The Environmental Cost of Moving All Our Stuff is Huge. How Can We Shrink It? by Nate Berg

Berg takes a look at the future of moving stuff around the world. I’m most excited about the autonomous driving technology. It will increase the safety and efficiency of automobiles. I dream of a future where my children won’t have to learn to drive because automobiles drive themselves.

Introducing OpenAI by The OpenAI Team

Artificial intelligence fascinates me. Virtual assistants like Siri and Cortana are becoming more prevalent. As institutions inch closer to true AI, we need more safeguards in place to protect humanity from our ambition. OpenAI hopes to be one of those safeguards. Elon Musk, who has raised the alarm about AI, is a major funder of the group.

Why Splatoon is my game of the year by Sam Byford

I don’t own a Nintendo WiiU. But if I did, Splatoon would be one of my first purchases.1 A first person shooter, Splatoon turns the genre on its head by change the win conditions. Painting the walls with liquified color replaces the genre standard splattering brain matter. Byford puts Splatoon forth as his game of the year.

  1. Along with Super Smash Brothers, Mario Kart, Super Mario Maker, and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD. 


John Francis Daley’s departure from Bones was a sad moment. He left a great acting role to be a screenwriter and director. It was my hope that Daley would go on to do awesome things behind the camera. Vacation fails to go anywhere. A comedy about the importance of family, the dynamics of the family ring true. The comedy doesn’t rise above elementary school penis and poop jokes. I wasn’t expecting much out of this film and that’s what I got. One can only hope Daley’s next screenwriting credit can graduate to some higher humor.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Normally, I’d spend a paragraph discussing a movie, but Star Wars The Force Awakens deserves so much more. So look forward to a full movie review in the near future.

How Pokémon Go will benefit from Niantic’s lessons from Ingress on location-based game design by Dean Takahashi

The Pokémon Company is joining forces with Niantic Labs to bring Pokémon to smartphones. Takahashi has an interview with Niantic CEO John Hanke. They discuss the spinout, partnership and direction of the game. Hanke provides a plethora of information about a product I’m excited about.

Star Trek Beyond Trailer Review by Toni Sanchez

Last week, Paramount Pictures released the Star Trek Beyond trailer. I avoided the release in hopes of seeing it on the big screen in front of The Force Awakens. Alas, no luck as AMC did not run the trailer in front my showing. My good friend, Toni Sanchez, posted a review of the trailer. I agree with what she says. It’s not my favorite trailer but it is built for a different audience. That said I hope that Toni and Simon Pegg are right1.

Best of 2015: Gamasutra’s Top Games, Devs, Events and Trends at Gamasutra

Gamasutra’s staff compiles a list of development studios, trends, events and games for 2015. This is a great article that captures most of what occurred this year into a single space.

  1. HeyUGuys got a brief interview with Pegg about the trailer. 

Today I’m introducing a new kind of post, a daily link round up. I read dozens of articles and blog posts every day. I’ll be providing links to the most interesting with some commentary.

Design Comparison: Exploration and Journeys by Brandes Stoddard

If any game should have a good system for travel, it should be a game based on J.R.R. Tolkein’s masterpieces. Stoddard reviews D&D 5e’s rules on Exploration and The One Ring’s rules on Journeys. He offers suggestions for how to adapt the Journey rules for Fifth Edition. If I ever ran a more lethal D&D campaign with say the slower recovery options, I would add in the Exhaustion of Travel rules.

Captain Marvel: A Carol Danvers Primer by Charles Paul Hoffman

With the conclusion of Kelly Sue DeConnick’s run, it’s a great time to re-examine her history. She’s risen from a male-based heroine to a defining feminist figure in Marvel. Hoffman’s primer is a great beginner’s guide to Carol Danvers and includes recommended readings.

SpaceX Successfully Lands Falcon 9 at The Verge

SpaceX landed the first stage of their Falcon 9 rocket at Cape Canaveral last night. The ORBCOMM-2 mission lifted 11 satellites into low-Earth orbit. Quite the accomplishment. I look forward to SpaceX attempting the water landing again.

