Reactions to the D&D “5E” announcements/rumors

I’ve heard some rumblings about a new edition of D&D today, and finally caught a couple of links in my Twitter feed. (I could just Google this stuff, but I’m lazy and feel like I can trust re-tweeted links from known sources better.)

I’m having two reactions to these rumors, and I think these apply to not only gaming, but technology and programming and all sorts of other things. (Admittedly, they are gut reactions.)

Learn to recognize when you’re being sold the “next big thing” line, but don’t overreact. 4E’s marketing was all about how it makes the game more accessible and easier to play. And it did that, mainly by adopting some game mechanics from MMOs. Fundamentally, this isn’t a bad thing. Rumors pointing to a more old-school approach suggest either it didn’t work or it went too far.

This seems to be the fundamental problem with a lot of leaps in design/technology: to ease the uncertainty, it’s hailed as the “next big thing” (the implication usually being that those who don’t like it don’t “get it”). For other examples, look at WPF vs. WinForms and .NET vs. WinRT. Or look at any new programming methodology that gets some good buzz behind it. Maybe we’d do well to consciously remember almost every “next big thing” will somehow, someday be “old and busted,” if only because it loses its novelty, and that you can’t say with certainty what “the next big thing” will be until well after it actually becomes “the next big thing”.

But being a naysayer may be as bad as being sold on the party line. 4E was a different system than 3E. It did some things better and some things worse, but it wasn’t on the whole a huge step back–more like a lateral move. Ultimately, I hope the update will capitialize on the good things while dropping the things that didn’t work. But if you deny that an about-face means the whole thing wasn’t as successful as hoped, you might end up missing the “next small, iterative thing” because it’s not the much-heralded “next big thing.”

My point, I suppose, is that the best response is to realize it is a line and ignore it. And railing against it is not ignoring it–you’re still allowing the line to dictate the terms of the conversation.

As an aside, I think companies damage trust with their customers when they play a strong “next big thing” line and it fizzles. Of course, that’s just me–I’m overly literal and I have a strong reaction to trying to reframe reality in ways that turn out to be decidedly unrealistic. But I have a feeling the “reality-based community” is not a large portion of anyone’s target audience.

WotC is doing well to frame this announcement by focusing on the fact that game development is an iterative, sometimes opinionated process, rather than playing “the next big thing” card again. I don’t know if that will convince people to buy a new set of books.

There is no universal system for anything. I find the talk of a single system a bit disconcerting. 3E was a very tools-oriented system and 4E was a very game-experience-oriented system. Both of these are valid approaches for different types of people, the success of which depends upon whether a niche will buy enough to support the product line. And the quality of each approach depends on making design choices that support that approach–it’s nearly impossible to create a good restricted, simplified system and cater to people who want an open, free-form toolbox.

To put it another way, even if it’s community-driven, it will not necessarily be universal.

4E was divisive is because it told 3E D&D fans “this is what we’re about now.” That didn’t sit well with me, but I recognized 3E and 4E were the right tools for different types of campaigns (in terms of genre, feel, player types, and scheduling/effort). No matter what the company line was, I was free to choose which tools I would use.

The two approaches could almost be separate product lines, or maybe alternate rules sets of rules à la Unearthed Arcana. (And it appears this is not too far off.) But any attempt to say “this is the secret formula” will end up looking dated in a few years, even if it was borne out of community involvement and playtesting.

Of course, the rub in WotC’s case is that you have to have a business model to go along with whatever decision you make. Will subscriptions work as well as they hope? I’m not sure. I only recently decided to shell out for D&D Insider, but $9.95/month is painful for one semi-regular game. Is there a middle way between a subscription-based model and model based on endless splatbooks? I don’t know.

Anyway, that’s my two cents. I haven’t played a lot of 4E. For reasons I’m not entirely sure of (and which may have little to do with the game itself) I haven’t been all that excited about learning the rules in depth as I was with 3E. Will these updates fix that for me, or will it make me say “screw it, I’m sticking with 3E”?

(EDIT: I actually went back and read some of the original source articles and updated this post.)

