Monday, July 25, 2016

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.

Sunflowers


The flowers are coming out!


And another one!


The plants are pretty big... but not as big as the tomatoes.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

A few links

Haven't been thinking much the last couple of days, so haven't gotten much done by way of blogging. Here's a few links to tide you over until I get myself back.

I want to get a projector, and they are coming down in price.

MetaFilter links to a series of ads that are so wrong they are almost right.

A comic on Syrian refugees that uses animated GIFs to great effect.

How to Tell the Age of a Map.

The family that got rich by creating Hot Pockets is giving away their fortune.

And lastly, some new Simon's Cat:

Monday, May 30, 2016

Let us not forget


Lower Valley Memorial Gardens, 26 May 2014

Let us not forget those who have sacrificed in our name.



Keep Looking Up! (May 30th through Jun 5th)



Sunday, May 29, 2016

A Sunday Review

TV this week:

  • Gotham: "Transference" - While there were a few intense moments in this episode, the previous episode was far more engaging overall. Still, my favorite moments were Jim under the truth serum and the parade of monsters at the end, and both were very good. Hugo Strange turning into a gibbering coward shows that he genuinely fears the "secret council" which almost certainly is the Court of Owls. The fact that he also let slip that they exist to Jim, and that now Bruce knows and is gunning for them, is only more for Strange to be frightened by. The fight between Mr. Freeze and Firefly was also amusing. But it was let down by a severely boring reunion between Fish Mooney and Penguin and Harv acting like a complete moron by being fooled by fake Jim. Overall, it was ok, but not great.

  • The Flash: "The Race of His Life" - I'm not entirely sure what to make of this, except that, at the end, there was a sort of settling of the story and it felt like the series was setting up the new status quo. Then... then Barry had to go and do something ridiculously stupid and dangerous. I mean, wasn't Flashpoint started because of the exact same effort by The Flash? And does this mean that next season's Flash will be an alternate universe? Or will it even last the entire season, or just a few episodes? Not a bad episode, but not the finest finish to the season.

  • Arrow: "Schism" - I can't even get started on all the ways this episode was wrong, but I'll just say that despite all the problems, it turned into a fairly fun episode of the series. Season finale? Meh. It seems like none of the season finales this year were all that great. But it was a fun smash and thrash story. Lots of fighting, lots of silliness and some moments of sheer pain. And even some set up for next year. This is not my favorite superhero show, but it isn't too bad.



DCBS
Here are reviews of the DCBS comic books that I've gotten around to reading and reviewing, sorted by the original shipping date:
  • Apr 27th
  • Justice League #49 - *yawn* Is this over yet? The only thing vaguely interesting is the Cyborg and Jessica fight to regain control. And with the rest of the nonsense in this book, that's just not enough to keep me interested.
  • Sinestro #22 - So, he's not entirely in the background, I guess. He's still taking an active, if secret, part in things. Meanwhile, Soranik isn't having a great time. With great power yadda yadda, but she's doing the best she can under stressful circumstances. Now, the only big question is what are the Reds up to?
  • Batman '66 Meets the Man From UNCLE #5 - This Batman could really use Aquaman's help on that last page. As for the rest, quite amusing all through. I find the use of Hugo Strange fun, particularly when you think about how he's being used on Gotham right now. His idea that he'll be able to turn people toward a beneficial future is fun and a nice turn on this genre. It'll be a fascinating finish to this series to see how the heroes manage to defeat him.
  • Doctor Strange #7 - So, the end of magic. And in this issue, we get the origin story of the end of magic guy. Reasonable enough, in a twisted all-or-nothing kind of way. As usual in this sort of thing, the villain is not willing to see the full picture and thus is mistaking virtue for vice. I don't know any of the Marvel U's magic users, so I'm not sure who was sacrificing himself there, or who was threatened, or who was too cowardly to fight back. The art is a little sketchy for me, distracting a bit from the story. Not horrid.
  • Peanuts vol 2 #32 - So there's a cute story about Snoopy trying to win a contest, but honestly, the one page classic strip by Schulz was massively better. It's not that the new story is bad - it's just not anything compared to Schulz.



