Monday, February 29, 2016

Bubble Wrap Began... In The Shower?

Crackle, Pop, Pop! Who doesn't love popping a sheet of bubble wrap? And yet, this handy packing material hasn't been around that long. Surprisingly, bubble wrap got its start in the bathroom.

In 1957, inventors Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes were looking to market a new kind of wallpaper. Oddly enough, they started with two shower curtains. They sealed the two curtains together, creating random clusters of trapped air bubbles between them. When no one wanted to buy their terrible wallpaper, they decided to remarket the shower curtain monstrosity as greenhouse insulation. Again, their concept was a total disaster.

It wasn't until 1961 that their idea finally found its optimal use. IBM contracted Chavannes and Fielding's company, Sealed Air Corporation, to provide the bubble wrap as protective padding for their IBM 1401 computer.

The IBM 1401 Computer was HUGE by today's standards.

Since then, the Sealed Air Corporation has continually refined their bubble wrap product into the cheap, effective packing material we have today.

And there you have it! Bubble wrap as we've come to know it is a total accident. Yet, where would we be without it?

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Draw Something: Bunny Rabbit

Hello folks! There's nothing really special about my installment of Draw Something this week. I just felt like drawing a bunny rabbit. Hippity-Hop!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Laqunah: Part III

For Ova, the two days of waiting passed in a flash. Around her stood startling recreations of Persimmon's greatest alumni, represented in massive statue form. Beasts and creatures of great diversity were immortalized in stone, both peculiar and terrifying all in the same breath. Then again, growing up as the sole human in Laqunah had taught Ova a valuable life lesson – what's horrifying to one is beautiful to another. This keen sense of balance shared by the city residents is what held them together, even when cultural or social disputes arose. Live and let live... even if you're a member of the undead. She walked past the statues while following the admissions department secretary, a delightful harpy. Ova made small talk with the winged beauty; concurrently, the harpy's coppery wings created an elegant sparkling effect on the walls and ceiling. Up a long staircase and down a very narrow hallway they went, the walls ornately decorated with banners of ancient conquests and kings. The hallway grew thinner the farther along they went, much like the tip of a spear. At one point, the harpy's wings began to scrape the walls, which left a faint golden streak. It was obvious that she'd not been there before; the walls were clean. Ova assumed that she must have been a new employee. Finally, the hall ended at a simple, unmarked wooden door. The harpy extended one of her claws and parted the door open. She smiled at Ova, revealing a row of sharp teeth, then walked away.

Ova entered the room, which had no windows to brighten the space. The only source of light was a series of lanterns hanging above a lone desk. Below the lanterns sat an indescribable, pulsating mass. Situated between immense stacks of dusty papers and books, the glob contorted and twisted like electrified jelly. The poor illumination made it hard for Ova to even detect the color of the creature. Perhaps it was dark blue, maybe green or black. She simply couldn't tell. Eventually, the quivering lump poured itself more prominently onto the desk. As if trying to burp, a series of bubbles gushed through the semi-transparent pile of slime. The bubbles slowly rose to the surface. One by one, they popped, each revealing some part of a face. First an eye, then a nostril. Another eye erupted, followed by a snout and another nostril. Trails of slime started to form below the snout, creating the appearance of gelatinous prison bars. A salty stench escaped from the pit forming some sort of mouth on the creature; Ova fought her gag reflex to remain respectful.

“Sit, dear child.”

Droplets of the creature's mass were lightly sprayed upon Ova as it spoke. Her gag reflex grew stronger by the second. In a moment of uncertainty, Ova located a receptacle next to the desk, just in case her lunch wasn't going to stay down. Firmly planted in a chair, she scooted it back a few feet as a precaution. The bellowing beast continued to greet her.

“Ova is it? From where do you come? I've not seen anything like you before.”

Clearing her throat, Ova explained “Well, there's no one else in Laqunah like me. I came here as an infant from another world. As you can see, not all of me made the trip.”

Ova pulled her coat off to reveal that her right arm was missing, taken cleanly above the elbow.

“I was taken in by my father Hultran. He found me screaming behind his shop, wrapped in a quilt and bleeding terribly. I traveled through some sort of portal, but it closed before the last of me could completely pass through. Thankfully, he fixed me up and decided to take care of me.”

The jelly-like globule smacked its mouth hole and made a subdued slurping sound.

“A tasty morsel left behind. What a pity. Well, your aptitude scores for admission were more than satisfactory. Your father has done quite the job raising you.”

