Ghosts of Christmases Past

When my cousins called from the U.S. on Christmas Day, it brought back memories of the days we grew up looking forward to Christmas gifts and Santa, dreading dressing up and going to crowded churches, and running around without a care in the world.

I remember Lechon Baka slowly spinning on a spit, and having our storytelling and games interrupted by having to greet relatives who I'd remember for the occasion then forget for the rest of the year. I remember being offered alcohol that I'd avoid due to a promise to my paternal grandmother.

I remember occasionally hanging out in the Guard Room when celebrating at my maternal grandparents' place in Greenhills West, inhaling second-hand smoke and watching the guards play chess.

I miss them days.

Still there's room fer new memories. Plenty of room.
Someone to Talk To

Xandro: As a kid, we (Alex and I) were introverted. Sort of. I think that the common perception was that we were painfully shy. Once we considered you a friend, though... we wouldn't shut up.
Alex: And to some extent that's still true today.
Xandro: Shut yo' mouth, fool. I'm talkin'.
Alex: M'kay.
Xandro: Kate left for Vietnam this afternoon and I miss her already. One of the reasons is the temporary loss of someone to talk to. Another reason is the temporary loss of someone to be silent with.
Alex: Xandro's overanalyzing, but he's right. It's wonderful to be engaged in hours of conversation with someone you love... but it's just as wonderful to be sitting comfortably side-by-side with her and silently enjoying the company.
KawangaKid: This season's message was brought to you by... Hallmark.
Alex: How'd he get in here?
KawangaKid: Hallmark, more than just greeting cards...
Xandro: He's the defense mechanism. Keeps us from getting too mushy.
Alex: Thank you, Mr. Exposition.
KawangaKid: ... also a fine provider of family-oriented shows...
Vlad: Back to work, you fools.

Doctor ... Who?

Apparently, the Doctor is coming back. Based on this link from BBC, the venerable series Dr. Who is part of their new season lineup.

Acclaimed actor Christopher Eccleston plays Doctor Who in a new series for BBC One next year.

Billie Piper, who made her acting debut in the critically acclaimed Canterbury Tales - The Miller's Tale, stars alongside Eccleston as the Doctor's companion, Rose Tyler.

Travelling through time and space, the Doctor and Rose come face to face with a number of new and exciting monsters - as well as battling with the Doctor's arch-enemy, the Daleks.

Check out the site for an aptly named "teaser" of the series.

Comic Book Universes

I've always been more a DC Comics fan than a Marvel fan. It's with great delight that I've been following two series: Green Lantern Rebirth and Identity Crisis.

Identity Crisis

I enjoy this series primarily because it's a detective novel set in the DC Universe. I thoroughly dislike what happened to the Dibneys, but I am fascinated by the characterization (mostly) and the airing out closets with long-hidden skeletons tumbling out. I like the polarization of politics in the JLA.

On the politics of having great power and having to work through the morality of what to do with it, and how to protect yourself and those you love from the fallout... the treatment here being a lot less radical and violent than something like Dark Knight Returns. It rings true that longtime friends (who have fought alongside each other on countless occasions, and have saved each others lives on almost as many occasions) would have such varied opinions, break up their affiliations to an organization, but still be "in touch" with those friends.

The Hawkman / Green Arrow antagonism is much more than the caricature that we've seen it before... more than a hard-nosed, control freak against a liberal, seat-of-the-pants type of guy. There is a rift between them that will not easily be bridged. And yet they are bound by a secret.

Zatanna is the one voice I expected to hear more from, given that her abilities were pretty much the cause or catalyst of most of the story. Oh well, one more issue to go.

Green Lantern: Rebirth

Only two issues in, and I'm hooked. The story's shaping up to have a more satisfying redemption of Hal Jordan than the Final Night storyline, without painting poor Kyle as a weak-willed Johnny-Come-Lately. The writer, Geoff Johns, seems to have a real affection for the Green Lantern Corps mythos and seems set to right the injustices that have been wrought on Hal's character (which really annoyed me) without sacrificing yet another part of Kyle's life.

There are also interesting lines that pepper the series so far that have special resonance: "An Impurity." "Beware My Power." "Parallax is Coming." "Don't be afraid."

I'm waiting to see where Johns takes us.

I'm curious about the
A Dark and Terrible Storm

I am more than a little bit relieved that the superstorm passed with a lot less rain than expected. Alas, the winds that battered our poor country (and countryfolk) aided in the demise of more citizens, and hampered rescue efforts.

I'm hopeful that the light of scrutiny is being focused on the inability of our government's organizations to prevent massive illegal logging (and rampant overfishing). Perhaps public outcry will do something.

It's likely that people will forget. Or that people will be paid to forget. It's likely that our forests will continue to be decimated and our natural resources will continue to be exploited. Why should the Philippines be any different from the rest of the world?

Alex: Well, the only writing I've been able to do, aside from work-related stuff, is for a speech. My novel-to-be is dead with a single entry, and I'd delete if it weren't for the possibility that I might actually come up with a plot for the situation.

Xandro: Alex, Writing does take a lot of discipline.

Alex: *whipcrack*

Xandro: No Alex, self-discipline. *beat* What I mean is, it takes willpower and persisitence to finish a novel in a month. Even short stories require that.

Alex: Well, there's a script that I've been meaning to finish for Ner. For four 24-page comics.

Xandro: Then enter there. (Sorry, dear reader. That's an in-joke between me and Alex)

My efforts to embark on the NaNoWriMo quest of a novel in a month are hitting choppy waters. It's difficult to churn out thousands of words of plot, character and theme when you've not really completed that many stories in years. Often my ideas wrestle me down paths of too much research and I have to revise my plans.

Still, as a challenge, it is an engaging one. Being forced to focus on the potential plot and characters of a story worthy of a novel is something I've never considered before.

The FAQ for the effort notes that much of what is written will likely be crap, but that the goal is to push the writer to WRITE regularly and towards a specific goal. Heaven only knows how successfuly I will be. Writing crap novels takes time too, apparently.
Some Recognition

HERO SYSTEM SIDEKICK is the set of Easy Learning Rules for the Hero System.

Here's a quote from the SIDEKICK book published by DOJ, Inc. (dba Hero Games):


Playtesters: We were especially fortunate to have the time and the resources to playtest Sidekick broadly and extensively. In addition to our regular group of Digital Hero testreaders, over the course of more than a month, dozens of playtesters - men and women, adults and children,
experienced gamers and newcomers, and gamers from many countries around the world
- got together to put Sidekick through its paces and report back to Steve regarding their impressions of the bookand suggestions for improving it. They are: Tobie Abad, ... , JayAnyong, Kate Aton, ... , Lenard Ignacio, ... , Adrian Martinez, ... ,Alexander Osias, ... , Vincent Michael Simbulan ...

A Pause in the Rat Race

As I type this, I'm actually at Kate's parents' place, while Kate (my beloved mahaw) furiously studies for her upcoming certification exams on her laptop.

It's nice to have days like this where things stop moving quite so quickly (and by this I mean, the clients that I have to handle are also on vacation), and be able to pause and recharge.

A major project that I've been overseeing has taken a strange turn. Now, I will have to engage the services of my company to handle a lot of documentation because we will no longer be performing several very hectic training schedules this coming November and December.

This means I'll be able to focus on ensuring that the manuals we've provided are complete and not totally incomprehensible to the people who'll be using it to install and configure and use our application.

In the past few weeks I've been to Cebu, Davao (which has a very nice new airport - kinda like a smaller Centennial Airport), and Zamboanga. I'm no stranger to travel, but it was one of those few times where I go alone to these places... and you discover that time alone is often a matter of killing time (unless you've got a presentation to prepare or work to coordianate back at the main office).

It's nice to be back in the Metro...
Out And About
Well... I leave the Metro again for a client-oriented trip. It's got something to do with this long-running project I'm involved with. It's sad, but it will suck up my entire day just for a 1 hour presentation. Normally a shorter presentation based on the last time I did this.

Feh. Best to bring my charger.
Research and Puzzles

IMPERATOR. \Im`pe*ra"}.] (Rom. Antiq.)
A commander; a leader; an emperor; -- originally an appellation of honor by which Roman soldiers saluted their general after an important victory. Subsequently the title was conferred as a recognition of great military achievements by the senate, whence it carried wiht it some special privileges. After the downfall of the Republic it was assumed by Augustus and his successors, and came to have the meaning now attached to the word emperor.

