I watch a show called Legends of Tomorrow a superhero program. I enjoy it but would only recommend it with qualifications. It's not a sophisticated program and it doesn't expect to be taken seriously.
The Alien franchise does want to be taken seriously and that's how I judge it, that's why Alien Covenant made me angry. It's a vehicle for Ridley Scott's philosophical speculations that depends on well trained intelligent characters making very poor decisions. I can deal with that in other circumstances but as I said, the Alien movies demand your respect. Then we have the captain of a ship hauling cryogenically frozen colonists on their way to settle a vetted planet deciding to divert to an unknown Earth like planet because it's closer.
What could possibly go wrong?
If it were another director I'd check my brain at the door and enjoy Alien Covenant as a mindless, blood soaked romp. But this is Ridley Fucking Scott. He gave us Alien and Blade Runner, he's better then this.
But for what it's worth, I'm in the minority here. It's gotten respectable reviews and it's making money. And please don't think I begrudge Scott his success. But I was disappointed in the film, personally.
May 24, 2017
This statue has been in Mrs. Silverman's garden for some time. Recently the nymph lost her head and rather then discard the whole thing, Donna just had the nymph carry it around like it was a soccer ball. Personally, I think she looks better that way, like one of the lesser enemies in a game like Darksouls. The picture also makes a nice spring themed wallpaper, because I am in love with the outdoors and springtime.
May 22, 2017
Sauron normally likes to communicate with his lieutenants one at a time.
May 22, 2017
Meredith's Current Look
Definitely have a Boba Fett vibe going for me.
May 21, 2017
Stop and Smell the Roses
I've kvetched about this game quite a bit, but the vast, austere landscapes are starting to grow on me.
May 21, 2017
The Only Sci Fi Star Chart You'll Ever Need
I've seen a lot of Star Trek and all of Babylon 5 and yep, this is spot on.
May 20, 2017
I've said many times that I don't enjoy crafting in games, but last night I found I had a rare blueprint for a sniper rifle in my inventory. Since Meredith's weapon of choice is a sniper rifle I made it and you're looking at a weapon called alChandler's Sniper Rifle. And it is deadly
By the way, I told Sloan to go fuck herself, got the information from Vhen and helped break him out of prison. Everybody gets a fair trial under Meredith's watch.
Such articles scratch an itch for me. I'm not so old that I've stopped getting excited about the next big game but at 61 I sometimes get a bit nostalgic over past adventures. And that reminds me, Meredith has to decide what she's going to do about poor Vhen.
May 19, 2017
You know, I don't think I've ever seen as many self inflicted wounds as I've seen Donald Trump land on himself. At this point, if I could ask the guy one question it would be why did you run in the first place.
Because Trump's ties to Russia are old news. His real estate "empire" was always a shaky edifice and some of the banks holding his loans had ties to Russian investors, that's all cool and above board. You take your money where you can find it. But once he ran for president the rules changed, people wanted to see his tax returns and when he didn't release them that alone was fodder for the folks who didn't like him.
On top of that, his tenure in office has been one fuck up after another. The latest news is a leaked document that contained a summary of Trump's meeting with the Russians:
Trump: I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off. I'm not under investigation.
And the sad thing is he really thought the pressure was off. But fuck it, nobody asked the guy to run. Oh, by the way, a senior White House adviser is a person of interest in the investigation of the Trump campaign's links to Russia. And on top of that, Comey just agreed to testify publicly before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
I hope Trump enjoys his little trip.
May 19, 2017
Role Playing and Meredith
The first time I really role played in a RPG was in Fallout New Vegas. I was on a quest to find out who shot me and left me for dead and I needed information from and old guy who'd only help me if I blew up the headquarters of the Brotherhood of Steel. Now my character was alChandler and normally that means I have no problem doing what necessary to get to the end of the game, but this alChandler was traveling with Veronica Santangelo. She used to be a member of the Brotherhood herself and while she had no love for them, I didn't think she'd be too happy about me blowing up the branch office. Furthermore, I had no problem with them myself and didn't think my character was so driven by vengeance that he'd kill innocents.
So I walked. I actually looked a Veronica before I exited the game for the last time and imagined what I was saying to her.
