abroad some day...
Guerilla Writing: Binary Tree Poem - Pulp Poets

When asked for verses, they rush to comply.
Eager to please are they, when asked for verses.
They rush to comply, selling their craft to the unappreciative...

When asked for verses, eager to please are they;
Driven by deadlines and formats when asked for verses.
Eager to please are they, revising stanza after stanza.

They rush to comply, selling their talent to the unappreciative
Blinded by necessity, they rush to comply
Selling their craft to the unappreciative, they diminish themselves.

Driven by deadlines and formats, revising stanza after stanza
Blinded by necessity, they diminish themselves.
Guerilla Writing: Manila Unseen - Buried Past

Five Panels: Row 1 - 3 Panels; Row 2 - 1 Wide Panel; Row 3 - 1 Wide panel.

Panels 1 to 3 are a Tryptych of the 3 passengers of a car.

Panel 1
Bernardo Montalban is holding a balisong in both hands, admiring the craftsmanship. He's leaning back against the in the passenger seat of a not-too-new Mercedes Benz. The sun hasn't set yet, but stormclouds have made the road dark.

Caption: We were coming back from a business meeting with one our Batangas suppliers.

Bernardo: Are you sure these are better than the ones Manong Bambit made? How can this new guy sell them so much cheaper?

Panel 2
Emerson Ang sits serenely in the backseat.

Caption: We were making our way through the backroads of Batangas...

Emerson: Manong Bambit made balisongs for money alone. Alan pours his soul into making each one of those.

Panel 3
Lenard Caro is driving, learning forward with both hands on the wheel, brow furrowed in concentration.

Caption: ... trying to find the road back to South Super Highway...

Lenard: Fu**! It's gonna rain! We're gonna get stuck here!

Panel 4
The Mercedes Benz comes over a small hill and an elderly woman walking further down the road is visible. Clouds are darker and thick with rain. The wind buffets sturdy-looking trees.

Caption: ... when we first saw her.

Bernardo: Relax, pare. Think positive!

Panel 5
Same shot, with the Benz a little further ahead... but with everything drenched in a sudden, almost violent downpour.

Bernardo: Never mind.
You are Jonas Arcanghel a.k.a.

Which Baylans Character are You?
brought to you by Quizilla
Guerilla Writing: Vera Cruz
Spaceliner air always smells stale. Airscrubbers keep it breathable, but do nothing for the smell. The Charioteer Guild always masks it with floral fragrances from Ravenna, or incense from Grail. But in the access corridors to the cargo spaces, you can always taste the air on your tongue.

Stale. Dry. Sterile.

Engineer Falkon's subordinates told me that Lord Ibrahim Juandastaas was found in one such corridor of a shipliner headed for Byzantium Secundus. They also told me that the body had been discovered because the airscrubbers had registered the overwhelming scent of decaying flesh and had sounded an alarm to the shipliner crew and sealed all access to the corridor. Engineer Falkon's subordinates also reminded me that shipliner air systems merely detect and measure the presence of certain particles rather than replicate an actual sense of 'smell' and kept reminding me until I threatened them with Inquisitorial censure.

Technosophy may be a danger to the soul's reflectiveness, but it is also incredibly annoying.

Lord Ibrahim Juandastaas' untimely return to the Pancreator's realm is troubling for three reasons.

First, he was the favorite of Baroness Zee Juandastaas, head of House Juandastaas interests on Pentateuch... a very influential and passionate noble of the lesser Houses.
Second, he was supposed to be on Vera Cruz... months away by jumproutes.
Third, he died because his internal organs were located beside him, neatly arranged... with no sign upon his person that might indicate how they'd violently vacated their natural place in the order of things.

Antinomy, the worship of the Dark Between The Stars, is a favorite and often convenient scapegoat for events with unfathomable causes. This event was no exception. Only the inherent danger of an uncontrolled flame in a spaceliner so far from planet or jumpgate prevented the fiery consecration of the late Lord Ibrahim's remains.

Now Lord Ibrahim's body is now headed to Vera Cruz. I have joined the growing entourage to this dead noble not only as a a former shieldmate of Ibrahim, but also as aide to Sister Delia Istar, noted Orthodox theologian and Inquisitor. She has been tasked to determine how Ibrahim had disappeared from his vacation home on Vera Cruz... and how the late Lord's internal organs had decided upon a most uncomfortable parting of ways with their master.
Modern Day Pulps
Doc Savage. The Shadow. Hardy Boys. Dr. Who. and more.

Novels cranked out at an astonishing rate, often by a number of writers hiding under a common pseudonym (Kenneth Robeson for Doc Savage, Franklin W. Dixon for Hardy Boys, Carolyn Keene for Nancy Drew). Inconsistencies crop up. Formulas tend to develop. But surprisingly, writing improves over the years... especially if it's the same team of writers grinding out stories year after year.

Howabout a modern day pulp series for the Philippines? Strong female & male leads with hetero- and homo-sexual friends / compatriots from different religions and social strata (it's the 90s, man). PG rated stuff for sex, R rated stuff for violence. Plausibility not realism. Travel. Combat. Intrigue. Mysteries. Psychics and Malignos. Dastardly villains. Dangerous situations. Educate readers with snippets of Philippine trivia, history, political and social quirks.

A bible that everyone follows. Mostly. An issue #50 special that twists everything around and kills off nearly the entire supporting cast.... MWAHAHAHA! Nah.

And do it in comics... ala Tintin (who was also very pulp-ish in style).
Forlorn Spoilers
It all ends in tears.

*twiddles thumbs*

What? You want more?
Endless Nights
Neil Gaiman. Interview. Exclusive. At Go. Watch. Now.
Patented D20's?
I can't quite remember who told me that Gary Gygax patented the d20 dice. In any case, if it were true, that patent may not hold up anymore given the link here.

It's a d20 used by the romans up for auction at Christies. Cool, no?

Location New York, Rockefeller Plaza
Sale Date Dec 11, 2003
Lot Number 189
Sale Number 1314
Creator Circa 2nd Century A.D.
Estimate 4,000 - 6,000 U.S. dollars
Lot Description A ROMAN GLASS GAMING DIE Circa 2nd Century A.D. Deep blue-green in color, the large twenty-sided die incised with a distinct symbol on each of its faces 2 1/16 in. (5.2 cm.) wide

Provenance Acquired by the current owner's father in Egypt in the 1920s.

Lot Notes Several polyhedra in various materials with similar symbols are known from the Roman period. Modern scholarship has not yet established the game for which these dice were used.

Got this from
JLA / Avengers Issue 3
A fanboy's delight! This issue of JLA /Avengers really showcased a lot of 'what if' scenarios for the JLA & Avengers if company cross-overs had been the norm from the beginning (i.e. the JSA meeting the Invaders during the WWII era). This issue showcases the "classic JLA" and "classic Avengers" struggling to find out why their two most respected members are acting like fight-club rejects.

Hal Jordan and Barry Allen make their appearances and pledge heroic sacrifices to set things right. Hal's short speech was especially meaningful given the "Parallax" debacle. Sort of a redemption in the eyes of Busiek and Perez...

Alas, the new generation of readers probably won't get a lot of this stuff...
Jobert and The Doctor
Jobert has informed me that there's an animated Dr. Who series featuring the last doctor at the BBC site. Just check out this link.

I do like the Doctor's stories; they remind me of the pulp novels of Lester Dent / Kenneth Robeson... and I used to watch the series on KQED / KTEH public television in the U.S.

"That's why they sent me here... I know about monsters. I'm The Doctor." - The Doctor, Scream of the Shalka
Flaming Sickle
Brimstone and Treacle
Purple Pickle

POE? Nevermore...
From the Philippine Inquirer:
THE PESO dropped to its lowest levels against the dollar on Thursday as the market scrambled for dollars on worries over the candidacy of movie actor Fernando Poe Jr. for president and a possible downgrade of the country's debt ratings from Moody's Investor Services, analysts said.

