Author: katster

Black & White 4: Chairs

Black & White 4: Chairs

I spend way too much time in this room, mostly in the chair at the far end of the room facing the camera. It’s long and narrow, and when it’s a day when the room is full, it can get a bit claustrophobic. The weirdness of the room is because it used to be the waiting room and reception area of a doctor’s office.

But in black and white, it looks artsy.

(LJ/Dreamwidth readers: The crossposter I use for both these services does not attach the featured image, so you will have to click through the link at the bottom of the post to see the image.)

Black & White 3: The Platform

Black & White 3: The Platform

This is Skimbleshanks. I name all my laptops after cats in Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, and the prior ones have been Macavity and Mistoffelees. This is part of my larger computer naming scheme, the poems of T.S. Eliot, of which I’ve had desktops bearing the names of wasteland, prufrock, and hollowman.

I bought Skimbleshanks in 2013, and even though I bought a top of the line gaming computer at the time, it’s starting to show its age. The nice graphic card burned out because the laptop had a heat problem. The ports on the right side of the computer don’t work because, in trying to release a busted DVD drive from the slot, I accidentally dropped it, forcing the little USB receiver that goes with my mouse which I had left in a USB port to shove the motherboard to the left. Most recently, I managed to spill water over the computer. Thankfully, it only killed the keyboard letters z, x, c, v, m, period, comma, right shift, and enter. That’s why there’s a second keyboard in front of the laptop.

Alas, money to replace anything doesn’t exist, so I’ll just have to deal with Skimbleshanks’ quirks and hope it doesn’t get worse. I hate not having a job.

(LJ/Dreamwidth readers: The crossposter I use for both these services does not attach the featured image, so you will have to click through the link at the bottom of the post to see the image.)

Prior entries in this series:

On Patriotism

On Patriotism

I don’t like to talk much about politics in public places, and none is more public than my blog. Even though I have a disclaimer, I’m searching for a job and there’s some worries that if I disclose my political beliefs, it might cost me a job. But I can’t write about this subject without saying it. I’m left of center and a Democrat. There are reasons for these stances, but I don’t want to get too deep in those weeds right now.

Anyway. I want to say that I’m tired of the insinuation that because I’m on the left side of the political system, I cannot be a patriot. Even more offensive are the ones that say that I’m not a “real American”, when I can trace my roots to the Mayflower or, in another direction, the Bering Land Bridge. I’ve had ancestors on this soil long before this country existed. Telling me I’m not a “real American” because of my political stance simply ticks me off.

I am a patriot. I love this country. I’m proud to be an American, just as I’m proud to be a Californian. I still attempt to hit the high notes in the Star Spangled Banner. I’ll admit I loved poking through the airplanes the Air Force and the Navy would bring to the airshow, and cheer as the Blue Angels or the Thunderbirds went through their paces.

From the beginning, we were a beacon of new ideas. The French Revolution — the call of Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité — has its roots in the American revolution. A fledgling nation, trying an entirely new way of governing, became an inspiration for people around the world.

Where I depart from those who say that they are patriots is that I am capable of understanding that (gasp) America isn’t perfect. For all the good this country has brought into the world, there are ways in which we have completely failed. The stain of slavery is woven into our founding documents, and the resulting treatment of African-Americans to this day perpetuates that great sin. There’s the internment camps of World War II, taking American citizens and putting them behind barbed wire for no other reason than that they were ethnically Japanese, assuming that none of them were actually American. There is the way we’ve treated Native Americans, the ones that were here first. And last, don’t forget the numerous governments around the world that we’ve destabilized or outright overthrew. We have brought light to the world, but we have also brought hideous darkness.

No nation — no person — stands at the pinnacle of perfection. Even heroes have feet of clay. The United States is no exception in this matter. We’ve done amazing good across the world; we’ve perpetuated some dark deeds. How can I be a patriot and think this way? Very simple:

“My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.”

Senator Carl Schurz ended a speech on the Senate floor in response to Senator Matthew Carpenter’s use of the first half of the phrase. But the phrase has a kernel of truth that connects to something I was taught in therapy. I learned about the juxtaposition of two important thoughts: “I am good enough.” and “I can be better”. While those thoughts seem to be contradictory, there is truth. I am good enough, but I can always strive to be better.

I feel the same about my country. The United States is good enough, even great. But she can strive to be better — we can strive to be better, because the United States is the sum of all of us. Such is the nature of a republic.

