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Posts posted by Psychophant

  1. The semi-lockdown that soon will become a full lockdown is good for computer games. I have spent the week playing the Outer Planets, an Obsidian game with a short plot, a Fallout NV feeling and a Borderlands setting. Short and sweet, though a bit too short for me, and the fake sandbox is obvious. Quite good visually and I really cared for some of the stories. Much darker than it seems. 


    The previous week I had been playing the original Fallout throwback Wasteland 3, much shorter than 2 and without the feeling of freedom. Nice visually and well balanced, the decisions matter but you cannot shake the feeling of being on rails with several exchange points to decide the end result. 


    Now replaying the Shadowrun series, Xcom type skirmishes joined by a linear plot. 


    Too much linearity, both in games and in my own mental preferences. I suppose it is a reaction to the uncertainty outside. 



  2. Good to see you, Colin, even if there is not much to tell.


    The Brussels meeting, as expected is now fully virtual. I am doing some traveling, but only inside Spain, and by car, avoiding public transport for long distances. A real setback for sustainability, but the risk otherwise is too high. 


    Tomorrow we go to our favorite restaurant for my birthday. The tables were already at a safe distance before COVID, but we will miss the banter of the sommelier. Spendng what we can to help them survive this period, it is not the kind of place you can get take-away. 

  3. Thanks, Wanderer.


    I understand the stress with the parents. In my case, additionally, my mother says that she prefers to die if we do not go visit her. Clear emotional blackmail, but with lung cancer, a big aneurism and an ossified heart valve, she could really kill herself almost by thinking about it. Only her naturally low blood pressure keeps her going...


    We canceled our first business trip in October to another country, Italy. Maybe in November. We are doing some inside Spain, however. Got a couple of documents saying we are an essential industry and that we need to travel. I also have one to Brussels in November that probably will be canceled this week. This is the period for fixing prices and targets for 2021, and many purchasers prefer the direct talk to the virtual. So we get strange situations, such as meeting in the parking for the company, or in a restaurant (that usually was after the meeting, not the meeting).

  4. So, eight people, and only one lurker (Hi, Gromit!). Somehow I was hoping for a pool of lurkers that could be motivated back into activity. But what you see is what you have, so we are well below any normal activity threshold. That leaves another option, however, specialization. But to specialize in what?

  5. Last Sunday was my birthday, though I invited only my parents, as the COVID rules capacity for our flat is only 4 people. Will see how I celebrate with others, as the weather starts to turn into autumn and spending long periods outside becomes more complicated. 

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  6. London and subways, including pics in The Tube, have figured strongly in European meets. It also happened in Paris, but they were less populated. As for people in the old times, I doubt I would recognize more than a handful today, out of the around thirty I have met in person. 


    I seldom dream about groups, too stressful, except as something I am running (often unsuccesfully) from. If they get me I wake up. But I have occasionally dreamt of board people, and they never look that they do, but usually as some variant of the avatar. Weird headspaces. 

  7. I still go daily to work, and for most uses we prefer to go by car than by public transport. Getting in a bus or a tram is stressing right now. Doing more urban driving than before, and that way we really notice the benefits in consumption of the hybrid powerplant. 


    My boss of 22 years died at the beginning of September. Lung cancer, a clear consequence of 40 years smoking. As this is a family owned company they try to fit his son in the position, but it is difficult, and the core team we are all still shell-shocked. Working in automatic is OK, as we have been a team for eight years (those are the "new" guys and gals), but when we have to stop and decide, or explain why we do things the way we do, it all falls down.


    My mother has the same cancer*, but as she is 83, nobody dares to give a time estimate. It can be ten months or ten years. She does not fight it, and we just try to be with her within the limitations of COVID, as she is at extreme risk in case of pneumonia. Choices, and the delayed effects of smoking.


    *Small-cell lung cancer, a typical smoker disease, in her case twenty five years after she quit smoking (but she smoked for forty years)

  8. I will try it before buying a new one. Christmas and post-Christmas would be a good moment to get a big rebate in prices, though this year is a bit strange. 


    Getting to what seems like Wasteland 3 ending. No plot twists, no big surprises.


    To approach it fresh I have taken a break (I try to starve my obsessions) and I fired up Pathfinder Kingmaker, a strong transposition of the pen and paper RPG, to test the recently implemented turn based combat. It seems backward to leave the smooth flowing simultaneous combat as the PC allows, to go sequential, an artifact of the limitations of human minds. But it helps slow humans beat the AI, so maybe that is the reason. I do not see any other benefit, as fights take longer and feel less realistic... Or maybe it compensates the weakness of the character's AI compared to other games.

