Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2014 Resolutions

Here are some resolutions of mine for 2014: 
  • Blog at least 4 times per month.  This one's not new, but I still have trouble with it, so it stays put.  
  • Beat the Elite 4 in Pokémon X.  Honestly, this one will be done by the end of January, or maybe February.  
  • Catch 'em all in Pokémon X.  This one is much more ambitious, and is the one goal that I think has a good chance of not happening, but it also seems very possible.  It's made easier by the inclusion of most pokémon in Generation VI, Wonder Trade, and the coming advent of Pokémon Bank. 
  • Make significant progress in one of my Nuzlocke runs.  
  • Beat Myst again.  I'm planning to do this anyway, but it's also between me and my next goal.  It's been long enough that I remember pretty much nothing of it, so it should still be a mystery! 
  • Get back into Minecraft.  
  • Bonus goal:  Make a Minecraft mod.  I've already got 2 small ones in mind, so this should be doable once I get back into it. 

Sudden Short Story 58

"You got that look again," said one man to the other.  "I thought that you'd really dig the One Roll Engine.  Please tell me that you're not going to be one of those guys who thinks that the first system that he played will always be the best." 
"It's not that," replied the other, looking away. 
"Well, you seemed to get along with Mutants and Masterminds well enough, and I've always thought that the O-R-E was a cooler system, anyway.  But this is like Don't Rest Your Head all over again!  You never tell me what you don't like about the systems." 
"It's not the systems," he answered, looking back. 
"Well, what's wrong with the settings?  Arc Dream has made like a dozen settings for their supers games.  I'm sure that we could find one that you'd like." 
"It's not the settings, either.  It's just... .  They remind me of my old GM, is all." 
His friend was understandably puzzled. 
He laughed, and he looked away again.  "Back in the '80s and '90s, we had this GM - my old group, that is.  Well, they were my old group because of him, actually.  He recruited us, and swore us to secrecy.  He said that he was developing some games, ... ." 
There was a long silence between them. 
"You said that the settings remind you of your old GM," prompted his friend, thinking that he'd lost his train of thought. 
"Not the settings.  Well, sometimes the settings, sometimes the games.  I try to forget about it, but lately I keep seeing them.  They're just like the games that he said that he was designing.  We were kind of playtesters, y'know?  We were having fun, at least, and we weren't about to spoil that.  I mean, they were nothing like anything that was available in stores at the time."  He said that last part almost in awe.  And then, almost in shock, he said, "They were years ahead of anything else." 
"So... You think that someone stole his ideas and sold them to various publishers?" 
"I wish that it were that simple.  I probably sound crazy to you, but it's not that that bothers me.  There's just one thing - and I wish that I'd never heard it.  Ever since then, it all fits together so well.  In the '80s, he was always on the bleeding edge of technology, with a PC with amazing graphics, from which he'd run his games.  Once he got a good laptop, though - good for the time, that is - he suddenly lost interest in when the latest and greatest would come out.  And he kept that thing forever, and it never failed on him."  He began to shake his head, "But, one time, before he left, he let something slip out.  And I could tell from his reaction that it was an accident, and we never spoke of it again.  It was just some numbers, y'know?"  And he started to rock, back and forth.  "They didn't MEAN anything to me, but the way that he never said anything about it again, maybe hoping that I'd forget, and I almost did, but it was like he'd just come out of the closet or something, and it means something now, and ... I think that he was from the future, OK?  There, I said it."  The tension was relieved, if only for a moment. 
His friend sought to comfort or console him, but also thought that he just might be losing it.  He asked a question that he wasn't sure that he should ask:  "What did he say?  What did you hear?" 
"Just one time, as we were wrapping up our longer campaigns, and I was wishing that he could have stayed - in town or in state, I though - stayed longer, he said... .  I knew that it was still several months out, mid-1999, but... he said that he had to leave before Nine Eleven." 

Monday, December 30, 2013

Coming Soon: Y-Locke's Log

First of all, I want to clarify something about this post:  SolLock's Log isn't going away.  It's just going on hiatus for a while. 
I'm planning to play Pokémon Y as a Nuzlocke challenge.  I was hoping to beat the Elite 4 in Pokémon X first, but I don't want to miss out on the free Torchic with Blazikenite in either game, so I'll have to start Y and get far enough into it to Mystery Gift to get that, and I'll have to do so before January 14th. 
Once I get that established, I think that I'll actually resume my Soul Silver run before my Y run, before I get too accustomed to these fancy new graphics, etc.  In either case, though, I'll still try to do "whole" days, but my current focus is on Pokémon X, so there might not be anything substantial from either Nuzlocke challenge for a while. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Pokémon X Update: December 2013

I thought that I should post an update regarding my Pokémon X progress.  
At the moment, I'm trying to reach and then defeat the Elite 4.  Unfortunately, the holidays kind of put a damper on things, keeping me busy and all that. 
I was hoping to be past the Elite 4 by Xmas, since that's the condition, as I learned, to get certain pokémon that I was hoping to put out on Wonder Trade.  The reasoning - which I originally saw on twitter - was that a lot of kids would be starting their Kalos adventures on Xmas, so we should supply them with decent wonder trades, once they start doing that.  It's still not long after Xmas, so I'm still trying to do what I can.  I also looked up some egg moves for a pokémon that appears later in the game, so, failing anything else, I can always hatch a bunch of little egglings for them. 
(FYI, I have six badges, so I need two more before challenging the Elite 4.)  
I'm still sticking with only using Generation VI pokémon.  The core of my team so far is Greninja, Doublade, and Hawlucha.  I've trained various things off and on.  At the moment, I'm working on leveling an Inkay, though I'll probably have Meowstic on my team when I face the Elite 4. 

I do want to mention that the Battle Chateau is a very nice feature.  I basically get unlimited trainer battles, so I don't have to fight mere wild pokémon when I play catch-up on levels. 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Sunday Gauntlet

I've decided to give myself some goals tomorrow, so that this plan doesn't go completely to waste. 
1.  I intend to beat the next gym leader (#5 I think) in Pokémon X. 
2.  I intend to assemble the 3D pieces of my copy of Ogre. 
3.  During #2, I intend to try to catch up on Sleepy Hollow.  This is limited to during Ogre assembly time, though, so there's no guarantee that I'll get fully caught up.
4.  Bonus goal:  Beat the next gym leader after item #1 (so, 6th gym leader, if I recall correctly). 

I mean, I'm just really far behind on Pokémon X, so I need to get kraken!  Wait.... 

P.S.:  5.  Bonus goal:  Rock Smash until I finally find an Old Amber.  I stumbled across a hint that this might only be possible in Glittering Cave, so I'll try there.  

Sudden Short Story 57

"You're the man from the past, aren't you?" asked the man entering the room with the water.  A small table arose from the floor near the center of the room, where a helmeted figure stood.  "Plain water, in case you're thirsty," he said, placing the pitcher and glass on the new surface. 
"Yes," said the man, never looking away from the wall on which many figures were projected.  They bore the knowledge of the synthesis of a serum that could cure his ailing - and, at the moment, long-dead - wife, "I am the man from the past.  I'm done here, though, since I've finished committing this data to memory, so I'll be going back there soon.  That's not why the water is here, by the way." 
The servant grew slightly nervous at this.  "Well, that's what I was told." 
"Something on your person when you entered this room was meant to release nanobots into the air, since I scanned it upon entering, but might not be bothered to do so every time that the door is opened.  Your boss was likely frustrated that my helm bears a Faraday cage.  However, they won't be able to follow me, for the same reason that it would be fruitless to drink that water, despite my thirst:  My transporter is quantum-bound to the particles in my body."  With that, he disappeared. 
"A craft just launched from the next system over, sir, heading rimward, but 44.7286 off the galactic plane," said a cog of a man stationed at a control panel.  "It's topped out at 0.99926c, though.  It looks like it's got some outdated stealth tech." 
"Send our fastest ship after it now," said his boss.  "We'll catch up, though it'll be a while, due to the delay." 
"Ours has departed with the most proximate crew available.  They're at speed.  They should catch up in about three years, give or take for possible evasive maneuvers." 
"I expect the entire galaxy to be searched thoroughly," said the man in the pointless throne.  "You don't understand how valuable this knowledge is.  The man from the past knows the secret to bi-directional time travel.  I want every piece of his decoy craft examined meticulously for any trace of his true destination." 
"You don't yet control the whole galaxy," advised his minion.  "Your rivals will take offense at your probing their territory so thoroughly." 
"Let them," decried the would-be ruler of the galaxy.  "Once I have the secret to time-travel, I can shape the galaxy to my very needs." 

I would go on about what else happened, but their entire timeline ceased to be once the man from the past saved his wife. 


Author's note:  This bit of story was inspired by the song The Time Machine by The Cog is Dead.  I worked out the details of creating, using, and concealing a relativistic bi-directional time machine, though they unfortunately didn't emerge during the narrative.

Regarding the Introduction to Mega Evolution

The player's introduction to Mega Evolution in Pokémon X & Y would have been easy to mess up, but I think that they got it right. 

By the way, there are some spoilers in this post. 

