Monday, December 31, 2012

2013 Resolutions (and 2012 Resolutions)

With this post, I'm meeting my goal of four posts per month (including my Minecraft blog).  Speaking of which, I think that I'll resolve to continue making four posts per month.
Additionally, I'm considering a weight loss/exercise resolution, but I'm not sure exactly what to make it.  If I make a weight loss goal, then I'll need a target number, which will need to be within reason (I'm thinking 250), and I'll need to make sure that I'm on course for it.  If I make an exercise goal, then I'll need to be fairly specific in my requirements and exceptions.  I currently tend to exercise on a Thursday/Sunday schedule, since that ties in w/ my work & play schedule, though I'm considering adding Friday or Saturday, with the specific day depending on which day I'm out that weekend.  This one still needs fleshed out; maybe I'll post in the new year once I've gotten it sorted.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Questions Arising from Shadow of the Century

Evil Hat Productions, makers of, among other games, Spirit of the Century, are currently doing a kickstarter project for what they're calling "Fate Core".  In one of their updates, they announced an intention to make Shadow of the Century, a temporal sequel to Spirit of the Century.  (Watch the video, too.)
Some of this makes sense:  Once they start talking about it, 1980s action/adventure makes a lot of sense as sort of a spiritual sequel.  However, I'm left with some significant questions.

  • What makes the people that the Centurions are training special?  With the Centurions in Spirit, there was something significant to their birth.  Are the trainees not special, and just chosen?  Or are they Decadions or something?  
  • Has the existence of the Century Club had no influence on world events?  I know that pulp action requires a fair amount of suspension of disbelief, but it seems hard to believe that the Great Depression, WWII, and the Red Scare/McCarthyism all happened as normal.  Maybe there needs to be some kind of alternate history in there to explain how we got to more-or-less the 1980s as we know them.  
  • Why is there time travel built into the metaplot?  It seems like it might be highly unnecessary.  
  • Why were Doctor Methuselah & Mack Silver specifically killed off?  I get that they'd want to kill off good guys & bad guys in equal numbers, but why those two specifically?  
  • Was it really that easy to label the Century Club as a communist organization?  
  • Is the Cold War still going on in the Shadow of the Century setting?  Did it ever happen at all?  
Obviously, there's just the announcement, and so not every detail will be filled in right away, but I feel like these questions are sort of fundamental.  

Xmas Haul 2012

I thought that I'd go ahead and tell everyone what I got for Xmas this year.
Apparently, getting directions the old fashioned way (i.e., from Google Maps) just won't do, so somebody got me one of those in-car GPS navigation doodads.
I also got some anime:  Rozen Maiden: Overture & part of Monster (it's a long one).
I also got a hard copy of Godlike, which was apparently difficult to procure.  I know that I haven't seen it around, but I guess that the guys who make it haven't really been pushing to get it out there, either.  I can't wait to get some time to read the rules in more depth and also read up on the setting in more detail.
I also got a new robe, some gift cards, and some mints.
Overall, it was a good Xmas on the receiving end.  I hope that everyone else got stuff that they wanted, too! *<:-D

Friday, December 28, 2012

SolLock's Log: Day 6

I started the day by going back to retrieve the Apricorns that seem to grow so vigorously around here.  After that, I trained my pokémon thoroughly against the wild pokémon on Route 32.  Pitcher got into some interesting wrestling matches against some wild Ekans, but always won out.
As I worked my way southerly, I encountered a youngster named Albert.  Sting was able to take out his Rattata and Zubat, thanks to judicious use of Harden - though that Zubat's Supersonic had her on the ropes for a while, so I had to use a Potion to keep her safe.  Not far from him, I found a Repel.
Following the western side of the route, I encountered a camper named Roland, whose Nidoran was readily dispatched by Arsonist.  Near him I found a Great Ball and TM09: Bullet Seed.  As I pressed on, Watchman came frighteningly close to fainting against a wild Bellsprout. She really needs some training to bulk up.  I snuck past a trainer and, luckily, right into a pokémon center.
At the center, a man gave me an Old Rod, to get me started fishing.  Another man gave me two Lure Balls because I was collecting Apricorns, and told me of a man named Kurt in Azalea town who makes special pokéballs out of Apricorns.  When I left the center again, I spotted a girl amidst the trees behind it.  Upon speaking with her, I learned that she was Frieda of Friday.  Apparently, today was Friday, and so my lucky day, too, as she gave me a Poison Barb.  I, of course, gave it to Sting to hold, since she knows Poison Sting.
After that, I went to the watchful trainer whom I'd avoided earlier.  This youngster Gordon had a Wooper, so I promptly switched out Watchman for Pitcher.  A single Vine Whip ruined his day.
After that, the Egg that I was carrying hatched into a Togepi.  I called Professor Elm right away, and he told me to bring it to him.  He seems to have been a bit confused, though, as he immediately called me thereafter to tell me the same thing.  When I got back to Prof. Elm's lab, I showed him Togepi. He seemed to get very excited about Togepi's rareness and muttered something about legendary pokémon, then gave me an Everstone and sent me on my way.  An Everstone prevents the pokémon holding it from evolving, but I don't have anyone that I'd like to hold it, so I'm just keeping it in my pack for now.
I trained Togepi on Route 29 until he learned a 4th move, though it's Metronome, so I've no plans to use it:  He could end up using Selfdestruct or Explosion.  Then, I trained him against the Poison-types on the upper part of Route 32, since he knows Extrasensory.
Oh, and Joey called.  He apparently failed to catch a Hoothoot.  Then Wade called.  Apparently, his bugs managed to knock out a Hoothoot.  Good on them, I guess.
At the end of our training, Togepi learned Sweet Kiss, which replaced Growl.  Now, it's time for a well-earned rest.

[NOTE:  This entry corresponds to Friday, December 28th, 2012.]

Friday, November 23, 2012

SolLock's Log: Day 5

I started the day by going to all of the Apricorn trees that I know, training Sting up along the way.  After that, it was back to Route 32, where, much to my delight, Sting evolved into a Beedrill.  She also learned Fury Attack.  My other pokémon have been training well, too, though the wild Mareep have been very frustrating - their Static keeps paralyzing my pokémon.  Pitcher learned Wrap, significantly expanding his repertoire, and Scrounger learned Bite, which is better than Tackle in so many ways.
Then, Wade called me, saying that he'd found some berries, which he wanted to share.  When I returned to him, he gave me a Pecha Berry, which was nice.
Feeling that my pokémon were up to the task, I decided to enter Falkner's gym.  On the floor proper was this odd platform which, when triggered, hurled me upwards at incredible speed.  At the top, I saw a zigzag of wooden platforms, leading past two trainers and on to Falkner.  Additionally, though, there were glass platforms on either side of this, which connected back into the wooden ones at later intervals.  I saw that I could go straight to Falkner this way, but I decided that it would be better to size up his minions, first.
His first trainer, Abe, had only a Spearow, which Watchman defeated without even a scratch.  The second trainer, Rod, was another matter.  Rather than wasting time with Growl and Leer, he started by having his Pidgey size up my Sentret with a Tackle.  Watchman was able to defeat it quite handily, though, despite a Sand-Attack.  For his second Pidgey, I sent out Scrounger, who again won with no trouble.

Feeling confident, I switched the undamaged Scrounger to the front of the party, and challenged Falkner.  Scrounger finished off Falkner's Pidgey without much trouble, but when he sent out Pidgeotto, I felt that I should play it safe, sending out Arsonist, my most powerful pokémon.  Seeking to end the battle quickly, and hoping to burn the foe, I had Arsonist use Ember.  Pidgeotto's aggression was strong, though, and I quickly found myself resorting to a potion, during which time Pidgeotto used Roost to heal itself.  The next Ember, though, burned the Pidgeotto, for which I was glad.  Pidgeotto tried to rest its way to full health, at which point I knew that Falkner was fighting a losing battle.  Still, I had to use another potion.  Arsonist must live.  The protracted battle went like that for some time, but I knew that a critical hit from Pidgeotto could spell the ultimate end for Arsonist if I let his wounds go untreated for too long.
Finally, when the Pidgeotto was weak, I thought that Arsonist could finish it with his Quick Attack.  When the Pidgeotto remained conscious, I feared for the worst, for Arsonist was heavily injured again.  Its attack did but little damage, though, and it finally succumbed to its Burn.
I was only relieved that my pokémon had survived the battle, but then, something wonderful happened:  Arsonist evolved into a Quilava!  I ended the day a few potions poorer and one badge richer, but, most importantly, I haven't lost anyone yet.

As it happens, when I left the gym, I got a call from Professor Elm.  He wanted me to carry that Egg from the other day, and sent his assistant to the PokéMart in Violet City.  I obliged him, and popped next door to the Mart, where his assistant gave me, telling me that a pokémon would hatch from it if I kept it with me.  I also stocked up on potions while there.  Upon leaving the PokéMart, though, I was suddenly accosted by a strange woman, who told me to take care of the Egg.  It was very random.
As one last matter to settle for the night, I checked to see if that guy was still blocking off route 32.  He was there, but he just gave me a Miracle Seed and let me pass.  Instead, though, I returned to Violet City, to give my pokémon a well-earned rest.  (I gave the Miracle Seed to Pitcher.)

[Note:  This entry corresponds to November 23rd, 2012.]

SolLock's Log: Day 4

Today, I let my pokémon take a break from training to just relax, while I observed them from under the shade of a tree.  Sting attached herself to the tree early on.  Scrounger and Arsonist took to playfully wrestling with one another, while Pitcher found a sunny spot near a puddle to spend most of the morning.  Watchman stood on her tail near Pitcher, at first, but later moved as she seemed to take an interest in what the other rodents were doing.
I was looking at Sting, watching for signs of movement, when Watchman ran by me, followed by Scrounger and Arsonist.  They gave me quite a start!
Eventually, the sun moved so far that Pitcher had to take up a new position to keep sunning.
When evening came, my rodents were fairly eager to return to their pokéballs, having worn themselves out all day.  Pitcher wasn't quite as eager, but became more willing as sunny spots grew scarce under the setting sun.  I kept Sting out, but she stayed in the tree as long as she could.  I think that she might be getting ready to evolve again; I've heard that Bug pokémon with cocoon forms tend to have those short-lived.
Tomorrow is another training day.  If I'm feeling confident in my pokémon, then I may challenge the gym leader in the evening.

