Tuesday, December 05, 2017

All Right, Let's Play

So once again this year, I'm taking up the Little Drummer Boy Challenge.

Now, I'm terrible at this game during pre-season (prior to the day after Thanksgiving).  I heard it twice on Thanksgiving.

I've only made it into the Bonus Round (Christmas Eve through New Year's Eve at Midnight) once.

And the difficulty of this challenge is that it covers every version of the song.

Every version.

However, as I side-quest, I like this one called Whamageddon.  It however, only applies to the Wham version, and not any covers.

As of this writing, I'm still in on both.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Blind Man with a Stick! My Only Weakness!

This is a fun little video.  Great LEGO animation, and really fun to watch.



Stick around for a bit more after the the credits.



Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Kickstarter: Littlest Lovecraft

So with this post and the previous one, you might think that I'm addicted to Kickstarter.  the truth is that yesterday was a big day for one of the Kickstarter teams that I've been following and supporting since their start.

Tro Rex and Eyo Bella (no idea if that's their real names or not), have been creating a series called Littlest Lovecraft which puts a cool spin on H.P. Lovecraft's stories by formatting them like a children's story.

I got the first one, Call of Cthulhu of course, and have been hooked ever since.  One of the things that keep my interest are the gifts of gratitude.  Their stretch goals are always fun, and the thank you postcard they send out about halfway between the end of the campaign and shipping is just too cool.  They're really the best communicators of any team I've backed.

Yesterday, they started their fifth and final Kickstarter for Littlest Lovecraft with the Dreamlands Collection.

My hope and goal is that they make their $27,500 stretch goal, because I would love to have the slipcase for all five books.

Go check them out.  All of the books are available if you're interested for just $105.


Kickstarter: Snapdice

So I like Kickstarter.

John Kovalic summed it up pretty well in a Dork Tower a few years ago:

Super Happy Kickstarted Fun Hour

Every now and then I search the site with the keyword "dice".  Yesterday, I found this project: Snapdice.

It looks so cool to use, plus I got the option of an additional die to have my GURPS trio, as well as the polyhedral set option as well.  The 4-sider is a cool new take on the obnoxious shape.


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Do Not Buy From UNBEATABLESALE

The title of this post could also be called "How I Was Offered a Bribe to Withdraw My Review"

So, I recently had an shitty experience with a seller called Unbeatablesale, Inc. on Amazon.

I had been looking for an affordable 4-Bay, hard drive docking station.  I found one for a pretty good price, and placed my order.  My delivery arrived pretty promptly, but when I opened it, I found I had received the wrong product: a SATA to IDE adapter.

Now, I like Amazon, especially for this sort of thing.  So through the order section, I contacted the company letting them know of the mistake carefully listing the product order and the product received.

I soon received and email which asked me what I had received instead of the adapter.  I corrected them in the email and received another email asking the same question.  I corrected them a third time and then received an email asking the same question, but directed to a woman named Monica.  I pointed out there error once again.  And heard nothing for two days.

Then I wrote them an email asking what the progress was asking for the item or failing that a refund with a request for how to return the item I had wrongly received.  I was told someone would contact me shortly.  The next morning, I sent a similar email and was told the same thing.

So, I was frustrated.  I went through the old emails and found a phone number.  I called, gave them my reference number, and was told they needed to check their notes.  I said, you men the notes where I am ignored.  He said, I have an email here of us responding.  I asked him to read all of the notes and see how confused they were and how slow they had been to respond.

He started by saying that perhaps it had been listed incorrectly.  He checked the numbers, and said, no apparently i's correct.  He told me that he would have to call his warehouse, and that I would be contacted in 1 to 2 days.

This morning I received this email:

Please be advised this item was listed incorrectly. We will remove this listing from our site and process a refund for your item. We apologize that we are unable to provide you the item you expected to receive. Please expect a follow up email regarding your refund.