Why did this word jump out at me when visiting the site of the American Association - Electronic Voice Phenomena? I'd gone to the site after visiting the link providing by Garapata's blog on the movie thriller White Noise. And I saw an article regarding safety. Here's an excerpt:

Attitude is everything. Attitude is an expression of our worldview, and it
is our worldview that we use as a mold to build our personal reality.
We have
had a number of people ask us about the dangers in seeking to communicate with
our friends on the other side. Some have expressed great concern that they might
leave themselves open for attack from angry entities or that they might
inadvertently invite a disruptive force into their home. The words, “demon” and
“low levels” have come up more than once. We think a better term might simply be
“less spiritually evolved entities,” as this is what they are. However, “low
level” seems to be the term that is most used and understood...
... It has been made clear, via just about all of the forms of spirit
communication, that Spirit entities are always with us. They may be in our home
at any time, whether we sense them or not. A group we have communicated with,
the Imperator Group, has told us that they do not watch us, and that they only
come to us when we call on them or when we need help. We are certain that this
group is not earthbound. It may be that earthbound entities do watch us. With
that said, we believe that EVP researchers can request privacy and can tell
earthbound entities to go away if they are being bothersome. An entity certainly
does not have to be in your home to initiate EVP.

That word jumped out at me. Perhaps because it's Latin? I figured that the site could be a pseudo-site used to market the movie and it sounded like a term that the movie might use. Latin's always great for making scary movies.

A quick search online brought me some results...

Lisa says she and Tom were stunned. "It has been over two years since we had
recieved a medium stick artifact from the Imperator Group," said Lisa. The
Imperator Group is a Spirit World group that specializes in independent writing,
and frequently include small "Medium" sticks in their correspondence.

(from this link to the National Spiritualist Association of Churches newsletter archive)

Here's another...

In 1897 the Imperator group took charge of the séance proceedings. Phinuit
disappeared and Pelham became relegated to the role of a minor communicator.
While Phinuit had much difficulty in keeping back other would-be communicators,
the advent of the Imperator group of controls made the communications freer from
interruptions and from the admixture of apparently foreign elements. They
excluded "inferior" intelligences, whom they speak of as "earth-bound" spirits,
from the use of the light. Under the new regime the communications assumed a
dignity and loftiness of expression, as well as a quasi-religious character,
which they had heretofore entirely lacked. Moreover, the passing in and out of
the trance state which in the earlier stages had been attended with a certain
amount of difficulty and discomfort, now, under the new conditions, became quiet
and peaceful. Prof. William James called special attention to the point that the
Imperator group of controls not only exhibited characteristic personalities, but
they could divine the most secret thoughts of the sitters.

(from the Biography of Leonora Piper)

What we now call the "Imperator group," representing
alleged spirits, assuming Latin names for reasons that have not been explained
and for which we need not care until later discussion, may best be described,
for the sake of clearness in understanding, as a group of personalities
purporting to take charge of the "communications" from the "other side"
precisely in the same manner in which Mrs. Piper has been scientifically managed
on this side. From what has been said the reader can perceive that, on any
theory whatever of the facts, they appear to be intermediaries for the
"communication" of supernormal facts and that their work takes the form of
supervision of the whole process. What will be the outcome is not yet known. But
they still control the experiments and represent, with the frequent assistance
of George Pelham, a most interesting and complicated psychological problem for
science. What the Imperator group does cannot be treated as evidence of spirits
until they prove their identity, but what is mediated through their action in
proof of the identity of others must receive serious consideration of some kind
and may indicate the supernormal acquisition of knowledge, while its analysis
and explanation may suggest a theory beyond any form of secondary personality
that we know.

(from History of the Piper Case)

Fascinating indeed...

Mighty Men and Monster Maker

I always had leanings towards art. I never really pursued it with the same passion that my other classmates did, though. I was always a dabbler, deferring to classmates who apparently had greater talent in the field.

Then I found a toy: the Mighty Men and Monster Maker! It allowed you to build a wide variety of heroes and villains, and all you needed was a the toy itself... a crayon, and a sheet of paper. You had plates that you could shift around (for the head, torso, and legs) and when satisified you put the paper on top of the templates and rubbed the crayon.

Viola! Instant character.

Alas, they only had a certain number of poses and could never give me the sense of motion I wanted... just like in the comic books... so after a while I put it away. Somewhere.

Still... all is not lost... check out online! It's almost like an online version (upgraded and improved and... well... new!)

Bourne Again

I enjoyed the sequel to the movie version of The Bourne Identity. On reflection, the plot of Bourne Supremacy isn't really that complex, but the way that the story was shot and edited kept the pacing fast and the tension taut. Action sequences are excellent, but not as over-the-top as some other spy thrillers might have gone.

It's amusing to see how far ahead of almost everyone else Jason Bourne is... but there is a minor thing that set alarm bells ringing in my head. Cellphones. In a country awash with cellphone promos and cellphone theft... we're somewhat familiar with dead spots and security issues regarding cellphones.

We know that the U.S. embassy has very strict policies about not using cellphones inside their facilities. We've also heard rumors that the local CIA office (oh, it's reputedly somewhere in the vicinity of the embassy) has anti-cellphone devices that block / interfere with cell signals. Security issues. Yet Bourne was able to contact one of these CIA heads (one in her own office in NY) through the cellphone. And she NEVER uses the Caller ID function, dammit!

Minor quibble... but I kinda expected that they'd be set up for tracking the cellphone already the next time he called. Maybe they couldn't do it in the foreign countries where you need an "in" with the cellphone providers and the governments... but in the U.S. of A... in the interests of national security?
Misheard Lyrics

It irks me when I hear wrongly sung lyrics, primarily because it derails my remembered enjoyment of the song I'm listening to. However, I often have to double-check myself because I'm guilty of the same thing!

For example, for the longest time I thought Boz Scaggs' "We're All Alone" had the following lyric: Close the window, come alive. Alas, the true lyric is: Close the window, calm the light.

I'm not alone... other versions of the same misheard line include: Close the window, come alight. Close the window, Carmelite. Close the window, come and lie.

Looking for a great collection of these misheard lyrics? Go here.

Here's a sample:

Heart's, "All I Wanna Do (Is Make Love To You)"
Misheard Lyrics:
All I wanna do is fake love to you
All I wanna do is tape bugs to you
All I wanna do is fake Fudd's 'yoohoo'
All I wanna do is take clubs to you
All I wanna view is clay stuck to you
All I wanna chew is snake gloves for you.
Correct Lyrics:
All I wanna do is make love to you.
Neil Gaiman's "A Study in Emerald"

I am a fan of Sherlock Holmes, of course. That's why this interesting "alternate universe" take on the story was immensely entertaining. The little twist at the end answered a nagging issue set up by the short "advertisements" at the beginning of each chapter of the short story.

Rather than spoil the story for those who've not read the story... I'll put the rest of my blog in light blue:

The story clearly establishes that in this dark world where the Old Ones have taken over, the terrible villains of literature are successfuly businessmen or even celebrities... but then, what are Sherlock Holmes (the heroic consulting detective) and his stalwart companion Watson doing in the employ of the terrible Queen? It was something that greatly puzzled me and annoyed me...

The twist is that it is not Sherlock Holmes who is the consulting detective. Nor is Watson the scribe of the story. Instead, James Moriarty and one of his right-hand men, Colonel (Major in the story) Sebastian Moran, who are the heroes of this grim little tale.

Taken from

These days, even American and European gamers are outsourcing drudge work to China, Russia and elsewhere.

'Multiplayer online gamers have long cut corners by paying real cash for in-game goods that would take them hours of playing to earn, while others have padded their offline budgets by selling excess game goods or even their characters when they stop playing.

'But now, the reality of exchange rates and international income gaps has spawned a virtual version of the real-world relationship between rich and poor countries. While players in wealthier countries casually drop hundreds of dollars to buy their way into better positions in the games -- or out of tedious parts of the games -- some workers in poorer countries are playing around the clock to produce virtual goods that earn them real money.'

How funny, so now there's a 3rd World-based black market for game items and characters? It gives an interesting twist to those who've long longed for being able to game for a living.

A Whole Lotta Shakin'!

