Borderlands sat around forever until I finally got bored enough to give it a chance. Once I did, I got about 30 hours of fun out of it. Not a great game But not
everything can or even should be Thief.
Last fall Borderlands 2 was released. I had finished its predecessor over the summer but didn't think I'd get $60 of enjoyment out of the sequel. But this week I was getting
antsy about not having an adventure and Steam reduced the game's price to $13. I'm fairly certain I'll get $13 worth of enjoyment out of the thing. Hopefully it will hold me over
until the new Splinter Cell arrives in August.
May 19, 2013
An Observation About Cats
You're walking down a hallway and your cat is directly in your way. The cat seems to go into one of two default behaviors in this situation. The first is to sit there like
he's an inanimate object. The second mode is to turn away from you and run in a straight line like Wile E. Coyote running from a bolder. The concept of moving to the side doesn't
seem to be part of a cat's repertoire.
May 18, 2013
Flashback to 1976, I'm in college and I met Steve Silverman, Donna Gallagher and Mike Caputo. Mike was a music major and into Frank Zappa. One of the albums we listened to over and over
again was Absolutely Free. That was Zappa's debut, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. I loved it and still do.
It's now 2013 and just for the hell of it I decided to see if any more of Zappa's catalog had turned up in the iTunes store. It had, they released everything including an album by the Mothers called Ruben and the Jets. That album was Zappa fucking around with 1950s rock and roll. Anyway I grabbed three songs and was very happy.
Well, I started to look up Ruben and the Jets and by chance I found news about Roy Estrada, he was Zappa's bassist back in the days of the Mothers. He's 68 and doing 25 years for continuous sexual abuse of a child. No parole for Roy, he got 25 years as part of a plea bargain. I don't want to think of what he was doing to that kid if he jumped at a plea bargain that meant he was dying in jail.
I've no sympathy for the man. But damn if that didn't just gob smack me. Fuck him.
May 18, 2013
Leonardo da Vinci and Will Smith
Last week I'm watching a show called Warehouse 13. It's about a team of secret service agents who track down supernatural artifacts. It's not the greatest show in the world but
everything can't be Downton Abbey. Anyway, last week there after something or other created by da Vinci and one of the characters makes a remark that he made the thing for the Italian
government. At that point the unfulfilled historian in me went crazy. In da Vinci's time there was no Italian government. In fact there wasn't one until 1861. If da Vinci was making magical doodads for anyone it was probably the Duke of Milan.
But in the larger scheme of things it's not that important. Americans, as a whole, don't have a good grasp of history but we pretty much acknowledge the existence of a place called Italy. To the
best of my knowledge, nobody is going around claiming that Italy is a fraud perpetrated by God's enemies. So I can overlook the mistake.
Flashback about ten years ago. I'm working in Tropicana with a very nice lady. She was born again and she knew I was an atheist and one day, out of a clear blue sky, she said to me, "I don't
believe I descended from an ape." Well, since I don't believe I descended from an ape either, I let the remark pass. If I was feeling like a smart ass I could have told her the whole spiel
about how apes and humans diverged from a common ancestor some 7 million years ago but I knew she didn't want to hear it. Besides she really was (and still is) a nice lady. But she thinks
evolution means we descended from gorillas. A lot of Americans have only the haziest idea how evolution's mechanisms, and that's where Will Smith comes in.
Will Smith is starring in a picture called After Earth. It's directed by M. Night Shyamalan and that should tell you everything you need to know about it. Anyway humanity evacuated
Earth a thousand years before the film starts. Will Smith is some kind of space marine ninja and he and his son get stranded on Earth. Will tells the kid that every animal on the planet evolved to kill humans. In 1,000 years every animal evolved to take out an animal that was no longer there. Take it from me, that's not how evolution works.
And if the same percentage of Americans who accept Italy accepted evolution I'd say fine, no big deal. But 46% of Americans believe in creationism. They believe that God created every form of life exactly as they are now and that said forms of life never change. Dogs didn't split off from wolves, God created them as dogs thousands of years ago.
Evolution doesn't preclude God's existence. It doesn't mean that God doesn't like you. It's just the best explanation for how we got here that we have. If you're a believer, think of evolution as God's tool.
The point of all this isn't that Shyamalan is a bad person or that he has a creationist agenda. I'm sure the line was thrown in because it sounded cool. But I wish it had been cut. You know the old story about the asshole who doesn't leave his house in the face of a flood because God will save him? All these people come by trying to get him to leave but he stays because God
will save him. Eventually the silly bastard dies and he reproaches God:
When in Heaven, the man stood before God and asked, "I put all of my faith in You. Why didn't You come and save me?"
