psi_star_psi: (It's Not Lupin)
As I mentioned a while back, for more than a decade I've been trying to figure out the names of a couple of books I read back in 5th or 6th grade. I finally stumbled onto the correct search parameters and determined the titles and author back in July. In preparation for my vacation last month, I ordered the books from the library. Since I'm pretty slow to finish off books these days, I just finished the second book tonight. (It's due today, and I've run out of renewals.)

Time at the Top by Edward Ormondroyd is the story of Susan Shaw, a girl of about 12 who has a very bad day but still performs a good deed for a mysterious woman who gives her "three". Three what? Susan discovers that she gets three round trips in her apartment building's elevator from 1960 to 1881. Susan, whose father is a widower, meets the two children living in the house occupying the same spot as her apartment building. Their widowed mother is being courted by a suitor that her children suspect of being a scoundrel only after her fortune. Using her acting skills, Susan convinces the suitor that the widow is both bankrupt and afflicted by smallpox. He proves his true nature by fleeing immediately. The children's triumph is short-lived when they discover that the widow really is bankrupt. Can time-travel somehow bring about a happy resolution?

The second book is premised entirely on the conclusion of the first, so I'm giving warning that I must complete a description of the first tome to proceed.
Spoilers ahead )

I've often wondered why these books stuck with me so. Most of the details faded over the years, so I enjoyed re-reading them. The thing that always stuck with me is how the author threw himself into the story. I think it was this flirting with the fourth wall that I enjoyed particularly. In the first book, the author's role is mostly passive. His curiosity drives him to seek the scraps of evidence that the outlandish tale he's heard second-hand may have some truth, but that's the extent of it. It's just the standard "found story" wrapper from Don Quixote, The Scarlet Letter, The Bridge of San Luis Rey, etc. In the second book, though, he is a full-fledged participant. Though his scope of action is limited, he manages to redirect the timeline to the "proper" path when it seems hopelessly derailed.

Anyway, I like these books. I fully recommend them to you.
psi_star_psi: (freaky)
During the first week of the Great Road Trip last month, when I was alone at home, I caved and got Saints Row 3 off of Steam. I played SR2 almost entirely during [livejournal.com profile] aelfie's time at school, so she didn't see much of the game. When I tried to describe it, she told me flat out that she was disappointed that I would play something so completely without any redeeming value.

This time, she saw me playing the actual game. And even though I was wearing headphones, she was laughing out loud at the ridiculous things going on. I think the element that won her over was when I was tearing around the city in a convertible with a tiger in the passenger seat. The tiger periodically reaches over and waps the driver upside the head, leading to a reasonable loss of control of the vehicle. This makes as much sense as anything else in the game. And it is both howlingly funny and an enormous amount of fun.

I didn't describe my avatar in my SR2 review, because I was frankly embarrassed to admit that I constructed a character so un-PC for my sociopath gang leader. I used the same character design in this game. A few weeks ago, I read an article about a new talk show, which discussed the host's previous career with pictures from some of her films. And that's when I realized what my subconscious had slipped by - my avatar is quite clearly based on Queen Latifah (as in Set It Off, which I've never seen). I'm don't think that makes it any less appalling, but I'm relieved to know I didn't conjure the image out of nowhere.

The enemy gangs in this version are Euro-mafia, Mexican masked wrestlers, and TRON-fashioned hackers. Mutated super-soldiers appear when you really antagonize a faction, and eventually the special forces are sent in to enforce martial law. It is insane.

I fully recommend this game to people 18+.
psi_star_psi: (FatherFrac)
Ike is sick this weekend, so we're letting him watch too much TV. Yesterday, he couldn't make up his mind what to watch, so I pulled out [livejournal.com profile] aelfie's Ma and Pa Kettle collection. I've never seen any of them, so we started with the first one, The Egg and I. It turned out that Jen had previously shown it to the kids, and Ike likes it, so this was a good choice.

Things I learned from this movie -

There's no way nowadays that the plot would last past the first scene, where Fred MacMurray surprises Claudette Colbert on their wedding night by going all Green Acres without any prior negotiation. This is what the the word "annulment" is designed for. Different times? Eh, it gets the story going.

The "at least it's not raining" gag is older than dirt. Not a huge revelation, but my previous example was Young Frankenstein.

