Gaming, Parenting, and Life.

Reassessing my Efforts —

After podcasting for a few months I feel like I have a better handle on what I can do and what I want to do. My original plan was to do a family/parenting podcast about being a new father, and all the changes that brings I also started an OSR podcast which would focus solely on Old school D&D. And, when I felt like I’d gotten the hang of it, I’d do a Gardening/Horticulture podcast to talk about the field I’m currently studying to enter and share my lifetime of gardening experiences with others. Like all plans this one fell apart almost immediately.

Read the rest of this entry »

Launching —

Well I’ve finally gone and done it, I’ve blown my wad and done got myself my own domain! After years of floating from free host to free host I’ve decided to go for something potentially more reliable and flexible. I’ll be migrating much of my content here over the next few weeks. I’ll still use the heck out of my MetaARPA membership over at, but from now on the blog content hosted at and will be found here at, and my podcast over at will be hosted at, I’ll also be hosting the show notes for you CapheindPlays channels here at Plays.Capheind.Com. I’m not sure what I’ll do with the BookLogs from an earlier blog, but for now they’ll be here as well.

BookLog 2011.05.29 — Botany For Gardeners: Third Edition — Introduction to California Plant Life, Revised Edition —

Been a bit since I’ve posted anything here, luckily I can’t imagine I’d have “regulars” so I’m not in any way, shape, or form, worried about it. I’d imagine the only readers of this blog are those brought in by the occasional Google result. As my career/educational goals have moved from the technical to the botanical, so to has my preference in casual reading moved to more botanical horizons.

Botany For Gardeners: Third Edition By Brian Capon

As a long time home gardener pursuing higher education in Botany (or as its often re-titled, Plant Sciences) I found this while poking around for introductory works that would extend on that which I’d learned in my first biology course, and provide some framework for more centrally botanical classwork.

After having read just the first few chapters I did find some information which assisted in this path, but the text is clearly written for the gardener who craves to dig a little deeper into the botanical processes they observe every day. The book sets itself the task of explaining why plants grow towards light, how plant roots work, some basics on plant reproduction (an incredibly broad topic in itself), and explanations for the sometimes counter-intuitive effects of pruning. Though this text only concerns itself with the basic science, that’s exactly what the home gardener would like to know.

This is definitely a good entry into a basic understanding of the botanical life sciences, though not quite delving as deep as I personally would like. For any Gardener who finds himself unable to answer basic “why does it do that?” questions it will definitely provide you with the tools to answer them.

Introduction to California Plant Life, Revised Edition By Robert Ornduff Revision By Phyllis Faber & Todd Keeler Wolf

While looking for a good text on the vegetation of my Native state of California I found this, and the original edition, to be widely reguarded as the seminal works on the subject. I found the book to be a great overview of the wide diversity found in the state, and more an overview of the regional variation in species, and less a gee wiz text on specific plants. In no way would this text wow, excite, or even interest someone with no interest in native plants. This is a book by a California native plant lover for students of California’s unique flora, and not really for anyone else.

Ok, so the text could find use among those who’s interests coincide with knowing the flora of the state, such as bird watchers and hikers, but its not really organized as a field guide, rather its organized such that it can easily be used as a reference after a single read through. I have already found myself referencing information about some of the floral communities I don’t know quite as well as I should. Overall its an easy read, and a great work on the topic that has weathered well, and only required the most basic revisions to stay current.

BookLog 2010.04.14 — Bonk by Mary Roach — Hackmaster Basic from Kenzer and Co — Pathfinder by Paizo —

I’ve picked up a pile of books lately, but haven’t had much in the way of time to read them. I’m in the middle of writing a module for Labyrinth Lord, I’ve been trying to go to the gym (and playing hookie as I write this), and I’m plotting a special getaway next week with someone, all of which eats time. I’m going to continue reading Bonk by Mary Roach I think. I put the book down a few chapters in just after I moved back to Bakersfield and never got back to it. I’m not entirely sure why I didn’t get back to it, its actually a pretty good read, and well worth getting back to. I find myself enamored with her right on the face of it style of writing, she doesn’t take the attitude that the science of sex has always been 100% above board, or the attitude that its entirely sleezy. The first chapter very honestly and openly talks about the nature and controversy of early sexual research, and the “lets bring a bunch of students round to my place” attitude of some researchers, while at the same time making it clear that a semi-serious study of human sexual biology and culture answers very important questions about who we are and who we want to be. Illustrations mark each chapter, although not in any significant way. While there were a couple that really stand out (an image of a farmer stimulating a pig sticks in my mind) generally speaking its not a strong point of the book and was done strictly for presentation. I”ll write more when I’ve actually read the entirety of the book, but so far I’d have to say its well worth picking up.

