Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Solar Power

Hubby-Eric and I have gone solar.

Eric did the work, looking into companies and finding a deal that would allow us to install panels with no up-front cost. I'm going to say this right out: we are NOT saving money on this at the moment. If we use the panels for a few years, yes, they will start to pay for themselves. But despite no up-front cost, we will actually be paying more out of pocket for awhile. We didn't do this to save money short-term. We waited until we were in a good financial situation.

The panels were installed on February 22, then we went through a month and change of paperwork and permits being approved before the power company arrived last Wednesday and installed the net meter (the power company employee knocked on the door, but I was gaming with headphones on and didn't hear him. It was a surprise when the power suddenly went out as he restarted the system. I need to make a huge sign that says "RING THE DOORBELL, WE MAY NOT HEAR YOU KNOCK!").

Eric turned on the various switches and stuff, but it wasn't until he reread the instructions and got a notice that he figured out how to finish the installation - and our panels went active.

Yesterday I finally worked out how to get the app to view our usage and generation. And now I'm a little bit obsessed with looking at our energy system.

For example, we have a constantly updating graph that shows our usage (lower red line) in comparison to our generation (upper part of graph). As you can see, generation varies wildly. We have 18 panels on the west side of our roof, which means they weren't in direct sunlight when I took this screenshot. Any variation in the amount of light the panels receive will change the generation levels. This is why relying solely on solar isn't viable for most uses of electricity yet. You need something to balance out the load, and right now for us that something is the regular power grid.

We do not have a battery back-up, nor do we have "sunlight backup", which would protect our house from power loss during the day. We are still dependent on the power grid - the only thing that's changed is that we are now contributing to the power in the system during the day, which hopefully means a little less fossil fuel can be used elsewhere in the system.

Well, maybe not the only thing. We also now have a minute-by-minute view of our power usage, which may allow us to figure out what items in the house are drawing more power than we'd like them to draw, and therefore help us lower waste. We'll have to see how it pans out. Currently, the app is gathering data on our regular habits and trying to determine what sort of power draw is normal for us. In a couple of weeks, it will start giving us more detailed reports, and we can start thinking about changes in our lifestyle at that point.

But I will admit, it's kind of nice to see this on the app:

Sunday, December 19, 2021

The 2021 Hugo Awards

Thoughts on the Hugo winners... all of the best novel nominees were REALLY good, so I would have been happy with any of them, but I'm still extremely pleased that Murderbot won. I very much enjoyed the series and the novel, and I'm very glad I got introduced to it through the Hugo Awards.

My second choice would probably be Piranesi, which still haunts me, but again - all of them were really really good. All of them are worth reading.

For best novella, the winner, The Empress of Salt and Fortune, is the one that keeps haunting me. None of them were bad, but some hit me less hard.

The best novelette winner, Two Truths and a Lie, is probably the only story I didn't like of the novelettes. I didn't hate it but the story rubbed me the wrong way. I think I put it last on my ballot, but I put it on the ballot because I thought it was worthy of the award. So I'm not disappointed.

All the short stories were excellent, and "Metal Like Blood in the Dark" was a great choice. Personally, I voted "A Guide for Working Breeds" and Little Free Library over it, but it was a hard decision.

All of the best series were worthy, but I did have a preference for The Murderbot Diaries, so I'm very glad it won.

The new category of best video game picked a great game, Hades. It was the one I voted for in the top spot. I hope they keep this category or return with it in the future.

The rest ... there's too much to go into. There was SO much good stuff this year. I hope next year's finalists are as excellent.

List of 2021 Hugo Award Winners

Saturday, December 18, 2021

The Legend of Jorts and Jean

This is not my content. I am preserving it here ONLY so I can get at it later when I need a laugh.

"Pam is NOT to apply margarine to any of her coworkers."

Thursday, December 09, 2021

Video Game Review - Ruined King: A League of Legends Story

So, I don't usually buy or play video games right when they come out. In fact, I think I started DC Universe Online four YEARS after it debuted. But I've been very interested in League of Legends for awhile, mostly because of their awesome music videos. With the release of their full animated series, Arcane, I became even more interested.

Now, in the gaming community, League of Legends is a big deal. Players get millions of dollars for being good at it.

