Archive for February, 2023

Thoughts on “Dungeons & Desktops”

February 28, 2023

So as I’ve mentioned before I often read “The CRPG Addict” while waiting for compiles and installs, because I need something to occupy my time and reading things works better because it’s basically random access:  I can stop and start reading and go back incredibly easily when things finish or I get interrupted.  Something that he’s been recommending a few times is the book “Dungeons & Desktops”, and so when I decided to pick up some things from Amazon I decided to order it.  There are two notable things about it from my perspective.  The first is that the version I got is the second edition, which supposedly adds in some modern games which weren’t in the first edition.  The second is that it cost about twice as much as I would usually be willing to spend on such a book, so the pressure was on for it to be an entertaining read and so a book that I might want to reread to make the extra cost worth it.

Fortunately, the book turned out pretty well.  It’s an interesting summary of the history of video games, starting from their inspiration from tabletop games up to the modern era, and covers how they evolved, how they succeeded, and how they failed.  It even takes the time to note that some of the big series — Ultima and Might & Magic — pretty much ended up failing in the exact same way, although it didn’t cover that much of the Mass Effect debacle (although it mentions it).  The authors also fill in things a bit with their own personal experiences with some of the games which is a nice touch and stops the book from being a dry and technical history which makes it more fun to read.  And the book is fairly comprehensive, going through a ton of games and talking about some of them in detail.  So, overall, the book was an entertaining read which help me get through it quickly while watching curling and not getting overly distracted by the curling while reading it.

I needed to start with the praise because the rest of this post is going to consist of some nitpicks about the book and then a longer discussion about RPGs and about games in general spawned from it.  So I needed to make it clear that I did enjoy the book before I start complaining about it.

The first nitpick is that at times, the two authors engage in short conversations with each other.  These conversations are … less than successful.  The problems I had with them is that they rarely followed directly from the text and so seemed to be there just to be there, tried to be funny but came at times where we didn’t need comic relief, weren’t all that funny besides, and also were often a bit mean-spirited, where Shane Stacks would say something and Matt Barton would basically insult him or at least express what I felt was an undue frustration with what was said.  There are a lot of these early on but fortunately they fade away as we get into the book proper and only return a couple more times right at the end.

The second nitpick is that despite the fact that I bought the book because The CRPG Addict mentioned it, they don’t mention him very much.  All they do is use one of his screenshots and have two comments where he says the game they are talking about is terrible.  They do recommend him at the end of the book, but when they were trying to define what it means to be a CRPG for example it wouldn’t have killed them to have referenced the detailed definition that he used and has refined over the years.  There were a number of times where referencing him would have made sense and it was a bit disappointing that they didn’t.

The final nitpick is that while there is a significant amount of research in the book, it has a tendency to focus on the games that they know and played and often leaves some of the others out.  For example, when talking about modern JRPGs they basically mention the Persona games as, to paraphrase Kor’s comment to Worf in DS9, “and they were there, too”, despite the fact that that series is probably the most influential of the modern JRPGs and might well be the epitome of of the modern JRPG.  Since it builds in the romances from CRPGs to a level unseen outside of them, it certainly had an interesting link there and was innovative, and so it probably deserved more attention than it got … especially since they tried to comment on which one was the best and seemed to pick Persona 5 by default.  And while I can forgive them for not mentioning Shadow Hearts when talking about older JRPGs that they didn’t even mention the Suikoden series in their list of games at the end is a bit harder to forgive, given its long lineage and unique character interactions and stories.  They also lament the lack of superhero CRPGs, but don’t even mention the X-Men Legends/Marvel Ultimate Alliance games — again, even in the list of games at the end — despite the fact that the games appeared on PC — at least from X-Men Legends 2 — and are clearly ARPGs, which they talk about.  Finally, they talk about Dark Age of Camelot but focus on Realm vs Realm, which is fair, but imply that the different realms heavily focused on different aspects, like the Norse realm focusing on melee, which is misleading since one of the wonderful things about the game is that each realm contains interesting and lore-specific implementations of all of the major class distinctions, and so the Norse realm has strong mages and ranged classes as well, and the others have strong melee classes, like the Paladin class that I tend to play in the Arthurian realm.  While the book itself is interesting and covers a lot, there are a number of things that a reader can complain about wrt how they treat games that the reader knows and likes better than they do.  This might be one of the fun things about such a book, but if the complaints are serious enough it hurts it as a history.

And the final thing I want to talk about is the one thing that separates them — and the CRPG Addict — from me is that they really do like the combat in RPGs, and consider good combat a key to a good CRPG … which is something that I don’t really agree with, seeing combat as, in general, the thing that I need to get through in order to get to the fun parts of a CRPG.  In fact, one of my biggest fears with CRPGs is that the combat is going to be too hard for me and will prevent me from finishing the game, which is one reason why I haven’t finished VTM: Bloodlines.  Given their research, though, this has been one of the things that CRPG game makers have always considered important as well, which again is why I end up being afraid to play those games knowing that if the combat is too difficult I will get very frustrated and might get myself into a situation where I’m not powerful or skilled enough to beat a key combat and so will have to quit without finishing the game … which has happened to me in the past.

But this struck me as creating an issue that is relatively unique for CRPGs, because they are games that from the start and from their tabletop origins always combined a number of different elements into it.  Yes, we’ve had cross-genre games, but CRPGs are pretty much cross-genre by definition.  The elements of a CRPG have always included a great story, great characters, great combat, interesting magic and leveling systems and interesting and varied equipment.  So in its very genre it has these different elements that are crucially a part of it, although different games may focus on some elements and not others.  However, what this means is that different gamers may be attracted to different aspects of a game.  Some players may come for the combat, some for the story, some for the characters, and so on.  But what this means is that they may not, in fact, actually like the other aspects of the game, which means that they have to try to put up with them to get to what they actually want to do in the game.  As noted, I’m the sort of player who is there primarily for the story and characters.  If the combat is too difficult or too prevalent, I may bail on or have to bail on the game and not get to experience that story, which will be disappointing and will sour me on the series as a whole.  On the other hand, players who are there primarily for the combat might get frustrated at all the times the game stops to relate the story and keeps them from moving on to what they really want to do.

So CRPGs need to balance these aspects, and from the book it looks like what most of them did was either to try to maximize everything or else focused a lot on the combat and made the story basically work.  The game that I think has balanced these things the best is indeed the aforementioned Persona games, as on Easy the combat is easily manageable and yet the combat system has the depth that even a story gamer benefits from paying attention to it and, in fact, generally has to pay attention to it to make it work, but with careful planning can usually minimize their grinding — especially in 4 and 5 — to focus on the story and character aspects, while someone who prefers the combat has a lot of ways to minimize the story to make the combat dominate their gaming experience more often.  And yet my worry about Persona 5 is that each of these elements are becoming so complicated and prominent that if you don’t like one of them you have to spend too much time and effort doing them, which will make them more frustrating.  And so I think attempts to define a CRPG as having to have all of these elements are doing the genre a disservice, as it forces them to include all of them and attempt to make them all to the level of those who really, really like those elements means that they can turn off those gamers who don’t like all the elements and prefer some elements to others.  But trying to minimize some of those elements leads to things like ARPGs and debates over whether things are really CRPGs at all, which isn’t good for CRPGs and so not going to help them gain mainstream appeal.