[NOTE:  This entry does not correspond to an actual play day.]

Sunday, November 11, 2012

SolLock's Log: Day 3

A began the day with a brief walk to the yellow Apricorn tree in the south of Violet City.  Another one was ripe, so I picked it.  Then, I went to Sprout Tower to train against the monks there.  Scrounger needed the most, being the newest, so I kept him out of his pokéball.  He was able to defeat Sage Nico by himself, but needed a rest after that.
On our return, we started encountering wild pokémon - specifically, Rattata, as the ghosts don't come out until night.  My journey through the tower was also frustrated by its unusual layout:  I would go up a ladder only to descend another ladder, reaching another area of the same floor that seems to be otherwise disconnected.  It was easy enough to figure out, though, as there were very few options actually left to me as to where to go.  That is, despite its odd layout, the journey up Sprout Tower is essentially linear.
Scrounger learned Focus Energy during a battle with Sage Chow, which may well come in handy, though these trainers seem to use Bellsprout exclusively.  I should also note here something that I realized while fighting Sage Edmond, which is that any one of their Bellsprout is weaker than any one of the wild Rattata here, which may go far in explaining why the Rattata are so prevalent.
This, of course, was less true of the monks in the very top of the tower, whose Bellsprout were about the Rattatas' equal, though also fewer in number.  My little Arsonist dispatched most of them with ease.  To my surprise, though, Sage Troy actually had a Hoothoot in addition to his Bellsprout.  I retreated to the pokémon center after that, though, as I could not guarantee my pokémon's safety against a stronger opponent without it.
On my return, I sought out the Elder, but, when I passed the central pillar - which, legend has it, was crafted from the stalk of an enormous Bellsprout - I found him already in conversation with Hobbes.  He gave him a Technical Machine, apparently having already lost to him, but warned him to care more for his pokémon.  Of course, had he known, he would have been using the possessive rather loosely.  Hobbes even said himself that he only cares about strong pokémon for winning battles.  Before I could confront him, though, he escaped with a rope that he had apparently lain in advance.
Elder Li was quite a challenge, indeed.  Sting, having already been worn out on the way up against a wild Rattata, was safe in her pokéball as I kept Pitcher out.  I switched to Arsonist to handle his Bellsprout.  When he sent out Hoothoot, I chose Scrounger, but his Hoothoot was quite strong indeed.  Between him and Watchman, I almost lost one of them.  Fortunately, both survived, and Watchman is even tougher than before.  Not wanting to take any chances against his final pokémon, I used Arsonist to finish his Bellsprout in one go.  Arsonist even learned Quick Attack.  I'm so proud.  :  )
Elder Li said that I should be able to take on Falkner, but my battles against him and his apprentice taught me that I am not at all ready to take on a gym of Flying types.  Even at full health, I would never dare send Pitcher or Sting out against a bird.  Having nothing with an advantage, nor even a resistance, I'm going to have to train my rodents thoroughly.
I ended the day with some light training:  I traveled back along my previous routes, collecting the black, pink, and green Apricorns that could be found along the way.  This meant fighting some wild pokémon, which provided some battle experience for my own.

[NOTE:  This day corresponds to Sunday, November 11th, 2012.]

Saturday, November 10, 2012

SolLock's Log: Day 2

Last night, after writing in my journal, I traveled northward to camp out in front of Route 31.  A trainer with two Caterpie challenged me to a battle, which I won.  I awoke early, hoping to find a Ledyba, but I instead found and caught a Bellsprout, whom I named Pitcher.  I found another apricorn tree, this one producing black fruit.
A Bug Catcher named Wade fought me.  He was, at least, more varied than the one from last night:  In addition to three Caterpie, he had a Weedle.  After the match, he said that he would call me if he found any useful items, as he sometimes does, so we exchanged phone numbers.
I made my way into Violet City - interrupted by Lyra, who gave me a Vs Recorder - and proceeded to explore.  In the south of the city, I found another apricorn tree, this one producing yellow fruit.  I also met a man who seemed eager to teach people about status conditions, and I met someone in the southeast who wants to trade his Onix for a Bellsprout.  I'll keep that in mind for later.
I first headed west, to Route 36.  There was little going on there.  Apparently, it is normally busier, but a strange tree is blocking the path.  I approached the tree myself, noting how hard it was to the touch, but, more surprisingly, it seemed to move in reaction to that.
I decided to journey through the Ruins of Alph, which have their north entrance on Route 36.  There were some scientists at the research facility, but I avoided the ruins themselves for the time being.  The east entrance of the ruins leads back to Route 32, which connects to Violet City on its southern side.  I heard that there were wild Ekans there, so I tried my luck, but found instead another Bellsprout.  I named her Vine.
I heard that the rare Ghost-type pokémon come out of Sprout Tower at night, so I waited until nightfall before entering, doing some slight training.  Pitcher learned Growth, which I'm sure will come in handy; she previously knew only Vine Whip.
When night fell, I entered Sprout Tower, hoping to find a ghost, but instead finding one of the Rattata that run around in its walls.  It was very close - Sting had poisoned him with her Poison Sting, so I had to quickly use an Antidote to not lose him.  I named him "Scrounger".  After treating them at the pokémon center, I decided to call it a night.
Note:  I stored Vine in the PC, since I already have Pitcher.

[NOTE:  Despite the date of this posting, day 2 actually corresponds to Saturday, October 20th, 2012, if memory serves.]

Saturday, October 27, 2012

SolLock's Log: Day 1

This morning, Professor Elm asked me to retrieve a pokémon egg from a man named Mr. Pokémon, who lives in a sequestered house on Route 30.  For my journey, he gave me my first pokémon.  I actually had my choice of three, and I took for myself a Cyndaquil, knowing that Fire-type pokémon are not exactly commonplace.  As he was my first, I named him Arsonist - the fire starter.  
Prof. Elm's assistant was also kind enough to give me some Potions for my journey.  
My course took me through Cherrygrove City, where I stopped at the PokéMart and purchased two Parlyz Heals and six Antidotes - though not before being given a whirlwind tour by a man who gave me a set of running shoes for my troubles.  I cannot be too careful in this.  I came across a house that I thought might belong to Mr. Pokémon, but instead belonged to another man, who gave me a case in which to keep the apricorns that seem to grow here and there outside of New Bark Town.  He also gave me directions to Mr. Pokémon's house.  
When I finally arrived at my destination, I met not only Mr. Pokémon, but also Professor Oak himself, who gave me a PokéDex to fill.  Once I got the egg from Mr. Pokémon, I made my way - carefully, again - back to Cherrygrove on my way back to New Bark Town.  Just as I was leaving, though, I was accosted by a trainer who battled me with a Totodile.  I had Arsonist use Tackle to size it up, then the appropriate amount of Leer followed by Tackle.  As he ran off in defeat, he dropped his Trainer Card.  He came back for it, but not before I glimpsed the name "Hobbes" upon it.  This, it would turn out, was not insignificant.  Arsonist was a bit scratched up, at this point, but the Cherrygrove Pokémon Center was fortunately nearby.  
I was able to jump down a few slopes to get back to New Bark Town safely.  When I went to deliver the egg to Prof. Elm, though, I found the lab a mess, and some excuse for a police officer was there, interviewing the professor.  It turns out that someone had broken into the lab and stolen the professor's Totodile.  Lyra had seen a suspicious-looking boy lurking outside earlier, and her description of him matched that of the trainer that I had battled.  I reported what I knew to the police officer, though I doubt that he'll catch Hobbes, especially at the rate that he was fleeing from New Bark Town.  
As I left New Bark Town once more, Lyra stopped me and demonstrated how to catch a pokémon.  Then, she bequeathed some PokéBalls unto me, which was fortunate, for I found that I was unable to avoid the wild pokémon any longer.  I ran into a wild Sentret, which I caught.  I named her Watchman.  After stopping at Cherrygrove for more supplies, I continued to Route 30, where I encountered a Weedle, which I also caught.  I named her Sting.  Finding myself taking care of three pokémon, I decided to spend the rest of the day training them in the grasses outside of Cherrygrove.  This was in easy reach of a Pokémon Center, which was good, because we've had a couple of poison scares - though I do have my Antidotes, if it gets really bad.  
I also battled two Youngsters that I'd seen battling earlier on Route 30:  Joey and Mikey.  Joey even exchanged phone numbers with me, hoping to train together later.  
The training is paying off, too:  Arsonist learned Smokescreen, Watchman learned Defense Curl, and Sting evolved into a Kakuna, whereupon she learned Harden.  

SolLock's Log: Day 0

I cannot know under what circumstance you will find this journal.  Perhaps I have entrusted you to read it.  Perhaps I am dead.  Perhaps I have simply lost it.  Whatever the case may be, I find it important to keep a record of my travels, as I embark on my own pokémon journey.  
To understand what you are about to read, though, you must understand something about me.  I suffer from a rare curse, which itself has two components:  I can only catch the first pokémon that I encounter in an area, and my pokémon do not faint.  
That I can only catch the first pokémon that I encounter in an area sounds far-fetched, I'm sure, but exhaustive research on my part has shown this to apply to anyone else who has had this curse, at least as well as anecdotal accounts can be trusted.  I'm not about to press my luck on this one, though, which is just as well, as it will prevent me from overextending the second part of my curse.  
My pokémon do not faint:  They die.  

