Sunday, August 28, 2016

Inkwell left me a present...

Apparently, I haven't been paying close enough attention to him, as he managed to throw up in the front window sill without me noticing. I'm not sure how long ago it happened, as I don't open the front window unless I absolutely have to. In addition, I'd built up a "cat castle" in front of the window, making it a safe space for him to get away from humans.

Well, he took advantage of it.

I just spent the last half hour scrubbing the area and vacuuming up the remaining chunks. It looks to me like it was a dinner, so it probably happened in the middle of the night sometime. It was dried enough that cleaning it wasn't too bad, it just required some scrubbing.

I have been in a major depression with some anxiety attacks for the past few months. It's been bad enough that I've been trying to stay inside and away from people. I'm going to have to break out of it soon. It's not a comfortable way to live. As a meme on Facebook said, "Depression is when you don't really care about anything. Anxiety is when you care too much about everything. And having both is just like hell."

In lieu of forcing myself to be creative, here's a summary of some of my recent Facebook posts - stuff that I found interesting enough to share.

Andy Borowitz again hits one out of the park with Nation with Crumbling Bridges and Roads Excited to Build Giant Wall. Infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure. We need leadership that will rebuild our infrastructure, not make stupid promises about walls on our borders.

U.S. Doctors Call for Universal Health Care. A single-payer system is the only moral system. Companies that profit from denying care, which includes most health insurance companies and many pharmaceutical companies, are basically evil. If the goal is increasing shareholder profits and not saving lives, then the companies should go away. Forever.

CharityWatch ranks lots of charities, including The Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Foundation. Note the extremely low overhead of the Clinton Foundation, at only 12%. The charity gets an "A" rating because most of its money goes to help people. The numbers being used by conservative critics are not false... they simply count everything that isn't a grant as overhead. Since the Clinton Foundation assists people using other methods besides grants, the critics' numbers are misleading and basically a giant lie.

When we lived in Frankenhaus, one of the biggest problems we ran into was keeping the blackberries under control. Well, we have Luther Burbank to blame. I've spent many days at Luther Burbank Park, so I was a little surprised to read the history of the man. Kind of strikingly eye-opening, and not in a good way.

I quite liked this tweet:

In case you don't know the backstory, several seaside towns in France banned the "burkini", a full body covering suit that allows Muslim or similarly shy women to go to the beach without exposing themselves. At one beach, a woman wearing one was forced to strip by police. That's right. Police forced a woman being modest at the beach to strip. The French Supreme Court banned the laws, but they are apparently still being enforced and a disturbing percent of the population is just fine with it. On the one hand, I'm kind of relieved that another country is outdoing America for sheer stupidity, but on the other hand, really, France? Really?


Women can't win.

New DeLoreans are being built with original parts. These will reportedly have a much better engine. I'm just going to take the opportunity to note that I got to ride in a DeLorean on Back to the Future Day, something that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

On a very light note, the entire British Olympics team had an unfortunate airport problem. Oops.

I don't know if you'll be able to see this if you don't have Facebook, sorry, but Dee Snider did an acoustic version of "We're Not Gonna Take It" that is just amazing and done for all the right reasons. I'm going to try to embed the YouTube version:


Moving on, Phil Plait got really excited about a new astronomical discovery. What does it mean, practically? Not a lot for the average person, but it expands and changes our knowledge and potential understanding of the universe.

A teenager in Montreal showed himself to be a true man by calmly saving a woman from a kidnapper. If that story doesn't bring happiness to your heart, you're probably dead.

A post by a Fort Worth mother of a note from her child's teacher has gone viral. Basically, the teacher was informing parents that the children would not be assigned any homework - only work they didn't finish in class - and urged parents to do evening activities with their children that are proven to correlate with student success. Activities like reading together, eating as a family, playing outside and getting to bed on time. My response is positive. I didn't do homework. I always asked myself if I could pass it if it were on a test. If the answer was yes, I ignored any homework assignments. If the answer was no, I went to the teacher to get it fully explained to me so I could pass it on a test. Homework never figured into my understanding. It was all just busy work. Pointless and useless. If I understood it, why would I want to waste time and energy doing another 50 problems? If I didn't understand it, I couldn't see how struggling through 50 problems would help me in any way.