At any rate, the book is a good examination of the history of CRPGs, which makes it a must read for people who like CRPGs and either played those older games or want to know where the newer games came from.

Thoughts on “The Scotties”

February 27, 2023

So, it’s that time of year again, where I take off a couple of weeks and take the first week, at least, to watch some curling on TV.  Every four years I end up taking the entire two weeks and watch some other sports as well since that’s when the Winter Olympics are on, but outside of that I just take the first week and watch the Scotties, the Canadian Women’s Championships.  This time it was out in British Columbia which means that I couldn’t watch the late draws as they started after I typically went to sleep, which also meant that I couldn’t watch the final either.

There was actually some controversy to start the event, which swirled around issues with pregnancy.  As this is the start of the four year cycle building up to the Olympics a lot of the women decided that if you’re going to start to add to your family this was really the best time to do so, and so a number of teams had members who were pregnant or had just given birth and so might have had some physical issues in playing, and so their teams might need a replacement player.  The governing body had a rule that I think only the top 5 teams by rankings could break the residency rule and have more than one player from outside of the province, and so bring in an import to replace a pregnant player.  This meant that Kaitlyn Lawes’ team could replace Selena Njegovan with Laura Walker, but in theory if they needed to a team like Casey Scheidegger’s couldn’t have, despite both the skip and her sister being pregnant.  This caused an uproar, and ultimately the governing body changed the rule.

Now, for me the interesting thing about this was, well, the uproar, because it was all based on what we normally see these days, with discussions over equity and the like.  But the governing body didn’t do this just because, so they had reasons to do this, reasons that were mentioned but glossed over to tie into the equity angle.  The reason, as I understand it, was that they felt that for the top teams that would normally finish high enough to get the funding it would be too onerous for them to be restricted to their own province to find their temporary replacement, and so they’d have to take someone that doesn’t play to their level, which would unfairly impact their chances at winning.  For teams below the funding level, there was an implication that there was a risk that they’d use the situation to bring in a better player and so artificially boost their chances, while it would be relatively easy for them to find a player that would be able to play at their level.  So, for fairness, the top five teams that would get funding would get the optimal chance to fill in with a player of equal quality, while at the same time no team outside of that would be able to take advantage of the rules to pick up a player of higher quality.

So in my opinion, the whole concerns about equity were a complete red herring.  What should have been focused on was the reasons for the rules and whether fairness dictated that they make the rule.  In my opinion, I can see that the rules are not simply arbitrary as implied, and so it wasn’t obvious that the rule should have been expanded.  That being said, I don’t see the need for the rule to enforce fairness, and can see a reason why teams lower in the rankings might want to pick up a player from another province.  What you want in a replacement player is less one that’s really, really good, but more one that you know well and can fit well into your team.  While you’ll take a really good player for your team, ideally you want someone that you’ve played with before so that you know what sort of shots they’re good at and want to make, and where to put the broom for them, and how their release works, and so on and so forth.  So a purportedly weaker team might want to bring in a player from out of province — even one of a higher perceived quality — not because they want to take advantage of bringing in a better player, but because they’ve played with them before or train with them or know them really well and know that they’re a good fit, and it’s unlikely that they’d simply want to bring in a supposed “ringer” because that person might not fit well with the rest of the team.  So, in my opinion, the rule wasn’t needed and it was fine to drop it, but the arguments over equity and encouraging women curlers completely missed the point.

Okay, on to the curling.  One thing that was very interesting this year was that there was a bit less of a gap among the provinces than we normally see, and one reason for this was that while perennial in-the-mix teams like Kerry Galusha and Suzanne Birt were still in the mix the younger teams really stepped it up this year.  Yes, it was still the case that Einarson’s Team Canada, Jones’ Team Manitoba, and Homan’s Team Ontario were in the playoffs, and McCarville’s Team Northern Ontario maintained their recent status as being among the teams that could win, in one pool there were tiebreakers among new and younger teams, with Christina Black’s Team Nova Scotia and Clancy Grandy’s Team B.C. coming out on top over Lawes’ Team Wild Card 1 and Laurie St-Georges’ Team Quebec, all of which are younger and newer teams.  Christina Black even topped Homan to make it into the actual playoffs, before being beaten.  So what we’re seeing now, it seems to me, is the younger teams making things interesting, but it will be interesting to see if they can do so consistently or if they’ll be inconsistent as they try to take that next step.

Christina Black was, in fact, the story of the event, as the team itself was a bit inconsistent but she often made incredible shots to get them out of trouble and to a 5 – 3 record and into the playoffs, and she had to steal three straight wins to do so, and almost stole a fourth except for a great shot from McCarville.  I found myself cheering for her for the same reason that I cheered for Laurie St-Georges when she made her debut — although Black was skipping last year, from what I heard — which is that both of them are very open and very enthusiastic. For example, Black had to play three games on Saturday, and after winning the second in an extra end she said “We could make 33!” which I didn’t understand until I realized that what had been cut off was that they could have ended up playing 33 ends in that one day.  Laurie St-Georges seemed to tone things down slightly this time around — although I didn’t get to watch a game of hers and so only had the reactions from the updates — but Black was still enthusiastic for most of the time, and fairly open, commenting after the last game that she was so tired that she couldn’t see straight after that disappointing loss.

Which ties into why I dislike Jennifer Jones so much.  A big part of it is for the same reason that I was disliking Kayla Skrlik’s team:  they’re teams that I don’t have any particular reason to like, and they get a lot of attention and beat teams that I like better.  For Jones, that’s a long standing dislike from her first Scotties win, and while I acknowledge that she’s a great curler I do tend to cheer against her unless she’s trying to win for Canada.  But other reasons I dislike her is that she’s pretty aggressive in her calls, especially when she’s throwing her own stones, when the person in the rings is supposed to be making most of the calls and Jones is screaming instructions from the hack (which, to be fair, is something they are supposed to do but my understanding is that definitely by halfway down the sheet the person in the rings is supposed to be listened to).  This is indeed what all the best skips do — and, yes, it annoys me about all of them, too — but this year Jones for some reason has taken over at skip for a young team and I end up wincing when she does that, since she’s probably on her last four year cycle and they are up-and-coming and I worry that they aren’t really learning what to do on their own when Jones takes over.  But there’s another reason, which is a comparison with Black.  What I noticed was that when Jones was making big shots she was celebrating quite a bit, but Black was making better shots and celebrating less than Jones, and when Black celebrated it was less her celebrating making a shot or taking advantage over her opponents, but instead more a celebration where she showed shock that she actually made that shot.  I found myself using the standard comment that Jones really should act like she’s been there before, and I compared her to Rachel Homan who tends to celebrate far less.  Then again, I’m not a Jones fan as I’ve already stated and so some of my impressions here might be biased.