Secret Code Found in Juniper’s Firewalls Shows Risk of Government Backdoors at Wired

An internal code audit of ScreenOS, the software running on Juniper Networks’ firewalls, revealed multiple vulnerabilities. Juniper Networks issued a security advisory and updated software for their hardware. Many conclude that state actors are responsible for the malicious code. The security advisory provides enough detail to locate the master password backdoor. This makes it easy to hack any unpatched firewalls.

Mission Impossible 5: Rogue Nation

On one hand, I’m disappointed I didn’t catch Rogue Nation in theaters. On the other, I’m happy I saw Spectre first because I’m sure my review of it would have been less favorable. In the fifth installment, a US security committee determines the Impossible Missions Force to be obsolete. Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is on the trail of The Syndicate, an organization modeled on the IMF but with cross purposes. The film follows Hunt as he evades Director Hunley (Alec Baldwin), with the help of Benji (Simon Pegg) and Brandt (Jeremy Renner), to root out the Syndicate.

It’s a fantastic action thriller. But if you only see one spy movie, go see The Man from U.N.C.L.E. But if you see two, watch Rogue Nation.

Terminator Genisys

Another in-universe reboot, Terminator Genisys brings the franchise back from the depths. As always, John Connor (Jason Clarke) send Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back in time to protect his mother, Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke). This time a T-1000 greets Reese at his arrival. Sarah and Pops rescue Reese and they try to adapt to the changes in the timeline. They travel forward to 2017 to stop Genisys, the proto-Skynet developed at Cyberdyne Systems in San Francisco. Genisys updates the franchise for a future of constant connectedness. The performances are good but the story is convoluted at times.


Amy Schumer stars in Trainwreck, a movie about … well, a trainwreck of a woman. There is romance, comedy and drama but this film drags on far too long. Amy struggles with the imparted views of her father on commitment. Her younger sister is a model family first mother that raises her stepson as her own. Amy is the uncommitted half of a relationship but jokes made at Steven’s sexuality fall flat. Assigned to write an article on a sports surgeon, Amy dances with Dr. Conners through a one night stand to a relationship. Amy, and Dr. Conners, messes up a good thing. After alienating her sister following the death of their father, Amy realizes that she messed up a good thing and moves to win Dr. Conners back.

Trainwreck is a mess of a movie that drags on as it meanders through the various relationships of Amy, how she messes them up, realizes that she needs them and attempts to fix them.


The supporting cast in this movie drew me to it. The headlining actress deterred me. Jude Law, Jason Statham, Rose Byrne, Morena Baccarin and Melissa McCarthy. I’ve struggled to enjoy McCarthy in films like Identity Thief, The Heat and Tammy. But watching her in Gilmore Girls was an enjoyable experience this summer. She continues to grow on me and Spy might be the film that has brought her to the watchable level. McCarthy plays a support agent sent into the field after Law’s character is KIA trying to recover a nuke. The jokes and physical comedy are consistent and above average. Spy won’t rank high in the grand scheme of things but it’s a solid action comedy good for some laughs. I anxiously await Ghostbusters.

The Good Dinosaur

The Good Dinosaur suffers from being a Pixar movie that debuted the same year as Inside Out. The animation is the best I’ve seen in a movie. Just like the first time I saw Incredibles and Elastagirl’s hair, the scenery in The Good Dinosaur is astounding. Unfortunately, this movie is otherwise a run of the mill Disney film. Arlo, the eponymous Good Dinosaur, is the runt of his siblings and fails at every task assigned to him. His father is killed in a Mufasa-esque scene this time with rushing water instead of a herd of wildebeests. I’m not sure why this movie had to take place in an alternate universe.

Watch It: If you want to see a solid animated movie.
Skip It: If you have young children, there’s no blood, but a decent amount of violence and scary moments.


A fantastic story with Rocky (Stallone) mentoring Creed’s child (Jordan). Donny fights his way through his childhood and eventually into the ring. The relationships and character growth in this movie a superb. I only wish the resolutions were cut so short to move the film into the final fight with Pretty Ricky Conlin. Otherwise a great movie even though I haven’t seen any of the other Rocky films.

Watch It: If you’re want to see an Oscar worthy performance from Stallone and a mostly fantastic screenplay.
Skip It: If you’re allergic to blood, but even then you can watch it.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Henry Cavil and Armie Hammer play American and Russian spies sent to help Alicia Vikander find her nuclear weapon scientist father. What a fun romp through Cold War Europe. The chemistry of the cast and the direction of the film are great. Not a top tier film for me but clearly a cut above.