I always think of Fred MacMurray as the very stable "My Three Sons" dad. Yet every movie that I've seen him in casts him as a total wackjob - this, The Absent-Minded Professor/Son of Flubber, The Happiest Millionaire. I haven't seen Double Indemnity, so I don't know if he's a kook or a schlub in that one.

I understand "product of its time", but it is still jarring to see the casual racism in film's of that period. Oh, well, I'm not planning to screen Birth of a Nation any time soon.

In all, I enjoyed the film despite Gray's vocal boredom throughout. I am interested to see what happens once the Kettle's become the main characters of the subsequent films.
psi_star_psi: (Thank you for sharing)
It's been a while since we had a good book-banning story make the rounds. And here, from the fine state of North Carolina where my parents and sister live, we have a great one!

School board bans Invisible Man from high school library

OK, a mother spent 12 pages detailing her objections to the book. Why is this anyone else's problem? Parent your own child and keep your nose out of everyone else's business. It is not your job to enforce your standards on everyone else.

Just to be civil, I didn't use the BTTH or Justifiable Homicide icons here. But I think this choice makes my opinion pretty clear.
psi_star_psi: (KBDH)
Saints Row 2 is a GTA-style open-world sandbox game where you play the leader of the Third Street Saints criminal gang. Apparently you were blown up real good at the end of the first game (unavailable for PC, so I couldn't try it) and spent five years in a coma. You wake up in prison, but that's not going to hold you for any time worth mentioning. Things in town have changed in your absence, so it's time to remind everyone who really owns this town.

Let me say up front that the protagonist of this game is a horrible, horrible person. Many of the side missions in the game are reprehensible activities. I am a bad person, and I should feel bad for having played this. Now for the but...

I laughed so hard at some of the dialogue in this thing. One of the less awful side missions is one where you lower property values in an area by spraying the contents of a sewage truck on everything in sight - people, buildings, the impotent police. The commentary from the truck driver had me nearly in tears many times.

The voice acting is excellent, and the credits show why. Eliza Dushku, NPH, Daniel Dae Kim, and Michael Dorn. Nice group.

The best part, though, was the musical selection. Sure, there were all sorts of rap, hip-hop, grunge, 80s, and so forth, but the music stores also had a Classical selection. I collected the whole set of that genre early on. Tearing around the city at full speed with a pack of some enemy gang's vehicles hot on my trail, spraying automatic weapon fire back at them while they burst into fireballs, all while The Hall of the Mountain King or The Ride plays...yeah, I now get the appeal of these games.

And none of my kids will ever get near one while they're in my house. This just means they'll play at someone else's house, but I do what I can.
psi_star_psi: (Iago-NS)
As I've been chronicling here for the last six years, Joey Chestnut, the human Homer Simpson, has been winning the Nathan's Hot Dog contest. The former record was six consecutive wins by Takeru Kobayashi. Chestnut tied that record last year.

And now, like some omnivorous Dennis Connor, our national pride is finally restored as Chestnut wins his seventh consecutive Nathan's Hot Dog contest.

I know I'll sleep better tonight.
psi_star_psi: (simpsons)
Day 3 of [livejournal.com profile] aelfie at school in Sacramento. I'm on vacation, Ike is at Grandma's, and the other three are with me. We're all still alive and vaguely fed.

Monday, we went to the Children's Discovery Museum. Our membership runs out on Friday, so I wanted to fit that in because Gray enjoys it. Ike has aged out of interest, though, so we're more likely to visit the Tech from now on. Everyone had a good time. Afterward, I took them grocery shopping. That wasn't so great an experience, but we did end up with fruit for everyone.

Tuesday we lazed about for half the day. When I asked where the kids would like to go, they all three replied that they wanted to return to the CDM. Whatever. They really like the Curious George area.

Today, it was all errands. After lunch, we set off for a circuit of town. First stop, lunch at a Chinese place nearby. Elli had a bit of eggroll and some potstickers. Gwen and Gray had rice. White rice. I tried to entice them with the other rice options, but they would have none of it. Bah.

