sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
I've been at OHSU for a month as of yesterday. Four weeks. Five weeks since I quit my previous job and took a week off before starting the new one.

I'm working in the Liver Pre-Transplant office. My job involves doing benefit checks--finding out what benefits, exactly, the potential patient's insurance covers so our financial coordinator can assess their situation. It involves sending out prior authorization requests (i.e., getting permission from the insurance company/HMO/whoever) for the diagnostics and office visits needed to evaluate someone to determine if they're a good candidate. It involves tracking the authorizations, and the scheduling of office visits and diagnostic tests and getting authorizations for ongoing, specific visits/diagnostics after the evaluation, and helping to manage patients' required medical appointments and labs (i.e., making sure they know when something is coming due, making sure orders for the medical care are in place so they can be seen, making sure the appointments are scheduled (or in some cases, scheduling them myself). I also enter lab results into the system, and upload diagnostic results from outside offices, and lots of other things.

I spent two weeks being trained and getting a little hands-on experience--and feeling completely lost. There's a ton of stuff you need to know to do this job. I often felt like I was floundering, or stumbling around in the dark unable to piece it all together. So did Carrie, the woman who was being trained with me to take my equivalent role in the Kidney pre-transplant office. But everyone around us--our boss, our trainer, our co-workers and random people who encountered there at OHSU--told us the same thing again and again and again.

It IS a big job. It DOES take a long time to learn. We were doing great, and we shouldn't be hard on ourselves. We'll get it. I was willing to take their word for it, that they knew what they were talking about...but it didn't feel like it.

I've spent the last two weeks, since my initial training, working alongside my counterpart. We split the pre-transplant liver patients between us; I handle A-K, she handles L-Z. Or we will once I'm up to speed, right now we're working closely on all of them while I continue getting up to speed. And...and I feel like I'm getting there. I still have lots to learn, and the job is like a jigsaw puzzle but I've assembled the border now and big pieces of it are coming together, and I'm confident that I'll be able to fill in the rest with time and practice. In some ways, the job is fairly repetitive: benefits checks, evaluation authorization requests, listing authorizations, transplant authorizations, managing patient schedules, and so forth. Lather, rinse, repeat.

In other ways, it's a constant challenge and nobody EVER knows it all because things are constantly in flux. Patients change insurance providers. Plans change. Rules change. Laws change. And when all that remains constant, patients change--they get better, they get worse, and their needs change accordingly. So I'm never going to be in a place where I don't have to ask questions and puzzle out the whys and wherefores of things. But I'm getting a handle on the basics.

And I love it. Time flies. By the time I left my previous job, I hated it. I watched the clock, eager for my next break, or lunch, or the end of the day. The soulless micromanagement of a call center was soul-grinding. But this job, I love. I'm working hard, and learning, and time flies. It's useful, valuable work and it makes a difference to the patients we're working with, which is both exciting and sometimes a little scary. My bosses and my co-workers assume I'm capable and willing to do the job, and continue to be endlessly encouraging, and I'm not being micromanaged, and it's glorious.

So, yeah, I really like this job, and I'm very pleased to have it. It's been a long-overdue and positive change.
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
So, as part of the onboarding process to work at OHSU, I have to get some immunizations (or sign a waiver disclaiming any responsibility on OHSU's part if I don't and get sick). I also have to have a 2-step Tuberculosis test. They don't want me spreading it all over. Makes sense.

Monday I went to my doctor and got one of the required vaccinations. I've had the others. I also got the TB test, and was scheduled to go in this morning for the second part, where they check to see if I have TB. I expected it to go quickly. After all, I don't have TB. Right? Right?

Well, the nurse looks at my arm, at the slight redness at the injection site (which, ideally, would be neither red nor inflamed). And then she goes and gets another nurse, who examines me, and asks me a bunch of questions about possible exposure to TB, any symptoms (none), or exposure to people who've been innoculated against it (co-workers who are from out of the country, for instance). That latter thing is possible, I suppose. But I don't know.

Then they call my doctor out of another patient room to examine me. The reaction is extremely mild, the redness is not very red, it's not very large, and it's only barely raised. But "barely" is not "none at all." So, since I need to be cleared by Monday in order to start my job, they send me across the street to the hospital, where I get a couple of chest x-rays. If the x-rays are clear, I'm golden. If not, well, they may have to repeat the skin test in a couple of weeks.

I am rather alarmed at this point. I called my wife to tell her the exciting news and get some support and sympathy, which she delivered. I'm not so much alarmed about having TB--I figure it can be treated. No, I'm worried that I won't get a clean bill of health, so will lose out on the new job--and I've already quit my previous job. That would suck mightily. So I left, stopped on the way home to get an early lunch at the local bakery (bacon/fried egg croissant). It was very tasty. I ate and read for a bit, then went home.

Where I realized was feeling increasingly anxious. Not long after I get home I got a call from my doctor's office telling me the x-rays were clear and I'm officially okay. Wow. that was an incredible load off my mind.

Fast foward to right now. I'm back from a four hour visit to the Emergency Room. I drove into town to pick up Snippy from work. She was having some trouble breathing (talking much or doing most anything strenuous was making it hard to breathe without coughing, and her chest felt tight). She'd begun feeling puny about mid-afternoon and it wasn't getting any better. If anything, it was getting worse. She has a Xopenex inhaler for asthma, which she used four times that day, to no avail.

Finally, she called her allergy doc, who--based on how she sounded over the phone--advised her that, yes, she should go to the emergency room. So I drove her there. She had an EKG, which showed no heart issues. Then was seen by a doctor (with lots of waiting between every step, it goes without saying), and given some IV steroids, and some inhaled drugs through a nebulizer. This got her breathing better. The doctor came back to say that her labs (drawn on arrival) also showed no heart issues, so based on her response to the drugs, he was confident that it was just exacerbated asthma. Maybe the cold, wet weather--I dont' know.

So we're home again, and she's in bed, and will be staying home from work tomorrow. I'll be going out early in the morning to the pharmacy to get a few days worth of additional steroids to help with the problem. So we're glad it was nothing more serious, but all the same--do we HAVE to have ALL THE THINGS happen to us?
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
So, in 2009 I was laid off from a job I'd had for fifteen years. It was a shock, but not entirely surprising. I'd survived several previous rounds of layoffs and with the economy in the toilet, fundraising (it was a non-profit) was down, so budget cuts were the order of the day. And as the highest-paid admin assistant in my department, well, you take your savings where you can.

In 2011 I found a part-time job doing data entry for a company that runs a loadboard (an online marketplace where brokers needing loads moved can find truckers, who need to find work moving loads). I did that for about two years, then got promoted to full-time. I made outbound calls to get insurance information on carriers (truckers), took inbound calls for billing, freightmatching, customer service, and activation and training on the various software packages we sell for accessing the loadboard.

