Christmas Movies

With December comes the holidays and with the holidays comes Christmas music and Christmas movies.

I’ve got my favorite Christmas movies just like everyone else, drawing from the classics as well as some stuff that is seen less often.

I like the TV classics as much as anyone else. A Charlie Brown Christmas, Ruldoph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and Frosty the Snowman are all films I like rewatching, I just don’t like them as much as my favorites.

And my favorites are: Continue reading

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Blackrock Mountain Progress

With the new expansion for Hearthstone announced, what progress have I made in defeating the Blackrock Mountain Heroic bosses?

I’ve beaten two more since I posted about beating Grim Guzzler, Thaurissan, and Drakkisath.

I didn’t record my victories this time, but I did keep track of my decks.

First up, I defeated the Dark Iron Arena using a Freeze Mage deck. Here’s the deck list:

Dark Iron Arena Deck

If you’ve seen other Freeze Mage decks, the idea is pretty simple. Prevent your opponent from killing you until Antonidas is on the board. Then use Antonidas’ endless supply of Fireballs to destroy your opponent.

The deck works best if the computer drops Millhouse Manastorm the turn before you play Antonidas. That didn’t happen during my game, but the deck was still strong enough to get me a victory in one try. Just destroy threats as they come up and use Antonidas as a finisher.

The deck is expensive to craft, but it gets the job done in constructed and in Heroic mode.

The other Heroic boss I took down was Garr, the guy with all the exploding Firesworn.

Here’s my deck list:

image

This deck is also pretty simple.

On Heroic mode, Garr’s Firesworn deal three damage per death and he starts with seven. That means if all seven blow up at the same time you take 49 damage.

Killing them off earlier helps, but you still take some damage.

So what’s the easiest way of preventing the Firesworn from activating? Silencing them!

Mass Dispel is the reason this deck works. And there’s tons of healing to save your butt too.

I won on my first try without even using the Inner Fire combo.

I kept my creatures alive by healing and adding health to them against Garr’s onslaught.

Once he ran out of threats I slowly took him out.

I also included Mind Control Techs and a Cabal Shadow Priest to steal the Firesworn. This turned out to not be that great. I’d replace them with either Circles of Healing or Gurubashi Berserkers if I was playing again.

Good luck against the Heroic bosses! I’ll post more guides as I best the challenges myself.

-GoCorral

Home Wish List

All the majesty of note paper made for teachers.
All the majesty of note paper made for teachers.

While cleaning out one of the moving boxes I found an old list of stuff my wife and I made.

The list is of things we wanted in our house and the list was made before we started looking for our house.

So here it is!

