Saturday, February 25, 2012

Transformer time

So I think I'm liking this android tablet.  One thing right off is that I am writing this post from it which is something I couldn't do from the Ipad.   OK, I guess I could have but the few times I tried it was grueling.  The blogger forms were spartan, the keyboard was both too large and had too few characters on each 'tab' for real typing, and I couldn't figure out how to post pictures.  With the android, the blogger interface is the same as on a PC, I installed beansoft thumb keyboard which is great, can be resized and has 'long touch' characters for numbers and punctuation, and cursor keys. Heck I can even use the blogger spellcheck.  All in all this tablet does the web better, or at least more consistantly, although not any faster (flash ads need to be banished!).

My other criteria for a tablet were Netflix, books, pdfs and comic readers and I'm happy to say this tablet can do all that.  ezPDF is not as good as Goodreader (it gets slow with big files) but it is pretty close, and Netflix and books from kindle work just the same as their iPad verions.  lt's pretty snappy playing all sorts of media and its nice to manage that media the same ways I do on my PCs.    I can keep my files in folders by type and the apps seem more integrated around the content instead of the mishmash of types and access Apple apps can have. Being able to access files from microSD cards is great too and really expands on the initial 32gb internal storage.  It came with very little bloat ware installed and I was able to stream files from my SAN right out of the box.  It was also nice that all my phone apps were available to install on the tablet and that most of them not only worked perfectly but looked great too.  Instead of blowing them up in size (although you have that option), somehow Icecream Sandwich stretches them out without distorting them.

Is it better than the iPad?  Probably not.  Its not as simple as the visually consistant iOS interface (but really they are both just touch and swipe). But it's as good as an iPad I think, and you can choose how you want to customize it, and for me I think it's a better fit.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Bye iPad

I sold my iPad and am tracking down an Android tablet to replace it.  I really liked having a tablet but I wasn't so enamored of the Apple offering specifically and really like the Android phone I have (a Nexus S).  Almost all of the fantastic apps available for the iPad are uninteresting to me and they don't share data and sorry but they don't just work unless you just pay for new hardware and stuff all the time.  I'll try the Android and hopefully I'll like it better.

I would have held onto the iPad but someone I knew needed a present for her husband and it seemed a perfect fit.  I had pretty much decided I wanted to pick up an ASUS Transformer Prime but there were none available anywhere except at Staples and only online.  So now I'm waiting.  Staples has one day delivery and sure enough they 'delivered' it in one day - the problem is that they came to deliver it when I wasn't home - between 9am and 5pm any day of the week.  Seriously that's the time they gave - sometime between 9 and 5.  Man I have to work and I can't take a whole day off to sign for a package.  I called them to try to change the order or deliver it to the store so I could pick it up and they said there was nothing they could do.  No depot to pick it up at, no way to change the address, no way to cancel the order.  They will try to deliver it again... some business day between 9-5.  They try to deliver it three times and if they can't they cancel the order.  Isn't that great, such a waste of time and gas and effort for everyone.  Hows that for a green policy?  That's so crappy and they need to fix their home delivery system.  Can you imagine Amazon or Futureshop pulling that shit?

Yes I could have had them deliver it to the store.  Yes I will do that if ever there is a next time.  But this is system is broken and the solution is so easy these days with mobile access to data that it should be fixed.

So I'm waiting for my new tablet and missing my iPad.


So sure enough I missed the delivery which is why I wrote that sad tale of first world woe.  I was resigned to this being a real cluster fuck and seriously considered just ordering another and having it shipped to the store.  Well around 6:30 there was a knock on the door and there was a nice gentleman with my tablet!  He was the delivery person from Staples and he said he was in the neighborhood and thought he'd check in again to see if I was home now.  I was very happy to say the least and went online to their customer site to give him a proper kudos.  Staples home delivery service still sucks balls, but it is not the fault of their staff and this guy went out of his way to deliver their package despite (probably because of) their crappy system.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Saturn and Varley and Movies

I was reading an article based on a link I followed from Facebook about a large cylindrical object pictured near Saturn's Rings.  Turns out this bit of weird space news comes up from time to time and people tend to forget things so it seems like this news comes out of nowhere but it doesn't.  A fellow wrote a conspiracy book about this phenomena back in 1996 called The Ring-Makers of Saturn.  I really haven't looked into this topic enough to get a sense of what is actually going on here, if this is people arguing over image artifacts on a camera lens or if there are oblong ice moonlets in that part of the ring due to explained/unexplained processes, or even if these objects are moving or stationary relative to the rings.  I do get the impression that it's not new news however.  Yes, people tend to think that everything they read on the web is new and I wonder how much of that is because we're simply skimming the cream off the top of the Internet and calling it knowledge these days.  Back when people wrote books, things had a little more place in time maybe.  This isn't about how bad the Internet is however, more just commenting on how lazy we can be.