This morning I awoke because I felt my bed shaking beneath me. I felt the my mind's normally slow transition from slumber to wakefulness race ahead of my body's own responses. It began positing observation after observation, and drawing inferences: the rhythmic shaking of the bed, the odd rocking motion transferred to my body, the tapping of the blinds against the windows in the same rhythm.


The clock said 3:15, and I remembered in the way that one of those strange useless bits of trivia force themselves into your consciousness that the clock was often 4 to 5 minutes ahead.

Then I realized that I was also praying. In the back of my mind, I caught the last words of a prayer that I suppose is my natural response to waking at this strange hour: "... world without end. Amen."

I checked with Manang Connie if she'd felt the earthquake. I tried to get back to sleep.

About an hour later, I did.

From the Philippine Star:

MANILA (AFP) - An earthquake registering 6.2 on the Richter scale shook the Philippine capital and surrounding cities Thursday but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties, government agencies said.

The quake, with an epicenter off the coast of Batangas province, just 110 kilometers (68.2
miles) south of Manila, set objects swaying in the capital and the neighboring provinces of Bataan, Batangas, Pampanga and Zambales at about 3:10 am (1910 GMT).

The quake, which was tectonic in origin, is expected to have aftershocks, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said.

Justice League vs. Cthulhu?

Well, apparently in the Season Two season ender of the Justice League cartoon, they go up against a villain known as... Ichthulhu. Hm. The minions of the villain (who is an alien / god from another dimension) all seem to be similar to other Lovecraftian horrors. Like Gugs, and the Old One with mouths in the palm of his hand... and...

Interesting... especially since I'm running my Champions campaign again.
Three Words: VAMPIRE The Masquerade
Jon Henley in Paris
Wednesday September 8, 2004
The Guardian

Police in Paris have discovered a fully equipped cinema-cum-restaurant in a large and previously uncharted cavern underneath the capital's chic 16th arrondissement.

Officers admit they are at a loss to know who built or used one of Paris's most intriguing recent discoveries. "We have no idea whatsoever," a police spokesman said. "There were two swastikas painted on the ceiling, but also celtic crosses and several stars of David, so we don't think it's extremists. Some sect or secret society, maybe. There are any number of possibilities."

Members of the force's sports squad, responsible - among other tasks - for policing the 170 miles of tunnels, caves, galleries and catacombs that underlie large parts of Paris, stumbled on the complex while on a training exercise beneath the Palais de Chaillot, across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower.

After entering the network through a drain next to the Trocadero, the officers came across a tarpaulin marked: Building site, No access. Behind that, a tunnel held a desk and a closed-circuit TV camera set to automatically record images of anyone passing. The mechanism also triggered a tape of dogs barking, "clearly designed to frighten people off," the spokesman said.

Further along, the tunnel opened into a vast 400 sq metre cave some 18m underground, "like an underground amphitheatre, with terraces cut into the rock and chairs". There the police found a full-sized cinema screen, projection equipment, and tapes of a wide variety of films, including 1950s film noir classics and more recent thrillers. None of the films were banned or even offensive, the spokesman said.

A smaller cave next door had been turned into an informal restaurant and bar. "There were bottles of whisky and other spirits behind a bar, tables and chairs, a pressure-cooker for making couscous," the spokesman said. "The whole thing ran off a professionally installed electricity system and there were at least three phone lines down there."

Three days later, when the police returned accompanied by experts from the French electricity board to see where the power was coming from, the phone and electricity lines had been cut and a note was lying in the middle of the floor: "Do not," it said, "try to find us."

The miles of tunnels and catacombs underlying Paris are essentially former quarries, dating from Roman times, from which much of the stone was dug to build the city. Today, visitors can take guided tours around a tightly restricted section, Les Catacombes, where the remains of up to six million Parisians were transferred from overcrowded cemeteries in the late 1700s. But since 1955, for security reasons, it has been an offence to "penetrate into or circulate within" the rest of the network.

There exist, however, several secretive bands of so-called cataphiles, who gain access to the tunnels mainly after dark, through drains and ventilation shafts, and hold what in the popular imagination have become drunken orgies but are, by all accounts, innocent underground picnics. The recent discovery of three newly enlarged tunnels underneath the capital's high-security La Santé prison was put down to the activities of one such group, and another, identifying itself as the Perforating Mexicans, last night told French radio the subterranean cinema was its work.

Patrick Alk, a photographer who has published a book on the urban underground exploration movement and claims to be close to the group, told RTL radio the cavern's discovery was "a shame, but not the end of the world". There were "a dozen more where that one came from," he said. "You guys have no idea what's down there."
Getting Ahead

Only a few weeks ago I seemed to be getting ahead in work! Now it seems I'm behind and I've got to stay in late to keep afloat. Gah.

Michael Moore

I find myself looking forward to viewing Michael Moore's Farenheit 9/11. It promises to be an excellent film, despite the accusations of folks who support Bush.

I don't expect the entire film to be completely logical (mostly logical would be nice) but I do expect to enjoy it and learn a few things.

Why don't I have this expectation, having admitted that I haven't seen it yet? I picked up Moore's book Dude, Where's My Country? and perused some of it.

MOORE'S CONCLUSIONS: I noticed that Moore had essentially come to the conclusion that Osama Bin Laden could not have run the terrorist operation because he had to undergo regular dialysis in a country without modern conveniences (such as the fax, the ATM, the local photocopier/office center franchise).

This is a dangerous conclusion, despite the tongue-in-cheek nature of the writing. To underestimate someone just because they don't have the same equipment that someone in the U.S. would use to perform the same tasks can be fatal. A highly motivated individual can work wonders or wreak havoc despite seeming handicaps.

Filipinos in particular are familiar with this. Examples include the earlier discussions on the .45 Colt and running amok, experiences as U.N. Peacekeepers, and the ability of old Katipuneros to run their organizations from inside American-run prisons in the Philippines...

He may yet be right on Osama Bin Laden. Given the relative dearth of FACTS that we common folk have available to us, such a thing is possible. However, I caution against underestimating someone who may have nothing to lose... with an organziation around him who feel much the same.

The funniest things come to you when thinking about the grand design of life and living. I remember a little anecdote told to me in grade school. Grade 4, if I'm not mistaken.
It was in a the American Midwest, and there was a terrible drought. At a church, a congregation had gathered to pray for rain, and lots of it... they were all praying so fervently. Then the priest spotted a small girl in the congregation.

She'd brought an umbrella. In the huge throng of people, she alone had enough faith (and foresight) to bring an umbrella to ward of the deluge they were all praying for. The priest commented that if the rains came, it would be due to the faith of this little girl.
Our teacher never did tell us if it rained.
I'm a fan of the HERO System RPG and am quite happy that they've got some pretty good folks in charge of the company these days. Here's a listing of the awards they've managed to garner this year at the 2004 Ennies.

Best Official Website
Gold - Hero Games
Silver - Green Ronin Publishing

Best Non-d20 Supplement
Gold - Fantasy Hero (Hero Games)
Silver - 50 Fathoms (Pinnacle Entertainment Group)

Best Non-d20 Setting or Setting Sourcebook
Gold - The Turakian Age (Hero Games)
Silver - To Go (Unknown Armies) (Atlas Games)

Best Non-d20 Adventure
Gold - Champions Battlegrounds (Hero Games)
Silver - Shades of Black (Champions) (Hero Games)
From Seelie to Silly

The word "Seelie" dates back to about 1200 AD, when it meant "punctual, orderly". In 1225 it was being used to mean "blessed" or "pious", and 1250, "well-omened, fortunate". Oddly enough there don't seem to be any references in the OED to its use in a supernatural context.

It seems as though any references to "Seelie" and "Unseelie" fairies originally just meant "nice" and "nasty", very similar to the Filipino view of our own such 'spirits' ranging from benevolent to mischievous to malevolent. No real "Courts" to speak of.

By the end of the 13th century, "seelie" was shifting in meaning towards "innocent" and "harmless", and over the centuries, it came to have more and more implications of triviality. In fact, we still use it today, with a vowel shift. The Silly Court, anyone?
Barrett announces 25mm man-portable assault cannon in testing

Sound cool? There's more...

