PAX Prime 2012 Review

I came back from Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) on Monday and I thought I would give a little writeup on how it went.

At PAX you are surrounded by thousands and thousands of gamers. Computer gamers, console gamers, card gamers, role playing gamers, dice gamers and so on. It really does not matter what kind of a gamer you are. You could even just be the casual gamer and still find a place at this convention. You can easily talk to anyone at PAX about any aspect of gaming you want too. It’s such a friendly and fun atmosphere. This is why I have gone for the last three years.

While at the convention I picked up the following items.

Hannah wearing a ‘Cards Against Humanity’ T-Shirt. She found to answer t-shirts to go with hers.

Cards Against Humanity which is an adult card game much like Apples to Apples. Just for adults. The tag line is “A Card Game For Horrible People”. So many people were playing this all throughout PAX and laughing hard while playing it that I had to pick up my own copy of the game. Cards Against Humanity started off as a free game and still is free. You can download the free PDF and print off your own cards. After a while they started a Kickstarter project to have official cards made. Now you can buy your own like I did thanks to the people who helped fund their kickstarter project.

Smallworld – Be Not Afraid… Expansion. Smallworld is a great board game I have been playing with friends for a while now. I was stoked to find this expansion for the game and can’t wait to play a game using it.

Pathfinder: Ultimate Equipment is a new Pathfinder Roleplaying Game book with all kinds of Weapons, magic items, armor and much more. This is going to be such a useful tool for me when planning out adventures in my own Pathfinder game.

I was disappointed that TECMO/Team Ninja’s Dead or Alive 5 did not have a booth. This is one of my all time favorite video games and I have been looking forward to part fives release for over a year now. The last edition of the game was not available for the PS3. This version is and I am stoked to get back into it.

I was pretty impressed with Nintendo’s Wii U showing on the convention floor. The graphics are way improved and the controls were pretty neat. Now they just need games that support the new hardware in unique ways.

PAX rocks and I am looking forward to next year.

Curiosity

Ever since the Curiosity rover left our planet last November on it’s mission to Mars, I have been waiting with much anticipation for it’s landing on the red planet. Last Sunday the wait ended with the Curiosity rover’s landing on Mars. From what I have been reading and watching on the internet It appears the landing went off with out a hitch.

Hannah and I stayed up late on Sunday night to watch the NASA USTREAM of the landing. Here is a recap of the broadcast.

The landing on Mars was an amazing event to watch and I feel lucky that Hannah and I got to watch it together. After things calmed down, I could not help but noticed the abundance of Apple MacBook Pros everyone was using at NASA. Which lead me to post the following on Google+.

And then I created a meme from the post.

Since that Sunday we have had some more photos from Mars that are quite stunning. Its amazing what we can accomplished as a people when we work together for a common goal.

Over Reactions

Youseph's Head In a JarRelationships have always fascinated me. Why do some couples always fight about every-little-thing while others seems to have a very good understanding of one another? What keeps one couple from flying off the handle when hearing bad news while another couple is ready to rip each other apart?

Part of the answer to this, I think, is that we live in a world where everyone wants to talk and no one wants to listen. Everyone is trying to get their two cents in at exactly same time as everyone else. Which brings up a very interesting point. The world likes listeners.

Maybe it’s because in this highly addictive world of Twittering, facebooking, Google Plusing, and blogging everything that happens to you, we have forgotten how to listen to and console each other. Just by listening to what someone has to stay you are gaining that person’s trust and friendship. This puts you, the listener, is a position of importance to the people who are talking to you.

So, why do some couples in a relationship struggle and fight with each other while others, seemingly fewer, thrive and communicate better? I believe a majority of the blame for this kind of behavior can be placed on the media. Movies that are romantic comedies, books that are about love and life. These forms of entertainment have to have some kind of conflict built into them otherwise the movie or book would not be very long at all. Movie studios and book publishing companies would collapse and life as we know it would come to an end.

Have you ever watched a movie where the two main characters, who are in love with each other, over react to a situation or do something completely stupid that jeopardise their relationship? When that happens do you ever think to yourself; That is not how I would have handled that at all? I hate when that happens in a movie or a book. Nothing pulls me out of story more then when the characters do something so out of character. I think it is this kind of media. This kind of over reaction that happens in movies and books that affects us as a society and bleeds into our everyday lives causing us, a generally understanding and calm people, to overreact when similar issues arise in our private lives.