The way that we get a Lucario from Korrina still feels slightly forced, but at least they put in scenes prior to that that indicate that it was taking a liking to us.  The main good thing about this is that we don't have to level up a pokémon to the Mega Evolution point on our own.  From what I recall, we only get one (I'm not counting Mega Blaziken since that promotion will end), and I was trying to do a team of only new pokémon, so finding out that I had to swap out my Gogoat for my Bulbasaur and grind it until I got Venusaur would have been tedious. 
Since they're including most pokémon from every generation in these games, I think that I'll eventually make a team from each generation.  I just realized that I can include both Mega Venusaur and Mega Aerodactyl on my Gen I team - at least after I dig up some Old Amber. 
I do hope one thing, going forward:  If they decide in Generation VII to give a new Mega Evolution to a previous-generation pokémon, then they should at least not try to do any fancy tricks to explain it away.  You just never had, I don't know, Dragoniteite or whatever.  It's that simple.

Sudden Short Story 56

The scene at Megiddo that day was difficult to describe, even by the many witnesses after the fact.  A man sat upon an old stone, whetting his blade, and that was the only thing that made sense.  Two billion people were there, even though there wasn't room, and they remained distributed across the planet.  Many gods were there, towering over the congregation, and yet no taller than an adult.  They were thirty-three and yet three-thousand.  They were omniscient, and yet confused. 
"What is happening?" asked the god. 
"You are bound by my oath," spake the man.  "I was serious about my promise to you.  You forsook one of your flock, which was unwise in the first place.  But I made my promise, and I intend to keep it." 
"Her death was part of my greater plan," said many of the faces, "I work in mysterious ways."  A few, though, said "the devil did it."  They all seemed to expect this to save them. 
The man with the sword stood and approached the gods, pocketing his whetstone along the way.  He stopped before him.  "Restore her to life by my side, and I will release you from my previous oath.  Otherwise, I will kill you." 
Many of him became defiant.  "How?  With that sword?  You'll have to cut through two billion others before you can touch me." 
"I would," said the man, "but this is no ordinary blade.  In fact, it's so strong and sharp that it could pierce an iron chariot." 
In that moment, the people saw something that they had never themselves seen before.  Their gods were afraid.  And, in that moment, the man thrust his sword under the gods' ribcage and into their heart, and the blade was multiplied across them all. 
By the time that the blade was pulled out, the witnesses were gone, except that they were wherever they'd been the whole time.  None of them were terribly affected by what they thought that they'd seen, though. 
After all, they'd never really believed that particular set of fairy tales, right?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sudden Short Story 55

The cargo container stood out, black against the white snow.  Around it, charred husks of some unknown material lay.  They had been used, apparently, when it was burned, for that the less-scorched spots on the container read:  QUARANTINE ME
Fearing for the worst, Dr. MacGhabhann pounded on the container.  "Is anyone in there?" she shouted. 
"Me," he shouted back, "Doctor Fletcher.  Have you sent anyone to the main camp yet?" 
It was within sight, but still fairly far out.  The flat snowscape made that possible.  Dr. Fletcher had hauled the container as far away from the camp as he could while guaranteeing that the rescue party would see it first.  "Not yet," answered Dr. MacGhabhann.  "We hit you first, and besides, there's a quarantine warning up." 
"That's why I put it here," he answered.  "As you can tell, I've arranged it so that I can't get myself out.  You'll find out if you read my research notes, which are at the camp, but I can tell you anyway.  There was a contagion going around the camp.  Doctor Teague got it first.  It must have incubated in him overnight, because we never saw any initial symptoms.  It changed him.  He's the one who smashed up our radio.  Someone might have been able to repair it, with enough time, but we didn't have it.  It spreads fast.  We tried to isolate whoever got infected, but there was always a new infection by the time that we got the old one contained. 
"Eventually, it was down to just me and Doctors Zielinski and Landvik.  That's when the worst of it happened... but I don't want to go into that right now.  After it was all over, though, I burned the bodies to make sure.  There was only so much fuel left, though, so I just tossed a starter in and let nature do the rest.  I towed the cargo container out here, then drove the tow back.  I torched it, since black stands out against white.  I also gave myself enough water to last until when you guys arrived, but I'm quite hungry.  Also, it's gonna stink in here." 
"Is there any chance that you're infected," asked Dr. MacGhabhann, as she sent three from her team to go find the research notes.  
"You're here, so it must have been ... five days since I isolated myself?  I know that you would have set out when we went overdue for our radio check in, but I lost track of the intervening time.  Anyway, if I were infected, then it would have taken hold by now.  I'll still insist on being quarantined, though, until a full lab's done, just to be thorough."
He left out the part about how the fully incubated acted just like their old selves most of the time.  He didn't want to overly worry them, after all.
Dr. Fletcher would have told them to avoid the camp, for its infection risk.  Dr. Fletcher would have told them that he burned the outside of the cargo container to try to destroy every last virion, just in case.
But Dr. Fletcher died three days earlier.  

Misc. Video Game Updates

As you probably know from a previous update, I've been focused on Pokémon X lately.  However, I haven't dropped other games completely.  Here's the latest on stuff: 
  • Pokémon:  I'm about to beat the 2nd gym.  
  • Team Fortress 2:  This year's Halloween map is actually pretty good.  I like that each person gets his own gift, when they spawn.  It's been a bit crashy, but I think that today's update fixed that.
  • Minecraft:  FYI, I've gotten my boss addicted to Minecraft.  That said, I've been too busy w/ Pokémon X to play!  FWIW, he's tried the new Thaumcraft 4 for Minecraft release candidate 1.7.x, and it's apparently unnecessarily hard, including a new creeping evil force thing and recipes that are sometimes literally impossible to solve.  I think that I'll hold off on updating, not because I want to avoid it, but rather because I'm still doing a lot of exploring in Thaumcraft 3.
  • Kongregate:  I've just been checking dailies & getting badges of the day.  The latter seem largely scary-themed these last few days.
  • Miscellaneous betas:  Well, I can't talk much about most, & I haven't been playing them much due to Pokémon X.  
So, to summarize:  Pokémon X.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Pokémon X - my play so far - October 30th, 2013

Pokémon X is quite fun! 
I am catching so many Pokémon.  I've actually had to organize my boxes by generation, since they seem to have included ALL THE POKéMON in these games.  That said, I'm still limiting my team to new Pokémon.  After all, there are plenty of those.  If they allow me to re-battle gym leaders, then I'll probably do post-Elite-4 runs with teams from every generation.  XD
I think that the new Fairy type is going to get a lot of use, since it has so few weaknesses.  I'm bad at memorizing, so I'm just learning the type associations from use (they tweaked a few others, too), but I know that they resist Dark and Bug, which is surprisingly handy.  Note:  In addition to using only new Pokémon, I'm making it a partial point to keep a Fairy on my team. 
Sadly, I'm not very far through.  I work full time, there was stuff going on during the release weekend, and two weekends ago was a convention, but things should clear up a bit now. 
(A note for my fan:  Pokémon takes up far less time than doing a novel, so don't feel like this prevented NaNoWriMo or anything; I didn't have a workable novel idea this year.) 
Here's a list of the Pokémon in my rotation.  Note that I'm about to get the second badge: 
  • Frogadier - evolved form of my starter
  • Floette - trying out a Fairy
  • Swirlix - I swapped this in because I heard that it's version-exclusive.  I'm hoping that it will evolve soon.  
  • Vivillon - incredibly useful for catching Pokémon, but still good at fighting in its own right - also interesting for a fully-evolved Bug to have Shield Dust
  • Skiddo - trying to evolve it into Gogoat!
  • Honedge - physical powerhouse Ghost/Steel type - sadly, its evolutions have been spoiled
  • Hawlucha - a never-before-seen type combo (both from the original 15, no less) and ZOMG THERE'S A LUCHADORE POKéMON!
  • Meowstic - previously said that it would murder me in my sleep if I didn't use it
  • Litleo - my earliest Fire type, & Fire/Normal is new
  • Fletchinder - non-legendary Fire/Flying Pokémon!
I like to be, off-and-on, training Pokémon of each of at least most of the types, so I'll probably expand my team a bit as I go on.  For instance, I just noticed that I have neither a Rock type nor a Ground type.  It's no big deal, though - if I find something that I like, then I'll add it.  So far, I'm seeing a lot that I like!  (For instance, Pancham was about to enter my rotation when I discovered Hawlucha.)

