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This morning I turned in our cable boxes and canceled TV service, and I feel curiously melancholy about it.

I had to sit and think about why that would be. For the past few weeks we have deliberately not used the cable box and gotten by on Hulu, Netflix, Playstation Vue and assorted apps (kind of as a test run) and it’s been fine. We still have more to watch than we have viewing time.

So I’m not melancholy for any practical reason. I think for me cable TV was kind of a tradition, I guess. When I was a little kid, we just had an antenna on the roof and we got 2 channels…3 when the stars (or more accurately, weather conditions) aligned. I have a clear memory of when cable TV arrived in town and suddenly we got 13 channels. THIRTEEN! It was like the world opened up to me, particularly since one of those channels was PBS and as a budding nerd I was blown away from some of the stuff on there.

It’s hard to remember (or imagine, if you’re a younger person) what life was like before the Internet and even satellite TV (by which I mean, TV signals bouncing off of satellites so a signal could get anywhere virtually instantly). We were all much more isolated then. If something wasn’t happening in your geographical area the only way you’d find out about it was if it was on the papers or was big enough to be carried on the national news.

I was what they used to call a latchkey kid. I’d get home from school at 3:30 and my parents would get home at 6:30. There were no other kids in my neighborhood so I filled those three hours more or less sitting in front of the TV. Cable TV was my babysitter/friend, I guess. So I guess the 10 year old still living deep down in my soul is going to miss cable TV.

The funny thing is, I am NOT a person (these days) who turns the TV on just for noise. If I have TV on, I’m actively watching it. If a TV is on in the background it actually tends to annoy me. (Angela is a “TV on for noise” person, which leads to a certain amount of friction between us!)

In practical terms, the biggest impact of yanking the cable box out of our quickly dwindling home-theater stack has been losing the time display on the front of the box. We were up too late last night because we lost track of time. I do think there is some kind of technology you can get to replace that functionality. They call it a “clock” or something like that.

The weirdest bit of the whole process was I went to the Time Warner Cable office with all my stuff. There was a lady greeting folks as they came in, there was no line, and the person who assisted me asked no questions about why I was canceling cable. I was in and out of there in 5 minutes. If I’d called, I would’ve been on the phone for an hour, I imagine (and still would’ve had to go to the office to turn in my gear). It made me feel pretty good about the company, I have to say.

Anyway I think my melancholy will vanish as soon as I see that $80 bill (for 200/20 mbps Internet) where the $160 bill used to be.

I’m fascinated by this little recap of your adventure that you get after your return to the waiting room. #LetItDie

LET IT DIE
http://ift.tt/2i0lATd

It’s been about a month since free-to-play Playstation title Let It Die launched, and I still haven’t really played it. I’ve tried to play it on no less than 4 occasions but each time the universe conspires against me. Either the dog needs to go out or Angela decides on an early dinner that night or some other interruption. Problem is, it’s now been so long since I played the tutorial that I’ve forgotten everything I learned, and it’s a weird-ass game so that might be a problem. I’m not even positive I want to play it since it’s so gross, but I’d at least like to give it a try.

[Oh by the way I managed to take exactly zero screenshots last night so sorry for the wall of text today.]

Yesterday Diablo 3 got patched. For this month only (as I understand it) you can play through a re-creation of the original Diablo inside D3. One of my January gaming goals is to finally finish the Diablo 3 storyline. I’m in Act 2 and can’t go back to Act 1 without losing progress, and you need to be in Act 1 to check out the Diablo re-make (again, as I understand it). Since I didn’t want to lose progress I created a new character, but Adventure Mode doesn’t open until you’ve completed Story Mode. I started a new Story Mode game but didn’t see the portal in Tristram. Either I was looking in the wrong place, or you can’t get to this content from Story Mode.

I guess this all just means I have more incentive to complete Story Mode sooner rather than later. Oh and I had a laugh at myself when I created the new character. I’d said somewhere that “even on Hard difficulty” Diablo 3 was pretty easy. My bad I guess, since Hard is the 2nd easiest out of about 16 (literally) difficulty levels. There’s Normal, Hard, Expert, Master and then 12 tiers of Torment difficulty beyond that. What a noob I am! I had no idea.