As you can no doubt tell from my OSR Podcast I am an avid fan of “Old School” role-playing games, these were games published between the 70′s to early 90′s that, due to being groundbreaking new concepts at the time, generally had a very rules-lite/intellect-heavy feel to them. These were games with which you could pretty much adapt any historical on fantasy text into source material for play. Publishers moved to more marketable fields as they started having to compete with Computer games, and while I’ve always held this to have been a mistake, I’ve never been able to bring myself to calling these games bad, just that they weren’t games I had any interest in playing. Well my interest has been peeking as of late and as such I’ve picked up two new books, one the modest page count, but large format paperback Hackmaster Basic from Kenzer and Co, and the massive tomb Pathfinder from Paizo publishing.

Hackmaster is the product of years of dedicated mockery. Hackmaster had its start as the name of an entirely fictional Dungeons and Dragons game. Because despite appearing in a licensed D&D publication (Dragon Magazine) Knights of the Dinner Table [4] was not actually licensed to use TSR’s properties. Being a spin-off of the Knights of the Dinner Table comic strip, the game had its start as a fairly decent lampooning of classic Dungeons and Dragons, but with some interesting rules mechanics, and in Hackmaster basic the game takes on a slightly more serious demeanor. For starters the game is written in very arrogant prose within the fictional identity of Gary Jackson, a man who is for the Knights of the Dinner Table game design team what the Gorillaz are for the artists collaborating. The arrogant prose is funny at first, but thankfully lightens later in the text or it would get tiresome. The game bills itself as having that Old School feel, and to be honest it does read like those classic games I love soo soo much, but it also adds a little more crunch than you’d see in any of the real classic D&D retro-clones, still it is the first game of this style that really makes good use of slight vagaries of ability points, and overall I think it’ll make for some fondly remembered evenings of dragon slaying and treasure stealing. One thing I do wish was there, or at least available as an expansion, was a full description of the earlier editions setting Garweeze Wurld, or even an overview of the later editions setting Kingdoms of Kalamar, instead the game is presented in a rules only format with very little setting material, although some discussion of hot to game, and an entire chapter on dice that you’ll probably only read for a laugh once.

Paizo who by the by Sell the above Hackmasters print edition,were the publishers of Dragon Magazine, Dungeon Magazine, and with the coming of d20 various other materials for Dungeons and Dragons until the coming of 4th edition and the end of their license to publish Dragon magazine. At that time they found themselves in a bit of an odd situation, due to new licensing and player disinterest in the new edition they had little interest in continuing along Wizards of the Coasts chosen path, but at the same time they had adventure paths for the third edition that were doing very well, so they used the D20 srd and built up their own game that takes off where D&D 3.5 left off. Calling themselves (unofficially) 3.75 they’ve cleaned up alot of the rules, simplified where possible, and generally created a massive volume that holds all the basic rules you’ll need (sans monster descriptions) to play, and can be used to beat bullies to a bloody pulp with. I’m not exaggerating when I say this is the biggest Role Playing book I’ve ever owned, while its about the same thickness as Shadowruns third edition (a terrible investment since they came out with a fourth edition nearly immediately after) its definitely a taller and wider form factor. Its worth the price of admission, I don’t generally play the sort of “fantasy superhero’s” style that 3rd edition focuses on, but occasionally it could be fun.

Stepping back from my nerdgasm, I have recently come to posses a rather large pile of WW2 books from my grandfathers stash, adding to my already full literary backlog. Most of these books have found a nice cool home in my storage space, while a select few have taken up residence in my room awaiting a good read. Back to work I suppose.

BookLog 2010.03.29 — Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body —

Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body

Well I finally finished this one, and I have to say I was still loving it to the very last word. Living in a nation that, more often than not, has seemed to turn its back on the sciences and any semblance of progress it’s quite the breath of fresh air to read a best-selling popular science text. Your Inner fish presents human evolution from fish to man in vivid, exciting, and down right alluring detail. This book really gets to the heart of what makes us so wonderfully, or sometimes woefully, complex. In fact in the course of reading this book I found out the convoluted reasons behind several medical issues in my own personal history.

Even those of us who have been dragged into the “evolution debate” by some horribly and willfully ignorant individual sometimes forget that, by its very nature, evolution doesn’t have a recent beginning. Man does not “come from apes” man is an ape, and before that he was a tree-dwelling mammal, and ground dwelling mammal, a proto-mammal, an amphibian, a walking fish, and a fish. One in three men has a hernia of some sort at some point in his life because his testes start their development in the same place as a fish, namely his chest. I didn’t even know that, developmentally, the testes did develop near the chest before reading this book.

