Monday, December 17, 2012

In Memory of Green and White

In the wake of the tragic shootings at Sand Hook Elementary school, the Internet has erupted with anger, confusion, and demands.  Some people want tougher gun laws, some people want their access to guns of all kinds left alone.  Some people blame the removal of a mainstream God from the schools.  Some blame parents.  Some blame working moms.  Some blame public schools as a whole.   There is plenty of blame, plenty of wants.  In all of this anger and hurt I wrote something which is being shared in part.  I'd like to share it now, on this site for all of you to read.
I'm a Christian - sometimes I wonder if it isn't against my better judgment, but that has nothing to do with the God I believe in. So when I say this, I want it with the full disclosure of my faith. My God has never been restricted by any idea, any border, any nation, nor any institution. I hardly think he experiences time, space, and reality in a way we can even comprehend. What is lacking in our schools, our communities, and our culture isn't a religion. It is a lack of humanity, that sense that we are all on this world together, with one another. That we rise and fall together, the weakest among as important as the strongest. We lack the message that Jesus brought and so many Christians are supposed to be reminded of this season.... that there is no Jew and Gentile (no race), there is no value in worldly wealth, there is only what we do for each other (ideally in his name, as our faith dictates). That's exactly what we are missing. That's exactly why I don't like being associated with the bulk of people claiming my faith.
  This is very personal to me, so take it as it is.... my personal statement, not the beginning of a debate.  For when we are hurting we can not debate, we can only shout.  We need to stop shouting before the debate can begin.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Disney and Star Wars - Top 10 (Mostly) Awesome Things That Could Happen

If you are a geek or have been near the internet, you have probably heard the big news about Star Wars. Disney recently purchased Lucasfilm for 4 billion dollars and so they now own Star Wars and everything that goes with it. Along with that announcement was the information about a new live action SW film coming out in a couple of years with more to follow, making it at least a new trilogy. This is big news for SW and there has been no shortage of commentary on it.

Yes, Lucas made 4 Billion Dollars. 
(To Lucas’s credit, he is using that money to fund philanthropic endeavors)

I am going to add my own commentary. First off, let me just say that I am remaining patiently optimistic. SW is a big popular license and Disney is a big popular company. If this had happened 15 years ago I would have been apprehensive or mad, but George Lucas has pretty much finished everything he wanted to do with SW and this gives it a new lease on life. That coupled with the fact that the last several movies and lots of the merchandise have been uninspiring. Most adult fans I know are still nostalgic for the SW of their childhood and the new stuff just didn't resonate. The worst that can happen really, it that I just ignore the stuff Disney releases. 

I think it is time for a new group of creative people to take over SW. There have been dozens of writers and artists and programmers making new games and books and comics for years, but not movies. Unfortunately, even the new stuff being put out by all those creative people rehashes familiar characters and plots (over and over). It’s like taking American history and only talking about the period from 1900 through World War Two and nothing else, Ever. All of the books and comics written after the movies link back to the original trilogy somehow. Obsidian Entertainment’s “Old Republic” was some of the most interesting new material seen in the SW universe when they released it. The point is, SW needs some “world building” and creative expansion to keep it interesting and that can happen now.

This image is going to haunt my dreams, so I had to share.
Disney for their part makes mistakes, but they have done well by the Marvel license and there are a lot of talented people there. Just remember, above all else, this is about money. Disney didn’t invest 4 Billion dollars just to say they own SW. They plan to market it and merchandise it and make money off of it. That means they might make a few missteps, but are going to try to make products that make the most money from the fans. That means releasing stuff that people want to buy. There is already tons of SW stuff out there, but most of it is a rehash of the original trilogy. If Disney can push new interesting quality stuff, they have a good chance at keeping it relevant.  

So, here are is my (mostly) optimistic list of things that I hope could happen with Disney and Star Wars.

1. The new movies need to break new ground - The prequels were still about the story of Anakin Skywalker. They could have been better, but the plot idea was fine for the time and we did get a few new characters out of them. Like I said though, fans have been rehashing those characters and events for years and years. It’s a big galaxy. Give us some new stories. Jump into the future or far into the past. If you HAVE to link back to the original trilogy directly, then follow Luke and Leia’s kids as adults and present new planets with something to offer. What does the Rebellion do when rebels rise up against their own new government? What happened when the Old Republic was trying to unify the Galaxy? This is the stuff I want to know about. 