I prefer to think of it as a thoughtful and nuanced patriotism, as opposed to simple “Love it or leave it!” rhetoric. But I am just as much a patriot as any right-winger, and I am not going to give ground simply because I happen to be on the lefty side of politics.

Black & White 2: It’s What’s for Dinner

Black & White 2: It’s What’s for Dinner

I can cook a few things. One of the things I can cook is stew, and that’s what I made for dinner tonight. I promise it actually was more appetizing than it looks in a black and white picture. I experimented with potato sizing on this batch and ended up with a thick potato sludge, which means that I cut them too small. I’m still trying to hunt down a happy medium.

However, I hate stew in the very end stages, when it’s boiling through all that thickness. At that point, it turns into a mudpot of the sort they have in Yellowstone or Lassen. The nasty thing about it is that it spits boiling hot stew goop onto the unfortunate hand stirring the pot. I have to wear an oven mitt to stir. It’s crazy.

But it was good. We have leftovers!

Prior posts in this series:

(Note to LJ and Dreamwidth users: The crossposter I’m using does not allow featured images to come through. If you would like to see the post, you will need to click through to the blog post.)

Black & White 1: My buddy

Black & White 1: My buddy

There’s a challenge going around on Facebook to spend a week taking a black and white photo of your life. The catch (besides that it must be in black and white) is that it must have no people in it. I figured it gives me something to blog about.

The picture on this post is Winter, our grey and white kitten (he’s seven months old), who came into our life at the beginning of July and brought joy to a house that had none. He’s part, if not full, Maine Coon, and we know he’s going to be a big boy if he looks like a full-grown cat at seven months. (He looked full-grown at six months, but we know he’s got a bit more to go because his paws are still a little big for the rest of him.)

But he’s my buddy and my fuzzy boy. Okay, technically, he’s my sister’s cat, but I love him and call him mine.

Unravelled

Unravelled

No, that’s not a statement on my life at the moment, or a statement of my interest in the fabric arts.

It’s actually about a neat little game I’ve been playing called Unravel. It’s available for Windows, Playstation 4, and Xbox One. This has been a game I’ve wanted to get since it first came out in 2015, but I caught it on sale for five dollars and pulled the trigger.

I’m glad I did. The premise of the game is about memories — in the opening cut scene, you’re introduced to a grandmother who is straightening pictures of her grandkids and sighing. It’s obvious they don’t come around much anymore. I’m not entirely sure why — if they’re grown up, or if it’s something sadder. But a red ball of yarn rolls out and from that we meet the character we play.

It’s amazing how simple the mechanic of a little yarn guy (called Yarnie) unravelling himself to get through the various worlds. He can use his yarn as a lasso, or as a way to climb back up into spots. He can tie knots to various posts, and can use them to make a bridge so he can jump higher or transport objects. To get more yarn, he crosses through spools, which serve as the checkpoints of the game.

But I think what amazes me most is simply the background and interactive graphics. Here, let me show you some of the screenshots I’ve collected.

Read More Read More

gamer geek…

gamer geek…

Oe of the things I like to do for fun is to play video games. I’m not very good at them, but I like playing them. I go in fits and starts where I’m playing obsessively for a while, and then lag off for a while, and then pick it up again. My favorites are generally puzzlers, two dimensional side scrollers, and large sandbox worlds.

I cut my teeth on the original NES, which probably gives you a rough idea of how old I am, and I’ve still got a lot of love for those old eight bit games. My system of choice right now is an Xbox One, but I keep looking at the Switch.

I don’t generally play button mashers, which a lot of fighting and first person shooters involve, and I rarely do online gaming — partially because I’m not that good at them, and partially because I don’t need the aggravation. That said, if you give me a first person shooter with a giant sandbox world and don’t railroad me to stay on course, I may end up enjoying it.

I could be here all night telling you about my favorite games and why, but I think I’ll go with this short list.

