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Wednesday, 16 August 2017

On the Keyboard Liberation Front

So, I'm going to preface this by saying that this is NOT sponsored content, and that I'm in no way getting any kind of compensation from the ZAGG corporation.   I feel I have to note that, because this is going to sound so much like an infomercial it's almost sickening.

As a writer and journalist, I find myself spending a lot of time in front of my computer, but I wouldn't necessarily like to.  Right now, for example, I'm taking a bit of break (as you've noticed) from writing regular blog entries.  The impending "Civil War II: This Time It's Cultural" happening in the USA prompted me out of my torpor but I actually found myself 'away from keyboard' at the time.  As much as I love the modern convenience of Android devices, the one problem you face as a writer is that you can't really write a big blog entry (much less an article for a website, and much much less an RPG product) using screen-tapping and auto-correct.

I had, in the past, remembered with fondness a PalmPilot I had, which had a keyboard you'd plug it onto.  I actually wrote a significant part of my Thesis on that thing, while hanging out in my favorite cafe at that time (the Cafe Le Gare, in Edmonton, which sadly has long since vanished).   So naturally, when I got my first tablet I thought of trying to reproduce the experience with a bluetooth keyboard.

The problem is they are almost all utter shit.  I had one keyboard/case hybrid device for my old Google Nexus 7, and that was great.  I got a lot done with that.  But after I retired the Nexus I never manged to find any portable keyboard that worked.

There were many that were too big. What's the fucking point of having a PORTABLE keyboard if you can't carry it around with you easily?!
There were a ton of others that were just generally pieces of crap; they would fail to connect, had batteries that quickly died, would suddenly and spontaneously lose their bluetooth connection or even had to be re-linked.   The cheaper ones never lasted long, and worse they often looked and felt like shit (if you spend a really serious amount of time typing, like thousands and thousands of words per day, you know what I mean abouut the difference between a keyboard that feels like your fingers are touching mush and nice powerful keys that make you feel like you're a piano player or something).

At one point, a couple of years back, I tried to shell out nearly $100 for a Microsoft Portable Keyboard.  It seemed great because it folded up and took up literally less space in your bag than an old CD would. But it too was complete crap.  The thing was advertised as being multi-system (Apple, Windows, Android), and I have no idea how it did in the other systems (one would kind of hope they could at least get it to work right with Windows, but you can never really tell with Microsoft), but with Android it never worked right for me even once. It would take 50 tries to get it to connect, then minutes later would disconnect and you'd have to resynch it to your device from scratch.

So I'd practically given up.  But I really needed something to use if I was going to write a blog entry, and so I went and decided to take a chance on the Zagg Universal Keyboard.

Man, what a world of difference. First, it's freaking pretty.  It's also small and super-slim. You can use its protective cover to work as a stand for your device (convenient).  But mainly, the most important thing is that it FREAKING WORKS!

It had no-hassle connection, like, none at all. and it's great to type on and responds fantastically well.

This, for someone like me, is potentially life-changing. Now, I'll be able to rant abouut how people are wrong on the internet from almost anywhere, not just the comforts of The Abbey.

Hell, I might write my next book on this thing.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Rhodesian A + Image Latakia

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Clarification on Charlottesville

Just to be clear:

If some Nazi wants to march at my side at a Free Speech rally, I'm no one to stop him. So long as he doesn't try to turn said march into a Nazi rally, obviously.

But if someone wants me to march with Nazis, in support of them, because we "must unite the right"?

Fortunately, almost all the right feels exactly the same way. The New Right is a massive populist movement. It doesn't need to "unite" with about 2000 assholes who hate Jews and want to purge the impure for "blood and soil" bullshit.

You know who really needs that, though? The Left. If you watch the coverage of this shitty little rally at Charlottesville (dwarfed by 2nd Berkeley, and countless Free Speech rallies, or any Trump rally ever), they will desperately want you to think all the New Right endorses the gang of inbred cunts who were doing seig heils.

So remember that: don't fall for Fake News.


Currently Smoking: Neerup Diplomat + Burlington's Dublin

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

The Perils of Technology

I have a plane to catch.  I wake up with one hour till I have to be at the airport.

I usually make my coffee at home with an old fashioned hand grinder & a Vietnamese coffee filter. No electric parts.
But where I'm staying, there's one of these demonic capsule machines.  I have seen it used, & this one looks as straightforward as possible; put in capsule, press big button, coffee comes out.

