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|Friday, September 15th, 2017|
|Random Bits from Facebook
So suppose that you had this idea for a movie: A humanoid amphibian creature has been captured in the Amazon and is being held in a lab in the US. The creature develops a relationship with one of the housekeepers, and eventually there is screaming and bloodshed and hats are lost. It's sort of a retro-sci-fi romance thriller, but it is done with ZERO schlock, first class all the way. You'd expect that there would be SOME mention of the Black Lagoon, wouldn't you?
Apparently not. Guillermo Del Toro is calling it, "The Shape of Water", and I am REALLY looking forward to it, Black Lagoon or no.
That was harder than I expected it to be. And I expected it to be hard.
I spent Thursday in bed with a fever, spent Friday on restricted activity. I felt OK when I got up today, still had a slight fever, but I had PLANS. By the time I was showered and dressed, the fever was back, and it was clear that the plans were a REALLY bad idea. But I didn't want to blow off Ernie's birthday, did I? An hour plus to get there, then two or three or four hours of table games, and then an hour plus home... No. Didn't have it. Did did I have the trip there and back in me? Yes, but that meant walking in, saying hello and congratulations, and then walking out again. That was a STOOPID idea.
Friendship and honor are a fierce combination...
So I pulled myself together, made the trip, said hello to everyone, congratulated Ernie on another trip around the sun, played with the dog briefly, and went home.
Three good friends, three amiable strangers, table games, grilled hamburgers, grilled sweet corn. I clenched my teeth and walked away.
It was the right decision. Doesn't make it hurt less.
Abdul, the new clerk at the local convenience store, is from Saudi Arabia. We have had enough conversation for him to know that I am a bit different from his usual customers...
Today, I was buying lottery tickets, and he asked me if I knew the mechanism for determining winners in the multi-state lotteries; he had never seen a drawing. I described the machines, and we fell to a discussion of probability. He is a programmer, and knew a few things, though he said he was trying to figure a loophole in the lotteries; I wished him luck.
"There is no such thing as luck," he said. "It is all algorithms."
I shrugged. "You throw a thousand dice," I said, "You expect 167 ones. That's probability." I made a gun of my left hand, pointed it at the ceiling. "You throw ONE die," I continued, swiping my right hand across my left as if spinning a revolver cylinder, and then pointed my finger at him. "THAT is luck."
His eyes got huge, and then his face lit up. His world view had just shifted. It was a small shift, but palpable nonetheless. I smiled and went on my way.
I used to love talking to my friends on the phone, but somewhere along the line something has shifted; I have a list of people to whom I owe phone calls, and occasionally I stare at it as if it were an angry rattlesnake. I still love to TALK, of course, to friends, and to strangers, and occasionally even to inanimate objects, but I have come to pretty much hate phones. Looking back, I remember that my first reaction to the smart phone was one of revulsion (it didn't help that the supplier was the much-hated Apple, but that is a different neurosis).
So what changed? It has occurred to me that for about two decades, my main interaction with telephones was at work, where the telephone ALWAYS represented an onerous duty. So the revulsion can be explained as a long term condidtioned response. Knowing that doesn't help solve the problem, though.
Life goes on.
Life in my household:
I get up well before Dementia does, and am usually in the living room playing with my computer when she comes down for the first time. This morning she came down and immediately started rummaging in the freezer.
Dementia: No one else will believe me, but you KNOW you didn't hit me...
Hyena: That's an ominous opening...
She managed to bash her left cheekbone into a bedside chair. Gods only know how; she is talented. It looks like there will be an impressive bruise. Apparently this is some kind of once a decade ritual; this is the third time in 33 years of marriage.
I was driving east on Grand Avenue yesterday when I had a new-to-me experience: I recognized a face on a billboard. Not in the sense of, "I know that person's name", that is just a matter of recognizing celebrities. No, this was a, "I know his phone number and where he lives and he's married to my niece," kind of recognition. Mark Lancaster is playing Nox the Demonlord, figurehead character for Fright Fest at Great America, for the third time this year, and his (heavily made up and unrecognizable if you don't know it's him) face dominates the billboard on the entry sign.
VERY cool, Mark. Way to go!
Facebook reminds me Stephen L. Lortz was born on this day in 1949. This is the first time, since then, that he hasn't been among the living on the day.
Fare thee well where ever you fare, Steve. Open roads, fair winds, calm seas, and warm fires.
It occurred to me that, given a good audio book and no particular time pressure, rush hour traffic isn't really that bad. There is always the Chicago mantra: Anything is better than the CTA.
Why, oh WHY, would anyone shell out an evil amount of money for a Lamborghini, and then paint it like an emasculated school bus? Faded pumpkin? Salmon? It's like owning a starship and only using it to go to the corner convenience store.
Linguistic horror of the day: "Mentee" is an anathematic neologism which was apparently coined by someone who did not know that the reciprocal of "mentor" was "protege."
(Edited to "correct" the spelling of "anathematic" (which I fully acknowldge to be an anathematic neologism in its own right) at the prompting of Tom Murphy.)
I am reluctant to share this, but I am going to because it seems to be gnawing on me, and I need to let it out. My apologies.
Conversation with my father, yesterday, triggered by mention of hurricane Irma:
Me: How many times did you go to the DR?
DVH: Fifteen. Twice by myself, and thirteen times with... that woman... that woman who was my wife.
Me: You mean Frannie? My mother?
My dad forgot my mother's name. He didn't forget HER, he just spaced her name, and it bothered him. You could see it on his face, hear it in his voice. It was not a good moment.
My father is still very much himself, but that self is getting smaller and smaller all the time.
The wheel turns.