  • Legend of Zelda series — have to go with Windwaker as my favorite, although I haven’t gotten to play Breath of the Wild yet. No spoilers!
  • Grand Theft Auto — it has that sandbox feel of “let’s see where this goes” along with the fact there’s a cheat code for a rocket launcher and a police helicopter to shoot out of the sky…look, I know, in real life,
    it’s not a good idea to shoot police helicopters with rocket launchers. Or green laser pointers for that matter.
  • Mario Kart — racing with your friends in cars driven by Nintendo characters. Plus, the controls aren’t overly detailed, so it’s easy even for a newbie to get the hang of.
  • Amimal Crossing — There’s so much to do, and some sharp humor. Also, I love Blathers.
  • Portal — A first person shooter after my own Companion Cube. There’s a gun. It shoots orange portals and blue portals. Things go in the blue portal and out the orange portal (or vice versa). It’s surprising how this game with such simple dynamics stole my heart, but it’s witty, touching, and puzzling all at the same time. The second game is more of the same, with a few new dynamics to puzzle through.

In my next post, I’ll talk about a new game I’ve encountered that’s won my heart. In the meantime, what’s your favorite game, if you’re into video games?

(Picture by David Mulder (davidmulder61) on Flickr (original link) CC BY-ND 2.0

It’s a bit dusty in here.

It’s a bit dusty in here.

blow

cough cough

Yuck, didn’t realize there was so much dust in here. I also seem to have acquired a nice colony of web spiders…

Anyway, I’m trying to blog every day this month for a project called Holidalies, ran by my good friends Richard and Jennifer. So far, it’s going about as well as NaNoWriMo did, which is to say not very well.

So I’m going to need some help here. Is there anything anybody wants to hear about from me? I’m willing to give any subject a go.

Hopefully this’ll mean that my blog gets used again.

I have a new blog

I have a new blog

So my friends Zibb and Mal, and I have started a new blog where we’re talk science fiction and fantasy and mastering Ahri from league of legends, in all corners of the media world from books to movies to games. You can find us over at Conceptual Neighborhood and while we’re still ramping up, there’s some good stuff there. (PS: thanks for the name suggestion.)

I will probably still post here occasionally about things I’m thinking of that don’t necessarily fit the baliwick of Conceptual Neighborhood.

Quotation Mania

Quotation Mania

On the blog itself, I keep in the sidebar, in prominent position above the fold, a random quotes file. Tonight I was adding one of my favorite quotes from Canadian politician Jack Layton (rest in peace).

“My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

I’m always looking for new quotes to add to the sidebar. I’ve got whimsical — I’ve got one from Legend of Zelda: Windwaker in there — and I’ve got serious. But I’m always looking for more.

So what’s your favorite quotation?

I heart Reddit Secret Santa

I heart Reddit Secret Santa

I walked outside with bare feet and only a short-sleeved shirt on, no jacket. The temperature was about 44 degrees outside, which isn’t much for the East Coast contingent, but is starting to border on cold for Californians. By the end of the trip, I had regretted forgetting one of those items, and no, it wasn’t my shoes.

It was a beautiful night, though. It’s rained recently, it’s chilly, and there was a rather stiff north wind blowing today, and between the three, it’s always clearest night to look up. Tonight, as I stepped out, I could see Orion climbing up the sky from his perch in the east. Yes, it’s winter, when one of my favorite constellations disappears and the other one appears. (The other one is Scorpius, which I have some attachment to because it’s my birth sign, and it’s, just like Orion, very easy to spot in the summer sky.)

The box!  There's something awesome in here for me!
The box! There’s something awesome in here for me!

I walk across the street to the mailbox, wondering if a package has arrived. And sure enough, with the mail, there’s a key to the parcel mailbox in the mail. Sure enough, inside is a box for me, and the return address is labeled Secret Santa. I’m shivering by now, but I extract my package and finish pulling the mail out of the box, and head back across the street. In the west, the moon grins a Cheshire cat smile, almost as if it’s as happy as I am.

I distributed the mail to the various members of the household, set my box down and poked through the letters. Nothing interesting — well, that’s not quite true. One of the state job announcements I could most definitely do and it sounds fun — being part of the intrusion detection team at the California Franchise Tax Board, the folks who collect California’s state income tax. But I’m getting off subject. Finally, I pull out the box and prepare to open it.

Let me pause to explain. Believe it or not, Reddit has a Secret Santa tradition. You sign up for it — all that’s needed is an active Reddit account. On a certain day, signups close, and then they metaphorically shake the hat using fancy algorithms (that may or may not have been invented by Al Gore) and they match folks up in one long chain. That is, I give a gift to somebody who has a completely different person to give a gift to, who then has another person, and so on and so forth. Your gifter is not your giftee. [1]

So…this box was from my secret santa. Cool! What’s in it? Let’s open it up!

