24 June, 2017

Weekend Checkup for June 24 & June 25 2017 (#2)

After I wrote the last weekend checkup, I thought it over and decided that I prefer writing these as opposed to a set of lists with links. Most of this is inspired by the newsletters I read weekly including Sean Bonner's The Crowd which I linked to last time.

Speaking of Sean, this came in...

...it's not the pin. Don't Go Outside: Tokyo Street Photos was a Kickstarter-funded project that I first read about in early January and was lucky enough to back the tier for a signed and numbered copy. I mentioned Sean last week as one of the major inspirations for my foray into the blogsphere, but it goes slightly deeper than that. I started following him on Google+ not too shortly after my cousin gave me an invite. This was also when I started reading Cory Doctorow and ultimately Boing Boing and so much of it stems from that fact that Sean also embraced Creative Commons by using the licenses on his photos--the book itself uses a CC-BY-NC license. I started following Safecast shortly after and made a donation to them last year along with backing their bGeigie Raku project.

It goes without saying that Sean's awesome, and I'm looking forward to reading his book!

The pin comes from Tinkity Tonk, a group dedicated to connecting fellow Wittertainment (Kermode & Mayo) listeners through these pins while raising money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society with one pound donated for every pin purchased. Long time followers might be familiar with my love of the duo as I posted about then elsewhere--mostly here, Twitter, and my former Google+ account which unfortunately no longer contains said post among others. I've been listening to Mark and Simon since 2008,  far into October, in which Mark praised Of Time and the City while calling Quantum of Solace a "Question of Sport".

That was the haul, and here's the video of the week...

It is part of a larger series where Banjo Guy Ollie fixes up and restores arcade machines which you can view here. I would also reccomend watching this playlist where he makes his own game room.

Unfamilar with Banjo Guy Ollie? I'll let this speak for itself...

You can find his music channel here as Banjo Guy Ollie. His channel for DIY, painting, reviews of retro handhleds and MSX games, thrifts, and vlogs is here under BG Ollie.

Goes without saying, both channels have their own respective Patreons here and here.

What I've been reading...

I just finished JN-T: The Life and Scandalous Times of John Nathan-Turner which covers its namesake who took the reins as producer of Doctor Who from 1980 to 1989.  Richard Marson does some really thorough research here and I'm still not sure what to think about JN-T. There is no doubt that he is responsible in part for keeping the show alive for fifty-plus years and that some elements of the show are more prevelent than ever in the modern series which I think is great. Aside from that, I don't know.

In the meantime, I started reading William Gibson's Neuromancer and I'm still working on Cory Doctorow's Walkaway. There's also Doctor Who: The Unfolding Text, The Offworld Collection, and Ukept on my Kindle, but those are on hold alongside a couple of Wodehouse anthologies and Peter Matthiessen's In the Spirit of Crazy Horse.

Progress on writing...

Very little, if not much at all. I've done some late spring cleaning on my computer so that I could easily access and work on my projects. Last year was slightly better on the Showcase, now Incarceration Troupe, where I managed to iron out some of the places where I had trouble and made it further into the story.

Oh, there's anothe project in the works that I might post on Wattpad if I can't market it. More on that later.

As for the rest...

Nothing much happened between the past couple weeks, at least personally. In politics, there's the health care bill in the US that, if it passes, would not only repeal Obamacare, but would be an overall disaster. Here's Barack Obama on the matter (Note: Facebook Link). Russia's interference in last year's elections is more of a thing than not. Locally, the town council was about to close a local golf course pub and resturant, only to renew its lease days later. I'll leave this letter from the owners' lawyer here (Note: Facebook link) which is rather telling. Municipal elections for the town proper happen this November, however, so there's some hope.

Jon Ronson wrote about the mysterious arnsons happening in San Francisco's Mission District and Hideo Kojima's Snatcher is more than just a remix of its parts.

