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 https://goo.gl/photos/cp6o2hKPm7rrekGQ9
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It wasn't a conscious decision, but I think I've quit World of Warcraft.
 
I've been more and more bored with it lately; I've had nobody to play with. It's bad enough being lonely in real life, so why should I pay to be lonely online, too? My card that they had on file has expired, so my account is suspended, and I'm more than half inclined to keep it that way.
 
I need to find better things to do.
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I turned 50 today. And all in all, it was pretty good.

My health's excellent. I've been working out every day for the past week; it's just a start, but it's a good start. I haven't been able to maintain a streak like this in a long time. The secret, if I have one, is that I'm now thinking of exercise as a prescription from my doctor - which it is - rather than as something "good" that I "should" be doing.

Sebastian and I went together to the YMCA the last two nights to work out. This should help him too, and he'll help me to keep it up.

As I was barbecuing in our snow-covered back yard tonight - it was a warm day, the first springlike day so far this year, and I was in my workout clothes including a t-shirt - I looked up and saw the moon, and the Big Dipper, and the North Star above our house. Other stars, too.

Fifty years isn't long enough. I'm looking forward to more.

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My Twitter account was apparently hacked by a Russian - at least, they posted a bunch of things in Russian to my Twitter account. Those tweets were mirrored to LiveJournal (but not Dreamwidth) automatically. I've deleted the original tweets and the LJ mirror-post. I've also taken a number of enhanced security steps to resecure my Twitter account.

It's almost not worth it. I don't really USE Twitter. It just grabs some of the stuff I post elsewhere. If something like this happens again, I'll just delete my Twitter account.

As far as I can tell, nothing else has been compromised. What I don't understand is how my Twitter account got compromised in the first place!

G+ Link

Oct. 29th, 2013 08:13 pm
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Google just sent me a custom URL for my G+ account. It's google.com/+PeterMaranci. Handy!
bobquasit: (The Question)
If anyone is looking for a RuneQuest game in the northern Rhode Island area (or knows someone who is), I have an opening or two in my current campaign, The Cave of Worlds. It's a multi-genre game based on classic RQIII, with modifications as necessary. The campaign features worlds based on numerous sources, including original settings as well as those inspired by literature and media. Emphasis is on roleplaying, exploration, and fun rather than combat.

We normally play on Saturday afternoons from noon to 5pm in Woonsocket, RI, although we're probably going to be playing on Sundays instead during the summer. Current players cover a thirty-year age spread, and range from highly experienced to relative newcomers to RPGs. A good sense of humor and imagination are all that's needed, along with a reasonable amount of emotional maturity. Experience is NOT required.

Some session writeups can be found at http://runequest.org/caveof.htm

#t
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The Last Days of Krypton
By Kevin J. Anderson

One out of ten stars (assuming zero isn't an option)
Shelves: Library, science fiction

The Last Days of Krypton by Kevin J. Anderson was disappointing and lame - so lame that I only got about 130 pages into it before returning it to the library.

Okay, I'm being a little harsh here. Actually, as modern SF goes, I've certainly seen worse (see the execrable Dune: The Butlerian Jihad, which was co-authored by Anderson. Or rather, DON'T see it if you value your sanity, as it may be the worst book ever written. But reading it gave me an insight into why I hate the vast majority of modern science fiction so passionately: it's stupid.

It seems to me that the current generation of SF editors and publishers came into the field after the Golden Age - in most cases, post-1970s. Lots of people working in the business now wouldn't know Roger Zelazny or Fredric Brown if they leaped out of their graves and bit them on the ass.

And I believe they think of science fiction as "childish" literature, for immature, adolescent minds.

Which, of course, it has often been from the very first. But there were always exceptional authors - the cream that rose to the top - who wrote truly intelligent, imaginative, and adult science fiction (and fantasy, of course; I'm not making a distinction between the two right now).

