Holidays!

This time of year it’s hard to find the energy to do much of anything, blogs included.  So I’ll just post some holiday cheer:

–Simon

The Apocalypse Isn’t Lonely

And I’m not sure that isn’t a problem.

I awoke in a comfortable bed in a an apartment the size of something I’d expect in New York.  It was Reclamation Day–the day I’m supposed to abandon all of my worldly comforts and run unarmed into a wasteland of anarchy in naught but a jumpsuit.  I speak, of course, of Fallout 76.

The vault was exclusive to the upper echelon of society.  Reading some personal diaries on abandoned computers (the future of infosec in this timeline is somewhat unimpressive), I find that the former residents all had extensive military backgrounds or multiple PhDs.  And we were in this vault for the last 25 years.  Soooo, they opened the door and forced a bunch of people in their 50s to go out, reclaim the wilderness, then repopulate?  Discounting the radiation human gametes will be exposed to in the nuclear aftermath, I question my future procreative virility regardless on the very basis of age.  And with the way my joints hurt now whenever it rains, I doubt I’ll be sauntering off through Appalachia.

The game world also saw fit the match me into a server with someone else just emerging from his studio.  And, as one would expect of any 50 year old just waking up, starts jumping and running around the atrium at full speed.  He says nothing, which is most agreeable with me.  I, in turn, ignore him and amble up the stairs to the exit.

Outside, I surveyed the scenery, and immediately began the search for shelter in accordance with basic survival tenants.  I followed the path to the right, and was set upon by hostile robots shooting lasers.  Devoid of weaponry, I ran away, spot a corpse, search it, and pilfered a machete.  Oh good.  A blade–perfect for taking down steel robots.

As I debated, the gentleman I encountered earlier in the vault ran past, and in the squeaky voice of an adolescent (odd for a man in his 50s), uttered something–I didn’t listen, because whenever kids talk I immediately tune out.  I then searched the settings and found the option to disable all voice chat.

These were my first few minutes with the game.

My impression of the game so far is that we’re all on a general truce with the rest of the players, and we have some sort of vague objective to find out more about the world and why there’s bad things.  And to survive.

And it’s this last point that pulls me in, for I feel the need to be self-sufficient.  So I generally ignored the quests and instead spent my time collecting junk that I could use in the construction of my base of operations–or shack filled with weapon-producing workstations.  Apparently, I’m role-playing the Unabomber.

It’s an MMO designed for aging gamers.  I don’t want to enter the fray and pull victory from the jaws of defeat.  I want to putter around.

What would I do were I to enter West Virginia and found it devoid of people?  Why, drink moonshine and learn to play the banjo of course.  Maybe I’ll eventually track down the source of the Scorched and mow down Deathclaws with gattling guns, but those seem like activities for a younger man.  I just want to grow tatoes.

–Simon

The Collapse of Civilization

I was fully prepared for Fallout 76.  I had taken the day off and downloaded the game in advance.  Then the region got hit with an ice storm and knocked out our power for 2 days.  If there was ever a moment in life where I questioned any understanding of the universe, that was it.

I ask why.  Why would fate be so cruel as to keep me from my digital entertainment?  And to answer, a loud groan of cracking wood sounded from on high.  I peered from the kitchen window inquisitively, and witnessed a large branch snap from the silver maple and plummet lethally, smashing my fence in the process.  Point taken.

Ironic, that the game’s genre–post-apocalyptic societal collapse–was rendered unplayable by a failure of modern infrastructure utilities.  No matter.  I would put my Fallouting skills to the test and repair that fence.  For how else would I stop an onslaught of feral ghouls than with an intact waist-high barrier?

Fortunately (I guess?), the contractors who installed the original fence massively over-ordered supplies.  The 1400 pounds of quickcrete is still a little annoying, but the 50 extra fencing slats proved quite useful.

I also used deck screws, which are far superior to the existing nails, making this the most structurally-sound section of fence.  No ghouls getting through this.

There.  I did something productive.  Now let me play Fallout.

–Simon

Football Conversations

As a non-football watcher, I’ve spent many a conversation pretending to have watched something I didn’t, or to care about something I don’t, and to use grammatically unsound complex sentences of negation.