But there's a big problem with League of Legends for me. I hate PvP. I don't like any type of Player versus Player games. I have found that I get far too intense and stupid and turn into almost literally a monster. So I avoid PvP whenever possible. I just don't like doing it at all. I will play against people very casually, but in League of Legends, casual doesn't work so well. So I've mostly ignored the game while being fascinated by its lore.

So when they announced a single-player turn-based RPG set in the League of Legends universe that explores some of the lore, I was intrigued. And after I mentioned my interest to hubby-Eric, he suggested I buy it and try it. For the first time ever, I bought a game on release day as an adult and started playing.

Ruined King: A League of Legends Story

After three weeks, I've finished the game (on the easiest setting) and I gotta say, I really enjoyed it.

It's a fairly standard RPG with turn-based battles (you set up your next move, the foes set up their moves, the battle is run until you need to pick what you are going to do again). You start with a single character and eventually "collect" six characters with different skill sets. You run battles with three of them at a time - and depending on which characters are active, you might see different things in the world around you. For example, a certain type of treasure might only be visible to one character, so if that character isn't one of your three active characters as you move around the map, you might miss it.

Everything has a solid story reason behind it, and despite what really is an absolutely lunatic combination of characters, it works. I mean, we have a happy Viking-type, a pirate, a samurai, a vampire, a honorable priestess, and a stealthy revenant - all on the same team. But each character has a backstory that you learn throughout the game. Despite some tension, they work together well as you take them on a world-changing quest. I quickly developed a favored pair of characters, which allowed me to switch out my third for whoever I needed in the storyline at that moment.

Gameplay was easy enough on the normal setting, with battles taking a few attempts to figure out, then becoming pleasant puzzles. Learning the fighting system thoroughly helped immensely when I got to the final battle, which pulled in all the knowledge into one nasty bundle. I lost on my first try because I went in under-powered. I made sure to remedy that with a little bit of grinding out the game's many side-quests, and handlily managed my second attempt.

The main storyline is filled with good gameplay - not just fighting. There are a number of puzzles to solve, some obvious, some a little more difficult. Paying attention to detail really pays off - like noticing when an object drops off something. Huh, could that object have a clue on it? Better go find it and check. In addition to the main storyline, there are a lot of side quests. As usual for this type of game, some are ridiculous. Some are necessary to advance. Some are necessary to get better gear. But can you really claim you've won the game if you haven't found Fluffy?

The art is good, and some of the opponents are very fun. I like battling a "Possessed Tome". As in other games, you quickly get a sense of what enemies you can't handle yet and which ones are fine to take on without fear. Unfortunately, just because one baddie shows up in the overall scene you are moving through doesn't mean that when you enter the fight it hasn't brought along a few friends. Ouch. The style overall reminds me, pleasantly, of games I used to play in high school. It is not complicated, sophisticated, or hyper-realistic. It's just fun. I felt like a teenager again while playing.

The story drove me on, because I wanted to read it all and find out what really happened. There is a central mystery to it - the opening cinematic sets it up beautifully. Why did the Blessed Isles fall? What is the Harrowing? You get some solid answers by the end. It's like reading a novel while playing it as well. It was an experience I very much enjoyed. In addition to the main story there were the individual tales of each of our six main characters as well as bits of lore featuring dozens of other characters, some related and some not, that you just find as you explore the world.

On the downside, the initial release had some bugs. The worst were some quests that remained in the quest log after you finish them, and some items on the map that never showed up as completed. As far as I experienced it, fighting and movement were not affected so I was able to mostly ignore the problems.

Another issue was backtracking. Although the game introduces some "quick travel" options, they don't cover everything, and you really do have to retread a lot of ground to finish quests and figure stuff out. It's not ideal, but the closer I got to end game, the less backtracking I needed to do, so it wasn't too bad. It just was bad enough to be noticable.

Also. Fishing. Yeah, that's a thing. Like in almost every game in this genre. For some reason. I don't know why. Fishing. I think it must be a requirement.

In the meta-game, I found it very easy to get Steam Achievements. Most of them happened just by doing all the side quests, and the one or two I missed (the fishing achievement and the "meet every opponent" achievement) were easy to go back and get once I finished the game. In fact, the only two Steam Achievements I still need to do are to complete the game on the two higher levels of difficulty. Which I plan to do, because I enjoyed it and don't mind replaying it.