"FPJ has created further risk and this is how the market reacted," Astro del Castillo, director of the Association of Securities Analysts of the Philippines (ASAP) told

"The market is very concerned right now," technical analyst Fitzgerald Aclan said in a separate interview.

"It's a speculative trade, with the market focused largely on the bad news. And in a jittery market, the focus on the bad news is exaggerated," a commercial bank dealer told AFX Asia.

The peso slid to 55.85 to the dollar shortly after it opened at 55.80. It closed at 55.69 on volume of 168 million dollars.

But I guess it COULD just be propaganda. Take a look at this opposing view from... the opposition:

MALACANANG is behind the manipulation of the Philippine peso that has fallen to its lowest, a day after popular movie actor Fernando Poe Jr. announced his candidacy for president, a staunch supporter of Poe in the Senate said Thursday.

"That's a manipulation of Malacanang, that's the angle they will try to project to blame FPJ (the actor's initials) for the depreciation of the peso," Minority Floor Leader Vicente Sotto III said in a telephone interview.

Sotto said they expected negative reports to hound Poe in the coming days.

Meanwhile, we suffer the effects of their shenanigans.

she·nan·i·gan ( P ) Pronunciation Key (sh-nn-gn)
n. Informal

1. A deceitful trick; an underhanded act.
Remarks intended to deceive; deceit. Often used in the plural.

2. A playful or mischievous act; a prank.
Mischief; prankishness. Often used in the plural.
Hinirang RPG: Setting
Now that we're wrapping up the initial version of the Game System, we're turning our eyes to the Setting and a campaign. Given that this will not be your standard D&D campaign... the medieval-ish campaign with elves and dwarves and dungeons... the initial campaign should reflect the potential of Hinirang, though it may not delve into it as deeply at the start.

Basics - I want the springboard for the campaign setting to be a bit of a ways from Ciudad Meijora. It has to be far enough away from the Ciudad so that there isn't a lot of military and magical firepower that the Ispancialo side can draw from, so that a fairly strong Katao presence can be felt. It can't be too far away... the Katao shouldn't be able to easily kick out the Ispancialo presence either, or they risk the wrath of Ispancio upon their way of life.

An uneasy peace.

I'd like it to be a springboard to adventures in the countryside as well. A waypoint for adventurers, travellers, and traders. A listening post for the Ispancialo, planning further annexations of the land. A nexus of trade for the Tsino. Further north, perhaps separated by water, mountains, or powerful magic lie the Higantes and Great Monsters of Hinirang. Stories of wealth and lost Ispancialo expeditions find their way to this place. Joint Katao and Ispancialo hunts in the surrounding countryside during the times of the month that the manananggal and Asuang and other creatures begin terrorizing nearby villages.

Perhaps it can most easily be reached by riverway, limiting the chance of a mounted host of Ispancialo soldiers charging into the place?
Who's Richard Dragon?
From Comic Book Resources:

by Arune Singh, Staff Writer
Posted: November 26, 2003

Color and B&W versions of the first issue cover.
Chuck Dixon. Scott McDaniel.

Combining those two names alone will cause many fans of DC Comics to salivate and sweetening the deal is the focus on martial arts guru Richard Dragon, the cult favorite hero who's ready to make his return to the big time. With the official announcement of the hero's new titular series at Wizard World Texas, CBR News caught up with Scott McDaniel to find out more about the mysterious Dragon.

"This series promises to reestablish Richard Dragon as the undisputed, premier martial artist in the DCU. No longer can you debate who is the master of this type of combat," says the artist.

"Despite what you think you know about him, you don't. This series promises a fresh look at the man, his origin, and the terrible trials he has, and will, face."

I first read about Richard Dragon, Lady Shiva, and Ben Turner in the Green Rose barber shop in Greenhills. I was hooked by the martial arts action (though the art style had an unusual way of depicting motion lines and impacts), and was more than a little amused at the similarity to Marvel's Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu.

As the years went on, I was surprised by how often they would refer to characters in the series. Ben Turner (despite having been turned into an assassin and the redeeming himself) seemed to enjoy the greatest prominence with his presence in the Ostrander-penned series "Suicide Squad". Even became the beau of The Vixen for a while. Lady Shiva played a prominent role in "The Question" series, as did Richard Dragon. Lady Shiva however has become more of a villain-for-hire and possibly the best martial artist in the DC Universe as shown in her appearances in the "Green Arrow" series with Connor Hawke and the Tim Drake "Robin" mini-series. Poor Richard, white male icon that he was, never seemed to prosper.

Except for that whole time in "The Question" when he pretended to be crippled. That sneaky $(#*&%!

And now he's back with the creative team that made Nightwing a hit. Can't wait!
Bloggers, Unite!
Just went to the Philippine Blog Awards website. There are apparently quite a number of outstanding bloggers in the country. I probably won't be able to check them all... but I did find someone's blog quite interesting. In fact, I found the Blog Awards site through Jobert's blog.

He's got a lot of cool links to Philippine-related sites, which will become important in my Hinirang research.

He's also probably the psychic dude who managed to:
1) guess / hear my sister's name;
2) tell me that our relatives "on the other side" wanted to say hi to her;
3) freak me out.

All in G4 Starbucks with my friend Aye, and other folks, over a cuppa joe. If it's not him, apologies.
My cellphone died
I weep.

Brand new... barely 2 months old... screen went black. Cannot recharge or reset!

Why? Why? WHY? Haven't even fully paid it off yet. Gah... will lose some cell numbers I think...
Hinirang RPG:An Update
We playtested the fledgling Hinirang RPG ruleset with a fairly flexible setting: the setting of Fading Suns. I played rather well, despite having to refer to the various Fading Suns rulebooks and converting stats on the spot. The core mechanic of Attempts and Difficulties, and Margins of Success and Failure all worked out nicely.

A revelation was the multiple initiatives: having Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual Aspects each with their own initiative could have been too clunky... but it played out rather well. Psychic abilities and Theurgy / Magick were still closely tied to the FS paradigm however... but they worked out fine as well.

I'll have to define when to use Skill Rolls and Attribute Rolls a bit better though. I'd like to reserve Attribute Rolls to be the equivalent of "Saving Throws", rather than a more cost-effective substitute for skills. No more intellect-based perception rolls... it'll be Intellect + Awareness or nothing.

One comment I received was how effective someone could really be if they poured points into a particular aspect. And this was true... J's character really shone in the Physical Aspect (with a touch of the Jury-Rigging Han Solo), while KnightJinx's character dominated the Spiritual Arena. K8's character surprised everyone with her psychic abilities... tied to the Physical and Emotional Aspects.

Can't wait for the next session - but I have to prepare...
Point and Counter
Too often scholars arguing based on ancient evidence that we are all descended from space aliens are dismissed as crackpots. In this intriguing link, an individual has seen fit to answer and refute claims by one such crackpot... er... scholar.

That scholar is some dude named Sitchin...
From AEGIS to Hinirang
Here's a little tidbit that may interest us Hinrang-oriented folk:

If you are interested in the origins of the Abu Sayyaf and the tradition of maritime raiding and kidnapping in the Southern Philippines, a great book to read would be "Iranun and Balangingi: Globalization, Maritime Raiding & the Birth of Ethnicity" by James Francis Warren. It traces the origins and activities of these feared raiders. Have you ever wondered why the Spaniards built medieval style watch-towers along our coasts all the way up to Northern Luzon? It was because of these guys. The Iranun, Ilanoon or I-Lanawen (people of Lanao) and the Samal-Balangingi conducted their slaving raids and were funded and organized by the Tausog datus of Sulu, and armed by the British (who wanted them to disrupt colonies of their business rivals, the Dutch and Spanish, and who depended on products gathered by the raiders' victims for trade with China), and Americans, who had nothing else to trade in the area. The Cagayan connection? The Balangingi were scattered after a ferocious assault by the Spaniards on their island stronghold in the 1850s. The survivors were deported to Cagayan to work in Spanish plantations, but many held on to their old traditions.

