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Category Archives: Life, Living and Loving

Let the Games Begin

The other day, a guy was making a food delivery and he seemed kinda stunned when he looked to his right a little and saw a game paused on my Xbox One, prompting him to ask who was playing the game.  Since I know there’s just the two of us and our cat, it seemed to be an odd question and more so since Linda wasn’t even in the room… and the cat was in hiding (and can’t hold a controller).

So when I told him I was playing Battleborn, he asked how old I was, his surprised deepened as if it never occurred to him that someone my age can play games on an Xbox One… or at all.  I offered unto him that I happened to know there were people older than I am playing games like Borderlands, Call of Duty, Gears of War, etc., and, I dunno, I guess I got some major props from this guy.

I play games of some kind every day, several times a day on either my iPad or my Samsung tablet and, yes, my Xbox One rarely gets turned off because I usually have a game in progress.  Thanks to my Xbox Live Gold membership, I have access to a lot of free games like the one I’m playing now, Watch Dogs, or the occasional free trial for games like Battleborn, which I went and purchased.  Both of these games reminded me of something kinda important, like how tough it can be to figure out a new-to-you game and more so when there’s no manual readily available.

Sure, I can go online and down one… but where’s the fun in that?  Yesterday, I’m playing Watch Dogs and feeling the frustration a bit because I haven’t really caught on to all of the game’s nuances, which is getting me killed repeatedly and all because I have no idea what to expect despite knowing what an objective is.  Like the part that drove me crazy for a while – getting sent to prison to find this guy and convince him not to rat me out to the cops – and only armed with my trusty and powerful smartphone that allows me to hack pretty much any- and everything.

I get out of my cell but now I have rooms to sneak into, stuff to hack in order to find this guy but I gotta do it without any guards seeing me.  Getting past this part was aggravating but I finally get to where this guy is – the guards are kicking his ass to convince him to give me up and now I finally get my hands on a weapon – a shotgun – and it’s simple:  Take out the guards, question the dude, get out.

Uh, not that simple.  It took me about fourteen tries to kill all of the guards… then the game tosses in something I’d not encountered:  A practically bulletproof “enforcer” who blew me away while I sat here asking, “What the hell is that?”

Now, I’m not above looking up the fan Wiki and finding out what I don’t know about a game… and it seems that if all you have is a fairly wimpy shotgun, the only way to kill an enforcer is to shoot him in the head… and as many times as you can while he’s busting caps in you.

Took me another five or six times before I finally offed the enforcer and the other two “normal” guards that sneaked in and capped me once.  Now I gotta get out of the prison, past a slew of cops waiting just outside the door and, oh, yeah, a helicopter!  While I’m doing this – and it only took three tries to eventually escape – I was thinking about how much fun it is to learn a game blind but, again, how frustrating it can be because you just have no idea what the game is going to throw at you next.

There are some laughable and somewhat embarrassing moments, like any time I steal a car and have to drive it.  I am an experienced in-game car driver but this game reminds me of the very first time I tried to drive a car in a game.  The driving controls are familiar… but the way the cars respond has me spending more time wrecking them than actually driving them; in one part where I was being chased by the police, man, I destroyed more property than Hancock and killed more civilians than in any game I’ve ever played and all because the damned cars are hard to control.  I did (eventually) escape… but not after totally trashing ten different cars and hundreds of civilians!

I’m gonna take a closer look at the sensitivity controls; they either need to be dialed down or up so that I have better control; otherwise, the civilian population will get wiped out.  Oh, before I forget, this game is played in a beautiful rendition of Chicago, a city I’ve been to quite a few times so that helps… some but the game’s graphics is among the best I’ve seen.

Now, Battleborn.  It’s a great game if you like shooting things and the game has a slew of characters at your disposal and all with different abilities and weapons.  You can play it solo or join up with others.  To learn the game, I started playing solo and some levels are easy, some tough and intensive, but I’m thinking, okay, this is challenging and I can see why the preferred playing mode is multiplayer because there’s just too much for one player to pay attention to and tends to result in a lot of respawning.

But I’m getting through it until the “episode” I’m currently stuck in; I have the “help” of another character fighting off all kinds of enemies until I get to the very last one and, yeah, I’m pretty pissed off because for this round, I have to protect a device from being destroyed and I’ve not found a way to keep it unscathed.  The last attacker shows up, I’m throwing everything I have at it -and right  along with some weapon emplacements – when the bad guy backs way out of weapons range and launches a mess of missiles at the device.