Now, I had chosen this product because it was USB 2.0, I didn't need extremely fast speeds.  This was just for using hard drives from our old laptops.  They had it listed for about $40.  Looking elsewhere online today it is listed for about $120.  The USB 3.0 is around $160.

Now, because I was frustrated and angry, I wrote a review of the company (not the item).  I have to say that I hate being limited to 300 words as it limits my language.  But anyway, here it is.  You can click on it to expand it.


Not long after posting the review, I received this email:

I am very sorry for this inconvenience.
I have received approval to issue an additional refund off of your order.  This will be issued after receiving your confirmation.  Please see the below instructions and confirm to proceed when complete.
Thank you and please accept my sincere apologies.

All followed by instructions on how to delete my review of them.

Now, I'm not one to let free money go away, but I'm not going to sell out my principals either.

So I'm writing this post, posting it everywhere, and then I'll delete my review.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Classic Binge

So, a few weeks ago, Stephen Furst passed away.

We immediately brought out our Babylon 5 DVDs, and made a little shrine with my Earth Alliance and Psi Corps pins.  This weekend we started watching the series again.

Watching it always makes me think of this strip:




Weekend Activity

So, this weekend Jennifer and I attacked our "office".  It's mainly her craft room, but I do stuff in there as well.

I spent some time and reorganized the acrylic paint drawer putting them in ROYGBIV-ish order.  Now we have a drawer of regular colors, and a half-drawer of glitter- and metallic-colors.  We also used boxes to organize the other kinds of paint.

And then I whittled away at my immortality by painting some miniatures.  I only finished one, but several are further along in process.

---



So, this is Korved Pahmilor.  He's human with skill as an archer and saber fencing.  He's also good at tracking and some other survival-type skills.  He prefers to wear shades of blue and black, and although he is not a member of this world's version of Asian, he has straight, deep black hair.  He is also what is known in GURPS as a Weirdness Magnet.

He's a character created as a tangent to a previous campaign.  For that group, I created what came to be called Fountain Court in the city of Paean Umbara, casually called the City of Shadows.  The court has a couple boarding houses, a whorehouse, a seer, a blacksmith, a plant shop, and a gambling house/inn.  All this surrounding a working fountain.

The plant shop is run by my wood Elf from the other campaign.

Korved's parents run the gambling house/inn.  He had to move out soon after his magnetism started affecting probabilities around him.  So he became a mercenary.  That's what brought him into the present campaign.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

And Now, Some Sad News...

I had a bit of an accident last week.  My phone mount for my bike snapped off when I was going home.  I hit the transition from the parking lot to the street and it just snapped.

And what's worse, as I was realizing what happened, I wasn't able to stop in time and rode right over the phone and mount.

I walked my bike back dreading to see what had happened to the screen.

Below is what I saw.




However, it turned out that I got lucky.  The arms of the mount ended up taking most of the weight of my bike and me.  And the case mostly got damaged from the fall and tumble.  The only damage to the phone is a small dent on the mute button and the dent on the back.


I chatted with Apple and they recommended taking it in to a store to have it checked out.  The diagnostic was free, so not a bad idea.  I went in and everything checked out okay, so it's all cosmetic.

And it's not even visible when you have a case on it.  I'm planning on switching to a Google Pixel and Project Fi soon, so I got a case that only has to last 3 months.  And the one I got is so cool.  It's denim.



Let's Talk Revolights

So for Christmas I was given Revolights.  I picked them up in March because they were still in production, and now I'm enjoying them on a daily basis.

last week I started having an issue with my front light.  When I hit a bump it would light up all around, and would really freak out on a bumpy or alligatored road.  I contacted them, and they said come in and let us check it out.

That's the advantage of being less than a mile from their headquarters.

I went in, described my problem, showed how the lights would go off and on when I pushed the button.  They looked at the battery out and compared it to another one in stock, and said that the pins were short and loose.  And right there gave me a new battery.  And everything is working great.

So, I've forgotten to upload a video of them, so here we go:

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Pet Peeve

So, here's my first world problem: clothing tags.

