Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Revelation in 2018

My audience is in Russia and Nigeria.

I did not see that coming.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017: A personal recap

The Good Stuff

  • Family and friends were healthy and reasonably prosperous.
  • Got my DSL line fixed early in the year.
  • Much soup. Relatively-healthy eating there.
  • My gaming group lost a player.
  • Zombie Tools!
  • Started martial arts again.
  • Found a brewery with smoked beer on tap.
  • BART
  • Much sleep
  • Promotion at work.
  • Overseas trips for work.
  • In the UK for their June election. Hung Parliament!
  • Many cool things (Kickstarters, other junk) in my pile of junk.
  • Finished some stories. Started another story.
  • Game progress
  • EDIT: Winning the Little Drummer Boy game.
The Bad Stuff

  • Trump is President of the United States.
  • Alt-Right Nazi bullshit.
  • Equifax hack fallout.
  • Sinus issues. So. Many. Sinus. Issues. And horrible, horrible allergies.
  • My gaming group lost a player.
  • Phone jack died and having merry hell getting someone to fix it.
  • Learned of a sad and weird fate of a high school associate.
  • Lost some excellent co-workers as they moved on to other positions.
  • BART
  • Self-inflicted wound of stupid
  • Work just got more and more insane.
  • Overseas trips for work.
Conclusion

I guess I made out okay in 2017, at least for the most part. 2018's looking pretty uncertain, certainly in the first quarter. Guess we'll see what happens.

To the handful of people (mainly from Russia? Whyyyyyy?) who actually read this, I wish you all a Happy New Year. Hope 2018 treats us all well.

EDIT: 774 views? WTF?

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Feeling a little more childhood bleed away

Ah 2017. You've been a remarkably shitty year for more reasons than I want to write in this post. Corruption, pollution, insanity, threat of war... all the big things.

Funny that I find myself obsessing over tiny things as the year is winding down.

Yeah, I'm not talking about Trump's hands. I'm talking about childhood obsessions I'm finding myself stepping away from.

The first was "Doctor Who".

I've been following "Doctor Who" for most of my life. I was one of the few kids I knew in the U.S. watching the show when I was quite young. No one had even heard of the show, and when watched, the crappy BBC effects really didn't compare with the relatively more sophisticated stuff on American TV.

Still, I found myself utterly fascinated with the adventures of Tom Baker's Doctor gallivanting about on PBS reruns.

I was hooked. I watched it through multiple regenerations fairly faithfully.

It wasn't always a good show by any imagination. No one can sit through John Nathan Turner's era of running the show (poor Colin Baker) and not find one's faith shaken.

I was really excited when the show was revived in the turn of the century mark. Christopher Eccleston's Doctor was rocking and the show had a fun mix of camp and improved effects.

There was still the familiar, uneven writing, but it was overall enjoyable.

Then Steven Moffatt came along.

Moffatt wrote "Blink", the episode that remains my favorite of the series in terms of solid delivery. For all Moffatt's skills in writing stories, his ability as a showrunner was an epic disaster. His story arcs were incoherent garbage. And his efforts to deconstruct the Doctor as a character served only to make the show unwatchable.

When Peter Capaldi came on board as the Doctor, I was jazzed. He was great in "The Thick of It" and his portrayal of the Doctor has been awesome, but the writing... god, the writing...

I gave up after the horrific finale where they finally did away with Clara (an overdone and incoherent companion). The show was just too awful for me to stomach.

I never saw the season with the new Companion. I tried, but... god, it was still terrible.

Now there's a new showrunner and a new Doctor. I want to feel enthusiastic and watch it again, but I can't do it. I feel nothing for the show I loved in my childhood. It feels dead to me.

And that takes me to another bit of my childhood: Star Wars.

Like most kids my age, I grew up to Star Wars. In the schoolyard we pretended to be Jedi smugglers, the perfect combination of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo. Let's face it: we all wanted to be Han Solo. He had the cool spaceship, the blaster (he shot first!), and the cool Wookie partner. Luke had a laser sword and super powers, which was cool too. Leia was sassy, smart, and tough. As a boy, I was just starting to learn that those were traits I found attractive in women rather than traits that were annoying on the schoolyard.

Heh.

The prequels did a number on my love of the series. They were beautiful movies so devoid of coherent plot, able acting, and emotion that watching them was like spending a night eating cotton candy. Made me sick and hurt my teeth in the end.

When The Force Awakens came out, I have to admit I had low expectations. I thought it was going to suck ass. Wow, was I wrong! Sure, the movie was a rehash of A New Hope, but it was done well. John Boyega's Finn was (to me) the break-out character as a turncoat Stormtrooper - a character afraid but ultimately able to overcome that fear. Daisy Ridley's Rey was okay. It was nice to see a solid heroine in the lead, though I had some hopes that her journey would have a bit more substance to it. The villains were weak tea, but I had hopes they'd improve beyond their terrible names ("Snoke"? "Kylo Ren"? Seriously?)

And then we got The Last Jedi this month.

TLJ was, frankly, painful to watch.

It was visually good. The comic bits were funny and well-paced. Adam Driver's Ben Solo and Daisy Ridley's Rey had excellent chemistry. Driver actually won me over from ambivalence to liking his character. Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher were, as always, outstanding.

