Sunday, July 31, 2011

Quiet! Don't scare the fish!

The biggest fish I ever caught was a largemouth bass out of my great uncle George Dana's farm pond near Olathe, Kansas, about 1960.  I used a spinning reel with the first fishing lure I ever bought.  Normally, I'd use a cork bobber and a night crawler, like the rest of the family, and we'd haul in a decent fishfry, mostly bluegills and a few small catfish.  My grandmother refused to gut and clean the catch, but she fried a great dinner.

Fishermen raised in lesser traditions have sneered at my technique.

My dad, an AIQ veterinarian and microbiologist who worked for the USDA at the NADL lab in Ames, Iowa, remained a farm boy his entire life.  I was a suburban kid in what I would now classify as the "poor intellectual" class, and that meant I didn't actually know squat about the Great Outdoors.  I never shot nuthin' with my .22 LR single shot Savage, and other than what I caught on a bamboo pole in Kansas farm ponds, I knew nothing about fishing.  Later in life, I bought a spinning reel on a good graphite rod, and caught more bluegills.  I've had more fishing licenses than fish, though.

Enter the Playstation PSP videogame, Rapala Trophies.  Rapala is a real company that sells real fishing tackle, started by an old geezer in Finland in 1936.  Therein lies a contradiction.

Most fishermen during and since the Pleistocene have caught fish to feed themselves and their families.  Rich fishermen catch fish because they're bored and seek entertainment.  Fish for their tables comes frozen, or at the supermarket on ice if it's relatively fresh and flown in from the big catfish farms of the American south.  Rich fishermen buy tilapia.  Poor fishermen catch slimeheads.  It's the same fish.

What canny old Lauri Rapala did with that first fishing lure of his was cast it into limpid pools of filthy rich ubanity and hook his first million, selling to fishermen. You've got it!  Rapala Trophies is an old joke in new clown shoes: "Fancy lures catch fancy fishermen."

The PSP game marketed by Rapala is designed to barb fishing newbies in the cheek and get their bucks. It's pure Izaak Walton that one's bait should match the time of year, the weather and the catch, and never swear at the one that got away, for never having had it to hand, it cannot be lost.   I came off relatively unscathed.  I bought the game for ten bucks used, half the normal price.

I do have a gripe or two about the bait.  First of all, the "guide" has a head-thumping nasal twang as obnoxious as a Billy Mays sales pitch.  Secondly, real nature does not come with elevator music.  Third,  the profile characters all wear jeans that display a butt like two bocci balls.  Scaled up on the women.  Bowling balls, fore and aft.  Country thugs and bullies, for the most part, who eat their fish raw, right off the hook.  The women characters look like Dukes of Hazzard jailbait, except for broad-shouldered women who crack wise in the pineywoods.  "Oh, yeah?"  The fish win these contests because they have higher I.Q.s than the fisherpersons. Or the developers. Case in point, how do you "Save your profile" with no freaking SAVE option? Dumberer than dumb.  (There is a save option in the Tournament section.  Doesn't save a Free Fishing profile, though.)

But, to wax philosophical for a moment, everything good said of fishing can be said of golf.  Which is the truer abstract of the human condition?  Fishing, which destroys the fish?  Or golf, which destroys the golfer — by inches?

I'll probably sell Rapala Trophies back to the store one of these days.  Or, possibly, break that UMD disk apart and rub the round silvery bit on a sidewalk.

I think I liked Ocarina of Time's version of virtual fishing better.

Done, for a dollar.

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Friday, July 29, 2011

How to pester a deathclaw

Apparently, the powers that be have decided the deathclaws that infested Fallout 3 are too easy-going for Fallout New Vegas.  There's only one sort in F3, but numerous varieties in FNV, each more aggravating than the last.

The new deathclaws form family groups.  There are huge Mother deathclaws, quite large Alpha Male deathclaws, basic deathclaws, and baby deathclaws.  These canny marauders infest rocky locations, and all types share a propensity to leap, maul and mangle before you're aware they're near by with excellent stealth skills.  (There are also Blind and Legendary variations.)

There are only two survival strategies.  First, stay far away.  And second, take high ground and snipe them with the best long range weapon you've got.  These are two:  The YCS/186 unique variant of the Gauss rifle, and the .50 caliber Anti Material Rifle.  Both are scoped, and both are deadly enough against deathclaws, if you're patient.

Beware.  Fully-grown deathclaws can disappear from view.  Think raptor pack tactics in Jurassic Park.

Occasionally, you may encounter solitary deathclaws, or a pair of them.  In this case a light machine gun can be effective, provided the beasties are distracted by your companions, such as Veronica, who prefers Pushy to any other melee weapon, and ED-E with ranged laser.