Friday, October 26, 2012

Pumpkin Spice Chex Mix

So, after a bit of mad experimentation, I've invented a new Chex Mix recipe.
Here's how to make a half batch:
1.  Mix 1.5 cups each of Corn Chex, Rice Chex, and Wheat Chex, 1 cup of pretzel sticks, and 1 cup of walnuts in a large, microwave-safe bowl.
2.  Mix half a stick of butter, 1 teaspoon each of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice, and 1.5 teaspoons of brown sugar in a normal-sized, microwave-safe bowl.
3.  Microwave until the butter is completely melted, stirring every 10 to 15 seconds.
4.  Mix the sauce into the dry ingredients.  This part can be challenging, especially as the spices want to settle to the bottom of the bowl.  The best way that I've found is to take the stirring tool that was used for the sauce and get a bit onto it, scraping the bottom to get the spices, and then stir that into the dry mix.  This method is slower, but has the added benefit of allowing you to get sauce on every piece.
5.  Microwave for about 4 minutes (but use your judgement, based on your microwave - ours is pretty intense), stirring every minute in the first (roughly) half, and every 30 seconds in the second (roughly) half.  Mostly, just get the center moved to the outside and the bottom moved to the top, to even out heating and prevent burning.
6.  Spread the result out onto aluminum foil to cool.
That's it, really.  The spices essentially emulate pumpkin pie spice, and the brown sugar helps to bring out the taste.  I was going for an autumn taste, and I think that I got it.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Nuzlocke: Soul Silver

I recently (several weeks ago) learned of something called The Nuzlocke Challenge.  As you can see at the link, there are just 2 rules:  Only attempt to catch the first pokémon in an area, and any feinted pokémon is dead.
I am going to attempt this challenge with my heretofore unopened Soul Silver edition of Pokémon.  I'll make a few tweaks, though:
1.  Instead of releasing a feinted pokémon, I'll have a PC box labelled "RIP", which will act as a cemetery.  Let me never forget my fallen friends.
2.  I'll try to catch legendaries for the challenge, but I'll never use them.  That works both ways:  Even if a legend is the 1st pokémon that I encounter on a route (likely via judicious use of Repel), it just "doesn't count" for me.
3.  This is more of a clarification, but it's assumed that gift pokémon don't count against any area limit, especially as some are no-choice gifts, anyway.
4.  Another clarification:  I'll assume that each PokéWalker route is an area unto itself, and thus that only the 1st poké radar encounter counts.
5.  Though it's not actually in the rules, I'm taking a tentative pass on breeding, more in keeping with the spirit of the challenge than the letter.
Though I started Heart Gold with Cyndaquil, I'll also be starting Soul Silver with Cyndaquil, owing the the comparative rarity of fire-type pokémon.  I'll post here with occasional updates.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Status Update September 2012

Work is about to get pretty crazy, basically for the next two weeks.  My twitter followers are likely to hear me complain about lost parts of my feed, as twitter isn't very good at maintaining a timeline longer than 11 hours.  There are some things that need to get done soon, and my lack of free time is going to force them ahead, though all non-essential functions are obviously still subject to my whims, as my creation is to my muse.  
I'll also say this now:  Barring some highly unusual circumstance, I won't be doing NaNoWriMo this year.  The idea that I had won't be served by NaNoWriMo any more, and I haven't had time to flesh out anything else.  I've learned from previous years that I basically won't be able to finish a novel without a thorough outline, so this year's is at a loss.  I'll use the time instead to catch up on a few personal things, and also to work on a few other creative endeavors.  
Oh, and there's going to be Halloween and Thanksgiving and eventually Xmas and stuff.  At least a few of those require me to plan ahead of time.  Buh.  

Sudden Short Story 39

The rain was heavy outside the cafe.  Charles stared out the window, skyward.
"Something on your mind?"  Charles snapped out of it.
"Oh, I was just thinking."
"About what?"
"about the lightning... Ours is a just god, right?"
"Ours is a just god.  Lighting is just the most obvious manifestation of this."
"Does it seem a little short-sighted to you?"
"How do you mean?"
"Well, it's treating the symptom, not the disease, isn't it?"  Charles sipped at the last of his coffee, finding it too cold to be worth finishing.
"How do you mean?"
"Well, lightning only strikes rapists, right?  So, nobody rapes, for fear of being struck by lightning when it storms out.  Or, at least, almost nobody does.  There are invariably a few who think that they can get away with it."
"And, sooner or later, they get hit.  It sounds like a pretty good system to me."
"True, but it obviously has its inadequacies.  Perhaps if the desire were removed from the would-be rapists altogether, this would be better."
"But that would interfere with free will, and besides, there would be no object lessons around to stop lesser crimes."
"Something else bothers me, though. ... Lightning only strikes rapists, right?"
Charles leaned in close, and gave a questioning look.  "Right?"
His friend's faith was shaken for the first time.

Regarding Mann vs. Machine

In an attempt at getting some recreation in, I've played some Team Fortress 2 in the past week or so, which I haven't done in several months.  I took the opportunity to try the new "Mann vs. Machine" format, which pits players cooperatively against a bunch of bots.  Being the fan of cooperative play that I am, I figured that I'd give it a shot.
That said, there wasn't much of anywhere to go for TF2 as far as cooperation is concerned.  Being a team game (hence the name), it's already fairly cooperative.  While the opponents weren't manned by humans, there were a lot of them, and they seemed to have more hit points - especially the gigantic ones that can apparently come along.  Also, weirdly, there seems to be a limit of 6 players on the defending (read: human) team.
There's also an upgrade system, whereby one's weapons - and even one's class itself - can be temporarily upgraded with money found around the map.  It's entirely necessary to survive the tougher waves, which at least removes repetitiveness from a long map.
There is one thing that's just really odd, though:  There's no full health/ammo cabinet in spawn.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Sudden Short Story 37

"You never used to strike me as a big meatspacer, you know that?" asked the first.
"Between the two of us, I think that you're the less surprised one," said the second, with a relaxed nod to the side.
They paused for a moment.
"Are you still on that love kick?"
"always am, always will be"
"They're doing new things with sex bots these days, you know."  This comment received a raised eyebrow.  "You know what I mean.  They walk and talk - they've got the language down pat - and there's even an option to have them run on food, if plugging them in turns you off.  You can even get one that's a bit of a puzzle, you know."
"Oh, now you're just trying to appeal to my love of puzzles.  What do you mean by 'puzzle,' anyway?"
"Well, they're not just automatically pleased by whatever you do, and you have to figure out which one makes yours happy, just like if she were human."
The second sipped his tea for a bit, then set it down.  "I think that you're losing touch with reality.  It's not a matter of finding what pleases one or what makes one happy."
"Well, you can get them straight, of course, but I thought that a man of your tastes would want it.  Somehow, anything short of flesh and blood isn't good enough for you."
"It's not that.  You've forgotten something very basic."
This time, the first was at his tea, and finished it off.  "And what's that?"
"Nothing pleases them.  They have sensors, sure, but you're not really doing anything for them."  He finished his tea and then sat back, looking to the trees.  "What do you think?  I chose New England for this time of year because of the leaves."
"I guess that they're nice, but I should be getting back.  You're not the only one with anachronisms, you know?  My guildies and I have a raid soon."
"What, WoW?  That does take me back.  What's the level cap these days, 120?"
"135," said the first, as he stood and turned to leave.
"Feel free to say hi to your Waifu™ for me, if it helps."

Friday, August 31, 2012

Recent and Near-Future Reading (and Writing)

As you might know from my most recent post, I just finished A Storm of Swords.  This puts me at least a whole season ahead of HBO's Game of Thrones, which should help me to avoid spoilers.  Now, I can get back to the business at hand:  reading planetary romance, starting with the John Carter of Mars books.
... except that my plans have changed.
You see, I set out to read planetary romance as a form of research in preparation for NaNoWriMo, but my thoughts on the novel that I was to write have transformed it from throw-away adventure into magnum opus. It feels as weird as it sounds.  Anyway, that means that I'm shelving it until I get more practice at this whole novel thing.  So, what do I do now?
Thanks to cthulhuchick on twitter, I've discovered that one John Maddox Roberts wrote a series of mystery novels that take place in ancient Rome.  Throw-away comment about vampires in ancient Rome?  You're becoming a throw-away novel about vampires in ancient Rome.
New problem:  I know nothing about ancient Rome, and it's about the end of August.  This is not enough time to learn about ancient Rome and fully outline a novel!  What do I do?
I'm basically looking at two options now:
1.  I re-attempt last year's novel.
2.  I skip NaNoWriMo this year.
Unless I get a story idea about a subject with which I'm already familiar, these are my two options, and they're both looking about equal right now.

So, my reading schedule, at the moment, is some SPQR, some Barsoom, and some H.P. Lovecraft.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Regarding A Storm of Swords

I recently finished A Storm of Swords.  I'll talk about it briefly, but I warn you now of spoilers.