  9. The second book of the Three Musketeers is Twenty years later. Originally I arbitrarily picked up five, the age of The Unofficial WGB because doing twenty would mean repeating many things people already know, considering that there is practically no new blood since the exodus, ten would put us in the last years of the WGB. But There is people I did not know much about then, and now nothing now, and others I still know roughly what has been happening in-between.


    So rather than what has happened today, this is what happened in the past that you wish to share. And for opening the Topic I go first.


    I am male, Spanish (from Spain, Europe). a bit old fashioned, a chemist for trade and vocation, which always makes life easier, when they are the same. I liked it so much that I got a doctorate, which did not help me much except allowing me to live a couple of years in France (1995-1997) with a disproportionately high grant, which is probably the defining moment in my life. Besides learning French and French customs I also lived alone for the first time, and I also had all the monet I wanted. So I got a bit crazy. I also discovered cooking, clubs, independent cinema, Japan (the French have a surprising love story with Japan, and the Japanese reciprocate it), road trips, wine... I also decided that public research, which had been my goal the last ten years, was not for me, and I had to find something else.


    The last 22 years I have worked at the same chemical company. However, as I got older imagination started to fail and experience hardened into wisdom so I have moved to the Sales part of the company, from R&D. I still work a lot with R&D and even got a couple of patents, but now I am on the other side of the fence. That means more money, though I have never really worried about it, as we have always had enough, more traveling and more meeting strange people. As a strongly introverted person I can force myself to be sociable, and apparently I am good at it, but it is draining and leaves me with little personal energy for meeting others outside work. So in the last years almost all my new acquaintances are work-related, while I barely keep in touch with the old. So work has become a more important part of my life than before. I find traveling on an unlimited expense account (unlimited may be misleading, but I have never had a charge rejected, no matter how good the hotel or how expensive the restaurant, and I was told to spend as necessary). The main control is the monthly expense limit in the company card, that left me once without credit in Russia, but after that incident we have found you can advance the payment and recoves the credt with a phone call. Of course I have had no business trip since February, so that is also a big change over the preceding years. 


    I am still married with the same woman, which is to be expected if she waited for me to return from France, and even fell also in love with France along the way. No children. We decided not to push nature, and we enjoyed our disposable income. We have quite different tastes (the only film in common in our top ten is The English Patient, and we do not share any books). So we have to compromise, alternating choices in movies, restaurants or holiday locations, which force me to leave at times my comfort zone, with generally positive results.


    My main defining aspect, besides hedonism and a certain social distance, is that I am serial obsessive, though as I get older the obsessive periods get shorter. So I devote a lot of energy in something for seven-ten days and then in many cases leave it for ever, or maybe to return in a few months. I no longer can keep the interest level for months as in the past, but that is why I tend to cummulate the whole published books or music of people I like. Usually up to a certain point. some are recurring, like WG himself, and others are one-off. Also happens in my love life, though I am much more platonic in the last years, which is much better as the cycle gets shorter.

  10. I never liked much Paradox strategy games, though I have Stellar and tried Europa Universalis. However a historian blog I follow had an interesting critique


    These days I am trying to get into some of the games I got during lockdown. GRIS is one of the most beautiful games I have ever played, both image and music. And non-violent, except emotionally. To compensate I got several post apocalyptic isometric games. The expansion of Underrail, The Expedition, and Wasteland 3. Dark humor, hard choices and a bleak future, that fortunately happens to very small models, so the violence seems less gruesome. Starting the last stage in Wasteland 3, I expect to finish it this week. Other games I enjoyed in this post-apocalyptic mind set were Mutant Year Zero, a reskinned X-com without the base mechanics and Borderlands 3, closer to the original than Borderlands 2. I also got Metro Exodus, the third in the Metro series, but I quitted after getting stuck at a certain point. I will probably get back to it when I finish Wasteland 3. Outside the post-apocalypse I really enjoyed the mix of fantasy and renaissance in Greedfall, an Indy RPG with quite good graphics and an interesting mechanic for firearms. I got quite involved in the story and finished it quite fast. 


    It seems my 2015 laptop will not be able to handle Cyberpunk. I got it partly to play The Witcher 3, so it may be time to get a new one. 

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  11. Rading few new books, as I get tired easily, and I am trying to read a few Italian books to improve my Italian that have not been translated anywhere else. Those are naturally slow going. Rereading a lot, as they go easier when they click, and I feel less regrets when I abandon them. Among them the books I have of Stephen Hunt Jackal series before deciding if I go beyond number 5. The odds are I will not, as it looks as I will get stuck in the third, "The Iron Moon". In the original run I went up to the fifth, "Jack Cloudie". 