Did I mention it was a call center. It was. I'd never worked in a call center before, and I never will again, God willing. You're chained to your telephone for eight hours a day. Every moment of your time is monitored and judged, and your calls are recorded. And judged. And you're expected to achieve a variety of conflicting goals all the time. (It got to be a joke amongst my team. Whichever "metric" was trailing would become the focus of frequent emails from the managers about improving it. We'd change focus accordingly, only to have another metric fall--and become the focus of frantic exhortations to get that one back up. It was a never-ending treadmill of incompatible goals. You CANNOT physically do everything they want you to do at the level they want it done. You CAN'T.)

So you learn to focus on what really matters--which means, whatever measures YOU are getting assessed on. In my case, it was outbound percentage. I was supposed spend 30% of my on-the-clock time doing outbound calls. So I set my phone in "after call" so that incoming calls (another "top" priority among many) wouldn't reach me and stayed in that state all day every day so I could make outbound calls. I wasn't supposed to do that, but what the hell. Occasionally I'd get an IM (yes, not just emails, we got IMs too) to take a call if the queues were backed up, but mostly I avoided incoming calls for months.

Then we got new phones, and they took "after call" away from us. And expected us to do outbound calls AND take inbound calls AND document everything AND do all the other back-end stuff without any time to focus on it. And bumped our outbound quota to 35%. And while our department was responsible for taking inbound calls (to help another department) when that department made their monthly goals (with our help), did we get any rewards? No. Just them. And that's when I decided my job had gone from tolerable (didn't love it, didn't hate it, it was just a job) to intolerable.

The company provides (an actually pretty nice) anniversary luncheon each month for people hired in that month. At the last one, I was pretty much the only person from my department in a room of a dozen people or more. They all talked about how much they liked working there, and how they were left alone to do their job and didn't have people looking over their shoulders all the time and micromanaging them, and how the company felt like a family. I listened to these people and thought (but didn't say), "I work at [COMPANY], where the hell do YOU work?" But apparently the call center is very different from the rest of the company there.

Maybe all call centers are like that. I don't know. But I do know that there'd always been fairly high turnover in the call center, but nothing like the turnover in my department in the last few months. One guy decamped to the Billing department downstairs "where the managers have souls." Others have found new jobs and left. I've been looking for work for a while--

--and now I have a new job. I'm going to working at OHSU (Oregon Health Sciences University if you're not from around here) in the organ transplant area. I'll be temping at first, but have every hope of getting hired on as a regular employee. I gave notice at work on Friday. I'm really, really looking forward to this change.

It's exciting. And a little anxious-making. I'm going to have to master new skills, learn a new schedule. Especially my commuting schedule. OHSU is hard to reach, parking is extremely limited (and expensive, if you drive at all) and I will probably end up taking public transit. Bus? Tram? A combination of the two? That remains to be determined. Learning the job will probably take longer, but I'm looking forward to that. It will be important, useful work with people who will treat me like an intelligent, capable adult and not a cog in a machine. other news. Today is my 17th wedding anniversary. Snippy and I tied the knot on a very rainy February evening seventeen years ago today. To celebrate we went to The Melting Pot, where we enjoyed choose fondue, salads, meat entrees (French Quarter--spiced shrimp, pork, chicken, steak and sausages--for me, and half teriyaki marinaded sirloin and half filet mignon for Snippy), and dark chocolate fondue on bananas, strawberries, marshmallows and fudge bites for dessert. We talked a lot, decided to plan a getaway to Disneyland for our 20th anniversary, and generally had a great time. We also had a photo taken of us, which we plan to send to my mother back east. She'll enjoy that.
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
What? The new year can start in February. Who says it can't!?

Yeah, not really. But nonetheless, I am intending to put more time and attention into my writing. I currently have two shorts stories ready to reissue under a new pen name. I once had three pen names, but I've ditched one and am reissuing the stories under the second, which is the name I use for sci fi, fantasy, mysteries and pretty much everything but erotica. The first pen name will remain my designated erotica name.

I have two more new stories in the pipeline, one completely written but still in need of proofing, the other 99% complete. Then I'll need to find art for the covers, create the covers in GIMP, and turn them into ebooks in Jutoh.*

I have a couple of other completed stories that need to go out to markets again. I sent them out one or twice, then stopped. But persistence is the name of the game, and I am now, again, in a headspace where I can manage that. I wasn't for a long while.

Then there are the stories--from short stories to a couple of novels--in various stages of completion. I'm tempted, badly tempted, to start over. But as my writing gurus Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Rusch will tell anyone who listens, NEVER EVER DO THAT. That is your critical voice talking. Every writer feels like that, generally about two-thirds of the way through the project.** Throttle that voice and finish the story. Get it out the door. Write the next one, and use what you learned on THAT one. (In fact, they being married, often have to remind one another of this. One or the other will stomp out of their office to announce that the current project is unsalvageable shit. The other will ask, "How far along are you?" The frustrated writer will pause, realize what's happening, mutter "dammit" and return to the office to keep writing.)

In other news, I'm about to start playing in an online superhero game on InsaneJournal. I played in several years ago and loved them to death. But they eventually petered out, as such things always do. I've tried many time over the years to find new games, but never with any real success. But this time for sure!

*Unsolicited endorsement. Jutoh is by far the best software I've yet found for turning documents into ebooks. It's not terribly expensive, it works great, and while the manual is...less than helpful, the author can be reached with questions and always responds promptly.

**I'm right at 35,000 words on The Lifeboat (working title). I'm right on schedule. The urge to start over is powerful, but I'm not gonna. I'm gonna finish that damn thing.
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
No, there is too much. Let me sum up...

So I had laser eye surgery this week.

Click here for the not-really-gruesome-at-all details, plus other things. )
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
So some time ago (two years ago? three?) was diagnosed with Glaucoma. Fortunately, it was detected very early. In fact, I'd gone to see my eye doctor because of a new and rather prominent floater in my left eye--which turned out to be a speck of blood from a torn retina. The eye doctor lasered it back into place at that same visit. The floater is still there, but as he told me I would, I've learned not to notice it. But in the course of testing, he discovered my Glaucoma.

He started me on eyedrops to control the pressure in my eyes and prevent the Glaucoma from advancing. The drops worked pretty well, but not quite as well as he'd have liked. So we added a second set of drops. If we couldn't control the pressure with drugs, the next option would laser surgery--or actual surgery. So I really wanted the drops to work.

And they worked for a while--until I developed an allergic reaction. So we switched out the drops. And thus began the long, laborious process of determining (through trial and error) that I am unable to tolerate any of the eyedrops for Glaucoma, with one exception: a preservative-free version of Zioptan. (Each day's dose comes in a disposable, one-use dropper.) But that one drug alone isn't doing enough. So my eye doctor referred me to a glaucoma specialist.

Who happens to be his wife. (And technically, he only referred me to clinic upstairs, where his wife is one of several glaucoma specialists. I chose her.) So on Wednesday I spent about two and a half hours in the clinic getting extensively tested. I was rather anxious about this; giving up on finding a combination of drugs to do the job meant surgery of some kind.

They tested my vision. They tested my color vision. They numbed my eyes and did a pressure check. They dilated my pupils and had me wait until everything was bright and blurry, then examined the interiors of my eyes with the aid of very VERY bright lights, and with lenses they actually placed ON my eye. (All of this was wonderful fun for a guy who has always been extremely sensitive to glare and to having anything near my eyes.)