1. Two stories Check!
We got this one! Bedrooms and office on the second story. Everything else on the bottom floor.
2. A block or more away from a main road Check!
The reason for this one was to let the cats go outside unsupervised without worrying about them being run over on a main road.
3. A two car garage Check!
We won’t necessarily park both our cars in it (once we get another car), but its nice to have the option.
4. A big kitchen with a counter Check!
Our old place had a tiny kitchen without an island counter. Getting a big place to make meals feels great!
5. A dining room Check!
The old apartment had a tiny little section for the dining table that wasn’t really its own room. Our new house doesn’t have a dining room either, but it has two large places where the table can go (we’re using one of them).
6. Laundry Check! 
We’ve got a washing machine and a dryer! No more lugging clothes 300 feet to the laundry building in our complex or hoarding quarters like they’re more valuable than gold.
7. A backyard Check!
Yep! Got a real nice backyard that’s good for playing in with kids or for having meals during the summer.
8. A front yard Sort of.
We have landscaping in the front but I wouldn’t really call it a yard. Too many bushes and things. We could change it to have a yard though!
9. Solar panels Check!
The solar panels are sort of leased through a company. We don’t own the solar panels. A company does and they sell us the electricity they produce for about the same amount that PG&E charges. We then get reimbursed from PG&E for any excess electricity the panels produce. Odd way of doing it, but we are contributing to renewable energy with the panels!
10. Hardwood floors Sort of.
I’m allergic to dust which crops up in carpeted floors. Hardwood doesn’t collect dust the same way. We’ve got carpet on the second floor, but the bottom floor is tiled. That’s good enough for me.
11. Dance studio Sort of.
Not really present in the house. Instead we have a big mirror in the entrance hallway to the house that serves pretty much the same purpose. There’s plenty of space to dance there with a mirror to look at yourself even if it isn’t an official dance studio.
12. An office Check!
Yep! Writing this post in the office right now.
13. A big bath tub attached to the master bathroom No. 
Can’t have everything.
14. A pool No.
We didn’t get this one either, but that was a conscious choice. We looked at a house with a pool and it took up most of the backyard which we also wanted. Plus, the maintenance on a pool is pretty expensive.
15. Painted blue with white trim No.
We like the colors, but it isn’t blue with white trim. We could still repaint the house in the future.
16. A big tree for a swing or a tree house Check! 
The treehouse is actually a playhouse, but its basically what I wanted. All good!
17. A better HVAC system than our apartment Check!
Our old apartment had wall AC units and a heater that didn’t work (heater wasn’t that big an issue in Davis). One of the rooms never got AC. The new house has central heating and AC that both work great. We’ve also got a whole house fan which is a much more energy efficient method for cooling the house at night.
18. A fireplace Check!
Got a fireplace in the back living room. We haven’t used it yet but we probably will sometime next winter.
19. Big bedroom closets Check!
The closets aren’t as big as the walk-in one at the old apartment, but they’re still big enough for us.
20. Close to where my wife works Sort of. 
The house is about a mile and a half from the school where my wife works, so not as close as we originally wanted. This ended up being a good thing as my wife wanted to avoid seeing her students outside of school. Just a little tough to always have to be “on” as a teacher at the grocery store. We live in a different neighborhood than the school so none of the kids are around here.
21. Space for a garden Check!
There aren’t any planter boxes yet, but we’ll get some.

And that’s it! We got most of the stuff that we wanted and it feels pretty good.

-GoCorral

Bucket List

Around Thanksgiving last year I made a bucket list for myself. A bucket list is a list of things you want to do before you die (kick the bucket).

So here’s the list along with why I want to do each thing.

1. Finish my Things Fall Apart screenplay and attempt to turn it into a movie.
I read Chinua Achebe’s novel, Things Fall Apart, in high school and one of my first thoughts upon finishing it was, “This would make an awesome movie.” I set out to find the movie and… there isn’t one. There is a TV show, but it was produced in Nigeria and I couldn’t find a DVD version available in the USA. I started a screenplay adaption of the book and also seriously considered going to Bard for college where Achebe taught while he was still alive. I’d still like to see a movie of Things Fall Apart and with no one else working on it as far as I know, it’s up to me! I would have to get permission from Achebe’s family at some point though.

2. Have kids.
Pretty simple American dream stuff here. I like children a lot. I want to have some of my own.

3. Coach soccer for my kids.
This was one of the big things that my dad and I did together to bound when I was a kid. He coached my AYSO soccer teams so I got to hang out with him a lot over the years. I’d like to have the same sort of bond with my kids.

4. Attend a dance recital for my kids.
While I played soccer as a kid, my wife did dancing. Since I want our kids to play soccer it’s only fair that they dance too. I can’t teach dancing, but I can still support my kids doing it by going to see them.

5. See Wicked.
People have been telling me how good this musical is ever since it came out and ten years later I still haven’t see it or the movie. I should fix that before I die.

6. Go to a secluded ruin in Greece.
I love ancient Greek and Roman culture. I visited Rome and Athens with my sister in high school. I got to see a lot of the still intact buildings while I was there like the Pantheon, Partheon, Colosseum, and the Temple of Olympian Zeus. I’d like to see other ruins that are in more secluded areas instead of being in the downtown tourist places of capital cities. Greece has plenty of secluded islands with ancient ruins in the Aegean, so I’d like to go to one of those. Preferably with my wife coming along.