And God said, "Son, I sent you a warning. I sent you a car. I sent you a canoe. I sent you a motorboat. I sent you a helicopter. What more were you looking for?"
Right now the best tool we have to solve things like global warming is science. Too many Americans dismiss it. And that's why Shyamalan's mistake bothers me a lot more then Warehouse 13's.
May 17, 2013
Getting Old and Cranky About Tech
Yesterday Larry Page gave the keynote for Google I/0, Google's yearly developers conference. Among other things, it offered an upgrade to their Google app. The thing does weather, sports scores, traffic reports and the long and the short of it was that tech reporters were swooning over the thing. Well, people like Molly Wood thought it was great I thought I'd give it a try.
So today I turned on Google+ and discovered that my life is a lot less complicated then Wood's.
For one thing, my phone is two years old and Google+ is always using the location service. It makes sense, one of the things about Google+ is that it anticipates what you need. But that sort of
thing is a drain on the battery and, to tell the truth, I sort of like my relationship with my phone to go one way. And my needs are simple. I use Thunderbird as my email program and sometimes I'll use the iPhone when I feel obliged to respond to something but just don't have the energy to turn Kosh on. Along with Thunderbird, I use Lightning, Mozilla's calendar program. And for appointments and stuff, I use Windows' built in post it notes program. And that's it, those four programs are all I really need to keep some kind of order in my life.
But the whole Google+ thing did inspire me to turn on the iPhone's calendar program and input a bunch of birthdays. We'll see if the notification thing actually works.
I was never really an early adopter but I did get more enthused about cool stuff like Google+ (and it is cool) back in the day. Maybe tech is just doing everything I want it to do, at least for the moment.
May 16, 2013
Commander Chris Hadfield performs Bowie's Space Oddity aboard the ISS. Doesn't get much cooler.
May 12, 2013
After all the snark about people using IE 6 I realized I was still using OpenOffice. OpenOffice is free open source office suite. It also hasn't been supported for years. Many of the people
who used to work on OpenOffice are now working on LibreOffice. So, I spent the last couple of minutes uninstalling OpenOffice and putting LibreOffice 4.0 on Kosh instead. Now, there are people
who really need Microsoft Office. And I certainly have no moral objections to have MS Office on my system.
Provided it's on someone else's dime.
On my dime, LibreOffice works just fine.
May 12, 2013
Firefox 22 and Third Party Cookies
I'm actually a member of Slashdot. There I'm alChandler (surprise) and have my own password. But I don't have to log in every time I visit the site because Slashdot has left a cookie on my system, so
Slashdot remembers me. Cool, at least as far as I'm concerned.
There are some people, more conscious of privacy then I am, who clear out cookies after every browsing session. More power to them. For me it's not worth the effort. I feel a little
different about third party cookies though. See, suppose you go to site X that's contracted with company Y to serve ads. Company Y will leave a cookie on your hard drive too. Most of the time it's fairly benign. If company Y notices that I check out a lot of gaming sites then the next time I visit site X the ad may be for Grand Theft Auto IV. I don't have a problem with that at all.
However, just because site X has hired company Y to serve ads doesn't mean that the ad actually came from company Y. They may have subcontracted themselves. After that it gets pretty dodgy.
There have been cases of reputable site serving malware through third party ads. And that's why I've set my browser's preferences to block third party cookies.
In Firefox 20 third party cookies are allowed by default. Starting with version 22, third party cookies will be disallowed by default. Mike Zaneis of the Interactive Advertising Bureau call this a nuclear first strike against ad industry(sic). Actually, Firefox will be the second browser to have third party cookies turned off by default, Safari was the first. But Firefox has a much bigger market share then Safari.
I have nothing against advertisers. I don't block ads and I recognize that sites like Slashdot are free because they serve me ads. On the other hand, I also prefer to minimize risk whenever possible. So third party cookies are turned off. And because I'm feeling helpful today here's how you can turn them off yourself, if you're so inclined.
Firefox: Go to Options>Privacy and uncheck accept third-party cookies.
Internet Explorer: Go to Internet Options>Privacy>Advanced and check override automatic cookie handling, then check block under third party cookies.
Chrome: Go to settings>Privacy>Content Settings and check block third party cookies and site data.
Opera: Go to settings>prefernces>cookies and choose accept cookies only from the site I visit.
