27 April 2014

An Epidemic of Greed

Andrew Wakefield has a lot to answer for, especially in light of the ongoing measles outbreak the US. Back in the '90s, in an attempt to make money helping people sue the government, he published a patently false report declaring a link between Autism and vaccines (a report that has since been retracted by the journal, and refuted by uncountable legitimate studies). Now, because he deceived generations of parents into not giving their children life-saving vaccines, hundreds of people have already come down with measles in this country – a disease we thought conquered thanks to the invention of the MMR vaccine. Last year at this time four people had contracted measles in California, but as I write this, the the current count in California is 58! All it takes is one infected kid going to a school full of un-vaccinated kids to trigger an outbreak like this one.

According to the World Health Organization, roughly 122,000 people died from measles in 2012, most of them under the age of five. In 1980, before the MMR vaccine existed, roughly 2.6 million people died from the disease each year. Because of his self-serving actions, which showed no concern whatsoever for the lives of others, any measles deaths that occur in the western world are on the head of Wakefield – he is single-handedly pushing back towards pre-vaccine numbers, purely out of greed. It makes me cry to think how many tens or even hundreds of thousands of people Wakefield may have killed in his quest for the almighty dollar.

Autism Speaks strongly recommends vaccinating your children, and so do I. Since my family moved to Italy when I was four, I had even more vaccines than American children usually get, and have only benefited from them since I never contracted any of those life-threatening illnesses, despite having four elementary schools on both coasts of the US and in Italy.  So for the sake of the world and your children, please get them vaccinated.

05 March 2013

Depression Sucks

And now you know why I haven't posted in more than four months. It has been coming on for several years now, but hit me full force halfway through November (which is why I'm astounded that I came as close to my NaNoWriMo goal as I did). Later this week my treatment will finally begin. After that I should become more active in everything.

On a lighter note, despite the depression I have gotten some work done on my magnum opus, the game I hope will become our roleplaying group's go-to system. The rulebook has become a bit of a mess as I changed various rules – even the number of attributes. So I spent yesterday writing out the current rules in a new document so I could use it to continue developing the rules and then rewrite the rulebook.

I also created two new aids for the Pokémon video games. One is a type chart that is slightly smaller than a DSi. The other is a pocket-sized list of every Pokémon as of generation 5, including their types and what EVs they provide. It is two sheets of paper that each form a little booklet the size of 1/8 of a sheet of letter paper. I will be uploading both and adding them to the Download page of my professional blog as soon as I finalize the copyright line. I'm currently a bit stumped on how to make sure Nintendo, etc. get their due without taking up a ton of space.

01 November 2012

November is National Novel Writing Month

November has arrived, so that means it's that time of year again: National Novel Writing Month. Expect posts to be rare from me this month as NaNoWriMo consumes all of my free time on my quest to join my fellow NaNos and write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.