If you haven't read the Hugo-winning Short Story "Cat Pictures Please", go check it out now. It makes me want to take photos of Inkwell and post them. If only I weren't so upset at him at the moment for his present he left in the windowsill...

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Solar Sidewalk

I'm sure everyone who reads my blog knows all about Solar Roadways and how enthused I am about it. Well, the first public installation is about to begin, in Sandpoint, Idaho: at Jeff Jones Town Square. This installation will either be the first step toward real solar roads... or the proof that the concept cannot work. I'm rooting for it to work, and can hardly wait for the cam to go live.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Don't Drive Drunk

...is the advice I would have given the driver who just slammed into a car across the street, pushing it into a truck and damaging both. The driver then raced off, peeling out on a sidewalk before roaring away from the neighborhood, leaving half the neighbors to come outside and have an impromptu street meeting. I called the cops, who sent a nice officer to take stock of the situation. One neighbor believed the car came from a party, and everyone was in agreement that the driver had to be impaired. Probably with alcohol, but who knows?

I was told that the car that was hit belongs to a 19-year-old kid who has been working extra hours to maintain the car and make sure it stays running and in nice shape. The young man is apparently in Seattle this weekend, and will not be happy to learn that his car has been crunched badly.

I heard the crash from inside my house, and by the time I got out of my chair, across the room and to the front door, the vehicle that caused the crash was gone.

Ah well, nothing like a car crash to get your blood pumping at 11 p.m.

Scam, or Really Unethical Viral Marketing?

So I got a text from a company called Everalbum claiming that someone named Ralph Mendoza recommended that I check out "my" photos on its site.

First, the only Ralph Mendoza I know is a business contact from when I was a reporter. I hardly know him beyond an interview or two.

Second, I certainly never gave permission for him or anyone else to send me text spam. Since I pay for my text usage, this could conceivably drive my bill up, therefore I'm unhappy to see unwanted solicitations through text. Also, I don't think Mendoza would send me this kind of spam. He's not that kind of guy, so this company is dragging his name through the mud.

Third, I looked up Everalbum, and it seems to be a legit company that scrapes social media, steals your photos and saves them in an album for you. As nice as that service might be, having them do it without my permission and then text me about it really irritates me.

My recommendation is to not click the link if you get this spam text, because they will steal your phone numbers and spam everyone you know. I suggest going to their FB page and giving them a bad rating if they do spam you. If they steal your contacts and send out spam to everyone you know, perhaps a lawsuit is in order... I don't know.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Cosplayers are awesome part ....?

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Wow, 52 Years...


Friday, August 12, 2016

Love Love Peace Peace Annotated

If you've never watched the Eurovision Song Contest, you should. The song I posted was an awesome parody, but this annotated version of the lyrics will give you a much broader look into the history of the contest. Click on the gray bits to see a lovely sidebar, often with animated visuals.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

For my little sister...


I've posted it before, but it's still the absolute best thing ever to come out of the Eurovision Song Contest...

Yeah, we were discussing it at Anglicon. "And a man in a hamster wheel!"

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Peek-A-Boo

video

Imagine sitting in the craft room and looking over at somebody's nice Weeping Angel doll. It was sticking out of a bag and it was NOT moving.

I turned to talk with someone, then looked back and nearly peed my pants... the angel was moving! ACK!

Anglicon in photos


I tried to obey #3... I'm not sure I succeeded.



I love the dealers room!



I sat next to him for hours, but never got his photo!



An autograph session in full swing.



Terry Molloy and his bear Monty. Yes, Davros attends conventions with teddy bear.



Annette Badland is wonderful, if a bit naughty.






Dan Starkey poses with a skeleton and a guy in a lime-green jacket.



Terry enjoyed having his head floating around the con.



It's Fe-9, for those who are more cat people.



I don't know, I think this dalek is missing something...



British Soda tasting in the hospitality suite was fun!



My husband exits the TARDIS for his interview with Annette Badland.



