5 Blogs I Read for Fun

I suppose it should go without saying that, since I write a blog, I must also read other blogs.  While that is weirdly not always so (I do know of one blogger who doesn’t read other blogs because “they generally all suck”… *sniff* But not mine, right?) in my case it is certainly true.  Besides the information they provide, reading other people’s blogs gives me insight into different writing styles, and most importantly different viewpoints.  And since I follow several blogs on similar topics, I can also get a sense of the prevailing winds of opinion on certain nerd topics.  And, contrarian that I am, allows me to write the occasional piece tacking against that wind if I think it’s warranted.

I’m not sure how many blogs would constitute normal reading.  I currently have about 75+ blogs that update through my Google Reader; add to that the ten or so that I read from webcomic sites I visit (guilty confession time: I like the Penny Arcade comic.  But I LOVE the blog updates that go along with them.  Something about his writing style speaks to me.) , and maybe a further 5-10 I read from links on social media oh god I forgot Tumblr, more like 15-20…okay, maybe that’s a lot.  In my defence not all of them update daily, though Wired and Geek Dad appear to have me covered by updating a bajillion times a day.  So let’s say that, daily, I read somewhere in the neighbourhood of 40-50 blogs.  Your mileage may vary, but I find that a comfortable number.

Out of all that, I’m going to suggest 5 blogs to you that I think you might get a kick out of.  They aren’t in any particular order.  They aren’t necessarily my top five blogs either; rather, a representative spread of the things that amuse me.

Slushpile Hell – I stumbled across this one a little while back, and it immediately spoke to my editor’s soul (how my editor’s soul could hear it through all that stone…).  For non-editors, the slushpile is the sometimes mountain of unsolicited manuscripts received by publishers.  Reading through it can be…a challenge.  Slushpile Hell is one literary agent’s journey through the slushpile, one mind-bogglingly bad query at a time.  Each post is delightfully concise and offers up just the right amount of weary snark I need in my blog diet.

The Chapel Perilous – Okay, my nerd-crush on Monte Cook is fairly well known in certain circles (and now this one), so my reading his blog should come as no surprise.  Interestingly, it was reading his blog that led to him coming to Edmonton as a GoH at Pure Speculation; of the names that then Gaming Coordinator Scott C. Bourgeois suggested, Monte’s was the only one I “knew” through his blog, as well as recognized.  So I suggested he be moved to the top of the list, which of course Scott had already done (his nerd-crush being as strong as mine).  I love reading The Chapel Perilous for its blend of gaming and personal posts.  Monte posts about the things that matter to him, first and foremost.  So when I read something about gaming posted amongst more personal material, I know the opinion he is giving is sincere.  And sincere passion in the nerd hobbies these days is like gold…if gold were still valuable.  Platinum, then.  At least electrum.

Total Fan Girl – I read other nerdy blogs for a variety of reasons: inspiration, information, entertainment.  Total Fan Girl gives me a healthy dose of all three, plus a perspective on the hobby that I find valuable as an Old Male Geek worried about inclusiveness.  Like me, she is a general-purpose nerd with a variety of interests, and her posts reflect that.  She is also a gateway into another of my media addictions, as she posts updates for the GeekMoms podcast.  Mostly I like her blog because she always brings me the really cool stuff.  And that challenges me to do the same.

Awesome Dice Blog – Okay, I’ve actually only been reading this blog for a few weeks now.  But in that time I’ve gone back through and read EVERYTHING! (putting the OCD back into OCD…five times!)  It first came to my attention through the Twitters because of a link to a very cool little time-line of dice throughout history.  Then in one of those internet happen-stances I received an email from Brian at Awesome Dice, asking if I would link to their site.  So I checked their site out, thoroughly (see above EVERYTHING), and said yes, of course I would.  Yes, they talk a lot about dice; if that isn’t in your wheelhouse then you might want to give a pass.  But the blog also covers a wide variety of gamer nerd topics, and includes video posts from Balthazar (yes, THE Balthazar) on…well, just about anything.  Here’s a sample:

So I highly recommend these guys for your daily dose of game nerdery.  Oh, and they also sell dice.  Awesome dice, so I’m told.

The Unknown Studio – Better known for the podcast of the same name, The Unknown Studio also has a snazzy and interesting blog.  While there are a number of sources I follow to keep up on what’s going on in Edmonton, this blog is probably the most fun I have doing it.  It’s worth reading for FML Fridays alone, but Adam Rozenhart also posts some really sincere and insightful pieces on my city and the people in it.  And he also posts some flat-out goofy shit.  The combination works, and like the podcast, keeps me coming back.

Okay, that’s me.  What are you reading in the blogosphere?  Share in the comments below, and maybe we’ll all read something new today!

Renaissance Dork’s Gift Suggestions

Yesterday I gave you my advice on the best way to shop for the geek in your life.  Following those should make your geek shopping experience a little easier, and result in happiness on Thanksmasween Day.  “But Renaissance Dork”, you ask, “What if I don’t have time to absorb 500+ words of shopping theory?  Can’t you just tell me what to buy?”

As it turns out, I can.  My vast experience and hours logged scouring the internet have turned up a number of gifts that are sure to please the geek in your life.  It is important when reading this list to keep in mind two things: 1) You must still follow the advice I laid out in my previous post; and 2) This is a wholly subjective list of what I think geeks will like, based entirely on whether I thought it is/was cool.  So If you use it to shop for me, success approaching 100%; if you use it to shop for your geek, I give a 70% chance of success, +/- based solely on how well you know your geek.

It occurs to me that last sentence may seem like pandering for Christmas gifts.  If so, you are very astute.  Onto the list!

The Geek Dad Books – These are, quite frankly, a no-brainer gift for any geek with kids old enough to be interesting.  Geek Dad, Geek Dad’s Guide to Weekend Fun and The Geek Dad’s Book for Aspiring Mad Scientists (pictured) should be in the library of any geek with kids.  Each one is filled with activities to entertain and “accidentally” educate your child (and quite possible you).  But what if you are not a geek with kids?  Still worth having!  For instance, I am both a geek with nephews, and a geek with geek friends with kids.  These books will easily cement me as the Coolest Uncle Ever, even as the parents shoot worried glances my way…

Star Wars Craft Book – What’s better than buying Star Wars collectibles?  How about making your own, one-of-a-kind, hand-crafted Star Wars memorabilia?  Author Bonnie Burton has compiled a bantha-load of fun Star Wars activities, perfect for the crafty fan.  Another great book to have if you want to entertain children, but it will entertain the adults as well.  I’ll be making some items from this to decorate for Christmas, my self.  And seriously, how could you not love a book that shows you how to make a Jabba the Hutt body pillow?  You can’t, you can’t not love it, that’s how!

Pathfinder Beginner Box – Well you knew there was going to be some Pathfinder on this list, right?  But I really do think this is the perfect gift for that geek that has been on the fence about role-playing games, or that has been waiting for his/her kids to get old enough to game.  The Beginner Box comes with a stripped down set of Pathfinder RPG rules that won’t overload the novice player, and had enough material to play characters up to fifth level.  It also provides an easy transfer into the main Pathfinder RPG later on.  Still not sure if this is for you?  Paizo has generously provided a walk-through of the contents, so you can see how cool this is for yourself.  I can’t recommend Pathfinder or the Beginner Box enough; if you get one and need a GM, let me know…

Star Wars: The Old Republic – Have a geek friend that hermits for weeks at a time after every new PC game release?  This is the gift they will want (assuming they didn’t pre-order it already).  BioWare’s latest foray into the Star Wars universe is by all early accounts a grand-slam, making this the go-to gift for your video-game fanatic.  This MMORPG might just draw you into a whole new world of gaming yourself (yes, come to the dark side…), because let’s face it: who hasn’t wanted to be a jedi, even if its just online?  So while you grab one for a friend, slide a copy for yourself into the cart; you and your friend can spend all sorts of quality online-time together, exploring the Force!

The Settlers of Catan – For a board game that has become a benchmark for board game design, it boggles my mind how many gamers (myself included) don’t own this game.  When it broke onto the scene, lo those many years ago, the idea of a semi-cooperative resource management game with no inter-player conflict wasn’t even on the radar with a lot of North American game designers.  Arguably, Settlers of Catan is the game that introduced us to euro-gaming, and the floodgates have been wide open ever since.  And it is loads of fun, even if you don’t play with the many expansions (though for my money, getting the 5-6 player expansion right away is a good choice).  If you haven’t seen this on your favourite board game geek’s shelf, it might be high time to grab them a copy.  Conditional on you getting to play, of course.

Genshiken – If you have an anime fan in your circle of friends, then this anime about anime fans will make a welcome addition to their collection.  Lovable characters, hilarious situations and a unique look at both otaku and Japanese culture, this is the anime series every anime nerd needs in their collection. Why? Because this is the one you bring out and watch with your friends when they want to know why you are into anime.  It is an honest and sincere look at fans just like us.  (And I can’t thank my friend Morgan enough for turning me onto it; thanks Morgan!)   It is also a manga series, so if your friend is a manga reader, everything above still applies!

I’d be thrilled to find any of these under the tree, and if you have a geek with a gaming/crafty slant like mine, I think you are golden.  Thursday I’ll expand the list somewhat, look at some neat little gizmos you can order online and maybe have in time for the New Year!  Until then, you can ask me for specific gift suggestions in the comments, or make suggestions of your own.