Which leads me to the final, which pitted Einarson’s team against Jones’ team.  Now, I was cheering against Einarson’s team this year even though I still do like the team and even though they were looking to get a historic fourth straight win which is something that I normally like to see.  However, that’s precisely why I didn’t want them to win, and wanted someone else to finally beat them.  In truth, I was hoping that McCarville’s team would win, as I felt that they were due.  But when she didn’t make it to the final and it was Einarson vs Jones, well, I was all-in on Team Einarson.  Either team winning would be historic, as as noted Einarson was going for four straight and Jones was going for seven total wins … and again all I wanted was for someone else to win.  However, Einarson’s team won 10 – 4, taking 5 in the ninth to wrap it all up, which was indeed the better outcome for me.

So that’s it for the Scotties.  The Briar is up next, which is the men’s championships and so I won’t watch it that closely and won’t comment on it, which is followed by the Worlds, and then it’s back to the Grand Slam.

Halcyon Diary: A Hive of Scum and Villainy

February 27, 2023

So once we tracked down the guy who invented all of these terrible super weapons that the Republic wanted to deploy in the name of peace, the General then asked us to, well, track all of them down because obviously keeping these secret weapons secret was too much for them to manage.  So we had to get to them before the Empire got to them, finished them off, and then used them against us.  Did I mention what a terrible idea creating these weapons was?

Anyway, the first one that I needed to track down was on Nar Shaddaa, the infamous “Smugglers’ Moon”, a home to the worst criminals for a couple of reasons, both related to the Hutts, as it orbits Nal Hutta.  The first is that the group that hires most of these scum is the Hutts, so it was always good to set up near your meal ticket.  The second is that since this was in their system the ones that worked for the Hutts tended to be protected by them from any legal entanglements, so it was relatively easy for them to go out and do the things that they were hired to do and then run back here to get protection from the law.  Or, at least, protection until the Hutts decided they couldn’t be bothered protecting them anymore and sold them out for often trivial benefits, of course.

Because the Hutt concept of law and order basically boils down to “Whatever benefits me and I can get away with”, Nar Shadda was a pretty lawless place.  It’s not a place that I normally would have come to, at least not without significant backup, but since I had to come here anyway I took the opportunity to try to clean things up a bit.  Yeah, yeah, that was kinda like trying to clear the Dune Sea with a shovel, but I figured that I wouldn’t get as good an opportunity any other time and maybe I could at least help some people.  Besides, Kira seemed to appreciate it when I went after the gangs and helped out the little guys here and I’m still trying to convince her to let me do flight missions again.

As for the main mission, the project here was trying to create super soldiers, but the agent sent to track it down had disappeared.  I didn’t find these “Power Guards” all that impressive, but given time the Empire might have managed to actually make them challenging, so it did make sense to track them down and end the project, and also to find out what happened to that agent.  Following his trail, we discovered that he had indeed been captured and turned into one of these things, and since he was brainwashed as part of the process we had to fight him.  Beating him cleared his mind, and he asked me to kill him, but I couldn’t do that, so instead he ran off to get his revenge.  He didn’t quite make it, but helped clear the way for us, and we confronted the Sith running the project, a Lord Sadic, who had undergone some of the process himself and figured it made him tough enough to take us.  Well, as I said, I didn’t find the process all that impressive, and we went down, and I turned him over to the SIS for questioning in case he could tell us anything useful.

At that point, everything was wrapped up neatly and we could move on.  It was a surprisingly straightforward mission, which was good.  I hate surprises.

Shadow of Death 4

February 26, 2023

A figure approached the ancient, abandoned mansion.

He was, well, pretty much average: average height, average weight, average looks. Pretty nondescript, really. He was dressed all in basic black, and his face was a bit pale, but otherwise you wouldn’t even notice him if you walked past him on the street  Given all of that … he didn’t quite fit the stereotype of someone who would want to venture into an old, presumably haunted house to look around and take pictures.  Or, more likely these days, videos.

He moved forward almost leisurely, and yet determinedly.  It seemed like he knew where he was going and had a purpose in mind, but was in no particular hurry to get there.  And it soon became clear that nothing was going to get in his way.  When spirits of the researchers who had examined the mansion appeared before him, he waited silently for them to finish their little scene before he moved on.  When a ghost tumbled from an upper floor and lay in a heap in front of him, seemingly sporting a broken neck, he didn’t flinch but continued on once the apparition had faded from sight.  For whatever reason, scenes like that didn’t faze him in the slightest.

Some of the ghosts, of course, had ideas of doing more than simply living out scenes from their past, but despite their having frightened and even killed other visitors to the mansion they still didn’t faze the figure.  When they appeared in front of him, cackling and laughing and screaming, moving in for the attack, all it took was a simple prolonged stare from the figure to cow them into submission, fading away and not bothering the figure again.  The ghost that that wouldn’t work on was a blind ghost who seemingly stumbled around the halls attacking anything she heard had no better luck with the figure, as as soon as he came across her he moved so silently that she didn’t even hear his passage.  Even the ghost whose sacrificial death was responsible for the ghosts and haunting here, who was able to destroy any living creature with a mere touch, could not stand against him, as she attempted to bar his way into the innermost chamber of the mansion and had to give way in the face of his simple and determined glare at her.

Inside that chamber stood a much more lively undead than the ghosts that haunted the areas outside of it.

He was sitting in a rather comfortable chair in what looked like a very comfortable study, and as the figure he entered he rose to his feet, an annoyed and slightly angry expression on his face.  “I am not accustomed to visitors in this place, ” he said menacingly.  “In fact, most visitors to this place who make it this far are never seen again.”

The figure was just as unfazed by this undead figure as he was by the ghosts outside, and so said nothing in reply.

The undead sighed, and continued in his urbane voice.  “I, of course, would not dream of attempting something like that with you.  I recognize who you are.”

Then, his voice turned almost hopeful.  “Might I hope that your purpose here is to finally claim me?” he asked.

“I am afraid not, ” the figure replied, in a voice that would send a chill down the spine of anyone who heard it, and yet was devoid of inflection and emotion.

The undead sighed again.  “I suppose it was too much to hope for.  I suspect that I will be doomed to my torment for an eternity, if not longer.”

The figure said nothing.

“So, if you are not here to end my pitiful existence, what purpose does bring you to this abode of the damned?” the undead continued.

“I am here for the amulet, ” the figure replied.

“Ah, yes, of course, ” the undead replied.  “Although obviously your purpose for it is not at all the same purpose that I had for it.”

He then moved to one of the bookcases and removed a specific book, that was simply entitled “Josette”.  He opened it, revealing that it was hollow, and removed a simple amulet from it.

“I had a purpose for this once, ” he said, looking at it wistfully.  “I had hoped that it might preserve her against that which threatened me and, through me, her.”

He then looked at the figure again.  “But, of course, you of all people know how that turned out.”

The figure didn’t reply, and so he handed the amulet to the figure.  “Take it, ” he said.  “May it serve your purpose far better than it did mine.”

The figure took it, bowed slightly, and then headed for the door.