“He has,” Ova replied. “I'd be dead without him.”

Friday, February 26, 2016

Pokémon Red, Blue & Yellow Virtual Console Releases Compatible With Pokémon Bank.

In a direct message from Nintendo this morning, the company revealed that the upcoming Virtual Console re-releases of Pokémon Red, Blue and Yellow will function just as the original cartridges, but with some additional features that are wonderful for new and old players alike.

You'll finally be able to move that awesome Pidgey you've always wanted to your current generation Sun or Moon cartridge later in 2016.

As the Pokémon franchise has progressed over the past twenty years, the first and second generation of games have been rendered largely obsolete. Being that they were only available for play on the Nintendo Game Boy handheld console, they were incompatible with later iterations in the series. Hence, Pokémon captured on an original first generation Blue cartridge couldn't be transferred to a later game, like the fourth generation Pokémon Pearl, for example.

That problem has officially been remedied.

On February 27, Pokémon Red, Blue and Yellow will be available for download on Nintendo's Virtual Console. Much to my surprise, these games will be fully compatible with the Pokémon Bank.

Thereby, Pokémon caught in the first generation games can be deposited into the bank, then transferred to the upcoming Pokémon Sun and Moon game cartridges when they're released later in 2016.

Old games that had been left out of the "Gotta Catch 'Em All" loop due to technical limitations are suddenly viable once again. This is great news for new or young Pokémon players whom weren't able to experience the first generation of games. It also makes moving the original 151 Pokémon from the first generation to the current generation a bit easier.

For years, players whom really wanted access to the original Pokémon had to rely upon the FireRed and LeafGreen remakes, which were released on the Game Boy Advance in 2004. Through a long and tedious method of video game leap frog, players could trade from the remakes, one generation to the next, up to the current sixth generation. It was a very slow process, with a great deal of in-game man hours needing to be invested to even make it possible.

In an ironic twist, it's now the 2004 remakes that are rendered mostly obsolete.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

A Bouquet Of Colorful Cauliflower!

Perhaps you've seen it in your local grocer's produce section. Just sitting there, looking like alien brains from another planet.

Cauliflower... but it's not white. AHHHHHHHHHH!

Relax. There's no need to worry about an invasion of brain-sucking body snatchers. What you're seeing isn't extra-terrestrial fungus, either. It's just cauliflower, completely natural in every way.

Most people are familiar with typical white-colored cauliflower. We've all eaten it at some point. I happen to be a big fan of cauliflower, more so than even broccoli. Yet, cauliflower can also come in three other different colors -- orange, green and purple. These changes in hue are natural thanks to mutations in the cauliflower itself.

Orange cauliflower results from high levels of beta-carotene. This is the same substance that makes most commercially-bred carrots orange. Much to your benefit, orange cauliflower also has 25% more Vitamin A than your average head!

There's more than one variety of green cauliflower, also known as broccoflower. Some varieties are mutations of cauliflower that happen to produce chlorophyll. Others are hybrids between broccoli and cauliflower. Either way, green cauliflower is extremely nutritious. It has high levels of protein, more than either traditional cauliflower or broccoli.

Thanks to the presence of the antioxidant anthocyanin, there is purple cauliflower. Anthocyanin is also found in red cabbage and red wine. Purple cauliflower doesn't offer any real health benefits over white cauliflower, but it sure is pretty to look at!

And there you have it -- a plethora of colorful cauliflower choices. Give one a try the next time you have a craving for the bushy, firm-textured plant!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

How To Get The Classic Windows Starfield Screen Saver On Your Modern PC.

You know what I miss? The classic starfield screen saver application.

Back with Windows 3.1, Microsoft provided a nifty little screen saver that simulated traveling through space. While the screen saver was running, it was as if you were watching through a window on the Starship Enterprise. Little stars would blast past you at warp speed, recreating faster-than-light space travel. The starfield screen saver was a wonderful feature, but unfortunately there's a whole generation of computer users whom know nothing of it.

The last version of Windows to offer the starfield screen saver was XP. As of Windows Vista, the application was terminated. It has also not been included with Windows 7, 8 or 10. I've never seen a reason as to why the folks at Microsoft decided to cut the starfield from future releases, but I think they made a real mistake. The starfield screen saver is as synonymous with Windows as Solitaire and Minesweeper!

