John Ross

For my children’s tomorrow.

The world is burning so slowly that some people seem to be shocked at how hot the embers are. Others are running around with gas cans trying to pour out little puddles to encourage favourable combustion while still pretended that they ain’t shitbags. 

I am so far removed from most of it. I may not have a great life in Calgary, Canada. But I am not worried about violence, fire or racism impacting me. I have two kids that I want to raise up in a better world. Fear and concern for them, as a virus slow burns through a populous being governed unevenly. 

And I want to raise them to see through the words that people use to cover their actions. No matter what words are used to defend it; the result was tear gas and rubber bullets used on unarmed peaceful protestors. Reporters targeted across the states and even the globe. 

There have been many recorded and provable events in which the police started the violence. They might try to hide their actions behind a cloak, but the truth will remain they had armour, tools and equipment and they wanted to use it. To prove to themselves and others they had the biggest brassiest balls. You don’t deploy pepper spray out a window of your car, shoot at people on their own porches in communities or shoot rubber bullets at cameramen if you are going to be held accountable to defend that action later in public. 

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John Ross

Monster by degrees

Monster by degrees

I was talking to a friend when they said that I was sounding like a monster abusing the dog like that. And it hit me. Not because they were right, after all, I’m not a monster. But because they thought I was sounding like one. So something had gone wrong, was it how I was telling the story?

And that started me down a path I don’t much like where it took me but I think I have to share to see if I missed a branch or something.

You see, the story I was telling was of how I got my amazon package. The poor guy was hours overdue and having a rough day. I open the door at my parent’s place and their large, stupid and protective dog tried to drive off this dangerous threat on the doorstep. The dog was trying to get between me and the few inches of open door and I (humourously I thought as I told the story) grabbed the dog by the throat in one hand and tried to sign the amazon guy’s phone on it’s broken screen with my off hand.

In my head (and worrying even now) the scene to me is funny. A large guy holding back a large dog while trying to not break worse something damaged and being polite about it the whole time. I get the package with my off hand and juggle closing the doors while still controlling the dog, bringing it to the couch where I sat on it for a few minutes before opening up the package.

Nothing in there sounded abusive to me. But I was also the one A) In Control and B) telling the story.

And the concern that was raised is that perhaps I’m too close to this issue. That I can’t see what is clearly abuse because I’m the one doing it.

My concern now is that they aren’t wrong. I can’t say I’m in the right. It’s somewhere in the middle and that isn’t really a good place for an issue of abuse to sit. It may not even be in the middle at all but I want it to be, Again because I’m the one doing it.

So let’s all go along on the ride as I think about this in public. I’m sure some good will come of it. Or something.

This dog is oldish (9 years old gordon setter) and not the brightest. Some setters are able to understand their owners wants and appear to follow their instructions while still getting what they want. Say if they aren’t to chase horses they will start the horses running and then stop when they see the door to the farm house open so it looks like the Other Dogs were the ones chasing horses. Not this dog.

This is a dog who believes that anyone will take his food away. The cats, the other dog, the very person who just finished giving the food to the dog by putting it in the food dish. Anyone! So everyone who approaches has to be driven off. Snarl Snarl Snap Snap.

When I started spending time around this dog it tried to drive me off as an invader. On a couple of occasions it was so determined to drive me off I had to protect myself by wrapping it’s muzzle in a towel and bringing it to the ground. I didn’t hit the dog, I didn’t unload verbally on the dog, I made sure my hands were safe should the dog try to shift and it wouldn’t be able to bite me and we waited five to ten minutes after it’s last growl/snarl at me and I let it go.

The window of how long it had to go without making noise grew each time it snapped, snarled or growled at me. It served both as a way of making sure the dog understood that I was bigger than it and in control. And to calm me down, counting slowly up to 300 or 600 or somewhere in the middle.

Thankfully it took only a long damn time, six weeks or more, before the dog stopped trying to drive me off every day. Before then I had also switched tactics a bit.

The online resources I read and said that once the dog understood I was part of the pack and above it in the pecking order I should be fine. I don’t know on which part it failed to sink in, that I was indeed part of the pack here or that I was above it. But it was suggested that food rewards would work.