“Perhaps, ” the undead said, “Perhaps one day, maybe even one day soon, you will return to me and end my torment?”

The figure hesitated for an instant, and then said, “We shall see.”

And then the figure exited the study, and vanished from sight, and from the mansion itself.

Thorough Rebuttal to Carrier’s “The Problem with Nothing”

February 24, 2023

I’ve talked a bit in places about Richard Carrier’s argument about “The Problem with Nothing”, that he first outlined here and then talked about more informally here, but I don’t think I’ve outlined all of the issues with it in detail and all in one place. I’ve also come across it in the comment sections of blogs from people who tend to follow him, with people talking about how clever an argument it is.  Since I find it deeply flawed, I think it would make sense for me to write out all the problems with it in one place for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that I could stop thinking about all of them, which is the entire reason this blog exists.

Let me start with an even more informal summary of the argument.  Carrier argues that if we had a state of true Nothing then there are no laws that can constrain what happens in such a Nothing (in his formal summary he says that all that can exist in such a state of Nothing is the logically necessary, but that wouldn’t be a Nothing as the philosophers use it and so wouldn’t count, as the Something that philosophers talk about is something that is, indeed, logically necessary).  But, he claims, if there are no such laws that means that we don’t have the laws of physics and sometimes he talks like the laws of logic wouldn’t really exist either.  So what this means is that without those laws and so without the constraints defining what can’t happen then it means that anything can happen, and so things would happen there pretty much at random.  In his detailed post, he uses this to argue that this could create multiverses. but ultimately in the second post he argues that no universe coming to exist from such a state is the most unlikely case, and thus concludes that if we really had that state of Nothing then some kind of universe is pretty much certain to occur, and so it is false to say that nothing comes from nothing and so we wouldn’t need a God — or, more importantly for my purposes, any kind of logically necessary Something — to explain how this universe comes into existence.  Therefore, “The Problem with Nothing” shows how Nothing will in fact always produce something, not the nothing that the philosophers — and theologians — assert.

So, let me start with the first problem:  for this to work, the laws of physics, at least, must be in a strong sense prescriptive.  They must act like, say, traffic laws, where they create strong constraints and enforce those constraints with some kind of force, whatever that might be in this case.  The problem is that the laws of physics are descriptive, not prescriptive.  They are laws that we invent as humans to describe how things in the universe interact, but aren’t laws that prescribe how things in the universe interact.  As such, the reason that we’d say that there are no laws of physics in the state of Nothing is not that we needed to remove these things from the universe to get to that state, but instead because there are no things in the state of Nothing to interact and so no interactions to describe.  So we couldn’t even get to Carrier’s rule that everything would happen randomly because there are no things for anything to happen to and for us to describe with “things happen randomly”.  If Carrier really has a Nothing as even he claims it — again, leaving out any specific thing that is logically necessary because that would be a Something — then he could not even say that anything could happen at random because that requires some kind of Something there whose interactions we could describe, and so create a law of physics from.  In short, if Carrier can even start to say that things would happen at random then he has precisely the sort of law that he claims we wouldn’t have in that state of Nothing, refuting his own point.

The second problem is that rules like the laws of physics are not solely used to describe what can’t happen in a universe.  Rules like these additionally — and more importantly — describe what can happen in a universe.  After all, the more important finding of the law of gravitation is not that if we jump in the air we can’t achieve escape velocity on Earth, but instead the formulas that allow us to calculate exactly what speed an object dropped from a height will achieve when it hits the ground, all things being equal.  So the importance of the laws of physics is that they tell us what can and will happen in a universe, and in Carrier’s state of Nothing there are not only no laws that tell us what can’t happen, but there are also no laws that tell us what can happen, which means that there are no laws that can tell us what will happen.  Carrier might think this supports his point by saying that therefore things would happen at random and every outcome would be equally probable, but that is itself a law that says what will happen which is the precise sort of law that Carrier says cannot exist in his state of Nothing.  So it’s not just that we can’t say what can’t happen, but that we can’t say what can happen either, and so have no reason to think that anything can or will happen in such a state.

The third problem is that for Carrier’s argument to work it must be the case, as I talked about in the first problem, that the laws of physics and even laws of logic in some way enforce what can’t happen.  What this has to mean for it to work is that they must enforce that causally (and Carrier talks about there not being causation in the first post on “The Problem with Nothing”).  What this means, then, is that the reason we can’t do something in any universe is not because it can’t be done, but instead because these rules and laws causally prevent us from doing that.  So the reason I can’t jump in the air and achieve escape velocity is not because the various forces combine as per our descriptions of them to prevent it, but instead because the Law of Gravity causally intervenes to stop me from doing that.  If the Law of Gravity wasn’t there, then it could work, even if all the forces and formulas remained the same.  This is, to say the least, a very odd view of how the world works, and one that we have absolutely no reason to accept.  It makes much more sense to say that the laws of physics describe these existent situations and so describe the limitations placed on us by the state of the universe itself as opposed to the laws themselves creating the limitations.  But if that’s the case, then Carrier’s argument that if there are no laws of physics we have no such constraints and so anything can happen fails, as it was never the laws creating the constraints in the first place.  All he could do is argue that all constraints are removed because there are no forces and objects in the universe to create those limitations … but then again there are no forces and objects in the universe to do anything, even create random sets of universes, and so we’d still need an explanation for how anything at all can happen in Carrier’s state of Nothing.

The last problem is probably the most damaging one philosophically, but is probably the one that most people will consider the least interesting.  The issue is that in order for the laws of physics to have causal power, they have to exist to be able to cause things.  This, then, means that Carrier needs abstracts to have actual existence.  This means that he cannot be a nominalist about such concepts and argue that they are defined by consensus, nor can he be a conceptualist of my stripe arguing that they are concepts that we discover and apply and can apply across possible worlds.  They can’t be things that primarily exist in the minds of human beings — or other conceiving creatures — but must exist independently of humans and external to them.  And they can’t merely as part of the objects in the universe either because they’d have to govern how those objects interact.  From this, it looks like Carrier needs to adopt some kind of Platonic Realism about at least the laws of physics, making them real objects that we cannot in any way observe empirically and yet are real enough to act on the world.  This causes a couple of huge problems for Carrier.  If Carrier argues that these are physical, then he’d be inventing these physical objects that act nothing like pretty much all other physical objects that we’ve ever encountered.  We’ve never encountered any physical objects like them and even by his own epistemology he’d have no prior probability of such things existing.  But if he takes the normal tack of Platonic Realists and argues that they are non-physical, then that would refute his materialist view of the world and probably refute his naturalistic view of the world.  Either way, Carrier would need some significant evidence to get us to accept that such strange entities exist … and right now all he has is that it would allow him to solve the “Something from Nothing” problem in a way that would exclude it needing to be God.  That is, of course, not even close to being sufficient.