So, everything's pretty frakked up, which is par for the course for Westeros.  Everyone is evil to everyone else, except for a few northern peoples.
I was slightly surprised when, near the end, they explained that dragonglass actually isn't effective against the wights.  Here, I figured that the dragonglass broke against mail because mail is metal, but dissolved the Other because it was stabbed in its unarmored neck.  I liked the bit where the literal crows came to rescue Sam and Gilly under the heart tree, giving possible meaning to the black and a possible history of heart trees as protectors, if those are what drew the crows to eat the wights.  Then again, "Coldhands" showed up on his gigantic elk, so maybe he had a hand in it.  (I haven't read the next two books, of course, so I'll have to wait and see.)
Oh, and here's something really meta:  I figured that George R.R. Martin was showing how complex of a world it is, that the lord of the Dreadfort - whose symbol is the flayed man and whose family is known for torture, and things like "a naked man has few secrets; a flayed man has none" - was on the side of the good guys (read: Starks).  So, I was actually surprised when Roose Bolton turned out to be evil.
Actually, the thing that strikes me as odd about this book is how much good happens in it.  I mean, sure, Robb Stark and Grey Wind die, which sucks, but Joffrey dies, too, so there's that.  Balon Greyjoy dies, only to be replaced by his brother, but we know so little about these vikings ironmen that it's hard for me to care. Sansa's out of King's Landing and, though she's in Littlefinger's hands, and he just killed her aunt, I'd still call it an improvement.  Bran's north of The Wall to go get his psychic powers, Jon's Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, Gregor Clegane is suffering horribly (and I had such high hopes for his death), and Arya is finally off to Braavos.
Honestly?  When I found out that "valar morghulis" meant "all men must die", I expected her to meet Syrio Forel, say that word to him while showing him the coin, and have his head explode or something, where it turns out that the iron coin is some kind of Braavosi-slaying tool and she had to suffer some horrible pain or something to learn to become a face-changer.  I mean, really, would you blame me for expecting anything less at this point?
When I get around to reading the next book, here are my points of anticipation:

  • Daenerys and her attempts at the whole monarchy thing
  • Arya's journey to Braavos
  • Who the frak is Coldhands?  
  • What the frak is Coldhands?  
  • What will the consequences of the massive violation of the guest right on the part of the Freys be?  
  • So... Rickon?  
  • What is Littlefinger's apparently really long and well thought-out scheme?  
  • Tyrion's an actual kinslayer now.  Consequences?  
  • I liked Patchface.  He had this whole creepy quasi-prophetic vibe going on.  What ever became of him?  
By the way, I think that Daenerys could be carried by her dragons if she had a lightweight litter made w/ 3 handles on the top for her dragons to hold.  That said, it's probably too silly to appear in the series, but it's a thought.  

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Sudden Short Story 36

Bootfalls sounded in the dank, narrow corridors.  There was no time to lose, but what remained of the team had to stop at a T junction.  With so little recon, the original team had had to split at every junction, just to be sure that they'd find him, but it was too risky to split up just the three of them.
She gazed down one corridor, and then the other.  Each appeared to be an exact mirror of the other.  On a hunch, she fired a single shot down one corridor, hoping that he might have run out of space and had to resort to high-quality mirrors - though, in the dim light, maybe they didn't have to be that good.  She tried again down the other.
"That won't do you any good," came a voice over the public announcement system.  Such a system was entirely for their benefit, as the villain worked alone, with only the occasional robot to help him.
She engaged her radio.  "Did anyone else hear that?"
There came no response.
"It seems that there's too much metalwork down here, though you may have suspected that when you lost contact with the ones on the outside.  Of course, you could always double back if you wanted to talk face-to-face."
Fortunately, she'd brought the right man for the job.  "Ears?" she asked.  He signaled to move right, and off they went.
"I really wish that he'd talked before this.  Three is not enough," complained Ears.
"Time matters more than quantity right now."
They almost passed him.  He was operating a terminal on a platform just three steps above the floor of the hallway, in what was barely an alcove.  Nevertheless, there was a safety railing along the non-stair parts of it.
She took aim with her rifle, and he turned around, propping himself against the railing with a straightened arm, the other arm on the bulb of a raised lever.  He looked at her, smiling his wicked smile.
"Weren't you told to try to take me alive, anyway?"
"I might not be able to risk it, now."
"Well, you certainly can't risk shooting in this position.  For all that you know, this lever is the final trigger that will launch the missiles."
"Can I risk not shooting you?  You could just pull that lever, anyway, and maybe you're not ready."
"Do you want to know why they sent you in?"
"They sent us in to stop you.  You're trying to destroy the world."
"In a manner of speaking, I am, but it's far more poetical than that.  Wouldn't a nuke have done the job?  Destroy me, the island, the silos, just to be safe."
"Maybe they've got some ulterior motive, plan to use your genius to make a new weapon or something.  Whatever it is, it can't rank much higher than 'destroy the world' on my list of things to avoid."
"What, do you honestly think that I'm going to just blow it up?  They know that, whatever I've got planned, it's extraordinary.  They probably want to make sure that I don't have some kind of fail-safe stashed somewhere, maybe destroy just a city if I don't get the whole world.  They're probably scouring the big ones, now, since they may have deduced that I was brewing up neurotoxins.  Maybe they'll hope to get a cure out of my research.  Then again, maybe they just assumed that I'd fire even a partial arsenal if anything entered my airspace, which is why they didn't use a missile, didn't fly a bomb in, and shipped you folks in by boat.  Maybe they just know that I'm a complete and utter wildcard."
"So, they sent us in because only someone insane would be better taken by armed men and women than by a giant atomic fireball?  Well, we seem to be doing OK so far."
"True, but it's only a folly.  So, would you like to hear my big plan?"
Ears piped in, quietly.  "Sir, there's something wrong...."
"I know, but I'll listen, anyway.  Go on, tell us your big, evil plan."
"It's so simple, really, though the neurochemistry was really hard, so I guess not.  I've got enough aerosol to be able to deliver the toxins globally.  They'll affect everyone via the air, though, as an added bonus, it will get into the water supply, too.  Of course, by 'everyone', I mean all the females.  It doesn't actually affect males."
"So, you'll wipe out the human population by targeting the females?  That's not exactly original."
"It wouldn't be if I were killing them.  Instead, I'm turning them into lesbians."
"What, is this some erotic fantasy of yours?"
"Soldiers never could appreciate true genius.  Think about it for a while.  No woman will consent to heterosexual sex without some sort of coercion.  If humanity sticks to its ethics, then sure, it's a simple case of slow die-off, but how likely is that?  If you're lucky, then they'll turn a small segment of the female population into breeding stock, with a simple eugenics program.  And that's the good outcome."
She was silent for only a moment as she devised a solution.  She aimed downward.  "Tell me where the cure is, or I put a bullet in your left knee."
"There are three mistakes running through your head right now.  The first is that you've assumed that I've made either an antidote or a vaccine, or at least come up with a formula for them.  I haven't.  I think that your friend has figured out the second one."  He never took his eyes off of her.
"He's not here," said Ears.  "It's just a robot, or some kind of animatron."
At that, a shotgun went off, removing at the elbow the arm that held the lever.  "Good," said her other subordinate, "He won't bleed out."
"It's such a pity, too," came the voice of their enemy.  "I spent so much on these speakers.  They cost half as much as the face.  I didn't even have the budget for the hand skin - hence the gloves.  But you're right, I'm not even on the island."
Ears piped in.  "So, is that where we are, then?  He's hidden safe somewhere, and we have the base?"
"For someone who hears so well, you sure don't listen.  I already told you that it was a folly, but you paid me no heed, perhaps because you thought that I meant your efforts."
It dawned on her too late.  "He meant his base!  The whole thing's a fake."
The lever on the wall lowered itself, and klaxons sounded throughout the facility.  "And the world shall know terror," said the monster through the machine.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Briefly, Thoughts on Pokémon Conquest

I recently managed to get a copy of Pokémon Conquest.  It took this long because it apparently sold quickly, and because I didn't look that hard for it.  (I could have scoured several stores looking for a copy, but I just went with what was convenient.  After all, I don't exactly have a great need of yet another video game to play.)
My initial impressions are that, overall, I'm enjoying it.  It has a trait, though, that, for my purposes, is a slight drawback:  I actually need to pay attention to what's going on, which means that it's bad for multitasking.  I mean, I could figure out what has happened once my turn rolls around, but it's just much easier to have been watching the whole time.  Otherwise, though, it's pretty good as a light turn-based tactical game that features pokémon.
It does have an odd reversal, though:  Each pokémon only has one attack available, but it has up to three potential abilities (of which it can still only have one at a time).  This is quite different from the main games, where a pokémon has one of either one or two abilities (or sometimes three, once hidden abilities get involved), but will usually have access to at least a dozen attacks just from leveling up, and will usually know four at a time.  This doesn't detract from gameplay, though, so I'll classify this as not-a-problem.

Sudden Short Story 35

He entered the facility warily.  It seemed empty for a moment, but then he was greeted by someone in the door at the other end of the hall.
"Ah, N," he said, "Come along.  Your memories should return more quickly once you see the rest."
"I..." he started, but it felt so familiar.  "I am N."
His host had come along the corridor by this point.  "Sometimes it's a bit bewildering.  After you, if you prefer," and he gestured for N to lead.
N - as he seemed to be called here - started along slowly at first, but was at a determined pace by the time that he reached the other door, for that now was no time to let these strange feelings get to him.  "Which way?"
"Right.  It's good to see that you're coming back to your old self."
"Just to be clear, this is the place that's to give me a new body, right?"
"That's correct.  You'll see them soon enough."
"Just for my own edification, why all the secrecy?  It seems that you could do a bang-up business on the open market."
"Well, resources are still scarce.  It's all that we can do, so far, to give you a new body every generation."
They stopped at a door.
"I've been here before, then?"
"Yes, of course.  Oh, once you open the door, there's a fainting couch just to the right, though there hopefully won't be any actual fainting going on."
"You also just said that you had multiples."
"Well, no - Only one is new, you see.  You'll remember more once you see it all.  Do go on."
N paused for a moment to consider things.  Seeing no harm in just looking, he opened the door, to look inside.
The walls of the small laboratory were lined with large tubes, all but one of which - the one labeled with his own name - housed human bodies.  He set himself upon the fainting couch.  The faces and names all brought with them such familiarity.  The layout was itself obvious - only one of the bodies was young, and it came just after the empty tube.  The bodies served as reminders, and as reference points, and as a backup in case N should be unable to continue his work, for that they were the only subjects on which the procedure had been performed in any way.  There was the mental impulse transfer device, and there were the notes on the lives....
N managed to avoid fainting, but was glad for the couch, which allowed him to recline while taking it all in.  After what felt like only a moment, his host seemed to get his attention.
"Yes, it tends to overwhelm you whenever you're brought here under other circumstances.  Of course, by now you probably remember that the duplicity is only a reminder trigger, used only when you forget so badly that you miss your appointment."
"Yes, I remember it all, now.  So, shall we bring out your assistant and get started?  I'm not getting any younger, you know."