So, overall, well worth the cost of the game. I enjoyed it quite a bit, and kind of wish I had more of it to play. I hope there is a new story DLC in the future, but I'm not counting on it.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Taking a Short Break from Song of the Month

One reason I started cataloging Eric's Song of the Month posts is because Facebook has a tendency to hide posts. As I started to look for December 2020 posts, this problem has become more apparent. I'm going to keep working on it, but it's going to take longer for me to complete the posts.

If I cannot find the post, I'll put "missing post" on that day. If I know the video for that day, I'll try to post it. Since Eric posted them, some videos may have been removed or had their permissions changed. If I am able, I'll try to find the same video elsewhere and link to that, otherwise I'll try to note the video isn't available. Link rot will set in, and some videos will not be available in the future as well... that's just the nature of the internet.

While I work on finding old Facebook posts, here's the list of songs Eric has done so far:

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Song of the Month - January 2021 - Bohemian Rhapsody

I'm going to work my way backwards through Facebook's confusing system and try to get all the videos Eric has posted for his Song of the Month series. Today's month is January 2021, and the song is Bohemian Rhapsody.

Jan 1st - Song of the Month, Day 1: Right! New month, new year, new song! And boy, do we need this new year! So this month's song has to be a big, bold, brassy one that will knock the door down and say, "Hey, we're not kidding around, this year had better be a BIG improvement over the last one!" So then the choice became REALLY simple. Ladies and gentlemen, and everyone else who may fall somewhere in between, I present to you the Song of the Month for January, 2021!

Friday, November 12, 2021

Song of the Month - February 2021 - Somebody That I Used To Know

I'm going to work my way backwards through Facebook's confusing system and try to get all the videos Eric has posted for his Song of the Month series. Today's month is February 2021, and the song is Somebody That I Used to Know.

Feb 1st - Song of the Month, Day 1: Here's one that I know has at least a few interesting covers out there, and is an intriguing song in its own right. But it's also kind of a dark and bleak song, so I thought it would be a good one for a short month like February. Without further ado, the Song of the Month is "Somebody That I Used to Know" by Gotye, featuring Kimbra.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Song of the Month - March 2021 - Happy

I'm going to work my way backwards through Facebook's confusing system and try to get all the videos Eric has posted for his Song of the Month series. Today's month is March 2021, and the song is Happy.

Mar 1st - Song of the Month, Day 1: It's time to blast ahead and jump start spring. After a couple months of downers, we really need something upbeat and funky. So I looked at my list of potential songs—and there was only one choice!

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Song of the Month - April 2021 - Fade to Black

I'm going to work my way backwards through Facebook's confusing system and try to get all the videos Eric has posted for his Song of the Month series. Today's month is April 2021, and the song is Fade To Black.

Apr 1st - Song of the Month, Day 1: This is going to be a little different for me, since I'm posting a song this month that I barely know and have very little history with. In fact, the first time I recall hearing in was a couple days ago when researching it for today! But this is a request from my brother-in-law, Ray. And it looks promising, there have been many covers over the years. There doesn't seem to be an official video by the band for this song, so this first one is pretty static, but I suspect thing will improve very quickly. Everyone, thanks for tolerating my rambling introduction. Here it is, "Fade to Black" by Metallica.

Tuesday, November 09, 2021

Song of the Month - May 2021 - Stitches

I'm going to work my way backwards through Facebook's confusing system and try to get all the videos Eric has posted for his Song of the Month series. Today's month is May 2021, and the song is Stitches.

May 1st - Song of the Month, Day 1: This one has actually been planned before, but I postponed it a couple times when other ideas came up. But now it's time for another song from this century. I was impressed by "Stitches" when some high school kids introduced it to me a few years ago. Then I saw this video, which is impressive. Then I found out just how young Shawn Mendes is (he was only 17 when this song came out), and was triply impressed. So here, at last, is an impressive song, "Stitches" by Shawn Mendes.

Monday, November 08, 2021

Song of the Month - June 2021 - Sultans of Swing

I'm going to work my way backwards through Facebook's confusing system and try to get all the videos Eric has posted for his Song of the Month series. Today's month is June 2021, and the song is Sultans of Swing.

Jun 1st - Song of the Month, Day 1:

Sunday, November 07, 2021

Song of the Month - July 2021 - Kings & Queens

I'm going to work my way backwards through Facebook's confusing system and try to get all the videos Eric has posted for his Song of the Month series. Today's month is July 2021, and the song is Kings & Queens.