Ultimately, Carrier’s big mistake here is that his argument here treats the laws of physics as prescriptive rather than descriptive, which is the move that allows him to argue that without them we have no constraints on what can happen in a universe, and so anything can happen and so universes can and likely will be created in such a state of Nothing.  Once we understand that these laws merely describe how things in a universe can interact, we can see how they wouldn’t exist in such a state of Nothing and yet by that very fact we can be fairly certain that nothing at all could happen, as they describe what can and can’t happen in a universe and if we say that something can happen, even at random, then we have such a law and must, in fact, have at least one thing existing for us to have laws saying how that thing acts and interacts.  And once we have that case, we no longer have a state of Nothing at all, even as Carrier describes it.

Thoughts on “Haunt”

February 23, 2023

Finally stepping out of the pack that I’ve been talking about for the past month, I moved back to single-shot movies with “Haunt”.  This is a pretty recent movie and is advertised as being by the writers of “A Quiet Place”, which is a movie that I’d heard a lot about but isn’t the sort of movie that I’d be interested in (it might be able to build good tension but that sort of movie would likely end up boring me or tiring me out).  This movie had an interesting start but would it be able to stick the landing?

The premise here is that a young woman — I think she’s in college or something — has an abusive boyfriend and, as it turns out, her father was abusive towards her mother as well, and she wants to break up with the boyfriend but as it’s Hallowe’en she gets convinced to stop sitting in her room and ignoring his apologetic texts and go out with them to do … something fun.  They end up at a haunted house and decide to go in and give it a try.  Meanwhile, they actually ended up there because they were being followed by someone, who is revealed to be her boyfriend.  As they proceed through the house, things seem like simple scares but things get creepier and creepier, with a simulated murder and then as some of them go through a vent maze one of their party disappears and then ends up in the “simulated” murder scene … which then seems like a real murder.  This freaks them out, and so they break the rules and instead of moving forward try to move back, while at least some of the denizens of the haunted house try to kill them off.

I will talk about the ending a bit later, because it’s necessary to understand that to understand where the movie fails.  The thing about the movie up to about this point is that it was actually doing a good job of setting up points to pay off later.  I’ve griped numerous times about modern movies and how they seem to put elements into movies that they think should be there but only in a perfunctory fashion, so that they end up being there to be there and yet don’t end up actually doing anything in the movie.  Up to here, though, this didn’t seem to be the case.  They brought up the abusive boyfriend early and tied it in to her history later on, and they even kept the abusive boyfriend in the picture to be used later (or, perhaps, to even have him be ultimately behind what was happening).  At the same time, what is going on in the haunted house and why they are doing these things is also an interesting mystery, and towards the end when she ends up in a room that seems to be a lot like the room in her house it seems like it does bring the various plot elements together in some way.  For most of the movie, then, it seems to be using these elements precisely the way they should be used in a movie.

But this turned out to be all style and no substance, and while for most of the movie I was able to go along with them by the end of the movie it became clear that they weren’t using these things properly at all.  The abusive past is part of her history, sure, but it’s not used for anything.  Her boyfriend shows up to rescue her, isn’t involved with them, and the movie never even hints that he’s involved with them before killing him off.  This leaves things clear for her new beau but we don’t really learn enough about any of them to tell if the new beau is better or worse for her than he was.  We never really learn what the deal with the haunted house was, nor why they had a room like her old room in that haunted house.  I was able, then, to go along with it until it became obvious that they hadn’t and weren’t going to properly develop and pay off these elements, at which point the entire movie completely fell apart.  When she battled her way past the last minions and drove away with her new beau, that should have been triumphant and a symbol of her overcoming her issues, but none of that is tied into any of her issues and so it can’t properly close them.  Even worse is the “second ending” where she returns to her house and the head guy from the haunted house follows her there and she blows him away with what I think is the shotgun from the haunted house.  Again, this should be triumphant and link to everything else and be freeing for her, but it isn’t because there is no link from him to her, and so it’s just a scene that should have had meaning and is played like it has meaning but ultimately has no meaning.

That’s the sad thing about this movie, and what really ruins it.  For most of it, it manages to emulate the elements that would provide real meaning so well that it really looks like it’s going to do that properly, but at the end it becomes clear that it hasn’t actually done that, but it still seems to want to pretend that it does even past the point where we in the audience are indeed entirely aware that it hasn’t and isn’t going to . That was the point where the movie lost me, and where I went from enjoying it and thinking that it could have gone into my closet of movies to rewatch to deciding that I was never going to watch it again and so it will end up in my box of movies to possibly sell.  The production values are good and there is a relatively sympathetic lead, but how it all falls apart at the end just makes it too annoying to watch.

Comprehensive Comments on “The Twilight Zone” (Disk 2)

February 22, 2023

So the first disk was definitely better than “Tales From the Dark Side”.  How is the second disk going to shake up?

The first episode is “Time Enough at Last”.  It follows a very bookish man who loves to read but finds that his attempts to read are being thwarted at every turn, or at least that his general obligations are making it difficult for him to find time to read.  When he tries to read at work, his boss reminds him that he’s supposed to be working and chides him for it.  When he tries to read at home, his wife intervenes and takes all his reading materials away, even going so far as to completely cross out all the pages in a hidden poetry book of his.  One day, as he sneaks down to the vault at the bank where he works to do some reading, a hydrogen bomb explodes on the city, knocking him out.  When he regains consciousness, he discovers that the city is in ruins and everyone seems to be dead.  He finds that he has lots of food — for years, as he notes — but there’s no one around and he has nothing to do.  He finds a revolver in the wreckage of a sporting goods store and contemplates suicide, but then he notices a sign from a library and discovers that the books have more or less survived, and plans out years of reading based on that.  However, as he goes to pick one up his glasses fall off and the lenses break and/or fall out, and he can’t see very well let alone read without them, at which point he breaks down in despair over how unfair that is.

Now, I knew about this episode already because Chuck covered it at SF Debris, and my impression from his review was that the main character was someone who was trying to read and completely ignoring his responsibilities, and that the people around him were more long-suffering, and that he was far happier about the world going away and leaving him time to read than he was.  I can’t say if that was just my impression or if that was how Chuck presented it, and I’m not going to go back and check that out now, and so will accept the blame myself for my mistaken impression.  And it is mistaken, because that’s not how it works at all.  The people around him are just incredibly mean about it.  Yes, his boss had a point that he was reading while he was supposed to be working and mischanging people, but he notes that the only reason he does that is because his wife won’t let him read at all at home, and then the boss chides him for reading on his lunch break which isn’t something his boss should worry about at all.  And when we see him at home, it seems like he was right to say that his wife wouldn’t let him read at all, and crossing out all the passages in the book was just plain mean.  Thus, I see him less as a misanthrope who retreats to books because he doesn’t like people and more like, well, someone like me, who is pretty much built to read anything that he comes across no matter what who has other people interfere with that.  Again, it seems to me that most of his problems would go away if the people around him would just make it clear what the acceptable and unacceptable times to read are.