12 September 2012

Grammar Made Easy

There are a number of words that are frequently confused by some people, but there's really no reason for that since, as you will soon see, those words are really easy to tell apart. Whenever possible I've provided a mnemonic device to make things easier to remember. As long as you can remember what's in front of each dash, you'll get along swimmingly.
  • 9 times out of 10, affect is a verb and effect is a noun. – In those other 1%-or-so cases, you'll most likely use another word anyway (I always have), so you don't probably need to worry about them.
  • "You lay something down, and people lie down by themselves." – Thanks, Grammar Girl, I've always had trouble with that one so I appreciate the tip.
  • Than is a comparison (Ginger is much smarter than Patch). Otherwise use then. – To be more precise, then is used when talking about time (First this, then that).
The following are all commonly confused homophones (words that sound the same):
  • It's means "it is" or "it has". In all other cases use its. – Adapted from Eats, Shoots, and Leaves by Lynn Truss, a fantastic book I highly recommend to every English-speaking person on the planet.
  • "They're going to their house over there." – In a similar vein to the above, they're means "they are" or "they were", while their means "belongs to them", and there is a direction or place.
  • Two is a number. Too means "also" or "more than enough" (I ate too much last Thanksgiving). Otherwise use to.
  • Likewise, who's means "who is" or "who has". Otherwise use whose. – Whose is a possessive.
  • You're means "you are" or "you were". Otherwise use your. – Your is a possessive. 
In order to be understood, your writing must be readable in the first place. If readers have to work too hard to figure out what you're trying to say, they won't. So here are few tips to make sure everyone can read your writing:
  • Start each sentence with a capital letter. A long string of lowercase letters is nearly impossible to read.
  • Use punctuation. End each sentence with an appropriate terminal punctuation mark (period, question mark, or exclamation point), and use commas and other punctuation as appropriate. As above, long strings of words with no punctuation are really hard to read, especially since the same phrase can have multiple meanings depending on how it is punctuated. Imagine trying to read this article if I used neither capital letters or punctuation – I've seen far too many people on forums who do precisely that, and make themselves look both lazy and foolish in the process.
  • Always – always! – put a space before an open parenthesis, like I did above, except when writing out math formulas or programming a computer. I'm thoroughly baffled as to how the habit of not putting in that space became so common because it not only makes the writer look foolish, it makes the text much harder to read.
  • Use paragraph breaks. Just among the people I know personally, at least a dozen, including me, can't read walls of text – especially on screens. I can usually manage it on paper (which is good since I'm such a fan of Twain), but my eyes get easily lost on screens and trying to keep them on track always gives me a headache. Even readers who aren't so afflicted will find your writing easier to read if you include paragraph breaks at logical points.
If you're ever in doubt and don't have a friendly grammarian handy, a search of Grammar Girl should set you straight in no time.

Expect to see this article grow as I spot other common errors (it has already doubled in length in the couple of hours since I first posted it). If you have any suggestions, please drop me a line or leave a comment below. Thanks.

16 June 2012

Free RPG Day in Asheville, NC

In case you've been wondering why I've been so quiet lately, it's because I've been busier than a half-legged man in a butt-kicking contest. Not only am I continuing to work on the three games I've been developing, and taking an active part in the most recent world event in Kingdom of Loathing (the only video game I still play regularly), I have also been prepping to run HackMaster Basic at Wyvern's Tale's grand opening during Free RPG Day later today. If you want to guarantee a seat, head on over to their sign-up page as seats are limited. Pre-gens will be provided.

Just in case there aren't enough players, I also made a bunch of pre-gens for the current D&D Lair Assault so my wife can run it instead. Either way, we hope to have a blast while meeting some new roleplayers before heading to Hillside to run Pokémon League as usual.

(Please, no ranting about the feud between those two stores. Let's just enjoy the awesomeness that is Free RPG Day.)

23 May 2012

PTL! I Have a Bike Again!

You heard right. It took me five or six visits to Asheville Recyclery downtown over the course of 15 days, but last Friday, for the first time in 14.5 years, I rode a bike – and have every day since. I can't really handle more than about a quarter mile right now, but I'm definitely making progress. We've also started bowling every Wednesday afternoon again.

When my pain spiked up again after my surgery last May, I started to lose hope. Apparently the problem was just that the muscles and other tissues that used to have to accommodate my fusion hardware are struggling to adjust to it no longer being there.

But now, after four months of physical therapy, I'm almost completely free from the sharp, stinging pain that used to plague me, and only have to deal with the more diffuse pain that will likely plague me the rest of my life. My therapist is sure I'll be going back to work soon, but I'd rather wait until I've been able to back off my pain meds (I'm still taking three different ones).

I wanted to attach a picture of me riding, but Blogger is being persnickety and won't let me upload it, but those of you on facebook have already seen it anyway. Some of my Picasa configuration files decided not to get backed up off my old laptop, but fixing that is one of my goals for the week. After that I'll upload both pics of me on my bike to my Picasa album and link it here from there.

My New Game Design Blog

I'm finally getting serious about getting my roleplaying and other games finished and published. To that end I have created a second blog, this time devoted strictly to gaming and game design. I may repost some things here, but it will be the only place to download my free trpgs and sign up to playtest my other games, so go check it out.