Friday August 22, 2014

Note: At the turn of the 20th century much fuss was made over whether the new century was to begin when all the nines rolled to zeroes (1999 to 2000) or when the leading zero became a one (2000 to 2001.) Those in the "begins with one" camp noted that people don't start counting at zero, and the first century began with the year 1, not the year 0. Those in the "begins with zero" camp noted that the 1999 to 2000 boundary was when all the big parties were actually scheduled.

Handily, astronomers had been starting centuries at the zero for decades, including the first century, which stole 1 BC from the BCE, and turned it into 0 CE. Then they just converted BC dates on the fly by treating BC as an operator that meant "subtract one, and then flip the sign." The year 2 BC became the year -1. 

The upshot of all this was that by the year 2100, people who counted centuries like astronomers got invited to New Year's Eve parties, and people who decided to wait a year missed out, and spent that evening repairing the inexplicably broken clocks on their baked-enamel, Retrappliance brand toaster ovens.


GenCon Indy 2014

This was probably my best-ever year at GenCon Indy. With bullets:

  • The Wallrike scooped me up at the airport, saving me cab fare, helping me sort out a housing snafu, and basically being excellent company.
  • The Kokomo Irregulars had the booth completely loaded and assembled by Wednesday at noon.
  • I got all of my Massively Parallel bonus story rows penciled on Wednesday by dinner time, while sitting in the awesome booth.
  • I got to hang out with cool people all weekend. Some of them are name-droppable. Some are awesome people whose names only carry cachet with the folks who are privileged enough to have met them.
  • How many books did I draw in? I don't know. Pretty sure it was "hundreds."
  • My panels went well, with only one exception, and that one went so far off the rails it made for great commiseration fodder.
  • Our booth did better sales-wise than it has in any prior year. 15% better than our next best number, and up 25% from last year.
  • I learned important stuff from Jim Zub, who is a great boothmate, a brilliant writer, and a very savvy industry insider.
  • I came home energized, and I got work done the very next day. No con-crud, no post-convention blues, no problem.

The one blemish on the experience is that this year the one game I managed to play was "D20 roll-off" in which you sit down at the bar and roll dice to see who rolls better. And really, this is the blemish every year. I don't get to play games. When I'm away from the booth, I'm not making money. Sandra sent us some handy bar graphs that showed just how much money we weren't making when Jim, Tracy, and I had to be away from the booth.


Adding to the blemishy darkness of this is the fact that while we had plenty of players interested in testing the Schlock Mercenary role-playing game, we never were able to align ourselves for a table and some dice.

Back to the positive notes: Symposium! If you're a writer, and you want to attend panels in which writers talk intelligently about writing, and do so with the understanding that they're talking to an audience full of writers, you should seriously consider attending GenCon Indy just for the Writing Symposium. It has attracted an all-star cast, and when the panels are over there are a million things to do. Marc Tassin has done an outstanding job of growing the symposium over the last three years, and when I talked to him about it I could see that he's committed to continuing to improve it.

(crossposted from

The Expendables 3

Per my Twitter feed, The Expendables 3 is better than either of the first two installments in the series. The first was goofy and ridiculous, and not in great ways. The second took itself too seriously, and ended up being goofy, ridiculous, overblown, and clumsy. This one, though, struck just the right balance for an action movie. I had fun.  

The film does not clear my Threshold of Awesome, however. The predictable dialog really wore on me, especially when a character was pausing for dramatic effect, and I knew what he was going to say next. Also, the final act's conceit was one of those ridiculous supervillain tropes -- in this case it's the one where our bad guy has lured the heroes into a trap, and instead of just pouring overwhelming force into the kill box, he starts the timer on an explosive.

What follows that countdown is purely predictable, but it also shapes up to be a nice fulfillment of all the movie's earlier promises. They shoot all of the things and do all of the stunts and we have our huge cast of readily-recognized hitters finally working together.

The stand-outs for me in this film were Ronda Rousey, who made a much better transition from MMA champion to actress than Gina Carano did, and Antonio Banderas, who was hilariously awesome.

The Expendables 3 comes in at #15 for me for the year thus far.

(Cross-posted from

Introducing Howard Tayler... DOT COM

I know, I know... dot-coms are so "turn-of-the-century," so "last decade." 

Trends and missed boats notwithstanding, is a thing now. It's the hub for all the stuff I do. It's like putting all of my eggs in one basket, only without the actual risk associated with dropping the basket.

The blog here under Schlock Mercenary will still feature my movie reviews, important announcements, and assorted posts I think readers of the comic will enjoy. Howard Tayler dot com will have all kinds of stuff on it, including everything I post here, and feeds from the comic, from Writing Excuses, and probably other stuff. Recently I posted a single panel Sherlock Holmes comic, and an attempt to write horoscopes

Should you feel inclined to subscribe, you can use with whatever RSS aggregator you currently use. 

You can also subscribe to just my reviews using, which will ensure that you don't actually have to check the comic in order to discover my critically important opinions on a particular film.

This site,, will be getting an architectural overhaul soon, and that may change the way its own RSS feed works. We'll try not to break anything, but if there is an omelette to be made, we'll let you know where to find new eggs before we break all of the old ones. Does that satisfactorily tie into the eggs-in-one-basket metaphor?

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