Thursday, December 31, 2009

Blue moonset at dawn

I stopped playing Star Ocean First Departure (PSP) after finding the R-Card. The whole look and feel of the game had changed, from homey interiors (above) to [memory synapse blocked intentionally]. I had a werewolf on my team, for some reason, and I couldn't find Welch's hut in any clump of forest north or south of Van y Ille. Besides, it was ripping off my time and attention. Like, seven or eight hours at a stretch, up till 4 a.m., bizarrely psychotic dreams... Enough. (Or almost. Hubbubbled on to the Demon World...)

On to Terry Pratchett's latest. Or maybe I'll read Neverwhere again, Gaiman's always good for a little light-hearted pretension. Why not kill time? It's killing me.

(So... What's going on with the Large Hadron Collider these days?)


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Michigan State v. Texas Tech

I get a little flak around here (this is Hayden Fry's old turf) for wearing a green sweatshirt with a big "Michigan State" on it, so thought I'd look up MSU's bowl game: The Valero Alamo Bowl, this Saturday, January 2, 2010, Spartans versing Texas Tech in what may be the highest scoring defensive game since the invention of the number 30. [Update 12/31 Weird. Texas Tech just fired their head coach for insubordination. MSU 75 — TT 6.]

Next Tuesday, Iowa plays in the Toilet Bowl as per usual. This year that's the Fedex Orange Bowl, January 5 in Miami where the Hawks are pegged to lose by multiples of 5 against Georgia Tech. Quando omni flunkus moritati.

Tiger Hawks?? WTF. Fry's idea of a morale-building pre-season lineup, as you may recall, could best be described as a small sea lion maiming penguins for fun.

In a curiously related afterthought, did you catch What Darwin Never Knew on PBS last night?

Just when we thought we'd found the orchestra leader (DNA) in the symphony of Evolution, suddenly the podium is empty again! DNA is not the assoluta after all.

Something else is directing "switches" (more like volume control knobs that say when and how much) that turn particular protein-coding stretches of DNA (i.e., genes) on and off.

Yet another gap in the chain of command sort of feeds the "Intelligent Design" monkeys, but at least now they have to accept Darwin and embrace Evolution in order to reach their foregone conclusions — so some actual science gets smuggled into the Kansas Board of Education curriculum! This is not a bad thing.

I love it when TV turns out to be about reality.

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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Yay! Boxing Day!

Never heard of it.


Friday, December 25, 2009

Cold Lard

Yep. I finally realized what is like Retirement. Lard is like Retirement. Cold lard. Strap it to your feet and skate around the house. The dogs may howl, the cats may sample delicately before looking at you in betrayed disgust, but it gets the crumbs off the floor.

Merry Christmas. Don't leave crumbs.

In a more Sirius vein, I never carry a watch to church. Why is that, you ask? Well, think about it.

Religion for most people is about The Afterlife, which is personal being, living, existence, extended on a cosmic scale through the next billion billion billion billion billion billion billion years. Aside from the obvious inconvenience of Time measured from the point of view of a cold, lifeless cinder that does not revolve around its absent star, most people can't sit still for five minutes without dying of boredom.

You want your personal lease extended through the heat death of the Universe, that's your problem. Christmas morning, though, that's Timeless.

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

Ok, ok, it's really Epiphany, not Christmas. Epiphany comes next month.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The day before Christmas Eve

My kid had her wisdom teeth out this morning. She's feeling put upon. The rest of us in the entire Midwest are enjoying the freezing rain :-b

The trees get coated with ice, then the wind blows and all the popping and cracking of tree branches makes a fusillade of falling glitter.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

To a nicer guy it couldn't happen!

The world needs its scapegoats, I guess. For some people, John Demjanjuk remains a convenient moral spittoon even though the Israeli Supreme Court, bound by law and not emotion, was not convinced of his guilt at Treblinka, and so threw out his death sentence in 1993. But there's still Sobibor, and if not Sobibor, there's Majdanek, and if not Majdanek, there are other Nazi concentration camps and plenty of half-blind 90-year-olds who remember him (or someone like him) being there. His days are numbered. He's in pain. He's a putz and he should only learn something. Never again! And nice it is, to see the world enjoying a little retribution this holiday season, whether the guy is guilty or not I couldn't say. What does it matter? Happy Hanukkah.

n.b. Sarcasm etched deeply enough may, in some minds, be indistinguishable from the sanctimony it wishes to lampoon. In plain text, what possible good does it do to hound an accused man to the ends of the earth, without clear evidence of specific guilt, with no proven conviction in two decades of fiercely obsessive dossier-compiling and relentless persecution? Demjanjuk is Barabbas now, old and decrepit. Let him go.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Yule is a Norse word for "wheel"...?

