Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Ten Years Later: War of the Dead

Ordinarily, I wouldn't post something like this, but this is a bit of an accomplishment for me.

Ten years ago, I bought a PC Engine game called Shiryou Sensen: War of the Dead, one of the first horror-themed ACTION-RPGs.  I'd played it on a PC Engine emulator a few times, and felt it was worth owning.

It's a frustrating game, with event triggers that don't always trigger, an annoyingly long password system, and a feature/bug that prevents levelling up past a certain point (by killing you).  Frustrating, to be sure, but the game is also a lot of fun and has a fairly intricate plot.

I've been playing the game off-and-on for the past ten years, constantly going over my notes, re-translating things I got wrong, and trying to piece together an interesting story.  Thankfully, much of the game is in Hiragana and Katakana, so I wasn't stuck trying to decipher complex Kanji.  Despite being functionally illiterate when it comes to Japanese, I got by.

I decided to play War of the Dead over my Christmas break, starting from the beginning and using my notes as a guide.  Rather than dig my PC Engine Duo-R out of the basement, I used an emulator instead: the demo version of Magic Engine .98 for Mac OS 9, which I downloaded onto Nadia.

The timed-demo version only allows for five minutes of play before timing out, but the authors themselves suggested a workaround: save your game in the emulator and reload.  This gives you another five minutes of play, and you can repeat the process indefinitely.

And so, I played through Shiryou Sensen: War of the Dead this weekend, in successive four-and-a-half minute chunks.  Going by my notes and not using a walkthrough.

This morning, not half-an-hour ago, I finally beat the game.

Not much of an ending, a little blurb about the main character, Lyla Alphons, and a cute picture of Lyla and support orphan Carol suggesting they all lived happily ever after.

Still, after ten years, it was worth it.

Now, onto something else... I never did finish Ys II...

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas!

I'd like to thank all my readers (and bots) for consistent blog view count and for keeping the faith in 2017, and hope to see you all in 2018, where I'll make a consistent effort to update more frequently.

So, on behalf of myself, Jillian, Astrid, and Czarina, we wish you all a Merry Christmas and all the best in 2018!

Friday, December 22, 2017

The Feverish Fixing of Nadia, Part II

She's back in action!

For the umpteenth time, I've resurrected Nadia.  Longtime readers will know what I mean, but for those who don't (or won't click on the link), Nadia is my Apple Powerbook G3 "Lombard", bought in 2006 to serve as my main blogging and writing machine.  I named her after retired British adult film star Andrea Spinks, aka Nadia, of whom I was, er, enamoured at the time.

My reason for hanging onto (and repairing) a nearly twenty-year old laptop?  Stubbornness, for the most part, but the most important reason is that I like it.  I like using it, I like the form factor, I like that it's easily repaired, I like the apps in both Mac OS9 and OS X 10.3.9, and I still have all the hardware I've bought over the years.  I made an investment, damn it!

Unfortunately, things ain't the way they used to be, as many of the apps I loved no longer work.  Ecto, the blogging app I used, will no longer connect to Blogger/Google as it can't handle newer authentication protocols.  Neither can Microsoft Entourage 2000, OS X's Mail app, most websites, and my WebDAV clients.

The standard Facebook and Twitter took forever to load in their web incarnations, but the mobile versions still worked as beautifully as they did back in 2011.  Google+ doesn't work, though, which kind of pisses me off.  Ah well.

It was fun fooling around with the Powerbook, but as stubborn as I am, it'll never be more than a novelty or curiosity piece as it stands.  So, I took a calculated risk and downloaded a utility called xpostfacto, which lets one install Mac OX 10.4 onto unsupported Macs... such as Nadia.

I say "calculated risk" because I've been down this road a few times before, and it's never ended well.  I usually end up with a Powerbook that will no longer boot.  This time, however, I was determined to make it work.  So, I downloaded xpostfacto, threw in my 10.4 DVD, set it to upgrade my 10.3.9 install, and after an eternity, I was booting into OS 10.4!

It took a lot longer for Nadia to boot, but once up and running she seemed normal.  My installed apps worked, although a touch slower than in 10.3.9.  Out of curiosity, I tried a System Update, and practically jumped out of my chair when the system actually started updating!  This came as a shock to me, as the update servers for OS X 10.3.9 no longer work.

After a few hours, Nadia was running a fully upgraded 10.4.11.  SSH works, web pages display correctly in Safari and TenFourFox, Google+ works (eventually), and all my old stuff still works.

Most importantly, I can get on the Usenet, which is 90% of my internet activity these days.

Here I am, Usenetting like a motherfucker

My ISP dropped Usenet support a few years ago, so I've subscribed to a couple of free Usenet providers who only deal in the non-Binaries groups.  I've also subscribed to RSS Feed-to-Usenet service GWENE, and its sister service GMANE (a mailing list-to-Usenet service) so I can read RSS feeds from my favourite blogs and websites in my newsreader.

10.4 also lets me run SyncTERM and MultiMail (neither of which ran under 10.3.9), which meant I can once again log into my favourite BBSes and get updates from all my favourite message echos!

Party like it's 1989!

