[x]Blackmoor Vituperative

Saturday, 2014-07-26

Fatherland/Split Second

Filed under: Movies — bblackmoor @ 15:23
Fatherland (1994)

The third Friday of August is Cult Movie Night at Castle Blackmoor. This month, we celebrate the career of Rutger Hauer with two of his most difficult-to-find films. First, we will view Fatherland (1994). Twenty years after Nazi Germany won World War 2, a German investigator and an American journalist uncover a conspiracy of terrible crimes committed during the war.

People who want to stay late will see the action-horror film Split Second (1992). This is a film about eating chocolate, drinking coffee, and getting “BIGGER GUNS!” Set in a near-future world where global warming has put the city of London under eight inches of water, Hauer plays a police detective hunting down a serial killer with a very familiar modus operandi.

Saturday, 2014-06-28

Bad Vampire Movie Night

Filed under: Movies — bblackmoor @ 22:05
Zoltan, Hound Of Dracula

Tonight has been Bad Vampire Movie night. We started with Dario Argento’s Dracula (2012), starring Rutger Hauer, who apparently got lost on the way to the movie and only showed up about a half-hour before the end. This was a more or less straight adaptation of Dracula, but I could not shake the feeling that it was a spoof of badly-dubbed Italian horror movies. The worst thing I can say about it is that it’s just kind of dull. It’s not too bad, though: I have certainly seen far worse vampire movies.

The second movie was Dracula’s Widow (1988), starring no one. This was a late-1980s feature, filmed in widescreen, which is unusual for this kind of movie from that era. This, too, almost felt like a spoof, but it wasn’t. I bet Larry Blamire and cohorts could make a fantastic movie in this vein (so to speak). Again, it’s not a great movie, but I have seen much worse.

The final movie in our Bad Vampire Movie night is Zoltan, Hound Of Dracula (1978), starring a spectacularly well-trained Doberman and Michael Pataki (of Sidehackers fame) and José Ferrer (winner of the Academy Award and numerous Tony Awards, and the first actor to receive the National Medal of Arts). I am not sure how to describe this film. It’s the best-made movie of the three, in my opinion, but the plot is… strange. The first half-hour is literally the dog’s journey from Soviet Romania to Los Angeles (spoiler: he takes a boat). The second half-hour is a relatively uneventful camping trip (certainly no more terrifying than any of the camping trips I’ve been on). But if you like vampire movies, and you like dog movies, this is your movie: in addition to the title character, it features two German shepherds in prominent roles, and a fair number of canines in supporting roles. And you know, it’s nice seeing German Shepherds with healthy hips, before they got so inbred to please dog-show ghouls. Warning, though: a puppy dies about 45 minutes into the film. It’s not gratuitous or sadistic, though: it happens off-screen, and it’s not played for laughs or gore. If a softie like me can cope with it, small children and pregnant women should be able to handle it just fine (spoiler: the puppy shows up again later in the film). Oh, and there is a beautiful late-1960s Oldsmobile Cutlass convertible that José Ferrer drives around Los Angeles. Truly a beautiful classic American car.

Friday, 2014-06-13

Gravity

Filed under: Movies — bblackmoor @ 21:56
Gravity

I just watched Gravity with Susan Blackmoor. I had low expectations. After all, I have seen this movie before, when it was called Marooned and starred Gregory Peck and Gene Hackman. George Clooney is no Gregory Peck, and Sandra Bullock is no Gene Hackman. But when I’m wrong, I admit it: I enjoyed this a great deal. This was a spectacular homage to the “space adventure” movies of the 1950s and 1960s, back when manned rockets were new and people thought we might actually colonize the Moon and other planets. I highly recommend it.

Thursday, 2014-06-12

Musings on a power outage

Filed under: Home — bblackmoor @ 10:07

The power has been out about five hours as I write this. I’m conserving my laptop battery, and I hope it lasts until power is restored.

I’m glad it’s cool out. I can’t bear the heat. If it warms up later, I’ll have to go down into the basement, or get in my car and drive somewhere. I don’t want to spend any money, though, and I know if I drive around, I’ll be tempted to buy a hamburger or an egg McMuffin or something. I can’t make coffee or even a bowl of cereal. So far I have had a couple of bananas, the last few Oreos, and a couple of glasses of warm cola. Breakfast of champions.