At least according to today's daily Linux calendar reminder. Why did I not know this until yesterday? Because it's not actually true — just neo-pagan folk etymology, seemingly.

Dec 21 Benjamin Disraeli born, 1804
Dec 21 St Thomas
Dec 21 Phileas Fogg completes his trip around the world in less than 80 days
Dec 21 Women gain the right to vote in South Australia, 1894
Dec 21 Women gain the right to hold political office in South Australia, 1894
Dec 21 Frank Zappa is born in Baltimore, 1940
Dec 21 Yule (Norse for "wheel") - Germanic 12-day feast
Dec 21* Winter Solstice
Dec 22 Giacomo Puccini born, 1858

Oh, yeah. First day of Winter... Knock yourself out at Stonehenge. There's too much snow around here.

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Whaddaya know? Ebert gives Avatar four stars!

Even cooler — he compared it to the original theater experience of seeing Star Wars, which blew everyone's mind then, just as Avatar does now.

We ventured thru the snow to see it. Hmm. Unlike the aforementioned George Lucas klassik, these unknown actors are allowed to act. The star is the CGI, though.

As far as plot goes, it's Dances with Wolves of Other Planets, as my wife dryly remarked. We white anglosaxophonics got much to atone for when it comes to (*ahem*) "Horsemen of the Plains" and other noble savages.

But drown these droll cavils, friend. I really enjoyed this flick, except for the two-tylenol headache "Real 3D" gives me. They don't call that technology unobtanium for nuthin.

Why don't they try flicker 3D? That's where every other frame flips to the other viewpoint. The advantage is, you don't need special eyewear — which means people with glasses can still see 3D comfortably.

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Back to Nede

Exit the Calnus, disappointed. Enter all but Leon, the twerp. Although, truth to tell, teenaged girls seem to think he's cute — he has cat ears. It must be pointed out that teenaged girls also like Draco Malfoy for the same inexplicablity, not to call it reason. So... if girls do not (or cannot) recognize the same standards as the rest of us... What choice do guys have, except to skim the bugs off the surface of the gene pool? By force if necessary. Yes, it seems so obvious now... Ssssschwup. Ssssssschwup. It takes all kinds, yes. And we must edit the list... Heh heh hehehehehehooha. [Sounds of sharpening.]

Take that, Leon. Drat you, you precocious rugrat. Your mother doesn't have cat ears. Your father doesn't have cat ears. Face it, Leon! You were... you were... adopted!

Other superfluous members of this garden party pitched to a distaff demographic include Tiny "Little Dickens" Tim, Beaver Cleaver, Wesley Crusher, Annie Skywalker and the invidious Sloe Gin Ricky.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Krosse Mountain Palace

... s h u d d e r ...

After leaving and returning several times, to get levelled up enough to survive the KMP, we finally found Opera and the hidden [ dot dot...]

Actually, I was sort of happy to find the KMP. Some real originals in here, including Red Jello and the Blue Archerettes.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Back to nonessentials...

I have some questions about Star Ocean Second Evolution (and a gripe or two) —
  • Who is the little girl in brown in Lecoeur City? She's near the Skills Guild in a private action. Her name is "???" and she plays "Gotcha!" with Claude. Her last ploy is "Don't come near me or I'll scream." Then runs away.

  • [Update 12/24] I swear this happened. In Centropolis, in Gracey's Item Shop (Gracey is a gruff old guy!) when I bought Resurrection Elixir, I had more Fol the more I bought! It hasn't happened again. Is this related to the Oracle skills?

  • Why does your Fol drain slowly away by the second? At this point in the game, you're probably carrying over 3 million Fol because you've been traipsing through Phynal or the Cave of Trials, but still... I thought there wasn't supposed to be no reality in these JRPGs?

  • A gripe: Ashton Anchors is droll, but... he recruits himself. The answer to the question "Take responsibility?" is, it doesn't matter. Also, if you "recruit" Ashton you can't get Opera. Bummer. Don't bother going back for him. He has a thing for barrels, never (SFAIK) explained. (This makes twice I've screwed up and had to start over!)

