2021.08.26


Jack arrived!

Flyer volleyball olympics Delta Bitcoin stonks Taliban boomerkrieg
Erik put a lot of work into this one.

And finally, I threw together another PUBG mashup, now with more C4:




2021.08.22

Mass Effect 2 Legendary Shepard flamethrower cover combat
Current events

Costco baijiu bamboo liquor

Let's start with the hardest-hitting item. Costco has a $200 handle of baijiu. I'm not sure if it's more shocking that someone decided bamboo liquor was worth importing or that there is a baijiu that costs more than 8 yuan.

News Reddit humor Taliban Kabul photo maskless

The Afghanistan thing happened and gave us the some bizarre scenes (Taliban bumper cars) and morbid scenes (Kabul and airport).

News Afghanistan withdrawl ANA motivation Reddit
Slight market correction


/u/SaveTheAles
Alfred get my bathing toaster.

The market finally had a red week and there was talk of taper. So guaranteed ATHs next week.

Reddit used car prices WallStreetBets WSB humor barkwoofgrrr

The silicon shortage is no joke. Speaking of vehicles, the quick update on Lordstown:
Total Theranos vibes. If they are legit, they're doing everything they can to appear headed for bankruptcy. For me, the share price is too low to open any new positions.

Reddit WallStreetBets WSB humor ShortTendies69 Jim Cramer
On this month's installment of Jim Cramer Facts.
Dying Light NG+ fin

Dying Light PS4 view Harran stadium city

We finished off Rais in our streamlined NG+ playthrough. Notably, I crafted the suppressed pistol but was disappointed with how unavailable subsonic ammo is, particularly going into the DLC.

Home

Hammock patio canvas enclosure

The back patio wasn't a great place for the hammock, as anyone on my happy hour zoom call could tell you (it collapsed under me). Too much sun wrecked the canvas. I refinished the frame, Jes bought a new hammock, and I relocated it to the enclosed patio.

Biting dog ear who wore it better
Who wore it better?
Techmology

Deep shplearning

BigGAN weimaraner sea urchan nightmare fuel neural network deep learing

I was happy to see that the TensorFlow site has some pretrained ImageNet GANs that you can run in-browser. They're... uhhh... a little creepy, but I'm not sure what I expect from a network interpolating between a weimaraner and a sea urchin. I haven't run the code offline, but I'll see if I can throw more hardware at it and get a more convincing urchiraner.

Firefox, bugs, and nightly

Google play store firefox nightly download

I found it really annoying that Firefox for Android would reload a web page every time you re-entered the enclosing tab. So like, if you're filling out some sort of form you need to finish it before locking your phone or even looking at a different tab, otherwise it's gone when you come back. Probably also not great for mobile data.

With some looking, I found that Firefox pushed a lot of configuration options to about:config and pushed the availability of that file to a "developer browser" called Firefox Nightly. Ugh.

Firefox mobile android nightly about config meta refresh

The internet had a lot of suggestions for about:config configuration settings to change to eliminate this bothersome behavior. There were a lot of reasonable-sounding things like tabs.use_cache, accessibility.auto_refresh, and tabs.prevent_zombies. I even found that there are hidden settings you have to manually punch in and hope the browser understands.

After none of these worked, I came upon a recent support page that indicated this is a known issue. There was a link to the github tracker, though I didn't save the url to post here. I guess it's a waiting game.

In doing this search, I checked in on making "request desktop site" the default. What's more, that selection is a toggle but only applies the first time you activate it. This is also being worked, even though the main Mozilla help moderator basically tells people they're idiots for wanting to see a desktop site on a mobile device.

Apple

Reddit Apple hashing photos privacy humor

Apple is hashing your images or something. I don't really care but there were some memes.

Google

Google chat hangouts tasks

I finally gave in to the Hangouts botherware announcing that chat is moving to Gmail. Finally, I can give my friends - sorry, contacts - action items! And at last the idea of software accessing a pooled file system has been destroyed and the application itself has a file system!

Google chat hangouts user interface tasks bubbles
The legend(ary edition) continues, Mass Effect 2

Mass Effect 2 Legendary Edition firefight warehouse explosion Quarian Turian

I've begun the second chapter of my ME:LE trilogy playthrough. I last played the game more than a decade ago.

Premise

One month after the devastating geth attack on the Citadel, humanity seized political control of the galaxy.