    I am stuck in many books, however. I have left Gareth Powells Ack-Ack-Macaque stuck in the middle of the third book, "Macaque Attack!". Alternate Universes are a personal peeve. I suppose I will finish it, eventually, but I would not count on it. I even abandoned "The Neverending Story", that I got when I donated my unloved books (I am not a library person, so I donate to a NGO books to make place for new books). I han not reread it since my teens. I also got stuck very early in my rereading of Wolfe, after his death. Managed "The fifth head of Cerberus" and "Free Live Free", but got stuck both in "Peace" and "Pandora by Holly Hollander" I should proceed with the short stories, as that should go better. Finally, I left but intend to return to Andreas Wulf excellent biography of Alexander von Humboldt, "The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World"


    On Comics, I got sucked in Geoff Darrows' "The Shaolin Cowboy". No need to read much, which may explain it. It made me appreciate Frank Miller's script in Hardboiled, but strangely, perversely fascinating. I also got the two not-Pratt Corto Maltese books, "Under the Midnight Sun" and "Equatoria", but even though graphically they are good, the story is just not it. So I do not think I will get the recently appeared third, Tarowean's Day. But I started a reread of all the Pratt books I have. which is quite a lot of words but it goes much better than conventional books.

  12. I have not yet taken a PCR test, though I have taken a couple of antibody tests (negative), plus the one I get when I donate blood (every three months). However my wife has been tested twice already (both negative) because she developed asthma last year and usually has digestive problems, so she always ticks several boxes in the symptom quizzes. 


    Our company support a professorship at the University, and I am part of the steering committee, so we have our fist meeting since January. Discussing grants, science promoting activities, courses and conferences. And possibly a meal all together, which will be a trial. On one hand trying to give a feeling of normalcy. In the other a risk, even putting five people in a twelve seat table. 

  13. For me the big advantages of long running fora are the shared memories and the possibility for discussion. Twitter has the attention span of a goldfish, the past is this morning  and most arguments are at the pre-schooler level. 


    I used to think I would write more when I had more free time. But we have had COVID, I no longer travel every other week and meet lots of new people (tiring and distracting). So I played lots of old games. If thinking between writing something here or firing up Planescape: Torment once more time, I did Torment (and Baldur's Gate, and Wasteland, and Fallout...). Because I did not expect any result. But I have decided to give it one week. Get some data on how many people care about this. 


  14. As I said, as there is practically nothing I can do to affect the results, I prefer to watch it as a disaster movie. Not that we do not have our own disasters close at home, but this will affect the whole world. It is a bit frustrating when almost all the US people I know vote Democrat, even if they dislike the Democrats, and you realize that there is 40-45% people who think in a totally different way. 


    I had written all, but then I realised that I have a couple of business acquaintances that vote Republican. A third generation Filipino that is our agent in the USA, that has three kids in University and needs a 100k paycheck from our agency over the 100k salary he is getting from his main job. We only talk business, as his viewpoint is totally alien. But I have seen it also with some immigrants here. Getting a money safety net rather than a people safety net.


    But what it still surprises me how many people blame Trump when actually he is just the distraction, and the risk comes from the GOP establishment. I have the feeling that their aim is to keep the senate, and they know Trump will not win. But all the provocations are to radicalize the opposition, and motivate their own bases. I hope so, at least.



  15. I confess I did not like Agency either. I read it a second time, hoping to have it click better, as I find often with WG books, but it was not the case.


    From my point of view the time travel component detracted rather than improved the novel, unlike what happened in The Peripheral, where it was key, and fully justified. So we end up with two novellas, one of life in a klept future, from the point of view of the hangers-on of the highly privileged, and a story of how lucky we are that the first self evolving AI prevents an unlikely nuclear war rather than starting one, told by a hanger-on of the highly privileged. We also get real time drone piloting and information between two universes through a third one, and there were points where I just threw the book to the floor. Though that is mostly a personal peeve with multiple universe abuse. 


    The 2017 part would have worked practically as well (or better, if we consider how likely nuclear escalation is) with Trump, so the What if becomes, for me, a pointless gimmick. The Future part does not develop much the setting, except to highlight the power of a certain character.


    The book is not all bad. The ability of WG to write brief accurate vignettes of our reality in a new life is still there, and most of the auxiliary cast is well realized and shaped in just a few sentences. But the brilliant artisanship and moving fragments do not change that, for me, the premise is flawed, the fit between the parts clunky, the privilege becomes overbearing, and the opposition becomes clownish (once there were enough operating funds, why not just acquire them?).


    I agree with the basic point that, for many things we get Agency only through privilege, political, economic or social, and otherwise we are just powerless in the grand scene of things, but that should not mean only the 0.1% matters. The main characters are not 0.1 percenters, but all they seem to achieve is due to their relationship with them, or the newest club member, the first AI, who quickly becomes one.

