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and now, for something completely different.

Tag Archives: adventure

Get out there!

I want to be an adventurer, or maybe I always have been one and just want to do more. How do I know it, how did I figure it out? I think right now I’m measuring it against my two most recent regrets, encountered on a trip to kauai:

  • I regret not jumping into this river (or off of this waterfall, depending on your perspective) and only filming my brother in law doing it. It didn’t even strike me at the time, and only later did I figure it out, and now I’ve missed the opportunity:

  • I regret not doing a drift dive following the two boat dives I did while on vacation. I felt guilty about signing up for another dive and leaving my family for a day, so I didn’t do it; but now i feel I’ve really missed something.

These may sound like strange regrets to some, but I find myself seriously bummed out by them. This is not to say that I didn’t have fun with my family on my vacation, because I did; I just think I came up a bit short of where I could have, personally. I’m pretty sure this isn’t a midlife crisis, because this is kind of a long standing problem, and I think it’s just a symptom of the fact that I want to be an adventurer. So I’m re-purposing my blog to talk about that.

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Local resident gets a cleaning

 

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Stuck in the 90s again

2013-11-29 15.33.12It was a time of Seinfeld, X-Files, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and when we were still open to the wonders of computerized special effects in Jurassic Park (they had not yet been abused by George Lucas).  Accessing the world outside your computer was predominantly BBS and 14.4 modems.  It was a time when I was young – physically, mentally (not that this has improved), and to Calgary itself.  Moxy Fruvous said it best: we were stuck in the 90s.  Grunge was king (hey, at least they wrote their own music), U2 was riding high on Achtung Baby and Zooropa, and I was in high school in downtown Calgary. Western Canada High School was and is about French Immersion and the IB program.  I’ll be honest up front, I am not an overachieving kind of guy, and French Immersion was my entrance ticket to Western.  Lucky ticket, though; golden ticket.

2013-11-29 15.33.43For a lot of people, high school is painful, stressful, lonely and difficult: hormones are firing on all cylinders in both sexes, and it’s a time in our lives when average people likely experience the worst in themselves, as a result. For me, though, and quite a few of my friends (Erik, for example), high school presented some of the best years of our lives.  From September, 1990 to June, 1994, I called WCHS my home and met many people whom I still consider to be family.  Maybe it was my oblivious nature that shielded me, or maybe I was lucky, or maybe it was a deep-down desire to have fun wherever I was (I vote this, and I vote my friends shared this sentiment), but I avoided the bullying and cliques that found painful memories in so many people.

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Redshirts – by John Scalzi

 

Redshirts - by John Scalzi. Slapstick space-comedy with much maiming and a sweet ending.

Redshirts – by John Scalzi. Slapstick space-comedy with much maiming and a sweet ending.

Redshirts is a novel by John Scalzi.  I’m really starting to dig his work, I’ve read a couple of books now and they’ve both been quite a bit of fun to read.  His most influential work to date is likely Old Man’s War (the other book of his I’ve read, which I will post about shortly), and he’s also worked on the Stargate franchise.  For those of you who know me well, you’ll know that serves to give him quite a bit of cred, in my eyes.

You can guess the topic from the title, and Redshirts is a ton of fun, from start to finish.  Let’s dig in.

The book starts on a dramatic away mission, where crew members are investigating a planet surface.  The scene is told from the vantage point of a low-ranking ensign who’s stuck on a rock and surrounded by sand with Borgovian Land Worms circling in for the kill.  The senior officers, also on the away mission and headed up by Captain Abernathy, are trying to figure out how to get themselves out of this mess.

All sorts of strange things pop into the ensign’s mind as he’s sitting there.  Like, how his father had served with the captain on the Benjamin Franklin at some point in the past, where his father even saved the captain’s life at one point.  How the things coming out of his superiors’ mouths (“don’t move!  It’ll attract the worms!”) sounded dumber than usual, and how suddenly – and against his better judgment – he somehow decides that if he makes a break for it he can run to a cave before the worms can get him.  Well, you can guess how that ends, and poor Captain Abernathy is left wondering how he’ll ever explain to the man that saved his life that he’s lost his son under the captain’s command.

So, that went well.

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The Rook – by Daniel O’Malley

The Rook, by Daniel O'Malley.  Highly recommended!

The Rook, by Daniel O’Malley. Highly recommended!

Okay, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything.  Maybe it’s the summer, maybe I’m just lazy, I don’t know.  Either way, it’s time to exercise the keyboard for creative pursuits again.

