Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Why I'm done with Kickstarter

I did the math.

I've backed over 70 projects since 2011. Most funded. I've gotten some great stuff from backing Kickstarter projects.

That said, I've backed some obvious frauds. I figure there's a good $300 I'll never see again thanks to some asshole crooks.

The odds aren't bad overall (that constitutes three or four projects out of 70+) but what gets me is Kickstarter as an institution.

When someone runs off with your money, you don't know for months. Some projects are just bad at communicating, after all. And if you complain to Kickstarter, it's a black hole. They do exactly jack shit beyond saying "Too bad. Read the TOS."

They do nothing to help out the project supporters once Kickstarter gets their money. They don't allow for a way to contact the project creators. They don't provide a damn thing.

Frankly, I find that unacceptable.

I know some court rulings are starting to back crowdfunding project backers, but that requires legal action and frankly it's not worth it for the cash lost.

Easier to just walk away from Kickstarter and similar crowdfunding sites unless I'm very sure.

A shame. It was a nice idea, but I'm done.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Review: "The Magician's Apprentice"/"The Witch's Familiar"

Just finished part two of the start of Series Nine of the revived "Doctor Who".

Much commentary to follow.

Much spoilerage in said commentary.

Essentially I'm ranting. If you read this blog (FSM help you), you probably have a sense of the kind of incoherent nonsense I'll blather on about.

Rather than bother with the whole deprecated font tag trick, I'll just put in a bunch of page breaks so you don't accidentally view my spoilery nonsense.

Still there? You were warned...

Okay, here goes:

"The Magician's Apprentice" starts off with a war on a battlefield. Mix of technologies where a biplane uses blasters and soldiers on the ground have scanning devices and bows and arrows. A soldier spies a kid running from a battle and tries to help the kid out. The kid and the soldier wind up in a field of "Hand Mines". Creepy-as-hell hands with eyes in the palm that grab you and pull you into the ground. The soldier gets snagged and the kid is trapped.

The kid calls for help and a sonic screwdriver lands at his feet. The Doctor is there and tells the kid he's got a one-in-a-thousand chance of surviving and to disregard the odds and focus on the one tiny chance. He asks the kid's name. The kid replies: "Davros".

The Doctor realizes he's on ancient Skaro during that generational war between the Thals and the Kaleds. He pops into the TARDIS and abandons young Davros, the future creator of the Daleks, to his fate.

We next get the tired Moffatt trope of some sinister figure hunting for the Doctor.

Yup. Apparently everyone and their cousins can just bop around through time and space without needing a TARDIS and can just randomly question people as a way to find the Doctor. 'Cause that makes sense somehow.

This figure, called "Colony Saaff" or something like that, is a creepy amalgam of snakes that's working for Davros.

Why a snake man and not some kind of Dalek? Oh, silly reader, don't ask questions.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, Clara is teaching rugrats about what a great kisser Emily Dickenson was when she spies a plane frozen in the air. Turns out every aircraft in the world is frozen in a time bubble.

Oh that's right, it's the Master returned as "Missy". Missy froze time to get Clara's attention. It seems Missy has been delivered (somehow) the Doctor's "Confessional Dial", a sort of recorded last will and testament as he's going to die.

Yup. We're back to another tired Moffatt trope of the Doctor's death, which we know won't happen as the show hasn't been canceled.

Anyway, Missy is trying to find the Doctor as he's disappeared. Needs Clara's help. With U.N.I.T.'s incomprehensible algorithms, they discover the Doctor is in medieval England having an axe-fight, only in the Doctor's case he's on a tank and has an electric guitar.

And the crowd is rocking out. Because electric guitar apparently has universal appeal, save for my parents' and grandparents' generations. So... yeah. Um. Moving on.

Missy and Clara reunite with the Doctor and Colony Saaff appears because reasons. Colony weirdo says Davros is dying and wants to see the Doctor.

The Doctor lets Colony Saaff handcuff him with a snake (again, WTF?) to transport him to Davros. Missy and Clara also agree to come along, cuffed and all because... um... yeah. Moving on.

Davros, it turns out, is on a space station that isn't really a space station but is the planet Skaro disguised because... um... I really don't know. Why would the Daleks bother to hide their planet? If the Time Lords are toast (and the Daleks seem to think they are during this episode) nobody in the universe can threaten them, or even resist them, so why hide anything?

For that matter, why haven't they just conquered/obliterated the universe? Argh. I give up.

Anyway, the Doctor is chatting with Davros while the Daleks find Missy and Clara, then exterminate them to the Doctor's horror. Oh, and apparently the Daleks always knew where the Doctor was and had an agent in the medieval times. They snagged the TARDIS and vaporize that too.

