Professor Mordarm's Mad Ramblings

My mad thoughts on tech, news, and geek phenomenon.

Telling Your Story: It’s Not Just About You (A RPG Review Part II)

Posted by Professor Mordarm on June 5, 2010

So you’re chomping at the bit, ready to make your mark in the world with your own character in The Dresden Files RPG? Eager to sling spells fighting  against the Red Court? Want your character to track that “odd” witness with the pointed ears for a case? Or just want to gather power to become the next John Marcone? Well not so fast there, you need to pull back a bit. There are a few things you need to do first. Like making your city.

It’s Your City, Really

Yes you heard right, you need make your city. How? Well TDF RPG: Your Story takes the unusual first step by making players and GM working together, not to create characters, but instead creating the city setting. Now normally the GM takes care of these “setting details” in other RPGs, but TDF RPG creation rules allows the players to join in the creative process as well. By getting the players involved, you allow them get more motivated and give them a chance to make a stake in the game early on. In doing so, bullpen type sessions can result in questions that can offer scenarios that the players and GM are looking for. For example:

  • What city would you like your characters in? New York City, NY? Houston, TX? Barrow, AK? (“30 Days of Night,” Red Court style anyone?)
  • Would you like invent one of your own? (How about your own Gotham?)
  • What interesting places are there in the city?
  • What potential events can take place there?
  • Where are the player characters and NPCs going to set up shop, hang out or even hide out?
  • Who are the factions working/fighting in your city?
  • What are the supernatural wonders and terrors that are lurking in the streets?

Brainstorming ideas like this also can result in more characters concepts for role-playing, not just city creation itself. Now mind you this is all optional. If your players do not want to jump into the bones of city creation (or if you have a lazy GM), TDF RPG comes with pregenerated examples of two cities for you to jump in right off the bat, Chicago and Baltimore; each with its own personal feel and flavor. But having a group of players having a say in the setting creates feedback for the GM on what the players want to have and expect in the game itself.

Now once your group has come to a consensus on which city and why, you’ll need to break it down into a manageable format. City creation in TDF RPG has its own individual sections designed for ease of use. First on the list is Themes. Themes are similar to Aspects but have the expanded duty of expressing issues that are constantly reoccurring in your city like city outlook/environment, specific problems, groups and urban tales/events. Themes tend to stick around and are hard to shake. On the other hand, issues that causes danger to the way of life for mortals in your city are Threats. Threats describe a person, monster, group or situations that describes their methods, agendas and goals to disrupt life in the city (though some monsters need no agenda or goals to cause havoc in your city). Threats are the dramatic aspects that player characters will interact most often with, so the previous brainstorming will come in handy. As you build the mortal and supernatural populations, Locations will emerge; Neighborhoods and Points Of Interest that help flesh out your city. In addition, each site will have its own aspect and its own Faces, persons (or things) which personifies and reflects that location’s ideas and aspects and which the player characters can interact with.

Now this seems a big collaborative effort overall but the practice will come in handy. Why? Because players who aid in this creative effort will become more comfortable with the next step: Character creation.

A Lone(ly) Hero Not Makes A Story

Now character creation in TDF RPG is another activity that the players and GM work together with. It first starts with your character concepts: the High Concept and the Trouble aspects. These are the key drives that motivate your character, that keep him or her going even when everything is going to Hell in a hand basket for your character. Now some players may have trouble with expressing their characters High Concept and Trouble initially but TDF RPG can ease this step with a Template, which are character packages that help link up the other two aspects together into one simple step. Templates can help define a concept that to a familiar Deresden-verse world feel. Want to play a bitten yet still half-human Red Court vampire? An Alpha? A unknowing Knight finding his Sword? The templates can do that and more, with some creative shifting on the players and GM part. It is also during this step where the power level is decided for the players; in which TDF RPG writers also put their own humorous twist by giving examples on how “deep” you are into the world of supernatural powers. Are you just getting Your Feet In the Water with this magic stuff or are you Submerged (and possibly drowning) with mystic might?