Mission failed.  Player totally bent out of shape, hands hurting from gripping the controller tightly and applying body language that never helps anything and the beginnings of a headache.  I’m used to playing games where there are multiple playable characters that have different abilities, like any of the Borderlands games and because I play these games, I’m fairly decent at wiping out multiple attackers but I’ll admit that Borderlands has spoiled me because I have at my disposal a shitload of weapons I can pick and choose from to decimate the bad guys and to great and spectacular effect.

Battleborn gives me one, “upgradable” weapon along with a “DNA helix” of other abilities that I have to pick and choose from and, frankly, with the characters I’ve played with so far, some of those extra abilities suck.  Badly.  I know the level I’m currently stuck on can be beaten… I just haven’t figured out how to do it without recruiting another player to come into my game and help me out… which I kinda stubbornly refuse to do because I am a gamer, have been one for a long time now, and ego demands that I exhaust everything I know of before calling for help.

But it’s still fun even though both of these games are good at frustrating me.  Just as I learned to play the Borderlands games so that I’m not really thinking about what I’m doing or how to do something, I will eventually master these games as well.

Eventually.

 
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Posted by on 19 June 2017 in Life, Living and Loving

 

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Seven Years…

Just got the notification from WordPress about my seven year anniversary as a blogger!  I want to thank each and every person who follows me, reads my scribbling, and comments; every last one of you has made blogging a really fun thing to do!

 
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Posted by on 28 May 2017 in Life, Living and Loving

 

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Signs of the Times

It’s just past the middle of May; half of the year hasn’t arrived yet.  In the city of my birth, just twenty miles north and a bit east of where I’m sitting, eighty-five people have been shot and/or killed so far and there’s no sign that there will be an end in sight any time soon and I feel that as the weather gets hotter, aggression will escalate and more people will be shot and/or killed.

The police are in way over their heads and have been for the longest time; they’ve been so busy trying to enact community policing policies that consistently prove that said policies aren’t helping communities very much.  Even with the addition of technology that can detect gunshots and direct officers to the area, it’s like closing the barn door after the cows have already split.  Manpower issues keeps the police in a reactive mode and prevents them from being more proactive; an article referencing the latest shooting/murder said that people in the city are too afraid of reprisal if they say something about these shooting and an older resident said that there was a time in the city where there were cops actually and literally walking a beat on the city streets with the occasional car rolling through to reinforce the police presence.  Another resident said that until this latest shooting occurred, they hadn’t seen the police in the area for the longest time.

Even the various religious groups in the city seem to have given up trying to call for a permanent cease-fire and rallying city residents to take back their streets and take back the city from those who would rather this didn’t happen.  The local media reports on these activities, interviews city leaders and it’s pretty much lip service:  They know this is a problem of epidemic proportions without the CDC making that official and they keep talking about what needs to be done but they’re so busy squabbling over less important issues to actually do some of the shit they say needs to be done to keep the city residents safe which, by the way, is their sworn duty when they got elected.

The last two or three mayors were former police officers and one would think that such a person would be able to make a big difference because they, better than any other elected official, would know exactly what the police need to get the job done… but, no; the last mayor/former police office didn’t do a damned thing except get bent out of shape when Fox released news about a made-for-TV series based on the city that would expound on the city’s bid to become the murder capital of the United States.  It hasn’t quite gotten there yet… but they’re high up on the list of most dangerous places to be and live.  The current mayor fired the chief of police in a move that surprised a lot of people; that poor worthy hadn’t had the job for very long before he found himself replaced by a former chief of police from Chicago.  I guess the thought was that if this guy managed to keep the number of shootings and killings down in the Windy City (and the numbers say that he did), he should be able to do this in a city that’s way smaller than Chicago.  Whether or not the new chief is making an impact on anything since he took the job remains to be seen and until he can start doing whatever he can do, the number of shootings/killings are ramping up and almost as if the city doesn’t have a police department.

This constant siege is having an impact on the city’s ability to make money as tax paying residents and business literally get the hell out of Dodge; the city council has already voted to raise taxes while cutting back the city’s fire department which, as I recall, is the only fire department in the state that gets paid to keep the city from burning to the ground – all the others are volunteer fire companies.  There was talk about having units of the state and county police join the city’s forces to increase presence and response but even the state and county police departments are suffering from their own number of available officers and the academy can’t seem to graduate new officers fast enough… or convince those who may be eligible to become police officers to sign up to put their lives on the line.