Next stop, the bike shop. Gwen destroyed her back tire (not the tube, which was the last repair after Ike punched holes in it with a nail) skidding about. The ususal place didn't have any 18" tires. "Sorry, they're non-standard. But some shop in the area will have them. Just call around first." The first recommended place was closed for renovation, taking advantage of the long weekend to avoid excessive closure. The second place said, "Yeah, that's a hard to find size. Let me check...Oh, wow, we have it!" So off we went to that place. I got two tires, since they had them, and an inner tube. Gray kept trying to grab a pump, but I refused to get yet another one. "It's broken!" he claimed. "No, it's just fine," I replied.

Next stop, Fry's, for a new TV remote. The kids have broken the one that comes with it. Hmm, at least this one lasted nearly 1.5 years. We used to go through a remote every six months for the first few years in this house. One universal remote later, and on with our quests.

My glasses broke a couple of weeks ago (a saga recounted on Facebook), so I ordered two pair for replacement. The first pair I got last week as a rush order, but now I wanted to retrieve the second pair. The shop is next to a Jamba Juice. I gave the kids a choice -- Jamba Juice or ice cream. Ice cream won 2-1, so I owe Elli some JJ later this week. Off to Foster's Freeze for a cool intermission.

Last stop was the library. We reviewed the books in the baskets to see what items were ready to return before leaving, so dropped them off on the way in. Everyone picked a movie, and Gray and Elli picked books. I messed around with my phone and finally hit a jackpot.

For about 15 years, I've been trying to determine the names of a specific pair of books I read about 35 years ago. My search parameters never turned up anything. But today, I tried "New York elevator time travel" and finally found...someone searching for a completely different book. However, at the start of the replies was the note that the other seeker's book clearly wasn't Time at the Top. Ding! We have a winner.

Time at the Top and it's sequel All in Good Time by Edward Ormondroyd. (Yes, yes, this was the 'droyd I was looking for.) Good grief, they even made a movie of it (though moved the action to Philadelphia for some reason). These two books are burned into my psyche (if not my memory), much like Dogsbody, another book I could never remember the name of until someone mentioned it else-net recently.

It's hard to say why they stuck with me. I think it's that I thought it was one of the few time travel kids books that bothered to get the logic consistent. I actually wrote a letter to the authors of Danny Dunn, Time Traveller, calling out that they screwed up the logic. The book was already 15 years old by then, so I never saw the retraction. Anyway, these two novels are narrated by a third party who only sees what's going on from the outside and pieces the bits together from conversations with the protagonist (they live in the same apartment building), her journal, and searching for evidence in the historical record. Yet he doesn't just passively observe, for he is critical to the outcome of the temporal shenanigans. Anyway, just go read these books, or read them to your kids. They're worth the time. [sic]

We finally returned home after four hours of errands in ludicrous heat. The first thing I see is Charlie sitting on the back porch, looking at me with a sad expression that says, "Did you forget something before your left the house, asshat?" Well, crap. I let him in, made certain he found his way to the water bowl, and kept it filled. I feel terrible.

When the heat dropped below 90F around 7:30, I went out to the garage to deal with Gwen's bike. Removed the rim, popped off the wrecked tire and tube, got out the new ones, retrieved the pump, and connected the pump to the valve...

Where's the part of the pump that connects to the valve? I've seen this pump look like that before, that last time someone lost the little plastic screw-on sealing gasket thing that goes at the end. Bloody hell. Gray tried to warn me. The next-door neighbors aren't answering their door, so bicycle repair goes on the list for another day. I cleaned up the pieces and came inside to write this.
psi_star_psi: (SuperDad2010)
I left work early on Friday to attend Ike's school project presentation. [livejournal.com profile] aelfie couldn't attend due to Gwen and Gray being sick. Elli wanted to watch, so Jen dropped her off with me. Ike and his classmates presented their animal reports. Ike had selected the cheetah. Unfortunately, he was last of the five students to present, so Elli was pretty restless by that time.

We headed home afterward for Friday movie night. Ike and I watched Thor, because his class studied Norse mythology this year. And because we have get started on the Avengers precursor movies sometime.

Saturday, Jen's mom came down to watch Gray while the rest of us went to KublaCon. Ike and I had a great time last year, so we figured the girls would also enjoy it this time. While registering, the kids saw Wooden Wars and asked to play. We found the signup sheet and registered them for 3pm. We then spent a bit of time in the Kids' Room playing various games and grabbed lunch. We cruised the dealer's room -- each child picked out a set of polygonal dice, and I bought a couple of games off of the college friend I encountered last year. This time I knew his name, thanks to looking him up in my yearbooks after last time. Much less awkward. Some more time in the Kids' Room, then off to the Wooden Wars.