They did a visual field test. You stare with one eye (the other is covered) at a tiny light in the center of a hemispherical machine and click a button every time you see a flash of light anywhere). Then you do the other eye. And you fear all the while that you're missing way too many of the flashes (some are bright, some are barely perceptible). They examined my eyes again with the aid of bright lights and lenses, and took pictures while they were at it. I saw three different technicians/doctors in addition to my primary. (The technician who administered the visual field test bears more than a passing resemblance in appearance, manner and voice to the actor John Malkovitch. It was a bit odd.)

The end result of all this testing was to determine that I still have undiminished field of vision in my right eye (no loss of peripheral vision at all), and very minimal loss in my left eye (but there is some). Also, that I was a good candidate for laser surgery. So sometime in the next month or two I'll get scheduled for an in-clinic procedure. I asked the doctor how it works. Apparently, on the interior of your eye, right where the iris (the colored part) meets the white, there's a lip or groove or something. This is where, assuming it works correctly, the fluid inside your eye can drain away so that the pressure doesn't get so high that it starts damaging the optic nerve. The procedure will use a laser and some mirrors to zap fifty spots around the perimeter there, causing some inflammation. Then, when the body sends it's healing agents to deal with that, it will usually (in about 80% of patients) also cause it to start draining more effectively.

Why? I don't know. And neither does my doctor. She said they don't know why it works, they just know that it does. And it works better in patients who start with a higher pressure inside the eye (like me, so I'm almost certain to get a beneficial effect). In conjunction with eyedrops (which I'd still be using), it should lower the pressure enough to prevent any further damage.

It's not a permanent fix, though. The effect generally lasts from two to five years, and can be repeated once. So it could good for anywhere from four to ten years. And then? Well, there will probably be some new glaucoma drops on the market I can try. And if not, there's still actual surgery.

So...laser eye surgery sometime in the next couple of months, a follow-up visit at two and then eight weeks post-surgery (to compare pressure to see if worked) and then we'll see. I'm relieved that I can try laser surgery and not have to jump (immediately) to going under the knife, but it's still daunting. It doesn't help that I was definitely the youngest person in the waiting room by a good margin--at least amongst actual patients and not loved ones waiting with patients. I'm not pleased by that at all.
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
My lovely and talented wife came home from San Francisco last Tuesday with a lovely parting gift--a cold. By Friday of last week I could feel myself coming down with it. Not a terrible surprise, really. You share an apartment and these things happen. So I spent the weekend getting worse, and doing as little as possible in the way of chores and resting up for a week of work.

And work today went better than expected. I thought it would be awful, and I'd be completely worn out. But not really. I'm sick, yes, but not as miserable as I feared. But given that Snippy is still sick more than a week since she came down with it, I've got a ways to go yet.

Today Twoson started feeling it coming on. Again, not a surprise. In fact, I pretty much expected he would come down with it--when you're sharing an apartment with two people who are both sick, and you're taking care of them...well.

As colds go, it's not horrible. It's a cold, which means you feel exhausted and congested and occasionally sneezy. But the worst part for me so far is that my whole torso from my waist to my chest is one big sore mass of muscles from all the coughing. And every time I cough I'm reminded of just how many muscles surround my rib cage and are involved in coughing.

On the other hand, I'm enjoying reading the Ex series by Peter Clines. He first came to my attention when Snippy told me about a couple of audio books she was really enjoyed. FOURTEEN and THE FOLD. "Horror procedurals" she called them, in that they don't seem like horror at first, just mysteries. And not particularly threatening mysteries, but the more the characters investigate, the weirder things get until the awful truth is finally revealed and you realize that, yes, it's horror. She told me something about them, and urged me to give them a try. And so I did. And they were great. I really liked them. I can't say a lot about them without spoiling them, so I won't.

Now I'm reading some of his other works. EX-HEROES, EX-PATRIOTS, EX-COMMUNICATION (which I'm currently reading), and at least two others I haven't gotten to yet. It's a series about the zombie apocalypse--with superheroes. And they've been really interesting. And like those other two books, things aren't as simple as they seem. A zombie apocalypse AND superheroes in the same story? Isn't that overkill? Or a violation of the "one fantastic element" rule or something?

I thought so. But there's more going on than you think at first, and pretty soon it's clear that this is not your garden-variety zombie apocalypse (which we've all seen so often before). With every book in the series (I'm on the third currently), it gets weirder and weirder. The zombies are the least of the protagonists' problems.

They're a threat, yes. Five million zombies (or "exes" as in ex-human, as they call them in the novels) in Los Angeles is a problem. But anyone who's seen a few zombie movies knows how to handle that. If you're smart and careful (and little bit lucky), you can survive and establish a safe place in the ruins of Los Angeles. But the zombies are only the beginning. There are worse things than zombies. Much worse--and you have to deal with those while ALSO not letting them distract you from the ever-present threat of zombies.

Like Fourteen and The Fold, these books are full of pop culture references--one character in particular is prone to quoting genre movies and tv shows, or referencing them as a way of explaining things.

I recommend them.
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
My lovely and talented wife took off for San Francisco on Thursday to visit friends. She returns tomorrow. She also texted less than an hour ago to report that she has a cold and ask me to make sure we have Sudafed on hand. It sucks for her that she's come down with a cold, but Twoson and I will take good care of her when she gets home.

This means, among other things, a trip across the river to Vancouver, WA tomorrow because the State of Oregon has made Sudafed a prescription-only purchase. You can own it, but can only buy it in-state with a prescription from your doctor. Those of us who live close enough to the border can drive into Washington and get it there. We'll also have to stock up on other things for colds, I expect.

Anyhow, with Snippy out of town, Twoson and I were on our own for the long weekend. On the drive home after work Thursday, I started feeling very lonely. Snippy was out of town and I wouldn't seen any of our friends (all of whom have their own busy lives, so our get-togethers are scheduled). I even teared up, though it part that was probably due to listening to the country music station on the radio while driving. But I thought about my plans for the weekend and started feeling better.

Those plans started when I stopped on the way home to buy Twoson and myself dinner at Son of A Biscuit (a local fried chicken restaurant who make some very spicy chicken). We watched tv or played on the computer and stayed up to the ungodly-late hour of 1:30 in the morning and slept til 10 a.m.. Once upon a time I routinely stayed up that late, or later, especially on weekends. But not anymore. I work an early job and I get up not so early (but still earlier than I prefer) to make breakfast for Snippy on the weekends. So I intended to enjoy sleeping in on my four-day weekend (I took Tuesday off, in addition to the holiday today).

I spent Saturday, Sunday and today alternately netsurfing, writing, watching tv, reading, or doing various chores. Chores still need doing, even on holidays. I did the grocery shopping, lots of laundry (sheets, towels, anti-allergen mattress covers and pillowcases, clothes). I dusted and vacuumed, and de-cluttered and straightened up the living room area, ran the dishwasher occasionally, and so forth. I didn't push to get the chores done. This was supposed to be a vacation. None of it required concentrated attention, so I'd throw a load in the wash/load the dishwasher and do something fun for a while.