Eric and Annette talk to the crowd. Eric finished the panel by having Annette ask the crowd questions.



Ah, a good convention with friends, fun and penguins.



And finally, a knitted Adipose for my friends in the posse. This was at the Rustycon table.




Now, some brief thoughts. I need to get healthier for next year's convention if the hotel persists in putting us as far away as possible from the convention space. Ug.

I volunteered a bit, had some fun, wrangled guests and spent some time in the craft room as well (me, in a craft room? preposterous!). Highlights of the con included long chats with Norm Lovett on a variety of silly subjects. On Friday night I noticed nobody was wrangling the guests, who had been left in the hallway alone. I ended up getting them where they were supposed to go and making sure everyone got on stage during the Match Game.

That's the spirit of a con. You pitch in when help is needed.

The volunteer party was amusing, and everyone was waiting for something to happen, so I started "singing" the Mahna Mahna song from the Muppet show. When I went into the scat, everyone laughed. Later, at closing ceremonies, I did it again and, to my surprise, everyone sang along again (I didn't think enough people could hear me, but apparently my growl of Mahna Mahna really carried!).

My friend Adi on Twitch has "Huzzah!" as a catchphrase when he is victorious in games. At the closing ceremonies, there was a short presentation of awards for the trivia winners, and I started yelling "Huzzah!" after each name was announced. Other people picked it up, and soon the entire crowd was yelling "Huzzah!" as each person got their prize.

Then the guests came out and Annette Badland started yelling "Huzzah!" after every statement. And then Terry Molloy picked it up. And Dan Starkey said, "Sontar-Huzzah!" which brought the house down. So, in honor of Adi, the con ended with a mighty "HUZZAH!"

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Hugos...

While I've fallen off the face of the web, I have done a little work on reading/watching the Hugo finalists and getting ready for voting. Sadly, I haven't had the energy or will to write about it, until now, and I'm pretty sure I won't have time to write about all of them. So I'll just do what little I can before voting ends.

After last year's attempt to be completely fair in my judging resulted in me wasting my time on total garbage, I decided this year to avoid any works created by rapid puppies, which whittled down the list a bit before I even started.

Because the puppies nominated a bunch of good stuff this year, that many others nominated as well, I am NOT going by what they nominated. That would throw the baby out with the bathwater.

So, let's start with the novels. I had read all but one before the finalists were announced. That one I hadn't read was "The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut's Windlass" by Jim Butcher, which was easy to get from the library and read.

"The Fifth Season" by N.K. Jemisin is haunting and strange and hints at a completely different world and culture. There is a narrative at work that is amazing and deep, and I loved it and am looking forward to the second book to see if some of my guesses were correct. The biggest flaw was that it was slightly drawn out in some places, but not badly so. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

"Uprooted" by Naomi Novik has the best opening lines of any of these books, which isn't enough to put it on top, but combined with how good it is overall, it's worth noting. The characters are fascinating and the premise is both fun and a bit of a challenge to figure out. There are a few squicky moments between the lead characters, but I felt they emerged naturally from the situation and were resolved in a way that doesn't diminish the main character. Overall, an excellent book.

"Ancillary Mercy" by Ann Leckie is a lovely finale to a great trilogy. I was not expecting the solution that came out of everything, but it worked for me. The entire trilogy was solid and twisted my brain in good ways. I love the use of language to challenge perceptions and found this to be a good read.

"Seveneves: A Novel" by Neal Stephenson is way too long. It's also two completely different books thrown together to create a kind of symmetry that's both good and bad. I have a lot of issues with the science, although it's one of those "suspension of disbelief for the sake of a story" things. Not my favorite of the bunch. In fact, although it's a good read and decent book, I have to put it at the bottom of my list.

"The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut's Windlass" by Jim Butcher is a fun little read, a bit of a popcorn book. I put it slightly over "Seveneves" because I found it more readable and interesting, but it's still not really in the same league as the top books. The characters are varied and have a great deal of potential, but still manage to come off as slightly stereotypical. Future books in this series will determine if they stay that way.

