Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Bruce Dickinson's day job

The Lead Singer Of Iron Maiden Will Fly Folks Stranded By The Hurricane To Iceland

Iron Maiden's FB status update for this article was: 'Man does job' news shocker! It must be a quiet week...

Monday, August 29, 2011

Today's adventure

So today I had a "niner" (a new meter, which I've explained before) on my route. I had a suspicion they had put it on the wrong route (which happens often). It turns out that it is on my route. But it took me a while to find it.

I called in for tap measurements, just for kicks and to cover my a**, but as is the rule for new meters, there were no tap measurements. A tap measurement is supposed to be an accurate measurement of the meter's actual location, but it almost never is. It's usually just a ballpark estimate and sometimes it's completely wrong. Old meters all have such measurements (usually), but they don't bother anymore with new meters because I guess it's too much work and we're all supposed to have psychic abilities when it comes to locating new meters anyway.

Since there were no measurements, I asked what the customer's name was. I had another suspicion that it was for a business rather than a residence. My boss told me it was for a Culebra Meat Market. I was in the area of 1604 & Culebra, inside the loop. I drove around a little to see if I could find a new meat market, but no such luck. So then she looked it up on the map (someone actually updated the map!) and gave me some rough directions based on that. A few minutes later I called back to tell her I had found it.

"There's no meat market there?" she asked.

"No," I answered. "Just a thicket of mesquite brush."

"Is there anything there?"

"No, just a meter in front of a thicket of mesquite brush."

So, for any of you living in that area, I assume eventually there is going to be a new Culebra Meat Market built on Rogers Road back there behind the Home Depot. You heard it here first.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

That reading meme that's going around

I guess I'll jump on the bandwagon. Most recently seen at Painted Ocean. This is a list of "essential science fiction & fantasy books" or something like that, thought up by NPR listeners.

Anytime I come across a book list, I always remember how I met Brer, which you can read about here. Anyway, titles in bold are the ones I've read.

1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien
Of course, plus The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales and a few others by him.
2. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
3. Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card
4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert
Never read any of the posthumous publications by his son.
5. A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin
6. 1984, by George Orwell
7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov
9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
11. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan
13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
I did buy this book, but I just never got around to reading it.
14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson
15. Watchmen, by Alan Moore
16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov
17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein
18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss
19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
20. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
21. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick
And several other books by him. I liked the Valis Trilogy better than this book, actually.
22. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
23. The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King
I've never read any of his stuff except for a collection of short stories called Nightshift.
24. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke
Never got around to reading the sequel.
25. The Stand, by Stephen King
26. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson
27. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury
My favorite by Bradbury is Something Wicked This Way Comes.
28. Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
29. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman
30. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
I read this one twice through when I first bought it. The second time it went much better because I didn't have to keep looking up all those words as I was reading.
31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein
32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams
33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey
This was one of my favorite series when I was a teenager. Several years ago I read all of her dragon books (so far at that time) in chronological order. I keep them around because I think my daughter might enjoy them sometime in the next few years.
34. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein
35. A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller
36. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells
37. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne
38. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys
39. The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells
40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny
Another of my most favorite series'. I could read these again someday.
41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings
OMG this series sucks. But I read the whole thing, once upon a time.
42. The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley
43. The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson
44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven
Plus the sequel. Where there more than two? I never read any others, but I did like the first two.
45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin
46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien
47. The Once And Future King, by T.H. White
The whole trilogy.
48. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
49. Childhood’s End, by Arthur C. Clarke
50. Contact, by Carl Sagan
51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons
52. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman
53. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson
54. World War Z, by Max Brooks
55. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle
56. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman
57. Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett
I've read a lot of his stuff, but I don't think I've read this one.
58. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson
Another favorite from long ago. Still wondering if I should try reading the recent new additions to the series.
59. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold
60. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett
61. The Mote In God’s Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
62. The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind
63. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
64. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke
65. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson
66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist
67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks
Another one that sucked. But I think I read the whole trilogy.
68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard
A couple of stories, but the whole series? What are you, crazy?
69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb
70. The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
71. The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson
72. A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne
73. The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore
74. Old Man’s War, by John Scalzi
75. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson
76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke
77. The Kushiel’s Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey
78. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin
79. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
See above.
80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire
81. The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson
82. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks
84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart
Oh man this is the first book of one of the best series I have ever read. It makes me weep that so few fantasy readers have even heard of it. The first three books are told in first person by Merlin, the fourth book told in third person about the events that happened after Merlin's disappearance. Definitely the best depiction of Merlin I have ever read.
85. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson
86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher
87. The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe
88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn
89. The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan
90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock
My favorite of the Eternal Champions is Corum. I've also read the Hawkmoon series, The Dancers at the End of Time trilogy, and one or two Erekosë books.
91. The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury
92. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley
93. A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge
94. The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov
95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson
96. Lucifer’s Hammer, by Larry Niven &Jerry Pournelle
97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis
98. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville
99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony
The first couple, but not the whole series.
100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis
Albatross said he had never heard of this until I wrote about it. I must confess I had never heard of it until Brer told me about it, many years ago. In fact, I'm pretty sure the first time I read it, I was reading the books he'd loaned me.