The story did remind me of John Varley's books about a large world ship orbiting near Saturn called Gaea.  The series was called the Gaea Trilogy, or The Titanide, and consisted of three books, Titan, Wizard and Demon.  He wrote the first book in the series in 1979 and I wonder if there was a co-responding news items in astronomical journals in the 60's or 70's about long cylindrical objects in Saturn's rings that might have triggered the idea for him.  As for the books, I really enjoyed them when I first read them and I still enjoy them now when I revisit the series.  The first book has quite a different tone than the second and third.  The first is much more in the physical exploration vein, while the second and third are much more interested in social issues. I think that the series got better when it started exploring societies (large and small) instead of the Gaean landscape, but I like both themes really.  The characters were very good, I'm not sure I want to read more Titan stories because worlds can grow too large to sustain stories, but I do miss hearing about the characters actually, just like you'd miss hearing news about good friends.  I feel much closer to the characters from the Gaea series than I do about the characters in Varley's other books, despite some of those stories and worlds (and even characters) being better realized.  If you like a good Science Fiction book you should check out some of his other stuff as well, especially his short story collections, and Steel Beach which is a huge callback to the The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and a real evolution of that theme.

Thinking about John Varley got me to do two things, the first was to see if there was anything interesting he has worked on that I hadn't heard of.  I grew up reading authors like Burroughs, Niven, Robert Heinlein and Issac Asimov and I got their books from second hand books stores, and most of what I read was printed some years before I was born.  I am not used to my authors being on the Internet and I forget to look them up.  This is good and bad because when I do hear about a new book or series, it's usually in the book stores and I don't have to wait while it gets written, but it also means I often tend to misplace authors as well.  I popped John Varley into Amazon and saw indeed he's written some stuff in the last ten years I missed out on.  I didn't think I wanted to read his 'Lightning/Thunder' books just now but I dropped his book Mammoth on my wish list for later. It looks like something I could get into.

Anyway the second thing I did was to look him up on the Internet and I found he has a website.  The John Varley website is a bit of a mess visually but it has a bunch of stuff on it and really it's the content that counts.  I've only spent a few minutes on the site so far but he has the usual new book info, a bio, the bibliography and some interesting essays on there.  The big thing I noticed is that he's reviewed a frigging pile o' movies.  I think that's great and I will be eager to see what he thought of movies I've watched.  That's something I never considered before I saw it but hey, it would be good to compare notes on something like movies with a writer you have enjoyed.  I wonder what an Issac Asimov movie review blog would be like.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Another take on Batman

Batman is great and all but I've never really bought into the fact that his super power is that he's a normal guy but just awesome.  That's really the opposite of a 'show don't tell kind of argument' because it's it all tell and all too often it's Batman doing something crazy (like dodging a light speed punch or whatever) and then the reader being told by another character how scary*/awesome Bats is, and that's why he can do it.  Ya I know there are good Batman stories but there are a lot of liberties taken with this too.  He's supposedly awesome because his parents were killed and this made him dedicated to training a lot.  Well unfortunately I think that happens a lot but it rarely makes other people awesome, more likely it makes them depressed.  Sure he trained a lot, but apparently he's the best martial artist/super hacker/detective/scientist/race-car driver/pilot ever.  So how does he train all that and still spend every night fighting crimes?  A lot of people in comics have had bad stuff happen to them (way badder than loosing their parents) or train a lot, and sometime it makes them awesome, but never as awesome as Batman.  I like Batman but I don't know how much I like it when this theme gets too grand and Batman becomes the Chuck Norris of the DCU.

I've been playing a lot of Arkham City lately.  It's great fun and I really feel like Batman zooming around the shadows and beating down goons.  But I'm also getting killed and falling in the water a lot and sometime I get thinking, this game makes me the exact opposite of Batman.  I'm playing the game and I need to swoop in and take down 15 guys, some with knives, and I get capped and Mark Hamill gets in some great voice acted Joker taunting.  Then I do it again.  This time I almost get them before I get slammed down by a thrown crate.  Once more.  OK this time I am the Bat and I take them clown faced mofos out!  Swinging across a electrified floor, parkour off a wall and land on the release switch to save the poor doctor lady?  No problem - just takes 4-5 tries to get it right.  If I'm really really (really) stuck I might look up something on the Internet (Hmmm, you can throw a 90 degree zip-line turn in mid air?  Cool I'm on it.) and my wife will make fun of me.  I just tell her "I am the Bat" and she tells me I sound more like Joe Pechi than Christian Bale.  I might not be the Chuck Norris of the DCU, but I still like saying "I am the Bat" when I finally get the moves right.