Like the state trooper that was murdered a short time ago, gunned down in the line of duty while investigating a suspicious vehicle call.  That killing made the national news and more so when the man who killed the trooper, after holing up in his parents’ home, decided – or realized – that he’d rather go out in a “blaze of glory” and commit an act of “suicide by cop” because he had to know that killing a police officer in this state is an automatic death sentence… and the state just recently voted to reinstate the death penalty.

I am a bit surprised that city officials haven’t imposed curfews; not quite martial law but a stop-gap method to attempt to control night-time movement on the streets during the times these shootings seem to occur… but they haven’t even considered that as far as anyone can tell.  Maybe they have and the hapless people running the city can’t agree to do this and I can probably think of a couple of reasons why they aren’t, like, it would get in the way of their attempt to revive the waterfront district of the city and an efforts that’s being greatly affected because, um, people and businesses aren’t going to want to move into an area of the city that, technically, isn’t safe.

On Mother’s Day, when my baby sister and I visited with our mother, as we were leaving to head home, my sister said, “Okay, let me get to my car and get outta here before they decide to start shooting!”  Linda and I were in full agreement with that assessment because, as I’ve mentioned before, my mother lives in a very bad part of the city and a part, until recent years, wasn’t a bad place to live.

People have cited the lack of jobs and other community services that used to exist as a source for this senseless violence; the escalation of drug use and trafficking has finally enveloped the city like a foul-smelling, moldy blanket and there’s little to be done about stemming the influx of crack and heroin coming in from the north and south of the state.  Yeah, it’s a big money business and I suspect that the local major dealers are raking in more money than the city is.  The state voted to decriminalize marijuana and, recently, tested a vote to legalize marijuana like Colorado and other states have done because, in my opinion, they’re late to the party and late in realizing that if we do what Colorado has done, the revenue generated could be a near unimaginable windfall.  Whether that vote actually succeeds or not remains to be seen and while legalizing and controlling the sale of marijuana will put a serious dent in the operation of those who make their money selling it on the street, it’s not going to do much for the sale of crack and heroin but maybe, just maybe, some of the city’s growing OK Corral behavior will slack off because some local weed dealing ain’t trying to blow someone away over the price of a dime bag anymore.  Maybe it’ll push these particular dealers somewhere other than here, somewhere where their black market sales haven’t been cut by legalization of their product… or it just might get them to abandon this venture and make them move up to crack and heroin sales; even they’re smart enough to know that if the state legalizes and controls marijuana sales, they’re not gonna be able to compete with the variety and quality of the weed a state-controlled operation would insist upon.

But all of this is somewhere down the line and the police need to get to doing more to put an end (or some reasonable facsimile) to these shootings, even if it means they stop merely rolling through an area in their black and whites and actually get back to walking the streets in force and let the people they’re tasked to protect see them doing some protecting and serving.

 
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Posted by on 19 May 2017 in Life, Living and Loving

 

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Planned Obsolescence 

I read this about the ransomware outbreak that has crippled hospitals and other places that are running older versions of Windows – https://www.theverge.com/2017/5/15/15641198/microsoft-ransomware-wannacry-security-patch-upgrade-wannacrypt

One of the things that has always bothered me about Windows is how Microsoft will bring out an operating system, it spreads worldwide and then, after a few years, just stop supporting it; no more automatic updates and if your computer running an unsupported version of Windows has a problem, you’re faced with either paying Microsoft a lot of money to fix it up or pony up the money to buy a new computer that will support the latest version of Windows.

The article asks if Microsoft’s program of planned obsolescence is at blame and I kinda agree with that, plus I know all too well how fussy it is trying to get enterprise-level software current with updates; because of the number of computer systems involved – from servers to laptops, desktops, etc., just upgrading from say, Windows XP to Windows 7 can be a massive and expensive venture and even when such a project is approved, it takes time to implement… and that’s after a boatload of compatibility testing like you just wouldn’t believe.

I’ve been a part of too many of those upgrade projects and I can tell you that they’re no picnic.  But because they’re so expensive in money and man-hours, a lot of businesses running enterprise-level versions of Windows take the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fuck with it” approach and that usually doesn’t help them to keep running systems that are really inadequate to keep up with how quickly the technology changes… and that’s even if something like this ransomware hack isn’t happening.

And, please, don’t get me started on how many people don’t keep their devices updated when updates are available or how many businesses are running inadequate versions of anti-malware software… and if they’re even running it at all.  Even the anti-malware software I use on our computers, Malwarebytes, says that if you’re running the free version, your computer isn’t safe – just the folks running premium version of the software are safe from this hack.

The cyberwar is escalating and no one is safe because the companies that writes the software our many devices use really do think more about their bottom lines and how they can keep their product lines making them money and, sadly, continuing support for older software version takes huge bites out of their profits because they’d rather you replace your “outdated” hardware and software.  The result, as you’ve probably been hearing about, is that a lot of people have been affected, from home users to hospitals and, here in the US, FedEx.

The costs to replace not only the affected systems and loss of data is staggering and I shudder to think of how those hospitals affected could be causing life or death situations for patients because they have no access to their computerized data and processes.  The biggest and yet to be answered question is why would someone do this in the first place?

Because they can.  Do the people who launched this attack have an agenda or some point they’re trying to make, some change in the world they’re trying to make happen by force?  If they do,  haven’t seen anything written about it but what’s really on my mind is whether or not device and software creators safe now going to see the folly of their planned obsolescence behavior.  We are deeply invested in this electronic age and many of us have our whole lives on various devices and, sadly, devices that may or may not be immune to being hacked and held captive for money or some other unknown reason… or just for the hell of it and because it can be done.

Microsoft has developed the bad habit of releasing buggy software then relying on users to report problems so they can be fixed and it’s because it’s cheaper for them to do this than to pay a team of people to close up all the holes and make the software bulletproof before it goes gold and released to the public.  Such an effort takes time and it’s proven to be a very shoddy way to do things; it might save them millions of dollars along the line… but the cost to users who get affected by these exploits has a price tag that goes beyond mere money.

Just my opinion but there has to be a better and more concerted effort by the companies involved to make damned sure that when we buy their products, we can use them without having to worry about being subject to a cyber attack.  It seems to me that if they cannot provide a quality product, it might convince folks to not buy said products going forward and I do wonder if anyone has given any thought to what will happen to their corporate bottom lines if/when people decides it’s better to be safe than sorry and stop buying their stuff…

 
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Posted by on 15 May 2017 in Life, Living and Loving

 

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Interesting Reads

As I peruse my Dashboard, I often find myself re-reading things I’ve written that Dashboard says someone has looked at because, um, sometimes, I’ve forgotten that I even wrote it and I guess that’s because I write so much – and have written so much since becoming a member here, there’s no way I can remember everything I’ve written.  So, I’ll look at the list of things that have been recently read, peep the title, and ask myself, “What did I write?” and, uh, no – the title doesn’t always make me remember what I scribbled… so I click on the link.

Sometimes, I’ll read something and say to myself, “Wow… I wrote that?”  Sometimes, I’ll look at something I wrote a while ago and it makes me frown and mutter, “You could have done a better job of writing that!” but that’s easy to say retrospectively.  Every now and then, I’ll re-read something and actually groan and now the question is, “What the hell were you thinking about?”  Well, duh, it’s kinda obvious what I was thinking about because I wrote it but, yeah, sure, there are times when I’ll write something, have a chance to re-read it, and then see that while it might have made sense while I was writing it, seeing it again reveals that, um, well, let’s just say that if I had to write it again, I probably wouldn’t write it at all.

 

One time, I went all the way back to the first post I ever wrote here and started reading… but eventually gave up on that project because, wow, it was a lot of stuff to read.  I had intended to go through everything I wrote and correct any spelling errors I managed to miss but I felt that because I’m hammering at the keyboard about whatever happens to be on my mind at the time, leaving the spelling errors uncorrected – and I’m talking about the ones I managed to miss – was a truer indication of not only what was on my mind but how my mind was actually processing stuff at the time.  Still, sometimes I fix a thing to preserve context and sometimes I’ll just kick myself for not seeing the error and just leave it alone.

Other than some after-the-fact proofreading, I get a kick out of re-reading the stuff I’ve already written.  I don’t make a habit of it but, yeah, there are times when I’ll see part of my Dashboard and ask myself, “What was that about?”  I particularly like some of the rants I’ve gone on and, after the fact, sometimes I find them hilarious even though I know that I was quite serious – and pissed off – when I wrote it.