The book is available in National bookstore (about P700) in the Filipiniana section. The Singaporean edition has a drawing of a 19th century Iranun warrior with a banca and Abu Sayyaf-types with M-16s in the foreground.

Damn - now I'm gonna be tempted to buy this book. Hopefully, it is hardcover and too heavy to carry.
Dinner on Thursdays with Vin (and J)
Oh well, close enough to the title.

Ate at the Sushi Mart too early for the Sushi discount, and the discussion turned to reading. Apparently J has only read about 15 novels in his life (which shocked friend Nikki), but eventually he revised that to about 22. On a tangent, Vin and I began counting the fiction novels we'd read by category, starting with Science Fiction... dipping into Hardy Boys... then to Fantasy and Horror... and so on. I've a feeling that J has read more novels, but like me has a tendency to stop reading when the fricking novel gets too boring. I'm guilty of skipping large sections of some novels because I just don't care for what's happening there right now.

Which brings me to the subject of skimming - it is a useful skill not only in school but also at work. The eye and mind are trained to pick out specific patterns of key words from pages of alphabet soup and extract the gist of the narrative flow (sometimes erroneously). Some books are savoured... while others are gulped down.

Hm. Nikki & KnightJinx seem to have rubbed off on me - I now compare reading books to eating.

Speaking of Eating
A short exchange between me and Vin, after I tell him that I didn't finish my rice because rice tends to make me full faster than other foods:

Vin: But isn't that the purpose of eating? You eat to become full?
Alex: No, I eat to become "not-hungry".
Vin: ...
Alex: What's wrong?
Vin: What a novel concept.

My cousins know where I developed this habit - I'm a slow eater. Eating good food is always good, but as a child it interrupted more important things like running around with friends and playing games. So I learned to get smaller portions so I could keep up my cousins and friends who had learned to eat faster. I ended up going from roly-poly to skinny in one year because of this little trick. The difference between by 10th and 11th birthday pictures is remarkable.

The Nature of the Beast

From the Philippine Star:

Kidnapping fears were revived in the Filipino-Chinese community following the abduction last Monday and subsequent murder of Betti Chua Sy. The 32-year-old finance executive of Coca-Cola Export Corp. was on her way to work when about seven men seized her from her sport utility vehicle in Quezon City. Sy might have resisted, prompting the kidnappers to shoot her in the leg. Her body was found early Tuesday morning in Para?aque City.

The good news is that three of the suspects were arrested within hours after Sy’s body was found. It will take many more such arrests, however, before potential targets can rest easy. Teresita Ang-See of the Citizens Action Against Crime said over 100 people, most of them Filipino-Chinese, have been kidnapped in the first 10 months of the year. That is a jump of about 32 percent from the same period in 2002. Ang-See said most of the victims’ families paid an average of P1 million to P2 million to kidnappers.

I've always had difficulty understanding how anyone can decide to kidnap some total stranger and hold them for ransom. Granted, they're probably not total strangers... because kidnappers would have to study their prey, and research how much they can ask the victim's family for. Actually, that's even more inconceivable. To do it in cold blood...

Still, it's not always about money. Sometimes it's about politics... or both. Kidnappings tend to go up around the time that elections near, and some feel that this kidnap-murder and the robbing of the Makati Citibank branch were not really purely for the money... but to further other ends?

Who benefits from the perception of an unsafe administration? Who benefits from a rapid resolution of such controversial cases?

And who pays the price? It's times like these that I wish for things like karma.

Because Justice seems to be in short supply in the Philippines.

Justice and Injustice
Over lunch last Wednesday, I heard about how some poor farmer in some province grew three marijuana plants on his property. And got caught and saddled with the death penalty. I also heard about some poor sod who planted two trees on his property, didn't register it with the DENR... and was arrested and thrown in jail when he cut down his own tree.

Meanwhile, how any drug dealers and networks are coddled or even courted by Philippine politicians? How many illegal loggers get away scot free after raping thousands of forests?

May the Lord show them mercy if they do not pay their debts to society in this life.

Parting Thoughts: Tagaytay Ghost Story

This story happened a few weeks ago along the Tagaytay Road.

There was a guy who got left behind by a pack of mountain bikers. The group was large and he didnt bring a cellphone. He crashed his bike somewhere between Picnic Grove and DBP. To make things worse, a storm came in. So he walked.

This guy was on the side of the road hitch hiking on a very dark night in the middle of a storm. The night passed slowly and no cars went by.

The storm was so strong he could hardly see a few meters ahead of him.

Suddenly, just before the junction going to Manila, he saw a car slowly looming, ghostlike, out of the gloom. It slowly crept toward him and stopped. It was raining hard, wind blowing all around you, what would you do? Like you would, he got into the car and closed the door, then realized that there was nobody behind the wheel.

The car slowly started moving again. The guy was terrified, too scared to think of jumping out and running. The guy saw that the car was slowly approaching a sharp curve. The guy started to pray, begging for his life; he was sure the ghost car would go off the road and he would plunge to his death, then just before the curve, a hand appeared thru the window and turned the steering wheel, guiding the car safely around the bend.

Terrified, the guy watched the hand reappear every time they reached a curve. Finally, the guy gathered his wits and leaped from the car and ran to the nearest place where there were houses.

Wet and in shock, he went into a store and voice quavering, ordered 2 bottles of Red Horse Beer, and told the people about his horrible, supernatural experience.

A silence enveloped everybody when they realized the guy was apparently sane and not drunk.

About half an hour later two guys walked into the same store. One says to the other, "Yan...siya nga yung sumakay habang nagtutulak tayo..."

Not Necessarily Hinirang
I got this in the mail, and realized it could be a joke told in the Hinirang world...

Malaki ang problema ni Pedro. Ga-higante ang kanyang ...kuwan... 25 inches. Dahil dito, ayaw siyang pakasalan ni Maria. Naisip niyang humingi ng tulong kay Manang Belen, ang arbolaryo sa kanilang lugar.

"Naku Pedro", wika ni Manang Belen, "iisa lang ang remedyo sa problema mo. Kailangan hanapin mo ang mahiwagang loro sa tuktok ng bundok at hilingin mo na pakasalan ka niya. Tuwing tatanggihan ka ng loro, liliit ng 5 inches ang kuwan mo."

Umakyat si Pedro sa bundok. Nang narating niya ang tuktok, nakita niya ang mahiwagang loro. "Mahiwagang loro, pakasalan mo ako", halos binulong lang ni Pedro sa kaba.

"Ayoko!", sagot ng loro.

Pag silip ni Pedro, 20 inches na lang siya! "Mahiwagang loro, pakasalan mo ako", mas malakas niyang binigkas.

"Ayoko!", sagot ng loro.

Pag silip ni Pedro, 15 inches na lang siya! Minsan na lang para matuwa si Maria. "Mahiwagang loro, pakasalan mo ako", halos napasigaw siya sa galak.

"Ang kulit mo naman!" sumbat ng loro, "Sinabing Ayoko! Ayoko! Ayoko!"

Man, I wonder how this looks if run through Babelfish...
HINIRANG the RPG: Update
I've got the broad strokes down for the magic system creation system! What? Oh, it's a system that allows you to create magical systems in the same game... this goes for item creation and a number of the Katao, Tsino, and Ispancialo magical systems.

