Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Diary of Jizana M'Rell: Entry # 8 [RPG]

RECORDING ROD ACTIVATED

MASTER ENCRYPTLOCK ENGAGED

RUN TIME 29/12765 24:29

BEGIN VOICE RECORDING

Kessidus is dead, Carn showed more backbone than I anticipated, and Sian hates me now.

The Sith came back, and succeeded in corrupting Wimrick.  I saw it all through the Force--they hacked Kessidus literally to pieces.  Prann and Ayden were lucky to escape with their lives.  We're on our way to Coruscant now, having destroyed one of the Sith bases.  Carn seems sure that war is coming, but it could mean something else.  Undoubtedly this was what Doneeta was in a hurry to tell the other Jedi when I saw him arrive on Ossus those many weeks ago . . .

I offered Carn a bargain--if he took me as his apprentice, I wouldn't tell the galaxy about the Sarama and his role in it.  I'm not sure what made him refuse.  Was his loyalty to Master Bes that strong?  Surely she would have understood that I had placed him in an impossible position and wouldn't hold it against him.  Or was the thought of taking me as an apprentice so truly horrible and repugnant that he was willing to risk the lives of the Sarama, who he spent 20 years trying to protect, and the possible fall of the Republic just to keep me from becoming a Jedi?  And the sheer gall of them to cut me from the Academy because of the "dark side" when Wimrick was a Sith agent all along!

But regardless, Carn had his way, and now the galaxy knows everything.  I received a letter from the Republic Chancellor.  They want me to go on the lecture circuit, but I won't leave Sian.  In the long run, despite possibly harmful short-term effects, what I did will turn out to be the best--already the Republic is investigating and attempting to make sure what happened to the Sarama will never happen again.

Sian doesn't understand why I did it, and how can I explain it to her when I don't know myself?  She wouldn't even listen to me when I asked her to go to Ossus.  Doesn't she understand the Sith at all?!!  I understand them all too well after having read their little "Guide to Pain."  I will keep her safe though, no matter what.  I may be a pacifist, but when it comes to Sian, I will do whatever it takes.

Still, intergalactic war, revolution.  I am now truly alone.  I must confess that events have developed in a direction I had not anticipated.  But I know what must be done, and I will set things right.

END VOICE RECORDING

RUN TIME 269/12765 24:43

RECORDING ROD DEACTIVATED

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

What I Read (2014)

I'm slowing down in my dotage!  Hopefully, a better routine will get me back in pace in 2015.

Jan. 2, 2014:  Homer, The Illiad  "Interesting how it starts in media res and ends at a surprising point.  Quite bloody too!"

Jan. 8, 2014:  N.D. Wilson, The Chestnut King  "Final book in 100 Cupboards trilogy.  Good but not great.  Still, a writer with potential."

Jan. 9, 2014: James L. Sutter, Before They Were Giants  "Planet Stories collection for first published work by major SF writers with own commentary.  Really enjoyable and introduced me to some authors to check out."

Feb. 2014: Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson, The Gathering Storm "Fantastic page-turner.  Best WoT book in ages."

Mar. 5, 2014: Jeff Kinney, Journal d’un dégonflé: La vérite toute moche "Still laugh-out loud funny and very entertaining."

Mar. 6, 2014: David Lyon & Marguerite Van Die, Rethinking Church, State, and Modernity: Canada Between Europe and America, "Fairly good collection of essays for anyone interested in church & state in Canada."

Mar. 17, 2014: Michael Reeves, Patterns of Force "Third 'Coruscant Nights' Star Wars book.  Okay, but largely forgettable."

Mar. 2014: Stephen King, Carrie "My e-book re-read.  Brilliant, and you can see why it made him an instant star.  Yes, there's horror, but the overwhelming sense is tragedy and sadness."

Mar. 24, 2014: Carolyn Maree Evans, Legal Protection of Religious Freedom in Australia "Excellent, well-researched, and concise overview of statutory and constitutional dimensions of topic."

Mar. 31, 2014: Paul Heelas & Linda Woodhead, The Spiritual Revolution: Why Religion is Giving Way to Spirituality "Thought-provoking study of traditional religious activity vs 'holistic milieu' in English city w/ wider implications drawn for future of spirituality."