But, all is not lost. If you want to put the starfield screen saver on your modern Windows-based computer, there's a simple workaround. You'll need access to a computer still running on Windows XP. Perform a search on the XP system for a file named 'ssstars.scr'. This is the file for the starfield screen saver. Simply copy the file to a jump drive and then place it on the computer you want to use it with. Drop the file in the C:\Windows\System32 folder. Ta-da! You can now run the classic starfield screen saver!

Isn't it so soothing to watch? Boldly going where so many have gone before!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Cock-A-Doodle-Doo! What's The Purpose Of A Chicken's Comb?

Ever notice that large, flappy piece of flesh sitting perched atop a chicken's head? That fancy chunk of flesh is called a comb. And yet, you probably have no idea what it's for.

In just a moment, you will.

A chicken's comb serves two main purposes. The first mission of the comb is to help cool the animal. The flesh growth helps to circulate blood and release the stored heat from within the animal. The comb then emits this excess heat. In essence, the comb is like a radiator for blood. This generally explains why most combs are red, but some also come in black or dark purple.

The second function of the comb is to aid in the mating process. Male chickens, called roosters, have larger and often more pronounced combs. Female chickens see the comb as a sign of superiority. They're drawn to the biggest and flashiest of combs, guaranteeing the best roosters get the chance to breed the newest generation of chickens.

Of note, the chicken isn't the only bird with a comb. Other fowl like turkeys and pheasants possess them, much for the same purposes.

Monday, February 22, 2016

My Favorite Video Games: Ogre Battle.

Drop your controllers and blow out your cartridges, it's time again for...


I'd like to focus on an absolute classic title from the 16-bit era of gaming. Released on the Super Nintendo in 1993, Ogre Battle is a real time strategy role playing game developed by Quest (now a part of Square Enix). Ogre Battle is set in the vast world of the Zeteginan Empire. Taking control of a small army leading an uprising, the goal of the game is to combat the evil empire and defeat the devilish mage Rashidi.

The general plot of Ogre Battle is your standard fantasy, sword-and-sorcery fare. What makes it absolutely incredible is the game play, where nearly every aspect of your army is customizable. You begin the game by answering a series of six questions. Each question provides three different answers to choose from. What's key here is that your responses influence what kind of leader you'll be. The various answers alter the leader's individual stats, as well as what kind of units are present in your initial army. The questions are presented to you as tarot cards drawn from a deck. This element is important, as tarot cards play a lasting role over the course of Ogre Battle.

After the opening sequence is complete, you command your army as it moves from one battle to the next. There are twenty-five stages, with five extra stages that are optional. Each stage presents a large battlefield spread over a continent. There are various towns and temples scattered throughout the stages, which your army can liberate from the opposing force. As your various army units move around the field, they will come into direct conflict with units from the enemy.

During these confrontations, you can change the battle tactic for your unit -- attack the leader, the weakest character, the strongest character or the best character. Eventually, your units will combat the boss of the stage, whom has their own specialized unit that's usually tricky to defeat.

Units are totally customizable in Ogre Battle. They can be a team of up to five characters, though the use of large monsters like wyrms or gryphons will take up two character spaces instead of one. Characters develop their statistics over time with each fight, win or lose.

Even better is their ability to be promoted. Lowly characters at the start of the game can eventually become quite powerful through battle experience, with the ability to lead their own units if you so decide. For example, a generic fighter can evolve into a knight, samurai or sorcerer. There's also the option for becoming a legendary creature like a vampire or werewolf if certain requirements are met. Over seventy-five different character types are within the game, meaning there's a multitude of various unit combinations you can build. Besides humanoid characters, there's also strange soldiers like demons, pumpkinheads, angels, mermaids and zombies. The possibilities are limitless!

As if there wasn't already enough customization present in Ogre Battle, there's also the element of alignment. Various actions throughout the game affect your alignment value, which is a numerical representation of good or evil. The manner in which you defeat your opponents raises or lowers this value. Typically, fighting "fair" makes you more good, whereas obliterating weaker units with your stronger units leads to an evil alignment. Ultimately, your alignment rating determines which of thirteen endings you'll receive upon completing Ogre Battle. Other actions can also raise or lower this rating, like liberating towns during the night or day (yes, there's a day cycle in the game), whether your liberating unit has a high or low alignment, and which tarot card you draw upon liberating a town. Which brings me back to...

