Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My Buffy Page


JHAEMAN'S BUFFY PAGE

Here you'll find reviews for the vast majority of Buffy the Vampire Slayer novels, novelizations, short story collections, and more.

NOVELS

1997

Halloween Rain 3/5 Stakes

1998

Blooded 3/5 Stakes
Child of the Hunt 5/5 Stakes
Coyote Moon 3/5 Stakes
Night of the Living Rerun 3/5 Stakes

1999

Ghost Roads 3/5 Stakes
Immortal 3/5 Stakes
Out of the Madhouse 4/5 Stakes
Power of Persuasion 2/5 Stakes
Sons of Entropy 4/5 Stakes
Visitors 2/5 Stakes

2000

Deep Water 4/5 Stakes
Doomsday Deck 3/5 Stakes
Evil That Men Do 2/5 Stakes
Ghoul Trouble 3/5 Stakes
Here Be Monsters 2/5 Stakes
Paleo 4/5 Stakes
Resurrecting Ravana 3/5 Stakes

2001

Book of Fours 5/5 Stakes
Spike & Dru: Pretty Maids All in a Row 5/5 Stakes

2002

Creatures of Habit 5/5 Stakes
Crossings 3/5 Stakes
Oz: Into the Wild 4/5 Stakes
These Our Actors 4/5 Stakes

2003

Blood and Fog 3/5 Stakes
Chaos Bleeds 3/5 Stakes
Cursed 3/5 Stakes
Monster Island 4/5 Stakes
Seven Crows 5/5 Stakes

2004

Heat 3/5 Stakes
The Lost Slayer 4/5 Stakes

2005

Queen of the Slayers 4/5 Stakes
Spark and Burn 2/5 Stakes

2006

Afterimage 3/5 Stakes
Blackout 5/5 Stakes
Carnival of Souls 3/5 Stakes
Go Ask Malice: A Slayer's Diary 5/5 Stakes
Portal Through Time 4/5 Stakes

2008

One Thing or Your Mother 4/5 Stakes


NOVELIZATIONS

1992

Buffy, the Vampire Slayer 3/5 Stakes
1997

The Harvest 3/5 Stakes

1998

Angel Chronicles, Volume 1 3/5 Stakes


1999

Angel Chronicles, Volume 2 3/5 Stakes
Angel Chronicles, Volume 3 4/5 Stakes
Willow Files, Volume 1 4/5 Stakes

2001

Faith Trials, Volume 1 3/5 Stakes
Willow Files, Volume 2 3/5 Stakes

2002

Journals of Rupert Giles, Volume 1 4/5 Stakes

2003

Chosen 2/5 Stakes

2005

Ultimate Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Gift 4/5 Stakes

SHORT STORY COLLECTIONS

2000

How I Survived My Summer Vacation 4/5 Stakes

2001

Tales of the Slayer, Volume 1 4/5 Stakes

2003

Tales of the Slayer, Volume 2 4/5 Stakes

STAKE-YOUR-DESTINY

2005

Colony 4/5 Stakes
Keep Me in Mind 2/5 Stakes
Night Terrors 4/5 Stakes
Suicide King 4/5 Stakes

MISCELLANEOUS

1998

Meet the Stars of Buffy the Vampire Slayer 4/5 Stakes

1999

Buffy Pop Quiz 3/5 Stakes

Buffy: The Postcards 4/5 Stakes
Sunnydale High Yearbook 5/5 Stakes

2003

Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy 3/5 Stakes

Dusted: The Unauthorized Guide to Buffy the Vampire Slayer 4/5 Stakes
The Quotable Slayer 3/5 Stakes

2007

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Panel to Panel 2/5 Stakes

HELL FROZEN OVER

Hell Frozen Over

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Soulless


I asked for this book for Christmas solely on the basis of the very cool cover and the tagline "A Novel of Vampires, Werewolves, and Parasols." It has an interesting concept: an alternate-universe Victorian England, in which vampires and werewolves are known to the public and regulated by the government. The main character is an incredibly rare "preternatural"--someone's whose abilities completely negate those of the supernatural. The main character, Alexia Tarabotti, has quite the feisty personality and the adventure that follows is well done. The only drawback I found was an over-heavy focus on romance--though since one of the main characters gets married, that problem may be mitigated in the next book.

Clone Wars Campaign: Recap # 31

This session sees the party land on Alderaan to interview a former companion (once a PC, now an NPC) who now resides in a mental health facility (I was proud of the name "Holistic Mindsick Facility"--sounded both futuristic and Alderaanian at the same time) in order to better track down the missing Tarn Tamarand. I managed to spring a "trap" aircab on them, which led to an exciting scene (the group is so wary almost to the point of paranoia, that I find it really hard to trick them) as they tried to get control before it crashed. This is also the last time Twitch is seen in game, though he's the subject of a later short story.

The group did a hilarious amount of shopping on Alderaan in order to get ready for the anomaly--my wife always says they like to visit "Star Wars Best Buy" because the sheer amount of purchases border on the ridiculous. It was around this time I decided I better keep strict track of encumbrance. The little scene with the Cestus Cybernetics contest was a fun way to incorporate a puzzle into the game--puzzles actually work well in gaming because they're a little different than standard combat and they can get everyone working together. The hard part is to make the puzzle seem like a normal part of the adventure and not just a random obstacle. I also had the contest sponsored by Cestus because I knew the corporation was in A'tel's background and I wanted that to come into play in a future story arc.

The approach to the quarantined planet Endregaad, with them sneaking their way down to the planet, was a bit of a let-down from what I had planned (either tense negotiation or a hair-raising chase) because I forgot that for Stealth checks, there has to be Cover or Concealment--and in empty space, there's not much of either. The city of Tel Bollin and most of what happened on Endregaad was taken from the Tempest Feud adventure (except for Doxen's stealing inoculation tags from the poor!--I don't think the designers expected players to be so cold-blooded!). I spent a hell of a lot of nights watching football and converting NPCs in that adventure from RCR into Saga stats. My favorite change was Yossa the Brick as a Gungan: "Meesa gonna crack your cranium!" was my attempt to partially rehabilitate the species after all the damage Jar-Jar did.

Update (July 22, 2012):  Added in previously secret information that Daal had tampered with Twitch's message to Arresta to erase the ruse that Tarn had been kidnapped, and Daal's forging of the credit chip he gave to A'tel to give to pay off his debt to Jocasta (sneaking Daal!).

SESSION # 31

At the outer edges of the known galaxy lies a swath of mineral-rich planets loosely ruled by the Corporate Sector Alliance. Although neutral in the war between the Republic and the Separatists, the Corporate Sector is faced with a dire threat: a virulent plague has swept the Tion Cluster, forcing a strict quarantine. Now, on a mostly barren planet well within the forbidden zone, Padawan Tarn Tamarand has reached a destination foretold in prophecy: the City of Sand.

After narrowly escaping a pirate trap by jumping into hyperspace, the temporary crew of a freighter owned by Poparra the Hutt search the ship for any further intruders and continue their journey.