"For some long-range sniper missions, a .50 caliber (12.7mm) round just
isn’t big enough. The Barrett company, which pioneered the development of the
modern .50 caliber sniper rifle, has now built a 25mm sniper rifle (although
shoulder cannon may be a more precise term), the XM109. Ten prototype weapons
are being made available for testing this month. Designed to destroy light
armor, the XM109 is a semi-automatic 25mm rifle that has a 17.6 inch long barrel
and an overall length of 46 inches. It weighs in at 46 pounds and has a 5 round
magazine. In comparison, the Barrett M107 .50 caliber sniper rifle in general
use today has a 29 inch barrel, overall length of 57 inches, and weighs in at a
mere 32 pounds, with a magazine capacity of 10 rounds...

Effective distance armor piercing “lethality” for the rifle is listed at
2000 meters. The 25mm round is derivative design from the AH-64 Apache
helicopter’s M789 high-explosive dual purpose (good against armor and personnel)
30mm ammunition and will penetrate at least 50 millimeters of armor plating,
making it capable of destroying light armored vehicles, SCUD launchers, and
other equipment. According to the ammunition manufacturer, the 25mm round is 2.5
times more effective at destroying targets than a .50 caliber armor-piercing
round. At some point the system will also be integrated to use 25mm airburst
ammunition designed for the OCWS."

What's that in HERO terms?

The gun is listed as being able to penetrate 50mm of armor plate.
According to the 5th Rules Edition, 64mm of Medium armor is Def 13 and 9 Body, so it needs to do 22 Body. Assuming average results, that's a 6d6 RKA... or more likely 4d6 AP RKA. It's going to need increased range to be able to shoot out to 2000 meters. And then 2 clips of 5 charges.

4d6 AP RKA, Increased Maximum range (105 points Active), 2 clips of 5
Charges, OAF, Real Weapon, Beam. Total cost: 35 points (the real cost
will drop once we can figure out the STR min this beast should have).

Add BORS +14 penalty levels with range (42 points active), OAF, Real
weapon. Total Cost: 19 points.

Number Crunching and Game Balance

I've been ruminating on the nature of point-based character design systems. In essence, point values are assigned to things (attributes, characteristics, powers, bonuses, advantages / disadvantages, knacks, gear, followers, l33t skillz, etc.) that are help / hinder a character in the game as compared to everyone else. If it helps your character do stuff better than the "standard person" in a game then you "pay" points for it. If it hinders your character, then you "get" points for it.

In other words, enhancements to the baseline 'human' have a positive (+) point value, while limitations on the baseline 'human' have a negative (-) point value.

Why a baseline human? Well, I guess because most game designers figured players are familiar with what a normal human has and would be able to build their characters accordingly. "What makes my character better or worse than the normal human?" players will think and build their characters accordingly.

It would be supremely annoying to me, for example, to have a baseline Noldor elf as the starting point and have to go "What makes my human character better or worse than the normal Noldor elf? He doesn't have the clear complexion... doesn't have killer reflexes... isn't effectively immortal... man, my character sucks! Hey, do Noldor elves lose their temper more easily than human? GAAAAAHHHH!"

Now think of applying that to other non-human races like Dralasites or Xenomorphs or Vorlons or Vulcans. Not fun.

So... baseline 'human'.
Now you've done it...

From the Green Ronin Website:
Don't miss the 2 preview PDFs covering the Canaanite Religion, and New Spells.
Ah, I can just see the 700 Club licking their chops right now...

Testament: Roleplaying in the Biblical Era
You've Read The Book, Now Play The Game!

There were giants in the Earth in thosedays, and also after that, when the sons
of God came in onto the daughters of men and they bore children to them, the
same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.

- The Book of Genesis

The world of the Bible comes to life in this campaign setting for the d20 System. Play a wandering Babylonian magus, a sorcerer in the service of Pharaoh, a Canaanite maker of idols, or a prophet of the God of Israel. Walk the streets of ancient Jerusalem, stand beside King David as one of his Mighty Men, smite Philistines, ponder the mysteries of gargantuan tombs, look upon the dwellings of the gods, and battle demons, dragons, plagues, and the legendary beasts of Babylon. Testament gives you everything you need to immerse yourself in the Biblical Era, including:

  • A dozen new core and prestige classes, including the Levite Priest, the Egyptian Khery-heb wizard, and the Desert Hermit.
  • Over 30 new monsters, including Nephilim, Tempter Devils, and Zebub-Spawn.
  • Over 50 new feats and over 100 new spells.
  • Rules for barter, curses, piety.
  • Guidelines for leading a small tribe through the hazards of the Bronzeand Iron Age world.
  • The Biblical Battlefield Resolution System, a new way to fightepic combats.
  • Full cultural details on ancient Israel, Canaan, Egypt, and Mesopotamia, including history, beliefs, holy days, architecture, and more.
  • Dozens of new magic items and artifacts.Part history, part mythology, Testament is the d20 System setting that's both instantly familiar and yet unlike any game world you have ever experienced.
Holy Comics Code, Batman!

I ran into this on the blog Grotesque Anatomy:

NARRATIVE CAPTION: "Then, as Flash's fingers go into titillating action..."
FLASH: "He's doing it! He's stretching up -- like only the Elongated Man could!"
[A couple pages later]
FLASH: "Yank it, Ralph! Yank it hard!"

- From The Flash #119 (reprinted in The Flash Archives Volume 3)

You see? Silver Age comics were not only escapist, they were educational... encouraging us to use our imagination in many wonderful ways.
Gun in Hand II

Then again, Filipinos do have a history of not being immediately taken down by the almighty gun.

The famed Colt .45 pistol was invented specifically to knock down sword-wielding Moro warriors whose courageous, suicidal attacks were termed ‘running amok'.
Gun in Hand

Just last week I tried my hand at shooting pistols again. The last time I tried to fire a pistol was almost more that two decades ago, and I could barely pull the trigger (so forget about aiming).

A friend of mine from the States generously took me to the PBDionisio range and had me go through the basics. Also enjoyed the burgers and softdrinks there. As for shooting... oddly enough, I seemed to have improved. In my memory, I really sucked at firing rifles and couldn't hit the target with the pistol.

Still, the most frightening thing is how used to firing a pistol you get. After the first few clips, the sound no longer bothers you, the kick no longer frightens you, and you forget that what you hold in your hand can easily end a life. You're just focused on hitting the center of the target...

It's funny. That's why I kinda roll my eyes when folks tell me that I shouldn't bother with 9mm pistols and should go straight to the .45s. "More stopping power" and all that. A bullet in the right place should stop anyone (okay, maybe not if they're wearing kevlar or a helmet...)
Engineer, Literary Critic, and Marketing Guru
Dave just alerted me to the presence of the MIT OpenCourseWare site. On this site you can find the full course material for many MIT courses. A product of MIT's failed distance learning initiative, the course material ranges from the following areas:

Aeronautics and Astronautics
Biological Engineering Division
Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Chemical Engineering
Comparative Media Studies
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Foreign Languages and Literatures
Linguistics and Philosophy
Mechanical Engineering
Nuclear Engineering
Political Science
Science, Technology, and Society
Sloan School of Management
Urban Studies and Planning
Writing and Humanistic Studies
Among the top countries to make use of the site (as in downloading and studying the courses at home) are Vietnam and China. The Philippines, apparently, doesn't even rank there... yet.
Come on, friends! Let's take on the course material! Let's form study groups and learn... Nuclear Engineering?

Keep 'em Flying!
It's a hellish week for me here at the office. Lots of work that I have to author, oversee, review and pester people over. There's scheduling nightmares and deadlines that have to be met. I think it's time for reinforcements.
I think it's time for an image change. Check my upper left-hand image on how I feel!
I remember somewhere that when the speed of events increase, sometimes a system has to adapt and translate to a different state or structure. Well... I think it's time for my brain to change! Come on, brain... transcend the limitations of your linear thinking!
Focus, concentrate... and relax!
Fanboys Unite!

Here's an excellent indie film:

Grayson. Great trailer, great "how I made the film" download. Want to get the copy of the actual film!
Returning or Retreating Heroes
An editorial by The New York Times in its July 19 issue titled "A Filipino Retreat," described President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's decision to pull out as a "victory" for terrorists.

"Terrorists in Iraq scored a victory when President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of the Philippines decided to accelerate the withdrawal of her nation's token contingent of troops to spare the life of a Filipino hostage," the New York Times said.