This post is about a book called “The Rook,” by Daniel O’Malley.  It’s an urban fantasy (a genre that I’ve never sought out, besides Harry Potter, which I’m not sure counts) set pretty much in modern-day England.  A family member got it for me on Kindle, and I’m really glad they did.  This was an awesome book, and if the author writes more in this world I will definitely read it.

The book follows the story of a woman in her thirties who wakes up in a park in the rain.  She has no idea who she is, or where she is, but she’s surrounded by a pile of bodies wearing latex gloves.  So, ick, right?  Searching for clues for who she might be, she looks through her pockets.  In one of her coat pockets, she finds a letter addressed “To You.”  Reading it, the letter explains pretty much exactly the situation she finds herself in, and tells her that she’s been targeted by an unknown assassin.  It also gives her instructions for getting to safety.

In a hotel (she was also told how to get money), she ditches her filthy and soaked clothes to the hotel laundry and cleans up.  Looking in the mirror, she realizes why she got such funny looks while checking in – she’s got pretty much the worst black eyes (on both eyes!) that a person could have.

After resting, she sits down to another letter that explains to her that the body she’s in used to belong to a woman named Myfanwy Thomas, and it gives her a choice.  She can leave the past of whoever Myfanwy is behind and adopt a new and completely anonymous life (the identity of which was completely prepared by the former Myfanwy prior to whatever happened), or she can step into Myfanwy’s former life, and try to figure out who was out to get her.

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Leviathan Wakes – Book Review

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

Okay, so this book kept on coming up everywhere I was looking on the internet.  Kindle store, io9, other sci-fi sites…  While I only ever read it reviewed on io9 and it piqued my interest then, it just kept on popping up everywhere else.  Maybe it’s Google’s fault for tracking all the stuff I look up on the web, or maybe the book is just very well advertised.  Either way, it’d been on my list long enough that I finally got it on Kindle.  Man, I read a lot of science fiction.

Leviathan Wakes, by James S A Corey (actually a pen name for Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) is a space opera that takes place between the orbit of Mars and the asteroid belt in our solar system.  Humanity has colonized the solar system, but we haven’t managed to get outside of it.  Leviathan Wakes is near enough to our time that people don’t know everything yet – technology doesn’t make us invincible, and we can’t get anywhere in the solar system instantly.  In the same way that I really enjoyed the relativistic limitations of Revelation Space, the human limitations in this book really worked for me.

Life isn’t perfect for humanity, either.  While we may have colonized the solar system, that doesn’t mean everyone gets along.  Like the political divides that plague our nations today, Earth, Mars and the asteroid belt don’t quite see eye to eye.  Resources, physical and linguistic differences, technology levels… there is a lot of existing strife between Earthers, Martians and Belters.

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Quest for Glory I: So You Want To Be A Hero

The Hero's Quest and Quest for Glory covers.

The Hero’s Quest and Quest for Glory covers.

You may have seen a post I did about Quest for Glory II: Trial by Fire. How did it get to be #2? Well, this post tells you how. When I first played this game, it was called “Hero’s Quest I: So You Want To Be A Hero.” At the same time, there was a board game (which I also owned) called “Hero Quest.” A trademark dispute with the makers of the board game eventually made Sierra (the publisher) change the name of the series to “Quest for Glory.” These were very different times: EGA graphics (16-colour), VGA (256-colour) at best, and these games were distributed on floppy disks. Well, Hero’s Quest came with 5.25s and 3.5s, and was eventually released on CD (wow!) so it wasn’t that archaic I guess (sarcasm!). Still, it was definitely a different time. It was a time when the term “Animated 3D Adventure Game” meant series like King’s Quest and Space Quest (which probably rivaled the Monkey Island series for comedy). 3D meant that your character could walk “behind” bushes and trees… wow! It was different enough time that a video game company was pushed around by a board game company – I doubt the board game industry has the same clout today they once had. Today, games like Assassin’s Creed III sell 3.5 million copies in the first week they’re offered, and Starcraft is a spectator sport!

No matter how it was released or what name it was called, Lori and Corey Cole did an absolutely marvelous job of inventing a classic and now borderline legendary adventure game.  When I heard that they were going to get back into game design and that it would have something to do with being a hero, I absolutely had to sink my teeth back into this original and best Quest for Glory game.

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Absolution Gap – Book Review

Absolution Gap, by Alastair Reynolds

Absolution Gap, by Alastair Reynolds

Okay, I’m going to say it outright, this is a really long review, but it’s a really long book.