Mar. 31, 2014: Philip Roth, Portnoy's Complaint "Plotless, stream of consciousness monologue on Jewish life in post-war N.J.  Still very funny, even if I can't connect to much of it personally."

Apr. 7, 2014: R.A. Salvatore, The Legend of Drizzt Vol. 2 "Trilogy as Drizzt & friends liberate Mithril Hall, rescue Regis from Calimport.  Introduces Artemis Entreri.  Entertaining."

May 5, 2014: Stephen King, Salem's Lot "King brings realism to a vampire tale, and it works quite well."

May 15, 2014: Andrew Lang, Cock Lane and Common-Sense "Discussion of supernatural phenomenon, unfocussed & w/out strong guiding thesis."

May 28, 2014: J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter et les Reliques de la Mort "A bit exposition-heavy at times, but still a satisfying conclusion to the series."

June 5, 2014: Sarah Pinborough, Long Time Dead "Torchwood Miracle Day prequel--Suzie Costello lives again & has to be stopped.  Pretty good all in all."

June 11, 2014: David Budbill, Bones on Black Spruce Mountain "YA book about 2 boys on camping trip.  Theme of loneliness & family.  Very good, and worth keeping."

June 12, 2014: Charlaine Harris, Dead Until Dark "Re-read of first Sookie Stackhouse book.  Still love the well-described, evocative setting."

June 14, 2014: Laurie R. King, The Game "Holmes & Russell on an adventure in India.  Great skill in evoking a setting, even if plotting still falls flat."

June 28, 2014: Stephen King, The Shining "Classic & still spooky.  King really makes you care about the characters, which is what makes the horror work."

June 29, 2014: Carrie Vaughn, Kitty Takes a Holiday "Third in the werewolf series, as skinwalkers attack.  Enjoyable."

June 29, 2014: Elizabeth George, I, Richard "Short story collection.  Mostly 'twist in the tail' types, with one slight tale featuring Lynley.  Not worth getting."

July 8, 2014: William Dean Howells, The Rise of Silas Lapham, "Norton edition; classic story of economic fall but moral rise.  Fairly interesting, & very useful essays on literary realism."

July 20, 2014: C.J. Henderson & Erica Henderson, Baby's First Mythos "Silly rhymes & alphabet from Cthulhu mythos.  Not worth the cost, but some great artwork."

July 24, 2014: Mircea Eliade, Occultism, Witchcraft, and Cultural Fashions "Collection of essays showing breathtaking and wide-ranging familiarity with culture, religion, and language around the world."

July 2014: Charlaine Harris, Living Dead in Dallas "Second Sookie Stackhouse novel.  Main plot with anti-vampire cult in Dallas is strong, but subplot with murder of gay cook poorly written & borderline problematic."

August 12, 2014: Stephen King, Night Shift "Still an excellent collection of short stories."

August 2014: Danielle Dumais, Sortilèleges, salsa, et compagnie: L’Evénement "First volume in pre-teen series about kids who gain magic powers after magnetic storm.  Not worth reading."

August 21, 2014: Gary Bouma, Australian Soul: Religion & Spirituality in the 21st Century "Some good overview, but also some polemic mixed w/ scholarship."

August 25, 2014: James Swallow, Faith & Fire "Frankly fantastic.  Warhammer 40K book about Sisters of Battle.  Would make a great movie."

September 2014: Barbara Hambly, Planet of Twilight "Boring paint-by-numbers Star Wars book."

September 23, 2014: Constance Greene, Double-Dare O'Toole "Fantastic YA novel about Fex, a boy who just can't resist a double-dare.  Sweet & insightful."

October 2014: No Author, Doctor Who Companion Compendium "Nicely packaged collection of trivia."

October 29, 2014: Erik Larson, The Devil in the White City "Fascinating tale of construction of Chicago's World Fair while serial killer strikes in the shadows.  True story."

November 2014: Gary Johns (ed.), Recognise What? "Essays opposing recognition of indigenous persons in the Australian Constitution."

November 2014: Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson, Towers of Midnight "Next to last Wheel of Time book.  Excellent & exciting."

December 2014: Charlaine Harris, A Touch of Dead "Sookie Stackhouse short story collection.  Not required reading for sure."

