So I Started Playing Ingress

I make some strange decisions.

Lately I’ve been trying to re-evaluate some things in my life. What I want out of it. How to get my finances straightened out while handling my (currently) 68 hour workweek. Dealing with the ever present depression and hopelessness of it all.

An anime adaptation of a mobile game got me to try said mobile game again, and I’m not doing too horribly considering.

5/5/2019

Probably could do better. Probably will. This is something I intend to do rather casually, possibly meeting people as I go on. In a perfect world, this would be a solid excuse to get out of the house.

I’ve admittedly only seen a couple of episodes of the show. It is surprisingly dry, suffering less from being an adaptation of a mobile game that takes a few liberties with its source material and more from its attempt to sell viewers of the show on the drama of the in-game events themselves. The game involves two separate factions working against each other to tag “portals” (real life places of interests that can be claimed within the game map) and take over territory yet together on certain world events; the anime by comparison uses those same mechanics to have an overarching storyline about a kid detective who can see the pasts of people by touching them and an amnesiac scientist looking to discredit the scientific institute she used to work for. As my mother would say, “it is definitely a thing.”

I genuinely did not think this game was still so popular. In fact, I did not think it was very popular at all in the United States. The trailer to the show claims over 25 million players, but Wikipedia claims the game has only been downloaded around 20 Million times… and that’s downloads, not active players. One unofficial source places the number of active players at approximately 800,000. Still, that’s more popular than I anticipated. A cursory look suggests that the regional scene I am near has a few dozen players, some of which being more active than others.

I’m far too busy to keep a lot of this up, but it’s an interesting diversion at least. Just need to make sure I’m not playing while driving. That won’t end well, for obvious reasons.

REVIEW: Dungeon Bringer 1

Affiliate Link Disclosure: If you click the link below, you will be taken to Amazon.com. If you purchase the book from that link, I get a small kickback.


Dungeon Bringer 1 is a work of fiction written by Nick Harrow. It is available for purchase in digital edition and readable as part of the Kindle Unlimited service. At the time of this writing, it is not available in physical form.

Synopsis: Clay Knight is the computer hacker of a not-so-distant fantasy future that seedy cooperations hire when things are not going well for them. One day he wakes up to a gun to his head and an ultimatum given by an orc thug: a cartel’s business servers are being attacked. Stop the assault and earn a paycheck of a billion dollars. Fail, and die. He’s given 30 minutes. What appears to be a pretty standard (to this world’s) cyber attack is quickly marred when gunfire erupts in the physical world and a voice from the machine speaks to Clay from another world. This leads to Clay booting up an executable… that transports his soul into the body of an Ancient Egyptian Dungeon Lord. Now he must use his skills to grow his dungeon, keep his catgirl followers safe, and understand this new world he finds himself in all while dealing with raiders looking to steal his Dungeon Core for themselves.

What I liked: This book was such a guilty pleasure. At it’s core it’s a very standard Dungeon Core novel with an Ancient Egyptian theme. Clay, as the role of Lord Rathokhetra, does something in-world that is considered atypical of Dungeon Lords – he is aggressive and not passive, choosing to bring his dungeon to threats as opposed to waiting for threats to come to him. This ultimately has some advantages in how he gets stronger and how he learns to use his powers, and it catches his enemies off guard.

This is also a harem novel. By the end of the novel, Clay gains the affections of a catgirl priest, a scorpion queen, and a former enemy. There are a few sex scenes, but most are literally a paragraph of glossing over things. This leaves a bit to the imagination, which works for me.

This is a book that plays with its Egyptian theme and plays them well. It also sets up a series of adventures well. I look forward to reading the second book in the series.

What I disliked: The opening sure is heavy handed, abuses similes like airplanes abused the Twin Towers, and asks some questions that are never again addressed in the book. While I would encourage readers to push through it to get to the meat of the story, the setup was definitively my least enjoyable part of the book.

Trying to have an idea of what the dungeon looks like is difficult as the story goes on because it changes so radically, as the way the main character uses his powers essentially causes the dungeon itself to move and extend its reach. It’s also worth noting that this book is equal parts Dungeon Core novel and Harem, and the way the third member of the harem is added and utilized stretched my suspension of belief further than was probably necessary.

What I hated: Seriously. Honest to God. 2% of the way in: “You do this, you get a billion dollars. You fuck it up, or you lay there in bed like a slug for a few more minutes, and I’ll introduce you to one of Mr. Shooty’s bullet friends.” This opening set up is just… it’s harsh.

Also, there’s a part in the book where the main character is lashing out verbally against one of the antagonist: “You broke into my house and tried to kill my people, then you broke into my house again and tried to steal my core,” I said. “If we want to talk about someone being an asshole…” I’m a drow,” she said. “We are evil. That’s what we’re supposed to do.” Kind of sums up this book at it’s worst.