Basically, there's an inherent difficulty in casting spells. Spell systems lower or increase that difficulty, but tend to trade off the flexibility or type of spells that can be cast. There's a limit to the amount of power you can "channel", and some rationale for blood sacrifices and bonuses to theurgical rites through fasting and self-denial. Also, certain sources of magical power have inherent limitations on them as well, and these impact the cost of the mana level you can channel safely.
For my friend the BEDMAN
I don't know how you keep track of your comics and games, but you may wish to look at this. It's an ongoing column by a Game Store owner. The comments by readers are great too!

I've always been curious about your catalog, and I must say that even your comics don't benefit from proper merchandising, just cause I can barely see the titles on the new comics that you've got on the shelf. As for the covers, foh-geddaboutit. Perhaps we can embark on a back catalogue push one of these days... or embark on the endeavor to count all the back issues and old games in your stores and put 'em up on a website for local and international collectors...

... lets talk... I know with the talent that visits yer store we can whip up something in no time. It could probably even run on the computer you have in the store.
Zombies on the Rise
This link promotes the Zombie Survival Guide book. Do check out the links, which have zombie infection simulations for cities... like this one here.

I recommend the nuclear death variant, which allows you to nuke city blocks to kill off infected areas. It's tough... the damn things replicate so fast! But a good strategy is to contain the buggers by bombing the area around the zombies, then killing them off inside.

I rather like the zombie movies as an inspiration to an RPG session. Zombies normally provide nice dangers for combat-hungry players... the breakdown of basic societal and organizational norms normally becomes a great opportunity for role-playing horror... and trying to figure out how to stop the zombie onslaught and what caused 'em normally challenges the puzzle solvers of the group.
I'm really enjoying Adrian's foray into RPG "short stories" for his RPG Anthology titled "Manila Unseen". It's to be the first part of several "anthologies", the others to be titled "Manila Unmasked", and "Manila Unleashed".

So far, one set of characters has uncovered a supernatural conspiracy and shadow war in the Philippines... all from a seemingly straightforward journalism assignment on the "White Lady of Balete Drive". Nice working in of the Pasig River, Old Manila families and sensibilities, and the taxi driver and real estate assessment threads.

Another set of characters has resolved the case of a mysterious hitchhiker and an aging mansion in Batangas. Samurai swords, headless women in white, blackouts, and a tale of friendship, betrayal, and revenge.

The magic component is slowly filling up. I'm a bit worried about the spell lists and skill lists, but I'll have to pick Dean's brains for these. So far I'm looking at the following magic systems to flesh out:
Katao Tribal Magic Types:
- Manculam (Shaman & Insects)
- Albolaryo (Sympathetic Magic)
- Salamangka (Elementalists).
Ispancialo Arcanists:
- 80% Hermetic Tradition (Magic has a long prep time)
- 20% Local translations of Katao spirit magic.
Ispancialo Gremio Poeticans
- Words and shaping reality and perception.

Nothing yet about creating artifacts in the Katao group, though the Albolaryos come close I suppose. Whew, a lot of work!
Guess what? I save everyone...

What is Your Destiny? by Valcion
DestinySavior of the human race
Date when you fufill your destinyFebruary 3, 2015
Created with quill18's MemeGen!

And of course... am corrupted by incredible power...

What is Your Destiny? by Valcion
DestinyEnslaver of all humanity
Date when you fufill your destinyAugust 12, 2021
Created with quill18's MemeGen!

But manage to overcome it in the end!

What is Your Destiny? by Valcion
DestinyDefeat of your archnemesis
Date when you fufill your destinyDecember 18, 2022
Created with quill18's MemeGen!
Government, Corruption, and Me
Well, I've decided to do a bit of study on corruption, Philippines-style. I purchased a book that collects a number of articles from the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.

In the process, I hopped online to find other articles and found the links to another related organization called TAG. What is that? Well, TAG is the Transparent Accountable Governance project, and it's "attempt to summarize how, why and to what degree corruption exists in Philippine society." The work has also been "extended to promoting good governance in selected cities and municipalities of Mindanao through capacity-building efforts."

Ambitious, but worthwhile.

And how can we help, readers? How can we help?

After thinking about it, I keep wondering if an online site can do anything... given the grip of popular media on shaping the values of the masa, and the deeply entrenched corruption in government. Perhaps this is where another form of popular media should come in: COMICS!

Well, if it was more popular, more folks would be in the industry here... but still, it DOES reach the youth...
Cranium Kings
Well, last Halloween saw a very late Cranium Championship. The teams were:
1) Red: Dean, Marco and myself
2) Green: DinoYu, Carl, Vin
3) Blue: Nikki, Jason and Charles

After two games, the first team were the undisputed champions.

Still, there were impressive performances all around... Carl had the impressive "Spank" clay figure, DinoYu pulled out an impressive "Two-Fu" triumph, and Jason hummed a mean tune! Charles, alas, caught some flack for not knowing certain songs... but then, it merely served to underline how old the rest of us are in comparison. He was only around 2 when "Born in the U.S.A." was out after all.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention Marco's exceptional dice-rolling skills! My God, in the second game, the Blue Team only missed one question and yet rolled terribly! Marco kept flying past the opposition in a single die roll.

I was too late to reach the Via Astris halloween party, but it's just as well I suppose. I was not awake enough to drive all that way and back.
I'm up to about 50+ pages on the Hinirang RPG, and am wrestling with the Skill List. Need Dean's help, wah! Haven't even gotten to the magic stuff yet (but I will... I will!), or conflicts.

So far I've got the attributes, task resolution (basic), effect values, skills (for now), traits, etc... In PDF format! Dean, if you're reading... let me know your availability... need to pick your brain!
Bush and Revisionist History

From an SF Gate Article:

During his short visit, partly to reward President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's support for the U.S. war on terror, Bush told his Filipino hosts that the United States "liberated the Philippines from colonial rule."

Bush was referring to the defeat of Japanese imperial forces in World War II at the hands of Filipino guerrillas and the U.S. military. But he skipped over a crucial fact: The United States was the colonial ruler in the Philippines for half a century before the Japanese came.

"America is proud of its part in the great story of the Filipino people," Bush also said.

In fact, that great story was a tale of American betrayal and bloodshed.

In the late 1890s, Filipinos revolted against Spain, which had ruled the archipelago for more than 300 years. After the Spanish-American War erupted, the United States supported the Filipino revolutionaries, who proclaimed an independent republic.

But eager to establish itself as a power in Asia, the United States refused to recognize the new republic and bought the country from Spain for $20 million. When the Filipinos resisted, the United States unleashed a three- year war of conquest that killed an estimated 200,000 Filipinos.

The war set off a bitter debate in the States over U.S. involvement overseas, a precursor to the outcry over the Vietnam War more than half a century later.

A former U.S. superintendent who helped set up an American-style public school system in the Philippines argued that the Filipinos "are children, and childlike, do not know what is best for them. . . . By the very fact of our superiority of civilization and our greater capacity for industrial activity, we are bound to exercise over them a profound social influence.''

Despite the carnage and the intense emotions it unleashed in the early 20th Century, the conflict has virtually been erased from American history books -- and from America's collective memory. Until recently, the Philippine-American War was not even considered a war in official history; it was "the Filipino Insurrection against the United States."

I thought that this part of history couldn't be forgotten already, after all the lobbying and outrage in the U.S. about the entry in the history books...

Chilling, this "alliance".
Back from Zamboanga
Just got back from Zambo! Twas interesting...

I discovered that one of the bombings that took place a while back was in a department store not more than two blocks from the NCC office (which is on the second floor of the Philippine Veteran's Bank building). Some folks believe that it was more an extortion thing than a real terrorist attack, given that muslims also died in that bombing and that many Abu Sayyaf members' families live in Zamboanga City. Allegedly.