Currently I'm playing as Meredith Ryder and she's made some decisions that have left folks a little pissed. Currently she's in Kadara Port on the planet of the same name. She needs information from an Angaran named Vehn Teru. The problem is that he's wanted by an Angaran resistance group and a local bandit leader, Sloan Kelly, has him locked up. She plans to curry favor with the resistance by killing him.
At this point Ryder has two choices, she can ask to talk to Vehn in his cell and then leave him to his fate, or she can tell Sloan that only the resistance can pass that kind of judgment and get thrown out without seeing Vehn. Now, alChandler would take the second choice but I'm sort of thinking so would Meredith. After all when a self aware AI begged to be deactivated she granted its request, even though it cost her some information. I genuinely think that the character, as I've played her so far, would not be willing to let a prisoner be killed without benefit of trial.
So that's the call I'm making tonight when I fire up the game.
May 19, 2017
A Good Cat
I can't leave the door to my office when I'm not there open but on occasion when Newton is sleeping I can run errands and when I get back Newton will still be asleep. While he's mellower at three and a half, he still likes chewing on wires and probably always will.
May 17, 2017
It's well after two in the morning, I just finished up with Mass Effect and after I exited the game I looked at Origin to see if I got another achievement. Turned out I did, Mastermind. You get that for having a construct that's killed 100 enemies.
When did that sort of thing come to matter to me? Curse my susceptibility to subtle psychological manipulation.
May 17, 2017
A Sanity Savng Video
That little video saved me from a major meltdown today. Like a lot of people I followed the marker in the game's HUD and ended up futilely trying to climb a tower until I saw the
And in other gaming news, I did not buy Prey today but I did pick up Injustice: Gods Among Us for $20. It's a fighting game and I haven't played one of them since Mortal Combat vs DC Universe on the Xbox. It's for when I want to play something but don't feel like slogging through the jungles on Havarl.
May 17, 2017
While I was gone, Trump shared intelligence data with the Russian foreign minister, highly classified data that was passed to the United States by another country. The information was on ISIS and detailed a plot to place a bomb in a laptop and bring down a plane on the way to America. Although Trump had the right to do whatever he wanted, intelligence officials were concerned that Russia could use the information to find out the identity of the country working with America.
Whelp, that's happened, the country that gave us the information is Israel and an agent that Israel placed in ISIS is in danger.
Meanwhile, it turns out that former FBI director James Comey kept detailed notes of his meetings with officials. On 2/13 Michael Flynn resigned as national security director after it was came out that he lied about his contacts with Russia during the campaign. On 2/14 Trump met with Comey and according to Comey's notes Trump brought up Comey's investigation into Flynn, "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go." In other words, the president was trying to obstruct justice.
So, to any of you dumbasses stupid enough to have voted for Trump:
It's good to be back.
May 16, 2017
Today's News from Havarl
Havarl is the home planet of the Angara. They've since mostly moved away because of environmental degradation but a few folks still linger. If I could get to the Remnant Monolith that controls Havarl's environment I could reset it and repair the damage. I learned that there are folks who might know where the Monolith is but they've barricaded themselves in a smaller Remnant structure.
Long story short, getting to them involved navigating a jumping puzzle. I got to them and they told me the location of the Monolith is lost. However Angara believe in reincarnation and they think a guy is around who knew the location of the Monolith in his past life. They gave me a lead on his location and my next job is to find him and try to jog his memory. But not until next week when I get back.
So, reincarnation is a thing in the Mass Effect universe? Sure, why not.
May 12, 2017
I'm not a particularly visual person, all my life I've been more attuned to books rather then the world around me. That spills over into the games I play, sometimes the most beautiful environments go completely over my head. On occasion I notice stuff, I have a lot of screenshots from Witcher 3 because the word was so beautiful that even I poked my head up and looked around. And sometimes I notice stuff for other reasons.
In Mass Effect Andromeda the first planet I went to as the Pathfinder was Eos, a desert world. Most of what I did involved poking around the Remnant Vault. Remnant technology originally stabilized the planetary environment but it stopped working and if the Initiative was ever going to settle Heleus I had to fix that. Short version is I got the tech working.
Eos looked pretty nice, it wasn't Witcher 3 but I did stop to look around from time to time. I didn't take any screenshots because Origin doesn't have that ability and I really don't feel like running Fraps in the background but I noticed.
The next planet was Voeld,an ice world. Same deal the environment was out of whack and I fixed it. It was on Voeld that something began bugging me but I couldn't put my finger on it. But I got Voeld to 100% viability and now I'm on Havarl, a jungle planet and that's when I figured out what was bothering me. Voeld and Havarl were just Heleus with a different skin. Eos had mountains and Voeld had glaciers but underneath the same asset was used. The rock piles from Heleus are rock piles covered with vegetation on Havarl.
I'm not mad about this but I am a little disappointed that I noticed it. Maybe it's that obvious or maybe in my 60s I'm noticing details more then I used to. Either way it doesn't piss me off, I'm just noting it here.
And in other news, Kotaku is reporting that BioWare Montreal will not be doing a fifth Mass Effect game. Instead some of its employees have been transferred to EA Motive, another Electronic Arts studio working on Star Wars Battlefront II. The remaining folks at BioWare Montreal will be helping the other two Bioware studios work on a project code named Dylan. Kotaku expects an announcement on that to come during this year's E3. In short, Bioware Montreal is being turned into a support studio.
Life goes on.
May 10, 2017
The Next Planet
Under my guidance, the Initiative established outposts on a desert planet and an ice planet. So it's obvious what Meredith has to encounter next, it's a jungle planet!
May 8, 2017
The Boring Part of Exploring Andromeda
Every so often I'd come to work and there would be a packet of papers. The Commission was always modifying casino regulations and when that happened you had to go through our regulation binders, remove the old regs and replace them with the newer versions. It was pretty boring, not that my job had exciting parts, but it had to be done.
Tonight I went back to Eos, a desert planet with a settlement. I want to bring the place to 100% viability. It will still be a rocky desert but it will be the best damn desert it can be. So I spent time going around the place looking for areas my navigator had marked from space. When I find them a forward station is deployed and the planet's viability goes up by 2%. When I exited the game the planet had just hit 92% viability.
It's pretty boring actually. I'm guessing there's a lot of boring stuff that the crew of the ISS has to do on a regular basis to keep the station running, but they're doing their jobs. I'm playing a game and while I don't expect every moment to be incredible I didn't expect to be doing the space equivalent of replacing regulations in a binder. Still, four more forward stations and I can kiss Eos goodbye, unless some compelling plot things come up.
May 7, 2017
A Historical Confession
There are times when I lament the fall of the Roman Empire and the subsequent literature and learning that were lost along with it. But if I'm going to be honest here, it never really fell, the Eastern Roman Empire survived the abdication of the last Western emperor, the unfortunately named Romulus Augustus, and jogged along for another thousand years or so.
But the emperors in Constantinople weren't interested in the literature of the ancient world, nor were the Empire's scholars, the world had moved on as Roland Deschain of Gilead always said. There is no reason to believe that things would have been any different had the Western Empire somehow managed to hang on for a similar span of time.
Besides, currently we live in an age of abundance when it comes to books. For all my bitching I'm pretty grateful for what I have. And now I think I'm going to fire up Mass Effect Andromeda. After all, the Kett won't kill themselves you know.
May 7, 2017
An Abundance of Riches
Early word is that Arkane did a good job on the PC version of Prey. So good that I really want to play it. But the thing is, if I download Prey I'll put Mass Effect Andromeda aside for weeks. Mass Effect Andromeda isn't the best role playing game I ever played but I'm invested in the story now, I want to find out what happens to Meredith Ryder. So I'm putting off Prey until I finish my current game.
In most role playing games I play as some variation of alChandler. But in Witcher 3 I played as Geralt of Rivia and I tried to make decisions based on what he would do. It's the same way with Meredith. She's more like Kirk then Picard and I try to get a sense of what she would do in any given circumstance. It's harder with her then with Geralt because Geralt was given a personality by the developers. I have to give Meredith a personality myself.
The once decision I made that pissed a lot of people off was to make the first settlement on Eos a military base. With the Kett as a threat I felt she would want to make a statement that the colonists would not be pushed around by anybody. And Meredith and I stand by that decision.
May 6, 2017
The Collapsing Empire
The Collapsing Empire is galactic empire science fiction by John Scalzi. The idea is that at some point humanity discovered the Flow, a kind of extradimensional river. The Flow has on and off ramps near planets and using the flow humans have spread throughout the galaxy. The catch is that the most of the planets accessible to the Flow aren't garden worlds. But humanity's worlds survive thanks to trade. But then the Flow starts shifting like a river (rivers do shift from time to time) cutting off whole systems it's very bad news for the Empire.
And under normal circumstances I'd pass the book by. I read a lot of science fiction as a kid and I'm a little jaded by the genre. But Warren Ellis said some nice things about the book and the one book by Scalzi I did read, Redshirts, was pretty funny. I'm a little way in and so far it reminds me of Dune but with characters that aren't complete shits.
Sigh, one of these days I've got to give Dune another chance. Not today but someday.
May 6, 2017
A Blurry Picture of Rosie
She was a very good dog and I miss her already.
May 4, 2017
The Other Side of the Story
Having ragged on Bethesda and Arkane Studios for not releasing a PC demo of Prey I'm going to post a snippet from an article in AusGamers:
Earlier this week I had the opportunity to speak with Raphael Colantonio, Co-creative Director at Arkane Studios, about Prey. I asked him directly about the lack of a PC demo, and whether people could infer a lack of confidence in the PC version as a result.
"It's just a resource assignment thing. We couldn't do a demo on both the console and on the PC, we had to choose. And besides, PC has Steam. Steam players can just return the game [prior to playing] 2 hours so it's like a demo already. I also want to clarify that there's no PC port. I keep on hearing 'oh they're going to screw up the PC port' there is no PC port. We do the game on PC. It's a PC game. It's a different engine to Dishonored as well. So we might have our own sets of problems, but we are of course very careful because of what happened with Dishonored 2. So we wanted to make sure the PC version of Prey is good."
And I hope the game is good, I've been looking forward to it. Of course right now I've got the Kett to deal with so it will be a while before I can get to Prey.
May 3, 2017
Still Fighting the Good Fight
Today I went to Kett research station. It was heavily guarded and it took a couple of tries before I was able to defeat the guards. I'm proud to say that I resisted the temptation to lower the difficulty, I kept it on normal.
When I entered the research station I had to collect three Kett genetic samples. I couldn't pick any samples up and assumed I'd hit a bug. That's the problem with a game that has some bugs, whenever things go wrong you assume the game is glitched. But I did some research and discovered there are six genetic samples in the station and only three are Kett, you can't pick up the others. So I picked up the correct three samples and got information that points to a Kett communication station. Since that's going to be another hard fight I think I'll leave that until tomorrow.
I'm sort of at the stage where I'm putting the main quest aside and doing a lot of side quests. The game has the same general structure as Dragon Age Inquisition. In that game I made it a point to do most of the side quests, including killing all ten dragons, so that I'd be ready for the final boss battle. In fact I was sort of over ready and the final battle was a tad anticlimactic.
I'm 39 hours into the game. I logged 165 hours into Dragon Age Inquisition but that total include the expansions. But the point is I could easily have another 20 to 40 hours before I finish this.
Meanwhile Prey comes out on Friday. I never run two major games at once so Prey can wait.
May 3, 2017
The Golden Ass
If you had to live in the Roman Empire, you wanted to live between 96 and 180 AD. Sometime during that period a fellow named Apuleius wrote a novel called Metamorphoses. It's about a likeable guy called Lucius. Lucius has an insatiable curiosity and it gets him into trouble. He travels to Hypata on business and stays with Milo and his wife Pamphile. Long story short is that his curiosity get the better of him and after observing Pamphile turn herself into an owl, he fools around with her stuff and transforms himself into a donkey. Lucius spends the rest of the novel trying to turn back into a human.
The book is known these days as The Golden Ass and I first read it years ago in the translation by Robert Graves. In fact, I read the Graves translation twice. I'm now reading a new translation by Sarah Ruden.
Here's what Wikipedia has to say about the novel's style:
Apuleius' style is innovative, mannered, baroque and exuberant, a far cry from the more sedate Latinity familiar from the schoolroom.
I'm afraid that baroque and exuberant didn't really come across in Graves' translation, however it does in Ruden's version. It's so good that I'm thinking of buying her translation of The Confessions of Saint Augustine when it's released in June. Thinking, I hasten to add. If you're interested in Roman literature you have to deal with Augustine sooner or later. I'm interested, shit I'm reading fucking Apuleius, I just don't know if I'm that interested.
But for now I have her translation of The Golden Ass to munch on. By the way, The Golden Ass is the only complete Roman novel that's come down to us. We have that and chunks of Satyricon by Petronius. That's not to say that we don't have other Roman works, just not a lot of novels. But, hell, I'm going to show some gratitude, given the wreckage of the ancient world it's remarkable that we have what we have. And dammit, I'm going to take a risk here and preorder Augustine. Because I am nothing if not a risk taker.
April 29, 2017
I'm exaggerating but it was a little strange going from What Remains of Edith Finch back to Mass Effect Andromeda. It's a little like going from synchronised swimming to Roller Derby. They're both sports but still..
April 28, 2017
I'm a Shallow Person
You know, when I first saw Newton back at the animal shelter, his lopsided mustache annoyed the hell out of me. But he was young and very friendly and that outweighed any aesthetic considerations. I kinda like the stache now, gives him character.
April 28, 2017
Speaking of Games: Prey
On 5/5 Bethesda will be releasing Prey, a game I'm excited about. Today they released a demo for PS4 and Xbox One. They are not releasing a demo for the PC. Now, you may remember that last year I played Dishonored 2. That game was published by Bethesda and developed by Arkane Studios, just like Prey. I had no problems running it but a lot of people did. And as much as I want to get my hands on Prey. I'm still playing Mass Effect Andromeda and so I can afford to wait a little to see how things shake out.
You know, 2017 is shaping up to be a very good gaming year.
April 27, 2017
What Remains of Edith Finch
Edith Finch is the last surviving member of the Finch family. In the wake of her mother's death she goes back to the old family estate, shuttered since the death of her great grandmother. She's trying to explore her family's history. Odin Finch immigrated to America in the 30s, hoping to leave behind the bad luck that dogged his family in Norway. But it didn't work and her uncles, aunts and brothers all died young, except for Great Grandmom who made it to her 90s. Now Edith is trying to make sense of it all.
So she comes back to the estate, located on an island off the coast of Washington, makes her way into the house and explores the rooms that once housed her relatives. You see how each one of them died and, like Edith try to make sense of it all. And when described like that the game sounds pretty depressing, but it's not. Parts of it are sad but the game is never depressing. After all, the wonder is not that we have to die, it's that we ever got to live at all.
In 2013 I bought Gone Home, since then, I've made an effort to play an indie game now and then. What Remains of Edith Finch is not only a good indie game, it's the best game I've played since Witcher 3. It's also a game that most of my friends will never play. The game costs $20 and you'll get about four hours out of it, and the four hours factors in a replay. For the folks I know, it's simply not worth it.
I'm not being critical here. I think that games, as an art form, aren't taken as seriously as books and music. Gone Home, Firewatch, The Stanley Parable, The Beginner's Guide and What Remains of Edith Finch are all works of art by any measure that I know. But people who will pay $20 for a jazz CD will balk at $20 for a game. But hell, it's all good, these things take time.
Meanwhile, if you see What Remains of Edith Finch next year in a Steam sale, check it out.
April 27, 2017
Don’t Call Me a Millennial
He's an older millennial. And Jesse Singal who was born in 1983 believes there's a fundamental difference between older millennials, born between 1982 and 1988 and younger millennials born between 1989 and 2000. The defining events of the younger millennial generation were the crash of 2008 and the widespread adoption of smart phones. And indeed, I remember reading that any piece of technology you encounter before the age of 15 isn't technology at all, its just stuff.
April 26, 2017
One Thousand and One Nights
The first full translation of One Thousand and One Nights was done by Sir Richard Francis Burton. There had been earlier English translations but they had been edited to remove the bits about sex. Burton kept the sex in and, since he was living in the Victorian Age, issued it as a private edition for subscribers.
