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The Accidental Podcaster: Chaos
Apr 19th 2016
It is April, 2006. I am nestled in one of the many crevices in the basement of the old math building, a colored pencil behind each ear as I furiously count tiny boxes. I’m modelling a number of different rule sets based around Conway’s Game of Life - given a row of cells in one of two states (colored or uncolored), the state of the cells in the next iteration are determined by a set of rules that show what the cell’s state will be based upon the conditions of the neighboring cells. These types of models, called cellular automata, show how simple rules lead to much more complex patterns over a large number of iterations. Except my current model isn’t showing a pattern, and I am concerned now that I’ve made a mistake somewhere, but I can’t see it.
Leaning on the wall across from me, my algebra professor is amused by the mess of notepads and pencil shavings spilling out into the hall. “You know,†he says as he heads back to his office, “MATLAB would make those iterations so much easier on you.†He grins as he walks off.
“You’re not helping.†I’m being teased, and I know it. It’s well known how much I hate having to do things in the lab. I need to see how each line, each step of the process works to be able to visualize and understand how things work. The programs don’t show their work, and if I get an unexpected result, I have no way of figuring out exactly why. It also doesn’t help that any time I touch a machine in our lab, it immediately freezes, and if I try to reboot it makes the problem worse. I just looked at one of the machines earlier - didn’t even touch it - and immediately got the spinny beach ball of death. If that weren’t frustrating enough, the previous day we also had our group meeting with our supervising professor for our teaching experience, which had gone so amazingly awful that I’d immediately gone to my faculty advisor to talk about switching majors... four years into my program. This in turn led to a screaming fit with my then-fiancee, which led to my not sleeping, which segued into a decision to drive to campus early with the aforementioned colored pencils and graph paper to work on my models in peace.
An Accidental Non-cast
Apr 12th 2016
I should probably have mentioned in my last post that AP is going to be posting on alternating weeks for a bit while I’m finishing Agents of Arachnos (final episode May 6!), prepping stuff for the summer writing program, and editing a new long-term story for you to enjoy (the hype train will be boarding soon). Add to this the fact that all of us staffers have full time day jobs while we moonlight at our fledgling media empire and, well, it’s amazing we get anything done at all.

I only wish the books I fall asleep in could be this soft and fluffy (photo: ThinkGeek)
The Accidental Podcaster: Chipping the Block
Mar 31st 2016
You can usually tell my frame of mind by a combination of two things: whether I’m stuck in my writing, and whether or not I’m behind in my issues of mental_floss. Snags on one or the other from time to time aren’t cause for being overly concerned - everyone has a busy spell from time to time - but a combination of both for an extended period of time means we’re dancing into dangerous territory.
The particular snag, in this case, involves the ending of a certain story run we’ve been posting over the last year. When I plotted out the initial story arc back in January 2015, I had Baron’s storyline completely sketched out, complete with an explosively dramatic finale. I was pleased with this, my plan was for the story to run on the website through Christmas time and then go into edit mode for release as an ebook in summer time. The ebook would have added content and any revisions we wanted. Yes, I was totally and publicly beta testing a book to via the RCM community. I’m pretty sure most people wouldn’t think to do that, but then, I’m not most people. In spite of the workload, things moved along wonderfully…until we got down to the final few chapters, and I realized I had never written an action sequence like the kind I needed to end this story. And I panicked, because I had no idea how to even begin and I really, REALLY didn’t want to screw things up like I did with my prior story.
Allow me to explain:
The Division: After Action Report
Mar 25th 2016
Well ladies and gentlemen, Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy’s The Division has officially been out for over two weeks.The reviews from the entirety of the internet and gaming magazines have come out, and they have decreed that it is just ok. Not the greatest game of all time, or setting a new standard that all games now must be measured against... just merely ok. Kind of a let down after those amazing game trailers and previews we all have been watching while we waited for the game. Reminds me of a game that came out over a year ago.
Oh that’s right… Now get back into your corner. You had your chance.