T-shirts
Underwear
Pants (specifically Levi's)
Shirts

They are made from some of the most uncomfortable material around.  Or at least parts of them.  The ones that seem to have been cut with a hot blade to melt and seal the edges are some of the worst.

I cut them out every chance I get, but sometimes, I forget.

What has made things worse are that companies are selling worldwide and so the tags are multi-lingual.  And because that would require a single tag to be over a foot long, they make multiple tags.

I thought Levi's were the worst offender with tags, but today I wore a Calvin Klein shirt.  I'm sitting at work, and I become aware of something poking me on my left side.  I felt on the outside and noticed the collection of tags that I hadn't removed.

I mean, seriously, look at this book.


So, I cut them out.  Six tags total.  

One says in many languages where it was made.  One is washing instructions.  One is who it was made by, and the smallest is the contractor identification.  One is like a model number and has a spare button.

But the worst part?  Check the one in the top, middle.  That one is blank.



BLANK!

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Movie Anniversaries

So, decades are big for us because we've got ten fingers and so use base ten.

I found out early in the year that there are two films that were big influences on my life that have nice round numbers associated with the time since their first release.  Today I saw that another movie also falls into that category, but it's not going to be quite as hyped as the other two.

I learned about these two movies reaching their 40th and 30th anniversaries from FathomEvents and TCM.

The oldest at 40 years is "Smokey and the Bandit".  This was absolutely my favorite movie as a kid.  It was one of the first movies my parents and I watched when we came to California.  I had a competition with my neighbor on who could see 100 black Trans Ams first.  When the movie came out on Showtime, we taped it on VHS, and I watched it whenever I could.  It became one of the first movies that I could quote along as it played.

The next movie at 30 years is my absolute favorite movie "The Princess Bride".  THis was a movie I watched with my mom at the theater in Sun Valley Mall.  I know playing the soundtrack pissed my first college dorm roommate off to no end.  I wore out two VHS tapes (purchased this time), before DVDs came out, and then my first Blu-Ray was a copy of this movie.  This is another one that I can quote along with the movie.

At 20 years old, "Chasing Amy" was the first Kevin Smith movie I saw in theaters.  It was a whole new perspective on things and shifted much of my views on things.  I've since seen almost all of his other films in theaters.  It's not a TCM classic movie yet, but maybe someday.

There were a lot of cool movies that came out 10 years ago: "Enchanted", "Pirates of the Caribbean", "Stardust", "Across the Universe".  However, none of them left the same mark on me that the previous three did.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Reading in 2016

Yeah, I'm a little behind on tracking my reading.

Here's what I read last year:

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom - Cory Doctorow - ****
Time Siege - Wesley Chu - ****
Death by Cliche - Bob Defendi - ****
Wonder Woman: The True Amazon - Jill Thompson - ****
The Nightmare Stacks - Charles Stross - *****
Young Zaphod Plays It Safe - Douglas Adams - ****
My Father, the Pornographer: A Memoir - Chris Offutt - ***
Mostly Harmless - Douglas Adams - *****
The Bill the Cat Story: A BLoom COunty Epic - Berke Breathed - ****
So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish - Douglas Adams - *****
Life, The Universe, and Everything - Douglas Adams - *****
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe - Douglas Adams - *****
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams - *****
Seveneves - Neal Stephenson - **
Dark Night - A True Batman Story - ****
Of Shadow and Sea - Will Wight - ****
Homeland - Cory Doctorow - ****
Of Sea and Shadow - Will Wight - ****
Nerd Do Well - Simon Pegg - ****
Before Watchman, Volume 1 - Darwyn Cooke - ****
Before Watchman, Volume 2 - Darwyn Cooke - ****
Before Watchman, Volume 3 - Darwyn Cooke - ****
Before Watchman, Volume 4 - J. Michael Straczynski - ****
Before Watchman, Volume 5 - Darwyn Cooke - ****
Before Watchman, Volume 6 - J. Michael Straczynski - ****
Before Watchman, Volume 7 - Darwyn Cooke - ****
Star trek/Green Lantern: The Spectrum War - ****
Supergod - Warren Ellis - ****
Kingsman: The Secret Service - Mark Millar - ****
Star Trek: Klingons: Blood Will Tell - ****
The Sandman: Overture - Neil Gaiman - *****
Mark Johnson: Agent of Hydra - David Mandel - ****
Jupiter's Circle, Volume 2 - Mark Millar - ****
Jupiter's Circle, Volume 1 - Mark Millar - ****
Little Brother - Cory Doctorow - ****
Jupiter's Legacy - mark Millar - ****
The Rapture of the Nerds - Cory Doctorow - ****
Contraband Cocktails: What America Drank When It Wasn't Supposed To - Paul Dickson - *****
Stranger in a Strange Land - Robert Heinlein - *****
Wonder Woman: Earth One, Volume 1 - Grant Morrison - *****
Batman: Earth One, Volume 2 - Geoff Johns - *****
Batman: Earth One, Volume 1 - Geoff Johns - *****
Darth Vader and Friends - Jeffrey Brown - ****
All You Need is Kill - Hiroshi Sakurazaka - ****
The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross - John MArco Allegro - ***
Leonard - William Shatner - ****
A Crack in Space - Philip K. Dick - ***
The Rocks Don't Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah's Flood - David R. Montgomery - ****
Truths, Half Truths and Little White Lies - Nick Frost - ***
I Suck at Girls - Justin Halpern - ****
Time Travel: Recent Trips - ed. Paula Guran - ***
Lovecraft Country - Matt Ruff - ****
A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms - George R.R. Martin - ****
Calamity - Brandon Sanderson - ****
The Bands of Mourning - Brandon Sanderson - ****
Jam - Yahtzee Croshaw - ****
Mogworld - Yahtzee Croshaw - ****
Gilliamesque: A Pre-posthumous Memoir - Terry Gilliam - ****
Paddle Your Own Canoe - Nick Offerman - ****
The Secret History of Wonder Woman - Jill Lepore - ****
Mrs Bradshaw's Handbook: To Travelling Upon the Ankh-Morpork & Sto Plains Hygienic Railway - Terry Pratchett - ***
Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War - Joe Bageant - ***
Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits - David Wong - ****

Give Me a Reading

So, last weekend, Jennifer and I did some home framing of my collection of tarot decks.  We'd talked about it in the past, but had just kept putting it off.  We tried a few options and finally came up with something that we were both happy with.

The work got me to thinking about how long I'd been playing around with tarot cards.

It all started over thirty years ago...

[Cue wiggly vision effect]

I was living in Kentucky during my sophomore year of high school, and our church was hosting a How-To event.  In the event there were tables setup in the fellowship hall, and different people were there showing things that they liked to do.  One of my fellow youth group friends was showing how to do tarot card readings.

Now, when I told this story to Jennifer, she was surprised that he was allowed to do this in a church.  There's two tings about that.  First, the church I grew up in was a lot more laid back than hers.  Second, I always knew I could trust this guy, because he was strongly religious and in my opinion wouldn't do anything that might "jeopardize his soul."  That's also how I knew Ozzy Osbourne didn't truly have a satanic message.

So I was fascinated by the cards, and when I ended up moving away to Maryland in the summer, he and his brother bought me my own deck.  I'm sure my parents would have bought me one, but they weren't sold in bookstores like Waldenbooks or B. Dalton Booksellers at that time.

And so, when it came time to travel for band trips, I became known as the guy who'd do your tarot readings.

I did that through the second half of high school and in college.

And then I began collecting cool decks as I got older.  Which brings us to last weekend.  My decks had been wrapped in tissue and stored in wooden boxes.  They look much better now.




And the cool thing is that I can take the back off of the frames, and change the front card whenever I want to.



Tuesday, March 21, 2017

SLO Hiking

So, yesterday afternoon I went for a hike up Cerro San Luis Obispo.

