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Games in the Real World

The MMO I play these days, Final Fantasy XIV, is having a Real Escape this summer, one of which will be in San Francisco. Can I talk anybody into coming along?

A Walk In the Park

I went on a walk today, along with what I was told was 30,000 other people, from San Jose City Hall to the Cesar Chavez Plaza. It wasn't a very quick walk, to be honest, and I don't know if the organizers expected quite as many people as 3.0x10E4. I did see some clever posters, including a number of variations of the image of Carrie Fisher with a blaster in her hand and the caption "A woman's place is in the resistance."

At the other end, we stood and listened to a half dozen speakers talk about their fights against what they expect from Trump & Friends. It was clear to me pretty quickly that there are a disparate set of people who feel they need to push back against Trump, some of whom, I suspect, wouldn't actually agree about much else. But it was clear that just standing around in a park, even with almost as many people as reside in my hometown, will have little effect. What is necessary is to do something, and do it frequently. So, when I got home, I signed up with the ACLU and expect my membership card to arrive in the next week or so. I'm also considering signing up for Amnesty's action list and sacrificing some of my MMO time to write letters.

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Passengers

Passengers is just about the most generic romantic Hollywood movie that it is possible to make. It includes Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, and ignoring Physics whenever it serves the plot. It's not a terrible movie, I didn't want my money back, and Michael Sheen was quite entertaining, but it wasn't Moon, either. If you want a story about being marooned on a deep-space voyage with physics, read Hull Zero Three by Greg Bear. If you want a romance, well, I think you're asking the wrong person.

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Gravity Dreams

There is a book, by L.E. Modesitt, named Gravity Dreams, that I have read, I think, ten times this year. Yeah, I know. The thing is, I don't know that I can say it's really that good. Certainly, the writing is clumsy, particularly when it comes to interpersonal relationships. And it's vintage Modesitt: young, fairly clueless, man comes into his power and needs a more capable female, usually red-headed, to straighten him out. In Gravity Dreams, particularly, this process is done in a way that makes my professional instincts cringe. Also, the first section is presented jumbled, with three different plot threads out of chronological order for no reason except, perhaps, to hide the weakness of the plot, characterization, and writing.

But, but, but Modesitt's strengths are on display here, as well. His ability to create and describe, in great detail, a different world and give you an idea of how the technology or magic actually works. The fascinating puzzle of seeing if I can recognize the underlying history that he doesn't explicate, like place names. And the exploration of philosophical and political questions about how different technology or culture effects characters and their world-view. Even the wee sniping at the LDS church. But I think the reason I'm reading Gravity Dreams rather than Adiamante or The Parafaith War, which both have similar elements, is the protagonist's arc. Something about this story, in particular, speaks to a desire I still have to turn around one day and find myself in the future, bringing a kind of backwoods innocence and wisdom to a jaded world that feels that it has all the answers.

So, I'm not sure I'd encourage you to run right out and find a copy of Gravity Dreams, but you can't borrow my copy, either.

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Blue Remembered Earth

I forgot to mention another book I finished recently: Blue Remembered Earth by Alastair Reynolds. I'd picked it up hoping to find an author with the scope and intricacy of Ian M. Banks. Overall, he certainly builds a detailed, well-considered world, but, not quite the scope of imagination of Banks. I didn't find the central mystery too compelling, either, making the plot feel a bit forced in places. Also, there is one kind of Plot hole that bugged me.Collapse )However, I wouldn't discourage anyone from reading it, particularly with his optimistic take on the future given where it looks like we're headed these days. I'm not sure I'll continue with the series myself.

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Everybody Else Is Doing It

It seems like everyone is fleeing FB and putting up update posts, so I'll jump in.

I started a new job about a year and a half ago. I'm at a residential facility now, which has some interesting challenges, and has me on swing shift, which gives me a great excuse for avoiding a lot of social engagements.

I took a New Year's Resolution to practice mindfulness every single day and, as I am wont to do, have kept it. I've found going from 4-5 days a week to every day makes a significant difference. I also took my vacation in August at a 5-day silent retreat, which was quite a powerful, if rather uncomfortable, experience.

I got back into LotRO at the end of 2014 when they released the Beorning class and was still playing it until mid-year this year when a free log-in event for FFXIV sucked me back into Eorzea. I just got my last class to 30, so I've been spending a bit of time with that. Square continues to do a fine job of giving the players who don't want to end-game raid plenty to do.

With the new job blowing away my weekly social engagements, I went looking for some people to hang out with and, much to my continuing surprise, started going to church. I'm not sure if I'm just at a different place in my life since the last time I went or if switching denominations is a more profound experience than you'd expect, but I've really taken to it.

The movie that most impressed me this year was, as I have mentioned, The Lobster.
Arrival was also quite well done, particularly with a female protagonist and an interesting flashback-y story.
I saw Dr. Strange twice, which is quite unusual for me, and, although I would have liked it better if they hadn't made sorcery look a lot like every other superpower, I still think it's my favorite of the Marvel Studios productions. But Dr. Strange has always been one of my favorite Marvel characters.
Hail, Cesar was, despite what the trailers would have you think, a Josh Brolin movie. Not that I minded.
Star Trek Beyond didn't do anything for me as more than an action movie, which was rather sad.
Kubo and the Two Strings felt like it was nearly brilliant. I think I would have quite liked it if I hadn't gone in with such high expectations because Laika made Coraline. Perhaps I should give it another look.

I think the only book(s) worth mentioning in the last year is Ann Lecke's Ancillary series, but, as many awards as she's received for it, y'all should have heard of them already. I'm only about halfway through the second of the trilogy, but am pretty hooked.

0816 Project: One Last Thing

It turns out that Windows 10 doesn't come with the ability to play DVDs, which, as a person with a spotty internet connection, isn't really that helpful. I asked around and was recommended the VLC media player, which I have found to be quite excellent, apart from a rather utilitarian user interface. However, even as a replacement for the player that shipped with Vista, I do not hesitate to recommend it.

0816 Project: Fully Functional

Ok, it's as done as it's going to get. The internet connection problems, unfortunately, were never in the box, so I'm going to continue making friends with the tech support guy at the ISP. It does, however, fit reasonably well in the spot where the old one was and the Violet Crumble was pretty tasty.

0816 Project: Complete

Well, it's pretty much done, apart from downloading some things like virus definitions and Lord of the Rings Online needing to install Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0, even though 4.5 comes with the Windows distro disk. Time for Violet Crumble as soon as I can log into either LotRO or FFXIV and crank the settings all the way up. I'll post a pic of the new box in its place when I get iTunes reinstalled so I can extract the picture from the phone.

0816 Project: Why It Has To Be Hard

Well, the box runs, but getting it to recognize the internet is being somewhat of a challenge. I'm downloading drivers on the old box right now. Also, if you want to take files from an old Win 10 computer, you cannot take out the old hard drive and mount it in the new. I ended up making a run to Fry's for an external drive to copy files and drop them on the new hard drive. And, if anyone needs an external drive after this week - I can hook you up.

If anyone is curious at the actual components, here's the list.