I'd never heard of this game before, which makes sense since it was only funded on Kickstarter last fall. It's a miniatures battle, but played with wooden soldiers on a (I estimate) 12' x 12' section of floor. We had 20 players (which was a bit much overall) between the two teams, each player controlling one unit of infantry, cavalry, or artillery. A unit has an officer and some number of troops. A turn is move or shoot, except cavalry which can do both or double-move. Artillery gets a number of shots equal to the remaining guns, other units get one shot. Ranged combat is performed by throwing a bouncy-ball across the mat, with the requirement that it must bounce at least once to count. Whatever is knocked over is a casualty, decreasing the unit strength. Melee combat uses 6-sided dice. A unit with an officer remaining at the end of the turn rallies one casualty, and officers get a saving throw. Victory is either elimination of the opposition or capture the flag.

So, Ike joined the red army as an infantry commander on the right wing, while the girls joined the blue army opposite, Elli as a two-gun artillery and Gwen as some sort of elite cavalry. They spent the first portion of the battle sniping at each other, but Gwen moved and fired her way to the middle of the map. Only one other player had been as daring, but she was wiped out early. So Gwen found herself facing another cavalry unit and charged at a double-move, wiping them out in the initial attack. Ike's infantry, now directly ahead of Gwen, fired at close range and knocked over her officer, who recovered at the end of the turn. By this point she was drawing a lot of fire, but no one was really able to hit worth a darn with the balls. A couple of the other blue army folks softened up Ike's unit, then she charged his remaining troops and routed them. This left her facing a four-gun artillery unit. The game designer pointed out that she would be wiped out in melee due to the number of troops in the artillery unit, so she ran behind them in a dash for the flag. The artillery couldn't fire so close (the one-bounce rule made firing at very close range nearly impossible), so the sole infantry unit by the flag formed a defensive square to brace for the impending cavalry charge. While members of both armies flailed about trying to influence the outcome, the final straw came when a red team infantry unit aimed for Gwen's cavalry but missed and decimated the defensive square protecting its own flag. Gwen's unit charged the poor lonely officer of that unit and captured the flag. Hurrah!

(I may have been giving her some advice during all of this.)

Ike left with Jen for the Kids' Room after he was eliminated, so I took the girls back after the battle. We played for a while longer, then set off for home around 6:30. A fellow had been running several sessions of Mage Knights under a banner that said "Cliks are for Kids". Har, har! He was handing out starter sets (First one's free!), and Elli got one. I recall seeing some Hero Cliks figures many years ago, back when they were a new thing. Ike and I played several times over the rest of the weekend. Between this and the polygon dice, we're very close to full-on RPG with these folks. Yeeeesssss!

Sunday we played games, did chores (including Ike unpacking and using our new electric lawn mower), and the kids had their video game time. Monday we went swimming at the Y with an indoor kid-friendly pool, then [livejournal.com profile] allanh and his husband came over for dinner and some Fluxx games.

It was a good weekend.
psi_star_psi: (Zarkov Gun)
Things polished off in the last couple of weeks -

Captain Vorpatril's Alliance - Latest "Vorkosigan" by Lois McMaster Bujold. I missed the previous one, but it turns out they are chronologically swapped. All for the best. In this installment, we finally have an adventure entirely about That Idiot Ivan. Who is, as we know, quite competent on his own. He's just not Miles -- fast talk is not his thing. Still, hilarity ensues, most of Vorbarr Sultana remains standing by the end, and Emperor Gregor does not burst a blood vessel. Quite. Having named one of my daughters after a Bujold character, my opinion of her work starts at a high level. It was a fine book.

Portal 2 - As I noted in March, I got the "all the songs" Jonathan Coulton collection. Inspired by "Still Alive", I replayed Portal. Just as I was finishing it off, Steam had a huge discount on Portal 2. Well, there you go.
GLaDOS has been, justifiably, compared to SHODAN. But her moment of appearance in this second game is reminiscent of the arrival of Sinistar. Every bit as underwear-soiling, just accomplished in her more understated way. I laughed out loud many times at her lines. The script on this is excellent, the new gameplay features are nice additions, and the closing song has grown on me, just like "Still Alive". All this, and it was a good 2.5-3 times longer than the first game. Awesome all around.