Remember I mentioned earlier how tarot cards have an overarching influence on the game? Every time you liberate a location, you draw a card. There are twenty-two different tarot cards in the game. Each card has a different influence on your stats. For example, the Fortune card randomly raises or lowers the Reputation stat. The Judgment card raises the hit point stat by two. Over the course of the game, each card drawn slowly alters the development of the characters in your units, yourself included. Yet, that's not the only benefit (or detriment) of the tarot cards. You get to keep each tarot card you draw, up to a maximum of fourteen. During battles between units, you may use a tarot card to influence the fight. Some cards will deal damage against your opponent. Other cards will cause the enemy unit to flee from the battle. The twenty-two cards each have a different capability, so you must use them wisely.

Other elements of the game also impact the customization factor, like equipping weapons, character-unique terrain speed (flying, crossing water, moving over mountains, etc.), and recruiting special characters in various stages. There are simply so many choices to make in Ogre Battle, I'd need an entire website just to explain them all!

Also, I shouldn't forget to mention the very colorful and attractive graphics. The characters look great when you have unit battles, with unique animations for every character action. The soundtrack is also catchy and memorable -- I often catch myself humming the battle theme at random!

I first encountered Ogre Battle in high school a couple of years after it was released. I borrowed it from a classmate and played it for a few months before reluctantly returning it. For years, I searched high and low to find a copy of my own, with no luck. I completed the game several times in ROM format on my PC. Thankfully, I eventually found a physical copy and added it to my SNES game collection. Ogre Battle truly is a standout title that any fan of strategy or role playing games should experience. I would never trade or sell my copy away -- it's just that good!

If you're looking to acquire the original SNES cartridge on the internet, expect to pay around $100 USD (as of the time of this writing). Enix, the North American distributor of Ogre Battle, only printed 25,000 copies of the game. It is fairly hard to locate a copy, but they are out there. Ogre Battle was also released on the original PlayStation console, which currently sells in the $50 - $75 range on the internet. For a much cheaper alternative, you can download Ogre Battle via the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console for less than $10!

Of note, a fantastic sequel was released for the Nintendo 64 called Ogre Battle 64. It's just as customizable and features improved graphics. I only favor the original game because of the nostalgia factor and the novel use of tarot cards.

Now get out there and lead a revolution!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Draw Something: Armadillo

I've gotten into a solid groove with the wildlife sketches, which continues this week. I absolutely love armadillos; they're one of my favorite vertebrates!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Laqunah: Part II

Afternoons for Ova were usually spent cleaning the card shop and taking care of the cooking. It's not that Hultran made her do any of these things. In fact, he had a penchant for complaining when Ova didn't allow him into the kitchen. She took joy in the simplicity of preparing a meal. Each dish was a small work of art, only existing for a few moments before being eaten.

One of her favorite meals was Twiggle Cream Cake. It was the first recipe she ever prepared with Hultran as a young child. Every bit a generational delicacy, Hultran's mother had taught him the recipe before he'd grown his first scale. The cake required only six different ingredients: two gargoyle eggs, a heaping handful of parallax dust, fresh minotaur butter, a thoroughly crushed Artorian vector seed, a cup of lilac dew, and the corpse of a recently vacated Twiggle. The only real challenge in preparing Twiggle Cream Cake was finding the Twiggle! If Ova was lucky, she'd locate one or two at the local butcher shop. If the butcher was out, she'd raise a net into the sky with her electric kite and catch a Twiggle herself. They were the most devious little creatures, flapping about like intoxicated bits of leather dotted with spikes. Covered in endless rows of spines and poisonous barbs, the Twiggle was notoriously difficult to apprehend without getting at least a scratch for your troubles. No matter the cost, Ova had a way of seeing the recipe to fruition, much to the pleasure of Hultran. According to him, Ova prepared the cake better than his own mom!

As the evening rolled on, Ova stuck to her normal routine. Today was different, though. Being accepted as a new student to the Persimmon Institute was a high honor. Considering her human lineage, it was an extraordinary accomplishment. Only the best and brightest creatures of Laqunah were granted admission, but Ova was extremely out of place. Being the only human to ever breach the void and enter Laqunah made her quite the oddity. Ova simply couldn't get the swirling fascinations out of her head. To leave the card shop and become a star-launcher or silver warden? Such positions of esteemed honor would be a marvelous benchmark in her life. There was no way of knowing what the future held until her primary interview with the admissions overseer. That was a full two days away. The only thing Ova needed to worry herself with at the time was shoving the partly alive bragger worm in the oven and keeping it there. She shut the stove and stood at ready, knife in hand.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Dumpster Computing!