Fortean Times #340
Fortean Times #340 (May 2016). Not a particularly memorable cover for me. The Oscar just doesn't resonate in that way, and seeing a target on it... well, nothing jumps out. The names scratched out along the side under the "Star Whackers Conspiracy" headline is kind of interesting, but again, it's not a cover that grabs me. I'm equally indifferent to the cover story, which is a sad tale of Randy Quaid becoming incredibly paranoid and believing that "they" are out to kill him. I'm slightly irritated by the sidebar, which brings up the thoroughly debunked "Hanging Man" myth about the Wizard of Oz. Yes, it's in the context of various other silly conspiracies, but it's still annoying to see it passed around yet again (this is the Munchkin variation, even... *sigh*). Another sidebar reports on strange deaths in Hollywood. Considering all the strange that happens in Hollywood, these stories just aren't that much of a surprise. As for Quaid, there's some conjecture as to why he believes what he does, but it doesn't diminish the sadness of seeing someone fall into madness.

Another main article is about Don Quixote, and what inspired Cervantes' most famous character. An analysis delves into the possible Jewish roots of the story, and how Cervantes may have been influenced by events around him as well as his own family history. The history in the piece is information I'm only vaguely familiar with, so I'm not sure how accurate it is. But if the background is true, the case made is pretty solid.

The third article asks how Edgar Allan Poe could possibly have known and written about Neptune's moons and rings as they hadn't been discovered yet... and the rings weren't discovered until 1999. As is often the case, the answer to the question is very simple and straightforward, although the article gives a lot of background on the discovery of Neptune before hitting us with the reason.

Strangedays starts with the missing head of Shakespeare and moves to a rediscovered First Folio. The Conspirasphere is about Zika, Global Warming and what lovely theories people have come up with for those. A photo spread introduces us to Soviet Bus Stops, taken from a book on the subject. Surprisingly fascinating. Other pieces are about strange noises, bad book titles, and poop spies. The medical bag has a few neat pieces, including one I sent in from a 1926 edition of the Sunnyside Sun. There's also a bit on people who came back from the dead - turning up at their own funerals or being forced to prove themselves alive.

Science is about Tesla, and how his idea for a power tower was based on a faulty premise. There's four pieces in Archaeology, including a bit on British mummies (are you my mummy?). There's also a worry that carbon dating is getting more inaccurate due to fossil-fuel emissions throwing off the balance of carbon in the atmosphere. Classical Corner is about ancient forgeries while Ghostwatch is about hellhounds. Having seen a ghostly dog myself as a child, the article was a good read for me (ghostly dog story: I was just learning to ride a bicycle and wasn't able to turn very well. I was on the street around the corner from my house, and my brother and the neighbor kids had just raced away around the corner. I was trying to turn around to follow them when I glanced into the neighbor's driveway and saw a large bulldog that was, for lack of a better term, glowing. It had a reddish tint and was staring at me. I stared at it until I hit the ground, scraping myself up good. When I looked up again, afraid it would attack me, it was gone. No one in the neighborhood owned a bulldog. No one else saw it).

This issue also features Fortean Follow-ups and the 200th Mythconceptions that's been erroneously labeled as the 100th. Alien Zoo looks at the Tully Monster and Mega-Unicorn. Fairies, Folklore and Forteana explores monsters that show up as local legends, including a flying head that bites people on the butt. The UFO files concludes the exhaustive five-part look at the Rendlesham Forest incident, which turns out to show more about how the military conducted - or failed to conduct - investigations than shedding any real light on what happened that night.

Blasts From the Past looks at the history of people who could mysteriously ignite fires through apparently mystical means. Fortean Traveller heads to St. Teilo's Well in Pembrokeshire to learn about a legend of people drinking from a saint's skull. Illustrated Police News was a tale of a doctor who used his dinner guests as experimental subjects to determine if cholera could survive freezing - a story which appears to be a hoax. Phenomenomix is the second part of the story of Faust.

