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|Monday, June 12th, 2017|
|Baywatch, Pirates, Wonder, Grave, Rend, Brain Cramp
Movies and life:
"Baywatch" is vastly better than its trailers, but it would have to be. Like the source material, it knows it is first and foremost a jiggle show, but also like its predecessor, it understands that you can have occasionally decent writing and acting in addition to the jiggle. Which isn't to say that there is an atom of brilliance in this show, but it does have a lot of heart, and it is NOT the brain dead comedy the trailers presented. (At least, not most of the time.)
"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" is better than its immediate predecessor, but not even close to the original trilogy. The producers seem to have figured out that Jack Sparrow doesn't work at the center of a movie, and have given us paired protagonists who can almost carry the movie. Still, flintlocks and square riggers and weird supernatural stuff, and I am a very happy camper.
"Wonder Woman" is a cultural event packaged in a big budget but nonetheless mediocre gender switched remake of "Captain America". My comment, on leaving the theater, was that the movie had, "Six feet of heart and 71 inches of stupid;" Dementia's comment was that the pacing was poor, the middle was weak, and that, given a choice, she would really rather watch "Captain America" again. I loved Gal Gadot's portrayal of Wonder Woman in "Dawn of Justice", but suspected at the time that the character as presented was just too smart to base a movie around, and the chance of her actually surviving the script building process was zero. The second assumption has proven to be true; we will never actually know about the first. Note: We didn't dislike the movie; we enjoyed it. We just don't understand the fuss.
There was a poker game on June 2, and I went, but I visited my father before that, and I visited my mother's grave before that. I ended up on my hands and knees, cleaning off the accumulated mud and moss; flush stones settle, a bit. My father continues his slow decline, and the poker game went as they have been going for quite a while, with me finishing consistently near, but out of, the money.
The annual Rend Lake messabout was this weekend, and I went, and was moderately ill, but I managed to get the boat into the water, and did a little rowing. One of the other fellows took Suchia for a spin as well, which hasn't happened before. The brave soul found her a bit too strange for his tastes, even though he really liked the concept. I went back to my room early and then slept for ten hours.
Finally... I am scheduled to take the last of my pre-paid exams on June 15. I have boiled 1000 pages of text down to a single 19 page document, which I am currently trying to memorize. We shall see.
|Wednesday, May 31st, 2017|
|Random Bits from Facebook
Dredged from 2015:
Life in my household:
Dementia was getting ready for bed. She asked, "What's the difference between and algorithm and a logarithm?"
Hyena blinked a few times. "An algorithm is a cleary defined operation, process, or routine for dealing with a specific situation. A logarithm is..." A quick discussion of significant figures, scientific notation, slide rules, exponentiation, and finally logarithms followed.
We have well over a hundred years between us. It amuses me greatly that this kind of discussion still takes place...
Last night, as I was tucking Dementia into bed, we got to talking about Arthurian romance, and the fact that it is, systematically, a mess. There IS a main narrative thread, but it is possible that the only absolutely consistent narrative point in the whole thing is the king's name. I found myself thinking about composing a fundamental Arthurian quiz, and found myself looking at "match the version with the source" questions: Things like, "Match the nature of Arthur's releationship to Morgause with the source: Maternal half sister, paternal half sister, aunt; Thomas Malory, Mary Stewart, T.H. While." It's maddening. (By the way, the answers to that are correct in the order given.) It's beautiful, it's wonderful, it's a train wreck.
It occurs to me that I may have to break down and finally read MZB's "The Mists of Avalon." Ah, well. I survived "Moby Dick", I can survive that.
Dredged from 2013:
People like Peter ("I believe in productivity, not creativity.") Drucker need to be punched. Repeatedly.
Truly creative people, the kind who are successful enough to get asked how they do it, are generally too steeped in creative impulses to realize the level of magic involved; they are fish trying to think about water, or humans trying to think about air (which can be done, obviously, but it took genius to do it the first time).
Non-creative people just shrug and go about their business. The rest of us, the unhappy fragment who have been hit by lightning just often enough to know that it is real, that we want more, and that we will probably only ever get enough to keep us hungry, are the ones who spend time and effort worrying about what creativity is and how to get it.
My own experience with creativity and time management is that, if you are able to procrastinate, you should, because the story or poem will force itself out of your fingertips when IT is ready. Sitting down at the keyboard and trying to force the issue produces suicide-inducing drek. But then I am not a COMMERCIAL writer, and have long since given up hope of becoming one.
"There are only four rules you need to remember: Make the plan, execute the plan, expect the plan to go off the rails, throw away the plan." - Captain Cold, in TV's "The Flash".
I was in Libertyville today, and needed an Ingress fix, so I decided to visit the labyrinth across the street from the First Presbyterian Church. There's a nice, friendly little welcome sign at the beginning of the path, but there are also several "Church Parking Only" signs in the adjacent parking lot. Something of a mixed message. I parked anyway, and walked the path. When you get to the center, you are facing a two person bench, basically an outdoor loveseat-- or a throne. I reached the center, did my best courtly bow to the empty throne, and then walked the path back out. The observer can never know what is in the actor's heart...
Department of counter-steerng:
The following is from electoral-vote.com
Suppose Trump is impeached and convicted, then it is "Hello, President Pence." What the base doesn't know but the Democratic politicians know very well is that if Trump is up to his ears in scandals for 2 years, he won't get any legislation passed. If the Democrats retake the House in 2018, then he won't get any legislation passed at all. On the other hand, if Pence becomes president, he, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will have breakfast together every Monday morning to discuss which bills they want to pass that week. With Pence as president, there are not likely to be any more scandals and the Republicans may be able to pass their entire agenda. Democratic politicians can't tell their base: "Be thankful for Trump; he's incapable of getting anything done," but they know it.
Dredged from 2016:
A haiku born of walking the mall on a Saturday night:
Mixing perfumes fill the air;
It is hard to breathe.
Had a visual migraine last night, my fourth. The first one was in December of 2015 (I am keeping a log), and was the worst, and SCARY, since I didn't know what it was, just that the center of my vision had filled up with a writhing kaleidoscope, and I could no longer read. Better visual hallucinations that crippling pain, I guess...
After 12 weeks and 4 days, Dementia's Neopet, the redoubtable Mister Gebo, is once again free. We don't know why the account was locked; best guess is that someone wanted the account name, and, finding it taken, logged on repeatedly until it was frozen. It's a minor triumph, but a triumph none the less, and we will take it.
Dredged from 2016:
Got Suchia in the water today for the first time since 2014. Didn't go far; Sterling Lake was REALLY high, so I was unable to get under the bridge and get to the north pool at all. Still, it was a lot of fun, and GREAT to be on the water again. (And here's to you, Brother Rat.)
Dredged from 2016:
Perspective: A year ago, I had a very lucrative job that made me miserable. There were rumors of outsourcing, but mostly I was saddled with a partner who simply COULD NOT do the job, who fundamentally lacked the mental horsepower. I worked flat out, all day long, twelve hours a day, and we were at best breaking even with the necessary work; a fair amount spilled over onto the other shifts. There were several times when, if the appropriate face had presented itself, I would have punched it, and damn the consequences.
Today, the job is GONE; I am terrified by the future, but I am still sleeping better, and am generally happier and more optimistic than I was then.
Just maybe, the horse will learn to sing.
It's towel day, two weeks after the anniversary of Douglas Adams' death in 2001. I am going to take a moment to revisit a bizarre bit of surreality involving one of his creations. Adams would certainly have enjoyed the surreality; he may not have enjoyed being misunderstood quite so much.
I read Adams' "Dirk Gently" books in hard cover, a rarity for me, because I didn't want to wait for the paperbacks. The main character was a con man who was absolutely cynical about humanity, whose self-honesty enabled him to perceive the otherworldly when he encountered it, and who had made something of a cottage industry out of spinning acceptable lies around the otherworldly that allowed those who had seen but did not wish to believe to forget. He had a line of patter about the interconnectedness of all things that enabled him to ask for money without the inconvenient necessity of actually producing results. He occasionally saved the world because it was the most efficient way to save himself, and make a profit in doing so. He is absolutely and in all ways a Trickster character.
Apparently a significant percentage of Dirk's fans managed to completely miss the cynical self service, drank suspiciously laced Kool-Aid that Dirk was serving at the moment, and BELIEVED. They think that Dirk believes the sewage he sells. This group of deluded fans has managed to produce two different television series, and a comic series, and there is no indication that any of them have the first clue of what a Trickster is, or that they are dealing with one.