I'm thinking if McCaffrey's dragonbooks got on this list, then why the heck aren't Katherine Kurtz's Deryni books on it? WTF?! And where the h*** is the Spellsinger series!!! (just kidding, Brer) But seriously, there are other books that I think are better than some listed here. For example, The Four Lords of the Diamond by Jack L. Chalker. And honestly, I'm getting tired of the hip reading public acting like Electric Sheep is the only thing Dick ever wrote. What about The Man in the High Castle or The Penultimate Truth? Or the Valis Trilogy, like I mentioned? Valis especially gives a better glimpse into the mind of the author than anything else he ever wrote. And Lovecraft. Lovecraft? you say. Yes, Lovecraft. If the frikkin' Belgariad was good enough to make it, then At the Mountains of Madness should definitely be on here. Although I have never seen it in a stand-alone volume, it is long enough to be published on its own. And it has plenty of sci-fi elements that make it both a work of horror and a work of science fiction.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Weekend update

I had already decided earlier this week that today I was going to change the oil in my truck and then not step outside for anything for the rest of the day. And that's exactly how my day has gone. They were predicting a high of 106 today. I don't think it got quite that high, but it was hot enough. We still have a few weeks (I hope it's only a few weeks) before the temperature starts slacking off to more tolerable levels for outside work.

I'm now up to Rush in my playlist. I was able to skip through several of the older albums because I've listened to them so much that I already knew which songs I wanted to add, but their later ones require another listen. Right now I'm on Hold Your Fire and I have about 7 hours of music to go through to finish them.

After I streamed that whole album by Lizban (mentioned in the previous post)--which I really liked, I should add--I looked up a bunch of stuff on YouTube by one of my secret guilty musical pleasures and indulged myself. I might identify who it is later but for now I'll just say it's a female who got famous only within the last ten years, and she's not one of the Disney drones.

Also while poking around on YouTube, I ran across "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia." Now, I remember hearing this song a lot back when it was released. They played it on KKYX, which was about the only station my parents listened to back then. But the thing is, I did not know, and was completely surprised to discover, that it was sung by Vicki Lawrence. The Vicki Lawrence. It just seems kind of strange to me. I still think it's a cool song. Also, yes I saw that it was later covered by R3b@ but that just doesn't interest me.

So a while back I saw that Ralph Bakshi's Fire and Ice was available for streaming from Netflix. Well, it isn't. I looked it up, and saw that it was available, so I added it to my queue, but every time I've tried to play it, it just tells me "content not available." So I'm still waiting. The DVD is also allegedly available, and I have it in my DVD queue but I just haven't gotten around to it yet. I think that was my favorite Bakshi movie. I've also seen Fritz the Cat, Heavy Traffic, Wizards and The Lord of the Rings. Oh yeah, and the new version of Mighty Mouse (TV series, not movie) that he did in the 80s. That one is also in my DVD queue.

What I'm listening to right now

Lizban - Talking to Myself

"Stay" from this album was on an Amazon sampler I downloaded some time ago and only started listening to yesterday (tnx to the new phone).