By combining these (Template, High Concept and Trouble) into one step, one can move swiftly to the next part of creation: the 5 Phases of your characters background, a background where all the players get involved in yet again. The first two, Where Did You  Come From? and What Shaped You? helps you form your starting background, conflicts and issues for your character. What Was Your First Adventure? plays like a TV episode or movie. You can even give it a catchy title and brief one or two sentence synopsis. And if you have trouble with that, the book gives you a handy short “story skeleton” to help you kick-start the creative process. The last two phases, Who Path Have You Crossed? and Who Else’s Path Have you Crossed? makes the player pass that character sheet to two other players, who then”guest stars” that character into their own character’s episode. This is a clever method of linking up the charters history together early on and allows players to add ideas and more background to each other’s concepts. These phases also help form the character’s Phase Aspects, which as you know now, allow for Fate Points generation and use, as well as for role-playing. Adding in your Skills, Mortal Stunts, Magic and Supernatural Powers (mentioned in Part I of my review) finishes up the character creation process. Also of note TDF RPG: Your Story does offer the option for quick character creation for those who don’t want to get bogged down and get right to game-play, though its more fun to work together in my opinion.

TDF RPG: Your Story continues in further detail with ideas and rules on aspect invoking, creating scenarios, character advancement, magic use, the Laws of Magic, and much more that I can possibly cover in this review. With this much attention to detail and clever usage of ideas, one should have little problem getting players motivated in the creation aspect alone, which in turn creates more enjoyable game-play. But what if you or the players want more? Does someone want a character to work in the same station as Murphy? Be on the lam from the White Council for questionable “dark” magic? To work with Dresden on a case? Or (Hell’s Bells) match wits with Mab to fulfill a favor for the Summer Court? You can, but your going to need more story background to cover these and other scenarios in TDF universe. Just follow the next part of my review where I cover these colorful characters, groups, places and the events they cause in TDF series, in the aptly named second volume called The Dresden Files RPG: Our World.

To Be Continued in Part III: Our World

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Stars and Stones, A New Post and Review! (A RPG Review Part I)

Posted by Professor Mordarm on June 3, 2010

Due to some unexpected delays I’ve been unable to post until now, so I need to get back in the groove. So to do that I’ll post my review of one the few RPGs I am actually looking forward in running this year: The Dresden Files RPG.

The Dresden Files RPG draws its source from the best-selling books of the same name by author Jim Butcher. The books (now in its 12th in the series) covers the “case-files” of one Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, Chicago’s first (and only) Wizard P.I. (He’s in the phone book). The series have proven so wildly popular that it has spawned a TV series and now its going to debut as a new RPG at Origins Game Fair, June 23, 2010 by Evil Hat Productions. Now other game publishers have attempted to take a popular series, tried converting it into a RPG format and have met with various degrees of success and/or failure. But Evil Hat Productions, working in tandem with Jim Butcher (a big plus in my book), have taken the time and effort to produce a RPG that actually shows tremendous role-playing potential. Also Evil Hat is taking an extra step: If you pre-order the books, they will give you the PDFs versions of the books for free in advance.

The RPG comes in two volumes, each named Your Story and Our WorldYour Story covers everything you will need to get started and playing in the rich world of The Dresden Files universe itself without having to read the series (though I highly recommend it, they are a great read). Our World covers in detail, all the characters, factions, places and events leading up until “Small Favor” of the Dresden Files book series. As I will review a bit from each RPG book, I thought it prudent by covering on the RPG system itself and how it is an effective means of role-playing in The Dresden Files universe.

The FATE System

The Dresden Files RPG (TDF RPG) uses a modified version of the award-winning Fate system, to help express the urban and supernatural feel in all its gritty glory. According to the Fate website, the system stands out by using:

… a free RPG system that focuses on telling stories and balancing characters based on story significance, rather than points and cool powers.

Now most of you are thinking how the heck can you tell how powerful and/or useful I am without a definable numerical stat? Well the Fate system uses an idea called Aspects to focus how a character is defined and used, making it quite flexible to fit any character concept. For example, you can use aspects to define your core personality traits and behaviors. So following this concept, instead of being a simple “12th level human wizard” or some such, you have aspects like Harry Dresden, a “WIZARD PRIVATE EYE” who is “AN EPIC WISEASS” and is “PERPETUALLY BROKE.”

By invoking these aspects, either positively or negatively, one gains or uses Fate Points, which the Players and GM use to effect Fudge Dice rolls, invoke/resist aspects and cause dramatic events. Also by invoking aspects, dramatic role-playing opportunities spawn more often that could be normally missed in traditional RPGs. And this aspect idea is not limited to characters; you can also apply aspects to items, places and even events, which in turn be invoked by the players and GM to affect the game session.