Ghost Trick - This was originally for one of the handheld game things, but I played it on my phone. This is a fascinating puzzle game with a great mystery story. You start out as an amnesiac newly-deceased spirit learning about your Powers of the Dead. You can hop from object to object at a short range of about a meter, "activate" objects (turn knobs, switch lights, open cabinets), traverse phone lines, and link to corpses. Linking to a corpse allows you to talk with the dead spirit for some basic info, then use your last special ability to rewind time to 4 minutes before their death. You travel the city seeking info on yourself, using your abilities to avert people's deaths, and gradually unravel the vast mystery that explains how you can do all of this in the first place. Wonderful game.
psi_star_psi: (freaky)
A flurry of video game completion lately.

Venetica - As the current incarnation of Death's daughter, you must hunt down the cabal of necromancers who plan a coup over the power of Death in Renaissance Venice. If you are killed, you transition to the land of Death for a while before returning. The return costs a charge that may be recovered by defeating opponents with a particular magic sword. Your charges increase over the course of the game. This is a third-person action RPG. I thought it was pretty good.

Rage - You are the sole survivor during the re-emergence of an Arc, one of a number of underground facilities designed to preserve humanity after an apocalypse. You find yourself in a wasteland of bandit camps, settlements among the ruins, mutant nests, and the high-tech forces of the Authority. Soup up your growing collection of jalopies with armor and weaponry for vehicle combat in arenas and while traveling between missions. Wow, these game designers are lucky they don't have Bethesda's lawyers on their ass...wait, it was published by Bethesda and developed by id? Why didn't they just call it Fallout Racing and be done with it?
Anyway, this game is excellent. You acquire blueprints to make handy gizmos, collect cards for a gambling mini-game, and indulge in car racing/exploding. And blast the bejeezus out of everything in sight. A high quality FPS.

Ghostbusters - Join the four classic Ghostbusters as the silent Rookie. Master the use of your proton pack as additional capabilities become available just in time to meet new paranormal threats. Enjoy the schadenfreude as The Asshat of the 80s returns for more abuse. (That would be William Atherton. I had a post here award him that title, but I can't find it just now.) Another very well done game.
psi_star_psi: (Speed-RacerX)
Some context

I've been on a kick for the past few months to catch up on some things I've been delaying for no good reason. During the holidays I tried to install Thief 2, but my system refused. Then Steam offered all three Thief games for about $6, so I snapped that up. I've been working through Thief 2 for the last couple of months. I'll say more when I review it, but it still holds up as an awesome game even though it's 14 years old. Similarly, I installed Arcanum, which I hadn't played since, from the file timestamps, October of 2001. Oh, and I determined that I was hopelessly stuck on GTA 3 on the PS2, but I'm doing pretty well at Vice City.

I'm 2/3rds of the way through Firefly, working through a Dresden novel from 2009 (Turn Coat), and finally got around to buying the complete Jonathan Coulton collection. Of course, [livejournal.com profile] aelfie is using my car for the next several weeks, so I can't plug my phone in to listen to them on the drive to/from work. Still, I'm working my way through them.

Sez Jen: "Are you planning to die on me? Why are you working on your bucket list?" No, I'm not planning that, but I do want to get around to some of the things I've always meant to before I forget them all.

So far, though, I'm just adding to the overall list of "In Progress" items. Bah.

At least I know that later this year when Wasteland 2 comes out, it will include a free copy of Wasteland. Which you better believe I will play, even if it is 25 years old. Mike Meckler & his MacintoshTM says, "Entering the temple -- The Temple of Blood!"
psi_star_psi: (CG-ABS)
Some stuff I've done lately -

Finished the game Deus Ex: Human Revolution, the third game in the Deus Ex series. The first was one of the greatest games ever made. The second was a nice game, but much too console-ified, and lost some of the spirit of the original. I've discussed this previously. This third game is ... drumroll... Awesome! They went back to the origins in just the right ways, yet added new capabilities smoothly. You can blast through killing everything in sight, or you can stealth your way and only knock out the opponents. Stealth and non-lethal are worth more XP, so the morality is layered on obviously. But you'll certainly get through faster just blowing everyone away. Your call. The advancement path is free-form and sensible within the context of the story. The plot is just an intricate as the original. This is a proud addition to the series, and I fully recommend it as worthy of your gaming time.

