November 30, 2014

Remembering A Time

I remember a time when the world was endlessly fascinating, from the moment I woke up to the time I went to sleep.  It wasn't without its problems, but on the whole it was "an endless summer."

I don't often feel that way anymore.  Now I can't wait to go back to sleep, because my dreams are endlessly fascinating, and everyday life isn't.  It's all about what I'm NOT doing and what I CAN'T do.  I don't like it, but until the job situation changes, there's not much I can do about it.

Remember when the world was endlessly fascinating?  I haven't wanted to be a kid again in a long time and I don't want to be now, but there are times when I envy that Wonderduck of 40 years ago.

He still had his dreams. 

Posted by: Wonderduck at 10:38 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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November 29, 2014

A Curiously Interesting Form of Frustration

Of late, I've found myself spending time playing a MMO game called War Thunder.  For those who aren't aware of the game, War Thunder is primarily a WWII-era air combat (mostly)sim.  I say "(mostly)sim", because there are three different difficulty levels you can play.  The first is Arcade, where it's nearly impossible to make your plane do Bad Things, like spin or rip your wings off.  Flight models are roughly correct, but relaxed, and there's aiming assistance as well.  The second level is Realistic.  It's difficult to get into a spin, but possible.  You can dismember your airplane, and G-forces can knock your pilot out, though I've never managed that feat.  Damage is modeled in more detail as well... you can ruin a rudder, instead of just doing "tail damage", for example.  Finally, there's Simulator, the highest level possible.  I've never dared climb that mountain, mostly because I don't want to pull my flight stick out of storage.

Fear the Peashooter!
Everybody starts off with the very wimpiest airplanes, Spanish Civil War-era biplanes or early monoplanes like the P-26 above.  Then, as you fly more, you earn research points to unlock more advanced aircraft.  At the same time, you also research improvements to your current aircraft, like better engine tuning or replacement of worn equipment... that way, your old plane gets better as you get ready for the next generation.

For example, the direct replacement of the Peashooter is the P-36 Hawk, which is replaced in turn by the P-40.  Which is not to say that Americans are the only planes available!  Five nations are currently available: USA, Japan, Germany (with Italy, which are about to be spun off), England and the Soviet Union.  All the legendary planes are able to be earned, from Gladiators to Me262s to some of the "paper airplanes" Japan had on the designer's table when the war ended.

Combat balancing is done on a tier system, roughly based on generational levels.  The P-36, for example, is a Tier I plane, where the P-40 is a Tier II.  The A6M2 Zero is also a Tier II aircraft, as is the Hellcat.  Of course, the Spitfire is anything from a Tier II to a Tier IV, depending on the version you're looking at.  Tier V is where you find the jets... we won't be talking about those!  In any battle, you can see planes within one tier of you... so if you've got a Hellcat, you could be up against A5M4 Claudes or later versions of the Me109s

Speak of the devil...
Fighters are not the only planes in the game, either!  Bombers and seaplanes are also available to fly, and there's nothing sadder than seeing a Zero do unspeakable things to a Swordfish.  So I won't show you that!  Here's a Dauntless instead:

You'll have 20 players or more in an Arcade battle, evenly divided with little regard to nationalities.  It's not uncommon to see Buffaloes being menaced by Wildcats, or Me110s under attack from 109s, for example.  In Realistic, though, it's nationality-based.  If you're in a P-38 Lightning, you won't be dogfighting a Corsair... not that you'd want to in any case.  The flight models would make that a fool's game, and one that'd be short and unhappy for the P-38. 

War Thunder is free-to-play, and the cynic in me wants to add "pay-to-win".  That's not strictly true, however.  Everything a pay player can get is available to the free player as well, it'll just take a lot more time spent grinding away at the tech tree.  One thing that amazes me is just how stunning the game looks. 

While all the pictures in this post are from the in-game replay system, quality doesn't drop when you look at gameplay screenshots.  It really does look this good all the time.  So why don't I just freakin' love War Thunder?

more...

Posted by: Wonderduck at 02:25 AM | Comments (11) | Add Comment
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November 26, 2014

Twas The Night Before Thanksgiving...

...and The Librarian and I had Italian food and two hours of enjoyably pointless conversation.

For someone like me who professes to hate human beings, I sure miss having the opportunity to talk to them.

Enjoy the mass consumption of turkey and potatoes and stuffing and cranberries and corn souffle and gravy and broccoli and pumpkin pie and other foods.  Or, if you're in a location that doesn't  celebrate America's Thanksgiving Day holiday, have a swell Thursday. 

But consider moving.  Because lots of turkey and potatoes and stuffing and cranberries and corn souffle and gravy and broccoli and pumpkin pie and other foods is a good thing.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 09:34 PM | Comments (7) | Add Comment
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November 24, 2014

Music! Nonstop!

A week or so ago, I get this e-mail from by brother in feathers GreyDuck talking about having "introduced someone to the Yoshida Brothers the other day."  I had never heard of these people, but I trust GD's taste in music to approximate my own pretty well, so I looked 'em up.

Yoshida Brothers - Rising

Who knew you could shred on shamisen?

Yoshida Brothers - Storm

I'm thinking this was from the soundtrack to the Spy Hunter video game.  If it wasn't, it should have been.
 
Yoshida Brothers - The National Anthem


I've never been a fan of Radiohead, but covers like this could convince me.