Covered in the Fate system are Skills as well as Mortal Stunts and Supernatural Powers. Magic itself is covered in almost overwhelming detail by their own Spellcasting, Thaumaturgy, and Sponsored Magic sections. A player uses these abilities, by using only 4 Fudge Dice, which keeps the rolling down to a minimum. A player rolls or shifts to meet a difficulty rating, scaling from Terrible to Legendary, using their own skill/power/magic rating as a base. Rolling well, shifts the degree of success up, but there is no negative shifts. You either meet (or beat) the difficulty or you don’t. Though rolling badly can present great opportunities for role-playing. Also these rolls can cause Stresses (Physical, Mental and Social) and Consequences (Mild, Moderate, Severe or Extreme) to the character. Stresses are pretty much self-explanatory, suffer too much and your out for the scene. Consequences are different as they are aspects that are negative effects that can last for long time.

To gain access to various stunts, powers and magic, the player must spend his or her Refresh Pool to buy these abilities.  But the Refresh Pool has a second vital duty. Its used to set up your base Fate Point pool that’s used in the TDF RPG. The Refresh Pool is a brilliant tool used to keep game balance; the more Refresh you have, the more Fate Points you have to use, reflecting the player character’s ability to choose his or her Fate (Note: also by scaling the starting Refresh pool the GM can set the power level of the player characters quite easily to any level). The less you have, the less chances you have to change your Fate in the game, which then reflects the character’s need to follow his or her instinctive and sometimes monstrous nature. So the more you buy, the more you risk. Anytime a player’s character falls to 0 or less Refresh in his or her pool, that character has become an NPC, unable to do anything but follow his or her instincts. For a mortal character, a 0 Refresh equals to losing something vital that means being a human, their humanity and thus becoming a NPC as well.

So by reflection, you can be a powerful supernatural being that can (and often does) overwhelm most mortals but the price is possibly becoming nothing more that an instinctive, inhuman monster. And while a “vanilla” mortal can become a powerful force in TDF RPG, like John Marcone, they still have all the all human strengths and weaknesses of one.

So by combining these ideas and concepts, the Fate system is well suited to cover the base mechanics of the TDF RPG, but that is only scratching the surface of these wonderful books. It also uses an ingenious method of character creation which leads into the next part of the review, Your Story.

Continues in Part II

Telling Your Story: It’s Not Just About You

Dresden Files RPG: Your Story

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Cables, Grues, Caffeine And Karma

Posted by Professor Mordarm on April 14, 2010

Last week while following up on my tweets I saw that @DarthMolen, one of the Triforce of the podcast, mentioned in passing that he was having issues is setting up a live cast feed for TPG. So I shot him a message offering my help as an audio tech-head to help solve his problems. After a few minutes of Skype chat, it turned out that Steven (Darth) knew what the issue was but he did not have the two items (a cable and adapter) on hand to solve it.

Seeing that it was such simple solution, I offered to do the legwork for him and get the items for him within a reasonable time-frame. I figured if I did not have spares on had (cables and stuff seem to breed in my tech-cave like mad techno-bunnies), I could easily get the items from my audio contacts at cost. It sounded like a good plan and with Steven’s agreement I set off. I figured it would be a simple gear run, so what could go wrong?

Well apparently the Geek Gods were not amused by my flippant attitude, so they decided to toss the metaphysical monkey-wrench into my plan.

First, I checked my tech stash. After looking for about an hour or two I marked that as a no-go. Next, I called a fellow audio engineer to see if he had any that he could spare, but sadly no luck there. It was the same result with the next two calls to my other contacts, no dice. My next stop was a local audio store to see if they had the gear in question, they did but at 3 times the budget I had set. Shrugging off my bad luck, I tried another audio store. There I asked the clerk (more like a kid) if he had the gear in stock. After a long pause and blank stare (and I mean a 30+ sec pause) he said that he needed to check in the back and I never saw him again.

Later I figured a Grue must have eaten him or something…

Anyway, I made my third stop at a place I’m sure it would have it: Sam Ash. They would have the items I’m questing for sure! Cheered somewhat, I went inside. I explained the items I was looking for and the budget I was working in to the people there. They were very helpful and looked for the items in question. They looked on the sales floor but none was found. They check the back, again no success. They contact another store but that place has none there but undaunted, they kept looking.

Eventually they did find them, at the price I was seeking. But it was on their online catalog and only on their online catalog. But there was an issue (of course). The shipping options I had would have either resulted in arriving too late for the live feed podcast date or be too expensive to ship it via next day services. A bit frustrated now, I thanked them for helpful efforts. I decided to call it quits for now, start fresh the next day and view my options.

Waking up the next morning I took off to my local mall to hit the Starbucks for my caffeine fix and figure out my next step. While in the mall I happened to pass by a Radio Shack. Now, I’m not sure it was a flash of inspiration or a rush of caffeine from my Dark Cherry Mocha but I figured why not check in there?