Character bits for an RPG character under construction:
"I admit it, I have a gambling problem. It's not that I'm a BAD gambler; I don't waste my money on bad bets. The problem is that I can't seem to walk away from good bets that I can't afford to lose. It's like my problem with women. It's not that I waste my time on women I can't get, it's that I can't seem to walk away from available women that I can't afford to win."
More geekery, at the interstice between RPG and philosophy:
I stumbled across an on-line discussion of methods to achieve corporeal immortality under the rules of the current edition of Dungeons & Dragons. All of the presented solutions involved either divine intervention, or top level (9th) spells. This intrigued me, because there is a 7th level full body regeneration spell in the lists that will, among other things, regrow severed limbs. No one seemed to realize that a side effect of this spell would be to restore the entire body to the cusp of maturity (somewhere between 17 and 35, depending on the specific sub-system being discussed), so casting the spell every decade or so would achieve immortality nicely.
There are a few minor hints in the rules that aging is some kind of metaphysical burden, and the gallery seemed to be buying that idea whole-heartedly. This strikes me as strange. Aging is exactly equal to the progressive failure of the body's self repair mechanisms. If only those systems were fully redundant, we would live forever (or at least until there was a simultaneous double failure...).
Reply from Kevin Price:
Well, if the telomere theory of aging is accurate, then Regeneration could regrow limbs that have the same telomere chain length as the parts they regrew from. And as such, the 'age' of your body wouldn't change at all.
Life in my household:
Dementia: There is no way that the Marvel Cinematic Universe would have Danny Rand (Iron Fist, of the Marvel-Netflix series) EAT his parents.
Hyena: They would if *I* were editor...
Life in my household (more "Iron Fist" foolishness):
Danny Rand: It's a complicated story. Every time I try to tell someone, they freak out.
Dementia: Have you ever heard of "Brigadoon"?
Life in my household:
Dementia: There's really only one good joke in "Spaceballs"...
Hyena: (quoting): "Funny..."
Dementia: (laughing) Yep, that's the one.
This is what happens after 33 years...
(The complete line is, "Funny, you don't look Druish...")
First rule of honest fantasy writing: Commonplace reality is assumed to apply, unless explicityly stated otherwise, or when revelation of the differences is integral to the plot.
|Thursday, September 14th, 2017|
"Birth of the Dragon" is a movie about the legendary version of Bruce Lee. That is, there is an historical Bruce Lee, and a legendary Bruce Lee, and this movie about the latter version. Once you step away from the history... The impression of Lee that is given by Philip Ng is pretty much perfect; the martial arts sequences are excellent, and the philosophy presented is satisfying. All told, we enjoyed this one a great deal.
"Wind River" is a well constructed police procedural with a great cast and a setting that is both physically and politically fascinating. It's a very dark story, but we enjoyed it.
|Thursday, August 31st, 2017|
|Random Bits from Facebook
Nothing is EVER simple.
I suspect that hatred is impossible if you really embrace the complexity.
I am nearly certain that personal peace is impossible if you do so.
"Mage", volume 3, number 1, has been in the house since yesterday. Dementia gets to read it first. She showed me a back cover ad for Mage swag, including tee shirts. We need a few; my original Mage tee shirt is over 30 years old. Dementia had some difficulty with the tee shirt vendor's web site, and I decided to try my hand. Think an indirect approach might be best, I asked, "Who's the publisher?"
Dementia replied, "Image."
"IMAGE?!?" I said incredulously; Dementia held up the book, showed me the logo. "Damn, Matt," I said, "You done good."
(Those who have followed the saga of Matt Wagner's Mage for the last three decades will understand. The rest of you should find out.)
Finally caught up on recorded TV, and watching the third season of "The Musketeers" for the first time on disc. Life is good. I LOVE this show...
I've been thinking lately that it might be fun to join the Flat Earth Society. There is something really liberating about the idea of getting into arguments, knowing from the start that you are utterly and completely wrong, and never having to worry about the truth, just about winning.
It turns out that it was perfectly safe to watch the eclipse with the naked eye here in Waukegan... (Celestial events follow a schedule. Weather, not so much.)
In my experience, it only takes a few iterations of being coerced to do something I love to turn that thing into something I USED to love.
A moral quandary: I just finished reading a very short small press book that was so amazingly bad that it inspired a REALLY amusing review. I normally have no compunctions about abusing commercially successful creators, but this is VERY small press, and the author is a friend (or at least an acquaintance) of friends of mine. and the review is BRUTAL. Do I post it, or keep it to myself?
(Update: The review is out there, but unless you know the exact terms to search for, you won't find it.)
Yesterday, I posted a single paragraph of a book review that I have decided to otherwise leave buried in my archives. It caused a few people (who are not familiar with my problematic relationship to my muse) to make, "You should write more," noises. I am not going to respond to that in detail; the story is both boring and painful. I am, however, going to trot out a piece of my fiction. This is a favorite; it is probably the sweetest story I have ever written. I have just re-read it, and five years after the fact, it makes ME cry. It is, for my work, unusually non-violent, and has the distinction of having been read by a father to his children as a bedtime story (in New Zealand, no less!)
(See "The Oakbridge Oak", elsewhere.)
Currently wearing a brand new, old stock "Mage" tee shirt from 1997. I still have, and have recently worn, a once identical shirt that I bought back in the day.
Best laid plans department:
Yesterday, I was supposed to get out of the house early, be in Libertyville when the comic shop opened at 11:00, then head out to Rockford, row the perimeter of Pierce Lake, then get to Lake Geneva Games in time for RPG night at 6:00.
In reality, I didn't get out of the house until 1:00, didn't get to Pirece Lake until 4:15, and decided I just didn't have the energy to unlimber the canoe. I didn't actually bail on Lake Geneva until I got to the fork in the road at Harvard, which was the go/no go point. I continue to hate making adult decisions...