Ah, well, people have been falling in love with fiction while completely missing the point since the invention of language.
I know I have done it a few times, myself...
A literary riddle:
When this child was ALSO a boy, she shrugged and decided to risk following the pattern and name the boy Mordred. How many children does she have, and what are their names?
(The trick here is to answer off the top of your head. This one is WAY too easy to Google.)
Dredged from 2012:
The world according to Dementia: "Real" means ANYTHING that can be looked up on Google or Wikipedia. (I love my wife...)
I was leaving the Nexus Game Fair this evening (after a five hour game of "Space Hulk" played on a 6 foot by 12 foot 3D map), and stumbled into a post-mortem of one of the conventions signature events, a re-enactment of the climactic battle from "Saving Private Ryan" done in 1/24 scale. They were talking about the tanks in the game, and I asked what tanks they were. I was told two Tigers, and two Marders. I quickly spotted the Tigers, and went looking for the Marders; I vaguely remembered them as low production tank destroyers. I found the model, and it was what I expected: Tall, open-topped and turretless. I looked at the model, and asked, "75 mm? Basically the gun from a Panther?" The moderator didn't know; he was not fundamentally a tank freak.
But maybe I am. It's been more than 40 years since I have played a game of PanzerBlitz, and yet I correctly identified the armament on an obscure tank-killer just from staring at a model...
Courtesy of the Utterly Tasteless Joke Department:
Bubba has a service contract with local animal control. It helps keep down the feed costs for his aligator farm.
It occurs to me that R2D2 might just be a deep cover Dalek...
At Nexus this afternoon, our game of "Legends of Draxia" was the last active game in the board game hall, and I made a reference to "being the last living cell in a dead body", and NO ONE caught the reference. It made me feel OLD...
In the course of conversation over gaming on Monday, Jeppson's Malort came up. I had never heard of it, and this evening I looked it up. I am significantly impressed by the hyperbolic eloquence which the horror of its flavor seems to inspire. I may actually have to try the stuff.
|Sunday, May 21st, 2017|
|Guardians, Arthur, Furious, Gaming
Three movies, two gaming excursions, and still more studying.
"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" is very much of a piece with the first movie. It is a sequel that, for once, doesn't fall into the "bigger, better, more" trap; it just takes the characters from the last movie, and continues the story. This is a very silly movie, but it is also a great deal of fun. And the use of the song "Brandy (You're a fine girl)" as a plot point is kind of brilliant.
"King Arthur: Legend of the Sword" is a mess. It has some good character work, and the casting is generally good, but the storytelling is convoluted and occasionally utterly incomprehensible. And that is looking at it as whole cloth fantasy. As Arthurian romance, it is simply awful; there is no trace of respect or affection for the source material whatsoever.
"The Fate of the Furious" is yet another film in this odd series. There is SO MUCH absurdity in the plot, in the stunts, in just about everything. But the characters are engaging, and they are fun to watch.
I have been studying diligently for the last exam associated with my class, but since I am mostly on my own, now, I also took time to attend the game day at Burlington UUC and the game day at Elkhorn Pizza Ranch this weekend, and, between the two, played "Tiny Epic Western" (which I own, but hadn't played), "Splendor", and "Roll For It!". I continue to be impressed by Tiny Epic games, and generally had a good time. I still feel like my brain is leaking out my ears, but being occasionally social really helps.
|Thursday, May 18th, 2017|
|A Zhanh Chapter
New fiction, after a fashion. About half of this has already seen daylight; as it now stands, this looks surprisingly like the first chapter of an actual novel. It's about 2500 words, and took about six months to write. If I can keep up that pace, I will have a whole novel when I am 85 or so.http://unclehyena.livejournal.com/404924.html
|Monday, May 15th, 2017|
|Random Bits from Facebook
My brain is currently filling up with jokes involving the juxtaposition of Beltane and the distress call, "May day!" No, I won't share them; they are all tasteless. Go make up your own.
"The possessor or a refined palate is one who has learned to differentiate among bad tastes and finds moral superiority therein."--Paul Haynie
Posted to Nikki's timeline in response to a question.
Let's begin with a secret: My version of our first meeting precedes your version by six months and two conversations. It took me that long to make a lasting impression. That's OK, though; your version is a better story, and I have long since made up any "memorability" points I failed to score then.
You had completely missed a "My Favorite Vampire" panel, and Dementia and I were the only ones left in the room. I remember you as being tiny, pretty (Not beautiful, oddly; the evening when I spent 45 minutes in conversation with the most beautiful woman in the world, who happened to be you, was still 18 months in the future.), exhaustingly energetic, and unselfconsciously self-possessed in a way that only the very young can manage; four months later, at our next meeting, you were just as self-possessed, but by then it was at least as much discipline as innocence that made it work.
You often seem to be living in a personal follow-spot.
Maybe I am having trouble with this one because the Book of Nikki was quite slender when I first met you, and I have watched much of your story unfold in something close to real time (and you have always been willing to fill in the occasional gaps). I certainly see more than you present when I look at you, but the overlay is my own memory. And then I try to look past that and see who you are today.
I'm not sure I have answered the question, or, more importantly, given you an answer you needed to hear. But I offer two more things: I will tell you, again, that you are the daughter of my heart, and then leave you with a bit of transient eloquence that you may remember from a decade ago. It seems appropriate.http://unclehyena.livejournal.com/130973.html
Dredged from 2010:
A co-worker had established that he was listening to melancholy music. About an hour later, he sent me this message: "16 Parkside Lane". I immediately knew what song he was listening to. Yes or no: Does that address IMMEDIATELY bring a song to mind? (Don't give away the answer, please.)
The answer, posted the following day: Now that the thing has had some time to percolate, the "answer" to yesterday's post is that "16 Parkside Lane" is a reference to Harry Chapin's song, "Taxi." It's a song that tends to stay with you (most of Chapin's music is like that...)
I recently stumbled into a discussion on the merits of the game, "Monopoly", and ended up writing the following, presented here for archival purposes.:
Facts about Monopoly:
1) It's old. The parent game was written in 1903; the current version has been available since 1935.
2) It's well known. Pretty much everyone in the English speaking world has played it at least once.
3) It's moderately complex. It is very hard for a new game with a six page rule set to become generally popular; Monopoly survives because, due to its longevity, most of the people in a prospective game have already played it, and one seldom has to deal with more than one or two neophytes at a time.
4) It's long; Wikipedia lists the playing time as one to four hours, and the rules suggest an alternate version if you want to finish in under 90 minutes.
5) The outcome is more dependent on luck than skill, though there is definitely some skill involved. (The rules run six pages, and I suspect that a "Complete Monopoly Strategy Guide" would take rather less than that.)
6) It's an elimination game (at least in its basic form). Players are forced out of the game over time, and the end game is always between only two players.
Now... Items one and two have nothing to do with the design of the game. Item three is anomalous; the game would be too complex for non-gamers to learn in a vacuum, but once learned, it is quite playable. Items four and five might be flaws, or might be advantages, depending on your personal tastes.
Item six, though, is generally regarded as a design flaw. It's fundamentally anti-social. Monopoly isn't a particularly interesting spectator game, so once you are out of the game, you are out in the cold. In the last 50 years or so, game designers have generally tried to eliminate this particular problem from new games, and I see this as a positive trend.
For myself, I don't mind SHORT highly random games. I am not terribly fond of games that last more than 90 minutes, and will avoid highly random games that last more than about half an hour. But item six is what will make me, personally, avoid Monopoly or any other such game. I don't like sending my friends off to the next room to amuse themselves, and I don't like being sent off to the next room myself, either.
"People who fit in elevator speeches fit in elevator speeches, and if that's what you are looking for, I might as well leave right now. On the other hand, if you want to get off the elevator and join me for a cup of coffee, you might hear something worthwhile." --Paul Haynie (who has been playing with resumes and watching his already marginal sanity slip away in the process)
Life in my household:
Dementia: "I got THAT reference. I may have failed the geography quiz, but I got the musical theater reference." (In response to Hyena's comment, "It's Puerto Rico. You know, where the Sharks come from?")
A comment I made elsewhere, preserved here for archival purposes:
It is at least really difficult (as far as I know, impossible) to build a compelling ehtical structure without a supernatural enforcer, but if you DO have a supernatural enforcer, you're a slave.
