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Obviously, I've not been using LiveJournal for awhile, not even to lurk. This isn't because I'm using something else for my blogging, although I do have a Twitter feed that I post to fairly regularly: twitter.com/zonemind

Awhile back I decided to try making some changes both to how I portrayed myself to the world, and to how I spent my time. Both of these have had a mostly positive impact.

I've been called back to LJ by spammers, and I've shut down the comments section as a result of their actions. It's "friends-only" now. But, there's not going to be a whole lot of call for commentary. Even if I return to long-form blogging, it's very unlikely to be here. For one thing, I've spent a lot of the past two years learning CSS and other web dev mojo (although I much prefer app dev); I've owned my own domain name for a decade, and maybe it'd be nice to finally do something with that.

This is not a goodbye. If I do wind up doing something web-related, I'll try to announce it here, too. This is just my way of saying that if you miss me, I'm still around, I'm just metaphorically hanging out in different bars and drinking a lot less than I used to.



 Very briefly: It is shocking to me that Assange is so stupid as to believe that releasing his “insurance” file was anything other than signing his own death warrant.

I realize that the encryption is very good. It doesn’t matter. Whether via cryptology or via “rubber hose” acquisition of the key, that file shall be decoded. It is simply going to happen. It may take time. It may take a long time… but, I doubt it. If three people know that key, at least one of them is going to be willing to give it up.

In other words, he’s already shot the hostage he was holding to fend off the US.

Now let’s talk about the real problem. Never mind the US. That’s not the real threat. The US government doesn’t like killing people. It does kill them, sometimes in great numbers and in awful ways, but it doesn’t enjoy it.

Instead, let us say you are a power hostile to the US, even a minor one, and that killing people is one of your favoured ways of dealing with problems. What do you want? You want that file released as soon as possible. You want the names of informants who might have spoken to US agents. You want the US Foreign Service disrupted to the maximum possible extent. Moreover, you have nothing to lose by the release of those unexpurgated files.

So you kill Assange. Maybe you try to frame the US for it, but you don’t have to try very hard. People want to believe in an all-powerful CIA that is yet so unremittingly evil as to behave against its own its interests in the most elementary ways.

You kill him, and the files pop open. Wikileaks, whom you hate, is deprived of its figurehead. The US is embarrassed. Your own security leaks are closed.

Julian Assange is a dead man.

Boxcars All The Time

Played Fallout: New Vegas. It's alright. I liked Fallout 3 a bit better, although the mechanical upgrades in NV are interesting. I especially liked the new ammo/armour mechanics. The new crafting mechanic was mostly a waste of time, though. Even if I'd been playing in Hardcore Mode, I can't seeing it being worth the effort to keep track of all the recipes and ingredients, especially with the way encumbrance works.

The comparison chart for NV versus 3 showed that NV had more quests and locations than 3. What it doesn't show is just how many of those quests in NV are "FedEx" type quests (i.e. boring), or "find the McGuffin you missed the first time you were in this location and THEN FedEx it to somewhere else" (i.e. even more boring). It was original Baldur's-Gate-bad on that score, maybe worse. Also, many of the locations are just shacks with a little bit of ammo in them (i.e. still boring). If I've killed every ghoul in the haunted factory, I don't really want to go back later to slog down to the bottom level and get the Illudium Q-34 Modulator, okay?

Character creation was largely the same as in previous games, although I didn't notice a "sweet roll" in-joke/chargen question. Given the theme, I named my character "Lucky". Yes, he had maximum Luck. It was often hilarious, especially when he beat the House (a joke that makes even more sense if you've played the game), and once or twice I laughed out loud at a comical botch by a baddie, or a peculiar diagnosis by "Doctor Lucky".

About two-thirds of the way into the storyline I got fed up with waiting around/dealing with various factional BS, murdered my way into the Big Bad's base, and used a nuke to assassinate him (I had been keeping it in my robot for just such a rainy day). I was pleasantly surprised that the game rolled with this, and that random dialogue around the main town reflected my actions. About a half-dozen "Quest Failed" alerts did not convince me to reload the game, and from there I went straight to the ending.

Sadly, the ending was very meh. For one thing, during the very final confrontation the voice acting was extremely iffy, which sorta ruined standing down an entire army more or less by myself (excepting a "few" robots I'd found lying around).

Doubly irritating was the last little coda at the end with one of my henchmen. It seems like a setup for a DLC sequel, was clearly ominous, and was something I'd been carrying a special gun specifically to deal with -- I'm paranoid that way, and had been expecting a betrayal since first encounter. Of course, since it was a cut-scene at the end the game, there was nothing I could do but wait for the credits.

I can't say much more without throwing around some real spoilers, but I will say I was mildly surprised by what Mr. House was not, and that the final confrontation with him was kinda creepy (in a good way).