My brain is not what it once was; most obviously, my memory doesn't cling to things as easily as it once did, and while everything seems to still be in there, sometimes the retrieval times are measured in hours or even days. This is not worrisome; incremental cognitive decline is just another inevitable part of aging (and yet ANOTHER reason to scream in horror when I look in the mirror every morning). On the other hand, my mother was an Alzheimer's victim, and if I follow her trajectory, I only have 15 or 16 years of personality left.
On the other hand... I slept in this morning. I have been feeling ill, and needed some extra sleep. I wasn't comfortable, and wasn't sleeping soundly. I decided that it was time to face the day when I realized I had been working on a probability problem, including reconstructing half-remembered theorems, on the backs of my eyelids. It was time to get up, find some scratch paper, and check my work.
How does the song go? "As good once as I ever was..."
There are a lot of Zen parables that end with minor variations on the phrase, "And then he became enlightened." Being a trickster at heart, I see these as, "And then he realized that it was all a scam, there was not really any such thing as Enlightenment, and all that was really necessary was to put in enough time seeking that people believed you when you claimed to be enlightened, and then you could begin to reap the benefits of being perceived as a bodhisattva." But even then, it's not EXACTLY fraud, because the Way that can be told is not the true Way, and the journey is the worthier part...
Life in my household:
Hyena (Addressing Dementia in her Mistress of the TV Screen mode): Could you find SOMETHING to play? I am literally sitting here watching batteries charge, and I need some kind of intellectual stimulation...
FINALLY watching the uncut version of "The Dark Kingdom: The Dragon King." It a 2004 version of "The Nibelungenlied." It was made by a German producition company, filmed in English, and shot in South Africa. Confused yet? It originally ran 177 minutes, but was cut to 134 for the US audience; most of what was cut was a subplot about the displacement of Odinism by Christianity. I finally managed to find a full version, and the time to watch it...
And today on Vocabulary Quest, our hero found himself learning to differentiate among "elipsoid" (very general), "oblate spheroid" (flying saucer), and "prolate spheroid" (blunted football).
Got the boat in the water for the first (and maybe last) time in August today; drove out to Pierce Lake, north of Rockford. In addition to the circuit shown, I rowed out almost across the center of the lake to offer a tow to a couple of becalmed and clueless sailors; they got in without my help.
Insert Water Rat quotation here...
(The becalmed sailors had a Butterfly, a fiberglass cat rigged scow.)
So... It turns out that what it takes to turn two weeks of intermittently sort-of sick into, "Get back into bed, Stupid," is a couple of hours of strenuous exercise. Maybe now all of the harbinger joint pain will retreat back to manageable levels.
In the book "Time Enough for Love", Robert A. Heinlein's characters discuss the idea of the Blind Man's Rainbow as an example of something that is generally regarded as wonderful that some people miss completely. I think we all have a few of them; one of mine is food.
It is a very rare day when at least one of my friends on Facebook doesn't lovingly describe a recent meal, or a forthcoming meal, and its preparation. I am empathetic enough to understand that this matters to them, that they take joy out of it, and I am happy for them, but as far as my visceral reaction goes, they might as well be comparison shopping for aquarium gravel.
On the other hand, if you put ketchup on a hotdog in my presence, I will still stop speaking to you, but that isn't really food, it's religion.
|Saturday, August 26th, 2017|
|Tower, Lucky, Bodyguard
"The Dark Tower" is based on Stephen King's odd and commercially successful foray into epic fantasy. It has some great moments, but it doesn't quite fit into the length of a single movie, and has significant pacing problems. Still, we enjoyed it. And I got a kick out of the fact that ".45 Long Colt" is apparently a cosmic specification.
"Logan Lucky" is a moderately deranged caper movie with a great cast. It has some pacing problems, and sometimes the stoopid is just too far over the top, but we still enjoyed it a great deal.
"The Hit Man's Bodyguard" is silly, violent, and a great deal of fun. It gives us two wonderful actors playing minor variations on their best characters in a nearly perfect blend of humor and bloodshed. And then it throws in the best three-minute love story in the history of cinema as a bonus. AND it uses one of my favorite songs as an end title. This movie is NOT for everyone, but if you like this kind of thing, you will LOVE this one. We did.
|Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017|
|Fare well, Little Gadget
In early 2014, my company Wellness Plan offered me a Fitbit. I got a red Fitbit One, made a lanyard for it, and wore it pretty much continally until tonight.
I had gotten into the habit of charging it on Tuesdays, charged it on August 8, tried to charge it on August 15, and it wouldn't acknowlege the charging cable. Since the device needs to be on the cable to reset, there was nothing for it except to let the battery discharge. Tonight, at 8:10 PM, it synced for the last time, and went dark. I have it sitting in a bottle full of desicators, and I will try to charge it again next Tuesday, but I am not hopeful.
It makes me a bit sad; for three and a half years, that thing was with more more than ANYTHING. And now it's gone, probably. Fitbit has given me a courtest 25% discount on a new device, and it is on order. Life goes on.
|Tuesday, August 15th, 2017|
|Random Bits from Facebook
Forcing customers to listen to repeated ads for on-line banking while on hold due a an on-line banking system crash is NOT a good strategic option.
Three hour conversatonal lunch with Douglas R Reno this afternoon. I have known him for more than half his life; this is the first significant one on one time we have had. There must be more.
People who fear strong AI are looking at the wrong problem. The greatest threat to the long term survival of humanity is, and always will be, humanity itself. And if our bequest to the universe, after we have destroyed ourselves, is a species of self-replicating, rapidly mutating, possibly hostile, probably aggressive robots that carries our memory to the stars, well...
