Saturday, September 14, 2013

Exercising that leather fetish... or more likely not.

When was my last post?  I am not sure, as I am too damnedabally lazy to go and look.  I can only say for certain that it was sometime before yesterday.

In the mean time I've been adding improvements to my stronghold and honing my various skills to a razor's edge making me one of the most dangerous men on the planet... is what I would be saying if I hadn't in fact spent the last period of time between posts playing video games and wanking while crying myself to sleep.

Good times.

I have since discovered that leather crafting is an expensive hobby/trade to take up.  Sometime over the course of the last few weeks I decided that Leathercrafting would really pair well with chainmail in some sort of twisted nerdgasm.

So, I returned to that wonderland that the kids call 'the information super highway' and did some research on mastery of leather, which returned interesting results that took some time to sort through and got me well off of track.

When I left behind that magical kingdom I finally began to learn about making objects in leather.  Because this is me I started with a book.  Followed by paradoxically greatest paradise and cesspool that the nets have to offer, Youtube.

Youtube is fantastic resource as passionate and talented people make helpful videos about nearly every subject on the face of the planet.  Of course there are the clueless retards that  you have to wade through as they spill their dreck all over your electronic 1s and 0s.  But that's the price you pay for free knowledge - getting covered in the flung feces of the denizens of Moronica as they crawl out of their dank basements.

According to the people who make and sell leather goods, as well as those who supply the tools and materials, Leather is a fantastic, almost magical, substance that can be used for just about anything.  In my zombie uprising series, I clad several of my characters in leather clothing in lieu of heavier armor.  Leather seems perfect for such a scenario, as many bikers can attest to.  Besides, it just looks cool.  So this is something that I have been thinking about for a while.

Onto step two.  Finding the tools to do the job.  Here's where we call back to the opening.  Leatherworking is expensive.  When I started chain mail, my toolkit consisted of two pairs of needle nosed plyers, a good pair of wirecutters(an absolute must - my first set hardly worked and I bruised my hands while cutting my first coil), a 3/8th inch steel dowel to wind the wire, and a clamp to hold the wire onto the dowel(also used as a handle to wind the wire) and finally at least one heavy duty leather glove.  Throw in some wire and you got yourself the basics of a hobby  - I added additional dowels of various sizes, as well as wire in various sizes and metals.

All in all, even with a quarter mile of galvanized steel wire, the set-up cost around $100.  Mind, I didn't get top of the line gear.  My wirecutters cost a whopping $4 - but they do the job(I took a coil of the wire to Sears to test prospective replacements).

I got my kit half off and it still cost $200.  I will be up front and say that you can easily find cheaper kits that come with the basics.  But I wanted something that was comprehensive and complete in its own right.  I struggled with the decision as I know myself and I am unreliable with things of this nature - who knows how long I'll keep at this new hobby.  Isn't that right Mandolin?

The day after I ordered my kit I got a call from my local Tandy Leather Location.  They can ship the goods to me, but since I had a address here in town, I could come pick it up and save the $20 on shipping!

Fuck yeah I'll do that!  I'm a cheap bastard and they're on my way home from work.  Unfortunately Tandy Leather keeps banker's hours - and I got a late start.

I arrived and after wandering around and looking lost (part ingenious ploy, part inherent stupidity) I was asked if I needed help.  Indeed yes I did.  She brought out my kit and I rediscovered that old truism "Everything is better when given to you in a bucket!"  Yep, the Tandy Pro Leatherwork Tool Set comes in a five gallon plastic bucket - putting it in the same bracket with those other bucket dwelling commodities Pudding and Chicken.

Leathercrafting has arrived in the big time.

With more wandering around and looking lost, and then getting help(I refuse to ask damn it!) I was able to acquire everything I need to get a project started.

So far I've done nothing.  I'm approaching this in a different manner than my normal "Jump in and do shit!" method that works well enough on other projects.  Leather seems to take foresight, as it appears that the process is a one-way street and when a step is passed, you cannot back up.

When I was making chainmail, I had a project in mind.  Making a chainkini bottom for a beautiful woman(a specific beautiful woman - not some random chick off the street).  I need this sort of inspiration to overcome the gravity of my laziness.