In addition, when he discovers that he is alone he doesn’t in any way come to think that it’s a good thing, and not just because he didn’t have reading material (he comments on only having half a paper to read at one point).  Before he finds the library, he laments about being alone and the loneliness he is condemned to, and the fact that he has nothing to do, not just that he can’t read, and it is this that leads him to contemplate suicide.  So when he finds the library, it’s less like a wish he had coming true to be alone with books but instead as him being at his lowest point and then finding something to keep him occupied and then finding out that it happens to be his favourite thing in the world to do.  Thus, it seems like a blessing that alleviates what he saw as a curse, and makes him think that life is worth living.  And so when it is taken away from him at the end, it seemed to me to be an overly tragic ending.  If he had wished for that and gotten it, but was deprived of enjoying it, we could feel that he had gotten what he deserved.  But from what I can tell he didn’t wish for that at all and that was the only thing that would give him any purpose in life … and there’s also an unfortunate implication that without his glasses he probably wouldn’t live long since he would have a hard time finding food or even the gun again to end his life before he starved to death.

As such, this episode is well-done, well-acted … and utterly depressing and comes across as unfair.  Other than the narration and his one line that he has time enough at last to read after the destruction, there is no indication that he disliked people or was happy to be away from them.  He just wanted some time to read.  If the episode had instead ended with his having the books and being happy, it would have worked because the people around him were too mean for us to think him the problem for wanting some time to read when they didn’t seem to want to give him any time to read.  It’s a good episode, but I found the message annoying enough to ding it a bit.

The second episode is “Perchance to Dream”, where a man goes to a psychiatrist because he isn’t sleeping … but it’s not because he can’t sleep, but because sleeping will kill him.  It is revealed that he has the combination of a very vivid imagination and a heart condition, and his dreams lately have been frightening and exciting him in such a way that his heart won’t be able to take it and he’ll die.  There is a particular woman in his dreams who he claims is trying to kill him, and when he gets so agitated that he has to leave he runs out into the reception area and notes that the woman in his dream is the receptionist, and then runs back into the office and leaps out the window to his death.  It is then revealed that all of that was a dream he had after entering the office — he lay down to rest for a bit before starting awake to start the tale — and that dream was too much for his heart and he died in real life on the couch, not from jumping out the window.

The issue with this one is one that I think will carry forward for the rest of the episodes:  exposition does not work well with the “Twilight Zone” format.  When he walks into the room and starts telling his tale, we already know — and would have known by the ninth episode — that this is not going to be a normal story and that there will be something strange in it and a twist in it at some point.  So when we get a character simply talking about things, we immediately start looking for and wondering about the twist, and if the exposition meanders like it does here — it takes a while for him to start talking about his issue and then he muses about a picture of a sailboat and the imagination making it move — it feels like the episode isn’t getting to the point.  The idea and twist is okay, but the format that uses a lot of exposition works poorly when we are waiting for the twist not out of suspense, but out of a conscious recognition that one is coming and they will be setting up for it and we just wish they’d get around to it already.

The third episode is “Judgement Night”, where a man is hanging out on the deck of a ship in WWII with amnesia, but the episode quickly implies that he might be a U-boat captain.  As he becomes more and more suspicious and more and more frustrated with his amnesia, the ship itself faces more and more risks of being attacked by a U-boat, until it finally is attacked and the captain of that U-boat is him, slaughtering everyone.  It then shifts to a discussion between himself and a mate talking about how immoral these attacks on helpless civilians are with the mate wondering if the hell for someone who would do that would be to have to live what his victims lived over and over and over again until eternity, which is indeed what the captain is going through.

The big issue with this episode is that it pretty much gives the twist away too early, as we know that he’s a U-boat captain and that a U-boat is likely hunting the ship, and so it is likely given his amnesia that he’s reliving an attack that he himself made.  Beyond that, the characters aren’t interesting enough for us to want to see this through, so the episode seems to drag more and so is a bit boring.

The fourth episode is “And When the Sky Was Opened”.  We get a sense that a pair of pilots were in a plane that disappeared for a day and then returned, and one of them bursts into the hospital room of the other one — who was more seriously injured than him — and tries to get him to recognize that there were three pilots on that plane, and the plane was built for three people, but the other pilot insists that there was only one.  The episode them switches to a flashback where the other two pilots leave the hospital room and go to a bar, where the pilot who ended up disappearing feels like he’s disappearing and notes that people seem to be forgetting about him, including his parents, until he finally disappears and the first pilot keeps trying to find him or find anyone who remembers him, to no avail.  It then switches back to the hospital where the first pilot runs off in frustration and when the second pilot runs out to catch him sees that he is not in the hallway, and no one remembers him either.  Then we see the empty room where the second pilot has also disappeared from all memory and the craft itself has disappeared.

This has the same issue as “Perchance to Dream” where it starts with exposition and we keep waiting for them to start cluing us in on the twist.  The episode got a lot better in the flashback sections.  So much so that I think they should have started with that and had things develop slowly until the end, and then put that initial scene after what was the flashback section here and so eliminate it as a flashback entirely.  That would have played to the strengths of the “The Twilight Zone”, with the long build-up to a twist conclusion that gives us lots of clues about what’s happening but doesn’t reveal it to is.  The episode starts poorly but once it hits the flashbacks it really starts to work.

The fifth episode is “What You Need”, which starts with a loser sitting in a bar when an old man comes in selling various things and claims to sell people what they need.  He starts with a woman who wants matches but he tells her she needs cleaning solution, and then to a former baseball player where he tells him that he needs a bus ticket to a specific place.  Sure enough, he gets a call asking him to come for an interview as a coach for a baseball team in that very place where he bought the ticket, and he notices he has a spot on his jacket so the woman uses her cleaning solution to clean it, suggesting that they might get together at some point.  The loser then leaps at the opportunity and asks the old man for what he needs, and is sold a pair of scissors, which allow him to cut off his scarf when it gets caught in some elevator doors and was going to strangle him to death.  The loser returns for more, and is sold a fountain pen that predicts what horse will win a race (although it stops after that win).  He demands more things that he “needs” and the old man demurs, so the loser grabs a pair of shoes from him, puts them on, and then asks if that’s what he needs, and approaches the old man with murderous intent when the old man refuses to give him a straight answer.  The loser slips in the street because of the shoes and is killed by a car, and so the shoes ended up saving the old man’s life and killing the loser.  As the police interview a witness, the old man gives him a comb to clean up his hair for the cameras from the local news.

There’s not much more to this episode than a bad man and a loser being mean, and the twist is one that we could have seen coming.  It’s a well-performed and written episode, but nothing special in terms of plot or twist, and other than the old man’s magical abilities there’s nothing all that interesting about the characters.

A quick note here is that after this point there was some sort of issue with the disk I was watching where it wouldn’t be able to read the DVD and so would skip ahead, but I was able to see most of it by rewinding in review mode to that point and moving on until the next point.  Usually, this means that another of my players might have no issues, but I didn’t want to bother switching and so I did this.  What this means is that I won’t get the flow of the episode and so can’t comment on those aspects of it for the most part, only the plot itself and how things worked.  So if I wasn’t immersed in the episode, for example, that might not be a problem with the episode itself.

