Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Part 1: Resolutions Suck

Okay, so it's New Year's Eve!  New Year's Eve means resolutions!  Yaaaaay!  So, show of hands, who can tell me why new year resolutions suck?  You there, in the back!  Yes, that's right!


Why, you ask?  I mean, I want to make a fresh start, and the new year is the perfect time and date!  A fresh start for a fresh year! Well, excellent question asker, new year's resolutions are unfair to you, dear reader.  More often than not, you're trying to make a drastic, huge change in your lifestyle, in ONE DAY.  Your body doesn't like that, your subconcious doesn't like that, and everything that makes you, "you," is going to struggle against it for all it's worth.  This, in turn, will make those changes very difficult to maintain over the long term, and end up leaving you frustrated or disappointed.

Your body doesn't like change.  You may want change, in your head, but your body doesn't like it.  Heck, changing your favorite brand of soup, or your preferred route to work, or what time you have your coffee, all of these things are relatively difficult.  Typically resolutions are much bigger changes than that, and we want them because we're impatient, and want a better life.  There's nothing wrong with having goals like that, but making the jump all at once is going to leave you frustrated and disappointed.  Instead, you want something else...


So what is a plan?  Well, first of all, a plan is incremental.  Let's say you want to quit smoking.  Quitting smoking is HARD.  Going "cold turkey" is HARD.  Instead of going cold turkey, you want to instead buy the patch or gum, and just cut down on the number of cigarettes you have per day until you wean yourself off.  By the same token, you don't want to just tell yourself, "I'm only eating salads and oatmeal, going to the gym fives times a week, and drinking a gallon of water every day."  Start slow, then work yourself up.  I'll start with myself, and my own goals for the year.


Name: Dan Wallace
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 210 lbs
  • Martial Artist
  • Fitness Enthusiast
  • Skilled Gamer
  • Adventure Seeker
  • Writer
  • Computer Expert 
Summary: Unfortunately, due to a combination of injury, and stressful, over-packed life, I've fallen out of shape.  I'm honestly not happy with where I'm at at the moment, and I want to set some goals for where I'd like to be by the end of this year.  Remember, these are GOALS, not plans.  Goals are different from plans.

Goals(by December 31st 2013):
185 Toned, muscular pounds.
Full range of flexibility back(ideally I'd like to have the splits down by the end of the year).
Able to do 100 pushups consecutively.
Run a sub 2:45 Tough Mudder(ideally I'd like to finish in the top 5%, but I'm being realistic here =P)

So those are my goals, so how to we lay out a plan?  My dad used to have a phrase: How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.  So we look at goal #1, and lay out our first bite.  I want to be 185 toned, muscular pounds by the end of the year.  As we know, physical appearance and weight is driven as much by diet as anything else, so I'll attack that first.  I'll be working my way down to The Fighter Diet, but I'm going to start this week by switching to skim milk in my morning cereal for my first meal, and then not getting a greasy egg sandwich once I'm at work.  If I feel the need to eat something at work before lunch, I'll have oatmeal, or granola, with fruit.

Workout-wise, I'm going to set a goal of working out twice a week to start.  One strength workout, and one cardio.  I'm going to be using the Ezio Auditore workout as my base layout, and probably embellishing a bit once I get into the swing of things.

Let's look at these short term goals again.

This week, I will...
Do 1 cardiovascular workout.
Do 1 strength workout.
Eat skim milk with my cereal, and have oatmeal instead of an egg sandwich for my second breakfast.

These are relatively small changes to my everyday life, that I know are WELL within my ability to do.  I could say that I'm going to also eat salad for lunch every day, and that I'm going to work out every day until Friday, but even though I'm used to physical regimens and diet plans like that, it's been long enough that my body is out of practice!  So I'm setting the bar below what I think is really pushing myself, because I know it's easy, and I want it to be.  Additionally, these steps are MEASURABLE.  I'm not vaguely stating, "I will try to eat better," I'm being affirmative and saying, "I will eat skim milk and oatmeal."  No wiggle room.

Make your plan easy, and measurable, and you'll find it easier to stick to.

Tomorrow we're going to take a look at another new challenger in our New Year's Resolution Showdown, so come back for a female perspective on things!  Until then, make sure to follow me on Twitter,  like the blog page on Facebook, hit up the Tumblr, and continue to be awesome!  Happy new year! Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Lara Croft Roundup

Another character down, another video game legend analyzed!  Let's take a look at what we covered in our time with her!

Character Breakdown: Lara Croft
We took a first look at Lara, and what makes her a legend.  Her athleticism, confidence, and skills are all laid out for our road plan.

The Lara Croft Workout
In the Lara Croft workout we focused on functional strength for body management, acrobatics, and climbing, with a cardio program to keep us going relentlessly from tomb to tomb!

The Skills of Lara Croft
We dipped a bit into parkour for our skills of Lara Croft post, with precision jumps, as well as examining different types of climbing, and then moving into options for learning some sharpshooting skills.

The Mind of Lara Croft
Lara Croft's defining self confidence and wit come under the microscope here, and we discuss the difference between confidence and arrogance, as well as my personal methods of building self confidence.

Lara will continue to raid tombs on the small and large screen in the years to come, and hopefully now you have a toolset to begin emulating this iconic heroine.  Tomorrow will begin a special two-part New Year's Eve/Day post on resolutions, and the fitness goals we set for ourselves.  My wife and myself will both be profiled, and we'll be laying out our fitness plans for the year!  Until then, make sure to follow me on Twitter,  like the blog page on Facebook, hit up the Tumblr, and continue to be awesome!

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Mind of Lara Croft

I hope I do not offend any fans of the series with this, but...Lara Croft is not exactly known for being a psychologically deep and complex character.  At least, not in any of her current incarnations.  The new reboot seems to feature a deeper, more vulnerable Lara, so whether this remains the case or not after the next game remains to be seen.  That said, there is one mental characteristic that Lara has in spades, and that is self confidence.

So what is self confidence, exactly?  It is frequently confused with arrogance, which I'm sure Lara also has a bit of, considering her aristocratic upbringing.  But arrogance is not a substitute for self confidence, and the self confident are not necessarily arrogant.  Well, to find out, let's go to...the internet!

A Google search gives us the web definition of, "assurance: freedom from doubt; belief in yourself and your abilities."

Wikipedia tells us "The socio-psychological concept of self-confidence relates to self-assuredness in one's personal judgment, ability, power, etc., sometimes manifested excessively. Being confident in yourself is infectious if you present yourself well, others will want to follow in your foot steps towards success."

Wikipedia also grants us this quote from Raj Persaud, "Promise yourself, no matter how difficult the problem life throws at you, that you will try as hard as you can to help yourself. You acknowledge that sometimes your efforts to help yourself may not result in success, as often being properly rewarded is not in your control."

I personally really like that quote, because I think it gets us on the right track here, especially when we're talking about Lara Croft.  Lara faces many unknown dangers all the time.  She's an explorer and adrenaline junkie, and as such, she must often face challenges with only her wits, skills, and tools to rely on.  The attitude of "I will throw my best at whatever comes my way," is the only way one can function in such a situation, and as such, Lara embodies self-confidence with her attitude and approach to life.

So how does one build self confidence?  There's a whole crapload of books and articles out there on it, so I'm not going to spoonfeed you stuff you can find with ten seconds and a google search.  Rather, I'm going to relate some of my personal methods and experiences with self confidence.