My first goal is to make gauntlets. Sweet looking gauntlets that the zombie hordes cannot bite through.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Dead Island has devoured my life.

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Dead Island. This game has devoured the last 6 weeks of my life.  As if I had a life.

With our shared cultural experience, you have no doubt guessed that those two words speak volumes. You would be quite safe to assume that I'm talking about a zombie uprising taking place on and island. And if you haven't surmised as much? Well I didn't know that the Amish were even allowed onto the internet. Get thee back to yon farm und buggy!

Yes, the Dead Island experience is effectively a tropical island vacation with a zombie apocalypse! Everything I wanted, and all of it without the hassle of flying to a tropical island and fighting off a horde of undead. No unbearable heat or humidity, no stench of decaying flesh. I don't need to worry about my fellow survivors shiving me in my sleep for my last mouthful of water. All in all I would say that it's a fair trade.

Dead Island is a combination FPS and RPG. If you aren't familiar with the acronyms, you can find Google at the top of your page. You take control of one of 4 characters, each of whom have a specialized style of play and set of skills. So in that respect you get to choose how you play this game. Do you prefer swords to guns? Or blunt objects to both? Well, Dead Island has you covered. Standard RPG fare really, but not unenjoyable for that.

The FPS element really tweaked me at first as I was learning the controls, and it has the problems with all FPS games. Namely that it is easy to get hung up on the map. Maybe a ledge is a little too tall, or perhaps an armature is sticking out and hooks you. I really hate the parts where I see it and say “I could step up on that with absolutely no problem what-so-ever! WTF?”

Fair enough, but the problem is that you get zero feedback on why you aren't moving. This has always annoyed me when it comes to shooters. Yet I still play them and don't mind terribly, as the trade off is being able run about and shoot things with absolutely no consequences in the real world. No matter how much carnage I endure, or how many bullets I take or cliffs I fall off of, I am still alive. And free of the jail house blues.

Hells yes! That is the best way to explore a tropical island! I don't know how many times I've plummeted to my death while trying to reach a ledge. I would guess dozens, with dozens more to come.

Plus there's the zombie slaying aspect! Blam!

This game has just devoured the last month of my life and is an excellent example of why I go out of my way to avoid the MMORPG genre. It devours your life. CGI rendered characters ask you to do Chores, and then you gladly go and do them. I could be doing chores in the real world, and actually accomplishing something. But no, I need to go grocery shopping for the digi-babe instead. All of this is for points. Worthless digital numbers! And yet I spend hours running chores for imaginary characters. This isn't a condemnation of the game or genre so much as flaws in my personality.

The sad part is, I am unwilling to do as much outside the game. But as the man says, actually doing things is for old people. I think the worst part of the play mechanics is that it rewards you with more worthless points for just doing what you might normally do in the playing of the game. “Here are 200,000 points for looting $1,000,000.00 imaginary dollars from digitalized bodies! Good work soldier! Now if you get $2,000,000.00, we'll give you twice as many points! Are you in?”

Yes, yes I am.

Graphically speaking I must admit that my first video game system was an Atari 2600, in which many games you controlled a poorly rendered square that has been set on some sort of vague challenge. Largely the games were simple, as the more complicated they became, the more inexplicable they grew. I suspect that I am easily impressed by modern jig-pokery in the computer arts. So, when I see a game like Dead Island that is nearly photo realistic, I do have to gush about the beauty of the graphics. The scenery is gorgeous! The first act of the game takes place in a posh resort – making it perfectly balanced with the second act, which is placed in the slums of a nearby town.

Though the scenery is beautiful(for the first act at least) the developers have gone a long way to hammer home that the apocalypse has arrived.

Not only the graphics, but I quite enjoyed the physics as well. How a body will flip and twist if you hit it right. Or arms will sever and fly off with a jet of blood. Yes, the game is violent and gory. It was rated Mature for a reason.

One of the problems with the zombie apocalypse, at least that I've found in my own writing, is that zombies are really boring to do battle against. Zombies are slow and cumbersome. They see you, they shamble forward to try and eat you. Rinse yourself off and repeat.