It only took me 7 months...  Well, the hike took me an hour up, and forty minutes down, but it took me 7 months to get off my butt and do the hike.

If you're looking at the above link, I took the red trail to the peak.

It's a good climb, with some cool geology on the way, and some great vistas of San Luis Obispo.




So you can stitch these three together and get a full panorama of the view from the top.  The vertical metal rod is used for a Christmas tree.  A little downhill is a generator they use to light it.


This is a GPS monument in the rock at the peak.


I also took a video when I was at the top.  It is best viewed at half speed.  What it doesn't catch is the sound the swooping swallows made as they buzzed me.  I'm guessing they were going for bugs that were near me.  It was an amazing experience.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A Three Hour Tour

So, this past Saturday, Jennifer and I had intended to go for a ride to Oyster Bay, a park just south of the Oakland Airport.

We'd been there before a year or two ago.  It's a fun ride along the water, and through interesting neighborhoods.  The problem is that my riding stamina isn't what it's been.

Over seven months in San Luis Obispo has taken it's toll.  I'm only riding 3 miles in the morning and three more in the afternoon.  And that's on days when it's not raining.  I still do other exercise by swimming in the hotel pool, but it doesn't quite translate.

The problem with riding in the Bay Area is that it seems like no matter what direction you go you have a headwind.  Unless your back is directly to the Golden Gate, it seems there is wind coming at your head and across you.  So by the time we go to Jack London Square, I needed a rest.

And there at one of the docks were two tall sailing ships.


It turned out that the ships were from Grays Harbor Historical Seaport, and they were giving tours.  We chatted with one of the crew members, and they also were planning a "battle sail."  We asked what that was, and were told the two ships would sail out into the Bay and fire blank cannon charges at each other.  Jennifer was all for it.  I took a little coercion, but just a little.  Our role playing group had just come had a sailing adventure.  I was a relatively easy sell.

So we had to choose which ship.  The smaller of the two was the Hawaiian Chieftain.  We were to learn that it is a class of ship called a "catch."  The other ship was the Lady Washington, which is a brig.  It looked a bit familiar, and drew us, so we chose to ride on that one.

There was another problem.  It was going to be cold, and we were dressed for a ride, so we needed to get another layer.  The closest reasonable clothing store we could locate was Ross on Alameda 6 miles away.  And we had two hours before we had to be back for boarding.

Do you remember the headwinds I mentioned earlier?

We raced to Ross.  We were huffing when we got there.  And Ross no longer had winter clothing, it being February in California and all.  Fortunately there is a Kohl's right nearby, and there, on their clearance rack we found a sweater for me and a Columbia fleece for Jennifer.

I will repeat that.  It is the last weekend in February with forecast highs for the coming week int he mid-50s, but because it is California, winter clothing is on clearance.

We stuffed Jennifer's saddle bags with the bulky clothing, and raced back to JLS.  We got there with 30 minutes to spare.  So we hit Rosenblum winery, bought picnic snacks, and rested before boarding for the battle sail.

And on the sail, we had an amazing time.

We learned all kinds of things about the ships (see the page for the stats).  It's a replica of a ship that sailed from the 1750s to 1790 when it sank off the Philippines.  It was the only real sailing ship in the movie "Pirates of the Caribbean."  And I took bunches of pictures of the rigging.








Here is where the "battle" took place:


We were at the height of the ebb tide and were struggling with the tide.  At one point were were making 0.5 knots heading south, and the Hawaiian Chieftain was heading west and we watched it sliding north with the current.  It was incredible.  Here she is later on against the Bay Bridge.


And by the time we got back to land (after our 3 hour tour), we were exceptionally grateful for our new warm clothing.  The clouds came in our last hour on the water, and the wind picked up.  And then we had our return bike ride home.

By the time we got home, our hands had lost some feeling.  The hour after we got in was spent enduring the painful pins and needles of our circulation returning.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Two years ago

Two years ago Leonard Nimoy passed away.

"I am now, and always shall be, your friend."