First of all, I'm going to come right out and admit that I sometimes have self confidence problems.  This may sound odd, considering I'm a black belt, run my own dojo, have a wife, etc.  Certain experiences in my life, however, mainly a bad relationship that went on for way too long have soured much of the time I've put into life doing things that build self confidence.  As such, I am still sort of "rebuilding" myself, if you will.  Here are some of the things that I, personally, am working on to further this goal.

Work Out
This may sound a bit cliché'd, but working out and being in good shape go a long way to helping my confidence level.  Knowing that I am physically capable of handling most things thrown at me helps quite a bit in general, day-to-day confidence.  It also helps keep hormones in your body in balance, which can assist with some of the negative mental situations that antagonize your self-confidence.

Talk it Out
Talking to someone you trust who cares about you can also really help.  I confide in my wife a lot when I'm feeling unsure about myself.  She's always in my corner for me, but more importantly, she isn't just a "cheerleader."  Building confidence isn't about ignoring your flaws, it's recognizing them, in addition to recognizing your strengths, and reconciling these thing with yourself.  This, in part, is what separates self-confidence from arrogance, in that the arrogant person believes they have no flaws, whereas the confident person knows they have flaws, but that their strengths counter-balance these flaws, and help them feel more complete as a person.  My wife doesn't just give me a "you're amazing" line.  She says yes, you have these problems, and you should work on them like this, but keep in mind, you also do these amazing things.

Take Chances, and Forgive Yourself
One of my favorite lines from any movie is from We Bought a Zoo, and the line is, "You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it."  Now, existing in hollywoodland, this phrase comes true in both instances it's used.  I can tell you that this is not always the case, at least in the idea of those twenty seconds will give you the results you desire.  However, that's where part two comes in: forgiving yourself.  

You do something stupid, and out there, totally sticking your neck out, you get shut down, in some way, for whatever reason.  It sucks.  It might even be embarrassing.  Even if it is embarrassing, however, you need to let it go, and move on.  Holding on to embarrassment doesn't help, and it will keep you from your next "twenty sections of courage" opportunity.  The movie line isn't wrong, then, if you take this approach, as the great thing that comes of it then will be you own rising self confidence.  As you make every mistake, you realize that mistakes happen, everyone makes them, and you can move on just fine.  Which brings us to...

Everything in life gets better with practice.  Seriously.  Every skill, trait, or ability you desire, will get better with practice.  Even self confidence.  How do you practice self confidence, you ask?  Well, you need to work at it, first of all, like anything else you would practice.  You're not always going to like it.  But you need to do it anyway.  Go outside your comfort zone, even just a little bit, at least once a day.  Seriously, just try it.  Do something you don't feel you can do(even if it's something small).  Say hello to someone as you walk past them.  Strike up a conversation in an elevator.  Attempt to learn a new skill.  Ask someone for help.  Go somewhere that makes you feel uncomfortable(please nowhere too dangerous =P).  Seriously, just think of something that gives you the sensation of, "Oh gosh, I don't think I can do that!" and attempt it!  Start small, and simple, and build your way up. Remember, one thing a day.

Self-confidence is something that comes with time.  It's not easy for anyone, at least starting out.  Remember that everyone feels uncomfortable, or afraid, or singled-out sometimes, and that's okay.  That's even what makes it okay, is that everyone on earth probably has the thoughts running through their head that you do sometimes.  We're all human, we all make mistakes, and we all get scared.  Admitting this is sometimes the best thing for your confidence level, it's sort of the old public speaking adage of "imagine the audience in their underwear."

Keep pushing yourself to be a bit more adventurous than the day before, and you never know, you might be raiding tombs someday!

Today being Friday, we won't see each other again  until next monday, New Year's Eve!  I'll probably throw up the Lara Croft roundup sometime over the weekend, and I'm thinking of doing something special for the new year, rather than jumping right into our next character.  I'm not sure what I'm going to do, yet, but we'll see next week!  Until then, make sure to follow me on Twitter,  like the blog page on Facebook, hit up the Tumblr, and continue to be awesome!

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Skills of Lara Croft

Sorry for the brief break, folks, didn't have a buffer of posts going into the holiday and didn't have much time to write.  That's okay, we're getting back on track with the skills of Lara Croft.

The first thing that we really encounter in Lara Croft is her acrobatic and athletic skills.  The Tomb Raider games feature a lot of platforming elements, and as such, Lara spends quite a bit of her time running, climbing, jumping, and swimming, to make her way to her destination.  The first thing we're going to take a look at is her jumping, with an element of parkour known as the precision jump.

The precision jump is for making long, accurate jumps onto pinpoint landings, possibly from a similarly confined space.   In order to properly take off and land, you need to get your whole body into the motion.  The idea is to properly calculate the arc of the distance you need to travel, so you land coming "down" on the target, rather than "forward" into it, so you don't have to worry about killing any forward momentum.  This is good when jumping from ledge to ledge in a rickety old tomb, or, in a more common application, on a railing, or a small rock or boulder.  I will not attempt to write down a step-by-step tutorial on a precision jump and will, instead, hook you up with a video from Urban Current!

Next there is climbing!  There are two major categories for climbing, climbing with ropes, and bouldering.  Bouldering is typically smaller rock formations, without ropes, from the perspective of solving "problems."  Routes are rated by difficulty on different scales, and are approached as a challenge and problem solving experiment.  Regular climbing, with ropes, has to do more with ascending heights, and traversing large distances.  Both are usually done with groups(and are much more fun that way) and both should most likely be attempted and learned under the eyes of a more experienced person.  I would recommend checking in your area for a local rock-climbing gym.  If you can't find this, then check out these climbing organizations and see if there's a club in your area!

Finally, there's her shooting.  Lara is an expert marksman, in both firearms and archery.  First, let me start by saying that dual wielding pistols and sub-machine guns, as she does in game, is pretty unrealistic.  Even if you can handle the recoil with one hand, your aim is going to be crap.  It's much better to use one hand, with the other reinforcing or gripping the stock(depending upon the type of weapon you're firing).  That said, learning a gun is still a damn useful skill.  Weapon ownership varies from state to state and country to country, however even if you can't own a weapon, there's good odds you have a local sport shooting range to take advantage of.  You can typically find these by asking around at local sporting goods stores.  Sometimes sporting goods stores will also offer deals in partnership with local ranges for lessons and whatnot.  Just make sure you let them know you're interested in it for recreational target shooting...with all the unfortunate violence that's been going on lately, you don't want to be labeled as just another psycho.

There is, of course, more to Lara's skills, as there is with every character we profile, but I think these should give you a good jumping-off point.  If you enjoy parkour, check out the rest of Urban Current's videos.  They're excellent tutorials, and I learned a lot of what skills I have in the art from them.

That's it for today.  Tomorrow we take a look at Lara's motivations and mental characteristics, with the Mind of Lara Croft.  Until then, make sure to follow me on Twitter,  like the blog page on Facebook, hit up the Tumblr, and continue to be awesome!

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Lara Croft Workout

Just a reminder, there's still the ongoing quest, Activate the Book of Faces  I haven't been plugging it much, lately but we are quite close.  Just 10 more likes and we'll reach the goal of 50 Facebook fans, which means an extra character post over the weekend.  Go like the page, and share it with your friends!  Remember, if we hit 100 likes, I'll do an vlog post as well!

