Friday, January 17, 2020

Playing the sandbox

On FaceBook, I only belong to a couple of groups, 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons (uncensored*) being one of them. I like this group because it tends to be bit unhinged in a good way. Yesterday someone posted they wanted to start a new campaign setting and wanted suggestions. Another member suggested "It starts in a tavern" and I followed up with something like this:

So the starting map is 200 miles by 200 miles, divided into 5 mile hexes. In the center is a town with a tavern, a temple, and a general store, each with 1 or 2 NPC's. One hex to the north are the ruins of the castle of a long dead noble. Then make shit up or roll randomly as they head into other hexes. You will have a new setting in no time that will make at least as much sense as the Forgotten Realms.

 A little bit later I posted the map shown here as the starting area. I am thinking, it would be interesting to see how 4 or 5 different Dungeon Masters developed this map over the course of a campaign. The possibilities are endless and of course each one would be tailored not just to the taste of the DM, but the players as well. Perhaps this is the cross roads between great cities. Maybe it is a war torn region full of haunted battle fields. Or this was once an outpost to a great empire now long faded into history and the area is littered with what remains. Or maybe there is a Hell Mouth in the region where demons and devils enter at will.

What I thought was this is the center of a great conflict that is brewing between four factions, this is sort of a neutral zone between the Desert nomads to the west, the Sea Kings to the east, the Dwarven under mountain to the north and the Tropical swamps to the south where Elven shamans practice ancient magic. Of course there are others as well, like the Mother of Dragons who owns the skys and The Red Duke, a mercenary captain with an army and a reputation.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

RE: Review: Looking for Alaska

A couple of people have expressed concern over the spoilers I provided in the review of Looking for Alaska. Spoilers are not something that particularly bothers me when reading books or seeing movies. In fact I will often go read the Wikipedia entry before I read a book or see a movie. Spoilers just do not ruin or detract from my enjoyment. What this means of course is, when I am discussing these things, I do not even consider spoilers to be an issue and will happily blurt things out without regard. I would love to say I will be more careful going forward, but I probably won't.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Review: Looking for Alaska

Looking for AlaskaLooking for Alaska by John Green
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Looking for Alaska starts off a a light hearted coming of age book, where a young nerd boy goes off to boarding school and much comedy ensues. The book covers first love, first kiss and yes, first blow job. All of this works well, I did not just identify with the main character Miles "Pudge" Halter, but I also identified with Chip "The Colonel" Martin and Alaska Young (her real name), who are his best friends and the primary instigators of all the teenage antics they perform. Up to this point, it is a fun book, well written and beautiful characterizations. The book very much reminded me of the good things about being a teenager.

About halfway through the book, the unthinkable happens and Alaska Young dies in a car crash. I have to say, this is one of the best deaths I read in a very long time. Not in terms of interesting or spectacular or anything like that, but in terms of emotional hit. Because it hits like a bull out of no where and leaves you thinking what the fuck just happened. Now, with just under half the book left to read, the reader is no longer reading about the fun loving teenagers sneaking cigarettes, but suddenly left with sullen and remorseful teenagers coming to terms with the death of their friend and deal with their grief in their own ways. No teenager should have to read this book, but they probably should.

There are uncomfortable moments in this book, subject matters that teenagers probably should not be reading about. The problem with this view point, is I am an adult and I am viewing this story through the lens of an adult whose memories of being a teenager are not as clear as they once were. There is a semi graphic scene describing oral sex, these kids also engage in drinking and drug use, as an adult, this bothers me. However, this is what being a teenager is like, these kids taking their first tentative steps into adulthood and are exploring the possibilities. This is what it is like to be a teenager and we should not avoid these subjects, rather they should be included in stories like this, because oftentimes it can be a jumping off point for parents to talk about these subjects with their kids. Being uncomfortable was good for me and made me realize, teenagers have really not changed that much since I was one.

This book was better than I was expecting. While it is classified as Young Adult, this is a book even an old ass adult can enjoy.

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Thursday, January 9, 2020

Review: Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam, #1)

Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam, #1)Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oryx and Crake is a dark book, the story does not describe child prostitution/pornography in detail, but does reference it as part of the background of the Oryx character, so if this offends you, this is not the book for you. In spite of the darkness, it is a very good book, well worth the read.

Snowman, the primary character, is sort of an Everyman who was thrust into the unlikely role of holy man to a new race of humans genetically spliced together by his mad genius best friend. The story is two fold, first is the story of Snowman as he is in this post apocalyptic world and his journey to find more supplies. The second takes the form of Snowman remembering his life before the plague and the events leading up to it, including who Oryx and Crake are and why they are important to him.

The writing is excellent, the plot develops in interesting ways and the characterizations where believable and compelling. The story does plod along at first, but picks up steam as it moves along. The description of Oryx's early life will make you uncomfortable and her acceptance of what has happened to her is even more uncomfortable, as is the society that is almost tolerant of it and allowed it to happen.

Over all, a really good read, I would recommend it to nearly anyone, I will be reading the other two books in the trilogy later in the year.