Childhood. Well, for the lucky kids who didn't have to eat Corn Flakes.
2. All of those directors that grew up watching Star Wars can now get their hands on it. I can think of a dozen times when I have heard some director or writer say in an interview or commentary that SW influenced them as a kid and how they are still fans. Well now is their chance to actually make their own story and be super fans. (Brad Bird or maybe J.J. Abrams to name a few?)

Joss Whedon is our master now. Or something. 
3. More specifically, Joss Whedon - Joss currently has a contract with Marvel/Disney to make the next Avengers film, but he also agreed to help develop the entire Marvel franchise for the next few years. Joss is kind of a geek legend having already made Firefly, Buffy, Doctor Horrible, etc. He actually has worked with Disney before on Atlantis (one of my favorite of the Disney animated movies). That was all small budget stuff though. Then he got the Avengers and a bigger budget and made the biggest movie EVER. Joss Whedon can tell a good story, but where he really excels is characters. Give him some free rein to develop some characters and story (even if he doesn't direct) and I guarantee we will have a dozen (minus the few he kills off) new SW characters that we actually care about, including some strong female leads (because space needs more than one woman). I actually think he could do this better than Lucas since there isn't really anyone in the prequels I cared about (and no, I am not going to sink so low as to mention JarJar here). Or, even better... hand him the Old Republic and tell him to make a space opera. We can all just sit around pretending it’s Firefly set in the SW universe.

How I always picture him.
4. ...And Kevin Smith. When Kevin Smith said, “I could have written a better Episode 1” we believed him. I would love to see Kevin do something official and Star Wars, but more to the point let him do it his way. Kevin Smith is at his best with dialogue, especially comedy so expect something comical, irreverent, and aimed at adult fans. 

Personally I think a live action mini series or TV show would be awesome. Base it around the idea of old Troops shorts (showing the underside of the Empire) and follow some Storm Troopers around the galaxy. Remember the comics about Tag and Blink? Sort of like that with more of a Jay and Bob feel. (If you haven’t read them, go read them now.)  Recruit the 501st legion to help out with extras and cameos for charity work. Give Kevin a shot at SW (so he can stop making spoofs) and you will have a SW show that college kids and adults can actually care about and enjoy again. He is all for the new trilogy anyway so bring him on board stat.

5. Merchandising. This is what Disney does better than about any other company, (except maybe Spaceballs). The Disney Princess line has something like a million licensed products and a lot of it is junk. However, there is good stuff in there too. Same thing with SW. LEGO is probably the best use of the SW license I have seen for toys. There is a lot of merchandise, but a lot of it is junk, or has been recently.
Seriously, who carries an orange and white blaster?

What am I trying to say? Do more than just stick pictures of Star wars characters on backpacks and notebooks and stuff and call it merchandising. They can do better and Disney can help. My daughter wants a pink or purple lighsaber. I would love to get my son some cool SW vehicles so Lightening McQueen and Thomas can fend off those ATATs. How about some quality games and costumes? Where are the bikes/sleds/wagons with X-Wing and Tie Fighter like wings attached? Even the video game offerings have been lackluster recently. I have no doubt SW will be a big part of the Disney theme park expansions, but do some good merchandising too with customer surveys and make products I want to buy. 

Sexy Leia is everywhere. You are welcome.
6. The "gender issue". Star Wars has never been great about the gender issues. I am not joking about the “one woman in space” thing. Leia was awesome (despite some weak characterization in places), but we need more appeal for girls and more strong characters they can relate to. (My girls happen to love SW, I am talking in general here.) My biggest fear is that Disney just bought SW to market to boys after they outgrow Cars (the Pixar movie). Then again, that's why I thought they bought Marvel too. Star Wars should be a cross gender license as it has so much to offer. If they market and merchandise only to boys, then it will be a big fail in my book. I’ll have to wait and see on this one.

Disney Princess Leia

7. Disney Princess Leia. This is the first thing everyone mentioned when they heard the announcement. (The second being Cinderella with a blue lightsaber right?) But, anyway... I would go with it. Make her a Disney Princess! 

