Monday, December 31, 2018

And thats a wrap

Okay folks, this is pretty much it, we are in the final hours of 2018. The first half of the year pretty much sucked frost giant balls, but the second half of the year turned out pretty good. I think 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.

Plans for 2019:

Kingdom of Loathing: I am going to ascend my character tomorrow and continue this run for the entire year with ascending again until January 1st 2020. This is really just an experiment to see how high of a level I can obtain.

Dungeons and Dragons Game: I want to get the characters my players are using currently to 20th level. They are currently 12th to 14th level, I expect them to be 20th level before the end of the year and then go out with a bang.

Writing: I really want to write way more than I have been. In past years I have promised myself I would write a thousand words a day, but I almost never come close to that. Instead in 2019 I am going to participate in National Novel Writing Month and turn out a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. Now I just need a good idea.

Misc other things: I really need to start getting out and exercising, I also need to quit smoking and while I am at it, I might as well become a vegan. Haa Ha Ha, just kidding.

D&D, Scopes of play

These are the general scopes of play as I see it, pick the one you like the best and play.

Basic: At its most basic level, 5th edition is a fairly simple game, the only allowed rules are those presented in the free downloadable basic PDF. Only 4 classes and 4 races are allowed along with a very narrow field of additional background crunch. Characters are easy to roll up and virtually all of depth is provided by the players.

Intermediary: This type of game uses only the core three hardbound books. There are 9 races and 12 classes available, along with several customization options for each class. Character generation is more difficult and the different niches can be filled in interesting ways by a couple of different classes.

High: This game includes, in addition to the core books, the Players Companion, the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide and Volo’s Guide to Monsters. Basically everything published by Wizards of the Coast as a D&D supplement is fair game, including Unearthed Arcana articles. The options available to players and DM’s is mind boggling. The first two levels are static and never change, at this level, something new is available every couple of months. The only things not allowed are rules produced by 3rd parties.

Very High: This is where things go nuclear. This type of game can include virtually anything available from the DM’s Guild. All manner of classes and races are available and I doubt any group could or would even want to allow all of it, but it is in the realm of possibility. Niches are almost non existent at this level as virtually any class can fill any niche with just a little customization. DM’s have to be very careful at this level as to not allow anything unbalancing or disruptive to play. Of course at this level, it probably does not matter if something is unbalancing or disruptive, because everyone will have access to things that are unbalancing or disruptive. The problem with this level of play is, it is difficult to move characters from one campaign to another.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Review: Feed

FeedFeed by M.T. Anderson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Feed was a really tough read for me. It starts out depressing and steadily gets more depressing. I get that it is supposed to be an extension of smartphones and the "People as products" business model of Facebook and Google, but that is really what is depressing about it. I am also not the type of person who needs a happy ending to a book, but when people die, I like there to be a reason for it, I like there to be meaningful in some way. Violets death did not change anything, it did not even change the main character in any way, he ultimately made the same bad choices at the end of the book that he was making at the beginning. While I found the slang language used by the teenagers to be kind of distracting, I do have to say though the descent into the pit of despair was subtle and well written.

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Sunday, December 23, 2018

Review: The Tripod Trilogy

The White MountainsThe White Mountains by John Christopher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Tripod series is three books; The White Mountains, The City of Gold and Lead and The Pool of Fire. The books were written decades ago by John Christopher, who is a tier two, possibly tier three science fiction writer, he did the bulk of his work in the 50's, 60's and 70's, and was a reasonably prolific writer. Reading his Wikipedia entry, I think he was popular primarily in the U.K..

To start with, the things I did not like about the books. First off, these books did not age terribly well. They aged better than your average Heinlein book, but they still come off as very dated. The writing itself is pretty good, its just that the books were obviously written with 14 year old boys in mind, with no thought to appealing to any other demographic, which was pretty standard procedure back then. Remember this was at a time when women science fiction writers had to pretend to be men in order to get published. The story reads a bit like Huckleberry Finn, where a couple of kids go off on a grand adventure and do things no 14 year old boy could realistically do, the characters instead rely on luck to survive. By modern writing standards this falls under the category of seriously Mary Sue writing, however at the time of the writing, this was an accepted story telling mechanic.

Now the things I did like. Reading these books from the prospective of the 14 year old boy that lives inside my head, these books were a lot of fun to read. I mean who didn't want to be the young hero who always got the upper hand on the adults and the super advanced alien race in the story. There were quit a few just straight up fun scenes in the books and what the boys lacked in skill, they more than made up for in chutzpah. They were able to do things simply because no one ever told them they couldn't. The books show the true innocents of the time and the generally optimistic view of the world that many science fiction writers had at the time. The author also wisely skipped much of the potentially boring stuff, like the process of coming up with a plans to defeat the aliens, instead, this was left up to the adults to do off screen, while the boys only had to deal with the fun and cools things.

Overall, this series is well worth the read, I wish I had read them when I was in High School, before adulthood ruined my sense of wonder and my need for adventure. All three books are pretty short and easy to read, I had a lot on my mind in November and December, so it took me way longer to read then it normally would have. I am pretty sure an average reader could get through them in a week or two.

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Saturday, December 22, 2018

My next D&D Character

My primary creative outlet is playing D&D. For the last 15 odd years I have been running D&D for a group of really good players, keeping these guys busy can sometimes be a part time job. The problem with always being the Game Master is I almost never get to play, however, this gives me years to think about character ideas and interesting builds. Recently I have joined another group as a player and I am now getting to release some of my ideas on the unsuspecting world. My current character is a 4th level Human Variant Wizard, with 1 level of War Domain Cleric (Wizard 4/Cleric 1), this allows me to do all sorts of cool things, like cast spells even if I am wearing armor and have a weapon and shield in may hands.

So now I am thinking about my next character. I have not begun his build yet, but I am thinking about his background. The character I am playing now is really just a proof of concept character, because low AC wizards annoy me. But this next character I want to be a story based character where his background is more important than his class and levels. The grain of my idea starts with Lancelot, a knight who has fallen into disgrace for the love of a woman. I want my character to suffer from unrequited love, but I don't want it to be all emo and depressing, I want the story to be at least a little bit silly. So here is my preliminary background story.