Anyhoo, now that we've got that out of the way, let's get down to business with Lara.  In both her original games and her reboot, Lara lives a very active life.  We see her running through caves, tombs, temples, and other locations, dealing with unsure footing, risky ascents, and fearsome fights.  Lara is lithe, but strong, and has the endurance to reach her goals without fail.  We even see a large obstacle course in her backyard for training, complete with cargo nets, jumping obstacles, and other manner of challenges.

As I have before I cannot recommend getting involved with Mud Runs more.  They present unique, fun challenges that you don't find in everyday life.  I participate in the Tough Mudder, but there's also the Warrior Dash, the Spartan Race, and other awesome, local runs to check out.

At any rate, as with most smaller, more svelte characters, I'd recommend the Fighter Diet(man, we need to do a big guy again soon, I want to use that diet plan more...).

Equipment Needed:
Chinup Bar

Level 1(beginner):
Walk at a brisk pace for thirty to forty minutes.  Make sure to keep your heart rate elevated.  Once this seems relatively easy, move on to level 2.
Level 2(intermediate):
Begin to work jogging into your walks.  Jog for a minute, walk for four.  Every five minutes stop and do twenty jumping jacks.  Keep increasing the jogging:walking ratio until your jogging for the whole half hour/forty minutes.
Level 3(Advanced):
Now you're going for speed.  See how many miles you can squeeze into your run.  Continue to stop every five minutes, but this time, instead of doing twenty jumping jacks, do ten burpees(without the jump or the pushup).
Level 4(Tomb Raider):
Still going for speed, but this time your burpees have a pushup when you hit the ground, and when you're coming up, instead of just standing, perform a tuck jump(jump as high as you can in the air and pull your knees to your chest).  Also, do fifteen instead of ten.

Level 1(beginner):
3x10 Chair-assisted pullups(palm away)
3x10 Kneeling pushups
3x10 Bodyweight squats
3x25 Crunches
3x1 Newspaper Crumples - Open a single sheet of newspaper completely.  Pinch one of the corners in one hand, and hold it straight out in front of you while standing, so it's hanging without touching anything.  Now, without touching the paper with your other hand, crumple it into a ball in the outstretched hand.  Repeat on the other side.  This is a basic hand strengthening exercise to get you ready for the next levels.

Level 2(Intermediate):
3x10 Pullups(palm away)
3x10 Pushups
3x10 Bodyweight squats
3x25 Bicycle crunches
3x30 Seconds chinup bar hangs - Just grab onto your chinup bar and hang free for thirty seconds.

Level 3(Advanced):
3x15 Pullups(palm away)
3x20 Pushups
3x10 Tuck jumps
3x50 Bicycle crunches
3x30 Seconds towel hangs - Drap a towel over your chinup bar, grab onto either end, and hang for thirty seconds

Level 4(Tomb Raider):
5x20 Towel Pullups - Like your towel hangs from before, but do pullups!
5x20 Clap Pushups - Push up fast and clap your hands!
5x20 Tuck Jumps
5x50 Bicycle crunches
5x30  Seconds leg lifts - lie on your back, hands at your sides, life your legs six inches off the ground, and hold 'em there.

Day 1: Cardio
Day 2: Strength
Day 3: Cardio
Day 4: Strength
Day 5: Cardio
Day 6: Strength
Day 7: Rest

Again, these workouts, along with all of my workouts, are a rough outline.  As you get more comfortable with them, and with exercising in general, feel free to shake things up and try new exercise substitutions.  Tomorrow we take a look at the skills of Lara Croft!  Until then, make sure to follow me on Twitter,  like the blog page on Facebook, hit up the Tumblr, and continue to be awesome!

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Character Breakdown: Lara Croft

Name: Lara Croft
Games: Tomb Raider Series
  • Resourceful
  • Cool under pressure
  • Witty
  • Athletic
  • Agile
  • Marksman(bow and handguns)
  • Observant
  • Educated
This should be an interesting one!  We're going to be taking a look at Lara Croft, but the challenge will be merging the old teenage-boy's-polygonal-fantasy with the new realistic I'm-desperate-to-survive-but-I'll-still-kick-your-ass reboot.  For the purpose of the next few posts we're going to be considering BOTH to be canon(even though some series purists might disagree), and take the reboot as sort of a "prequel" to her other adventures on the small screen.

Lara Croft is, in many ways, a female version of Indiana Jones.  She's an adventure-seeking archaeologist, uncovering relics in dangerous tombs, leading a much more action-packed life that real-life archaeologists have assured us is not an accurate depiction of their career.  I'm pretty sure they're lying so the rest of us don't get jealous and jump into their profession.

At any rate, despite having giant triangle-boobs for most of her early console life, Lara is more than just a pretty face.  She's an educated scholar, in addition to being an expert marksman, equestrian, and rock climber.  She's also more than capable of taking care of herself in a fight.  In addition to all this, her new reboot reveals she operates well under pressure, even with the odds stacked against her.

In her workout segment, we're going to look to build an athletic, and all-around capable body, with strong upper body and hand strength for climbing and dual wielding pistols, as well as strong legs capable of carrying you across long gaps and through steep terrain.  In the skills section, we'll be taking a look at her personal arsenal, fighting style, and sundry exploration skills.  We'll also take a look at surviving in adverse conditions, much as we did with Udyr.

Finally, in the mind of Lara Croft, we'll explore the inner workings of curiosity and exploration, and how they can lead you both in an out of trouble, as well as helping you build a more fulfilling life.

That's all packed into the days to come, and I'm looking forward to tackling such an iconic character.  We continue tomorrow with the Lara Croft workout.  Until then, make sure to follow me on Twitter,  like the blog page on Facebook, hit up the Tumblr, and continue to be awesome!

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Redesign incoming!

Hey folks, looking to do a new design for the blog, possibly even move to our own URL/host independent of Blogger.  Anything in particular you'd like to see improved/altered/included?  Leave a comment here or on The Facebook Page.

The Sam Fisher Roundup

Well, that ends our time with Splinter Cell's Sam Fisher.  Let's take a look back at what we learned, eh?

Character Breakdown: Sam Fisher
We lay out exactly what makes Sam an iconic character.  His stealth, combat, and military prowess, his dark humor, his storied military service background, and his dark, dirty little secrets.

The Sam Fisher Workout
Here we laid out a workout that emphasizes muscular endurance and conditioning, for when you really need to hang from that pipe for an extra ten seconds to get the drop on that soldier, or you need to crouch walk for a mile and a half before you get to your designated target.

The Skills of Sam Fisher
We looked at the basic qualifications of a Navy SEAL(the branch of special forces Sam started in before moving to third echelon), how to walk in a stealthy manner, how to perform a split jump, and an overview of Krav Maga, Sam's martial art of choice.

The Mind of Sam Fisher
Compartmentalization is key, when you're dealing with such nasty stuff as Sam does.  We learned how to deal with traumatic events while still maintaining focus, and the ability to do what we need to do.

As Sam slinks off into the dark night to get ready for Blacklist, we're going to get ready for our next character, who cuts a rather more curvy figure, even as she gets ready for her upcoming gritty reboot.  Until then, make sure to follow me on Twitter,  like the blog page on Facebook, hit up the Tumblr, and continue to be awesome!

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Mind of Sam Fisher

Okay, so when we look at Sam Fisher's life, we see a lot of unpleasant things(spoilers ahead).  Double crossings, assassinations, dirty deeds while deep undercover, the (supposed) death of his only child, the death of his best friend at his hands.  Lots of nasty, dark things.  Even if all those bad things didn't happen to him, the man spends extended time behind enemy lines, undercover in stressful situations, killing and interrogating people for a living.  Sure, one gets desensitized to that sort of thing over time, but it still weighs heavily on a person, I don't care who you are or how bad you think you are.