I can still only play Diablo 3 for so long before I get bored. When I hit that point last night I jumped back to Shadow of Mordor and it’s like the game heard me talking about how easy I’ve been finding it, and decided to school me. I’ve done something, either gotten to a point in the storyline or leveled to a critical point…something I’ve done has changed the game. There are now caragors (the big hulking dog-ish things) roaming all over the place and Orc captains are springing up like weeds. I died three times to caragors last night when they came charging into a battle I was in the midst of. On top of that, several times I’d get into a fight with some run-of-the-mill orcs and uruks and suddenly there’d be one or even two captains there.

Long story short, I guess I died half a dozen times last night, and of course every time I did, the orc captains grew stronger. Video game life has a way of balancing things out, though, and towards the end of the night I unlocked a new tier of powers and now I have a skill that lets me shoulder rush uruks with shields in order to break said shields, and when I leap over an orc it gets stunned. I also suddenly have this flurry attack power; not sure where it came from but it’s potent. So over the course of the night the game got a lot harder but then eased up a bit due to new abilities. I was getting really frustrated at one point last night but by the time I quit I was back to having fun.

I did manage to complete one of the wraith’s story quests (the ones with Gollum) and I got Ratbag in position as a War Chief. Now I just have to finish thinning his competition to complete that quest. So…progress!

Vera Rubin died last month, and her obituary in the NY Times is a fascinating read, not just because of the great work she did in identifying the mysteries of dark matter in the universe, but because of the obstacles she had to overcome in order to even be given a chance to do that work.

I can’t pretend to know what it feels like to be a woman fighting to be considered equal to men in so many aspects of our culture, but Dr Rubin’s story at least shows how much progress has been made inside of one lifetime. For instance, in 1948 Rubin was turned away from the astrophysics program at Princeton since they didn’t allow women in that program. Another story recounted in the piece is how she had to meet with astrophysicist George Gamow in the lobby of the building where he worked because women weren’t allowed in the offices.

Anyway, well worth a read for a number of reasons, IMO:
Vera Rubin, 88, Dies; Opened Doors in Astronomy, and for Women

Even though I had a 3-day weekend thanks to the New Year, I didn’t do a ton of gaming this weekend. Instead I watched a lot of TV. Football for one thing, and after a long and idea-filled thread at Imzy, I started in on a new (to me) anime, Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash, which I’m enjoying so far.

Next week we’re canceling cable so I signed us up for Playstation Vue, and I’ve been messing around with that a lot. I find the interface is taking some getting used to, but overall we’re fairly pleased so far. Anyway in the course of messing about I started watching Booze Traveler on the Travel Channel and got inexplicably hooked. It’s about some townie from Boston who travels around the world sampling various alcoholic beverages while taking in the local culture. I like booze so I’m interested in that aspect, and it’s fun to see the places he travels to. It’s much better of a show than I expected it to be.

I also watched Tiny Fey, Margot Robbie and Martin Freeman in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, based on the true story of journalist Kim Baker’s time in Afghanistan. I enjoyed that very much, and I was delighted to find it on Hulu. Since when does Hulu get recent movies?

Beyond that, we’re working our way through the DC superhero shows on Netflix. So yeah, lots of TV.

I did start up Diablo 3 again. After one session on the launch PS4, I installed it on the PS4 Pro. It hasn’t been patched to take advantage of the Pro’s extra horsepower, but it runs much quieter on that system. It’s one of those games that makes the fans on the launch PS4 start to scream in protest.

I’m playing D3 as a barbarian on Hard mode and it is still ridiculously easy, at least for the parts I’ve played (I’m in Chapter 2). And so much loot. Too much, really. As a natural pack-rat I can’t just leave stuff laying in the dirt, so I’m constantly heading back to town, trying not to be overwhelmed by all the choices I have, and feeding most of the stuff to the Salvage yard. Honestly I get bored playing D3 pretty quickly, which makes me sad since I loved both Diablo and Diablo 2 back in the day.