The rest was incoherent garbage. A space chase that made no sense. A side plot that wasted Finn entirely. A side character added clumsily to no real effect I can see. A revision of Luke Skywalker that was, quite frankly, character assassination by Rian Johnson (a self-proclaimed Star Wars fan). And Rey's character journey still felt... lacking, which was made worse by confusing and obtuse plot developments.

I have to say, I can't give two shits about Star Wars right now. I don't give a fuck about how Episode 9 will go. I don't care about other trilogies. I don't give a shit about a Han Solo spinoff movie. That bit of childhood nostalgia feels dead now.

Probably for the best.

Review: GP 1945 Bolt Action Plus Pen

There was no way I was going to avoid this Kickstarter. A pen that's also a glass breaker and a whistle? And titanium frame? And deploys bolt-action? Good lord, it's like it was designed with me in mind! I love pens. Add in extra funky gadgets and I'm sold.

I backed the Kickstarter and my pen came in around Xmas. Now I have another damn thing to fiddle with and drive people around me crazy. I keep playing with the bolt-action to open and close the pen!

The pen is solid and grips well. If I have a complaint, it's that I'm a tad underwhelmed by the ink cartridge it fits. I prefer Fisher pen cartridges for being more reliable. This one takes some kind of German ink cartridge. They work well enough, but it took some doing to get the pen started.

Oh well. It's not like I don't have other pens should this one run dry.

It's still an awesome pen and totally worth backing!

Looks like you can pre-order one of these on Indiegogo now, if you're inclined.

Review: Stainless Steel Peanut LED Flashlight Kit by Maratac

I'm a sucker for flashlights. I don't deny it.

About a month back, I got a Peanut LED Flashlight from CountyComm. I'd been looking at it for a while. The size appealed to my current desire to lighten my over-burdened keychain a bit.

I'm not generally a fan of twist lights. They have a tendency to twist in the pocket, go on, then run out of power. Still, I thought I'd give the Peanut a try.

The Peanut is a nice, solid constructed little light. It's a tiny thing powered by a 10180 Lithium Cell 70mAh. The whole thing assembled is about as long as the end of my thumb to my first knuckle joint. And it's quite bright.

The Peanut comes with battery, light, and a USB charging cable. I haven't had any issues with the light accidentally turning on, so that's one worry gone. I have a new, very light, favorite on my keychain.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Thoughts on "The Last Jedi"

Yeah, I saw it.

In a nutshell, I was disappointed. To elaborate, I thought the plot had holes you could drive a Star Destroyer through, the writing was weak, there were sub-plots that went exactly nowhere, there were characters introduced for no good reason that I could fathom, and the treatment of Luke Skywalker as a character borders on criminal.

There were good points: Mark Hamill, Daisy Ridley, and Adam Driver had solid performances. There were scenes with Ridley and Driver that had good, strong chemistry between the actors and their characters. There was a pretty awesome fight scene at one point.

Overall, I don't understand the hype. This was, at best, a mediocre film. Not as bad as, say, The Phantom Menace but certainly not any kind of classic. It doesn't hold a torch to the original trilogy at all. I'm given to understand Rian Johnson's getting his own Star Wars trilogy after Episode 9 airs. Gotta say, based on The Last Jedi, I could totally skip any other treatments of Star Wars he comes up with.

Weak sauce, Disney. Weak sauce.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Review: "Persepolis Rising" by James S.A. Corey

In the last week or so, I got the latest Brandon Sanderson novel "Oathbreaker". At an intimidating 1233 pages, I gleefully dove in, grateful for a fat distraction over the holidaze. And I found the book wasn't really grabbing me.

Then my copy of "Persepolis Rising", book 7 of "The Expanse" series by James S.A. Corey came in.

I promised myself I would only read "Persepolis Rising" on my commute and would otherwise see if "Oathbreaker" would rekindle my interest.

It wasn't long before "Persepolis Rising" had more and more of my attention. A few days later (read that as "last night"), I finished "Persepolis Rising".

Holy. Fucking. Shit.

"Persepolis Rising" takes place a time jump after book 6. A fairly long time jump. The crew of the Rocinante, now expanded to the crew it had at the end of "Babylon's Ashes", have been at it for a while and settled into a comfortable life as a crew that is also a family. James Holden and Naomi Nagata are pondering retirement and the crew is pondering their next step. A universe of some 1300 worlds is open to them and colonies are thriving as humanity spreads across the stars.

Then shit goes sideways as the colony of Laconia, home to Winston Duarte's Martian mutineer fleet, makes a reappearance.

And then all shit goes sideways.

In theme and feel, "Persepolis Rising" is akin to The Empire Strikes Back of the series. It's pretty intense and brutal. Not everyone walks away. It's also a fascinating exploration of a "benign" imperialist conquest. It's not "good guys versus bad guys" so much as it's a good five hundred or so pages of conflicting ideologies in a throwdown amidst scary alien technologies and a poorly-understood threat.

There were twists in the novel I did not see coming and I found myself engaged completely and utterly.

I cannot recommend this novel or this series highly enough. If you haven't tried out "The Expanse" yet, you now have seven novels of awesome to wade through. I recommend giving it a try.

And now I'm going to return my attention to "Oathbreaker". I'm some 300-ish pages in, so I'm kinda committed...