Dead Island has gotten around the repetition by throwing in a mixed bag of zombie types. Standard slow Walkers. Fast and agile Infected. Tank-like Thugs. You get the point, but there are six types in all, and each one is a worse surprise over the last. I think that the developers used them well to make the game challenging and interesting, requiring the player to display a little creativity and foresight, rather than just charging in.

Another note, the zombies level up parallel to the player, so the higher you get the more damage they soak up and the more damage the deal out. This keeps you from ever ascending into God Mode and roaming about with impunity. The zombies are always dangerous, also forcing the player to think tactically.

The game gives you a vast assortment of possible weapons to combat the undead(as well as hostile survivors). And like previous zombie games the weapons(and I suppose the real world as well) these weapons take damage when you use them against the undead. As they wear, the damage that they do lessens. Weapons can be upgraded and customized in order to increase the damage that they do. All of which costs money.

Where as customization requires that you also have miscellaneous parts on hand, some of which can be difficult to come by. Customization requires the use of blueprints that you find along the way. Some are sitting about on the ground, while others are rewards that the NPCs bribe you with in order to entice you to do their shopping. I came to enjoy this aspect of the game, as it is quite a lot of fun to build an axe that sets zombies ablaze. One note, don't sell any of the miscellaneous, non-weapon, detritus that you loot, it may come in handy later.

One thing I fail to be able to wrap my mind around is certain weapons available in the armory. The most basic set of gear is the standard found object arsenal, the pipes, shovels, paddles and various heavy tools that one might wield in a pinch when facing a horde of the walking dead. This of course includes knives and machettes. All fair game. Then there are the array of fire arms - well you have the military, police, and a vast array of gangs. Samurai swords? Well a little tougher, but the island was occupied by the Japanese during WW2, and some of their other artifacts still exist, so why not the occasional sword(they are relatively rare drops).

But Medieval European style maces? What the hell is that? Sure they're great fun and quite effective, but I am now threatening to surpass my ability to suspend disbelief each time I loot a mace. Where the hell did they come from? Is there some mad prepper blacksmith somewhere hammering out maces just in case the dead do get up and attack? Mumbling as he goes: “I've been telling them! The dead will get up one day and attack the living, and we need to be ready! But they called me mad! Well I'll show them!” And off to work he goes. If so, well I guess he did show us. Well played Mr. Crazysmith!

The high point for me was the aforementioned slum and how it contrasted with the resort. Where the fragile civilization has torn itself apart in a city full of the walking dead. For me, this was one of the creepiest gaming experiences that I have encountered, but to be fair, I have not played many horror games. Normally Dead Island makes use of sound cues to let you know what's going on around you. The infected/zombies are rather noisy – they scream, bellow and moan as they notice a character. But the rest of the world is quiet and serene. If it weren't for the blood and fire you might forget that you were in playing a zombie game.

Moresby is different though and the designers did a spectacular job in setting the player on edge. Set in a slum, it would look post-apocalyptic any day of the week. But with the wrecked cars and buses crowding the streets, rampant fires and scattered corpses it has become even worse. But what really tops it off is the background sound. While playing through the resort you become used to listening for those sound cues to tip you off to impending danger. Well, Moresby is awash in noise. Howls come from every direction, and that set me on edge from the beginning. I loved it.

There was one point in the Slums where I actually vocalized the word “Yipe!” I kid you not. That sound that a certain cartoon dog makes when he is booted off the table by his eternal antagonist.

Can't wait till the next arrives.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Now we interupt this blog for an important message from Joss Whedon

You may have already seen this.  But it's worth sharing anyhow.  Joss Whedon talking about zombies?  Yes please.



Maybe I'm just being selfish, but damn it, I want the zombie apocalypse to happen!  Sure, I still haven't learned parkour (sad as that was like my first post) and I really need to start hoarding canned goods.  My pantry is a bit bare.

It would appear that despite these many months of chatter on my part, I am still woefully unprepared for the uprising of flesh-eating undead.  Typical.

As for my international readers, well good luck to you.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Well, I'm borked here.


Is charisma a skill that can be learned and honed? Or is it just a natural talent that is exuded from one's genes? I think a little of both. Most people take pleasure in the company of others – they're blessed/cursed with extroverted personality types.