  • Also, if you have recruited Celine and Ashton both, then Creepy and Weepy will be peeking up Celine's floating shower curtain on every status screen. Not a gripe or a question, just... face palm.

  • Another: Welch Vineyard is recruitable?! She's the kid you met in SO3 who submits your inventions for evaluation. She drops out of the sky at the bridge into Lecoeur Castle, after the Armory Contest.

  • Everything interesting happens in a P.A. You can get sucked into the urgency of the plot, being the natural follower that you are, and thereby miss the other 99% of this game. Major problem.

  • I despise the Cave of Trials, or whatever it's called this iteration. You have to use it to level up enough to beat the final, non-optional "plot" bosses, so it's a crutch. Finding it, in SO2 and SOSE, is hilarious.

Spelled L-A-C-U-E-R for some reason. It might be authoritative, but it's wrong wrong wrong...!


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

See how she runs...

Roxanne Conlin is already catching flak from her Democratic primary election opponents. The gist seems to be that she got too wealthy by taking on Microsoft and having the awful effrontery to actually win a $60 million lawsuit for Iowa public schools, or some such thing. Details, lady! Details! Ain't no such of a thang as a rich Democratic, so's how come you're an exception to that rule? What are you hiding, Roxanne?

Republicans are beside themselves with wide-eyed evil glee.


Monday, December 14, 2009

The Über-Smurf, Indalecio

"Gabriel," is it? Foo. The guy's name is Indalecio, and he's a smurf. The final battle of Star Ocean Second Evolution is truly underwhelming, if you've levelled up enough. (If you haven't, say, you're only around 102, he'll wipe the floor with you.)

We took him down with Claude (118), Rena (117), Chisato (53) and Precis (115). Rena was limited to the spells Faerie Light, Condition Cure, Raise Dead, Haste, Reflection, Angel Feather and Star Flare, and I should have turned off all her attacking spells. Claude was the leader, and he used Mirror Blade exclusively (L Button). Precis was set to use Hammer Slammer or Rocket Punch. Chisato, the lowest-ranking member of the team, was there to guarantee piling on, personal fouls, late hits and extra gouging, but in fact she used 100,000 Volts until she ran out of MP, then switched to knees, elbows, head bumps and low kicks.

The only tactic we used against Gabriel was to hit him hard, fast and often from all sides, which makes for a short, boring battle with no finesse whatsoever — if it works. Military historians will recognize the Powell Doctrine, but frankly, we were just lucky. Indalecio has one Game Over spell, if you give him a quarter second to escape your onslaught.

Star Ocean is supposed to have over twenty endings, i.e., scenes that play out and explain the fates of all your company once the game is won. Chisato was lonely and down in the dumps in Hilton. Leon the Pointless was playing with the other kids in Lecour. Precis got hit on in a bar by two lumpkins who ignored Celine, to their peril. Claude rejoined the service and went away for a few months, while Rena promised he'd be a daddy by the time he got back. (The last time I played this, on PS1, Celine was at home getting ready for another treasure hunt.) No idea what the other endings are, but I missed finding Opera Vectra this time around, too.

Colossal waste of time, if you ask me!


Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Maze on Floor Six

Ok, minor beef first. My favorite irritant in Star Ocean: The Second Story (on Playstation One) was a flame thrower named Decus. He had blinding speed, a battery of infuriating taunts ("Am I not hot??!") and Spicule, a screenfilling killer blast that began in ominous silence, transformed to luminous whiteout and developed slowly into pyromaniac maelstrom. Decus was not sane, even by pretense.

Michael, by contrast, the same guy in Star Ocean Second Evolution (PSP) is a mellow fellow whose menace is severely diluted by the larger PSP screen — part of Decus' panache was claustrophic terror, you couldn't get away from him, and he moved so damned fast! Great music, too. We took Decus out at level 85 on PS1, after a withering onslaught that lasted maybe fifteen minutes before we turned the tide — it seemed like a week.

Michael's a wimp, like going from Monty Python with flame throwers to Hell with ice water. We found him with our levels over 93, so maybe that's why, but still... Michael should be a challenge, not a debate.