Now the human-led Council is forced to respond to evidence that the Reapers - enormous machines that eradicate all advanced civilizations every 50,000 years - have returned. To quell the rumors, the Council has sent Commander Shepard and the Normandy to wipe out the last pockets of geth resistance. Officially, they blame the invasion on the geth and their leader, a rogue Spectre.

But for those who know the truth, the search for answers is just beginning...

Way back when I played this on Xbox, I saved the existing (alien) council during the endgame battle. It didn't make a lot of sense that, after everything, Sovereign was written off as a supergeth. This time I let those dbags burn, only to find that with the very cool Captain Anderson in charge of council 2.0, they won't even kick down a few spacebucks to investigate the Reaper thing that nicely explains a lot of the galaxy's great mysteries. And, like, is the explanation provided by the person that saved the Citadel.

And I'm not sure why it had to be this way. Squid-Borgs sitting in unreachable deep space aren't exactly an easy target. The council could have at least thrown *some* resources at an investigation, staffing it with plot-friendly incompetent Volus. Or maybe some really capable Elcor who find out something awesome and tell Shepard, who is doing her own investigation (the SPECTRE way). Instead, Cerberus gets a second wind as the America First/Section 31 plot vehicle to set up a well-explored dilemma about the ends justifying the means.

I'm happy that Cerberus brought us Martin Sheen's lawful-evil The Illusive Man, but what if he were a instead a Salarian giga-zillionaire who funded the genophage and bankrolls Aria?


While I'm not a big fan of the beginning and end of the game, I like the "build your team for a suicide mission" quest structure. It makes the game focus on character development; undeniably the right thing to do for part two of a trilogy that can only live in the shadow of the first game's story.

Early game/plot

Mass Effect 2 Legendary Normandy attack wreckage exploding Collectors

Let's do this: kill Shepard and blow up the Normandy, then bring them both back within the first ten minutes of gameplay. If you *must* have Cerberus, Shepard doesn't maintain her alliance out of gratitude (regardless of good/evil alignment) but instead by simply having no other choice. And there are plenty of reasons to temporarily scatter the ME1 squad or, hell, start with some and give them (dramatic pause) two loyalty quests.

Mass Effect 2 Lengendary Lazarus Project class selection

On the plus side: game mechanics

Mass Effect 2 Lengendary Jack vault fire combat lift

Combat in ME2 is leaps and bounds better than even the retrofitted ME1 system. Abilities and damage types are far more important, the introduction of heavy weapons is pretty neat as well. There is a wider variety of enemies and enemy tactics. That said, for a cover shooter I find myself rarely moving and often getting blasted by a mech when I do.



Dialogues are better in ME2, though this is more a product of a more expansive script than any changes to the system.


In ME1 you accessed locked things by repeating a key/button sequence. Pretty uninspiring. ME2 breaks this out into:
Mass Effect 2 Legendary minerals scanner probe platinum planet

Mineral collection has moved from tedious traversal of empty planets to tedious orbital scanning and launching probes. That is, it's more tolerable, but pretty grindy. ME2 introduces the nice mechanic where minerals are upgrade currency.

Style

Mass Effect 2 Legendary Garrus scars

Trilogy sequels that were bolted on to a standalone first game like to go the dark route. You need that despair to make the story seem continuous rather than episodic. Cerberus, Omega, a plague, suicide mission, abductions... ME2 reinforces its main theme very well.

Mass Effect 2 Legendary Asari Afterlife silhouette dancer

Back in oh-ten, Bioware took the Fox News-tier manufactured controversy about "aLiEn RaPe" and pushed a few more chips in. The sequel has seedier establishments, naughtier language, and a few more romantic interests.

Locales and side quests


Like characters and dialogue, ME2 expands the navigable galaxy and features Omega as heavily as the Citadel. Sidequests each have their own story arc, in contrast to ME1's cookie-cutter hostile location with textual lore and resolution. A lot of the non-story content is a presented in a more organic way; encounters such as running into looters during a pandemic (O_O) or happening upon squabbling Citadelians.

The squad and loyalty

Mass Effect 2 Legendary Jack table conversation

As I said, this game is about recruiting your squad and earning their individual loyalties through personal quests. Shepard's effectiveness at these things dictates how well the final mission goes. There are two waves of recruitment, meaning there is linear story progression with considerable breadth in between.