Overall Score: Those who like Dungeon Core stories and fantasy harems are encouraged to give this one a spin. Maybe take a few shots of a preferred alcoholic beverage to get through that opening setup though. On the contrary, those who are looking for a well built story outside of a dungeon or whom are harem adverse should look elsewhere.

REVIEW: Crafting of Chess

Affiliate Link Disclosure: If you click the link below, you will be taken to Amazon.com. If you purchase the book from that link, I get a small kickback.

The Crafting of Chess is a work of fiction written by Kit Falbo, and is available in digital edition, via the Kindle Unlimited subscription service, or via paperback copy.

Synopsis: In the real world, Nate is a hardworking teenager with a gift for the hustle, especially with betting on rounds of online shooters or playing chess at the park for money. He is cautious but optimistic, a product of having lost both his parents at a young age and being raised by his conartist grandfather. Nate has his eyes set on a new hustle: the virtual MMO Fair Quest. Players can raise an NPC companion to do their bidding, with the chance of winning 2 million dollars if their companion succeeds in being crowned king. Nate’s plan isn’t to chase this quest however. He plans to craft high level items to sell on the auction house, which will allow him to cash out some of his profits for hard currency.

What I liked:This story works because Nate, or Chess as he is known in-game, is a relatable character. His caution in dealing with other players and NPCs is understandable, his struggles to become skilled at crafting makes sense in the game world and outside of it, and the sense of progression as he is forced to adventure for various reasons to keep crafting are believable. This book is, genuinely, a fun read. There is also a real investment in how crafting is handled that will remind most readers of crafting systems found in classic role playing games, something I would like to see more of.

The LitRPG subgenre tends to be littered with useless stats and statblocks; this book by comparison handles its stats with a fair and even hand. The stats have weight to them as explained and as used. Also, the mechanic of having a focus on an NPC in order to win the tournament proper is an interesting hook to get the player, and by proxy the reader, interested in the game world.

What I disliked:Editing and grammar mistakes show a copy that clearly was edited, yet not edited enough. In fairness, this is par for the course for a lot of books available on Kindle Unlimited, but it was at times a real distraction. There is also a sense that the ending was rushed. This leads to a conclusion that feels surprising, but in a predictable and flat way.

The world of Fair Quest, the game that Nate plays, takes some handwaving to get used to. This, too, is notable towards the end.

What I hated: There’s no sequel. Yet. But the author is active in several LitRPG communities so maybe if he is pinged enough he’ll write the second, third, or even fourth!

Overall score: Read it. I don’t know if this book is quite up there as “everything a book in its genre should be” but it is definitely an example of a book in the genre done right.

Three Chapters In

So the story I am working on has three chapters published across three different websites. A fourth will be released Friday.

Those links again are:

Royal Road: https://www.royalroad.com/fiction/24026/to-swim-amongst-the-stars

Moonquill:
https://moonquill.com/book/217

Honeyfeed:
https://www.honeyfeed.fm/novels/1307

I believe that at this time I will continue to use these three websites without expanding further. That isn’t to say each website doesn’t have it’s own issues and concerns.

Royak Road is large and established. It is very easy to get lost in the riffraff over there.

Moonquill seems like an exciting “just right” sized website, but the talks of having an app that acts as a paywall for offline viewing is very concerning.

Honeyfeed is a concerning ghost town. Worse, there is no real way to see how your works are doing. Its community is almost non existent.

Still… I continue to write! I anticipate this series having roughly 40 odd chapters. So not a small work, somewhere give or take 80k words.

So I Am Writing Again

I’ve spent the last month trying to put together something, anything, that I could publish. I wrote about 36k words across three different writing projects. I’ve been rather interested in the LitRPG subgenre, so it is interesting that the work I would release fancies itself “high fantasy space opera” in the vein of Spelljammer. Because why not?

Rather then publish my works on this blog, where no one would read them, I did some research before choosing three different websites I could publish them at. Now, there’s three different places no one will read them!

First is the relatively new website Moonquill: https://moonquill.com/dashboard/books/217

Next, Royal Road (formerly Royal Road Legends): https://www.royalroad.com/fiction/24026/to-swim-amongst-the-stars

Last but not least, Honeyfeed.fm: https://www.honeyfeed.fm/novels/1307

My impressions are kind of mixed at the moment. Royal Road is huge, but it’s hard to get anyone’s attention on it. Moonquill is super new, but also not a lot of eyes on it yet. There is this feeling of “just right” between newness and user interaction on Honeyfeed… but I really need to start getting some readership and feedback!