Saturday Twoson was at work most of the day, so I puttered around the apartment on my own until mid-afternoon, then went out shopping. I bought three pairs of jeans I needed. I look for new sneakers, but after trying three different sports shoes stores, I walked away empty-handed. I had a surfeit of choices, a bit of sticker shock, and no real idea what sort of shoes I really wanted. A little research is called for, I think.

I've been writing for an online RPG I joined a couple-three weeks ago. It's been very slow. I've had almost no responses, but it's not me--there's been relatively little activity at all. Perhaps it's the start of school (some of the players are students or teachers, I know), and the holiday weekend. But in any case, I've been having fun making posts of my own. It isn't writing that will make me any money, but it's writing and I'm enjoying it, and that's a start. I keep feeling like I ought to be writing something I could sell, but at least I'm writing now, and that hasn't been the case for a long while.

I tried going for a bicycle ride today. We got a bicycle from a friend last summer. Originally it was intended for Twoson, but he never used it. So I claimed it. Took it out today--and discovered that the tires have gone soft in that time. I need to pump them up again but we don't own a bicycle tire pump. So I'll do that another day.

Three of the four days of my vacation are over now. There's only tomorrow to go, and then it's back to work for three days. I've enjoyed it. I've stayed up late, slept in, and generally enjoyed not having a fixed schedule of any sort for a few days. It's been really nice. I tried a couple of episodes of Archer on netflix; it's amusing, and I'll probably watch more, but I'm in no hurry. I also watched a couple of episodes of Continuum, which I enjoyed and may try to share with Twoson and Snippy. If they like it too, we'll have something else to watch together at least until all our regular fall shows come back on. As I said, it's been nice.

But I'll be very glad when Snippy comes home again. I've missed her, and look forward to spending some time with her. We're planning a celebratory dinner tomorrow evening. The original plan was to go out somewhere if she felt up to it (after a day of travel), or to pick something up from a new Chinese restaurant we've found (or maybe somewhere else) if she weren't. Since she has a cold, I suspect it will be the latter--if she feels up to eating much at all.
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
First, I really like CHRONICLE. As "real world teens get superpowers" movies go, it is in my opinion, one of the best. Plus the climactic battle is just phenomenal. THIS is what superheroes and supervillains fighting would be like, and the collateral damage is amazing (and terrifying). it's a great film.

I didn't know until just a few days ago that the guy who did that film directed (or started directing, apparently) Fantastic Four. I don't know if he's in the right, or he was the problem, or (more likely) it was a colossal cluster____ to which he and the studio contributed in equal measures.

What I do know, is that the primary reason (in my opinion) why the earlier FF movies did only okay (though they did do okay) and this one tanked is that the folks in charge were unwilling to commit to making a COMIC BOOK movie. That is, in my opinion, why Marvel has succeeded so well. Yes, they make changes to the costumes, to the backstory, and so forth to make them look better and to appeal to a wider audience*, but they're making movies about COMIC BOOK SUPERHEROES and they don't pretend otherwise.

Guy builds a suit of powered armor in a cave out of scraps? Yes.

Superscience turns a 1940s weakling into a superman? Yes.

And he is frozen in ice for decades then brought back? Yes!

Norse God shows up with huge pecs and huger hammer. Yes!

They have a flying helicarrier? YES!

Look, the very idea of a heli-carrier is preposterous. It would be easy laugh at it. It's easy for movie execs to FEAR that people will laugh at it, and thus veto it or water it down into something "believable" (for Hollywood versions of same). But Marvel COMMITS. They showed us the full-fledged, exactly-as-imagined helicarrier taking flight and they do it without backpedalings or embarrassment. This is what comic fans came to see and they are by god going to show it to us. And even the non-comic fans are mostly going to think, "wow, that's so cool--impossible, of course, but really ,really cool."

Which is exactly the reaction they have to the zillions of impossible (but cool) fights/stunts/car chase scenes in standard action movies. But only Marvel seems to understand that you can elicit the same buy-in from moviegoing audiences if you commit to the superhero story the same way. (And even Marvel had to learn. There are a fair number of low-budget, truly execrable Marvel superhero movies--even tv-movies--over the last few decades. Partly that was due to shoestring budgets and laughable costumes and sfx...but that was also due in part to a lack of commitment. It was a vicious circle that took some serious cojones--and money--to break. But Marvel did.)

Fox seemed to understand it when they did the first two X-Men movies. Yes, they swapped out the yellow spandex for black leather, but otherwise? Scott Summers had actual eyebeams. Wolverine's ginormous adamantium claws were just as cool in live-action as they were in the comics. Rogue's ability to steal powers (not the most photogenic power out there) worked well in the story. Rebecca Romjin's Mystique was incredibly fun too. Plus, of course, they had Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellan to give the move some much needed gravitas.

And they didn't shy away from the whole comic-book notion of evolution. "Mutant" means "person with naturally-occurring superpowers" and that's just how it is. Like the heli-carrier, it makes no sense in the real world. That's not how the world really works. But that's how it works in THEIR world, and they weren't embarrassed to tell a story in that world. If that doesn't make all the difference, it makes the lion's share.

But when it comes to the Fantastic Four (especially this reboot), they seemed to shy away from giving us the Fantastic Four we've known in the comics for decades. They shuffle their feet, hem and haw, and are clearly embarrassed by the story they want to tell--and it shows. No matter how much extra action and how many SFX shots they add.

*They have to. The audience for a "hit" comic book" is a miniscule fraction of the audience you need to make a successful motion picture.
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
by Sinanju
A crossover fanfic (Dead Like Me/Highlander)

George stepped into Joe's and looked around. She hadn't had much experience of bars before she'd died. Truthfully, she'd never been in a bar at all before she died. She had her fellow reapers Mason and Daisy to thank for her familiarity with them in her afterlife. They might have come with her but they both had appointments at the post office.

So did Roxy and Rube, for that matter. George suspected that someone would be going postal today. Multiple reaps at the post office on April 15th? Overworked postal employees and cranky last-minute taxpayers snarling at one another all day? What else could it be?

The bar seemed okay. There was a stage in the back for live performances, empty now. Music poured out of a jukebox instead. George was morbidly amused to recognize Dead Can Dance. The bar wasn't terribly busy. The bartender, a bearded man with graying hair was conversing quietly but intently with a customer, tall, dark and handsome.

George admired him for a moment. He made quite a picture. Jeans that showed off his ass very well, broad shoulders in a cable-knit sweater, short dark hair and a beautiful but masculine profile. He was way too old for her, of course. He had to be in his thirties.

She pulled a crumpled Post-It from her pocket and studied it.

W. Campbell
Joe's Place
E.T.D. 10:47 p.m.

She put it away again and scanned the room, wondering which of the patrons was W. Campbell. Walter? William? She studied a woman idly toying with a glass of beer. Wanda?