So I tried that for a long time. Carrying treats in my pockets and rewarding the dog whenever it saw me and didn’t snarl, growl or bark. I even forgave the barking if it barked before it saw who it was.

I honestly saw no change during this treat stage. I did start it before the dog had stopped snarling at me and trying to intimidate me way with snapping it’s teeth at me. So while it did stop that I can’t say it was because it learned I was a source of treats.

The dog once tried to bite my fingers as I gave it a second treat, out of fear that I was going to take the first away. The very treat that I had just given it and bringing my hand in too close (ie within a meter) was a problem so the dog rushed me and snapped. I didn’t take that well, to be honest. If the dog things he can charge me, teeth out and reaching, I was quite upset.

How I handled it was by slowing down how many treats I was prepared to reward. This was a good month or more after I had started and carrying around dog treats in my pockets wasn’t something I wanted to keep going anyway. The dog never really seemed to connect my person to the treats.

There is a possible reason for that, too. As the dog honestly doesn’t seem to be able to tell me apart from my father at times. Most of the time. It knows my voice and used to react to just hearing it to being a little focused now. When I first spoke the dog would leap up and run to the first John shape object it saw and attempt to drive it off. That didn’t work with me (and in the more aggressive first days ended with the dog on the ground being held in place by the collar/neck) and wasn’t welcomed by the other John either.

My father turned it into a game, shouting ‘Not Me! Don’t attack me!’ Which confused the dog so that it would stop and check which John it had ran up to. It would then turn to face the other and prepare to attack.

It would do this even if the John shape was whoever was in the computer chair as it slept under the computer desk. Out of the four times that the dog has drawn blood from John’s in the house, once was when it attacked the John shape in the computer chair. And it really doesn’t understand why it isn’t always allowed to crawl under the computer desk to sleep. It acts quite hurt emotionally when I don’t let it, and it takes a few attempts being rebuffed before it stops to figure out which John is in the chair in the first place.

And because the dog has drawn blood on four occasions (at least, I don’t always check with the other John) I do worry that this stupid thing is a threat to my kids and to strangers. I know that had it attacked strangers the city’s rules would require it to be put down. Heck, sometimes it pushes towards that line being on a leash and has to be hauled back.

But for all the dog is a danger I don’t want to advocate for its destruction. It bites because it is afraid and feels the need to drive off threats. It’s too stupid to understand what is and what isn’t a threat, but it wants to act from a good place. (I think)

But the dog has also kept my mother pinned in her room for hours on days when it’s honestly locked in a crate and she didn’t know that so was afraid to go out into the hall in case the dog chased her. That someone who has to live with this dog, who has lived with this dog for years, is so afraid of it they couldn’t go get themselves lunch for fear of being attacked… that isn’t good either.

For me, not being the dog’s owner, I can’t see what good qualities the dog has. But I am also a cat owner who can only say that the cat’s good qualities is that it likes me as a heat source at night and a food source during the day. It isn’t right that I ask more from the dog than I demand from my cat. Or the other way around.

The dog and I have reached a sort of truce. I keep my hands at my sides or in my pockets when I am out in the kitchen or living room. No signs of being threatening to it, it doesn’t need to react to me. It knows that if it snarls or snaps at me I’ll make it sit with me on the couch or in the middle of the floor (depending on where it is when I catch up to it for doing so) and therefore it doesn’t react that way right away. I don’t tease it and I don’t provoke it, but I don’t tolerate it misbehaving either.

But is all of this just a long winded way of defending abusive behaviour to the dog? I can’t tell and I can’t feel confident enough to shout ‘NO!’ And if I can’t be sure that it isn’t a thing, doesn’t that make it maybe the thing? Even a little bit?

And that brings us to the title of my thoughts here. Am I a monster by degrees? If I was shouting constantly at the dog, or hitting with a stick, kicking it or anything like that I would know for sure it was abuse and I wouldn’t be willing to do it. That is wrong. But is grabbing the dog by the neck, the fleshly bit of loose skin there and pitching it tight so that I can stop the dog from turning it’s head to bite my hand, not at least a little bit down that road?