Read a little about her. She writes her own songs, plays guitar, doesn't have the Disney Empire propping her up, and she rocks. Or sometimes pop/rocks.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Monday, August 22, 2011

Playlist update

Still looking forward to getting my sooper-special USB cable so I can sync my new phone, I have been jumping through the favorites list. A lot of the stuff I've had for a long time I don't need to listen to again to know which songs I want to pick. So I've made some headway today and am now up to REO Speedwagon. Yeah, I'm sure eventually I'll blog more details about the playlist because what else am I gonna have to write about?

I also downloaded Verizon's software today in case I can't just sync it with Windows Media Player or Winamp.

I never really understood this song before

But now I understand it all.

You have been warned: once heard, it cannot be unheard.


Friday, August 19, 2011

It's all true

6 Reasons The Guy Who's Fixing Your Computer Hates You.

When I was in tech school, some guy from the nursing school (same building) came over and said their new software wouldn't work. The head of our department sent me over to take a look. It didn't take me very long to figure it out.

"Your new software won't run under DOS 3.3," I told him. "It needs DOS 5.0."

"Just make it work."

So I dutifully upgraded the operating system, started the software and played with it for a few minutes to showed him that it worked, and left.

About an hour later he stormed into our classroom ranting about how nothing else worked. I told my teacher what I'd done and we both (correctly, it turned out) surmised that the other software still only ran under the old DOS. This seemed strange to me, but eventually we figured out that it had something to do with the different command.coms.

"You told me to make it work," I said bluntly. "You didn't say anything about the other software you had on there."

He literally shouted his displeasure at me, and then yelled at my teacher "how are we supposed to fix this?" or something like that. He told the guy, "Upgrade your other software. I have a class to teach." And with that, he was dismissed. I never saw that guy again.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Classic rock haiku #7

Rockin' at Montreaux,
some stupid with a flare gun
burned it to the ground.

Stuff & snakes

I started writing up another pointless post yesterday but I got interrupted and although the draft auto-saved, I didn't finish it. So...


I was thinking about mapping my cycle 6 route today but I started looking at the maps and decided it was too much work. That's a weird route. It starts near West Ave. on the south side of Loop 410 and meanders around all over the place, finally ending up where Booby Rocks was supposed to be up IH10 near Huebner. It was a nightmare until I got it completely learned, but now I kind of like it even though the traffic is bad in spots.

My new phone would have been delivered today except the FedEx guy got here during the short period that no one was home to sign for it. I was really looking forward to getting it so I could load it up with mp3s and listen to it tomorrow while working. Oh well, I should get it tomorrow.

Our refrigerator has screwed up and they're saying that it could possibly be one of three different problems, the most expensive of which will be $300 plus tax. I'm hoping for one of the cheaper problems but with my luck I'm not expecting it. It's still under warranty, but we have to pay the bill first and then fight it out with the warranty company. I have a naturally pessimistic nature, so we'll see how that goes.

Other than that, the heat has been getting me down lately and I haven't done much while home except drink cold drinks and watch stuff on Netflix, mostly ST:Voyager. I have come to one conclusion: I really can't stand Captain Janeway. That one episode when she did a full-on mouth kiss with some alien dude had me squirming at the thought of kissing her like that. Ick.

We saw a good-sized rat snake in our driveway recently. The kids both got a good, long look at it because we approached it quietly and didn't scare it. It just laid there while we looked at it for several minutes. I didn't get a picture, but it was over 6 feet long. And on the topic of snakes, our dog cornered a small copperhead (a foot long or so) several days ago also, waking me up about 5:00 AM on a Sunday morning if I recall correctly. Copperheads don't get very big around here. The longest one I personally ever killed and measured was 28 inches long, which is considered "freakin' huge" around here.


And now to continue, my phone did come in today but unfortunately it has a special proprietary USB plug so I have to get a cable from Verizon. I can probably get a generic one somewhere, but I prefer OEM when it comes to things like this.

The refrigerator problem turned to NOT be the most expensive potential problem, and the bill came to about $150.

The heat is just killing me. Today was pretty bad. Finished off my CamelBak and almost all my water & gatorade in my ice chest. I'm glad this should be the last bad month. Usually the heat slacks off enough in September that things get much easier. Tomorrow I'll be driving the whole time, so it shouldn't be so bad.

I'm now up to the Psychedelic Furs in my general favorites playlist. I think when I'm finished with this, I'm going back through the list and pick out all the albums that have more than half their songs in my playlist. One of them is the Furs' Midnight to Midnight. I was going to embed a video of their song "Angels Don't Cry" from that album, but I couldn't find one that allowed embedding. So here's the link to one that's kind of a goofy video for a really cool sad song. The Furs have used saxophones quite a lot throughout their career, even in the early years when they were much more of a punk group than they later were.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Pretty slick

May not be of great use to most people I know personally, but it's a good idea for lighting up dark corners of a barn or storage shed.

Of course it could be vitally important information someday, no matter where you live.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Cycle 15

The regular cycle 15 route. All the red stuff I do by walking; the blue ones I drive to. 326 meters. All the walking takes 3 hours, the driving stuff takes another 15 minutes. That big spot nearest the Alamodome has an urban legend attached to it. Allegedly, many years ago when this was still Alamo Iron Works, a meter reader found a very large snake in there--assumed to be someone's escaped pet python. I've heard the story, but have had no independent verification of its veracity.

Anyway, this route requires some learning before it can be done so quickly because of the odd placement of the meters, but now that I have it all learned it's one of my easiest routes.

All the routes in this area are what we call "messed up." If you get stuck with an unfamiliar one, you're screwed. This first time I did this one, it took me over 5 hours. I do it now without even thinking about it.

Classic rock haiku #6

Goodbye cruel world,
I am leaving you today.
Goodbye, goodbye, good...

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Cycle 17

Here's another one that I mention often, my regular cycle 17. This is actually two routes, but the other one is much farther south and is much more of a routine, mostly foot route that ends near the "haunted" tracks. It has something over 300 meters and takes 2 people about 1 1/2 hours. No big deal. This one, before we all had company trucks, took two people about 4 hours, one driving and one on foot. Now that we all have company trucks, it takes 2 people about 3 hours, and has around 400 meters.

All the stuff in red is what I usually do, driving. All the stuff in blue is what the other guy used to do on foot and now does driving. The purple stuff is where we finish up and we usually meet each other somewhere back there.

I didn't get enough on this map once again. I even took two screen shots so I could stitch them together and I still didn't get all of it. It also includes Military between Roosevelt and S. Presa and some stuff on S. Presa that's off the map, like the state hospital and some others that I don't know what they go to. They're just there, using water for something, but I don't know what.

The question mark at the upper left is the newest "lost" meter that's supposed to still be there but if it is, I can't find it. The three circled dots up there are meters that have been removed but are still on the route.

The black question mark is there because Mission Parkway doesn't actually exist here yet. I suppose it will eventually, and I'm sure it will have some irrigation meters because they want to make it look all nice and pretty for the tourists. The other black street doesn't exist, either, and I don't know if it ever will. It's just there on the map for some reason. I read somewhere once that map companies will put intentional mistakes on their maps so that they can tell if someone ripped it off for copyright protection. This might be the designated mistake for this area.

Dots are spread around for some other meters that I just added in for interest. I made one mistake. The red dot near the intersection of Mission and Southcross should be blue; the other gets that in the corner of the golf course by climbing the fence.

Another mistake I made is at the lower right corner. The purple should extend all the way down Pyron to the end of Symphony.

I actually kind of enjoy this route. The only bad traffic is on Military; everything else is fairly easy and pretty quiet.

I expect this route to come up this coming week. I should also be doing cycle 15, which I usually take some pictures on because it seems most prone to having something worth photographing. I'll see if I can draw a map of it later, but it's just kind of a spread-out foot route so it doesn't cover that much area.

You might look at this and wonder why we do it the way we do. Well, we're just kind of stuck with it the way someone set it up a long time ago. To be resequenced, one person would have to do it alone, and the powers that be aren't really interested in slowing things down enough for one person to take the time to do that.

Friday, August 12, 2011

What I did today

I thought it might be interesting to make a rough plot of the route I did today, which is my usual cycle 12 motor route. I don't usually do the whole route, but today I did. 401 meters. It looks so much simpler from this point of view. It takes 6 hours. It goes a little farther south on Perrin Beitel than my picture; I accidentally had it zoomed a little off. It goes the next block south of the big Post Office.

Some of it, like Uhr Road and Perrin Beitel/Nacogdoches, I don't read every meter. Many of them are on foot routes that come out of the neighborhoods here and there. So every now and then I'll skip some and just pick up again farther down the road.

This route is a monthly reinforcement of my general hatred of people. I have to put with so many stupid ******* drivers in this area, I should receive extra pay for the emotional trauma I have to go through.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Man of Constant Sorrow and Other Timeless Mountain Ballads

A while back I was reading an article about the current state of "country" music, I don't remember where now, and this album cover was used at the top of the article. Unfortunately, the guy who wrote it spent his whole time ranting (justifiably, in my opinion) and never even mentioned anything about the album pictured.

So I looked it up at Amazon and it looked very interesting. I recently got it--having waited until I could order enough stuff at once to get free shipping. This is one I wanted to get on CD instead of just downloading because I wanted to get the booklet with any possible further information it might have.

Unfortunately, it doesn't have much, mostly just a blurb about how great the album is. However, it does have some photos of some of the people who recorded these songs.

The album is comprised of 20 tracks recorded by people who were probably not professional musicians in the usual sense, but that is not a comment on their talent and skill, I mean only that they didn't make a living by playing music.

These songs were originally recorded on 78 rpm records during the 1920s and '30s. One notable thing is that it also includes the first ever recording of the now popular "Man of Constant Sorrow." They cleaned up the old 78s quite a bit, but there is still some slight noise now and then, and of course they are monophonic.

I had never heard of any of these people before, and I'm familiar with only a few of the songs, and even those are quite different from any other versions I've heard.

Here's one of the photos that I like quite a lot. Earl Johnson (far right) and Family, 1915. Listed as Earl Johnson and His Dixie Entertainers in the track list. They do a version of "John Henry" which is titled "John Henry Blues."

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to digest the whole thing this evening as I had planned, because I've had to do some online preliminary shopping for a new cell phone. The females in my family seem to have a bad problem with destroying phones (both cordless and mobile) by getting them wet. So it looks like I'm going to pass the two cheapest phones down to wife and daughter, and get myself something nice and new. Maybe that will teach them to stop flushing phones down toilets and jumping into swimming pools with them, but I doubt it.

You can download the mp3 version for about $9, or buy a used CD pretty cheap. I got mine new because I love fighting through all that plastic wrap so much.

I think I'll have to do some research on these people and see if I can find out more about who they were. It should be interesting.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Metal quilting

From Reign in Art:

When most people think of quilting, they picture groups of little old ladies hunched over floral blankets gossiping. Mr. Ben Venom– the name speaks for itself– sees remarkable quality though in of course, heavy metal.

For the past three years, Venom has been mixing the traditional craft of quilting with one of the most extreme forms of music. Using old band t-shirts, his quilts have names like “Don’t Wake Me Lucifer!” and “Beast F*ck*r” [vowels redacted--ed.] and have been shown in galleries all over the country.

Black speed metal quilt pictures at the link. Once again I am amazed at a sentence I have written on this blog.

By the way, Reign in Art is a cool site. They post daily pictures of metal album covers and readers can vote on each one. Every week the winners are announced.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Slaughter of the Bluegrass

From the official website:
Slaughter of the Bluegrass is a band that plays unplugged versions of death metal songs. We use traditional bluegrass instruments and arrangement ideas and try to keep the essence of each song we cover.

People ask us why we choose to play metal songs, and we answer them that we just want to play good songs, which in this case happens to be in that particular genre. As it turned out, people who aren't used to hearing growling vocals, guitars drenched is distorsion [sic] and heavy drums, could still appreciate these compositions, only in a new form.
They haven't released an actual album yet, but you can download what they've done so far from their website, or look them up on YouTube.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Metal bluegrass

I've mentioned before that I load my phone up with mp3s, since it's also a rudimentary mp3 player, which I can listen to through the built-in speaker and it sometimes helps me pass the time while I'm working. Lately I've had it loaded up with a bunch of new acquisitions, which lately has been mostly either metal or bluegrass. So today I went looking for "metal bluegrass" and discovered Slaughter of the Bluegrass.