When no knife is handy, resort to mailbox key!
When no knife is handy,
resort to mailbox key!

I have three different pocketknives/multitools with a blade on them. I have no idea where any of the three of them are, so I hack at the tape with the mailbox key. This took a bit. My Secret Santa put good tape on that sucker. But I hack at it valiantly and finally managed to get the box open. Here’s the moment of truth. What did Santa bring this year?

So, in the box were three very wonderful things. One of them is a classic Mario amiibo. If any of you know me, you know I love these things, and when I get my room cleaned up, I’m going to hang a beautiful shelf my papa made for me to hold them. I did actually have this one before, but it’s cool, because I had been toying with getting a second one to make a custom with Luigi’s classic NES colors. So now I have one to do that with!

Cool things for me!
Cool things for me!

The next thing is a deck of cards, but they’re not your ordinary playing cards. No! These are Writer Emergency Cards! So when you’re writing a story, there’s Idea Cards, which are illustrated and contain an idea, and Detail Cards, which give you helpful suggestions and specific tips. I haven’t pulled these out of their package yet, but it’s awesome!

And the last is a notebook. I love notebooks, and this one is pretty cool. It’s large (I love large notebooks) and it’s got faint lines on the page so you have the lines to center your writing, but it doesn’t get picked up in scans. I am certain I’ll get use out of this.

So this was a good Secret Santa haul.

And last, there was this wonderful note buried in the box.

lovely note from my secret santa
lovely note from my secret santa

I love reddit Secret Santa, and mine in particular.

[1] At this point my brain wandered off on a tangent involving a secret santa group I was in freshman year. I’ll explain later.

Help fix Jill’s car!

Help fix Jill’s car!

My sister has the worst luck.

She’s been ill and has been told by her doctors to minimize the time working and try to focus on getting better. But in October, something happened that has made her really upset. In the span of a few short weeks, the brakes went, the ball bearing decided to be on the verge of failing, the battery died and had to be replaced, the starter stopped, and then worst of all…the timing belt broke.

And when the timing belt broke, the car broke too.

My sister has next to no money. The cost to replace an engine is prohibitive, but the whole family needs that car running again. So we figured we’d see if the Internet wanted to help us out.

I know it’s a tight season, but anything you can donate will be a help.

You can find the donation widget in the sidebar (third down) or by going to https://www.youcaring.com/jillscar.

Thanks in advance for any help you can give. And even if you can’t help, maybe you could pass it on.

A bit of excitement.

A bit of excitement.

Not the recommended kind, though.

I’ve been getting a lot of headaches, sometimes very migraine-like, lately. I’ve got a consult in with the neurologist for a week and a half from now, but for the moment, I’ve been taking Aleve at the first signs of a headache and resorting to the heavy guns (sumatriptan) if it doesn’t go away. If the headache wasn’t making me feel useless, the sumatriptan puts me out, or at least makes me very groggy. Hence, heavy guns.

So, I’m sitting there, scanning documents, when my head starts to hurt. Ah, I say, I have a headache, and reach for my backpack where I keep a bottle of naproxen sodium, which is generic Aleve. I count out two pills, put them in my mouth, and take a swig of my soda in order to swallow them.

First pill goes down fine. Second pill? Not so much. I immediately cough badly (I think it tried to go down the windpipe), but after a moment, I speak, so I’m obviously not choking on a stupid pill. Hell of a way to end a life, eh? “Here lies katster, choked on a pill.”

Unfortunately, it felt like it was still lodged in my throat in a rather uncomfortable way. Some water, some tea, and some food seemed to make the pain die down, but it reappears randomly, sometimes feeling like it’s moved and is touching where my gag reflex is, or that it’s in the tube where my ear connects to my throat, or just stuck.

Everything I’ve read on the Internet says that it’s probably not actually a pill stuck there, but that my throat is mighty irritated because it left a scratch or a bruise in the throat when it did momentarily get stuck. I guess the nerves in your throat are particularly sensitive. I’ll keep an eye on it, and if it gets worse, I’ll go see a doctor. If it stays the same, I have an appointment with my primary care doctor on Tuesday.

But trust me, it’s not much fun to feel like there’s something lodged in your throat that you can’t get out.

…yeah, that was my day. How was yours?

(PS: Tombstone courtesy of Tombstone Builder and my own demented mind. If you can’t laugh at things…)

What’s in a name?