By the way, don't overload Veronica with extra inventory.  She has a tendency to hang back if her agility is impaired by superfluous weight.


Monday, July 25, 2011

I see dead people

Deathly Hallows Part 2 clearly wasn't the last bit of Pottery J. K. Rowling wrote.  There were too many unexplained deaths, for one thing — including every horcrux in the books, one by one. Truth? I didn't even care enough to pillory this dreck.

I suspect the books are much different than the movies, especially considering that Rowling seems well able to keep a sense of continuity in the few examples of her writing I actually slogged through, books I and II.  The actors were brilliant, and when allowed could save any disconnected, underwritten Kloves and Yates scene in the finales (there were two.)

Luna had a terrific line, then disappeared for so long she might as well have been killed off like half the Weasley twins.

Voldemort flaking away in the breeze? Unintentionally comic Malfoy body language? Sorry, I need to bang my head on the wall at platform 9 3/4...

Unwilling persistence of bee leaf forces us to admit the snake is a... (caff) ... "horcrux." Sweet literary bat of belfries!


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Philosopher's Gallstone

British author J. K. Rowling's god-given gifts, besides more head shots than a platoon of Navy Seals, apparently include a nearly-infinite power to conjure up that which Alfred Hitchcock affectionately dismissed as The McGuffin, the lowly Plot de Weiss.  Must we enumerate?

To begin then, the Philosopher's Stone (or Sorceror's Stone for the benefit of benighted Americans unfamiliar with either  alchemy or the love of knowledge.)  The Magic Wand.  The Core of same.  The Time Turner!  The Sword of Griffindor.  The Gourd of Swiffendor (just kidding.)  The Cup of Hufflepuff said ten times fast ...  Ah, truly magical!  Prediction Globes!  The Portkey, an entire class of dissimilarities, that.  The Horcruxes, or possibly Horcruces.   And of course, the Deathly Hallows, so called because such a plot device is deadlier than Hamlet's last act.

I skipped a few of the teen angst movies.  Will rejoin the fam to observe Deathly Hallows 2 on Sunday.  Hopefully, J. K. will become filthy rich enough to bail out Greece.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fallout New Vegas' missing goals

After two weeks of manic, obsessive play, I've burned out on Fallout New Vegas.  All the humor and grace notes that marked Fallout 3 are missing, so dang if I can figure out what FNV is all about.  I'm on level 23 28, and maybe the only burning issue left for me is how to survive an attack by three or four (or more) deathclaws and put Quarry Junction on the map.  I've got the anti-material rifle, so maybe that's the clue.

Can't say I care enough to find out.  In Fallout 3, the more familar you got with super mutants, the more whimsical they became.  Super mutant conversations heard in passing eventually became hilarious, but they were still murderously inconvenient.  Except Fawkes.  And Uncle Leo, the super mutant with a Socratic turn of mind.

In FNV, the only similar turn of events is the blind deathclaw wandering in a cave, and Jas' hint about shooting them in the eye.  Red herring?  An inferior game, anyway, compared to Fallout 3.

[Update] Since  posting this, I found the gauss rifle.  May keep playing a bit more.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Idiot Me

I watched an eternity of FIFA Women's World Cup soccer yesterday afternoon, rooting for Japan but pretty certain the US would win it. Well into the second half, the first US point finally sailed into the back corner of Japan's net. Well, thought I, that's that, and changed the channel.

This morning I read that Japan won the match on penalty kicks. Hit me in the head with a hammer.  I'm stunned.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Absurd quest...

I stumbled on this book (which gives a permanent +3 boost to Survival) whilst staggering about the hills looking for a way around the gate on the south end of Mojave Outpost.  I like the CliffsNotes™ styling and b&w vanity press production values. So like Moira......!

There's a "Prepare to Stop" arch on your way NE, back up I-15 to Mojave Outpost. The surreal rolling hills and unnatural mirage-like textures on the southwest side of the gecko hills are worth finding, but they contribute nothing to the game except to fill in a corner of the map.

The book is in the Lone Wolf Radio trailer.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Rose Among The Thorns

Fallout New Vegas is still too raw to be fun (level 12 is too low), but it has its ridiculous moments.  Like making it to Jacobstown, or finding the unmarked entrance to The Thorn just outside Miguel's Pawn Shop.


Thursday, July 07, 2011

Casey Anthony lynch mob roundly rebuked

It seems obvious to me  that Casey Anthony's jury was having none of the lynch mob atmosphere which had already branded her face with LIAR on both cheeks and GUILTY on her forehead, without benefit of trial.  Presumed innocent?

The officers of the court who brought this flawed case were slapped down hard, in record time.  Let's hope they remember the lesson.