I wouldn’t ever do something like that to my kids. I don’t raise my hand to them and rarely even raise my voice. I wouldn’t want anyone to do anything like that to my kids. But my kids are not a stupid dog that needs to be controlled…….. And that defensive tone right there worries me as to how I’m not in the right.

Does that make sense? I’m mostly worried that I’m not right because I want to defend myself in some of the worst ways? That it Has To Be this way seems to be the wrong reason for something to be a way. I’ve joked about getting a shock collar and haven’t because, again, that’s a line too far for me. I’m not willing to zap the dog every time it doesn’t do what I want it to. I’m not willing to wire it up to be zapped in an attempt to get it to behave as that doesn’t teach the dog anything beyond that this collar zaps me. And it would perhaps teach a smarter dog that my owner zaps me, but I don’t think that’s a step this one would get.

The world is rarely black and white, but on some issues it has to be held to that. Or at least that’s how I feel. Consent, Abuse, Assault are all things that can’t be allowed to be ‘ok’ as long as they are light grey enough. But yeah….

Am I a monster by a few degrees because I feel that I have to control the dog through physical power. That I get grab hold of the dog by its fleshy part of the neck and gather it up in my hand so that I could direct the dog’s muzzle away from me or anyone. That I then pulled the dog along (by that same handful of flesh) to the couch where I sat until I had counted up to 300 before I let it go and opened a package for me.
I don’t feel great about how unsure I am. I don’t want to be a monster. I don’t want to think that I abuse the dog.

cruel and violent treatment of a person or animal.
"a black eye and other signs of physical abuse"

treat (a person or an animal) with cruelty or violence, especially regularly or repeatedly.
"riders who abuse their horses should be prosecuted"

I want to be better able to defend myself, or rather to feel that I don’t need to defend myself because I’m right. I’m not doing wrong. But…

Wanting to doesn’t make it so.

Fuck, I want to walk through each of those definitions and parse out how, word by word, I’m not doing them. And if I need to break it down to that level, I can’t be right. That I don’t hit, strike or otherwise act with violence against the dog. That I don’t do it with cruel intent. That it isn’t an every day occurrence. Not even weekly now. BUT right there I have the word ‘Now’ and ‘not even’ and both of those are red flags for trouble if I were to include them in a fictional story.

All I can say for certain is that I never crossed over to abusing the dog as I think of it. I never once intended to abuse or even punish the dog. I had to Stop the dog from trying to bite me when I didn’t run away. But I didn’t need to make the dog run from me because I was going to murder it.

If the dog makes a threatening action towards my kids, that’s a different matter. I know that I’ll make sure it stops whatever it was doing when I interpreted it as a threat to my family. And I will not try to do it carefully or just enough to make sure I don’t get hurt. It Will Be stopped. And the fact I have thought about it also worries me. There have been times when I have the dog on the ground, pretending that I could rip out its guts if we were having a real animalistic fight and I feel it’s pulse race through my grip on it’s neck and I have to loosen it up a bit. I don’t want to have that power over things. But I am very aware that I had it for a moment and … yeah.

I’ve been around dogs for half my life, more or less. This one was raised with very little interaction from me. I think until this year I had only seen it four or five times, and only once at its home. No, that’s not true, twice at its home. Once I was over to troubleshoot the computer and the stupid dog kept waking up from sleeping under the computer desk and trying to scare me off until It was shouted at by my father into shutting up and going back to sleep.

It aggressively defends whatever vehicle it’s in to the point that even my father can’t get in. The dog has to be let out before others can go inside. It treats its crate the same way. This small space with a wall on at least five sides is Mine and No One can get me, as long as I guard the opening with EVERYTHING I HAVE. I don’t interact with it when it is in this state. There would be little to no good to come from breaking into the dogs space.

Things I don’t do don’t prove I don’t abuse the dog however. For al that I find myself holding up moments like that as ‘See See! I didn’t abuse the dog then so I can’t be an abuser!’ But that isn’t how such things should work.