It took a few hours of work, but I turned what was essentially a nostalgia piece into a daily driver!  For what I need in a computer, Nadia can do the job.  Anything else I can do on my Android tablet or Linux box.  If I ever decide to take her mobile again, it's just a matter of getting her batteries re-celled.

Here's hoping she lasts another couple of years...

Monday, December 18, 2017

On Slipping the Leash, part one

Monday morning, I slept in.

Not by choice, of course.  Rather than hit "Snooze" on my ersatz alarm clock (my old iPhone 3g), I accidentally turned it off.  When I finally woke up, the clock read 5:55am... I'd have just enough time to get dressed, make myself semi-presentable, pack a lunch, and bolt out the door to catch my bus at 6:21.

While I made it to the bus stop with seconds to spare (and thus to work on time), it threw off my morning routine.  I didn't have time to shower, take the garbage/recycling out, make coffee, or ensure that I had everything I needed for the day.

Such as my cellphone.

I had the presence of mind to throw the aforementioned iPhone 3g (also my music player) into my laptop bag along with my Grundig M400 pocket radio, but I forgot my main cellphone (an iPhone SE).  Thankfully, I have an international SIM card in the 3g for when I travel, but texting is expensive when you and your wife exchange dozens of texts per day, and you're not subscribed to an unlimited texting plan...

So, I was largely without my smartphone for the day, and it felt wonderful!

Jill and I still managed to communicate throughout the day.  We used up my remaining minutes on my international plan, after which we went back to good ol' fashioned email on my work PC.  But I was unable to check Google+, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, my bank account, or even the Winnipeg Transit bus times online.

I found I didn't miss it.  At all.  In fact, it felt quite liberating.

I didn't grow up with a smartphone.  In fact, I didn't get my first smartphone until 2011, at age 38.  I guess I just never felt a need!  My friends all knew where I hung out, and knew if they left a message on my answering machine, I'd return the call in the next week or so.  I could check my MTS voice mailbox from any payphone for free, so getting ahold of me was never a problem if I wanted to be gotten ahold of!

After living my life without a cellphone for so long, going without one for a day was easy.  In fact, I found it caused me to rely on my wits... something I miss.

Jill emailed me to ask if I'd mind busing home from work, as they were running late.  No problem.  I know that my bus to Polo Park comes at 5:18pm.  I also knew that it was snowing somewhat, that traffic was really backed up (because people in Winnipeg forget how to drive when it snows), and therefore that my 5:18 bus was going to be late.

Did I take my time getting to the bus stop?  Hell no, I sprinted!

Why?  Because I know this bus route like the back of my hand.  I knew that the previous bus would be running just as late, and would likely be showing up at the stop in short order.  I don't need an app to tell me that!

Sure enough, the 5pm bus showed up at 5:12.  And I caught it.

I got to Polo Park a little earlier than I normally would, and sure enough, my connecting bus was right behind us when we arrived.

I noticed the unusually long line of people getting on the bus (which was already packed), which told me they'd been waiting a long time.  So I walked back to the shelter, figuring this was a prior bus running late.

I was right, as another #67 arrived two minutes later, and I ended up having a nearly empty bus to myself.  Experience, yo.  Didn't need an app to figure out the situation!

I got home earlier than I normally would, had a warm comfortable ride home on an uncrowded bus, and was not encumbered by a mobile device that constantly demanded my attention... and I got to be smug about it, which is the most important part!

Unlike some of my more recent entries, the preceding story actually happened as told, without embellishment.  Last Monday was a hectic day that started with my oversleeping and rapidly went downhill from there.  Smugness aside, the fact that I'd forgotten my cellphone (or as I call it, slipping my leash) is largely irrelevant.  Most of us, even those of us born during the days of smartphone entrenchment, can do what I did.  It's not hard, it just takes a little deductive reasoning.  But how many people would make the effort?

While I originally wrote this to be a smug little bastard (as is my mandate), I started to think about why things worked out the way they did.  This post is the first in a series of several posts where I look at my life experience and how it relates to the modern day, in advance of my 45th birthday in February 2018.

On another note, after careful reflection, I've decided to re-enable comments (for those with Google accounts) on the blog.  I'll keep them open so long as people act like adults and keep the partisan politics to themselves.  Comments are still moderated so I can weed out the spam.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Welcome to Your New Normal

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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Back to Winning Ways

CJ's note:  The following is a true story I just made up

So, I surprised myself today...

Externalities in my professional life have been weighing on me lately, causing me a fair amount of stress.  Of course, one can't remain in a state of duress for long periods of time without some sort of blowback, so it came as no surprise that my stubborn, rebellious nature bubbled to the surface.

Fish weren't meant to live in a box, kid.  It does things to you...

Now, when my stubborn and/or rebellious nature bubbles, it usually means I get increasingly sarcastic and cynical.  Passive-aggressive, even.  Today, however, I felt like taking a more aggressive approach... and I had the perfect target(s) in mind.