It is usually pretty easy to figure out WHAT is the right thing to do. It is often much more difficult to figure out WHY you should do it.
"Because I want to live in a world where everyone behaves this way, and the only part of that I actually have control over is myself, so I am starting with that," is actually a damned good reason.
Dredged from 2015:
The two girls were sitting at the table next to the McDonald's drink machine, eating and talking and giggling and generally being schoolgirls.
They heard a deep voice say, "Hello," and looked up to see a large, ugly, scruffy man in black. They weren't quite sure how to react.
"I just wanted to thank you," the man said, "For being decorative." They smiled; they were bewildered, but also amused. "I've had a REALLY bad day," the man said, "And pretty girls just make the world a better place." The girls smiled brightly and gave the man thanks he did NOT expect.
The man turned and walked away. In spite of his pain, and fatigue, and general unhappiness, he came VERY close to smiling.
I would like to thank the churchy types of Waukegan for doing churchy things this morning, and thus leaving me free to talk to my city without human interference. There is something magical about standing at the side of Grand Avenue (a four lane artery) without being able to see or hear a single moving vehicle.
In the spring of 1972, I decided that my ignorance of popular music was a part of my social dysfunction that I could address, so I bought a radio and started to listen. As it happens, this "discovery" of popular music corresponds almost exactly with the ascendance of "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)" by one hit wonder Looking Glass. My fondness for the song survives.
"Brandy" figures significantly in "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2", so it has been around, lately. I have been reminded that some people detest the song, and I am inclined to address that...
Musically, the song is bubblegum, but the lyric is significantly and honestly melancholy, and addresses a legitiate, if fairly rare, issue. To whit: If you get involved with one of those rare individuals who actually has a passionate vocation, you need to get used to the idea that you will ALWAYS come in second to that vocation. That is what having a vocation MEANS.
It doesn't matter if the passion is for sailing or music or painting or sculpture or EOD (See "The Hurt Locker.") The passion will ALWAYS come before any specific human being. That's just the way things are. If you become involved with such a person, you need to either adapt, or leave. There is no third alternative.
It's happened twice, now. Every time it does, I die a little bit.
The sweet young thing is wearing a name tag that says, "Jennifer." I ask her if she knows the meaning of the name, or its origins, and she says, "No." So I tell her that it means, "white ghost" or "white spirit", and that it is a Cornish variation of a much more famous Welsh name, Guenevere.
And absolutely nothing happens. No smile, no glimmer of recognition, NOTHING.
I conceal my growing horror (I have had some practice at this), and ask, "Does the name, 'King Arthur' mean anything to you?"
And she says, "No," and you can probably HEAR my heart breaking from across the room.
As I said, I die a little bit.
|Thursday, May 11th, 2017|
|Finest, Gifted, 70-698
Somewhere in here we managed to see two movies. I also attended a funeral in Anderson, and took and passed an exam after a NEEDED week of prep time went up in smoke.
"Their Finest" is a wonderful drama about making a feature length propaganda film during WWII. Bill Nighy turns in his usual wonderful performance, and Gemma Arterton is great as a Welsh secretary who stumbles into a job as a screenwriter and flourishes in it. Highly recommended.
"Gifted" is odd. It puts a great deal of effort into portraying the difficulties of being abnormally intelligent, and includes some interesting speculation on the duty of the hyperintelligent to the world, but gets so many basic day to day details wrong that that it is hard to pay attention to the interesting stuff. There was a really good movie to be had with these concepts, and this cast, but it didn't get made.
My class ended on April 29; on May 10, I took the first of two Microsoft MCSA exams, named 70-698 and passed. I expect to knock out the second before the end of May, though just at this moment I am exhausted and kind of cross-eyed. But it will happen.
|Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017|
|Random Bits from Facebook
I stumbled across this quotation from Chuck Palahniuk (a writer for whom I have no use, anyway). I don't know if this should be attributed to a character, or the man himself, and it matters, because the speaker is REALLY clueless...
"What is the real purpose behind the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and Santa Claus? They seem like greater steps toward faith and imagination, each with a payoff. Like cognitive training exercises."
As I said, REALLY clueless. In reality, the lesson taught by those three is that NO ONE can be trusted, and that belief is for suckers, and that there is no such thing as magic anywhere.
Institutionalized metaphysical child abuse is still child abuse...
I run cold; normal temp is 97.8, with some variation. At 98.2, I am unhappy, but soldier on. At 98.6, I cancel recreational plans; at 99.0, I cancel EVERYTHING and go back to bed. This morning, I was feeling a bit off, took my temperature, found that it was 99.8.
I don't feel nearly as bad as that temperature would imply, but obviously something is very wrong below the surface. Not going back to bed, but taking it REALLY easy, pretty much waiting for the other shoe to drop. Grrr.
So I may have just read my farovite Robert E. Howard story for the first time. I have read a lot of Howard over the years; he is seldom less than good, and often excellent. He was also amazingly prollific during his short career.
A while ago Dementia gave me an e-book, a collection of ALL of Howard's "horror" stories (though how one makes that distinction with someone like Howard is hard to tell). I was reading it over lunch, and consumed a story called, "The Spirit of Tom Molyneaux" (also, apparently, sometimes called, "The Apparition in the Prize Ring). It's a ghost story, a triumph of the underdog story, and it was set in Howard's own present.
This is not a big story, not a flashy story. I have never seen it listed among Howard's best. What it is, though, is PERFECT. And you just don't run into that very often.
"A street wise attitude doesn't necessarily make me a cynic. In fact, if anything, life on the streets serves to open you up. When you're out in the open, you begin to realize that it IS all here-- the good and the bad, the clean and the dirty, the solid and the imaginary. It all exists, so how much more is ALSO possible? It's the MIDDLE classes, trapped inside their two-story ranchers that put the ironclad mold on what CAN and CAN'T be. The streets LET you believe." -- Matt Wagner, in the character of Edsel, "Mage: The Hero Discovered"
Steve Lortz (Stephen L. Lortz) died yesterday. I have SO much to say about him, and it will be turning up here in the next day or two, but for now, we have the following from Dementia:
"If there is ANY justice in the universe, Steve is playing Dark Worlds with Tom and Kurt about now."
Remembering Stephen L. Lortz, Part Two.
Sometime in the autumn of 1976 I was wandering through the Raven's Haven, the gathering area within the student union of Anderson College. I walked past a booth near the middle of the east wall, and my eyes were drawn by a pair of beautifully painted 25mm medieval knights in the center of the table. The booth was occupied by a stocky fellow with a full brown beard, an even stockier fellow with enormous red muttonchop sideburns, and a skinny fellow who reminded me of Maynard G.Krebs. I expressed interesst, and the conversation began.
The game on the table was called, "Knights of the Round Table" by Phil Edgren out of The Little Soldier. We talked about it a bit, and then the redhead waxed rhapsodic about another game called Dungeons & Dragons. Contact information was exchanged, and I made arrangements to join them for gaming the following week. (As it happened, a couple of hours later I ran into Maynard again, and we ended up talking for several hours; I didn't learn that he was the same person I had seen earlier until years later, but that is another story.)
One fifteen minute conversation, and my life changed irrevocably. Not because of the content, but because of the people. "Maynard" resolved into Bob Buehler, who would perform my marriage ceremony eight years later, and remains one of my best friends. The redhead was Kurt Lortz, whose friendship was a light in the distance until his death in 2006. And the third fellow, the one with the full beard, was Kurt's brother Steve, who died yesterday (April 24).
I spent a lot of time talking to Steve during the next several months, while I was at Anderson, and we remained in contact over the years. In early 1979 I flew out to San Francisco to attend Dundracon 4 and hang out with Steve and his co-workers at The Chaosium, a gaming company. We spent a lot of time wandering around the bay area and talking.
We stayed in touch, vaguely. After Kurt died, I made a significant effort to vist Steve at least once a year, and managed to do so through about 2010, when life got in the way, again. But by then there was Facebook and the lines of communication stayed open.
Steve didn't so much influence the content of my thought as the shape of it. He was something of a compulsive systematizer, as well as a compulsive teacher, and I was always a willing sponge. We talked about gaming and drawing and math and epistemology and metaphysics. He was one of the VERY few people who actually managed to get inside my head, and I will miss him terribly.
Dredged from 2013:
Discovered in a journal entry from 2006: "I've never liked improv; it's sort of like watching someone you hate play Russian Roulette. You know there is probably going to be a big payoff, but he keeps spinning the cylinder and it never seems to happen."