From Ronson:
The numbers cited by Campos and others—45 fires in two years—also weren’t necessarily as suspicious as they seemed. It turns out that 25 fires a year is about average for the Mission. But there’s a reason that arson is on everyone’s mind: While the number of fires has stayed steady, the value of the real estate in question has not. The 27 fires that burned in the Mission in 2006 caused $2.6 million in damage; the 22 fires in 2015 caused almost $15.6 million in damage.
From Kotaku's Peter Tieryas:
Unlike the protagonists in many noirish cyberpunk books and films, Gillian Seed is expressive rather than following the trope of being stoic and subdued. His strong personality goes from melancholy amnesiac to driven investigator and even womanizer (though he gets almost universally rejected). He’s a likable character, even with his flaws. He’s visually inspired in part by Rick Deckard from Blade Runner, but also the more humorous Lupin the Third from the eponymous animated series. 

I'll talk again soon and hello to Jason Isaacs!

11 June, 2017

Weekend Checkup for June 10 &11, 2017

I planned, over a month ago, that after I did some online spring cleaning,  I would post a series of weekend links on May 12th. Then the following week, I planned to use my vacation time to blog things that I wanted to write out for awhile. Most of "spring cleaning" was managing my Patreon contributions and culling through who I followed on Twitter. The latter went as well as I thought.

Same goes for this post. I did enjoy my vacation however, and with it came a nice bookstore haul...

The only one that came via Amazon was Jem Roberts's The Frood, while the two Doctor Who novels, White Trash, and The Handmaid's Tale I bought at Bank Square Books. We are the Change We Seek, Hate Crimes in Cyberspace, and Bird by Bird were from the Savoy Bookshop while all the Shakespeare plays I purchased at Barnes & Noble in Warwick. I read through The Frood already and loved it as the book expands on Douglas's life and career beyond the confines of Neil Gaiman's Don't Panic. I also finished A.L. Kennedy's Doctor Who: The Drosten's Curse and, while it was nice to see an Fourth Doctor novel, its take on psychological and cosmic horror ultimately hindered it.

Speaking of Who, I've been obsessed since the new season began. Bill (Pearl Mackie) and the Twelfth Doctor (Peter Calpaldi) are an excellent duo and a breath of fresh air since Clara left two years ago. Aside from this past week*, I've enjoyed their stories. I thought about doing Doctor Who reviews in a similar vein to Stuart Ian Burns over at Feeling Listless or Frank Collins who has done a thorough, academic analysis of "The Empress of Mars" that I think is worth reading. My mind flashes back to the Behind the Sofa blog in which they both contributed to, a site which is partly responsible for my initial inspiration into the blogosphere alongside FL, Tachyon TV, and Dan Gillmor via Mediactive.

Also, Sean Bonner and Documentally also played a major role to the point that, if it weren't for the former's newsletter, Just Another Crowd, I would never know of Seth Abramson. Seth's done some excellent interpretations of the Trump Administration's actions via his Twitter. The Chronicle of Higher Education ran an article on him which I found via Sean's newsletter (#275 in the letter archive).

Speaking of politics, my local borough went through their mayoral and council elections and I couldn't be happier with the results. The opposition didn't sell me enough on their campaign leading to similar issues I had with Bernie Sanders last year. I also ran into their candidate for Mayor in passing who made me feel rather uneasy and intimidated by him. It's complicated and I'd rather not blog about it right now, but it did affect my vote.

Writing that also was slightly unnerving so here's my video of the week to ease your troubles...

Kim Justice does these excellent documentaries on retro games and gaming culture. This is just one of many, and it's s still ongoing. In fact, if you contribute to her Patreon, you'll get early access to later episodes. I've only started watching her videos after listening to her interview with the guys at the Retro Hour Podcast, and thought, "Hey, this was the sort of thing I was looking for with Let's Plays." This video on notable Playstation ads of the '90s is another one of my favorites so far and the semiotic examination makes it more than worthwhile.

As for the Rest...

