August 10, 2017 | In: Uncategorized

Heeeey dummy….

Preferably, all of you who are familiar with the reference in the title will have heard that in the voice of Chewie from The Mana Pool. While I admit that’s probably a reeeeally small overlap, I’m hoping there’s a few of you.


Lately, I’ve been attempting to work on my cooking technique. I made a fresh General Tso sauce from scratch (with ingredients to make more) recently that turned out great, and have two lists to which I keep adding: techniques to practice, and specific recipes to make. With all of the experimenting in my head, I decided to go for something a bit more wallet-friendly today – a favorite of mine, chili.


The last time I made chili, it was when I was eating ketogenic, and used canned black soy beans instead of kidney beans. As such, I didn’t have to cook them long, and didn’t really have to soak them at all. Today, I am not eating low-carb/high fat, and made a big mistake in the process of making my chili…. forgetting to soak kidney beans overnight before using them. Insert the title of this post here.


So, I figured I’d make a quick blog post documenting my “duh” moment while I’m waiting for an attempted quick-soak to fix it, and enjoying some Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. I hope anyone reading this is well, and hey, it’s a blog post that’s more recent than “two years”!

I haven’t written in… two years? Almost to the day?

Wow. I knew it had been a while, but once I actually restored the site, I was reminded just how long it had been. There’s been a lot of change over the years. A relationship started and failed, I quit working at “Murphy’s” (the nickname for my old workplace, 7-Eleven) and started working at a local grocery store, and hey, I have a car!

She needs a lot of work, but I can get to and from work, and that’s what matters. It’s a 1988 Toyota Camry, which means that I’m driving a car almost as old as I am.

My free time is bouncing between volunteering at my LGS when I can, and hanging out with friends outside of there. There are upsides and downsides to the volunteering there, which mainly includes the fact that my customers don’t leave, unlike 7-Eleven and the grocery store deli that I work in now. Still, it gives me an excuse to play Magic with people outside of my normal group when I’m not busy helping customers.


I’m not going to try and promise that I’ll actually post here more frequently, but it is the intention that I have. For the time being, I’m (sort of) still on Twitter (@justinbarlow), and we’ll see how the whole “trying to do this again” thing works.

“Everyone we know is dead, and I’m happy for them, ’cause we’re still here.”

-Harley Poe “Still Here”

So… it’s been a while. While I’d like to say that there are Big Important Reasons, there’s really only one reason. I’ve wanted to blog and write, but tire of shouting pointlessly into the æther — instead, I want to write more, but have things to say, instead of blogging just for the sake of blogging.

I do have a few unfinished Dungeon Delving posts saved on here, I just haven’t come up with endings for them that will make me satisfied with them. Instead, I’ve been putting together the 2015 Summer Writing Challenge, where I’ve gathered writer friends to have a miniature version of National Novel Writing Month — instead of 30 days to write 50,000 words, it’s 31 days to write 20,000 words. It doesn’t seem like much less, but it’s almost a third of the number of words per day. So far, there are nine of us participating, but let me know if you are interested! There are no rules beyond the word limit, and having somewhere online (tumblr, a blog, etc) to put them!

Aside from that, it’s been life as usual: work, sleep, and spending time with friends somewhere inbetween. The other big change is that I’m working on going back to college this fall or winter quarter, to finally get a degree. I’m sure I’ll toss out boring updates on that over time. =P

That’s all I wanted to share in this short post today. I won’t promise to update more, but I’m going to try to have interesting content more often. And the SWC group shaming each other in to writing should make it pretty easy to hold myself accountable next month!



Welcome to Dungeon Delving Tuesdays! Every Tuesday, I open up the D&D 4E character creator, click “Quick Character”, and write a story featuring the random character with which it provides me! Today’s story features Corrin, Halfling Bard!



Corrin slammed his tankard of ale down on to the table, not waiting for a reply before he grabbed his lute and walked up to the open floor area. Sure, he was getting a little drunk, but hey, who didn’t love a drunk bard?