"Never confuse reality with the truth, and never let either get in the way of the story." ---From the movie "Their Finest", on screen writing.
“Some humans would do anything to see if it was possible to do it. If you put a large switch in some cave somewhere, with a sign on it saying 'End-of-the-World Switch. PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH', the paint wouldn't even have time to dry.” Terry Pratchett, from "The Thief of Time"
It's Sir Terry's birthday, today, and the world is poorer without him. I wondered how hard I would have to look, starting with, "The paint wouldn't even have time to dry," to get the quotation above; the answer is, Not at all; it was the first several responses. In a world full of horrors, this strikes me as one thing that is wholeheartedly RIGHT.
Last day of class today; I have spent about 300 hours with these people (and a few others) since the first of the year. Six of us spent another three hours at the bar next door talking about everything under the sun. I'm going to miss these people...
|Sunday, April 23rd, 2017|
|Steve Lortz Obituary
Stephen Lee Lortz, 67, of Anderson, passed away on April 23, 2017, at St. Vincent Anderson Regional Hospital.
He was born on Sept. 7, 1949, in Anderson.
Stephen grew up in Anderson attending Roosevelt Elementary School and graduating from Madison Heights High School in 1967 where he was in the band. He attended Anderson University before being drafted into the U.S. Navy and served for six years on the USS Pogy working on nuclear reactors and submarines.
He attended Whetstone Christian Church in his younger years and was attending Park Place Church of God.
He was known for his love of Biblical Theology Studies, his good sense of humor and heart for teaching. He loved his pet dogs and cats and was a model train enthusiast.
At various times he held jobs at Best Buy in Castleton, Border Bookstore at Keystone Fashion Mall, The Game Preserve in Broad Ripple, The Wizard's Keep in Muncie, Walden Book Sellers and Calendar's Kiosk in Anderson and was a teacher at Summit Academy in Zionsville.
He also made miniature sculptures and was an artist, role-playing game developer and participated in GEN-CON.
Stephen is survived by his loving spouse, Elizabeth Jean Lortz; daughter, Genevieve Wilson; granddaughter, Savannah Wilson; siblings, Leatha (Bob) Lemen and Nancy (Michael) Hoggatt; nieces and nephews, David (Christine) Lemen, Alice (Daniel) Kleinschmidt, Gloria (Mark) Arthur, Anna Warmuth, Ruby (companion, Chris May) Bethke, James D. Hoggatt, Aimee (Scott) Zabinski; and several great-nieces and nephews, including Ashley Hamilton.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Lee E. and Atha C. Lortz; brother, Kurt M. Lortz; and nieces and nephews, Matthew Lemen, Sarah Mendez, and Michelle Hamilton.
A Celebration of Life service will be held today at Park Place Church of God.
Memorial contributions may be made to Cystic Fibrosis Research or local SPCA.
|Saturday, April 22nd, 2017|
|Rangers, Beauty, Style, Trucks, Love
Behind, again. The doldrums before the May sweeps have allowed us to catch up on recorded television, so we have watched a few on-line movies that we missed the first time around. So... Three theatrical movies and two off the wire.
"Power Rangers" is silly and utterly predictable and shallow and so much fun that none of the other stuff matters.
"Beauty and the Beast" is a problem. The animated film on which it was based was pretty much perfect, and there was no real hope of adding anything to it with a live action remake. Of course, it made an obscene amount of money, and the art of cinema exists in service to the business of cinema, so that is all the justification that was needed. We enjoyed it enough, and certainly don't regret seeing it. But it has a flatness that makes me feel queasy about those obscene amounts of money.
"Going in Style" is a geriatric caper movie. The three main stars have nearly 250 years among them, but given who they are, they could be entertaining reading telephone books at each other. This movie is a bit better than that, which is to say that it is slightly better than it needs to be.
"Monster Trucks" is silly and utterly predictable and kind of pointless, but that was pretty obvious going in. It did what it set out to do, and I don't regret seeing it.
"Love & Friendship" is a hideous trainwreck pieced together from an early Jane Austen story. It lacks sympathetic charaters, and the plot is convoluted and sketchy to the edge of incomprehensibility. The dialog sounds like a parody of the Austen style. If you are an Austen fan, this is worth seeing for the sake of completeness. Otherwise, it is interesting only as a study in bad film making.
|Saturday, April 15th, 2017|
|Random Bits from Facebook
Dredged from 2015:
I fully understand that introduing a species to an alien evironment is, if successful, bioterrorism. I don't approve of it. It's a very bad thing. But every now and then I come across a concept that is just so COOL that I wish I were a bit less ethical...
One example would be introducing bull sharks to Lake Michigan. They could handle the fresh water, but unfortunately the cold would probably kill them. ::sigh::
Another possibility that has just come to my attention would be to introduce Japanese snow monkeys to Wisconsin. There is already a colony of several hundred on a reserve in Texas, so they have the adaptabiliity to diet and we know they can handle the temperature. Yes, I know that this would be ecologically insane and highly illegal, but... Monkeys. In the North American forests. How cool is that?
Facebook is getting creepier all the time. Case in point:
Last year, after I was told my job was ending, I joined some (three) high IQ societies, in the forlorn (and ultimately vain) hope of finding an employer that liked to gamble on high IQ types. Along the way, I joined mailing lists and Facebook groups, and participated occasionally. Collectively, the people who hang out in such groups have better grammar, better vocabularies, and a LOT more knowledge of math than the "ordinary" folks, but they are every bit as clueless about life in general as everyone else. (Who was it who said that it has not yet been conclusively established that intelligence is a positive evolutionary trait?)
Anyway, I was following a link to a "secret" Facebook group associated with one of those societies, and happened to glance to the right to the "suggested members" caption, and was a bit shocked at the three names I saw there.
I have, as of this moment, 452 Facebook friends. I won't say that the listed three were at the very top of that list, IQ wise, but they were certainly in the top ten (and no, I have no intention of actually figuring out who IS in the top ten).
The implication here is that Facebook has an algorithm that approximates user intelligence based on site usage, and does it pretty accurately. And that is downright scary.
From the extreme (comics) geekery file: Something that makes my teeth hurt.
There is a character in the DC universe called Ra's al Ghul. The name means "Head of the Demon", and it's a TITLE. Got it? When other characters refer to him as "Ra's", they are calling him, "Head", which would probably get them killed if they weren't already at war with him. People who aren't fighting with him call him, "Master" or "Your Excellency" or, in a couple of cases, "Father."
Which brings up the point of this rant. Every time I encounter the name, "Talia al Ghul" (which has been far too frequently, lately), I gnash my teeth. "al Ghul" is NOT a surname; it's part of an indivisible title. Her name is "Talia, daughter of Ra's al Ghul". Any traditional surname she adopts is a pseudonym. "Talia al Ghul" makes exactly as much sense as calling the daughter of William the Conqueror "Mathilda the Conqueror".
We've finished Cisco (certification exam on Thursday) and moved on to Windows 10...
Instructor: What's that expression for, Paul?
Me: I'm trying to motivate myself to care.
Me: I want to learn about fuel injection and cam profiles, and we're talking about paint and wax.
About half the people in the class got it, including (fortunately) the instructor.
Dredged from 2012:
Possibly obscure joke; I wonder how many people will get the connections. Dementia did, and nearly fell out of her chair, but I knew she would...
We were watching the most recent episode of "Castle", which involves a British DI strong arming his way into the most recent murder case. As the episode was ending, a bell went off in my head. What if this were a back-door pilot for a show about a British cop who ended up on long term detached duty to th NYPD? Of course, to really do it right, the cop should be a Scot, not a Londoner, and it would be called...
Wait for it...
After Dementia stopped hyperventilating, she said, "Of course, you know that no one under 30 will ever get that..."
So... Show of hands. Did you get it? Did it WORK?
Are embarrassing children
Of the proud haiku.
From the Dredge. Scary how much things have changed in two years..
Dredged from 2015:
It's been a long week. It has actually been the easiest week this year so far, but that was good because I am REALLY run down and emotionally strung out. I didn't realize how bad it was until the trip home.
The most recent recorded book ended as I was parking last night, and I was planning to drop the van off for some brake work on the way home, so I didn't want to start another book. And it had been a while since I had listened to music while driving. I looked through the on-board stock of CDs: several each of Heather Alexander, Michael Longcor, and Bounding Main. As usual, I went to Bounding Main first.