And that's that. By the way, Internet Explorer is a fine browser, so long as you keep it updated. Currently it's on version 10. Internet Explorer has been a fine browser for years. The problem
isn't IE, it's people who don't update. Some 23.38% of users are still using IE 8 and 6.33% are still on IE 6. But that's a rant for another day.
May 12, 2013
Sad Cat Diary
Yeah, this is pretty much on the money.
May 10, 2013
A Cadbury Update
In April of 2012 I paid a lot amount of money to have my cat Jack's teeth cleaned. Then three months later I had to have him put down. So much for planning ahead.
When I got Cadbury, I told myself that I'd get his teeth cleaned at least once. In Jack's case I waited until he was almost 13. Cadbury is 7 so, hopefully, the bill won't be as bad as Jack's was. That's what I'm telling myself.. So tomorrow he goes for his blood test. They
do that to make sure he can tolerate the anesthesia. If the test is cool, I bring him in on Monday for the actual cleaning. And that's all the medical attention he's
getting until parts of him start falling off.
The thing about blood tests is that you have to fast. I took his food away about 20 minutes ago and he's stalking around the house like he hasn't eaten in a week. The next 12 hours or so are going to suck.
May 8, 2013
The Knife of Dunwall
That's me and my second in command, Billie Lurk. We've just taken down Leonard Hume, the Overseer. That's the guy flying backwards with my crossbow bolt in his chest.
It's the climax of Dishonored's expansion pack. I've tried to play the game using stealth but I had to resort to killing in the final act. Even so, I got the low chaos ending.
The main character is Daud, the Assassin. In the original game he killed the Empress Jessamine and framed her Protector. In the expansion Daud starts having second thoughts. If you try to limit
the bloodshed, you get the good ending. Of course, good depends on your point of view. If you're a bloodthirsty type, the high chaos ending is the good one. At any rate, here are my stats
for the final mission:
And yeah, I spared Lurk. In the low chaos ending she tells you she betrayed you and throws herself on your mercy. Since I've spent the whole game trying to atone for Jessamine's death,
I let her live. I'm just that kind of guy.
All in all, I got my money's worth out of this expansion. It too me longer then usual to finish, but the stealth route takes a bit of planning. Now alChandler is taking a well deserved rest.
May 8, 2013
Ray Harryhausen 1920-2013
May 7, 2013
Elizabeth's Escort Mission
To a gamer the words escort mission is tantamount to the word suck. But Bioshock Infinite's NPC Elizabeth was different, she could hold her own and didn't need to be escorted. However, nobody bothered to ask her if she approved of my playing style.
May 7, 2013
Inspector Meehan's Finest Moment
At one time the casinos were required to have all sorts on amenities, indeed when I started with the Commission we used to inspect the kitchens for health code violations. That was stopped
because of the objections of the Atlantic City Board of Health. With those guys on the job any other inspections would be superfluous. The point is that inspectors used to do a lot more back in the 80s then they did in the 00s. Every year the casinos would present the Commissioners with a wish list and every year our duties would be reduced.
Along with our duties, casinos began to cut back on non-casino things. Restaurants were closed, bars were turned into slot parlors, entertainment was trimmed and the casinos became warehouses with slot machines. That worked as long as Atlantic City was the only gaming jurisdiction east of the Mississippi. Once competition emerged, people started to go to casinos closer to home.
One would think that the casinos would make an effort to bring back some of their shuttered attractions to attract people back but you'd be wrong. They continued to cut back on things, like wheel chairs.
Towards the end of my career, if you can call it a career, two elderly women came to my booth at Park Place. One of the women sat down at a slot machine and she was breathing heavily. Her friend explained that her buddy had problems walking and didn't realize casinos were so damn big. She needed a wheel chair to get back to her cars but was told by security that wheel chairs
were for high rollers only.
In the old days I would have just ordered security to provide the chair and had a couple of guards beheaded as a warning to the others. But by this time the CCC was in Please God Just Let This Hang Together Until I Get My 25 Years In mode. So I'd have to handle this with stragedy. I went over to the security podium and asked to speak to the shift supervisor. The guy looked to be about 12 years old. I explained to him that I had a very tired old person at my booth who needed a wheel chair. I told him I understood Ballys' policy and I respected it but he was going to have to explain it to the patron himself. So he follows me back to the booth, sees the elderly woman, deflates and says, "Wait right here ma'am, I'll be back with a wheel chair.
Mrs. Silverman reminded me of this story over Easter and I thought I'd share it with you. It was one of the few times I felt my existence on the planet was justified. Oh by the way, the guy on my left is Danny Franchetti. His presence implies no endorsement, I just like the photo.