That which is remembered, lives.
Currently consuming "Norse Mythology", by Neil Gaiman, as an audio book. I am almost certainly going to start over again from the beginning once I finish it.
My brother Pete has been running a monthly poker club for his friends and neighbors for about 15 years; I have been part of it, when I was available, for about eight of those. I quickly learned that playing the best game I could wasn't really any fun; it required too much concentration, and too much stress. Not caring at all is better, but not entirely satisfactory. Last night I tried a different approach; I added role play to the equation, and tried to act as if I cared, even if I didn't. I played better than I have in years, and had more fun that usual, too.
Sanity Optional R Us...
Steampunk day at Bristol today, also the last Bounding Main show of the year. We went, and managed to catch Bounding Main twice, and catch Dark Fairie Tales, and catch the Shanty Shipwreck Show. Along the way, I did hawks for all three pickle vendors, and told the story of Hob Gadling to a barmaid. A good day, but long and busy.
Let's hack the internet a bit, shall we? As of this moment, Google comes up wth NOTHING (of significance) if you search for "Palladian Owl". If you look for "Palladian", you find that the word means "related to the goddess Athena" (among other things). If you search on "Athena's Owl", you get pages of images. This is WRONG. So... The photo below, which is of an Athenian Tetradrachm (or more likely, a knock off), is titled, "Palladian Owl". So the phrase will now exist in at least one place associated with the appropriate image. If you share the image, with the title attached, there will two (or three, or four...) So... Let's fix the universerse a bit, shall we? There is so much that NEEDS to be done, and this is trivial, but we can DO it. And that is something.
The worry in repairing the raccoon hole is that one or more might have been hiding inside. 24 hours later, the motion sensors haven't tripped, and we haven't heard any scrabbling noises. So I think we are good.
Life in my household:
The recorded TV program ended, and the machine popped back to the "recorded program" menu, which was empty. And Dementia said, "There's nothing left to roll." And Hyena laughed long and loud. The phrase would NEVER be used around here literally, but it IS a very specific literary reference. The idea that anyone, ever, has used Shel Silverstein's "Great Smoke Off" as a literary source amuses me immensly. Even if it is entirely my fault.
There are few things that disturb me as much as having a person for whom I generally have intellectual respect zealously adopt a logically untenable concept. (If you think I am talking about you, you are probably wrong. If you think I am talking about you AND you know the topic in question, you might not be a zealot after all. And for the record, this is a generic response with a specific recent trigger.)
Life in my household:
Hyena (In response to a loud, THUMP! from the kitchen): What was that?
Dementia: Bambi versus Godzilla.
Hyena: Oh. (Dementia kills her own bugs...)
|Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017|
|Sick, Spider, Valerian, Apes, Blonde, Dunkirk, Jones, Daredevil, Love
More than two weeks since my last real update. Once again, the day to day stuff starts on Facebook and gets back posted here, so this is movies and TV series.
"The Big Sick" is a romantic comedy about a girl in a coma, based on reality, written and starring the person who really lived it. The movie is every bit as strange as that implies, but a LOT of fun. We liked it a lot.
"Spider-Man: Homecoming" is the most recent reboot of the Spider-Man franchise. This version is younger and slightly goofier than his predessors. Being the first movie of a new sequence, it doesn't suffer from the "bigger, better, more" mania that cripples most long running series. We enjoyed this one a great deal.
"Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets" is pretty and kind of dumb. Cara Delevinge ALMOST carries the movie, but Dane Dehaan is too short and too baby-faced to have the gravitas that the title role calls for. To some extent, the time for this movie passed about a decage ago; we have seen so many awe-inspiring settings that we have run out of awe. It's adequate and enjoyable, but no more.
"War for the Planet of the Apes" is the third and presumably last episode of this rather amazing series that demonstrates that a 40 year old schlock series can be mined to create something that is truly epic. There is a beauty to this narrative that often makes me cry. We have loved the others, and we love this one as well.
"Atomic Blonde" might be the movie that people ought to be talking about when they are gushing over "Wonder Woman". It tries a little bit too hard to be cool and edgy, but Charlize Theron is amazing as the title character. We liked this one a great deal.
"Dunkirk" takes one of the most amazing events in history and manages to make it pointlessly confusing and kind of trite. There are still a few scenes where the magic of the event transcends the idiocy of the film making, but there aren't really enough of them. We were not impressed.
"Jessica Jones" has finally come out on DVD, and we got to watch it. The first episode gets lost in its efforts to be dark and cool and edgy, but then settles down and tells a good story well. We really enjoyed the comics this was based on, and this is a worthy re-imagining.
"Daredevil" is based on one of Marvel's most consistently interesting heroes, and does the source material justice.
"Big Love" has an interesting setting, but in the end it is just another soap opera of the "stupid people being unhappy" variety, and we barely made it through the first episode before we bailed. We are glad that we borrowed, rather than bought, this particular DVD set.
|Monday, July 31st, 2017|
|Random Bits from Facebook
Life in my household:
When we watch TV at home, I sit on the floor, with my back against the front of the couch. It's peculiar, but comfortable (for me). My computer sits on a small stool, which leaves me lots of options to shift my feet around and change positions. This time of year, I am usually in shorts and barefoot.
Yesterday, I was at the computer, and noticed something odd on the outside edge of my left foot. I did a minor contortion so that I could see the area, and found a staple driven neatly into my foot; if I were standing, it would have been parallel to, and about 20 mm above, the floor. I needed a tool to remove it, and it was NOT painless. No idea how it got there.
Maybe I was marked down for clearance, but the tag fell off.