So what does he do?  What does anyone do in that kind of situation?

Well, despite all this, it isn't until the death of his daughter that Sam finally starts to sink into depression.  He has always had a bit of a dark personality, and dark humor, but he was an efficient and stable soldier until her death.  Even when spiraling out of control from that, he still maintains his skills, and gets his job done.  The answer to how he accomplishes this is...


Compartmentalization is a mental survival mechanism that you can learn to control and exploit to increase your productivity, your happiness, and your overall quality of life.  It has both good and bad uses, we, obviously, are going to aim for the good, but let's look at examples of both.

Bad Compartmentalization:
A husband is being unfaithful to his wife.  To deal with the stress of having a wife and a mistress at the same time, he tends to compartmentalize his emotions for both, keeping them separate and apart in his brain.

Good Compartmentalization:
Your beloved dog of seven years is struck by a car, and dies.  Despite this heavy loss, you accept the death of your dog, compartmentalize, and move on, maintaining your quality of life after a short period of grief, and not losing three weeks of your life to sadness.

What makes these bad and good?  Well, chances are, the unfaithful husband WILL be found out.  His compartmentalization is just his way of avoiding what he needs to reconcile with himself.  Even if he isn't discovered, splitting yourself between two people like that will eventually eat away at you, and ruin one or both of your relationships.  In the case of the dog, a sad event that you, unfortunately, have no control over once its happened, is dealt with, and then progressed from.  Feeling guilt over not locking the gate, or not checking both ways before crossing, or letting the leash out too far, will do NOTHING to bring your dog back, and will only further impede and damage your life.

How do we compartmentalize, though?  Well, for starters, let's say that compartmentalizing is not ignoring a problem, shoving it down and hoping it goes away.  These problems inevitably bubble back to the surface, typically much worse because of repression of emotions and guilt/stress.  Compartmentalizing is looking at problems and stressful situations, giving them their due process, and accepting that you've done what you can, and letting them go to the quiet part of your brain where you don't worry about them anymore.

It's a lot harder than it sounds.

Let's go back to the dog example.  It's depressing, traumatizing, and unpleasant.  But there isn't anything you can do to bring the dog back.  Of course, you should grieve, this is natural.  But then you need to put away the leashes, bowls, toys, etc. and move on with your life.  This doesn't mean forget the dog, but be happy for the time you had with her, and realize that brooding over it won't do you any good.  Will you still do things that remind you of the dog, and get a little sad again? Probably.  But compartmentalizing is about having a place to store these feelings once you experience them and let them pass, without dwelling on them.

What are some good ways to help yourself compartmentalize?  Well, for starters, there's physical habits.  When we stress, we tend to tense up our neck and shoulders, sleep worse, eat worse, etc.  When we're depressed, we tend to slouch, lower our eyes to the ground, eat less or more(depending on how you react), and do fewer things.  When we get angry, we tend to clench our muscles, grind our teeth, tighten our facial muscles, and frown a lot.  When we get scared, we tend to be jumpy, sleep poorly, twitch a lot, and move more conservatively through life.

Identifying how your body is reacting, physically, to negative stimuli can be the first step.  Figure out what your body is doing, and then consciously try to avoid doing it.  Unclench your teeth.  Roll your neck and shoulders and relax them.  Stand up straight.  Go to bed earlier and maybe take some melatonin when you do.  Working out is also a great stress relief and body "reset" mechanism, and you know how much we love working out here.

Mentally, it's a different game.  Physical changes can put you well on the road, but it's not everything.  You need to mentally face problems, examine them, figure out what resolutions you can effect on the situation immediately, and then move on.  If you can do something immediately, do it!  If you can't but you think you can do something in the future, then pick that future date, schedule a reminder somewhere(calendar, phone, blackberry, etc.)  and then try to accept that you can't do anything right now.  If you're buried under debt, do what you can in the immediate time(consolidate credit cards, develop a new budget), and then let it go.  Beyond getting a new job, all you can do is continue to work the one you have, and the stress and distraction of thinking about your debt all the time is only going to make you worse at your job.

Being able to mentally examine your situation, settle up what you can, and then let it go is very difficult at first.  I personally have a really hard time compartmentalizing past failures, mistakes, and bad decisions.  It's something I'm dealing with right now.  I tend to dwell on them, and the fear of those negative situations reoccurring can lead me to being afraid of making new decisions and taking new risks.  As with all things, however, you get better with practice(I know I am, this blog is evidence of that).

Here's some good articles for further reading on compartmentalization:

In the end, Sam Fisher needs to be able to compartmentalize in order to do his job.  Everyone does, really, otherwise we'd all spend most of our time being down in the dumps about bad things.  My wife is fantastic at compartmentalizing, and I draw my inspiration from her.  Compartmentalizing(not repressing) her negative situations and experiences has made her incredibly strong, and also a genuinely happy and content person, and I draw inspiration from her.  Remember, you can't always control the world around you, but you can always control how you react to it.

Tomorrow we wrap up Sam Fisher with the Sam Fisher Roundup.  Until then, make sure to follow me on Twitter,  like the blog page on Facebook, hit up the Tumblr, and continue to be awesome!

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Skills of Sam Fisher

Alrighty, so here we are, checking out the skills of one Sam Fisher, splinter cell extraordinaire.  First, I'm going to drop some links on you.
Sam's an ex-SEAL, so their training manuals are probably a good place to start.  You'll find the physical requirements(they're more rigorous than most of our previous workout, so be prepared, you might want to start with ours first), injury prevention, nutrition, etc.  They're not as fun a read as what we're used to here(I hope), but they are damn practical.  Remember, you want to be the man himself, and he STARTED as a SEAL, so you just go up from there.
A little more on Navy SEALs, just a nice overview of the program.  Dudes are badasses, but I don't have to tell you that, I'm sure.

Okay, so that's the physical entry prep taken care of.  But that is not all Sam Fisher is.  Let's talk maneuvering and such.

Sam almost practices parkour.  I say almost, because though his moves are reminiscent, parkour is all about speed and efficiency, whereas Sam's moves are all about stealth.  For example, when a traceur is dropping through an air vent into a room, he or she would probably drop straight down or at an angle(if they know which way they're going), roll, pop up, and be on the run.  Sam slowly lowers himself, feet first, making as little noise as possible, and then hanging from the vent until he slowly lets go, and lands lightly.  Silence is key.

It's relatively easy to practice this sort of thing.  Play games with yourself as you move around your house.  See how little sound you can make as you move around.  Sneak up on people if possible.  Try not to make any noise when performing athletic maneuvers, like dropping down from your chinup bar, getting over a wall, or moving through a tight space like a crowded room or closet.

Here's a tip for walking silently:  When you move, keep your weight on your back foot.  Extend your stepping foot out, place it on the ground starting with the outside edge, just in front of your heel.  Once this part of your foot has mad contact, slowly "roll" your weight forward and to the center, ending up on the ball of your foot by the time you transfer your weight to this foot.  This way if you're stepping on a creaky floorboard or something you'll be able to take the weight off the foot the second it starts to make noise, and you'll make very little impact noise in general.

Let's take a look at one of Sam's signature moves, the split jump and wall press.  This is actually shockingly easy to practice and get good at if you can find a narrow hallway somewhere.  Get a good pair of sneakers, and make sure it's walls that you can scuff up without causing problems with the owner of the walls.  Start with a small hop next to one wall, pushing off of it and then immediately bracing your foot on the other wall.  Start at a low height, first, and remember, the key is to push "up" with your initial foot, not "out," or away from the wall.