So anyway, about The Division… What is that? Why did we not have a review of the game published at the time right before its release or immediately after said release? Hmm I should check with the RCM Legal Department before answering, but what do they know [EDITOR’S NOTE: We drew straws over who had to be the legal department this quarter, and Killer lost this time. He has no one to blame but himself. -J.). Well, we all have been very busy providing all you viewers and fans quality content on our Twitch channel. Also that RCM “fanfic†that Baroness has been posting… yeah that is a sanitized version of things we had to deal or currently dealing with. When we are not dealing with spiders or other things (FYI, if you ever have spider ick on your clothes, just burn them, nothing will get the smell out), the staff does have their own lives and hobbies that are outside of RCM. And finally it is not like we had early access to the game which we could review before the game’s release. But what I can do is maybe give some of my thoughts and opinions on what the The Division did right and what it did wrong.
The Accidental Podcaster: Wanderlust
Mar 23rd 2016
I had an epiphany today.
As I went to get my passport renewed, I was reflecting on a conversation I’d had with my mother the week prior. Of course, when I say â€~conversation’ in this case what I really mean is â€~borderline argument,†because I made the mistake of explaining I was going to get the aforementioned passport and she considers this to be a veiled threat. There’s always been this odd duality in our relationship. On one hand, she’s proud of my accomplishments and has said that of her three children, she’s always worried about me the least. On the other hand, any time I mention travelling anywhere or the possibility of an opportunity that would potentially cause me to move, she is immediately against even entertaining the idea and will immediately launch into a guilt-laden monologue delivered in the way only mothers can. Most center on how she is convinced that should I actually move forward on such a possibility that I would be throwing away everything I’d worked for up to that point. Not to mention I’d be abandoning everyone I professed to love and would never see them again.
I play shitty mobile games... and I like it.
Mar 12th 2016
Oh hey, here's another writing thing since Baroness hasn't deleted me from the site yet
The eventual sad fact that we all face as we grow into responsible adults is gaming time is more precious and far, far less available. Hell, it's usually a small miracle when I can get more than 90 minutes to play Fallout 4 uninterrupted by errands or sleep. So it's little surprise that I spend more time gaming on my smartphone than on anything else. It's always with me, it doesn't demand more than a few minutes of my time on any given occasion, and there's little to no barrier to entry.
The games I choose to play, however, aren't exactly the ones that mobile gamers seem to prefer. I'm not into the high-score endless-runners like Pac-Man 256 or Jetpack Joyride that the gaming press talk about, nor the life-point limited puzzlers like TwoDots or Candy Crush Saga that constantly top the sales charts. Nope, what gets me interested are generally the games where you collect stuff (like cards or heroes) and use them solve puzzles or complete RPG-style quests.
The Accidental Podcaster: Tell A Good Story
Mar 8th 2016
A long time ago, I came across an old proverb which has since turned into a sort of personal mantra: Those who tell the stories rule the world. It’s a powerful idea, and a truthful one. Shane Snow did an amazing TEDx talk on this in 2014 where he talks about the reasons why storytelling is so important. We use stories to entertain, of course - books, movies, plays, many video games, and so on are story driven - but we also use them to teach concepts, to sell ideas, and to tap into emotions. Stories help make things memorable.
In his book Actual Minds, Possible Worlds, Jerome Bruner noted that stories are about twenty-two times more memorable than facts alone. But why? Because stories, especially (supposedly) true stories, make us care. They spark emotion. They help us to build connections not just to the people in the stories, but also to each other, which in turn forges relationships that change how we see ourselves and each other and the world around us.
If you enjoyed history, or even if you didn’t, chances are that you remember some events that happened before your time because of their stories. People with religious or spiritual bents learn their philosophies not from a set of cut-and-dried rules, but the stories and parables that teach that particular way of life. “Ah,†you might say, “but what about the Ten Commandments? Those are pretty cut and dry.†Perhaps, but people generally don’t memorize the rules on their own; what gives the Commandments power is the story that goes along with it. Moses hiking up a mountain and coming back down with some rules etched literally in stone doesn’t really provide much encouragement to follow said rules, but Moses coming down with the rules and a story about how God himself personally gave him these rules and told him that the people needed to change their ways OR ELSE certainly packed a bit more of a punch. Toss in a golden cow and you’ve got yourself something that will stick in the minds of your faithful flock.