7. Learn ancient Greek.
Part of the whole loving ancient Greek and Roman culture. There wouldn’t be much purpose to knowing ancient Greek beyond doing it for its own sake. I might be able to read the Iliad in the original language but I have a feeling that I’d still enjoy the translated version better because I wouldn’t need to look up what a word means every five lines. Still! I wanna learn ancient Greek!

8. Have a popular website/attached sites.
This site. The one you’re on right now. And/or the Twitch and YouTube channels I’ve started up.

9. Design something for a video game that is actually used in that video game later on.
I’d like this to be through merit along. Something like designing a champion for League of Legends that Riot Games actually uses in the game. That’s unlikely because A) Riot avoids using fan made ideas to avoid copyright issues, and B) I might not be good enough at designing video game concepts to pull this off. If all else fails a few of the larger rewards for video game Kickstarter campaigns allow you to create something for the game. If merit doesn’t pan out for whatever reason, I can always use money.

10. Buy a house.
More American dream stuff. Pretty simple. I think most people want a place to live that belongs to them and them alone.

11. Do a dance routine with my wife to Aqua’s “Barbie Girl”
When I was in elementary school I went to a sleepover camp. One night there was a dance where all the kids and the counselors got together, danced, hung out, and watched movies. Two of the counselors did some sort of choreographed routine to Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” that amazed me ever since. I’d like to replicate it in some way with my wife.

12. Finish the novel/novel series I’ve been working on called Light’s Shadow.
I had a recurring dream when I was a kid where I inserted myself into various TV shows and comics that I watched/read. I started writing a novel of it and I’d like to finish it before I die. I’d also like to publish it before I die, but given that the premise of the novel includes about a dozen copyrighted works, I doubt that’s happening. I might be able to put it on a fan fiction website though.

13. Finish the Gurutama campaign setting and create a PDF of it that I can upload here.
In the process of doing this one on here already. The end goal is to have something that resembles an official D&D campaign setting in one document. Illustrations, borders, page numbers, etc. The whole thing.

14. Invent a cool biology thing.
One of my idols is Sir William Lawrence Bragg, the youngest scientist to ever win the Nobel prize at 25 years old. He, along with his father, invented X-ray crystallography which was used to discover the double-helix structure of DNA and many other molecular structures. Unfortunately it is virtually impossible to get the Nobel prize at that age today. Nobel prizes in the sciences are often given ten years after an initial experiment as the Nobel committee waits for others to replicate the work of the original discoverer. Most people don’t have amazing scientific discoveries until they’re at least 25 years old which would make it difficult to copy Sir William Lawrence Bragg. I’d still like to do something of scientific significance. Hopefully something to do with endosymbiosis, but I’ll take whatever the world ends up giving me.

15. Go camping in Yosemite with my wife and kids.
My family did this a lot when I was a kid and I really liked it. Got to keep the tradition alive!

And there you have it. My bucket list objectives as of January 2015.

-Mister Ed

Favorite Books

There’s this thing going around Facebook over the past couple weeks that finally reached me. No, not the Ice Bucket Challenge. I’m talking about a list of your top ten books.

Someone posts on their timeline and tags you in it. The copy and pasted section of the status reads:

“In your status, list 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t think too hard. They don’t have to be the ‘right’ books or great books of literature, just ones that affected you in some way. Tag 10(ish) friends including me so I can see your list.”

I got tagged by my sister and here is my list:

Hyperion – Dan Simmons
Game of Thrones – George Martin
Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkein
Shade’s Children – Garth Nix
1984 – George Orwell
Dark Prince – Russell Moon
The Iron Ring – Lloyd Alexander
Nine Princes in Amber – Roger Zelazny
Gates of Fire – Steven Pressfield
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

Obviously there are a lot of great books that I can think of that I didn’t include on here. Dune and Harry Potter for example.

I felt the list was supposed to be composed somewhat impulsively, so I stuck with what I first thought of.

So why did I pick these?