I make fun of politicians and celebrities for such defences. The I didn’t do it this time so I didn’t do it then either. Or the I didn’t do this extreme example of what I’m being accused of doing so I can’t have done the crime. Breaking down each word in the accusation and trying to disprove each one at a time rather than taking the meaning as a whole.

Because I can’t disprove the statement, I have to accept that the statement is a little true. That I am a little bit of a monster because of it. The statement isn’t the whole truth, as I am not a terrible monster, but I have to take ownership of the fact I am a bit of one.

There has to be a path out of here. Out of how crappy this conclusion makes me feel. But, again, all the routes I see are just like those I make fun of public figures for using. Justifying bad actions doesn’t make the bad actions any less bad. Or does it? How to I feel about it?

There are supporters of Trump in the states and Doug Ford up in Canada that have to be having the same fight in their own heads. The person they support is acting at least a little bit like a monster, so are they a little bit of a monster for helping them? How much of a monster is too far before they have to admit that something has gone wrong.

Just because I have never physically hurt the dog, left marks or caused damage doesn’t make what I do better. I do hold the dog still against its will when it is misbehaving. I can’t reason with the dog as it can’t understand logic. I can’t go back in time and train it better. I can’t undo what it has learned and it doesn’t seem to be wiling to learn a new path forward.

And what am I to do myself.

The dog isn’t mine, so getting rid of it isn’t an option. I don’t think that it is something that would be considered either. After all if it’s been a threat to my mom for four or so years why would how it reacts to me be a reason to punt it.

I don’t want to be responsible for the dog being destroyed. Hell, even when it was trying to bite me to get me to leave its house all I wanted it to do was to stop and realize that I’m going to be staying. There was no urge or impulse to Hurt it. (Well a little voice that was easily shut up did say gutting it like a fish would make it stop.) Never did I act against it in fear or anger. Or at least not as the driving emotion. It is a big dog and it did want to get me to leave by any means for a time.

I can’t let it do as it wishes. That path will lead quickly to it harming others and all the legal and ethical woes that raises. I need to be responsible for the actions of the dog when I am the only one around it.

Locking it up when its owner isn’t around, or when he isn’t able to focus all of his attention on its behaviour, doesn’t seem to be a morally solid path to take either. In part because the dog treats anyone who comes into its field of vision while locked away as a threat come to murder it. Crates an it doesn’t seem to be a good thing at all, but it feels safe sleeping inside one as long as the door is ajar… and it attacks anyone who wakes it up or approaches while it is in there.

Shock collars, anti-bark collars and other repeated mechanical behaviour modification tools all strike me as being too much and abuse. Mostly because I don’t think the dog would learn from any of them.

I feel like shit that I can’t say I’m innocent of abusing the dog. I don’t _think_ I abuse the dog but there is enough evidence that from another person’s standpoint I would be guilty. Not a whole lot guilty. Not lock away for being a threat to society or anything. But I am not innocent. And that really sucks.

I sort of get lost in that thought. I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of hours now and it comes down to that. I can’t be guilty but I am not innocent. Therefore I have to be guilty. At least a bit.

At what point does punishment come into it? How guilty do I have to be?

The worst of it is, I still see the mental image from the viewpoint of the guy from amazon like this:

Fuck, this is number 62 and five hours ago I had dropped off number 9 and he was told I would be there within three hours. I’m running late, not going to get paid what I should for all of this.
Crap, they have a dog and it sounds like a big one.
The guy nearly got bit when he went to stop the dog from coming at me. Can he control it? Well he’s got a hand on it and he needs to sign for the package.
He noticed the screen is cracked to fun and back, so he doesn’t need to make a neat signature, should I repeat that to him just in case he didn’t hear?
Ok, this package is a bit too big for one hand but ok, juggle door, phone and package and see that he has done the same…
Alright, off to finish this damn day.

The sight of a dog, so intent on driving off the attacker that it almost nailed the hand used to hold it back being held back by one hand as I struggled to get all that a normal social interaction with a delivery person would entail I still find funny.

Perhaps I am a few more degrees of a monster.
John Ross

Two more comments posted on Pocket Tactics that I would like to share here

This thread is about the game The Walking Dead: Assault

I was one of the few that picked this up as soon as it was available and here are my thoughts on it.