Strange Statesmen continues to look at crazy American politicians - no, not Trump - and finds some real humdingers. One of the fellows examined is Edward Leedskalnin, who created the Coral Castle in Florida after coming to the US from Latvia in 1912. His story is both bizarre and chilling, but you'll have to get the magazine to read the details.

The Forum starts with a report on people who are going to court to divorce the Canaanite god Baal, who is the source of everyone's problems, apparently. It's almost as bizarre as Ed, and that's saying something. The second piece in Forum is about the Isle of Man's supernatural folklore, including a household fairy that does farm work if given food and drink and treated with respect.

Next up are the reviews, and there are some good ones. I'm always on the lookout for good books about historical religious figures, so I'm glad to be warned away from a book about Jesus that claims he had multiple wives, survived the crucifixion and spent the rest of his life in Kashmir. The movie reviews are also excellent, as usual. The letters are entertaining and educational and "It Happened to Me..." had an extra page of goodness this month. Overall, a pretty good issue.



Sunflowers


Hey look, flowers are forming!


Following the sun.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Audio Blog - My Thoughts on Hugo Novel Finalists



Download as MP3.

This runs about four and a half minutes. Please, if you actually listen to it, feel free to leave feedback. Am I too quiet? Do I talk too fast? Do you like it, want more? Hate it, think I ought to stick to writing? I need some feedback like I need water. I'm parched.

Hugos Packet

The standard packet for this year's Hugo Awards is out now at the convention website. I have already read all five novels, so I'll just be skimming each to remind me before I vote.

For the rest, my plan for this year is considerably different than last year. First off, if it was published by the lead rabid puppy's vanity publishing house, I will not read it and leave it off my ballot. If it was put on the ballot by the rabid puppies and the creator was actively happy about being slated, I will not read or look at it and I will leave it off my ballot. I will also not read or put on my ballot any work by any creator who uses the term "Social Justice Warrior" as an insult. Last year I gave every entry a try. This year I will not, because of how much crap I had to read last year to find the very rare gems.

I will put "No Award" at the bottom of every ballot that is not filled with actual worthy choices, like last year.

To make my decisions on what to look at, I'll be using the slate report at File 770 and Spacefaring, Extradimensional Happy Kittens' reaction report. Honestly, it's not going to be easy. Some of the writers are weasel-y, some were involved in the sad puppies but don't like the rabid puppies and some are just having a "gay old time" with the entire thing, to quote The Flintstones. However, eliminating anything involved with Castalia House makes the list considerably more manageable, which I will need once MidAmeriCon II releases the Retro-Hugo packet.

I just can't stop laughing at this...


If you know the source of this, please let me know in the comments. I'd like to link back to the original, if possible.

UPDATE: Here's the source, and it includes a little more of the video.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Links

About cats and how they went from a "necessary household appendage" to cuddly companion animals.

Woohoo! N. K. Jemisin's Patreon worked and she'll be writing full time.

While I'd love to get these to put in our driveway, I bet it wouldn't take long for people to catch on that they are fake.

Here's a cartoon for my hubby. Humid days, indeed.

I signed up for the 30-day free trial of Comixology Unlimited, and I'm not impressed. I've always thought the search functions on Comixology are awful, and trying to find all books of a certain series that are offered in the unlimited service is annoying. In addition, it appears that most of the "free" stuff is first issues, not the most current content (in short, very limited). And it doesn't include any DC or Marvel books. So I'll probably drop it in a couple of weeks, before I end up being charged. It's just not worth it to me if there's nothing current. Add in the fact that some creators were never notified their books would be offered on the service, and it's even less appealing.

A comic about being a "nerdy, Mexican, gay, Mormon child of the ’80s and ’90s".

Not all school shootings are modern. Take a moment to remember the 1927 Bath School Massacre.

I love Lego Bricks, but I'd never be able to build a pop-up Lego Castle:

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

I am in Seattle

Monday, May 23, 2016