George glanced over at the handsome man at the bar again. He looked vaguely familiar. She shrugged and moved closer, curious about the nagging sense of recognition. The bartender broke off whatever he was saying as she approached.

"Help you, miss?" he asked.

George studied the dark haired man openly. "No," she said eventually, diffidently, never looking at the bartender.

"Do I know you?" the stranger asked. His voice, his accent, combined with his appearance to make the connection George was seeking.

"The University," George said, surprised into speaking the thought aloud. She'd seen him once at the University, where her father was a professor. "I mean, you work at the University, don't you?"

"I teach a couple of classes there. Are you a student?"

"No," George said. "I...know Professor Lass. I've seen you there."

He extended a hand and George stared at it for a moment, uncertain of what to do. "My name is Duncan MacLeod. And you are?" Duncan MacLeod. Not W. Campbell.

"I'm Geo--Millie," George said. "I'm Millie." She took his hand briefly, harmlessly. It occurred to her that she very seldom touched the living anymore except to take their souls.

"Pleased to meet you," he said.

There was an awkward silence. The ball was back in George's court, but she had no idea what to say. She opened her mouth to speak with no idea what she was going to say when she saw MacLeod's attention shift. He stood a little straighter, reminding her of how tall he was and how broad his shoulders were, and fixed his gaze on the door behind her. His left hand came to rest on the long coat draped over the bar at his side.

George saw that the bartender noticed MacLeod's behavior as well. He turned to watch the door, and then George did the same. A moment later the door opened and a man in a duster stepped inside, spotted MacLeod and walked up to plant himself squarely in MacLeod's space.

"Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod?"

MacLeod frowned, but replied, "Yes."

"William Campbell," the stranger said. "We have unfinished business."

George relaxed now that she knew who she was here for. She glanced at her wristwatch. William Campbell had about eight minutes to live. She paid little attention as MacLeod tried unsuccessfully to talk Campbell out of whatever misguided challenge he'd come to present. If she had his name on her Post-It, he was toast. A goner.

At last MacLeod agreed to follow Campbell outside. As Campbell turned to leave, George contrived to brush against him, popping his soul with practiced ease. He paid her no mind and stalked out the door with MacLeod following.

George followed them both a moment later, unseen and unremarked, one of the perks of being undead. The two men walked swiftly to an alley not far from the Joe's Place. Turning to face one another, they shocked George out of her blase attitude by each drawing a big ass sword from inside his coat!

"Holy shit!" George cried as the swords clashed. "What the fuck!?" She watched with her mouth agape as they fought the sort of duel she'd only ever seen in pirate movies.

It was a remarkably brief contest. MacLeod clearly outclassed his opponent. Campbell's smug expression soon turned to alarm and then despair. Moments later George gasped as MacLeod's sword took Campbell's head off. His head and body fell to the ground at MacLeod's feet.

George thought she was done being surprised until the light show started. She looked over at Campbell's soul, standing by her side. "What the hell is that?"

"My Quickening," Campbell said in a dazed voice. "I never thought I'd see that," he added. He looked at George with shock dulled eyes. "Am I dead?"

George nodded. "Yep."

Campbell nodded as if this merely confirmed a suspicion. "I really thought I could take him, you know?"

George shrugged. "Guess you were wrong."

MacLeod was doing an electric boogaloo in the middle of a lightning storm now. They watched it in silence for a few moments.

"What happens now?" Campbell asked her.

"You live the cliche," George answered. "Walk toward the light."

The lightning storm surrounding MacLeod seemed to be reaching a climax.

"Oh. Of course," Campbell said, and he walked toward MacLeod and into the heart of the lightning storm--the "Quickening," as he'd called it.

"I didn't mean--" George started to shout after him, but Campbell vanished into the brilliance of the Quickening, which guttered out a moment later, leaving MacLeod to sag to his knees exhausted and gasping in the sudden darkness.

George stared for a minute. After two years as a Grim Reaper, she thought she'd seen everything. Apparently not. As MacLeod climbed slowly to his feet, George turned and walked away. Rube would be at Der Waffle Haus by the time she got back, and he had questions to answer.
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
It's an "ocular migraine."

So a week ago today I was at work when I noticed that the vision in right eye was suddenly a bit blurry, and also that the light in the room seemed to be strobing. This was, as one might imagine, a bit disconcerting. Worse still, I discovered by moving my hands around while looking straight ahead, that I had a blind spot in my right eye. That was more than disconcerting, it was frightening.

On the other hand, twenty minutes later the blurriness, strobe effect and blind spot were one. My vision was normal again. Nonetheless, I called my eye doctor and scheduled an exam at the earliest possible time. Which was this morning.

I've got glaucoma. It's not severe, my eye doctor caught it early and I'm treating it with eye drops, but still. And I've had laser surgery in my left eye for a torn retina. So I worried that perhaps the vision effects were a symptom of either glaucoma (some sudden worsening, perhaps) or of another retinal problem. Or, hell, a tumor or something. Who knows?

Turns out, just from the description of my symptoms my eye doc was pretty sure it was a migraine. An "ocular migraine", meaning that there's no pain associated with it, just vision effects. Nonetheless, he dilated my eyes and blinded me repeatedly with bright lights while he carefully examined the insides of my eyes. No retinal tears, no other evidence of anything more. Which was a great relief.

I asked if it could recur, and he said it might. They don't really know what triggers them a lot of the time. He also told me that other than pulling over if I was driving when it happened (because it could be distracting) it wasn't anything to worry about. Although if something like it happened and there were other symptoms (like feeling like a curtain was being lowered over my field of vision) THAT was something to be concerned about. But this? Not to worry.

And thinking upon it, I think I've had episodes like this before. But usually they follow being exposed to intense lights or glare, so I never realized it was anything more than being sensitive to such things. This one just seemed to come out of nowhere. It was frightening, but turns out to be about as harmless as one could hope for.

I'm happy about that.
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
I'm feeling depressed.

It came on rather suddenly. I had a good weekend, as noted in my previous post. Now I have a bit a headache and I'm feeling depressed. Maybe it's just that I'm not looking forward to going to bed in a couple-three hours to get up at oh-dark-thirty for a long day at work. Maybe.

Maybe I'm dehydrated. I'll drink some water and take some Advil for the headache. It can't hurt. Maybe it's the book I'm reading, which I've been enjoying, but the hero is dealing with some relationship issues that maybe come a little too close to home for me right now.

I know this mood will pass. But it sucks when you're in the middle of it.
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
When your weekends aren't booked up. Over the last couple of months we've had weekend filled with entertainment. After spending two months mostly cooped up at home recovering from her surgery (Snippy), or taking care of someone recovering from surgery (Twoson and me), we knew we'd want some fun. So we've

1. Gone to the State Fair. Twice. Once midweek, and again on the weekend.
2. Gone to the state Renaissance Festival, and then to the Oregon Coast briefly, after.
3. Gone to a number of movies, at least once going to two movies in one afternoon/evening.
4. Gone to Rose City Comic Con Saturday and Sunday of last weekend.
5. Gone gaming most every Saturday afternoon/evening, and lately fairly often on Sunday as well, sometimes instead of the Saturday game, but most recently in addition to Saturday.