The problem is that back then, there were at least some editors and publishers who could recognize greatness. Now, those perceptive and mature people in the SF publishing industry seem to be gone - probably, I suspect, because the whole industry is far more commercialized than it used to be, far more integrated into the craptastic Hollywood culture that dominates American society. They're all looking so hard for the next Harry Potter that they would not only MISS the next Cordwainer Smith - he wouldn't even be able to get in their door.

I fear that the same must be said for fans. It may be that the vast majority of younger fans simply don't know what good writing is, because they've never seen it.

There are still a few good writers out there, of course, but they're the exception rather than the rule.

Like Hercule Poirot, I'm not going to pretend that I'm stupid. I'm more intelligent than the average reader (I have other flaws, but I'm not stupid). So maybe that makes me more sensitive to having my intelligence insulted. I can tell when I'm reading something written by someone who is dumber than I am, to put it crudely, and I'd say that 97% of everything new being published these days is either written by a relatively dim person, or deliberately slanted for an audience that the producers of the product consider to be - there's no other word for it - idiots.

And even so, the people producing this crap are not bright. If they were, even their dumbed-down writing would show it - and it doesn't. Typos, logical failures, unbelievable characters, the same tired old cliches again and again and again...lord! I'm so sick of it!

Anderson is a really awful writer, and should never be allowed near a keyboard again. Perhaps he could take up some useful trade, like shovelling raw sewage.

Okay, that's not fair. He's not quite that bad. He'd probably be a very adequate ditch-digger. Just keep him away from a keyboard!

Note: A comment on the original post of this review (elsewhere) asserted that it was unfair of me to criticize a work based on a comic book, by comparing it to high art. The comment also questioned my criticism because I am not a published author. Here's my reply, editing out the quotes from the original comment:

I do see your point. In the same vein, since I have never been a professional chef, I should never criticize any meal served to me at a restaurant, not even if they hand me a dog turd on a plate. Why didn't I see that before?

Okay. Sarcasm aside, although I have never been a professional author - I did make one sale, but the magazine folded before they paid me or published the story - I have indeed written a lot of stuff over the years, and have published both online and in several different amateur press associations. I have one of the older continuously-operating websites still in existence, and have received plenty of feedback, both positive and negative. I don't see why any of this is necessary to justify my low opinion of "The Last Days of Krypton", but there it is. More to the point is that I've *read* a lot.

If my review gave you the impression that I had expected "The Last Days of Krypton" to be high art, you can chalk that up to my lack of professional credentials as an author. I have strong feelings about the decay of modern science fiction and publishing, and inserted those views into the review because that's when those thoughts happened to come into my mind.

However, the fact remains that it is possible to judge quality even when dealing with a genre or class of works which are of generally low caliber. You can taste the burgers of McDonald's and those of Burger King or Wendy's and make perfectly valid comparisons and judgements between them; there are degrees of quality both in swill and the sublime. Merely mentioning that the sublime exists does not invalidate criticism of swill when it fails *even as swill*.

And even as swill, "The Last Days of Krypton" is abysmal. I've read my share of comic books, both crappy ones and those that transcended the former limitations of the genre; I grew up reading comics in the 1960s and 70s, and directly experienced the renaissance of the field in the 1980s and 90s. So I have some experience from a reader's point of view. And from that vantage point, I still maintain: "The Last Days of Krypton" is pure and utter *crap*, an absolute waste of time, and an insult to the intelligence of any reader who actually possesses a mind to be insulted.

To put it as simply as possible, it's a bad book. Really astonishingly bad, which at this point is pretty much par for the course for Mr. Anderson. That there are some who apparently admire it and him baffles me, but there's not much I can do to help such unfortunate souls; all I can do is post my opinion of his shoddy and idiotic work as a warning to others.

This have I done. If your opinion varies, go and do likewise!
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When I was a teenager my father had a heart attack. He survived, thank goodness, and is still fine these many decades later. But while he was bedridden and convalescing, our neighbors brought all sorts of books over to help him pass the time. They were mostly best-sellers of the time; books that I would never have read on my own, since I was a science-fiction fan.