Read Physics for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines by Richard A. Muller. I TA'd for this fellow back at Berkeley, and when I decided to leave grad school and physics, he was the only faculty member to ask me if I was really certain that was what I wanted to do. So I like the guy, and I figured I'd read his book. It is adapted from the course of the same name (it used to be PH 10 - "Physics for Poets" when I was there, before he was teaching it), for which he has won teaching awards for much of the last decade. The major subjects are Terrorism, Energy, Nukes, Space, and Global Warming. While I know the basic physics, I didn't know every fiddly detail that comprises real-world effects. It is a fascinating book. If you just don't feel up to this, then you can read the condensed version (which I read beforehand), The Instant Physicist. It highlights the critical points and has amusing illustrations.

After 30 years of seeking and having naming my eldest child after the author, I finally located and read The Sensuous Dirty Old Man by Dr. "A". So...that's one off the bucket list. Let's just say it's not one of Asimov's better efforts and move along.

Last week, I watched Office Space. Yes, I'm a bit late to the party, thanks. Yes, I know most of the good lines because I do occasionally read things on the Internet. Now I know what line goes with the creepy picture of Diedrich Bader (is there any other kind?). It will make the next time Ike watches "Batman: The Brave and the Bold" that much more surreal. Anyway, it was sufficiently amusing and worth a watch.

And lastly, [livejournal.com profile] aelfie is at class tonight, and the kids have their TV time. I decided that I should take advantage of her Amazon Prime for a little something. Scanning through the selections, I came to just the thing. So now I've seen the pilot of "Firefly". That makes two episodes in just over 10 years. I will be done in ... 2132. No, wait, there's also the movie, so 2142.
psi_star_psi: (BTTH)
The last four weeks were more than 50% composed of sick days by someone in the house. The last two weeks were my "holidays". Gray went to the emergency room three times in less than 48 hours two weekends ago. Diagnosis: Croup; we already told you, croup, go home and stop bothering us; and wow, pneumonia, that ER doc this morning was an idiot! We were not amused. He's dandy now, but that didn't really put us in a powerful Christmas spirit. A couple of the other kids were coming down with something by Christmas Eve, so we cancelled our planned gathering of friends and relatives for the next day.

Between the kids' illnesses and our own, [livejournal.com profile] aelfie and I weren't up for much. The kids watched too much TV, so our attempts to detox them this week have been rough. Jen's computer hard drive started to fail the same weekend as Gray's ER fun, so I got to start my "vacation" with computer maintenance! I browbeat it into booting off of DVD long enough to backup the critical files, but we are presently a one computer family. Jen and I have separate systems because we enjoy being married to each other. I have confidence we will survive this disruption long enough for Dell to sort things out...again. (Usually we have to send it in to have the screen or keys replaced due to kid intervention.)

The weather finally cleared up enough to take the kids to the park a few times this past week, but before that we were confined inside. This did nothing for anyone's mood, but did provide plenty of time to read or overuse media.

I reread How to Lie with Statistics, a book which I think should be a high-school graduation requirement. Jen has noted my opinion on this for future reference.

We watched the second episode of the latest BBC Sherlock and assorted ST: DS9 episodes (Jen watched in order, I watched bits when I was in the room reading). I watched Gattica, which was on my "I should really watch this some day" list. I took the older three kids to see Monsters, Inc. in the theater (not 3D) Christmas Day. Jen and I watched the pilot for "Mockingbird Lane" and bemoaned that we only learned of it due to its failure to be picked up.

I finished up two video games, Ratchet & Clank: Deadlocked on PS2 and To the Moon on PC. The R&C game is the 4th, and it was good and short enough to finish, but sufficiently different from the previous three that it won't be a favorite. To the Moon is a seriously odd little game. It appears and controls like an early Final Fantasy sort of JPRG, but it is really an interactive movie with a few puzzles to draw in the immersion. The teaser description hooked me, and it was cheap from GoG.com. If you could enjoy a game with no combat at all, but more of a SciFi/mystery/... -- look, here's the blurb. Figure out if that's wacky enough to capture your interest. I thought this game was deserving of its praise -- the plot is outstanding, the music is wonderful, and the interface does not get in the way of the story. I am intrigued by the possibility of additional games in that world.