Life in my household:
We frequently slide into "Calvin and Hobbes" parallels; you never know, around here, when a plush toy will come to life and hold a conversation with you. Of course, there isn't just one plush toy, there are... MANY. This morning, during a random speculation as to why there was no green faction in Pokemon Go, a grumpy faced green stegasaurus named McCoy offered (with some help from Dementia), "Don't ask me. I'm a dinosaur, not a philosopher."
I didn't QUITE collapse to the floor from laughter.
I love my wife...
Two things to say about the new Doctor Who that I haven't heard before: One, she will be the 14th Doctor, not the 13th. There is NO reason to omit John Hurt that still allows you to count Paul McGann. So 14, OK? Also... Check out the completely functional, real person in stressful situation shoes!
Life in my household:
Dementia (while practicing the ukulele): This can't be right!
Hyena: Say what?
Dementai: The head chart wants me to play an H7.
Hyena: Maybe it's a Red Dwarf reference? Nah...
And here we have the apparent source, and a cogent explanation, of a statement I have often heard and have heretofore never had context for. It would seem to have originally meant, "Consistency of tone is preferable to occasional flashes of brilliance."
"If you here require a practical rule of me, I will present you with this: ‘Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings." --Arthur Quiller-Couch, "On the Art of Writing"
Wikipedia tells me that Kenneth Grahame's "Water Rat" was based on Grahame's friend Arthur Quiller-Couch, a writer and critic who gave the world the phrase, "Murder your darlings." But there is another option. In his book "The Surgeon of Crowthorne" (more recently known as "The Professor and the Madman"), Simon Winchester proposes that Ratty was inspired by one of Grahame's mentors, one Frederick James Furnivall.
Furnivall was one of the co-founders, and a significant contributor, to the project that became "The Oxford English Dictionary". He was also an incorrigible flirt and an avid oarsman, and (combining those two things) the founder of the world's first female rowing team.
As an oarsman and an incorrigible flirt, I tend to prefer the latter explanation...
48 years ago tonight, I was at a church run summer camp about five miles west of Iron River, Michigan, along with my brother Tim J Haynie, our friend Mitch Cooley, and pretty much every other camper and member of the camp staff, gathered in a partially refinished barn, watching history on a 12 inch (or so) portable black and white television. All of the REALLY dramatic stuff that was behind the scenes never made it onto the news, of course, but, well, it happened. I didn't actually care a great deal at the time; I was a pretty clueless kid...
In December of 1977, Clueless Tom was in Lincoln Park Chess and Games, looking at RPGs. He came upon a black six by nine box with no illustrations, only the text of a distress call from the free trader "Beowulf" and the name of the game: "Traveller (Science Fiction Adventure in the Far Future)." He would have pawned his mother to buy it.
It was over his head; he gave the box to me, I learned the game, taught it to him. He gave me that box, bought another for himself. Even though many of the game's systems remained over his head, it remained one of his favorite for the rest of his life (and the only competition for that title was the unpublished Lortzian "Dark Worlds").
Today (July 22) is the 40th anniversary of the release of "Traveller" at Origins in 1977. I have that same black box next to me right now, and I am about to relive one of the strangest experiences in the world or RPGs, generating a Traveller character. The process is simple but occasionally lengthy, and is one of Traveller's odder claims to fame: Your characters can DIE in the generation process, before you get a chance to play them.
Here's to Marc Miller and the people of Game Designers Workshop, who produced the thing, and to Clueless Tom, who dragged me into it.
On Friday, two different people went out of their way to compliment me on my wheel covers. I have had the them for most of a year, and this has never happened before (at least not with strangers; people who know me have asked me about the frequently). Don't know what to make of that.
I've been working my way through an audio version of, "The Professor and the Madman", by Simon Winchester. It often makes me cry in second (or maybe third) differential wonder. That is, there is nothing special about Winchester's prose, of the structure that he imposes on the story, but the material underneath it... Just WOW. In the late 1850s, a group of smug and over-educated Englishmen decided that it would be a good idea to create a definitive portrait and history of the English language. All of it. They had only the vaguest idea of what they were getting themselves into, and yet they, or rather their successors, because the project ultimately took 70 years, more or less succeeded. If they had not been arrogant idiots, they would not have tried, because the project should have been impossible. And yet...
The history of the Oxford English Dictionary is so improbable, so frequently absurd, that it staggers the imagination. I listen, and am awe stricken, and I cry for the beauty of it all. Grand adventures don't need deadly danger, just unimaginably long odds.
"I was pretty sure it was going to work out when I realized that we each had our own personal copy of the OED." ---Julia (Dementia) Haynie, once upon a time.
"A man is a very small thing, and the night is very large and full of wonders." --Edward Plunkett, Baron Dunsany
It's Lord Dunsany's birthday. Among MANY other things, he was to English language fantasy literature in the first half of the 20th century pretty much what Tolkien was in the second half. He was also, according to the White Box edition of Dungeons & Dragons, the creator of the gnoll.
Here's to his Lordship, who told the stories to the storytellers who told the stories to us.
Dementia: If there's any justice in the world, Hillary Clinton has a portrait of Theodora up on her wall, somewhere...
I got out my "Traveller" collection last weekend in honor of the game's 40th anniversary, and have been toying with it on and off for the last several days. It remains, as ever, deeply flawed but often brilliant. I am enjoying the experience for the same reason I enjoy the TV show, "The Expanse". That is, it makes me remember what it felt like to see space travel as exciting and hopeful, and NOT as a depressing impossibility. I miss that...
When it comes to matters of refit, repair, and replacement, achaeological truth and magical truth are diametrically opposed. Oddly, in this case Llyod's of London is squarely on the side of the magicians.