Revelation Space and Redemption Ark were both excellent books.  The third book in a loosely connected trilogy, Absolution Gap had all the promise to continue the epic struggle of a human race both young and experienced in travelling the stars against an unseen enemy.  The story continues where Redemption Ark left off, but that serves really only as a starting point – each member of this trilogy has woven a vastly different story (or set of stories) around the central overarching conflict.  The third book is a conclusion, of sorts, but it really ended up feeling like a thematic shift from the first two books.  Similar to the other two, however, the book connects several different stories taking place in several different times on different planets to a final showdown.  In the first two books, the showdown was about survival; Redemption Ark’s showdown is about fighting back and coming out on top.

We start on an Ultra lighthugger called the Gnostic Ascension.  As explained previously, lighthuggers are vast spaceships built by a branch of post-humans called Conjoiners that can travel very  near the speed of light, though in the technological epoch of the books they can generally travel no faster:  science and technology are still bound in relativistic theory.  Conjoiners being one branch of post-humans, the Ultras are yet another.  Ultras are very different from Conjoiners.  While Conjoiners (as explored in Redemption Ark) seem unilaterally consumed with improving human cognition and performance through enhancement and collective work approaching a hive-mind (essentially, overclocking, hacking and networking the human condition), Ultras seem more consumed by making money and increasing longevity and individuality through modification/mutilation and replacement.  So, where Conjoiners are the recluse scientists, Ultras are the opportunistic and pragmatic (almost fanatically so) wanderers.

A non-Ultra man named Quaiche has been contracted by the Ultra captain Queen Jasmina to prospect solar systems they pass by and find opportunities for making money.  He hasn’t been doing the job to her satisfaction, however, and she is giving him one last chance to find something of value that can turn the tide of business for Gnostic Ascension, and he needs something really big.  Jasmina is kind of into pain and suffering (far beyond sadomasochism), and her mind, twisted from her personal exploration of pain, devises a “motivation” for Quaiche – she locks Quaiche’s lover in a torture suit called the “scrimshaw suit” and sends them on their way in an Ultra shuttle to prospect in a remote star system.

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Stratos – Colour Me Inspired.

Image from the Stratos test-jump. That’s a long way down for a dress-rehearsal.

The short message of this article is that the Red Bull Stratos is a shining beacon of hope for the human race’s incredible will to survive and advance in spite of itself.  You’re gonna think I’m nuts, but that’s okay; colour me inspired.

I’m not usually a sucker for a publicity stunt, and I think that personal preference is still in tact.  So when I say that yesterday I almost lost my mind watching the Red Bull Stratos jump from over 128,000 feet, you might accuse me of succumbing to the marketing hype of the year, or the decade.  Nay, I say; what Felix Baumgartner and his team accomplished was not only an amazing and daring physical feat, but also a marvelous scientific achievement and a beacon for what the human race can do if it really sets pettiness aside and tries.  Sure, the Red Bull logo was all over this, and Felix Baumgartner is responsible for dozens of daring jumps all over the world with that emblem flying proudly on his parachute; but you have to accept that this time, the Red Bull logo was attached to masterpiece of engineering, precision and invention.

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Assassin’s Creed – So Far

My buddy Raul got me Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood for my birthday last year. I really had no idea about these games except that they seemed to be quite popular. I didn’t even know who made them (Ubisoft Montreal). Well, when everyone went home after the dinner we’d invited them to on my birthday, I put it in the PS3 and took a look. I didn’t come out until about 3:30 in the morning. 3:30 in the morning is nothing really all that special or crazy, but it is a little bold when you have a 2-year-old to match your morning wake-up time with!

Spoiler alert: I do spoil a bit of the overarching story in this write-up; so if you want to play them and get the surprises, don’t read this and play the games first.

The Assassin’s Creed series follows the centuries-spanning conflict between the Assassins and the Templars. In general, the Assassins view themselves as defenders of peace and more importantly free-will, and the Templars view themselves as perveyors of peace through control. So, Templars would force peace by abolishing all religion to end all wars, where Assassins would – no matter their beliefs – defend all religions even at the expense of holy wars happening so that people still have free-will to choose. In each game in the franchise, you get to explore history through the eyes of an assassin in a particular historical era.  Historically, the Assissins and the Templars were real groups, whose interactions are documented in lots of places, including this book. One of the really great strengths in the series is the real history woven around the games, and they stick to it as much as they can and have you dealing with real people from the eras.

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