I've been playing around with the Brave browser for about a few months and it's nice to not only see a privacy-centric browser, but one that's similar to Vivaldi. By that, I mean that they are both browsers with features already built in as opposed to having to search through the extensions marketplace. I found that while using private tabs, Brave is very friendly to my SSD over a few hours of usage. As for RAM, it goes without saying as it's also Chromium-based. I felt comfortable enough with it though that I decided to get Firefox off my computer altogether and that's something.

Mastodon might be my new favorite social network once I finally decide to cull through Twitter. It's open-source and decentralized like Diaspora, meaning that there are multiple, separate instances that connect together. It respects privacy in the same way that Ello does and then some, but more importantly, you can pay to keep the network going via creator Gargron's Patreon. My first post on there mentions this, a fact that I hope gets much love. Brave's on the same page with Brave Payments where the user can voluntary send money to sites whose work they support, while wishing not to be tracked by them.

In other contributions worth donating to, the GaymerX East Kickstarter is still ongoing--five more days as of today. Regardless as to whether or not you're attending, you would be providing a space for LBGTQ players to showcase their latest developments and provide a space to well...play. The rewards are also worth it and I'll admit, after watching TieTuesday** play through Read Only Memories, I'm interested. It's my kind of title. Enough said. Either way, if you can, donate.

One last thing before I go. Remember my recent Doctor Who bug, well, I found this blogger via Clayton Hickman on Twitter, and his analysis of Eric Saward's writing is something else:

Saward has a particular prose style which can be brutally efficient, the grammar of which is so at pains to be correct, it’s awkward.  (Not unlike that last sentence.)

Consider his habit of giving characters concise, frank questions to elicit a response from another character. Often these questions try to fit in both a descriptive noun and and active verb. “The escape was prevented?” is an example. The line could be, “everything worked out fine” or “no harm was done”. But in Saward’s style, we find out two things: there was an escape and it failed. In one super efficient question!

Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like something anyone would actually say. See also, “you have the Doctor?” And “you fear an attack?”. And my personal favourite, from The Mark of the Rani, “you suspect another motive?”

That's all for now! I'll blog again soonish!

*Mark Gatiss isn't my favorite of the NuWho writers. At least recently anyway. Loved the throwbacks though.

**If you're interested in catching Tie's streams, he's moved over to Twitch. The archived ROM stream was originally broadcast on Hitbox (now Smashcast). You can also donate to his Patreon here.

26 March, 2017

Catching Up and Belated Weekend Links for March 25th & 26

I've neglected this blog for far longer than I intended. I did write a couple posts about the election, but then just decided to go back offline again, not so much offline as being on Twitter for longer than necessary.  If you came here from there, then that means the IFTTT recipe I put into place works. From here on out, I won't be on Twitter as much in favor of posting here and elsewhere in which long-form content thrives or is a thing (Ello, Goodreads, etc.). I'll expand on that in a later post along with talking about my sudden hiatus and other changes which I thought about over for the past year.

Instead, here's some late links for the weekend of March 25th & 26th, 2017.

SKILL, STAMINA, and LUCK--A BBC Radio 4 Documentary on the history of interactive fiction from text-adventures and Dungeons & Dragons to today's video games.
What was it that set them apart? They were part of a much wider literary innovation known as interactive fiction. You don't merely read them, page by page, cover to cover. You were asked to make decisions all the way along about what would happen next, where you would go, who you would even fight, which page to turn to. And you often had to keep a notebook and pair of dice close to hand while doing so. You might fail along the way and have to start again (or more likely you'd keep your finger in the previous page until you were satisfied you'd made the right choice). Essentially, they were puzzle books.
The World Wide Web turned 28 earlier this month...