Recipe: Cinnamon/Pumpkin/Apple Chili

This is a recipe I developed last year, and it never quite came together until a few months ago. I had worked with the apple cider/cinnamon combination a bit. Then my friend Charlie suggested that, for a potluck around Halloween, everyone should include pumpkin in their dishes. (Challenge accepted, allez-cuisine, and all that.)

It turns out adding pumpkin puree to the recipe thickens up the chili and adds a bit of sweetness, which is just what the combination needs.

What you need:

  • A slow cooker
  • 1 pound of ground turkey or beef
  • 2 green peppers, diced
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1-2 jalapenos (or other type of pepper), diced
  • about 1 pound of dry beans (I usually use half a bag of red beans + half a bag of black beans)
  • 2 12oz bottles hard apple cider (I typically use Hardcore, since it’s more crisp than sweet)
  • half of a 15oz can of pureed pumpkin
  • apple cider vinegar (to taste)
  • about 1-2tsp each of cinnamon, smoked paprika, and chili powder (I’ve never measured this exactly, so it’s really to taste)
  • other spices to taste (I usually throw in salt, cumin, cayenne pepper, rosemary, and coriander, but I’m a bit of a cargo cult cook when it comes to spice usage)

First, start soaking your beans. I usually do a quick soak/rinse: fill a pot with water, boil your beans on high for about 10 minutes, remove from heat, and sit covered for an hour. Once that’s done done, rinse them under running water in a strainer. After that’s done, boil them again until they’re tender.

While the beans are soaking, start dicing your peppers, onions, and jalapenos, and mince your garlic. If you don’t like your chili to be hot, remove the seeds from the jalapenos; otherwise, leave them in. You may want to cook the vegetables on the stove to remove some of the moisture before they go into the chili, but they should get tender enough cooking in the crock pot.

Brown the meat in a skillet. Here’s where I’ll usually toss in the cumin and rosemary. (Again, that’s cargo cult cooking that I’ve swiped from other recipes.)

Once all of the above are complete, put the beans, vegetables, and meat into the slow cooker. Add one bottle of cider. Cook for several hours. (I usually leave it to cook overnight.)

Add the rest of the cider and the pumpkin. Add spices and vinegar to taste. Continue cooking for an hour or so.

Alternate ideas:

  • It’s been suggested that some type of pork (sausage, bacon, etc.) would be a good replacement for beef or turkey.
  • If you want a non-alcoholic version, vegetable stock might work in place of apple cider. The cider taste isn’t overpowering, so the difference would be subtle.
  • I’ve left out the jalapenos entirely and just used a bit of cayenne pepper to add heat. This is good for those who don’t like hot chili.

Kitchen Experiment: Bacon-Infused Vodka

I am not much of a drinker, but I know some people who are.

Somewhere along the way I decided that, as Christmas presents this year, I was going to make bacon-infused vodka for my sister and my friend Chad (both connoisseurs of drink and bacon–or as Chad likes to call it, “the holiest of meats”). The inspiration may have come from my sister’s talk of making various edibles for Christmas gifts. I don’t know.

(A step-by-step recounting of the process, with photos, in the full post.)
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Upcoming Road Trip

So I have an interesting road trip planned in a couple of weeks.

I say “interesting” because it’s been a while since I’ve done any serious travel on my own and I’m looking forward to it. But also because it’s just a crazy combination of destinations.

Geek Media Expo

October 21-23 I’ll be in Nashville for the Geek Media Expo. So far I’ve had three panels accepted (XNA Jam, Podcasting 101, Nonfiction for Geeks), but the schedule isn’t up yet.

GMX has been in the cards for months. I wasn’t really sure which days I’d be going or where we’d stay, but I knew I was going. (As it turns out, “all three days” and “in the con hotel.”)

The new thing, and the thing that turns this into an honest-to-goodness road trip, is that I’m also going to be in Memphis. I’ll be at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital earlier that week to participate in a medical study.

St. Jude

When I was in high school, I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma and went through treatment at St. Jude. (Incidentally,
since I haven’t had a relapse after 14 years, the chance of recurrence is nil.) I’m taking part in a study on the long-term effects of treatment.