There was once a time in my life where the very concept of listening to "world music," no matter how funkified or Americanized it was, would have appalled me.  I guess that's fallen by the wayside, huh?

Thanks, GD!  Good stuff here.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 01:54 PM | Comments (8) | Add Comment
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November 05, 2014

Farewell, TVJAPN, I Hardly Knew Ye

A few weeks back I was scrolling through the multitude of music channels I have on my satellite dish package.  Mostly from Sirius/XM, with some "CD Channels" that I assume come from DISH itself, they're often a good way to freshen up my music listening experience... even if I have worn out the transponders on 1st Wave (holy crap, there's a Spandau Ballet documentary?  Yes please!) and Watercolors.  Somewhere up there in the sky, there's a satellite with two grooves worn in it... anyway.  I was scrolling through the stations and I went a little too far, into the distant 9000-level channels where One Does Not Go.  I'm not sure why One Does Not Go there, as it's almost all repeats of other channels for backup purposes, things like the Department of Defense channel (not as awesome as you might think), and BYU's in-house station.

And one surprising thing, something listed as TVJAPN.  It was literally the last channel listed, something like #9899 on my grid, and it's exactly what you think it is: a TV channel in Japanese.  It's apparently run through NHK, and is aimed at Japanese nationals living in North America for work or because of globalization or whatever.  News in Japanese, dramas, music/variety shows, all in Japanese.  Oh, and lots and lots of Domu-kun.

For something like three weeks, I had access to it; I assume it was some free preview.

Now, I'm not ashamed to admit that I don't understand Japanese at all.  Some words and phrases I've heard via anime, sure, but not in any coherent way.  That didn't stop me, not one bit!  At least the show listings were in English, which made it easy for me to record them.  Since this is a channel for Japanese expats, there was a lot of travelogue shows to remind them of home.  When an hour-long program is called "A Leisurely Railway Journey Across Japan," you just know it's pretty much made for Wonderduck.

So I've got something like twelve hours of travelogues across the Japanese countryside, and another dozen hours of other stuff, cluttering up my DVR, waiting for the day I feel a need to travel Japan from my comfy chair.

TVJAPN is gone now, replaced by TV Russia, it looks like... but it's listed in cyrillic, so no travelogues for me.  But for a few weeks, it was a fun, unexpected bonus.  No anime, though.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 09:36 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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November 03, 2014

A Thin Ray Of Sunshine

As the assembled readers of my blog, fondly known as "The Pond Scum", know, it's been a less-than-stellar past three months around these parts.  Two weeks ago, things potentially took a turn for the horrible.  In Illinois, those of us who have been separated from our jobs in a manner that was less than mutually friendly are not, in fact, automatically eligible for Unemployment benefits.  I had to appeal for those benefits, go through a telephone hearing with the State, who approved them... y'see, the rules say that those who were let go had to be let go for "malicious intent" to not get benefits.

Which makes sense.  I mean, if someone is fired because they spent a few hours systematically mutilating mannequins with machetes, they deserve to be let go, right?  Right.  In any case, that's not why I was let go... I'm not going to get into those details here.  Anyway, the State adjudicator ruled in my favor and everything was fine, right?  Nope!  The Company also has the right to appeal, and they did... information of which made it to me two weeks ago.  I made arrangements to speak with a State-appointed attorney on Wednesday.  However, my cellphone was acting up, so I ran to The Old Home Pond to use their phone, make sure I could speak to them.

They agreed to take my case, and all was well, right?  Sure.  As I was leaving The Old Home Pond, I forgot that there was a broken step on the front porch.  They're wide concrete steps, and for whatever reason, I descended the stairs on the opposite side than I normally do... and hit the broken spot.  The result of this saw me face down in the shrubbery on the far side of the porch, scratched and nicked here and there... and my right leg in rather a lot of agony. 

See, the shrubbery is bordered by bricks inset into the ground about halfway... kinda like this... and my shin landed dead center on the end of one of them.  After extricating myself from the predicament, I rolled up my pants leg and saw that the wound was the shape and size of the end of a brick.  Nice.  It was bleeding, and swelling and discoloration occurred almost instantly.

Last week was the hearing for the company's Appeal, with Legal Judge and everything.  Also last week was a lot of discomfort as my leg healed and hurt and wow that's the strangest color ever.  I was told that we'd hear the results of the Appeal "next week," aka this week.  By the end of last week, however, I noticed that my entire lower leg, from the knees to the toes, was still swollen and a darkish red.  After Ph.Duck's wife, Chris (a nurse!) took a look at it, she thought it showed all the symptoms of something called cellulitis... indeed, the picture of the guy's leg on the page looks very similar to mine.  Not exactly though, as mine has lots of bruising involved still.  Anyway, Chris recommended I go see a doctor to get something more official regarding the leg.

So today I went to an emergency care place, and the doctor was pretty sure everything is fine, it's probably inflammation and swelling from the impact... indeed, the impact spot still has a big  knot on it, like there's half a tennis ball under the skin.  If it doesn't show signs of improvement over the coming days, I have a prescription for an antibiotic, but he doesn't think I'll need it.  With a less-dark feeling in my head, I made my way back to Pond Central, just in time for the mail to be delivered... and in there was a letter from the Unemployment folks.  I get to keep my benefits.   Go me.

Still, any sunshine right now is welcome.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 03:09 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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