The Oxford Comma is important. Atlas Obscura reports on a court case which brings this point home.
The comma, Barron then wrote, was important, since ambiguities “must be construed liberally” under Maine law, meaning that the delivery drivers, who had sued for overtime pay, might in fact be entitled to such pay since “distribution” in the law is not unambiguously separate from “packing for shipment.”
Motherboard reports on the refugees who helped Edward Snowden and the ongoing issues they face today.
As it turns out, this fear was not unwarranted. In the past weeks, Motherboard spoke to the refugees and Snowden's lawyer Tibbo, to find out what's changed since they became known through an investigation of the German Handelsblatt and the National Post. They describe a situation that has deteriorated significantly.

And here's what I've been watching this month starting with Ariel Waldman's look into Earth's history as a giant snowball...

Waldman did an interview for Rebecca Watson and Ken Plume's podcast, Just Admit I'm Right, that also gets streamed live on YouTube for their $5+ patrons. I'll hyperlink the corresponding episode when it comes up on the iTunes feed. Until then, and if your are fans of Rebecca and/or Ken, you should pledge to their respective Patreon pages if you can. I have and I can tell you the streams are worth it.

The next video is actually an playlist for a Let's Play I finished watching yesterday. I've embedded it here, but I recommend that if you're interested for the long-haul, to watch it on YouTube in full. There's also the cut commentary version here.

I've followed Chip and Ironicus for years now, at least since 2010, and their Let's Plays are filled with funny riffs and roasting, while also analyzing the game itself. Programming, design, narrative, anything that makes the game great or interesting gets covered in some way. This latest entry also made it into a Waypoint article by Cameron Kunzelman that not only is a shout out to these LPers but is also about the experience of watching Let's Plays in general:
The magic is happening in the let's play moment. I'm not just enjoying the game, and I'm not just enjoying the two guys talking about it. I am enjoying this weird composite of a game filtered through the mind of two people I've never met. We're a decade into LP culture now, and if you're in it you probably think this is the most boring thing, but it never fails to amaze me that I can enjoy someone else enjoying something so much that I can't conceive of one without the other. I have zero interest in playing an Uncharted game, not because of some problem, but just because they're not for me. But Chip and Ironicus open up a door to an experience of a game, not just a game itself, in a very fulfilling way.
...and that's all from me this weekend. I'll post more soon. Bear with me as I return to the blogosphere and ultimately back to writing.

22 December, 2016

On Trump...

I can't write. I can't think straight. I don't know where to begin...

I spent the evening watching the Al Jazeera coverage and planned on writing as it progressed for NaNoWriMo's sake. I stopped trying. I tweet-stormed through most of the night, crossing fingers and fearing the worst as the projections rolled in. Eventually I gave up, and now with the electors' votes tallied, I've just, well, had it. I've lost faith, assuming that the electors would be intelligent enough to block his entry. John Oliver said it best when he said that, "This is not normal," and people like journalist Sarah Kendzior on Twitter go above and beyond explaining how unordinary it is.

 I would prefer not to reiterate how it will all go to crap now. Just let this sink in, "this" being the result of Poland's Law and Justice Party's first year in office:

[...]now school textbooks are being redesigned to downplay evolution and climate change and to recount a fanciful version of Poland's history; the government is mooting giving hoteliers the right to turn away customers based on sexual orientation or skin-color; a minister rejected an international accord against wife-beating because it subverted traditional gender roles; Parliament is about to get the right to choose which journalists may report from its debates; the guy in charge of national sex-ed curriculum believes that condoms give women cancer; a proposed law will virtually end opposition protests; and disloyal journalists at the "independent" state broadcaster have been purged.   

Goes without saying that something similar could happen here. Preferably, it won't or at least be stifled greatly by efforts from groups including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The latter of which I donated to this year and am now a member of for the year until I pledge again.

But still, everyone loses. Those in minority groups will feel it most, but if you're also white, cisgendered, or part of the status quo consider the fact that Trump will now have full access to the NSA or how he plans to take down the EPA through his Cabinet.

There's a lot more that I want to say, but I'm saving that for a separate post. This is just the gist of how I feel and what might happen. More or less things which I mentioned in my previous post on the election, plus the rest of his baggage.