Human beings are highly social animals. We've gotten this far in the conquest of the planet by our ability to work together to accomplish goals. The most important, which has dominated all of our drives and actions for the last 200,000 years, being pure survival(On both individual and species levels).

I think that this was touched on in some way or another in my Religion post some months back.

None of this Ayn Randian pish and tosh (hey England, did I use that right?) about the uber importance of the individual. Yes, we are social animals, herd animals, and need leadership. We need direction for our societies to achieve these great things. This is why elections and quality candidates are so vital. But those leaders, though first amongst equals, are not more important than the masses. That probably smacks of communism, but it is the privates who make up the army and do most of the work, the sergeants who direct them. Straight on up through the hierarchy. Generals don't fight the wars themselves.

We need specialists to get the work done.

This is an odd and ironic statement for a blog with the heading of “Specialization is for Insects”. But to be completely honest, I don't expect to be able to learn a hundredth of what I've babbled about over the last several years. I am a generalist by nature, but lack the discipline to master most avenues of human knowledge. Just like I lack the ability to stay on topic for more than a couple of paragraphs.

Charisma. Networking. These are important talents and life-skills for use to have/hone. Much like the ability to proficiently perform oral sex. In order to survive and overcome we need that ability to work together, be it in small groups or great nations. And someone will need to take the lead and supply direction.

Ah, now for myself. I know that this is going to blow your mind but I'm an introvert. “Really?” You gasp audibly, whilst dropping your cinnamon bun in shocked astonishment. “Truly this man who spends his time writing essays about skills that might come in handy during/after the apocalypse is highly social, is hip deep in the club scene and is getting all of the bitches.”

Sorry, I didn't want to ruin your image of me. So feel free to keep on thinking that, while I continue on with my ramblings. I would like to point out that I do not in fact wear an eyepatch for purely stylistic purposes. I also have a kick-ass hat that I keep for emergencies.

The quiet loner type who generally prefers to keep to himself. That's me. Not a delightful descriptor of my personality, no matter how true. Generally we hear those words uttered by flabbergasted neighbors when interviewed by News Crews about their recently arrested serial killer neighbors. Yep, I expect about an hour after posting this admission that the FBI accompanied by a couple of SWAT Teams will suddenly appear at my doorstep to search my basement/attic/yard for anyone who has gone missing in the area over since the year that I was born(psychos start young).

I like persons and not people. What does that mean? Well as a buffoon with a history major I'm generally not interested in societies that aren't a thousand years dead on a distant continent. I loath several aspects of our popular culture and would like to quietly withdraw. But alas, those things I do like about our society (super markets and abundant internet porn) make that too daunting. To sum this up, I find groups of strangers exhausting.

And onwards onto the explanation. My small circle of friends is made up of Shining individuals that stick out of the pack. Many of whom happen to themselves be outgoing and sociable. I am after all attracted to that type just like anyone else, sad to say.  I do believe that I make a good and loyal friend, for anyone who has won my friendship.  It just takes a long time.

I work as a delivery driver, and have been told that I am to be the outward face of the company. To smile! And be friendly. Well, shit. I honestly prefer to stand quietly and let my counterpart do their job efficiently.  Not very compelling.

The strange part about this is that I do possess the capability to perform enthusiastically and entertainingly. I possess some modicum of wit and can be quite funny. I just lack that bit in my brain where when asked “How are you?” I respond “Not bad.” While forgetting the “and how about yourself.” 9 times out of ten.

I should really work on my attitude. Else the other survivors might just slip off and leave me to the zombies.  That is, unless I can weld with one hand all while setting broken bones and cooking one hell of a stew and reciting Shakespeare.

Well, we all know which of these is more likely.  Better crack open the Shakespeare.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Razor's Edge

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Once again much time has passed since I bothered with my skills blog. I think I've been puttering about with this for about 3 years now, it appears that my first post came around October of 2009. That I'm still working on this project rather amazes me, as I have the attention span of a gnat.

Looks as if, regardless of who wins the 2012 election here in the states, the Palin-ocapylse will have to be postponed until at least 2016.  Good that, as it will give me plenty of time to prepare.

I guess it's about time for a check-up on my progress as a potential survivor. And my prognosis is still poor. I have hardly added so much as a jot of useful skills. My singular attempt at gardening was a learning experience (read as utter failure). I've not so much as touched the controls of an airplane, and nobody in their right mind would approach me to perform an emergency surgery on so much as a recently deceased hamster.