Brain Dump

Dec. 18th, 2012 08:00 pm
psi_star_psi: (It's Not Lupin)
Time to get a bunch of stuff out of my head and on the Internet.

I took Ike to the library a bit ago. He wanted to look at comic books, so he gave me the cover needed to go into the Teen Room. I found a copy of Macbeth: The Graphic Novel, "The complete play, translated into plain English!" Well, how could I resist that? Upon completion, I saw the end notes that detailed how the artist had to accommodate three different scripts - Original Text, Plain Text (this one), and Quick Text. So this is the future - where you can go out and get the Cliffs' Notes graphic novel adaptation of Shakespeare. Also available, Henry V, A Christmas Carol, Jane Eyre, Frankenstein, and Great Expectations. Copyright 2008, so I'm certain there are others. Call me when they do Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.

I screwed up the music library for my iPhone, so I had to reload everything. I went through the house master library in the process and found a Warren Zevon Greatest Hits collection. First point, "Excitable Boy" is not the best song choice for the current news cycle. Second point, when I came to "Interlude No. 1/Play It All Night Long", I was stunned. Now I must cope with the fact that Kid Rock is actually much, much more clever than I had realized. Combined with that election video he made with Sean Penn, reality seems less solid.

After my junior year of high school, I attended the Governor's Honors Program in Georgia. There were about 600 of us there, and for many of us the first time we'd been associated with such a concentration of outliers. My time at Caltech overshadowed it because it was longer and more intense. Last year one of the '85 folks was laid up for a couple of months with a broken leg, so she went on a quest to gather as many of the year's alumni onto Facebook as possible. That was the point were I finally gave in and joined, so I'm now aware of a number of folks from high school that I wasn't for many years. Anyway, one of the attendees that year was a fellow named Spencer Cox, who subsequently made some important contributions to AIDS activism and research. And here's his obituary for today. So that sucks.

On the plus side, we're having our front bathroom fixed after it's been out of commission for two months! Yeah, I agree that's pretty weak in comparison. That's all I've got.

VGC: Risen

Dec. 11th, 2012 12:39 am
psi_star_psi: (freaky)
Risen is a third-person fantasy RPG. You start out shipwrecked on an island where ancient temples have recently risen (aha!) up to the surface of the land, and various factions are competing to gain the treasure and powerful artifacts contained within. The ship you had been on also carried a mainland Inquisitor, who uses the religious forces to take control of the local city and gather the artifacts to further his goals. Meanwhile, the former lord of the city has retreated to the swamps where his bandits plunder the gold of the temples. And then the mages are cooperating with the Inquisitor while they sort out who is working for the best interests of the island.

You can throw in with any of the three sides, though joining the mages will require much more work to qualify. Naturally, this was the path I chose. Anyone may use scrolls, temple guards and mages may use crystals which focus magic power into magic, fire, or cold blasts, and mages may use spell runes. Combat skills are sword, axe, staff, bow, and crossbow. Alchemy, smithing, sneak, acrobatics, lockpicking, and pickpocket round out the skill sets. Advancement is through training points per level, which permit instructors to bump your skills for a "modest" fee.

The plot advances with numerous side quests as you gradually figure out that Big Trouble is coming and sort out how to settle its hash. At key locations you may discover teleport scrolls which significantly cut down on the running around between quests.

Too many RPGs these days seem to be just too huge for my available time to play. This one seemed just right to me. Granted, I got it cheap on Steam, so I got plenty of value for the price, but it was a nice play structure that didn't go on and on. Pick it up when it's a bargain.
psi_star_psi: (Katy Perry)
Seen on Fark:

Other than the geographical location, I believe this article hits most of my attraction factors.

Tattooed Youth Librarians of Massachusetts 18-month Calendar

Surely we have the local resources to answer this challenge?
psi_star_psi: (Zarkov Gun)
I finished off Fallout 3 a few nights ago. This makes the fourth Fallout series game that I have completely finished (1/2, PC Brotherhood of Steel). On to New Vegas sometime.