Shogun was one of them. I'm not sure if Dad read it, but I sure did. And I've read it every six months or so, ever since.

Why? Several reasons:

1. It's incredibly readable. This is one of those amazing books that simply sucks you in and makes you live its story. Clavell had the rare gift of writing, and Shogun was his masterpiece.

2. It's really long. I'm an extremely fast reader, but even I can't get through Shogun in less than a week. And yet every time I finish it, I always wish there was more, and more...I'm lucky that I can re-read it within six months and enjoy it as much as ever.

3. It presents a fascinating and accessible take on an ancient culture. True, it may not be an entirely accurate picture of Japanese society in the 1600s (I just read an article by a scholar that sneered at the book unmercifully, although many scholars are far less negative about the book*). Still, I've learned a little Japanese from the book - enough to help me understand anime a bit better - and while the culture as presented is doubtless over-dramatized, I believe that it has still given me some useful insights into Japanese culture.



* - The article is one of many collected in Learning from Shogun, which is available as a free pdf online:

http://www.columbia.edu/~hds2/learning/Learning_from_shogun_txt.pdf

The specific article was "Japan, Jawpen, and the Attractions of an Opposite" by David Plath. It's the second article in the book, and it starts on page 20 (according to the pagination).
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Lord of LightLord of Light by Roger Zelazny

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Although he's best known for his Amber series, Lord of Light was unquestionably his greatest masterpiece - despite the fact that it's a remarkably slender book. Nonetheless, Zelazny managed to brilliantly combine science fiction, fantasy, and Hindu mythology in a truly...

Due to the acquisition of Goodreads by Amazon, the complete version of this review has been moved to two new homes:

http://www.librarything.com/work/2088...

http://pmaranci.booklikes.com/post/32...

If you, like me, object to what Amazon has done to the world of books, book lovers, and book shops, you can find many alternatives to GoodReads (for reviews) and to Amazon (for shopping) at the "Escaping Amazon" community [https://plus.google.com/communities/1...]. Our free public resource listing and describing alternatives is at [https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/c...

Readers and their love of books are not commodities to be bought and sold - unless we allow it.




View all my reviews
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Triumph of the WhimTriumph of the Whim by Adam Thrasher

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Funny as hell. The balls-out, totally over-the-top collected comic strip (not a complete collection, mind you) of the adventures of Space Moose, the most perverted moose imaginable. How perverted, you ask? Well, when he gets his hands on a time machine, he -

No. I won't spoil it for you. Let's just say that if coprophagy, misogyny, abort-o-matic machines, feces, gore, sheer insanity, ----, and lots more ---- don't make you cringe, and if you don't hold anything sacred, you'll find this a hell of a funny read.

Or rather, you WOULD find it a hell of a funny read. But you can't read it. Because it was only available direct from the author, and he's not doing that stuff any more. I have my copy (and t-shirt), but you're out of luck!

But don't be sad. The online web archive of Space Moose was taken down when the author discovered that the grown-up world of employment and grants doesn't have much of a sense of humor. Luckily, I, personally, had cached a copy of most of the site. And I passed it on to a few select people. Google "Space Moose" and you should be able to find a copy.

They're all there because I saved that site. You're welcome!

But FYI, there are a couple of strips in the book that were never published online, including the soul-stirring sequel to "F-----io Barn". The humor! The tears! The nausea! The, um...

Never mind. You'll just have to imagine it.



View all my reviews
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I've worked out a way to automatically cross-post to Facebook, Twitter, and LiveJournal from Google Plus. This allows me to make ONE post to Google Plus, and have it go automatically to almost all of my other social media. You can throw in LinkedIn as well, incidentally; I didn't mention it initially because I don't use it.

The only thing that's left out of the mix is, sadly, Dreamwidth.