Watch It: For a good water/oil team up action movie.
Skip It: If you’re looking for something more serious.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY (2014)

A movie I skipped in theaters last year, this turned out to be a very enjoyable family friendly film. It can be tough to adapt children stories into screenplays but this film does a good job of maintaining the message of the book. Every character in Alexander’s family gets a share of the bad day but they realize that family is what really matters.

Watch It: If you’re in the mood for a comedic family friendly film.
Skip It: If you can’t be bothered with a kid film.


Ryan Reynolds is really solid in this movie that deals with death, immortality and immorality. He plays two characters, the first has sold his body (and thus his life) to a corporation in exchange for treatment for his sick daughter. The second character is the transferred consciousness of Ben Kingsley a dying real estate mogul. The movie focuses on the cost and morality of exchanging someone else’s life for your own.

Watch It: If you want to watch a good thriller with an interesting theme.
Skip It: If you dislike Ryan Reynolds.

I figure I’d take a day to promote one of my major projects, The Culture Conquistadors Podcast. The podcast is an audio journey through the arts. Well mostly movies but sometimes television or music. Charles and I have collaborated on other side projects before but the Culture Conquistadors Podcast maybe the most enduring one. For two years, we published an episode every other week. Some of our discussions meandered for over an hour. One of our triumphs is the AniMadness Bracket.

But then Charles and I ended up as roommates1 and the time for recording disappeared. I’ll admit, I’m at fault for a lot of it. Often we’d schedule a recording session but then I’d cancel last minute and we’d just keep pushing it off. During our “Roommate Period”, we recorded just four episodes! It was a fun time. Charles was a great roommate for me but our podcast suffered. In July, our lease ended and we moved in with our respective significant others.

The Culture Conquistadors website has also hung over my head during most of this time. I’m responsible for the technology aspects of the podcast and we’ve both been unhappy with the website. Figuring we should re-launch the podcast with Season 3, I decided it was now or never to do a website overhaul. Much like Concrete Chaos, I moved the Culture Conquistadors website to WordPress. I love Drupal and will continue to use it but for the current needs of the podcast, WordPress is just better. We’ve integrated analytics for both the podcast episodes and the website itself.2 It’s a pretty plain website but it works for us. Maybe in the future we’ll add some more stuff but we’re focusing on the actual podcast for now.

Speaking of the podcast, Charles has streamlined the production process. Previously, he worked hard to clean out “umms” and “uhhs” and other things. While he still does this to an extent, it’s much more focused and the production timeline has gone from days of hard work spread over a few weeks to a couple hours over a few days. The end result should sound a lot more natural with fewer cuts. I’ve also upgraded my recording equipment with a Blue Yeti mic. So hopefully, the episodes sound not just more natural but clearer.

With that production process revolution, we’ve worked hard to try some new things with the podcast. For Spectre and Mockingjay, we’ve split the discussion into a preview and review. Taking what would’ve been a two hour conversation and splitting it and making both discussions more focused on the topic. We’ve also been on a weekly recording cadence. The publication of the episodes hasn’t quite hit an exact rhythm yet but we’re recording every Tuesday night! I’m not sure we’ll be able to keep it up forever but it’s encouraging that we’ve managed to do so for the past couple months.

All in all, the podcast is in far better shape than it was for most of 2015. We’re excited for Awards Season, playing Fantasy Movie League and looking forward to continuing to produce a podcast that we hope will grow. But even if it doesn’t, we’re still having fun doing it.

  1. Also long-term committed relationships. 
  2. The numbers aren’t high, but there are at least a few people listening to us. 

For me, a big part of being a game master is preparation. And I’m dedicated to constant self-improvement. Seeing that I already spend so much of my time connected to the Internet, it makes sense that I would dedicate a part of that time to locating resources and hopefully learning from them. So, here’s a few of my favorite resources.

The Alexandrian

The Alexandrian has proven invaluable to my most recent campaign (and likely to my next one). His series on Node-Based Scenario Design, Urban Crawls, The Art of Pacing are top notch. Really anything from his Gamemastery 101 is great reading that will make you evaluate how you run games, ways to improve, and encouragement to try new things.