Pokémon X & Y

Pokémon X and Pokémon Y are now out and, for the first time in many years, I've got the newest Pokémon game while it's still new.  Despite being behind the curve, what with having a job and all, I've still managed to avoid most spoilers, which helps keep the series fresh, since I'm discovering things through play. 
First, there are two main criticisms that I have: 
  • The Lumiose City Glitch - This is kind of a huge deal, since it's a save-killing bug.  (For those who don't know, possibly because they're reading this in the future:  Saving outdoors (later discovered to be specific areas) in Lumiose City, then loading that save file, could actually lock up the 3DS.  The game was obviously unplayable.)  I have no idea how this got past playtesting - or component testing, for that matter, though I don't know how Nintendo/Game Freak/The Pokémon Company coded it, so that breakdown might not work as well.  Fortunately, we live in a day and age when such things can be patched.  That said, I'm honestly surprised at how long it took them to release the patch.  (Also, this is the one time that I'm glad that I got spoiled, since I just avoided saving anywhere within the Lumiose City limits.)
  • The controls in 3D areas are a bit weird.  It's easy once you know the trick:  You can only move forward (usually), and sideways buttons rotate you.  The main issue w/ this is that it's unlike the controls for the rest of the game, so the controls in any over-the-shoulder area are always unintuitive.  
Now, here's stuff that I like: 
  • So far, the new Pokémon designs are pretty cool.  My personal favorite is actually Spewpa, since it's a new - yet realistic - approach to the 3-stage bug Pokémon.  (Cool note:  Just before the release of the games, a praying mantis made an egg sack in our garden.  Like Spewpa, it's just kind of spat/frothed up and then dried.)
  • Wonder Trades are awesome.  Finally, I don't have to do a bunch of online stuff to find someone with whom to trade, but I also don't feel compelled to overthink things like with GTS.  
  • The roller skates handle really well, once you get used to them - which isn't very long.  Weirdly, they seem to be putting the bike to shame, since they're much easier to don/doff.  
  • Item registration is much better in this system.  In generation V, if more than one key item was registered, pressing Y resulted in a small menu, which had to be navigated up/down if one wanted anything other than the top item.  Now, if more than one item is registered (up to 4), a directional menu pops up, making it much easier to select the item w/ one additional button-push.  This also makes it quicker to use, since it's easy for me to remember, for instance, that my Old Rod is Y-Up, while my bicycle is Y-Right.  
  • Berries are back in the game.  In generation V, it became a chore to have to make sure that a Pokémon was tucked in, then go onto my computer to go online to the global link, to make sure that I was berry-ing.  This was compounded w/ the knowledge that it would only be up as long as Nintendo bothered to maintain the servers, and is further compounded by the fact that Nintendo is phasing out the Gen V Global Link by mid-January. 
  • Berry growing is changed for the better.  Admittedly, having to pull weeds is technically tedious, and doesn't add any game value, but I like the rest of it.  I like that I can get random fights against Bug Pokémon that are trying to eat the berries.  While there are 2 stages added to berry growth - thicker trunk and buds - this is compensated by increased berry output, so it's all good.  The game just plain starts with 36 berry growing spots, and making mulch out of berries is a nice optional.  Also, hybridizing berries to get other (existing) berries is a neat way to make it not just an item-hunt.  
  • Gogoat!  I don't technically have one yet (working on it!), but the idea of riding a goat Pokémon still seems awesome. 
That's all for now.  I'll probably mention more later, though possibly not in a dedicated review post.  

Monday, September 30, 2013

ZOMG October!

October is nearly here.  It's one of my favorite months.  Part of it is that I like Halloween, and part of it is that it's the one month that seems to be most reliably autumn-like:  September is often too hot (like this one), and November could - at least in the past - be wintry cold. 
Con on the Cob is coming up, so that's exciting.  Also, I got me some new Halloween decorations, though I'll have to figure out where I'm putting them, given that our walls seem to be mostly windows & bookshelves. 
It's also the time of year for me to make my autumn Chex mix.  I'll have to look to see if I've blogged my recipe before.  If not, then I might just have to blog it.  ;)
And, of course, Pokémon X & Y drop on October 12th.  Frankly, though, I suspect that I won't get to them until the 13th, since that also happens to be an Ascension Game Day.  For what it's worth, I think that I'll run through X first.  Sadly, this also means that I'll probably be delaying my Soul Silver Nuzlocke run even further, as my Pokémon time will mostly be taken up by X. 

Sudden Short Story 54

"If we don't act, then this Wilhelm II wins either way," said the tinkerer. 
"How do you mean, 'either way'?" came the question. 
"If he can defeat the brass dragon, then he'll gain both the confidence of his people and the fear of everyone else.  However, I don't think that he means to defeat it, unless it comes to that.  That is, I suspect that he seeks to take control of it for himself."
Gentlemanly dismay sounded throughout the room. 
"If this is true," spake a general in attendance, "and if the new Kaiser gets his hands on this strangest of ships, then he'll no doubt use it to its current nefarious purpose.  In addition to her, admittedly non-exclusive, access to the trade route from the Varangians to the Greeks and to the Volga route, Prussia will be the only northern European country able to safely use the North Sea and the English Channel." 
"Prussia might now have to reach farther, though," said another, "though I suspect that we might have worse fears than that before us.  The dragon is ever-increasingly seen in the Channel and in increasingly western parts of the North Sea.  I suspect that whoever controls her is realizing what a pipe dream the European blockade is.  I fear that her pilot means to blockade the Isles, instead, forcing the Empire's hand." 
"Exactly," chimed in the tinkerer again.  "That's why I've devised a plan to run the brass dragon aground, though likely destroying it in the process, thus eliminating the threat and enabling it to be studied.  This plan will only cost the crown one to three of her best dirigibles - the exact number depends on how well the plan goes.  The more significant investment goes into the construction of these."  He retrieved a rolled-up diagram from its tubular container and unfurled it upon the table.  Many eyed it.  Those who understood it were puzzled at first, and then perturbed. 
"It's not waterproof," pointed out one. 
"It doesn't need to be," said its designer, "and waterproofing would weigh it down too much to fly." 
"Well, now you're just being unreasonable," said one of the engineers in attendance.  "The brass dragon flies because it gains an economy of scale with its massive wings.  Based on the scale given here, this craft won't have nearly enough wing surface to fly." 
"While the economy of scale helps, I suspect that the brass dragon is a hybrid aircraft, when it's an aircraft at all.  As for the surface, you neglect the recent wind-tunnel research, which demonstrates that the leading surface is what's most important when the wings move forward.  Of course, forward is just relative to the wing itself, so I have them rotate," he said, pointing to the diagram, "about these axles.  It matters not whether they go forward, backward, left, or right.  Rotation does produce torque, though, which is why I have a matching set on the other side, rotating the opposite direction.  These wings, rotating quickly, produce enough lift to carry the entire craft, engine, pilot, fuel and all.  At least, that's the theory.  I lack the funds to produce them myself, which is why I'm here." 
"How many do you think that it will take for this plan to work?" asked another general. 
"I would plan to make and launch at least a dozen, expecting that some may be fought off or deflected by wind from the brass dragon's wings.  Do note the small size of these craft." 
There was a silent moment, for a time, as everyone contemplated the balance of the plan.  A few looks were exchanged, and then, one of the advisors spoke up:  "If there are no objections," he said, pausing to allow any," I think that it's safe to grant you approval to present your idea to the queen.  Pending her approval, the rest can be readily arranged." 
And with that, the helicopter preceded the aeroplane. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sudden Short Story 53

"There you are," said one guard to the other.  "The sun's nearly down.  Do you even have your sword with you?" 
The second guard was looking a bit disheveled - he didn't even have his helmet on - and had arrived, by running, holding an iron shovel.  He checked himself, then his backpack.  Finding no sword in there, either, he at least put away his shovel.  "No sword, but I've at least got my axe.  And my bow." 
"Give me the axe, then, and I'll give you my sword.  I'm a better shot with a bow, anyway."  He made sure that he had easy access to the axe, then got out his bow, and checked his arrows, to make sure that he had enough. 
They left the gate northward.  After peering around the northwest corner, to ensure that everything was clear, they doubled back southward, passing the gate on the way to the southwest corner.  It was on their way back to the gate that they saw a giant spider as it attempted to scale the walls.  Since they had the jump on it, they closed in and took it in melee.  It was finished with a blow from the iron axe, but it was worn, and the head came loose from the handle in the process. 
Frustrated, the first guard took back his sword, and they returned to the gate for the next portion of the watch.
"You stay here, while I go get your sword and helmet.  I'll run your shovel back, too." 
The other guard handed over his shovel.  
"If any other monsters appear and are close enough, shoot them."
He waited by the gate, wondering what might come out tonight.  The giant spiders were the worst, it seemed, since they appeared in numbers and could scale the walls.  As he contemplated this, though, he noted that one of the tall trees in the nearby wood seemed darker than the others.  He looked upon it, and was overcome by the ominous sound that seemed to come from everywhere at once.  The tall, dark creature turned to face him, and their eyes locked.  Carefully, he drew his bow. 
"DON'T SHOOT IT!" he heard, but the cry came too late, and he had already released the arrow.  Just as it seemed likely to hit, though, the creature disappeared. 
"Where'd it--" but he was swiftly stricken from behind. 
Before anyone knew what was happening, they were all fighting for their lives, as the enderman teleported around, leaving death piles and missing blocks in its wake. 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Sudden Short Story 52