But this weekend, in addition to Snippy being away, I have had nothing planned. No gaming, no events to attend, nada. It's amazing how much you can get done when you have two whole days available.

1. Stripping the bed, removing anti-allergen mattress and pillow covers, washing box spring cover.
2. Laundering anti-allergen covers, replacing them on bed.
3. Washing ALL THE SHEETS, folding and storing most; remaking bed.
4. Dusting the apartment, excluding bedrooms.
5. Dusting master bedroom. (Twoson's room is his space.)
6. Vacuuming the apartment.
7. Vacuuming the master bedroom.
8. Tidying the living spaces, with TwoSon's help. It looks much neater now.
9. Doing the coming week's food planning and shopping.
10. Cleaning the kitchen.
11. Watering the plants on the balcony.
12. Cleaning and replacing the sugarwater in the hummingbird feeder.
13. Finishing laundering all the new t-shirts I bought mumblety-some weeks ago.
14. Finished laundering my work clothes for the coming workweek.
15. Used online banking to categorize all our income and expenses for the last three months in preparation for doing a new family budget.
16. Currently catching up on laundering the towels, handtowels, etc.

I feel very accomplished, and the weekend isn't yet over.

All this plus time for visiting the game store with TwoSon yesterday. Watching some television, reading a book I bought at Comic Con last weekend (Prepare to Die! by Paul Tobin, which I'm quite liking), and even a little writing. I also bought "Shake It Off" by Taylor Swift on iTunes Friday night, and added it to a couple of playlists. It's a fun song, and a charming upraised middle finger to her critics.

Of course, I'm not looking forward to work this week. It's the end of the month, which means mandatory overtime for yours truly. Ten hour days are not much fun, especially when they start at 5 a.m. (or 3:45 a.m. for me, when my alarm clock will go off in just over twelve hours as I write this). On the other hand, in two weeks, when I get a larger paycheck, well, we can certainly use the money.
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
Belated report, but a report nonetheless.

Snippy and I headed back to the con Sunday morning and got there right at opening. We briefly debated whether to go--we were both tired and the thought of spending Sunday resting was attractive, but ultimately we wanted to see more of the convention. Plus, in our crafty fashion, we expected to have the convention floor to ourselves (for certain values of "ourselves") because most of the attendees would be sleeping in.

This proved to be the case. The aisles were mostly clear, and we were able to navigate them with ease despite the need for a post-surgical walker. Of course, some of the artists/writers weren't there yet either at first. But that was okay. We got a couple of comics signed by the creators, bought a little swag, and walked around gawking at all the art and fiction and stuff for sale.

No panels this time. We just explored Artists' Alley and the marketplace. As the morning wore on people filtered in continuously, until by about 11:30 it was as crowded as it had been the day before. But cooler--because the convention center had finally, FINALLY turned on the air conditioning late Saturday afternoon. Nonetheless by around noon or a little after, we were done. We'd seen what we wanted to see, bought what we'd wanted to buy (if it was available--I persist in believing Marvel is losing huge amounts of money by not putting a Baby Dancing Groot toy on the market ASAP).

On the way home we stopped at our Friendly Local Comic Book Shop (tm) because we hadn't been there in quite a while. We just considered it part of our Comic Con weekend extravaganza. We picked up quite a stack of comics. Because, I repeat, we hadn't been in in a while.

So overall, RCCC was a hit. I wish TwoSon could have had more fun (he didn't join us for the second day), but he'd been having a bad few days and the convention, while it had its high points for him, just didn't enthuse him like it did Snippy and me. We haven't talked about it yet, but I want to go back next year for sure. It was fun.
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
Well, my phone takes sucky photos. I was going to post some pics here, but now I won't.

Mind you, it's a hand-me-down smartphone that is far superior to my old smart phone, but it still takes sucky pictures. Which is too bad, because I took some photos of some really nifty costumes at Rose City Comic Con today. A small kid dressed as baby dancing groot, complete with flower pot. A couple of AIM agents (in bright yellow jumpsuits with cylindrical helmets). The entire cast of Game of Thrones PLUS George R. R. Martin*. And a really terrific Weeping Angel (tm) from Doctor Who. A Ghostbusters team. Plus there were plenty more folks I'd like to get photos of, but I won't try because my camera phone sucks.

Next year I need a better phone for Comic Con. Or an actual digital camera. There are lots of great costumes to see.

On the other hand, we saw a great panel with Greg Rucka, Kelly Sue DeConnick, and Matt Fraction. It was very entertaining. We walked around the floor for a while, and all of us (myself, Snippy, and Twoson) all bought some swag. Lots to see, lots to buy.

Alas, the HVAC was inadequate to the task of cooling the place adequately. Granted, it is unseasonably, un-climately hot in Portland today (in the 90s), but'd think a convention center would be up to the task. But while there were definitely cooler areas, a lot of the space was warm and little humid. We retreated to the Quiet Room, a space set aside for people to sit quietly and read, or just rest away from the noise and activity, or--in the case of one woman who came into the room while we were there--to lay out your prayer rug facing Mecca and pray (silently). But even that room was a little warmer than we'd have liked.

So we left to return home (a convenient 10-15 minute drive) to rest in some real AC before we head back for another panel at 5 this afternoon. This is in keeping with the basic rule propounded by Snippy for years, to leave an event while you're still having fun. If you wait until you're no longer having fun, it can color your memory of the event negatively. If you remember it as being fun right up until you left, you'll remember it more happily.

Then dinner at a local chinese restaurant we really like downtown. And we'll be going back tomorrow for another panel and to see more of the convention floor. Booths full of artists and writers and hucksters and swag, all aswarm with con-goers, many of whom will be wearing elaborate costumes.

*Someone cosplaying as George, just to be clear.
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
...and no promises that it won't be a long time until the next update. I'm posting this to Dreamwidth and mirroring to LJ, which--alas--has mostly dried up and blown away. Time was when I could hardly keep up with my LJ friends' postings. Now I'm lucky if there are half a dozen to see on any given day.

And now, the news.

We've moved. As anyone who follows my wife's journal knows, we've moved. We moved from a 3-bedroom apartment in another county to a 2-bedroom apartment in the city again. (We sold our house in 2010 and moved out of the city.) We traded space (a third bedroom) for a much shorter commute. Fifteen to 20 minutes instead of 40 minutes to an hour. It's amazing how much time that seems to save us; far more than a mere 20 minutes would suggest.

The old apartment was very nice, but the living area was rather dark. It faced north, and looked at the side of another building in the complex. The master bedroom had a glorious view across the valley and lots of light--almost too much light for a bedroom--but overall the apartment seemed darker than we'd like. Still, it was overall a great place.

The new apartment is MUCH brighter. Our deck (too dark and shady in the old place for plants) is very bright and gets sunlight much of the day, but also still has enough shade for plants that need some. My wife is finally able to do a little gardening again, something she couldn't do in the previous place.