But maybe there's another way to think about this (and save my ego...).  This is also an idea if you want to play someone like Bats in an RPG.  So here's my take on Batman:

Instead of being super awesome just because everyone says he's super awesome, The Bat is super awesome because he's actually got the Leibniz "Best of all Worlds" super power to get things right.  He gets to redo things from the last save.  He gets the pause button and the Internet.  Ya, Batman is meta.  If he has to fight Darkseid you bet he's gonna be working it 12 times to get it right, maybe even scraping the forums for a walk-through.  It might take him all night but he's gonna get the moves right and knock ol' granite face into one of them Apokolips fire pits to save the day.  And Superman, Flash and Wonder Woman will never know about the other 11 times he got fried by Omega beams.  He'll put in the time and he plays a lot of videogames, you see his parents were killed and left him some cash.  He doesn't go out much, he took it kind of hard the poor guy.

On second thought you probably don't want to do this with Batman.  Interesting character, but not as fun anymore is it?

I like Arkham City a lot and can  recommend it as a great game, but I think I felt more like Batman playing Arkham Asylum.  It was a bit less over the top and I didn't feel like I was playing Simon type memory pattern matching game sometimes.  I might have been, but I didn't feel it as much.  I also think there was a real missed opportunity with the art.  I wish that they had dialed it back a notch so that everyone didn't look like Bane with necks and arms as thick as their legs.  And the ladies... The ladies are built like statues with massive boobs and butts made of marble, but they have no charm at all - zero, which is too bad.  It would have been great with a bit more of the Animated Series style physical expression to match all the great voice acting in the game.  Arleen Sorkin and Bruce Timm Harley Quinn is such a fantastic voice/image package.  I do like the Joker and Riddler game models though.

 *I like in Arkham City the Joker quips to his henchman that Batman hasn't even managed to kill anyone yet.

**If you have a feeling of deja vu, don't worry.  This post was moved from my Beacon blog to this one on account of it fits in here better.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

From the journal of Weilheim Krombach

This is an post session account written from the perspective of a character in a Trail of Cthulhu game.  It details events occurring after the game sessions and references other characters from those sessions.  I wrote it after waking in the wee hours of the morning and it was pretty much formed in my mind with the exception of some adhoc historical references I researched to bring verisimilitude to the tale.
From the journal of Weilheim Krombach:
January 6th, 1933
It is a cold morning and the land lady is still refusing to turn the heat up.  I am beginning to regret leaving my previous apartments, however it was unavoidable, and to look back is not productive.  I consider the funds saved are being redirected into much more profitable pursuits than mere creature comfort.  I have confidence that Mr. Monroe is as good as his fees would suggest and he will soon ascertain the location of Miss C.  

However despite mild physical discomforts, I am eager to get started today.  Of the two distillations, the second is most promising.  Subject A is responding as usual to the drug, however yesterday Subject B was able to make quite detailed drawings of the mysterious male figure in their shared hallucination.  His progress, is remarkably swift as he was only recently remanded into my care.  I found his illustration quite flattering in fact, he has some measure of artistic talent.  Of the unusual doglike entities however neither man is yet able to clearly recall their specific dimensions or aspect.  I think a slight increase in the dosage may yield insights without undue risk, although I believe Subject A should soon be started on morphine as a counter to opiate habituation.   I am still unsure how both subjects can have such accord in the details of their respective experience, however the crime scenes did display a corresponding similarity, especially as to the manner of traumas suffered by the unfortunate victims.  
As to that, while being somewhat biased against Mr. Moon, I nevertheless would not wish such a fate on any man. The horrific wounds speak to a killer of tremendous savagery and have made such an impression on both men that they to this day will not sit against any wall but instead will remain firmly in the centre of any closed room, even without chair or light.  Subject B retains such a fear he will not even let his gaze fall upon the corners of a room.  I hypothesize that experiencing the death, no say murder, of his employer without any benefit of companionship is the reason that Subject B exhibits the stronger neurosis and possibly why he is responding much more strongly to the Black Lotus.  Perhaps even the sad company afforded by my unfortunate cadre, incoherent and unconscious as we were at the time, was the shred of leavening that allowed Mr. Cameron to retain his sanity where his poor doppelgänger did not.