He started strumming idly, making sure everything sounded right before launching in to a song. Most of the tavern’s patrons had been ignoring him despite how much louder he’d gotten with each drink, but now a few were beginning to pay attention. As he played, he hummed along with the first few chords, infusing magic in to the music, drawing in their attention.

After a few bars of introductory music, he began singing, telling the tale of a fleet-footed messenger who, the legends told, had tried outrunning an entire army to get information to his king. The song had an open ending, not revealing if he survived, because that’s how Corrin felt like telling it tonight. The beauty of music was that he could change it as he liked. People seemed to enjoy it no matter how he told the story.

By the end of the first song, he had the attention of over half of the bar, and a few people had tossed some silver and some copper at his feet. His drinks for the night were definitely paid for by now, so he launched in to another song. This time, it was an exciting tale of a boat merchant evading authorities, carrying products that the prudish elves had banned in to their homeland of Caelthyr. This one definitely ended abruptly, with the boat merchant crashing in to the rocks, but still leaving the listener with a sense of the merchant’s victory.

Corrin wasn’t like a lot of bards. His magic wasn’t the kind that would help him tackle dragons, kill the undead, or even fight off the local guard. At best, he was a distraction, which was why he spent time in taverns and inns. His magic allowed him to tell stories, vividly enough that the listener not only heard the song, but saw the story unfold as soon as they closed their eyes. As such, a lot of people in his audiences watched him, eyes closed, only opening them between songs, awestruck and very generous with their money.

One last song, before a break to drink and carouse with some of his fellow tavern patrons. The song was always a hit, telling the crowd of a mighty beast that devoured everything that came near its waters, and that had supposedly been the downfall of many pirates and ships of legends and years past. At the end, the story told that Corrin himself was lying the whole time, as the song’s version of him had started spreading those stories to keep a mostly-harmless creature safe. By the end, a few people had shed a few tears, and more were applauding.

Sure, he may not be much use in a fight, but as he scooped up the money he’d earned so far, ready to earn more after a few drinks, Corrin didn’t care. He was damned good at making money.



Welcome to Dungeon Delving Tuesdays! Every Tuesday, I open up the D&D 4E character creator, click “Quick Character”, and write a story featuring the random character with which it provides me! Today’s story features Yog, Changeling Storm Sorcerer!


The winds whipped around him as he hovered, feeling the rain pelt his face. This was truly the place where he could escape from it all — each stinging drop washing away the scorn of society and the pain of his past.

Yog had Awakened during his torture at the hands of a demented wizard. He’d not known of any magics before then, but something that the wizard did to him had unleashed a furious storm. That had been the first time he’d killed, a bolt of intense lightning shooting from his core, striking the wizard with such force that he’d been thrown against the wall and ripped in half.

Since then, he’d learned of his sorcery, something that came innate and was passed down family lines. He’d learned to control it, use it to help. He would travel, finding places devoid of water, and attempt to help by bringing them a storm. Sometimes, it worked. Other times, the storm came too strong, and the villagers blamed it on the new person, chasing him out at the ends of their weapons.

The storms, though… They never sent him away. They were his constant companion, and hovering high above the ground, in the center of them, he felt understood. Oftentimes, it felt like Kord had sent them to him. He had called them, and the Stormfather had answered. There were villages that did not survive the storms that were brought, but that was the nature of them. A gentle rain could help struggling crops, but the howling winds and searing lightning could devastate just as easily. Such was the nature of storms.

Yog closed his eyes, relaxing his control over his hovering, letting the winds of the storm buffet him to and fro. He trusted that the Stormfather would see him safely to his next attempt to help. It was not up to Yog, however, what storm would follow him.

After what seemed like minutes to him, but must have been longer, he opened his eyes. The area around him was vastly different and, as he settled himself to the ground gently, he could see a large settlement in the distance. He began to walk that way, darkening his skin tone and changing his features, pulling his cloak’s hood up around his head. He brushed a strand of now-black hair out of his face, ready to be the same man he always was: a lost traveler, a patron saint of storms. Different faces every time, but always the same man.

Kord send that these people were deserving of his help. That they were understanding of his gifts.


I’ve never written a changeling or a sorcerer before! I had a lot of fun with this one, but I’m hoping for something with a bit of levity next week. These will get boring if they’re always serious!

You might have noticed — and by “you”, I mean the two people that still read this blog — that I’ve been a bit stalled. And by “a bit stalled”, I mean that I haven’t posted in two months. Part of that is because of work and not making time to blog, and part of it is because I’ve wanted to say things, but haven’t been able to put them in to words. Then, when I do, they feel hollow and like a pointless “blogging just to put something out there” post. And nobody likes those.

So I’m introducing something to force me to write more, as I’ve been struggling with that lately. It is Dungeon Delving Tuesdays, and the rules are simple: I quickly build a D&D character, and then tell a short story with them! Maybe some characters will come back, and maybe some will die. The point is, it should be a fun writing exercise, and will be different each time!


Today’s character is Harbek, Dwarven Cleric!


I’ve never understood why people fear death.

As with everything, there must be an end.

Perhaps that was why I was drawn to the service of Her, the one who most identify as The Raven Queen. The unenlightened view her as an evil deity, simply because she is the goddess of death. But, everything ends. Everything dies. Day turns to night, summer turns to autumn and winter, life turns to death.

These are my thoughts, as my axe cleaves through a guard’s shoulder. My ally, Therin, barely moved out of the way of another attack. We were on a quest to end the unnaturally extended life of a dark creature. A lich, as She had told me, when last I prayed. Someone who was once very mortal, and attempted to shake off the chains of fate through dark magics. She had given me this mission, and if for nothing else than to appease Her, we would succeed or die trying.

I quietly say a prayer to Her, asking that She guide my weapon and those of my party. I may not fear death, but they do. And in death, we cannot put an end to those who try to usurp my mistress’ power over the end.

“Come, Therin! We have an opening to the fortress,” shouted Tayen-kal, our bard. She is a competent fighter, but her true strength is in the magic behind her music. “We must go now! Harbek, Darett, this is our chance!”

As we enter the fortress, slicing and swinging through those that resist, I say prayers for them, as well. In all likelihood, these men are not truly evil. They serve an evil master, and I pray that Her divine wisdom sees them sent to the afterlife that they deserve.

Darett, seen as barbaric by those unacquainted — and by some only familiar with his warhammer — was the first one in the chamber of Yaserun, the lich we’d been tasked with ending. He kicked in the door, and was quickly knocked off his feet, as the creature sent a bolt of green energy at him. Darett lived, for now.


And there’s the first one! I wanted to do two things with this: write it “stream-of-consciousness” style, and write it in the first person perspective. Neither are things that I do often, but I feel good about it. I want to know more of what happens with Darett, Therin, Tayen-kal, and Harbek. Do you?

… and found yourself in a nerdy corner of this blog! Welcome to the first post of the ongoing D&D 5th Edition saga!

As with most things that I do, this one started out with me half-assing things because I wasn’t prepared. The plan was “build D&D characters, then play GURPS”. That plan didn’t exactly work out, because Steev realized that all of us — himself included — had forgotten how to play GURPS. So, with only a vague idea of what I wanted to do, I started the world of this campaign.

Our cast of characters starts with Seaward. She is a lightfoot halfling, which makes her dexterous and perfect for her chosen career path as a rogue. She’s of middle age for a halfling, about 150 years old, but one of those stately women that tends to draw the eyes of those around her. Seaward definitely has an agenda, but nobody is entirely sure what that is.

Next to be introduced was Roiben, a Tiefling warlock, who has a pact with a Great Old One, one of the powerful forgotten entities of the universe. Roiben is a tall man, made taller by his horns, and also quite attractive. Very little has been revealed about Roiben beyond his interest in Seaward, as he volunteered half of his share from their first quest to get Seaward to join the group.

Following Roiben was Oskar, the hill dwarf druid. The hill dwarves are more peaceful than their mountain-dwelling cousins, who resent them for it. Oskar is a beer-brewer with some skill, but has a tendency to over-promise and under-perform. He has a history as more of a hermit than a city-dweller, but has been dragged in to this group by making promises he couldn’t keep to Seaward.

The other dwarf in the group, Kildrak, might be one of the only mountain dwarves who doesn’t hate Oskar — and that has a lot to do with the quality of his beer, when he actually gets it made. He has a dark past in the Dwarf-Orc war five years ago, and still has a tendency to be less-than-reasonable around Orcs.

Lastly, we have “Wally da Warforged Wizard”, another group member who is more of an outlander. Very little has been revealed about Wally, as he has a penchant for keeping secrets.


And that’s the group so far! I would go a bit more in-depth on their journey so far, but in the first session, they didn’t actually leave town. Sure, Seaward hired a hooker and then killed her in his room at the inn, but most of the first session involved the characters meeting each other and learning a bit about what Falcrest has to offer.

Next session (tonight!): Journey to Crell Keep! The lord mayor of Falcrest has offered a 500 GP reward, as well as a share of whatever loot they find, to the person or group willing to brave Crell Keep, find out if the rumors of a dragon are true, and slay it if they are. Stay tuned!



Summary:A Small Indiscretion fixes an unflinching eye on the power of desire and the danger of obsession as it unfolds the story of one woman’s reckoning with a youthful mistake.

At nineteen, Annie Black trades a bleak future in her washed-out hometown for a London winter of drinking to oblivion and yearning for deliverance. Some two decades later, she is married to a good man and settled in San Francisco, with a son and two daughters and a successful career designing artistic interior lights. One June morning, a photograph arrives in her mailbox, igniting an old longing and setting off a chain of events that rock the foundations of her marriage and threaten to overturn her family’s hard-won happiness.”


A while back, I signed up to do a book review for a book that I knew almost nothing about at the time. The idea was to get a bit out of my comfort zone, read something that I might like from a new author, and maybe start doing this sort of thing more regularly.

Good news, everyone! I did get out of my comfort zone and read something from a new author. The bad news is that I didn’t really care for the novel, which is no fault of Mrs. Ellison — I just don’t think that I’m the target audience for this novel, as the Amazon and Goodreads reviews for this novel are very positive. The author shows the ability to craft a solid story, albeit a bit predictable at points and a bit meandering at one or two other points.

The novel is written from a first person perspective, which can be hit or miss for me anyway, as an open letter to the main character’s son. There is some back and forth between her past in London and her “small indiscretion”, and her current life in San Francisco with her initially estranged husband. It works as the open letter format, describing to her son the events immediately following his car accident and continuing, eventually revealing that he had taken off after recovering, which is part of what seemed to provoke the letter.

Some people talk about how they couldn’t put it down, but for me, it was a struggle to get through. It was well-paced, but a bit too wordy in some parts, going too flowery on the descriptions of some aspects and characters. Still, it isn’t a bad book, and I’ve already given it to someone who loves this sort of novel, and she is enjoying it so far.

Final opinion: I’d give this book a B-/C+, because while it is an example of good writing, it is just not to my tastes. However, I hope it sells well and that Ellison keeps writing, because in a sea of mediocre writers, it is refreshing to see someone who can actually write getting published.

I do encourage you all to check out Ellison’s website, which can be found at and decide for yourself what you think of her, and of the book. While you do that, I’m going to see if any fantasy or sci-fi books want to send me a copy to read, because that’s more like my thing.

If you want to buy this book, and have Amazon kick a little bit my way, visit this link: A Small Indiscretion by Jan Ellison. The book comes out on January 20th, and as always, Amazon’s price is lower than the list price.