With additional abilities, weapon types, and enemy resistances, squad selection is far more important than ME1. Still, with something like a dozen squad members, being limited to two companions at any given time feels wasteful. The conversations and loyalty arcs live up to the quality of the franchise (going back to KOTOR) and the companion missions are nice 30-45 minute mini-adventures.

DLC: Kasumi


I never played any of the original DLC, so Legendary Edition brought content that was new to me. Kasumi is a ho-hum character, though her cloak attack is a fairly unique ability. Her loyalty quest is a Hollywood-style heist - accessing a contraband vault while attending a fancy party. It predictably has two phases - a walking simulator and combat - but it's funny to see that the baddie arms dealer (or whatever) stole Liberty's head.

DLC: Zaeed


Zaeed is a tough as nails bounty hunter guy. Unpleasant. Amoral. Uninventive. His quest is - you guessed it - revenge against his old partner. Why couldn't we have gotten like a Hanar stockbroker who runs a jiu jitsu dojo and is out to avenge his lost love Ashley Williams?

DLC: Firewalker


The Firewalker DLC takes everyone's favorite-in-2008 and loathed-in-2021 ME1 element (the Mako), removes its wheels, and sends it into shooter/platformer environments. That was a dense sentence. Yes, the Normandy crew gets a shiny new M44 Hammerhead hovercraft that is more capable and driveable than its (mostly) landlocked predecessor. The Hammerhead mission areas involve driving, precision jumping, and bouncy-shooting of Geth adversaries. You can collect small mineral quantities via a rodeo bull mechanic at various places in the levels. It's not particularly good, but the levels are kind of pretty.

DLC: Overlord


The Overlord DLC has more narrative content than the others (that I have played so far). The story arc harkens back to the first game where Cerberus and ExoGeni were heavily invested in immoral moonshots.




2021.08.01

House kickback hangout kitchen Groovy Ghoulies Ilford HP5 contact sheet film

I replaced my old Canon scanner with a new LIDE400. The old one was photography grade but mid-tier; it had a backlit insert for negatives and slides. No longer, it looks like the unassuming LIDE400 is Canon's top model. Flatbed scanners aren't great for negatives and slides anyway.

Baby feet paint Fathers Day card

The impetus was to have a scanner for the various works of artistic loved ones. Having modern OCR didn't seem like a bad idea either. To my delight, autocrop (in addition to - dating myself - single pass scanning) saves a lot of time. Since I had another reason to dig into the film/print archive, I did a little sorting, house cleaning, and scanned interesting ones along the way. Here are some.
An ode to film

Couch hangout Dominos
[15+ years ago] I guess I was toting the FM3A? Pizza and good times following graduation.

Triangle grain Fresno hat trucker hipster
[17+ years ago] I-5 souvenirs are second only to being done with the I-5 drive.

Surf surfing film photo water cloudy
[17+ years ago] The early days when we had just gotten Erik into surfing. I think I took a disposable underwater camera out.

Surf surfing waiting wave film photo
[17+ years ago] More underwater point and shoot.

Surf surfing break lounging board
[17+ years ago] I handed the camera off to Rob(?) and kicked back on the new board purchase.

College apartment bedroom messy long exposure
[17+ years ago] This is a Rob signature style so it's either him or me copying his style.

Desk college apartment messy 2000s old polaroid hat
[18+ years ago] A Rob polaroid of programming assignments as we did them in the good old days. The hat was an Alaska purchase, not neckbearding before it was cool. Also notice the web cam and HP Journada.

Concert crowd
[18+ years ago] Check out those jeans and Vans. Probably Rob with the SLR; he knew how to move through a concert crowd in those days.

Party kickback monochrome black and white
[19+ years ago] I this is from my N80 days. Black and white film, friends, neglected programming assignments.

Girl depth of field monochrome focus
[20+ years ago] Learning focus with my first manual body.

High school tennis tournament waiting
[20+ years ago] A tennis tournament, way back when. Not sure who shot it, most of the team is in the frame. Jimmy?

Star Wars exhibit R2D2 C3PO
[30+ years ago] This is as far back as it goes. My pit fighting days. I thrashed those pansy droids in three rounds. Wait, does pit fighting have rounds? My story is falling apart. In actuality I burned my hands on a spotlight while waiting in line to see the Star Wars exhibit.