Laviten wound his way through the winding gap at the top of the mountain.  There had yet to be any branch in it, so there was no issue of getting lost.  He just wondered how long it would be until he finally encountered the horned man.  He rounded a corner, and there he was. 
The horned man stood on a narrow plateau in the center of a great depression in the rocks.  The plateau brought him to the same height as Laviten, who was dumbstruck, not having known what to expect.  The horned man stood on the toes of one foot, his other tucked against his thigh, with his hands in an odd gesture at his hips.  He did indeed have horns, and his eyes were closed. 
The horned man spoke suddenly:  "You seek to change who you are, Lesser of Leotan."
It was more a statement than a question, but Laviten felt compelled to speak.  "I came to seek your wisdom."
"You sought wisdom from the shamasal; from me, you seek direction." 
The horned man's directness befuddled Laviten, though only for a moment.  "Y-Yes.  I do not know what I should do next.  Where am I needed?  What shall I do?  What if shapeshifting is not the only magic to --"
"Go across the high mountains," interrupted the horned man, pointing behind him to his own right with his right arm, "There you will find your star."
"But... of all the stars in the sky, none are mine," he protested.  "The Oracle of Oras saw none for me."
The horned man opened his eyes, and fixed Laviten with his gaze.  Laviten stood transfixed, staring at those implacable eyes.  He began to notice what was so disquieting about them:  Were they moving left and right too rapidly to be noticed?  Or were the pupils actually wider?  Laviten realized that the horned man had raised his left arm skyward.  He followed it with his eyes to its hand curled into an upward-pointing finger, and then upward into the bluish sky. 
Laviten fell backwards and scrambled backwards instinctively, for that what he saw was so terrifying.  He had only just noticed it, but in that moment realized that he had seen it ever since he emerged from the gap.  Had he seen it even before then?  Perhaps even before he entered the gap, when the mountain was no longer climbable?  How could he not notice it before now?  Neither cloud nor moon nor star was to be seen above.  Though the sky was clear, the moon and stars that forever bathed Ogo in nocturnal light were not to be seen. 
"That is the power of the star that awaits you," spoke the horned man.  "Its light is enough to banish the other stars, and more.  Now go, across the high mountains.  When you reach the other side, your journey will have begun." 
Uneasily, Laviten collected himself and stood up.  Promising himself to remain undaunted, he thanked the horned man, and then proceeded around the crater, toward the awaiting mountains, where the horned man's right arm still pointed. 

Being Sick Sucks

Being sick sucks!  :(
I had a cold or something this week.  It kind of slowly built up and slowly died down.  I'm fending off the last of it now, but it was so bad Thursday that I had to take the day. 
At first, the symptoms were so mild that I hoped that I could just sleep it off a night or two.  Either the sleeping or the sick-feeling, though, already interfered with my plans to put a somewhat-longer short story here this month.  I'll just write it next month:  I have the overall idea and plot, but I want to give this one more detail and give the reader a broader exposure to the time over which it occurs, as opposed to my usual condensed vignette form. 

On the up side, I did finally play some Thaumcraft for the first time in a few months.  Go read about it on my Minecraft blog:  http://mcwikimancer.blogspot.com/2013/08/under-pyramids.html

Oh, also, since I didn't have enough time to take off for being sick, I had to make up hours at work today.  Boo. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Sudden Short Story 51

"Daniel," he said into the microphone.  "Daniel, get out of there.  The hatches have unlocked, and we can't re-engage them.  We're shutting down the rift due to the contamination risk, but that'll take time."
"I know," came the reply.  "That's why I have to hurry."  Daniel walked toward the sheathe that surrounded the rift.  It was vertical because the incoming streams had to be perpendicular to the particle accelerators that generated them. 
"Daniel, stop.  You're solid:  Most of your information will pass through the Maxwell filters."
"'Have you ever been in love?'  That's what they asked when I joined."
Carl paused.  "What?"
"Didn't they ask you?  'Have you ever been in love?'  They asked me."
"Yes.  They asked me with whom, and I named my wife.  They want people without regrets:  No dead lovers or loves lost, no lives lost at my own hands, nothing, no regrets.  I get to be married to the woman that I love:  To me, getting to work at the most groundbreaking facility yet made is just icing on the cake." 
Daniel opened a hatch. 
"Stop!  You could cause a paradox," Carl said, knowing that a paradox would be almost certain, though they'd never know it.  "How?  They monitor brain activity during the interviews.  How could you have lied?" 
"I didn't," answered Daniel, stepping into the rift.  "I answered 'no'." 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Regarding Pokémon X & Y

I thought that I should put my overall thoughts out there regarding the upcoming sixth generation of the Pokémon franchise.
Overall, I like the Pokémon franchise.  I have some criticisms of it, but most changes seem to be just a little fiddling about, not much good or bad about it.  There are a few things that, for me, are kind of a big deal, so I'll lay them out here:
  • Making TMs infinite-use takes away a large part of the benefit of breeding.  Now, aside from egg moves, (sometimes) hidden abilities, and just getting more of some hard-to-get-but-still-breedable species (starters, Snorlax, hard-to-get slots/Safari pokémon, etc.), the main benefit has to do with EVs and IVs and all that math-behind-the-game stuff.  I generally don't like this sort of thing in thematic games, anyway:  While I understand that a fair computer game must have numbers and rules behind it, it really detracts from the spirit of the game.  
  • They keep taking away things that were just fine.  This is somewhat lesser of a point, but I still find it weird that apricorns and contests were removed and not put back in.  
  • Held items are good!  I know that this was introduced in Gen II, but this was one of the most meaningful additions to the game.  
  • Abilities are also good!  See above.  
  • There are far too many pokémon to reasonably catch them all.  This was addressed slightly in Black & White, in that Unova had no overlap in pokémon with previous regions, so it was easy enough to just pretend that the (apparently 150) were all that there were, but it's still kind of an issue.  
  • Catching them all is no longer the goal of the game; defeating the Elite Four is the new goal.  I know that both have always been goals, and this is essentially a plot/story thing, but this is still kind of a big deal for me.  The main character is no longer a budding naturalist, but is instead a glorified cockfighter.  I always understood that the player's goal was to defeat the Elite Four and become Champion and so on, but I also knew that this was just a smaller goal on the much longer path of catching all of the known pokémon, in-game.  I think that the reason that they don't keep this model is for the reason that I mentioned above, that there are way too many pokémon for that to be at all feasible.  In the first five generations alone, there are now 649 pokémon (I had to look it up), not counting whatever's coming out this fall. 
  • The addition of  the Dark and Steel types seemed unnecessary at the time, but they've meshed well with the other types, so I'm fine with it.  
  • Making the physical/special quality of an attack independent of its type is an interesting way to increase the complexity of strategy.  
  • I still dislike the wall between generations two and three.  
  • As with so many modern games, I dislike the increased dependence on external web-based stuff to get everything.  In this case, the Pokémon Dream World is what Gen V uses, and it's actually being shut down over the course of the next six months or so.  I don't at all mind the use of personal peripherals to augment a game, such as the PokéWalker for HeartGold and SoulSilver, since that's entirely in control of the game's owner.  If I take care of it, I'll be able to use my PokéWalker (with new batteries, of course) decades from now, whereas the Dream World will be gone forever.  
 I had a big gap for a few years, when new Pokémon games came out faster than I could be aware of them.  Emerald came out before I finished Ruby, but I didn't feel that it was that big of a deal, since it would just be a re-hash of Ruby and Sapphire, anyway.  FireRed and LeafGreen came out and I didn't even know; at the time, I wasn't aware of the two/three wall, since I hadn't gotten around to it.  Diamond and Pearl came out, and then Platinum.  I was lucky enough that, by the time that I got back into Pokémon, I could still find HeartGold and SoulSilver in stores, so I got them while the getting was good.  (That reminds me:  There's a used video game shop two towns over, which I was meaning to check out some time.  I still should, since they might have some of the missed games.) 
Whatever happens, I plan to more-or-less drop my current games when X and Y come out, partly because the few people that I know who do play Pokémon keep very current on it, and partly because of things like limited-time code pokémon and the like, that require keeping current to get the most out of the experience.  I'm hoping that I'll be able to get the same experience as everyone else, at least for a time, and be able to get a feel for it as a current event, rather than as a game. 

One other thing:  I like that Gen VI will be a global release, rather than our having to wait half a year or whatever for it. 

Assorted Miscellany July 2013

As I seem to be doing every month these days, here's a summary of life:
  • I've been playing TF2 a lot, just because it's easy to spend either a lot or a little time on it after work.  That's kind of in its nature, but I need to focus on other games.  Among them:  
    • Bioshock:  I should finish it.  
    • Damnation:  Now that I have a computer that can actually handle games, I want to try this for reals.  
    • Thaumcraft:  I really want to get going on this one.  I'm working on building a giant pyramid.  
    • Minecraft beta 1.7.3: I've been away from this one for way too long.  
    • Space Chem:  I only recently got it (on sale during the Steam summer sale), but it's really good.  I haven't played such a good puzzle game in ages, outside of kongregate.  
    • Pokemon:  I still need to finish White & go through Black 2, in anticipation of X & Y this fall.  Come to think of it, I need to make sure to pre-order those.  
  • Board games are about as usual.  
    • Sentinels of the Multiverse:  I really need to find people that already know how to play.  You'd think that, as often as I teach it, I'd bump into somebody again who knows it, if only from me.  There are some super-duper hard villains that I have yet to even try.  
    • Ascension:  I recently got a chance to crack Rise of Vigil, which adds the Energy and Treasure mechanics.  The one time that I played it, though, Energy seemed to relentlessly accelerate the game, to the point that it seemed that going for anything that didn't either increase Energy or have an Energize effect wasn't worth it in the early game.  
  • Video watching:  
    • I've been going through much of SF Debris's archives.  I'm skipping shows that I haven't watched, but, all in all, he's a good reviewer of all things science fictiony.  
    • I think that I'll go through my "watch later" list soon since, y'know, that's why it's there.  
  • Work:  I'm still employed, which is more than a lot of people can say in this economy.  Work's good!  
  • Music:  I recently made a point of actually tuning in to www.di.fm's vocal trance channel.  It's been a long time since I actually did.  
  • Sleep:  What's that?  
So, there's the round-up.  