Around 11 AM this morning, Crystal and I were out taking our routine walk through the local park for some exercise. The wind was calm.  The temperature was brisk, but not chilly. The sun was bright and warm. Everything was wonderful about the walk.

And then... we found two computers in a dumpster.

There's a large waste bin in the local park we go to. It's not uncommon for people to come and drop their garbage off there, even though it's not legal to do so. While walking past the dumpster on our journey home, I noticed a black, metallic box peaking out one side of the bin. Upon inspection, we discovered two personal computers, two monitors, two printers and various others cables associated with them.

What were the odds?

Crystal ran home to fetch a vehicle while I stood guard and gathered our treasure. The computers were in good external condition with little wear and still looked very presentable. Getting them home, we immediately sorted out their various plugs and crossed our fingers.

Would the computers turn on?

Sure enough, they did! We didn't have a single bit of trouble getting either computer to work. Upon further investigation, we determined that they were created sometime around 2011. One is a Compaq and the other an eMachine. Each operates on a 64-bit Windows 7 platform and has a moderate amount of memory for their era. Both systems work great and could be put to good use! The two accompanying flat screen monitors also work and look very nice. In fact, I'm using one of them right now in a dual monitor set up. I've always wanted two computer monitors at my desk. Yes!

Hilariously, one of the computers was password protected. But, we guessed the password on the first try. Why? Their password hint was 'or the highway'. Obviously, we guessed the password was 'myway'. Sure enough, it let us right in. Let this be a lesson to my readers... USE BETTER PASSWORDS!

One of the computers had been wiped of almost all personal data and photos, but the other still had the original owner's documents. They deleted all of their files, pictures and music before tossing the computer out, but failed to empty the Recycle Bin folder to make the deletion permanent. Good thing I'm not an identity thief, or I could cause this nitwit a great deal of trouble.

Folks, this is why I go dumpster diving. You can't believe all of the good stuff people just callously throw away. Much less, it is illegal to toss electronic goods in the trash. Even worse, throwing them away in a public park? What the hell is wrong with people?!

I'm going to see about using these two computers as credit towards a custom built modern system. Or, if you happen to be interested, make me an offer. I'm always willing to negotiate a deal. And before you get all huffy about me wanting to charge for something I found for free, I'll rely upon Crystal's sage advice...


I couldn't agree more.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

What's The Difference Between Jam And Jelly?

While preparing a slice of toast earlier today, I found myself wondering...

What's the difference between jam and jelly?

Rest easy, my fellow foodies. I quickly discovered the answer with a little bit of research.

Gooseberry Jam

Jam is prepared by using crushed fruit initially. The fruit is then cooked with pectin, acid and sugar until the concoction becomes a spreadable mixture. Jam has a natural, uneven texture.

Grape Jelly

Alternatively, jelly does not have any pieces of crushed fruit in its composition. To create jelly, fruit is cooked thoroughly so that its juice can be extracted. That juice is then strained through a jelly bag, boiled with sugar and sometimes pectin. Once allowed to cool, the jelly takes on a smooth, gelatin-like shape that molds to the inside of the container it is placed in.

Of note, preserves aren't like jam or jelly at all. Preserves are just chunks of fruit that are uncooked, then stored in jars with their own juices and sugar.

Personally, I prefer jam. Though jelly is easier to spread, I like the consistency of jam better. The flavor is nearly the same though, so it's all about the organic mouth-feel of jam that I enjoy more.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

I Prefer Predator 2 Over The Original.

Predator. It's a certified classic. Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime battles a sneaky extraterrestrial killer with a taste for human blood. We can all agree that Predator set a benchmark in action films. It also helped to launch Arnold into mega-level super-stardom.

And yet, I like Predator 2 better.

Mind you, my preference for the sequel is in no way a statement on the first film. Predator is flat-out awesome in every way. Instead, look at my predilection for Predator 2 as a matter of personal taste. I'll explain why and perhaps you'll agree.

Urban Warfare - One of the biggest reasons why I like Predator 2 better is because of the setting. Sure, a killer alien rampaging through the jungle can be interesting, but I'd much rather see how the conflict plays out in an urban landscape. Changing from the jungles of Central America to the sprawling city Los Angeles adds a greater sense of danger and collateral damage. Even better... it provides more prey for the Predator to attack.