Bounding Main usually gets to me; beautiful close harmony sea chanteys push a LOT of my buttons. But I usually don't have to fight back tears; I did today, a couple times, and I worried a little bit about what that meant. I ran my errands, playing a bit of Ingress along the way, and was heading home. I pulled into the space behind the marker for the Rondout Train Robbery to do some Ingress...
...and "Northwest Passage" came on. It's a beautiful rendition of a song that I have always found emotionally profound, but today... Today it ripped my heart out and ground it into the floorboards, leaving me a bawling mess. One of the more functional parts of my brain found time to be grateful that I was already parked when the song came on.
It was an amazing experience. I don't regret it, though it scares me. If I am that close to the edge, well, there are things JUST over the edge that NO ONE wants to deal with. Trust me. I need rest, obviously. And I need something else, something that will give me an emotional recharge. I just don't know what it is. (OK, taking Suchia out on Geneva Lake would do it. But there are significant logistical problems...)
Spent the day at a "Job Hunt Skills" seminar (part of my class). Went in hating LinkedIn, told myself that if they couldn't convince me it was useful, I would delete my account. Learned the following:
If you don't include a picture on your profile, they will assume that you are hiding something, and you will never get an interview.
If *I* include a current picture, they will know that I am old, and I will never get an interview.
If *I* include a non-current picture, I may get an interview, but they will have me pegged as a liar as soon as I walk in the door.
So I learned enough about LinkedIn to decide that I would keep the account, but, for the reasons listed above, it will forever be for my eyes only. Such is life.
This was an honest to Frisbane laugh out loud this morning: "My ethical structure isn't FLEXIBLE, it's DYNAMIC." --Ben Kuhn
Random neurons fired, and the following appeared. It would seem to be a line from a science fiction story that does not exist, and probably never will, but I thought it was amusing enough to share.
"It's a four-dimensional May Pole, made using Hoberman spheres as shuttles."
Dredged from 2013:
Dementia, on reading Phil Rickman's "The Bones of Avalon": "You begin to understand why women were second class citizens in medieval Europe. Women just DIED. They were DISPOSABLE."
Life in my household:
"Prison Break" and "Agents of Shield", completely unrelated shows, have both mentioned prisons name "Ogygia" in the last week. Research was done.
"I don't recognize the name, either, but I know of the owner. And so do you," said Hyena. "Someone named 'Calypso.'"
"Oh," said Dementia with a grin. "Her."
Hyena continued, "So Ogygia was the island where Odysseus was held for many years, pining for Penelope, and having consolation sex with a goddess every night."
Dementia shrugged. "If you can't be with the one you love..."
|Sunday, April 9th, 2017|
|Ghost in the Shell
Once upon a never was, there was a cyborg named Motoko Kusanagi who had earned the rank of Major in a paramiltary police organization, and who spent a lot of time wondering just where the machine ended and she began. After most of 30 years and many iterations, that much has always held true.
So now we have a live action "Ghost in the Shell" movie, and, well, they have screwed that up. Sort of. By the time the film ended I had forgiven it its many (many, MANY) foibles, and was very glad I had seen it, but it was a long road.
This is a visually stunning movie. The action sequences are often downright lyrical.
The "whitewashing" flap was unnecessary. Kusanagi's appearance is entirely synthetic, and quite frankly, Scarlett Johansen looks a LOT like many of the official illustrations. When all is said and done, there is nothing about this story or its philosophy that is fundamentally Japanese other than the authorship and the character names; the concepts and situations are pretty much universal.
On the other hand, I was REALLY upset that they whitewashed Kusanagi's name; the name is at the heart of the character continuity. Eventually, they fixed it, and did it so well that I have forgiven them.
"Major" is a TITLE. (At least most of the time, and definitely in this case.) Referring to someone as "Major" is inappropriate except in direct address, NEVER in first or third person. ("The Major", on the other hand, is fine.)
The decision to tell an origin story was at best dubious and probably wrong. Kusanagi originally appeared fully formed, like many other iconic characters, and has never been the worse for it.
I can say to the second the moment when I stopped grumbling about this movie and started to actually like it. It was when one of the characters said, "Never send a rabbit to kill a fox." This pushed a BUNCH of my happy buttons.
Philosophically... Honestly, this has been window dressing from day one. Characters have talked about the ramifications of the mind/ brain (machine) problem over coffee since forever, and have never said anything of substance, and never will, and who cares? It is all idle speculation in the face of experimental ignorance, and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future.
In the end, if you like this kind of thing, this is the kind of thing you will like.
|Friday, April 7th, 2017|
|Kong, Logan, CCNA
Way out of date for movies. Cisco has been eating my life. More on that later.
"Kong: Skull Island" is a sort of sideways prequel to the more famous story. Peter Jackson's ape was a quarter the size and had four times the personality, and while Bree Larson's Mason is a pretty good character, but doesn't hold a candle to Ann Darrow as played by Naomi Watts. But beyond that... This movie is SO MUCH tighter and more watchable than Jackson's "Kong". Tom Hidddleston as an Indiana Jones analogue is surprising effective. And you know the old joke about the revolver that shoots twelve times without reloading? They do a variation on that with helicopters on a smallish cargo ship. They started out with four hueys, destroyed at least ten, and have three left over.
"Logon" has some great bits, and some serious problems. Within the Marvel universe, the idea of a character whose healing powers should keep him from every growing old being slowly killed by metal implants that have been defined as being chemically and radioactively utterly inert is a PROBLEM. And then there is the fact senility as a topic is high on my personal "avoid" list. That said, there are several truly touching moments, and a great deal of amusing violence. And the final scene is beautifully heartrending.
On the educational front... the Cisco class that has drive me carzy for most of eleven weeks, and on April 6 I took and passed the CCNA exam. This leaves three and a half weeks to work through a MCSA from Microsoft, which is supposed to be relatively easy. We shall see.
|Friday, March 31st, 2017|
|Random Bits from Facebook
If you can't make your abbreviation pronouncible, make it SHORT. (Four letters or fewer. Really. I'll hurt you.)
Eleven years ago today, "V for Vendetta" opened, and my friend Tom Parker died. I am going to take Tommy the Memorial Bear with me to class today. There may be pictures.
And from the extreme geekery file, we have the following: I have seen a number of discussions in the last few years about a supposed plot hole in "The Lord of the Rings", namely, the matter of why Gandalf didn't just contact Eagle Air and drop the ring into Mount Doom on the fly without all of the other foolishness. The thing is, there is no plot hole (or it least, that isn't one); the simple fact is that as long as Sauron was alive, he had air superiority over Mordor. No air superiority, no eagles. No eagles, no air drop option. Duh.
Well, that's sad. Someone who has been on my friends list for a few years, a friend of a friend of a friend with whom I have a few things in common, seems to have blocked me. She's a cosplayer; I stumbled across one of her photos, and sent her a fairly innoccuous cosplay related haiku. About an hour later she responded to it with a heart; about an hour after that, she disappeared off my my friends list, and off of the friends lists of all of our mutual friends. I assume this means she blocked me.
I will NOT start being afraid of repercussions from being friendly and playful. I will NOT. But it hurts.
(April 2 update: My friend has resurfaced, all is well.)
40-odd years ago, when I was incarcerated at Wheaton College, I took a course called, "Modern Mythology". One of the many books we discussed was "Perelandra" by C.S. Lewis. We spent a fair amount of time on it, because Lewis was one of focal writers of the course, and "Perelandra" was one of his favorites among his own works. We did NOT give any significant attention to what I perceived as the two most important ideas in the book, probably because they were too disturbing for a room full of Wheaties to focus on. But they stayed with me, and have shaped my thought to this day. Lewis' arguments are compelling, perhaps beyond what he intended them to be.
The first of these ideas is that intellectually superior fraud will ALWAYS triumph over the truth in the long run.
The second is that, faced with intellectually superior evil, good must occasionally resort to violence.
In the ensuing decades, I put a lot of thought into these, and can not refute them. My heart very much wants to do do, but my head won't let it.
Tee shirt concept, free to anyone who wants to bring it to reality. Things similar to this have been done, but they never quite got there.
Anything. (left justified)
(image of the Millenium Falcon, centered left and right, facing right)
Anytime. (center justified)
(image of Serenity, centered left and right, facing left)
Anywhere. (right justified)
The fact that this was written 1800 years ago ALMOST gives me hope that humanity will survive to 2100. Almost.