At first, I would maintain the charade as football fans, when discussing football, are complete conversational narcissists, and would never notice that I wasn’t adding anything meaningful to the conversation.  These one-sided discussions would invariably crescendo to an emotionally-charged climax, upon which I would just agree with whatever was said last and laugh, which in turn led to some mutual conclusion that escaped me because I don’t watch football.

Now, I just don’t care enough about garnering favor with random people at the coffee station, so I don’t humor the smalltalk anymore, or so was my intent.  Unfortunately, a surprising majority of people take the dismissive comment to be a joke (for what kind of American doesn’t watch football?), and interpret it as encouragement–thus putting me into the conversation anyway.

So I decided that, as it’s been said: If you can’t beat ’em–kill everyone.  Or rather, inwardly sigh sadly and pretend to follow along.  But I need assistance.  I need information…obtained through any other means than reading, watching TV, or conversing with my fell Man.

I needed an aggregator and summarizer.  I needed the absolute bare minimum content required to form a cohesive thought.  I needed the equivalent of a Twitter feed of sports commentary, but without the racism/sexism/homophobia (the entire social aspect, basically).  I needed a means by which to trawl football articles and identify the most-used words, negating general sentence structure such as definite articles and conjunctions.

Fortunately I found this site: wordcounter.net.  Probably not its intended use–I began pasting the top football news articles into its form and analyzing their content.  I checked 5 such posts, and compiled their keywords:

The first two articles didn’t have enough meaningful content for a full 10 words

Okay, I could work with this.  This Bryant fellow seems to be a highlight.  I’m sure I could muddle through the rest.

I decided to test my theory on Liz, and texted her the following message:

“I heard that in Bryant’s week one, he scored enough points that it’ll be his big season.  He’ll make a good five-star Fantasy Football pick.  Despite the initial loss, Arkansas will recover with enough victories to stay in the running.”

Liz responded:

“What are you reading?”

She was intrigued!  Had I pulled it off?!  I replied, ambiguously:

“Just the highlights.”

She validated my success by sending me an unrelated photo of a dog that was up for adoption.

…Okay, maybe my method needs a little refinement.  Maybe I can pull a larger sampling of articles and write a formula to analyze the character strings.

Or maybe, just maybe…when I tell you I don’t watch football you could stop talking to me about football and I wouldn’t have to design a logic-based analysis of textual media to formulate responses to your banal and pointless rambling.  Now quit hogging the coffee machine.

–Simon

Halloween Costumes

“Hey, who’s Doc Holliday?”  He gestured in my direction as he spoke with my boss.  A colleague, he was in town to meet the rest of the team that worked at this location.  And as what so often happens when meeting people who are normally only a voice, I failed to place the face with a name.  Apparently, he suffered from the same problem, and chose to associate an actor’s particular character with my own.

I’ll note that no one ever sees me and says: “Hey!  He looks like George Clooney!  So devilishly handsome!”.  No, instead I was being compared to Val Kilmer’s character–the emaciated borderline psychopath on the cusp of death from Consumption.  That was me.  And it wasn’t the last time that I would hear that observation.

In truth, I had never seen the entirety of Tombstone.  As far as Wyatt Earp movies went, I found it to be a forced rendition with unnecessary drama.  The story itself is one of violence and drama, so I felt it odd that they pushed it so.  Plus, it didn’t really address Holliday’s backstory.  Instead, he just kind of shows up as a stylish badass with an uncanny ability to attract the ladies, despite his debilitating and infectious disease.  I guess if I was going to be compared to someone, it was a lot better than Elijah Wood’s Frodo.  I could live with it: a dying wealthy gunslinger with sexy ladies.  Fine.

So when the office held a costume contest for Halloween, I decided to see just how convincing the emulation could be.  I bought a cheap black cowboy hat and red vest.  The rest of the outfit I conveniently already possessed, down to the silver pocketwatch.  I even shaved (though I required mascara to darken the mustache that was increasingly turning white).

After much consideration, I left the shotgun at home

It’s not every day that I can make the security guard burst out laughing.

In the end, I lost the contest to Mary Poppins (bitch).  But more importantly were the costume assessments I received.  Notably, from multiple people, that my costume wasn’t all that different from the way I normally dress, and were it not for the hat, they might not have even noticed it was a costume at all.

I guess, in the end, the comparison had been accurate all along.  For better or worse, I’m now permanently associated with the persona.

I’m your Huckleberry.

–Simon