Wait, come back, hear me out... 

Leia is feisty and independent, but at the same time, she was actually raised as a princess. The daughter of a wealthy royal from Alderaan named Bail Organa, who was also a member of the Galactic Senate. Develop a show/book/merchandise line with Leia at the center. A young Leia who follows her (adopted) father around the galaxy as he does “Galactic Diplomacy” stuff. Leia herself became a senator when she grew up, so she must have been greatly influenced by her father. She can have adventures, be a kid, and we get to see her early years and care more about Alderaan. At least until the Death Star comes along, the show would be very kid friendly. It would be pretty easy to make kids forget about Alderaan if they did a bunch of planet hopping anyway. Leia can even legitimately wear an Alderaan princess dress if you want. 

Disney is developing a similar sounding show about a toddler princess named Sofia. Tap Lauren Faust for some creative input at the very least (you remember, she helped with Power Puff Girls and became goddess of the Bronies?) The point is Lauren makes awesome shows with strong female leads that also happen to be lots of fun. Perfect for this idea of a young Princess Leia. I would rather see a feisty little Leia taking on the galaxy than another classic (and pink) Disney Princess.

Pixar is kinda awesome.
8. Pixar! Yes, Pixar. The new studio that puts out all the best animated movies. It’s full of SW geeks too. Do I want John Lasseter to head up a new SW movie? No, not at all. But Pixar can and does influence some of Disney’s other properties. In this case I think it would be a great idea to have the world renown writing team at Pixar look over the new scripts for the new trilogy of movies Disney announced. I wouldn't be surprised if a Pixar writer was tapped for part of the script anyway. I would also love to see them produce a new Star Wars original trilogy Blu-ray release. Pixar has done well releasing Miyazaki’s work from Japan. They have done well because they are passionate about his movies and treat them with love. Have the people that are passionate about SW at Pixar spearhead a proper release of the original trilogy before Lucas started messing with it. Include the documentaries and details the fans want to see. The Blu-ray stuff Lucas released last year flopped because it wasn't what people really wanted. That’s how Disney can use Pixar to bolster their SW purchase. That and look over the scripts after Joss Whedon develops the characters. Actually, since they all work for Disney and live in California, maybe they can just sit at the same table and work in tandem. (Yes, I am writing fantasy, how could you tell?)

You can send me these for Christmas if you want to.

9. That brings me to Japan. Give Star Wars to Japan and see what happens. Am I joking? Not at all. Remember Kingdom Hearts the video game? It was kinda awesome. That’s what happened when Disney gave one of the best Japanese RPG companies (Square-Enix) the Disney license. Do it again with SW. Maybe we will see Kingdom Hearts 3 with lightsabers. Maybe, even better, we will see some original and new ideas for Star Wars video games or manga or anime or other merchandise come out of Japan. Would I play a SW epic Final Fantasy like game? You bet I would. How about Star Wars meets Animal Crossing? I have no idea, but Japan is creative in a whole different way than America. Let them have the license and see what happens. I mean, it’s not like they can do worse than some of the stuff Lucas released and if people don’t like it, they just won’t buy it.

Grand Admiral Thrawn 

10. The Thrawn Trilogy. The first of the novels based on SW were written by Timothy Zahn. The trilogy that started the whole "expanded universe" of books. I consider Zahn's books to still be the best. They were completely in line with the SW original trilogy and still completely original, except for a few borrowed characters. If anything needs adapting into movies, it’s those three books.

That’s it for today. Leave some comments if there is anything you think I missed that is worth adding to the list, like right now while we are still speculating like fans.

Edit Update:

There has been plenty of rumor mongering about the prospective Cast of Star Wars Episode VII.

Here is what I want to see (with assumptions thrown in cause you know they are going to rehash character types from the other movies).

Christina Hendricks as Mara Jade.
I don't really care who else they cast, but if Mara Jade is in it, they had better hire Hendricks.
I don't care if the character is exactly the same as the books, etc. Have her toy with whatever character they fill in for the Han Solo rogue nice guy Jedi slots. Especially if she distracts the rogue from his stable relationship with the Princess Leia character while flirting with the Jedi. Make her dangerous physically and emotionally pulling strings.