So, while I enjoyed all of them, a nice surprise, it's between "The Fifth Season" and "Uprooted" for the top prize, and I'm probably going to put "The Fifth Season" first and "Uprooted" second.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Reading the Newbery Winners: The Story of Mankind

Hi, everyone. Eric here, Laura's husband. This blog technically belongs to both of us, and Laura lets me blog here on occasion. But I haven't done it very often just because Laura says enough here for both of us, and I have my own blog for the stuff I really want to talk about. But I started a new project this year, and figured this would be the place to talk about it.

So what is my project? Read all of the winners of the Newbery Medal, the highest honor given for children's literature published in the United States. And I am reading them in order! So naturally I started with the very first winner, The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Willem van Loon. I've already read at least a dozen of the winners, and based on those this is nothing like what I would have expected! For one, it's non-fiction. Van Loon traces all of western history and civilization from cavemen, through to the earliest civilizations, Greece, Rome, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and all that's happened since then. It's a very ambitious piece of work, but it also does an excellent job of tying all the strings of history together. I like to think I'm a pretty smart guy, and I certainly know a few things about history, but through this book I saw many connections that I have missed in my previous education. I will add that my edition is not the version that won the Newbery, but a later edition, as it has beet added to frequently since its original publication. The latest copyright date in mine is 1984, so it's not the most recent, but it sue gave me a good taste of the original. It was a long book, and a challenge to read at times (and I'm an adult, so imagine how hard this might be for many kids), but ultimately it was worth the effort to see how the world got to be the way it is today.

Missing Blogger?

Sorry. I know I fell off the earth for a bit. I hope to be back soon with some Hugos posts.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Monday, June 20, 2016

Sunday, June 19, 2016

A Sunday Review

DCBS
Here are reviews of the DCBS comic books that I've gotten around to reading and reviewing, sorted by the original shipping date:
  • May 11th
  • Green Lantern Corps: The Edge of Oblivion #5 - Guy getting his senses back seemed to happen a little too quickly for me. But then, this is only a six issue series. As for Guy's plan - that was very much in character for him. The biggest issue I have with this is the idea that the physical forms of the bad guys would influence people's reaction to them to such a degree. Unless something else dropped from them at the same time as their true forms were revealed, I'm not sure I buy the instant freedom of their slaves' minds.
  • Earth 2 Society #12 - At first I was all "yay!" and then I was all "oh crap!" because this issue managed a bit of a surprise cliffhanger. Hopefully not the last. There's still a lot of problems to solve on that world and still a lot of bad guys hanging out trying to make life difficult, but at least one big problem has been taken off the board. So, where does the book go from here?
  • Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #6 - A crucial decision is made as Batman faces a very changed Arkham gallery. The sense of family was strong in this, with Batman relying on his family while the turtles are reminded of their own family. The end was nifty, but nothing special. The series as a whole was fine for a crossover, but not really anything spectacular.
  • DC Comics Bombshells #12 - And so Mera's story ends with her noble sacrifice for her sailors? But of course, her story is a little overshadowed by the death of a different character. This is an intense book in many ways, but you almost need a scorecard to figure out who is who.
  • Doctor Who 12th #2.5 - A done-in-one with a returning villain that is one of the creepiest around. This one uses the medium to its best advantage to give us a fun little tale that almost any comic book reader will enjoy to some extent. I did like the names of comics in the Whoniverse... lots of silliness going on there. And the Doctor's reactions to them were pretty funny as well.
  • Back To The Future: Citizen Brown #1 - This is a mini-series based on a video game based on a movie series. The intro notes that this series contradicts the story going on in the main book, but that's ok since it's a universe where timelines can change and therefore, everything is canon. I love it. Nicely played. They also suggest that if people want to find out the end of the story faster, they can always go buy the video game, which is still available. Even funnier. Art and story are good enough, I'll say this one looks like a winner.
  • Spongebob Comics #56 - A fascinating end to a fun story that's a tribute to Popeye the Sailor. Lots of little in-jokes and snide asides. A fun tribute with its own twists and turns.
  • Baker Street Peculiars #3 - Trapped and about to be golemized, the kids come up with a couple of plans to help themselves and help each other. Add in an appearance by "Sherlock" and this is a fun but strange issue. While the answer to how to solve this problem is clear enough, I am curious how the team is going to pull it off. Fun stuff, one of the more original books out there right now.