Still, moving into a smaller place requires some sacrifices. Chief among them, I have--at this date--six small moving boxes full of books I'm going to sell to Powell's books or give away to Goodwill if Powell's doesn't take them. I'm pruning my library rather ruthlessly. It was difficult at first. I've been building my library since I was in grade school. But the fact is, I have a lot of books that I'm never going to read again, or never read in the first place. I have ebook versions* of quite a few of the newer ones, as well, so I don't need to hang onto the paperback copies.

Some of the books I've held onto for years or decades, just in case I ever wanted to read them again. In many cases (my Conan novels, first discovered and collected and read in college) I never have. Bye bye. In other cases, I've been holding onto books that I just don't read anymore. Fat traditional fantasy novels, for instance. I don't read those anymore, so they're going to someone else's library. And so forth. Some books made the cut to stay that may eventually be let go in the future. I am sure that at some point I will regret getting rid of a few of my books. But it's worth it, and if I really, really want them I expect can find them again somewhere eventually.

I'll be transporting boxes of books to Powell's to sell this week, when we're not working to empty the numerous boxes still packed from the move. Books aren't the only things we're jettisoning. We have boxes of stuff we never unpacked from the previous move as well as boxes we packed for this one. Time to winnow down our stuff some more.

Oh, and we'll simultaneously be gearing up for Snippy's next surgery in July, and for her recovery. But I'm hoping that this surgery will be the last, and that she'll recover finally after a couple of years of dealing with severe vertigo and its associated

*On my nook, and in Calibre on my desktop and saved (along with all my other documents) in a mirror image of my hard drive on a second drive as well as in the cloud. They're as secure as they can reasonably be.
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
Some weeks ago my lovely wife and I went to the coast for the weekend. It was a little getaway for us from the day-to-day trials of her recovery from (her second) surgery on her (second) inner ear to cure her of a debilitating vertigo she's been suffering for over a year now. Not that she's completely recovered yet--that won't happen (per the doctor) for another three or four months. That's when she can expect to be fully recovered from both the surgeries AND from the vertigo that prompted them. But she was recovered enough to enjoy a weekend at the coast.

It was a very nice weekend. We drove down Friday afternoon. We spent a large part of Saturday on the beach, basking in the sun that shone on us despite the predictions of cold and rain. (Which came along on Sunday, a day late.) It was a great day. That night I wandered down to the lobby of the hotel to choose a few DVDs from the huge collection they provide for guests to watch.

We settled on JACK REACHER, the Tom Cruise vehicle from a year or so ago. I'd heard things about the movie, that Cruise was in no way the Jack Reacher from the novels (which I hadn't read), that it was a vanity project (another attempt to prove he was an action hero), etc. But still, we gave it a try.

And it was good. Really, really good. No, Tom Cruise is not 6'5" tall and 250 lbs. But the movie was still a damn good story, and he was convincing enough. We both were really impressed by that movie; so much so, that we bought a copy to own.

And I went to the library to find a copy of the book it was based on, ONE SHOT by Lee Child. The movie followed the novel pretty well. They filtered out a few characters and gave their duties to surviving characters, or simply did without. They gave some of the bad guys some scenes not in the book to flesh them out for the movie. And they added some action that wasn't in the book. But overall it was still a fairly faithful adaptation of the book--and it worked because of that.

I enjoyed that book very much. So I went and borrowed four more, and I'm working my way through them. They're entertaining and instructional. (From a writer's POV, any writer who can write a very popular novel series and get all the books optioned for movies is doing something right, even if his stuff isn't your cup of tea--and these are my cup of tea.)

Tom Cruise is NOT Jack Reacher. Reacher is huge, physically imposing, and a drifter. Jack Reacher is a "murder hobo" in the parlance of some gamers I know. (Your standard RPG action hero PC is a rootless wanderer who finds trouble, kills the guys behind it all--with or without collateral damage, to taste--and then moves on. A murder hobo.)

Jack Reacher is a murder hobo. A former officer in the Army and an MP, he lives with no job, no fixed address, and owns nothing but what he carries with him: the clothes he's wearing, a passport, an ATM card, a roll of cash, and a toothbrush. He supports himself with his pension and the occasional replenishment of his reserves from odd jobs, or cash liberated from bad guys who won't need it anymore. He wears the clothes for a few days, then discards them for new. Expensive habit? Other characters have remarked on that--and he counters with the question, "How much do you spend on your mortgage and insurance every month?" He takes the bus (doesn't fly) when he can, hitchhikes when he can't, and walks when he must.

Typically, he stumbles across villainy in the course of his travels, and when he is unable (sometimes) or unwilling (mostly) to ignore it, he gets involved. While he's capable of cunning, and definitely experienced at violence, he tends not to be subtle. The bad guys can't ever say they weren't warned at least once. By the time all the dust settles, you can be sure that a lot of bad guys will be fucked up, and at least some of them will be dead. Again: murder hobo. Let us be clear: some of the deaths are self-defense. Others are executions.

Jack Reacher is DOING what Jules only talked about in Pulp Fiction*: he walks the earth (well, the USA, anyhow) like the guy in Kung Fu, just going where fate takes him, with no job. Or in the words of Vinny Vega: "A bum." Or in other words, a murder hobo.

These are not "thriller" novels (they're too slow paced and densely written for that). They're mysteries, with action. There's always a mystery at the heart of each novel, one that Reacher will slowly unravel in the course of scratching his curiosity itch and/or teaching the bad guys that they messed with the wrong folks (either Reacher himself or someone he's protecting), before he lights the fuse on the final explosion (literally, in the book I just finished), and then heads on down the road while chaos reigns and the authorities swoop in to pick up the pieces and tag n' bag or arrest the bad guys.

They're not quite like any other novels I remember reading, but I'm enjoying them.

*To be fair to Jules, he may well have followed up on his plan. We just don't see it happen.
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
And lo, Sinanju was not dead these many months, but only slumbering.

So, lo these many years ago (we're talking the early-mid 90s, people), Sinanju discovered the game X-Com: UFO Defense. It was laughably primitive by the standards of today's games, but at the time it was a hell of a lot of fun. You were in control of the defense of earth against invading aliens. It was two games in one. In one game, a real-time strategy game, you were in overall control of earth's defense--deciding where to site your bases, and how to spend your budget. You could build bases, add facilities, hire scientists, engineers, and soldiers. Equip them. Research alien technology. It was a constant struggle to do as much as possible as effectively as possible with a limited budget.* You also had to build fighter interceptors to chase down and destroy or disable UFOs, and send out teams of soldiers to fight the aliens and bring back corpses, live aliens for interrogation, and alien tech to research.

That was the second game. A tactical turn-based game of squad combat. You had to send your soldiers out in a Skyranger aircraft to investigate downed UFOs (and kill or capture the survivors), UFO landing reports, and terror missions (where the aliens landed in a populated area to terrorize and kill civilians and destroy property). There were a variety of alien types, each with their own special abilities, and you never knew what you would face until you confronted them.