  16. Although the effect is felt worldwide, this is a mostly spectator sport to me. This year It appears momentous, but as it gets closer, I cannot help but think that the US balances have worked relatively well, and that Trump has done mostly what Cruz, just to put an example, would have done, except for the huge amount of noise Trump himself generates. McConnell is more to blame about the good and the bad things that happen than the nominal president, which I see more and more as a willing scapegoat for all the crazy things the Republicans want to do.


    So at least the Republicans have their escape clause ready, so it is not their fault, it was that loose cannnon Trump, while the Democrats have gone for the oldest, less risky candidate ever. So looking from outside, despite the difference in the polls, it seems the Democrats can do little to improve their odds, that all will depend on what the Republicans and the jester-turned-king do in the next 4 weeks. So, what will happen? Is everything in the ten key states that will decide the election, or this time there may be surprises? 

  17. I spent 90 minutes in a car with a coworker that is now in confimement, waiting for the PCR test result of her son, as a friend of his tested positive and they spent two hours playing in the same room last Saturday.


    It creates a certain worry to be linked, still by an uncertain chain, to a positive case. Protocol here right now requires that I confine myself if she tests positive, except to go for my own tests, and meanwhile to live normally, if this can be called normal. 


    Risk is quite low. We did not sing or shout or cough. We did not spend time face to face. We kept a well put mask in good shape on. In my estimate the risk of a car accident was higher than contagion. But it is clear what stays in my mind.


    If there are no strong lockdowns I will probably make my first trip abroad (to Milan, Italy) in October. Depending on the plane experience and risk, I am really thinking of going to Venice afterwards, to enjoy the city in partial solitude. And then avoid my parents for a month, which is not easy, living in the same city and they needing help often...

  18. The Forum format is dying in the internet, and thewgb.com is not an exception. I check almost daily, but write seldom, and the more time passes without a post, it becomes harder to break the silence. I hope there are many people like me, and there are more than the six people who write "frequently" checking the forum.


    I will assume that, if they exist, the silent readers are people who remember fondly the active years of the WGB (2004-2010, considering the decadence started after WG moved to Twitter). Although WG and his work was only a small part of the discussions generated, he still was its heart. I also believe that his simple presence made people with the right set of interests join, even if we stayed in for other reasons. 


    The problem with the internet today, IMHO, is that it is easy to see and read only what fits into your worldview. What made the fora structure work, for me, that outside the common interest that brought the people together, you get all kinds of views on other aspects of life, like politics, sports, weapon ownership, cars, religion, etc.. Already the multinational component gave a cosmopolitan worldview that was somewhat exclusive of some views (localist supremacists) but also gave an unending source of friction just by the differences between countries. And that friction was good because it created content, and that was what made people chip in and participate.


    As I wrote above, most internet fora are dead or dying, killed by closer interactions with a faster turnaround that require less effort. However I know of a few that still survive and the main common thread is a wide member base, a common subject to bring people in and keep them in, and more or less freedom to discuss other subjects. Those without freedom usually become closed  clubs, invitation only, though if they have a big enough member pool, they can still work well within their restricted parameters. I belong to one, and I would not mind joining others, if I could find them, their common interest was interetsing to me, and they let me join...


    The main requirement to survive is content, and to spread the burden of content generation among the members, so nobody dominates. That requires a critical mass of posters before burnout strikes or I start talking to the ghosts inside my head (which this is what is this thread, at least till somebody else chips in).


    Life changes, and most of us are ten years older and no longer have the time and/or the energy to write ten interesting posts and twenty obnoxious ones every day. But I want to believe the critical mass is there, that those shared experiences for 5-10 years are part of what we are now, and that I am curious, even if I do not say so often, about what has happened in the last ten years for all of you.


    That leaves two additional problems, getting new (interesting) people to join and recovering our memories of the past. The archives seem irrevocably lost but I know at certain points paranoid/visionary people archived big portions of the WGB. But that is a problem for later. With one heartbeat a week, we can say the patient is dead, and all other problems can wait.


    My own compromise with this effort to try to inject some life in the topics is to post at least one new topic every day, at least till one succeeds in becoming self sufficient, and to reply in less than 24 hours to any reply to one of my posts (except for "Me too" posts). There may be past topics that fit, but they died weeks or months ago. So it will be new ones, except for the handful of self sustaining threads left.


    What do you think? Can it be saved? Is it worth the effort? Are we better off watching again all the seasons of Killing Eve


    The only sure thing you cannot get COVID19 from this, and that is a good thing right now.

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  19. No, it is just what it says in the tin. Pity I missed the opening of the new Archaological museum, and now I do not know when I will get back.


    Some more street art.



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