Nathan Fillion is the Han Solo rogue we all love. 
For whoever plays the Han Solo type character... it really has to be Nathan Fillion. Not because he was captain tight-pants, but because I can't really think of any other actor who can fill so in perfectly for a young "Harrison Ford playing Solo" vibe on camera. If the character isn't Han, then expect a friend, child, or another pilot from Corellia with a similar personality.

Judy Dench as Mon Mothma
If they need a leader for the new Republic after the Rebels defeat the Empire. It needs to be Judy Dench playing an older and wiser Mon Mothma holding the power vacuum together and playing the strings of politics.

That's what I want to see. In the hands of a good director and writer, I would go see it even if it was only those three with any acting ability.

Friday, July 13, 2012

And Then It Was Now

I feel like I've just run a prolonged marathon.  I've just returned from my second trip to the inlaws this year.  This trip (which was much more relaxed than the last) netted me approximately 4270 miles of driving on my poor geekvan.  My job went into crisis mode right after Christmas with a hard push to implement new changes to the website, that all fell flat on their face in a glorious display of abject failure.  Now, I'm finishing documentation to hand it off onto some other unsuspecting sap, while I decide yet again, what it is I want to do with my life and what kind of job I can find to pass the time until I eventually make that decision.

I'm also running into a plethora of house projects, I can't believe the summer is half over already.  I still have so much to do.  Cosplay costumes, texturing the living room, putting together the LEGO room, and possibly even re-roofing.  Not to mention we finally emptied the junk room (I have no closets!) so that all has to be organized.

I have started writing again.  I recently saw a request for short stories and it's been my goal to actually finish a short story this year.  However, I was 50% of the way to the word total for the request and I hadn't moved out of the first scene.  I fear it is my lot to not write anything short and worthwhile.  Now I see the story like a serial short story series that may work together into a book.  We shall see, I'm still missing at least one important name and the experience of actually finishing one of these things.

I cruised through my drafts on this site and I do want to get some of those up.  Especially my GeekGirlCon inspired fan club experience, before GeekGirlCon II this August!!!


Friday, May 25, 2012


Wow it's dusty in here!

Happy International Geek Day, Glorious 25, Star Wars Day (35th Anniversary even!), and Towel Day!!!!!

Here's the graphic I made to hang from my towel today:

Click to see full size and easier to read version

Whether you are watching Star Wars, reading or listening to Hitchhikers or Ringworld, or just generally geeking out in your favorite way.  I hope you all take a moment to enjoy this geekiest of holidays in the exact way that you enjoy the most!

Geek Love from all of us at Paper Napkins, coming out of the dust soon to bring you new geeky thoughts and a bit of geek parenting (because we can't avoid the next generation for forever!)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Hunger Games - A Historical Roman Perspective

The Hunger Games is a great book trilogy. I just finished it last week and I am actually happy that Hollywood is releasing a movie of the first book (expect sequels) and they seem to be holding close to the story and themes in the books. It's no secret that scattered throughout the trilogy are myriad references to Roman culture. I'll touch on the obvious, but I think you might enjoy some of the more obscure references and how this adds another layer to the underlying world of the stories. If you have enjoyed the books or plan to see the movie, read on, I think you might be intrigued at just how detailed the author, Suzanne Collins, is with her historical references.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Happy Pi Day

While the team here at Paper Napkins is enjoying some much needed down time and trying to recover from the stupidity that is Daylight Savings Time by jumping time zones, I wanted to drop in a quick note to wish our loyal readers, and fervent Google Searchers - mostly still scouting my Link and Zelda pics and review - a most happy Pi Day!  Pi Day is one of our favorite holidays and I hope you all enjoy it as much as I do.  If you are looking for those awesome songs, please feel free to review them on last years post.

Unfortunately, tomorrow our focus will be on 299,792,458 and associated properties.  I think, we'll have to make some time, maybe in the afternoon or early evening for our favorite number holiday, and we'll definitely have a make up holiday when our research is over!

Happy Pi Day EVERYONE!

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810854690009445899527942439813921350558642219648349151263901280383200109773868 066287792397180146134324457264009737425700735921003154150893679300816998053652 027600727749674584002836240534603726341655425902760183484030681138185510597970 566400750942608788573579603732451414678670....