Thankfully I have not as late received any call from the police department.  Either it has been a peaceful winter, or inspector Fellows has sought another forensic consultant.  I find myself relieved as I do not think I could again work closely with that man, and so thankfully have not yet had to find an excuse to decline an invitation to do so.  Besides, my current work seems so much more important.  Finding common psychotic imagery I have been re-reading Jung's Wandlungen und Symbole der Libido and finding new respect for his work which I had previously dismissed as puerile.  I have heard he is planning a trip to America next year or the year after and I would greatly like to discuss my research with him on that occasion.

The fellow from the Durant Motor company has still been unable to find a replacement dashboard for my automobile.  He has told me the line has been sold to Dominion Motors and I must now contact his counterpart in Canada, which I am loath to do.  I would prefer to avoid returning to Toronto if at all possible.

Introduced in 1930, the 112 inch wheelbase, model 612 featured a 58 horsepower six-cylinder engine, A.C. oil filter and the"Pullman attachment". The "Pullman attachment" converts the interior of the car into a reclining couch.
Fact sheet: 19301931.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The kick off

I wanted to kick things off with something everyone is interested in so that people reading this blog for the first time will get a sense of inclusiveness and feel they belong in my target demographic.  So I'm going to say a few things about my passion for Morris Dancing.

Morris Dancing in Oxford

Actually I don't know dick about Morris Dancing.  I mean I don't have anything against it, I think it's great and everything, but I was just putting it in there to show how this blog isn't going to be another blog about Beacon or Old School RPGs or anything.

However, you know who does like Morris Dancing?  Scott Nicholson from Board Games with Scott likes Morris Dancing. Scott does board game reviews online and they are great. I bought Die Macher based on his review/walk through of it as well as Imperial by Rio Grande games.  I'm still looking for a copy of Indonesia which looks sweet.  I like boardgames and there are so many good and bad ones out there it's very helpful to me to have people who review them and especially reviews that outline how the game plays.  A couple other good board game reviewers I try to keep up with are Tom Vassal and Matt Drake.  Tom Vassal loves games and the videos and reviews on his site The Dice Tower show it.  Matt Drake is a is a bit of alright as well, and has a good game review blog (more edgy than Scott or Tom - he often mentions things like 'crack hookers'  - you've been warned) called Drake's Flames.

I like boardgames and I'll be writing about them in the future but I wanted to draw some attention to these fellows who, in addition to the Board Game Geek website, are probably the primary sources I go to when sussing out if I'll add a new game to my library.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Word Association Game

Back in my salad days me and the lads would like to play a quick little game called Word Association Game First One To Say Furrier Wins.  There were two rules for the game, the first was you would say something related to what the last person just said and the other was the first one to say "Furrier" won the game.  Yes, I know.  To be fair we spent a lot of time driving around looking for beer and gas money.

It was considered bad form to just blurt out "Furrier" unless the association was there to be made.  It was also considered masterful to say "Furrier" and win when there was no real association but it felt right to take the win.  I'm not sure if solemn nodding and muttering things such as  "Nice one, centurion" was the standard congratulations or not, but I'd like to remember it that way.  We actually played this a lot and despite the looseness of the format, the games could become pretty interesting.  As interesting as word association can be in any case.  When we were on the game you could see people trying to plant the seeds for a "furrier" and others trying to dance away from it all while trying not to bow to the white elephant of animal hide.  Oh that's mostly BS but still it was fun.

I've had a lot of fun working on my Fantasy RPG Beacon and posting my thoughts on it on the Beacon blog  but I've decided that I need a place to write my thoughts on OTHER topics.  I thought that it would be good to have a dumping ground a restful contemplation gallery for these thoughts.  I'm going to post some ideas on how I'd like to run a Traveller RPG game, or maybe just discussion about Google+ gaming in general.  I'm going to talk about some books and movies, and perhaps try out some board game reviews.  I don't want to make the focus too diffuse by getting into politics or other weird shit, but if it's interesting to me and it's not specifically about Beacon then I'll likely mention it here.  If I can steer one person into playing Fantasy Flight's A Game of Thrones or watching Highlander who wouldn't have otherwise, I'll consider it a success.

I think I actually wrote something derisive about what I called Cousin's Soup blogs - or those blogs that talk about your relatives recipes, or what you had for dinner, or the funny story why your aunt was late for her flight to Seattle.  I still don't care about most of that stuff, but I do recognize the irony of my blogging about stupid stuff you might not care about.  In my defense I encourage you not to read anything you aren't interested in.  Ya you probably don't give a rat's ass about a lot of this stuff, but I want to write about it anyway.  I think I need a more free form place to do that.  I could have started writing about this stuff on the Beacon blog, but I really wanted to keep it focused for the people (forsooth the vast numbers of people!) who are interested in Beacon.  So here's the new blog.  There's more than one way to skin that cat.

Also "Furrier".