Finally, we have combat prowess.  Sam practices Krav Maga as his hand-to-hand style of choice.  Krav Maga is a newer martial art, invented in the early 1900s and refined on the battlefields of the state of Israel.  Being a very modern, militaristic style, Krav Maga is centered around the ideas of efficiency and effectiveness, not showiness or intimidation(like some asian arts can be, at times).  It is focused on controlling and incapacitating assailants quickly and efficiently, and is quite brutal in its efficiency.

If you know me, you know I don't encourage learning martial arts through videos or books, if possible.  As such, I highly recommend you actually find a Krav Maga instructor/school.  Luckily, there's a comprehensive Google map of all licensed schools, and there's quite a few available.  I do recommend learning Krav Maga if you can, like the style I practice(Isshinryu) it is quite modern and practical, which I encourage in any martial art.  If it is not available, however, I will say as I always do that it's always better to practice SOME martial art, than none.

So, that about wraps it up for Sam's skills.  Tune in tomorrow where we talk about the mind of Sam Fisher, and what it takes to be a cold-blooded assassin spy soldier operative(yeah, that's a thing, I just made it).  Until then, make sure to follow me on Twitter,  like the blog page on Facebook, hit up the Tumblr, and continue to be awesome!

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Sam Fisher Workout

Sam Fisher is similar to Ezio Auditore in many ways. Strong power to weight ratio.  Relatively light build.  Lots of acrobatics and/or athletic skills.  Oh, they also both kill a buttload of people.  But Sam spends less time performing cardiovascular activities(running freaking everywhere), and more time in anaerobic endurance-style positions(concentric holds, crouching everywhere, etc.)  As such we're going to focus a bit more on muscular endurance, as well as upper body strength.

I would recommend the Fighter Diet to go with this workout, so you stay nice and svelte for fitting into tight crawlspaces and hauling yourself through air ducts.  As always, make sure you get plenty of rest and hydrate well.

Equipment Needed:
Chinup Bar
2 Chairs
Sand Weights/Heavy Books(you can learn how I make my sand weights in the Kratos workout)

Level 1(beginner):
Walk at a brisk pace for thirty minutes.  Shoot for two miles traveled by the time you're done.

Level 2(intermediate):
Begin working jogging intervals into your running.  Run for two minutes, walk for eight, repeat until you fill your half hour.

Level 3(expert):
Run at a good clip for thirty minutes.  Shoot for sub-eight minute miles.

Level 4(splinter cell): 
Five miles of running, at a sub-seven minute pace.  Finish with as many hill sprints as you can muster.

Level 1(beginner):
3x10 Pullups(palm facing away) Chair assisted if necessary.
3x10 Chair dips
3x10 Kneeling pushups
3x10 Bodyweight squats
3x15 Seconds wall sits(put your back against the wall and sit like you're sitting in a chair with your knees at a 90 degree angle bend, hold it)
3x15 Seconds Planks
3x15 Seconds Kneeling half-pushup holds(go down halfway and hold it)
3x5 Seconds clenched pullup holds(Go to the "top" position of a pullup and hold it)

Level 2(intermediate):
3x10 Pullups(palm facing away)
3x10 Chair dips with 5/10/15 lb weighted backpack(work your way up in weight)
3x10 Pushups
3x10 Tuck jumps(squat down, jump as high as you can and pull your knees to your chest)
3x30 Seconds wall sits(put your back against the wall and sit like you're sitting in a chair with your knees at a 90 degree angle bend, hold it)
3x30 Seconds Planks
3x20 Seconds half-pushup holds(go down halfway and hold it)
3x10 Seconds clenched pullup holds(Go to the "top" position of a pullup and hold it)
Level 3(expert):
5x15 Pullups(palm facing away)
5x15 Chair dips with 5/10/15 lb weighted backpack(work your way up in weight)
5x15 Pushups
5x15 Tuck jumps(squat down, jump as high as you can and pull your knees to your chest)
5x45 Seconds wall sits(put your back against the wall and sit like you're sitting in a chair with your knees at a 90 degree angle bend, hold it)
5x45 Seconds Planks
5x30 Seconds half-pushup holds(go down halfway and hold it)
5x15 Seconds clenched pullup holds(Go to the "top" position of a pullup and hold it)
Level 4(splinter cell): 
5x15 Pullups(palm facing away) with 5/10/15 lb weighted backpack(work your way up in weight)
3x10 Towel pullups(hang a towel over your chinup bar, grab onto each end with either hand, do pullups)
5x15 Chair dips with 20/25/30 lb weighted backpack(work your way up in weight)
5x15 Pushups with 10/15/20 lb weighted backpack(work your way up in weight)
5x15 Tuck jumps(squat down, jump as high as you can and pull your knees to your chest)
5x60 Seconds wall sits(put your back against the wall and sit like you're sitting in a chair with your knees at a 90 degree angle bend, hold it)
5x60 Seconds Planks with 20 lb backpack
5x60 Seconds half-pushup holds(go down halfway and hold it) with 20 lb backpack
5x15 Seconds clenched pullup holds(Go to the "top" position of a pullup and hold it)
5x15 Seconds clenched towel pullup holds.

So that's it, our fitness guide for a badass covert splinter cell agent.  Next post we'll be taking a look at the skills and combat style of Sam Fisher.  Until then, make sure to follow me on Twitter,  like the blog page on Facebook, hit up the Tumblr, and continue to be awesome!

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Character Breakdown: Sam Fisher

Sorry for the lack of post yesterday, but here's our next character!

Name: Samuel "Sam" Fisher
Games: Splinter Cell Series
  • Resourceful
  • Athletic and Acrobatic
  • Stealthy
  • Sarcastic
  • Focused
  • Mild Introvert
  • Proficient in hand to hand
  • Excellent Marksman
  • Strategic Genius
Sam Fisher, the original splinter cell.  Spy, assassin, double agent, ultra-classified secret operative.  Sam is a legend amongst multiple branches of the US government, both covert and overt, and has seen more battlefields, both domestic and abroad, than almost anyone on earth.  He is cold and calculating when he needs to be, always resourceful, and rarely divulgent about his emotions.  Nevertheless Sam is loyal, efficient, and, to those he cares about, compassionate.

(spoilers ahead)
Sam has to do some seriously dirty deeds for his country, including, but not limited to, murdering his own best friend, survive multiple double crossings under deep, deep cover, and survive his daughters death after his job required him to spend more time away from her than he'd like.  This type of work environment leaves one cold, detached, and compartmentalized.  Sam deals with his misfortune through dark, sarcastic humor, and a tendency to prefer to work alone from the shadows, separated from humanity.

Sam is resourceful and proficient in the world of espionage, capable of operating alone, or as part of a team.  Before becoming a member of Third Echelon, he saw multiple theaters of war as a Navy SEAL, as well as several other tier-one level squads, mostly in the gulf war arena.  He is capable of working with many, many advanced tools and technologies, as well as improvising with the local environment.  He can pick apart and take down a terrorist cell single-handedly, if need be, dividing and conquering opposing forces with skill and dexterity.