The other thing I played was Shadow of Mordor and man I’m confused by some of the choices the devs made in that game. Don’t get me wrong, I’m having a blast playing but I feel like the more you struggle, the harder it gets, and vice versa. I haven’t really been focusing on the “main quests” but have been roaming around the world collecting things, doing side quests and slaying lots of orcs. There are these “Conflicts” on the map that tutorial text told me were struggles between orc captains and that if I didn’t break them up, one of the orc captains would win and grow stronger. This wasn’t happening for me. I also had a bunch of skill points I couldn’t spend because I wasn’t powerful enough.

Then finally, I died. And when I did it was like time moved forward. The conflicts got resolved and some of the Captains got stronger. I also gained power somehow, which unlocked the next tier of abilities. Seemed odd that my death resulted in enemies getting stronger. Then I died again shortly thereafter (when a cave troll noticed me hiding in some bushes) and more conflicts got resolved and more Captains got stronger.

I wrote a while ago about how Shadow of Mordor seemed much easier this time around and now I think the reason is that I’m moving cautiously, gaining power while not dying much, so the orcs aren’t getting more powerful.

I’m really enjoying it though. I’ve started playing this game a few times before and it never ‘stuck’ for some reason, but this time it sure is. Even more so now that I’ve encountered this old villain:

So very late to the party, but finally playing through Shadow of Mordor. This encounter with Gollum hit me with a wave of nostalgia…now I feel like I need to rewatch the LOTRO movies again!

I’m stealing this idea of monthly gaming goals to see how well it sits with me. I got the idea from Aywren so hat tip to her! She says she borrowed it from another blogger so thanks also to whomever originated the idea. Basically I see it as a way to give myself some guidance through those “I dunno what to play” phases we all seem to go through.

So in January:

1) Get the last Achievement in Microsoft Solitaire! Seriously, I have ONE left and dammit I want to get 100% on this game!

2) Keep going with my weekly Fairy Fencer F and No Man’s Sky gaming sessions. I don’t expect to finish either though, I just want to keep making progress.

3) FINALLY finish the Diablo 3 campaign. Believe it or not, I’ve never finished Diablo 3 and with “Seasons” coming to console in 2017 I want to be ready for them which, to my brain for some reason, means having finished the storyline

4) Play the heck out of the For Honor beta. I played in the alpha of For Honor and enjoyed it. I want to play a lot of the beta when it comes out to see if I want the full game (which, as a primarily MP title, I’d get at launch). I played the Battlefield 1 beta a little bit, enjoyed it, then bought the full game and played for like a week before moving on. In retrospect I wish I’d spent more time in the beta because had I, I might have realized it wasn’t a game I’d stick with for long. I don’t want to repeat of that; I need to get deep into the game to see if it’ll stick with me.

5) And heck now that I mentioned it, let’s throw “Play some Battlefield 1 matches” onto the list. Maybe I’ll get hooked again.

I’m not generally one for New Year’s Resolutions but this year circumstances are kind of guiding my hand. 2017 is going to suck for us. First our lease is up in July and we’re going to have to move since they want to renovate the apartment. They’ve been going through the entire complex doing this, dislodging some residents who’ve lived here for decades, so while I’m not taking it personally, it’s a major inconvenience. I’m old enough that moving means hiring someone. My days of humping heavy furniture up and down stairs are behind me, and Angela is in even worse shape for that kind of thing. So moving is going to be both a headache and a big expense. In fact we’re going to start packing up some stuff as soon as the Christmas decorations come down just in case we find a new place before July and have to move in a hurry.

Money is going to be tight this year because of that, and because our health insurance is going through the roof. Between the two of us we’re paying about $800/month on health insurance now. Mine is through work and went up about $40/month this year, Angela’s is through the ironically titled Affordable Care Act, and it jumped $125 or so from 2016 to 2017. So now we need to cut $165/month from other areas. We’re going to cancel cable and that will cover about $75/month of it, but the rest will have to come from cutting down on fun stuff, including games. Of course the big wildcard in all this is: how much will our new rent be? We’re looking at moving to a town outside the Raleigh area to see if we can save that way, but we can’t go so far out that we don’t get decent Internet since I need that for my work. It seems like rents go up just outside the city and then start going down as you move further out into more rural areas.