Jul 1st - Song of the Month, Day 1: New month, new song! Those of you who get all annoyed when I have something from this century by an artist you've never heard of, you may as wait until August, because this song is from this DECADE! I heard this on the radio, thought it was catchy, and thought, what the heck! So, with no further ado, here's Ava Max with "Kings and Queens"!

Saturday, November 06, 2021

Song of the Month - August 2021 - Video Killed the Radio Star

I'm going to work my way backwards through Facebook's confusing system and try to get all the videos Eric has posted for his Song of the Month series. Today's month is August 2021, and the song is Video Killed the Radio Star.

Aug 1st - Song of the Month, Day 1: New month, new song! So, in honor of the fortieth (!) anniversary of the debut of MTV, here is the first video they played (back when MTV played music videos):

Friday, November 05, 2021

Song of the Month - September 2021 - Rainbow Connection

I'm working my way backwards through Facebook's confusing system and try to get all the videos Eric has posted for his Song of the Month series. Today's month is September 2021, and the song is Rainbow Connection.

Sep 1st - Song of the Month, Day 1: New month, new song! I think a lot of people will enjoy this one!

Thursday, November 04, 2021

Song of the Month - October 2021 - Monster Mash

I'm going to work my way backwards through Facebook's confusing system and try to get all the videos Eric has posted for his Song of the Month series. Today's month is October 2021, and the song is Monster Mash!

Oct 1st - Song of the Month, Day 1: I had a recent pop hit in mind, but I decided, nah, we need a fun one! Considering what month this is, what else was it going to be?

Wednesday, November 03, 2021

Song of the Month - November 2021 - Paint It Black

For quite some time, Eric has been posted a "Song of the Month" on his Facebook page, with a single song covered by a bunch of different artists. The series has been going for more than a year now, and I have had the WORST trouble trying to find all the videos on Facebook because of the truly obnoxious way Facebook hides stuff from people.

So here's my cunning plan. I'm going to post Eric's videos here, on my blog, but each month will be in one post. I'll start with the first day's video, then try to put the rest after a cut, so just the first video will appear on the main page. However, this project will take some time to do, thanks to the way Facebook hides content, so I'm just going to do it as I can and work backwards from today.

Without further ado, then, Paint It Black - Eric's Song of the Month for November 2021.

Nov 1st - Song of the Month, Day 1: Right, time for some Stones!

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Really Rapid Review - Aquaman: King of Atlantis Chapter One: Dead Sea

I have watched the first episode of HBO Max's Animated Aquaman series.

I have... thoughts.

First off, the animation style does nothing for me and, in fact, continually distracts me from the story. It's just not something I enjoy. That said, the animation style was 90% of my problem with the show, and not enough to make me dislike it.

The story was slight and amusing, but there were so many little bits and nods to Aquaman history and, I think, comic book history. I'm not entirely sure, but I think I could even point to the Silver Age book that the story is based on - or at least owes some homage to. I'd love to have a chat with the writer(s) and find out if I'm correct.

The story also leads into a new mystery with what seemed to be a running gag turning into something else entirely.

Character-wise, Mera is... um... let's just say I can see this Mera becoming a Red Lantern some time in the future. As it is, she's a great deal more aggressive than in the comics, but that's not a bad thing at all. There were more than a few moments her comments made me laugh out loud.

Aquaman is unsure of himself as a king, but absolutely certain of his role as superhero, which is perfect. Having him have more sense than Mera seemed a little off, but it worked well enough.

Overall, a decent start from my point of view, but I'd really like to see the reactions of non-Aquaman fans and younger viewers who actually like that type of animation.

If you've seen it, feel free to let me know what you thought, good or bad.

I hope to have the energy to write a more detailed and perhaps spoilery review later. We'll have to see if I can manage it.

Supply Chain

When I was growing up, the supply chain consisted of people making things, storing them in warehouses until they were ordered, then sending them out as stores needed them. This is a VAST simplification, but it covers the overall attitude - make stuff, store stuff, send stuff, sell stuff.

With modern infrastructure, the supply chain was tightened up. Because stuff being stored in a warehouse results in loss of profit (you have to pay for storing stuff instead of making money on it!) companies started to cut out warehouses by making things as they were needed instead of storing it wherever possible. This saved a lot of money, but it also meant that any disruption - at all - in the supply chain would result in people not able to buy products. Or worse, in companies along the supply chain not having the raw materials to make products.

A global pandemic is very disrupting.