I entered the store while flashes of my childhood echoed though my memories; of me getting electronic parts for whatever random tech experiment I was working on at the time or to replace whatever electronic item I just disassembled in a fit of mad childishness glee. Shaking off the pleasant ghosts of the past, I focused on the present. I asked the sales clerk if they had two items I’m looking for and lo and behold, after a few minutes of looking, they did have them and at ½ the cost!

Doing the Xander Snoopy dance of joy (and shortly afterwards convincing the sales clerk not to call mall security) I slapped my debit card down and made my purchases. Invigorated now by emotion and a caffeine buzz I emailed Steven the good news. Soon after that I contacted my local UPS and got them to pick it up for delivery. My quest finally fulfilled at last, I went on with my day.

But the Gods deemed to play one more karmic joke…

When I got home later that day, I saw that I had left my cables strewn about during yesterday’s search so I need to clean up a bit or possibly, however unlikely, get tripped up by some cable version of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. But while I was moving and repacking, I found a small box tucked into a dark corner of my closet where I keep my cables and such. Not remembering what was in that box, I brushed of the dust and I opened it…

And found an exact set of the two items I just sent out a few hours earlier.

*insert sounds of headdesk several times*

-Professor Mordarm

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Geeks, Foolery And Fools on April Fool’s Day

Posted by Professor Mordarm on April 1, 2010

Ah yes, that time of year where everyone’s funny-bone starts itching and the pranks, both good and bad, start flying. Now I’ve had my share of being the prank(er) and the pranked, but this year I’ll focus the best April Fool’s Day theme stuff out there for the geek inclined.

For the gamers, there are countless tricks being done out there:

But fooling geeks are not limited to games alone. Here are some entertaining sites for (foolish) gear:

Other sites also join in during this festive day of foolery:

For you history geeks, The Huffington Post has a brief article on how April Fool’s Day could have possibly started, along with funny prank videos for amusement. Also the Museum of Hoaxes gives the top 100 hoaxes from the past. But be warned, even the news media gets fooled from time to time.

Now after a while you might get sick of all this and just want to know what is real and whatnot. So here is a debunking guide (a courtesy tip from @geekgirldiva) to help you navigate the perils of this day. Cinema Blend does a wonderful job on giving you the real lowdown on the fake outs on the web.

So remember on this and every April Fool’s Day, be safe, enjoy the day, have a few laughs and most of all have fun.

-Professor Mordarm

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The 48 Hour Media Blackout Project – The Results (Part 3)

Posted by Professor Mordarm on March 24, 2010

Day 2 – Hour 32

A new media-less dawn arrives.

As I stirred with the sun peaking though my window, I happened to look at my clock: 8:00am Sunday. I muttered something unintelligible even to me as I was hoping to sleep in some more and kill a few more hours, but Morpheus had left for other more worthy (and sleepy) dreamers. So I fumbled for my pen and journal for today’s new entry.

Written Entry – Hour 32: I’m up at 8:00am on Sunday. I usually sleep in on Sunday. Why am I up so early on a Sunday?! Ok, back up,  way to moody this morning. This media blackout project is making me act weird. Well, honestly no weirder than usual. Anyway my plan for today is: Bus trip to meet up with Sunday RPG group and hang out. Afterwards, not too sure what to do next. I’ll figure it out later but first, nature calls…

So after the normal personal duties, I went over my schedule. Knowing my time is both my enemy and friend I decided to go early and make an extended bus trip and see the town. It sounded like a good idea at the time but…well I’ll allow my next entry to explain.

Written Entry – Hour 35: Tried to take the scenic route on the bus today. Took the wrong bus, ended up at the airport. Backtracked and took correct bus but bus broke down. Now on replacement bus and now I have a fellow two seats down babbling away at his paper bag. Yes, apparently the bag (and the booze bottle in it) had the gall to run out of booze. Oh man, I think he is going to be sick…(writing scrawls off here)

Written Entry – Hour 35 PS: The things I get to experience in the name of this project. Joy.

Day 2 – Hour 36

Adventures in dodging.

After avoiding drunken organic projectiles, I finally arrived at my destination. Happily escaping the bus of doom, I hopped off and hurried to the site to meet my friends. Then as I approached I realized I had another slight problem.

Doh, media everywhere!