So yeah. Jump to "The Witch's Familiar". Of course Missy and Clara aren't dead. Missy and Clara had found the Doctor in the past using vortex manipulators (I guess Missy lacks a TARDIS of her own?). So when the Daleks tried to disintegrate Missy and Clara, Missy performed some hand-wavy bullshit to teleport Clara and her away, burning out the vortex manipulators.

Cue lots of somewhat interesting conversation between the Doctor and Davros. In a nutshell:
  • The Doctor tells Davros that Gallifrey survived and is out there somewhere (he'll doubtless regret that later).
  • Davros makes lots of maudlin noises about he and the Doctor being almost friends.
  • Davros talks about some prophesy on Gallifrey about a hybrid race between a warrior race and the Time Lords or something. How does Davros know anything about stuff that happens on Gallifrey? I have no idea at all.

Missy and Clara stumble about in the Dalek sewers, where decaying Daleks, who have now become goo, are residing as they "can't die" somehow. Missy arranges for her and Clara to capture a Dalek and Missy forces Clara into the Dalek so they can get into the Dalek city.

Meanwhile Davros reveals his plan: turns out he's been living off the life-force of the Daleks and playing on the Doctor's compassion to give him "one last sunrise". The Doctor can apparently share a bit of his regeneration energy (does this mean he's burning regenerations like he did with the hand or does this somehow, mysteriously, not count, Moff?). It's a trick and Davros and Colony Saaff try to suck out all the Doctor's regeneration energy to somehow make the Daleks more powerful.

Missy steps in and kills Colony Saaff, saving the Doctor from dying. And the Doctor reveals he let himself get pulled into the trap so he could regenerate the sewer Daleks, who flood out to kill the still-living Daleks.

The Doctor abandons Davros and flees with Missy. Missy tries to fool the Doctor into killing Clara while Clara is still in a Dalek shell, but that doesn't work out. Missy gets stuck on Skaro, the Doctor escapes with Clara and using his sonic sunglasses (he's done with the screwdriver, apparently) he re-forms the TARDIS through more hand-waving then he and Clara watch the Dalek city burn. The Doctor then goes back in time to save little Davros because compassion.


All-in-all, it's classic Moffatt. Excellent mood and great dialog but the plot is utter trash and nonsensical.

Capaldi carries the episodes, as does Gomez's Missy. For all that, I'm seriously praying Moffatt leaves the show soon.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Doctor Who - latest season

Just for the record, I have seen the season opener: "The Magician's Apprentice". I've decided not to comment in this blog until I've seen part two - "The Witch's Familiar" - and digested it.


I'm out of groceries. Got back from the dentist earlier and started pondering dinner. Didn't feel like cooking dinner so I went out. I'd eaten a heavy lunch that was sitting rather solidly in the stomach still, but I wanted dinner knowing full well I'd be hungry later.

So I went out to sushi. Fairly light and treated myself to a bottle of sake.

While there, I ran into a couple of friends. Friends I owe a meal and drinks to, no less.

Nice bit of coincidence. I had company for dinner and was able to pay off a debt at the same time.

Life's kinda weird that way.

Friday, September 18, 2015

A Whovian Plea

It's official: Jenna Coleman is leaving "Doctor Who" at the end of the season.

As a fan of the show since the late '70's, I make this plea to you Steven Moffatt: please follow her.

Look, I get it. You're a huge fan. You've done some fantastic work. "Blink" was, in my opinion, the best episode of "Doctor Who" ever written. You've done outstanding stuff with creepy, faerie-tale stories.

Seriously, you get cred for that. But your term as showrunner for "Doctor Who" has been a bit of a disaster.

I liked the Matt Smith era. Smith was an outstanding Doctor. I thought Amy Pond and Rory Williams were brilliant additions. It was a bit cute to have the Doctor float in and out of their lives.

Yup. Good stuff.

Too bad the rest was shit.

You just had to go nuts with your hand-wavy timey-whimy bullshit, didn't you? That whole Pandorica storyline that never ever even attempted to make sense? Just insulting. The lack of good monsters? Sad. Oh you had your trademark Weeping Angels appear, but you couldn't even be bothered to keep them consistent between appearances!

You brought back the ever-so-tired Daleks for a lot of yawns.

You had the Zygons walk on as an afterthought and comic relief.

But you couldn't stop there, could you? You were still mentally in your days of writing "Coupling", so you just had to wack-off on a page and create your little dream Mary Sue of River Song, didn't you?

Clever idea, that. A woman who functions in reverse time to the Doctor's timeline.

Except you didn't do that, did you? She was always "in his future", with your timey-whimey, hand-wavy bullshit that never attempted to make sense.