Still the best thing to say to anyone you care about.

It also brings this quote from Neil Gaiman to mind:

“To absent friends, lost loves, old gods, and the season of mists; and may each and every one of us always give the devil his due.”

Monday, February 13, 2017

One Scarf to Warm Them All

So, Saturday because I'm not in England, I wasn't able to watch BBC2's documentary "Back in Black" about the life of Terry Pratchett.  So I did my own tribute to him during the day and wore my Discworld T-shirt and a wide-brimmed black fedora.

And then I opened a package I had received in the mail while I was away from home continuing my work in San Luis Obispo.

Before Mom died, I had asked her if any of her friends knitted.  This was because back in 2010 I had come across this pattern on Ravelry probably linked from io9 or somewhere.  Now, Jennifer crochets, and the scant few people I knew who knitted were unwilling to take on such a project.  I would look around occasionally, but I couldn't find anyone to make it.  So I asked mom.  Not for her to make it.  Mom never sewed any more than she had to, but she was great at repairing my old stuffed tiger as a kid.

So she referred me to one of her mystery-book reading-group friends.  We conversed a few times, and she seemed willing to try it.  I paid for the materials and paid her a little more than what she seemed to think was a fair price.  It turned out to be more than she could feasibly do.  I got back a one-sided scarf that was a long as a minister's stole.  I'm six feet tall, and around my neck it reached past my ankles on both sides. It was not a scarf I could realistically wear because the stitches would have snagged and ruined the scarf.  I got a local tailor to stitch a nice fabric back on it, and while it's now safe, it's still much too big to wear.  I'm thinking of turning it into a wall tapestry.

But then last year, after Jennifer suggested I go looking on Etsy, I came across ArachneCrafts.  Now, right off I was intrigued because I love a clever mythology reference.  My years of reading comic books had prepared me for just such an experience.  And so looking in my search, I came across her examples of the One Ring scarf, called the Lord of the Rings scarf on her site.  (At this point, I have to say that I'm proud to have the one she made for me being the last in the photo examples.)

I put off making my purchase because I just wasn't sure.  I had gone to ThinkGeek and bought a One Ring scarf from them, but it wasn't as nice feeling as my Aperture Science scarf.  It was also smaller, and overall, kind of disappointing.  But finally, in December, I put in my order.

Susanna of ArachneCrafts worked with me on choosing the colors.  I wanted it to look lik the gold of the One Ring with script that looked like it was on fire.  You know, like it does when Gandalf drops it in Frodo's hand after it being in the fireplace.


Susanna was concerned that the yellow in the red-orange-yellow multicolored yarn would get lost in a golden yellow scarf.  I talked with Jennifer, and she suggested a charcoal color.  We tend to help the other see color combinations sometimes that the other isn't quite seeing.  And it turned out amazing as you can see below.



Susanna started just after the new year.  She actually got it done in about three weeks.

The only way I could be happier was if it were colder so that I could wear it.  But here I am in the scarf.  I think it's a fitting mashup with Pratchett wear plus the scarf.  It is so amazing.




Art Out in the Open

So Jennifer called me last week to say that she had been accepted to display her work at Oakland's First Fridays event on March 3.

If you've not seen her stuff, you can go here to her website.

What she shows there is just a small sampling of what she does.  She makes jewelry, wall art, cards, lotions and salves, plus so many other things.  I can't finish the description with "etc." because things are so different.  She's done gift boxes and journals, and photo albums.  It just goes on.

I'll be taking the day off to go help her.  Come find us on Friday, March 3rd, on Telegraph between 24th and 25th in front of Burrito Express.

Friday, February 03, 2017

More Acronyms

Today we learned about a new acronym: TWIC

Apparently TWIC stands for Transportation Worker Identification Credential."

After looking it up, we stared at each other, and said, "Do they mean driver's license?"

The whole process reminded me of George Carlin's bit on "shell shock" becoming "battle fatigue" becoming "post-traumatic stress disorder."

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