Casey Anthony, at least, got the justice denied her in months of media frenzy.


Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Fallout New Vegas update 1.06 released today!

Fig. 1 - Ghost (Mojave Outpost)
Well...  Best Buy had the PS3 version of Fallout New Vegas on sale for $9.99, thirty bucks  off (!), so I at that price I bought it anyway.  That was Monday. Today, I had to download update version 1.06, which is about 3 Gb of data and takes about three solid hours at Verizon hotspot speeds.

That was odd, all told.  I don't see any difference in the game but I suppose there's something critical in there.  I'm not that far in, still tracking down the neophyte locations — Mojave Outpost, and such — and Levelling Up to where the game is playable.


Sunday, July 03, 2011

I'll pass on New Vegas

[Update]  Hmmm... Apparently these folks have a patch for the PS 3 version which you can download.  I may change my mind.
The thing about Fallout 3 that really drove me up a tree was the sheer, accumulating mass of petty programming horrors — the lockups, glitches, stitches, switches and event-killers which turned level 30 play into a plague of hardware migraines that destroyed my game, left no way forward in the scene (let alone the plot!), and earned Bethsoft its permanently picayune place in my disaffection.  Ghoulishly corrupt data saves turn Fallout 3 into self-parody.

It took about 10 seconds of Googling to turn up the not-very-surprising news that New Vegas is even worse. Thanks, but no thanks. When it's been done right (Final Fantasy XIII), it's hard to tolerate spaghetti-coded algae rhythms that drift so far from merely bad technical demerits.

To quote The Three Little Bops, "You gotta get hot to play real cool."

I hate Westerns anyway.  I laughed during Silverado when they shot the needles off the prickly pear.  God.

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Saturday, July 02, 2011

Fallout 3 ghoul

Fig. 1 - Doctor Barrows, chief resident at the Underworld Chop Shop
Yes, it's true.  Too much Fallout 3 and your skin will dry out and flake off, you'll lose your hair and begin absorbing radiation.  Especially flat-screen tv radiation.  You'll turn uncanny, and your condition will irreversibly bring you to the glow-in-the-dark stage.  Your brains will dry out and leak out like sand down your nose and out your ears and eyes.

Scary stuff.  Two days ago, I found Argyle and the unarmed bobblehead and knew I had to quit.  So I sold the disc back, for a 1950's song, to the game store.  Yesterday was my first full day of withdrawal.  I felt like my brain was bleeding.

A pity, though.  I never explored many of the places I found, like the National Guard Depot or Mama Dolce's Food Processors.  But those hopeful treks back to the alien mothership to collect power modules would lock up hard.  Maybe a glitch?  The same thing happened at Fort Independence, and the plague of tiny annoyances was near-biblical in Operation: Anchorage.  It could happen anywhere, but the bug mostly seemed to infiltrate the add-on stuff.  Bethesda can't debug their product?

It was enough.  I needed relief.  Been there.  Done that. Nicest grace note in the game? Have you found the last decorated grave in Arlington Cemetery? Look for a flash of brilliant color.


Friday, July 01, 2011

How to find Georgetown West

Fig. 1 - Rocksalt, male version
This conundrum is part of Fallout 3, viz., where to discover Georgetown West.  By "discover" is meant to actually go there and receive the official "You have discovered Georgetown West" message in green letters, top left of your screen.

The answer is, enter the Tepid Sewers once again†, and fight your way through any remaining mole rats and incidental raiders, heading due North until you come out in Georgetown West.  You may be attacked by Talon mercenaries, Super Mutants or both as you emerge.

You'll know you're near the exit when you run across a sandbag barricade and nasty piece of work called Rocksalt, who is the only named Raider in the game so far as I know. Random gender and appearance, s/he drops Rocksalt's Key. Instant hostility.

In real life, Georgetown West is a nice boutique-infested neighborhood on the C&O Canal — or it was, I haven't been there since 1975 — but in the game it's an isolated cul-de-sac surrounded by impassable heaps of postapocalyptic rubble.  By foot, only one way in or out.  Once it's named on your map, you can fast travel in and out as usual.  There's a grocer, a trader, a stealth boy, and a Nuka-Cola Quantum.

That just leaves Vault 87 (yes, yes, of course I've met Fawkes) and maybe Rockopolis "undiscovered," then I think I'll call it quits on this game.

This trot through the Tepid Sewers was part of Moira Brown's "mole rat repellent stick" Wasteland Survival Guide quest, and if you were doggedly persistent or maybe lucky, you might have discovered Georgetown West before you ever knew how hard it is to locate.  Thanks, and a tip of the Hatlo Hat to all the snarky fanboys who deliberately posted incomplete, wrong or misleading information.