I found out that there's no McDonalds in Zamboanga City! Only a Jollibee or two, and a Greenwich or two. Apparently, the franchise fee was too expensive for the only person who considered starting one.

Lola Mameng's place is cool. She took us to eat tasty "curacha" a special kind of seasonal crab found in the deep sea. Yum! She's got a swimming pool, and the view from the living room overlooks Zamboanga City and the airport. It's very cool there, and the winds are always blowing from the mountains. It rains there almost everyday.

There are BIRDS on every powerline in the downtown area, packed like sardines.... small wonder there're birdsh*t stains along the roads and cars.
You are Form 0, Phoenix: The Eternal.

"And The Phoenix's cycle had reached
zenith, so he consumed himself in fire. He
emerged from his own ashes, to be forever

Some examples of the Phoenix Form are Quetzalcoatl
(Aztec), Shiva (Indian), and Ra-Atum
The Phoenix is associated with the concept of life,
the number 0, and the element of fire.
His sign is the eclipsed sun.

As a member of Form 0, you are a determined
individual. You tend to keep your sense of
optimism, even through tough times and have a
positive outlook on most situations. You have
a way of looking at going through life as a
journey that you can constantly learn from.
Phoenixes are the best friends to have because
they cheer people up easily.

Which Mythological Form Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla
Time for Hinirang
A little snippet from the Hinirang RPG stuff I've been rewriting... character creation:


Physical Group

Ability: Agility
Power: Strength
Defense: Toughness
Life: Body
Health: Body * 5

Mental Group

Ability: Intellect
Power: Reason
Defense: Tenacity
Life: Mind
Health: Mind * 5

Emotional Group

Ability: Empathy
Power: Passion
Defense: Courage
Life: Heart
Health: Heart * 5

Spiritual Group

Ability: Insight
Power: Will
Defense: Conviction
Life: Spirit
Health: Spirit * 5

Ability indicates the raw ability that individual has in that Statistic Group. It's normally used in calculating the action value for a particular task.
Power indicates the raw power that individual has in the Statistic Group. It's normally used in calculating the effect value for a particular task.
Defense indicates the defensive value that individual has in the Statistic Group. It's normally used in reducing the effect value of a task performed on the character.
Life indicates the amount of "life force" tied up in that Statistic Group. It's used to determine how much damage of that type a character can take before dying. Damage to one's life takes a while to heal.
Health indicates that Statistic Group's endurance. It's used to find out how much punishment of that type a character can take before becoming incapacitated. Damage to one's health heals faster as compared to Life.
Writing systems galore

Please check out! It's an excellent site on various writing systems for various languages. It breaks them down into Alphabetic, Syllabic, Logographic, Undeciphered, and Alternative Writing Systems.

Alphabetic systems refer to writing systems that represent individual consonants or vowels. There are apparently some that only have symbols for consonants.
Syllabic systems refer to symbols that represent consonants and vowels.

What the heck are Logographic writing systems? Hm....
Greek Gods
Hm. Interesting...


?? Which Of The Greek Gods Are You ??
brought to you by Quizilla

Well, I'm off to get my artifacts back...
To blow off steam, I like to do web research. Today I happened upon some information regarding U.S. Aircraft Carriers (Nimitz-class):
General Characteristics, Nimitz Class

Builder: Newport News Shipbuilding Co., Newport News, Va.
Power Plant: Two nuclear reactors, four shafts
Length, overall: 1,092 feet (332.85 meters)
Flight Deck Width: 252 feet (76.8 meters)
Beam: 134 feet (40.84 meters)
Displacement: Approx. 97,000 tons (87,996.9 metric tons) full load
Speed: 30+ knots (34.5+ miles per hour)
Aircraft: 85
Cost: about $4.5 billion each
USS Nimitz (CVN 68), San Diego, Calif.
USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), Newport News, Va.
USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), Bremerton, Wash.
USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), Norfolk, Va.
USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), Everett, Wash.
USS George Washington (CVN 73), Norfolk, Va.
USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), San Diego, Calif.
USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), Norfolk, Va.
USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), San Diego, Calif.
George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) (keel laying 6 Sept 2003)
Crew: Ship's Company: 3,200 - Air Wing: 2,480
Armament: Two or three (depending on modification) NATO Sea Sparrow launchers, 20mm Phalanx CIWS mounts: (3 on Nimitz and Dwight D. Eisenhower and 4 on Vinson and later ships of the class.)
Date Deployed: May 3, 1975 (USS Nimitz)

Note the name of that last one.
Campaign Planning: Terran Empire
I've been planning my Terran Empire campaign and decided it would be run akin to a TV series. This would mean setting up a Tripod website and making it seem like a real ongoing series with character profiles, a synopsis for each episode, and out-of-character speculation.

Since it's still in the planning stage, here's what I posted on the HERO GAMES website about it:

I've been thinking of a Terran Frontier-based campaign, probably on a Fleet ship that's got a bunch of Marines and Navy folk on it that's sent to patrol the area.

Initial adventures:
- pirate skirmishes (introduce different races and trade routes)
- Ackalian skirmishes (introduce major alien presence)
- security for Imperial explorations of Mandaaran worlds
- putting down a few localised rebellions against the Empire (mostly unjustified, but with some basis)

Next set of adventures:
- saber-rattling against the Ackalians
- instituting Draconian measures against troublesome worlds in the sector, some even the higher-ups in the military are uncomfortable with.
- discovery of a link between the Mandaaran flight and the Xenovore statuettes.

And on from there.

Much of this doesn't make sense to those unfamiliar with the setting... but it will.

Tech Levels and Science Fiction
Too often when running Science Fiction games (particularly cyberpunk ones), I find that the latest "in-game" technology is often already dated by modern technology. Guns, sensors, and computer capabilities are often far beyond what's printed.

Fortunately HERO will allow me to tweak the Imperial Marine battle suits (Starship Troopers, anyone?) to improve after each mission that they wear it.
Back in my first year of High School, English teacher Mr. Stark asked us to always submit two pages of writing. It had to contain grammatically correct paragraphs, but could cover any number of topics. He said it was a way for us to overcome the fear of the blank page. Getting into the habit of writing and filling a page with that writing was important to him - a way to break through the 'writer's block' of young teenaged boys intimidated by a cool, but demanding English teacher.

He also used it to correct our grammar and spelling, because he'd give back the two-page journals to us with lots of red markings. Sly teacher, that Mr. Stark.

Anyway I decided to do the same on my blog, but I realized I needed something similar for my attempts at fiction writing, poetry, and other stuff. So I'm beginning another blog... I don't know the title yet, but it'll get me out of my habit of NOT writing.

I hope.
Bleh - Part 1
The boots were definitely carved from Filomenina dragon leather: dragonhide so thick that only the half-automaton craftswomen of Oortanoi could pare away the hard layers to reveal the soft, workable, yet incredibly durable middleskin beneath.

Azan swirled the wine in his goblet, idly watching it coat the dull copper sheen... occasionally marvelling at the invisible nanobots patrolling the edges of the rim keeping the now-warm liquid from spilling onto the blood-stained floor.

Began trolling for news in Yahoo! Found out about how despite the evidence of over 160,000 dying from the effects of global warming, another big country (Russia) is backing away from supporting the Kyoto accords. The U.S. already backpedalled on it, and I guess this means we're all doomed. Time to head to colder climes, coz it's gonna get warm near the equator. High ground too, since the polar ice caps are melting.

Hundreds of Tourists Accused of Three-Day Orgy
By Juliana Liu

BEIJING (Reuters) - Hundreds of Japanese tourists and local prostitutes held a three-day orgy at a luxury hotel in southern China, newspapers said, sparking outrage and prompting police to launch an investigation.