May 4, 2013
I Have a Box
And that's where we stand. It's the box my laptop came in and it makes Cadbury very, very happy.
May 4, 2013
May 2, 2013
May 1, 2013
Hannibal and Defiance
I wasn't going to watch Hannibal, after all the good Doctor Lecter has been done to death (snicker). But a writer named Diane Ademu-John raved about the show on her Twitter feed
so I gave it a try.
So here's what it's about, Will Graham, played by Hugh Dancy is a FBI profiler. He got out of the profiling game because it was taking a terrible psychological toll and started teaching. He was
persuaded to go back to profiling by Special Agent-in-Charge Jack Crawford, played by Laurence Fishburne. Crawford is aware of the damage the job is doing to Graham but believes that Graham's mental health is an acceptable price to pay for getting serial killers off the street. The third main cast member is Dr. Hannibal Lecter, played by Mads Mikkelsen. He's an urbane and brilliant forensic psychiatrist who sometimes works with the FBI. And he's also a cannibalistic serial killer.
Last week's episode brought the whole show into focus for me. Lecter is treating Graham, who is having sleepwalking episodes. Lecter tells Graham that his work as a profiler is damaging him, that Crawford knows it's damaging him but doesn't care. Now this is self serving advice, Lecter is aware that Graham is one of the few people who could catch him. It's also the correct advice.
Crawford is using Graham and pulls a whole passive aggressive shtick that always manages to keep the insecure Graham in line.
In short Hannibal is a wonderful show. It's also on the verge of being cancelled. Fine, these things happen.
Then there's Defiance. That show is about a coalition of aliens who leave their depleted worlds to take over Earth. They succeed in occupying the planet but Earth destroys their fleet.
Now the aliens and humans share the post apocalyptic planet, kinda/sorta working together to rebuild. I was only able to get about 20 minutes into the pilot before I bailed.
I was prejudiced going in, the idea that a group of aliens had developed interstellar travel but could find no better solution for their problems then to come to Earth and take our shit just didn't sit right with me. Hell in 2013 we have NASA floating the idea of moving a meteor into lunar orbit and strip mining the thing. So I'm supposed to buy the notion that the invaders couldn't have come up with a better solution to their problems then invading Earth? And then there's the whole alien coalition with everybody at about the same level of technology thing. I know that Star Trek has the same thing going but I have a soft spot for Trek that I don't have for any other program (unless it involves Superman).
Not saying it's a bad program and I'm glad it's doing well in the ratings. Maybe Defiance's success will lead to other programs more to my liking. But I'm hoping that Hannibal manages to hang on and while there's a lot of stuff I watch that I can't recommend, I do recommend Hannibal for as long as it lasts.
April 30, 2013
The Song of my People
April 28, 2013
Riley Freeman on Video Game Violence
This is from a comic strip called The Boondocks, circa 2000. Riley and his older brother Huey are playing video games:
Huey: I don't get this whole thing with video games.
Riley: What, you mean why you keep loosing?
Huey: No. Everybody is worried about kids and violence, right? And kids using guns...so why don't they go after the gun manufacturers and gun dealers instead of people
who make video games. It doesn't make sense.
Riley: Sure it does. Pretend you're some stupid parent activist person. Who would you rather start beef with - some nerd who makes video games or some dude with a warehouse
full of AK-47s?
Huey: You know...I'm actually much more impressed by that point then I care to admit.
Which is probably why Governor Christie is proposing a bill that would forbid stores from selling M rated games to kids. The federal courts have declared a similar law in California unconstitutional but it beats trying to shut down the guy with the warehouse.
April 28, 2013
The Glass Teat
Years ago I picked up a copy of The Glass Teat by Harlan Ellison. It was a stripped book. You see, in the old days if, say, a drug store couldn't sell a paperback book they'd
tear off the cover and send it back to the publisher for credit. After that the book was supposed to be pulped but they always ended up at garage sales and the like. I picked
up my copy in the 70s and while it's in fair condition it's really no longer readable. The other day I found out it's been released in ebook format. Forward into the future I guess.
In 1968 Ellison started writing a television column for the LA Free Press. It ran for two years and they were collected in two books, The Glass Teat and The Other Glass Teat.
Ellison can write, The Glass Teat is the funniest and darkest book about media I've ever read. I hadn't picked the thing
up in about 25 years and it still holds up. And a lot of his agita about television could be applied to the internet too (and he has little use for the net as it turns out).