It said Ms Arroyo might enjoy short-term euphoria at home over her decision, but it warned that her action could have "disastrous longer-term consequences for her government."
"The Philippines, after all, faces a number of terrorist groups on its own territory, and millions of its citizens work overseas. It is never wise for any government to be blackmailed by terrorists into abandoning its policies, but it seems especially ill advised for Manila to be doing so," the newspaper said. "Spain and some Latin American countries had every right to exercise their sovereign judgment that it was best to leave Iraq. But their decisions, unlike President Arroyo's, were not driven by terrorist demands... One can understand the desire to save a life, but Manila's retreat will only place all other foreign nationals in Iraq in greater peril," the newspaper said.

The soldiers pulled out to "save" the life of Angelo de la Cruz may be unfairly branded as cowards. Our soldiers are among the bravest and valiant troops there (and have been there the longest).

It's not really a matter of cowardice, but a matter of breaking ranks... and in the face of terrorism. GMA who was among the first to support and commit its forces (admittedly a small contingent) when the U.S. of A. sent the call out to allies for aid in Iraq. Now she gives the word to be among the first to pull out in the face of terrorist blackmail. Probably the right political decision, but disastrous in terms of foreign policy and the safety of Filipino OFWs around the world.
Sadly, we were set to pull out our troops in August. Not giving in to terrorist demands would naturally mean staying in only a little while longer. A few weeks earlier in exchange for a life.
What about all the other truck drivers and OFWs in Iraq? The ones who refuse to pull out despite the government's stance? The ones who've been volunteering for the hazardous triple-pay duties that few other will take because it places them in harm's way? The ones who have spent their life's savings to get to Iraq and earn a decent wage for their families because they cannot earn enough at home to feed them? The ones who knew the risks and bravely went anyway?
Will they now be in greater danger? Used as leverage against our country?

The Isle Thickens
At last! My character has the Craft of a Tinker... *evil laughter*

But the price! The terrible, terrible price...

YM: Best of the 80s
Been tripping on some "radio stations" of YM. Here's the playlist of the last few hours:

Def Leppard - Pour Some Sugar On Me
Heart - These Dreams
Glass Tiger - Don't Forget Me (When I'm Gone)
Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark (O.M.D.) - If You Leave
Bryan Adams - Summer Of '69
Cutting Crew - (I Just) Died In Your Arms
Duran Duran - Hungry Like The Wolf
The Outfield - Your Love
A-Ha - Take On Me
Tears For Fears - Everybody Wants To Rule The World
Berlin - Take My Breath Away
U2 - I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
And so the Old Orders Pass Away...
3 hours ago: The Theocracy of The Supreme Nikita ceased to exist.
27 days ago: The Kingdom of Vasool ceased to exist.
31 days ago: The Federation of Baron Munchausen ceased to exist.
39 days ago: The Sultanate of The Alfar ceased to exist.

We shall miss them.
More "Wala lang" Posts
A cinematographer (from 'cinema photographer') is one photographing with a motion picture camera. The title is generally equivalent to director of photography, used to designate a chief over the camera and lighting crews working on a film, responsible for achieving artistic and techical decisions related to the image. The cinematographer is sometimes also the camera operator.

The cinematographer typically selects the film stock, lens, filters, etc. to realize the scene in accordance with the intentions of the director. Relations between the cinematographer and director vary; in some instances the director will allow the cinematographer complete independence; in others, the director allows little to none, even going so far as to specify aperture and shutter speed. Such a level of involvement is not common once the director and cinematographer have become comfortable with each other. The director will typically convey to the cinematographer what s/he wants from a scene visually, and allow the cinematographer latitude in achieving that effect.

On some shoots, a director may assume the duties of the cinematographer, especially when shooting nude scenes or in other physically intimate settings where the director wishes to have as few people as possible present.
Was initially recorded by the Bangles in 1988, and became a number one hit in April 1989. This was the same year that Debbie Gibson's "Lost In Your Eyes" hit number one as well.

Atomic Kitten got a number one hit for remaking "Eternal Flame" in 2001.

Wala lang.
42.857142857142854% of me is a huge nerd! How about you?

Blood test analysis shows:
0-9%: You're clean. Although, the fact that you made it through the entire test without leaving in disgust probably does count for something...
10-19%: n00b.
20-29%: You might be infected. Just slightly, but it will fester and grow and there is nothing you can will be assimilated, resistance is futile.
30-39%: Embrace the nerdness. Don't bother making excuses for why you were watching the sci-fi channel anymore, it's too late for that.
40-49%: What's this, a well balanced nerd? Impressive.
50-69%: Dangerously make that dangeresque.
70-89%: You eat lembas for breakfast, know more IP addresses than phone numbers, and watch star trek reruns in your head. At warp speed.
90-100%: l33t hax0r king! pwner of n00bs! All hail ye, and despair! try to shower on a somewhat regular basis, though.

How to make a Xandro Osias
1 part mercy
5 parts brilliance
5 parts energy
Layer ingredients in a shot glass. Add a little cocktail umbrella and a dash of sadness


Personality cocktail

How to make an Alex

1 part competitiveness
3 parts crazyiness
1 part joy
Add to a cocktail shaker and mix vigorously. Add caring to taste! Do not overindulge!


Personality cocktail

Isle & the Vast: Nuances in Meaning
The Widow is not a Widow merely. Apparently she's also known as The Dowager in the time spent by our characters in The Vast.
(n.) A widow endowed, or having a jointure; a widow who either enjoys a dower from her deceased husband, or has property of her own brought by her to her husband on marriage, and settled on her after his decease.
(n.) A title given in England to a widow, to distinguish her from the wife of her husband's heir bearing the same name; -- chiefly applied to widows of personages of rank.

Ooh. I wonder who died. I wonder who the heir is.
Tinker Research
Well, the name tinker actually originated from "tin-worker" and was normally associated with the creation of horseshoes.

In the expanded concept of being the "Blacksmith" or "Panday", there's a lot of interesting information to be found.

Blacksmithing is not all pounding iron, it is design, layout, cutting, drilling, joining, finishing, tempering, welding, brazing, tool making. . . Blacksmithing is almost ALL the metal working trades all combined.

The blacksmith is one of the few craftsfolk than, can, do and are often required to make their own tools. Blacksmiths make their own tools because eventually every smith finds that his particular product or style of working requires his tools to be more specialized.

Heh. There's knowledge of metal, knowledge of heating & cooling metal, telling temperature by the color of the metal, knowing if something was wrought or was forged...

The Tools of the Tinker

# Hammer - A standard blacksmith's cross peen hammer.
# Anvil - A blacksmith's anvil is usually their first expensive tool.
# Forge - The forge may actually be the blacksmith's most important tool but because there are so many ways to make them they are not difficult to obtain. Because of this they are also the most variable piece of blacksmithing equipment. Fuel can be charcoal, bituminous coal, oil or gas. Forges can be of elaborate construction or built from junk. DO NOT get stuck on some idealistic 19th century vision of a forge.
# Vise - Almost as important as the anvil and the MOST used tool in ANY shop. For pounding on, a blacksmiths leg (post or "solid box") vise is necessary. The bigger the better but any size will do. For smithing the vise needs to be sturdily anchored to a heavy bench, a bench anchored to the wall or a post set in the ground.
# Tongs - Can be purchased but I recommend you make a few pair for the experience. Did you know that Vise-Grips were invented by a blacksmith trying to make better blacksmith's tongs? NOTE: Vise-Grips actually make lousy tongs except for very small work OR odd billets and should only be used until you make a couple of pairs or REAL tongs. Real tongs don't require tongs to make, except perhaps installing the rivet if you heat it in the forge.
Work, Work, Work
I'm told it's a matter of scheduling, of getting ahead. But I don't seem to be very good at it. Anytime I get into the groove of being able to complete my work, I tend to become exceedingly detached and controlled. Which I don't like.

Balance. Balance. Balance.

Actually, it's all about changing gears. It's easy to go from 4th gear to 1st, but it tends to mess up the car.
The Poor: Smarter Than You Think

I stumbled upon an article from the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism site. It essentially makes a case for a more intelligent "poor vote" that we give the poor credit for. Here are some excerpts:

Based on the results of 16 focus-group discussions in rural and urban poor communities throughout the country, the IPC study shatters stereotypes about the poor voter. It's key findings include:

- The poor ranked education, experience, platform, and track record as among the most important criteria for choosing candidates.
- They do not necessarily have high regard for the wealthy and powerful. What they do have are idealistic notions of leadership, valuing qualities such as piety (makadiyos), helpfulness, sincerity, and responsibility.
- Celebrities are not necessarily preferred by poor voters. Many said they value educational qualifications, but they were also suspicious about those with superior education. They said experience and good intentions more than compensate for a lack of college education.
- The most import sources of influence in the choice of candidates among the poor are, in declining order: the media, the family, the church, and political parties. Surveys come in last on the list.
They're not that different from how the rest of us are... are they?