Fortunately I did not have to wait long as one of my friends from my RPG group arrived. Greeting each other he immediately noticed that I had not set up any of my tech gear. When he asked about my lack of equipment (no pun intended), I explained about the project and my involvement in the undertaking. Nonplussed at first, my friend then decided on his own to help me out.

As I could not access any printed reading material (i.e. the rule books) he pulled out his own laptop, pulled up the PDF flies and helped me to do character creation by reading out loud to me as needed. Soon the rest of the group arrived, each toting their own gear of books, laptops and dice.

As soon as I explained my situation, they grinned among themselves. They found it quite humorous and gave me some good-natured ribbing. But they were also quite flexible as well, making adjustments and reading to me rules and concepts as I needed them.

The other guy on my right used his iPhone. 😛

Written Entry – Hour 39: Into hour 3 of the gaming session without my access to RPG media. Despite my inability to access my laptop for rule books and such, I was rather able to put a character together though outside aid from my comrades. I have noticed though everyone here other than me is using a media device of some sort to supplement their gaming. When did this group shift from paper and pencil to electronic PDF files?! It just seemed to work its way slowly into the group. Kind of like fungus. Ugh, bad analogy.

I was quite pleased and surprised on how my friends adapted to the situation I was in. Other than pausing for someone to read me a rule or two it went rather smoothly. The only real hiccup was that every time I had to make a restroom break I had to slip past the racks of comics without looking at them. The store employees were giving me odd looks as used my hands to block the side view of my vision as I went back and forth from the restroom to the game room.

And today was new issue day! Arrgh!

Day 2 – Hour 42

After the end of the session we gathered for our usual after-gaming dinner at the local restaurant. The subject during those dinners is usually whatever geek trend has caught our attention that week. But the subject drifted now and then to my project. Some of them wondered why would I do such a thing, while others just teased me with various bad jokes of: “Don’t read the menu! It’s media!” or “Cover your ears, the restaurant is gonna play background Muzak!

Now normally I head home not long after these get together dinners but this time I purposely stuck around, chatting away and drinking many cups of coffee. Before I knew it, the sun was already setting and it was getting late. Hitching a ride from one of my gaming buddies I returned home.

Day 2 – Hour 44

Written Entry – Hour 44: My friend Sean from the gaming group decided to hang out after dropping me off at the house. We talked geek, tech and RPG speak. Great way to kill more time, though he did setup his laptop and played M.U.G.E.N. to tease me while we chatted. Need to prank him later.

After saying my goodbyes for the night, I gathered all the journal notes, photos and videos together and proceeded to try to organize the material so I could decided how to present this in my blog. But as I could not access my laptop to edit photos, videos and write a draft or two, I did it manually. Not an easy thing to do and I was getting impatient to access my media.

Day 2 – Hour 47 and counting

Written Entry – Hour 47: 1 hour to go. Hand is getting cramped writing possible drafts and this entry. Time is seemingly slowing to a crawl as I keep checking the clock on my wall. Need to pull out the alarm I set up to let me know when the project ends. I wonder how much I info I have missed these past 48 hours. Would I’ve cared if I had missed it? Something to think about later.

The Final Countdown!

So how do I sum up the experience? Personally compared to doing this 10 years ago, I felt the loss of my media more keenly now than before. This project forced me to rediscover viewpoints and habits that I’ve lost sight over the years. Going out on the town. How to deal with boredom. Talking more often to a live person. How to cope.

One of my friends asked me if I had to do this longer would I be able to cope. I responded by mentioning a chance meeting I had with three people during Day 1 in the coffee shop. These three, Jessica (National Guard), Rob (U.S Army) and Brenda (U.S Army Reserves) had just gotten out of basic training (9 weeks without media as well) and were having their last weekend before going off for further training . When I mentioned my media blackout project and how frustrating it was dealing with lack of personal media for 2 days, they just smiled and after a moment, Jessica responded:

“I agree it is tough, but you’ll adapt. You have to or go crazy. But you are not alone. Your (battle) buddies are there to help you and you to help them in return.” – Jessica

All in all, a great way to remind someone who even though we are more media-tech based than ever in human history, we are still at the core, human and still need that real human contact.

-Professor Mordarm

Photos and videos by Professor Mordarm ©2010

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The 48 Hour Media Blackout Project – The Results (Part 2)

Posted by Professor Mordarm on March 22, 2010

Day 1 – Hour 17

I wonder if a troll is swimming under that bridge?

Drifting to and fro though the crowed pathways of the Riverwalk, I took several pictures with my digital camera. But to my mild annoyance, the crowds were too thick and worked against my favor and as a result I was only able to get a few salvageable shots.