With two chapters out, 4 more proofread, and a few more I can flesh out? Hopefully we can make this work. Ideally, I’d get to about the 70k-80k mark, find a stopping point, and put everything together in a “Book 1” of sorts and then get that pupper on Kindle Unlimited. But that’s getting way ahead of myself. First we write, then we proofread, then we put it out there, then we hope some one is dumb enough to read it AND has poor enough taste to like it.

The Monetization of This Blog (Or, I’m Writing; Might as Well Get Paid)

For the longest time, this blog has been associated with a Google Adsense account. It displays advertisements quite innocuously in the upper right. Many of you don’t even notice because you have adblocker turned on. Many still don’t notice because they don’t visit this blog. Interestingly, the Adsense option may not be the best. I chose it back when I was earning a couple of dollars every month with my Youtube channel. Now, with Youtube expecting an individual to have 1000 subscribers and 4000 hours of watch time, this “bundled option” seems like it makes less sense. For perspective, if I took the time to make a ten minute video every week, each video would need about 4500 views and have to be watched from beginning to end in order to then qualify for the Youtube Partner program. Then I’d have to hope my content didn’t raise any red flags. It’s a lot of work for what would earn, roughly speaking, $4 to $6 a week (given the above assumption of 4500 views a video, and this blog entry by Bill Roberts. ) I’d argue Bill’s math checks out: my most popular video of all time, “Brave Frontier – Easter Event 2017 – Autonomous Cotton Fight has just over 3,600 views and according to Youtube’s metrics earned me about $2.53. Not bad for something I was doing because I enjoyed it, but not anything I could reliably do to make a living.

Thanks to the encouragement of Flav Medeiros (whose Facebook group you should already be a member of!) I have taken the steps to become an Amazon affiliate. This is an interesting turn, because I’ll need to make sure this blog is up to date on the proper disclaimers and such. In most nations, you can’t simply say “here is a link to buy a thing” without disclosing “I might get a kickback if you buy the thing” unless you want to break a few laws. I would rather not explain to my prison mate that I’m doing hard time because I upset the FTC, please and thank you.

This is ultimately a step in the direction of treating this blog more seriously, keeping myself in the routine of writing, and hopefully also bringing in residual income (who doesn’t like that?)

Winter Will End Soon. Only Historically, Not

America has this tradition where a groundhog pops out of his little hidey-hole, then writes a scroll to some guy in a top hat. This guy reads the scroll, which answers the question: did the furry abomination see its shadow? If so, everyone freezes to death for six more weeks. If not, we collectively get to start complaining about summer weather 6 weeks sooner. It seems silly to me that Mother Nature would bow to the power of this weather-beaten rodent and its shadow, but with thousands of people gathering to watch the event and millions more reading about it clearly there is something to the story, right?

I’m not a fan of the cold, so it’s easy for me to dream of knocking that darn thing hard behind the head so that it can’t wake up until the next day – as good a way as any to ensure it doesn’t see its shadow. But as a recent article on CNN suggests, Punxsutawney Phil is less accurate at predicting the weather than your average coin flip. He is, apparently, only right about 40% of the time. This can be attributed to factors such as the difficulty in predicting 42 whole days of weather in advance; as part of the legend this is also attributed to the presenter misreading or misinterpreting what the groundhog saw.

As such, it appears it doesn’t really matter what this creature does or doesn’t say – winter is going to be winter. This is a shame, because this year the groundhog did not see its shadow, which would mean this winter vortex will be over soon and I can start wearing shorts. Indeed, this weather is not my friend – with temperatures hitting the “feels like” range of 60 to 70 below Fahrenheit (comment below if you know what that is in Celsius), I am ready for weather where I start sweating again.

This isn’t the only bit of folklore that we as Americans use to predict the weather. According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, “Squirrels gathering nuts in a flurry, Will cause snow to gather in a hurry.” As well, tough appleskins and flowers blooming in late autumn are a sign that a grim winter is coming. Yet for some reason, it is only this one groundhog that gets its own holiday. Strange, that.

7 Unique Websites I’ve Bookmarked Throughout the Years

Some dead poet guy by the name of Henry D Thoreau was quoted as saying “I went into the woods because I wished to live deliberately.” Never met the guy personally, probably because you know… he’s dead. But in the last couple of weeks, I have been doing a lot of deliberate living things. Questioning some choices. Coming to terms with others.

One of the things I’ve been doing is clearing out my Bookmarks. Over the multitude of years of using Firefox, I have bookmarked – that is, saved for some reason or another to find for later – a lot of websites! It is a confusing mess! So I’ve been going through them and removing a lot of them. Some simply don’t pertain to me any more. Others have been superseded by better links. Others still simply don’t work, lost to the ebbs of internet time.