Physically, Sam is getting on in years, but doesn't show it in his movements.  He is athletic and agile, utilizing moves like his signature split jump and performing physical feats that many would scoff at.  Proficient in combat, he specializes in Krav Maga, as well as being an expert marksman, and having experience in demolitions.  He used what appears to be a very subtle adaptation of parkour techniques to move through urban environments, and is strong enough to overcome large foes, hide bodies, and make his way through difficult combat situations.  He has the stamina and endurance to continue on missions for long periods of time, sometimes aided by technology, but often running on his own physical capabilities.

Same is an interesting and, at time, troubled character.  The universe he operates in is modeled after our own, and as such, he offers a very human approach to the video game world(as opposed to, say, Sephiroth, or Samus Aran).  This should be an interesting series!

We'll continue tomorrow with the Sam Fisher workout. Until then, make sure to follow me on Twitter,  like the blog page on Facebook, hit up the Tumblr, and continue to be awesome!

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Sephiroth Roundup

Hey guys, sorry for the late post today, but I figured it wasn't too big a deal since it's just a roundup.  We finish our time with Sephiroth today!  I enjoyed it, I hope you do, too.

First off, a link to my favorite remix of Sephiroth's theme, One Winged Angel, Black Wing Metamorphosis.

Next, we've got our posts.

Character Breakdown: Sephiroth
We take a look at the big bad dude himself, his major qualities, and lay out our battle plan.

The Sephiroth Workout
We learn how to build a lean, mean, romantic-interest-slaying demi-god body!

The Skills of Sephiroth
We take a look at some of Sephiroth's defining abilities, like his sword fighting, and his ruthless tenacity and focus.

The Mind of Sephiroth
We examine the mind of a supervillain with a serious god complex, and examine the merits and disadvantages of fanatically devoting yourself to a single goal.

That's it for our white-haired antagonist.  Tomorrow, something new! Until then, make sure to follow me on Twitter,  like the blog page on Facebook, hit up the Tumblr, and continue to be awesome!

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Mind of Sephiroth

"A god complex is an unshakable belief characterized by consistently inflated feelings of personal ability, privilege, or infallibility. A person with a god complex may refuse to admit the possibility of error or failure, even in the face of complex or intractable problems or difficult or impossible tasks, or may regard personal opinions as unquestionably correct. The individual may disregard the rules of society and require special consideration or privileges." -Wikipedia

So before we go any further, let it be stated that "God complex" is not an actual clinical disorder.  What we're talking about here, in Sephiroth's case, is an extremely arrogant and self-entitled personality.  Some spoilers ahead, if you haven't managed to play Final Fantasy VII yet(which you should).

Sephiroth was created by splicing human DNA with that of an alien being known as Jenova.  Jenova came to the planet, looking to take control of its lifestream and basically use it as an interstellar space ship to conquer other planets.  Sort of like a living, breathing death star.  Sephiroth has no idea of this at the start of his life, and finds out later on, leading him to extremely conflicted feelings and basically breaking his mind.  He goes on to think himself the inheritor of his "mother's" work, trying to use Meteor to bring out the lifestream of the planet by injuring it deeply, and then merging with the lifestream to take control.

Basically, Sephiroth is an arrogant bastard who actually has the power to back up his claims.  Cloud ends up being the only one capable of defeating him, and even he does so only at great cost.  Sephiroth exudes confidence in his god-like abilities, and the haughtiness that comes with it.  His hubris, in a way, leads to his downfall, however.

Future supervillains and gods of the world take note, hubris will always be your downfall.  If you have a chance to just straight-up off the plucky hero, take it.

In all seriousness, though, there is efficiency and effectiveness in the ruthless attitude that Sephiroth approaches things with.  While he may take sadistic pleasure in hurting other people(like when he killed Aerith in front of Cloud) his main driving force is his overall goal.  Much like Kratos, he allows nothing to come between him and his final desired result.

Take a moment, and look at your life in the same way.  We frequently find ourselves chasing multiple goals and outcomes in our lives, which can divide our attention and focus.  Sephiroth doesn't care about any of this.  He picks one goal, and he drives relentlessly towards it.  What frequently keeps us from approaching our lives like this is social obligations and constructs.  To focus single-mindedly on something typically leads one to brush off friends and family members, bruise feelings, and step on toes.  But, if you're truly looking to Sephiroth as an example, you probably are willing to make a few sacrifices.

Great works can be accomplished through single-mindedness.  If you pick just one direction, one final goal, and spend every day working towards that one end, from dawn until dusk, you'll be surprised how much progress you can make.  Not to say that you shouldn't take occasional breaks.  Temporary diversions are necessary to keep your brain from stagnating and burning out.  Sephiroth's temporary diversions are slaughtering innocents, I would recommend you pick something a bit more constructive, like playing with Legos or unwinding with a nice video game or two(I should hope you enjoy those if you're reading this blog).

Regardless, though, the biggest lesson we can take from Sephiroth is that, to reach your greatest potential, be it godhood, or something else, you need to have focus, and you need to have drive.  Pick one, single thing.  Maybe it's writing a book.  Owning a business.  Raising a child.  Amassing a fortune.  Whatever it is, pick it, write it down, assemble some semblance of a plan, and go for it.  That is your driving force, and you will stop at nothing to obtain it.

You'd be surprised how much you can do this way, and how much success you'll enjoy.

That about wraps it up for Sephiroth.  I hope you enjoyed the ride as much as I did.  Tomorrow we'll be doing our normal character round up post, and the day after, who knows?  Maybe something new!  As always, make sure to follow me on Twitter,  like the blog page on Facebook, and check us out on Tumblr.  See you tomorrow, and until then, continue being awesome, you neophyte deity, you.

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Skills of Sephiroth

First and foremost, Sephiroth is a genetically engineered super-soldier.  He's also extremely gifted with magic and materia manipulation.  In addition to this, he's both a skilled tactician, and relentlessly determined individual.  His sword fighting is as core to his character as anything else, however, so we're going to look at this first.

The Manamune, Sephiroth's weapon of choice, is an oversized and stylized version of the Japanese nodachi, basically their equivalent of the European greatsword.  The nodachi was typically carried slung across the back, the only Japanese sword that was(the katana and wakizashi both attached at the hip), however it was not drawn from the back, rather it was taken off and removed from its scabbard, then wielded.  Traditionally, the swords were used to take down horsemen, although the naginata was later favored for such a task.  They were also used as a symbol of status in japanese culture, in part because their combat effectiveness was dubious and they were more of a showpiece than anything.

But what better for an overly-dramatic villain like Sephiroth to use?  =)

To wield the nodachi, you need a strong grounding in kenjutsu, or its modern sport equivalent, kendo.  You know that I do not recommend learning traditional arts over the internet or through books/movies, if you can find the real thing, so I recommend trying to find a local dojo to learn from.  Here are a few directories:

You can also purchase a nodachi(they are also called odachi) from most online sword dealers.  My personal favorite is TrueSwords.  Remember that with swords, you get what you pay for.  Check out online reviews before purchase, and investigate manufacturers.

In regards to his other skills, you might want to look into studying basic human psychology.  Sephiroth may be a psychopath, but many psychopaths are extremely gifted in the art of taking people apart mentally, and making them do what they want.  For example, think Hannibal Lector in the Silence of the Lambs series, or, for a real life example, Charles Manson leading a bunch of fellow loons to commit homicide.  Not that these guys are good role models or anything, it's just an example.  Psycho-analyzation is something you can begin to do just by people watching, and reading some basic psychology textbooks.  The mind is a fascinating thing to study, and can be well worth your time learning about.