I put in the capsule. I push the button. Nothing comes out.
There are no other buttons. The screen shows no errors. I figured I might have put the capsule in wrong. I try again. Nothing.
I unplug the machine, thinking maybe it hung & needs rebooting. No change.

Soon I'm thumping the sides of the damn thing like a Neanderthal, violently opening & closing it, howling at the damn beast to give me my fucking coffee! But it refuses, the fucking monstrosity just will not work.  So I head out to the patio overlooking the majestic woodland scene I've been enjoying these many days, trying to see if I can smoke my pipe, sans coffee, before we have to rush to the airport.

My travelling companion is up now, & comes out, & I warn her about the monstrous machine that fails to make coffee.

She tells me "did you press the touchscreen?"

TOUCHSCREEN?! Why on Kek's green Earth does a fucking One-Button coffee machine need a fucking touchscreen?!  What is this monstrous dystopia of first-world futurism I have stumbled into??!

She quickly makes me a coffee, and then as we head out, slightly late, to the airport, I thank Kek that back home I can still follow the simple ways, where so long as my arms don't fail me, & I have beans and hot water, I will always have coffee.

Seattle was lovely, by the way.


Currently Smoking: Neerup Billiard + Image Latakia

Saturday, 5 August 2017

A boy & his dog

You may ask why I haven't been writing.

This is why:

This is Opal, who has been a constant companion these last few days.

She's pretty much the best dog in the world.


Currently Smoking: Neerup billiard + Image Latakia

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

DCC Campaign: The story so far

I've been posting my DCC updates here every couple of weeks for the last long while.  So much so that I got to thinking: there's probably regular readers of this blog now that weren't here when this campaign started, over 4 years ago.

It's also possible some of you newer readers also don't frequent the Pundit Subforum of theRPGsite. So, for all of you, and anyone else who wants a laugh, I give you the Whole Fucking Trainwreck.

That link goes to the official archive of all my hilarious DCC Last Sun campaign logs, dating from 2013 until August 2016 (the archive posts 1 year behind, so for all the more recent clusterfucks you'll still have to search here).  You can also see how both my campaign & my posts about it evolved, becoming more Gonzo and complex and hilarious and frankly spectacular as time goes on.

So, enjoy! And stay tuned for more!


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti half volcano + Burlington's October Morning

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Wild West Campaign: The Arabians

Dodge City was especially cold, snowy, and barren that February, with little going on.  Until two old familiar faces rode into town.

First, Mysterious Dave Mather got back from his failed gold-mining expedition.  He'd gone to Colorado with ex-lawman Charlie Bassett. They'd found nothing, and Mather came back to Dodge; but Bassett just couldn't bring himself to return to the town he'd come to feel so embittered about.

(Mysterious Dave)

At around the same time, the long-missing psychopath John Joshua Webb came back too.

Webb had last been seen helping Miller fake the death of his horse (Brimstone), and taking said horse out of Dodge, on account that it had killed Miller's wife. Miller inquired of Brimstone, and at first Webb tried a white lie, but then admitted the horse was dead, saying only that "things got complicated" and that "it was him or me".  Then Webb asked Miller for a job, and Miller hired him on as a security man, much to the chagrin of Other Miller, who was already one of Miller's security men.

The next people to ride into town were all newcomers.  One was a guy calling himself "Big Jim" Davis, owner of a large Oklahoman ranch, who rode in with a bag full of money  he intended to spend in Dodge's saloons, and two stunning Arabian horses he intended to sell a bit further east.

He promptly started buying rounds of drinks for everyone at the Long Branch, becoming a quick favorite of the regulars.

Then came along a pair of young men who accused "big Jim" of being an impostor. The real Big Jim, they said, was their uncle, and this man had murdered him, stolen his money and his horses.  Both Big Jim and the two "nephews" seemed extremely convincing. It proved very hard to tell who was lying and who was telling the truth, and there was not a shred of definitive evidence between them. Everything Big Jim had to authenticate himself by was claimed to be stolen goods by the nephews; and they in turn had nothing to prove their uncle was dead and this man was not Big Jim.

Kid Taylor was the only lawman around, and he realized the nephews were trying to goad "Big Jim" into a shootout, though he wasn't sure which side was telling the truth.  He decided to take "Big Jim" into custody for his own protection. Then Other Miller figured out that they could send a telegram to the nearest town (where the nephews claimed they had left Big Jim's corpse) to confirm their story. They acted pleased about this, but so did Big Jim, so that solved nothing in the immediate sense.