I remember seeing cell-recharging stations for cars in Los Angeles. Must be those electric cars...

Development Woes

It's the project that wouldn't die. Project development is slower than desired (must check with the developers again). A mountain of documentation awaits me. Feature-creep keeps threatening the time-table. I can sense that I'm burned out on this project already.

I just want it done. Finis. Lord, grant me the will and the wisdom to see it through!

I want to bill for this already.
Back in the Saddle Again
Hey friends and fellow-bloggers. I'm back!

It's been an eye-opening trip to Japan and Los Angeles, and I'm glad to be back! I carry with me musings on the direction of my career, and the dread of having to catch up with work again... but that's life! No time like the present to get back in the thick of things...
It seems the blog from Japan's e-airport didn't work! Gah. Anyway, am here in the US of A. Have to get started on everyone's lists now... then I can enjoy this little vacation.
Karaoke Kids
Perhaps we were influenced by other bloggers' excursions. Perhaps we were driven by the tendency for individuals to burst into song in the middle of games (like me!). Whatever the reason, we went to IO to sing!

IO had an interesting offer: 5 to 8pm, it's p250 per person for the entire stretch, consumable. From 8pm onwards, P360 non-consumable per hour per room. We decided to order P1250 worth of food and drinks in the 5 to 8 stretch, then linger for an hour after... and split the bill.

Oddly enough the food alone was worth the trip. Teriyaki chicken... pizza... and of course softdrinks! Still, there were the stunning revelations of that night: the somtimes-sibling duo of Kate and Lenard belted out a stirring rendition of "Phantom of the Opera". Titus and Jay delivered their own unique spin on "Tainted Love". And I apparently have a penchant of requesting songs with titles that no one knows... mostly rock & roll from a variety of eras.

Isa pa!

Mga padala
This is probably the first time I've experienced so many people asking me to bring so many things over... Crikey. Books, food, clothing, comics... eek! Oh well. Buhay pinoy.
Some of my buddies have begun toying with the idea of calling me Vlad. Normally folks call me Alex or Xandro... but since they've discovered the second name (Vladimir), they want it to be Vlad.

Interestingly, Alexander, Vladimir, and my middle name all are tied to powerful authoritarian rulers. Kinda scary actually.
Pinoy Phonetic Alphabet: Da Return
A - Ara
B - Bong
C - Cacai
D - Dingdong
E - Edu
F - Francis
G -
H - Heart
I - Ina
J -
K -
L -
M -
N - Nida
O - Onemig
P - Pia
Q -
R - Romnick
S - Sheryl
T - Tina
U -
V -
W - William
X -
Y -
Z - ZsaZsa
Giants in Theater
Well, the past two weeks have been good for two of my old theater friends, Tom and Rona.

Tom is my bro, my best friend... and he's based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Here's the article about him:

From Keith Kreitman of San Mateo Times....

For a small university, Notre Dame de Namur in Belmont has a big-time drama department under the leadership of Michael Elkins, with some outstanding productions in recent years.

The "Labor Day Theatre Festival," held at the school this past weekend, is among the best of them, a wonderful night of funny theater, featuring four super performers in two one-act gut-busters and four well-acted short playlets by local writers.

Directed by Karen Byrnes, "Lone Star," by James McLure, is the kind of original, witty and cleanly-honed script that other playwrights can only dream of.

Featured as the brothers Roy and Ray, two top-notch actors, Tom Earlywine and Will Springhorn, so captured the realistic persona and speech patterns of small town machos in the Lone Star State, that this sometime Texan needed to restrain himself from mounting the stage, grabbing a Lone Star beer from the case, snatching a Mars bar from the bench, dipping some popcorn from the bag and joining in the good-natured, earthy and sometimes tense verbal exchanges.

It is set in the scruffy rear of a roadhouse saloon in the mythical town of Maynard on one star-bright night in the summer of 1971, somewhere deep in the heart of Texas.

Roy, the town's past high school hero, having returned several years before from a tour of duty in Viet Nam, is sloshing down multiple Lone Star beers and speaking to the canopy of Texas stars as he recalls the glory days, now irretrievably lost, that had pivoted about his beloved, bimbo-conquering, 1959 pink Thunderbird convertible.

As his younger, dimly-lit but adoring brother Ray, Springhorn, in a prize-winning performance, is the quintessential, malleable but loveable small-town Texan. Steve Bologna fits right in with his cameo as Cletis T, the sexually-wimpy son of the local hardware dealer, who "borrows" and wrecks Roy's dream car hitting the town's only prairie tree.

In the most original funny sequence, Ray frustrates every attempt by big-brother Roy to successfully demonstrate how a Viet Nam G.I. would stalk and kill the enemy.

As for Rona, here's an excerpt from an article from the Philippine Star (September 8, 2003):

It was during our one-on-one where Banderas mentioned to me about a Filipino in the cast of Nine. As soon as I took my seat in front of him for the TV interview (to be shown on The Buzz sometime next month), Banderas shook my hand. When he learned that I came from the Philippines, he smiled and said, "Oh, from the Philippines. Do you know that there’s a Filipina with me in the musical (Nine, that is) I’m now doing on Broadway? She’s very talented."

Flattered for our world-class Filipino talents, I replied, "There’s more where she came from!"

The Filipina turned out to be Rona Figueroa who played Julliete, one of Guido Contini’s women. At the Eugene O’Neill Theater, Raoul and I didn’t have a hard time singling out Rona who, although petite, stood out among her taller – but, we presumed, not necessarily more talented – female co-performers.

The Nine playbill doesn’t mention where in the Philippines Rona came from but listed down her previous performances: Kim in Miss Saigon, Eponine in Les Miserables, Daisy in Dogeaters, Grusha in The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Turando in Turando, Madeline True in The Wild Party, among others. She was also in such films as Dragonheart: A New Beginning (often shown on the Sci Fi Channel) and Waiting in the Wings; and TV shows like Third Watch, Cosby Show, David Lettermen and Reading Rainbow. Figueroa has a rock band which has recently recorded its first album.

Impressive credentials, ’no! No wonder Banderas was impressed with her.

Yeah, makes me wish for some time to brush up on my rusty acting skills. What fun!

Bye Bye, Bry
Tomorrow, September 9th, Bryan C. is going to Scotland with his wife... Safe trip, Bry! Wishing you all the best... and hurry back when you're done (unless, of course, the Philippines self-destructs before then).
How'd You Find Me?
I dropped by the sitemeter page for this blog and found this link in the list of referrals. Apparently someone found my blog using the phrase "demands of the magdalo group" as the search string. I'm apparently ranked number 3 in that list.

The yahoo page links directly to one of my archived pages where I'd written about the Magdalo group. I went to the list of entry pages and found 2 out of the last 20 entry pages into my blog were that page... meaning that was the first page in my entire site that these folks went to.

Other interesting referral came from google with the search phrase "I'm sixteen - my webcam". Google put my site as the 6th one due to my rant on a phrase appearing in my spam list, and... well... here:
... Come and see me playing with myself live on my webcam. ... PVP Online is one of my fave
online comics ... never to walk with Edu Manzano, if I fail, if I'm sixteen..." ...

Agh... And another referral came from earthlink with the search phrase "8-page comic books". Other searches I've found include "teen titans battle blitz game on cartoon network", "alamat comics", "legend of the five rings RPG, John Wick".

I tend to be disturbingly close to the tops of these lists for some reason... the John Wick one in particular.
Tag Board Contest: Pinoy Phonetic Alphabet
Okay, this morning I thought about the fact that I haven't really come up with anything wild or wacky recently. Maybe I was just hungry. Anyway, here's my first attempt.