I've seen this one described as a little too Elder Scrolls, which comes of it being done by Bethesda now instead of Interplay. I'll grant that the interface is clearly the same engine as TES: Oblivion. This brings the overall gameplay from 3/4 perspective to FPS. That's not a small change, but how does the RPG nature come out?

The SPECIAL character development systems remains from the other Fallout games. A few tweaks annoyed me -- skill cap at 100, level cap at 20. It used to be that you could just keep pumping up your skills and gaining perks. I miss that 200 point skill in Energy Weapons that let me shoot eyes from across the map. Ah, well.

The previous games were turn-based combat based on Action Points (a derivative of the Agility characteristic). Now that it's an FPS interface, one might think that is gone. Instead, it is interestingly transmogrified. Your own FPS aiming skill helps, but precision is handicapped by your weapon skill. And you can activate "VATS"-mode, which pauses everything while you select specific critical hit locations (head, appendages, torso, etc.) in a string until you run out of AP. Then you blast off a burst of attacks to the various selected locations. AP regenerate at a rate influenced by the perks you take. You can proceed with standard FPS attacks while you wait for the AP to build up, or dive for cover.

The plot is well crafted. Liam Neeson provides an important character voice, which is always a win. Your loyal canine companion Dogmeat is back and better than ever. Harold the undying ghoul is out there, somewhere. It's got the allusions to the previous games required, plus plenty of nice new wrinkles. I think Fallout 2 remains my favorite so far, but this one was a respectable member of the series.
psi_star_psi: (CG-UbG)
Ike wants to be a Dalek for Halloween. Last Sunday, I had a 48" industrial-strength straightedge/ruler/level out on the back porch measuring out all of the distances for the skirt panels. I used the model we completed recently to make measurements in centimeters, then multiplied by 10 to blow up the size. All week long I've been badgering [livejournal.com profile] aelfie about completing the 30 paper mache [I'm too lazy to try and get the accents/spelling correct on that] copies of 3" styrofoam balls which will produce 60 sensor bumps to finish the skirt. I've also been pondering the meshing and concentric rings with support structures for the torso portion.

Ike and I put the skirt together this afternoon. The result was enormous. (Just now I looked at the model box -- "1-8 Scale". So I was designing a bigger than actual size Dalek. Sooper Genius.) Faced with this, I suddenly realized I'm making a Halloween costume for a nine-year-old, not an entry for some cosplay competition at BayCon. I tossed out the front four fiddly panels to return to a reasonable size skirt. We duct-taped the whole thing together into semi-stability. The paper mache helmet molded in Jen's largest metal bowl will make a great hat, we got a plunger and paint roller at the HW store last weekend, and we have boxes in the garage. I figure a box for the torso with some holes for the plunger, paint roller, and arms, combined with the helmet and skirt, and that'll pretty much do it. The sensor bumps can just be a circular template and spray paint after the skirt is painted.

I suspect it will be sufficient to get the point across, and Ike has declared that he is quite happy with this plan.
psi_star_psi: (SoaP)
I carved out some spare time to watch a few things in the past month.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I - enjoyable, now we need to bother getting a copy of the last one to complete the collection. And decide when we're willing to let the kids watch them (after reading the books, I expect will be the requirement).

"Wonder Woman" - A pilot for a Wonder Woman TV series from the mid '70s. This is pre-Linda Carter. Intriguingly different approach to the character. I always wondered what Cathy Lee Crosby did before "That's Incredible". Why should you care about this? Ricardo Montalban is Abner Smith! Now tell me you can resist trying to find out WTF that's all about?

The Sorcerer's Apprentice - A diverting entertainment. Nic Cage is riding a building gargoyle bird. Your argument is forevermore invalid.

I read a couple of things.

Sense and Sensibility, the Graphic Novel - [livejournal.com profile] aelfie found this at the library and knew that I must see it. A perfectly functional retelling of the classic work. "Pride and Prejudice" is noted to exist on the back cover.

Tron: Ghost in the Machine - This is a follow-up to the video game Tron 2.0, which was based on only the first movie. This really didn't grab me that much. Meh.
psi_star_psi: (SuperDad2010)
At lunch today, a child let rip a good 2-3 second gaseous sound.

Me: My goodness!

(general laughter)

A few seconds pass.

Child: I love the smell of farts! *sniiiifff* Ahhhhh!

[Poll #1872302]

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