More Predator Tech - The 'City Hunter' Predator in the sequel sports an increased amount of technology. The now common Smart Disc made its first appearance in this movie. The Predator's Bio-Mask had an increased range of scanning modes, making it easier to find his prey. This Predator also sported the deadly speargun, telescoping spear and the immensely painful netgun. That's a lot of ways to slaughter!

Gary Busey - Come on... Busey adds a certain je ne sais quoi to every film he graces. That wild-eyed, crazy bastard seems credible, no matter how nutty and outlandish he plays his characters. As Agent Keyes, Busey swings his cocky attitude throughout every scene he's in. He even manages to almost defeat the Predator with a really smart plan. Almost.

Bill Paxton - The other great acting addition to Predator 2 is undoubtedly seasoned performer Bill Paxton. Sure, his portrayal of Detective Lambert is brash and over-confident, but that's what we love about him. Eerily echoing PFC Hudson from Aliens, he holds out against the Predator for as long as he can... until his head and spinal column become a trophy for the alien warrior.

Expanded Predator Universe - The Predator mythos established with the first film is expanded upon greatly in the second. We see a little bit of the motivation for why he hunts. We see what kinds of tools the hunter uses. We even get to see what the Predator won't hunt (pregnant women). In the final act of the film, the Predator shows that it's not afraid to sacrifice a hand just to survive (and even does a little bit of funky field medicine in the process). Finally, the inside of the Predator's space ship is revealed! Plus, as icing on the cake, there are even MORE Predators that show up. Which leads me to...

The Xenomorph Skull - This is where the entangled Alien versus Predator concept all began. If you think about it, this is one of the first major American films to drop an easter egg BEFORE easter eggs were even a thing. Seeing that Xenomorph skull hanging in the Predator's ship was just really frickin' cool and sent fans everywhere into a total frenzy. Could the Aliens and Predators actually face off? Were the two species in the same shared fictional universe? Yep. Sweet.

Danny Glover Defeats the Predator - Whereas Dutch in Predator only managed to defeat the 'Jungle Hunter' because the creature committed suicide, Glover's Lieutenant Harrigan actually finishes the 'City Hunter' off in combat mano-a-mano. How? By stabbing that ugly monster with its own Smart Disc. That takes humongous balls!

Agree? Disagree? Share you feedback and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Funny Cereal Box Memes.

I went grocery shopping this afternoon. While perusing the breakfast food aisle, I was taken aback by how many hilarious and odd cereal boxes I saw. Some were marketed in a strange way. Others seemed to be food you wouldn't actually want to eat. Either way, these cereal boxes made for great comedy material. After snapping a few photos, I brought them home and created the following memes. Feel free to use or distribute them as you wish. Enjoy!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Nintendo Reveals A Brand New Pokémon -- Magearna!

The news broke late yesterday that Nintendo has revealed a brand new, never before seen Pokémon.

This is Magearna. It will premiere in the next Pokémon movie, which will be released later in 2016. Nintendo provided no further information about this mythical legendary, which they refer to as the Artificial Pokémon. There's also no details about how players will be able to acquire Magearna in game, but that leads to a great deal of speculation. Will Magearna be part of a new seventh generation of games? Or, will it be part of the long-rumored Pokémon Z? There's simply no way of knowing, so we'll all have to wait patiently and find out.

Just based upon the design, I would assume Magearna would be a Steel or Fairy type, or a combination of the two.

As more news develops, I'll provide it here.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Draw Something: Titmouse

I had so much fun drawing the giant crab last week that I decide to continue with the wildlife theme this Sunday. Here is the titmouse, which is a common guest in my backyard. They're such social, playful birds. I'm always pleased to see them.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Laqunah: Part I

On the pale rays of dawn's first light, there's a glimmer in the sky as the darkness retreats. Just beyond the trailing shroud existed a place outside of time. Unaffected by the normal rules of universal law, a shimmering city cast in onyx and stone rested upon the edge of a cliff. Below, the deepest pit of eternal nothingness, a never-ending pool of sadness where memories are forgotten. This was the city of happiness and horror, phantasms and fiends, friends and foes.

The last palisade holding back oblivion... Laqunah.

