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Journal of No. 118

August 19th, 2016

The Strage Dark One, by WH Pugmire @ 05:28 pm

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The Strange Dark One collects an eight-fingered handful of stories centering on Nyarlathotep -- at least Wilum's take on this protean entity -- set primarily in Pugmire's dream-haunted Sesqua Valley, though I also much appreciated the one detour into 'Lovecraft territory'. The stories leap off the page from time to time in fabulous passages of near-prose-poetry that are really evocative.

August 17th, 2016

The war continues... @ 05:10 pm

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Game 3 of the Risk Legacy campaign was pretty short. Gray hosted, and since Smaug scratched due to illness, Rob was available to fill in.

Rob did the Australia thing, Chun did the S. America thing, I did the Africa thing, Giantsdance wanted as little to do with us as possible and started in Yakutsk, while Gray cramped my style in SW Europe. I punched into Brazil -- despite Gray's closeness -- hobbling Chun, and Giantsdance hobbled himself smashing into Rob with lousy dice. So it was the Rob and Gray show for a while, but Rob was more cautious, allowing Gray the opportunity to grab Chun's HQ by going though me, and then grabbing my HQ by going through what was left of me. So Chief Gray added his name to the board of victors.

As for the board, Africa is a hot mess, but it's my hot mess (not that people are likely to let me get cosy there). Stickers all over including a new bunker in East Africa, and a Mercenary spawner in North Africa (both likely to be popular warzones). But fortunately, there are also some other attractive areas, there's a mercenary spot in SE Asia, adding a bit more to the lure of Australia, and the third mercenary spot is in Yakutsk, where Giantsdance put a small city. Gray put his major city in Greenland, which is already home to a bunker.

Essentialsaltes - 1
Smaug - 1
Gray - 1

August 14th, 2016

Fire It Up BBQ at the African American Firefighter Museum @ 10:43 am

Yesterday, Dr. Pookie and I went to the African American Firefighter Museum on S. Central to go to their first (annual?) BBQ contest/benefit. On a day when 90,000 people were going to the Coliseum to see the Rams play in LA, it was a chance to do a small-town kind of thing in a big town.

Fire It Up BBQ Competition

Of the food we tasted, I think Mark Curry's baby back ribs were the clear winner. The museum had memoribilia and clippings, but the best thing about it is its location in a firehouse from 1913.

Firehouse poles!

Back in the day, it was part of the LAFD's segregated force.

Fire Station No. 30, Engine Company No. 30 back in the day

The building is now on the register of historic places.


The museum sits kitty-corner from the 1939 Streamline Moderne Coca Cola Building, one of the locations from my road rally.

The Coca Cola Building is kitty-corner to the AAFM

August 8th, 2016

Paranoia! @ 09:56 pm

ian_tiberius contributed to the Paranoia Kickstarter, and got some early access to the new ruleset.

Other players: dark_of_night, karteblanche, zorker, and bridared, which last personage may never have had an LJ, but who cares since none of these other people update theirs, either.

Now to justify the nostalgia tag, we have to send the Wayback machine to Origins 86, which I went to the summer after I graduated high school. Paranoia had won the Origins award the previous year, and I had a great talk with somebody at the West End booth, and bought (with my measly high school ducats) a shitload of Paranoia. And never regretted it. It's on my shelf today, and somewhere packed in there is some correspondence between me and West End in which my SASE is addressed to GAR-Y-SVN.

To amplify the nostalgia tag, ian_tiberius popepat & [Bad username: "joemafi"] almost ran a Paranoia larp sometime in the early 90s. And so naturally, for this present incarnation, I wore the t-shirt that was generated for the almost game.

Anyway, the general milieu is pretty familiar, with a few changes. The rules have been jiggered with more forcibly, but don't really get in the way of the fun, and possibly add to it. There are cards that can be played in combat (or elsewhere) with special effects -- not sure the mix is quite right, but for a one-off, it was satisfying to pull them out as needed.

It was a rare successful troubleshooter mission, with just a few total party kills, but not enough to go too deep into the clone stack.

And through the luck of the draw, and patient conservation, I was able to do some Once-Upon-A-Time-style strategizing. I placed myself in the vicinity of a broken gurney in a battle-chem induced frenzy, and then invented an impromptu weapon -- the broken gurney. And concluded with the discovery of a cake. As usual, you had to have been there.

A good time with good friends. Thanks to Ian for putting it together, and everyone else for contributing to a great time.

August 2nd, 2016

The Lady in the Lake, by Raymond Chandler @ 05:28 pm


Marlowe does his thing, while Chandler does his. Both of them are smart and keep secrets, and don't give away much. But I cottoned on to the whodunit part pretty early, but it's still an enjoyable ride through hardboiled Los Angeles. An interesting detail as he's heading out to a dam is that, during wartime, soldiers were stationed on the dam and asked drivers to roll up their windows, presumably to prevent people from sabotaging the water supply. And hard not to like a meta-discussion of villain monologuing.

'I've never liked this scene,' [Marlowe] said. 'Detective confronts murderer. Murderer produces gun, points same at detective. Murderer tells detective the whole sad story, with the idea of shooting him at the end of it. Thus wasting a lot of valuable time, even if in the end murderer did shoot detective. Only murderer never does. Something always happens to prevent it. The gods don't like this scene either. They always manage to spoil it.'

'But this time,' she said softly and got up and moved towards me softly across the carpet, 'suppose we make it a little different. Suppose I don't tell you anything and nothing happens and I do shoot you?'