Leaky Clams

All I need now is some hot dogs.

As it was getting colder, I weaved thought the crowds and back up to the streets looking for the local coffee shop to warm up. At this rate I was almost tempted to go home and call it a bust after I had gotten my cup of Joe. But Providence decided to interrupt that rebellious thought with an odd sight, which I might have missed if I was not distracted by tweeting or listening to my iTouch.

(Watch out boys…)

Cheered by my cool encounter but still getting no warmer I hurried to the site where warm caffeine bliss awaited me. It was my plan recharge and continue my media-less wanderings. But yet again I got side tracked by another unexpected discovery, an old-fashioned novelty magic shop.

Tucked into a side alley with other small shops, Magic World did not seem much but I did not really care. Because as a child, I was always fascinated by the magic illusions that magicians did and still do to this day. I dabbled into the subject in the past but I drifted off as the years past by. Not wanting to miss this opportunity, I wandered inside.

Entering, I saw the small store filled with people, both young and old, which were watching  a fellow giving a live demonstration of magic. Forgetting about my coffee at the moment,  I stood by and enjoyed the 5 minute show. After the show ended, with some applause from the crowd, I made my way to the counter and struck up a discussion the store magician. We traded shop talk at first, but then the conversation shifted when I mentioned my project. As a result I was able to get his response on the subject:

Meet Joe the Magician

Written Entry – Hour 17: Met a bride-to-be, found a magic shop, showed off my skills with cards and got an outside viewpoint. Not bad for a late start of the day. Now where the heck is that coffee place?!

Yes caffeine heaven!

Day 1 – Hour 18

After getting warmed up and caffeinated I wandered around some more. By this time it was getting much later in the day and the crowds were thinning. I took advantage of this to get better photos around downtown San Antonio.

Got to see horses at least once in Texas.

Texas Jackalope Confirmed?!

Written Entry – Hour 19: Wandered back near the Alamo. Found a few odd-looking stores out there. Including a place that sells jackalopes! That truly made my day. The sun is setting and I’m losing my light for photos, so time to go home and make some dinner. Oh by the way…I see a horse.

Day 1 – Hour 20

Riding back on the bus I reflect on what I saw and did during my first day of my media blackout. Normally I’d be at home, typing a tweet, reading my email, or doing other such media based activities to distraction. But now I can’t help think what I’ve missed in the past. If I was holed up in my tech-cave like I normally would have been, I’d never of seen a bachelorette party on the prowl, seen a live (sorta) jackalope, made a new friend, or even found an odd duck.

The last entry of the day, though short, would sum it up quite nicely:

Written Entry – Hour 23: Very tired, going to sleep. Busy day today. Had Fun.

Photos and videos by Professor Mordarm ©2010

Continues on The 48 Hour Project – The Results (Part 3)

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The 48 Hour Media Blackout Project – The Results (Part 1)

Posted by Professor Mordarm on March 22, 2010

Well as I stated before in my earlier blog post, the last 48 hours I purposefully disconnected myself from all types of media. I can honestly say that it was not the same as the one I did 10 years ago. I had my highs and lows as well as the unexpected during this project. It was during those 48 hours I discovered some new experiences while re-discovering somethings that I had forgotten.

So what did I find? How did I pass the time during these 48 hours? Did I come to some form of geek enlightenment? Did I go crazy without my normal access to media?

I’ll let you come up with your own conclusions as you let see, read and hear the various entries I made in my unique version of a multimedia journal. Oh the irony.

Day One – A few minutes after midnight:

Written Entry – Hour 3: As I mentioned, I did do some minor clean up and organizing, when a thought suddenly occurred to me. Normally I’d be up browsing the net on my laptop, checking my tweets on my iTouch or playing a game on my 360 Xbox. I was usually after several hours later into the morning I’d try to do my clean up duties afterwards. But as my access to media is now cut off, I had no real “excuse” to not do such tasks earlier than usual. Food for thought.

Day One – 15th Hour

(Why +12 hours later?!)

Needless to say this was not a very promising start for my project. I could continue to try to salvage what little I had left during the day or go to the nearest wall and pound myself into unconsciousness. But since I did not want to get another migraine, I decided to go with the former plan. I loaded up my ScotteVest with my digital camera, pocket video camcorder, writing gear, small lunch and I headed out.

What will I find out there?

Written Entry – Hour 15: After taking another dose of migraine medication (and packing a few extra doses), I’ve decided to hitch a ride on the local bus and go where the moment spurs me. I’ll see what the day holds in store for me. Hopefully not another migraine. That would not be of the good.