So enough depressing myself, here’re my fairly un-specific gaming resolutions for 2017:

Play games longer — I’ve already started doing this. For years I’ve been a real ‘grazer’ when it comes to games. I buy a ton of them and play most of them for a short time, basically until the novelty wore off or until some new shiny caught my eye. I very rarely finished games. I’ve been changing that habit in 2016 though. I’m not only finishing more games but in some cases continuing to play past the end of the narrative. I’ve found that many games seem to have 3 stages: The shiny new game phase where you’re learning the major systems and everything is fun. Then the ‘mid-game’ phase that can feel a little rote (and that’s where I previously would bail). Then finally the “Expert” phase where you’ve played enough that you start picking up on subtleties that you missed earlier, or maybe enjoying aspects that you’d kind of overlooked… I’m finding it hard to quantify this, but I know that I’m finding my interest in games seems to start high, then fall, then ramps back up the more I play.

Buy fewer games at launch — I need to resist the hype surrounding new games and buy far fewer at launch. Not only will this save me money since prices drop so quickly, but these days many games improve in the months after launch as the developers fix bugs, tweak performance or add features. Since I virtually never play games twice it just makes sense to wait for these improvements before purchasing and playing a game. I’ll still get a few titles at launch: stuff that is primarily multiplayer for instance, since you want to be competitive and play when the community is most active. Also a few select titles that just feel special to me: Horizon: Zero Dawn for instance.

Blog when I have something to say — This is a bit of a tangent, but I just recently re-opened this blog and already I’m feeling a little like I’m in a rut, mostly because I’ve been trying for daily posts even when I’m not really feeling it. So in 2017 I’m going to cut back and just do posts when I have something I want to share

And that’s about it. Here’s hoping 2017 sucks less than I expect it to. But I doubt it will.

Once again nerdy noodling cut into my gaming time last night. This time it was creating a bootable USB stick with a Linux distro on it. Seems like it should be easy but it turns out there’s a lot of trial and error involved. Depending on the computer, the thumbdrive type and the distro you’re trying to use, I guess. All I know is I’ve created 4 different supposedly bootable thumbdrives so far. I don’t think any one of them works on all the systems I’ve tried it on.

I did feel pretty good about finally getting a “Live” Ubuntu thumbdrive to boot and using the included disk partitioning software (GpartEd) to resize the linux partition on my dev server. When I set that system up a few years ago I was just playing around with linux so only devoted 100 GBs of space to it. (Did I really just say “only” 100 GBs?) Now that I have clones of 7 or 8 of our sites running on it, plus lots of backups, I was out of space. Didn’t really want to wipe the drive so I was happy this worked out.

Yesterday I installed Ubuntu with the Unity desktop on my old Lenovo laptop. I don’t really like Unity and I thought I could just install whatever desktop I wanted, but after Googling around I’m getting mixed signals. Some people say its fine to replace the desktop (I was looking at Mate) and others say you’re better off re-installing after finding a distro that has the desktop you want baked in.

So I’m considering Option C, which is to just install Linux Mint with the Cinnamon desktop instead of Ubuntu. I run Mint on my dev server and it feels pretty comfortable to me, but some things work slightly differently than they do on standard Ubuntu. Since all our websites run on Ubuntu I feel like it would behoove me to get more used to the Ubuntu way of doing things. So we’ll see.

Anyway on to gaming.

I might be almost done blogging about No Man’s Sky. I’m still enjoying the game a lot but I’m not sure how to talk about what I’m working on without it sounding boring and NMS is such a magnet for haters…I don’t want to give them any ammo to attack the game with.

I started off last night talking to my employees. The armorer says he’s done everything he can do for me, which is a little disappointing, but the others are keeping me busy.