Anyway, here's how it's done:
  1. You'll need a Google Plus account.
  2. Set up a Friends+Me account. Their site is at http://www.friendsplus.me/ . The accounts are free.
  3. On Friends+Me, link your Facebook, Twitter, and/or LinkedIn accounts to your Google Plus account. You can also link Google Pages (i.e. communities) to other accounts, apparently.
  4. When you post publicly to Google Plus, include a hashtag in your post. Hashtag t (i.e. #t) reposts it to Twitter, f reposts it to Facebook, l (that is, "L") reposts it to LinkedIn. You can combine them in any order, so #flt would repost to all three.
  5. If your LiveJournal is set up to aggregate and repost your Tweets, all G+ posts which were reposted to Twitter will appear in your daily 12pm Twitter aggregation on LiveJournal.

It's that easy! Once you've set it up, all you have to do is include the proper hashtags in your public G+ posts. There's nothing else to do.
The drawbacks:
  1. Your LJ reposts are in the form of Tweets, i.e. a collection of one-liners. However, they each come with a link to the full-length original on G+.
  2. Formatting doesn't carry over.
  3. The LJ reposts are done at 12pm. They are, therefore, not timely.
  4. Dreamwidth can't get the posts at all, as far as I can figure.
  5. There is no way to commingle comments and responses that you receive to the various copies on different social media.
All that said, it's still a huge improvement!

Almost forgot: you could, in fact, re-import your LiveJournal into Dreamwidth, assuming that you have both. However, as far as I can tell there is no way to automate this, so you'd have to actually go and DO it every so often. I'm also not entirely sanguine about re-importing. Dreamwidth says it won't duplicate posts, but it's apparently a big process that Dreamwidth "schedules", so doing it on a daily basis is probably not a good thing for DW.

Just to be clear, once you've set things up the chain of reposting is:

G+ > Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn
Twitter > LiveJournal
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Common Core sparks war over words

Apparently the government is forcing English teachers to replace huge amounts of fiction with non-fiction. I had to comment:

What concerns me is that even most modern young-adult and children's fiction is, for lack of a better word, tripe. The old classics are routinely rewritten to simplfy and dumb down vocabulary and concepts. We are forcing our children to eat bland mush when they should be having a chance to try their literary and intellectual teeth on works of substance - and then we're surprised when they tell us that reading is boring.

It IS boring. But that's only because we're restricting them to books which have been sanitized and simplified into pablum. And those purile books must compete with the hyper-stimulating and omnipresent world of television and video games. What chance do our children have?

Since the day he was born, I've read my son REAL books. Alice In Wonderland (both books, and yes I know that's not the correct title). The Doctor Dolittle books - the original uncensored editions, mind you, not the painfully rewritten versions which are all that are being published today. The Wind in the Willows. The Hobbit. The Lord of the Rings. Mister Penny. The Chronicles of Prydain. Bridge of Birds. The Black Stallion books. The original editions of Robert Arthur's Three Investigators books. The Portmanteau Book, The Teddy-Bear Habit, Edward Ardizonne's Tim series, The Jungle Books. Esther Averill's Jenny Linsky books. The Adventures of Phunsi. Robert A. Heinlein's juveniles. All of them with the original text and illustrations. Most of these are out of print, but you can find copies if you try - and it's worth it, it's so very much worth it. Great literature (and not-so-great but fun and challenging literature) is a gift beyond price for a child.

As for cost, many of these books can be obtained through your local library. Some of the best are in the public domain and can be freely downloaded from sites such as Project Gutenberg!

My son reads like mad on his own; his vocabulary and comprehension skills are excellent. And I continue to read to him every night. Next, we're going to tackle Rudyard Kipling's Kim.
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I don't know if anyone else is likely to end up fighting the SweetIM malware infection, but if you do, it's a real bitch. I had to clean it out of my mother-in-law's desktop recently, and it was NOT fun. On the off chance that you have to deal with it some day, here's how I killed it.