It made for an amusing lunch half-hour anyway. The game play isn't perfect. You cannot tell your guys to attack a specific zombie (or at least I haven't found the way yet) so the crawlers will be shot before the fast walker coming at you if they are closer. But for a real time tactics game I am liking the interface so far.

The graphics are cell shaded to look like the comic. That results in a very nice visual effect as you have the usual pinch zoom, two finger twist to look around the map. It also uses the comic book characters, so if you only know the series from the TV show they don't quite look the same. With it being top down they are already fairly abstracted anyway so it likely isn't going to be much of an issue for most people.
So far (map 4) damage seems to stay on the characters so wounds early on can catch up with you.
The only downside is the minor one of the game begging you to tweet, like or link it to as many social media sites as possible. 'I cleared the hospital in 3 minutes, can you do better? Buy the game now' sort of tweets. I am not so I am not getting the extra stars (used for unlocking things) which may catch up to me on a game balance side. More thoughts after I play at bit more tonight and sleep on it.

Bottom line? I've spend more money on worse.

Another possible issue is that the core game has only 9 or 10 maps. They look like they are planning to release more maps based on each comic book season, with no clue as to the price of the additional content.

One other note, I see that the game center score board shows all the other players who have signed into the game. So far only 1603 people have got involved, but this is also day one.

Then a second post on the same thread

Final thoughts on this app for now:

I finished all the maps, giving it a to finished game play time of about two and a half hours. The leaderboards encourage you to go back and play maps again to get a better time, which leads to more supply/star points for unlocking characters or buying upgrades, which makes the game easier to go faster. If you are not a perfectionist however, the replay value is low. While on the later maps you do get some randomized elements, the major events stay the same each time. Enter this crossroads get ambushed by seven zombies. Walk towards that pile of supplies six zombies come out of the building.

Being real time there is some tension on moving your characters correctly. You cannot pause the game and plan out just where you want them to walk. They will also move up when they run out of ammo to engage in close combat if you are not watching for it, sometimes getting them into deep trouble.

For game balance they have done a nice job of mixing strengths and weaknesses on the first 9 characters. Weapon speed, strength, range and sound are all factors that are weighted against character speed, ammo and special power. The medic, which can heal all your characters, comes with a short range, weak but loud weapon. So if she gets into a prolonged fight there is a good chance that all that noise will summon more zombies getting you into an even bigger mess. The sniper is slow, making him a poor choice on most speed runs. Other characters have no ranged weapon at all, because their special power is worth it. (In theory, I haven't tried all the mixes yet)

Each character additionally has some effect on the group as a whole. Some make them move faster, have increased range or get a faster rate of fire. These factors do give you a lot of space to explore mixes. Again this is for the perfectionists who want to get up on the leader boards.

The maps offer up bonus rewards if you do them with some restriction. Finish the map in 4 minutes or don't use any special powers kind of limits. These usually require some planning on how you want to complete them. One map has you either keeping all the hunters alive (NPC's that shoot both you and the zombies) or allowing the zombies to eat the hunters to get the bonus. If your sniper gets off a shot at a hunter that could cost you both options leading to replaying the level again. If you are that sort of person.

I quite enjoyed playing the game and as I am that sort of person (#25 on the leader boards right now, with a plan to get up 10 spaces with a new team on the forest map) I know I will be playing it for the rest of the weekend at least. But there is also some questions to be asked.

New characters to be unlocked and added is a big one. As I said they did a good job balancing the first nine characters. But there are a lot of characters in the comics, balancing all of them will be quite challenging.

The unknown cost of the additional maps and no published release schedule for them makes them a big question. Frequent cheap updates would be good, but also push the cost of the app up towards. Slow, expensive updates might be a deal breaker for many players.

It isn't a bad real time tactical game, but if you are not a perfectionist the limited number of original maps will be a problem. The $1.99 price tag feels about right for the game, but they do say it is an introductory price.

For me a 4 out of 5. Not perfect, but quite playable.