I need to find something called Rigogen in order to make Copper Wiring, which in turn I need to make Circuit Boards, which is something my Construction Expert is waiting for. I Googled Rigogen and apparently it is found underwater. Since I started searching for it I’ve only found one planet with water and it was pretty shallow. No Rigogen there. Huge ‘bubbles’ of Emeril filled with water though. I almost drowned in one of them!

What’s a little annoying is that I stumbled upon a moon with ample deposits of copper (and gold) but I can’t use that copper to make copper wiring. Silly videogame logic.

I need to go in search of more Condensium for non-ferrous plating, also for circuit boards. I know where to get that, I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.

I need Coryzagen to make glass with. Haven’t really started looking for that yet.

My farm is coming along. I have a few ‘crops’ growing and two more I’m working on. One requires Albumen Pearls which are always fun to collect because whenever you take one, the local sentinels freak right out. Probably because these pearls are actually some kind of chrysalis for some kind of life form.

But what I spent a lot of time on last night was gathering Coprite. You get that from “overfed animals.” Yeah it’s space poop more or less. Pre-Foundation Update feeding an animal just resulted in it digging up small deposits of random materials. It was hardly worth it once the novelty of having a short-term animal friend wore off. But now if you feed them they make Coprite, which I basically needed as fertilizer for some crop the farmer wants. The other material I need for this crop comes from carcasses. Since I’m not a MONSTER I wasn’t about to start shooting the animals I’d just been feeding so I decided I’d collect this stuff from aggro animals.

I finished the night on a moon that had both aggressive sentinels and aggressive animals; I was attacked as soon as I jumped out of my ship. So next time I play I should finish gathering all that up.

Other than that it was business as usual. Learning new words, fighting pirates, scavenging. I found a derelict ship but since it only had one more ‘slot’ than my current ship I decided to skip it.

See? It all sounds really boring, but actually my gaming time flew by and I was sad when it was time to quit for the night. I do think one night a week is a nice frequency for NMS though; it feels fresh and fun every time I log in (and it gives Hello Games time to get the next update out before I leave the game behind).

The plan for last night had been to jump back into Shadow of Mordor but as so frequently happens with me, I got distracted somewhere along the way.

Distraction one: I got a wild hair and decided to re-purpose an old Lenovo laptop I had kicking around. It was set-up to dual boot a Preview Build of Windows 10 (long expired) or a pretty ancient build of Linux Mint. I thought maybe I’d give straight up Ubuntu a try and burned what was supposed to be a bootable USB stick to install from. Did that on a Windows 10 machine, but couldn’t get it to work. After noodling around I decided to try the same thing from the old Mint installation and that worked, but with all the reboots and Bios checks and research it took up a lot of my night.

Now I have a vanilla Ubuntu laptop (I wiped the partitions to it’s just a single boot machine) and gawd do I hate the default Ubuntu desktop. So I started looking into alternatives and that ate up more time.

When I finally got around to gaming I found myself booting up Mantis Burn Racing. Every so often I go to psnprofiles.com and look at the Trophy Advisor. This little gizmo suggests the next trophy you should work on, from all your games, based on how many players of that game have earned that trophy (I think). What always comes up for me, if I filter by just PS4 games, is the “Forwards is so overrated” Trophy for MBR. 92.22% of MBR owners have earned that one. I figured I’d better get it too.

Mantis Burn Racing is an over-head racing game with nice CaRPG over-tones. As you win races in career mode you earn experience that unlocks new cars and new car upgrades. Each car has a few slots for upgrades and if you fill all the slots you can spend (in-game) cash to “Level Up” the car which unlocks more slots.

This kind of system keeps racing games fun for me. In a pure racing game where you’re just racing over and over to shave seconds off a clock, I kind of get bored, but earning phat lewt I can use to level up with? That’s right in my wheelhouse.

I bought MBR when I got the PS4 Pro since it was one of the first games to offer native 4K gameplay (granted it’s not a super complex game) and even though I enjoyed it, I was quickly lured away by the spectacle what was the PS4 Pro upgrades for the Infamous games. I always meant to get back to MBR because it’s a fun little game (I think it was $15 or $20 at launch). I’m glad I finally took the time to revisit it. Oh, and they’ve added an HDR patch since I last played it, too!