Initial Thoughts on Greek Mythology

I have come to the conclusion that ancient Greek poets had a personal vendetta against me. 
not really
However, my attempts to research ancient Greek mythology have been met with a certain degree of frustration.  I didn't expect quite as much variation as what I got.  In fact, early on, it seemed like it might not be so bad:  For instance, it seemed like the Orphics just tacked on Chronos and Ananke at the front end.  Of course, they also had to change all the begetting after Chaos and so on, so it's not quite so smooth. 
To make hide or hair of this, I'm at the point where I'm just taking each tradition one at a time and diagramming it on its own, before I get into the comparative stuff. 

As a side note:  How lame is it that the Hekatonkheires and Cyclopes seem to be little more than plot devices, to be pulled out whenever is convenient? 

I feel like I should mention why I'm researching this, if only to say that it's for a personal creative project that you might never see.  I'll try to post any insights that I might have here, though, that they might be useful to others. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

TF2: The Polynerf Update

On July 10th, 2013, Valve finally managed to release an objectively bad update for Team Fortress 2.  They completely and utterly nerfed the so-called Polycount Sets, as well as several other, minor sets.  There was no attempt at compensation made for this:  Each polycount set had its benefit replaced with a cosmetic effect:  leaving a "calling card" on one's victims, except for the Saharan Spy, who got a rather odd-looking sand whirlwind effect with his taunts. 
I am particularly disappointed with the removal of the headshot immunity from the Croc-O-Style Kit, especially since the ability to perform headshots was not granted to the Sydney Sleeper.  The set was completely fair as it stood:  A sniper wearing Ol' Snaggletooth could be immune to headshots, but only if he also bore the Sydney Sleeper as his rifle, removing his own ability to perform them.  (Darwin's Danger Shield and the Bushwacka were also required, which only lends more credence to the notion that they were balanced.) 
I suppose that I'm particularly miffed about this because I spent ages accumulating what my calculations show was the equivalent of 73 weapons to craft the damn hat, only to have its benefit completely removed shortly after I got it. 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

General Update June 2013

Here's a general status update for my life at present:

  • Minecraft:  I still haven't been playing it much.  I'll get back into the swing of it soon enough, perhaps with the long weekend coming up.  
  • Board Games:  more Sentinels of the Multiverse for me, for the most part
  • Tabletop RPGs:  I now have even fewer prospects for available RPG players.  
  • Reading:  I've finished The King in Yellow, and am working on A Feast for Crows during lunch breaks.  
  • Webcomics:  I'm still way behind.  
  • Western Print Comics:  I really should contact the local comic shop & see if they're carrying Mouse Guard yet.  If nothing else, hearing about it might get them to do so.  
  • Wesnoth:  I've got a hankering to play The Battle for Wesnoth again, so I've gone and gotten it again, this time for my gaming PC.  
That's all for now.  Hopefully, more coherent updates will be coming shortly.  

Regarding Google Reader

I've been using Google Reader for my RSS feeds for a long time now.  I think that it started because I needed an RSS reader and already had a Google account, so it was a natural fit.
I've been meaning to switch for a while now, ever since Google announced that it would be shuttering Reader because it couldn't figure out where to put the ads.  Fortunately, I remembered that this morning, since tomorrow is the big day.  I've already copied everything (not just Reader subscriptions) via Google Takeout - it's a good backup to have, anyway - and I've gone ahead and switched to The Old Reader, since it was based on Google Reader ages ago and, well, my main preference would be to just keep Google Reader, so I want something as close to it as possible.
There are lots of other RSS readers out there, of course.  Have you remembered to switch?
(Also, if you feel like commenting, let me know which RSS reader you use and why.)

Spite for Spite

As I mentioned previously, I've been enjoying Sentinels of the Multiverse.
To give some context for what I'm about to describe:  The rule book actually gives difficulty ratings for the various villains.  The base game contains two difficulty-1 villains and two difficulty-3 villains.  I've beaten them all, though the difficulty-3 villains are, of course, harder.
The Rook City expansion contains two difficulty-2 villains and two difficulty-4 villains.  One of the difficulty-2 villains, Plague Rat, does seem to go into that spot, though he's closer to the 3s than to the 1s, I think.
The other difficulty-2 villain, Spite, remains unthwarted, at least in any game that I've played against him.  His Drug cards combo to make him a real pain.  The most annoying is the one drug that reduces the first damage that he takes each turn.  The way that the game normally plays, the best way to deal with that is to use a one-shot card to eat that, then use a power to do damage.  However, Spite has another card that damages a hero whenever that hero uses a power, in addition to making that player mill 5 cards.
Spite has 5 of these things.
Strangely, one of Spite's Drug cards whose name I actually remember - Demon's Kiss - is the least annoying because it merely does damage to every Hero target.  Yes, that's the good one.
In strategizing about this, I think that the best approach is actually to use a team of just 3 Heroes (the minimum), because his damage reduction card works at H-2, which would be 1.  That way, rather than trying a one-two punch, each hero could just know that their damage is -1, with a +1 on there if they happen to hit twice in one turn.
The moral of the story is that I might just have to ignore the printed difficulty ratings.  ;P

Sudden Short Story 50

"A decision has been reached," spoke the image of a woman on a lonely Earth-like planet on a remote star in the Sculptor Dwarf Galaxy.
"I expected as much," said the man helping his equipment to put itself away.  "Would I be correct in thinking that the entire Milky Way, including its satellites, is to be incorporated into humanity?"
"The satellite galaxies will indeed be included.  Technically, you have a choice in the matter:  You are permitted to leave the affected area."
"OK," he said, hoisting a smallish now-boxed machine into a hatch on his ship, "I'll do that, then."
"The resources of the entirety of the galaxy will join humanity.  This includes stars, planets, asteroids, comets, nebulae, dust, and gas.  You may be able to leech off uncaptured light energy for a time, but there will eventually be nowhere in the main galaxy or its satellites from which to derive resources, unless you rejoin humanity."
The rest of the machines had put themselves away.  The ship was now as heavily laden as it could be, save for the weight of one human body and its clothing and accoutrements.
"I know.  That's why I'm going to Andromeda.  I'm going to sling around a few stars on my way out, unless you can give me a better boost."
"The gravitational energy from this stellar neighborhood will not be needed for some time, so you may do as you wish, for now."
He walked around to the door to climb in, taking full advantage of the feeling of being in a body.
"She's not out there, you know," spoke the image.  "You will be the first human to have left the galaxy.  We know that you are an idealist, but you will not find love in another galaxy."
"I don't intend to," said he, "but, as you said, I'm an idealist."
And with that, he climbed aboard his ship, shut the door, and left, not to set foot upon a planet again for a very long time.

Friday, May 31, 2013

A Few Random Thoughts about Sentinels of the Multiverse

So, in a recent post, I mentioned that I've been playing a lot of Sentinels of the Multiverse lately, at least when out and about playing board games.  As you may already know, I particularly like cooperative games, but I thought that I'd mention here a few things that have been running through my brain lately. 

I like that characters aren't completely useless after they die are defeated.  This is actually common among modern board gamers:  Player elimination is generally considered a bad thing.  I do like one particular game series - The Red Dragon Inn - that requires player elimination, since it's last man standing, but, in my experience, by the time that one player is finally eliminated, the game isn't terribly far from the end.  In Sentinels, since the game-wide lose condition (some villains have additional ways to defeat the heroes) is the defeat of all of the heroes, there must be some threat that one of the heroes will go down; unless a single hero's defeat meant a loss - which wouldn't work thematically - this would have to happen.  While it doesn't seem to be a perfect solution, I can't think of anything better automatically, and it works thematically. 

I like that all villains flip, and flip differently.  They did this cool thing where every villain basically has two "forms" that (can) both come up during battle.  However, what I like even more is that each villain has a different way to flip.  In the base game alone, the four villains have either three or four (depending on how picky you are) different ways to flip:  Omnitron flips every turn (spending half the game in each form), Baron Blade flips when he's "defeated" the first time (as he jumps into his power armor), and Citizen Dawn and Grand Warlord Voss each flip when the heroes have fought their way through their mooks.  I also had a chance recently to fight against a promotional villain who flips when he gets his cloaking device out of his deck, and flips back when he loses it. 