It turns out I was right to be concerned about the additional maps and no release schedule. Last time I checked they never did release any of those additional maps, and that was after giving them two years.
John Ross

A post from Pocket Tactics that I liked enough to share.

This is my comments found in this post here.
Less than a week ago
@gosenbach called me to this thread by name. The calling was completely unrequired as this specific thread sits both on the discussions link as well as my own personal wheelhouse of interest.

Yet I was called indeed here. To learn of two games of madness and cannibalism, two games that promise to let you explore the edges of a persons limits. Is it worth the risk to reach out for that possible gem just beyond the next door or safer to turn back while you are just bloodied and not yet fallen.

Here, should I reach out and pluck these up like two orbs from the face of time or acknowledge the whispers of a weakening sanity that my promises to the cold unthinking every rolling time (present and future) hold no space for two more.

They do sparkle so. And in just the right way to promise a rush of blood and glory that also calls to me. But a distant village on that same river of time guided by the ferryman echos the cries of others. Cries of being portable and free rather than tethered to a small desk in the living room.

Oh! If only the mancave still held the throne set before the four glorious monitors and three computers that it had at its' height. There one of the three was a masterpiece of engineering. A rig fit for the catalog of distractions it held so tightly. Even the lesser of the three would still be a fine holder for these orbs.

But alas all of those three have also fallen to the claws of time and abuse at my hands. My PCs of old are but scraps recycled into who knows what. The remaining digital amusements are much lesser constructs. A castoff from my wife's place of employment services as my main data entry port. For which it does well enough but it is no machine to enter the virtual realms as freely or as deeply as I did of old.

Apple by way of their prophet Jobs have given me freedom to roam on machines that just now are approaching the points I knew of old. There is much to be said to be able to sit upon many a different throne while fighting off Thin-men, lizard men and other distractions. Indeed the fact that when I really seek a deep escape I have multiple of these devices in front of me attempting to recreate the four windows into the digital I once had speaks of their success. Or my own desperation.

Even on such journeys they are best when I lose myself completely to one window above all others. Then and now I ache for a story, a narrative or a feeling, that consumes all of my thoughts and power for a time.

These two do offer to let that happen. As with most things there is no way to reclaim success if the promise fails, nor any sign that these two have dropped their promises like so many before.

But to wait, to count out the days and weeks and months before they might yet reach the mobile sphere against the knowledge that right now I could capture these and bind them to an aging relic like myself and use them as I see fit...

Such things keep me awake and ranting on the internet at the early morning hours while I prepare the valentines gift for my wife. The same who keeps me to a budget that would be broken should I give in here and now.

But still the call goes on.
John Ross

100 Computer Games to play before you die

Blowing the Dust off my livejournal for my first post in over a year today it seems.

Regardless, Just finished reading '100 Computer Games to Play Before you Die' by Steve Bowden

As Steve Bowden states this isn't a list of the best games, but rather a list of games he feels you need to play to understand the industry before you die or so. (He puts it better in his forward.) 

I am going to present here his list of games and mark with bold hose I have played and underline he ones I agree with. There should be no surprises really.

Animal Crossing: Wild Worl
Baldur's Gat
Batman: Arkham Asylum
Beyond Good & Evil
Burnout 3: Takedown
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Sid Meier's Civilization
Counter-strike: Source
Dancing Stage (AKA Dance Dance Revolution)
Demon's Souls
Deus Ex
Donkey Kong
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Eve Online
F-Zero GX
Final Fantasy VII
Forza Motorsports 3
Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2
God Hand
God of War
Goldeneye 007
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
Half-life 2
Halo: Combat Evolved
Hearts of Iron II
Hitman: Blood Money
IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey
Katamari Damacy
Left 4 Dead
The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Little Big Planet
Mega Man 2
Metal Gear Solid
Metroid Prime
Micro Machines
Nights into Dreams...
No More Heroes
Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath
Pac-man Vs.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
Picross 3D
Plants vs Zombies
Pokemon Red/Blue
Prince of Persia: Sands of Time
Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords
Resident Evil 2
Resident Evil 4