July 29 (today, as it happens) is the International Day of the Tyger, which led to William Blake's "The Tyger", which led to some grammatical foolishness. Note the first stanza:
Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
Say what? FEARFUL symmetry? How have I never noticed that before? The word should be FEARSOME (or possibly frightful). The Tyger is frightening, not afraid. OK, I acknowlege that one has to make allowances for linguistic drift, but in modern terms, "fearful" is offensive. All of the local tigers (there are four) certainly think so.
I was out Pokemongering this afternoon at about 1:00 PM, walking east on the south side of Grand Avenue approaching Powell Park. I saw a young couple coming up the hill through the park from the river. They were twentyish, and oddly well dressed. He was wearing a short sleeved white dress shirt, black pants, and black shoes; she was wearing a short but otherwise demure dress and rhinestone flip-flops. They got to the corner, turned right, and kept walking about ten feet in front of me. He was carrying a folder of some kind.
We all stopped at the same time; they were right next to the park sign, I was still ten feet away; the sign is a Pokestop, and an Ingress portal. The man looked at his folder, and I asked if they were doing the jigsaw (This is a reference to a current "Tour the Parks" game from the Waukegan Park Distict.). He said no, his surname was Powell, and he wanted a picture with the park sign. They asked me if I would snap it, and I did. They went back west, and I played my game for a minute or two.
They were waiting on Uber at the corner of Ash Street. I asked for permission to be nosy, got it, and commented that they seemed over dressed for a walk in the park. They replied that they had just gotten married. I congratulated them and asked if they were hiding from the crowd, and they said, no, it had been a very small, informal ceremony. Ne had just completed boot at Great Lakes, and was bound for another school in South Carolina, and they had decided it was time to tie the knot; the family could catch up later. I spoke up in favor of small, informal weddings, told them Dementia and I had been married on consecutive days two hundred miles apart.
Uber arrived, I congratulated them again, and we went on our respective ways.
Met nephew Jake and his lady Grace on their way home from their first ever trip to the Ren Faire for a couple of hours of conversation. Much fun.
|Thursday, July 27th, 2017|
Today I went to a birthday party for someone who has been dead for nine years. It was a pretty good party, and I think everyone (else) had a good time. Me, I had a minor (and I think pretty well hidden) freak out, and spent most of my time feeling sorry for myself.
I hate being crazy.
Lake Geneva Games hosted a "Gary Day" today, to celebrate Gary Gygax's birthday. Thursday is always board game day at LGG, so there are usually people anyway, but today was more crowded than usual. I came in, said hello to friends in the retail area, said hello to friends in the north room, wandered into the south room and found that it had been completely taken over by Ernie Gygax and ten or twelve people playing AD&D 1st Ed in Ernie's legendary Hobby Shop Dungeon.
Ernie has been my friend pretty much from the day I met him in 2003, when my office got moved into the building where he already worked. He has been running the HSD at conventions for several years, and I have always wanted to sit in on a session, but have never managed to make the connection. And here was Ernie telling me they were going to need a new character in a few minutes, and the chair at his left hand was open, and I was welcome to sit in if I wanted to. I agreed and took my seat; Ernie handed me a character sheet and said, "It's all filled out, just roll the hit points and fill out the spell list." And reality, which has been fraying around me lately anyway, started to tear.
I have never gotten along with the D&D magic system, for many reasons. The details don't matter. What does matter is that something I had been wanting to do for several years, and was close enough to touch, had just landed on top of one of my crazy buttons.
I hate being crazy.
Usually when this kind of thing happens, I need to get away for half an hour or so, get my head into the proper survivalist mode, and then come back and get the job done. Except... This wasn't something I HAD to do, this was something that I was supposed to enjoy, something that I had been looking forward to for YEARS, and I didn't HAVE half an hour to walk away, I had to get the job done and be functional in about five minutes.
And then another friend came in from the other room and said that they had a spot open in a game I had asked about a few minutes earlier when I was still sane, and I mumbled something along the lines of, "I can't do this now," and I got up and left.
The other game was a brand new, complex board game from a family of games that I enjoy but usually don't figure out until the second run through. This time I didn't even try, just made random choices and muddled through. I learned a few things, came in dead last. But the company was good, and I don't think my companions had an idea of how much pain I was in.
I REALLY hate being crazy.
|Monday, July 17th, 2017|
All the daily stuff is showing up on Facebook first and then back-copied here, these days, so we have movies:
"Transformers: The Last Knight" is a toy based effects extravanga, just like all of its predescessors. Except... This one manages to pull some interesting Arthurian wrinkles into the mess, and there is about a television show's worth of plot and dialog in between the pointless giant robot foolishness, and in the end I was actually glad I saw it.
"Baby Driver" is caper movie with a LOT of stunt driving that, for once, managed to find sponsorship from a car company that sells vehicles with manual transmissions, so there is actually something going on in the footwell when they use one of those shots. The movie is tense, interesting, entertaining, and only a little non-sensical. And the soundtrack is REALLY good.
|Saturday, July 15th, 2017|
|Random Bits from Facebook
“I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast; for I intend to go in harm's way.”
-- John Paul Jones, Scottish born American naval hero (1747-1792)
That speech got him "Ranger", which did in fact sail fast, and he took her repeatedly, and successfully, into harm's way. But it is worth noting that the ship with which Jones is most associated, "Bonhomme Richard", was, well, a pig, that won her only battle under Jones by SINKING. Audacity, ferocity, and tenacity are a tough combination to beat...
Three hour conversational lunch with Rowan H. this afternoon. When two people who both enjoy hyperbolic conversation get going, there really ought to be a third party present just to keep track of the dropped threads. REALLY good times.