I thought it would be neat to share a few of them, so with that in mind here we go:

1.) The Secret Teachings of All Ages – This website contains the transcribed work of Manly P. Hall, which was written in 1928. Mr. Hall was a Canadian born lecturer and occultist. The practicality of his works is certainly debatable, but I find the work to be an interesting source to pull from. It’s a solid source for learning about popular metaphysical religions and organizations at the time like The Golden Dawn or Masons, and could be useful if you are a fiction writer trying to write a story ground in some of these beliefs. It’s also an interesting look back at what sort of non-Christian faiths were prominent in North America during this time period. Fun fact: in 1930, this book cost $100 – which would be about $1400 in today’s cash. And you thought your college textbooks were expensive!

2.) Katamari website hack – this is a fun little diversion that will take the website you are on and allow you to roll it up into a ball, much like in the hit puzzle game Katamari Damacy.

3.) RumChata Cheesecake Pudding Shots – I never did get around to making these. Maybe some day I will. They take a popular alcoholic drink known for its sweet tasty and milky texture and turn it into a desert. That will get you drunk. That’s a thing that will end well, I am sure.

4.) Five Key Ways to Build Customer Relationships – This 13 year old article from Entrepreneur is just as relevant today as it was then. Something to consider for anyone looking to start a business or improve their own customer service skills.

5.) Free CSS – Solid website templates. I’ve played around with a few of these. I like that they stand on their own almost right out of the box, but found it frustrating to hack any of them down when they had features I didn’t care for or need.

6.) Worldbroadcastingsystem.com – In the late 90’s and early 2000’s, text chatting and role playing were pretty big. The Ethereal Realms script was an ambitious project that allowed like minded individuals to gather together in rooms, create characters all under one account, upload media, and otherwise participate in a fluid non-commital community. The Ethereal Realms website itself has closed, these days simply showing off its script. There was once several dozen iterations of the project that used the software; now there is maybe three or four left. Of those, WBS remains the most constant. It’s a great way to see everything that worked, and also everything that didn’t, about that software.

7.) Ren’py – Ever want to create a visual novel, or a dating sim? Ren’Py is an option that makes it easy. Also, it’s completely free, even for commercial use.

None of these are affiliate links – I get nothing out of them if you check them out. I just appreciate the opportunity to share a few places I’ve been, as I clear out literally three hundred and some odd pages I’ve saved throughout the last eight years.

Refocusing on This Blog, It’s Purpose, And It’s Future Direction

In Fall of 2015 I created this blog with the purpose of learning how WordPress worked, from the back end and as a user. WordPress to me seemed like it would be the future of content, a future once envisioned in the days of RSS feeds and personal webspaces, brought anew by the rigid policies and content curating of companies like Facebook and Tumblr. The ease of creators and small businesses of using WordPress as a business front didn’t hurt this belief.

As you can tell from my very sporadic updates, this is a project that has for the most part fallen to the wayside. My life switched directions, with me taking a job that requires me to work 12 hour shifts 6 days a week, my refocusing on the health of my family, and trying to get any sort of sleep in between everything that needs to be done.

Lately I’ve decided to put more focus on this blog. Part of this is because it has the best domain name ever, bar none. (I choose it back when I had grand visions of using it for a link shortener. No one uses this anymore; not even me!) Another part of this is a Facebook group I follow, Flav Medeiros’s Side Business Ideas Facebook group, is hosting a 6 week blogging challenge and I am leaning on this man’s business knowledge and blogging history to learn everything I can from it. I personally don’t see this blog as the sort of place people go for anything particular, because this blog’s dedicated niche is me, the user. I share what I feel is interesting, and those things can be very schizophrenic. The upside of this is that it’s my blog and content. The downside is there’s not really a dedicated user for this content, outside of perhaps friends and perhaps those that view this website’s URL from other services I share.

This challenge comes at an interesting time in my life. At 36 years of age, I am starting to put a lot more thought into who I am as an individual and a member of my local and worldwide community. It also comes at a time when I am severely questioning and challenging my use of a lot of social media. As an example, I recently locked 9 years of Facebook posts so that only I could reference them (although I still use the Messenger, and participate in a couple of closed groups.) If ever there was a time to consider a blogging challenge, and to force myself to write in general, now is this time. Plus, always great to have another excuse to neglect my Youtube channel.

I’m not sure where this will go in 6 week’s time, or after. I am taking this course seriously, and in just one week feel that the course is already on its way to encouraging me to at least update this thing on a weekly basis. I will be looking at some things that have been concerns for me for a while as well, such as how this WordPress theme presents itself on most mobile devices (easy to read but hard to interact with) and how it integrates keywords, links, and media. I may also be moving away from the Adsense advertisements (which I chose because they linked well with the Youtube revenue I used to get two years ago) towards other more viable options. Time will tell!