If you get past Decus (or Michael), you reach the silent maze on Floor Six, a puzzle. After the pyrotechnics below, the mental readjustment is gear-grinding. You can't mash X on Floor Six, you have to solve the puzzle, because the cheat sheets are subtly wrong (and they quote each other!) unless you start at the absolute, unmodified beginning of the maze. That's my beef with Floor Six, that the walkthrough writers couldn't be bothered to write up a real solution. If you need help here, go back and save after defeating Decus. Otherwise, you'll mung the settings and have to solve Floor Six by trial and error. (The trick is to turn on all the switches on pedestals which have no left-middle-right option, just on or off.)

No spoilers, here, though (^^;) Blunder around long enough, and an obvious pattern will emerge. With a definite strategy in mind, Floor Six is a piece of cake.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Human Side of Vermin

Mice, rats, dragonflies, crickets, lightning bugs, ants, rabbits ... all vermin, and all, 'cordin' to Walt Disney Studios, "instant classics." Sorry. Uncle Ben's Minute Rice is an instant classic.

You see Disney at its most egregious when it fails to slam the dunk; e.g., Ratatouille is a good recent example of how you can't turn a So-Poor joke into cuddly fun for the whole family. Rats are not heroes.

Anyway, Roger Ebert has nearly expired in another fit of ecstatic animation over Disney's latest Grimm rehash with ensemble characters (the bug, the alligator, et al.) who haven't worked since Rescuers or Jungle Book strangling on English as a second language and trying hard to pull off a switcheroo that hasn't been surprising since Herb Philbrick's three lives. Face it, cel animation is so expensive even anime is farmed out to 'tweener sweat shops in Canton, Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines, an unfortunate bit of economics that means Disney still can't afford expensive discardables like original story or screenplay.

And it shows. We knew it in our bones. We wore the death of Fantasyland like a coonskin cap two generations ago. Even those hyper-orange oranges with the Disney-Pixar label on are spray waxed; the faux comestibles industry is cheaper than core competency.

Yeah, I know, the voices tell me this makes me a sociopathic American lotus eater who should get a life, a charge I vigorously deny. The Economy Stupid retired me to Social Security two years too early, so I'm just bitter on the inside, like a quinine bon-bon. My family has kept me sane so far... that, and the tin foil in my cap ;-)


Sunday, December 06, 2009

I just wanna know one thing...

Not did, but can, Sarah Palin read her own book? She seems to have adult ADH... oh, well, what's on tv?

I hear Cash. I hear Ghost Writers in the Sky...


Friday, December 04, 2009

Rats, i got Bowman!

I was hoping for somebody else... Now I have to start over! (This wasn't a problem on the PS1.)

Other than that, kind of a fun day. Routine CT scan this a.m., visit to the doctor's office for a Z-pack to kick this impending bronchitis before it kills me (for about month anyway), a serendipitous H1N1 shot, another doctor's visit to schedule my daughter's wisdom teeth extraction (all 4, ouch), followed by a skiff of snow on the roads this evening. Sagittarius = Medicine. The CT tech had a faded henna tatoo on her right arm, another synchronicity. Witch hazel and Christmas.

Bowman? And Ashton? How's come I got Ashton?! Do over!!

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Thursday, December 03, 2009

Nooooooooooooooooo...! (Oh, wait! Yes!!)

Click the red seal of ultimate approval. Adulation, even.


Tuesday, December 01, 2009

My Xmas Rant

My wife heads up a branch of one of our local medical labs, so she's been exposed to the H1N1 virus since last September — i.e., she's been on the front lines meeting sick public. Today (technically, I'm writing this Dec. 2) she finally got FlüMiste (or something) up her nose. A bit late, although nobody in Linn County should take the rap for what they didn't have and couldn't get.

Everyone alive today is descended from survivors of the 1918 H1N1 Spanish flu pandemic (20 million dead), the 1957 H2N2 Asian flu (2 million dead), and the 1968 H3N2 Hong Kong flu pandemic (1 million dead), plus the various H1N1 mutations circulating since 1977 — survivors, that is, either by dumb luck, immunization or sufficient natural immune reponse to fight off the disease and its complications. Because there's something we can do about it, immunization factors large.

That said, the production and logistics, favoritism and irrationality in the distribution scheme for H1N1 immunization drugs is a bit weird. I'm not sure the H1N1 pandemic ranks with Katrina, but if this is an example of  "public be damned" free market economics, somebody's means of non-production needs to be nationalized.

Here's what I want for Xmas. I want my daughter immunized. → [Update 12/3] Might happen. There's another clinic scheduled to begin next week.

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