Already memorized the above?  Try the square root of pi.... Allow the Doctor and Sky (Doctor Who Season 4 - Midnight) to get you started (first 20 seconds)

Friday, March 2, 2012

A Rational Shopping List for the Expectant

One of my high school reconnect friends is expecting her first baby.  I remember being there.  I was practically the first (and pretty much only - still) friend in my circle of close girlfriends - not that it's a big circle, but still - that plunged fully into the realm of mommyhood.  Oh sure I've made Mommy friends since, and half the town came to my shower, but for the most part, I was on my own.  I'm ashamed to say I knew nothing about the stuff involved with being a new mom and taking care of that little life.  So when my friend asked me to email here with my must have list well, I didn't want to do a half arsed job.  Plus my mouse was dead so I was stuck on my email.  I sat down and wrote the following.  I stand by it.  I also think, if there are any other "new" moms out there, they may benefit from a less commercialized and judgmental list.  This works for me, I had way more stuff than I needed for that first baby (and we won't talk about the clothes and socks I stock pilled - 90% of which didn't fit because her feet were/are so big)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Why Hasn't Someone Else Done This Already?

A first in what may become a series, except I can't remember what the second thought was.  I want to focus an idea that I had, which when it finally gelled into focus made me say, "Why isn't someone doing that!?!"  I'm sure in 99.9% of the cases the answer will be "money" and "5 year planning goals", both of which are personal irritants for me (have I discussed my personal feelings on money here?).

This particular thought occurred to me while I was clearing the ash in my fireplace and prepping a new fire.  We use a freestanding wood stove for most of our winter heat.  I live in the cold, where snow used to be common (really it never seems to really arrive anymore, but whatever).  For some reason I was thinking about energy, electricity, alternative energy (a thought hobby for me, remind me to write up my micro-wind power idea sometime), regulation, and a documentary I watched 4 years or so ago about California and their alternative energy goals.  I'm sure the knowledge that solar panel plants started and failed in the last 4 years was in there as well.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentines day to you all!

I know this day is way over marketed, as a way to sell chocolates, flowers, and skimpy unmentionables. Of course it serves a purpose, some people need to be reminded that if you love someone, you should let them know the other 364.24 days of the year, not just on this day. A reminder never hurts. I am also not one to turn down a holiday and if you have been reading this blog for very long, you know that we love to celebrate.

Geeks often get a bad rap for being overly analytical or anti-social. I can tell you that the analytical part might be true (sometimes), the anti-social thing is something else entirely and isn't unique to geeks. Geeks do have an advantage as a group though, when we love something, we love it passionately and obsessively. Two people who share interests, especially geeky ones, can talk for hours passionately and to an outside observer this looks like the cutest kind of love. Before I married my wife, in fact, before I was even dating her, (actually, in full disclosure, she wasn't interested in me at all and was engaged to someone else) we were good friends. We often had these kinds of deep, passionate, geeky discussions about anything and everything and I think it confused more than a few people. People often thought we were dating and I don't doubt it had a lot to do with why no one else seemed interested in dating me. They might not have been all wrong though, because here we are, together.

The point is when geeks love something, they love it a lot. As any actor in a Scifi show can tell you, this can be very scary at cons and there is another dark side to it. If you have ever heard of a WoW Widow or more recently a Skyrim Widow, you know that these passions for things (anything really) can turn into addictions and loved ones get pushed aside. This is especially harmful in relationships where a spouse doesn't share those same geeky interests. This is the same thing you see among car people, movie fanatics, and even sports fans. If you don't balance your passions, even if your spouse is included in them, you are pushing away people you love.

So this is a reminder to my friends and family (yes, even you Internet only ones). Take time to step back and tell the people you love and who love you that they are the most important things in your life. That's what Valentine's day should be celebrating and despite being turned away from the holiday due to the rampant commercialism, we geeks especially can use this day to remember to do that. Just try to remember the other 364.24 days too.

Credit for this awesome picture goes to this geeky artist.

Love passionately and obsessively, but try to direct that to the people in your life. If an object or a thing or an idea in your life becomes your precious, it's time to rethink priorities.