Essentially, it’s three days of medical tests. My After Completion of Therapy checkups stopped 10 years after treatment, so it’s more data to help future research, as well as some medical tests at no cost to me. Plus, there are no travel costs and they’re paying me for my time (for some reason, participating in a medical study just sounds cooler than merely a very thorough checkup). In short, it’s a good excuse to take some time off and travel.

I won’t lie, I’m a terrified of the whole thing. First, the idea of three days of procedures and tests isn’t pleasant. And while I see it as an opportunity to catch potential health problems early (whether side effects from treatment or not), there’s always the slight chance that a battery of medical tests will turn up something serious. The best I can hope for is getting griped at about my weight and general being out of shape (which, not surprisingly, doesn’t help the blood pressure reading).

The plan is to leave out that Sunday, drive to Nashville for a day, head on to Memphis on Monday night, and then come back to Nashville Thursday after my last appointment.

Since I have some extra time, I will try to see family when I’m out that way. I’ve talked to dad about nailing down some plans on that front–mom and dad will likely be going on Sunday and Monday. (I’m in Nashville every year for MTAC, but usually ride with friends and spend all my time at the con. I always feel a little guilty.)

Why I missed AWA

THE SHORT VERSION: I felt bad and was running a low fever on Thursday. I fretted about whether I should go. I went to the Minute Clinic and they said I had shingles. I fretted about whether this was correct and whether I should go, fearing I’d be contagious. I didn’t go. I did nothing but read. It was kind of relaxing and I needed that, so I’m not completely bummed out about missing it.
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Thoughts on Google+

(For those interested, I’m on Google+ at http://gplus.to/dylanwolf.)

I’ve been on Google+ less than a week, and I’m still calculating my approach. Setting up on a new social network always feels like the most fun part of social networking–exploring the profile options, making new connections, and organizing all of this information. If nothing else, it’s a blank slate with nothing but potential.

As I said on Twitter, I still don’t know that I have much interesting to say, but I can organize the crap out of people I could say it to if I did. With Google+’s Circles, I’m living the backwards, introverted, OCD social networking dream.

The most surprising part of the process has been groking my own reactions to the way Google+ expects me to think. It feels like Google+ is triangulating a position between Facebook’s seemingly out-of-control privacy and app sprawl and Twitter’s more limited, content-focused service. But since it’s neither Twitter nor Facebook, it’s also given me some insight into the different ways I use other social networks (or rather, how they’ve conditioned me to think).

On Facebook, I’m careful with who I friend. I try to only friend people I’ve met in real life (although I’ve posted in a few “post your Facebook” forum threads, and feel a little awkward having Facebook friends I barely know, but feel it would be rude to unfriend). Because it’s a two-way street, I’m also careful about who I add–usually, I wait for other people to send the request. It’s a filter, really–a logical rule I can use to avoid playing fast and loose with gut decisions. I would feel creepy if I added everyone within one or two degrees of separation without thinking, but unsure where I’d draw the line otherwise.

But, as reading between the lines of that last paragraph might imply, it’s not just about filter, it’s about my perspective on what each service aims to be. Facebook centers around the concept of a “profile,” so Interests, Friends, and all that good stuff feels like an intrinsic part of the public profile I’m presenting to the interwebs. Even the apps I use–or, rather, the chance that an app will misuse access to my profile–feels like a defining characteristic.

On Twitter, I’m looser with who I follow. This is where I follow the musicians, actors, writers, artists, prominent developers, etc. that I want to keep up with. Like Facebook, I often wait for acquaintences to follow me first, but I’m much more loose with that filter. Twitter is a one-way street, so I don’t feel like I’m intruding by following.

Since there’s no true “about me” page, my Follow list doesn’t seem like it’s intrinsically supposed to communicate something about myself or my connections. People only care about my tweets, because that’s the main way I’m defining myself. As long as apps don’t post to my feed, I’m a little less nervous about giving them access to Twitter than Facebook, because they’re going to be lost in someone else’s Tweet stream. (I have been feeling guilty that most of my non-reply Tweets anymore are GameMarx retweets, but that’s another issue.)