Along the perimeter of the city, nestled between jagged pillars of rock, was a wall. This fortification towered over the cobbled homes and shops below. Peering through the cloudy mist floating above the streets, the neon glow of signs flickered, advertising every which tonic, spell-work or service you could imagine. Creatures of all shapes and sorts bustled back and forth. Some moved on two legs, others on tentacles. A fair number of the residents shouldn't have be alive. Many others could only be considered half dead. The collective nightmares of mankind could barely describe half of those whom walked, crawled and flew across this sable dreamscape. And yet, not all whom lived in Laqunah were vile or deadly. Some would just as rather lend a helping hand than drink the blood of the innocent.

The wall surrounding the city existed in duality, much like those whom called Laqunah home. Not only did it protect those within, but it also kept them from getting out.

In the farthest corner of the city, along the edge teetering above the infinite abyss, sat a humble card shop. To the average person, one would assume that various greeting and birthday cards would be inside. This was not that kind of card shop, though. It was operated by a short, rather unimposing shard demon. Covered in bronze freckles on a carapace of cobalt scales, this stocky beast hovered behind his service counter toiling away on a cryptogram in the Laqunah Sentinel. Tapping his pointed finger against the paper, he simply couldn't determine the correct cipher to solve the puzzle.

A ringing bell announced an arrival to the extremely well lit shop, set ablaze with candles and various luminescent soul beacons. In walked a girl. Every bit the age of sixteen and bursting with excitement, she waved her left arm in the air and quickly launched upon the perplexed demon. Had she of possessed a right arm, she'd surely have been waving that one, too. Hugging the life out of the blue monstrosity, she squealed with joy.

“I got in Hultran, I got in!”

In the fervor of the moment, the newspaper had already been cast in the floor and trampled under hoof.

“That's wonderful Ova. It's not every day that a meager human is allowed to attend Persimmon.”

Dropping her book satchel in the floor, Ova made her way around the counter and into the rear of the building. The card shop also doubled as Hultran and Ova's residence. Passing through a spectral curtain, she darted to the kitchen and prepared a snack of gorven juice and grobbleberry toast. A bragger worm attempted to escape from the icebox, which Ova promptly kicked back inside. She couldn't have dinner escaping again.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Everything I Didn't Know About Pineapples.

I have a shameful admission to make. For the entirety of my life, I have assumed that pineapples grow on trees.

It's quite sad, really. Somehow, I never managed to check into the pineapple's growth cycle. Incorrectly, I assumed that pineapples grow on trees much like coconuts. Not once had I ever seen a pineapple growing wild in my thirty-three years, nor even a photo of a pineapple plant.

I'm such an ignoramus.

Out of a deep desire to correct my error and give the pineapple its due, I went into full research mode. Come to find out, the pineapple is quite the crafty fruit!

The pineapple is a perennial plant that grows on the ground. It can reach upwards of five feet tall, but is usually shorter and quite stocky. A bush of waxy leaves spread outwards from the base of the plant. When it comes time to flower, it grows a large stem from the center of the bush. Many hundreds of flowers blossom from the stem. As the flowers are formed and open, they eventually come together to create what we know as the pineapple fruit. Those tough prickers on the outside of a pineapple fruit are the former flowers. Over the course of nearly two years, a virgin plant will slowly mature and produce its first pineapple for consumption. After that, the process speeds up a bit, with successive pineapples being ready for harvesting in just over a year.

Most pineapple growers do their best to not let the flowers become pollinated during the growth cycle. Pollinated flowers obviously produce seeds, which can damage the inside of a pineapple fruit being grown for eating. More so, the preferred way to reproduce a pineapple plant is to use the sheered top of a harvested fruit. The top of a pineapple can be sliced off and made to root, much like any other plant cutting. From the cutting, a new pineapple plant will grow and mature.

Of note, the pineapple is a very special plant that possesses Crassulacean acid metabolism, commonly referred to as CAM photosynthesis. This is a process by which the pineapple adapted to survive in arid climates. The pineapple's stomata (pores in the surface of its leaves that control gas exchange) remain closed during the day and open at night to collect carbon dioxide, which is required for photosynthesis. Why do the stomata remain closed during the day? Well, this is a preventive measure to avoid Evapotranspiration, or the loss of water vapor through the stomata into the atmosphere. For a plant that lives in an arid climate, keeping its internal water supply is crucial for survival. Cacti and other succulents also employ CAM photosynthesis.

The pineapple truly is a marvelous fruit. It can reproduce in two different ways and survive in the harshest of climates. In all honesty, I'm almost glad to have realized my misconception. I learned so much and gained a great deal of respect for the pineapple!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Live365: A Post Mortem.