One more thing. What else do geeks do? Like Gollum up there, we make geeky jokes out of everything we love and reapply it to everything else society holds dear. Like these Valentine's Day cards.... Enjoy.  

Doctor Who Cards

LOTR Cards

Star Trek Cards

I could find dozens more. Star Wars was intentionally left off of this list, too many bad Luke-Leia jokes.

(Oh, and darling, with all the mess from re-arranging our daughter's bedroom and getting their obligatory school valentines and parties ready... I didn't get you any flowers, chocolates, or skimpy unmentionables.

So... Happy Valentine's Day! I got you a blog post. You can also read every one of those cards I linked above as if they are from me. Remember when we used to give each other virtual flower bouquets? They got cooler.)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Stripped and Alone

While Orcrist was away on his eye opening adventure to the American Midwest, my secondhand laptop, Hermes, decided it was time to emphasize just how much attention it needed.  The noise from the dying fan became unbearable and even the kids were complaining it was giving them a headache.  About halfway through the week, I simply gave up and turned off my personal connection to the rest of the world.  I still had my husband's laptop, since he opted to take his iphone, ipad, and a netbook instead, but using beautiful shiny laptop, with all of his tabs in his browsers was not the same.

You know how it is when your car is in the shop for a long time and you borrow your friend, or worse, your Mom's car.  It has a different feel, it doesn't park the same.  The steering wheel has a different texture that just not quite the same.  Not to mention, while you could reset the radio stations, you generally just set it to your favorite station, or worse, try to find one of their presets you can tolerate for the duration.  It was the same with borrowing my husband's laptop.  And worse, I couldn't be logged into my work/personal gmail account and blogger at the same time!  This is a problem I tried to ask the blogger G+ group about, but they didn't get it.  They couldn't fathom why I would want my blog on a different email from my work stuff.  Oh well.  I'm back now!

I have so much I've been wanting to write, I know I already lost one of my crazy ideas - the other is still hanging in there, so when I get time I'll try to at least draft it out so I can post it someday.  It feels so good to be back on my giant screen with my familiar keyboard with the shiny smooth keys and the "N" key completely rubbed off.  Oh and I have new bifocals now so the whole world looks different anyway.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Cherie's Law

This is just a bit of fun. I have been reading a fair number of Steampunk themed blogs and discussions lately and made a realization.

The Steampunk community has their own version of Godwin's law. You know the slightly tongue-in-cheek rule about Internet forums?

From Wiki:
"As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1." In other words, Godwin observed that, given enough time, in any online discussion—regardless of topic or scope—someone inevitably criticizes some point made in the discussion by comparing it to beliefs held by Hitler and the Nazis.

(It's true, it really is.)

Within the Steampunk community though, there is seemingly another law in effect. There are of course no "online discussions or arguments," but Steampunks do indeed have "passionate civil discussions". It seems that anyone who wants to prove that their ideas or arguments are correct will likely call upon a quote (or misquote) and attribute it to Cherie Priest, the popular Steampunk genre novelist. This seems to hold true even if Ms. Priest wasn't the person who said the quote ("I remember someone said or wrote this, I think it was Cherie Priest."). This is to say nothing of blog posts, essays, and book reviews. It might be a lack of a specific creative tome or celebrity to point to within the community of pseudo-equals. But I digress, without further distraction...

I give you Cheries's Law:
As an online Steampunk discourse grows longer, the probability that the name Cherie Priest will be invoked, quoted, or misquoted approaches 1.  

Have fun poking holes in that, but I am pretty sure it will stand true, I mean it has to. The law itself invokes the name of Cherie Priest. So the idea stands true on it's own.

There are other truisms in the Steampunk community as well. If you have any thoughts on this, feel free to post them below.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Musings on Minor Cultural Differences

Every time I travel I am amazed how small differences make such a huge impact on the culture of a place. You get a reflection of the people, philosophies and businesses that make an area unique. Now I admit, these are small things that someone from a foreign country might not notice at all, but traveling within my own country, I seem to be more open to the minutiae and I find that it is always interesting.

I recently traveled to the Midwest to visit family and see my grandmother who was in the hospital. I had a good time seeing all of my family and these comments aren't meant in any way to be condescending, but to provide an interesting reflection on how many small things and regional things can make a place feel so foreign. Part of this might be my fault for expecting things to be similar to home and finding that I have changed and so has the region where I used to spend time every summer growing up. When I visit the "Deep South" I know a lot of what is different and what to expect. This trip caught me off-guard.

The things that made me feel out of place seem to fall into two categories: food and technology.

(I could make a third category for politics, but I think I'll leave that out because it just isn't particularly interesting or relevant to this blog.)

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Book Dilemma

For those of you that read Paper Napkins on our blog proper have probably noticed the big new "Currently-Reading" box from Good Reads.  I know it's awkward and when I redo the header graphic (it was meant to be temporary), I'd like to move it to the other side.  Anyway, that is in fact the last book I read or what I am currently reading and my thoughts on it at this time (based on the stars).  At the point of me writing this piece it is still listed as The Dresden Files: Side Jobs by Jim Butcher.  I actually read this over the Christmas break and I really loved it, but that lead to a problem, a dilemma if you will....

I want to read, but I have no idea what I want to do next, I just know that I want to have the same emotional investment as I do in Harry Dresden, Karen Murphy, and all the other regular members of the books.  You see, Dresden is a long series (13 books strong if you don't count the short stories of Side Jobs), and that gives you a lot of time to become intimate with the characters.  You don't get that in the first book of a new series.  You don't get that from a completely new author.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Where Did My Internet Go?

If you've been living under a rock lately, or are unfortunate enough to be in an apolitical state, like I am.  You may have woken up to a quite unpleasant reality on your favorite websites today.  A big black box and a bunch of alphabet soup that makes no sense.
Well, once you know what SOPA and PIPA are they make even less sense.  While Wikipedia is down today in protest  - they have left the sites up to these two laws.  Additionally, there are quite a few results on a Google search (also joining the protest although only with graphics).

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

When Geeks Celebrate: All the Little Things

So we've just about wrapped up geeks partying (and just before we get started on the next party!)  There are just a few more little tips and tricks I think every host/hostess can add to to their bag of tricks that we used for the Unicorn Adventure.  So lets jump right into them.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

When Geeks Celebrate: Food

KISS - Keep It Simple Stupid.... 

Sound advice for most things, but especially when it comes to party food.  Oh sure, making decorative foods is fun and it looks really cool, but there are two problems; food doesn't keep for long and in most cases needs to be done when everything else is also happening (ie the at last minute), and kids get a little unsure what to do when they can't readily identify what you just presented them with (I learned this the hard way - although my daughter said that with the action of the party she wasn't that hungry either).  Still, the lunch foods weren't a disaster, and the cake was a huge hit with the kids and adults (but when isn't cake welcomed by kids?)

As with any menu, keeping it basic, but offering variety is key.  I don't know the food preferences of all the kids, but I also had to balance the allergies of my kids.  After getting pizza tossed down by my daughter (who can have pizza from the local place as long as there is no cheese), and the game master informed me that lunch would be served in the middle of the game instead of at the beginning or the end, but as a scene in the story - and at the palace no less - although a picnic was debated, tea and finger foods became the way to do it.  Now I've never been to a proper tea, I've been to a few American equivalents although none of them very formal, so when this idea became our starting point, I tried to think of reasonably healthy foods (after all we had a big cake to bring out at the end) that would be appealing to kids, easy to make, and look like something a Queen would serve company.... Yeah, no problem!

Monday, January 9, 2012

When Geeks Celebrate: Story Games

As my wife already mentioned, for her 7th birthday, my daughter requested that I invent a story adventure game for her since she knows I am a game designer and we have made up several stories together already. For theme she simply told me, "Rainbows and Unicorns" which we had as the theme of the whole party. I wasn't sure how the party guests would respond to the idea and we didn't have a lot of time for polish, but It turned out to be a lot of fun. I was actually surprised how complicated some of the logistics turned out on writing the whole thing. There are several pieces that came together and I'll touch on each to give you an idea of what we did and how well it worked.