The most frequently mentioned qualities of a good leader were:
Makadiyos (God-fearing)
Matulungin (Helpful)
Matapat (Loyal)
Responsable (Responsible)
Matalino (Intelligent)
Masipag (Hardworking)
Maprinsipyo (Principled)
Tumutupad sa pangako (Keeps promises)
Mapagkakatiwalaan (Trustworthy)
Source: Institute of Philippine Culture
Asbolleuty Iblnrcedie

I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdgnieg!
Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Amzanig huh?

Sort of...
I wasn't able to read even the first sentence the first time. Then I went into "speed reading mode" and I had no problem reading the paragraph. Very interesting exercise.
Beyond the Isle
A thoroughly enjoyable romp through Dean Alfar's Isle! Roughly a third of the gaming time was spent learning about how things were on Isle, before a sudden change in the status quo. The next third of the game was about how our characters endured the aforementioned change, and the final third dealt with our characters learning our crafts...

Crafts. Ways of Magic.

Here's a word from my character, Zoilo Itash on the encountered crafts:
I hope to be a Baker/Tinker when I get back to Isle, assuming the murderous brothers who are "training" me don't kill me before I can get back. Truth be told, I'd rather be THE Tinker, rather than A Baker. Some crafts apparently allow for multiple craftsmen, while others only allow a unique bearer of the craft at a time. The unique ones I've heard of so far include... the Tinker, the Tailor, the Soldier, the Spy, the Rich Man, the Poor Man, the Beggarman, and the Thief.

I was sent here to be a Tinker, however. It seems that the Tinker is needed to set things right on Isle. To find out what has happened to the Widow and the Bastard and the Hollow. Perhaps we are meant to contact the Fabulist or the Lyric or even the Wanton when we return. Perhaps not.

It seems The Tinker is rubbing off on me, because I've become more comfortable improvising rather than planning.

Thanks again to Dean for running the game, and signifying interest in playing! Thanks to Nikki for contacting me to set the game up! And, thanks to both of them for patiently waiting at the Petron gas station near my place. Perhaps they can devise a better way of giving directions for other interested in trekking to the game at my place.
The Art of Fighting
This once a week Arnis thing is great for occasionally exercise, but ideally I should be able to practice more than once a week! Need to lose the growing spare tire, and need to return to the old 'flexibility' especially when doing the fancy footwork.

Maybe Tennis would be a good "cross-training" sport...
RPG Plans
Too many RPGs, too many stories, too little time & money. I've always had difficulty trying to juggle all the RPGs and storylines I want to run, so here's what the menu currently looks like:

- Call of Cthulhu: Masks of Nyarlathotep
- Fantasy Hero: Shadowrealms of Kulthara

- DANGER SUPERNATURAL: The Philippine Connection
- FADING SUNS: The Lazarus Season (Test Game for Hinirang RPG)

- CHAMPIONS: San Angelo City (Multi-GM Experiment)
- HINIRANG: The Unexplored North

Teodoro C. Benigno's Opinion column Here's the Score seems to be predicting doom and gloom for the Philippines in stark contrast to the sunny outlook touted by current administration supporters.

Of course, everyone else seems to be in the "doom and gloom" mode given the increasing lack of faith in the current democratic institutions in this country. What's interesting is his attack on... the Catholic Church for coming out and essentially declaring the voting free of cheating even before the tallying of COCs have been completed.

In his own words,

This is a double rendering to Caesar what is due Caesar, (in this case Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo), and to God what is God’s, in this case the assembled bishops of the most numerous Church. I say the Church has ventured into slippery ground, which has to do with the constitutional separation of Church and State. I say the Church should have left FPJ alone. He should have been allowed to walk the constitutional trail without encumbrance, limp and stagger if need be in the canvassing, and collapse at the end. FPJ did not have to be told, however indirectly, he had already lost the presidential elections even before the Congressional canvassing started.

This is not fair. This is not just.

I have never been a fan or admirer of FPJ. In fact, I have often roasted him over the coals in this space as being unfit for the presidency. But as in the profession of prizefighting, he should never have been counted out while he was still standing, even if he was bloodied and broken all over. Since the Church believes in miracles, there was still the miracle Da King could recover and beat GMA by a whisker. But I suppose he was condemned to defeat from the very beginning by the Establishment. Even in cockfighting, the injured or fatally crippled cock is removed from the pit only when it is dead and cannot stir anymore.
Welcome back, Jack

"Cynosure. Sweet, cynical Cynosure. Where the dimensions meet... Guns work here, magic works there... swords work everywhere."

I first encountered Grimjack in the cluttered and grimy comics shop of Tibor. I started late in the series, but eventually managed to hunt down almost every last back issue of this series.

Grimjack was essentially an ex-soldier turned Private Investigator / Mercenary / Bodyguard. He had a code of ethics that he stuck to come hell or high water, and often found those principles tested in the back alleys and twisted intrigues that plagued Cynosure and all the dimensions touched by the Eternity Rail.

I remember John Gaunt known better as Grimjack. I remember his best friend Blackjacmac and regulars at Munden's Bar. I remember the tragedy of Rhian and the Demon Wars and magical, doomed Pdwyr. I remember Mama Joe Miller and her infamous medallion (Miller's Medallion). I remember the arch-villains: Dancer, the Hanged Man, and the demons... all those stories and more...

Now it's all finally coming back. After years and years of attempts, John Ostrander and Tim Truman's creation "GrimJack" will be making a comeback after finally securing the rights to the character they created. IDW Publishing announced that they'd be the new home of "GrimJack." The article can be found here.
Bananaman and Kid Saging
Here's a neat picture by a friend of mine of a comic strip that'll be coming out.

Pick up the comic book compilation WAN, and the the upcoming TU and TRI.
Tales from the North: Sa Lahat ng Fans...

... ni Sharon Cuneta?

One of the funny moments during our bus ride up to San Fernando, La Union was when we were listening to the radio on the bus. Eraserheads' "Para sa Masa" came on and we we began musing about the effect of Eraserheads on the local music scene, the band explosion that came around that same time, Ely Buendia's songwriting, River Maya's songs...

Then we heard the lines

sa lahat ng di marunong bumasa
sa lahat ng may problema sa skwela
sa lahat ng fans ni sharon cuneta

and began to laugh inanely.

One of the ways to understand the Filipino psyche is really to listen to OPM songs (even the badly written ones). They speak volumes about what our desires, dreams and daily struggles are about... and reveal all the myriad attitudes that Pinoys and Pinays have towards the trials they encounter in life.

They also speak volumes about what various record companies believe the "masa" wants to hear, but that's another tale...
Tales from the North: Poro Point
We ended up taking lots of pictures all over Poro Point. We got to see the Voice of America facilities (but were only allowed to take pics of the outsides). Very tight security there. Once our cameras were out of digital film, we were allowed inside the facilities and got to see the racks of electronic equipment, backup generators, control room, emergency room, and a peek at the door to the safe room and rooftop escape hatch.

We go to see the cottages (where even GMA stays when in La Union) and the white sand beach. We got to see the lighthouse (but weren't able to go up into it). We even got to go to the La Union airport!

Here we are posing by the "Adarna Plane" we discovered at the airport. From left to right, that's me, then Ross, Jay, and the shadowy and mysterious Lenard.

Here's the frontage for the Ma-Cho Temple. It's a Chinese Temple honoring the female deity Ma-Cho, also known as the... Virgin of Casayaysay. Say what?
Tales from the North: Bus Trip
The trip to San Fernando, La Union was cold. You see, we weren't warned that the bus trip (on a Partas bus) was gonna be cold. Airconditioned are supposed to be cold, but because it was a night trip, it was even colder. For folks in T-shirts, it was a problem.

The Nisce twins had brought jackets and caps. I began wearing a shirt on my head to keep it warm, and crossing my arms over my chest. Eventually, Jay (who had brought a jacket) loaned me his, being somewhat impervious to the cold. Lenard placed a towel over his head.

