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Welp, you know where to find me

The VR version of Skyrim went on discount today, so that’s the last Uncle B will see of me for a while. The reviews recommended waiting until it was on sale because the game, out of the box, is complete shit and it would be a shame to reward the developers for it.

No kidding, it requires on the order of 150 after-market modifications to be a good game. Someone even wrote a program to download and install mod packages for you, though I don’t imagine it’s as easy as all that. My experience with mods is that about half of them break a game.

One reviewer said he gave up on the whole thing because he was spending all his time fiddling with mods. Sounds like a challenge.

I paid full price for Half Life: Alyx and I’m glad I did. Valve’s team deserves every penny. I’m playing it through with the developer commentary this time and I’m amazed at the care that went into building an exact user experience.

If playtesters weren’t giving them the reaction they wanted from a specific scenario, they tweaked and tested until they got it.

On the other hand, if a surprise popped up and testers love it, they leaned into it. In all, an extraordinary game.

Have a good weekend, everyone!

May 27, 2022 — 7:00 pm
Comments: 2

My best friend had the whole set

I don’t know why these popped into my head today. My best friend had the whole set. I lusted after it.

It took several different keywords to find them, but I think it’s the Johnny West Family 12″ Marx action figures from the Sixties. I pinched the photos from this guy’s collection. It’s a shame it’s a bit out of focus, but you can just make out a viking, a knight of some kind and I think that’s Genghis Khan in the background.

They did more stuff than I realized! The articulated horses were awesome.

My other best friend had the GI Joe with the cheek scar and the real peachfuzz beard. I lusted after him, too.

It’s not so much that I liked dolls, it’s that I loved miniature things. Little tiny facsimiles. Friend #1 above had the Barbie Camper set and I particularly yearned after those teeny, tiny Coke bottles.

My parents stopped giving me dolls. I developed a reputation for dissecting them. This is not as serial-killerish as it sounds – we’re mostly talking about dolls that walked or talked or like that. It was much more fun to take them apart and poke at the workings than it was to play with them in the expected way.

May 26, 2022 — 8:05 pm
Comments: 4


It’s recycling night! My neighbor asked if she could put some overflow in our bin.

That’s kind of weird, I thought. She lives alone and Uncle B and I together rarely fill more than a quarter of a bin.

She came over with a big bag of plastic and says, Oh, her daughter and family are staying with her.

And I say, Oh, I thought your daughter was a hippie type.

And she says, Oh, yes she is. You wouldn’t believe how much plastic all that organic food is wrapped in.

Ba-dum tiss.

May 25, 2022 — 7:45 pm
Comments: 3


A Brit I know is travelling in the US at the moment and keeps posting back pictures of historical markers. They have information signs here, of course, but not in this very particular style and not in such profusion. Anyway, he seems to find them amusing.

I went looking for some of my favorites to share back and found the Historic Marker Database.

Fun! I visited some of my favorites from back home.

You can also use the topic list, series list or geographic list but honestly – the funnest thing is to click the star at the top of each page to be whisked away to a random marker.

Will 100% pull over the car to read a historic marker.

The Bell Witch, by the way, is one of my favorite quirky Tennessee stories. It was an early 19th Century poltergeist tale which, looking back, wasn’t all that exciting. But I grew up on stories from the little red book and it was edgy stuff to a six-year-old.

May 24, 2022 — 7:24 pm
Comments: 6


Atlas Obscura has an interesting article about the vanishing SEE ROCK CITY barns. Current signage regulations means they can touch up the old ones but they can’t paint any new ones. When the barns fall down, that’s the end of it.

There were once 900 of them all across the South. It’s now down to 70, mostly in Tennessee.

Rock City is going strong, it’s the barns that are disappearing. I gather Rock City has rebranded itself a nature trail sort of thing, which sounds better.

I once lived in the shadow of Lookout Mountain. I have a vague memory of seeing Rock City when it was still Fairyland – a bunch of little gnome sculptures lit up with colored lights. In my memory, it was dilapidated and sad.

Looking at the history, though, I’m not sure the timeline is right. It may be a false memory. I may have heard my parents talk about it. I was very little when we lived there.

May 23, 2022 — 6:37 pm
Comments: 3

I can see my house from here!