Du Lac (Lancelot's last name and my current working name, it may change) lives in a small forrest kingdom with a large Elven population. He himself is a knight bound to the king of the land, he served his king well and was chosen to become a Paladin.  Du Lac was sent to train among the elves for his eventual ascension to Paladin hood. While there training, he met and fell in love with an elf woman named Eruwaedhiel. She was just as in love with Du Lac as he was with her. However, she being an elf meant she would outlive him by a thousand years, it was was also true, she was already 100 years older than he was.  While the age difference did not matter to him, it did matter to her and the thought of outliving him saddened her. Their relationship was brief, but it left its mark on both of them.

Du Lac and Eruwaedhiel do not avoid each other, in fact they are always in each others orbit, always aware what is happening with the other. Du Lac often goes home to visit her. Their relationship has many strange quirks. Du Lac pretends he cannot pronounce Eruwaedhiel's name and calls her Goddess, Eruwaedhiel knows damn good and well he can pronounce her name and in turn refuses to use his name, simply calling him Paladin. Du Lac endlessly flirts with Eruwaedhiel, which exasperates her, she is often heard saying to him, "I should have just slept with you and you would be over this nonsense by now!", to which he usually replies "If you had just slept with me, we would be married and have three children by now!". While she refuses to allow a romantic relationship, she does recognize his love for her, she knows he will love her until the day he dies, for this she allows him to carry her favor, a small medallion with her family crest hanging on a silver necklace. She tells him when he dies she will give it to another, but they both know that is not true.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Pictures of my trip to Billings

While I was in Billings, I spent one morning driving around my old stomping grounds with the intent of taking some pictures. None of these are all that interesting, but the idea was to show some bit of the old home town where I spent time growing up.

View from 2nd story window at the Billings Parmely Library
They actually tore down the old library

The old building was more like a warehouse I think

Apparently I actually was in my Senior yearbook, this was the first time I had ever seen it.

This use to be North Park school where I went to elementary school, now it is some sort of administration building.

This is North Park, I am pretty sure I have urinated on every tree shown in this picture when I was a kid.

This is a picture of Billings from up on the Rim Rocks, near Yellowstone Kelly's gave.

That is the big ditch we use to swimming in, every year at least one kid drowned in there.

Sacrifice Cliff across the valley, they say the Crow Indians use to stampede buffalo off those cliffs, no idea if that is true or not.


This is the apartment building I grew up.

What a fucking dump

Billings Senior High, where I went to high school, I was somewhat disappointed that it had not been burnt down yet.

And finally, Pioneer Park, I did not urinate on any of those trees, but back along that tree line is a creek and I urinated in that many times.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Final Vacation of the year

So this is the final night of my last vacation of the year. Normally this vacation is rather festive and enjoyable as Shannon and I close out the year, wrap up our Christmas shopping and celebrate our wedding anniversary. This year everything came to a screeching halt when our oldest cat Grixie got sick and died. This process took about 3 days and pretty much ruined the mood of the vacation.

2018 was all in all not a very pleasant year. The only real highlight was going home for Thanksgiving and reconnecting with an old friend. If it had not been for that trip, this whole year would have been a total wash. I am hoping the next couple of weeks go well and I can end this year and begin next year on a high note.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Forging the path forward

I recently bought myself a Tarot deck. A friend has reintroduced me to it. While I am not a particularly big believer in divination or predicting the future (after all, I believe in karma, kismet just pisses me off), I do think how we interpret the symbolism inherent in the cards can give us insight into our own psyche and perhaps light the path a bit.

This was my first layout. My intent here was the top card is my current state, the place where I am now. The bottom three cards are past, present and future. What I need is help with the path forward, i have been floundering for the last couple of years, dealing with depression and anxiety. Some recent emotional turmoil has really pushed me to get off my ass and do something instead of just wallowing in my own depression.

My first tarot spread

So the Fool at the top makes me very uncomfortable, but I have to admit it is a fair assessment of my current state. The King of Swords is where I have been, my previous assessment of myself; a soldier, a man who solves problems, often with brute force, but just as often with wisdom and Intelligence. The Nine of Pentacles is my present, I think this represents my wife, the person who tends my garden, keeps my house and loves me. I think this is an important reminder of what I have, because I think recently I have taken her for granted and been neglectful of our relationship.

The final card, the Five of Cups, represent my being mournful of the past. The spilt cups represent the years past, the standing cups represent the years to come, I am of that age where I have more years behind than I have ahead. More importantly though, in the background is a bridge and a castle. Maybe its just that 40 years of playing D&D has ingrained in me that wherever there is a castle, there a dragon close by, but when I look at that, I see adventure down the path.

Quote of the day

"She had thought it was love, but maybe it was only the coffee."


Puberty was not kind to me, I was often seen stomping around the house with a scowl on my face. For you women out there who cannot imagine what it is like to be a boy going through puberty, I can only say, it is basically walking around with an erection for four years and no one willing to help you with it.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

No Shave November

No Shave November is an annual event at work where the married men whose wives do not like facial hair, band together in solidarity and grow beards. I thought I would chronicle the progress. I think all in all I managed a pretty decent growth before I shaved today. For the record, it took 4 double sided blades to take it all off.

October 31st, freshly shaved.
 November 14th, 2 weeks in.
 November 28th, 4 weeks in and my birthday.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Thanksgiving Vacation

This my last day of vacation, I traveled home to Billings and spent some quality time with my family. I got to meet the newest member of my extended family, Haley, my Great Niece. Seeing the look on her mothers face as I was telling Haley that I would be the one showing her how to be weird, teaching her to swear and on her 16th birthday I would give her beer, cigarettes and condoms, was priceless. The whole trip was fun and after I got home, I immediately wanted to go back.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

National Novel Writing Month

National Novel Writing Month is an annual event where amateur writers all over the world get together metaphorically and write novels. It is not a competition, but rather more like a support group. The goal is to write 50,000 words during the month of November. This is a tough challenge, assuming one does not write every single day, that is 2,000 words per day or roughly 8 pages per day. I have successfully participated in this several times, but I have only succeeded twice and the outcomes have not been what could be called actual novels, but rather streams of conscience. My biggest problem is when I get stuck or bored, I tend to write sex scenes, just so I keep going. This makes the book rather more steamy than I usually intend, the upside is, I now know how porn books get written.