For mental conditioning, I would actually refer you back to the second half of Kratos' skills article.  He and Sephiroth are quite similar in the single-minded purpose department, as well as sheer determination and willpower.  They both fought their way back from the dead multiple times(albeit in different mythos), and find themselves only minorly inconvenienced by being stabbed by giant swords.

Finally, you might want to look into learning meditation.  I plan on doing a full write-up on meditation sometime, but until I good, this article is a good place to start.  Now, meditation typically leads to calmer thoughts, a more peaceful life, and a happier existence.  Not exactly the makings of an S-Class villain.  However, meditation can also grant you razor-sharp focus, extreme self control, and knowledge of yourself.  If you can't control yourself, you can't control anyone else, either.  Just something to think on.

So that's it.  I think, honestly, all of these skills have their merits even if you don't want to be a bad guy.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that practicing them is much more likely to lead to inner peace rather than a deep-seated lust for godhood.  That said, it's all in the application, I suppose.  I'm here to put the tools in your hands, it's your choice as to how to use them.  Tomorrow we delve into the mind of Sephiroth, and examine how and why he chooses to use his tools as he does.  Until then, make sure to follow me on Twitter,  like the blog page on Facebook, and continue to be awesome.

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Sephiroth Workout

(Hey guys, a reader suggested I start throwing some stuff up on Tumblr, so I set up the Be A Game Character Tumblr!  I probably won't be mirroring the WHOLE blog over there, but I will be posting some stuff.  It'll probably end up being some sort of twisted lovechild of the blog and the Facebook page.  Go follow and reblog!)

Okay, so let's take a look at what's iconic about Sephiroth's fitness.  First off, he's a hell of a lot stronger than he looks.  If you look at Donkey Kong or Kratos, you know they're big burly dudes that can probably chuck you around without too much effort.  Sephiroth(and his counterpart, Cloud Strife) follows the Japanese bishonen aesthetic, that is, a man whose beauty/attractiveness is considered rather gender-neutral.  As such, if we're trying to look like him, we want to be strong without looking like a testosterone-laden musclehead.  Luckily, you can be strong and remain pretty slim, if you have the right regimen.  For instance.

In addition to having great overall strength, Sephiroth is also a gifted combatant, and wields an oversized nodachi sword known as the Manamune.  We're going to be working our old pal the sledgehammer into our workouts, to build wrist strength and upper body endurance/stamina.

For the interest of this workout regimen and body type goal, I'd recommend the Fighter Diet, making sure to keep your proteins nice and lean(low fat), and your calorie count relatively low.  There's also some evidence that soy-based proteins have a tendency to release less testosterone and more progesterone than animal-based proteins(which can help keep you slim), so you may want to dip into tofu and soy products more often as your protein sources.

Equipment Needed:
Weight Set & Bench
Note: This is the first time I've advocated a weight bench set in a post.  I strive to offer a wide variety of workout methods on this blog, and while I advocate workouts on a budget, sometimes a traditional weight set is just a great thing to have.  If you can't afford a weight set, or don't have the space for one, you can substitute the sandbags from the Kratos workout, just sticking with similar weights and substituting front squats for back squats.

Strength Workout A:
5x5 Bench Press
5x5 Overhead Press
5x5 Deadlift
5x5 Plate Wrist Curls
3x25 Twist Crunches

Strength Workout B:
5x5 Tricep Curls
5x5 Butterfly Curls
5x5 Back Squats
5x5 Sledgehammer Levers(front and back)
3x25 Bicycle Crunches

Alternate these workouts, leaving at least one day of rest between each.  These are good, core strength building exercises, without devoting too much time to mere anatomy enhancement(stuff like bicep curls or other isolation exercises).  Keep in mind that you should start at a LOW weight and work your way up.  Also keep in mind that a regimen this simple will eventually lead to a strength plateau.  I've written an article on how to surpass plateaus that you might want to give a read when you've reached that point, or want to branch out to other exercises to keep it interesting.

High Intensity Cardio Workout A:
5x10 Burpees, Twenty second rest between sets
5x5 Sledgehammer Swings(both sides)

High Intensity Cardio Workout B:
5-10 Hill Sprints, Twenty second rest between each(do as many as you can up to ten)

Low Intensity Cardio:
40 Continuous minutes of running(brisk walking if you are not able), swimming, or bicycling.

Alternate your high intensity workouts on your days you don't lift, as often as you are comfortable doing(your probably going to have a rough time after lifting at first, so don't stress yourself).  Leave the low intensity cardio for lifting days, or when your body doesn't feel up to high intensity.

It's important to listen to your body on this regimen, as it's rather demanding, especially at first.  Your initial goal should be weight training two times a week, high intensity cardio two times a week, and low intensity cardio two times a week.  Take it slow, and work your way up.  As always, if something hurts, STOP, and if the hurt doesn't go away, consider seeing a doctor, or at the very least resting until it feels better.  Tomorrow we take a look at Sephiroth's skills.  Until then, make sure to follow me on Twitter,  like the blog page on Facebook, and continue to be awesome.

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Character Breakdown: Sephiroth

Name: Sephiroth
Game(s): Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core, Final Fantasy Dissidia, Kingdom Hearts 1&2
  • Absurdly Strong
  • Arrogant
  • Cold
  • Calculating
  • Determined
  • Ruthless
  • Insane
If you just started humming "One-Winged Angel" in your head, congratulations, this one's for you(btw, my favorite rendition of this iconic tune can be found here)!  Sephiroth enjoys the honor of being both our first Final Fantasy character, and our first bona fide bad guy!  While Kratos is definitely a ruthless and cruel bastard, Sephiroth is a straight-up psychotic arch-villain.  This dude psychologically and physically breaks people, cities, and planets as he sees fit, in the pursuit of a delusional belief that he deserves to be a god, wielding a planet like an enormous organic death star.  He also has fantastically conditioned hair.

Quips about his luscious locks and slender build aside, Sephiroth is the very definition of "bad guy" for a lot of gamers, and while my personal favorite villain may be Gannon/Ganondorf, I cannot deny his level of badassitude.  He wields a seven-foot long sword, kills love interests just to see their boyfriends squirm(spoilers!), and is willing to commit genocide just to achieve his own goals of attaining godhood.  Delusional, sure, but you can't deny his methods are effective.

We're going to approach our fitness section in the interest of developing lots of raw strength, while still maintaining a slender, fast build.  This means lots of powerlifting and plyometrics(by the way, you might want to pick up a weight set or grab a membership at a local gym).  We're also going to be doing a lot of cardio, with a good mix of high intensity(for explosiveness and good anaerobic combat conditioning), and low-intensity(to keep slender form and to have good overall stamina).

For skills we're going to be taking a look at wielding the nodachi, the style of japanese greatsword that Sephiroth's signature weapon, the manamune, is modeled after.  We're also going to look at psychological analyzing and influencing people, as well as mental conditioning against such techniques.

Finally, we're going to peer into the mind of a delusional, arrogant asshole, with homicidal tendencies and a god complex that would give anyone a run for their money(I'm looking at you, Loki).  I can't promise this is going to be a pretty place, but we're in the business of emulating video game characters here, and if you want to be a villain that bad, we can least look at a roadmap as a mental exercise.  That said, I'm also not going to endorse you follow anything written in this particular section when we get to it, and we'll talk more about that then.