Like any good science text it has a Bibliography and suggested reading portion, and thankfully it is well annotated and sorted by chapter, meaning this book can be your gateway into a better understanding of any of the topics presented. I’d also add that the “Vintage” edition I purchased included an additional afterward not present in earlier printings in which the author discusses some interesting new discoveries about Tiktaalik, a fossil intermediate which serves as a large part of the text in the first few chapters.

I have been a bit hectic with starting a new Gym ritual, and the ongoing job hunt, as well as my new dice fetish, so I haven’t made much progress with any of the other books I’ve been working my way through, but in true book addict style I’ve still managed to accumulate piles more. Yay me…

I am working on a new module for Labyrinth Lord based on Faerie Magic, or to be more precise Renaissance magic, gone awry. Nerdy I know, but such I am, and to quoth Popeye, “I yam what I yam.” No details until I’m sure something is going to happen with it.

BookLog 2010.02.17 — And another Thing… by Eoin Colfer — Red Land Black Land — Your Inner Fish —

And Another Thing… – Eoin Colfer – Douglas Adams’s Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy: 6of3.

I finally finished Eoin Colfers addition to Douglas Noah Adams seminal trilogy in three parts, and I have to say, I really liked it.

This text has received alot of harsh criticism, and much of it seems to be not of the “I read this book and it was a pile of fetid dingo’s kidneys” type, but rather more the “I will never read this book, a Hitchhikers book by another author is a SIN AGAINST NATURE” type.

I probably rant and rave more than anyone about the evils of retelling, rehashing, re-imagining, and rebooting the classics of our youth, there is just something that screams “If you have to change it, why not finish the job and make an original work anyway!” it screams this loudly, and usually whenever someone is horribly mistaken about what is and isn’t Battlestar Galactica. That said, I’d have to say “And another thing” doesn’t really fall within that category.

To summarize, without giving away the Ameglian Major Chicken, the only animal to come out of the great Gene looms of the Ameglian cluster to actually consider a life beyond being a main course, and consequently the most flavorful of the bunch, This story picks up just where book five left off. It uses a bit of a theatrical cheat, not quite on par with that of the “its all a dream” cheat, but still enough that your either going to go with it or not based on your own personal level of suspension of disbelief. The story-line, like those of the earlier works, tends to loop together loose threads that didn’t feel very loose in earlier works until someone went to the bother of looping them so nonchalantly, and brings back into the story line the characters of Thor, and Wowbagger the infinitely prolonged (that immortal green gent who came about to insult people for giggles).

The Story does feel a bit lacking without Adams at the helm, as Eoin Colfer first overly-apes Adams, and later adds a depth to the story that feels alien to the genre of wacky wild space hipsters that was Adams Milieu. He does update the setting a bit with more modern technical concepts, but many of Adams later works included them as well, so it doesn’t feel “that” off.

As to weather Eoin Colfer, Jane Adams, and Penguin Books had any moral right to produce another book sans Douglas, well I suppose that depends entirely on your perspective. The final season of the H2G2 radio show was adapted from his books by other authors, several of his last works were finished and sent to print by ghostwriters, the recent movie was the work of later authors, as were all of the stage plays. I suppose it all comes down to whether Adams himself would have wanted his characters, his wit, and his style to die with him, and to this last point I’d sorely hope the answer was a resounding no, because he has probably influenced more people than any other writer in recent history.

I’m still in the process of reading Red Land, Black Land: Daily Life in Ancient Egypt by Barbara Mertz, Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach, Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body (Vintage) by Neil Shubin, and rereading the Complete Sherlock Holmes, I’ve also started on 30 Days to Great French by Jenny Barriol, the last of which is due to the personal promise I made myself to learn french.

Your Inner Fish is, quite frankly, fascinating the hell out of me. Once you see yourself through this mans eye’s you realize that no species ever really stops being what its been, and that when you get down to it, we are still very much fish anatomically and biologically speaking.

Red Land, Black Land would be of massive interest to anyone with a taste for ancient Egypt, it paints a picture of a civilization reaching back thousands of years who, amazingly, were able to do very complex things through a long recorded history of Trial and Error. The Egyptians had very little concept of what we would call science, and a pathetically primitive mathematical system. To anyone who doubts the power of recorded trial and error, one reading of this text, and a look at the pyramids should rectify the situation.