There were several pit stops along the way where we bought snacks and drinks or used their facilities. The music was a mix of old and older pop songs and ballads that we occasionally made fun of, or began long trips down musical memories of our younger years.

We finally arrived at around 2:30 AM at the twins' place.

Kids, a trip up to San Fernando, La Union costs P235. Don't forget your jacket and headgear if you travel by night. An alternative sound system may be of concern to you, if you don't like the ABS-CBN radio station's programming.
Tales from the North

Lenard, Jay, Ross and I survived the Partas trip to San Fernando, La Union. Oddly enough, half the crew almost missed the bus... literally. We were told that the bus would leave at 9pm, and so Lenard and Ross went to find Jollibee food. Around the time we began to wonder where they were (8:15pm) the call went out for our bus.

And so we called them up and said "get back here". After convincing them it wasn't a joke, they made it back in time.

More on the trip later!

My father once told me that the words "compleat" and "complete" are two different words. The word "compleat" is neither an incorrectly spelled "complete", nor the British way of spelling the American "complete". It is a different word, with a similar meaning. They are not, however, the same.



1. Of or characterized by a highly developed or wide-ranging skill or proficiency: “The compleat speechwriter... comes to anonymity from Harvard Law” (Israel Shenker).
2. Being an outstanding example of a kind; quintessential: “Here was the compleat modern misfit: the very air appeared to poison him; his every step looked treacherous and hard won” (Stephen Schiff).

adj. com·plet·er, com·plet·est

1. Having all necessary or normal parts, components, or steps; entire: a complete meal.
2. Botany. Having all principal parts, namely, the sepals, petals, stamens, and pistil or pistils. Used of a flower.
3. Having come to an end; concluded.
4. Absolute; total: “In Cairo I have seen buildings which were falling down as they were being put up, buildings whose incompletion was complete” (William H. Gass).
5. a. Skilled; accomplished: a complete musician.
b. Thorough; consummate: a complete coward.

Long Distance Communications

Only 5 years ago, this kind of communication was unheard of. I can text my sweetie in the U.S. and she can text back (as long as she's got load). It's not quite real time, but it's a lot more convenient that e-mailing... which requires a computer, internet access, etc.

Cellphones have probably changed the lives of many OFWs in like manner. Although I'm aware of many other options for communicating with your loved ones back in the Philippines.

There are call cards (pay $10 and get x minutes of talk time). There are those Internet Phone thingies (requiring Internet access - even if just in an internet cafe). There's those communicator thingies that can access e-mail. There's the Instant Messaging option...

All to keep in touch and communicate better, and make the world a little smaller.
Election Shmelection
Well, I voted. thankfully the lines weren't horrendous when we went.

I was struck by how many "political families" have youthful scions getting into the act. There were several Mathays running. Cayetano's daughter.

And now the various "quick counts" are setting up different leads... who will really win?
Chairborne Ranger
Took this title off of one of the blogs I visited concerning Micah Wright. Wright, as some of you may know, is the writer for several comics and some other projects.

I first heard of the guy when they were hyping up Stormwatch: Team Achilles, a comic book about highly trained humans fighting against superhuman entities mucking about in the world. I was drawn to the story because of the idea - I'd been in an RPG almost a decade back that had this same concept and wanted to see how it was treated.

I stopped collecting it quite early. The story just wasn't what I was looking for. It seemed to be a lot of piss-and-vinegar about how wimpy superhumans were and how normal humans were "real men and women". The supremacy of the normal human and all that. It was looking more for the writing that I found in the comic "The Human Defense Corps". Less macho. More professional. More human, but still with a lotta healthy attitude.

Oddly enough, at the time I felt that this Micah Wright dude seemed a bit off... like someone who still had something to prove. Then I read that he was an Army Ranger. I was wrong. I re-wired my brain, to allow that some folks who've served time in the military still enjoy and brag about the bloodletting and whatnot as portrayed in his book. I guess not everyone's take on combat is like the dudes in Band of Brothers (in both the book and the HBO series).

Then I read some of the books of Dick Marcinko, and it confirmed that... except... Marcinko's books still felt different to me. He was a gung-ho military stereotype, but he seemed to downplay a lot of what we'd expect for the climactic endings... He seemed a lot more matter-of-fact, take-it-or-leave-it. I figured that he was one-off from Micah... bit more mature perhaps, but cut from the same cloth.

Apparently not.

Micah Wright has never been an Army Ranger. He lied.

Check out these links for more:
Comic Book Resources
Jim Treacher
Mea Culpa
The Mudville Gazette
Paper Chaste
Well I've been away from writing for a long, long time. Time to barrel into it with the continuation of the Sandugo storyline. Already have 8 pages done... need 15 more installments of 8 pages each to fill up a 96 page book.

I've been re-reading a lot of standard and deconstructionist superhero comics and letting them percolate in anticipation.
The Grind
Feeling a bit under the weather but I have to stick to my work. I have work to finish by tomorrow.

Thank goodness I have a little - CRAP! I forgot to get the parking thinggie for my car.
Alas, Hellboy...
I wanted to enjoy Hellboy. I didn't have high hopes given the contradictory nature of the movie's reviews. I figured that the visual design and the special effects would've been great and the movie would've been passable.

But from the beginning I was disturbed. The voice over made me uneasy. I expected a pseudo-documentary style exposition of Hellboy's background, I guess... There was an unusual amount of banter for the normals of the crew. The scripted lines were awkward, and the characters were cardboard.

It did get better. I like the characterization of Hellboy, and he looked great. I forgot he was a guy in a suit. I liked the little touches like the food (pamcakes!), and his style of humor. I was expecting that he would be the only wise-cracking character as well, but apparently everyone got into the act at one time or another with a few exceptions. The evil creatures were stunning, but disposed off relatively simply...

I dunno... too uneven. Too unfocused. Too much banter, not enough atmosphere.

Loved the scene with the kid, and the awkward style of HB despite his strength. AGH! I'm disappointed.
Post-holocaust speculation
A few weekends ago, the Game Bandits were discussing the shape of a post-holocaust role-playing game. The very word post-holocaust conjures up visions of Mad Max and its copycats on the widescreen... but would that really be what it would be like? Would civilization fall so hard and so low that roving bands of marauders would war against those who tried to keep civilization together?

While most of us had a somewhat optimistic view that humanity would continue on somehow... the big question was how far would the situations devolve? Would all the important knowledge for keeping civilization's gears just vanish? Would someone be able to keep the generators running? What about the gasoline that's used to keep those generators running? Would there be anyone qualified to run those refineries?

I suppose a large part of the speculation must be: how did civilization fall?

And that brings me to nuclear war.

Growing up in the 70s, 80s, and early 90s instilled in me a healthy respect for the atom bomb. While recent movies like T2 & T3 and the more recent Paycheck showcase the awesome power of a nuclear payload dropped on a large urban center... few really focused on the horror that followed...

I remember movies like The Day After causing me nightmares. If you didn't die from the blast, then you had to endure the radioactive fallout. Not to mention having to deal with all the little things we take for granted... like finding clean water and food. Well, you could find the water and food easily... they'd be glowing. *Nervous laughter* But they wouldn't be clean.

Assuming you survived the nuclear bombardment, or are one of the lucky few that's immune to a biological holocaust... what do you roleplay if you set your game in the few years immediately following the crisis? Well, aside from fighting panicked and insane looters and would-be warlords...

How about the joy of avoiding epidemics of typhoid fever, cholera and dysentry?

Typhoid fever is a bacterial infection characterized by diarrhea, systemic disease, and a rash -- most commonly caused by the bacteria Salmonella typhi. S. typhi are spread by contaminated food, drink, or water. Early symptoms are generalized and include fever, malaise and abdominal pain. As the disease progresses, the fever becomes higher (greater than 103 degrees Fahrenheit), and diarrhea becomes prominent. Weakness, profound fatigue, delirium, and an acutely ill appearance develop.

A few people can become carriers of S. typhi and continue to shed the bacteria in their feces for years, spreading the disease, as in the case of "Typhoid Mary" in New York over one hundred years ago.

Cholera is an acute illness characterized by watery diarrhea. The toxin released by the bacteria causes increased secretion of water and chloride ions in the intestine, which can produce massive diarrhea. Death can result from the severe dehydration brought on by the diarrhea.