Hyperion is possibly one of the best space opera novels ever written. Dan Simmons is an excellent writer in nearly every genre. The story follows seven travelers in a space ship on a pilgrimage to the fictional Hyperion planet where a great monster, the Shrike, awaits them. The Shrike will grant a wish to one of the travelers and kill the other six. The travelers spend their voyage telling stories like in The Canterbury Tales (every story where characters sit around and tell stories now officially based off of Canterbury Tales). The stories focus on the travelers’ past lives and why they are going to get a wish. I put Hyperion on this list because it was the first book that made me realize I love fragmented stories. Like in TV shows where there’s an A plot and a B plot. I love that in books as well. Hyperion has three sequels that I’ve read as well, Fall of Hyperion, Endymion, and Rise of Endymion.

Game of Thrones is the latest craze. I got into the series right before book 5 came out and consumed them at a rate of about one book per month. They’re good, they’re sexy, and they’re one of my favorite genres, medieval fantasy. Plus, it has a fragmented story line! Perfect!

Lord of the Rings is also a great book. My dad spent years reading me bits and pieces as bedtime stories. We started with The Hobbit when I was six and didn’t finish until I was eleven. The Lord of the Rings also inspired my favorite hobby, Dungeons and Dragons. So this one’s got too amazing things going for it. AND FRAGMENTED ACTION  ONCE AGAIN!

Shade’s Children was my first dystopia book. It’s fairly awful as far as complex themes go. Some robots from an alternate dimension invade Earth and start hunting humans for sport. The humans hide underground, but their society is kept alive by the robots or something? Sounds like a Matrix ripoff. Still, I loved it. Also, I was eight around the time I read it and there is the barest hint of sex in the book. I’m pretty sure it was my first exposure to sex, so it is significant for that reason as well.

1984 is the quintessential dystopian novel. Also, its by Orwell who is an amazing author. I loved this book and I still love it. I love the genre. Putting Shade’s Children on my list reminded me of 1984 so I put it on as well. Like I said, I didn’t think much about the list.

Dark Prince is probably one of the weirder ones on this list. It is the last book in a trilogy. The first book is called Witch Boy. The author, Russell Moon, has only written one other book. I’m not sure why he stopped writing because his stuff is quite good (or at least I remember it being good). The book tells the story of a teenage boy who suddenly discovers he is a witch and accidentally kills his girlfriend with his newfound magical powers. He then discovers that she was part of some weird witch cult which plans to use him in a plot to take over the world or something. My memory of the book is hazy, but I do remember loving it at the time.

The Iron Ring is a story that imitates Indian fairy tales. My dad read Grimm’s Fairy Tales to me when I was a kid and I loved them.  This was a continuation of that, but in an entirely different way. The stories were vaguely familiar because they used the same themes, plot devices, and stock characters, but they were also very different due to the setting for the story. Rajas instead of kings. Rakshasas instead of the Devil. It was really cool!

Nine Princes in Amber is amazing and everyone should read it. The book is the first in a series of ten books split into two halves of five books. The series details a titanic struggle between order and chaos across all dimensions. The center of order is called Amber. The series is extremely well written. One of my favorite parts is how Zelazny handles sexual or crude stuff in the books. He always alludes, but never mentions stuff explicitly. A character curses instead of “He exclaimed, ‘Shit!'” It’s very well done and I’d recommend it to everyone as long as you don’t require female characters. There aren’t very many of them…

Gates of Fire is a historical novel about the Greek defense of the Hot Gates of Thermopylae from the Persians. The story is stunningly realistic. The Spartans fight until their swords, spears, and shields are broken. All that’s left is their hands and they fight on against the Persians. I’ve always loved reading and learning more about the ancient Greeks and Romans. This novel gave me a means to do that in a more mature way.

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy always makes me laugh. I loved the books and they are one of the few novels that I have read more than once. A few of the others on this list are also in that exalted category. The book is absurdist humor in a space opera setting, both of which appeal to me greatly. The Hitchhiker’s Guide was originally a radio show which I own a recording of and listen to occasionally in the car. If you like absurdist humor you should check it out!

Let me know what your ten would be in the comments!

-Mister Ed