Blog of Holding

Paul’s Blog of Holding is another fantastic independent resource for D&D DMs. He often takes tiny bits of information from the margins of the text and fleshes them out into cohesive thoughts and suggestions. A great example is his post on a campaign setting based on ideas from unpublished TSR settings. Some others are the Bank of Tiamat, 5e Demographics, and 5e hex maps. One of my favorite recent posts is the cuteness rule, which is something had put into use in my Time and Tide campaign.


Reddit is a favorite of mine. There’s several good subreddits for GMing but r/DnDBehindTheScreen which is a newcomer to the game has some of the best content. The Ecology of the Monster is my favorite. It makes you think critically about the monsters available and how you should deploy them against characters. But there are many, many posts spanning everything necessary to be a DM. And while most of the content is oriented towards Dungeons & Dragons, the concepts generally presented are good for running any type of game.


Not necessarily great for rulings or direct GM advice. But multiplexer tells amazing stories that mesh real historical economics into the high fantasy worlds of D&D. Every time I’ve read one of her pieces, I’ve come away with a deep appreciation for the depth of her research and the craziness of financial instruments. Also, I’ve laughed every time. Murder hobos, Transmuters Bank, Old Man Quest Givers and so much more.1


There’s a bunch of other preparation I’m doing to get ready for my Pulp Heroes campaign. I’m going to re-watch the entire Indiana Jones series and take copious amounts of notes. I’ve got a basic plot outline structured but until my players create their characters nothing is final. I expect to do a few re-writes between now and when we open the campaign early next year.

  1. Critical Hits which hosts the column is also a solid back catalog of DM advice. 

Today, we return to Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. Before I delve into the latest lesson, I’d like to take a moment to express how much I’m enjoying this process. My fiancée and I are reading through this book and completing the exercises together and it’s a lot of fun. I’ve been making a concerted effort to do more things with her in the time we have together. We’re both independent people who can spend days in solitude. But reading this book and trying to improve our drawing skills together has been great. Highly recommended for other couples out there.

Since my last post, I’ve read through a few more chapters and completed three more exercises. At times I wonder if some of her theories hold up but regardless, the lessons and techniques she’s teaching do seem to work. The first exercise was to replicate the Vase/Faces image.

2015-11-28 - Faces and Vase

After completion, and for a day or so, I was disappointed with this drawing. I didn’t find it nearly symmetrical enough. In addition, after re-reading the instructions, I feel I may have skipped over some of the exercise. But after returning to it a few days later, I find myself quite proud of the result. Sure, there’s some symmetry issues but overall I find it very close.

The next exercise asks the reader to replicate a drawing by Picasso of Igor Stravinsky. Now I personally find Picasso difficult to decipher as is, but Edwards instructs the student to draw the image upside down. Fortunately, she has printed the image in the text upside down.

2015-11-28 - Stravinsky

I still don’t have proportions right but I’m again pretty proud with how this one turned out. I didn’t quite complete the exercise due to time (and material) constraints. It became quite clear to me that I wouldn’t have enough width or height to finish the left side or the head. And man, those hands are gnarly but they turned out far better than I expected.

2015-11-28 - Ironman

The last exercise is again an upside down drawing. This time I used one of my new comic books as a reference. I’ve always been a big Ironman fan and last year I even made a cosplay Superior Ironman. Unfortunately, I struggled with the design and the costume deteriorated quickly after the con. Next year, I’m hoping to do the armor above and decided I should get my practice in now. I struggled with the proportions again and ended up rushing the drawing. The right leg is a bit out there and the extended arms are squished. But again, I’m fairly happy of the result. I wish I could turn everything upside down for drawing.

Another thing I learned while drawing the Ironman armor. I hate hard pencils. We finally used our drawing paper instead of printer paper and broke out our nicer pencils instead of the shark #2s. My fiancée gave me the 4H to start and I just struggled with it. It didn’t feel right and the lines that were appearing didn’t look right. Since I scrapped the original attempt after messing up the left leg, I switched to the 4B pencil. What a difference. It felt far closer to the #2s we’d been using and the lines looked exactly the way I wanted them to.

Hopefully the next lessons will involve drawing things right side up and help me get the proportions a little bit closer.