First, I installed Malwarebytes and ran scans. I had to run separate scans for every account on the system.

This was a Windows XP system, by the way, and it had some decent antivirus stuff installed. My best guess is that the infection was picked up from a free game site, by the way. Remember, always browse wisely!

Anyway, after I used Malwarebytes to get rid of the infection in all of the accounts, I still had to go into each browser (Firefox and Internet Explorer) and fix them; SweetIM had changed the home page and default search engine in each one. I changed the homepages from the SweetIM homepage, (a sure source of infection), and changed the search engine from the SweetIM search tool, which also comes with free infections.

Even so, I ended up having to completely reset Firefox on her primary account. SweetIM is a hellishly stubborn infection.

And after all that, I happened to notice that there was still a link on the desktop of one of the accounts to something called "search the web". Which, when I checked the properties, turned out to be - you guessed it - another SweetIM infection point.

These people are evil, evil, evil. I'm tempted to call for the death penalty for malware writers.

After that I did some housekeeping, including updating Firefox and installing Chrome, and now the system looks fine. But man, what a nasty piece of malware! Killing it took about two to two-and-a-half hours of my time. If there was justice in this world, I would be able to collect payment for that time out of the hide of the SweetIM people.

Plus damages. Lots of damages.
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Lately I've been trying to figure out what I'm good at. Taking stock, I guess. It's an interesting exercise; have you ever tried it?

So here's my list of things that I'm good at, so far:
- Creating and running roleplaying campaigns
- Grilling hamburgers
- Cooking a limited number of dishes
- Baking chocolate-chip cookie bars
- Reading aloud
- Reading
- Remembering
- Acting
- Finding answers and information online
- Implementing answers and information
- Writing (but unfortunately, fiction rarely comes to me)
- Helping people with computer problems
- Running reports
- Figuring out problems
- Writing advice
- Being a panelist on many topics

...whew!

That list only includes things that I'm really pretty sure I'm good at. I didn't add stuff which is more nebulous or boastful, like being a parent. Nor did I include things that I'm good at only sometimes, such as occasionally a bit of handyman work - even though it feels really great when I get something like that done.
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 just a quick post about voice dictation aundry with and LiveJournal. Shit. I can already see that I'm going to have some big problems. LiveJournal 0 mobile sites really sucks when you try to do voice dictation or 1 time what I do from my samsung Galaxy Nexus. I am NOT making any corrections to this post.
 
This is interesting semi:3 with or rather Android actually picked up the emphasis are used on the word not above. Anyway, I just a response to a coming over on livejournal, and the interface was awful and wretched. Dream with seems only slightly better. That's unfortunate.
 
Oh, and since the Russian language seems to be in crocheting on livejournal, I think that I will take this opportunity to say that people earn is a brutal dictator who murders has on people and is strangling democracy in Russia. I would have simply said puting sucks, but under statement is not my style. Crap. I'll come back and edit the word cute in in later. He's not cute!

A Fan

Nov. 24th, 2012 09:48 pm
bobquasit: (Default)
[I'm experimenting with copying a post from Google Plus to Dreamwidth/LiveJournal. Pasting the text and photo from G+ into the Dreamwidth Rich Text editor seems to work, although I had to get the public link for the photo. For some reason the LJ-to-Facebook connection doesn't seem to be working.]

My dad came over today. We've been having a couple of electrical problems, and he was trained in electronics by the army. Plus he's handy, which I, unfortunately, am not. Or not very.

The first problem was the ceiling light in the den. It kept flickering and making buzzing noises. He took things apart and figured out that the problem was that the contact in the base of the socket was depressed; it wasn't making proper contact. He pried it up, and now the light works perfectly. I'll have to look into getting a shade for it.

The second problem was the ceiling fan in Sebastian's room, which is next to the den. The light tended to go on and off randomly, and the ceiling fan rarely worked; instead, it hummed and made a burning electrical smell.

