Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Are you ready for Adventure?

Welcome back to the Conversation! Today I am joined by Kristin Brumley one of the talented folks behind Basic Adventuring 101.  Thank you for joining us today Kristin.    

You’re very welcome! Thank you for having me.

Basic Adventuring 101 is a webseries with an interesting premise, would you care to tell us about it?

Basic Adventuring 101 is a fictional webseries that features a group of Live Action Role Players.  It is done in a positive way that represents LARPing the way we feel is accurate and appealing! We follow the story of a new LARPer, Karen, and a hilarious adventuring team that is faced with saving their kingdom when Karen accidently releases a terrifying evil from a mysterious treasure box.

You can watch our pilot episode here.

As a long time supporter of all things roleplaying and acting I have a natural curiosity about LARPing, could you tell us a bit about LARPing?  

LARPing stands for Live Action Role Playing, and it’s a type of game where you act out a character that you have created. It’s really a hobby that involves many different interests--from acting and role play to combat, puzzle solving, costuming, and storytelling.  

Your campaign says that you want to “produce it in a way that makes our fellow LARPers proud to be called LARPers.”  What do you mean by that?  Is there a negative stereotype to LARPing and why do you think that is?

I feel that in the movies and TV-shows I’ve seen featuring LARPers, we’re often made out to be something we’re not.  Socially inept psychopaths and drug addicts isn’t a pretty picture when trying to convince new people to try a game.  I like to think of LARPers as extremely intelligent and creative people who are courageous enough to do something they love, despite the fact that it isn’t “normal.”

I know very few people who have given LARP an honest chance and came away from it disappointed. If more people were willing to play I think they’d find that they like the game just as much as we do! The trick is trying to convince people to make that step--which means fighting the stereotypes that exist because we’re part of the minority.  Without experiencing LARP in person it can often be misunderstood. Plus, I think Hollywood likes the idea of weirdos in the woods. They believe it’s more interesting than the reality.

I live life by example.  Showing people what makes LARP incredibly fun by creating a webseries is my way of doing that.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

TWEAK your dish washing routine

(Editor’s Note, English is not the first language of the interviewees so answers have been edited slightly for understandability.)  

Welcome back to the Conversation!  Today I’m joined from the other side of the planet by Nitzan Shafat and Aviv Rozenfeld in Israel to talk about a wonderfully simple product called TWEAK.  Thank you for joining us today good sirs.  

Thank you for writing about us.

They day I discovered TWEAK I had just finished dealing with a backed up kitchen sink due to it not having a garbage disposal so of course your product spoke to me.  Would you tell my readers all about it?

We invented Tweak just because of what you just described. We all hate to dispose of leftovers from the sink or hairs from the bathtub and Tweak allows you to do so easily and gracefully.    

What gave you the idea of making a squeezable strainer system that also doubles as a way of ejecting the leftovers out of it and into the garbage?  

We are both industrial designers, and during our studies we got a design brief, to design something to deal with the kitchen garbage.

I (Nitzan) always hate cleaning the sink and that time I lived with a roommate, which made the task even more unpleasant, so immediately I knew I was focusing on trying to solve this nasty problem I lived with daily. After few mockups, I came up with the flexibility concept and everybody liked it so we focused in on developing it to a nice looking product, that worked perfectly. We got a lot of help from Ani Dwilanski (product designer as well) in the design process, and she was the one who thought about doing the Tub-Tweak (woman input). We think it came out very well.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Strong Happy Healthy Free

Welcome back to the Conversation!  Today I am joined by Aaron Trumm who is here to talk about his 4th rap/rock/fusion album, Strong Happy Healthy Free.  Thank you for joining us today Aaron!

Thanks for having me!  I’m honored.

This looks like it’s going to be a personal kind of interview so why don’t we start off by telling us a bit about yourself there Aaron?  When did you start singing and what got you into rap/rock fusion?

It’s a long road!  I was break-dancing and listening to hip-hop from day 1 of rap (well I was probably 6 months behind the curve since I lived in Taos, NM), as well as all the standard rock’n’roll of the time,  plus my dad was always playing old country and western swing stuff.  So the fusion of what I do is from how I grew up.  I started making pause loop tapes and bad rap around 1989 (when I was 14) and part of the reason I was rapping was because I was afraid to sing!  Singing was too intimate for me.  Like pulling my pants down in front of everyone.  It’s still like pulling my pants down, I just down care as much about being pantsed.  I got into slam poetry for similar reasons - rapping on stage with beats or a band seemed more difficult to pull off, whereas slam was “just talking”.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Just talking on stage with no help and no music, pouring your heart out - that’s not only like pulling your pants down, it’s like taking every stitch of clothes off, plus your skin, and revealing to everyone the color and size of your intestines.

Not only were you born with Cystic Fibrosis and all that entails, but you nearly died quite recently, yet you say these are good things?  Why is that?  What have you learned with your chat with the reaper that you’ve put into your music?  