The key to success though is to consider this writing the first draft. Get the key characters down, build a plot and lay down the infrastructure for each act. Don't worry about writing a perfect or concise book, just get the basics down. Do not go back and edit your work, this can be done later as part of writing the second draft. I usually do not even go back and re-read anything I have written unless I am referring to an earlier scene and I want to make sure I am remembering what I wrote correctly. Don't limit yourself to 2,000 words a day, 1 hour a day of writing or whatever, if things are flowing, just keep writing. Those days that you write three or four thousand words will make up for those days you could not get 500 words out or could not find the time to write at all. Once it is all done, go ahead and re-read it if you must, but don't try to edit it. Just put it down for a week or a month, let the experience settle and congratulate yourself on completing the challenge.

Now go back and decide if you have something interesting that you can edit, expand on and turn into a real book. At this point start the second draft, I usually start by cutting out the stuff that is not really relevant, like the 15,000 words of sex scenes that do not contribute to the plot. Be vicious when cutting things, just because a scene reads well and you really love it, cut it out if it does not move the plot forward or flesh out a character in some important way, you can always use the scene in a another story. Then I try to fill in the holes, I almost always find problems with the plot, characters who do not act consistently throughout the story and things I forgot to explain, this is also a good time to expand the story if you feel it is necessary. I would hold off on rewriting any scenes at this point, that is probably best left to the third draft. This process will probably get you back up to 50,000 words and it is time to put it down for a week or two again.

Now, if you are not thoroughly tired of this shit, it is time for the 3rd draft. It is time to start rewriting all or most of the chapters with an eye towards consistency. It is now also time to clean up all your terrible grammar and spellchecker mistakes. At this point you may also consider moving things around, I have found many scenes that make more sense or have a better dramatic affect if placed later or earlier in the story. This is basically your last chance to make the book readable before sending it off for someone else to read. The temptation here is to make it more exciting, and that is fine, just be aware that you you have now been through this book 3 or 4 times and you are just bored with it, so think carefully about anything you add to the book at this point. If you suddenly find your book is at 100,000 words, you are probably suffering from this problem.

Now it time to send it off to an editor. If you are just doing this for fun, a friend is fine, just don't expect to get a lot of good feedback. If you are thinking about publishing, hire an editor, yes, pay someone to read your book, give you an honest critique and layout a path for the next draft. Yes I said "Next Draft", you are not done yet. Chances are good, you are not going to like what your editor has to say, tough shit, listen to them anyway. If you disagree with what they have to say, have a discussion about it, but if you find yourself pushing back and refusing to make suggested changes, it is probably time to quit and move on to the next project.Remember, your editor is there to help you smooth things out and improve your writing, so listen to what they have to say and make the changes they suggest unless there is a really compelling reason not too and the editor should agree with you after the discussion. If you can't come to an agreement on a change, swallow your pride and go with what the editor says.

With the completion of the 4th draft that both you and your editor are happy with, it is time to shop your novel around to publishers or take a stab at self publishing. If you go with a publisher, if they accept your book for publication, they will assign you an editor and you will probably be writing a few more drafts before they finally publish. If you are going to self publish, it is probably not a bad idea to do another draft with your editor, just make sure everything is where it needs to be. That is about it, if this is your first book, the process more than likely took a year or more, if you have done this a few times and have a good editor, this process will take a lot less time.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

I renewed my domain name and DNS redirection service today, it was a whopping $75 for a year. I actually considered letting it go because I really do not update the site with any regularity. I have had this happen to me in the past, but I always seem to renew it in the end. I think I will add some other things to the site, maybe SSFTP capability, so I can move files around easier, I may also rebuild the Caldoom D&D wiki that has been absent from this site for a couple of years now. I guess it all depends on how energetic I get in the next couple of months.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Quote about love

“Some love stories aren’t epic novels. Some are short stories, but that doesn’t make them any less filled with love.”

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Review: The Left Hand of Darkness

The Left Hand of Darkness (Hainish Cycle #6)The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Admittedly, this was a slow read for me, mostly because of how dense it is with information about the world and its inhabitants. The story was written at the height of the Cold War between the United States and Russia, but unfortunately much of it is very relevant today, we have a trade war with China brewing and we have a mad king of our own who wants to build a wall between us and our neighbors.

One of the things Le Guin does best is world building and she does not disappoint here. As I was reading about this cold world locked in an ice age, I was reminded of my own childhood growing up in Montana and shivering.

The dual gendered people of this world was an interesting idea that the author put to good use to build interesting characters and highlight the differences between the two races without making them TOO different. I also think this might have been an nuanced way of talking about homosexuality without offending the readers of the time it was written and published. I admit though I may be mistaken, perhaps someone smarter than me can chime in on this subject.

Of course the most interesting character in the book I thought was Estraven, not just for his fall from grace story, but because at the beginning of the book, he almost seems like a throw away character, someone who was present in the first few pages simply to set the stage and I was pleasantly surprised when later in the book he become central to the story.

Overall, good read, although now I have to go back and read the other books in this series, as I did not realize this was #6 in a series when I started it.

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Monday, October 8, 2018

To the Internet with Love

Sometimes when I am surfing the internet, I come a crossed a picture that makes me stop and think for awhile. This is one such picture, when I saw it, I thought it was a picture of a 60's hippie chic, after all, she is obviously naked under those coveralls. As I thought about it though, I came to the conclusion that perhaps she was a country girl, with her dirty feet and unkempt hair. Of course my mind did not stop there, she is obviously posed and seems comfortable in front of a camera, it is also possible she is a model.

I finally broke down and did a reverse image search and found this woman is Bessie Love, a silent screen era actress, the picture was taken in 1923. She was in fact all of the things I considered, she was born a Texas country girl, who was by all accounts a woman a head of her time and an academy award nominated actress. This picture is endearing because of its earthy innocents and time transcending beauty.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Medusa, the other side of the story

I saw a picture of this statue a few years ago, and an article about it popped up on Facebook today. The statue is of the Medusa with Perseus's head in her hand. I think this is an interesting juxtaposition of the story. In the original Peresus Statue he is holding the Medusa's head up high as he himself faces the sky in victory. In the story he is the hero who has slain an evil and vile creature. However, if you read the Medusa'a story, she is actually the victim. First she is raped by Poseidon in a temple of Athena. The Athena punishes her by transforming her into a gorgon, I suspect this was the first recorded incident of victim blaming. Medusa was then sent to live in exile because everyone who gazed upon her turned to stone. Finally Perseus was sent to kill her and was given several magic items to assist him. None of these events were her fault, but rather the gods playing with mortal lives like they were toys.

With this statue, it shows the Medusa as the victor of the fight, instead of holding Perseus's head high and proclaiming victory, it is at her side and her eyes are cast down because she has won nothing, the gods hate her even more now and she was forced to kill an innocent man who is also nothing more than pawn of the gods, but she did what she had to to survive another day.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Review: The Fantasy Trip 3rd Edition

This week Steve Jackson Games released the PDF's of its newly revised game, The Fantasy Trip. These PDF's are basically beta releases they put up for downloads for those who backed the Kickstarter campaign. They are collecting feedback to fix any issues before they send it off to the printers. I skimmed through the PDF's and then printed them out, while I do not mind PDF's, if I am going to be sitting down and reading a game book(s) from cover to cover, roll up some characters and then write a short adventure, having a printed copy on hand is nice.

First a bit of background, back in the late 70's Steve Jackson (Steve) worked for a company called Metagaming Concepts, they published inexpensive little wargames, that were cheap and quick to play. This is where Ogre got its start. While there, Steve wrote a game called Melee, a nice little game for simulating man to man arena combat, like their other games, it was small, cheap and easy to play. He followed up with Wizard, which simulated magical arena combat. It did not take them long to figure out that this could easily be leveraged into a roleplaying game similar to Dungeons & Dragons, which was growing popularity at the time. Steve then went on to build The Fantasy Trip, which filled in the gaps and added all sorts of new ideas. Jackson at this point became disenchanted with the way things were going at Metagaming and left the company. He took some of the games with him, like Ogre and started his own game company. A few years later, Metagaming went under, Steve tried to negotiate for the game, but the owner Howard Thompson want too much money, so Steve went on to design GURPS. Thirty five years later, after the copyright to his works went unused, he applied to the U.S. Copyright Office to have the rights returned to him and he succeeded. Here we are today with an all new 3rd edition of the game.

Between 1978 and 1982, my friends and I use to play a variety of games in our High School Library during lunch hour. There was an early complaint that we were gambling, because we were rolling dice, but one of our mothers came to the school and straightened Principle and the Librarian out. I have no idea what was said, but no school official ever bothered us about it again as long as we did not get noisy. Wizard and Melee were chief among those games because they were fast and easy to play. Although, we never played it specifically as an RPG, surviving gladiators often developed personalities, relationships and drama over time. A winning gladiator always had the option to let the looser live or die. Often times this was a good way to get rid of a particularly annoying rival, but not showing mercy was also good way to not get any yourself, so it was a fine line. Occasionally there would even be interesting dramas and blood feuds, at least one of which lasted a couple of years.

Okay, so now onto the review. Frankly, not much has changed from the original version, the mechanics and virtually identical to the original game. The characters have three attributes, Strength, Dexterity and Intelligence. Strength dictated how many hits a character could take before dying, how many spells a wizard could cast and how big of a weapon a character use. Dexterity provided the character with the basic to hit roll, based on three 6 sided dice. Intelligence tells use which spells a wizard can use and how many. As the character received experience points, they could raise these attributes, because of the weird way the rules worked, it was not unusual for a Wizard to have a high Strength, sometimes higher than their Intelligence. It also did not take long for characters to get ridiculously over powered, once a warrior had a Dexterity of 15 or 16 he rarely missed and a wizard with a high Intelligence and a decent Strength could put a dragon on the battle field on the first turn or throw a huge fireball down range making for whoever goes first wins type of game. Reading through the rules, I see very little that would change either of these conditions. In the Labyrinth, which is the book that provides the RPG part of the game, does give players more choices like adding Talents rather than increasing attributes, but it is not really enough to counter balance the game. Having said all of that, the mechanics do work fine for low to medium powered characters, combat is quick and fun, magic has a lot of interesting effects and you can come up with a lot of cool characters to play.

The layout, again has changed very little from the original books published way back in the late 70's and early 80's. The art has changed, primarily because Steve did not get the copyrights to any of the art from the original product. Steve did however have the good sense to hire Liz Danforth, who did much of the art on the original, to be the primary artist on his new revision. If you are an old school gamer and especially if you actually played this game back in the day, you will like this game. In fact from that perspective, you really could not have asked for a better product. Steve did not make any radical changes rules wise, he simply sanded down some of the rough edges and in designing the layout he stuck with what was there rather than going for a more modern slick appeal. If you are a modern gamer, this will probably seem simplistic and amateurish by modern standards and you would be correct about this. Steve has made no announcement about what he is going to do in the future beyond supporting the game with some new adventures next year. I suspect that if the game does well, we can expect a 4th edition with a more modern appeal to it.

Overall, I am going to give this 3. Realistically, I should give it a 2 or a 2.5, because the new edition really does not add anything to the hobby and the rules were not particularly ground breaking at the time nor are they especially interesting today. However, being an old school gamer myself and I fully remember what it was like back in the heady days of the golden age, this does have a certain appeal to me and gamers like me. I can certainly see playing a couple of games of Melee or Wizard on one of those game nights where half the players don't show. It does not happen often, but it does happen occasionally. So I am going to go with a 3 and I hope Steve does something interesting with this in the future.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Down the Youtube hole

I went down a Youtube hole tonight, I did not even post a quarter of the videos I watched. I guess I must be feeling a bit nostalgic tonight, but it was fun. Maybe next Friday night I will do this again and see where it goes, maybe take some requests or do a theme.

Ballad of the Green Berets

While I am a pacifist, this song always reminds me why I was soldier.

Nights in White Satin

I really like listening to the Moody Blues before I go to sleep.

The Best of Times

I suppose everyone who knows me was expecting this one.

Hot for Teacher

This is an old favorite.

Those were the days

This one I have posted before, it always makes me feel "Okay" about getting older.


This is a great song.


Hurt sung by Johnny Cash is probably one of the greatest pieces of music ever preformed. If you have never heard it, watch the video now. It is moving in many ways, and it has meaning on so many levels.

The original by Nine Inch Nails.

Reddit made me laugh today

I am not a huge Reddit person, but I do make a couple of stops there a week to look at the Cyberpunk subreddit and such. It always kills me when someone does something embarrassing. Here is a tip for posting pictures on the internet. If your picture includes portions of the place you live, please make a visual check of the area to make sure your sex toys are out of sight.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

List of things to do

I had to work last weekend, so my boss graciously gave me a four day weekend. So now I have to find something interesting to do with my time.

  • D&D Game: We are entering a new chapter in the current campaign, the stuff that was previously been happening has been cleaned up, with just a couple of dangling plot lines to be resolved later. I need to find something to run this Saturday, something for a 10th level party of 6 characters.

  • Computer Stuff: For some reason the GPU pass through on my system has quit working properly, so my Windows 10 virtual machine is being bitchy. So I need to sit down and figure out which update broke it and how to fix it.

  • Retro Computer Stuff: The Sinclair 1000 is still not working properly. I know what the problem is, the video output looks like a composite video connector, but its output is not composite. There is a fairly simple fix for it that requires me to find a couple of resisters and solder them into place.

  • Reading: I bought Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward, I suspect this is going to fairly depressing, but my plan is to just power through it.

  • Writing: I try to write everyday, but I have been falling down on that lately, so I want to get three or four thousands words written this weekend.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Summer is over

Well Labor Day is here, this is generally a very depressing day for me. Memorial Day is the beginning of summer and I am always optimistic and hopeful. I mean what is not to love about summer, warm weather, cool water and scantily clad women. Unfortunately by the time Labor Day rolls around I find I really have done nothing with my summer. Heading into Fall and Winter, I really don't have much to look forward to, Oh Well, maybe next year.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

The original Internet quote

The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel. --William Gibson, Neuromancer

Internet Quote of the Day

The Internet is the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn’t understand, the largest experiment in anarchy that we have ever had. --Eric Schmidt

Friday, August 17, 2018

Sad Day in History

Today I was sitting a room full of Millennials, now normally I don't rail on  Millennials, they do have a rough life ahead of them and it is pretty much our fault. However, what occurred to me is, I was the coolest person in that room. Seriously, I am D&D nerd, I was never cool by any standard, but there I was and there was not a hip person in that room besides me. This is the real reason Millennials are pissed off, they are the first generation that has parents cooler than them and worse, their grandparents are cooler than them too. The Baby Boomers came of age in the 60's, the era when the youth culture was born and rebelled against its masters, GenX came of age in the 80's, the era the youth culture came into its own and dominated virtually every facet of life. The Millennials were born into a world that was already cool, everything they can think of has already been done, Recreational sex, been done, recreational drug use, yep, Rock and Roll, Oh yes, been done big. This is why "Retro" is a thing to day, Millennials simply have no where to go.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Review: The Fresco by Sheri Tepper

The FrescoThe Fresco by Sheri S. Tepper
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was recommended to me by a friend, her first comment about it being "I wouldn’t recommend it to most guys – or to anybody conservative", and of course my first though was, "Oh this is going to be fun!". About a quarter of the way through I knew why she was not inclined to recommend it to most guys. Let me get this straight right off the bat, this book is not anti men, but the book does depict a certain types of men in a bad light and if you happen to identify with those archetypes, you are not going to like this book much. If you are not of fan of irony and poetic justice, I would not suggest reading this book. In fact, lets just come right out and say it, if you oppose abortion, you will not be amused by this book.

The story is about earths first contact with aliens, instead of landing on the White House lawn or in Central Park, the aliens contact a rather unremarkable person, Benita Alvarez-Shipton. Benita is married to an alcoholic deadbeat husband who beats her, in spite of this she has worked hard all of her life and tried to support her family in spite of the the hardships imposed by her husband. Benita is a unique character among fictional female protagonists. Most female protagonists in science fiction tend to fall into a couple of categories, women who are thinly veiled men, oversexed killing machines and ice queens. Benita has no special ops training, she is described as mildly good looking and does not seem to have much of a sex life. She is literally from the bottom rung of society, no one cares about her and society often places her husbands well being over hers. She is the epitome of unlikely heroes. What Benita brings to the table is a wisdom born out of having lived a rough life, an intelligence that only someone who has been on the edge of the abyss all of their lives could have. She clever and competent, but not unrealistically so. In the beginning of the book she is shown to be out of her depth, but by the end, she grows into her role.

The plot of the book is a bit off the beaten path as well, when the aliens, the Pistach, come to earth, they are not here as an invasion army, but rather to guide earth into the interstellar community and help them become good neighbors. The aliens start solving problems and making earth a better place, some of the things they do are very colorful and the thought process of the aliens is interesting to read. Of course the Pistach are not the only race with interest in the earth, there is also a group of predators who want to make earth their hunting grounds. These predators have no trouble finding human allies who would rather things stayed the way they are, even if it means sacrificing human beings in the process.

Overall, this is a good read, I enjoyed it start to finish. Yes, the book has a liberal bend to it, but it is no worse than the conservative bend you might find in the John Ringo or Larry Correia book. The book has a solid plot, the storyline is tight, it is well written, and the primary characters are interesting. My only complaint about the book is the author does over use some archetypes, and hits us over the head with those characterizations, but this not a show stopper and certainly does not detract from story. I recommend it to anyone who is tired of standard fair science fiction, and are looking for something different, it even has a happy ending.

View all my reviews

Thursday, August 9, 2018

RE: Bionic Boobs

A bit of an explanation on my last post. My only comment was I did not know what to think and this confused some people, so let me explain. My wife is a very good computer technician, in my career I have met many intelligent and talented women working in tech. I have a lot of respect for any woman who can brave the very male dominated world of technology, make a career and love it. I am also male, heterosexual and I am not dead, so naturally I like the female form, I am especially fond of tits. So you see I am conflicted, one the one hand I want to respect Naomi Wu for her intelligence and what she does, on the other hand, I cannot watch any of her videos without staring at her boobs. In my head, I know I should not objectify her, but my penis says otherwise. This particular video shows very well, what I am talking about.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Bionic Boobs?

I have no idea how I should feel about this?

More C128 nonsense

As a slight update, I got a Commodore 1571 disk drive along with the C128 I bought for spare parts. I really didn't care much whether it worked or not. I figured worst case scenario was I could use the case for something. When I first tried to use it, it did not work, so I pretty much set it aside to work on my other projects. I was casually reading some stuff online about WiModems for C64 and C128, I came across someone who said, if you have a WiModem plugged into your C128, you 1571 will not function. Apparently the WiModems grab a data line the 1571 needs. Well, it so happens that I did in fact have my WiModem plugged into my C128 when I tested the disk drive. I pulled the WiModem out and hooked up the 1571 and the bastard actually worked. I was even able to boot to the CP/M disk that came with the bundle.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Commodore 128 Finished

I finally got my C128 up and running. I had to buy another one, which I got cheap because it was known not to boot. After swapping out some parts, I got everything going perfectly., including replacing the missing key. I ran the dead test diagnostics on for a couple of hours and everything, including sound passes.

My next project is a Sinclair 1000, which does not power on at all. I put the power supply on a multi meter and it seems to be working to specification, so the issue is the machine itself. I opened it up and there is no obvious point of failure. I am thinking this may make a decent Raspberry Pi based Cyberdeck, the main challenge being adapting the keyboard to work with the RPi.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

More Apple //e

This Retro Battle Station is now fully operational. I got a cassette player to save and load programs from and hooked up the speaker. I am now ready to Hack the Gibson. I discovered there is also a website where you can run Apple //e games from the website. Basically you plug an audio cable into your PC speaker output and connect the other end to the data input on your //e, type "LOAD" and click on the play button of the game you want and it transfers the program just as if it were loading off a cassette tape. It is actually brilliant in it simplicity.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Apple //e Lives Again

I got the Apple IIe up and running again. I pulled apart the 2 power supplies I had and built a single hopefully fully operational one. I did have to scrounge up some new capacitors, but that was not too hard. Floppy drives for these things are way too expensive, I think instead I am going to get a cassette recorder and use it to store what little I need to store.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

8 Bit Internet

I mentioned the other day that people back in the 80's used their 8 bit machines to do many of the same tasks we do today. In retrospect that seems like a dumb statement, I mean sure they could sort of do these things, but realistically, it is much easier to do them today with modern machines. What got me to thinking about this was a forum post were someone was talking about possibly surfing the web using a C64. I started thinking about it and came to the conclusion that yes it could probably be done, but it is hardly practical and probably not worthwhile, the resolution just is not there. I think realistically, sticking with telnet BBS's is probably the best bet.

So low and behold, a user on the Lemon64 forums came up with the idea of building his own markup language, client browser and server software. At this point his client only runs on the C128, but he has a port for the C64 forthcoming. His markup language only has 9 tags for building pages, but really for an 8bit system I think that is sufficient. The big issue at this point is you cannot link between sites as of yet, but as he said, he has only been working on this for about a week. Loaded the browser software in WinVice and had no trouble connecting to his demo site. However, when I tried to setup his server software, I could not for the life of me get it so my client render the page. It turned out the problem was with carriage returns and line feeds. He developed his software under Windows, which really only uses carriage returns, well Linux requires both a carriage returns and a line feed. This is a pretty well known issue in general and it was easy to fix, Linux has a tool that fixes the broken Windows text files. Once that was done my client rendered the default page just fine. I have since been trying to design my own page, but so far I have had a lot of problems with formatting and if I change the default page even a little, it seems to screw things up.

So, from a purely technical stand point this is typical alpha software, it barely works but there is a lot of hope for the future. I like the theory of this idea, but I am not sure the reality is going to be terribly useful. One of the responses on this in the Lemon64 forum was they hoped eventually he could check his email, read and post to Lemon64 and browse CSDb. I think this is unrealistic, the problem is, we already have ways of doing those things that don't require me to wait 3 minutes for my browser to startup and I am not really interested in returning to the days of slow motion page rendering. On top of that, content is king, if people do not step up and create servers with interesting content, this will die pretty quickly. I signed up for some BBS's and over a couple of weeks signed in to them everyday, I posted to the boards and generally tried to contribute, what I found was often, I was the last person to log in and the only new stuff being posted was by me. These BBS's are ghost towns where most users log in twice year. I see this going the same direction if someone does not come up with an interesting idea.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

RIP Apple //e

Well that did not last long. I heard a pop behind me and when I turned around my Apple IIe was smoking. I walked over and unplugged it, now my IIe is dead and my den smells like someone lit 50 matches. Sadly, like most ebay buys, the power supply has no warranty. Maybe between the two I have I can make one working PSU.

RE: Apple // e

Got the replacement power supply for the Apple IIe and the system booted to Applesoft. I did try to boot it without the keyboard connected, but it gave me a RAM 100 errror, so I hooked up the keyboard and it fires right up, I then hit CRTL-Reset and it dropped into Applesoft.

So YAY! Seems my luck has improved a bit after the C128 fiasco. I guess now I will have to put it back together and start thinking about whether or not I can afford a floppy drive for it.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

RE: Commodore 128 Update

Okay so, apparently I am not as good at reseating socketed chips as I thought. When I pulled the chips again, I found I had bent a pin on the SID chip. Once I straightened it out and put it back in, the C128 started booting normally again.

I acquired a deadtest cart and it is on its 2nd run, the first time I let it run 10 times, with no errors except I am not hearing the 3 tones for the sound test. I wanted to make sure the cart was good, so I out it in my C64 and it ran 10 cycles just fine, and I heard the tones. It is now on its 2nd run with the same problem. I am assuming this means I screwed up my SID chip.

Commodore 128 Update

I opened my C128 last night and reseated all the socketed chips, I though this might help with the odd lockups and the machine code screen dumps I have been getting. Unfortunately, this made things worse, I am now getting a black screen when I turn on the power, even C64 mode does not work. Additionally, when I press the reset button it does reboot, but I get an odd tone for several seconds. Looking at the troubleshooting guides, there are a lot of things that cause this and at this point I do not know if I screwed something up, or I simply accelerated the failure of an already ailing computer. The next step is to open it up again and reseat the socketed chips again, and make sure I did not do something wrong.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Apple // e

I have shown the case of the Apple IIe, but I have not shown the inside yet. What surprises me most about this motherboard is its simplicity. I mean sure, this system was built in 1982 according to the date on the board and it is pretty anemic by today's standards. But think about it, people use to do all the things we do today on these machines. They played games, created documents in word processors and spreadsheets, they got on BBS's, read online content and exchanged emails. They did all this on a 1 Mhz CPU and 64K of memory. Think about that for a little while.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

RE: My newer acquisition

Okay so, after some testing, I discovered the C128 does seem to have some problems. While it still operates fine in C64 mode, in C128 mode it locks up and when anything is plugged into the serial port, I get machine code error messages. This is likely a bad ROM chip and the system does work sort of, so I am going to set this aside for the time being and focus on the Apple IIe.

I tore the Apple IIe apart and scrubbed down the plastics with a magic marker sponge. This worked pretty well, all the grunge came off including a sticky mildly greasy film that was all over it, my guess is it came from a smokers house, although it did not smell like it. I also popped all the keys off the keyboard and put them in hot soapy water for about an hour. While keys were stewing, I cleaned the rest of the keyboard, which was surprisingly clean, it was really just a bit dusty. After that, I pulled the power supply apart, thinking maybe is was just a blown capacitor, that was not the case, ALL the capacitors were blown.

I looked on ebay and found several replacement power supplies that were tested and working, two of them were $30. The problem with those two were the sellers did not have 100% positive feedback. Now I am not a fascist about it, but if you have negative feedback, it should not be in the last 12 months and if you have negative feedback in the last 12 months, it absolutely better not be for sending the wrong part and then not replacing it or even bothering to communicate with the buyer. So both of those sellers were out, The next one was for $40 plus $12 shipping, seller had 100% positive feedback, so I went with him. I should have that by next weekend.

After all that, I pulled out the keys and scrubbed each one down with a toothbrush. Most of the crud came off in the bath, so very little scrubbing was really necessary, but I gave each key a scrub and a wipe down anyway. You can see, it is much improved over the original.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

My newer acquisition

So my problem with the C128 was not serious, it turns out I had the 80 column button pressed, but I was using the 40 column video connector. As you can see it is functioning perfecting. Thank you goes out to the THOMCBM64 on the Lemon64 Forums for suggesting I try that before desoldering ROM chips.

The Apple IIe I bought for $30 arrived today, as expected it does not even power on and the internal speaker has detached from the case and the motherboard. The case is dirty as hell, but that is easily fixed with windex and a rag. I was moderately surprised to find both a floppy disk controller and an 80 column card inside. I suspect if I decide to fix it, I will start with the power supply.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

My newest acquisition

I recently bought a Commodore 128 computer. This is my third Commodore computer, 2 years ago I bought a Commodore 64 and last year I purchased a VIC 20. This was an untested machine, so I knew there was a good chance it would not work. Fortunately it did power on, unfortunately it gives me a blank screen with a green border.

This is far better than getting no power or getting power but having something weird like garbled video. The odd thing about it is, when I tried to boot it into C64 mode, it worked perfectly.

So whatever the problem is, it is likely not going to be tough to fix. I have not opened it up yet, I probably will not get to that until this weekend. In hopes of getting a running start on it, I posted these pictures on the Lemon Forums asking for help. Hopefully I will get some direction before I start heading down this road.

I also purchased what I think is an Apple IIe, the label is gone so at this point I do not know exactly what it is. This I know probably will not work and will probably not be repairable for any reasonable amount of money or effort. I have no idea what I am going to do with it yet, but I am not going to worry about it until after I have the C128 working properly.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Origins Game Fair vs Larry Correia

So Origins Game Fair uninvited Larry Correia as a guest of honor due to his political beliefs. Now I know some of you are going gasp and clutch your pearls, but take a deep breath. Origins is a private organization, they have the right to invite or not invite anyone they want. You are free to disagree with them, but that does not obligate them in anyway. For those who don't know who Larry Correia is, he is a right wing nut job who writes science fiction on the side. A few years ago he made a big stink at the Hugo Awards because he felt the SJW's had infiltrated it and was using the awards to further their agenda and that so called conservative writers were not getting a fair shake. What Larry did was put forward his own list of what he felt was worthy books written by conservative writers and got all his friends to vote for the books on this list. He tried this several times and came close to influencing the awards a couple of times, but his movement eventually petered out.

Looking at these events, it really is no surprise that Origins dropped him. He brought politics into the Hugo's and this upset a lot of people. There is a lot of cross over between gaming and Science Fiction Fandom, apparently many of these crossover people have long memories. In my book, I view it like this; If you shit in someones swimming pool, you should not be surprised when other people stop inviting you to swim in their pools.

Sunday, June 10, 2018


If you have not seen Sense8 yet, I suggest you put it on your list of shows to watch. This was some of the best TV I have seen in years. It is well scripted and acted, the story is engaging and the whole thing is very sexy.

Before I go any further, let me say, if you are a cynic who does not want to believe that love conquers all or you do not believe that diversity makes us stronger or you don't like hot sweaty beautiful sex, then this show is not for you, go back to watching Fox News or listening to Rush Limbaugh or whatever it is that makes you feel better about the world, you will not enjoy this show.