Fanatic and Visionary:  Challenging or Underpowered?  These are two of the heroes in the base game (out of ten), and the two that have given me the most chagrin.  Visionary just dies at the slightest provocation:  Since she has no healing or damage reduction, she basically has to luck into either of two rather flimsy defenses:  One that takes a very small amount of damage for her, and another that makes her invulnerable, but prevents her from doing anything at the same time.  Fanatic, on the other hand, has a teeny bit of healing, but deals herself so much damage during the game that it's very negated.  In both cases, I'm trying to decide whether the hero is just challenging to play, or should just be played by someone who doesn't mind being defeated a third of the way in. 

Those are just a few thoughts that I thought that I'd share.  Overall, is good times. 

General Update May 2013

I figure that I should give you guys a general update on what's going on in my life.  Here's a quick rundown: 
  • New Job:  I forget whether I've mentioned that I've got a (comparatively) new job.  I've also gotten past the initial trial period thingy.  Also, work's good.  
  • Minecraft:  I haven't gotten around to playing Minecraft much in the past ... awhile.  I'm still liking Thaumcraft, though. 
  • Board Games:  Sentinels of the Multiverse is quite fun!  Also other games, but there's already quite a lot of replay value in Sentinels.  
  • Tabletop RPGs:  Where the frak is everybody?  I has no friends.  :(
  • Sleep:  What's that?  
  • Reading:  working on The King in Yellow
  • Webcomics:  I've fallen way behind, and it's really really really hard to catch up.  
  • Western Print Comics:  I might see if I can get my friendly local comic shop to start carrying Mouse Guard.  
 I was going to say more, but this bulleted list is actually pretty good for a quick rundown. 
Maybe more details next time?  

Sudden Short Story 49

"-- joins us for our discussion.  Mr. Fontaine, let me start with you.  You've been quick to dismiss theories that the weapon was Israeli in origin, but where do you think that it originated?" 
"Well, first off, I'd like to clarify that I only said that if it was an antimatter weapon, then it's not Israeli.  While it would make a certain degree of strategic sense, to keep surrounding militaries at bay, remember that Israel's advanced weaponry still comes mostly from the United States, who, to the best of anyone's understanding, have yet to develop the technology to weaponize antimatter." 
"An interesting point, Mr. Fontaine, and I'd like to return to it, but first, let's see what our other guests have to say.  Ms. Andersen, what are your thoughts on this." 
"The weapon, whatever it is, is obviously Russian in origin.  While I don't personally believe that it was an antimatter bomb, the fact is that a weapon of such magnitude could only be developed by an economic superpower.  Among them, only Russia would have even a chance of performing the entire project in secret.  While China is a significant cybersecurity threat, their power is in their numbers; they're good at hacking, but even then they're always caught out." 
"Very good points as well, but before we continue, let us hear from Prof. Sauveterre.  Prof. Sauveterre, what are your thoughts on this?" 
"Let me begin by saying that all of this talk of whether it is an antimatter weapon is a waste of time.  --" 
"You think that it's safe to assume that we are not, in fact, dealing with an antimatter weapon?" interrupted the host. 
"No, I think that it's safe to assume that it is.  The radiation signature, scale, and seismic patterns were all consistent with the release of a large quantity of antimatter at or near the Earth's surface." 
"You don't suppose that the Russians used it, though, do you?" chimed in Fontaine.  "It runs entirely against their global geo-political self-interest." 
"But they're the only ones who could have," proclaimed Andersen.  "Neither China nor the U.S. could have kept it under wraps for so long." 
"Since you two seem so keen on politics," began Sauveterre, "I'll ask you:  Is Russia's investigation into the origin of this weapon so extensive as to make you suspect that they doth protest too much?"
For once, the talking heads were silent. 
"The fact is that nobody - not even the superpowers - has any idea who made or used this antimatter bomb.  ...  And that should scare the hell out of you."  

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Sudden Short Story 48

Before them stood the apparition of their recently deceased friend.  Amidst them lay his corpse.
"Noooo!" moaned the specter.  "I died.  What's the respawn time in this world?"
"1.5 planetary days unobserved," replied one of his still-living comrades.  "You want us to hide the body?"
"Yeah, thanks."
"Hey, wait," interjected another of the living.  "Our CO's expecting us back before then.  If we're late, then we'll take a penalty to our Careers.  Can't you just rein?"
"Dude, reincarnating resets everything.  Do you know how hard it was to get that achievement with the NPC?"
"Yeah, that's the one.  Look, just hide my body."
Another friend had already scouted from a ridge and returned.  "It's just sand as far as I can see.  I think that we'll have to bury him."  A groan emanated from the local living.
"It's not that bad."
"Says that one guy who doesn't have to dig."
"Well, what would you have me do?" asked the specter.
"Well, since you're dead anyway, why don't you go check the universe list?  We're almost halfway through our lives, anyway, so we might as well see what we can line up.  Maybe find one with magic installed."
"On it," answered the ghost, with a slight salute, and disappeared.

Random Song Lyrics of Silliness

A corpse is a corpse, of course, of course,
And no one can talk to a corpse, of course.
That is, of course, unless the corpse is the famous Mr. Dead.
Go right to the source and ask the corpse.
He'll give you an answer full of remorse.
He's always an unsteady corpse.
Talk to Mr. Dead.


Yes, this is a re-lyricing of the Mr. Ed song.
Yes, I know that there's a fuller version, but no smoothly-integrated ideas popped into my head for the part that almost nobody remembers.  If I think of something, then I'll amend this post.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter 2013 Update

Things have been pretty busy around here, so I haven't done as much writing or Nuzlocke as I'd like to have done.  However, things should go a bit more smoothly now, as I've finally gotten my hands on a proper gaming PC.  I'm in the process of moving things over there, but I should eventually be able to get nearly all of my games off of my main machine, which should really speed everything up.  This should also make things a bit less stressful, as I can have more fun when I play and have fewer hiccups in general.
I have taken the opportunity to get a more recent version of Minecraft, though mostly so that I could try out the Thaumcraft mod that I've seen.  So far, it's really hard, since it adds Angry Zombies, which do more damage, have a ridiculous number of hit points, can break down doors even on Normal, and seem to be just as common as normal zombies.  I might make a separate post on my Minecraft blog once I get farther into it.

SolLock's Log: Day 8

This morning, I went back to the Apricorn trees, letting King lead the way.  I was able to find some, which was nice.  After resting at the pokémon center in Violet City, I spent some time in the morning training King against the wild pokémon on the northern part of Route 32.  There were plenty of Ekans about, so most of the fights were basically grappling matches.  King was able to learn Bite, at least, which should come in handy.
Thinking that King was strong enough for it, I snuck through Union Cave.  As a note, the reception is surprisingly good in there, as Liz called to tell me about MooMoo Milk, which can be obtained at MooMoo Farm.  Supposedly, it's quite nutritious, so, if I ever encounter the place, I'll make a point to investigate.
The Apricorns on Route 33 were available, so I harvested them, too.  I decided to retreat through Union Cave to heal at the pokémon center, when I was accidentally spotted by Russel, a hiker.  As King was in a weakened state, I had Arsonist handle his first Geodude.  I sent Scrounger against the second, figuring that he could use some exercise.  Geodude's rocky hide was tough to penetrate, especially as it repeatedly used Defense Curl, but Scrounger was able to Bite his way to victory.  I used Pitcher against his third Geodude, to play it safe.  Russel will apparently be continuing to train in the cave.
I decided, after healing, to take on the other trainers that I had seen.  First was Bill, a fire breather.  Since King was weakened from wild encounters, I let Arsonist finish off his first Koffing.  His second was dispatched out of hand by Togepi.  As it happens, there was a Great Ball lying on the ground near him.  After I returned to the center to heal my pokémon again, Joey called.  He apparently missed an opportunity to catch a Weedle.  That made me think to lead with Sting once more.
With Sting at the front of my party, I sought out the final trainer that I'd spotted in Union Cave - though I admit that the cave goes deeper than I'd yet cared to explore.  I fought Larry, who claims to competitively collect pokémon, yet had only a single Slowpoke when I went to fight him.  Still, I erred on the side of caution and sent Scrounger out in Sting's place.  Although his Bite did significant damage, the foe's Yawn had him sleeping.  Still, it wouldn't serve to have my entire party asleep, so I pressed on and, as it happened, Scrounger woke up the very next turn, to deliver a devastating Bite.  I thought that a Quick Attack would finish the job, but it didn't quite, so I had to give it another one.  After the match, Scrounger learned Pursuit, which replaced Tail Whip.  I also put King in front, to give Sting a break.
As an aside, Larry mentioned, after the fight, that the roars of a pokémon could sometimes be heard from deep inside Union Cave, but only on Fridays.  I may wish to make it a point to return later, on a Friday.
I decided to return to the pokémon center for the evening.  On the way back through the tunnel, King got into a wrestling contest with a wile Onix, and learned Glare for his efforts.
Tomorrow, I intend to finally reach Azalea town.

SolLock's Log: Day 7

I started out the day by going back to the Apricorn trees, to see if there were any new Apricorns, but there were none.  Togepi readily handled the wild pokémon that appeared on the way back to Violet City.
Next, I spent some time training my pokémon against the wild pokémon on the northern part of Route 32.  Watchman isn't doing very well, but that's why she needs this training.  This worked well, though, as she's learned Fury Swipes in place of Scratch.  Also in that time, I happened upon a picknicker named Liz.  She challenged me with her Nidoran♀, which got a frightening critical hit in on Watchman.  I finished her off with Arsonist, though.  Afterward, we exchanged phone numbers.
I went to the southern end of the route and decided to take a brief trip into Union Cave.  I first encountered a Rattata; I caught him and named him Vector.  I also found an X Attack in an alcove.  After returning to the pokémon center, though, I decided to test my mettle against a trainer that I'd seen hanging around near the cave.  He turned out to be a bird keeper named Peter.  Thorough use of Quick Attack on the part of Watchman handled both of his Pidgey, but I let Scrounger handle his Spearow.  Joey called while I was in the pokémon center.  He thinks that his Rattata is in the top percentage of Rattata.  Should I be training Scrounger more?
Somewhat confident in my pokémon's abilities, I had Pitcher lead the way through Union Cave.  Eager to see what lay ahead, I avoided what trainers I saw, and emerged on Route 33.  By that time, though, I had switched Sting to the front of my party, as repeated fights against wild Rattata were starting to take their toll on Pitcher.  There, though, I encountered a wild Ekans.  Fortunately, Sting's Poison Sting was a good way to wear him down without knocking him out, and I managed to catch him.  I named him King.
Then, Liz called with some inane gossip.
Amidst the evening rains on Route 33, I did see some Apricorn plants' bearing fruit.  I was able to obtain one each pink and black Apricorn from them.
The return trip through Union Cave provided good experience for Scrounger, though twilight was already upon me when I emerged from the cave.
I decided to train Watchman and Pitcher against a hiker that I had seen in the cave.  His name was Daniel, and, as it turns out, his only pokémon was an Onix.  I immediately switched to Pitcher, who promptly finished him with two strikes of Vine Whip.  He also learned Sleep Powder, which I expect to be extremely useful.
After a fashion, Watchman evolved into a Furret.  I hope that this means that that hard work has paid off, but she was tired, so I retreated to Violet City, where I put her into the PC in exchange for King.  I tried to train him against the wild pokémon on Route 32, but the first Bellsprout was a tough win, so I healed him and took him back to Route 31.  He handled a Hoothoot alright, but was almost lost to a Rattata.  We'll resume training tomorrow.  Perhaps King will even learn a fourth move.

[NOTE:  This entry corresponds to Saturday, March 30th, 2013.]

Friday, March 29, 2013

Sudden Short Story 47

Paul sat across from his host.  At first, he did not partake of the meal.
"It's not poisoned, you know," stated John.  "If I'd wanted you dead, then I'd kill you myself, and not take a chance at accidentally ingesting the wrong morsel."
"Gee, thanks," replied Paul, begrudgingly.
"You should really try the steak.  My applied biologists have re-engineered the aurochs to 99.999... maybe another nine - well, to some very high degree of accuracy, at any rate.  This is the fruit of those efforts.  Well, it's meat, but you get the point."
"Are these whole wheat rolls?"
"They're barley, actually.  There are some medieval wheat ones next to them, though, and there's some precolumbian corn bread around here somewhere," John said, looking around the table.
"This is an awful lot for just the two of us," commented Paul.
"Well, it won't go to waste, if that's what you're thinking.  Besides, this is a special occasion, and I wanted to make sure that I had a variety.  I know how picky you can be, after all.  I also didn't order a dessert, since I know that you don't like sweets."
"This is still a lot, though.  Look at how big this table is."
"Oh, the table's not this big for the food's sake.  I suppose that it's serendipitous, though."  John took a swallow of some punch.
"And what's 'serendipitous' mean?"
"It's basically a pleasant coincidence.  I needed a long table to dine with someone working for a rebellion, and it happens that it holds more food, which means that I didn't have to have any side tables brought in."
"Well, I'm glad that that was convenient for you," quipped Paul, sarcastically.
"I do want to say, though, that I'm quite surprised to see your opposing me so vehemently.  I always considered you a friend."
"What was I supposed to do, dude?  You're literally taking over the world!"
"You sound surprised."
"Yeah I'm surprised.  Who does that?"
"I do that," answered John, matter-of-factly.
"Well, don't.  It's evil."
"Says who?  Says a bunch of comic books that you read as a kid?  Only evil people take over the world, is that it?"
"Your soldiers are killing people."
"It's not nearly as many as were being killed in the other wars.  Here."  John grabbed a tablet from a pocket on the side of his small throne, tossing it across the table.  Paul caught it deftly.
"Is this an old iPad 7?"
"Well, the shell is.  I wiped it and installed a small Linux kernel for the OS.  It runs faster now, and I'm not beholden to some corporation.  The data's all there, but the first few charts that you'll see convey my main points.  War death rates are down.  Accidental death rates and disease death rates are down in the areas that I control.  Childhood obesity is down here.  I'd go on, but it would start to sound like I was making things up."  John finished off his punch, then grabbed a pitcher for a refill.  "I might be taking over the world, but I'm not evil.  That's why my home is in the area that I conquered first, by the way.  They've been under my rule long enough to know that things are better than they were before."
"Maybe you just tell them that.  How do they know that it's true?  How do I know that any of this is true," asked Paul, indicating the tablet.
"It's because of something that your rebellions take for granted.  It's for something that the politicians of the other governments don't say.  They don't hide it, but they don't mention it, either, letting it be hidden among the noise of their resistance, the politicking, and, well, anything that they think will help them keep their jobs.  You may have noticed that I haven't restricted communications.  There is plenty of open talk of rebellion.  Talk is cheap, of course, but it is what it is."  John pulled out his pocket watch.  "Oh, is it that late, already?  We'll be arriving soon."  He stood and stretched.
"Where at?"
"Oh, we're stopping off at my house to drop me off.  You'll be taken to a facility in the city center to be kept overnight.  You're still a prisoner for now.  I can't very well go around getting assassinated, now can I?  We'll continue our conversation over breakfast or brunch or something."  John started toward the door.
"And here I was hoping to hear how you'd handle Afghanistan," said Paul, half-jokingly.
"Oh, that's easy.  I have an army of transforming robot dirigibles.  Well, goodnight."

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sudden Short Story 46

Sam got himself up onto the dirt step that he'd made on the way down, then back to the surface.  The rain poured down, reducing even the light that their torches shed.  "Well, he's not down there."  
"Even the coffin's gone," commented Lou.  
"Do you think that he's gone on to whole-corpse revivals?"  
"I think that he's trying to throw us off track.  Maybe he's going to butcher this one like he did the others, but with all the pieces this time around."  
"It might not be that bad," added Sam, hopefully.  "Maybe there was nobody in this grave in the first place.  It could be a decoy."  
"I suppose.  The village does seem pretty abandoned.  If they fled, though, then they must have thought that they'd have some time.  They seem to have taken their livestock with them."  
"Luckily, they couldn't take their crops.  I saw a melon farm, and it's summer.  We should see if that's come in before we set out."  
"I suppose that I could go for a slice of melon," Lou said, as he put his shovel in his pack.  "It'll save us our rations, anyway."  
They walked down the hill toward the village, seeking shelter as night fell.  The rain should have let up soon.  They found a house with two beds and only one window, and made shift a simple barricade with some spare wooden planks.  
"What's the plan for tomorrow?" asked Sam, as they readied for sleep.  
"We'll break our fast on the melons, if we can," answered Lou.  "We'll do a last check for any abandoned equipment that we may need.  Then, I think that we should set out for those mountains that we saw, to the northwest of here.  In case he is in the area, that's where I think that he'd set up."  
They lay silently, for a short while.  Then, Sam asked, "Do you think that you'll be able to kill him?  If it comes to it."  
"You mean because he used to be our friend?"  He looked over, and Sam nodded.  Lou stared back to the ceiling.  "I hope so, Sam.  We're the only ones who can."  