Anyway, the sixth episode is “The Four of Us Are Dying”, which follows a man who can shape change to look and sound like anyone that he has seen, but he needs time to think and so it works better from photographs.  He takes on the form of a musician who recently died to hit on the musician’s girlfriend, and then hits up a crime boss who eliminated someone who did a job for him for the money from that job.  This gets him in trouble when the crime boss’ goons show up and try to kill him, but at the last minute he sees a poster from a boxer and changes into that to fool him.  But as he leaves the alley an old man accosts him as the face he’s taken on is that of his son, and the father has a number of complaints against the man, and he eventually pushes the old man aside and takes off.  Later, a detective comes to the man’s room to take him in, and as he goes along he enters a revolving turn and changes his face, which allows him to dodge the detective.  However, the face he had taken on was that of the son, and the old man picks that moment to track him down and shoot him, and thus all four of the faces he has die in the street.

The issue here is that the premise itself doesn’t seem to be all that new and clever, so it needs to rely on the characters to make it work, and in this case that means the shape changer, especially given that we are supposed to feel something at the end when he’s dying in the street.  But there is no indication that he just was those people — and in fact the ending only works if he wasn’t the son — and so it isn’t really the case that four people are dying, especially since it’s clear that he doesn’t take on their personalities or memories when he shape changes.  He’s also not mean enough for us to feel satisfaction that he was hoisted by his own petard, but not nice enough for us to hope that he would have managed to get away only to be cruelly and tragically struck down.  What the episode really needed was for us to get some idea of why he was doing this now and what he wanted to get out of it, so we could feel something for him one way or another.  He earlier implied that he wanted a love like the one the musician had which is at least in part why he pursued the girl, so his trying to use his abilities to get a perfect life and failing at the end would have been nicely tragic.  But as it is we spend too much time on a plot that isn’t all that creative and don’t have enough time with the characters to make it work.

The seventh episode is “Third From the Sun”, where a man who works at a major weapons facility comes to understand the the weapons will be unleashed in the next forty-eight hours and takes on a risky plan with a friend of his to steal a new spaceship and head to another planet.  A co-worker from the plant suspects him and shows up at the house where they have all gathered to “play cards” before heading out to the ship, leading to some tension among the ones who know what’s happening.  The man leaves and the man, his wife, his daughter, his friend and the friend’s wife head to where the ship is, but the co-worker stops them by holding a gun on them, but the daughter cleverly opens the door of the car on his hand when he asks them to get out of the car, knocking the gun away and allowing them to get to the ship.  As they leave, they say where they are going and it turns out that they are going to place inhabited by people that look like them:  Earth.

This is actually a decent little suspense episode.  The episode cleverly drops hints that even though this planet looks like Earth, it isn’t, as the card game is unrecognizable, the phone completely different from what we’ve had, and the car makes an odd noise as it drives.  So we clearly know before the episode ends that they are likely not on Earth and so that they are heading to Earth, but the characters are interesting and likeable enough that this doesn’t ruin the episode, as we really, really want things to turn out well for them.  So this is a well-done and well-written episode.

The eighth episode is “I Shot an Arrow Into the Air”, where a manned rocket is fired into space and immediately disappears off the screens.  We then cut to the remaining crew saying that they are stranded on an asteroid, but one that by the position of the sun has to be in the same orbit as Earth.  They have limited supplies and are in a desert, so one of them starts to adopt a harsh attitude about not giving water to the dying man and demanding that the captain stop writing the log and focus his thoughts on getting them out of this, and at one point the two remaining crew wonder at the change in him.  As they explore the area and bury the dead the captain tries to give more water to the dying crewman and the aggressive crewman fights him over it, but it turns out to be pointless because the man died anyway.  They then try to explore further ahead at night but while the captain stands watch over the camp the other crewman comes back with a nearly full canteen of water, which leads the captain to correctly conclude that he took the water from the other crewman that he was out with, but he insists that the other man fell and he took it from him only after he was dead.  The captain holds a gun on him and forces him to take him back to where he left the other man, and when they get there the other man is still alive and trying to tell them what he saw on top, but the aggressive crewman had attacked him and then takes an opportunity to get the gun and kill the captain to, and then climbs up to see what the other man found … and it turns out that they were on Earth after all, near Nevada, and so he killed those other two men for nothing.

I can’t comment on how effective the twist was because obviously having to use review mode to get back to scenes meant that I saw it before it happened.  However, I will comment on the pacing here because in rewatching parts there were lots of sequences of them just walking that seemed to drag on and on.  This is sad because what I feel this episode really needed was more development of the aggressive crewman.  As it stands, we get the hint that he’s different after the crash but we don’t know if that’s even true and don’t know why, and we’re supposed to feel that he was guilty over what he did which suggests that it is the same person.  So it would have worked better to show that he was always self-interested and the situation just brought all that out fully, or even better that he was a good friend to them and a good person and was slowly worn down by the fear of death.  As it is, he starts out too aggressive and so there is no development, and so the episode doesn’t earn us feeling sorry for him in his guilt but given that structure we can’t just think him a selfish person who is happy with ensuring his own survival either, leaving us emotionally disconnected from the end.

So, this disk had some weak episodes, but the weak episodes tended to be well-written regardless.  The worst episodes here, for me, also tended to drag, which is something you don’t want to see in a half-hour episode.  Even worse, a couple of them seemed to drag but also seemed to need more room for development, which was also a trait of the worst “Tales From the Darkside” episodes.  So far, there are still really good episodes and even the weak episodes aren’t as bad as the worst episodes of that series, but it is starting to look like the “drag while needing development” might be a common flaw in shows like these.

Video Game Playlists

February 21, 2023

So, while writing up my answers to the Ultima IV questions and reading the comments, I ended up thinking about various series and the like that I wanted to play.  This was enhanced by my thinking about what I’m doing with DAO and wanting to play at least DA2 after I finish that.  And after the success of the nine month project to read the complete works of Shakespeare, I’m right now feeling pretty good about committing to things that will take a long time to finish … and playing any of these series will be that.  So, as is my wont, I want to make a list for it.  And since people have expressed an interest in my playing at least some of these games, I figured I should do it on the blog, to let people know what I’m looking at, to keep a record of that so that I can refer to it, and also to, well, have a post for the day from something I’m already writing about.

Note that this isn’t in priority order, just in the order I think of it.

Dragon Age:  This is what I’m currently working on.  The reason is that I picked up the pack with all the DLC from GOG and wanted to play the game once with those DLC.  So I’m right now playing with an ex-pat of Spencer from “Pretty Little Liars”, and when that’s done I’m quite likely to play DA2 with an ex-pat of Hanna.  DAI is on the table but I’m not at all sure that I would be interested in playing that game again.

Wizardry 6 – 8:  I love Wizardry 8 but have never finished it.  I started Wizardry 6 once and didn’t care for the graphics.  And these are long games that can be a bit grindy.  But I keep get reminded of them by the CRPG Addict and want to take a shot at them at some point.

Ultima IV – IX:  I could split it into separate runs — at least chopping 8 and 9 off — but I again was reminded of it reading the CRPG Addict and so am interested in trying it again.