On the tagboard, suggest some names of local artistas and tie them to a letter. Then, when we need to spell something like ACE, we can say "Ara, Cacai, Edu"!
So here are mine so far:

A - Ara
B - Bong
C - Cacai
D - Dingdong
E - Edu

Now you try!
Your Name: Alexander Vladimir Marcos Osias
Your Date of Birth: 08/09/1971


Fehu - Increase of wealth and possessions, protection of valuables. Used to send energy on its way, fire in its uncontrolled, primal state.


Othel - Material possessions and protection of those possessions, inheritance (can be genetic traits inherited from elders).


Ing - Fertility, successful conclusion to issue or situation, ending one cycle and beginning another.

Cast the runes here:
Rune Caster

GNS and Gamemastering
The concept of GNS (Gamist / Narrativist / Simulationist) as a tool for guiding game design is well-documented on the internet on such places like The Forge in discussions and articles. Gamist play normally involves a clearly defined set of "victory" conditions, and rewards and consequences for actions. Narrativist play normally focuses on the story above all else (as determined by all the players). Simulationist play deals with exploring the plausibility / realism of the world or setting of the game.

Just yesterday, I was struck by the fact that the initial GNS balance as set down by the rules set actually changes when in the hands of a Gamemaster (GM). A GM's natural biases will twist the game along the three axes of the GNS paradigm to fit his or her taste. GMs with a strong narrative bias will pull the game towards that axis... same with the other axes. The system and the setting will still define the initial starting point... and in some ways reinforce that style of play. But the GM (and the players) will eventually make the game their own.
Kult Musings
Elisabeth / Elizabeth Seymour. She wasn't bitten by the Sepiroth. She claims not to be reminded of her past, especially the deaths of her parents... and yet she still lives and works in the same building and in the same line of work as her parents. Her most recent play appears to have been strongly related to the tragedy that took place in her life.

An FBI Agent strongly suggests that she may have been responsible (at the tender age of 13) for killing her father... and that her father may have been the leader of Jackals (a term used to refer to serial killers) based in the NY and Manhattan area... and that during the time he ran Theater Mondo, the rise in serial killings increased... just as they have in recent years when Elizabeth took over the operation.

Her father, Richard Seymour... Her mother, Mary... they were the faces of the actors we saw in the play "Agamemnon" in that horribly realistic murder scene.

And now, the Danny Weston has been warned away from "Richard Seymour" by the ritual murder of a family of four (his neighbors)... after he'd been dating the lovely Ms. Seymour for a month.

My character's theory will be (once I get to "share info" with the other characters) that she is either channelling her father, or that his spirit is somehow tied to her and influencing both her and the Jackals. But if either's true... what the heck do we do now?
Writing as an art and a craft

It's often referred to as an art. I like to refer to it as both an art and a craft. While that art part may be drawn from pain or memories or some other well of artistic inspiration... another part is patience, a critical eye, a willingness to accept insights on how one might improve, and practice.

Now that demands on my time are starting to recede (may it stay that way for now), I can finally go back to developing habits to ensure that I continue to improve my writing as an art and a craft like:

1) Making time to write - short stories, scripts for 8-page comic books, and RPG material... passing them out for constructive criticism. Lots of drills and exercises too. Emphasis on completion here, rather than on "stuff that I'm working on".
2) Reading the good and the bad - gen-u-wyne good writing and the occasional shit-lit book. The former to illustrate the summit of achievement, the latter to suggest the pit of published mediocrity.
3) Talking the talk - finding friends and communities that approach writing in a similar manner.

While I've been told I'm a "good" writer by teachers and other folk, the fact is I've always being the talented individual whose works don't compare with those who've poured honest sweat and focused inspiration into their writings. The past work I've churned out are like uncut diamonds at best, lacking the skill to bring writings to full luster.

Criticizing RPGs
I've always looked at RPG rulebooks and sourcebooks and noted that they were "good" or "bad", but only recently began defining what made them good or bad. The aspects of an RPG book I look at are:

1) Basics: grammar and spelling, writing and editing
2) Rules: mechanics, explanation, and examples, tables and charts
3) Setting: imagination, usefulness in gaming sessions, potential for storylines and adventures
4) Flavor: stories that illustrate the setting and gameplay, art that fleshes out the imagery of the setting
5) Publishing: quality of printing and material, durability

Now that Hinirang the RPG has time again, I hope that my work on it will do well along these lines...
Davao Musings
Just the other day I was in Davao. In fact, I waited for the van that was to drive me to the hotel I was going present at in the place that the shed used to be.

What shed? The shed that was blown up in a terrorist attack on Davao airport. It happened a few days after I was in Davao last. Standing there was like tempting fate... if it weren't for the fact that I didn't know that's where the shed used to be.

And I was told about the victims... many of them the children who approached you, offering to shine your shoes.

Distrubingly enough, when I left that same day, I was approached by a young boy.

"Sir, shoeshine?"

I apologized and left hastily.
Being Right or Wrong
Time to wax philosophical.

I've been accused of always wanting to be right. I've been accused of trying not taking sides and always wanting to do what's right. Neither is entirely true.

For the former - I do want to be right most of the time. The exceptions are when I begin to believe bad things about people or situations. The statement has deeper connotations beyond my pilosopo analysis, however. It suggests that I exude a smug confidence about my opinions or statements, that I couldn't possibly be wrong.

Well, heck. What can I say? I do seem to carry an arrogant / confident streak. It may be due to being born a Leo, or the Ateneo influence ("it's not boasting if you're really that good"), or any number of other things all put together. Let me just say that these days it's not as bad as it used to be. I welcome people pointing out my faults (politely and intelligently) cause I'd rather find out sooner than later. Painful experience has taught me to listen when criticized. There's usually a grain of truth that may not have taken root yet. (ooh! metaphor!)

For the latter - a Vorlon once said: Understanding is a three-edged sword... one side's opinion, another side's opinion... and the truth. Most of the time, I put in the time to find out the truth just because I don't really like seeing good people at each other's throats due misunderstandings. Still... sometimes people are unwilling to listen because they hate being wrong (I empathize...), or because accepting the truth may demand painful changes on their part.

Being an active listener is a good habit, though. I'm guilty of not listening enough myself, but I do admit that it's a good habit.

Getting back to the point - what's wrong with wanting to do what's right? I don't have any claims to sainthood, and readily admit to some of my own failings... but I see nothing wrong with swallowing your pride and admitting you were wrong... if you really were in the first place.

And there lies the problem. Sometimes we can be so lost in our own convoluted thoughts that we can't tell if we really were wrong.
Fight Club!

What movie Do you Belong in?(many different outcomes!)
brought to you by Quizilla

Gosh darn it.
Dean? Dean ALFAR?
Those were the lines uttered by the The Incredible Bedman when I mentioned that Dean had been first in line to borrow my Babylon 5 Season 1 & 2 DVD sets.

Well, why not? Dean, despite his legendary dislike for Science Fiction, is curious about the writing of the series... prompted in no small part by my annoying tirades about it surely. *Laugh* And also possibly due to his encounters with Straczynski's writing in other media.

Then the Bedman DARED me to put it in my blog, feeling perhaps that this was some ploy on my part to delay lending the DVD set to him. The Kawanga Kid couldn't let the challenge go unmet!

So, here's the blog.

And yes, Bedman... I am laboring on the RPG scenarios...
Lenny for the Defense!
My buddy Lenard is playing a lawyer in our Kult RPG, and as someone who may benefit from this knowledge... here's an outline from an article that may help with faking being a lawyer.

I'm Not a Lawyer, but I Play One in a Game
Number One: The Admissibility of Evidence
Evidence is not admissible if it's more prejudicial than relevant.

Number Two: Rights of the Defendant
A prosecutor or plaintiff who breaks the law can't convict a defendant of doing so.