I feel like Facebook defines, while Twitter communicates. One isn’t necessarily better than the other. In fact, because they’re for different purposes, I’m not sure the comparison is even valid.

Google+ threw me for a loop because I instantly wanted to categorize it as either a clone of Facebook or Twitter. At first glance it’s trying to be Facebook. It’s a profile and supports more than 140-character text messages. It uses a language of connection (“in a circle”) like Facebook rather than action or content like Twitter (“following,” “followers,” “lists”). (Thankfully, Google+ isn’t using the overly chummy “Friends” terminology–I think that’s a very responsible choice given the connotation of the word, and its inaccuracy in the online world.)

Because of this, I keep wanting to think that Google+ connections should ideally be two-way, Facebook-style. Of course Circles act more like Twitter’s one-way follows, but this assumption immediately sent me into the fearful, cautionary approach I use with Facebook. Knowing this is a false assumption, I’d like to break this and use Google+ to build a wide, multi-tiered network of connections, something I don’t feel the urge to do on Twitter and don’t have the ability to do on Facebook.

I assume more people will be like me and feel the need to make two-way connections on Google+ than with Twitter. I assume many people will have a throw-away Circle that they filter out. (Actually, I guess people do this with Twitter now, but I don’t really use Lists.) Right now, I’m using Acquaintances as my catch-all, but I’m not filtering anything out of my stream. (Also, I guess I need to learn how to spell “acquaintances” now. It has an ‘a,’ not an ‘e.’)

Circles seem like an ingenious way of building privacy into the model. (Again, that’ll never work as a sales pitch, but I wish it did.) It provides organization, filtering, and privacy, but without exposing that in an obvious way. Additionally, it uses the Incoming feed as a loophole to allow a privacy model that’s based on pushing content in a medium that requires pulling content to prevent spam. (Time will tell if that actually works, or if Incoming undergoes some major changes.)

Facebook’s grouping tries to achieve the goal of privacy, but it doesn’t feel like it has the disconnected, ACL-quality that Circles has. On the plus side, Facebook allows you to explain to profile visitors how they’re connected to you. On the other hand, you can’t stick people in a Facebook group called “JERKS” and not look like… well, a jerk.

Of course, I’m looking at Google+ through rose-colored glasses right now. Every major piece of technology seems to go through an arc where it manages to do something awesome, builds to an apex and becomes a household name, and then goes on to become as maligned as the product it replaced. Partly, it’s because the application starts out as a blank slate, or as an exclusive club (it’s obscure; you’ve probably never heard of it). But in other cases, it’s because of deliberate choices the developers made. I submit Firefox, MySpace, and Facebook as examples.

I have to believe this is a corollary to Zawinski’s Law, or at least a version of the law for the next generation of applications. Every web application attempts to expand until one of two things happens:

  1. Believing that, because they’re popular, they can do no wrong, the developers will make boneheaded or outright anti-user decisions.
  2. Developers will provide users with more and more flexibility until such time as they can create retina-burning animated backgrounds or send out a hundred game requests a day to hapless followers.

The latter point, incidentally, is a natural consequence. As much as I gripe about Farmville, there are legitimate Facebook apps that wouldn’t exist without many of the API features it uses. All other factors being equal, services that provide this flexibility and openness will eventually usurp those who don’t.

So even if all goes well, eventually we’re all going to fall out of love with Google+ and we’re going to go chasing after the next social service that decides to embrace simplicity. At least until we realize all the things simplicity didn’t let us do.

And well but so anyway, I’m not going to make a prediction about Google+’s ultimate success or failure. None of my discussion here takes into account the big-picture choices that will make or break the service. I’d like it to fight the Facebook monster and win, both as a victory for privacy and for a more sensible approach to social networking. (I feel like the latter is partly the reason Facebook usurped MySpace.) I’d like it to do so without becoming a monster in the process.