I spent many a happy hour fighting the aliens. I played that game off and on for years and years. Even long after computer tech had evolved past the limits of the time, and it required special software (DOSBOX, for instance) to keep playing it. Or most recently, playing it via Steam online. Nor was I the only one who played that game. There were sequels. None, however, where anywhere near as entertaining (to me) as the original. As the years passed, people tried to mod or upgrade or duplicate X-Com. None succeeded, really.

Until now. I am now happily playing X-Com: Enemy Unknown via Steam. It's an updated and streamlined version of the game. You only have one base now, instead of several.** The graphics and interface are greatly improved, but the game is largely the same. You still have to balance a limited budget against a huge number of options in terms of research, manufacture, and the equipping of your fighter craft and soldiers. You still have a turn-based tactical game of squad combat. It's a great deal of fun.

As with the original X-Com, you can customize the names (and in this version, the appearance and voice, to a limited extent) of your soliders. I'm currently using Hollywood celebrities (and semi-celebrities) to fight the aliens. Clare Danes and Michelle Rodriguez are kicking ass and taking names, to name two. Matt Damon, alas, did not fare so well; he died in an early mission. The aliens are just as vicious, nasty and dangerous as in the original game, and the graphic are much more...graphic. I'm pleased to announce that the civilians I must rescue are less moronic than in the original game (they tend to hide, rather than walk around at random in a firefight, or stop blocking doorways you desperate need to use...resulting in some "accidental" civilian casualties when you're trying to prevent them).

It's still early days for me on this version of the game. I haven't encountered psionics yet.*** But I will, I'm sure.

So that's what I'm doing for my entertainment these days.

* In the original X-Com you could sell excess weapons and equipment (including alien equipment and corpses!) on the black market. To whom, they never said. This could be a godsend when you were short on cash but had lots of captured goodies to dispose of (you only really needed one of most things for research). But once you learned how to build laser cannons, it was all over. They were the item that was cheapest to manufacture and most profitable to sell in the whole game. It eventually became SOP for me to build one dedicated base (usually named LaserFab One) to house a small army of engineers and a bunch of labs, to churn out laser cannons by the scores, and sell them as fast as they could build them. Once LaserFab One was up and running, I could make literally MILLIONS of dollars a month and no longer have to worry about the relative pittance (by comparison) that the nations of the world were giving me. I literally had more money than I could spend; the only real bottleneck in building and upgraded bases and equipment at that point was construction time and storage. WIll this work in the new version? I don't know yet.

**Which means, sadly, that I can't expect to fight a desperate base-defense battle. Those could be terrifying (especially before you learned to keep a fully armed and armored team of soldiers on call while your A-Team was out on a mission), and you could lose an entire base if it went badly. They were fun. I've heard/read people saying they never had a successful base defense in X-Com, to which I can only reply: then you weren't doing it right. A properly designed base forced the aliens (who had to enter through the hangars) into a bottleneck corridor where you could pour fire on them as they tried to advance. With a generous supply of weapons and ammo (and soldiers on hand to use them), you could almost count on winning...though the cost could be high.

***In the original, the aliens could use psionic powers to make your soldiers panic. Or worse, take over their minds and turn them against you. Early in the game, there was nothing you could do about that. Later on, you could research and then build psionic testing and training facilities and run your soldiers through it. You'd discover which ones had potential and could (someday) use alien psionic devices against the enemy. I must confess that I seldom bothered. Instead, I simply made it a practice to engage in summary execution (in the field) of soldiers who too often panicked or were mind-controlled. Alternatively, I'd make likely subjects of psionically-induced panic walk around with a primed grenade in one hand (usually walking point, to spot aliens--hey, they're expendable). If they panicked, they'd drop everything they were holding. Including the grenade. Bang! No more problem. It was ruthless but efficient, letting me spend my money on more important things.
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
I see the news of his demise is making the rounds--livejournal, twitter, facebook, tumblr, etc.

I used to watch his show when it was still him and Gene Siskel. Of the two of them, Ebert was the one whose take on movies I most often shared. He could separate "it's a fun movie" from "it's a good movie", which not a lot of reviewers can do. He could tell you that a movie you were interested in seeing might not be great art, but it would be fun to watch. Which is sometimes, or often, all you really care about.

My all-time favorite line of his, though, was his capsule summary of the original TERMINATOR film. He described it as, "Dirty Harry and the Road Warrior meet the killer from Halloween."

Colorful, inventive, and more accurate than you might think.

RIP, Roger.
sinanju: (Memes)
Surprising that I've posted at all, really.

This meme is lifted from Killabeez:

1. What's making you happy in one of your fandoms right now?
2. What's making you happy in your personal life right now?
3. What's making you happy in your work/academic life right now?
4. Name one celebrity crush.
5. Name one food you currently enjoy.
6. Name one kind of fic that always makes you happy.
7. Name one pairing that historically makes you happy.
8. Be randomly happy.

1. Hmmm. It's probably too early to call it a fandom. I've only seen one episode of Orphan Black, but I enjoyed it and I look forward to more. On the other hand, while I was initially very enthusiastic about Lost Girl, I'm done with it after watching the season 2 finale and trying the first few minutes of the season 3 opener and realizing I just don't care anymore. The series started off well, surprising me repeatedly with the writing, plot and dialogue they gave me...but I've grown disenchanted with increasingly sloppy writing and poor execution.

2. This is easy. My lovely and talented wife is recovering rapidly and well from the surgery to correct a problem with her inner ear that has been giving her relentless and debilitating vertigo, nausea, and sensitivity to noise for six months or more (and was probably at the root of the intermittent vertigo she's suffered for many years). Only one day after the surgery and she's far more animated, happy and relaxed than she's been in a long time--and that despite the pain of recovering from surgery. She may (probably will) have to have the same surgery on her other ear in a few months time, but if her response to this surgery is any indication, she's bounce back quickly and the repairs should end her trouble with the vertigo once and for all.

3. Not a hell of a lot. I need a new job. I'll be looking again very shortly, now that the surgery mentioned above is over. On the other hand, I _am_ writing a little again, after a long hiatus to deal with medical issues (mine or my wife's) and my dad's death last year. So that's good.

4. Jemima Rooper, who played Thelma the ghost on Hex. And was the heroine of Lost in Austen. For bonus points, I'll also add Gemma Arterton (Hansel & Gretel, and who was also in Lost in Austen as Elizabeth Bennett).

5. Green Bean Chicken from Panda Express. It's tasty, relatively good for me (it's meat and green beans, after all) and best of all, it's meat and green beans with some sauce, so it's not a huge carb/sugar load--something I have to pay attention to now that I'm diabetic.

6. Crossover Fic. That has always been--and will always be--my favorite kind of fanfic. Ideally it involves crossovers of two fandoms I enjoy, but if it's done well, I'll read crossovers with fandoms I've never even heard of.

7. None spring immediately to mind. There are ships I, uh, ship. But none that I value above a well-written story with some other ship--or none at all.

8. I've been married to my lovely and talented wife for fourteen years. We've had our difficulties and arguments, as every couple does. But if we're older (and sadly we are) we're also wiser, and closer than ever.


sinanju: The Shadow (Default)

April 2016

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