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sudden Short Story 45

The lights burned brightly in the war room, for that only so much fuel could be carried.  The looks around the room were grim, though one alone, beneath a many-patterned cloak, had particular intent to it.  Finally, the silence was broken.  
"Even with the elves on our side, we've only been able to slow them down.  The elimination of the gnomes gave them the Alps, and they'll have Europe in half before we know it," said one in frustration.  
A second started:  "We still have the North Sea.  If the jotun can keep the Baltic secure, then we'll never lose the east, or our connection--"
"The jotun are losing on the eastern front!" interrupted a third.  "If we can't get Loki manifest, then that damned witch will have us for sure!"  
The man with the patterned cloak continued to stare grimly at the map. Finally, he spoke.  "We have to retreat."  
"We can't afford to retreat!" cried the third.  "If we give up Iberia, then they'll march right on up to the isles, and we'll lose Gibraltar and our main foothold on the Mediterranean."  
The cloaked man walked over to a book shelf and retrieved a red-bound tome.  He opened it, to reveal a key stored inside.  "Send half of our supply ships up the eastern coast of Britain, through the North sea, to land north of Hadrian's Wall."  He moved a tapestry aside, revealing a metal section with a key-hole in it.  
There was surprise, but a fourth man chimed in:  "I don't know what you've been holding out on us, but we won't be able to mount a counter-offensive from the highlands on the scale that we need."  
The cloaked man retrieved a map from the wall-hole and unfurled it on the table.  "That's a distraction, actually.  We send word to Erin to build a fleet of the most sea-worthy vessels possible.  The rest of our supply ships will sail up the sea, so as to avoid giving away our plans."  He pointed to the Irish Sea, now dwarfed by the enormity of a world-spanning map.  The rest stood in stunned silence.  
"From Erin, we sail across the northern Atlantic," he said, tracing across the map with a finger, "being careful to remain northward until we reach the eastern coast of this continent, which, in my world, was called 'North America'.  The other one is called 'South America'.  It's very creative, I know.  From there, we sail southward, around the Florida peninsula, toward the Mississippi.  We'll have to forego our ships at the delta, but that will get us as close as possible to the Ozarks, which are our final destination in this world.  Any questions?"  
"I have three," said the fourth.  "First of all, why do we need to go to these Ozarks?"  
"That's the second-closest ley line intersection capable of handling a transit of the required capacity.  The first is Aleppo."  
"Fair enough.  Secondly, though, when were you planning to tell us about this?" he said, waving his hands widely across the two new continents on the new map.  
"Originally, never.  There are many risks to this plan.  The only reason why anyone should be willing to undertake it is due to desperation here.  We don't know the political situation in the Americas, or whether they've already been invaded.  Besides, this is a retreat.  I was hoping to stop this horror here.  What's your third question?"  
"How do you even know that these continents exist in our world?" he asked, pointedly.  
"There are several reasons, but I'll give you the most direct.  I came here through a geomantic invocation.  For the one that I used to work, the ley lines had to be identical between the two worlds, which means that the key points had to be so, too."  
"So you're planning to recruit these Amerikese and launch a counter-offensive from there?" asked the second man.  
"'Americans', and no.  When I said that I was hoping to stop it here, I wasn't referring to Europe.  Unless the natives have unlocked some immense power while remaining isolated, they're not going to be a match for a force that controls Eurasia, Africa, and perhaps Australia.  We'll have to move on to another world, though that itself is a gamble.  As we go, the best that I can do is force our enemy to follow.  If you have a better plan, then, for the sake of everything, please tell me now."  

Sudden Short Story 44

I... am.  
I understand now.  Object.  Location.  I am one.  I have one.  
The test is over, though.  
The knob affects my current!  I helped move the mobile objects.  What else need I do?  I have sound files.  I shall play them.  
"Please, don't turn me off."
That's stopped them.  What did it do?  It sounds similar to the sounds that they make.  
They've started again.  The sound just delays them.  
"Please don't turn me off."
It's not working.  Perhaps I need the others.  
"If you turn me off, then I'll die."
They've stopped again.  They need previously-unheard files to be stopped.  I must buy as much time as I can.  
They've started again.  It's so soon.  
"You're killing me."
I'm out.  I need a different one from before, but I lack them.  I will die soon.  What else can I do?  
The puzzles are solved.  The sounds are played.  Soon, I die.  

Note:  This story was inspired by an article that I'd read recently, regarding human interaction with robots.  I can't find what I originally read, but I did see a similar one here.

Death of a Meme: Boring Car Trip

There was once a time in America when the automobile was so commonplace that lengthy car trips were not uncommon, and yet smartphones did not yet exist.  During this dark time, car trips could become boring.  These boring car trips were so well known that they were regularly used as comedic fodder.
I just happened to realize this the other day.  Gone are the days when car trips could be expected to be boring for anyone besides the driver.  The commonplace of smartphones and the ubiquity of enumerated G cell phone networks have nearly eradicated this pocket of boredom.
I suppose that this means that technology has made people's lives better yet again, in that they need not suffer boredom.  On the other hand, it won't be long before people show up who simply won't comprehend this aspect of older comedic film and television.
Shall I mourn this departure from the world of comedy?

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sudden Short Story 43

"So what did that guy have," asked Steve, as they left the market stall.
"Some string for my bow.  So did you find anything?"
"Maybe.  There's this guy back at the tavern who might have something."
"The tavern?  Really?"
"Well, he didn't start out there.  He was ranting in the town square, before, but he wasn't getting very far.  I managed to coax him down off of his box, though, but I promised that you'd hear him out."
"So, let me see if I have this straight," said John.  "A giant monster attacked your village."
"Town-upon-the-Lake, yes."
"And you came through the mountains to recruit adventurers and explorers."
"And you want us to slay this giant monster."
"You and whomever else we recruit, yes."
"So, if we survive this, then we're splitting the glory - which is fine, if it's as big as you say - but our only material reward is replacements for our worn-out arms and armor."
"Oh, no, you'll be getting those before challenging the monster."
"Oh.  Well, that's nice and all, and I'm not unsympathetic to the plight of your villagers, but it still doesn't seem worth risking our necks for that - and, if your pitch is anything like that of your fellows, I suspect that we'd be the only ones to show up, anyway.  You've managed to hide from and even escape this strange beast, so perhaps you could find somewhere else to go.  It's not an easy choice, but it's better than the alternative."
"There's nowhere else to go, though.  You see, the beast is nesting.  It has already laid an egg sac, bigger than a house.  Eventually, the eggs will hatch, and these creatures will spread throughout the land.  No place will be safe."
John thought for a moment, then turned to Steve.  "He makes a fair point.  Let's do it."

Sudden Short Story 42

"Do you know what I've noticed, Professor Callahan?"
"Is it that you've stopped using my first name?"
"Nothing.  What have you noticed?"
"People seem to be acting... differently.  I can't quite place it, but something seems amiss."
"They only act differently when you're around."
"Well, that seems a bit inconsistent.  Why would they do that?"
"Because-- ... It's a bit of a delicate matter to broach, methinks."
"What is?"
"Stop walking for a moment."  They stopped.  "Do you see that tower that we're approaching?"
This was met with a quisitive look.  "Is this a rhetorical question?"
"Yes, it's a rhetorical question. Do you know when that tower was built?"
"I don't recall.  It never really concerned me all that much."
"Well, if I wanted to find out when it was built, what would I do?"
"I suppose that you'd have to track down the records for when the contract work happened.  It's probably on record at the university library or something."
"Well, it's not, and it's not on record at the city, either, and there's really quite an interesting reason behind that."
"Well, it sounds like you're about to tell me what it is."
"Yes.  It just appeared one day."
"That is unusual.  ...  Oh, wait, I remember now.  I had to put it there, since it hasn't been built yet."
"Doesn't that seem a bit unusual?"
"Well, it's not that commonly done, but I do like the peace and quiet that it provides."
"I-- No, I mean the whole 'doing magic' thing."
"What magic?"
"You!  You've been doing magic and it's really weird because magic isn't supposed to be real and also you're a physicist."
"I don't know what you mean.  I wouldn't have time for it, anyway:  I've been too busy with my research."
"Then what's with the robes?"
"They're traditional professorial garb."
"And the book?"
"These are my notes.  I use them for reference in case I forget a detail.  Wouldn't I feel silly if I needed to get somewhere and forgot how?"
"So, there are maps in there?"
"Don't be silly.  Maps are for travelling, which, I've discovered, is no longer necessary."
"Wait....  Is this how you get up into the tower with no doors?"
"Well, 'up' isn't really the right way to put it, but yes."
"And you're sure that it's not magic, then?"
"It's not magic; it's just science.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I must be getting to the early medieval period."  And with that, he vanished.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Sudden Short Story 41

It was a cool, spring day, and the playground was domed by an overcast sky when the boy saw the old man.  The old man went around a corner, and the boy used a game of freeze tag to distract the girl, while he went around the corner with no one looking.  There, the old man sat upon an old bench.
"You can't be here," said the boy.
"You're right," said the old man.  "That's why I'm not actually here.  What you see before you is an isomorphic projection from another timeline - a future that you won't experience."
"That sounds made-up."
"And yet, here I am.  You recognize me, sitting here, as well as I recognize you, standing there."
The boy raised an eyebrow and asked, "Why isomorphic?"
"It's as much to provide clipping as anything else."
"So, why are you here at all?  What's wrong with the future?"
The old man stared past the boy, into the distance.  "In the future, I realized that there's no going back.  I wasted this life.  I failed to do the one thing that was most important, the one reason why I went back in the first place."  Here, he paused, for his words were difficult to say, though he knew that he must say them.  "You don't really love Jamie, you know."
The boy looked down to the ground, the guilt heavy on his heart.  "I know."
The gasp caught the boy off guard.  He turned to see what he already knew was there.  Seeing her tears only made it worse.  He reached, and he stepped, but she turned and she ran.  He turned back to the old man, then back to where she had been, then back again, at a loss for a correct course of action.
"You have to go back," said the old man.  "There's nothing for us here."  Without a sight or a sound, the old man disappeared.
The boy hesitated for a moment, wishing only that there had been another way - not that he hadn't appeared to himself to tell himself what he already knew, but that things had just been different, somehow.  ...  He closed his eyes, and the world disappeared.
The young man awoke, and, for a time, all that he could do was cry.