The strongest witness is the vast population of the earth, to which we are a burden, and she scarcely can provide for our needs. As our demands grow greater, our complaints against nature's inadequacy are heard by all. The scourges of pestilence, famine, wars, and earthquakes have come to be regarded as a blessing to overcrowded nations, since they serve to prune away the luxuriant growth of the human race. --Tetullian (Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus (c. 160 – c. 225 AD))
So... Officially Not Going To Attend GaryCon this year. This hurts, but given my level of fatigue and the backlog of studying I need to do, it is the right choice. I REALLY hate making adult decisions...
Today is Joseph Campbell's birthday, and the Dredge offered me a couple of variations on my rant about Campbell, vocation, and employment as slavery. I have decided to refrain from reposting either, for the nonce. The man still makes my teeth ache...
On Campbell, from 2014:
"I think the person who takes a job in order to live - that is to say, for the money - has turned himself into a slave."
-- Joseph Campbell, American author, editor, philosopher and teacher, (1904-1987)
Joseph Campbell is a widely read and well respected scholar whom I despise utterly, and the quotation above goes a long way to illustrate why. It's a TRUE statement, of course, but it is phrased in such a privileged, condescending way that it makes my teeth hurt. Which is to say, the statement implies that Campbell really thinks that most of us have a choice, and we don't.
OF COURSE we all want work that we enjoy that provides a reasonable amount of material comfort, but the simple fact is that if some divine hand were to re-shuffle humanity so that we were all matched up with the most enjoyable, most lucrative job we could have and still keep the engine of the world turning over... The vast majority of us would still have jobs we didn't enjoy, and a fair number of us would still have jobs that didn't provide adequate food, clothing, and shelter.
If you happen to be a member of the tiny minority who enjoy your work and can also pay your bills, you have won the game. Please shut up about it. The rest of us don't WANT to hate you, but we do find it REALLY easy.
On Campbell, from 2013:
I have always been inclined to dislike Joseph Campbell; I have tried to read "Hero with a Thousand Faces" several times, and have always been stopped in short order by a pompousity overload. ("This book makes me want to punch the author, and if I don't stop reading, I am likely to re-focus that desire on someone within arm's reach.") Today I came across the following Campbell quote, and it multiplies my feelings: ""I think the person who takes a job in order to live - that is to say, for the money - has turned himself into a slave." This cavalier dismissal of a state in which 99% of the human race finds itself shows a profound ignorance of the human condition, and pretty much everything else. How does ANYONE take this fool seriously?
There is something wonderful and strange about diving into bed after a trip to the bathroom while running a high fever. You go from severely chilled to moderately chilled so quickly that you perceive it as pleasure, even though the end result (moderately chilled) is still unpleasant. There is a lesson in there somewhere.
Just found out that my friend Steve L. had a nearly fatal (as in, full code) heart attack on February 9, spent five days in a medical coma, followed by six weeks in various levels of rehab, and is now home again. He has been advised not to make long term plans. The wheel rolls on.
The waitress had a string of Greek letters, a word, tattooed on her right forearm. I asked her to pause so I could read it, and said, "Meraki?"
"You read Greek?" she asked.
"I studied it once upon a time, long ago. I still remember some of the letters. What does it mean?"
"It's not really translatable; it about doing everything you do with passion and dedication."
I smiled. "EVERYTHING is translatable," I said. "It just may not be subject to a SIMPLE translation."
It's a good word, modern Greek by way of Turkish. The simple definition, per Google, is, "Artistry." Connotatively... Artistry, craftmanship, passion, becoming the moment, soul, blood.
Yeah, it's a GOOD word.
Changed my watch battery yesterday. The watch is eight or nine years old, and this is at least the second new battery. This particular watch has worn out three bands, and I hooked it up with a twenty-plus year old band that has worn out three watches; it's kind of a competition. Anyway... While I was changing the battery, I decided to clean out the operating buttons, which had gotten sluggish. I learned two things: First, that playing with spring clips that are the thickness of a piece of paper and less than 1/8 inch in diameter is INTERESTING. Second, that the interior of a watch button can house about twice its interior volume in lint, given enough time to accumulate it.
Life in my household:
We were watching recorded television ("The Flash"), and a dead character showed up in a sort-of dream sequence to serve as The Voice Of The Other. Dementia looked at him, and said, "It's Eddie!" This was, after all, the character's name.
Eddie started to talk, and Dementia assumed a squeaky voice and said, "Tell us about it, Eddie." I did a double take, and then started laughing so hard I could barely breathe, which set Dementia to laughing as well...
After I could breathe again, I said, "Well, THAT was a high fly over the left field fence." Dementia just giggled and reset the recording for the scenes we had missed.
A PERFECTLY executed "Rocky Horror Picture Show" reference out of NOWHERE. I love my wife...
|Wednesday, March 15th, 2017|
|Random Bits from Facebook
Dementia points out that without Davy Jones, David Bowie would have been David Jones, and there would have been no Pavel Chekov. You can sneer that he was the King of Bubblegum, but, hell, everyone needs a little bubblegum now and then.
On this day in 1933, the world saw King Kong climb the Empire State Building for the very first time. The story rips my heart out in all of its incarnation, though of course some are better than others. And it is a VERY sad story; its main message is that, when beauty and wonder conflict with greed and stupidity, greed and stupidity will win. But also: When you are lost and alone, beset by enemies all around, remember what is precious, and go down fighting.
Ireland just beat England against heavy odds in World Cup Cricket. Among the records set: Fastest century (50 balls) and longest successful chase (327 runs). GOOD game. (I am noticing that I have a tendency to enthusiasms that involve arcane terminology...)
So I'm sitting in my car, listening to a recording of one of my favorite stories, and my single favorite scene comes up, and by the time it gets to the capstone line, there are tears running down my face, and I am having trouble breathing. And in the middle of that, I realized that that was, for me, the most heavily freighted phrase in all of literature. It's seven words, and if you don't have the context, it makes no sense whatsoever.
"You make sure he gots a hat."
It rips my heart out. Context is everything.
I was emotionally strung out this morning. Seven weeks into the Cisco course, it was time to take the first actual certification exam, and I did not feel ready. Carpooled to the train station with classmate and former co-worker Rick, took the train downtown, took the test. As I hit the "Finish" button, I was pretty sure I had failed; I had had a feeling of doom stalking me for a day and a half.
Got 930 out of 1000, needed 832 to pass. So... I have a CCENT, and am on the board. Still a ways to go, though. (For what it is worth, seven members of my class took the exam today, and we ALL passed.)
An addition to the very short list of tattoos that Paul might consider getting, given that Paul will almost certainly never get a tattoo: The phrase, "With, or On." It is simple, it fits me well, and it has a nearly perfect balance of obscurity and transparency.
Matt Wagner is going to bring back Kevin Matchstick and FINALLY finish the "Mage" trilogy. For those of you who don't know (which is pretty much everyone), "Mage" is a contemporary fantasy comic that owns about as much of my soul as "Girl Genius" (and is ahead of "Sandman" and "Fables", which should tell you something). The first arc came out in the 80s, the second arc in the 90s, and the third and final arc is supposed to come out this year, and MAYBE it will all see print again. We can hope.
"It's a 1959 Corsair model Edsel. Best goddamned car ever made. Do you have a PROBLEM with THAT?"
No, Ma'am. Not in the least.
March 4. It's the ninth anniversary of three things that I expect to remember forever.
My mother left the home she shared with my father for the last time; she would be in hospitals or custodial care for the rest of her life.
E. Gary Gygax (acquaintance and father of my good friend Ernie) died.
My e-book, "A Brief History of Gnolls", became available at online gaming sites.
Nine years later, I still can't quite wrap my head around this day...
35 years ago today, I worked a midnight shift, then met my friend Don for breakfast. He talked me into following him to Sabbath School, which happened to be taught by a pretty redhead whom I subsequently almost married. Afterwards, I went home and got some sleep. That evening, my family threw me an early birthday party, and my brother Pete gave me a Warner Brothers Tasmanian Devil with the note, :"This is for your car."
The critter was christened, "Grishnakh", and he dutifully took up residence in my '71 Chevelle (the first car I ever owned). Over the years, he has migrated from there to the '74 Mustang, the '76 Celica, the '82 Civic, the '88 Civic, the '86 S10, the '93 Wrangler, the 2000 Caravan, and now the '08 Sienna. Along the way he has acquired a reputation as a stoner (due to spending a significant percentage of his life face down on the floor of his home), a hat, a shirt, a name tag, a pipe, and a couple of room mates. He only comes into the house when his home is in the shop, and on special occasions.