So we took it down. Dad examined and tested the wiring, and it seemed fine. But the motor was burned out on the ceiling fan. We went over to Lowe's. Teri and I wanted to get a fan much like the one he'd had, but Sebastian insisted on a short-bladed and admittedly cooler-looking fan, an allen+roth. The salesman said the fan would be virtually imperceptible, but eventually we gave in.

When we got home and opened the box, we got worried. It was complicated; the estimated assembly time was two hours! Dad and I spent a lot of time trying to figure it out. I don't know about Dad, but I'm pretty sure that my shoulders will ache for days! And toward the end we were working in darkness, since the circuit breaker for that lamp also covers the whole room.

But we got it put together and mounted. Dad did the wiring, which is good because wiring makes me nervous. It was great when the light went on! And when we turned on the fan, go figure: the breeze was far stronger than our old fan's had been. It blew papers right off Sebastian's desk.

It feels good to get something like that done!



bobquasit: (Default)
If I've set this up correctly, this post will be copied from my Dreamwidth journal to my LiveJournal to Facebook.

Not that I plan to use it in that way much! I wish that I could somehow get Google Plus into the mix, though.
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The Mystery of the Flaming Footprints (Alfred Hitchcock and The Three Investigators, #15)The Mystery of the Flaming Footprints by M.V. Carey

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This is a relatively late and inferior entry in the Three Investigators series. The series was created by Robert Arthur, a woefully neglected author who did a great deal of work with Alfred Hitchcock; Arthur wrote the first nine and the eleventh book in the series. Unfortunately M.V. Carey was no Robert Arthur!

I recently read the book to my son. We've read many of the books in the series together. In this one, there were several ways in which the book simply didn't work. Oh, Carey included the usual iconic elements of the series; Jupiter Jones' family, and the hidden Headquarters (a trailer buried under a pile of junk), and Pete, and Bob. But there are several false notes.

One that was particularly annoying was the use of Jupiter's name. Arthur usually referred to him as "Jupiter" or "Jupiter Jones". Once in a while his fellow Investigators, Pete or Bob, would refer to him as "Jupe". But in this book, he is almost always called "Jupe" - not just by other people, but by the narrator. I'm not that picky, but seeing "Jupe" repeated over and over in paragraph after paragraph just got weird! It started to become a meaningless sound - you know how some words get when you say them over and over? I ended up auto-correcting it to "Jupiter" when I read it aloud, except when it was said by Pete or Bob.

The mystery itself was just...okay. Nothing particularly clever or memorable about it. If anything, the resolution was rather anticlimactic. I won't bother to give it away, though.

But another thing that was quite irritating was a dramatic change in a long-standing supporting character, Police Chief Reynolds. In the early books in the series he was supportive and friendly to the Three Investigators, even going so far as to give them official cards identifying them as Junior Deputies or something like that. In Flaming Footprints, he has been completely changed. He's sneering, abusive, hostile, and sarcastic. The change was so extreme that my son remarked on it. Personally, I found the recasting of Chief Reynolds as a stereotypical negative adult authority figure so irksome that I couldn't resist editorializing: "'What do you want now, Jones?' snarled Chief Reynolds, while busily stomping on a cute kitten and simultaneously farting on a helpless old lady."

My son is more generous and/or uncritical than I am. He gave the book 4.5 stars. I feel I'm being generous in giving it three.

Oh, as always I should note that there are probably two different versions of the text extant. Older versions feature the character of Alfred Hitchcock. For legal reasons newer editions have been rewritten to replace Hitchcock with a lame-ass ersatz version. If you decide to pick this one up, try to go for an older edition. But if you're new to the series, I strongly recommend starting with the original nine books by Robert A. Arthur.

View all my reviews
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I just heard on NPR that LiveJournal was taken over (apparently some time ago) by Russian pornographers. Is that true?

Wrap-up

May. 15th, 2012 11:48 pm
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Going home. All's well

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