Off to adventure...kind of.

Day 1 – 16th Hour

(And here is where I ended up.)

Written Entry – Hour 16: After traveling the bus for little over 45 min,  got tired of sitting and hopped off at downtown San Antonio, right near the Riverwalk. Taking a quick moment to note this in my journal while sitting down on the steps. Lot of cold wind today but it has blown the clouds away and now the sun is bright and shining. Better get a move on though, I think a duck in the river is looking at me oddly…

Who you looking at?

Photos and videos by Professor Mordarm ©2010

Continues at The 48 Media Blackout Project – The Results (Part 2)

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The 48 Hour Media Blackout Project

Posted by Professor Mordarm on March 19, 2010

About 10 years ago a friend of mine said I was so addicted to electronic media that he bet I could not go any kind of media for 48 hours. So I took up on his bet and attempted go without media for 2 whole days.

And it was eye-opening, yet annoying experience. But I did do it, barely, and I won that bet. Though I admitted to my buddy that it was harder that I expected and I hoped to never do such a thing again.

Well you heard the cliché: “Insert foot, chew vigorously? ”

Well karma decided I needed another lesson in this once more.

How? Well one of my college instructors decided to give this very same scenario as an assignment; to go 48 hours without any media sometime this week. So now I’m faced with a similar situation, but I wonder how would I fare as my interaction with media has increased exponentially in the last 10 years. What would I do without my MP3 player? Or e-mail? What about my WiFi connections? Video games? Twitter?!

Just to give you an idea what I’m giving up for this project here is a picture of my current tech-cave:

What I'm giving up for this project.

Clearly I’m in for another challenge, only more so. So I decided to do this during this weekend starting at midnight to do:

The 48 Hour Media Blackout Project!

(Insert dramatic music here)

Here are the rules I must follow to the best of my ability to complete this assignment:

  1. Eliminate my access to the following media for 48 hours: Cable, Broadcast TV, Computer (off-line), Internet, Electronic Games, Magazines, Movies (Theater, DVDs), Newspapers, Books, Radio, Recording Industry Products (CD, MP3s), Cell Phones, and Social Media (Twitter, Facebook).
  2. I am exempt from the above if it is for a serious emergency. Such as a cell-phone for 911 and similar situations.
  3. I must record, in some fashion, my experiences during this time. Permitted items are a written journal, a photo journal, and/or video/voice journal.
  4. Find and do other non-media activities during this time.
  5. Have fun doing so!

I can honestly say that I’m a bit wary this coming weekend but at the same time strangely curious on what I might do during that time. I’m not quite sure what will happen…

Well, if anyone has any suggestions on what I can do, feel free to comment/tweet/email me your ideas and I’ll honestly try them out. But you must get them to me no later than 11:55pm US CT tonight! That will be the last check for me before I power down and disconnect everything media connected.

And when Monday rolls around, I plan to post my experiences. How, I’m not sure as of yet, as I’ve not decided on a journal format yet. It might be mix of several journal formats mentioned in rule #3.

I must be crazy to do this, again, but then I take some pleasure that I will not be the only one doing this.

-Professor Mordarm

Posted in Mad Ramble of the Moment | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Cool Clothing, Geeks with Power & Five Dollar Deals.

Posted by Professor Mordarm on March 18, 2010

Today’s ramble begins with one of my favorite geek gear products: ScotteVest.

If you have not heard of ScotteVest (or SeV for short) then you are missing out on one of the coolest clothing products out there for your tech gear. Now personally I have a tough time carrying all the gadgets and gear when I get out on my tech-cave now and then. Heavy laptop bags, belt pouches and tech backpacks made me look like, well, like an overloaded geek. Not to mention the pain it caused to my shoulders and back by carrying all that gear awkwardly.

Then I discovered SeV though my wanderings of Think Geek’s website. I saw that SeV has designed clothing that has an insane amount of pockets for your gear. And I mean like +22 pockets insane!

So enchanted on what I saw I ordered several of their products: The Travel Vest, Evolution Jacket and the Cotton Hoodie.