[A.G. 300]

Arriving at Alderaan, they set the ship down in the capital city of Aldera before obtaining transport to take them to their ultimate destination: The Holistic Mindsick Facility in Crevasse City. A droid driven cab pulls out of line and approaches the group, offering the fastest and cheapest transport, which Arresta accepts. However, shortly after take-off, Daal and Arresta both notice a strange light blinking on the dashboard, as well as damage done to the side of the droid. As the ship begins a perilous climb, Daal thinks quickly and activates his droid jammer, successfully deactivating the droid – but causing the car to begin a freefall. Atel lunges for the wheel and Doxen tries to assist him, but the pull of gravity is too strong. Arresta slides into the front seat and reaches for the emergency brake. With the Princess slowing their descent, Daal is able to take over for Atel and get the vehicle under control. Seconds later, they see the cause of this near-disaster: the Rodian Twitch, formerly a member of Jocasta’s crew, waiting for them near the planned crash site and armed with a highly illegal disruptor. Daal steers the aircab on to Crevasse City, and it doesn’t appear that Twitch gives chase.

Daal manages to remove the tracker installed in the vehicle while Arresta deceives the cab company into allowing them to continue on to Crevasse City. Doxen develops a gambit to prevent Twitch from tracking them. Upon arrival in Crevasse City, they place the tracking device in another vehicle and send it off in another direction. Securing a new cab, the group makes its way to the mental health facility. When they arrive, they ask to see Ycram Notwal, a former travelling companion of Daal, Arresta and Tarn’s. Atel and Doxen decide to stand watch in the hallway while the others speak with Ycram.

They find Ycram sitting calmly in his room, staring at the ceiling. He keeps mentioning that “this place will be destroyed one day.” Arresta and Daal are able to confirm that Tarn has been to see Ycram – and that he received directions on how to find the inexplicable collection of strange phenomena known as the “anomaly.” Ycram says that Tarn had to go back in order to “return what he took, twice over.” He reminds them that “Tarn wasn’t supposed to go inside” during their initial encounter in the Ansion system. He shares the same directions with them, directing them to the “brightest star in the Indrexu Spiral.” Arresta and Daal ask Ycram if he wants to leave with them, and he happily assents, so long as they’re not headed for the anomaly. While Arresta inquires as to what it would take to sign Ycram out of the facility, Daal speaks to him with the door closed. He tries to convince Ycram not share the information he gave to them with any other people. Meanwhile, Doxen encounters a condescending xenobiologist in the hallway, who tries to get Doxen to come with him for study. Doxen refuses to speak to the man and the scientist eventually departs after Doxen threatens him with a knife.

Arresta returns with the bad news that they cannot sign Ycram out without direct supervision from clinic staff. She goes in to say good-bye to Ycram, but doesn't close the door behind her, allowing Atel to overhear part of their conversation. She tries one last time to get a straight answer from Ycram about why Tarn would feel so compelled to return to the anomaly, but is unsuccessful. Instead, Ycram points straight at her and tells her that it would be dangerous to take her child to the anomaly because the child “belongs to the boy”. Arresta scoffs to the others that this is clearly more proof that the old man has lost his mind and suggests that they depart without further delay.

Atel has other ideas. Drawing upon the Force, he mentally contacts Ycram and receives back images of himself slowly walking down a strange set of stairs in a desert landscape before being consumed by shadowy tendrils. Atel asks Ycram why it would be dangerous for Arresta to take her baby to the anomaly and gets back a sense that the child is destined for a momentous life both “terrible and magnificent.”

Having confirmed that Tarn has already left Alderaan, the group departs the facility and head towards the capital city where their ship is stationed. During the journey, they decide it’s important to find out how much of a headstart Tamarand has on them and direct the taxi driver to return them to the facility. After confirming that the young Jedi is several days ahead of them, the group leaves again and spends the remainder of the trip back to Aldera discussing conditions inside the anomaly. Arresta brings up Tarn’s strange lightsaber, which he claimed a strange voice led him to within the anomaly. The mysterious weapon was the only piece of electronic equipment that functioned without difficulty inside the anomaly, but it had the strange effect of removing itself from the memories of most of those who witnessed it in action. After discussing the fact that conventional electronic weapons were unusable inside, the group decides that more “archaic” equipment will be required. In Alderra, they seek out antique and other stores specializing in rare goods to find low-tech supplies like slug throwers, chemical lighters, and unguents.

With time to kill before take-off, Doxen purchases thick narcostix and Alderaanian ale before settling himself in front of the ship and questioning Atel about the nature of the “force” that he keeps talking about. Arresta receives a message droid and downloads the contents into her datapad. She agonizes over whether or not to listen to the message while the others take part in a Cestus Cybernetics promotion and win a free tech upgrade.

Daal decides that he would feel more comfortable with some additional equipment and asks the Princess to accompany him. During the ride to the shop, Arresta confesses that she is worried that she is making a mistake. She confides in the Duros that she had been convinced that Tarn had just been using her, but now she isn’t sure and she’s betting everything to find out. Daal offers this succinct opinion: “Princess, I don’t think that Tarn is the type who has it in him to use anybody.” Arresta tells Daal about the message she received and that she is afraid to listen to it before departing. She asks him to listen to it in case it contains needed intelligence, but instructs him “Not to let me hear it before we leave if you think it will change my mind about going.” Daal agrees to this strange request.

When they return to the ship, Daal locks himself in his quarters and listens to the message. It’s from Twitch, who has left the Sun Runners in order to claim the extraordinarily large bounty placed on Arresta’s head by the Separatists. Twitch claims that he knew Arresta would be in Alderra thanks to Kronos’ help. Daal edits out a portion of the message where Twitch claims he has taken Tarn hostage and will kill him if Arresta doesn't turn herself over. After about an hour, an impatient Arresta knocks at Daal’s door and asks him whether she should listen to it. Relieved that the message is from neither her missing ex-lover nor her sure-to-be-livid husband, Arresta laughs and gives Daal a hug. “So there’s still a price on my head. I thought this was going to be something to worry about!”

[A.G. 301]

24 hours after arriving at Alderaan, the freighter lifts off and enters hyperspace. Trying to avoid another encounter with sabotage, the team sets Atel to guard the hyperdrive. While they travel, Doxen asks Arresta about Tarn’s force powers. The Princess smiles and tells him that Tarn’s abilities are real but “unpredictable”. She also takes advantage of the travelling time to speak with Daal regarding their newest Jedi companion. She tells him that although she doesn’t believe that Atel means them any harm, she is not convinced that rescuing Tarn is his top priority. Daal tells Arresta that he will keep that in mind.

Later during the long voyage, Daal approaches Atel and hands over a credit chip. He says that he wants trust and as a show of faith, is providing the Jedi with the credits that are owed to the pirate Jocasta. If they encounter her, Atel is free to hand over the credits. The Jedi Knight accepts this arrangement and the journey continues.  What Atel doesn't know is that the credit chip is a fake, forged by Daal during the journey to Alderaan.

Daal builds a silencer for Doxen’s new slug thrower rifle, but it takes several tries to get it right. Arresta suggests to Doxen that his unfriendly attitude doesn’t help matters. She shares with him that her intelligence sources have provided her with some background information on him and a being he’s looking for named Harno. Although Doxen initially reacts with hostility, when the Princess points out that if she received the information, it means he’s being watched – and she’s happy to share what she receives with him – Doxen shares that Harno is a bounty hunter who hunts rare species, including Doxen’s own.