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Monday, January 6, 2020

I should get a lot of reading done today

I am having a colonoscopy tomorrow, so today is purge day. Nothing but jello and popsicles to eat and at 3PM I start the colon blow. What a great way to end the holidays.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

FaceBook Friend Suggestions Reading List

Last night on Facebook, I asked for reading suggestions and I got some interesting responses. What actually surprised me the most was no one suggested anything I had already read. Here is the list so far, it is kind of a mixed bag, with some stuff that is definitely outside of my normal reading habits. In no particular order;
  • Crusade (Starfire Book 1) - Wade
  • All Systems Red (Kindle Single): The Murderbot Diaries - Tonia
  • The Last Wish: Introducing the Witcher - Shannon
  • A River Runs through It and Other Stories - Karla
  • Looking for Alaska - Elizabeth
  • Once an Eagle -Karl
  • Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers - Tanya
  • Angels' Blood (Guild Hunter Book 1) - Bonnie
  • The Deed of Paksenarrion - Cisco
  • Duma Key: A Novel - Michael
  • The Zero Blessing (The Zero Enigma Book 1) - David
My next step is to hit up all the people who did not respond personally, to see if i can get a suggestion from them and add to the list.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Happy New Years!

In the closing hours of 2019 and the decade that is the 2010's, Happy New Years to everyone who bothers to visit my site and read my weird meanderings. 2020 is a bit more than 6 hours away as I write this and I am honestly looking forward to a better year for the first time in awhile. At the end of 2018 I said, "2019 is going to be a tough year for many many reasons, but I think I am much better equipped to face 2019 than I was to facing 2018." and I was wrong on one count, 2019 was not nearly as rough as I thought it was going to be, but I was definitely better equipped for 2019 than i was for 2018. This was a good year all and all and I am glad for it, I needed a good year and I got it.

I did not get to go back to Montana for Christmas as I had planned, I was disappointed, but I was not sad about it. I spent the night of the 24th with my wife and her little dog driving around town looking at lights and drinking hot chocolate. I was in fact where I needed to be.

I read 37 books this year, a bit fewer than I normally do, but a really good spread regardless. A couple of friends suggested some really books, which were the ones I enjoyed the most. Book suggestions from friends are the best, because it is a shared experience and when people live a long way away, sometimes those are the only experiences you can share. I think in 2020 I am going to ask each of my long distance friends for a suggestion and see where it takes me. I have asked each of my friends on FaceBook for a suggestion, I am hoping this leads to some interesting reading in 2020.

In the last couple of weeks I have been playing with FreeBSD. It is not as polished as Linux is and it really only installed cleanly on one of my test systems. However, I did enjoy tinkering with it to get things working properly. I also enjoyed working though learning a new window manager. Normally I use MATE, which is fairly straight forward and is not too unlike Windows. With FreeBSD I opted to try DWM (Dynamic Window Manager), which is brilliant in its simplicity. Rather than letting your windows float around freely, it tiles them on your desktop, which is both freeing and frustrating, but for a command line junkie like myself, it seems to produce a nice workflow. I may just try this out on Linux and see what happens.

Otherwise, be safe out there folks, have fun and have a great 2020!

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Terminal Linux

As Christmas Eve comes to close, I thought I would post a picture of my no GUI Linux box.

Slackware vs Ubuntu

I spent a chunk of the day getting my command line only Linux system going. I started with Slackware mostly because it is a distribution well known for its preference for the command line. However, this afternoon I gave up on it and went with Ubuntu. In a discussion about it online, I was asked why I decided to flip like that. The obvious answer is, I am just more comfortable with Ubuntu, but the reality, is Ubuntu is easier to maintain and administrate.

Slackware really only allows you to do a full install, even when you try to pair down the install, you still end up with a 7GB install and a whole ton of stuff you did not want. Even after I stripped stuff out, I was still over 5GB. Then trying to install things that were not part of the main installation quickly became a serious pain in the ass. Slackware's package management is terrible and lacks any kind of dependency control. Absolutely none of the programs I downloaded and tried to install worked, even after I spent time screwing around with them.

Ubuntu on the other hand, was extremely easy to get what I wanted. I downloaded the 32 bit server install and when it came time run task select, I chose only ssh-server, once done, the install was just over 2GB. Then virtually every package I needed was in the commonly used repositories; Wordgrinder, sc, tpp, mc, Tmux, Cmus. MPlayer, Finch, were all readily available and easy to install. Ubuntu also seemed to boot faster, and recognized my ad-hoc system to system network I was using and set it up properly with no intervention on my part. When I was finished, I was still under 3GB.

Couple of things on my brain today

Well, I was going back to Montana this week to visit friends and family. Unfortunately Dallas got fogged in and my flight was delayed. This meant I missed my connecting fight and unfortunately all the other flights to Billings were booked solid until the 26th. I am bummed out about it, I was looking forward to going home for a bit and breathing the stench that is Billings air in the winter. Oh well, maybe next year.

I have two projects I am going to work on today. First is fixing the Infinite Christmas Music Player. At some point it stopped working while Shannon was using it. I suspect the SD card reader is not as 5V tolerant as it is supposed to be. So I will add another capacitor to the build.

I am also working on getting Slackware Linux installed on my Wyse Cx0. Once I got the one installed with FreeDOS and got everything working more or less, it did not take me long to remember that DOS is barely an operating system (I think I have said this before). Linux, even without a GUI on the other hand is still very usable, though not terribly pretty to look at. Web browsing and email are pretty easy, Lynx and Pine work just fine for basic tasks. MP123 plays music just fine and MPlayer, once configured properly plays most video formats. Tmux makes it easy to multitask by dividing the screen into multiple terminals, so I can have email, web, mp3's playing and working on a document without the overhead of a GUI. Obviously there are some limitations, but being able take advantage of all the actual memory and large disk partitions makes it worth it. I can even run most of those DOS programs through DosBox.