Might and Magic (maybe from 6?):  This is getting to be a recording, since I was reminded of it from reading the CRPG Addict and so want to play them again.  I did enjoy 6 a bit when I played it the first time years ago, and am not sure that I can put up with the earlier games (which also applies to Ultima and Wizardry).

Gold Box Games:  This is constantly on my list.  I have only ever finished “Gateway to the Savage Frontier” and remember “Curse of the Azure Bonds” the most fondly.  This is of course a huge list and I don’t like the class choices of the earlier games, so I might end up doing it by series if I get around to this, but one of the big issues — mapping — is mostly solved by some things I found on the Internet making it less daunting for me to play one day a week.

Icewind Dale:  I have a few versions of these games lying around somewhere.  I liked the story of the first one better and the classes of the second one better, but never finished either.  It’d be nice to give it a try sometime.

Baldur’s Gate:  I never liked the first one and had some fun with the second one before abandoning it for no reason.  However, this — along with Planescape:  Torment, which is not a series and so won’t be on this list — is the series that I most feel like I should play and give more of a chance to, so it ends up here.

Fallout:  Including the old and the new games.  In both of the original games I ended up with a badly created character that couldn’t get anywhere (this also applied to Might and Magic).  I’ve never even loaded the new games.  But again these are games that I feel that I really should play at some point.

Elder Scrolls:  I got bored and went on a homicidal rampage in Morrowind, finished Oblivion, and started a couple of Skyrim games before abandoning it.  I have all of these games still and so should probably go through them at some point.

Mass Effect:  I restarted the trilogy recently with a Barbara Gordon ex-pat but then dropped it.  I wouldn’t mind going through it again with that although again the third one is a game that I don’t really want to play, and I’m not that thrilled with the second one either, to tell you the truth.

Knights of the Old Republic:  I’ve played a few games of the first one and finished them, but every time I tried to play a related Sith Lords game I get bored of it after Peragus and quit.  I’d like to actually complete the both of them at some point, although playing TOR constantly kind hampers that.

So, that’s the current list.  Yes, it’s huge, but as per my wont I’m not planning on finishing them all any time soon.  This is just a list for me to refer to when I finish Dragon Age so that I don’t forget what I wanted to play.

Halcyon Diary: And Now For Something Completely Different

February 20, 2023

So, after getting my hands on a ship again, I was itching to fly it and test out its limits, and that might flying in combat again.  On the one hand, it’s probably not a smart thing to do in the middle of a mission to save the galaxy, and it’s probably also not something that a Jedi should be striving for, but I’d been flying in and out of combat pretty much all my life and I missed it.  So I went out and found all the best weapons and shields for this thing and when I finally had it all installed I went out and ran some missions that the Republic Fleet Command was putting out there to see how it all worked.

The first one was a simple escort mission, which went pretty well, although I think I shot the guy I was escorting a couple of times before I realized it was him.  He really needed to get a better FoF system for that thing.  In terms of performance, the ship the Jedi had given me didn’t handle much like a sleek fighter and instead more like a bomber or a freighter, but it did well-enough.  A second mission in an asteroid belt was going really well until I accidentally banged into an asteroid that I didn’t see coming, and bent things up a bit.  After that, Kira put her foot down and said that she didn’t sign up to fix up all the hull breaches I would get from doing that … or dying that way, either.  I’m working on her and I think I’ll be able to wear her down.

Another thing that I didn’t have to wear her down much on was our burgeoning relationship.  Look, I was outside of the Order for a long time, and had a completely normal life.  That meant that that whole “You shouldn’t love” thing wasn’t something that I’d even thought about.  I’d fallen in love, had my heart broken, broken some hearts, and even had a fair amount of casual sex.  And yeah, Kira is attractive.  Very attractive.  And she seemed willing to flirt, and I enjoyed flirting with her, and so it was a little harmless fun.  Or so I thought.  But when I teasingly asked her for a kiss she pretty much jumped at the chance, which surprised me.  It’s just one of the little ways that she doesn’t really act like a Jedi, which works really, really well for someone like me who doesn’t really want to act like a Jedi either.

I thought that it might just be a little casual fun, but she actually brought up getting a dispensation to get married and maybe have kids, and I found myself as interested in that as she was.  Hey, if it worked for Bastila Shan, it could work for us, right?  I mean, she had to deal with the guy she loved being Revan, Dark Lord of the Sith, and we won’t have to deal with anything like that, so we shouldn’t have any issues, right?

I in the Sky 3

February 19, 2023

We’ll be together for ages …
Eating and sleeping and …
Eating and sleeping and …
Eating und sleeping und …
Turnin’ pages.

Chantal stood behind the island of of their kitchen that looked into their family room, nursing her morning cup of coffee as she looked at the latest to-do list on her phone.  “Remember, ” she said, “You have to pick up Joy from her dance class today.”

Her husband, Jacob, didn’t even look up from the book he was reading in the overstuffed chair he was sitting in as he replied, “Uh-huh.”

“And she needs the permission slip signed for the field trip to the art museum by Friday, ” Chantal continued.


“And we’re all meeting with the Sampson’s for dinner tomorrow night, so you’ll need to get your suit from the cleaners.”


She quirked an eyebrow and finally looked up at him.  “And remember to get the sheep for the demonic sacrifice on Saturday, ” she said.

“We use goats for demonic sacrifices, ” he replied, deadpan.  “We use sheep for sacrifices to pagan gods.”

She burst out laughing, and he finally put the book down and came to the island to look at her.  “Yes, ” he said, “I heard everything you said and it’s in my phone, too, so I’m not going to forget.”

“Yeah, but it makes me feel better to remind you of it, ” she replied.  “It helps me organize my day.”

“Shouldn’t it be the university professor who’s organized and the artist that isn’t?” he replied.

“You are familiar with the stereotype of the absent-minded professor?  A stereotype that fits you a lot better than it should?” she replied.

“Point taken, ” he conceded, but before he could fire back their sixteen year old daughter burst into the room.

She started to grab her book bag and head for the door, but Chantal stopped her.  “Eat some breakfast, ” she commanded.

Her daughter paused briefly but then said, “No time.  I’ll grab something on the way.”

Chantal sighed.  “All right, make sure you do.  See you after school.  Love you.”

“Love you t …” Joy started to say, but then she paused while looking at her phone, and a look of fear crossed her face that she tried but failed to completely hide.

“Joy?” Chantal asked.  “What is it?”

“It’s … it’s nothing.  Just a reminder that I need to bring my notes for the test today, and I almost forgot.  Love you.”

And then she was gone.

“I remember seeing that look before, ” Jacob commented.  “On your face, when you were her age.”

“Yeah, ” Chantal said.  “That’s what’s bothers me about it, too.”

“Could it just be what she said it was, brief panic because she almost forgot something?” Jacob asked.

“I really hope it is, ” Chantal asked.  “But it really, really reminds me of … that time.”

Jacob thought for an instant.  “You don’t think it could be …?”

But he was interrupted by Chantal’s phone pinging with a new text, and a look of extreme confusion crossing her face.  “It’s from Shannon, ” she said.