And so I'll reread and try to remember my youth.
April 28, 2013
It's All Right They're Just Sleeping
In this case it's true, I just knocked them out.
It took a bit before I was up to snuff on this expansion. It just threw me into the deep end of the pool. But after about four hours I recovered my old
skills and began to rest a little easy. And this Dishonored content should stand me well when the next Splinter Cell is released this August. Let me tell you, alChandler may
be old but he is still (relatively) unbowed.
April 25, 2013
Last night I watched Lincoln. It was a good film and Daniel Day-Lewis definitely deserved his Oscar but that wasn't my big take away from the movie, it was this:
It was dark in 1865, that's my take away.
In 1865 you had candle light, oil lamps and, if you were state of the art, gas lighting. So at night it was dark by our standards, even if you were a head of state like Lincoln.
Most films set in the past don't bother with trying to recreate authentic looking lighting but apparently Spielberg did and for some reason that was the first thing I noticed. Normally
I'm not a visual person.
And now that I just sent it back to Netflix, I kind of want to see it a second time. That doesn't happen very often with me.
April 23, 2013
You is a novel written by Austin Grossman and it's about game developers in the 80s and 90s. I love it.
The characters are all in their teens in the 80s, making computer games in high school computer classes and at home. Now I was in my late 20s and early 30s during the 80s but the novel
captures my feeling of joy when I discovered I could actually turn on the computer and travel to another fucking world.
I'll tell you the book makes me feel 30 years younger.
April 21, 2013
Alison Haislip Reads Sorority Girl Email
A bit of the old backstory, Delta Gamma Sorority is a sorority and they have a chapter at the University of Maryland. They were matched up with the Sigma Nu fraternity during
Greek Week and one of Delta's leaders felt that her girls were behaving awkwardly. So she sent every member of the sorority a profanity laced email. Since this is 2013 and not 1978, one
of the recipients forwarded the email to Gawker who promptly posted the whole thing. The chapter president was horrified and sent Gawker this polite email:
My name is [redacted] and I am the current president of Delta Gamma at the University of Maryland. It has been brought to my attention that you recently published an unsavory email that was sent out over my chapter's list-serve. Is it possible for you to either remove the article or just remove the names "Delta Gamma" and "Sigma Nu" from your article? This email absolutely does not reflect our chapter's values nor Sigma Nu's and any assistance you can give us is greatly appreciated.
And they posted that too. And now it's YouTube video. The 21st century does have its amusing moments.
April 21, 2013
Future Shock: Part 3
This one is just a picture of the ISS making a pass over Stonehenge. If you stop and think of it the two technologies are related.
April 20, 2013
Future Shock: Part 2
I watch a show called Person of Interest. It's about a billionaire named Harold Finch. Finch built a computer for the government that predicts potential terrorist threats. However the Machine (that's what it's called) can also predict individual crimes. While the government isn't interested in stopping murders, Finch is, and aided by ex CIA agent John Resse, that's what he does. He can do it because he has a back door into the Machine.
When Finch and Resse have a suspect, they'll use the Machine to tap into surveillance cameras in New York City to follow the suspect around. I'm afraid they only save people in New York,
If you're about to be murdered in Tacoma, you're pretty much shit out of luck. Anyway, it's the surveillance thing that has me a little winded.
Now we don't have the Machine (that's my working assumption anyway) but the day after the Boston bombings we had this:
There were a metric shit ton of surveillance cameras in the area and the police and/or the FBI were able to come up with two suspects so quickly. And I'm not complaining, not at all.
It's just that I sort of dismissed surveillance cameras as technology that kinda/sorta worked but really didn't a lot of the time. The idea that surveillance can help identify suspects at that speed floors me. So then, there's that.
April 20, 2013
Future Shock: Part 1
That's William Gibson. Thirty years ago he wrote Neuromancer and coined the word Cyberspace:
"Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts... A graphic representation of data abstracted from banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding..."
Thirty Years later my wallpaper is of him trying out Google Glass. In 1970 Alan Toffler defined the term future shock as: "too much change in too short a period of time." I haven't reached that stage yet but I must admit to the occasional feeling of disorientation when I stumble across something like the Gibson picture. It is a cool picture though, don't you think?
April 20, 2013
Star Wars: Episode VII
April 19, 2013
This Movie Must be Made
April 18, 2013
Sparrowmoon's New Look
Yes, we're still playing.
April 17, 2013
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Logo courtesy of Mrs. Silverman.