And I just love it. Being able to carry all my stuff on one item, my clothing, instead of all that baggage is a great stress reliever. Now just to give you an idea on what I used to carry in my laptop/tech bags and instead carry in SeV’s Evolution Jacket, here is the a list of my gear :

  • -ASUS ULV80V 14.1″ Laptop w/ cables
  • -Logitech wireless mouse
  • -3rd gen iPod iTouch w/ earbuds and USB cable
  • -Clearspot Mobile Wi-Fi hot-spot w/ dongle and AC adapter
  • -Kodak EasyShare DX6490 SLR camera and USB cable
  • -USB Imitation 4 GB Flash drive
  • -rewindable mini earbuds for laptop
  • -2 GB SD Card
  • -2 Moleskine reporter notepads
  • -Bus schedules
  • -Pen w/ LED flashlight
  • -Mechanical draft pencil
  • -Random book of the day
  • -Personal medications for emergencies
  • -12oz Redbull/Gatorade
  • -Wallet and keys

Now some would say that it would be way too heavy to carry in one piece of clothing but I would counter that argument with I would have to carry that gear in my baggage anyway. Now I do admit there was some getting used to the weight, but it was better than having a laptop bag digging into one shoulder and having tech bags bouncing off my hip annoyingly. It is a bit of trick to sit in a car or bus seat with a laptop but with practice it is easily resolved. But I did not experience any kind of back or shoulder pain from all the weight I was carrying, a testament to the design of the jacket. The gear imprinting or “bulky look” was very small in the pockets themselves, so it did not look like I was carrying all that gear.

In fact when I visited a friend later that weekend, he had no idea what I had in that jacket until pulled that laptop out. His eyes just popped out like I pulled some fancy magic trick. I found this so amusing I went ahead and pulled this “trick” a few more times to other people I knew or met during that weekend just to see their reaction.

Another thing I like to rave about is SeV’s customer service. This is one of the few tech companies that I know that actually take the time and effort to listen to their customers. When a question or a minor issue came up with the SeV products I owned, they were very prompt and honest with their responses, both by phone and email. In fact, I like to give out a shout-out to customer rep Sherri for taking the time and patience  in dealing with all my countless questions and ramblings. You’re the best!

Now next in my ramble list: The Power Geeks.

I discovered these cool cats through my tweeting exchanges with @GeekGirls aka Kristin. When I found out she was a part of a regular weekly podcast, I got curious. So I went ahead and downloaded a few of them on my iTouch. Soon I found myself loving the casual format and the humor integrated into the show. They cover a range of topics; from new geek gear products, to geek speak, the Interweb Goldmine (my favorite) and much more.

@DarthMolen aka Steve and @JPuent aka Jeremy are great together in presenting their views of all things geek. Kristin is an excellent foil and brings a great female counterpoint to the show. Also a big plus is everything talked about on the podcast is linked on their own blog. They even add extra stuff not covered in their podcast due to lack of time, space or lack of caffeine (I’m going with lack of caffeine here. :P).

So if you have the time, listen to these folks. They have a good ear on the tech, gear, and the trends out there for us ignorant geeks.

And lastly, I found this interesting site during my browsing moments:

This is the site where they have come up with the ingenuous idea to allow people to buy or sell services (or gigs) for…$5.00. Yes, 5 bucks.

So what kind of gigs can you get, you ask?

How about:

This just of the few gigs you can find here on this amusing and interesting site. While they seem to still be in beta, the activity is quite active on the site. Registration is free and buying and selling gigs is anonymous. Payments are in advance though PayPal and they do allow feedback on quality of the gigs done, giving a rating to the poster’s “Positive Feedback” score. Fiverr takes a fee off the top of the for usage of the website, so the seller gets about $4.00.

Now as how to resolve any disputes that come up on gigs, they do have a feedback form, but they have no direct email or contact phone number. And as I have yet to find anyone with issues with gigs rendered, I cannot comment on’s customer responses.

But besides that, they do look like they are off to a promising start. I am looking forward in seeing how they grow and what they will come up with next.

Hmm, I wonder if someone will buy a recorded ramble of mine for 5 bucks?



-Professor Mordarm

Posted in Geek Gear, InterGeek | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Let the Rambings begin!

Posted by Professor Mordarm on March 17, 2010

After much chomping on the bit, I finally decided to start a blog.

But as I had no real idea on what to do, I jumped and tweeted to my fellow tweeters and tried to get their advice on how to start. After a bit and a few recommendations I decided to go with WordPress. Now what to talk about? Well, I would take the advice of a good friend and talk about what I know. So thinking a bit I decided to talk about my love of things geek.

Yes, geek.

I figure if I talk about that and the stuff that relates to it, I have a good chance of keeping with this blog updated. I do tend to get distracted quite easily but I believe that I can suffer though that and get to blogging regularly.

Wish me luck. I’m going to need it.

-Professor Mordarm

Posted in Mad Ramble of the Moment | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »