Downtown San Antonio During Christmas

One thing I can say, I have seen a lot of the world. Yet there is so much more I need to discover. Recently I arrived to start my new life here in San Antonio. So far its been steady progress and I am enjoying the scenery and the people here.This city looks amazing during Christmas. So enjoy a few photos I snapped during my travels downtown. All pictures copyright Richard Leon. Ask before you reuse.

Source: Downtown San Antonio During Christmas

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Anointed: Mantle of the Gods Table Top RPG

Greetings Gamers and Readers,I want to blog about a particular game I produced and created, Anointed: Mantle of the Gods. Anointed marks my second table-top RPG created, with the first being New Gods of Mankind. We designed Anointed to work with New Gods of Mankind in a more intimate, detailed way. Anointed brings traditional skills, combat and fighting to a game primarily focused on New Gods, large scale conflicts and miracle casting. This game focuses on heroes in the same vein as Dungeons and Dragons. Anointed: Mantle of the Gods published in 2015 and you can buy it in print or PDF formats.If you have no idea what a tabletop game is, let me fill you in. When you played with your friends and used action figures to reenact scenes from your favorite movies, you did an early form of role-playing. Table-top RPGs focus on more mature, collaborative efforts which enable us to empathize and relate to a fantastical world and gain insight. Rainy days and dark cold nights beckon the need for stories and imaginative exercises. Wikipedia has an excellent article about what a Table-Top game here. Quote “A tabletop role-playing game (or pen-and-paper role-playing game) is a form of role-playing game (RPG) in which the participants describe their characters’ actions through speech. Participants determine the actions of their characters based on their characterization, and the actions succeed or fail according to a formal system of rules and guidelines. Within the rules, players have the freedom to improvise; their choices shape the direction and outcome of the game.”I wont go into the myriad types of table-top RPGs out there. Instead I will focus on what makes Anointed so unique.1. It ties into a meta-game/ universe. We designed Anointed specifically to work with New Gods of Mankind. It can operate on its own, or be used to form a unique game where players play as gods, armies and the heroes. It creates a meta narrative and this truly is a unique gaming experience. Most games will limit the players to one point of view. Players in New Gods of Mankind can create sagas, with gods and heroes. Armies can clash but the focus remains the story emphasized with easy rules. If you seek a game with a broad vision and the ability to play multiple parts in a huge campaign, this system is for you. 2. The background and story stands out.  This game does not use typical Tolkien styled fantasy elements. We took the classic elements of Aristotle and created corresponding species which came to life. Salamanders (resistant to fire), Gnomes (made of rock), Sylphs (who can fly) and Undines (aquatic species) make up the four main sentient species on the planet. Wood Nymphs and a couple of giants round out the races.Even the world background stands on its own. The setting  takes place over Eight Thousand Years from now on a distant planet. In a couple of thousand years from now, humans colonize the planet. Humanity dies when the elemental spirits of the world become sentient and figure out humans are taking/ destroying parts of the planet. The elements originate in their thoughts from humanity. Currently humanity struggles as a new species on the planet Naalrinnon. Mankind only uses Bronze Age tools, for now. Every piece of new technology gets assimilated and mankind seeks to build alliances and cities with each other. The main difference between the bronze age on earth and bronze age in Naalrinnon comes from the gods who cast miracles and protect their tribe. Humans rely on their tribal gods to protect them literally with no metaphorical difference. The gods incarnate for real on Naalrinnon. These small, human gods often appear and disappear for many reasons. Either their tribe dies off,  the people stops worshiping them or even worse. The New God gets captured and bound with no more belief left to get them out of the jam.

Source: Anointed: Mantle of the Gods Table Top RPG

Sexy Friday Night Music, Melt by Duke Dumont

I’d like to continue my selection of Friday Night music with another favorite. This is more of House Chill than Death Metal. But the intent is the same. One of my favorite stations on Sirius XM Radio is Chill or 53. When this song came on the radio, it blew me away and really set the groove for an awesome Friday Night. Adam George Dyment or Duke Dumont, makes groovy tunes in the UK. His single, Need U was nominated for Best Dance Recording back in 2014. He owns his own record label Blase Boys Club. Check it out here. Lyrics Below. So close, I melt into youKiss me darlingKiss me babyI can feel your fingers touching meKiss me darlingKiss me babyAll caressing my deepest though, yesKiss me darlingKiss me babyI can feel you whisper in my earKiss me darlingCause when you’re so closeI melt into youI melt into youTouch me babyTouch me darlingI melt into youKiss me babyOow, your lips on meSo, close, to meSo closeI melt into youKiss me darlingKiss me babyI can feel your fingers touching meKiss me darlingKiss me babyAll caressing my deepest though, yesKiss me darlingKiss me babyI can feel you whisper in my earKiss me darlingCause when you’re so closeI melt into youI melt into youImages property of Duke Dumont

Source: Sexy Friday Night Music, Melt by Duke Dumont

Inspiration by Coffee

I must say if it was not for coffee, I would be a bore. Coffee and the caffeine it contains acts like a little muse inside of me. As my mind slowly wakes up, chemicals fire within my brain. New neuron pathways connect. An idea percolates and issues forth. From my thoughts to this keyboard an act of creation happens. So for this I am truly thankful.Over 83% of all adults in America drink coffee according to this 2013 article from USA TODAY.That is more than any other nation out there. But then again when I was in Kuwait and Dubai, Starbucks existed on pretty much every corner near the malls and major roads. I would say countries in the Middle East would give Americans a run for their money as far as how many people drink coffee. Unlike America, alcohol is forbidden to Muslims and banned in Kuwait and several other countries.  Coffee’s origins can be traced back to the 15th Century in Yemen, located in the Middle East. The Sufis, deep within their monasteries started to cultivate the bean. They obtained the first seeds from Ethiopia. This first brew would help them during their nighttime devotions. One legend attributes the first cup of coffee to Abul Hasan ash-Shadhili, founder of the Shadhili Sufis (part of Sunni Islam). For more information go here. Whatever the case may be, coffee did originate in this region first, then spread throughout the Ottoman Empire. From there it jumped into Italy and spread throughout Europe. Finally it reached America in the 1720s out in the Caribbean.Now on to what happens when you drink the stuff. Here is what Coffee does to your brain. Check out this video below. Coffee releases several chemicals into your brain and body. Adenosine, Adrenaline and Dopamine push our body to another level of operation, giving us the feeling of energy. Too much coffee though can have the opposite effect. There is even a lethal dose of coffee which is 14000mg. An average cup has 150mg. I personally benefit at least 3 to 5 times a week from coffee and caffeinated substances. Without it I would not be able to produce what I need. A few people have sworn off coffee and its effects. But I will always reach for that cup of coffee on a Monday morning.Now my favorite Coffee is Café Bustello. Runner ups are Illy and Starbucks. I do like Community Coffee and I will tolerate the occasional cup of Folgers. For cold coffee I love UCC made in Japan. 7-11 has some great choices of coffee if you are in a hurry. I usually take my coffee with Sweet and Low (the pink packets) and that is it. No creamer or other substance. Maybe a sprinkle of cinnamon during cold weather. What kind of coffee do you like? How do you take your coffee? Let me know in the comments.

Source: Inspiration by Coffee

Adventure Game vs. RPG

The Heavy Metal GM

When I think of an adventure game, I personally think Talisman. I sat down to randomly play that one time at Battleground Games and Hobbies, the local watering hole. It was my first shot at an adventure game (besides some early run ins with HeroQuest) and it was actually really interesting and fun. The problem was mainly the length. But is that really a problem though?

Sticking an adventure game next to, say an RPG, no. RPG campaigns last years and years, sometimes. Are they really that different from one another? It’s a complicated question. In spirit, they are very much the same thing: a means of telling an interactive story with a group of friends. That’s about where the similarities end, though. However, I really think that adventure games have a huge relevance among role playing enthusiasts. They’re really good at introducing somebody who, say, likes board…

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Repairing the Cracks in Us

Perfectionism, a constant mental state we strive towards. An unobtainable, idealistic condition of reality. Our burden and carrot on a stick. Excellence in our personal and professional life is barely tolerable. We must move forward to the next star. For shooting at the moon is far too meager of a goal. We, the professional, the business oriented human work, day in and day out towards a state of being which does not exist since the beginning of our universe. Perfectionism can be admirable. Yet it will be the early death of us all. In our lives and in our relationships, perfectionism and its evil sister intolerance often destroys as much as drive us forward.There is another way to strive towards your goals. Kintsugi or “Golden Joinery” the Japanese art form of repairing broken pottery with gold, silver and other precious metals doubles as a philosophy. In the 15th century of feudal Japan, a notable Shogun, Ashikaga Yoshimas introduced the technique when a Chinese tea bowl returned from repairs riddled with staples. Looking at the ugly repairs on his precious tea bowl, the Shogun spoke with several craftsmen who came up with a better solution. Thus Kintsugi was born. In those days, during the height of Higashiyama Culture, the tea ceremony, or Sado became a critical component of the culture. When the Shogun used a broken tea pot during a critical ceremony, it threw every member of court for a loop. It also caused many to admire and reflect upon this. After much introspection, several Zen Buddhist philosophies such as Wabi Sabi and Mushin grew further during this time. Many people began smashing their pottery on purpose, just to have golden joinery applied to it. Wabi Sabi, the Japanese philosophy, holds tenants consisting of impermanence, suffering and emptiness. Pottery fixed to become something better in this life reflected these ideas. Even though life is temporary and we all must suffer, one can find beauty in our own flaws. We can transcend our past, our problems and become something better. It is OK not to be perfect. Our flaws can be turned into strengths. Our imperfections a beauty born of suffering. Martial artists enter into a heightened state called, Mushin, or No Mind. One can think of the mind on overdrive where mere words cannot express the quickness of thought and action. This technique is expressed in Kintsugi as the broke pottery accepts the fate given to it. Damaged and now repaired, the pottery becomes a beautiful object, more valuable than before, because of the flaws illuminated. The repaired cracks in the pottery express strength through suffering, as it endured destruct

Source: Repairing the Cracks in Us

Unpopular Opinion: The Phantom Menace Wasn’t A Bad Movie

I agree with these points.

James Harrington's Blog of Geek and Writing

Shaddap!

Okay we all remember Episode 1 being the most anticipated movie in almost all of history. Fans were nuts! Action figures literally flew off of the shelves (I think I still have a few) and people were ready for Star Wars fever. We’ve been without a new movie for over a decade and were itching for this.

What we got… did not please a great many people…

Yeah… we all know this one. The introduction of Jar Jar Binks alone was a crime that most of us couldn’t get past. If we weren’t wishing his death, we were bringing up identity politics and accusing Lucas of writing him as a gay black freed slave stereotype… yes that’s actually a thing!

No one is going to deny that Jar Jar Binks was awful… and he wasn’t alone…

Aside from stupid characters, PAINFULLY forced dialogue:

and themes that completely destroyed our…

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Pictures of Afghanistan

Hey everyone,I wanted to share some pictures of Afghanistan from my field trips there. As a DoD contractor I proudly served and make sure lots of my fellow citizens and military members stayed safe. I took these pictures in the southern part of Afghanistan near Spin Boldak. You can read more about the province here. The last picture is the famous Hindu Kush Mountain Range near Bagram. Enjoy!Copyright 2017 Richard Leon. All rights reserved for these pictures. You must obtain permission to use them.

Source: Pictures of Afghanistan

Easy Meditation

Our fast paced society leaves little time for introspection. Or a deep pause. Often we feel mentally fatigued and have no idea why. If you feel like your brain is in a fog, you forget things easily, or constantly fighting depression then you might have brain fatigue*. Other symptoms include lack of motivation, difficulty learning or poor focus.Meditation can help. It will increase your health and immune system.It will reduce pain.It decreases stress.It improves focus.It improves memory.Here is an article with a whole slew of linked studies here. The point being meditation helps. It helps cope with stress of dealing with loss and being alone. If you want to get your groove back, meditate.Here is a very simple 3 minute meditation you can do right now at work.• Sit your back straight. If you have to, use a wall.• Close your eyes• Imagine a blue sparkler, much like the one from childhood you waved around. Imagine this blue sparker and imagine it right over your head.• Breathe 2 slow, deep breaths.• Let the sparkler come right down on your head. It should be in your head.• Take 4 more deep breaths.• Let the sparkler keep working. Focus on it while breathing.• On the 7th breath let it travel down to your heart.• Take 6 breaths• On the 13th breath, let the sparkler travel into your pelvic region. • Breathe 6 more times.• If you still have any negative thoughts, put them into the blue sparkler.• On the 18th breath, flush it out of you. Your exhale should be a powerful exhale, like blowing out candles. Breathe a normal breath afterwards.Do this at work or anytime during the day. It works best right before bed laying down.*(Only a doctor can truly diagnose you. This article is not a supplement for true medical diagnosis.)

Source: Easy Meditation

Why You Should Read Science Fiction and Fantasy

Artwork by Joe Slucher. You can find his artwork here. “Myth basically serves four functions. The first is the mystical function,… realizing what a wonder the universe is, and what a wonder you are, and experiencing awe before this mystery….The second is a cosmological dimension, the dimension with which science is concerned – showing you what shape the universe is, but showing it in such a way that the mystery again comes through…. The third function is the sociological one – supporting and validating a certain social order…. It is the sociological function of myth that has taken over in our world – and it is out of date…. But there is a fourth function of myth, and this is the one that I think everyone must try today to relate to – and that is the pedagogical function, of how to live a human lifetime under any circumstances.” ― Joseph Campbell, The Power of MythJust substitute the word myth with science fiction and fantasy and you will see four powerful reasons why you should be reading this genre.Modern myths consist of tales from the minds of Fantasy and Science Fiction authors. Storytellers like Ursula K. Leguin, Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, Steven King, Issac Asimov, Larry Niven, Orson Wells and many more write in the realm of fantasy and science fiction. Yes they get labeled into other categories such as Horror or Speculative Fiction, but these are nasty marketing labels which do a disservice to readers and writers. It only helps big publishers and their marketing as stated in this great article here. Why should you delve into the wonders of Science Fiction and Fantasy? I will give you several answers but first and foremost my answers will come from several sources. I believe my work and many others authors of this genre get unfairly stigmatized and downgraded into subcategories. It’s almost as if people want to stop dreaming and exploring. What happened to the wanderlust of youth? Where is your need to escape it all? Ask yourself that and see why you truly want to hide in the mundane world we all come to know and distrust. We need myths to give color to our lives. Here are several reasons why you should be reading Science Fiction and Fantasy.1. They truly are a way to escape the ordinary. Escapism is often an overstated coping mechanism we use to get through daily life. We all experience situations out of our control. Forced to do things we hate. Bogged down with constant demands and we slowly feel a part of ourselves slowly being cramped in. Stuck in our situation it does help our minds to escape where we are. Humans are curious creatures and we have a need to see over the mountain. With science fiction and fantasy we can reach the cold planet of Pluto in no time. Yes we still have our responsibilities. But for a short time we can move to another realm within our mind. No need to be reminded of the drudgery of everyday life. This article has some more reasons here.2. To gain a new perspective on life. Ideas and technology rapidly changes before our eyes. Sometimes it does feel so overwhelming we want to throw our hands up and dig into the sand. I say, seek out a new vision of what can be. Many science fiction authors have seen what our new world can be. Automated cars are here and now. Elevators to our earth orbit will be a reality soon. We will be on the moon again in full force. Colonization of Mars will happen in our lifetime. New types of social contracts with our fellow man are coming into play right now. Science Fiction and Fantasy both help us see new ideas concerning society. You can learn a new way to view social interaction from a fantasy novel about alien races. This increases empathy as well. Non-Fiction iterates what we already know exists. We need new myths so we can adapt as a species.3. To understand truths metaphorically. Myths and Fantasy are great lies that tell truth. If you have time today read this introduction to The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Leguin. Quote “In reading a novel, any novel, we have to know perfectly well that the whole thing is nonsense, and then, while reading, believe every word of it. Finally, when we’re done with it, we may find – if it’s a good novel – that we’re a bit different from what we were before we read it, that we have been changed a little, as if by having met a new face, crossed a street we never crossed before. But it’s very hard to say just what we learned, how we wer

Source: Why You Should Read Science Fiction and Fantasy