So buckle up, and get ready, we're going to go for a bit of a ride in the coming days.  Hope you're ready =)

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

How to Build A Power Suit and/or Powered Armor, Part 5: Armor and Weapons

Finally, the cool stuff!  Sorry it took so long to get here, guys, but without the proper framework to strap our armor and weapons on, we're just your average over-geared mall ninja.  We want something awesome here, not just your average bulletproof vest, so we're going to talk raw materials here, as well as "budget" options.  We're going to assume you have the capability to test homemade armor methods and whatnot if you're honestly serious about this, which means access to a shooting range and a variety of weapons/bullet calibers.  If you don't have these, I would suggest going with the premade stuff rather than making your own.

So first, armor-wise, we have the budget option.  Rather than take up space with standard body armor ratings, I'll just link you to the FAQ from BulletProofMe.  I'm going to assume since we're wearing a freaking powersuit we're not looking for concealability, but full-out protection.  So we want level IV armor, with rifle plates.  Steel, ceramic, and titanium plates are all options.  Ceramic plates are the most commonly used, but the issue is they fail rather poorly in multiple-hit situations, so we probably want to opt for metal plates.  Of the two, steel is heavy, but titanium is expensive.  And even these plates won't last under too much punishment, plus the kevlar is useless once it's been fired upon.

But let's be serious here.  We don't just want normal protection.  We want full-body, I-feel-like-a-superhero type stuff going on here.  In this case, I'm going to assume you're willing to shell out the time and money for the good stuff.  Titanium steel is the most popular multi-hit plate out there.  You're going to want to test out curvature and thickness for what you can get, and keep in mind that titanium can be a pain in the ass to work with.  That said, assuming you find a thickness and curvature you like, you need to think about how you want to lay it out on the suit.

Obviously, the parts of your body that don't move that much should be easiest to cover with plate.  Attach it to the outside of your exoskeleton so you can protect the vitals of the suit as well as your own.  Forearms, upper arms, upper back and chest, thighs, and shins can all be "hard shelled" relatively easily.  The titanium hard shell should be lined with weapons-grade kevlar on the inside, to help catch any fragmentation should your armor get penetrated.  Joints and soft-body regions should be covered with weapons-grade kevlar as well, and then I would cover these areas with Vectran, which is stab proof AND extremely heat resistant(kevlar can be defeated by sharp metal such as knives and arrows).

For your head, you can start with a helmet from BulletProofMe as your base, and mod as necessary.  I would recommend at least a custom ballistic plastic faceshield.  Or, if you're planning to go all-out, I would say custom-design a full titanium helmet, attach it to the chestplate with accordion-stitched Kevlar, and mount the camera systems and hearing amplification devices we talked about in our last post.  Then you can run the wires and stuff for the TV glasses down your back and into the control systems for the suit.

As far as weapons go, you honestly can't go wrong with plain old firearms.  They're not the most original in the world, but they're damn effective, and economical.  Energy-based weapons are a long way away from reality, and weaponry such as railguns and gauss guns take a large amount of electricity to fire and quickly deteriorate the materials they're constructed out of.  That said, I think there's a fair amount of playroom for melee weapons.  Keep in mind that you want to take advantage of your amplified strength as much as possible.  While energy swords and whatnot are popular, with as much force as you're pulling it makes much more sense to go with something sturdy and smashing oriented.

Personally, I'd go with something along the lines of a two-handed peasants flail, which we discussed in our Kratos weapons examination.  Something constructed out of solid steel, with a weight on a short chain loop, and a long handle to act as a proper level.  The combined physics of the flail and the handle means you could theoretically be putting out enough kinetic force to bring down a building, which is quite respectable if I do say so myself.

So that's it, folks, we took a pretty fun little look at homemade powersuits and powered armor.  If I had a little more disposable income, I'd honestly start playing around with this stuff sometime.  Who knows, I have plenty of life left to live!  Rest assured if I do, I will post videos and progress as I go.  =D

Tomorrow we're going back to our normal format, maybe a new video game character if I feel like it.  As always, feel free to post character requests in the comments section, or on the Facebook page.  Until then, keep being awesome!

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

Monday, December 3, 2012

How to Build A Power Suit and/or Powered Armor, Part 4: Sensory Augmentation

Sorry for the delay, guys, City of Heroes closing bummed me out a lot more than I thought it would, I was in a funk about it for most of Saturday, and Sunday I had a big karate event to go to, sooooo yeah.

Anyhoo, we're onto the next post in our Build Your Own Powersuit series.  Sensory augmentation!  Quite a few different forms of sensory augmentation find their way into powersuits.  If you look into the Metroid Prime series, there's multiple types of visors involved, whereas the Halo series has had several as well.  Moving into movies and comic books we know Iron Man has all kinds of advanced targeting assistants, and in Batman Beyond Terry McGinnis has some cool surveillance capabilities in his cowl.

We'll take a look at vision options, first.  Assuming we're wearing a helmet with our suit, we've got a couple different routes to go.  One is to have a simple blast-resistant glass visor to see plainly out of, with some sort of HUD setup projecting on it.  The Air Force has some really cool stuff along these lines, both with HUD displays in the cockpit, and Helmet-Mounted Displays(HMDs).  Now, of course HMDs are awesome, but they're also quite technical to implement and expensive to boot.

For HUDs, your easiest bet would probably be to adapt the projection system from a system designed for your car, like this one for the display portion, and hook it up to your laptop that you would probably be driving your system with.  If you can figure out the display conversion, you can probably rig up a couple Python scripts to run at least minimal information by, like temperature outside the suit, how much battery life you have left, time of day, etc.

Of course, this is the bare basics.  If I had to pick my personal method of choice, I would have a very minimal transparent visor in my helmet, opting instead for more metal shielding my face.  I'd work mostly off of camera systems mounted onto the helmet, and then send the feeds into a pair of TV glasses, like the Vuzix Wrap 920s.  They've got HDMI adaptability so you can plug them right into an HDMI enabled laptop, and then all you need is a simple switching program to flip between various camera angles.  You could even do a picture-in-picture style view to give you shots of your rear and flank.  Grab a couple high-quality webcams, mount them on the armor, and you're in business.  Then we get imaginative.  A low-resolution FLIR camera runs you around $1,000 but lets you have Predator vision.  For a lower-cost night vision solution, you could snag a simple infrared security camera and hook it up(though you'd need to give it its own power supply since it's not inherently battery powered).

Augmented vision is cool, but so is augmented hearing!  If you have a full enclosed helmet, you're probably going to need some basic microphones mounted somewhere on your body to give you a feed anyway, and if you go with the TV glasses I recommended earlier you've already got ear buds to play the audio to.  Security microphones for surveillance are pretty cheap, though you need to adapt the cables to plug into your laptop and, again, conquer the wall current power supply problem(shouldn't be TOO difficult, since you already need to figure out a power source for your physical augmentations).  What's more, you could set up a switcher to have regular, close-range hearing, and then mount one mic into a parabolic sound collector dish to get long-range recordings for surveillance purposes.  There's a great tutorial on instructables on how to build your own parabolic collector using supplies from the dollar store.  Scale the principles up and you can get one working for your suit, as well.

As far as the other senses go, amplifying touch, smell, and taste are probably less important.  That said, if you have any ideas or reasons regarding these senses, I'd be glad to hear about them in the comments section below, or on the Facebook page!  That's gonna wrap up our post for today.  Tomorrow we're going to finish up our five-post long introspective on powersuits and powered armor with the armor and weapons design!  We'll take a look at modern armor types, what's coming down the pipe, and what sort of futuristic weaponry options we might have.  Until then, make sure to follow me on Twitter,  like the blog page on Facebook, and continue to be awesome.

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace