2017.12.31

California I5 driving traffic dog weimaraner codriver
Norcal

The usual drive. Jes accompanied on the way up but had to fly back for work. We stopped for a night in Burbank and did a meal with her family.

Dog weimaraner Christmas painted nails

She made sure Kafka was festive. Norcal was usual pleasant holiday: food, board games, family, friends...

Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime screenshot

... and lovers - in a dangerous spacetime, that is. I brought the PS4, so we got a little co-op gaming in.


Weimaraner dog sleeping deck construction trex

Since Pops had worked so hard on the water heater, I pitched in on the deck effort. After a couple hours Kafka was able to take his usual spot in the sun.
New Year's

Secret Hitler board game dog table beers

Kept it pretty low key. Went to Ryan's to play some board games and hang out in their delivery hot tub.
EDH

MTG Magic the Gathering deck builder card database Java custom

I was in a coding mood and not happy with a lot of the online deckbuilding tools, so I threw something together with a bunch of my github code. And so it was easy to paste my revised Ezuri deck:
Ezuri Claw of Progress Fathom Mage Manglehorn Coiling Oracle
Fyndhorn Elves Birds of Paradise Swiftfoot Boots Sorcerous Spyglass
Ice Floe Mystic Snake Counterspell Scavenger Folk
Tropical Island Sol Ring Gyre Sage Ornithopter
Slither Blade Shielded Aether Thief Skyship Plunderer Forgotten Ancient
Thrummingbird Llanowar Elves Instill Energy Herald of Secret Streams
Pristine Talisman Clone Nissa Voice of Zendikar Mycoloth
Talrand Sky Summoner Master Biomancer Invisible Stalker Asceticism
OranRief the Vastwood Inexorable Tide Walking Ballista Ramos Dragon Engine
Heroes Bane Hooded Hydra Trygon Predator Cyclonic Rift
Rivers Rebuke From Beyond Awakening Zone Natural Order
Ghostly Flicker Bred for the Hunt Tetravus Tree of Redemption
Song of the Dryads Panharmonicon Edifice of Authority Rishkar Peema Renegade
Simic Manipulator Vorel of the Hull Clade Flood Maulfist Revolutionary
Wall of Junk Sage of Hours Fungal Sprouting Control Magic
Novijen Heart of Progress Archetype of Endurance Reliquary Tower Chasm Skulker
Illusionists Stratagem Deadeye Navigator Archetype of Imagination Stormtide Leviathan

Source.

Mana cost histogram
15
14
13
8
5
4
2 2
0
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Cards
Archetype of Endurance
Archetype of Imagination
Asceticism
Awakening Zone
Birds of Paradise
Bred for the Hunt
Chasm Skulker
Clone
Coiling Oracle
Control Magic
Counterspell
Cyclonic Rift
Deadeye Navigator
Edifice of Authority
Ezuri, Claw of Progress
Fathom Mage
Flood
Forgotten Ancient
From Beyond
Fungal Sprouting
Fyndhorn Elves
Ghostly Flicker
Gyre Sage
Herald of Secret Streams
Heroes' Bane
Hooded Hydra
Ice Floe
Illusionist's Stratagem
Inexorable Tide
Instill Energy
Invisible Stalker
Llanowar Elves
Manglehorn
Master Biomancer
Maulfist Revolutionary
Mycoloth
Mystic Snake
Natural Order
Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
Novijen, Heart of Progress
Oran-Rief, the Vastwood
Ornithopter
Panharmonicon
Pristine Talisman
Ramos, Dragon Engine
Reliquary Tower
Rishkar, Peema Renegade
River's Rebuke
Sage of Hours
Scavenger Folk
Shielded Aether Thief
Simic Manipulator
Skyship Plunderer
Slither Blade
Sol Ring
Song of the Dryads
Sorcerous Spyglass
Stormtide Leviathan
Swiftfoot Boots
Talrand, Sky Summoner
Tetravus
Thrummingbird
Tree of Redemption
Tropical Island
Trygon Predator
Vorel of the Hull Clade
Walking Ballista
Wall of Junk


Genesis Wave
Source.

Jason brought a deck that absolutely destroyed us when he flipped Genesis Wave. Might need to get a copy of that one.

Slaying Mantis
Source.

We had a lot of fun with the new Unstable set. High fives, card-throwing, it's got everything.

Dog weimaraner nose nosey stuffed bunny



2017.12.27


Source.

As avid historians of video games, J and I have a pretty good depth and breadth of experiences. This'll be my first attempt at a list feature [l], written in 2019 but backdated to 2017 when he actually authored the list. Also it's actually a top eleven due to a last-minute addition/re-think.
Honorable Mention


The List

11. Skyrim

As you know, I love me some open world exploration. For my money, this world was more intricate and fun to explore than just about any other. And shouting people off of cliffs always brings a smile to my face. Had some good quests, but had some weak ones too, but the amount of stuff to do largely overshadows this. Still have to beat the DLC.


10. Mario 64

This game blew my mind when it first dropped. It's Mario, in 3d! It also controlled so well that it was fun just running and flipping around the levels, even when you weren't going for a star. Plus you could stretch Mario's face at the title screen, which never got old.


9. Halo 3

Back when Bungie was good. Co-oping this game on Legendary difficulty was such a blast.


8. Fallout 4

See #11 for the reasons for this one, I just happen to like guns better than swords. I debated between this one, FO 3, and FO NV, but went with this one only because I found the combat a bit better, and because you can craft a scope onto your sawed-off.


7. Gran Turismo 2

My interest in racing games has waned as of late, but this just felt so real to me at the time. I loved the different feel of all the cars (except the American-made ones, obviously). I loved the rally races. I even loved (most of) the license tests! Impreza 4eva!


6. Metal Gear Solid

I think I've played all of the subsequent installments, vice 4 (stupid Sony exclusivity), but this is still my favorite one. Until this point, I didn't know that a cool (if crazy) story and gameplay could be combined into something so engaging. And you just felt like a badass playing this game.


5. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

I've probably played through this game more times than any other save BL2. I know where all the good weapons are, I know where all the breakable walls are, I know how to open the inverted castle. I know it all… And somehow I don't get tired of it.


4. Final Fantasy VII

Ah, my first foray into RPGs. Up until this point, they just seemed so boring. I obviously didn't know what I was missing.


3. The Last of Us

Probably the best example of a tight, well-told, emotionally-affecting story I've ever experienced in a video game. I don't expect it to be topped any time soon. I felt more feels while playing this game than I have watching any movie or reading any book. Ok, The Road comes close...


2. The Witcher 3

Open world? Check. Good Story? Check. Meaningful decisionmaking? Check. Interesting characters and side quests? Check, check, check. Probably the most ""complete"" game I've ever played. What I mean by that is that from my perspective it hits almost all of the right notes for me. Awesome, awesome game.


1. Borderlands 2

Surprise surprise. Yeah, I really don't need to go into this one. Ed: We have many, many playthroughs under our belt. We love the gameplay, the story, the characters, and Gearbox.


My thoughts (as I related them to J at the time)

The list demonstrates a pretty good breadth of experiences, I like that it covers the sandboxes, the RPGs, the cinematic games on rails, and of course the MMOFPSRPGs.

These are all modern era, it feels weird not to have a Mario 3 or Zelda I or Super Metroid or Ocarina in there.  But when you start going down that road you have a lot of titles that were mindblowing at the time, but don't really align with the post-Mario 64 world.

Similarly, I feel like FO3 was a major leap.  FO4 was bigger and better, but just incremental progress compared to its predecessor.  GT2 was amazing back when we had time to put in long gaming sessions.  And MGS really brought the cinematic feel to a game (which TLoU took to the next level), as well as creating a world of ever-changing rules rather than just ramping up the difficulty.

The internet is shocked HL did not make the list.  It's weird because the game feels kind of vanilla in retrospect, but was remarkable at the time.  I blame the lack of a distinct style.



2017.12.17

West coast

Dog weimaraner shore beach La Jolla

Jes and I took Kaf down to the cove. Rain had washed part of the path away, so we had a difficult descent and even more challenging return.

Dog weimaraner cliff beach La Jolla

The beach was nice and practically deserted, as usual.

Motorcycle Zero S parking lot Santa Ana winds pine needles

The December Santa Anas made for some strange weather and, of course, nasty fires. It was crazy to see heaps of pine needles blown up against all the cars in the parking lot.
East coast

Snow shed yard

The east coast was quite the opposite. 20s and 30s with a couple of days of snow over the week I was resident.

BWI airport Baltimore Maryland sunset

It wasn't all bad weather, but there wasn't much to do outside the office.

Warframe Plains of Eidolon Ash Prime

I did pop down to J's house for some K'nex, Old Ox, Warframe, and...
Monster Hunter World (Beta)

Monster Hunter World beta sliding

PS+ offered a free trial of the new Monster Hunter. The beta primarily demonstrates a lush open world and combat mechanics. I'm told a big part of the game is inventory management and crafting, which the trial doesn't really feature.


There are a number of melee weapons, which means close combat with a catalog of massive creatures. They're difficult to master as they are often slow and require charged shots or combos.


You can also go ranged with a few bow and firearms options. For the beta monsters, being at a safe distance meant you didn't really have to worry about your health bar.


Each monster has a few recognizable moves that may or may not be avoidable. They're pretty unique in the scope of the beta, I'm not sure how this will map to a full game.


It does kind of feel like a hack and slash button masher where instead of mowing down squishies you're making no visible impact on a legendary monster. Even if the combat isn't a main selling point, it could be a great experience in its totality. We'll see what the reviews say. In any event, it's good to have an upcoming co-op title for the PSN sessions.
Zero, part II

Motorcycle Zero S charging station parking sunset

A month or so into ownership, some commentary on the Zero:

Subject Commentary Resolution
Sidestand Big, beefy, won't sink through new asphalt by the looks of it. Great lean angle. The Duc's was bolted into the crankcase, which turned out to be a flaw, this one is on the frame.
Steel-braided brake lines I'm not sure if this is now standard, but it's nice to see.
Mirrors Stock rearview mirrors are always huge and terrible. Happily, they come off easily. I borrowed the bar end mirror from the Duc, however it's clamped to the bar end plug, which is not a great way to go. Unfortunately the grips leave no space to clamp.
Incandescent turn signals C'mon, electric vehicles should only have LEDs. Thankfully Zero used standard indicator housings and I got these for $60-80 a pair (so double that).
LED taillights Okay good. But on a silver and black bike, a big red housing looks a little gross. I was a huge fan of the aftermarket smoked housing I got for the Duc, I don't expect one is available unless this is a standard tail light part.
Halogen headlamp Right, so going LED or HID here would probably up the sticker price a bit too much. But it'd be nice to have a factory option since messing with an ebike's electrical system seems dangerous. It looks like a direct replacement may be difficult? The web had this combination: lamp, housing, bracket.
Blandness Fairings are nice, especially when you don't have to ever pull them off to do wrenching. But if you're going streetfighter, at least make the bottom fairing the color of the tank. For $300 I can carbon up some of it. Maybe plasti-dip the bottom plastics?
Enormous rear fender This must be a DOT thing? It's... horrendous. There's an $85 metal bracket that holds the plate and turn signals. I'm considering the composite path though.
Battery linearization So battery level is based on voltage. As the battery discharges, the voltage drops. This is nonlinear - the thing we all know, the last x% of your battery lasts no time at all. When you're making a vehicle, you'd think you could linearize it to account for this curve (more or less). Nope. The top 14% gets me ten miles, the bottom 14% gets me one mile. I have to do the leg work of characterizing the battery in my head. E.g. 25% will get me to work. The app has a stupid calculator that shows you how much fuel you've saved by going electric. Why not, instead, provide an empirical estimate of miles remaining?
Eco mode 70 mph limit Are you kidding me? That's a great way to endanger your rider: on the freeway moving to pass, roll on, suddenly no more power. Great. Also, you can't go eco->power without stopping. Only sport and custom modes.
App Of course there's an app. It looks primarily intended to go on a phone on a handlebar mount and show telemetry that really doesn't matter (like the displays on a Prius). Of course its real use is to solve the above issue and program a custom ecu mode that is tuned down but has no governor. I used it and am not entirely sure if I flashed my settings - the ui was a little ambiguous. It'd be great to be able to reprogram the existing eco/sport modes.
Key Why no nfc key? Life would be much easier if I just had an nfc key in my jacket and could hop on and scoot away. See, unlike most other components that can be easily swapped, changing up the ignition system is unpleasant even for the massive benefit to rider experience.

Motorcycle Zero S gauges riding

Funny side note, the app demands gps to pair to the bike, they even show a pop up that says it's required to pair. Yeah, nah. Pairing via phone settings miraculously managed to solve the problem. It is bluetooth, of course, which invites the question: if someone exploits my bike would you call it a Zero day? I'll see myself out.
The Last Jedi

Star Wars The Last Jedi

Source.

While Todd Gurly singlehandedly destroyed my fantasy championship run, I caught The Last Jedi. A few thoughts, no spoilers.

Damm, that was a good movie. I was apprehensive based on the last few, Disney, J.J. Abrams, and how Star Wars is now like the biggest kids brand in history. But they did a really good job with this one.

The premise felt a little like they were continuing the reboot/sequel theme - The New Republic is gone, Snoke has somehow asserted himself over the galaxy. It's not unbelievable - considering the Republic capitol was destroyed in TFA - but the entire time I was wondering how the new galactic order could have been so quickly reduced to a calamari cruiser and few support ships. And, well, you might have to assume out-of-order scenes between the power shift in the galaxy and what otherwise would have to be the longest lightsaber handoff in history.

Star Wars The Last Jedi Luke Skywalker Millennium Falcon cockpit

Luke brings the post-traumatic nihilism that many expected, offering the criticisms of the jedi that have floated around the extended universe. Hopefully the argument isn't dismissed altogether as the series progresses, the Star Wars franchise is better without absolute good and evil. And so I felt the writing is very good. Subtle enough, adult enough, with a bit more tension-breaking humor than I'd prefer.

Star Wars The Last Jedi Poe XWing

Source.

The action is handled very well. The space battles play out true to the series but leverage the wonders of modern cgi. The lightsaber and blaster battles aren't painfully long or unnecessarily over the top - it stands in contrast to all these agonizing super hero movies.

Where Empire was dark, this movie is profoundly sad. The story is melancholy, but the few remaining original cast members bring a subtle sentiment of sadness and loss - one that's only amplified by what's happened on this side of the fourth wall. It's not a movie that has you walking away thinking about space battles and laser swords, but of the iconic characters that are fading away on screen and off.

Addendum: feedback from Jon

Poe approaches a FLEET of First Order ships. Apparently they have their hundreds of fighters just standing by, sure. He prank calls Hux to by time enough to get close, ridiculous but whatev. He then proceeds to blow up every turret on the Dreadnought with 1-2 shots each. I know I wasn't the best at X-Wing, but I remember those taking several shots, or a bomb. Long story short, a single fighter renders a huge ship useless, while the support fleet around it just watches.
Jon

Chris
There is, painfully, too much "no no, don't launch fighters until I say so". That said, if you're trying to cut your budget, not sending TIEs out and back every five seconds is probably smart. Happens on the Republic side too. In X-Wing it took several shots to take out a star destroyer turret. So yes, he got it done in way fewer shots, but I liked that he plowed the side of a capital ship, like you do in the game. It's the invisible hand of Disney trying to make Poe yet more heroic, but doesn't really have an impact other than setting up the low speed chase.
Kylo comes back the other way and with minimal backup, he tears up the rebel capital ship. He's in a different looking fighter so perhaps it is really advanced - fine. All the rebel fighters are still docked when he torpedoes them, that's lucky, but so was Midway, and Kylo has the force. With the help of his wingmen, he even takes out the bridge of the capital ship... but then what happens? Hux calls him off because his TIE fighter is too far away to protect? What! What protection had Hux been providing before? What protection does Kylo really needs since he clearly just crippled a capital ship with three fighters?
I thought there were TIEs in the initial combat with the Republic capital. No? Could Kylo solo a capital ship with his super force powers? Doesn't really matter because it's an unnecessary risk when you have the fleet on lock.
The rebels are on the run. Apparently, the really big rebel capital ship is slightly faster than the really really big first order ship. Okay, fine with that. However, there are also regular star destroyers that look sleeker than the rebel capital ship, are they also slightly slower? Could none of them jump ahead and get in the way to slow the rebels? If the First Order has all these ships, shouldn't others be able to converge to cut off the 'escape'? Since all the other plot in the movie happens around this 'high' speed chase, it's kind of important to have a logical premise here.
Are you saying they don't get as much space-wind resistance? Perhaps they could have done a microjump to corner the Republic fleet. Of course, the Republicans still had the option of making a hyperspace jump at any point, so it might be a good way to end up in disarray. I don't recall whether the Imperials were knew how much fuel they had. And, of course, my main issue is that they aren't using nuclear power on their flagship.
Laura "Devine Wind" Dern. The shot was visually quite stunning. However, do we really want to open Pandora's box here? Why would a kamikaze strike suddenly be a viable option? The First Order is more heartless, but never sent a Star Destroyer into hyperspace through the rebels. The rebels had several minimally-manned corvettes, but never turned around on the First Order ship. Perhaps it wouldn't have been massive enough to destroy the ship, but certainly it would have done significant damage, possible enough for the fleet to get away. Even A-Wings have a hyperdrive, so what are the rules?
Yeah if you suddenly start introducing kamikaze imperials (Republic doesn't have the evilness or spare people) and then hyperspace torpedoes it could break the whole mechanic. Maybe it's an f=ma scenario where anything short of a giant hunk of metal will just bounce off - though the 'a' adds a lot to the equation.