Rock Band 3
The Secret of Monkey Islands
Sensible World of Soccer
Shadow of the Colossus
Silent Hill 2
Simcity 2000
The Sims
Sonic The Hedgehog CD
Space Invaders
(Tom Clancy's) Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Super Bomberman
Super Mario Galaxy
Super Mario Kart
Super Mario World
Super Metroid
Super Monkey Ball
Super Street Fighter IV

System Shock 2
Time Crisis II

Tomb Raider Anniversary
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3
Warioware, Inc.: Minigame Mania
Way of the Samurai
Wii Sports
The World Ends with You
World of Warcraft

So I have played 73 out of the 100. I am sorta proud of that. I don't agree with a large number on his list, but I look for different things in the games rather then a first example of X style of play or Y characteristic. Or in a few cases they made it on his list because they were the Best example of X or Y. The book is a short read if you find it, and worth a browsing anyway.
John Ross

Schlock Mercenary's "The 70 Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries"

  1. Pillage, Then Burn
  2. A sergeant in motion outranks a lieutenant who doesn't know what's going on.
  3. An ordnance technician at a dead run outranks everybody.
  4. Close air-support covereth a multitude of sins.
  5. Close air-support and friendly fire should be easier to tell apart.
  6. If violence wasn't your last resort, you failed to resort to enough of it.
  7. If the food is good enough the grunts will stop complaining about the incoming fire.
  8. Mockery and derision have their place. Usually it's on the far side of the airlock.
  9. Never turn your back on an enemy.
  10. Sometimes the only way out is through... through the hull.
  11. Everything is air-droppable at least once.
  12. A soft answer turneth away wrath. Once wrath is looking the other way, shoot it in the head.

These Gems are slowly handed out over the comic's ten year plus run.
I was going to share a longer blog about a dream but instead this shall do as John has a cold.
John Ross

From a vision that struck me just now.

From the depths of the shadow, a figure strolled forth.
A mask of pure white hung on his face without any sign of strap nor string.
Ripped and worn, stained and tainted by untold distance traveled a yellow robe was stretched across a tall skeletal frame.
The fingers of the hands were made all the longer by the unraveling bandages that dripped from each.
The faint smell of rotting roses assaults the senses.
Eyes that both seem mad and coldly calm speak to you from underneath the emotionless mask.
Perhaps a smile flickers on the lips as the light hits it. Perhaps the mask is sad.
I know not how I understand the words.
The feeling of crawling sounds, creeping towards me from under the mask, are what I hear.
The sounds are not spoken in English and perhaps not even by a throat of any human kind.
But their meaning and the promises are clear.
The King in Yellow stands before me and speaks of the end of all that is upon the galaxy.
His mate shall lose the battle.
Mankind, accident that it is upon the fabric, shall finally know his true form.
The crawling chaos shall play the horns that sound the ending of the world.
The ending of this is foretold, as the light shall blaze between the mountains of Yory’th and Say’eth and I shall stand upon the earth for all time.
The king speaks more.
Words and images and future secrets and past truths roll into me. Burrow into me.
Crawl and itch under my skin.
And I as a hold back a scream that if given voice would have ended me there and then the king speaks more.
His true name is spoken once, and my ears bleed.
His name is spoken twice and the teeth in my mouth bite the tongue to stop it repeating that which I know.
I am told that the third time it shall be spoken will be the end.
The king removes his mask and bows low to me.
An honor for not breaking my place upon the ground at his feet.
I lose consciousness for a time. The wind was now from the west… The sickly light from the fainting sun splashes like blood over the stains of my encounter.
The name echoed in my ears for the score of years from then to now.
It is now a dull roar against my brain.
I must speak it to be free.
But before I do I must do what I can to stop this.
Here, inside this journal, are my notes on how to stop what I have seen happening.
I know you will take up the challenge, for I have seen you fail.
But if you take this with you perhaps you can change what is to be.
What has already been.
A hand written note that falls out of an old book you picked up at the library. It was perhaps a disappointment to someone that you didn’t see the note and returned the book to the shelf when it wasn’t the one you wanted.
John Ross

The Wild Wild West (part 1 as my son is demanding more attention)

Watching the third season of The Wild Wild West. From 1968 this season is… The story idea is very similar to the horrible movie that came out if it years later. We have some spies running around the old west using advanced technology to solve villain of the day stories. Using pocket sized gramophone players to cause a distraction, special bullets that stick into the barrel of their pistols and so on. It is quite silly overall.