'I still wouldn't like the scene,' I said.

July 26th, 2016

The war continues... @ 08:20 pm

On alternate Earth, north is north.

Smaug went first, choosing Khan Industries, and setting up HQ in East Africa (preventing me from starting in Lemuria). Giantsdance started in Venezuela as the Saharans. I Balkaniaed myself into New Guinea. The Atomic Messiah chose Iceland with Die Mechaniker.

Smaug settled comfortably into Africa, Giantsdance had S. America, I had Australia, and the Atomic Messiah struggled to get all of Europe. It was quiet for a time, and then the punches started getting thrown. I did fairly well, and if not for the rule that people who have won a game start with one fewer victory point, I would have won. Giantsdance was eliminated, which opened an envelope that will have repercussions next time. In the previous campaign, it took quite a while for someone to be eliminated; I think this earlier opening will have some greater effects. Ultimately, Khan Smaug won the day. Smaug founded the major city of Rio Zika in Brazil, like the pinhead he is. The Atomic Messiah made a minor city in China, and I created Irem in the Middle East -- "Of the [Cthulhu] cult, he said that he thought the centre lay amid the pathless deserts of Arabia, where Irem, the City of Pillars, dreams hidden and untouched."

July 24th, 2016

The Language Wars, by Henry Hitchings @ 10:31 am

Subtitle: A History of Proper English

The book was not really what I expected, although I'm not sure what I expected. I guess I hoped for more war -- placing authorities against each other on the nitpicky rules of grammar we all love and/or hate. Instead, it was more of a history of how people have formalized the English language, from early grammars to modern linguistics. A strong undercurrent is the prescriptivist bent of 'grammarians' and the descriptivist bent of linguists.
I think I hoped for more amusing little tidbits, and although they are there, it is like one of those disappointing pours of breakfast cereal that you got as a kid, where you mourned that there weren't more dehydrated marshmallows among the cat kibble. Perhaps because it was a slower slog to get through the book, I've forgotten most of the tidbits already. One that did stick was the idea that, after the Civil War, where one side had been associated with 'the Union', the use of that phrase for the country as a whole fell out of fashion. The constitution speaks of forming a more perfect union, and a state of the union address. In the post-war period, we began to speak of the US as a nation. Perhaps related to this, around 1900 the government printing office (IIRC) made a declaration to standardize that "the United States" was a singular noun.

July 12th, 2016

Alaska Cruise 2016 @ 07:33 pm

All the photos (250)

The 86 best photos (in quasi-reverse chronological order)

We were on the Norwegian Jewel, going in and out of Seattle, with Dr. Pookie's twin and her family. Just as an aside, we found the ship experience not as nice as our previous big-ship cruises on Celebrity and the ill-fated Costa Concordia. I don't know if it was a difference between American and European-based cruises, or Norwegian vs these other lines, but particularly the food was a let-down this time. On the previous ships, there were set dining-times in the main dining room, and one would be seated with other parties. A few of the nights were formal, requiring jacket and tie, but generally dressing up to some extent was expected. If you couldn't handle this, you could always hit the buffet in your speedos. Dinners would be 5 course affairs with a sommelier - every day a different menu. On Jewel, there were no set mealtimes, and only the French restaurant and the rear dining hall required collared shirts at dinner. 3 course meals. No sommelier. The restaurants had largely the same menu each night, though a few items cycled through. There was also a lot more nickel and diming. There were 'specialty' restaurants that cost extra money -- we had a package that got us 4 visits to these -- but even then, certain menu items (lobster, etc.) had an additional surcharge. The specialty restaurants were all pretty good, but on the whole, the food was a disappointment in comparison to our other experiences. Everything else about the ship and cruise was A-Okay and much more like the others.

So anyway...Collapse )

July 1st, 2016

A new earth to destroy in Risk Legacy @ 04:17 pm

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A few years back, Smaug invited me to a Risk: Legacy campaign, and now I got a chance to return the favor. He and I were joined by Chun and Dr. Pookie for the first game. Dr. Pookie took her role seriously in replacing Andy, who couldn't make it. Not only would she role-play the enclave of the bear, but she would role-play Andy role-playing the Enclave of the Bear. We all have some doubts about the accuracy of the portrayal, but anyway.

Chun got beaten up first, as Smaug captured his HQ, but Chun came back nicely, and soon spread like a rash through the New World. Dr. Pookie solidified control of Africa. Smaug took Europe, and I had Australia and east Asia. I punched into Smaug's HQ, and on the next turn, punched across to Chun's, winning the game. So I have a good track record on the first game of the campaign -- 2-0.

I founded the major city of Lemuria in Madagascar. And IIRC, there are also the cities of Blood Diamond in S. Africa, Hobbiton in Great Britain, and Chuntopia in the US.

June 29th, 2016

Altered Carbon, by Richard K. Morgan @ 05:23 pm


Similar to Leviathan Wakes, the last book I read, Altered Carbon is a mash-up of noir detective and science fiction. This one is more cyberpunk flavored, which already has a strong noir background (a formula I followed in making my own Cyber/Cthulhu/noir mashup in Eldritch Chrome). Morgan gets a lot of the feel of traditional noir right, unfortunately including the increasingly convoluted plot that gets fake-resolved and then rescrambled more and more unconvincingly. There's also a slight overseasoning of gun-and-combat fetishization for my tastes. But on the whole good stuff -- good enough to win the PKD award, anyway. It'll be interesting to see what Netflix makes of it, since they've announced a 10 episode series.

Journal of No. 118