Probably too old at this point to realize that life is a series of missed opportunities to make mundane choices. Tiny victories, hedging against the bleary haze of the next day. She’ll wake up anyway, may as well stay up. What shall I do? Continue reading
Are zombies passe yet? Yes, they are. Some time ago, this game captured my imagination, and apparently I kept a short log of one play-through. I found it, sitting in my drafts, dating waaaaay back to 2008. I chopped up some old photos I took and put a wrap on it. This is me, playing the free-to-print solo game Zombie In My Pocket.
With a few small decks of cards and a notepad, you role-play an intrepid adventurer trying to stop a zombie uprising by locating and burying an idol in a randomly-generated, besieged house. You must do this by midnight. It’s a roguelike in pocket format.
You do this by laying down square tiles, each representing a room in the house. Each turn, 10 minutes in game-time passes, and an event happens by drawing a card. You might find a weapon, you might fight some zombies, or you can take a moment to rest and gain some health back. In all, you have 18 turns to finish the game.
In my experience, it was a pretty well-balanced game, giving you maybe 40%-60% odds of winning each time, with room for tactical choices. A really nicely-designed gem, and free, to boot. Read, and enjoy the purple prose.
Three Hours to Midnight
9:00pm – At the center of the terror lies a house. Continue reading
I wanted that good old UT engine RPG feel so I went to GOG, thinking I’d pick up Deus Ex there, and, well, it’s $10 (their high price point). Aw, hell naw.
So I got off my lazy behind, found my old Deus Ex CD, installed it, and decided to look for mods. I went for Project 2027, since it seems to be an all-new game based on Deus Ex, and it looks like they may have actually finished it.
So far, it definitely has the Deus Ex thing going for it: some expositional play that has you learning the game culture by strolling through an area mostly foreign to you, mysterious AI communing directly with my brains, lengthy conversations with NPCs, clues laying around all over the place, all that great stuff. (I wonder why I have patience for this but didn’t last more than a few hours in Mass Effect. Ah, I know why, I’m old and tired, and Mass Effect is so much work.) Continue reading
Allergies the past week. I don’t have them as bad as I did when I was a kid, where fall-winter was a long string of endless runny noses and sneezing, but as an adult, I still go through “the mucous jags” at least a couple weeks every season. This time, it’s a dry, but sudden and violent sneezing, with a really bad, sort of itchy feeling on the skin of my face that’s worse than the sneezing and persistent runny nose. It’s as though my head suddenly decides that it just can’t stand my skin, and wants out. It’s kind of unpleasant.
These days, I pop a generic Claritin (Loratadine), wait about 24 hours for it to cycle, and can almost forget about allergies at all. Sure, my skin gets as dry as a desiccated corpse’s, and reality briefly has a plasticky edge, but at least fluids aren’t dribbling out of every hole in my face.
Keeping in line with my hipster jackass ethic, I don’t really trust drugs or drug companies, but slobber and grovel for any chemical that eases the terrible pain of existence. All the same, it’s good to know what goes in you.
Further in line with the aforesaid ethic, I went to Wikipedia to read about how the drug works, since it works so well. Here’s a fun little tidbit that I learned along the way:
“Loratadine was eventually approved by the FDA, and in 2001, its last year on patent, it accounted for 28% of Schering’s total sales. Although an FDA advisory panel ruled that Loratadine was safe enough to be sold over the counter, Schering opposed such a decision on the grounds that it would reduce the price that could be charged for the drug.”
It’s important to note here that for years, I had to take non-scrip allergy medication, frequently enduring the side effects just so I wouldn’t have to deal with a plague of allergies every year. So here I learn that I could have taken Claritin for years before it became a simple over-the-counter affair. Thanks for making me wait so many years for a generic, you money grubbing bastards. Do you think they just do this with basic quality-of-life drugs?
Wait, it gets better. Listening to This American Life a few weeks ago, I listened about how drug companies will stretch the profits of medications with expired patents by combining them with other drugs, or slightly altering their chemistry so that they can patent them anew, and severely marking up the prices of the drugs. They pair this method with massive marketing campaigns directly to consumers and doctors, such that there is pressure on both to request the new, expensive, and sometimes only slightly changed drug. (According to This American Life, this is at least partly responsible for out-of-control insurance prices.) Think this happened with Claritin/Loratadine?
Schering launched an expensive advertising campaign to convince users to switch to Clarinex (Desloratadine), which is a metabolized form of Loratadine. A 2003 study comparing the two drugs found that “There is no clinical advantage to switching a patient from loratadine to desloratadine.”