Well first of all I’ve been chatting with the reaper for a long long time.  When I was a kid, life expectancy in CF was about 20 years.  I was very much not interested in that.  I have a song on my last record, “Bleed”, which I may even cover in a completely different way on this record (I like to do that), which in one part goes:

“but I guess it’s not too late to make amends, and maybe we can still be friends… Just as long as you understand I don’t wanna come with you where you’re going”

The point is, I tried to make a deal with death.  I wouldn’t bad mouth him or have a hatred for him, hell I might even stop running from him, but I had no intention of going with him yet.  Death seems to have been cool with that agreement so far.

In 2013, though, I thought maybe the term of our deal would be up - my lungs tanked hard and I spent six months in and out of hospitals, and quite a few evenings it was not certain I’d make the night.  Then I got this double lung transplant and almost as soon as I woke up I realized I had wanted it.  I was tired of living with the limitation of bad lungs.  I’d done a lot with that - played ice hockey at two colleges, martial arts all my life, 4 sport athlete in high school, and performing all over the country - but I wanted to be better.  Now I don’t have a limitation in my lungs.  I breathe as well as anyone.  Without even practicing for a year, I could do most of the raps on this new record without even trying, whereas before it was a real trick to get through them with any breath.

I could be pissed off that I had the limitation in the first place, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little, but there’s always multiple ways to see something.  The Christians say “God works in mysterious ways”, Zen has the story of the father who keeps having things happen and when someone says it’s good or bad he says “maybe”.  It’s even becoming a cliche Facebook trend now to say life doesn’t have its own meaning other than what we put on it.  It was not fun to have the reaper come and renegotiate our deal, I admit.  But now I feel lucky, grateful and frankly, I don’t think I could have learned certain things like how to deal with pain and how to relate beautifully to things and people and what it really means that we aren’t in this alone, without that experience.

Plus now I breathe BETTER than most people and I feel like a badass with a bunch of wicked scars!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Hollywood Home of Science Fiction

Welcome back to the Conversation!  Today I am once again joined by Huston Huddleston who has returned to both Kickstarter and the Conversation to talk about his proposed Hollywood Sci-Fi Museum.  Thanks for coming back Huston!

Absolute pleasure and glad I’m actually alive and here to talk about something that’s so meaningful to me, and to others.

When last we spoke it was October of 2012 and you had raised an impressive $68,611 dollars to restore the Enterprise D’s bridge.  What have you been doing since then and how has that restoration project gone?  

A lot and all over the place. The 68k we raised was only ¼ of the money we needed to restore the entire bridge, but more importantly, our original plan of touring the bridge to other museums proved not legally possible by the rights owner of Star Trek. Which (as we say in our video) left us with very few options, and not enough money, and no big companies really caring about our “Bridge Restoration”. So after taking the chairs and computers of our Bridge to 22 conventions around the USA, we had to create a new plan, creating our OWN Science Fiction Museum in the heart of Hollywood.

After all of that you’ve returned to Kickstarter to create a Sci-Fi Museum in Hollywood.  Which begs the question, why isn’t there already a science fiction museum in Hollywood?  

A lot of reasons. We have a board of directors that is made up of Hollywood and sci-fi geniuses, Ronald D. Moore, Rick Sternbach, Andrew Probert, David Gerrold to name a few, and we learned from them, and from their experiences with Star Trek The Experience in Las Vegas among others. There is no bigger way to fail in this day and age than creating a static museum of memorabilia that has no interactivity. Hollywood has tried numerous times throughout the years and always failed. Our Hollywood Sci Fi Museum is nonprofit and interactive AND educational, teaching real space and science through science fiction. That’s the unique part, and studios love what we’re doing because science fiction is the most successful genre in films.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Buckle My Swash it's The Queen's Cavaliers!

Welcome back to the Conversation!  Today I am joined by Caoimhe Ora Snow who is joining us to talk to us about her “Baroque, Clockpunk Tabletop Fantasy Roleplaying Game” The Queen’s Cavaliers.  Thank you for joining us today Caoimhe.  

Hi, thanks James! I’m Caoimhe -- that’s pronounced “Keeva,” it’s Gaelic -- and I’ve been playing and running roleplaying games for years, ever since I was around 11 years old. So that was like 35 years ago. Egads! I’m getting old.

Now with a tagline of “Go for Baroque” I have to imagine your game has something to do with the 1600’s.  Would you care to tell us about The Queen’s Cavaliers?  

Yes indeed! The Queen’s Cavaliers is set in an alternate version of the 17th Century, in a France analogue; as a Cavalier, you are a brave (or foolhardy) swashbuckler who fights for glory, pride, and the honor of the Queen!

One of the goals we had for the background of The Queen’s Cavaliers was to be explicitly more inclusive than either the real world or the works of Alexandre Dumas. While there were a few people of color and women among historical swordfighters of the era, we wanted something more diverse than a few scattered examples here and here -- we want diverse characters to be the rule, not the exception.

Well you seem to have struck a chord with the community as you’ve already blown past your $4,000 goal, well done!  Do you think the theme and recent increased popularity in shows like The Musketeers has helped your cause?  

Oh, I love that show -- especially that they chose to make Porthos a mixed-raced black man as an homage to Dumas, who was himself a mixed-race black man.

Certainly the BBC’s show and other media haven’t hurt the demand for good swashbuckling games. I think there’s something awesome about not just the swordfighting but also the general look and attitude that draws us to a Musketeer style of entertainment.

Lets get a bit into the nuts and bolts here,  you’re using a dice pool based system for TQC,  what advantage does this mechanic give your system versus more all purpose game systems like FATE and GURPS?  

TQC’s system is built specifically to address the type of action you see in swashbuckling movies. It’s not a fencing simulator -- there are good examples of those already in RPGs, card games, and so on -- but one that takes a broader look at swordfighting exchanges and tries to capture the back and forth rhythm of a handful of heroes taking on a score of guardsmen and then their skilled captain.

Rolls in TQC are made as opposed dice pools, where you add together the highest rolls in your pool (similar, but not identical, to Cortex Plus) and compare them with your opponent’s results. The winner then earns style points which can be spent on a “menu” to purchase results, such as disarming your foe, gaining an advantage in combat, or just stabbing someone.

Monday, May 12, 2014

In Space No One Can Hear You Roll Dice...

Welcome back to the Conversation!  Today we look into the darkness of space with Ivan Norman from Hunters Books.  Thank you for joining us today Ivan!

Hey man! Yeah thanks for inviting me! I’m happy you got a chance to look at what we’re doing...

Your project Outbreak: Deep Space just begs the use of the quote, “In space, no one can hear you scream.”  Would you be so kind as to describe what Outbreak is and why my readers should be interested?  

Absolutely, Outbreak: Deep Space is the first stand alone successor to Outbreak: Undead and allows you to explore the horrors of Sci-Fi Survival horror using a unique system that favors all the great elements that come with the genre. Scarcity, Confusion, Overwhelming odds, and the knowledge that Terror could be around every corner.

How does Outbreak: Deep Space relate to your previous project Outbreak: Undead?  

Outbreak: Undead was the Zombie Survival Simulation RPG that we put together back in 2010 and has gone to win several awards and really establish itself in the genre as the best way to play the Realism and Reality route of the Zombie Genre. We like to say it’s the “best way for you to SAFELY simulate any kind of zombie Apocalypse Scenario, under any circumstances you want, with any kind of Zombies that you want, to the degree of realism that we provide you with a 40 Q personality test that allows you to play YOURSELF as a character.”

Most people don’t make it, it’s a lot of fun.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Useful Solar Power for Everyone

Welcome back to the Conversation!  Today I am pleased to be joined by Harold Tan who is here to talk to us about his invention the SunJack® Solar Charger.  Thank you for joining us today Harold.

Thanks for having me!

SunJack at first just looks like another portable solar panel USB charging system like I’ve seen at ThinkGeek for years.  What makes SunJack different and why should people take notice?  

Solar panels have been around for years - and are not certainly not new.  The difference that we bring to the table is the amount of power you get out of our panels.  The ThinkGeek solar charger is only 2.5 Watts, and our solar panels are 14 and 20 Watts.  “Watt” does this mean?  If you look at a standard Apple wall charger (http://store.apple.com/us/iphone/iphone-accessories/power), you'll see that the small plug is 5 Watts, and the large plug is 12 Watts. The 2.5 Watt panel would take twice as long to charge an iPhone as a standard 5 Watt wall plug, and would have no hope of charging an iPad in any reasonable time.  Many solar chargers on the market are gimmicks and toys - they would take an unreasonably long time to charge your mobile device (especially if it isn’t in direct sun).  The SunJack has so much power, than even if conditions aren’t optimal, it’ll continue to charge.  People should take notice of our charger, because if they really want their devices powered, “size matters”.

Power all your adventures with up to 20 Watts of solar - SIZE MATTERS!
Most of my experience with solar panels are in non-terrestrial uses, how are you seeing folks using your beta versions of these panels?  What are some of the most interesting uses you’ve heard of?  Will I be able to trickle charge larger batteries like my car or motorcycle with them?

Interesting!  I’d love to hear (and learn more about) your non-terrestrial uses!  

Our most common sociographics are:
* Camping
* Disaster Prep
* Travelling

One of the most interesting uses I’ve heard is with trickle charging, which segways nicely into our next question - whether you can trickle charger larger batteries.  It’s an interesting concept, kinda like a lightweight fighting in a middleweight division.

Currently the SunJack is optimized for USB charging, however we are working on a model which will be able to trickle charge via a 12V output.  So no, a car or motorcycle battery can’t be trickle charged right now.