Monday, June 13, 2016

Monday, June 06, 2016

Sunday, June 05, 2016

A Sunday Review

DCBS
Here are reviews of the DCBS comic books that I've gotten around to reading and reviewing, sorted by the original shipping date:
  • May 4th
  • Green Lantern #52 - So this is basically Hal winning a single fight. Really? That's all for the final issue before rebirth? Ok. I think I'll go read something else now.
  • Batman Beyond #12 - Something is being set up here with Terry being brought back, sort of. I would like to know what it is. But again, it's just one fight until the end of the book and not much else going on.
  • Scooby-Doo Team-Up #16 - Zoinks! Jinkies! This has to be one of the funniest of the team-ups so far thanks to the Wizard deciding to give a couple of the meddling kids powers based on their own catchphrases. This was one worth checking out if you love Scooby and the Marvel family.
  • Spider-Man 2099 #10 - So, is the entire issue a flashback to how Miguel got to the first two pages? Yes, yes it is. While the situation with Tempest's mom appears to be settled, more threats are always on the way and in this case, Miguel may be jumping in too deep. Time travel is confusing, even when it's only two distinct times and places.
  • Doctor Who 10th #2.9 - I'm not sure what the witch was, except that it was linked to the Doctor and Gallifrey, and that's bad news. This issue was more than a little disjointed, even after rereading the previous issue. Not my favorite story, but I'm still interested in finding out what the link to ancient Gallifrey is.
  • Rough Riders #2 - More team gathering, and testing. All pretty fun. Good artwork, interesting premise. I'm looking forward to seeing where this series goes.
  • Beasts of Burden: What Cat Dragged In - This is one fine book, and very creepy and sad in this case. This issue focuses on the cats, particularly one cat that was a former enemy of our hero animals. We learn what she left behind and yet desperately attempted to reach again. Fantastic artwork, wonderfully touching and sad story. A must-get if you've read the other issues in the series, but not the best jumping on point if you haven't.



I tried out two online multiplayer games this past week. Both of them are free to play with extra content available for a price. I am figuring that I won't get particularly addicted to either game, although it's always a possibility with a person like me.

Anyway, let's talk about my experience, since that's what this review is about. First of all, I downloaded and installed Steam, the gaming system that allows people to use these games and many others. I'm not sure I had to do that, but I was trying to play catch up with some other folks I know online. So it was partly due to that and partly curiosity.

Steam is slightly annoying but overall funny. It acts like a game itself, urging people to earn accomplishments such as making friends, joining groups, adding games to a wishlist and playing games. All very silly, but probably extremely effective in the overall scheme of appealing to a bunch of gamers.

Now, as for my gaming cred, I don't have much any more. I gamed quite a bit as a teenager on the C64, and even did a bit of gaming, including multiplayer stuff, at college. I've told my college gaming story more than once, and probably even on this blog before: My friends Dan and Carl set me up on a computer with a text-only MUD (multi-user domain) that was based on a fantasy setting. We started playing Friday afternoon. A few minutes after I started, Dan tapped me on the shoulder and said it was time to go to dinner. So we went, then game back to the math hall and played some more. A few minutes later, Dan tapped me on the shoulder and said, "It's time for breakfast." so we went. And then came back and played some more. A few minutes later, it was lunchtime and we went, then came back. Then dinner again... and breakfast... and lunch... and as we went to Sunday dinner Dan told me he was cutting me off since I had classes the next morning.

So, yeah. I've done the gaming thing.

I haven't gamed much since college, and the years have definitely passed me by. I played some old stuff recently, using the VICE emulator for C64 to play Wasteland and Standing Stones (I will finish Standing Stones this time, I swear it!). I enjoy the old stuff, but I'm also craving newer games. I want to see what's come along since I last gamed regularly. I played a bit of Castle Wolfenstein and Doom in my time, but it's been a very long time since I played a current-ish game.