[A.G. 308]

Eventually, the ship arrives in the destination system and information on their mission is unlocked. They are in the Tion Cluster, facing a blockade by a CSA dreadnaught around the mineral-wealthy but low-population planet Endregaad. Apparently, Poparra’s son Mika the Hutt was last seen in the city Tel Bollin accompanied by his Nikto bodyguards just before the deadly pandemic hit weeks ago. Atel intuits that asking the dreadnaught for permission to breach the quarantine and land on Endregaad is unlikely to work. Thus, the team chooses stealth and thanks to some skilful flying by Daal, they are able make it to the planet and set down near an isolated outpost, not far from the sole city on the planet. All team members take the precaution of inoculating themselves with the medical grade spice. Near the outpost’s cluster of deserted buildings, the group finds a local-area map, a dessicated corpse, and a damaged cargo-hauler that Daal manages to repair. Still, the afternoon desert heat is difficult to deal with and only the very-pregnant Arresta, having been chosen to use the group’s field kit, is unaffected.
 
At the outskirts of Tel Bollin, the team doesn’t have much luck. CSA checkpoints carefully monitor every entrance, and neither guile, nor bribery, nor stealth succeeds in gaining the team entrance. Only Doxen, with his tremendous ability to conceal himself, is able to slip in. After dark, he finds a shadowy, lightly-guarded area in between two checkpoints and the team enters the city. Doxen also obtains several badges by pick-pocketing locals—each badge indicates that the bearer is entitled to immunization against the plague. Hearing a desperate beggar search for his “lost” immunization tag, Arresta quickly returns the one that Doxen purloined for her.

The group heads straight for the Fallen Warrior cantina where they find a relatively small crowd, including a Nikto who just may be one of the bodyguards sent with Poparra’s son Mika. The drunken and ill Nikto is being tormented by several rowdy members of a Tel Bollin swoop gang. In spite of insults, the group manages to hold on to their tempers, allowing Doxen and Daal to strike up a conversation with the bikers while Arresta and Atel question the Nikto, whose name is Orgamon. Orgamon’s slurring speech is difficult to understand, but he claims that Mika is at a “dig site” about four days’ walk to the northeast.

Eventually, Arresta, Daal and Atel leave with Orgamon while Doxen stays behind to watch the reaction of the bikers. He sees that his allies are being followed and is able to warn them. They manage to avoid detection and head to Mika’s warehouse. Unfortunately, it has been ransacked. Still, Daal is able to hack into the proprietary computer network and obtain direct coordinates for the dig site in Temple Valley while also confirming through cargo manifests that the same valley is where the head of 8P-MD-4 was originally found.

[A.G. 309]

As dawn approaches, the team decides to get out of the city. Daal and Doxen leave separately and make it outside without incident. However, Atel and Arresta stumble past a CSA checkpoint and are immediately ordered to surrender. Atel and Arresta go on the offensive, wounding two of the guards before stealing a landspeeder. Fleeing the city, Arresta takes the controls and manages to fly elusively through the waning darkness, keeping them hidden from any pursuers. Eventually, everyone rendezvous at the cargo-hauler before making their way back to the freighter. Atel manages to refresh himself through a Jedi trance, but the others are clearly getting exhausted.

The desert heat is in full force when Daal brings the ship in low over the coordinates he found in the warehouse. From the air, he sees the long trail of debris from a crashed transport, the hint of ruined buildings poking up from the desert below, and a deep, kilometres-long trench that is perfectly concave. After landing on a plateau overlooking the ruins and concealing their ship yet again, the group heads down into Temple Valley in the stolen CSA landspeeder. Daal is dropped off at the crash site and, after ensuring his safety, the remaining group members head for the outskirts of the ruins about an hour away.

At the edge of the ruins, Doxen searches diligently but is unable to find any trace of specific tracks. However, Atel senses that a powerful cauldron of exotic dark energy lies somewhere towards the centre of the ruins. They head on foot in that direction. After two hours’ march through the desert heat, Arresta spots a Jedi starfighter abandoned in the ruins; and just paces away, Doxen uncovers stone steps leading downward into utter darkness. Arresta looks in the cockpit of the sand-covered starfighter and finds a transmission that Tarn left for whoever found his ship: “Don’t follow me in. This will be my last transmission.” Arresta makes it clear to the others that her plans to enter the ruins haven’t changed.

Back at the crash site, Daal has found Mika the Hutt alive and (mostly) well. According to the Hutt, his transport crashed soon after lifting off from the dig site because the pilot was suddenly overcome with a strange disease. Only Mika and three of his Nikto bodyguards survived, so he sent Orgamon on the long trek back to Tel Bollin to find help. Daal explains that he and the others are a rescue party sent by Poparra, and then proceeds to spin an unusual tale to explain why their departure will be delayed. In the same spirit, Mika warns Daal to stay away from the remains of his crashed ship for a fear of a radiation leak.

As they’re talking, one of the Nikto suddenly starts shouting warnings, because several swoops have appeared on the ridge overlooking the crash site. The Duros comlinks his allies for reinforcements, but they realize they’re much too far away to be of any help. Half of the bikers open fire with slugthrower rifles, while the others race in to attack. When they get closer, Daal recognizes the bikers from the Fallen Warrior and realizes they have kidnapped Orgamon. The swoop gang’s leader, a muscular Gungan, shouts “Meesa gonna crack your cranium!” and the battle is on. Mika manages to sidle into the wreckage, but some of the bikers follow after killing one of his bodyguards. Meanwhile, outside, Daal begins throwing frag and stun grenades left and right, rocking the crash site with deadly explosions. The bikers were obviously not expecting such heavy resistance, and are shredded by the shrapnel. The group’s Gungan leader, Yossa the Brick, manages to land one bone-jarring blow on Daal with his atlatl, but in the face of Daal’s grenades and Mika’s blaster, decides to make a run for it—but not before ransacking one of the ship’s crates for vials of what looks like spice.

Knowing that Daal is under attack but helpless to join the battle, the others remain in the center of the ruins trying to decide whether to proceed down the stone steps. As the afternoon shadows lengthen, Arresta seems to have made up her mind. Looking down the stairs into the darkness, she places one hand on her swollen belly and whispers “Okay baby, let’s go find your daddy.”

Return to Clone Wars Campaign Main Page

Monday, December 28, 2009

Death Goes Shopping


Death Goes Shopping, subtitled A Jessica Turnbull Mystery, is the first novel by Jessica Burton. The title character is Promotions Director for a shopping mall, and just as she's putting the finishing touches on Halloween and planning for Christmas, three people are shot dead in the mall's food court. Now, normally in mystery novels the main character is involved in the mystery--you know, stumbling upon clues, bumping into suspects, solving the whodunnit. In this book, however, the author's taken a really weird move: the mystery is completely in the background. Instead, the foreground is all about Jessica Turnbull and her (to my mind) rather boring life as a mall employee, her difficulty in finding someone to play Santa, her quest to find the right color wool for her knitting, etc. That idea might work if Turnbull was a really unusual, quirky, funny, or tragic character so that her day-to-day life was enough to carry the story, but instead the book simply reads like the really boring diary of a not-particularly-interesting person.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Fantasy Football: Weeks 14 & 15

The fantasy football league I'm in consideres weeks 1 through 13 as the "regular season," with weeks 14 and 15 (combined score) as the first play-off game and weeks 16 and 17 as the second play-off game. With a 4-9 regular season record, I ended up as the # 10 seed in the consolation bracket, against the # 9 seed, the also 4-9 Seagrams 7 & 7.