The American Majority did not vote for him, but here we are...

07 November, 2016

On the 2016 US Presidential Election

I'll level with you: Come election day and ideally, Lessig would have my vote. He was my initial candidate of choice when he announced that he would be running as a Democratic nominee last year. This is the person who founded Creative Commons, collaborated with Aaron Swartz as both friend and academic, and wrote books about the issues facing the US political system including One Way Forward and Republic, Lost. I was introduced to his work through the former, which inspired me in many ways; using Creative Commons licenses for my blog and written work, continuing to write letters to senators and representatives--through a service usually offered by the Electronic Frontier Foundation or Sunlight Foundation alongside others--and being more digitally aware and literate about said politics and politicians that reinforced Dan Gillmor's lessons in Mediactive.

Here was a candidate who would address the issues that mattered to me, even if he would resign once he signed the Citizen's Equality Act into law. This was someone who encouraged and continues to persuade people to get involved beyond the voting process so that, theoretically, their voice mattered more to the point that public officials took action with new legislation.

Unfortunately, he couldn't make it to the first round of debates, even if he was initially qualified to participate.  

I dismissed Donald Trump as nothing more than a mere celebrity just flaunting his fiscal privilege. Hillary was just Hilary, as in she was running and had an ample amount of experience. I thought that was perfectly fine regardless of her stance on particular issues which jibbed with me which didn't cross my mind then. Bernie seemed great at first, but never really got into the semantics about how he would go about fulfilling his campaign promises.

Now that mere celebrity actually has a chance to be an archaic epidemic filled with deplorable regress. A guy who, given the opportunity, would appoint Peter Thiel to the Supreme Court where First Amendment rights would go to die. Bigotry would be trending with colonial, binary pride reigning supreme. 

That's the short of it, and it's embarrassing. Goes without saying, it is also menacing in more ways than one. 

This election cycle has been hell all around, and not just because of Trump. The harassment of anyone who supports their candidate of choice, merely because they do, shows us how far we've come from the days of #HasJustineLandedYet (answer: not at all). The candidates aren't all that inspiring and even those of third-parties have been a disappointment. I say this as someone who initially supported Jill Stein after Lessig was out of the running until she started pandering to the anti-science crowd and thought that Brexit was a good idea. The fact that Trump is essentially turning the whole thing into a tabloid gossip-fest with his tweets, the "locker-room talk" video, and failing to answer questions at the debates, just so he can attack Hillary, doesn't help anyone.

Thing is, while my tweets and posts may infer otherwise, I won't usually go and tell people how to vote. There are two exceptions to this rule: The first one being for prevent a local referendum from passing...

...and now this one, as in I ask you to consider Hillary at the ballot box. 

Say what you will about her stance on fracking and the TPP--I also take issue to them--but at least under her Administration we'll still be able to advocate to curb the former and to reconsider the latter. Remember Lessig. Voting is just step one. The rest is up to you.  

Post-Script: Here's how Trump would impact my town's economy with regards to shipbuilding. Also, I would take the time to read Jon Ronson's expose on the connection between Trump and Alex Jones of Infowars notoriety.  

16 August, 2016

Vivaldi: One Year Later...

A little over a year ago, I talked about the Vivaldi browser which was still in its development stages. Since then I flirted between it and Firefox, mostly because I was concerned about its Chromium skeleton and some add-ons and sites which didn't function properly at the time, resulting in a brief Ello post.

Now with its third stable build, I finally made the switch to Vivaldi as my default browser, installing it on most of my laptops but one. (That one's an old HP with Windows 7 that I thought about tinkering around with--by installing Ubuntu or Qubes OS along with upgrading any possible parts--but wanted to wait until the free Windows 10 offer passed.)

Many of the features in Vivaldi mentioned in my previous review are, no doubt, part of the reason for the big switch. But for a browser over a year old, the team made some leaps and bounds in development alongside other circumstances that ultimately convinced me to make the switch...