I have been trying to think of things do that don’t require electricity. I have our Red Cross radio on some local “classic rock” station. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, Teenage Wasteland, that sort of thing. There is a lot of yard work I would like to do, but between everything being wet from the storm and my not having any way to clean up afterward (we have well water, so no power means no water), I probably won’t be doing yard work today.

However, there are things I can do. For example, I have been straddling two different laptop bags for over a year now. Yes, that’s ridiculous. It’s just been really low on my to-do list. But now I have gone through all of pouches and pockets of my old laptop bag, tossed a lot of things I never used (or just plain garbage), and moved the rest to various pouches in the new laptop bag. So hooray, I’ve accomplished something. That took the better part of an hour, if you include the time I have spent playing with Vixen.

I’ve also been playing with Vixen, of course. She seems to sense that something isn’t quite right, but she’s been making the most of it, batting around and chasing the odd little gizmos I pulled out of my old laptop bag but hadn’t yet thrown away or put into the new laptop bag. Now she’s taking a break and lounging on my calves.

I think I may tackle the pile of paperwork that’s been piling up on my desk. Old receipts, work orders from repair work on our house, that sort of thing.

Oh, hey! The power just came back on! Yay! Now I can spend the next two hours reading Facebook….

[ten minutes later]

And now the power’s back off. I had ten minutes of power, and I wasted it on Facebook (what, you thought I was kidding?). Well, when the power comes on again (if it does), I certainly won’t be wasting it! The first thing I will do is make a pot of coffee. After that, I will read my email. After that… I’m not sure.

I guess I will go ahead and sort out those papers now.

[later]

The power is on, I have a hot cup of coffee, and I am making a dent in these papers.

Wednesday, 2014-05-28

Facebook vs. Google+: a comparison of conversations about gaming

Filed under: General — bblackmoor @ 10:18

I recently posted the following question/comment to both a Facebook RPG group (7,422 members) and a Google+ RPG group (5,474 members), to see if there would be any substantial difference in the quantity and quality of the resulting conversation. This was not a “troll” post, in so far as 1) the post accurately described my opinion, and 2) I was careful not to denigrate the games or the people who wrote them (in fact, I complimented the games, and those compliments are sincere). However, I did choose this topic because I hoped that it would spark a conversation, and I did deliberately phrase my initial post in a manner intended to elicit a polarized response. So take that for what it’s worth.

So… transhumanist games. On the one hand, Eclipse Phase and Nova Praxis look like well-made games with interesting settings. The skill and the creativity of the authors are admirable. On the other hand, a core premise of these games is that people will willingly — even routinely — commit suicide in the process of having some sort of copy of themselves made. I just can’t fathom any sane person ever doing that.

Even if you could have a duplicate of yourself made, why would the real you bother killing yourself? I can’t think of anyone other than a “suicide bomber” — someone willing to die for a cause — who would be willing to undertake such a thing. It’s madness. The closest comparison I can think of is Paranoia, but as crazy as Paranoia is, it doesn’t feature people routinely dying on purpose in order to activate their next clone.

As the conversations progressed, I kept my contributions to each conversation as similar as possible, in order to keep the experiment as unbiased as possible.

The Google+ post received 10 responses (excluding mine), from 4 people. The first response began with the sentence, “This is a lack of imagination on your part.” That generally sums up the tone of the responses on Google+: adversarial, and not focused on gaming at all.

The Facebook post received 41 responses (excluding mine), from 16 people. The first response began with the sentence, “People aren’t always logical.” This generally sums up the tone of the responses on Facebook: conversational, and focused on the characters in the setting. The Facebook conversation also branched out into the themes and genres of the games I referred to in my initial post, particularly Eclipse Phase, which I was reminded was a horror game.

Draw your own conclusions.

P.S. As a result of the conversation on Facebook, my own attitude toward playing these “transhumanist” games (particularly Eclipse Phase) has definitely changed. I can see myself actually playing in them now.

Sunday, 2014-05-25

Paper Moon and True Grit

Filed under: Movies — bblackmoor @ 21:49
True GritToday’s film festival featured two classic films featuring young, strong, female protagonists: Paper Moon and True Grit. In both of these films, the young female protagonist stares down male protagonists much older and ostensibly much more experienced than she is. I’m not sure why I have a soft spot for iron-willed, steely-eyed young female protagonists, but I clearly do.I love the dialog in True Grit. It’s almost Shakespearean in its rhythms.