But what I notice most is that they had a limited pool of extras. So the three thugs that were hiding up a tree guarding a giant tuning fork that was being used to destroy buildings are also part of the midget evil genius circuit gang. And part of the drug smuggling ring. The lady who runs a penny arcade is also the most beautiful actress in all of the states the next week.

It really does distract me.

Michael Dunn is the actor that played the evil genius, . The list of films he was in both impressive and sad for the roles he was given. Yes, in the Wild Wild West they make a number of Napoleon Bonaparte references. A joke that Jack of All Trades would use over 30 years later.
John Ross

Written on the train

The guy who sat down across from me would not normally have registered on me. The train was full of people drained from a day of work. 
I had other objectives in my mind that interfered with my usual people watching. 
But he had a tattoo on the webbing of his left hand. 
It was a tattoo of the yellow sign. 
Not that crude three lines in a vague triangle but that of a master. 
Dozens of points that roughly described the simple shape, yet those dots were also runes. 
Layers upon layers. 
I had to look away. Trying to focus on the details of the tattoo would only make me stand out. 
I think he saw my interest anyway. 
He got off at the next stop, losing himself in the crowd. 
It didn't matter. 
I never saw his face. 
That didn't matter either. 
I had already been give the address of his family. 
Right now, they were all that mattered. 
My masters had spoken. 

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John Ross

Going to the Loom

Reviewing my steam games, pulling threads on Loom by Lucasarts.

Loom is an early point and click adventure game. Coming out between the text adventure games like Zork and the full point and click games of Monkey Island. As a puzzle game you will face a number of challenges that have only one specific answer.

Compounding the existing issues of point and click puzzle games you have the early prototype teething issues. Specifically you have only a single interaction option, click. There is no look, take or anything else. Clicking does one (or sometimes two) thing on each object that you interact with. Sometimes it treats it like a look. Sometimes a take. Sometimes a break, or learn the magic of or a sneak up and listen in on. Not knowing before you click what will happen can be annoying.

They haven't bothered to update the graphics for this release, so you have the same limited graphics that were the best they could do in the late 90s. It is hard to say if they are cute or just really dated. I’m going to go with dated because of the sour taste the ending left in my mouth.

Loom used sound as the source of magic. So almost everything used 8 bit sounds and when you heard a four note pattern you could count on it as being a source of magic. Four holes in the trees with owls that hoot different notes on a scale become the magic for a light spell. And the logic is about that fuzzy for most of the other magic as well.

But the game doesn’t tell you in game that reversing the pattern can reverse the effect. I found it annoying that when you first encounter a water spout on your path you need to know that the four notes the water spout makes can be reversed to untwist it. And that it is a twisting magic you are learning. So when you find a staircase that needs to be untwisted you do the same spell again. My mind wasn’t in the same space as the game designers.

Having finished the game I felt the ending was weak, left open clearly for a sequel that never game. The character you play seems poorly constructed. He is from a mysterious clan but knows all the other characters in the game. You don’t, so all you get is a brief bit of text. “It is the Bishop” and so on. I was completely disconnected from the world and never brought in. Made more vexing by some of the puzzles being solved by game world knowledge that you don’t have. One example that stands out in my mind is that your characters hood hides something dark and perhaps evil. So when another NPC wants to look under your hood it removes him as a threat.

I think with a walkthrough and knowing just where to go a person could finish the game inside an hour or so. It took me longer as I explored and bumbled around, but I got madder and madder at the game. I spent the first hour of playing the game just walking around without finding the first seed of the plot because I didn’t realize I could walk on a black space as a floor to get to the Mcguffin.

Calling the game done at 4.9 hours of playing, giving it a value of $9 under my system. I actually feel the game is worth much less, as the ending and content left me unhappy over all. I cannot suggest anyone else get the game unless the old classics really interest you.