So how do we become an understanding and caring people again? How do we not fly off the handle the next time someone close to us tells us some bad news? I think the answer goes back to what I said earlier about listening. Listening is the key.

You have to teach yourself to listen. You can do this in small steps too. Lets say that tomorrow when you go out to lunch with your friends you are going just listen to what they say. How their day is going? How’s their job treating them? How’s the wife and kids? Whatever they want to talk about, go with them. Let them guide the conversation. If there is a lull in the conversation ask them questions based on what they have been talking about. But do try this selfless act. You’re going to learn a lot about your friends and what they go through. Who knows? You might even have some insight for them that would improve their life greatly. But the key here is to learn to listen and to ask questions that keeps your friends engaged. In their eyes you are going to become a very important and understanding person.

Next, how do you not overreact when you are in a relationship and your partner just gave you some disturbing news? Well, I think what you have to do is breath and listen to all that they have to say. Take in everything. Your partner is, in a way, exposed at this point so any lashed out retort on your part is going to only make the situation worse. I think the key here is take it all in. Don’t be like the characters in a movie or a book. Take in the information you are being told and process it. This may mean taking a day or more to yourself to do that. But do it so that when you do replay you are a rational and calm human being about it.

Look, I don’t claim to be a psychologist or to understand human behaviors or reaction. This post is a result of my own personal fascination of relationships and my observations of the world around which I live.

The Memory Palace

Memories, remembering, and how thought and the recall of thought works for people is something I often find myself thinking about a lot. I think this is because at one point in my life I needed to be on antidepressants and they really messed up my short-term memory. So, I find myself thinking about how people remember things and recall things.

The first time I started thinking about how the brain and thoughts work was early on in school. I was told by my music teacher that the human mind can only handle seven independent things/thoughts at one time. If you add an eighth in the mix, one of the other seven will no longer be available to you.

The way this applies to music and my drumming, he told me, was that when you are drumming you are using all four of your limbs behind the drum kit. Your arms and legs. Each one is doing something independent of the other. That is four things your mind is tracking. You are also keeping time in your head and anticipating what is coming next. That is six things. The seventh thing I find myself doing while I am playing music is just either looking around and being observant of the other musicians. Sometimes I’m thinking about random things such as what I am going to make for dinner or what is on the agenda for work tomorrow. That’s my seven things at once. The brain can’t handle anymore than that. This point gets proven over and over again with me during band practice whenever anyone hits a note that is not correct, or plays something different. This by default makes me drop whatever extra thing I am thinking at the time to focus on the change in the music. Sometimes I won’t be as lucky and forget what I was thinking. Sometimes one of my legs or arms will quit working and the drum beat I will be playing will sound wrong. So a lot of discipline goes into being focused and prepared for something unexpected when I am playing music with my band.

In the past I have talked about how much I like, and use, the Getting Things Done (GTD) work methodology developed by David Allen. It’s great for keeping tasks and projects, both work and personal, organised in a way that allows you to get things completed quickly and efficiently. But the thing that makes GTD so great is the fact that it frees up your mind to allow you to have ideas. Unlike remembering things, having ideas is something the mind is great at doing.

“Your mind is for having ideas, not for holding them.” – David Allen

By being able to put your tasks down in a system that you trust allows you to focus on your next action rather than spending your time worried about the overall project. It really is a life changing way to work and get things done. If you have not looked into before, I highly recommend that you do so.

The latest thing I have been learning about almost contradicts GTD in a way. The Memory Palace is an ancient way of remembering anything. By having a house for all your thoughts that are triggered by distinct locations within the house of your minds eye you can recall any kind of information. See the videos below to better understand what I am talking about.

Sherlock Homes

Jeremy Brett as Sherlock HomesWhen I was still in high school I read all of the Sherlock Homes Adventures by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Something about the way Sherlock Homes could solve problems and see things others couldn’t always interested me. I say this about my brothers a lot but, I love how Sherlock’s thinks, how his mind works. I wish my mind fired as fast as theirs.