Monday, July 30, 2012

Regarding A Clash of Kings

[Significant spoilers for A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin follow.]
Recently, I finished A Clash of Kings, and I've moved on to A Storm of Swords.  As much as I'm enjoying the series, I'm going to have to take a break from A Song of Ice and Fire after that, since I'll finally be ahead of the HBO series that's been prompting so many spoilers around the web.  I've got, like, a bajillion other things to read.  I'll get back to it, don't worry.  I do have the next two books, after all.
A Clash of Kings is what it says on the can.  We start out with the four kings that we had at the end of the last book.  Then one is assassinated by magic - hooray for more magic - and then another one pops up on the other side of the continent.  Though, now that I think about it, Greyjoy sure is taking his dear sweet time about conquering things, especially given that the iron men are pretty much straight up viking/klingon/those-bad-guys-from-The-Chronicles-of-Riddick analogues:  Kill people and take their stuff.
The main impression that I have from A Clash of Kings comes from a few chapters during which I felt rather upset not only that Bran and Rickon had been killed off - especially before Bran got to really utilize his psychic mystic powers - but also that we didn't even get to see how Theon managed to find them and get past the direwolves.  So, basically, I was relieved when that turned out to be just a fake-out.
Oh, also, I was frustrated to no end with Arya's incompetence regarding her three kills.  I kind of wanted to see that chaos that would be wrought if she'd spent one on Tywin Lannister.  Furthermore, I was just plain surprised that she didn't use one on Gregore Clegane:  He was responsible for the deaths of several of her fellows, her own capture, and that of her fellow survivors, and he's nearly unkillable.
I was also glad to get some progress on that stuff beyond The Wall.  (It seems to be paying off quite well in A Storm of Swords, too.)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sudden Short Story 34

Black was the color of his jacket.  Black was the color of his leggings.  Black was the color of his boots.  Black was the color of his gloves, except for the fingertips, which were all the colors of the rainbow.  He kept the tips in groups - blue to blue, yellow to yellow, red to red, green to green - and waved them about in the ever-warm air.  A great machine copied his movements, reaching for a large canister.  It was also a bit noisy - an unusual feature for its size - and so he did not hear her approach on her green ATV.
"You've got to be hot under all of that," she shouted to him.  "You look like you're dressed for a funeral."
"I suppose that I am," he shouted back, "but it's cold in space.  You'll see."
"I don't know that I need to go all the way to space to know that," she replied.  "So are you The Spacefarer, then?"
"I am.  Am I still the only one who's left?"
"Well, I don't suppose that anyone has, really, seeing as how you came back."
"I'll be heading out again soon enough."
"Don't tell me that The Spacefarer has returned to Earth just to do an experiment at Kilauea."
Another voice interrupted them.  "HALT, EVILDOER!" came the sudden, loud cry from an indiscernible source.  The Spacefarer was sliding down the slope before he realized that he had suffered a rather strong impact to his chest.  The man dressed in blue landed on the rim, and quickly discarded his overheated and spent jet belt.  He faced her through his mask and asked, boldly, "Are you alright, madam?"
"Why shouldn't I be?  You didn't fly into me at highway speed!  What's the meaning of this?"
"Don't let him fool you.  He's here to kill us all."
The Spacefarer staggered to his feet.  "You see, this is why I didn't tell anyone.  You'd all get upset and start trying to ruin my plans.  Fortunately, I'm not the one who was fool enough to wear a cape."  The Spacefarer brought his fingers together and wheeled his hand through the air.  The canister was released, and one of the great mechanical arms grabbed the hero's cape, lifting him into the air, but before it had him even a meter off of the ground, he struck a latch around his collar, releasing himself from his cape.
"I'm not so great a fool as that.  --"  The hero was smacked away suddenly by a great mechanical arm.
"Don't think that I wasn't prepared for this possibility.  Somebody would notice my return, and there was a chance that somebody among them would suspect my motives.  There was then a chance that one of those would actually piece it together, and then a chance that that individual might take action.  With nearly ten billion humans on the planet, I didn't put it past you."
She asked her would-be savior a question.  "How did you know?"
He groaned out a reply.  "He went out there... so far... He brought back a sizable payload.  It's suspicious, and then he takes it to a volcano.  Hawai'i is just as good a place as any....  Nobody cares any more."
She turned to address The Spacefarer.  "So what is it, then?  Neutron degenerate matter?  Strange matter?  Some new isotope that can only be found in space?"
The mechanical arms worked at full capacity to lift the massive container high enough to pass the rim.  "It's nothing so unlikely as that, really.  I call it the Absolution Link Device.  The Hawaiian hotspot gives the right combination of lift and heat to ensure that the container is destroyed just before reaching the core.  At that point, containment will be lost, and the link will be re-established, with this end connected to Earth's core.  You'll never guess where the other end is before this hits the core, let alone actually reach it, you know."
She pretended to examine the body of the would-be hero, to see what she could do to help him.  Really, she examined him for anything useful.  He had been armored, which was excellent for his health at this point, though it was now heavily dented.  He had apparently underestimated his opponent's machine's strength.  Electric charges in the gauntlets.  A lightweight baton.  A pouch apparently containing tiny transmitters.  A shield had been in his left hand, and it seemed to be made of the same stuff as the baton.  Then, she realized what she needed, and it was on her ATV.  She went to it, grabbed it and her first aid kit, and went back to the would be hero.  At the same time, she confronted the riddle that had been put before her.
"It could be almost anywhere."
"'Almost anywhere' is a lot of places."  The Spacefarer's head was suddenly interrupted by a flying wrench.  He collapsed immediately.
She went over to him, removed his gloves, donned them herself, and set the canister down short of the rim.
"Please tell me that you have some manacles in that getup of yours," she called to the man bedecked in blue.
He moved his arm, but found that it hurt too much.  "Third pouch on the left.  So where's the other end of this thing?"
She went to retrieve the handcuffs.  "Most of the universe is cold, hard vaccum.  It's there."
"You know, for a guy who said that he anticipated me, he sure didn't anticipate you."
"Apparently, he's got a shield field generator to stop beams and bullets - personal sized, if you can believe it - so it's a good thing that we didn't have guns to try to shoot him.  I think that he was relying on those arms to stop anyone who tried to melee him."
"That's still quite a chance.  If you didn't hit him in the head, neck, or crotch, then you wouldn't have stopped him."
"You're right," she replied.  "That's why I hit him in the head."

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Nidorina is in the Undiscovered Egg Group

Recently, I've been doing a crazy chain-breeding extravaganza in Generation IV. Here's how it goes:

1.  Start with a male Lapras. Level it up until it knows Rain Dance, Ice Beam, and Water Pulse.
2.  Breed it onto a female Slowpoke that also knows Water Pulse.
3.  Hatch eggs until you get a male Slowpoke with Rain Dance, Ice Beam, and Water Pulse. The Rain Dance isn't really used here, but it's a good thing to have available for breeding to save on TMs.
4.  Level up the Slowpoke until it learns Confusion, mostly because it's neat that Nidorino can get that.
5.  Breed the Slowpoke onto a Nidoran-female. This works because they're both in the Monster egg group, but note that Nidorina, for some strange reason, is in the Undiscovered egg group.
6.  Hatch eggs until you get a Nidoran-male with Water Pulse, Ice Beam, and Confusion.
7.  Level that up until it evolves into Nidorino.
8.  Level up that Nidorino until it learns Poison Jab.
9.  [step redacted]
10.  [step redacted]
11.  Profit!

What, you think that I'm going to give away ALL of my pokémon training secrets? :-p
Oh, and if anyone cares, I have a surplus of Spinarak with Signal Beam and Psybeam.

Sudden Short Story 33

"I don't think that you understand the weight of the situation," said the reporter - about the only challenging one left on Earth.
"No, L.-Ané, I think that you are the one who lacks such an understanding.  Science does not stop simply because a few people find it inconvenient.  You should remember your history.  The dark ages of Europe, the Middle East, and North America could not last forever.  Even in modern times, with everything interconnected, it can't all be blocked out."
"But don't you see how our society has grown since then?  Homosexuality is no longer considered a sin, nor even a choice."
"Tell me," said T.-Valon, "do you think that the motives for my actions determine them to be good or evil, or the actions themselves?"
"Of course your motives matter.  It is one thing to launch a rocket to explore the stars, and quite another to do so only to bear a warhead."
"My motives are the furthering of science and the betterment of mankind.  Why is that a problem?"
"Because gay births have dropped off completely everywhere that you've harvested trebulon j, and because you don't seem to even be aware of what you've done."
"What have I done?  I discovered trebulon j, and I've been harvesting it from the environment wherever I could find it, so that I could study it.  And, though I have yet to find a practical use for the damn stuff, no harm has yet come of my experiments."
"But the birth rates --"
"Are the same as they ever were.  Mine is a large company, L.-Ané.  We've been doing our own research, and it corroborates the independent studies.  There's been neither decrease in birth rates nor increase in death rates or cancer or mutation or STDs or even the common cold!  The only thing that has happened is that, where we made our first harvests of trebulon j, there now no longer originate homosexuals.  But everyone seems to assume that this is some sort of evil plot, and it's probably due to my age."
T.-Valon stood, and moved to face a window.  "I'm quite old, as I'm sure that you're aware, and I've seen a great deal in my time.  In my earliest days, I saw the turmoil surrounding the change that you suggested earlier.  I know quite well - probably better than any of your peers - that our society has changed in this way.  But you - all of you - you've grown up taking this for granted, but you seem to be confused about something."
There was silence for a moment, so she decided that he was waiting for her to ask.  "What is that?"
He turned to face her again.  "Do you think that homosexuality is a virtue?"
As she had come to almost expect from him, it was a question that she'd never heard asked before.  Caught off guard, her brain moved her mouth with the first thing that she knew of it.  "It's not a sin..."
He moved toward her, and rested his hands on the back of his own chair.  "It's not a vice, but is it a virtue?  Is a gay man somehow better than a straight man?"
"Well, no, not in that sense..."
"In some other sense, then?"
"Not in any sense, when you get right down to it."
"Well, at least you've got that part figured out, which is more than I can say for the others.  I knew that I'd not regret interviewing you.  So, tell me, do you understand my perspective now?"
She peered at him with great suspicion.  "You know, the scary thing is that I think that I almost do."
"In that case, would you still like the tour?"
"I think that I'll take a pass anyway, thanks."  L.-Ané stood and went to leave.  As she approached the door, T.-Valon suddenly asked her, "Would you like me to predict the future?"
"The famed scientist and industrialist T.-Valon, engaging in fortune-telling?  This I have to hear."
He didn't seem to hear her joke.  His mildly flippant tone had grown somber and sincere.  "You will see eugenics in your lifetime, but it will not come from me.  Eventually, we will discover how to efficiently synthesize trebulon j.  It will occur too soon, though, and when it does, the people will ask - nay, demand that it be made in large quantities and released into the environments where it was first taken.  And on that day, you will know eugenics, but you will be alone.  Good day, L.-Ané."