As for the rest of you... Invite yourself to a conversation meal with me. Really! I haven't eaten a dinner companion in... a while, and I am trying to quit. (And if I actually OWE you a conversational meal, please forgive me and remind me.)
It was May 8, 1988. We had just moved to Skokie. I was at the far east end of the apartment, doing something or other, and Demenatia was at the far west end, doing something that, uncharacterisically, had a TV news program on. I heard her say, "Damn!" really loudly, and rushed forward. I don't remember taking in any other clues to the situation, though I must have. Dementia was staring at the TV and crying. I said, "Bob Heinlein," and she nodded.
Heinlein was a highly intelligent man who cared about the world, and put a great deal of careful thought into many, many things. If he did not entirely transcend the prejudices of his time, he certainly made a damned good try.
“A competent and self-confident person is incapable of jealousy in anything. Jealousy is invariably a symptom of neurotic insecurity.”
-- Robert A. Heinlein, American science-fiction writer, (1907-1988)
Edited to add, because I managed to miss it the first time, that today (July 7) is/was his birthday.
Life in my household: Other women get goofy about the shoes in, oh, "Sex and the City." For Dementia, it's "Killjoys" and "Wynonna Earp." I COULD try to stop her from buying a pair of knee-high motorcycle boots, but she knows where I sleep...
I saw a '62 Corvette on Green Bay Road this afternoon. It was in front of me crossing Washington, then I turned off to Potesta's Pizza and it went on its way. I wished I had gotten a better look at it. I picked up the pizza, and as I was leaving, the Corvette pulled into the parking lot, and I got my wish, and for those five minutes, the world was a better place.
Except that it wasn't a Corvette, it was a girl named Amanda who had just completed basic training at Great Lakes. She was from Arkansas, was headed for a specialty school in Mississippi. She had long hair worn loose, and was wearing a sheer peasant blouse over a bright orange sports bra, short shorts, rhinestone studded flip flops, and a Navy rucksack. We talked about walking and things military and Geneva Lake, and for those five minutes, the world was a better place. She kept walking, and I took Dementia's pizza home.
Safely home after escaping the flood, driving for seven hours, hanging out with family, and dodging through the flood to get home again. Spent time with nephew Tim and SO Sarah, finally met nephew-in-law Jason in the flesh, and re-met grand nephew Cyrus (who was luggage four years ago). Long but good day.
Dear friends: Please quit having more significant problems than I am having. You are REALLY messing up my plans to wallow in self pity.
Possible activities for tomorrow: Go to Michigan and harass relatives, go to Bristol and see Bounding Main and various other friends, or hide under my mattress. At the moment, option three is winning, but I suspect that it will pass. We shall see.
The ongoing war with the racoons in the attic has entered a new phase. We now have a working motion triggered critter alarm, and I managed to nail three of the critters with (home made) pepper spray. Maybe that will discourage them for a bit.
|Saturday, July 1st, 2017|
|Random Bits from Facebook
Quite the day for birthdays.
(Which, as Dementia points out, is quite the trifecta.)
More locally: Filkmeister Extraordinaire Tom Smith, and sister-in-law Patti Haynie.
What follows is a rant. Feel free to ignore it. Also be assured that I have more sense than to actually send it to anyone.
Dear Potential Employer:
You seem to be confused about the nature of our relationship. Allow me to clarify things.
I am an intelligent, hard working person who has skills that you find valuable. You have work that needs to be done. I will do your job, in excess of your standards, and tolerate a certain amount of pain and degradation, in exchange for money. This is where your part of the transaction ends.
I will take the money you give me, and fritter it away on frivolities like food, clothing, shelter, and my heretofore fruitless search for meaning. None of this has anything to do with you.
As long as the work gets done well, my attitudes are none of your business. If I am joyful, I will do my best to share my joy with my co-workers (it hasn't happened yet, but it could); if my attitude is toxic (which is something I do my best to avoid, but occasionally fail), part of doing the job well is keeping that to myself, so I will.
Passion fades. Integrity endures. You might think the first is preferable, but you would be wrong.
This is a fake "Jeopardy" question. It's brain dead simple in this household, not sure in the real world. It says something about perspective, though. As usual, don't blurt out the answer, just say, "Yes" if you know it, or "No" if you don't; I will post the actual answer in a while.
In this well known adventure story, the characters spend most of their time covering up a treasonous affair between the King's wife and a high ranking foreign official.
Crossed something off my bucket list yesterday, backwards. That is, I didn't accomplish it, I demonstrated that I will never be able to accomplish it. This hurts. It doesn't hurt nearly as much as my feet did last night, but my feet are more or less OK this morning.
In September of 2015, I tried to walk the Geneva Lake shore path in a single day, and failed. I got a late start, and once it became clear that I wasn't going to finish, I let the pain in my feet talk me into quitting.
Yesterday, I tried again. I started two hours earlier, and the calendar gave me another hour on the back end. I got farther before before my "projected completion time" slipped past sunset, but the thing that ended the walk was the foot pain, again.
For the most part, everything went well; no significant joint or muscle pain, no blisters, no chafing problems. But it has become clear that the soles of my feet have no interest in carrying me more than about ten miles in any given 24 hour period, and the 21.2 of the shore path is just NOT going to happen.
For the record, I made 13 miles; 12.25 from Linn Pier clockwise to Chapin Road, and then (after significant deliberation among bad alternatives) another 3/4 mile up the hill to Wisconsin 50 (and, more importantly, Foley's Tavern).
Also for the record, toward the end, every step was a level 6 spike ("Don't think about it, just keep going. Don't think about it, just keep going. Don't think about it, just keep going."), and the occasional downward stair step was a level 7 spike (Clench your teeth and take it because there is no choice.) Much fun.