As with any office, we receive our share of scam/spam faxes.  On rare occasions, we receive a faxed version of a common email scam.  Today, we received one such scam,  on beautiful letterhead addressed to my boss, from a supposed legal firm in Edinburgh.  It went on to inform him of the sudden, accidental demise in London of his long lost Uncle Arthur.  Poor Uncle Arthur left behind a sizeable (and unclaimed) estate of several million Pounds, and they were reaching out to my boss as the sole heir.

Ordinarily, we'd have a good laugh then throw the fax in the trash.  Today, however, I held onto it and decided to have some fun.  I went into my sandboxed environment on my laptop, and navigated to the firm's website.  It was apparent that they'd put all their effort into designing their faxed letterhead, and none into their website.  Apart from the fact the site looked like a Geocities page from 1998, the names of all the principal actors were uniformly misspelled and, unusual for a supposed law firm, each "partner" had a Gmail address rather than one specific to their firm.


Still curious, I grabbed my international cellphone and dialed the firm's phone number listed on the letterhead.  Not in service.  A quick internet search came up empty.

So much for that... Suppose I could have emailed them, but meh. I wasn't feeling that dedicated.

Disappointed, I went back to work.

Not long after, we received another spam fax, this time from a local business specializing in promotional items, custom printed with your company or team logo, for giveaways or special events.

Rather than throw it out, I gathered my nerves (overcoming my usual extreme phone anxiety), and gave them a call:

PM:  Promotional Materials, can I help you?

CJ:  Good afternoon, can I have sales, please?

PM:  This is Melissa, how may I help you?

CJ:  Hi Melissa, this is CJ from Moron Industries, how are you?

PM:  I'm fine, and you?

CJ:  I'm well, thanks.  We get your promotional faxes fairly often, and I was wondering if you dealt with the general public?

PM: We do!

CJ:  Great!  I was afraid you only did corporate events.

PM: No, not at all, we can supply promotional material for anyone, really.

CJ:  Terrific!

PM:  What is it you were needing?

CJ:  Well, Melissa, my friends Murray and Ken are getting married in a couple of months...

PM: (hesitatingly feigning excitement) Oh, that's great..!

CJ: ... and we're throwing them a stagette, and it would be great if we could order cups, plates, and water bottles with our sponge hockey team's logo.

PM:  Errrr.. for how many people..?

CJ:  Not many, it's a small gathering.  Maybe four dozen or so.  Do you have a minimum order point?

PM:  Oh no, not at all, although we do offer a quantity discount for... larger events.

CJ:  That's fine.

PM:  Okay!  Did you want to put a congratulatory message on the goods?

CJ:  No thank you.  Just our team logo, which is a bit... risque...

PM:  Errr, how bad is it?

CJ:  Our logo is a skull with lipstick and rouge...

PM:  (brightens up) OH!  That's not bad at all!

CJ:  ... with crossed penises underneath.  I can send you the logo, would you need it in Jpeg, TIFF, or PDF format?

 - silence - 

PM:  I'm sorry,  we... don't actually, er, do that kind of graphic.

CJ:  Oh, are you sure?

PM:  Yeah, we kind of stay away from anything erotic.

CJ: Oh, that's too bad, it would really mean a lot to them.

PM: I'm sorry, I'm afraid we'll be unable to supply.

CJ:  That's too bad, really.  I'll check around, maybe we'll go with a simple congratulatory message if I can't find someone who will do it.

PM:  OK, thank you.

- click -

Anything to liven up an otherwise boring lunch hour.  If nothing else, Melissa will have a story to tell her coworkers.

It's nice to get back to my old self every now and then.  The days of being socially irresponsible are long behind me now that I'm married and have a family (and career).  But that doesn't mean I can't have a bit of fun once in a while.

I've been paying a lot more attention to the world-at-large and have a newly resurrected Nadia at my side, and while I can't promise to blog more often and get myself into trouble... I'm going to blog more often and get myself into trouble.

A bientôt.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

On Fatherhood

Apparently, it isn't all about the bass, or I'd have finished the series by now!

I've put the series on hold for the time being (Happy 2017 by the way), as more songs and more basslines kept popping into my head after my list was supposedly finalized.  There were a few favourites I'm embarassed to say I'd forgotten, so a complete rewrite is in the works.


I don't know why I feel a need to explain... if you've been following me for any length of time, you'll know I've based my entire blogging career on non-starters and promises of things to come!  (Smile)

My latest excuse?  Fatherhood.  Raising our beautiful little girl is, of course, our priority.  Sure, it cuts heavily into my computer time, video game time, writing time, sleep, dipsomania, etc, but it's worth the sacrifice.

Astrid will be four next weekend.  She's developed a personality that, while borrowing liberally from Jill and I, is uniquely her own.  She's sassy and stubborn, focused and fashionable, crazy and creative, happy and hammy.  She already has a wide variety of (toy) interests, can still field-strip an Android smartphone, and is curious to know how things work (especially when Daddy is building something or working on his bike).

At the risk of sounding cliché, it seems like only yesterday we were bringing Astrid home from the hospital.  It's hard to believe it's already been four years, and at the same time, it's hard to believe it's only been four years... and that the little baby that once fit in the palm of my hand will be starting preschool in the fall!

I'll end it here, before things get all mushy.  Happy Father's Day to all the proud dads out there!