December 2014: Jasper Fforde, First Among Sequels "Fourth of the Thursday Next books.  Surprising time jump, but remains incredibly creative and fun to read."

December 18, 2014: A.B. McKillop, Pierre Berton: A Biography "Journalist, historian, and 'Canadian Icon.'  Focusses on professional life, but little sense of personal life."

December 20, 2014: Richard Lee Byers, Unholy "Third book in the Haunted Lands series of FR Thay novels.  Decent."

December 23, 2014: Jude Watson, Secret Weapon "7th Last of the Jedi book.  Surprisingly really interesting and page turning.  Looking forward to others."

December 25, 2014: H. Paul Jeffers, Complete Idiot's Guide to the Great Depression "Bought for Cthulhu gaming research, finished years later!"

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Stargunner [GAMES]

Tonight I finished another one of the games available for free download from Good Old Games, Stargunner.  I've been playing this game off and on for a full year now, so there's a sense of accomplishment in finally finishing the damn game.  Stargunner is a straight shooter: you get a spaceship, and your sole job is to blow up enemy spaceships until you reach the boss and blow it up.  There's the usual array of power-ups and the ability to customize your ship's weapons using credits earned on previous levels, but truthfully there's nothing particularly original or interesting about the game.  That being said, it's freakin' hard.  Once I learned I could save in the middle of a level I made huge steps forward, but definitely not a game
for the easily frustrated.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Holiday Boomer

Some great photos of a great kid.  I can't be there for Christmas, but I know he's having a great time with his mom and grandparents.


Sitting in the cab of a fire truck.  Thanks Mike and Fireman Bob!
Complained it was too cold to go outside, but had a great time playing when he did.

Taking care of his stuffed animals, who are "sick" and tucked under the covers.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Haunted Lands [BOOKS]

The Haunted Lands trilogy of Forgotten Realms novels are set in the far east land of Thay, home of the famous Red Wizards.  I decided to start reading them because the Realms campaign I ran for a long time had a storyline that took the PCs to Thay, and I wanted it to be as "authentic" as possible.  The trilogy is pretty good--definitely dark, and probably more of a Warhammer 3K vibe then traditional heroic fantasy.  The storyline across the books has to do with a civil war in Thay launched by the archmade Szass Tam.  There's a major time jump in between books (10 years between books 1 and 2, 100 years between books 2 and 3!), which is a bit startling at first, but actually ends up well.  The books are definitely good at showing how Thay is an interesting and memorable nation, and I'd recommend them.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Civilization IV [GAMES]

I'm a huge fan of the Civilization series of strategy games.  I remember playing the first Civilization years ago, and, while a Ph.D. student, spent endless hours on Civilization III.  This year, I downloaded and played several games of Civilization IV (I know, I'm always years behind the current version).  There's definitely some interesting aspects to this one from previous versions.  Every nation has a religion (which can change) which influences interactions with other nations; I honestly didn't play enough to figure out, for the most part, how much this mattered or how to take advantage of it.  But an interesting idea.  Similarly, each nation has to choose a method of government (democracy, etc.) that again affects relations with other countries.  One of the little things that irked me was that they made artillery far less useful; rather than simply bombarding a nearby square, artillery now functions much more like normal units and thus can be put at risk while attacking--made things less interesting.  Anyway, I played until I got a victory over the AI on the normal difficulty level (where the player and the computer are on a level playing field).  I really like the game, but I'm too busy to play it regularly without another obvious stopping point.

Game 1
Start Date: February 1, 2014
Tokugawa of Japan
Difficulty: Settler
Random Settings: Small world, arid climate, medium sea level.
Started off in NE corner of only continent, with icecaps to my back.  Very defensible.  Spread quickly.  Bad war with America lost me a city, but then conquered England with tech advantage.  I then crushed Saladin, with infantry going up against macemen & longbows!  I then had tanks going up against Ghandi's catapults and longbows.
Victory:  Domination (Score: 7656) in 7 hours, 34 minutes.

