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Archive for the ‘Gaming and Tech’ Category

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No one has posted here for awhile, so Trep and Doc have probably lost the two or three faithful readers we used to have. Well, having no potential readers has never stopped me from writing. And perhaps you were kind enough to bookmark us?

I haven’t posted because I’ve been mourning the election results–no need to explain why to anyone who reads this blog. I have been able to read one or two blogs during the last couple of months, but those with a lefty slant are so full of pain that they are rough sledding. This morning, at last, I was finally able to watch about forty minutes’ worth of political news coverage for the first time since November 8.

I was somewhat cheered to learn that the Thugs have no damned idea how to govern–just as we suspected all along–nor have they any clues about what to do with all the power they’ve been handed by my neighbors and the people who visit my little desert town during the winter months. Much less do they have any plans at all for handling the Tangerine Hairball, who seems to me to be desperately uninformed and pretty much disinterested in governing.

In the meantime those of us who are thoroughly repulsed by all of the people mentioned in the previous paragraph have been trying to figure out ways to survive–perhaps literally. My straits are not dire because I am comfortably retired (so far). However, I was in the middle of an interesting project when the election went sour, trying to figure out who was chiefly responsible for outlawing slavery in America–Lincoln?  Harriett Beecher Stowe and the abolitionists?  Thad Stevens and his cohort in Congress? (See my previous post for a bibliography).

After the election I lost all interest in such nice questions. So at first I tried to forget what my fellow citizens had done by reading serious fiction. My initial effort was Colson Whitehead’s novel about the underground railroad, but I soon despaired–Whitehead deserves a much more careful reader than I was able to be just then. Next I tried to reread Russell Banks’ Cloudsplitter, about one of John Brown’s sons, but it was even more dreary than I remembered (my fault, not Banks’). Looking for something less so, I picked up John Barth’s The Sotweed Factor, which has made me laugh ever since I first read it in college. This time I could find no humor whatever in the misadventures of Barth’s clumsy hero.

Okay, I thought, let’s try pop fiction. I started with Nelson DeMille and Sharon Penman. No go–I couldn’t concentrate well enough to grasp plot points. So I descended to Diana Gabaldon and even Dean Koontz. That sort of fiction did the trick for awhile–you know the kind, where the writer carries the reader along a strong narrative line so that the reader is not tasked with much beyond remembering who’s who.

And then one day, staring at the start screen on my computer, I suddenly saw all of those icons tied to great games I used to play. And I thought–why not look around to see what modders have been up to with regard to some of my old favorites?  I discovered, to my delight, that the geniuses who write mods have turned Morrowind, originally published in 2002, into a lush, large, and complex work of art. For example, one group is busily at work building the entire geography of the Elder Scrolls world in a mod entitled Tamriel Rebuilt.

Others are content to fix bugs or to bring the now nearly twenty-year-old mechanics of the game up to date. Others are adding story lines or just making the game scenes more beautiful:

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I could not resist. So I dug my copies of the game out of a closet and tried to get them to talk to my Falcons. After a few days of this (which lengthy process in itself distracted me from reality) I launched the new, improved Morrowind, high-resolutioned, widescreened, distant landed, with high-end graphics, better bodies, better clothes, and more colorful everything. Wow. It is simply gorgeous.

As I played I discovered that I had overlooked much of the game content when I first played back in the day. According to my notes I finished the main quest, but because I was still gainfully employed I rushed through it, along with completing a few side quests. So this time I’m taking a leisurely trip through this beautiful world, reading books about the history of Tamriel and of the Empire and the many tribes and factions who inhabit it and quarrel over everything.

And oh yeah:  if you happen to have a copy of the first edition of Morrowind hidden away in a closet, as I do, you might be interested to know that someone on Amazon is selling his/her copy for a mere $483.

 

 

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Had dinner Saturday night with old friends and some new ones, too. The companionship was warm and the food good.

Happens that every one of my five dinner companions is a Mac user. I don’t remember how we got on that topic while we waited–and waited–for seats (the very popular restaurant doesn’t take reservations–sort of like New Orleans, only hotter). I was chid, once again, for my allegiance to the PC, which everyone agreed is far inferior to any Apple product.

Well, folks, my momma taught me not to say what I really think while among friends. So I smiled and nodded graciously while the assembled Mac snobs extolled the virtues of their machines.

On this forum, though, I can and will point out that (a) Macs DO NOT play great games like Skyrim or Fallout, in which regard they are outclassed even by the lowly X-box;  (b) while Macs are nice to look at, my new red Falcon DRX ain’t nothing to sniff at in that department;  and (c) I am an old fart who has become sort of fond of her thirty-year-old practice of bitching about Windows, which is most always at hand as a conversation starter.

And yesterday I learned to my surprise that Windows 10 is a pretty good OS (compared to its earlier iterations at least). I decided to install Fallout 2 on the DRX, just to see how things went. Now Fallout 2 was issued during the last century–1998 to be exact. So my expectations were not high as I put the disc into the optical drive. Viola! its start page appeared bright and clear (and the right size) on the screen, and installation went smoothly. Fingers crossed, I opened the game, and there it was: full screen, clear bright music and voice, vivid browns and grays–just as I remembered it. And the DRX is FAST–the loading times I recall from back in the day are gone with the wind.

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If you are old as the hills, like me, you may remember that Ron Perlman played Vincent in “Beauty and the Beast” on teevee, opposite Sarah Connor-er-Linda Hamilton. He also narrated the early Fallout games, and his opener became a meme for awhile: “War. War Never Changes.” (You can hear him say it here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4IIGA8CSzNQ). His delivery of the lines was as chilling yesterday as it was when I played the first Fallout game back in 1997.

I installed a couple of mods that Fallout fans have lovingly crafted over the years, and Windows swallowed their hefty bells and whistles with nary a gurgle. I also learned during that process that Windows 10 does not hide things from its users. From Vista through 8, one had to hunt through the very bowels of Windows’ hidden files in order to discover where it had stashed things like saved games. But no longer–yesterday the saved games popped up in the Fallout 2 folder, right where I wanted them.

So I am a happy camper. Even if I don’t have a Mac.

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Just now heard that Trump has asked Russia to find Hillary’s “missing e-mails.”

Let’s set aside for the moment the fact that Trump has now committed treason.  (I’ll get back to that point when I calm down).

Let’s get clear about these missing (ie deleted) e-mails: Hillary claimed they were personal, involving planning for her daughter’s wedding, among other things.  Now I grant that this mess could have been avoided had Hillary set up a separate system for work-related e-mails when she was Secretary of State. Her bad.

But who does that? From about 1990 until I retired in 2008, I used the e-mail services provided to me by the several universities for which I worked during that period.  It never occurred to me to keep a separate account (and a different machine?) for “personal” correspondence.  Aside from the inconvenience of maintaining two systems, how can I make the distinction between personal and professional when corresponding with a student who wants advice because she  is being harassed?  When writing to a colleague who is unhappy with an administrator and who has contacted me for advice about what to do?

In such cases one must trust both that the system is relatively secure and that people with whom one works are not interested in snooping in each other’s business, personal or professional. When I got new computers or left an institution, I copied the stuff I wanted to keep, deleted the rest, and then got help from tech people to make sure traces of everything had disappeared from the hard drives.  Some institutions, in fact, insist on this.

Now I realize that Hillary’s professional e-mail was often sensitive. From what I understand, though, her system was no more, nor no less, impervious to serious hackers than was the system in use at the State department. The federal government has been starved of money necessary to upgrade security for years (by the Rethugs of course). If this is true, Hillary was wise to set up a separate server, JUST AS COLIN POWELL AND CONDOLEEZA RICE HAD DONE BEFORE HER. IOW, this was common practice among Secretaries of State.

So one can only be suspicious of Hillary’s deleted e-mails if (a) he thinks that she was engaged in something nefarious while she was Secretary of State or (b) he is an entitled nincompoop who knows nothing about how offices work. I’ll give Trump the benefit of the doubt (here) and pick “a,” assuming he’s on a fishing expedition. The press seem to be shocked by his claim. Let’s hope it stays that way, and that the only people who are taken in by his outrageous babble are the rubes he has already got on his side.

 

 

 

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Hello Red Falcon

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Say hello to my new Falcon DRX laptop.

I’ve wanted one of these for thirty years, since I first learned about Falcon computers. If you’ve been following this blog for awhile you know I’ve had three Falcon desktops.  Falcon builds their computers to order and the service is outstanding. Their machines are fast, fast, fast, because Falcon makes only high-end gaming machines. (You can browse their beautiful creations at falcon-northwest.com).

The hand-painted candy red color is of course mandatory for a Cornhusker fan.  We talked about painting a big black “N” on the cover but after I saw a mock-up I decided that the Falcon logo was sexier.

Here is the DRX keeping company with its very own backpack:

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The computer has two SS drives and a portable Blu-ray player, 16GB of memory, and a a high-end NVIDIA video card.  I can’t wait to get it up and running, so TA!

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The NCAA Volleyball regional matches will only be broadcast on EPSN3. Before yesterday I knew that such a channel existed, but I had no idea how to gain access to it (I refuse to use “access” as a verb–yet another mark of an old).

So I went hunting and discovered that ESPN’s online site was not interested in talking to my computer. You gotta have a TV provider to get ESPN3 (or any of their streams) online, and they would not believe that I subscribe to Direct TV even though I went to that site and signed in and everything. Several times.

So I thought for a minute and remembered that I have a fire stick from Amazon, which is also–duh–a content provider. So I logged in there and discovered an app for ESPN, which I downloaded to the stick. A short registration process required proof of my Direct TV affiliation, assigned me a password that I entered via computer, and I was in! Ta-Da!

So now I can watch the volleyball matches on my bigass TV. Much better than watching live streams from the Big Ten Network on my computer, as I’ve been doing.

For anyone who is interested, Nebraska plays BYU on Friday at 2pm Arizona time. BYU knocked the Huskers out of the tournament last year, and went on to compete in the final four. Gulp. They are seeded 15th this year, so perhaps they are not as strong. OTOH, volleyball is a game of emotions and momentum–a team that gets intimidated early can lose even though they are a better team on paper.

So I’m worried. If the Huskers get by BYU there are tougher teams waiting. Texas beat NU early and were ranked number 1 for most of the season; in addition six teams from the Big Ten, including Penn State and conference champion Minnesota made it into the semi-finals. The entire tournament bracket is available at http://www.ncaa.com/interactive-bracket/volleyball-women/d1. If you want to watch this weekend’s matches, you’ll need an ISP and probably a TV provider. The final four will appear on December 17-19 on regular ESPN and so all that is required is a teevee. As in your local Sports bar, Trep.

In the meantime:  Go Big Red!

 

 

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homesman

I’ve been a Tommy Lee Jones fan forever. I first saw him onscreen in “Black Moon Rising” (1986), where he was cast opposite Sarah Connor (er, Linda Hamilton). I was mesmerized by his acting ability early on, although the fact that he was something of a hunk in those days probably counted as well:

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During the ‘seventies and early ‘eighties Jones seemed condemned to appear in potboilers like “The Betsy” (1978) and “Back Roads” (1981) or swashbucklers like “Nate and Hayes” (1983). Then he won an Emmy for his role as Gary Gilmore in “The Executioner’s Song” (1982), and was nominated for what is probably his best-remembered performance, as Captain Woodrow Call in the TV adaptation of Larry McMurtry’s “Lonesome Dove” (1989). In 1993 he won an Oscar for his role as Lt. Gerard in “The Fugitive,” and from then on he was able to pick meatier scripts.

And now Jones is directing. “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada” (2005) won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and his performance therein was also nominated. Last year he directed and starred in “The Homesman” along with Hilary Swank and Meryl Streep–Oscar winners all–in what has been billed as a feminist film, of all things. What’s not to like?

Which brings me to the point of this post.  (Wow! an exordial digressio!)

Lately I’ve been trying to wean myself away from hard media storage. I bought a Firestick from Amazon (which I highly recommend to anyone who has a Prime account with them, because the stick itself is cheap and there’s a lot of good stuff to be had for free). As DVD copies of better but smaller films (such as “The Executioner’s Song”) have finally emerged, I’ve been able to rid my hall closet of most of the VHS tapes I used to lug around. However, I still have a huge collection of DVDs. It’s too large to convert to digital in my lifetime, so whoever inherits it will have a good time at Bookmans’.

Because I own all these DVDs I resisted buying a blu-ray player. When these first appeared I was also pretty sure blu-ray was a scam to get all us moviefreaks to spend more money. You may remember that the first such players would not accept DVD formats, and blu-ray hard copies are more expensive as well. Yesterday, however, as I visited the local goodies store I discovered that “The Homesman” was not available in any other format. Well, I should have seen that coming, I guess. So I talked to a nice salesperson, who assured me that blu-ray machines now happily accept DVDs. Also, they’re cheap. Like 65 bucks cheap, and blu-ray discs are now cheaper too.

Well that was a little bit too much for me to pass up, so I bought one of the little critters and set it up. I’m here to say I was wrong–blu-ray images ARE much sharper. And DVDs, even old ones, upgrade nicely as well. Plus, most blu-ray discs now come with free digital copies so that the tech-savvy among us can store their contents digitally and take the discs to Bookmans’ our own selves!

So I’d write more but I’m anxious to watch “The Homesman.”  And if that doesn’t wring me out too bad, I’ll watch Russell Crowe’s new film, “The Water Diviner.”

Alas, so much filmic goodness, so little time.

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Tech Woe

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Summer has come to the Valley of the Morlocks, suddenly, as it always does. So all us Morlocks just now remembered what we dislike about living in this otherwise pleasant place: from June to October we’re stuck inside most of the day, and we depend on the power company and our cooling equipment (literally) to keep us alive.

Those of us who have experience with southern Arizona summers have developed ways of coping. All year long I put off stuff that has to be done by telling myself “I’ll do it this summer when I’m stuck inside.” For instance I vowed I would finally clean out the kitchen and bathroom cabinets this summer. Yeah sure. So to put that off, I decided to convert my audio tapes and vinyl records to mp3, which is a lot more fun than cleaning cabinets. Or so I thought.

I’ve learned a thing or two since yesterday. For one, I can’t use my laptop to record because most laptops have a microphone boost that causes sound-recording programs to go apeshit because the input volume is just too high. My gaming rig allows me to alter the boost (although I gather many laptops are not so equipped), but even at the lowest volume setting Audacity shows the best parts of Santana’s Abraxas registering in the red. (Audacity is of course a sound-recording progam, and it’s free. While its interface can be intimidating, there’s nothing better out there, IMHO).

For good quality recordings one needs a good tape deck. I have one of those. Problem is, that sucker is old–I bought it over thirty years ago. It has only RCA connectors because it was part of a bigger package that included an amp, which died long ago.  Sigh. I have a newer amp, of course, but it’s hooked up to the TV and a hundred other things. So the deck’s lack of connectors poses a bit of a problem because my current desktop computer has oodles of HDMI and USB ports, but nary an RCA or S/PDIF.

Yesterday, faced with this problem, I dug out my ten-year-old Falcon, which has been patiently sitting under the desk waiting for me to clear off its hard drive so I can recycle it. It has a dynamite sound card–Creative’s Fatality–that has every sort of connector a human being could ever want, and it seems to want to work, still. So there is that. To use it, though, I’ll have to buy RCA cables.  Or, I can buy an RCA-to-TSR cable (a TSR is that tiny 1/8-inch connector that plugs speakers into computers) and use the newer Falcon.

In the meantime I converted some CD’s to mp3, just to see how the good old music sounds on my new Bose speakers.  In a word: excellent. Buoyed by that experience, I opened up Audacity to see what it thought about my recordings.  Lo and behold, it registered considerable noise before I played anything at all. So I went through the process of shutting everything down, one source at a time. Still noise. What the hell?  And then I realized: Audacity was picking up the noise made by the ceiling fan!

So I’m back where I started. A Morlock can’t do summer without a ceiling fan.

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