Clarinex, of course, is only available by prescription. Ask your doctor now! (But don’t ask if it’s the same as Claritin.)
Don’t be surprised if, sometime in the near future, drug companies start lobbying, hard, to extend the patents of their drugs, much the same way that major content copyright holders such as Disney and Viacom are desperately trying to extend the copyright lifetimes of music, movies, and trademarked characters.
Of course, Americans love their drugs. (Who doesn’t?) Given the backlash that will likely occur, they’ll go about it some sneaky way, perhaps cloaking it in some protective initiative: Americans must protect themselves against the wave of dirty immigrant drugs. And it’ll fill me with disgust, and I’ll have to start drinking again.
Acting like it’s a rainy day in 1986. Watching a young and smug Jeff Bridges in Disney’s Tron, and playing Decker, a roguelike game based roughly on an old tabletop RPG called Shadowrun. In Decker, you play a William Gibson-style hacker, taking illicit contracts to hack into corporate systems and steal data, fight intrusion countermeasures, and cause general havoc. More fun than it looks, and it looks terrible.
On The Media, one of my favorite radio shows and podcasts, frequently documents the current decline in the quality and coverage of news in the United States, which has of course, coincided with the one-two punch of the rise of the free-information demand economy of the Internet, and the shameful domination of news media by corporations who require that their news outfits behave like little corporate fiefdoms themselves, focused entirely on consumer demographics, sales, and money.
Sorry for the long sentence, but the state of things is equally ridiculous. This week, the completely wonderful Brooke Gladstone edited in the most interesting bits of a senate committee on the “Future of Journalism.”
Dave Simon, journalist, author of Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, and perhaps most famously known as the co-creator of the only honest police procedural ever, The Wire, tore into the pretense of things with the calm but damning precision he’s brought to his near-documentary television series:
“From the captains of the newspaper industry you may hear a certain martyrology, a claim that they were heroically serving democracy, only to be undone by a cataclysmic shift in technology.
“From those speaking on behalf of new media, Web blogs and that which goes Twitter, you will be treated to assurances that American journalism has a perfectly fine future online and that a great democratization is taking place. Well, a plague on both their houses.”
“High end journalism is dying in America, and unless a new economic model is achieved it will not be reborn on the Web, or anywhere else. The Internet is a marvelous tool, and clearly it is the information delivery system of our future. But thus far it does not deliver much first generation reporting. Instead, it leeches that reporting from mainstream news publications whereupon aggregating websites and bloggers contribute little more than repetition, commentary and froth.” (emphasis mine. a sense of irony also mine.)
He even rips a little into Ariana Huffington, which is worthy alone of listening, regardless of which wing, if any, you admit to leaning towards.
Read or listen to this segment on OnTheMedia.org. And support the program or your local NPR/PBS/PRI affiliate if you can.
Endnote: Dave Simon also recently appeared on Bill Moyers Journal, in an hour long interview certainly worth watching as well. Seek it out here. I’m still waiting for them to publish their showing of Sam Waterston performing impressions of Abraham Lincoln on the Internet as well.
So, as I secretly expected, I fell down the stairs with regard to my resolution to complete the 100 pushups program… again. The third time. My last set was February 12th, and it was a struggle to do even the minimum. The idea that I was hitting a wall in spite of the program’s seemingly gentle curve seems to have stymied me again.
It’s now February 23rd, a full 11 days later, and the next set is even more daunting. But I’m going to make the attempt, and damn the torpedoes. (The torpedoes being jacked-up wrists and generally below-average physique.)
(Grunting sounds commence.)
Well, I was just barely able to complete the set. On my progress sheet, I’ve placed unhappy faces on set 5 to indicate that I was “only” able to complete the minimum number of pushups, this time, 25.
Coming next update: a shot of the completed week 3.
I’m voluntarily pursuing the hundredpushups.com program over six weeks and blogging about it so I don’t crap out. So far I’ve completed week 1, and started week 2:
Week 2 is getting trying already, and I’m afraid of looking at week 3. My previous maximum, 20 pushups, will be the max-out for the next session. I could just barely complete the max-out for this last session, 17. It still may not seem that I’m doing very much (and I’m not), but the first session had me complete 55 pushups; now it’s 71.
According to the program, I’ll rest my bony arms a day or two then perform another exhaustion test to sum up my progress so far, then head into week 3.