Well, not from here. This is a promotional image from what many think is the coolest non-game application in VR: Google Earth.

When you get up close to things the details are kind of shit, but it’s derived from the other Google Earth, so you can go absolutely anywhere. You can fly like Superman! You can tilt and whirl and zoom. You can see everything from overhead, or fly right into the landscape. You can go faster, you can go slower.

You could also get pretty motion sick, if you’re prone to that. The default mode is supposed to mitigate that – whenever you move the image vignettes. I hate that. It makes it look like I am *not* flying around like Superman. Maybe Superman with glaucoma. Anyway, not cool.

With most applications, I have to disable the anti-motion-sickness devices because they ruin my fun.

I’m very chuffed today. I found two places I have never been able to find on Google Earth or Google Maps: my mother’s farm in Middle Tennessee and the family cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Both deep in the woods, which can make it hard to follow roads. I’ve tried and failed many times on flat maps, so maybe VR does make some applications work better.

You can take screenshots in VR, but I haven’t worked out the process of getting them off VR and onto my computer. Anyway, from a Superman-eye-view, both houses look like Legos dropped in the bushes, so you aren’t missing much.

Next I want Superman’s heat vision so I can fly over those bastards in Davos and burn them to a crisp. Good weekend, everyone!

May 20, 2022 — 4:43 pm
Comments: 4

Sunset chickens

Quick snapshot of the girls with ladies’ man Mo this evening. Huh. Doesn’t really work in black and white.

Uncle B was treated to another dead rat on the floor this morning and, for a little variety, a dead bunny on the threshold this afternoon.

The bunny was undoubtedly a gift from the cat. He’s not usually so generous. We know this because we don’t feed him much and yet he’s very fat. The vet didn’t scold us when we took him in to have his leg looked at (all better now, thanks), so I guess he’s not dangerously fat.

He must be absolutely stuffed full of bunny and whacking them for sport at this point.

May 19, 2022 — 7:30 pm
Comments: 2

‘Blood rain’ anyone?

It’s the Sahara sand again. That’s what they call it – blood rain. I don’t know if that means it gets picked up in the rain and falls in red or it just leaves red dust everywhere.

If you find the map disorienting in black and white, that’s the UK at the top and Africa below and the dark stuff is the dust headed our way. Gosh, we aren’t all that far from Africa!

That makes Beachy Head lady more plausible.

Meanwhile, back at Badger House, we’ve been rat hunting. Specifically, dead rat hunting. It’s the sort of quarry you more than half hope you don’t find.

The smell got so appalling that Uncle B, with his keen sense of smell, thought he could pinpoint the location of our hidden stinker: the back of the fridge. And he was right. Ratty had crawled up into the mechanism for comfort, poor beast. Another big boy. Oh, it was vile.

Poison is an ugly weapon. I hate using it, but I’m scared of traps big enough to deal with these big rats.

I don’t suppose we’ve got them all yet, but it’s gone mighty quiet in the kitchen.




May 18, 2022 — 7:29 pm
Comments: 5


This from a thunderstorm two nights ago. We only got rain. Photo from Stonehenge Dronescapes (interesting YouTube channel at the link. Seems to be mostly crop circles). Do check out the color version on Twitter.

I post that picture because I’m just too gosh-darned nice to post the picture Uncle B took of the giant rat dead on the kitchen floor. He was a chungus. Did I tell you he ate half of a 10-kilo bag of dry cat food? Yeah.

At least he had the courtesy to die in the open. I’m sitting stewing in a choking miasma of his fallen comrades. Comrats. Somewhere in the walls and cabinets of this house there are truly awful things.

Thank god it’s warm enough to open the windows and doors.

May 17, 2022 — 7:00 pm
Comments: 3

Condescending bastards

I got this message when I fired up the Kindle app on my new phone today.

It got under my skin, it did.

I’m a Kindle addict, though. Well, a reading-on-screen addict. I’ve completely lost patience with paper books. I was trying to read one the other day and I kept catching myself glancing at the bottom of the right-hand page to check the time.

And you have to hold paper books. Like, with your hands. I can prop a phone or tablet on a pillow and melt into the furniture like the lazy slug I am.

But I’ve got to get one of those eye-tracking things so I can turn the page without moving.

May 16, 2022 — 6:52 pm
Comments: 15