Saturday, 2014-05-24

Campaign Cartographer Tutorials by Joe Sweeney

Filed under: Gaming,Software — bblackmoor @ 12:33

Campaign CartographerI purchased Campaign Cartographer years ago, and have purchased many of the Annuals and add-ons from ProFantasy, yet I have never made the time to actually learn to use the program. I intend to change that. This is a list of tutorials by Joe Sweeney. Unfortunately, YouTube makes it difficult to view these tutorials in order, so I have compiled this list for my own reference. This list is based on a blog post by Mike Summers.

Setting Up Your Mapping Environment

Note 1: When you install Campaign Cartographer, right click on CC3Setup.exe and choose Run as administrator (don’t just use an Admin account).

Note 2: Do not install Campaign cartographer under “Program Files” or “Program Files (x86)”. Doing so will make it more difficult to add or modify symbol libraries later. I suggest that you install CC3 under “C:\Profantasy\CC3\”.

Part 1: Installation of CC3 and patches [2009-09-22]
Part 2: Installing DD3 [2009-09-22]
Part 3a: Installing Legacy CC2 add-ons to CC3 [2009-09-24] (superseded by Cosmographer 3)
Part 3b: Installing the CSUAC files [2009-12-17] (superseded by these instructions)

Overland Mapping with Campaign Cartographer

Part A: Introduction [2008-09-15]
Part B: New Maps and Creating Land [2008-11-02]
Part C: Contours [2008-11-02]
Part D: Automate Artistic Talents with Sheets [2008-11-02]
Part E: Adding Mountains with the Symbols Function [2008-11-02]
Part F: Adding Rivers [2008-11-02]
Part G: Vegetation [2008-11-02]
Part H: Rivers using Sheets and Effects [2008-11-02]
Part I: Structures using Symbols [2008-11-02]
Part J1: Text [2008-11-04]
Part J2: Text [2008-11-04]
Part K: Borders and Political Symbols [2008-11-04]
Part L: Handout Maps [2008-11-04]
Part M: Handout Maps, part 2 [2008-11-04]
Part N: Finishing Up [2008-11-04]

Mapping an Entire Fantasy World with Fractal Terrains and Campaign Cartographer

Part 1: The Basics [2010-04-05]
Part 2: Outputting Multiple Maps at Different Levels of Scale [2010-07-26]
Part 3: Customizing Exported Maps [2010-08-02]

Dungeon Mapping with Dungeon Designer

Tutorial 1a: Basics [2008-11-04]
Tutorial 1b: Basics [2008-11-04]
Tutorial 1c: Basics [2008-11-04]
Tutorial 2a: Making a Battlemap [2008-12-02]
Tutorial 2b: Making a Battlemap [2008-12-02]
Tutorial 3a: Advanced Techniques [2009-01-12]
Tutorial 3b: Advanced Techniques [2009-01-13]
Tutorial 3c: Advanced Techniques [2009-01-13]
Tutorial 3d: Advanced Techniques [2010-01-31]
Mapping Dungeons, Part 1 [2013-08-18]
Mapping Dungeons, Part 2: Traps and Secret Rooms [2013-08-19]
Mapping Dungeons, Part 3: Grids [2013-08-20]

Battle Tiles

Essentials Part 1 (The New Templates) [2009-12-07]
Essentials Part 2 (Finishing Your First Room) [2009-12-07]
Essentials Part 3 (Printing) [2009-12-07]
The Crypt – Part 1 (The Entrance & Multipoly Tool) [2009-12-09]
The Crypt – Part 2 (Inner Walls & Adding Symbols) [2009-12-09]
The Crypt – Part 3 (Complex Room with Curved Alcoves) [2009-12-09]
The Crypt – Part 4 (Manually Drawing Walls) [2009-12-10]
The Crypt – Part 5 (Creating Secret Layers) [2009-12-10]
The Crypt – Part 6 (Last Two Rooms & Putting it All Together) [2009-12-10]
Raised Floors [2009-12-13]

Old School D&D Mapping

Part 1 [2013-02-15]
Part 2: Control Points [2013-02-20]
Part 3: Varicolor [2013-02-26]
Part 4: Exporting a Symbol Catalog [2013-02-27]
Part 5: Using Your New Symbols [2013-03-04]
Part 6: Creating Mapping Tools [2013-03-19]
Part 7: Create a Tool That Creates Floors and Walls [2013-03-20]
Part 8: Automating Grids [2013-04-04]

Starship Design and Mapping using Campaign Cartographer and Cosmographer

Part 1 [2010-12-26]
Part 2 [2010-12-26]