The Accidental Podcaster: Learning to Dance
Mar 1st 2016
The scene is a late summer afternoon in 1991. I am seven years old, standing in my grandparents’ living room and feeling rather pleased with myself, even though I am in trouble. On my feet are my brand-new school shoes, shoes that we had to visit a half a dozen stores to find because I was insistent that I would not wear anything else. This was exasperating for my grandmother - my siblings’ requests for sneakers featuring Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or The Little Mermaid were fairly easy to accommodate, my demands for pink-and-white leather saddle shoes were not. They were also willing to compromise; Barbie and Batman gear were acceptable alternatives in their school wish-list, but I remained steadfast in what I wanted. Now I stood in the middle of the room in a little sliver of mid-afternoon sunshine coming through the window, admiring the pretty grey shadow pattern Gram’s lace window sheers cast on the pink leather uppers.
The reason I am inside is because now that I’ve gotten the shoes, I’m absolutely refusing to take them off. They were a prize hard won, and I want to savor the victory. This has led to a silent standoff between my grandmother and me, which is in turn interrupting the tranquility of my grandfather’s Sunday afternoon. His favorite radio program is being disrupted jointly by Gram smacking pans around in the kitchen as she makes Sunday dinner, and me in the adjoining living room smacking into furniture as I perform a clumsy twirl around the coffee table (I’m not supposed to be doing that, either, because of problems in my inner ear throwing my equilibrium off, but I like watching my skirts swirl and quite frankly, it’s fun). Papa is positioned in the doorway separating us, a neutral party trying to keep peace between two headstrong personalities, when a Glenn Miller number comes over the radio. As I accidentally backhand a plant (catching it, thankfully, without Gram seeing), inspiration strikes.
“Gert!†he calls to Gram. “Turn it up a little. Sis, come here. If you’re going to dance, you should at least know a few steps.â€
Losing: Important XP
Feb 24th 2016
If you’ve been watching the RCM’s Twitch channel this February, you know that XCOM 2 was much played and talked about. It is a great sequel to the reboot of the series. What was there not to love about it? Of course when the premise and basic background story back in June of 2015 was revealed, everyone immediately loved the idea that Firaxis Games was taking. In the hardest difficulties of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, there was a good chance that players would lose unless they were on their A-game. Firaxis took this idea and ran, so humanity lost and 20 years later you are now the resistance fighting an entrenched alien enemy.
Just like Red Dawn... just with aliens
Everyone likes an underdog story, where the good guys win because of their determination and knowing that their cause is the just cause. Of course, no one really gives much thought about why such a group is in such circumstances: the reason they are there is because in some form or fashion they “lost.†For most of the world and especially in America, losing is unacceptable, defeats must never be admitted to, and if there is a defeat, it must be avenged somehow.
The Accidental Podcaster: Walls
Feb 16th 2016
In my hometown in Pennsylvania, on a ridge overlooking the main boulevard, sits a copse of ancient pines that block the glare of the city lights from the old mansions sitting above. Positioned between the auxiliary parking used by the local college campus to its north and just off of a well-used sidewalk to the south, it is surrounded by various shrubberies and flower beds the local garden club has staggered down the side of the steep ridge, an oasis of green and color in the middle of a busy intersection. From there, you could see all of downtown, most of the residential neighborhoods tucked around the hills, and all the way off to the lone tree marking the edge of a farmer’s field miles away. For someone the right size, the copse made a perfectly comfortable place to work, offered an interesting viewpoint, and had that rare property of affording complete privacy while being smack in the middle of everything. It was a secret in the middle of a town that held few, a place to observe while remaining unobserved.
It was my favorite place to write.
And then I made the mistake of sharing it with someone else.