You might describe the idea of a story game as more of a LARP (Live Action Role Play) with young kids. There were no weapons and no fighting involved. there was also no running around in the woods like a stereotypical LARP and very minimal cosplay. The idea was for all the kids to help each other, not fight each other and technically they weren't even "in character". Calling it a LARP is kind of a stretch. I prefer "Story Adventure".

Pictured: NOT what we had in mind for our party.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

When Geeks Celebrate: Piñata

One thing that is universal if you are doing a non-commercial product party, you are going to have to make stuff yourself, and the store may at best get you halfway there.  Lets just put it out there right now that finding a rainbow shaped/colored pinata was not going to happen, and given the "confusion" around the colors of the rainbow - even though any 4 year old I know can recite them in order for you if you forget - even if you did find something odds are very good that even if all 7 colors appeared, they wouldn't be in the right order!
Dragon Artz Designs can tell how to make a rainbow!

How hard is it?  There are several songs, there's good ol' Roy G. Biv, and there's always a prism if you really can't figure it out.  Still that doesn't stop us from having a Little People's Noah's Ark where the flag is colored completely at random (seriously, not even close), several books where it is wrong, and well... I'm sure you can do a Google image search yourself, even the rainbow on Ver1's invite was wrong on the base image before I fixed it.  Anyway, I digress.... If we want stuff in true rainbow fashion - we have to make it.  We also had to make our own unicorn crafts, apparently unicorns aren't in this year either.

Monday, January 2, 2012

When Geeks Celebrate

One of the reasons things have been so quiet over the last months is that whether we like it or not the onset of winter brings numerous celebrations.  And we don't go halfway when it's time to kick it up!  Having my oldest child on the day of our previously annual Christmas party, which we haven't had since, would make you think that I've got it in hand.  Yet, each year we step it up just a bit more and each year I fall just a bit further behind.

Since Ver1 is all into the idea of rainbows, that was what her starting theme was.  She decided that unicorns go with rainbows and my little academic analytical girl was looking at a rather fantasy girlie party (a bit different for her, although she's not full on tomboy).  To go a step further she wanted a couple things for certain, first there had to be a pinata.  Second, once it was settled that for the first time in 5 years she was going to have the party at home, she really wanted her dad to write a custom role playing game for the party.  And he did!

Peek-a-boo and a Happy New Year

I know that there have been a lack of napkin notations lately.  It's not for a lack of inspiration, but more for a lack of time to collect the napkins together for digital presentation (ie I haven't been writing).  In fact I remarkably left my laptop turned off and in it's bag since Santa arrived at our house on Christmas Eve.  While being fully disconnected from my sometimes overwhelming online existence was pleasant and gave me some much needed downtime.  I definitely missed a lot!  I came back to an email inbox, which I did check for important messages - and I hope I saw them all, I know there were a couple, but it was nonetheless an inbox that was cluttered with crap reminding me that I really do need to take the time to set some more filters and unsubscribe from retail sites that I may have bought one thing from or registered for ages ago and really don't have any further interest in.  This is compounded with my new subscriptions to crafting stores, like Michaels, because the clerks kept reminding me that I could get coupons for good discounts and I've found myself crafting more this year than any time in the recent past..... with the new sewing machine and the growing kids, I don't think that is set to change soon.

My "must read" blogs have been neglected.... and I skimmed a few before hitting the "mark all as read" button.  My plight with facebook continues to be an issue.  While part of me would be perfectly happy to abandoned the bloated, cluttered, service to retreat to the as yet pristine G+ ... it is obvious that my friends and family (especially those I really care about) are not yet ready to follow me there.  I understand the feeling, keeping up with multiple social networks is a PITA.  This is part of the reason I've never embraced the phenomenon that is Twitter.   The other reason was that I didn't have a phone with a data plan, but I can't use that reason anymore, so until I think of something better, will stick with the first reason.  As for facebook, I've made some modifications to my profile and I'm using third party software to try to streamline my experience, but I still can't backscroll for more than 3 hours of posts without the whole thing locking down on me.  It really limits my experience there.  As an end result, I barely remember to check in and most of the updates I get are in the late evening or the occasional popups from Trillian.

Anyway, just checking in here, with the hopes that I can find more time as life switches back over to the post-holiday routine to get back into writing, which I really really miss.  I hope it was a great holiday for everyone else as well.
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