I finally got my team running on all cylinders for the playoffs, with Peyton Manning at QB, Ricky Williams and Jonathan Stewart at RB (a fortunate injury to the Panthers' other RB gave Stewart a lot of playing time), and the addition of Arizona's Beanie Wells (picked up off waivers) adding a lot of points to make up for my uneven production at WR and defense. I feel smart having picked up Redskins' TE Fred Davis out of desperation for a Monday night game and sticking with him.

I won the first week 112-87 and the second week 87-62, giving me a total playoff win of 199-149.

Now I move on to play the # 5 seed in the last round of the playoffs.

WEEK 14

SUN RUNNERS

QB Peyton Manning, Ind QB 18
RB Ricky Williams, Mia RB 14
RB Jonathan Stewart, Car RB 2
RB/WR Beanie Wells, Ari RB 13
WR Chad Ochocinco, Cin WR 8
WR Pierre Garcon*, Ind WR 3
TE Fred Davis, Was TE 17
D/ST Steelers D/ST, Pit D/ST 5
K David Akers, Phi K 7

SEAGRAMS 7 & 7

QB Tony Romo, Dal QB 17
RB Maurice Jones-Drew, Jac RB 13
RB Chris Brown, Hou RB 0
RB/WR Felix Jones, Dal RB 5
WR Calvin Johnson, Det WR 3
WR Miles Austin, Dal WR 13
TE Jeremy Shockey*, NO TE 4
D/ST Cowboys D/ST, Dal D/ST 3
K Nick Folk, Dal K SD 4

WEEK 15

SUN RUNNERS

QB Peyton Manning, Ind QB 26
RB Ricky Williams, Mia RB 14
RB Jonathan Stewart, Car RB 23
RB/WR Beanie Wells, Ari RB 18
WR Chad Ochocinco, Cin WR 15
WR Pierre Garcon*, Ind WR 1
TE Fred Davis, Was TE NYG 12
D/ST Steelers D/ST, Pit D/ST -6
K David Akers, Phi K 9

SEAGRAMS 7 & 7

QB Tony Romo, Dal QB @NO 18
RB Maurice Jones-Drew, Jac RB 26
RB Quinton Ganther, Was RB 9
RB/WR Justin Forsett, Sea RB 6
WR Miles Austin, Dal WR 19
WR Mohamed Massaquoi, Cle WR 0
TE Jeremy Shockey*, NO TE 0
D/ST Chargers D/ST, SD D/ST 3
K Nick Folk, Dal K 6

Friday, December 25, 2009

Three Random Football Questions

Three things I've been wondering lately about the NFL:

1). Is it just me, or are there an unusual frequency of players getting their helmets knocked off during games? Are they wearing their chinstraps looser?

2). Why does pretty much every network t.v. broadcast team consist of two guys in the booth and a young woman on the sidelines? When will female announcers be hired? It's not like all the guy announcers played or coached football either.

3). Why don't offenses stay in the shotgun permanently? Are there any running plays that couldn't be adapted to the formation? Other than a qb sneak or maybe a quick fb dive, I can't think of any and the advantages for pass protection are obvious.

My Tricorder

I'm writing this from my amazing Christmas gift, an Ipod Touch. (I've named it my Tricorder because it can do pretty much everything, including the detection of alien lifeforms with the right app). It's really quite extraordinary--web browsing, videos, apps, and more.  Tonight I downloaded an app that organizes all my Star Wars books & comics by title, internal chronology, and whether or not I own them (with links to Amazon & Wookieepedia for more info). With this device, I am now the ultimate power in the galaxy.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Iron Man 2 & Alice in Wonderland Trailers

Thanks to HeroPress, here's links to two new trailers: Iron Man 2 (which looks really good) and Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (which also looks intriguing).

Monday, December 21, 2009

Punisher: Die Hard in the Big Easy


Die Hard in the Big Easy was a 1992 one-shot written by John Wagner and drawn by Phil Gascoine. As the title indicates, the story is set in New Orleans as the Punisher tracks down a drug ring ran by a local politician. Before the Punisher can off the guy, however, a hired assassin named The Mortician (a voodoo practitioner) manages to knock the Punisher unconscious and bury him alive. Fortunately, a nearby resident of the swamps sees this and manages to rescue the Punisher before he suffocates. Unfortunately, this rescuer is drawn and characterized very close to being an obnoxious racial stereotype. Apart from this, it's a solid Punisher story, taking everyone's favorite gun-toting vigilante to an interesting (if very clichéd) setting.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Mystique: Drop Dead Gorgeous


A few years ago Marvel published a short lived Mystique comic, featuring everyone's favorite blue-skinned shape-changing Rogue-mothering super-villainess. I wanted to like the first trade paperback collection, Drop Dead Gorgeous, but it just didn't work. Mystique is black-mailed into working for Professor Xavier as Bond to his M, carrying out a secret mission in Cuba. There's some cool Alias-style action scenes, but Mystique is portrayed like a generic adventuress--she talks in pop culture slang, has a heart of gold, and lacks the mystery, menace, and intrigue that has made the character so interesting in her previous incarnations.

Friday, December 18, 2009

My First Job


I began my first job in the summer of my sophomore year of high school. My Dad had been bugging me for months to find something part-time, but I hemmed and hawed enough that he finally went to a nearby business and talked the owner into giving me a position sight unseen. It was thus that I became an employee of the Gering, Nebraska Tastee Freez, a.k.a. Big T Family Restaurant. Tastee Freez was a fast-food restaurant chain that specialized in ice cream--a Tastee Freez was basically the equivalent of a Dairy Queen Blizzard. (the chain is mentioned in the John Mellencamp song Jack and Diane; according to Wikipedia, fewer than 100 of the stores still exist). My uniform consisted of a blue t-shirt, a red apron, and a very goofy looking Big T hat. I started making $ 4.25 an hour and after a year of loyal service (never missing shifts, covering for others, etc.) received a raise to $ 4.50. After taxes, social security, and deductions for food purchases (I still crave the smothered burrito platter to this day!), I probably made a little over $ 100 every two weeks. This taught me that hard work and dedication was a bad way to get ahead, probably the opposite lesson from what my Dad wanted to teach me.

Still, I loved working there because it basically comprised my entire social life for my sophomore and junior years of high school. I had moved to Gering as a freshman and left all my friends behind--that thing adults say "Don't worry, you'll make new friends" simply wasn't true in my case. But during shifts at Tastee Freez I actually fit in, had people to talk to, and honestly had a lot of fun--it was a job I actually looked forward to going to, an experience I've only had one other time in my life. I had a big crush on one of my co-workers--one really cold Winter night, she offered to drive me home--I said yes, thinking this was a great way to spend time with her, only to realize soon thereafter how terribly awkward it would be when she realized I literally lived across the street from the restaurant. On another night, drama occurred when the Assistant Manager got into a big argument with the Manager and stormed out--he later tried to open a competing restaurant in Gering called Wheezy Pete's (because his name was Pete and he had asthma) but I don't think it lasted long.

I left Tastee Freez only when the chance arose to move back to Ogallala (my hometown) for my senior year and live with my best friend. I went back and visited the restaurant a few times over the next couple of years, until one time I drove by and it wasn't there anymore.

Torchwood Magazine # 17



* It starts with a really interesting interview with show creator Russell T. Davies about the pessimistic nature of humanity that Torchwood seems to embody, the differences between Torchwood and Doctor Who based on the time period in which they air, and more.

* A standard making-of feature on the 456 from Children of Earth.

* A prelude short story to the new novel Risk Assessment titled "The Last Voyage of the Osiris" in which Jack finds himself slipping through a time anomaly while in Cardiff Bay, where he meets an Egyptologist named Margaret--who apparently knows who Gwen is. Along the way there's giant cybernetic squids and floating coffins. It's all very enigmatic but intriguing.

* Part 3 of the 5-part comic strip Broken. I think I must've missed Part 2. Jack, Ianto, and Gwen are trapped in some sort of nightmarish hotel along with several innocent bystanders and they know that Bilis Manger is involved. Everyone starts having disturbing hallucinations and then a cliffhanger ending. Not great, but not terrible. The bad artwork for Torchwood comic strips continues.

* Closing Time Part 2, a short story written by Andy Lane. I'll review it even though I missed part 1. Gwen, Ianto, and Jack find a decaying corpse in Gwen's apartment; they manage to track the corpse and a trail of decay back to a certain Professor Passmore at a mysterious research institute. It turns out, as these things do, that the Professor has found a piece of alien tech that washed up through the Rift (really, isn't Rift debris the basis of every Torchwood story ever written?) which allows him to stay alive after death. The story has a couple of interesting ideas, but nothing revolutionary.

* The Beyond the Hub feature on possible real-time paranormal phenomena tackles time-slips, such as the Bermuda Triangle. I find these features surprisingly interesting to read.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

My First Cassette Tape


The first cassette tape I ever bought with my own money was Poison's Flesh & Blood. My first car, a Buick Skyhawk (the subject of a future post!) only had a tape player, not a CD player, and I must have worn out that bad boy playing classic Poison songs like Something to Believe In, Poor Boy Blues, and Unskinny Bop (seen here on Youtube). I can't claim any musical credibility by having embraced such a hair band, but then I still find their music catchy, can recite the verses to most of their songs from memory, and must resist the urge to download the album on iTunes.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Clone Wars Campaign Recap Extra: The Slow Fuse

During the course of our long-running Star Wars campaign, I've often found it useful to write short pieces of "fan fiction" to provide some additional background or connective tissue to tie things together using scenes that, due to the nature of gaming, wouldn't work well "on screen" during gaming itself. Sometimes my beautiful bride contributes as well, and I edit the pieces into something that can serve as "canon." Here's the first chronological story, which takes place shortly after the events of Recap # 30.

The Slow Fuse

Nestled into the silk lining of the jewelry case, the string of extremely expensive and rare Mon Calamari seed pearls glowed with a luster that was pleasing to the eye. They were a dark blue, the most exotic and difficult to find. Stefan Cassadine regarded them with pleasure – thinking again how fine they would look against his wife’s pale white throat. He considered himself a connoisseur of priceless things, and she was the prize jewel in his collection…

His thoughts having turned to Arresta, Stefan checked the ship’s chronometer and confirmed that it was on schedule to return to Coruscant within the next standard hour. Having been absent for several days, tracking down two of the free lance bounty hunters who had expressed an interest in collecting the large prize placed on his wife’s head, he was returning to retrieve her from her sanctuary in the Jedi temple.

Had anyone else been in the room, they would have noticed his handsome face darken suddenly, as though something in his thoughts disturbed him. He had disliked leaving Arresta in the care of the Jedi, but circumstances hadn’t allowed tremendous flexibility – and the opportunity to have Arresta rid herself of that annoying Padawan had been too good to pass up…

He had known from the first moment he had met Arresta, then a beautiful but naïve student, that he had found a rare prize. At more than twenty years her senior he had certainly bedded other women in his life – but he knew that he had never met another woman more likely to match him in brains and skill. She had required polishing, but he had taken pleasure in knowing that he was crafting what he had never been able to find…a woman worthy of helping him create a proper dynasty….

In his youth, he had spent time learning to break horses – and it was always the most spirited beasts that proved the most worth the effort – and Arresta was certainly spirited. He hadn’t expected her to return to Mongui when her father called, but upon reflection, he had actually been pleased at her decision. He had known that her father was far more manipulative than she had suspected and he fondly looked forward to the day when she would return to his side, a sadder but wiser woman…

Instead, to his chagrin, she had been spirited off of her home planet by a whelp of a Jedi, a Duros with a penchant for plastic surgery, and an old man with a mysterious past. It had taken months for his contacts to track them from Mongui to Bothawui and then to the Ansion system and back to Coruscant, and by then, the Jedi had lured her into his bed…

Realizing that his fists were clenched, Stefan forced himself calm and sat back in his chair. He glanced down at the wedding holo he kept prominently placed on his desk. It reminded him that whatever her previous indiscretions, that Arresta had come to her senses and had accepted his marriage proposal. And of course, he could not begrudge the existence of the child…

It might have surprised those who did not know him well, to learn that Stefan Cassadine saw no distinction between a child of his own biological heritage and the one that his wife now carried. To Stefan’s mind, no such distinction existed. Arresta belonged to him – therefore, her child too, was his. In some ways, he was grateful for the ill-fated romance between his bride and her ex-paramour. Without the impetus of an illegitimate pregnancy, he suspected it may have been far more difficult to tempt his beloved down the aisle.

“Boss….we’re coming into Coruscant now.” Xam’s voice sounded over the comm channel and Stefan pressed the switch that would allow him to respond. “Very good. Let me know when we’re in range of the Jedi temple…I want to check in with Arresta.”

“You got it boss! It’ll be good to see Mrs. C. again….” Xam signed off and left his employer alone with his thoughts.

Stefan rose and began to pace his quarters impatiently. It seemed he had been waiting too long for this. Arresta had quite the talent for placing herself in danger, a trait he might have found endearing if she had the sense to choose the right kind of danger – and the right venue. He was quite hopeful that by the time the child was born, that he would be able to convince her to take up the mantle of the guild again, creating, as it were, a complete family business…

That was the other reason he had reluctantly insisted that Arresta remain in the Jedi temple while he was away. There had been something… unsettling… in her demeanor whenever the subject of Tarn Tamarand had come up. He had decided that providing her the opportunity to resolve the matter was prudent. Let the boy learn now once and for all that he was unwelcome and he would be a pest no more…

Or, at least you’ll learn how trustworthy your Pet really is… He pushed down the small, internal voice.

The console beeped and he found that he now had an open signal that would provide him access to local Coruscant channels. Keying in the coordinates for the Jedi Temple, he found himself on the line with a keen-eyed young Padawan, distinguished by the braid in her brown hair.

“Good afternoon. My name is Stefan Cassadine. My wife has been residing within your temple for security reasons while I have been off-planet. Perhaps you could be so good as to connect me with her room?”

The smiling Padawan quickly accessed her records, but to someone as well-trained as Stefan it was easy to see her blanch at whatever it was she saw. He quickly found himself transferred to a more Senior Jedi, a full Knight by the looks of it. The fellow took his information and placed him on hold.

After a long ten minutes, Stefan was impatiently drumming his fingers against the arm of his chair, but he had managed to maintain his state of calm. Eventually, a young woman came on the screen and introduced herself as Tyree Coramon, the Judicial in charge of the investigation that Arresta had been assigned to help with. He felt the stirrings of concern. He had thought the investigation a harmless pursuit, something to keep his wife from getting bored and getting herself into more trouble, but perhaps he should have investigated more closely…

On the screen, the woman was rambling on and on about some kind of investigation and a temple lock-down, but she was far from getting to the point.

“Ms. Coramon, perhaps you could cut to the chase? Where exactly is my wife?”

She hesitated, but then hurried on - speaking in the quick tones of one who knew her response would not be received well.

“We…uh…we don’t know.”

“You don’t know? How is that possible? I was under the impression that my wife was part of your special investigative team.”

“She was…well, she was supposed to be. But really, she didn’t seem that interested in it, although I would have thought she would be, given her connection to one of the suspects, but then, I guess we cleared him and his disappearance was really a separate, Jedi matter…anyway, she and her friends took off – we assume to go looking for him.”

Stefan felt his senses still and something of his inner rage must have shown on his face, because the Judicial looked at him strangely.

“Just before the investigation started, a Padawan went missing from the temple. He was someone your wife seemed to know, a fellow called Tarn...” Stefan reached out and snapped off the comm link.

He stood up and up-ended his desk. Opening a channel to the bridge, he commanded Xam to get in touch with all of their intelligence operatives, with orders to locate Arresta immediately.

Only then did he notice the rare seed pearls, scattered across the floor, the strands of the necklace snapped when he had flung them to the floor. Surveying the damage, Stefan felt his anger rise and he snarled one word. “Tamarand…”

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Last Issue Special # 16: Black Goliath


SERIES: Black Goliath

DATE: 1976

THOSE RESPONSIBLE: Chris Claremont (writer); Archie Goodwin (editor)

CATEGORY: PARTIAL SURPRISE

Black Goliath was launched in 1975, "conceived and written" by Tony Isabella, but taken over by Chris Claremont as of issue # 2. Today I think new characters tend to rack up a lot more appearances as guest stars and in mini-series before being granted the prestige of a solo series, but things were maybe a little looser back then. The eponymous Black Goliath has the ability to grow up to 15 feet tall--in other words, he's a goliath who is um . . . black (subtlety sold separately). I actually like the alter ego of the hero better than the hero himself: Bill Foster is a noted bio-chemist with links to the Avengers and Tony Stark. Unfortunately, Big Bill got himself offed during Civil War a few years ago, and this series' five-issue run in the mid-70s was his only solo series glory.

Black Goliath is a pretty standard super hero title, as thefts of nuclear materials by the villainous Atom-Smasher (whose powers seem identical to those of the better-known Radioactive Man) are thwarted, bank robberies by the Stilt-Man are foiled, and a break-in by some guy named Vulcan is kiboshed. A supporting cast is introduced (comprised of Foster's co-workers) and a classic Claremont unresolved subplot stretches through several issues (something to do with a mysterious glowing box). The only surprising thing is that Foster has a one-night stand in issue 2, definitely a rarity for the time period.

The last issue sees Black Goliath sent through a portal to a distant planet, where he has to survive alien threats and cobble together the means to return himself home (we don't actually see him make the trip back, but since he appears later on Earth in future comics, we'll have to assume everything worked out okay). A text box on the letters page is pretty matter-of-fact:

"Like many another mag in their time, Bashful Bill Foster's is biting the dust for that most basic of reasons, namely poor sales. Though the letters indicated that there wer epeople out there who liked what GOLIATH was . . . they weren't enough to keep the book going in these days of ever-spiralling costs. Which is sad, but which are also the breaks of the game."

Friday, December 11, 2009

Torchwood: Greeks Bearing Gifts (S1,E7)


"After a while it gets . . . You hear too much. It changes how you see people."

Greeks Bearing Gifts, Season One, Episode Seven

("Toshiko is given an alien pendant which enables her to hear other people's thoughts.")

What I Liked

* A lot of nice quips, mostly about Owen's capabilities as a forensic investigator.

* Tosh and Mary's flirting--very sexy and well-written.

* The CGI for Mary's alien form--ethereal and beautiful.

* Gwen & Owen's playful banter--they really do seem like young lovers.

* Tosh's experience reading minds: Owen really is that sarcastic, Ianto is torn up over everything that's happened to him, Jack is unreadable, and Gwen is mostly thinking about Owen.

What I Didn't

* Having Mary turn out to be a completely evil alien who rips out human hearts is pretty cliched--you can have interesting character conflict without making things so black and white.

What I Stole From Wikipedia

* Mary's alien race are apparently called "Arcateenians" and appear again in an episode of the Sarah Jane Adventures and the novel Something in the Water.

Commentary

By: Richard Stokes (Producer), Colin Teague (Director), Toby Whithouse (Writer)

Tone: Interesting, straight-forward explanation of creating the episode.

* The crew apparently stopped shooting one day to watch the end of the England game in the World Cup.

* The alien transportation device was apparently based on props used on Baywatch

Torchwood Declassified: "There's Something About Mary"

* Interviews with cast and crew about Tosh's personality and the desirability of mind-reading

* A brief review of how every lead character on the show had at least one same-sex kiss during Season One.

* A standard feature on the process of making the CGI alien.
Deleted Scenes
* Jack shows Tosh a Weevil and names it Janet (I've seen that name in other places, and could never figure out where it came from). He says that Janet was found burying the body of one of her dead children, but that he doesn't know if it was because of learned behavior or affection. "The first rule of aliens: always assume they bite."

Spell Games


Spell Games, the fourth book in T.A. Pratt's Marla Mason series is another solid, fast-paced read. The wrinkle for Felport's chief sorceror this time around is that her brother Jason, a notorious con man, has come to town looking for his next big score. Jason doesn't believe in magic, but he's heard enough about his sister to think Marla can help him in a long con against a gullible wanna-be wizard. Along the way, there's a mushroom-worshipping sorceror, the death of a major character, and some nice surprises.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Clone Wars Campaign: Recap # 30

This was the second session in the big City of Sand story-arc. There's not a lot of action (an inconclusive fist-fight between the Jedi and a Trandoshan; a bloodless space battle), but some excellent role-playing and plot-advancement kept the session fun.

The characters and plots from the Tempest Feud campaign book make their first appearance here (the Hutts, the missing Mika, the Bomu Vengeance pirates), and I was pretty happy with how their differing personalities turned out and how well they integrated into the gameplay as it was a big pain in the butt to convert their stats into Saga edition.

The character of Kronos makes an appearance here as well; he's portrayed as a strange, pudgy bald man with the apparent ability to foresee, at least to some degree, probabilities as to what will happen in the future. The idea for Kronos comes from an obscure Marvel Comics super-villain named Tick-Tock. Kronos' backstory and mystery look to be the subject of our next (real-time) story arc.

We also see another example of Daal thinking himself pretty slick in once again managing to avoid paying Jocasta--this is going to turn around and bite him big in a few sessions . . .


SESSION # 30

Nine months into the Clone Wars, a pair of massive explosions shake the gardens of the Jedi Temple. A trio of Senate investigators are found on the scene, but only one of them claims to remember what happened – and he tells a strange story indeed. As dawn breaks on Coruscant, the wounded investigators face a difficult day ahead: a mysterious assailant nowhere to be found, Padawan Tarn Tamarand still missing, and the receipt of a cryptic message from the fourth member of their team…

The gardens of the Jedi temple are in shambles. Daal Mordo claims that the group was attacked by the evil entity behind the recent string of murders – a strange being who describes himself as the Seventh of the Nine and who can disguise himself through the power of the Force. Daal explains the situation to his confused comrades: the Jedi Knight Atel Por’ten and the strange furry sniper called Doxen. They cannot remember what happened but Doxen uses his tracking skills to confirm through close examination of the ground that at least part of Daal’s story is true - a male was definitely standing in the shrubbery. He also notices that his comlink is missing, but cannot remember that he slipped it into the pocket of the attacker.

When Tyree Coramon arrives, she is somewhat suspicious of the story told by the Durosian, but the others convince her that something has indeed transpired. She confirms that the temple is now in temporary lockdown and sees that Sian Suan gets proper medical attention. She also informs them that they have performed a service for the Senate, as it seems that by scaring off the air car belonging to the terrorists the previous day, they caused a second group to become trapped, leading to their capture.

While Doxen continues to explore the temple, searching for signs of the escaped murderer and attempting to meet with senior Jedi officials, the others return to the command centre. There, Atel receives a visit from Jedi Master Horellius Creen who attempts to convince him that the item Tarn was carrying when he disappeared must be retrieved and that the mission is of vital importance. He suggests that Atel speak with a Hutt visiting Coruscant named Poparra, who was responsible for trying to sell the item on Nar Shadda. Creen provides contact information and instructs the young Jedi not to take Daal (who might be recognized from his earlier attempt to steal the item) or Doxen (who will be an object of mockery). However, Creen does suggest bringing Arresta, as "her last name alone may carry some weight."

Meanwhile, having left the Temple in the early hours of morning, Arresta reserves passage on an expensive private charter yacht bound for Alderaan in the hopes of tracking down Ycram Notwal, whom she suspects Tarn has gone to see. Just minutes before departure, however, she accepts a call from Daal. After the Durosian indicates he wants to help her find Tarn, she agrees to meet with him at the yacht in an Eastport launch bay. Taking a call from Atel, who indicates he also wishes to help her in her quest, she allows him to come and talk to her.

Together, Daal and Atel prepare to leave the temple. Outside on the steps, they see Carn Sokhol (the scarred Jedi veteran) in the distance, about to enter an airtaxi. Sokhol sees them and with a voice amplified through the Force calls out to Daal: "You played the game well, Stranger. I hope we'll have another chance to play again." Realizing that the Seventh of the Nine has been masquerading as Sokhol for weeks, Daal and Atel attempt to give chase. Unfortunately, the Force isn't with them, and the Sith's aircar is lost in the stream of traffic. Eventually, Metropol investigators track down the aircar, only to find its driver has committed "suicide" and there is no sign of "Carn Sokhol."

Arriving at an expensive luxury yacht, Daal and Atel find Arresta, who agrees to a separate audience with each of them. Daal confirms for the Princess that he is indeed, her old friend, Marpa Zalon, in disguise. Arresta agrees to continue to address him by his assumed name. Daal explains to Arresta that he owes a debt to herself and to Tarn for helping to get him acquitted during their trial. He wants to help her find the missing Padawan. Arresta is pleased that he will journey with her to Alderaan to find Ycram and hopefully pick up Tarn’s trail. She reminds Daal that Tarn is still carrying that strange lightsaber that he picked up in the anomaly – the one that most other people could never seem to see. The Princess claims that this is a rescue mission – Tarn is certain to get himself killed without help.

While Arresta goes to speak with Atel, the Durosian contacts Doxen and suggests that he come to the yacht to hear what the Princess has to say. He indicates that the information they have is relevant to the current investigation. In the yacht’s expensive central meeting area, Atel attempts to convince Princess Arresta that he should accompany her on this mission. Arresta is reluctant, but does admit that his skills might prove useful. However, she is clear that she does not trust the Jedi order and that she expects Atel to follow her commands – and that at the first sign of betrayal he’ll be enjoying a slow ride back to Coruscant in an escape pod. The Jedi Knight agrees and attempts to mollify the Princess by indicating that the Jedi order has many positive traits and that trying to find someone you love is something that he can identify with. Arresta is quick to protest that he shouldn’t presume to think that he understands her.

With that uneasy truce, the team meets with Doxen to try to convince him to join them. He expresses tentative interest – but must first assure himself that his Senatorial friend approves and that the Jedi temple is now secure. He returns and outlines a list of proposed security measure to Tyree Coromon who agrees to present them. Senator Orelus says that Doxen should follow his own best judgment in investigating the murders and Tarn's disappearance.

While Daal performs a computer search for information on Poparra the Hutt, Atel covers himself in grease and oil in order to gather some undercover information from local dock workers. Together, the two learn that Poparra runs a medium-sized criminal organization on Nar Shadda. The Hutt lord allegedly doesn't deal in slaves or spice and is known as relatively honest, as far as Hutt crimelords go. Poparra has two sons: Zonnos (the elder) and Mika (the younger). His majordomo is a clanless Hutt name Vago. Apparently, Poparra is on Coruscant in order to buy a freighter and a large batch of medicinal spice from his cousin, Ziro.

Atel and the increasingly impatient Arresta travel to the loading bay where Poparra's Ubrikkian yacht and new freighter (a Maka-Eekai L4000) are being prepared for launch. They see several Trandoshans loading creates aboard the freighter, while Vago (Poparra's majordomo) and his jade green protocol droid check the manifest. With some reluctance, Vago directs his droid to lead Atel and Arresta into the yacht's audience chamber. Inside, they witness Poparra arguing with his son Zonnos about whether the latter's retinue of Trandoshans are capable of rescuing Mika. As Atel looks on in confusion, Arresta speaks to Poparra in Huttese and offers to rescue Mika in exchange for information on where the item Tarn stole (the head of an MD-4 medical droid) was originally found. Zonnos interjects that the Jedi are mere tricksters and con men, leading Poparra to suggest a challenge between one of Zonnos' Trandoshans and Atel. The results of the fight are inconclusive, forcing Arresta to sweeten the deal by offering Poparra 10,000 credits in addition to rescuing Mika. Poparra is finally swayed, and tells them his majordomo will make all necessary arrangements.

The downside to this new arrangement is the time it will take for the “preparations” to be made. Returning to the yacht, Arresta chafes at the delay, smashing an expensive objet d’art to appease her anger. Atel’s attempts to soothe her temper are unsuccessful. To make good use of the waiting time, Arresta visits a nearby private clinic for a pre-natal check-up, receiving a clean bill of health for herself and her unborn baby.

Doxen and Daal spend their time obtaining an extensive array of supplies and weaponry. When they arrive to speak with Poparra’s henchman, they learn that a ship will be provided to them. They will travel into a quarantine zone, carrying the freight of medical grade spice, which they must also inject themselves with each day in order to inoculate themselves against the plague. Coordinates will be pre-programmed into the nav computer, and will lead them to the planet where the droid's head was found and where Mika was last seen. Arresta agrees to the terms with one condition – first the ship is programmed to travel to Alderaan with a 24 hour stop-over at that planet prior to commencing the next stage of the journey. Zonnos' Trandoshans finish the loading process and Poparra's yacht departs.