The supply chain is ALL fouled up. There are slow spots in virtually every area. Some products aren't getting to where they need to be and some raw materials are just plain not coming to manufacturers.

This has led to all kinds of spotty shortages. And those shortages won't end soon. They will be popping up everywhere and in every industry.

Here's what you, as a consumer, ought to do.

  • Don't panic buy.
  • When you find stuff you need, buy enough to last a reasonable amount of time.
  • Plan ahead. Start looking for stuff you need BEFORE you need it badly. If you are down to a week's supply of something, go out and get a bit more, for example. Always stay stocked up to last a reasonable amount of time if there are shortages.
  • Be nice to the workers. They are not responsible for the shortages. They are as much victims as you of the corporate attitude of profits over people. If you harass employees and workers you are less likely to get help the next time you need it.
  • Be patient. While the supply chain is fragile, it hasn't yet completely broken down. If you make sure you have a small supply of necessities, you should be fine.

The biggest takeaway is to not make the problem worse. Panic buying, throwing temper tantrums at hapless employees, and waiting until the last minute to buy necessities will all contribute to the problem, so just don't do them.

Saturday, September 04, 2021

Newbery Winner: Hitty, Her First Hundred Years

Hi again, everybody! Hubby-Eric, here, with my continuing series of trying to read all the Newbery Medal winning books in order. Thankfully, with COVID restrictions easing up, it's a lot easier for my library to get books through interlibrary loan again, so the gaps may not be quite so large between entries now. This time around, the 1930 winner (for books published in 1929), Hitty, Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field. I remember reading this one many years ago, and I still remembered quite a bit of it.

Hitty is a doll, carved from a piece of mountian-ash wood, for Phoebe, a little girl in Maine in the early nineteenth century. And can I just say, this doll has had some adventures! As the book opens, Hitty (short for Mahitabel) is in a New York City antique store where, when the proprietors and other humans are away, she is writing her memoirs. (Shades of Toy Story!) In the wilds of Maine, Hitty's first experiences involve being locked in a church, being snatche by birds and stuck in a tree, and other such shenanigans. It's when Phoebe's father takes the family on a whaling expedition that things start to get really exciting as Hitty is adopted by the crew, they are shipwrecked and Hitty becomes an idol to a native tribe, she is rescued and then lost again in the streets of Bombay, becomes a prop for a snake charmer, adopted by a missionary family who then whisk her back to New England, goes to the opera to hear a celebrated diva sing, becomes a fashion plate and photographic model, gets lost in a horsehair sofa and a hay loft, meets a famous poet and an even more famous author, and spends some time among sharecroppers in Louisiana before finally becoming an antique. But through it all, the sturdy chemise that Phoebe cross-stiched "Hitty" on always stayed with her, so everybody know her name.

Phew! What a life! Yeah, she also spends long stretches of time in boxes or trunks or stored in camphor, so her sense of time can be a little jarring, but that's how Hitty's experiences happened. Even when I first read it, I couldn't help wondering what Hitty's been up to since this book came out, and I can't help wondering if some creative soul out there can't get to work on Hitty, Her Second Hundred Years now. Think of all the odd new experiences she would have in the twentieth century! It would be hard, however, to top this book, as I suspect Hitty's recent history would primarily involve being on display now that she's an antique and a collectible.

Monday, August 09, 2021

Food Review - Hilary's Veggie Burger

I have had to try a lot of different foods over the past year and change, thanks to my kidney problems. One thing I have been meaning to do for a long time is reduce the amount of meat in my diet. However, I love burgers. So hubby and I decided to try some veggie burgers. I enjoyed the Impossible Burgers and Boca Burgers are okay, but when Eric went shopping this last week he found a couple of brands we haven't tried, and picked them up.

Hilary's Veggie Burgers are a little different than other veggie burgers I've tried in that they didn't seem to make any effort to taste like beef or duplicate the mouth feel of eating a ground beef burger. This is not a bad thing. I found I very much enjoyed the burger despite it not bearing any resemblance to a beef burger. If anything, it seemed more like a chicken burger, but without that awful chicken taste. This is a burger that will compliment the other stuff you put on the buns - the sauces/tomatoes/lettuce/pickles/onions - and still deliver enough to satisfy the stomach.

The only problem with it, that I could see, is a fairly high sodium content. That means it can only be a "sometimes" treat for me.

This one gets a thumbs up from me. I would enjoy having it again.