Taking Big Jim into custody to avoid a gunfight was not as such a bad call, but it turned out to be a problem, when the "nephews" tricked the Mormon ex-Gambler (I should really start calling him the Mormon Concierge) to give away the number of the room where "Big Jim" had been staying in the Beattie Hotel. They broke in and stole Big Jim's carpetbag full of cash.

Miller, meanwhile, was in the Alhambra and ended up overhearing Dirty Dave Rudabaugh planning to steal the two Arabians.

He talked Dirty Dave out of robbing the Dodge stables, but Dave and his two sidekicks only shifted plans to hijack whoever ended up with the horses on their way out of town.

They didn't need to wait long. The Mormon Concierge and Kid Taylor discovered the break-in at the hotel, and rushed to check on the horses. Kid Taylor had made the dubious decision to leave the septuagenarian stable-master and his octogenarian rifle alone in the stable as the sole guardian of the Arabians.  The Kid rushed to the stables, but actually got there third. First, the nephews had gotten there, knocked the old stabler in the head, and fled with the Arabians. Second, Dirty Dave and his men who had been tipped off by a lookout. They rushed to their horses and chased after the fleeing 'nephews'.   And right behind Kid Taylor came Miller, accompanied by his new bodyguard Webb, who had both been following Dirty Dave.  Kid Taylor immediately set to ride after them with the two others.

They didn't quite catch up in time. Dirty Dave got to them first, knowing the local terrain better than the 'nephews'.  He and his men ambushed the nephews, unhorsed and unarmed them, and left them behind in the snow.  Kid Taylor's posse went after the footsteps first, and quickly found the two men, who he tricked into admitting they were criminals. Meanwhile, Taylor had sent John Joshua Webb after the horse thieves.

Along the way back they ran into a second posse, led by Wyatt Earp and including the Mormon Concierge and Other Miller.  Earp tonguelashed Kid Taylor for heading off with out a proper posse, and sent him back to Dodge with the two prisoners, while the rest of them went after the horses.

They found their way to a killing scene.

Though they couldn't be sure what had happened, it was in fact Webb, having caught up to Dirty Dave and his gang, who offered Rudabaugh his life if he double-crossed his former partners and he and Dave split the money for the horses. Dirty Dave naturally agreed.

What then followed was a manhunt of various days; only with a twist. In the night Webb actually doubled back and spoke to his "boss" Miller, asking for Miller's blessing. Miller agreed, in his usual half-assed way, saying he couldn't interfere and if Earp kept tracking them he wouldn't be able to help.

As it turns out, Webb and Rudabaugh were quite good at hiding their tracks. Earp also wasn't wearing a US Marshal's star, plus he realized that Miller had a kind of bond with Webb that wasn't entirely different from Wyatt's own toward Doc Holliday, so he gave Miller an out. He suggested they might not keep on searching. Both Millers agreed, and the Mormon Concierge, who has terrible luck, had already been forced to abandon the posse on account of his horse suffering a fall.

So the posse headed back to town without any luck. Of course, they knew Webb was involved, even if they couldn't prove it.

Other Miller confronted Miller directly, asking if Webb had done what he did on Miller's orders, or if he'd betrayed him.  Miller, too cowardly to admit he'd given Webb carte-blanche, told Other Miller that Webb hadn't been acting on his orders, leaving Other-Miller with the idea that Webb could not be trusted.

The telegram confirmed Big Jim's identity and he was set free. He proved quite forgiving of Kid Taylor and the lawmen, since he was mainly pleased the fake "nephews" had been caught and were bound to be hung for horse-thieving.

A couple of weeks later, John Joshua Webb and Dirty Dave came back into town.  No one knew Dirty Dave had anything to do with it, and Webb didn't give the lawmen any straight answers, but when speaking privately to Kid Taylor he ended up giving away the fact of Dirty Dave's involvement.
Kid Taylor wasn't interesting in arresting Dave or Webb though, he wanted the horses back to make up for his failing to Big Jim. So he spoke in Dave's language: he offered Dave immunity if he told him where they sold the horses. And of course, Dave snitched, as was his habit.

Kid was planning on heading out with Wyatt Earp to get the horses, but Earp suggested that they just wire Big Jim with the information, and offer to leave it up to him how to settle the score. Kid agreed. A couple of weeks later, they got a very thankful telegram from Big Jim, who'd recovered his Arabians, and a reward of $500 dollars that Kid and Earp split.

In the end, Kid happily declared that he hadn't learned a thing from all this. But he was $250 richer.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Poker + C&D's Bayou Evening