Either way, I’m fascinated at how Circles represent a new take on the conventional wisdom of social network connections. I’m even more fascinated at how I have to adjust my initial assumptions to deal with it. I won’t say it’s necessarily the best take on social networking; that’s going to depend on how users decide to use it.

What I’ve Been Reading: Fantasy Freaks & Gaming Geeks

(Since I was recently taunted about the fact that I haven’t posted anything here since August, and I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while, here you go.)

Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks

It’s been a few months since I picked up this book at Dragon*Con (and mainly because I’d seen so many fliers for it), but I finally got around to reading it.

Fantasy Freaks & Gaming Geeks is one man’s quest to investigate, firsthand and in-depth, the various subcultures and hobbies within fantasy, sci-fi, and gaming culture. I generally like the other books I’ve read that use that style and approach (Daniel Radosh’s Rapture Ready!, A.J. Jacobs’ The Year of Living Biblically, and Zack Parson’s Your Next Door Neighbor Is a Dragon), and while they’re often as much about how the subculture affects the author as anything else, the investigation in FF&GG is inextricably tied to the author’s own narrative. That makes it hard to read in some cases (for example, the introduction is a bit unexpected and emotionally heavy), but the personal quest angle makes it far more interesting than a series of essays on fandom.

Ethan Gilsdorf grew up playing Dungeons and Dragons and reading Tolkein, which often provided an escape from the difficulties of his teenage years. Eventually he grew out of it, and much of this book is really him questioning whether he missed out on anything by giving up geekdom in his 20′s and whether he’s really ready to abandon it for good in his 40′s. Over the course of the book, he visits J.R.R. Tolkein’s home in Oxford, a gaming convention in Wisconsin (where Gary Gygax founded TSR), the Society for Creative Anachronism’s annual Pennsic War, a LARP weekend, Guédelon, France (where a group of people are re-creating the building of a medieval castle), Dragon*Con, and the New Zealand landmarks where The Lord of the Rings was filmed. He also discusses online gaming (mainly WoW) over the course of two chapters. Admittedly, it’s not as impressive or interesting for me as some of the other subject matter, but he’s thorough, giving a voice to both proponents who feel empowered by the phenomenon and detractors who have suffered addiction.

Monster Camp

For a veteran of D&D and computer gaming, it’s a fresh perspective on a culture I’m already familiar with and a reminder of how much I might have missed out on by settling into my own little niche. The book made me a little sad that Dragon*Con was 10 away; Gilsdorf’s trip was in 2008, which was my second visit to the con. It made me want to take another trip to a major gaming convention like Origins. And yes, I may take crap for this, but it made me want to go to an SCA or LARP event, if only once to see what it’s like. (To be fair, I don’t see how you can go wrong with that mix of camping and gaming. And I think I’d rather volunteer with plot than take center-stage.)

For those outside the genre, it might be an interesting introduction for you, but it’s a bit extreme. Many of the people in this book are not the kids who meet at the local gaming shop every weekend to play D&D. Many of these people are making a serious commitment that most people don’t have the time for. However, it is a glimpse into the mind of fandom.

Incidentally, that brings me to Monster Camp, a documetary I got for Christmas this year. It follows several different participants (both players and plot) at the NERO Seattle LARP group.

It could almost be a companion piece to this book. In addition to showing what a typical LARP is like, it delves into the various participants lives both in- and out-of-game. Why they play. How they play. How it affects their lives outside the game. It takes place over the course of a couple of years, so you see people moving from role to role–either to different player characters, or from player to plot member, or what have you.

Geek Media Expo 2010

This weekend, John and I drove over to Nashville for Geek Media Expo Volume 2.

I didn’t attend the first GMX last year, but we have been attending their parent convention, Middle Tennessee Anime convention, for several years now.

Originally I’d pre-registered thinking I’d get away for a weekend and see what the new con was like. (The last couple of years, I had a distinct preference for the multi-fandom DragonCon over most of the anime conventions we usually attend. I blame kids these days with their Naruto and their Bleach and their Axis Powers Hetalia.)

Through several twists and turns, it became a two-man, three-panel whirlwind tour.

We didn’t know what to expect at GMX. I assumed it would be something like MTAC, only smaller and slightly less anime-focused.