She's better at the TARDIS than the Doctor. The TARDIS talks to her. She was born in the Time Vortex and automatically becomes a Time Lady until she sacrifices it to the Doctor in a creepy, nonsensical story.

Dude. Mary Sue. When you make a character that supplants the title character, it's time for you to put your fanfic away and play a new game.

But you weren't done there, were you Moff? You go and create Clara Oswald.

Now, I was a huge fan of Coleman's character in the Xmas special she appeared in. She was a character not centered in the tired 21st century working middle-class trope. She was clever, charming, and new.

And you killed her off.

Oh, you weren't done. I mean, you'd already toyed with having her appear as a genius Mary Sue who turned out to be a Dalek. That was cute, by the way.

Unable to stop with that, you had to have some sort of inane, ridiculous plot in which some boring 21st century version of her becomes the Doctor's Manic Pixie Girl savior.

Whomever came up with "Manic Pixie Girl" as a name for a trope, deserves a beer/cocktail, by the way. That's genius.

Anyway, back to you Moff. You've been increasingly ridiculous. You have these poorly-written, nonsensical story arcs dotted with crap standalone stories (the Moon is an egg? Seriously?) throughout your tenure. You keep trying to romance up the Doctor, which is not what this show is about!

Seriously, you turned the Master into a demented Mary Poppins.


You need to stop Steven. You're only hurting the show. Please step down and move on. As a fan, I ask - indeed, I beg - this of you.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Review: The Fjallraven Reporter Lite Jacket

Living in the San Francisco Bay Area is glorious. You really never get much "weather", as such. Go east of the Berkeley/Oakland hills in Summer and it's goddamn blistering hot. In winter, it's chilly (if not outright cold). Go south to San Jose and it's warm (even in winter). It's rarely cold enough to snow. It's microclimate heaven.

That said, it can get cool at times. When that fog rolls in and you're bar-hopping in the City, it pays to have a light coat.

I found myself at one point with a bit of REI money, a coupon, and a need for a light jacket for my job in San Francisco.

So I got the Fjallraven Reporter Lite Jacket.

It's a well-named coat. Just light enough that it's comfortable in the increasingly warm summer mornings, but breathable enough to not be hellish in a sweaty, packed, poorly-ventilated BART car.

Plus: pockets! SO MANY POCKETS!

It's a polyester/cotton blend that feels comfortable without that plastic-y polyester feel. It wears well and is pretty durable. It's probably my favorite light jacket at the moment for those odd days in Summer when I need a light jacket in the morning or evening.

Sharp Things: the DPx Aculus 3d

Yes, I bought another knife.

The DPx Aculus 3d crossed my path due to the wonders of the Internet. I honestly can't remember where I was in my browsing when I came across it. I was taking a break from studying for a certification exam and my higher cognitive functions were doubtless-compromised.

Regardless, it was on sale at the time and I coughed up for a new knife for my collection of sharp, pointy things.

My daily carry knives alternate between my Sebenza 21 and my TAD Gear Dauntless Mk3. Both are excellent folder knives, but both have quirks that make me switch between the two.

The Sebenza 21 is a small thing. It's just small enough that it's a little awkward to open one-handed (which is potentially a problem with a sharp blade). It also has a tendency to ride out of my pocket when I clip it to the edge of my pocket instead of letting it sit in the bowels of my pockets with my keys, coin purse, and all that crap. I've almost lost it twice on BART and that makes me nervous.

The Dauntless is a beefier knife, but is fussy in opening and the screw that keeps the blade in the handle has a tendency to loosen of its own accord, making me wary of losing it at an inopportune moment and having the blade get loose in my pocket.

The things I have to worry about...

So the DPx Aculus is an excellent third blade and fast becoming a favorite, despite being a PITA to type.

The handle is, according to the DPXGear site, crafted of a solid block of titanium. It's curved to fit nicely in the palm of the hand and has a cool pattern to it that's both aesthetically-pleasing and provides a good grip. The blade is sharp and deploys fairly-smoothly one-handed despite the lack of a thumb stud. Further, it comes with a 1/4" hex base tungsten carbide insert glass breaker at the end of the handle, for those times when you need to break glass but don't want to use your elbow/foot/neighbor's head/whatever. The locking mechanism is a bit fussy, requiring two hands to unlock and fold the knife at times, but otherwise it's been a great purchase.

I forgive my lower-cognitive self for making the purchase and approve of the timing, as I apparently just caught the sale window. The knife has since jumped up to an eyebrow-raising $400 as of today.

Given that a Zombie-Tools Apokatana runs just under $430 and the Zakasushi runs a smidge less than $340, I'm not sure I would have gone for the non-sale price.