(Disclaimer: While I am being compensated for this post, the opinions are my own. I mean, if I was being paid to write a false opinion, I probably would’ve been far more enamored in this post. :P)

Okay, so maybe I have been back from Alaska for over a month now.
Maybe I have been slacking off on blogging because I went back to work almost immediately.
And maybe, just maybe I’ve been trying to come up with content before I started blogging again.

“. . . What?”

That was the eagle outside of B-212, the room where I spent most of my five months in Dutch Harbor. He was there a few times, and it was pretty cool until I realized that they were like seagulls are down here. Seriously, there were a bunch of bald eagles, and it seemed like the first month or so that I was there, I’d go to my room after hanging out with the guys and see an eagle somewhere on the second floor of B-building.

I figured, over a month after being asked about pictures, that I’d finally put some of them up. There will be an Imgur gallery for all of them, but to keep myself true to this post’s title, this one will be picture heavy. And I’ll some brief over-view of the things that happened up there.


Sometimes, you get paid to do stupid things, even when your boss isn’t aware of it. Josh and I were freezer-breaking partners, and our job was to take metal pans full of fish out of plate freezers and toss them on to a conveyor. One time, they sent us over to the CO2 freezers, which were covered in CO2 “snow”. So when Josh and I were waiting for everyone else to get over there because we’d finished a freezer and they were still casing it up, he started making a “snow” ball. It got pretty big, and then our production lead came over, laughed, and told us to make it bigger. Josh tossed the freezer and I went behind it so the cameras couldn’t see me as I made this 10+ pound beauty.


This was another stupid thing that I got paid to do. When pollock season was done, and work slowed down because we were waiting for crab, cod, halibut, and whatever else would come in, we would get bored when we actually had work come in and it went too slow. So, as the ice was being chipped off by the baskets of halibut we were glazing and casing, I made a snowball. After that, another snowball. As soon as the other guys realized what I was doing, they wanted to help. Someone grabbed a pair of discarded crab claws and we broke off pieces to be the arms, grabbed some small rocks for the eyes, and a ribbon around his neck.

Did we want to build a snowman? Absolutely.


This was my favorite thing that we did during our down time. One day where we didn’t have work, Tony and I bumped in to Rowan and found out that a group was headed to “Bunker Hill”, which is what it sounds like – a big hill with World War II bunkers. So, we joined them in the cab going there to save daylight, and then hiked from the bottom up! This was probably a half hour or more later, before a few of us decided to hop in to the bunker and see what it’s like. The answer? Lots of broken beer bottles, empty beer cans, and graffiti. Apparently it is the popular drinking place.

Lastly, here is the link to the whole Imgur album, and I leave you with this:


(Also known as Tony and I both taking a picture of Rowan on top of one of the smaller bunkers)

It’s the first Wednesday of the month, and that means one thing: my first time jumping in to the Insecure Writers Support Group blogring!

IWSG is, quoting the site, “To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!”

And for me, it’s the Blank Page. I’m not alone in having that problem, but I can go from feeling super creative when I’m not able to write (showering, traveling, working, or anything like that) to a complete blank as soon as I have the paper and pen (or pencil) in front of me. Hell, it’s even the reason that I am having a late start with my National Novel Writing Month attempt for this year…. Well, that, and dealing with crab at work.

I’ve always struggled with the blank page. Forcing creativity when I have that Blank Page stall always feels fake, and I usually end up hating what I’m writing before it’s even done. Right now, off to my side, is a notebook that I bought specifically for NaNoWriMo. I’m going to take some NaNo advice and just WRITE. If you, like me, have Blank Page Stall… GRAB THE PEN (or pencil, or laptop, whatever) AND WRITE. Or give me a better solution to dealing with this problem.

About The Author

Writer, blogger, and TV reviewer. Ketogenic eater, heathen, and king of jokes that only make me laugh. Click the picture for more!