All-in-all, a very mixed bag. Not Obsidian's best work: way less interesting than Mass Effect; narratively less interesting/mechanically more interesting than Fallout 3. There's a less-clear sense of style, reflected in the game music, which oscillates wildly between Big Band/Swing and Honky Tonk, but doesn't stop off at Bluegrass or even good old-fashioned Rock (and there is an entire Elvis impersonation SCHOOL in the game). I had many of the same narrative (e.g. predictability, lack of empathetic characters) and mechanical frustrations (e.g. AI pathing! argh! badly scripted ambushes! double argh!) with New Vegas that I did with Dragon Age, and even noticed some of the same voices, which put me in a bad mood. Some voice acting is actually very good, but the majority is mediocre and the rest is terrible. Don't even ask me what an Australian accent was doing spang in the middle of post-Apocalyptic Nevada (it was even more out-of-place than it seems, and inconsistent in the bargain, for no discernable purpose whatever). The ending is not KotOR 2-level bad, but it's kind of a bummer (at least the one I got, and it was the "I win" ending).

Final note: Felicia Day rocks in this game. And Wil Wheaton's "character"? Hilarious.

Verdict: Not Recommended (unless you're a huge Felicia Day fanboy, which I'm not but can totally understand)


When I was in high school I calibrated my work output specifically to get 'C' grades, so that I wouldn't get crap for being "condescending", "arrogant" or whatever the word was that meant "hated due to envy". I graduated with a 2.49 GPA, which was 0.01 away from my target. However well-executed it may have been, THAT WAS A TERRIBLE MISTAKE!

But those social pressures still exist, and still exert an influence now, nearly two decades later.

It should go a long way towards explaining why I react with extreme, even violent, hostility to accusations of elitism or condescension.

Road Trip

I don't think I've ever been this reluctant to go on a trip.

Recent Gaming

I am currently playing the second-coolest character I have ever played in an RPG.

The coolest character I ever played was in an earlier version of Pendragon. I played his son, too, who achieved the Grail according to the official, published rules for that achievement (which is to say your "Heroic Sanctified" Tier 10 gear is crap, and I spit on your feeble accomplishments thereto pertaining). My original Welsh knight, however, was honourable, wise, and cunning as a sack full of particularly well-read foxes – a paladin with a biting sense of humour, a loving family, and a serious talent for telling misleading truths. Pendragon is not a forgiving game, but he survived well into old age; when he died at last in battle, his sacrifice saved a kingdom.

I'm not really expecting to hit that level of awesome again.

What has shocked me is that I've even come into the vicinity while playing Warhammer Fantasy. The setting is garbage: Tolkien-via-Gygax meets 15th Century Europe  meets King Crimson (and you have just read the most obscure pop culture reference I've ever made). Key setting details are built around not-very-obscure multilingual puns, and there's enough British "eccentricity" to replace the BBC's entire line-up of bad sitcoms. The game system, while rollicking, is not deep and throws around too many dice (I called it "White Wolf Syndrome" until I played 7th Sea).

But my character is deep. The narrative environment he inhabits is also surprisingly nuanced. The myriad flaws of the system do not prevent it from supporting this narrative depth in ways that Dungeons & Dragons never achieved. Social "combat" is engaging, and far less cumbersome than Exalted (the only other big name game to give more than cursory treatment to the subject). I've played GURPS games with more intrigue and breathless tension, but outside of a few games I've run myself, this is the most fun I've had with an RPG in many years.

Kudos to those responsible, then: the GM, the other players, and Fantasy Flight Games.

Star Trek: Tachyon Interference Array

Title: Escape from Starbase Urquhart (Part 1)

Summary: The team flees the destruction of Starbase Urquhart during the opening moments of the V'Ger Incident. The coincidental arrival of a computer-controlled starship leads to a mystery. Alan faces a dangerous adversary from his past.

First Aired: 03 April 2010

Updating the Smarty Cap

I seem to do pretty well using a Q&A format, so this update will take that form.

Read more...Collapse )


The Pen is Mightier…

I completed my creative writing course today, probably the last I'll have to take, and possibly the last I shall ever take at all.

It is no surprise that my work was regarded as exceptional, but I feel like I should pretend that I am surprised. Years of effort, and I still have not begun to master the easy grace and humility I regard so highly. Sometimes I am sure that I have got the wrong end of it, or that it is some innate quality that I can never hope to gain.

But I cannot help but feel, and comment on, a deep and bubbling glee when a phrase or sentence or poem that I have revised and fussed with many times then strikes like a white hot bolt upon the room and eyes turn with shock and amazement at the loveliness of my precious craft.

So why, then, do I hate these kinds of classes?