What’s in a name?

So…I ponder weird things in the shower.

Today’s thoughts started with the saw I like to use about whether people from Roseville were Rosevillains. (It’s actually Rosevillians, with the i and a transposed, but that got me thinking.

Why is what we call people from a place so weird? For example, I’m a Californian. People that live in the biggest city in the metro area are Sacramentans, and over in the Bay Area, we have San Franciscans and Oaklanders and Berkelians/Berkeleyites. (And also whatever people from San Jose call themselves, which I haven’t figured out.)

People from New York are New Yorkers, people from LA…well, that’s one of the weird ones, as they’re Angelenos. Philadelphians and Washingtonians. Bostonians and Torontonians. Ohioans and Michiganders. (I think the later’s right…)

Expand out a bit more, and it gets really weird if you think about Europe. Europeans, yes, but you have French and Germans and English and Spaniards, Dutch and Danes and Norse and Swedes and Finns and Poles and Greeks. But you also have Italians and Russians and Hungarians and Romanians.

And Asia. Chinese and Japanese and Vietnamese, but also Indians and Laotians and Indonesians and Cambodians. Afghans and Filipinos, Mongolians and Koreans. Then you have Pakistanis and Iraqis and Israelis, but also Syrians and Lebanese and Egyptians, Kurds and Turks and Turkmen.

Even out a bit farther — Earthlings and Martians. Although I admit, I’m fond of Terran as an alternative to Earthlings.

I think we can work out a few rules from this.

Places that end in -ia, like California and Colombia and Russia get an n shoved on the end, thus Californians and Colombians and Russians.

Places that end in -o tend to end -an, and sometimes, but not always get the o chopped off. Sacramento and San Francisco are Sacramentans and San Franciscans, but Idaho and Ohio are Idahoans and Ohioans.

-ing will sometimes get -er tacked on the end. Same with k.

Places ending with the letter n often, but not always, have an -ian tacked on. (Berlin/Berliner is a notable exception, as is Japan/Japanese.)

And some places are just irregular. I’m looking at you, Europe.

Yeah. All this from a stupid thought in the shower.

What do they call people from where you’re from?

(Sign from this wonderful article celebrating Boring, Oregon’s sister city matchup with Dull, Scotland.)

Bacon Soda!

Bacon Soda!

I promised bacon soda and I will deliver!

So I wandered into BevMo the other night because I know they have an amazing selection of root beers and sarsaparillas, and they’re also about the only place in town that sell birch beer, which I adore. (I want to try spruce beer, but I’m told that’s an East Coast thing and basically impossible to find in California.)

But besides the various root beers and sarsaparillas and birch beers and ginger beers, they have other kinds of soda. And some of them get very weird. Case in point: the featured image for this post. Yes. Bacon Soda. They also had peanut butter and jelly soda, but if I was going to get something I enjoyed (birch beer!), I had to choose between novelties.

So with much trepidation, I took it home. And now it has become yours. So let us take a look at this bottle of bacon soda. It’s made by a company called “Lester’s Fixins”, with a good fifties-era man, somewhat like Colonel Sanders — the original, not the weird thing that’s on TV now.

And look at that. It has bacon on the cover. Also, the slogan “Y’all get yer fixins!”

Let’s see. What’s the ingredients list? Do I get real bacon?

“Spring water, cane sugar, citric acid, caramel color, natural flavors, beet juice.”

Huh, that’s not looking promising. No bacon, and beet juice? Wow…

Maybe if we take a look at the nutritional facts:

Not nutritious, just like bacon.
Not nutritious, just like bacon.

Not nutritious in a different way than bacon, though. No cholesterol or fat, and lots of sugar. But hey, let’s have an advertising shot.

Dubious kat is dubious
Dubious kat is dubious

Yeah, that’s probably not going to be a good advertising campaign, but whatever. The important part. How’s it taste?

Chug a lug!
Chug a lug!
What in all God's creation was that?!?
What in all God’s creation was that?!?

Yeah. The verdict. I’ve had worse things, but those are generally trying to be gross. (Any flavor jelly beans, y’all?) This was nothing more that a sickeningly sweet cola with a very strange aftertaste that does not resemble bacon in any way, shape or form. In some ways, I’m disappointed I saved the bottle to drink for so long, but hey, I got an amusing blog post out of it.

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