Like his 35th birthday.
Here's to you, Grish. Open roads, fair winds, and calm seas.
Thought I had stumbled onto an interesting but useless mathematical progression involving prime numbers; five perfect data points usually define a curve pretty well. The sixth datapoint failed to appear in the same county as predicted. Oh, well. (It was REALLY useless, anyway...)
"The day I stop flirting is the day they nail the coffin shut." C.E. Murphy in the character of Gary the cabbie, "Urban Shaman".
This strikes me as a pretty good theme for birthday 61...
Just went through all of yesterday's Facebook birthday greetings and "liked" all of them, 75 in all. The experience left me in tears. Thank you all. You are certainly a varied lot; ranging from lifelong friends to internet acquaintances I barely know. A number of you actually own a piece of my soul; I was surprised to see how many. I am very, very grateful for all of you.
Do you know where your towel is? (And do you know why I am asking?)
Stuff that gets said conversationally in this house: "A working definition of 'The Dark Ages' is, 'That period of European history during which literacy was controlled and gereally limited to the professionally celibate.'"
“The greater part of critics are parasites, who, if nothing had been written, would find nothing to write.”
-- Joseph Priestley, English chemist and clergyman, (1733-1804)
From the, "Let's cause some trouble," file: I was thinking this morning about the economics of teaching, and realized why there would never be any real money in it: Schools are job shops. That is, they are places where skilled workers add value to largely interchangeable components that they do not control. Across the entire economy, "component processing" can and generally does provide economic stability, it doesn't, and can't, lead to real wealth.
In the "Why do they bother?" category, I have just learned that the glass slipper in the current "Cinderella" was made of fine crystal, and was so delicate that Lily James never once actually put it on her foot. And you know what? It looks like a really nice polycarbonate casting.
Having the background to actually understand the context makes a BIG difference. Case in point; I saw "Kong: Skull Island" this afternoon. Here is a misquote from IMDB of an exchange between Samuel L. Jackson's character (Packard) and Brie Larson's character (Weaver):
Preston Packard: You did two years here?
Mason Weaver: I was in Saigon.
Preston Packard: You were in the shit. I respect that.
As I said, it's a misquote. The actual Weaver line was, "I was embedded with Mac Vee Sog."
For those of you who don't know, that is Milspeak for, "Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, Special Operations Group," better known as the Green Berets. As a matter of history, I don't think it was possible for a woman to be embedded with special forces in 1973, but that isn't the point. Within the context of the movie, the line was supposed to establish Weaver as a badass, and, given the misquote, it looks like it failed. Which is a shame.
Last night I went up to Lake Geneva to play in an AD&D 1st Ed. game, under the auspices of Mark Cmg. This was the first time I have actually played the game, in all these years, as it was actually written. (More on this elsewhere, and after GaryCon.)
In the meantime, a bit of linguistic foolishness came up that I am going to air again. Which is to say: As far as I have been able to determine, until D&D came out in 1974, there simply was no such word as "pegasus" with a lower case "p", meant to indicate a species of winged horses. Prior to that, "Pegasus" meant a specific winged stallion, and winged horses in general were called "winged horses". As a result of this, I tend to rail whenever anyone pluralizes "pegasus" as "pegasi". It is an absurd plural of a neologism. It would be more correct to refer to winged horses as "Pegasians", but I fear that horse has long since left the barn.
|Sunday, March 12th, 2017|
|CCENT, Birthday, Wall, Table, Haunted
My life has consisted mostly of going to class and studying lately, but there have been a few actual events...
I took, and passed, the first level of Cisco certification, the CCENT, on March 2. I still have a ways to go, but that was gratifying.
I visited my father on March 5. Pretty much more of the same.
I had a birthday, number 61, on March 8. I've been trying to think of something clever to say about 61, but the best I can come up with that it is the smallest number, other than one, to have a value of one in modulus 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. This is both extremely obscure and not very interesting, which may make it an apt metaphor for my current mood.
On March 11, I went back up to Burlington, WI, for another iteration of "This Church is Haunted." Last time humanity won, and only one of the players got possessed. This time... Two players got possessed and rescued over the course of the game, but five of us were still domons going into the end game. Strange things happened as the end game played out, and at the very end, there were only two demons, but they won by a huge margin.
"The Great Wall" is a medieval Chinese steampunk monster movie that features Matt Damon doing a nearly perfect Brendan Gleeson impression throughout. Having said that, the film is far better than it deserves to be. This doesn't mean it was actually GOOD, mind you, but I don't regret seeing it.
"Table 19" is a "stupid people being unhappy" movie. There are lots of those. It is also a comedy, which makes it unusual, maybe unique. It does NOT make it pleasant to watch. The trailers made it look MUCH better than it actually was. Anna Kendrick continues to be adorable in everything she does, but you can't bail the Titanic with a thimble.
|Thursday, March 9th, 2017|
This is an old story. I have related it a few times when it seemed appropriate, but have never before committed it to text.
It is also a vulgar story, or at least a story that involves vulgar language. I would avoid it if I could, but given that the story can't be told otherwise, I charge ahead. You have been warned.
Some years ago, while Dementia was doing clerical work in an HR office, she was transcribing a recording of an altercation between a male supervisor and a female worker, and the woman used the phrase, "You are fucking ignorant." Dementia doens't use that kind of language, but delicacy in this case would serve no one, so she typed it in. The grammar check software perceived a verb being modified by an adjective, and suggested that the word, "igonorant" be replaced by "ignorantly." The visual image that this inevitably conjured caused Dementia to collapse in a giggling fit.
Later, Dementia related the story to me. This took a bit of creativity, since she doesn't use that kind of language. I also thought it was very funny, but being me, I wondered about the grammatical issue.
Participles confuse grammar checkers. This is not surprising; participles confuse everyone. But at base, the situation consisted of an adjective (ignorant) modifying a pronoun (you) which was in turn modified by an a participle attempting, unsuccessfully, to serve as an adverb. So: How does one fix it? There are rules for turning participles into adverbs...
Fuckingly. It's a grammatically valid word. It would seem to mean, "superlatively", or possibly (to preserve the form) "exceedingly". I am reasonably confident that it has never actually been used in the wild.
I am also reasonably certain that someone who reads this will take that as a challenge...
|Wednesday, March 1st, 2017|
|Random Bits from Facebook
Really demoralized this morning. The first real certification exam of my course, the CCENT, is next Thursday, and I am working my way through the qualifying exams, and failing. I KNOW the material, but the exams, which are supposed to be representative, are full of questions which are either A) not covered in the curriculum, or B) so badly worded that I just can't parse them. My only ray of hope (and it is slim, at the moment) is the certainty that if the qualifiers are truly representative, NO ONE would ever pass, and people do all the time. So the likely thing is that the qualifiers are junk. Doesn't make if feel any better when I fail them, though.
From the Dredge, sort of. This is the relevant part of a LiveJournal post from this day in 2015. My current state is hardly wonderful, but those days were a horror.
In other news, my job is killing me. Management is currently pursuing a practice of seeing how much extra work they can push to my group before we implode, and we are holding up pretty well. Except that I am doing a two man job with the "help" of a hopelessly green partner, which means I am doing double work AND trying to train my partner too. I spend twelve hours going flat out, then come home and have work related anxiety dreams when I sleep. I have a lifetime's worth of mental stability tricks to keep my head together, but they take a toll on my body, and I don't know where the limits are. I am really afraid that I am going to find out.
When will the world become so complex that the average person will no longer be able to formulate an informed opinion about anything of substance? It has already happened.
From the Dredge. I had purged this one from my brain. It's scary.
I was in Burger King today, and the CNN newsreader was interviewing an AI expert. At one point, the newsreader said, "Now, this is not as advanced as the computer, I don't remember its name, from the movie 'A Clockwork Orange' that tried to take things over."
When did reality break?
Poor Mister Gebo.
He is back in jail once more.
He did nothing wrong.
(Dementia's Neopets account has been frozen for no reason for the second time in ten years. This counts as a local trauma. A minor one, but in a place as sanity-scarce as this, everything matters.)
Forty-one years ago today, I stood on the edge of the abyss, looked into the face of Oblivion, and decided to turn around and go home. But nothing is ever quite the same after an experience like that...