Tab Stacking

Mentioning this feature again because Firefox discontinued its Tab Groups (Panorama) feature from stable build 45 onwards. I realized that this was their answer to the tab stacks far too late to make excessive use of it. The only major difference between stacks and groups is that the latter treats the clusters as separate windows, or rather it features one group while keeping the others in the Panorama UI. I find that stacks are far more useful since I can easily access them without the need of a keyboard shortcut. They're all in the same window, which makes browsing, blogging, or just playing around on forums and social networks much more practical, productive, and fun.

Hibernating Tabs and Tab Stacks

I love to think of this as one of Vivaldi's answers to Chromium's infamous and excessive use of RAM and other resources, which was why I never used Chrome on my Macbooks except for that one time which, personally, lasted only a week. Even if the computer I use now can take it gladly, with sixteen gigs soldered on, I just like that it's there in case I want to save RAM and battery. This feature will prove useful for my 11-inch Macbook Air that still chugs along after six years on two gigs. Granted that one got more use writing college papers than anything else, but either way, if I need to make use of it again when I'm out and about, tab hibernation will make browsing a little less stressful on the hardware.

Custom Themes

One of the new features with the latest build that allows the user to alter the look of their browser by playing around with the color schemes. In the same way that Vivaldi's built-in features allow me to use only two extensions, as opposed to going between four and six in Firefox, this new addition means that I longer need to skim through and download Personas or themes online. Creating themes in Vivaldi is simple and, more importantly, a blast. The ones built in also look lovely in case the user doesn't wish to make one.

The current theme I use now I named "Glade" and to replicate it for yourself, here's what you need to do.

Click to edit the "Dark" theme and set the following values in the Color Editor section...

Background: #081622
Foreground: #cdeeff
Highlight: #7bffdd
Accent: #03897d

Uncheck everything in theme preferences and leave corner rounding at its default setting. In the "Color" section, just check "Fade Foreground Colors" and the theme will be complete.

Private Browsing

A feature that made its debut shortly after my initial review and in 1.3, it only gets better. While the UI for some extensions are still buggy, in my experience, the fact I can access them while in private browsing is a sigh of relief.


Built-in with Chromium along with the sandboxing--as far as I know. Firefox is slowly getting there with the e10s testing, and admittedly, I'm now on their beta channel hopping to get a sample of it. Getting there will take time though as Asa Dotzler wrote when Firefox 48 went into beta. Personally, this is relatively minor, but still a good, under-the-hood aspect to keep in mind.

28 October, 2015

Plans for NaNoWriMo and those Short Stories

I'll admit, I completely forgot about the short stories that I intended to post in August. Instead, I got sidetracked reading through what I had for Maximum Security Showcase so far...

...and I decided it needs the NaNoWriMo treatment for the second time in a row.

Why? I noticed while skimming through it that there was too much going on, and that some of it detracted from the major conflict at play. In some places, it made the whole thing a disjointed mess with supporting characters taking the action away from where it actually should be. Hence the decision to undertake NaNoWriMo yet again.

Unlike last year, I'll be using LibreOffice to write the story so that I'm not stuck, going anal over what to title those scenes in Scrivener. I did a test writing sprint in late August and managed 638 words in about an hour. With that, I have no doubt that I can sprint through November and finish with a much tighter story.

Wishing fellow NaNoWriMo participants all the best this November!

As for the short stories...

I'm pushing them back to December and January respectively as a two-part serial featuring Mark and Andy from the flash fiction filed in Man vs. Retail. They will be cross-posted on Ello and Wattpad as I mentioned previously.

Additional Note: I'll be honest: I also got distracted by doing some late Spring cleaning, binge-watched some old favorites, and pondered about leaving Facebook indefinitely, which I finally deactivated last week. I harped on Ello about the network alongside other privacy snafus. I initally posted something about that last week, but retracted it, preferring to wait until my one year Ello anniversary rolls around to explain why.