Cholera occurs in epidemics when conditions of poor sanitation, crowding, war, and famine are present. Endemic areas include India, Asia, Africa, the Mediterranean, and more recently, South and Central America, and Mexico. The infection is acquired by ingesting contaminated food or water.

Where would all this contamination arise from? Aside from the nuclear radiation, the huge death toll would result in hundreds of thousands of bodies. These bodies would ideally be disposed of properly to prevent the spread of disease and contamination of food and water sources... but since the survivors would be focused primarily on finding food, shelter, and clothing... these would likely be left out to rot.

No wonder all these post-holocaust games are set when some kind of status quo and rudimentary infrastructure has been set. It gets really depressing to role-play day-to-day survival.

Thank God for civilization. And as far as I'm concerned, I don't think that beauty queens wishing for world peace is THAT funny... I used to pray for world peace every single day.
Astro City returns!
I'm quite fond of Astro City - and here's a snippet of an interview of Kurt Busiek regarding the latest installment of the series...

KB: Okay, as I noted, the next big arc is The Dark Age, which will ultimately take 12 issues to tell. It's our biggest, longest, most sprawling epic to date, following two brothers -- one an Astro City cop, one a criminal -- as they deal with personal tragedy and with life in Astro City throughout the Seventies and the Eighties. This is the story that was originally going to be Marvels II, though we've changed it around a lot -- a lot! -- as we've developed it into an Astro City tale. It's also the story that deals with how things went dark for superheroes and for the city in the Seventies. It'll finally reveal the story of how the Silver Agent died, and why he's got that memorial statue with the strange epitaph.

So that'll be a big story, but since it's all set in the past, and since many of the Astro City heroes that people have been asking to see didn't exist yet or weren't active then, we're going to be interspersing Dark Age with some standalone extra-length specials, focusing more directly on the big heroes. That way, we can do the big story everyone seems like they're itching to see and get a look at some of the more popular characters that haven't gotten the spotlight recently.

So Astro City: The Dark Age will be broken up into four three-parters, each telling one crucial story in the lives of Charles and Royal Williams, and in the history of Astro City. And we'll alternate those with what's currently planned to be five hero-focused specials. We'll do a special, then a Dark Age arc, then another special, then another Dark Age arc, and so on, wrapping up with one last special after the Dark Age’s conclusion.

Confusing as hell? Yeah, kind of. But keep in mind, this'll all take a couple of years to get through. Shaking it up will give us breaks where we can catch up on the schedule, and change the focus regularly, so Brent doesn't go for my throat after drawing Seventies hairstyles and cars for too long.
A Healthy Dose of Escapism
May I direct your attention to the MMORPG titled City of Heroes?

It's currently in its Beta testing phase and allowing pre-orders. The graphics are impressive, the rationale for cordoning off sections of the city is acceptable, and the assigning of "missions" in the superhero genre is also plausible and fun. It really makes you feel like you're part of a group of super-powered heroes working together to fight the enemies of the citizens of Paragon City.

The costume creation mechanics are neat - they really give you a wide variety of body shapes and costume colors, patterns, and "flair". The fact that you retain that distinctive look during gameplay is all the more impressive.

A friend of mine mentioned that the term "kill-stealing" doesn't really apply to the world. Given the "super-hero" setting, it didn't make sense for the champions of the city to argue "HEY... that guy was mine!" Well, maybe sometimes... but not ALL the time. You're supposed to be heroes! So, they've just agreed on certain protocols (such as offering help, or saying things like "thanks... but I could've taken him myself!" to keep things friendly) for now...

As for character creation - it's very versatile and allows for a wide variety of superpower combinations, but keeping the power levels low initially... and then growing as the hero gains experience.
Rumors, Threats, and Scares: Holy Week in the Philippines

It's Holy Week again here in the Philippines, and the rumor mill is in full swing. There are rumors that a terrorist attack by various groups is imminent. Possibly explosives placed in a public area such as a mall or on a crowded public road, various text messages and concerned friends declare. Which terrorist group? No one can say for sure.

Still, that won't stop most people from braving the malls or the roads. The rumors are more or less the same every year.

But it IS an election year, and one that will probably get quite heated as election day gets closer. It is also very close to the tragic terrorist bombing in Madrid. These two circumstances may certainly cause many to think twice about dismissing the rumors.

Another rumor flying around is that the bombings are not necessarily going to be by terrorists, but by the current administration or one of the other parties interested in taking power in the Philippines.

The current administration (one friendly to the current interests of U.S. Presidential incumbent George Bush), may be considering a Plaza Miranda-type move to remain in power... given that for all their Social Weather Station surveys showing PGMA in the lead... it's likely she's only ranked 3rd or 4th nation-wide. For those of you who don't know what Plaza Miranda is...

On August 21, 1971 (only 12 days after I was born), Plaza Miranda was bombed. The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) was blamed, and this was the basis for the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in 1971 and the imposition of martial rule in 1972.

Other parties may be considering such a tactic to throw shame into the current government, or to further destabilize the country, or as a prelude to yet another coup. ("Come to our beaches, stay for the coup! WOW Philippines!") I don't think I need to explain what a coup is. Every minor and major incident seems to be viewed as the prelude to one.

Or these may all be part of the propaganda and psychological warfare between the increasingly fragmented and self-absorbed political factions of this country.

And who pays the price?

Perhaps we can go to the streets and ask where Juan de la Cruz is. Perhaps he's already decided to take his chances in places like the U.S., Canada, Australia, or New Zealand. Better than starving or being caught in the crossfire between people who worry where their next million pesos will come from.
PVCOMICS: Full of Indy Comics Goodness

No, not PVP Comics... PV Comics! Some of their comics you have to subscribe to, but a lot of the free ones you can see at

I really enjoy Lint McCree and the creative and mysterious (and a bit funky to navigate) Invisible Forces.
Ocean's Eleven: Say What?
There's a lot of slang in Ocean's Eleven, and here's my take on one line loaded with slang...

"You'd need at least 12 guys doing a combination of cons. A Boesky, a Jim Brown, a Miss Daisy, two Jethroes, and a Leon Spinks, not to mention the biggest Ella Fitzgerald EVER."

Okay. So these are the names of the cons... each one obviously alluding to what each of these folks are famous for... but what the heck do they mean?

Boesky: Could refer to Ivan Boesky, responsible for one of the biggest insider trading scandals in the U.S. The scam for getting lots of insider information was performed by their resident tech guru. On the other hand, Reuben, the guy who bankrolls the heist also knows a lot about the vault and about casinos in general... but it's not really a con, is it? However, my vote goes to Frank Catton was the planted inside man WHO WAS CAUGHT. Boesky was caught doing his thing and so was Frank... so that they could steal the codes from Terry Benedict.

Jim Brown: Could refer to Jim Brown, a legendary running back in American football. Bigger, better, and fast fast fast. Also an activist. Since he's black, many folks chalk this up to Frank Catton's "it's all because I'm black" scene. Still, a running back carries the football during a running play... so which con is this? I thought this might actually be Saul's performance as the bigshot "Lyman Serge" (sp?). He carries the attache case that could be thought of as his "football" and doesn't let it go until it's in the end zone (the vault).

Miss Daisy: Miss Daisy was a rich white person driven around by a chauffer. Could be Saul again, but as a con... it could be the con of getting someone else to "drive" the Amazing Yen into the vault.

Two Jethroes: The two scenes of two idiots fighting each other, causing a disturbance. Gee, who did these? Obviously, the two idiots of the team...

Leon Spinx: Delivers a knockout punch. Probably Basher, who was there to engineer the blackouts.

Ella Fitzgerald: Some folks believe that that's supposed to be the fake vault tape. This is because of a Memorex tape commercial wherein a taped Ella managed to break glass. For me, it's either this or the performance of Linus... who had to improvise all the way through a tough and shrewd Terry Benedict.

Feh - I'm not really all that sure... but what do you think?


Your Fate in Gehenna by jahred
Your Characters Name
Clan/bloodlineBlood Brother
What you DoYou fight Ashur
What happens to youYou get dragged into the abyss
What happens to the worldYou Take over it
Created with quill18's MemeGen 3.0!

Your Fate in Gehenna by jahred
Your Characters Name
What you DoYou fight the camarilla
What happens to youYou lose all your power
What happens to the worldWod 2.0 is created
Created with quill18's MemeGen 3.0!