For nearly sixteen years, I've enjoyed the various radio broadcasters at, one of the internet's earliest and most diverse radio broadcasters. Unfortunately, that has all come to an end.

Thanks to new regulations regarding small and medium sized radio broadcasters, Live365 was forced to shut down permanently. The Copyright Royalty Board, which governs the licensing and legality of broadcasting copyrighted content, altered their rate schedule for the 2016-2020 cycle period. As such, the cost for the little guy to broadcast music became exorbitantly more expensive, largely an action viewed as a means to push out everyone but the biggest of broadcasting corporations. Due the increased rate, Live365's investors pulled the plug on the long-running broadcaster.

Live365 is now dead in the water. Their front page currently features a thank you message to all of their former users.

I lament the loss of Live365. Something of a relic from the early days of the internet, Live365 featured a plethora of custom radio stations playing music genres not normally heard on regular terrestrial radio. This is where I came to appreciate Darkwave, Gothic and Synth music in the early 2000's. Numerous Live365 broadcasters also created some great holiday-themed stations, both for Christmas and Halloween, that I returned to year after year. Sadly, the world of corporate music just made it impossible for Live365 to continue on. So many great stations have been lost, featuring under-the-radar and largely undiscovered musicians with a massive amount of talent. Perhaps this is a sign of the evolving times, where individual entrepreneurs and broadcasters are being edged out.. forced to abandon what they so desperately cherish, all for the sake of art.

Live365, you will be missed.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

My Top Six Favorite Generation III Pokémon.

I've previously reported on my top six favorite Generation I and Generation II Pokémon. With every new generation of Pocket Monsters to choose from, there's always those six standout creatures that really catch my attention. And now, I present to you my top six favorite Generation III Pokémon!

6. Flygon - An unsuspecting Ground and Dragon type, Flygon is easily underestimated by your opponent. Sure, Flygon is small and not what your typical Dragon type looks like, but don't let that fool you. Having the Levitate ability automatically shields it from Ground type attacks. With access to moves like Dragon Rush and Draco Meteor, you can easily devastate an opponent that's weak to Dragon type moves. Flygon's stats are well-rounded and it's reasonably fast, too!

5. Swellow - Another zippy, super fast Pokémon that an opponent might scoff at... but that's their own problem to deal with. Swellow has a high Speed stat and a fair amount of Strength, making it perfect for dealing damage quickly to an opponent with low defense. I prefer using moves like Sky Attack, Boomburst and Fly (which serves a dual attack/transportation purpose).

4. Torkoal - Finally, a Fire type Pokémon that I can get behind! Torkoal has a ridiculous amount of Defense and can usually handle any sort of physical attack (unless it's Water, Rock or Ground type). Torkoal is great for stone-walling a striker opponent. Plus, it's nice to have a Fire-based attacker with access to moves like Inferno and Heat Wave. For added damage, use a 1-2 combo like Facade with Will-O-Wisp! Your opponent will be left begging for a cool drink of water when you're done with them!

3. Zangoose - This Pokémon is deadly in the right hands. Though only a lowly Normal type, Zangoose can dish out some massive damage with the correct move set, thanks largely to its relatively high Attack and Speed stats. I generally employ moves like Counter, Sword Dance and Crush Claw to bring an opponent down. Zangoose is a lethal assassin, given the chance!

2. Seviper - Poison is my favorite Pokémon type, so it's no surprise that Seviper is on this list. With high Attack and Special Attack stats, Seviper is readily equipped to launch pretty much any offensive maneuver successfully. I like to use the classic Toxic / Venoshock move combo. Along with moves like Gastro Acid and Haze, Seviper can immediately reset the course of a battle and even the playing field. Seviper is simply awesome!

1. Exploud - When I first played through Pokémon Sapphire in 2003, Exploud was my strongest and most heavily used Pokémon. It seemed like nothing could stop this Normal type terror! That stands for good reason -- Exploud has moderately high Attack and Special Attack stats and a lot of hit points. Boomburst is a powerful attack that can deal incredible amounts of damage. Because of its high HP total, don't shy away from using the Rest / Sleep Talk combo to deal extra damage while on the mend. Exploud is a great wall that can outlast your opponent if necessary. It also has the ability to learn a lot of TM and HM moves, making it easily customizable to whatever task you require of Exploud. This Pokémon is a durable and versatile trooper!