 
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Posted by on 15 May 2017 in Life, Living and Loving

 

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Spammed!

For the last two days, my blog has been getting spammed like crazy!  I lost count after yesterday’s spam storm of 90 spam and there’s no end in sight yet…

 
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Posted by on 10 May 2017 in Life, Living and Loving

 

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Coffee

I’ve been drinking coffee for years and, offhand, I can’t remember all the varieties I’ve tasted but some of my more memorable cups were Hawaiian Kona coffee and Jamaican Blue Mountain; in Japan, there are vending machines almost everywhere that for one Yen (about $1US), you can get a honest to goodness hot can of coffee and, wow, did I fall in love with it!   The scent of fresh coffee, whether from freshly ground beans or opening a brand new can of coffee is intoxicating.

And I’ve come to love hazelnut flavored coffee. I’ve always taken my coffee with cream and sugar; I tried drinking it black in the early days but, nope, couldn’t acquire the taste for black coffee although, years ago at a bowling banquet, I had a coffee that was delicious black; adding anything to it just spoiled it.  When trying a new brand of coffee, yeah, I’ll take a sip of it black to see how it’s flavors will explode into my tongue and when my doctor suggested that I give up cream and sugar and drink my coffee black, well, that ain’t ever gonna happen.

I’m reminded of something a character in a book I read said after his friend said that coffee wasn’t needed to wake up in the morning:  “If I didn’t drink coffee, I wouldn’t need mornings…”

A friend of mine back in the day and I put some money together and bought ourselves a huge jar of Maxwell House instant coffee that would last most coffee drinkers a couple of weeks (at best)… and drank it all up in a couple of hours as we sat and talked.  Man, I was so buzzed it wasn’t funny and until about a year ago, I’d never drank another cup of Maxwell House.

Worst coffee ever was a cup of Starbucks coffee.  I’d been hearing about how good this coffee was and a new store had opened up innthe shopping center across my my job so I took a break to go check it out… and wished I hadn’t.  The coffee smelled burnt, like coffee that got made and just sat in the pot and on the heating element and had been there for hours.  I took one whiff and that burnt aroma made my eyes water so much I almost floated my contacts out.

I asked the barista if this coffee was fresh and she swore that it had just finished brewing a minute or so before I came in. I remember shrugging and, honestly, not believing her while adding sugar and cream to the cup, tasting it as I went along.  If I were to guess, I added what would amount to a half cup of sugar and cream and it still tasted as if I hadn’t added a thing to it.

I grimaced and threw the horrid brew away, really pissed that I’d just thrown $2.50 (at the time) into a trash can.  But, I had to try it again because, well, girlfriend could have lied to me and poured me a cup from a pot that had really been heating for an hour or more.  I paid a visit to another Starbucks location and was asked if I minded waiting for a fresh pot to brew so I did.

And got another cup of the worst coffee I’ve ever tasted.  I’ve drank those tiny cups of espresso and even Turkish coffee and as strong as they were, they tasted way better than this supposedly fresh cup of Starbucks’ highly touted coffee.  To me, their coffee tasted as if when the beans were roasted, they were very badly burned; then they got ground up and packaged for the stores where, before brewing, a barista further cremated the already incinerated coffee to achieve that very horrible taste and aroma.

Yet, I know some folks who feel that Starbucks’ coffee is the bomb shit.  I’m not a coffee snob but I know what tastes good to me… and that muck Starbucks calls coffee doesn’t even come close.  Fast forward a few years and, oh, maybe a couple of years ago, I think, when I saw a commercial for Starbucks and they were announcing a lighter coffee blend because, “Some folks can’t get used to our regular blend of coffee…” or something to that effect and I remember snorting derisively and saying that if I was a fan of having their coffee eat away the lining of my stomach, intestines, kidneys and bladder, I’d drink their rotgut coffee all of the time.

No, not really.  Not even if you paid me to drink something that smells and tastes like it can polish dull metal to a brilliant, blinding shine…

I’ve had dark roasted coffees and some of them are no joke when it comes to intense coffee flavor but I have no problems drinking them because it tastes like coffee and smells like coffee and not like they’re a burnt sacrifice being offered up or used as fuel for NHRA dragsters and the space shuttles before they all got grounded and mothballed…

 
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Posted by on 1 April 2017 in Life, Living and Loving

 

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