Sherlock Holmes is a fictional detective of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, who first appeared in publication in 1887. He is the creation of Scottish author and physician Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. A brilliant London-based detective, Holmes is famous for his intellectual prowess, and is renowned for his skillful use of “deductive reasoning” while using abductive reasoning and astute observation to solve difficult cases.

Sherlock Home: The Complete Granada Television SeriesNot long after I finished reading all the Homes books I found The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes tv series on the A&E Network. My mom and brother would sit with me and watch it. I don’t know why, but not long after I moved to Juneau I started poking around the internet looking for the DVD’s of this great show. I was able to find a few disks on Amazon.com, but never the complete series. Then a couple of years ago I found myself walking through the DVD section of Costco when I spotted Sherlock Home: The Complete Granada Television Series. I picked it up, No questions asked.

The actor who plays the master detective in this series is Jeremy Brett, who many consider to be the definitive screen version of Sherlock Homes. His story is quite sad actually if you read up on him. His acting though, is masterful.

I would love to hear what you think of Sherlock Holmes and how you feel Jeremy Brett’s version stacks up with Robert Downey, Jr’s version.

 

 

Betta Care

Over the last few weeks since my wife gave me a Betta for Valentines day, I have learned a lot about Betta fish care and I thought I would share with you what I have learned. Turns out that a Betta Fish can require more time and care than you might think.

Bettas come from tropical areas in Asia. Like Thailand and Malaysia.  Two male bettas should never be placed in the same tank unless you have a divider. The male Bettas tend to have the large colorful fins whereas the females will have smaller fins.

If two male Bettas share one aquarium they may very well fight to the death. In the wild however, bettas do not fight to the death. They will fight till there is a winner for the territory. The loser will go off and hide, or jump to another area to find safety (which is why bettas should always be in covered tanks, but still have access to air). In small tanks, there is no where to hide, thus leading to deaths.

Like lots of other people I have been told through friends and pet store employee’s that Betta fish like and flourish in small aquariums or fish bowls. It turns out that this could not be further from the truth! Bettas, especially those kept in smaller bowls need to have 25% of their water changes twice a week along with full bowl changes weekly. This was my biggest reason for getting a larger aquarium with an adjustable flow water filter. You want a slow flow filter so that the water current produced by the filter does not over power your Betta.

When you first get your Aquarium you want to clean it out, along with anything else you plan to put into it (rocks, plants, or ornaments) with warm to hot water. There seems to be some debate on the internet about how you should go about cleaning aquariums and the items you put into it, but I have found warm to hot water does the job for my single male Betta.

Feeding Bettas can also start a debate online it seems. I would like to share with you what I have found that works. Bettas have a lot of personality and they will beg for food. I feed my Betta fish twice a day. Two pellets of Betta fish food. Once or twice a week I will substitue the pellet food with bloodworms. You can get bloodworms at your pet store. Just thaw them out in something like a shot glass with water. I use tweezers to pick out two bloodworms (one at a time) and feed them to my Betta. It seems Betta fish like a variety of food and my Betta enjoys his bloodworm meals.

I hope you find this information useful. Have you discovered any tips or tricks to take care of your Betta? Please leave a comment and let me know!

A Good Cigar

I enjoy a good cigar. There is nothing like it. I thought I would share with you a couple of my favorite cigars that I always have in my humidor.

Arturo Fuente creates a cigar known as the Hemingway Classic. It’s a mild to medium strength cigar in a medium brown colored wrapper. My brother, Abe turned me on to this guy and I have always had one close by ever since. It is probably my favorite cigar that I smoke. The box these cigars comes in too is really quite nice as well and I think could be repurposed into a great many things.

Romeo y Juliet is another brand I really enjoy and discovered early on when I first picked up cigar smoking. I was actually attracted to the logo first. It just worked out that I liked the cigar too. The 1875, or the Reserve are both great options under the Remeo y Juliet brand. The 1875 is the more mild of the two and I tend to smoke them more than because of that. Just depends on my mood.

Because I smoke cigars I get asked how I like to cut my cigars and what do I use to light them with. I don’t think this matters. I don’t think the cigars you choose to smoke matters either. Just smoke what you enjoy and cut and light them the way you want. But, to answer the question I use a punch to cut my cigars and a Zippo lighter to light them.