Cthulhu hates Nazis


Sunday, August 07, 2011

Weekend update (subtitle: Lord Britain lives!)

On a whim, inspired by I know not what, I downloaded this game from one of those websites that has ancient, lost computer games. After spending a few more minutes downloading and installing DOSBox and DOSShell, I started it up.

For about the next 20 minutes, I kept thinking to myself: Holy cr*p! I'm actually playing Ultima again!!!

Brer should still remember this game, since he whiled away several hours watching and helping me play it. Ultima V was released in 1989. I think I bought it in 1990, which was the year I bought my first computer. It was a laptop with dual 3.5" floppies (DD, not HD), no hard drive, an 8MHz 8088 µP, with a blue "supertwist" LCD screen. It also had a monitor output for an external CGA monitor, which I used almost exclusively--hardly ever using it as a portable laptop. It would take 2 or 3 minutes to load the dungeon whenever you went from the surface to a dungeon level. I spent months playing this game, and never finished, because I had mistakenly assumed the Underworld entrance that I needed to finish the game was in a place that it was not. Eventually I gave up and went on to other games (most notably Doom and Doom 2, Aces of the Pacific and Aces Over Europe).

I'm sure I still have all the documentation in a box here somewhere, and probably the original floppies as well, but it was easier to just download the docs from the internet. Twenty years ago I kept a spiral notebook with everything I had learned so I knew where to go to get stuff and who lived in which places. And since there was no internet back then from which to download extra information, I also painstakingly mapped out every dungeon level on graph paper.

Sure, the graphics look primitive now, but this was and still is a game that is very complicated and sophisticated, requiring interaction with multiple characters. It's not just some hack & slash adventure. Certain people can you tell you specific information, but you have to know who to ask and how to ask. It takes a long time to figure stuff out, and a long time to slowly build up your knowledge and combat experience so you can gradually take on harder and harder monsters and get better weapons and more treasure, just like D&D. Also like D&D, your characters are based on a class and level system, gaining hit points and the ability to cast more powerful spells with higher levels.

Weapons must be purchased, but they can't all be purchased just anywhere. Material spell components must also be purchased, or in some cases harvested, but they are also available only in the right places.

Fantastic game. I also installed it on the old computer and my son spent a few hours today working at it. Unfortunately, I think his patience is not quite up to a game like this yet, but before he wore himself out on it, he was completely engrossed in the exploration. I'm sure he'll go back to it, especially if I give him a few more hints.

Well, as for other stuff, I had to work mandatory OT yesterday, so I didn't get my usual 2-day recovery period. Working in this heat is really bad, and I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that I was overworked this week. My legs stiffen up every time I sit down for too long. Some bigwigs at work began a new program that was supposed to eliminate the need for overtime. However, no matter how many people pointed out that it was really going to guarantee overtime, the bigwigs wouldn't listen. So I think it's safe to assume that I'll have one Saturday of mandatory OT per month for the foreseeable future.

I somehow managed to have only 2 errors last month, which I think (I think because I've never had that few before) means I get a $100 "accuracy bonus" on my next paycheck, which is nice. However I should point out that I really made only 1 error. Due to the way they track errors, it's almost impossible not to get stuck twice for only one error, and there's nothing we can do about it. They're supposed to change the system next year so that doesn't happen, the problem is, many times there should be multiple errors, and when they change stuff it won't happen anymore. As one of my co-workers asked our supervisor, "Why should I bother doing my job right when it won't matter anymore?" Unfortunately, our supervisor isn't one of the bigwigs behind all this mess, and she can't do anything about it, either.

I might also mention that that's 2 errors out of around 11,000-12,000 reads (or, accuracy of about 99.98%). Total errors for the year so far are 54. I might be able to keep it under 100 errors for the year if I can keep this low rate going. I expect to have a read total for the year of around 140,000, which will mean an accuracy of about 99.93%. Anytime a bigwig starts griping about errors and I think of all the cr*p I have to put up with out there I just roll my eyes.

Sigh. I guess I should start cross-training with other departments, but I just don't want to. I like this position too much to go into something else. The freedom of not having to work with someone else all the time is just too nice to give up.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

The day of reckoning is at hand...

I have run out of bristle pipe cleaners.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

The next installment

Okay, I guess this is about as good as it's gonna get. Black-Eyed Susan. Teaser:

Her once-blond hair was matted and filthy with dirt and blood and probably hadn't felt the comforting tug of a brush in decades. She had once been young--so young. Something broke inside of me. I put the gun away and asked her for her name.

"Susan," she said slowly, after a long pause. "I think it was Susan."

I was surprised into silence, and had no reply. She had referred to herself in the past tense. I had never heard one of her kind do that before.

"What's your name?"

I did something I rarely do. I told her my first name. "Paul," I said.

"Oh..." she began, and paused again. Then: "Like the one from the Bible."


"I remember going to Sunday school a long time ago."

"So do I." I said it without thinking.

This one isn't very long, but my aim when I started this was to have a kind of outlet to write quick, interconnected scenes that slowly built into a larger story. I'm going to do my best to fill in some backstory pretty soon.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Amorphis album art

Travis Smith talks about the Amorphis album art. Inspired by the Kalevala. Interesting.

Christopher Cross (1979)

1979. A very strange and dark year. Only one real rock group in the top ten, but there was a lot of good music that year: Supertramp, Styx, Bad Company, Dire Straits, Cheap Trick, ELO. They gamely held their ground against the gradually diminishing but still overwhelming force of disco: Village People, Gloria Gaynor, Donna Summer, Gino Vanelli, G.Q. and the Gibbs brothers in their various permutations. Billy Joel was rapidly abandoning his roots, nobody knew what the h*** the Doobie Brothers were thinking, and Bob Seger had gone decidedly sentimental. Streisand and Diamond were everywhere with their bubblegum lounge music. And then late in the year, some guy from San Antonio who no one had ever heard of released an eponymous album. The following year, he cleaned up at the Grammies.

In 1979, auto tune was still being used to analyze earthquakes. Synthesizers were still analog, mostly, unless you wanted to shell out $20,000 for a Fairlight. You could still make great pop music with a soaring voice, some decent guitar licks, carefully crafted songs and a bunch of famous musicians backing you up. And there were a lot of them on Christopher Cross' first album: Larry Carlton, Don Henley, Nicolette Larson, Michael McDonald, and plenty more you can read about at Wikipedia.

Superbly polished pop, perhaps. Why did the album get as popular as it did? This was something my friends and I discussed in the olden days, and something I still wonder about. The music on this album is slickly commercialized, no doubt about it, but there's still an honesty about the songs that speak of just some guy going for it and dedicating himself to making it big. The album was full of earworms; even the songs that weren't hits would have you humming along with them.

Mr. Geppert is still putting out albums; he released his newest just this year. But he still looks like some guy you'd likely run into buying plumbing fixtures at Home Depot--not like a pop star. I wandered into other musical paths in the early 80s, and didn't follow him much after that, except to hear him on the radio, mostly with "Arthur's Theme" which didn't thrill me, so I never bought another of his albums.

I wondered how the album would hold up after 30+ years. I'm not sure modern ears are able to hear it in the same way we heard it back then--modern ears used to saccharin auto tune and the uniform blandness of modern pop, able to listen to such older music only "ironically." I must confess that I cannot speak of this album objectively; it played a huge part in the development of my own musical tastes during a time when I had stopped listening to "my parents' music" and began developing distinctive tastes of my own which have led me down a widely varying and fascinating road. I bought this album on cassette as a new release and wore it out. I've been missing it for a long time now.

Earlier today I turned on "Ride Like the Wind" and turned the stereo up much louder than usual. My daughter asked me why I had it so loud. "Because that's the only way to listen to this song," I told her. It was true in 1980, and it's still true.

The guy from the Dyer Electronics commercials made it big, and I still love his music. I think maybe I should see what he's up to nowadays.

Monday, August 01, 2011

BB Guns


I made this one but it never showed up in the news feed. Do you have to do something special? Or did they just decide it wasn't worth showing? It's much more demotivational than the vast majority of the stale, overused, tired cr*p that usually put on there.