Main Events

Smaller, yes. Not too small, but not too big. For the convention’s size, I think the Opryland Radisson was the perfect choice. The large, open atrium was used as the Main Events track, which

I thought was brilliant. Unless you were in a panel room, you knew what was going on at any given time.

Main Events
Main Events

There wasn’t as much anime as I expected based on the MTAC connection. The schedule was extremely varied, although (between our short stay and running our own panels) we missed a lot of

interesting-looking panels. Given the breadth of the topics covered and the size of the con, there were occasionally blocks where I couldn’t find much interesting going on. I suspect a lot of

that will settle out in the coming years as the con grows and the most popular events return.

Not being a huge Stargate or Voyager fan, I wasn’t too excited about the guests. I was disappointed that Aaron Douglas (Chief Tyrol on Battlestar Galactica)

canceled because of a scheduling conflict. However, I was surprised at the caliber of guests GMX, being only two years old, managed to line up.

Still, I love the atmosphere. I’m sold on going back next year, and probably presenting a few more panels. If I can sell it to everyone else in the group, attending all three days and

staying at the con hotel would be awesome. To save some cash on this experiment, we stayed one night at an Econo Lodge a ways down Briley Parkway, and I felt like I missed out on a lot.

Upside, though: soap dispensers from the world of tomorrow
Upside, though: soap dispensers from the world of tomorrow

The panels I did attend were entertaining. The Man Power hosted the slightly off-topic but always hilarious Spoon! A Tick Fan

Panel and Jackie Chan: Master of Cinema. The Man Power put on an awesome panel, even if you don’t have the slightest clue about the topic (confession: I’ve only seen a

handful of Jackie Chan’s movies, and only the American ones).

Saturday night, I was in Standing Too Close To The Fire: Burn Notice, which mostly featured stories from the set (the host was the son of one of the show’s crew).

I also caught Boba Fett: The Man, The Myth, The… Clone? on Sunday morning. I’m not a huge Boba Fett fan, but I did happen to agree with the general sentiment that making Boba Fett a clone was one of the horrible side-effects of the prequel trilogy.

Our panels went fairly well, despite the fact that I nearly had a panic attack on Saturday morning worrying about them.

Game Development with XNA went over well. I’d initially geared my talk and slides for non-programmers, but I realized about halfway through that I was getting too technical

while not touching a bit of code. Skipping through most of my technical points, I opened up for questions and discussion about halfway through. Turns out there were several coders in the

audience with specific questions. (This is also where I’m glad I attended that Windows Phone 7 Developer Bootcamp.) The questions and discussions were great–it’s always a good sign when

discussion among attendees breaks out during the Q&A segment.

Dungeons and Dragons And Other Stuff, Too was surprisingly a success. As Chad and Charlie had to drop for various reasons, it was just John and me. I had no fear of

contributing to a conversation, but I figured there’d be little to play on if audience participation was light. Thankfully, we had a great and active crowd and some amazing discussion take

place. I learned a little bit that I didn’t know about AD&D 2nd Edition.

If there was anything I found slightly disturbing, it was that people were asking us for our opinions on general concepts like homebrew settings. I’m happy to offer my thoughts and spur discussion, but on such

a broad and diverse subject as tabletop RPGs, I’m not sure my word is gospel. But open up a discussion panel and I guess people think you’re an authority.

Our final panel, Podcasting 101 was a good end to the con. Gothic Gaara from the Naruto podcast Konoha

Corner, who we’d met at the AWA Podcaster Roundtable, stepped in. (Having a second set of opinions was great, especially from someone who does a much different style of podcast than we

do–there’s no one right way to do a podcast.) The turnout was a bit light, but that meant Q&A was a bit more loose and free. We filmed this, and it should be up on YouTube sometime this

week.

Our time at GMX was fun, short, and too full. We met some new friends and caught up with old ones–something we’ve never been able to do quite the same way at MTAC or AWA, given the crowds

those cons draw in. I’m impressed, and I’m looking forward to next year.

(I took a very few photos, which can be found on Flickr.)