Number Three: In my Chambers, Gentlemen
Sidebars and chambers meetings are intended to keep jurors from hearing what they shouldn't.

Number Four: Take Turns
Once the prosecution starts, each side gets to answer the other until both are done.

Number Five: Know the Elements
The prosecution or plaintiff must prove each part of the case, or they lose.

Number Six: How Much Proof Do You Want?
Tie goes to the defender, and in criminal cases only a shut-out beats him.

Number Seven: Exhibiting the Evidence
Testimony is what matters; physical evidence is for show.

Number Eight: Instructing the Jury
Eventually you have to explain what the law actually is.

Number Nine: Cite Authority
For game play, everyone should make up cases and say why they matter.

Number Ten: Law is More than Trials
Know something about the legal system outside the courtroom, too.

RPGs and Combat Resolution
It's been mentioned that there are 3 main steps to resolving physical combat:
1) determine a successful hit.
2) determine penetration of armor or skin.
3) determine extent of internal damage.

There are various ways of resolving this.

D&D has always used an abstract armor class system. In it, steps 1 and 2 are combined. You roll the dice to hit the armor class. If you failed, it means that either you missed completely, or your attack bounced off the armor. If you succeed, then you get to roll damage. TOTAL Resolution Rolls: 2.

White Wolf stuff requires a roll to determine a successful hit and a roll for damage. The defender can opt to roll a dodge. If it fails, the defender also has to also roll the damage that armor would absorb, plus the amount of damage he can soak if any. TOTAL Resolution Rolls: 3 to 5.

Kult resolves everything in one roll - success in hitting, armor penetration, and effect of damage. The only other roll might be if the defender decides to block or dodge. TOTAL Resolution Rolls: 1 to 2.

HERO combines steps 2 and 3 instead. After a successful to-hit roll, the damage is rolled and applied to armor and to the target. Only defensive manuevers I know requiring rolls would be Dive for Cover and Block. TOTAL Resolution Rolls: 2 to 3.

Why am I counting? I'm working on Hinirang RPG again, and I've been trying to see the cleanest way to handle a one-roll resolution of combat.
HERO Updates
Apparently, HERO's been racking up awards in InQuest Magazine!

CHAMPIONS: THE SUPER ROLEPLAYING GAME was inducted into the InQuest Gamer Hall of Fame, and Champions Universe won the Best Non-Fantasy RPG Supplement... both for 2002.

Also, according to their website, they ran a total of 89 games at GenCon using the HERO system "more (I'm told) than any other system except for the ubiquitous D&D." It seems to have helped them clean up most of the inventory they brought to sell at the convention.
It was the dawn of the 3rd Age of Mankind... AGAIN?

Picked up my copy of the NEW Babylon 5 RPG from Comic Quest Megamall.

It's by Mongoose Publishing and it's a beaut. Full color on all pages, hard bound book.

RULES: It does require the PHB 3rd Ed for the core rules, however. It supplants the classes in the book with its own (Officer, Soldier, Diplomat, Scientist, etc.), and has an intriguing approach to hit points: you don't get many. The most a starting character gets is 1d6+6, I believe... and you get no CON bonuses for that. No Armor Class... it uses a Defensive Value instead based on your full Reflex Save and your Size Modifier.

Simple and consistent vehicle rules (which use the same Size Mods when fighting one another) which were lifted and modified from Dragonstar.

SOURCE MATERIAL: The book takes an interesting approach evident from the cover. It's subtitle is SIGNS & PORTENTS, which is the overall title of Season One of the series. All the source material is as of the beginning of the Season... and it's a lot. Poltical situations, major and minor players, a great tour of the B5 station and characters the players might interact with.

Then it gives an episode-by-episode synopsis for the entire season, complete with the dates the events that each episode's events took place in during the year 2258. Each synopsis ends with short discussions about major developments, characters, and organizations introduced in the course of the episode and suggests 5 to 7 plot hooks for the GM to base campaigns or 'episodes' around.

Future releases will tackle developments in future seasons.

OTHER STUFF: Character sheet looks OK, but I'd rather have a B&W character sheet instead of trying to photocopy a full-color one with nice images in the background. Index is OK, a bit sparse. Interesting recommendations on how to create an epic storyline and guidelines on how not to lose the flavor of the series... but not as concise or informative as the prior B5 RPG.

Good resource for a fan - dunno how it plays... yet.
A Coup or Not?
Snippets of information from the TV send my thoughts spinning into interesting directions about the "coup" attempt...

1. Apparently, early on during the incident yesterday members of the Magdalo group indicated that it was not a coup attempt. This was, naturally, ignored. I mean: "We've taken over a hotel with weapons and explosives and then made demands that gov't heads step down... but it's not a coup, okay?"
2. The government kept listing housing and pay as the primary grievances of the 94-95 groups, downplaying and generalizing the accusations we heard yesterday to correcting the 'graft and corruption' in the country.
3. General distrust in the group of ANYONE with a "flag rank" with few notable exceptions.
4. Despite concerns about who might've been behind the Magdalo group, it's fairly clear that the Magdalo group was far more organized and efficient than any political parties that attempted to take advantage of this event. It's clear the Magdalo group had their own agenda apart from the political players.
5. They're season veterans claiming that they've been betrayed by the country they've bled and died for, and fingered the highest military authority below the president as a ringleader.
6. Everyone seems to agree (except perhaps for a certain Defense Secretary and others in his camp) that there are legitimate grievances, but this was not the place or time to engage in acts such as this to force change.
7. While everyone points out the economic problems that this will cause, they argue that nothing will improve anyway unless the changes they propose are implemented... whereas in the long run, the country will benefit if they are.

Likely scenario:
1. Punish the heads of the "coup" to the full extent of the law.
2. Make minor but public concessions to the minor demands of the group, and belittle their primary demands and accusations.
3. Use the event to purge convenient political targets like Honasan and supporters of Erap.
4. Release lots of well-written PR crap to confuse and depress the rest of us.
5. Life goes on.

I don't agree with their methods as well, but would I tell these "idealistic" folks to wait for change from the stagnant and self-perpetuating bureacracy of our country if I met them? I have no answers. I suppose they've made their decisions and took action.

Perhaps more of us should take action if we still care about our country. If indeed there is still a country to care about.
This Sunday morning, a bunch of junior military officers holed up in the Oakwood apartments and G4 complex. Their grievances: among other concerns like low pay and lack of housing as compared perhaps with then Philippine National Police... an accusation that General Angelo Reyes was behind not only the sale of weapons and ammo to the MILF, but also gave the go ahead for the bombing of the Davao airport by military personnel. Another accusation - the potential declaration of Martial Law in August of this year.

Most of the concerns are about the impact to the economy... and yet, these officers don't appear to be concerned about that. They must be concerned about generals and other government officials growing wealthy over the deaths of the comrades and bloodbrothers... enough so that they are willing to lay down their lives (having already said goodbye to their families already).

As for the involvement of ousted presidents and members of the opposition... it's likely they are using these military groups for their own purposes with promises of support and so on. I'd be shocked if this were the case, though... since these problems were certainly aggravated if not started by that prior administration.

I think that there's obviously more complexity to the situation than is apparent on the news and the spin placed on it by the various political parties. From the statement of the military personnel, it's apparent that the junior officers believe in what they're doing, but were probably convinced or manipulated by others to believe that there's no other option.

And the politicians are having a field day, jockeying for position.

Apparently, though, the Estrada camp released a CD across the country (which I don't have a copy of) that shows how the plight of the common Filipino has worsened in the time of PGMA (including of course the injustices against the former president). So there was SOME planning in the Estrada camp for this.

I hope it doesn't overshadow their grievances about the military. Apparently they DID express their concerns directly to PGMA, but nothing happened in the interim. So they assumed she was part of the problem...