Minutes later, two members of the Sun Runners arrive outside the freighter and speak with Atel. The heavyset Kronos claims that in "18 of the next 19 potentialities" Daal departs Coruscant without paying Jocasta the promised sum of 17,750 credits. Atel tries to dissemble and distract them so Daal can hide inside the ship, but Kronos is undeterred. Doxen arrives on-scene and is told how Daal stole the money during a job and then promised to pay it back. As Daal begins the start-up sequence inside the ship's cockpit, Kronos warns that Jocasta's wrath "will be terrible indeed" and then departs. The freighter lifts off and enters hyperspace towards Alderaan. Doxen and Atel confront Daal, but the Durosian is unapologetic and states that Jocasta is a bloodthirsty pirate who doesn't deserve the money back.

Over the following days, Doxen talks to Arresta and gets some history on the so-called anomaly – a cylindrical vessel of unheard of size and composition that Arresta, Tarn and Daal once encountered. Inside that vessel, they encountered strange creatures, including the one calling himself the Seventh of the Nine. Time did not pass normally there and a strange prophecy referred to Marpa as the Stranger, 8P-MD-4 as the Automaton and Arresta as the Queen. Doxen questions the Princess regarding her relationship with the missing Tarn Tamarand but Arresta dodges the question. She claims a strong sense of loyalty to someone she was “close” to.

Atel again confronts Daal about his trustworthiness. Daal claims loyalty to Tarn, Arresta and the Jedi. He tells Atel to talk to the Princess about it if he needs more proof. Arresta defends Daal. “I trust him with my life and the life of my baby.” She also fills him in about the anomaly, and Atel seems mollified for the time being.

[A.G. 296]

Still in hyperspace and four days away from Alderaan, the ship begins to suffer strange power failures and then suddenly lurches out of hyperspace. Arresta stays in the pilot’s seat while the others investigate and discover crab droids that were secreted aboard the ship beginning to attack key systems. Within seconds, Doxen, Atel and Daal manage to destroy the droids. Daal starts works frantically to get the hyperspace drive up and running as a Rodian pirate vessel named the Bomu Vengeance pulls into view and orders the freighter to "Drop the spice or prepare to be boarded!" After a few seconds without receiving a reply, the Vengeance opens fire with ion and laser cannons. However, Arresta flies rings around the pirates and the freighter barely suffers a scratch. Meanwhile, Daal has fixed the sabotaged hyperdrive in record time. The pirates contact Arresta and marvel at her skill as a pilot, offering her the chance to join their crew. Anxious to continue her journey, Arresta smiles and activates the hyperdrive with one last parting comment. “Sorry boys, but you couldn’t afford me.”

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Jane Eyre & The Eyre Affair




One of the reasons for getting into the Worth Literary Classics books is to revisit many of the English novels of the time period that have merged in my mind into one great conglomeration of gothic manor houses, desolate moors, and moody male protagonists. On the cruise I re-read Jane Eyre so that I could then re-read Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair and understand it better.

Jane Eyre, of course, features orphaned governess Jane Eyre falling in love with the foul-tempered, mercurial Mr. Rochester only to learn to her horror that his wife, now a madwoman, is still alive and kept in the attic. There's some really nice creepy, gothic scenes in the book as Jane discovers what's really happening: in particular, waking up to discover Mr. Rochester's bed has been set on fire (with him in it) and waking up another night to see the crazed Bertha Rochester tearing apart her (Jane's) wedding veil. There's more Christian moralism in the book than I remember from my first time through, but it was still enjoyable.

The Eyre Affair is the first in a very off-beat series of books featuring a character named Thursday Next, who is a Literary Detective in an alternative 1985 where literary crimes are the subject of major criminal syndicates, the Crimean War is still going on, time-travel is problematic, and more. Someone has invented a device to change the content of books by altering the original manuscript, which leads Thursday to go into the plot of Jane Eyre in order to set things right. Having just read Jane Eyre, this one was a lot more enjoyable and I'm looking forward to the next in the series, Lost in a Good Book.

Fantasy Football Weeks 11-13

I came back from the cruise to learn that I split the two weeks of fantasy football. Week 11 was a 12 point loss, even though Ricky Williams came through with a whopping 30 points all by himself. Week 12 I kicked ass even though I scored fewer points, as my opponent's entire team only accounted for 38 points. This past weekend, I was happy to see late Sunday night that I had a 7 point lead over my opponent--only to realize he had three players set for the Packer/Raven Monday night, so I ended up getting killed 78-95.

That's the end of the regular season, and I finished with a 4-9 record (bad; but still better the Browns). I think the record is a combination of lack of skill (I scored the fewest points of any team in the division) and bad luck (I gave up more points than all but two other teams, something completely out of my control). Next up are the playoffs, and I'm in the "Consolation Ladder" where you play two "games", which last two weeks each. As the # 10 seed, my first game is against the # 9 seed.

A couple of players I have to get rid of are Mike Wallace and John Carlson--neither has been worth much of anything the past few weeks.

Week 11

SUN RUNNERS: 71 Points

Peyton Manning, Ind QB 11
Ricky Williams, Mia RB 30
Jonathan Stewart, Car RB 4
Mike Wallace, Pit WR 2
Chad Ochocinco, Cin WR 6
Jeremy Maclin, Phi WR 6
John Carlson, Sea TE 0
Steelers D/ST, Pit D/ST 6
David Akers, Phi K 6

LACONIA PUGGLES: 83 Points

Donovan McNabb, Phi QB 15
Chris Johnson, Ten RB 15
Joseph Addai, Ind RB 13
Brandon Jacobs, NYG RB 10
T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Sea WR 3
Roy E. Williams, Dal WR 0
Dallas Clark, Ind TE 6
Saints D/ST, NO D/ST 15
Stephen Gostkowski, NE K 6

WEEK 12

SUN RUNNERS: 68 Points
Peyton Manning, Ind QB 17
Ricky Williams, Mia RB 15
Jonathan Stewart, Car RB 3
Mike Wallace, Pit WR 0
Chad Ochocinco, Cin WR 3
Jeremy Maclin, Phi WR 6
John Carlson, Sea TE 1
Steelers D/ST, Pit D/ST9
David Akers, Phi K 14

TEAM CAMPMAN: 38 Points

Matt Schaub, Hou QB 13
Cedric Benson, Cin RB 0
Jason Snelling, Atl RB -2
Mike Sims-Walker, Jac WR 4
Larry Fitzgerald, Ari WR 3
Nate Burleson, Sea WR 4
Tony Gonzalez, Atl TE 8
Dolphins D/ST, Mia D/ST 4
Robbie Gould, Chi K 4

WEEK 13

SUN RUNNERS: 78 Points

Peyton Manning, Ind QB 14
Ricky Williams, Mia RB 7
Jonathan Stewart, Car RB 18
Mike Wallace, Pit WR 1
Chad Ochocinco, Cin WR 19
Jeremy Maclin, Phi WR 8
John Carlson, Sea TE 0
Steelers D/ST, Pit D/ST 2
David Akers, Phi K 9

LIQ STORE PORKCHOP: 95 Points

Philip Rivers, SD QB 22
Fred Jackson, Buf RB 5
Darren Sproles, SD RB 13
Greg Jennings, GB WR 7
Donald Driver, GB WR 7
Sidney Rice, Min WR 7
Vernon Davis, SF TE 17
Packers D/ST, GB D/ST 12
Ryan Longwell, Min K 5