An Apology from Sony

I happen to subscribe to Weird Al‘s email updates, and I just got the following bizarre email from his list:

Sony Music is in the midst of transitioning to a new email service provider. Due to this switch over, an email meant for Kris Allen’s list was mistakenly sent to Weird Al’s list. We understand how valuable you are as a loyal member of Weird Al’s email list. By no means was this an intentional act and we offer our deepest apologies.

Wait, they’re assuring me that by no means was this an intentional act and they’re offering their deepest apologies? Did Sony run over my dog in their SUV or something?*

Oddly enough, I do remember getting the Kris Allen email. I shrugged it off because I figured it was something I’d downloaded from NoiseTrade and then deleted.

But, really, it sort of says something about our culture that we have to deeply apologize for a mistakenly sent email. Apologize, yes. Deeply apologize, deny intentions, and assure us of our value, not so much. Methinks they doth protest too much.

Yes, we’re sensitive to spam and invasion of privacy, and yes, as a developer, I’ve been on the other side of this phenomenon and can understand the absolute PR nightmare it can be. The only time I’ve ever been cursed out by a client is when I wrote an update that sent out a bunch of unexpected emails to their users. (Even then, that was because users weren’t actually managing their data, but at least I should have checked it against production data first.)

Still, email can be the most flippant and least personal form of communication at our disposal. Heck, most of the messages that hit my personal email box aren’t even sent out manually, they’re either automated notifications or subscriptions. That people might flip out over a single stray email blows my mind.

This might be a good place to go back to reference David Dark via Slacktivist on the topic of offendedness.

* No, because I don’t actually own a dog.

Loose Canons

Loose Canons

So yes, this makes two book blog posts almost back to back. (At least this one didn’t sit around for over a week on my desktop–I just finished reading it last night.)

I’m not making it a habit, but I did want to mention Loose Canons because I’m friends with the guy who wrote it and would really like to get the word out. (No, really, this is completely unsolicited–if you know Chad you know he’d probably grumble at the idea of someone else writing a blog post about his work.)

The Loose Canons cycle is several years old, so–more or less quietly–he put it up on Amazon’s Kindle platform for $0.99 for the heck of it. You don’t actually need a Kindle–you can read it on your PC, Blackberry, Droid, fruitPhone, or fruitPad.

(This was actually the first time I’d read it all the way through, as sitting down to read it on my Blackberry is much more convenient than someone handing you a stack of papers and saying “what do you think of this?”)

So, for less than a dollar, you get all this:

Loose Canons is a collection of 10 interconnected short stories which explore a world in which even the gods themselves are faithless and incompetent. Along the way, it encompasses humor, mythology, and questioning faith as less-than-heroic characters are tested–and found wanting.

  • A church conducts interviews to find their new god.
  • A god puts one of his priests to the test – and the cleric flunks miserably.
  • A cadre of deities files a lawsuit against God for putting them out of work.
  • Two gods set out to keep the secrets of the hamburgers of the deities out of mortal hands.
  • The village idiot sets out to kill Time so he can live forever.

The world (multiverse, I should say) of Loose Canons is complex and somewhat twisted, while still being whimsical in a Hitchiker’s Guide sort of way.

After losing all of his worshippers, Thoth, Lord of Knowledge, ends up flipping burgers at a fast food joint on modern-day Earth. Chanticleer, Lord of Storms, goes chasing after a demonic fast-food clown mascot who has stolen a secret hamburger recipe from Brahma’s restaurant on Olympus (ironically called The Sacred Cow). Aurus, Slayer of the Undead, is stripped of his divinity wagering with another god on the faithfulness of his high priest. Eridain Calumna Spear-Thrower, chosen hero of the gods, gets caught in a spat between Time and Death.

Incidentally, I ran this post by Chad, and he wanted me to add this disclaimer: “I’m an equal-opportunity offender. You may also want to mention that I’m probably going to hell, no matter what religion you follow.”

Also, Chad is working on a new book over the summer, a combination of dark fantasy and an even darker modern-day dystopia tentatively called Revolution.