Game 2
Start Date:  February, 2014
Montezuma of the Aztecs
Difficulty: Chieftan
Random Settings:  Large world, rocky climate, low sea level.
Looks like two large continents, divided by ocean.  Lots of jungle!  Was able to build a huge number of cities.  Finally went to war and conquered Spain quickly with large tech advantage.  Followed up with Germany, and then Egypt and England.  Conquered home continent just as won space race.
Victory:  Space Race (Score: 8168) in 15 hours, 15 minutes.

Game 3
Start Date: February 16, 2014
George Washington of U.S.
Difficulty: Warlord
Random Settings: Huge world, cold climate, low sea level.
Start on what looks like a moderate island.  Rome attacks after a little while, but I hold off and counterattack with war elephants!  They're weakest of 10 rivals, and I defeat to secure continent.  Go across channel and eliminate Spain.  Get lazy, and end up in real space race with Mali!
Victory: Space Race (Score: 4775) in 11 hours, 41 minutes.

Game 4
State Date: February 23, 2014
Brennus of the Celts
Difficulty: Noble
Random Settings: Duel
In a duel with the Zulus, and I just could not keep up with their military tech!  Should have been nicer early.  Retired when it became clear I wasn't going to complete, though I was probably able to get more points if stayed longer.  Frustrating, but a good lesson.
Defeat: Retired (Score: 3784) in 2 hours, 56 minutes.

Game 5
Start Date: March, 2014
Mansa Musa of Mali
Difficulty: Noble
Random Settings:  Large world, rocky climate, low sea level.
Just got off to a slow start, and as I was finally climbing the score ladder, attacked by multiple foes, often inexplicably.  Frustrating!
Loss: Retired (Score: 1725)

Game 6
Start Date: March 14, 2014
Saladin of Arabia
Difficulty: Noble
Random Settings:  Small world.
The five of us started on one small continent, and remained relatively stable territories until end of game.  I finally mastered diplomacy, but was outscored by huge amount by Napoleon.  I built the U.N., but was never close to enough votes to win.
Loss: Time Expiration (Score: 2661) in 6 hours, 10 minutes.

Game 7
Start Date: March 23, 2014
Cyrus of the Persians
Difficulty: Noble
Random Settings: Duel, temperate climate, high sea level.
Duel world against Isabella.  Did well, but just gradually got further and further behind in score because I couldn't keep up with population.  Hatched cheap trick to invade with two turns left, and narrowed the gap (but still lost 5991 to 5256).
Defeat: Time Expiration (Score: 5256) in 3 hours, 26 minutes.

Game 8
Start Date: March 26, 2014
Asoka of India
Difficulty: Noble
Random Settings: Small size
Several small continents.  Did well peacefully as India, but stuck about 100-200 points behind Ramses II with about 80 turns left.  Decided to gear up for war and invade Aztecs, and acquisition of several cities in final decades gave me enough points for win!
Victory: Time Expiration (Score: 4188) in 7 hours, 44 minutes.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Diary of Jizana M'rell: Entry # 7 [RPG]

RECORDING ROD ACTIVATED

MASTER ENCRYPTLOCK ENGAGED

RUN TIME 265/12765 17:03

BEGIN VOICE RECORDING

We've made it to Hebia Prime.  Besides a brief stop so the others could find some batteries for their death batons, not much happened on the way over.  Hebia Prime is like many of the planets I've been to, except busier.  Its space stations have the same antiseptic corridors and repetitive public announcements that mark orbital life.

We all just returned from a panel, which was actually sorta fun.  But it made it even clearer to me how pervasive the Jedi are and how much of a monopoly they have on anything regarding the Force.

I really have no idea what I'm doing here.  The instructor schtick was a good way to keep me from being booted into Hutt Space, but I can't stand being a Jedi Groupie, taking notes while the others go about their business of saving the galaxy.  I'm glad I'm with Sian, of course, but my entire life can't revolve around her.  And I guess she's started to fit in pretty well with the others--I don't see her around as much now.

Everything keeps coming back to the fact that I still don't have anywhere else to go, and even if I did, I'd have no idea what to do when I got there.  I think I should be too young to be suffering from existential angst--but that's what I get for reading so much philosophy on the Triberry.

Still . . .  I do have some leverage left.  Maybe I should use it.  If nothing else, it'll make things more exciting.

END VOICE RECORDING

RUN TIME 265/1725 17:10

RECORDING ROD DEACTIVATED