So walking the shore path in a single day is off the list. (Well, if I can loose a hundred pounds or so, there will be grounds for reevaluation.) This makes me sad.
On the other hand, there will be some pictures in the next day or two.
In a virtuoso display of legislative ineptitude, Illinois has walked away from what is essentially $250,000 a DAY in free money because the legislature can't stop bickering long enough to set up an escrow account to guarantee the prizes for the multi-state lotteries (Mega Millions and Powerball). This is truly a special kind of stupid.
|Saturday, June 24th, 2017|
|Leavey, Mummy, MCSA, Carpentry
Two movies, and exam, and home maintenance.
"Megan Leavey" is a "based on a true story" story about a two soldiers, one of whom was a dog. It's well done, and not more manipulative than one would expect. I enjoyed it a great deal.
"The Mummy" is an object lesson in what happens when a movie is expected to accomplish more than the material can handle. The movie is entertaining and well made, but pushed off balance because the protagonist is overshadowed by the fact that her sidekick is played by a mega-star.
I took the second Microsoft exam on June 15, passed it, and now have a shiny new MCSA that I have no idea what to do with. Go, me.
We have had racoons in the attic for a while, in a dead space under the eaves. I have not had time or energy to open up the space and deal with them, until this week. Now I have a hatch into the space, and the process of chasing away the critters has begun. The first salvo has been to clean up a lot of the debris, and then saturate the area with home-made pepper spray. We shall see. Eventually, the critters will be gone, and I will have to have someone do the necessary repairs.
|Sunday, June 18th, 2017|
|Random Bits from Facebook
Dredged from 2012
“...If you can make a girl laugh - you can make her do anything...”
-- Marilyn Monroe, American actress (1926-1962)
Ah, if only that were so...
Heard in my household:
Hyena: "People want simplicity in their ethics, in all of their philosophy. In fact the only place most people are interested in nuance is in their food. Kind of the opposite of me."
Visited my mother's grave yesterday, on the way to visiting my dad and playing poker. The stone has settled a bit, and was developing a layer of mud and some algae, so I spent about ten minutes on my hands and knees scrubbing it off...
So you throw story elements into a blender push the button, dump it out, see what you get. After the horrified shuddering passes, you remove a few things, add a few other things, lather, rinse, repeat. Today, three things that have been in there forever fell together in a way I have never seen before and WOW. I really want to make this work. We shall see.
Hey, World? For an abreviation to qualify as an acronym, it needs to be PRONOUNCEABLE, OK? Otherwise it is just an abbreviation. "NATO" is an acronym; "CIA" is not.
"It was the dark of the moon on the sixth of June..." 42 years ago. Sometimes the silliness lasts forever...
The annual Rend Lake Messabout was yesterday. I was kind of ill, but got the boat in the water, and did a bit of rowing. Even talked someone else into taking Suchia for spin. (This makes four people, including me, who have ever been out in the boat.)
Weird thoughts department: Among other things, Millennials are the first US generation who have been raised to equate being tied down with being safe. (Mandatory child car seats came in between 1979 and 1985.)
Took the second Microsoft exam this morning, passed, now have a shiny new MCSA (Windows 10). There seems to be a rule that the more prepared I feel going into the test, the worse I feel when I hit the "finish" button. But that's done, and life is free to develop new and different wobbles.
So, by way of celebration this afternoon, I went to Great America (I have had season passes for a few years, now) and bought a free-refills-for-the-season cup (which got much more complicated than it should have been), and then rode the carousel for the very first time (and I have been going to the park, on and off, for about 40 years), and then bought a carousel from the penny press (since both carousels and penny presses are fundamentally magical, but that is another story).
On my way out, I passed a group of high school girls; one of them was wearing a bright green polyester superhero sourvenir cape with the Green Lantern symbol on the back. I made it three steps, then went back and asked the girl, "Are you a Green Lantern fan, or do you just like green capes?"
The girl smiled broadly. She was pretty, skinny, had braces. She said, "I'm a Green Lantern fan. He's cool!"
I nodded, smiled, said, "Very cool," and went on my way. I made it about ten steps, paused, considered, went back. "OK," I said, "I have to ask. Can you do the chant?"
The girl looked puzzled for a moment, then looked sheepish. "No. I guess I ought to learn it, though." She sounded sincere about that.
I looked skyward, and made a gesture with my left hand that those who know me well would recognize as dredging for memory. Then I recited, "In brightest day, in darkest night, no evil will escape my sight. Let those who worship evil's might beware my power: Green Lantern's light!" I dropped my eyes back to the girl, said, "I think that's right; I'm not sure."
The girl's eyes, and her smile, were huge. "It sounds right to me!" she said. You could have lit a city with that smile.
I touched a finger to my cap, and went on my way.
(For the record, it should be "blackest", not "darkest". I'll take the win anyway.)
Utterly useless fog word of the day: Matriculate.
Bob Buehler replied:
Did you hear about the politician who accused his opponent of having been corrupted by education? He declared that the man was guilty of matriculation on the very first day of school, and then it got worse... he used to masticate regularly, in the cafeteria no less, where the girls could see him. Shameless.
If you weaponize love and use it to power a disintegrator ray, it is STILL a disintegrator ray.
Those who have ears to hear, let them hear.
Someday, I will meet you.
Until then, Happy Father's Day.
The last time I saw my dad, a coupld of weeks ago, he asked me to take him to visit my mother's grave some time in the near future, as I did for her birthday last fall. Today, I tried. He just couldn't get into my van. It was really frustrating. The change in mobility since last fall wasn't really that great, it was just... enough. The wheel keeps turning.
|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.