Defenders of the Realm

I recently got a chance to play Defenders of the Realm, and I'd like to share my thoughts briefly.

The gameplay is quite fun. I tend to enjoy challenging cooperative games, and this one doesn't disappoint.  The base game comes with a variety of adventurers, and there are several adventurer expansion packs.  Most characters have simple abilities that still add a lot to the game.  For example, I forget the Dwarf's first power, but his second power lets him re-roll failed dice against dragonkin - the hardest monsters to kill - and his third power reduces his damage per turn by 1, which, among other things, allows him to stay in a spot with 1 enemy at the end of his turn without taking any damage at all, so that he can finish them off on the next turn.  I had a lot of fun playing the Eagle Rider and questing all over the board.
Pro tip:  The movement mechanics of the cards are a lot easier to understand once you realize that the top-left symbol always ignores color.  (Really, the portal mechanics were the most confusing.)  Between the character variety and the quests, there's plenty of replay value in the base game alone.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Sudden Short Story 32

The adventurers made their way deeper under the ground, the way ahead lit only by the magical torches that they carried.  The human wore scale mail and bore a round, wooden shield in his other hand.  The elf wore studded leather, and carried a longbow.  They grew thirsty, as their water had run out the previous day, and they had been unable to find any water along the way.
Their journey through the underdark had led through tunnels wide and narrow, high and low, winding and straight.  This area happened to be very tall, and wide enough for an entire party to walk abreast with room to spare.  They reached a turn, to the right, and hadn't gone far when the elf spotted what appeared to be a pool of water ahead, with several high rocks around it.  When they approached, the elf suddenly dropped his eternal torch and knocked an arrow.
"What are you doing?" asked the man.
"I'm making sure that my hand's free in case I need to shoot something.  What does it look like I'm doing?"
"Well, why are you doing that now, of all times?"
"I just botched a Perception roll, that's why.  I don't know how useful this will be, though.  Since we're without a Rogue, it's probably a trap."
"Am I to understand that you're readying your weapon on the grounds that you didn't see anything?"
"Well, if we take it slow, then I might get another roll, and maybe I can act during the surprise round."
"Do you have any idea how stupid this sounds?"
"Hey, better safe than sorry."
"OK, fine," said the man, tossing his torch down near the pool and pulling out his longsword.  "Here.  We'll take it in turns.  You go fill your waterskin while I cover you."
Begrudgingly, the elf put away his arrow, picked up his own torch, and made his way toward the pool, his companion at his side every step of the way.  He knelt by the pool and placed his bow and torch down on either side of him, specifying that each was within arm's reach.  He was about to dip his waterskin in when he stopped.
"Wait, we're in the underdark.  What if the water's poisoned?"
"Isn't there some kind of roll that you can make to taste-test it?"
"Why should I have to do it?"
"Because you're the Ranger!  Here, if it makes you feel better, I'll swing my sword around in front of me, just in case someone's invisible and adjacent.  Just hurry up."
"Yeah, alright...."  With that, he scooped a handful of the liquid out of the pool and tasted it as he knelt.
With that, the transparent ooze rose out of the small pit, swallowing him whole.
The human turned around to see what had happened.  "HAH!" he said, "Nice."
And then they rolled Initiative.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Current Reading

Since I blogged about something that I read recently, I thought that I might blog about what I'm planning to read in the near future.  So, here we go.

  • A Clash of Kings - I've been wanting to start into A Song of Ice and Fire for a while now.  Now that I've read A Game of Thrones, I want to see what happens next.  This will also help give me a better buffer against spoilers, which only really became an issue with that HBO series; I don't know whether it will press into the territory of the later books, but I'd rather be safe about it.  
  • A Princess of Mars - This is mostly because I've recently acquired an interest in the planetary romance genre.  Most references to that genre seem to relate the Barsoom series as among its defining works, so I thought that I'd give it a whirl.  
  • Dune - I saw this classified as planetary romance, as well, and I've been meaning to read it for a long time, anyway.  
  • a collection of brothers Grimm fairy tales - At one point, I picked up three books of fairy tales.  I've finished two of them, but I still need to read this one.  Of course, original fairy tales from the brothers Grimm are also of interest to me, anyway.  
  • the complete works of H.P. Lovecraft - This has been on my long-term to-read list for quite a while.  Discovering The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast gave me a new motivation, and also an order (chronologically by date written), though I've fallen behind.  
There are a great many things that I mean to read that did not make this list, of course.  Off the top of my head, there's The Colour of Magic, a Calvin & Hobbes collection that I picked up, Sandman, the first few Wheel of Time books, re-reads of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and those are just books that I own.  These, though, are my short-term items.

Regarding A Game of Thrones

WARNING:  The following post contains spoilers for the novel A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin.

The spoilers leaking out of people due to the popular HBO series A Game of Thrones bumped the novel up on my reading list.  I finished it recently, so I thought that I'd share some thoughts on it.
Overall, I liked it.  The perspective characters were used effectively.  The story also seemed to effectively convey a world in which magic once existed, but now was all but gone, at least in the main area.  I was actually a bit relieved when the corpses found north of the wall turned out to be revenants, since I was starting to worry that there wouldn't be any actual magic involved.
I suffered some disappointment near the end, though.  For one, when Drogo learned of the king's orders to assassinate Daenerys, and committed himself to taking his khalasar across the sea, I was like thinking, "Alright, this is going to happen."  But then, it didn't.  Also, when Dany's child wound up being stillborn, it of course raised questions about the nature of prophecy in the world, but I think that I was even more disappointed when I read the description of it, which included scales and everything.  We could have had some kind of draconic dude in this story and we didn't?!
Well, at least the dragons hatched by the end.  Those eggs were such a tease.
It sounds like I'm complaining but I think that that's because it's easier to specify what disappointed me (not necessarily "disliked") than it is to specify what I actually liked.
That said, don't get me started on how crappy Mirri Maz Duur's plan was.

P.S.:  Are all of the books going to include the title (maybe minus the leading article) in the dialogue?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

How to Make a Justice League Film

So, DC has been having some issues lately, among which are problems with their attempts at getting in on the whole live-action theatrically-released superhero film thing.  The latest word is that there won't be a Justice League film.  Still, if DC wants to make a Justice League film, then here are some thoughts about that:
Firstly, DC will need to pick one of two directions.  They can either make serious films or make silly ones.  (It would be too difficult to copy the balance of seriousness, action, and humor that Marvel has without appearing to outright copy Marvel.)  Based on the success of Nolan's Batman trilogy, it seems like that could be a good route to take, so I'll pursue that with this train of thought.
Who exactly is in the Justice League will depend on a few things.  You'll want heroes who are recognizable, and cool, but also who aren't too far out of scale with one another.  Superman is obviously a must-have in a DC property, so that sets the bar pretty high as far as power level goes.  Green Lantern has the right power level for that, but it would have to be Hal Jordan, and that would likely require a reboot if we're to take him sufficiently seriously.
Here's a short list for consideration:

  • Recent iterations of Aquaman are actually cool and he's pretty badass; in addition to his own (admittedly limited on this scale) powers, he's the king of Atlantis, and thus commands an entire submarine navy whose technology appears to at least match that of the surface-dwellers.  The main risk with using him is that older people will remember him from his presence on Super Friends.  
  • J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter, is actually a prime target for a film adaptation these days.  Between CGI and motion capture, a greenish-skinned shapeshifter could be done without breaking suspension of disbelief.  
  • Batman is a problem.  He's definitely cool, but it's hard to scale him up without disturbing the coveted suspension of disbelief.  It might be necessary to leave him in Gotham for this.  
  • Captain Marvel is a problem, but for different reasons.  Aside from the whole name thing, he's basically a magical counterpart to Superman as far as powers are concerned.  Being a match for Superman is one thing, but actually matching him for most of his powers (strength, speed, toughness) is another matter.  
  • Captain Atom could use some screen time.  He'll be especially stand-out if DC doesn't give Superman heat-vision.  Go nuts on the bloom.  
  • Wonder Woman could fit if DC could figure out how to dress her.  But, hey, it's not like we actually know what the ancient Greeks wore into battle or anything.  (Pro tip:  Say the phrase "ancient Greek lasso" out loud.)  
  • The Flash could work if DC ensures that he's faster than Superman.  
  • If audiences are OK with someone who's expressly a magic-user, then DC could do a lot worse than Dr. Fate.  

If DC goes the sillier route, then here's a short list for that:

  • Hal Jordan Green Lantern, as-is
  • Wally West Flash
  • Aquaman (silver age style)
  • ... Wonder Twins?  I don't know, just grab a handful of supers and be done with it.  