Back to this week, after installing Steam I looked for a couple of games I could play. There were two that caught my eye: Star Trek Online and DC Online. I know fans and critics of both of them. So I downloaded both of them. DCO took about four hours to download and another hour to install. STO took about 8 hours to "Patch" after it had downloaded.

I tried STO first. I started out at Star Fleet Academy, just about to get my assignment after graduation. The game leads you through some basic combat training, then sends you to a ship where you go on your opening cruise. Of course, it doesn't go right, and you run into some trouble that puts you in charge, crazily enough. The controls were complicated and I couldn't find a quick way to open up a "help" window or anything that would tell me what buttons to push. There were hints and clues, but I found myself befuddled by commands and irritated by the controls.

Then, after a bit of combat, I was told to meet with another ship. The map showed me where, and I went there and... nothing. So I flew around and entered the rendezvous point again. Nothing. By this time I'm really getting irritated and just mashing keys, but I flew around once more, figuring I'd ragequit in a second, and on the third try the scenario started. I seriously needed a hint as to what was wrong, and how to fix it. In any case, I found it frustrating enough that I didn't bother to continue. I may go back to the game, but at the moment, I'm just bored with it. So, 8 hours of downloading and less than an hour of play.

The next one I tried was DC Online. I'd heard that I wouldn't enjoy it due to a lack of aquatic action, and sure enough, there was no Aquaman anywhere. The main plot involves the need to create a bunch of superheroes to fight off an invasion by Brainiac. I rolled up a hero character with mental powers, and she started up in Brainiac's ship, trying to escape while disabling the ship. My first problem was that I couldn't figure out how to hit anything. I had to restart and find a help page. The official help pages were totally useless. Everyone just assumes you are familiar with gaming protocol or something. It also makes you wait for a few minutes to get back into the game, unless you pay for the privilege of getting in faster. That's annoying.

So, apparently, when playing with the keyboard, you use your mouse buttons for hitting. Once I figured that out, it wasn't nearly so hard to play. However, I did have another problem. I somehow deactivated my powers. To give you an idea of how weak the first things I faced were: I managed to defeat them with my bare hands. But once I'd figured out how to turn my powers back on, I had a much easier time of it.

At the end of the battle, Superman popped in to help out, which was fun. Then I was back on earth, and interacting with other players. Which wasn't so much fun. I don't enjoy team playing, and I got invited to multiple teams before I'd even figured out the movement controls (I was literally still bumping into walls). I declined the invites and went on a couple of quests/missions, which were actually very engaging. I got to save Zatanna and Raven and fight alongside Cyborg (after first, as is traditional, fighting with him). Along the way I picked up gear and got new skills. Along with each new power is a little chart on how to trigger the attack with the mouse. I need to take notes.

The lack of Aqua-characters is mildly saddening, and the frequent interruptions by other players was also annoying (the chat was filled with garbage). But the game was fun. If I can figure out how to make sure other players don't keep inviting me to things, maybe I'll play it a little longer. Especially since one guy invited me to a team while I was getting my butt kicked by a tough demon-thing, and because I couldn't figure out how to dismiss the invite quick, I nearly "died". Thanks dude. I did figure out on another play through how to turn those off, but it was really irritating for me. I'm a solo type of gamer, I'm afraid.


Looking out over Metropolis.

Anyway, for free games neither was too bad. I would much prefer a single player game, but that's just me. I'll probably play both a little more. At this point I can imagine getting addicted to DCO, although it doesn't seem too likely with all the people being annoying. I don't see me playing much more STO, although that also could change, depending on whether or not I figure out the controls.

My eventual goal is to play the Fallout series of games, as well as the sequel to Wasteland. I've been watching vids of Adipose playing Fallout 3, and I think they are my kind of thing. But since that requires actual money, I'll have to wait.



Friday, June 03, 2016

Fiction Friday

I haven't gotten much response from these, so I'm not sure if anyone actually cares... here's something way different. I'll go back to Torvald if anyone bothers to request it. Feel free to critique.