I believe in magic. Almost everyone does, though most don't acknowledge it, and some deny it vehemently. But as a matter of anthropological and psychological fact, we are hard-wired to draw emotional comfort from non-rational ritual, be those rituals religious or social or personal. Ritual works; for my current purposes, the metaphysics are not relevant. And the knowledge that non-rational ritual can have concrete results is something that you can use for practical purposes, and THAT is what I think of as magic.
This comes up because the other day, one of my adopted nieces asked the internet to suggest a talisman, something she could use as a focus to invoke the power of ritual to help her deal with some of the daily horror. I thought about it, designed something, built it, gave it to her.
This morning I heard back from her. She went through a rough patch last night, picked up that talisman, used it to get back on her feet. I am gratified and a bit amused by this. Gratified because I was able help my friend, however remotely, and amused at the transcendental absurdity of it all.
The progression is wonderful and awesome. The talisman began as a foot long piece of coat hanger wire, essentially junk, shaped over the course of half an hour with REALLY simple tools. But then you take into account the technological wonder that steel wire represents, and the hours of craft that are behind that half hour of effort, and the thousands of years of mythology and the hundreds of thousands of years of human developement that made this little bit of ritual predictively effective...
Magic IS. Magic works. Life kicks us around, but we persevere...
Something that would happen in a well-ordered universe: Sarah Michelle Gellar for a guest spot on "Supernatural", maybe as a hunter who had a relationship with Dean back in the long-ago. (Or maybe Gellar and James Marsters together?)
Given that the dreaming brain can't handle the alphabet very well (giving rise to the often repeated, but not quite true, idea that you can't read in dreams), anxierty dreams about coding syntax are WEIRD.
Silly puzzle for the day. As usual for this kind of thing, if you know the answer, just say, "Yes" or some such in the comments, don't give it away. I will post the answer when I think the dust has settled adequately.
So... It is possible to construct a grammatically sound English sentence that consists of a single word repeated eight times. What is that word?
|Friday, February 24th, 2017|
Not much going on other than my class, so here we have one somewhat belated movie review...
"John Wick: Chapter 2" is a sequel. The original featured amazing trailers that the actual movie failed to live up to. It wasn't bad, and we both remembered it as being better than it my contemporary review. Memory is like that. The current movie is very much more of the same; the movie isn't bad, but it doesn't live up to the trailers. Also, the original movie was a fairly straightforward revenge plot laid on top of a strange and fascinating mythology. The current movie is driven by the mythology, and it really doesn't have the structural integrity to withstand the burden. This isn't a bad movie, but it suffers badly from inflated expectations.
|Monday, February 20th, 2017|
|Random Bits from Facebook
Just took the textbook final for the current section of my Cisco course. Got a 92%. I can live with that. Still a long way to go.
On this day in 1925, Gunnar Kaasen and his dogs arrived in Nome, Alaska, with a a cargo of diphtheria anti-toxin. The payload (though no single dog or musher) had traveled 674 overland miles in 128 hours through near-blizzard conditions. Just sayin'.
Ayn Rand's birthday today. Such a petty, hypocritical, EVIL person...
Dredged from 2016:
From the unintended consequences file: Back in the early 80s, various religious groups went slightly crazy, claiming that RPGs (and D&D in particular) were a gateway to Satanism and often contributed to suicide among gamers. To that end, they spent a lot of time lookng for gamer suicides in the interest of shouting, "I told you so!" They didn't find many. In fact, they found so few that they actually proved (if you run the numbers) that gamers are about ten times LESS likely to commit suicide than the population in general.
Dredged from 2013:
I like to argue; it's fun, if done with respect and good nature. I also like to win, sort of. That is, it's fun to win, but it almost always makes me feel (quite legitimately) like a bully. Because winning requires me to go down one of two paths that I ultimately despise. The first is to use superior intellectual and language skills to brutalize the truth; I have major ethical problems with that. The second path is to dredge up a quantity of the toxic crap that lives in my cranial sewers and use it to dissolve the other fellow's rose colored glasses. I have major ethical problems with that, too; the stuff that is inside my head makes ME miserable, and I have no business inflicting it on anyone else, even if it IS true...
You know that feeling you get when you spend all day painting a soup kitchen instead of fixing the hole in your own roof because you made a promise, and then the soup kitchen burns to the ground overnight? Yeah, that.
"You don't know the first thing about being an American. We're misfits; outcasts, and we're proud of it. If they attack in formation, we pop 'em off from the trees. If they challenge you to a duel, you raid their camp at night. And if they're going to hang you, you fight dirty. But you never, ever, give up. THAT's the American way." -- Sociopathic hardcase Mick "Heatwave" Rory to George Washington on "Legends of Tomorrow".
You gotta love it...
Things that go through my head while I should be working on other things: A poker chip and a beer bottle are zero-manifolds, a doughnut and a coffee cup are one-manifolds, a Kraken rum bottle and a gallon milk bottle are two-manifolds, and a horse and a human are three-manifolds.
At least this one didn't attack me while I was trying to sleep...
I almost started an altercation at a social gathering yesterday. I didn't mean to, and when I realized what was happening I took steps to shut it down, but I came away baffled. It took a while to figure out what had happened. I had said, "If A, then H," because that is the way I think about that particular issue. I am prone to forgetting that, just because I have worked through the progression from A to B to C to D to E to F to G to H, and find the argument compelling and inevitable, doesn't mean that other people have done so. And lacking experience of that progression, "If A, then H," sounds kind of off the wall, even if it is true.
I just found out that Tony Eringis, one of my best friends from high school, died this week. He just turned 60 in December. We last spoke, on the phone, in the mid-90s, and have had minor contact on FaceBook since then. Still, we was a big part of my life, back in the day. He was very smart, frequently clueless, often goofy, and just generally a good person. I have said this far too often, lately, but... the world is again diminished.
On this day in 1988, the world first head that immortal phrase, "Everybody is Dead, Dave."
Dredged from 2014:
With apologies to Douglas Adams (and Marvin):
Now the world has all turned white
(How I hate the snow);
Life is buried out of sight
(How I hate the snow);
Save us from this frozen blight
(How I hate the snow)!
This is the seventh anniversary of my mother's physical death. It's been a lot longer since she was really herself; I am trying to recall the last real conversaton I had with her, and failing. It was a long time ago.
Hyena picked up a whiteboard and drew three Futhark runes. "This is a riddle. It's a song reference. All of the clues are public knowledge, but I may be the only person on the planet who would see it at a glance."
Dementia, who is used to this kind of thing, looked at the runes. "Man. Ken. Tyr. That's step one. No idea where to go next."
"Step two is a railroad," Hyena said. "Step three is the song title."
"Still no idea," Dementia said.
"I know," said Hyena. And then he played the song, LOUD, grinning like an idiot, with tears running down his face. It's not really that kind of song, but, oh, the associations...
Dredged from 2016:
"Truth suffers herself to be courted, but evidently she has no desire to be won."
-- Ernst Mach, Austrian physicist and philosopher (1838-1916)
Memories from sometime in 2000:
Blast from the past:
We were standing in front of a poster in the movie theater which advertised the soon to be released film, "102 Dalmations."
"Only 102?" Dementia asked. "It's been four years; there should be a LOT more than dogs than that."
Hyena looked at her, and replied instantly and with a straight face, "Well, they made the coat..."
|Monday, February 13th, 2017|
|Evil, XXX, Father, Cisco
Way behind here. Filling in the empty spaces.
"Resident Evil: The Final Chapter" is more of the same, though the sparkle seems to have warn off completely, and everyone seems tired. There is still fun to be had, here, but the signal to noise ration is getting worse with each iteration, and I am not sure that this one was worth the trouble.
"XXX: The return of Xander Cage" is just loads of fun. The stunts are great, the dialog is good, everything just WORKS. There is not the least pretense to profundity here, just flat out escapist entertainment. And that is a really good thing. It has been a long time since I have enjoyed a movie this much.
Went down to see my dad for the first time in about a month after class on Saturday. The railroad logo shirts that I hoped to give him for Christmas finally showed up the day after my last trip south, so he finally got them: D&RGW and Great Northern, to the extent that it matters. He seems slightly more diminished every time I see him, and he has for a while now. I love him, but visiting him makes me sad.
The Cisco class continues to eat my life. I had hoped to take a day off and run to Toledo for BashCon, which is my favorite gaming con, but I have decided that I can't afford the time.
Life goes on.