Month: April 2017

Occam’s Fireaxe #4: Epic Space Opera

About this episode In this episode we look at two epic space operas, Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi, his new book and the first in a new series by this award winning author, and Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey, a well-established series that is the basis of the current SYFY TV series. About Occam’s Fireaxe Occam’s Fireaxe is written and produced by Chuq Von Rospach. Join us next month for another episode where we will discuss and review books, primarily Science Fiction and Fantasy works. Don’t forget to read my blog at at, on twitter as @chuq or Facebook, and please send us feedback via twitter at #occamsfireaxe. I’d love to hear what you like or how I can make this podcast better, so please let me know what you think. Occam’s Fireaxe is a monthly podcast, each about 15 minutes long, with reviews of two books I’ve read or listened to — mostly Science Fiction or Fantasy, but with side trips into other topics like military history and biography, or whatever catches my interest. Books mentioned this episode Collapsing Empires by John Scalzi Old Man’s War by John Scalzi Lock-In by John Scalzi Leviathan Wakes (Book 1 of the Expanse) by James S.A. Corey Caliban’s War (Book 2 of the Expanse) by James S.A. Corey Feedback! Help me make this better. I’d love to hear what...

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2017 Playoffs Predictions: 2nd round

The first round of the playoffs had some amazing hockey. It also had 18 overtime games showing a parity in the league that is crazy in a good way. And the Sharks lost to Edmonton, deserved to, and I was really impressed by the Oilers team and their ability to adapt and stay composed, especially after the 7-0 blowout. The Sharks, I think, ran into a combination of “too many hockey games with too little rest” after last year’s long run, plus the key injuries to Couture and Thornton, neither of whom was close to 100%. The series was close enough that if one of those players was at full tempo for the series, it’s probably a different ending. Martin Jones was the best Shark on the ice for the series, and got outplayed by just enough by Talbot to carry the series. I did okay in the first round: 4-4, going 2-2 in both East and West. The bad news is I (like pretty much everyone) picked Chicago and so the western bracket is carnage. Washington squeaked through Toronto (another amazingly fine series to watch) by the thinnest margin, so I still have a team that might actually win the thing for me, but now they’re up against the Penguins (again). I picked correct with St. Louis, Anaheim, Washington and Pittsburgh. I guessed wrong with Nashville, Edmonton, Rangers...

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Summer Reading Recommendations

I recently had a friend ask me for summer reading suggestions, and we went back and forth for a bit on interests and what they’d already read. Out of that came a list of things I gave them, and I thought it might be fun to pass it along here as well as suggestions of things you may want to try. Let me know what you think and if I should do this kind of thing again down the road. The first book I’m recommending to everyone these days is Mary Robinette Kowal’s Ghost Talkers; it’s a World War I historical fantasy with ghosts and a spy thriller, and also happens to have a fascinating romance sub plot. I nominated this for a Hugo, and I think it’s incredibly well written and a lot of fun. I covered this in Occam’s Fireaxe #3 if you want more detail. My current read is David Levine’s Arabella of Mars. I’m about three quarters done and enjoying it a lot. I could argue it’s both Fantasy and SF, but it’s really a fascinating steampunk fantasy about Victorian era travel to mars on sailing ships (seriously). I’ve known David a bit since the days of paper fanzines and my annual trips to Orycon, so I was really looking forward to this, and it’s a fast-paced adventure romp that’s really met my hopes and...

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New Toy: Synology DS216Play

About a year ago I finally took the dive and started using Plex to host and play my videos. This happened about the time I write about how iTunes was a dumpster fire, because, well, sigh. And still is. The good news is that my Synology NAS supports a Plex server, so I was able to install it there and shove all of my video content onto it. I bought a USB blu-ray (that also reads DVDS) to suck physical content in, and I use MakeMKV to deal with the media, Handbrake to do the data conversions, MV4Gear to strip DRM off of iTunes content to make it usable in Plex. The process can be time consuming but it’s pretty straightforward. Some of what I’ve encoded has been collections of shorts (Warner Brothers Cartoons, for instance) and that can turn into a grind, but once you get it into Plex, it’s all pretty straightforward, and I’ve been quite happy with Plex on the Apple TV and IOS devices. It’s much more straightforward to sync a video for offline viewing in Plex than in iTunes, for instance. But… My setup had one problem, which has been annoying me no end. My Synology is a good unit and I love it for its file storage, but it didn’t have enough processing power to handle on the fly transcoding of video for...

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I’m someone who tends to find a game to go really deep into, and play it extensively until I get bored. Once I do, I seem to never go back. I’m also someone who really prefers RPG style games rather than fighting or driving games or platforms. The last couple of games that ate significant chunks of my gaming time were Elder Scrolls Skyrim and the Online release, and Civilization V (none of the non-Civilization Sid Meier games ever caught me for some reason). I’ve auditioned a few games in 2016, but it wasn’t until I ran into Neverwinter that I settled in and went deep. Why did this game grab me when others like Witcher 3 didn’t? First, I’m simply a sucker for classic dungeon crawler RPG type games, and especially those built on the classic Dungeons and Dragons content and rules, like Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale. I really enjoy games like Skyrim for the technical and graphic sophistication and story, but there’s something fun and brainless about a game like Neverwinter. Oh, and it’s let me run around Icewind Dale and shoot arrows at things. My gaming style is pretty simple: I play solo, play primarily for relaxation or when I’m chewing on a problem and want to distract the front half of my brain to let the back half work. I’m not a big group...

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