Hell, I've not even made much progress on the next volume of my zombie series. So much for all that research! Ah well, I work full time and have other hobbies, zombie 5 will have to wait.

But I have collected a tremendous amount of information in the form of books. My library has exploded as I've found books on topics ranging from farming to blacksmithing. Most of these skills I've yet to really develop in any sort of hands-on manner. The best way to learn is to do.

Last autumn/winter I happened upon the miniseries Gettysburg. If you're unaware, Gettysburg is about the American Civil War battle (circa 1863) that was a major turning point for the Union. What was striking about it was the mad style of facial hair that many of the historical figures had. Everything ranging from the standard beard to wild mutton-chops(sideburns/burnsides).

Upon finishing the series I declared “I wanna do that to my face!”

As I was completely unemployed at the time, so I did. I have a moderately-full growth of facial hair and some of the women in my life claimed that I looked good in a beard. But alas, I landed a new job and was asked to trim up the massive tangled growth on my face. So, I went through a piece at a time and trimmed away and manscaped, collecting pictures as I went, until my face was once again in pristine original condition.

I've discovered something with my aforementioned experiment, I don't really like having whiskers. They're scratchy and have a tendency to catch food. Whilst out exercising during the winter I experienced a damp feeling upon my upper lip. “Oh no!” I exclaimed, “I've developed a bloody nose!” Not so, it turns out that my mustache was the perfect collector of condensation. Really, this shouldn't have been a surprise in the least, but damn I never expected anything like.

Just this morning I realized that there is a daily life skill that I do not have. I don't know how to shave. This is remarkable in light of the fact that I am an adult male who goes clean shaven and that I have a moderately full beard when I do let it grow out. For short stints I've tinkered with growing beards over the last decade or so, but have always employed the modern convenience of an Electric Razor.

And this is where the “I never learned to shave” comes into play. This still seems really sad for a grown man to admit.  I live in a society where facial hair is generally frowned upon.  That is to say that most men are expected to be clean-shaven as the norm.  Strange I must admit, especially when compared to societies that view a full beard as a sign of manliness.

I tend to follow the norm.  Lazy as I am.

The electric razor is functional and fast, if not as effective as a proper straight razor. I suppose it doesn't help that I rarely change the blades – but they cost nearly as much as the device itself, and I'm cheap/poor. But as a tool it does an adequate job of at least taming some of my whiskers, if not leaving me utterly smooth. And I will be honest, I'm never overly concerned with my appearance anyway. The electric razor isn't elite, but it gets the job done well enough and quickly.

More so, and finally getting to the ever so pessimistic theme of this blog, that electric razor requires a source of electricity to make it run... blah blah blah... I don't plan to look like a hipster/hippie/pedophile when the Palinocalypse strikes... blah blah blah... straight razor!

I shall preface the rest of this and admit that I am a wimp. I don't like the idea of an extremely sharp blade running over my face and neck. They aren't amazing either one, but I'd like to keep what I got.

Here's the thing, an electric razor is a lot like an automatic transmission. Fast and convenient. And it doesn't involve a naked blade and visions of my life blood fountaining out of a gash in my throat Sam Rami style.


I've actually investigated the possibility of learning to shave. Youtube is a brilliant invention when the anonymous stupids aren't clogging it up, and I've seen some useful videos on various subjects. Thankyou helpful youtubers – just keep ignoring the worthless tools who add nothing to the conversation.

Ok, so I have a guide as to how to actually shave. Now all I need is the gear. Google, I need you!

Oh. $200 for a shaving kit? And that isn't even the expensive one? (the latter tops out at $3000.00 and comes with 7 razors). Sure, I could find a cheaper kit I am certain. But I don't think I want to goto the lowest bidder with something like a razor. Yeah, fuck that. Money, and my lack of it stands in my way once again.

That and laziness.

That wasn't very exciting was it?  Well, damn.  Did I mention that a solid straight razor can be used as a weapon?  Hells yeah, multi-purpose toiletries!  Give those savage mutant biker bandits that infest the wastelands a proper close shave.  Down to the shoulders.