Star System Maps using Campaign Cartographer and Cosmographer

Part 1 [2011-01-15]
Part 2 [2011-01-15]
Part 3 [2011-01-16]
High-Space System Mapping Tutorial [2013-08-06]

High Space Battlemaps

Part 1: Creating A Guide Map [2012-06-19]
Part 2: Mapping the Command Deck [2012-06-19]
Part 3: Mapping The Bridge [2012-06-19]
Part 4: Printing and Outputting Maps for Play [2012-06-19]

Symbol Management

Changing the Size of Symbols [2010-03-31]
Creating custom symbol catalogs from PNG files [2012-06-01]
Attaching custom symbol catalogs to mapping buttons in Campaign Cartographer [2012-06-01]
Importing PNG files [2013-07-10]

Techniques

Aligning side view and floor plans [2013-01-26]
Understanding Layers and Sheets in Campaign Cartographer [2013-03-07]

Mapping Master Class for Campaign Cartographer

Sheets and Effects, Part 1 [2010-12-31]
Sheets and Effects, Part 2 [2011-01-01]
Sheets and Effects, Part 3 [2011-01-12]
Sheets and Effects, Part 4 [2011-01-12]
Sheets and Effects, Part 5 [2011-01-13]
Sheets and Effects, Part 6 [2011-01-13]

Speed Mapping

Creating an Sino-Block Orbital [2013-03-06]
Treasure Map [2014-01-22]
Into the Remnant [2014-01-26]
Creating a draft Dieselpunk Star Map [2014-01-27]
Creating a Space Station Construction Symbol Library [2014-01-31]

Thursday, 2014-05-15

Django Unchained

Filed under: General — bblackmoor @ 22:02
Django Unchained

Susan and I just watched Django Unchained. Wow. This is officially my favorite Quentin Tarentino movie, and it makes me want to go back and re-watch a bunch of my favorite spaghetti westerns.

Monday, 2014-03-03

Ruminations on web design and system administration

Filed under: Programming,Work — bblackmoor @ 10:18

Now that the Kickstarter is over, I can go back to talking about other things. For example, how happy I am that I am no longer working in web design. The work I would like to do, in decreasing order of preference, is:

  • system administration
  • database administration
  • back-end programming (i.e., not Javascript)
  • project management
  • front end programming (i.e., Javascript)
  • web design

There are reasons why web design is at the bottom of the list. The biggest one is that the people who pay to have that done are too often operating under the false assumption that they know how to do it, and that they just need someone else to do the grunt work of actually using the software. Oatmeal has a pretty funny cartoon on what that’s like for a web designer.

That’s an exaggeration, of course. I am lucky that back when I did web design as my primary profession, I very rarely had clients quite that clueless. A more frequent occurrence was the “we need to Do Something” problem. Smashing Magazine has a pretty decent article on that, but if you have been a user of YahooGroups or FaceBook for any length of time, you have seen that phenomenon in action.

System administration is at the top of the list for even better reasons. For one thing, I simply enjoy it. I like making things work. It’s like working on a car and getting it to run smoothly, but you don’t bang your knuckles or get your hands dirty. Also, success is generally objective: if the system works, that’s success. None of the “that color is too aggressive” type feedback you get when doing web design (I actually had a client say that phrase to me). Of course, there are some subjective measurements of success, even in system administration. For example, you can continue throwing time and money at a database server to increase performance, and the point at which the performance is good enough is a subjective call. Even so, generally speaking, the line between “working” and “not working” is pretty clear. I like that.

Monday, 2014-02-17

Happy Epicurus’ Birthday!

Filed under: Fine Living — bblackmoor @ 22:42
Bust of Epicurus

I celebrate Epicurus’ Birthday on the third Monday of February, in honor of the philosopher Epicurus, the ancient Greek philosopher and the founder of the school of philosophy called Epicureanism. His school was the first of the ancient Greek philosophical schools to admit women as a rule rather than an exception.

For Epicurus, the purpose of philosophy was to attain the happy, tranquil life, characterized by ataraxia—peace and freedom from fear—and aponia—the absence of pain—and by living a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends. He taught that pleasure and pain are the measures of what is good and evil; death is the end of both body and soul and should therefore not be feared; the gods do not reward or punish humans; the universe is infinite and eternal; and events in the world are ultimately based on the motions and interactions of atoms moving in empty space.

(From Epicurus, Wikipedia)

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