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Sudden Short Story 31

"... The thing that seems to stand out the most in your portfolio is the matter of your private library."
"Well, I have a private library, but I have a great many private expenditures for my own benefit that aren't profitable in and of themselves.  I assume that you're referring to my public library."
"What do you mean when you say 'public'?"
"I mean just what it sounds like I mean.  The library is open for anyone and everyone to use at no cost.  Most of the books can be checked out, at no cost, so long as one has a library card, which also has no cost.  It's a public library, and, as I understand it, the last one in existence."
"But... aside from your staff, who are paid to do so, nobody ever enters or leaves the building except for you."
"Well, that's probably why it stands out on my portfolio.  Not only is it the least profitable of my ventures, but it actually loses money.  The staff - librarians, cleaning crew, maintenance - aren't working for free, you know."
"Well, from how you explain it, it wouldn't matter if you had a thousand people checking out a thousand books a day for a thousand years, it would still lose money."
"That's correct."
"But, for all your market genius, for all your ingenuity, why haven't you figured out a way to monetize it?"
"Because... It's a library."
"I'm afraid that I don't understand."
"Nor does anyone else, it seems, and that, I find, is the saddest thing these days."

Monday, April 30, 2012

Sudden Short Story 30

His name had long been forgotten, as it was only of niche interest, and so was very low in terms of backup priority.  It was supposed that he knew it, as that was how these things usually worked, but it was something of a moot point, as most of those who would ask would lose interest by the time that he got around to responding.  Whether he was even still alive was sometimes left uncertain, until someone thought to look up primatology, track him down, and verify his breathing and pulse.  He was easy enough to find, of course, since he only ever inhabited one vessel, though he did move it on rare occasion.
He had a strange collection.  It was made of enormous, biodegradable objects that stored information linguistically, and not at all compactly at that.  He made a habit of storing, preserving, ordering, and reading these things, and it is for this that he was known as The Librarian.  It was known that he had been offered the chance to join them at some point in the past, though he had rejected it, citing the books and his reading them as his motive.
Once, a node got disconnected, and so the Librarian had to explain to it what minutes were so that he could explain what hours were, so that he could specify how many of those to wait before asking again.  While it had been very patient, asking only once per second, the Librarian apparently found it annoying.  He had indicated that he was trying to reread a tale of two cities, though he hadn't specified which one.

My Chex Mix Recipe

Because I can, I'm posting the recipe that I've recently come to use to make Chex mix.  I basically combined the common elements of recipes that I found online and tweaked it to fit my own needs, as one does.

  • 1.5 cups corn Chex
  • 1.5 cups rice Chex
  • 1.5 cups wheat Chex
  • 1 cup pretzel sticks
  • 1 cup peanuts
  • 0.5 sticks butter (regular (salted) table butter)
  • 1.5 to 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (vary to suit taste)
  • 0.5 teaspoon Lawry's Seasoned Salt
  • 2 cloves (or 1 big clove) garlic, finely chopped
  • 0.125* teaspoon onion powder
The actual making is pretty standard stuff.  Mix cereals, pretzels, and peanuts.  Melt the remaining ingredients in the microwave, stirring often to get things evenly mixed and make sure that everything's wet for most of it.  Drizzle that over the dry stuff, stirring extensively to get the sauce on everything.  Nuke for 6 minutes, in 1.5 minute increments, stirring between each increment for even heating and even sauce distribution.  Let cool on paper towels before containing, though it might not last that long.  It really is good stuff.

So, I have a rather traditional** Chex mix recipe that my coworkers, my family, and I find delicious.  What should I do now?  EXPERIMENT!  MWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!  Now that my creativity has been unleashed, no one will be safe!  Or something.  If I find the time (not this weekend, but perhaps the next one), then I'll mess with things.  I've already got a few ideas in mind.
Maybe don't hold your breath, though, as a precautionary measure.

*That's 1/8.
**peanuts, none of that filler (bread stick pieces, bagel chips, rye chips), and, to some extent, the use of pretzel sticks instead of pretzel-shaped pretzels

Ye Olde Star Trekke

For those who don't know, I've lately been watching the original Star Trek series.  It's actually not that bad.  I expected it to be pretty not-good given the time period in which it was made, the budget, and the time period in which it was made.  Here are the things that have stood out to me so far:

  • Red shirts don't get thrown away (i.e., written to death) nearly as often as I'd been led to believe.  
  • Computers had a lot of exposed circuits back then.  
  • For being 300 years in the future, it still takes a long time to get data from an on-board computer.  
  • Everyone's a human except Spock, who's half-human.  
  • Spellcheck didn't try to correct "Spock" there.  
  • About half of all aliens are absurdly powerful cosmic beings.  
  • Even back then, there was a really bad habit of sending way too many senior officers down with a landing party.  
  • Uhura is pretty well-rounded for a secondary character.  
    • I mean, really, it's basically about Kirk, Spock, & Bones.  
  • Spellcheck doesn't know who Uhura is.  
    • I checked my own spelling via Google, so I know that it's right.  
  • Inexplicably, security personnel and engineers both wear red.  In the future, this is corrected by dressing security personnel in yellow and engineers in yellow.  Wait a minute....  
So, I'm finding the series quite palatable, though I hear that the 3rd season is kind of bad.  We shall see!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Pokémon: the Breeding Dilemma

So, I've been playing Pokémon a bit lately.  In my White version, I've gotten to the point where I can breed Pokémon, which is something that I always used to enjoy in the games.  Getting certain move sets could prove an interesting challenge, and I always felt that it could make desirable Pokémon for trading, though that never really came up much in the past, due to a lack of trading partners.
Part of this came from the fact that, in addition to the special egg moves, newly hatched Pokémon start with any TM that they can learn that their fathers knew when breeding.  Most especially, this is of interest for TMs that only appear once in a given game.  Breeding would allow me to make a Pokémon that knew that move - and really any number of them - which could be desirable to someone else who has used or has plans for that TM.  Give a Pokémon 2 inherited TMs and an egg move, and it can become quite interesting.
That portion of the point seems to have been removed in the Generation V games, as TMs are now infinite-use, rendering the distinction between the two basically academic, as the only real difference is that HMs must be deleted at the move deleter's house (I assume).  While there's nothing preventing me from TM-breeding as before, it seems kind of pointless, especially as I couldn't even say that I'm saving myself the cost of purchasable TMs!
This also means that TMs can be used with impunity, so there's no challenge to deciding when to use which one.  :-\

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Sudden Short Story 28

There once was a game called HarvestCraft...
It started out simply enough, but functionality continued to be added, improvements which sometimes owed their existence to improvements in the hardware.
The base scale was made perpetually smaller, which allowed for finer precision for everything.
Weather was added, which then affected local climates.
Grain varieties were added.  Their growth depended upon weather and climate.
Enough plants, animals, fungi, archaea, etc. were added to make for a self-sustaining biosphere.
Fossil generation was added, though not much was done with it.
Organisms were made to be assemblages of one or more cells.
Later, the organelles pack was added, further fleshing out the cells.
DNA was added, which allowed for tree-tracing the relations among organisms, for those interested.
The virus patch was added.
The edge walls were removed in favor of a finite plane that wrapped around on itself.
Proper gravity was added, though its only noticeable effect was that it created tides.
NPCs were given general AIs, and their reproduction - and everyone else's - was eventually upgraded to include an entire proper development cycle.  Aging was also added.
Eventually, though, the players grew tired of this game, too, and left, though the server was left running.
No one has yet returned to shut down Earth.

Sudden Short Story 27

Dials and switches covered the controls.  Gauges gave readings that had meaning only to the being that operated them.  The patient, strapped to a flat, metallic surface, summoned the strength to ask, "You're going to kill me, aren't you?"
"I assure you that whatever legends you've heard about me have probably been quite twisted by time," came the reply, "I help people, and humans especially."
"Is that why you refer to yourself as a healer?  Do you honestly believe any of that?"
He turned a knob and attached a canister of fluid to a port as he replied, "I know that you're upset now, but you'll see.  You're the last one, you know.  In just a few moments, there will no longer be any humans with any sort of prejudice at all."
"Well, doesn't that sound just lovely?" asked the patient, sarcasm not the only thing dripping from him in this makeshift medical laboratory.  "When you put it like that, it sounds like you're not killing me at all, and certainly not leaving my body to some shell of a man who happens to share the same memories."
The Doctor smirked at this, and approached.  "You make it sound as if I don't know anything about bodies and memories.  I'll have you know that this--"
"Twenty-seventh," replied the patient, silencing his would-be executioner.  "You were going to say that this is your twenty-seventh incarnation, weren't you, Doctor?"
His face blanched at the interruption, and a moderate frown crept across his face.  "Well, you seem to know more about me than you let on.  You've even kept count.  And how did you manage that?"
A smug grin snuck its way onto the patient's face, but was quickly squelched.  "Surely a man of your experience knows that there's more than one way to travel through time.  Let's just say that we got here the old-fashioned way."
"'We'?  Who exactly is 'we'?"
"Never mind, Herr Monster.  The point is that I've served as more than adequate bait for you," and with that, the patient slipped out of consciousness.
"Hey.  HEY!"  The Doctor went back to the console, adjusted some knobs to reduce the sedative effect, and returned.  "What did you mean by all that?!"
"Ah," said the patient, sluggishly, "Anger.  How characteristic that is of your fifth, tenth, seventeenth, eighteenth,...."  He passed out again, the mad scientist grabbing his most important tool and running off.  He returned promptly, even angrier than before.  "The TARDIS, where is it?!"
"Should I tell you?  You'll find out eventually, but will you be able to do anything about it if you find out too soon?"
"Don't you dare think that you can out-clever me, I'm the cleverest one of all!"  He began a casual pace.  "You said that you were the perfect bait, so this must be part of some elaborate trap.  Well, never mind that.  Nobody can keep me from the TARDIS for long, for I have a TARDIS key!"  He produced the key from a pocket, holding it tightly in his grip.  He stick it horizontally in the air, waited a moment, and then withdrew it, puzzled.
"It's a good thing for you that you came back in as quickly as you did.  You forgot to count the stars, but I can count them from here.  Herr Monster, would you like to know why I was on an abandoned planet when you found me, or have you figured it out by now?"
"There aren't any stars, are there?  You've somehow sent us to an empty universe.  But, if that's so, then you'll die, too, freezing to death with me.  But, why?  For the lives of us both, why?"
"You know, I'd like to explain about how it all started when you started systematically 'correcting' people for what you saw as their flaws - around thirteen or so - but really, we had to be sure, you know?  So, that rumbling sound just now will be Osterhagen system."

Sudden Short Story 26

"I propose an experiment that requires you to not assimilate us for a limited time."
The approaching machinery came to a halt, but maintained its poise, ready to reach out and take the remaining humans.  Their apparent leader loosed the catch on a dead-man switch, preparing to drop it at a moment's notice.
"Demonstrate that you have such a proposal," spoke a thousand metal voices, "and it will be considered."
"I hypothesize that our minds are better left separate than forced together, because it is in this way that our creativity flourishes.  Among us are painters, sculptors, poets, authors, and other artists.  I believe that, though the works would not be produced quite as rapidly as in the collective, the quality will be unmatched.  These works will be finer than whatever you manage to create.  Note that this experiment can only happen before you perform the irreversible reaction of assimilating us."
The machine was silent for a moment, as the collective that had overtaken Earth's civilization considered this.  It spoke again:  "Your posture and tone, as well as the device that you hold, suggest that you intend to threaten us if we do not intend to comply with your proposal.  What is your threat?"
Speaking directly, the leader said, "I have created the Chandrasekhar Device, which will destroy the Earth-Moon System if activated."
"That is impossible.  There is insufficient matter in the Earth-Moon System to create electron-degenerate matter."
"It's neutron-degenerate matter, actually, and it doesn't need to be sustainable.  Among the gravitational waves, the tidal forces, the radiation of collapse, the radiation of expansion, and that from the newly-created radioactive elements, neither life-form nor electronic will be able to survive.  All that will remain will be a three-puddle of molten rock and dust."
"That is still impossible.  Neutron-degenerate matter lacks charge, and therefore cannot be contained by any device.  Such a device would not be able to create a sufficient concentration to damage anything but itself."
"That would be true if it created the material within itself.  However, I have devised a system of quantum entanglement to allow the containment to exist outside of the device, which means that I am no longer constrained by my device's mass or volume.  I was able to use a simpler version of the same technique to transmit the signal from this switch, meaning that the Faraday cage that you've no doubt constructed around this facility will do you no good."
Another pause occurred.  The machinery receded slightly.
"We would be willing to give you one year for your experiment.  However, what assurance do we have that you will not destroy this planet anyway if you do not get the result that you want?"
"You have only my word, but you also have my solemn vow that, if you refuse this offer, or if you attempt to come for us before the time is up, then I will destroy this system and everything on it."
The great arm and mouthpiece of the collective began to recede from the facility.
"You have your year.  Use it well."

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

MC Wiki

This is my announcement, on this blog, that I've made another blog, just for Minecraft stuff.  Specifically, I thought this up about two weeks ago, since it would be good for some mods that I'm planning to develop, as well as Minecraft stuff in general.  Though, both have been brought to a screeching halt by medical necessity.  Soon, though, I'll be over this, and then it's back to the virtual mines!  ... The future is weird.

Perpetual "Lent"

NOTE:  I actually had the idea for this post last week, but illness and side-effects of medication have kept me away from blogger until now.

So, during Lent, Catholics give up something that they enjoy for 40 days (though it's apparently 46 days with breaks on Sundays?) to emulate being in a Roman prison for a comparable period of time.  Yeah, I don't get it, either.  Anyway, I realized that, in a way, I'm always giving up something that I like.  It all comes down to time. Work sucks up 42+ hours per week, plus commuting time.  However, it grants me money, so that I can buy stuff that I want.  The tricky thing is finding time to do everything that I want.  Do I play Minecraft, or TF2?  Or Dungeons of Dredmore?  Or Dungeon Defenders?  Or Pokemon?  Do I catch up on new YouTube subscription videos, or watch old favorites?  Or do I listen to a podcast?  Should I read that next HP Lovecraft story, or a fairy tale?  Or should I be digging around for old planetary romance novels?
This might sound like an arbitrary observation, and maybe it is, but, to me, I really notice all of that stuff that I'm not doing.
I guess that that's it:  short and bittersweet this time.

Pokémon: White Version

Recently, I was reminiscing about my old days playing pokémon.  My ruby version's battery died last year, and I didn't feel like trying to compensate for the lack of time-based events.  Fortunately, as an improvement over Generation II, the game's save data isn't dependent on the battery, so I figured that I wouldn't be at any real loss if I just replace the battery.
But then, I had a realization:  Given that I have my own source of income now, I can just buy the new games, and the system on which to play them.  So, I did.  I've skipped Generation IV altogether and bought myself a Nintendo DSi and Pokémon White and Black versions. I've started playing White version first, because, after some checking (done before the purchase, actually), I found that White version has the White Forest, where some pokémon can be found, whereas the Black City (Black version's counterpart) doesn't have any.
Before this next part, you should realize that, now that I've got the games, I'm trying to minimize how much I look up.  I want to re-experience that initial discovery feeling from back when I played the first games, in the ancient 1990s.  :P
As I've played through, here are some things that I've noticed, in no particular order:
  • Based on the intro, there's much more of a JRPG feel to this game.  I mean, I know that Pokémon is from Japan, and that it's considered a VGRPG, but it never really felt like that, y'know?  
  • Boy has the beginning of the game ever changed.  Instead of being eased into the idea that this is a world of Pokémon, and eventually being shown a battle and given a choice of Pokémon, it's just:  Here are the starters, pick one.  This doesn't affect my ability to play the game (by the way, I picked Snivy), but I imagine that it could be daunting to a new player (i.e., "What if I pick the wrong one?" stress).  Also, I kind of liked the relaxed pace of the games before.  
  • There is a distinct lack of early Pokémon.  I found Patrat and Pidove, and was like, "OK, I got Rattatta and Pidgey, but where's... anything else?"  This game's version of Caterpie/Weedle/Wurmple isn't encountered until after the first gym, which is quite odd.  In fact, it was only thanks to my dogged persistence that I found that I could catch Purrloin, too.  
  • Speaking of that, this game seems to be playing more to the gamist players.  There's the really quick start, and the rarity of Pokémon early on, and there are even Heal Balls later on, which are useless if the newly-captured Pokémon is sent to the box (i.e., if you have a full team at the time of capture).  It really seems to play to the type of player who catches the minimum number of Pokémon to beat the Elite Four.  
  • TMs can now be used like HMs, and there are at least 98 of them.  What's up with that?  
  • Why do I have to navigate terrain in 3D?  This isn't even a 3DS game.  Also, I'm still moving on a grid, so is the experience really that improved?  
  • Why did Sewaddle take until level 20 to evolve?  It's this version's Caterpie, so I was expecting level 10 at worst.  
  • Why does the Snivy line have hind legs?  It's not like there haven't been snake Pokémon before.  
Well, those are my initial impressions.  Make of them what you will.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Goodbye LEGO Universe, Hello Again Minecraft

So, I gave up Minecraft for NaNoWriMo, and then I stayed away from it up until now because LEGO Universe was ending in just two months.  Well, those two months are up.  I tried connecting to the servers, but couldn't, with text explaining why.  So now I can get back to Minecraft (and also TF2).  I think that the biggest challenge will be remembering what I was going to do.  I remember what I was planning overall, but I'm not sure at what step I was.  For instance, I was working on a runway, but I went over to my other base.  I may have been planning to work on my dry dock.  There's only one thing that I know for sure:  I need more iron!

Sudden Short Story 25

One man lay upon the battlefield, alive yet bleeding.  Around him were the slain bodies of countless men and angels.  In his right hand he gripped his sword, its blade nearly three feet in length and its pommel featuring what appeared to be a snow globe, which had been vigorously stirred from the melee.  He propped himself up on his left arm, for over him stood an angel with a sword of its own.
"Congratulations," said the angel, "You are the last human left alive.  Trust when I say that it will be of little comfort where you are going."
"I rather doubt that," said the human, managing a smirk despite the pain.  "Tell me, angel, what do they call you?"
"I am called Alphael."
"Well, that seems appropriate, since you'll be the first to die."
"I see that your sin is vainglory, for that while you managed to slay many of us with that ridiculous sword of yours, you are mortally wounded, and your comrades lay dead.  Prepare to die."
The man muttered a name and, though the angel could not hear it, it somehow sent chills through him.
"What?" he asked.
"I said that this sword, secreted from myth and history alike, the key to the ultimate plan, has a name.  I know the secret that even you have forgotten, for you, angels, are jotun, and this," he said, raising his sword, "is Fimbulvintersverð!"  The jotun prepared to strike, but the human swiftly smashed the pommel against a rock, and from it sprang forth the most bitter cold that Midgard has ever known.
The winged jotun attempted to fly away, but the cold and wind made it impossible.  In a panicked attempt, he dropped his sword, but he may as well have picked up a boulder for all the good that it did him.  The cold bit so bitterly that all that he could do was wrap his wings around himself as he huddled into a ball for what little warmth he could get.
"It was Loki who devised the plan.  Let you go long enough, and you'd start to believe your own lies.  Eventually, you would fulfill your own prophecies, which included raising the dead to fight amongst the living."  Winter spread past the horizon, and kept going.  "What could you have done more foolish?  Now, they have all died warriors' deaths!  The Aesir's army could not be any stronger, and it's all thanks to the jotun.  There is only one thing left to do now."  And with a gut-wrenching leap, the last man alive on Midgard leapt through the air with the last of his strength, felling the now-frail Alphael in one blow.  And there he died, too, though he was soon taken to Fólkvangr.