For the rest of you, this show is about 8 people who are spiritually and psychically connected and share their lives with each other. It is surprisingly emotional and intimate. Like many Netflix series, the show is full of nudity and sex that spans the full spectrum of human sexuality, I found the orgy scenes to be be especially arousing. Over the two season of episodes, the story explores how each of these people reacts to the situation and adjusts to having complete strangers with access to their most private moments and how this affects their lives and their loved ones. There is also a big bad leading an international conspiracy, but this is really just a side line to the relationship stories that are played out on screen.

This is probably the best TV show since Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, it is innovative both is characterization and in story telling and it is one of the very few TV shows I consider must watch. So put aside a weekend, get naked and binge watch this show, you will not regret it.

Friday, May 25, 2018

The long hot summer ahead

It is the beginning of Memorial Day weekend. This is always a mixed bag for me. On the one hand summer is here, my favorite time of the year. Hot weather, swimming, camping, long weekends, scantily clad women, smoking pot and fucking on the beach, Whats not to love. On the other hand, I am probably not going to get to enjoy any of that stuff, I will blink and it will be Labor Day. Sigh!, I hate my life.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Question of the day

Question: Why do men like girl on girl porn?
Answer: No dicks.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Virtualization of Windows

A couple of weeks ago I heard about something called PCI Passthrough, which is basically giving virtual machines direct access to your hardware. This is useful for many things, the most common being playing Windows games on Linux. Now this is not something I particularly need to do, I don't play games and even when I do, I generally loose interest pretty quickly. I also have not particularly needed to use Windows for a couple of years now. The only exception being the Oculus Rift, which was great for the first couple of months, but then like all gaming platforms, I lost interest. I was told the best Linux distribution to accomplish this was Arch Linux and it just so happened that I switched to Arch a couple of weeks ago. I have been looking for some new technical challenges lately, something to sharpen my skills and reassert my nerd cred and this seemed like a good project.

Let me first say, this process is a pain in the ass. This is not something for a Linux n00b to tackle. I have years of experience with Linux and it took me 3 days of work to figure it out and make it work. If you are looking for a plug and play solution, this is not it. I am not even going to try and give instructions to do this, I spent too much time going from website to website following different instruction sets by people who swore it worked for them. I did not keep notes and frankly I have no idea what finally worked. What I will say is this will require you to have two video cards in your system, it simply will not work with one video card, it is also easier if you plug in a second  mouse and keyboard to dedicate to the VM.

Now while this is a difficult process, it is worth every minute you put into it. The VM works perfectly, I ran Doom 3, Portal and World of Warcraft flawlessly. My next project is to see if I can get the Oculus Rift to work, there are plenty of people who say it works fine this way, but more than a few are also saying it does not, so we shall see.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Question of the day

Question: If someone cloned you, would you have sex with the clone?

Answer: Yes, how could I resist such a handsome devil.

Enigmail Vulnerability

The Electronic Freedom Foundation released a statement recently telling users of OpenPGP based products that they should disable or uninstall the plugin in their email client. One of the affected products was Engimail plugin for Thunderbird, which is what I use. Now mind you, I do not use encrypted email at all, I do maintain a key, but I have never used it for anything other than a few test emails with friends. I do however think it is important have a plan in place, you just never know when such a thing might become useful.

To sum up the vulnerability, basically if an attacker intercepts one of you encrypted emails, they can insert a couple of lines of HTML and send it back to you, when your email client automatically decrypts the message, the HTML code then sends the clear text message back to the attacker. This is actually kind of clever. The problem is it depends of the my client to be configured in a very specific way. If for instance you have a very aggressive junk mail filter, chances are you will never see the email. Also, if you have remote content disabled, this would deny the attacker the ability to run arbitrary javascripts or load anything else remotely. Finally, if you disable HTML and only allow plain text, your email client will strip out anything that is not the plain text message, and even if the HTML is still there, it is rendered as plain text. Any one of these settings is likely to stop this form of attack in its tracks.

While this is kind of a big deal, it is also very easy to protect yourself against. I do not think it is particularly necessary to disable the plug in or uninstall it, unless you are either very paranoid, or know for a fact someone is attacking you. The moral of this story is, please be careful out there, but don't panic, it is probably not as bad as you think.


The Mozilla Foundations update on this issue:

Thursday, May 10, 2018

I knew it, I totally called it!

I told them to leave the eyes, it was not worth the risk, BUT NOOOOO!, they just had to climb up there and pry it out. Those fricking thieves just could not leave well enough alone.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Justice League v. Avengers

Shannon and I went to see the new Avengers movie last week and I have to say I was a bit disappointed by the movie for a couple of different reasons. For instance, we know the majority of the characters who died will be resurrected in the next film, there is no way they leave Spiderman, Dr Strange, Black Panther or most of the Guardians of the Galaxy dead. This kind of cheapens the whole thing for me, especially the Groot and Spiderman death scenes. Second, there were three distinct plot lines happening, each with 4 or 5 characters involved. With 15 or so characters in the movie, this meant no one got enough screen time for any meaningful character development. Pretty much everyone got one or two cute lines in and that was pretty much it. Finally, in the comic he was an interesting and dynamic villain with some off the wall motivations, the movie adaption of Thanos was a bland villain whose motivations were not very interesting and in the final battle he basically wins by not loosing.

Tonight, I watched the Justice League for the second time and I think it stood up pretty well. I said when it first came out that the movies biggest problem is it was not an Avengers movie. Now I think it is the other way around, the problem with the Avengers movie is that it was not a Justice League movie. Both movies have similar plots, evil cosmic powered bad guy collecting MacGuffins to destroy something. Both movies were on the dark side, but the big difference was the point of the Justice League, was Bruce Wayne trying to return hope to the world, at the end of the movie, I felt that aim was accomplished. The point of the Avengers movie was to drag the plot out to justify another movie and kill off a bunch of characters so the producers could say "Look at how edgy we are, we killed Spiderman", and it just felt cheap and shallow.