Burton's language has a certain charm but it gives the work an archaic air that wasn't in the original. Right now I'm dipping into a modern translation by Malcolm C. Lyons and Ursula Lyons. Whenever I'm between books, or simply need a palate cleanser, I read their version. In fact, I've bee doing that for years and at the moment I'm on the 610th night.
The Lyons' translation cost money and is well worth it to my way of thinking. But Burton's version is free. It's excentric but it has its own virtues:
Verily the works and words of those gone before us have become instances and examples to men of our modern day, that folk may view what admonishing chances befel other folk and may therefrom take warning; and that they may peruse the annals of antique peoples and all that hath betided them, and be thereby ruled and restrained:— Praise, therefore, be to Him who hath made the histories of the Past an admonition unto the Present! Now of such instances are the tales called “A Thousand Nights and a Night,” together with their far famed legends and wonders. Therein it is related (but Allah is All knowing of His hidden things and All ruling and All honoured and All giving and All gracious and All merciful that, in tide of yore and in time long gone before, there was a King of the Kings of the Banu Sásán in the Islands of India and China, a Lord of armies and guards and servants and dependents. He left only two sons, one in the prime of manhood and the other yet a youth, while both were Knights and Braves, albeit the elder was a doughtier horseman than the younger. So he succeeded to the empire; when he ruled the land and forded it over his lieges with justice so exemplary that he was beloved by all the peoples of his capital and of his kingdom. His name was King Shahryár, and he made his younger brother, Shah Zamán hight, King of Samarcand in Barbarian land.
That should be enough to let you know what you're in for if you decide to try Burton. Archaic, but if you can get through the King James Bible you can get though him. And if you're the type who likes reading the works and words of those gone before us you really should give the Nights a shot.
Later on today Borne: A Novel by Jeff VanderMeer arrives on my Kindle. You may remember me going on about his Southern Reach Trilogy a few years ago. His books are weird and strange and have depths to them that can swallow the unwary reader. They're very, very good.
April 25, 2017
In Which Kevin Learns a New Thing About His Back
Last month I bought a new printer. I was going to throw out the big box it came in but Newton had fallen in love with the thing so I kept it in my office. Newton used it as an observation post and for scratching. By the middle of April there were bits of cardboard everywhere but I didn't mind, when all is said and done Newton doesn't ask much of me.
But last night I discovered that Newton had clawed through the box in several places and was starting to shred the styrofoam packing that I failed to throw out before I gave the box to Newton. I'm reasonably sure that Newton wouldn't eat the stuff but it was sticking to his fur and I didn't want him swallowing it while grooming, so the box went in the trash and today I brought out the vacuum to clean up the shredded cardboard and styrofoam.
I don't vacuum, twice a month Edie comes in and does that for me, but I have used a vacuum cleaner in the distant past. So I hauled it out of the closet, cleaned up the office, straightened up and goddamn did my back hurt. Not, it's raining and my back doesn't like it hurt, it was more like I felt back in September when my vertebrae still hadn't healed.
And compression fractured never really heal completely. My fucked up vertebrae is at the very end of my spine and moving the vacuum cleaner around while leaning at a 45 degree angle agitated it. But the good news is now I have a legitimate excuse for not vacuuming.
I took Tramadol and that helped and I'll try to avoid vacuuming in the future. If I ever give Newton a big box again and it has styrofoam, I'll throw that shit out first. And now I think it's time for a cup of green tea and some Mass Effect.
April 22, 2017
The Continuing Adventures of Meredith Ryder
That thing in the distance is the corpse of an insane AI. Earlier in the game I encountered a heavily shielded Kett base. Last night I brought those shields down. Tonight I entered the base and found out that they were using captured Angara as slaves. I liberated the slaves, the Angara being allies and all, and discovered that the Kett were trying to enter a sealed chamber. I used explosives to enter the chamber and met an ancient, paranoid and suicidal AI. It started to use energy to kill one of the Angara and while there was no doubt the AI's knowledge would have been useful, I decided to destroy the AI rather then let an innocent person be killed. It was one of those instant judgment calls and I like to think that Captain Kirk would have done the same thing. Drack thinks I did the right thing anyway.
April 21, 2017
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