Thursday, May 31, 2018


A letter from m' bro
arrived today.
Quite unusual
arrived today.
Neither holiday nor birthday
arrived today.

My fingers trembled
suppressing fears.
I saw three typed pages
suppressing fears.
'My wife's got cancer'
validating fears.

Oh, and a broken hip
a gut punch.
Replacement surgery
a gut punch.
An afterthought, 'hope you're good'
a gut punch.

Not seeming much
to care
about us
or our life,
he spent
three pages telling his story,
nine words hoping we're fine.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Japanese is not Easy #5

It's so very not easy!  I've given up.

At the beginning of February, I was so engrossed in Japanese language an culture.  Learning about it didn't take commitment.  It's what I wanted to be doing.  So I went for it.  I studied everyday for like ten weeks.  And then my enthusiasm fizzled out.

So it was time to commit, and push myself to obtain what I wanted.  But I just couldn't.  In my ten weeks, I felt like I was accomplishing so much, because it was so different, and so hard to do.  But in reality, I learned so little.  And like I knew from the start, learning Japanese doesn't have a huge payoff.  It is only spoken in one country.

So if I'm going to push myself to learn a new language, it should be Spanish.  That's a language that would be useful.  And I already know so much more Spanish than Japanese, despite all of my hard work.  I already know their alphabet, for example.  And I can count to 100.  So I bought Rosetta Stone for Spanish, and it's waiting for me in the mailbox.

As for my trip to Japan, I think it's off.  Japan would cost over $1,000 to get to.  I'm thinking I'll want to try my Spanish somewhere instead.  When I went to Costa Rica, it was because Colombia looked dangerous to me.  Now I've been around a bit, and I feel a little more confident.  Colombia's murder rate is only about twice that of Minneapolis, and even less so if I stick to a tourist area like MedellĂ­n.

I told my cousin this, and he thinks I can get tickets to Japan in the $500 range if I wait til we're 3 months out.  I told him I'm still in if that's true.  I don't think it is.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Wasteland Calls!

It was the winter of 2015 that I played Fallout 4.  Can you believe it?  I loved the game, but there were issues here and there.  When I put it away, part of me was really looking forward to playing it again years later after mods have fixed those issues.  Is today the day?  These were my issues:

1. Let's call my first issue "baggage"
This is the first game in the series where you were handed a character with a whole life.  That's a problem with an immersive game that centers on you playing your role, your way.  It was even voice acted.

Now, I could have removed the voice acting, but I went a different way.  Start Me Up is a mod that changes your roll.  You are now some neighbor of the murdered parent, and kidnapped boy.  Just not telling us we're the spouse, and swapping in some, "A baby boy..." lines, instead of, "My son..."  It's really just that easy.  And so many more motivations make sense.  I am free to be who I want to be.  Who knows?  Maybe I won't hate Shawn with a passion this time around.

2. Companions Go Home
The title of this mod says it all.  It broke my heart every time Piper walked by saying, "Nice day.  Where we headed?"  All our helpers languishing at our settlements when they have lives to lead.  This mod simply lets you dismiss them back to those lives.

3. Needy settlers.
So the easy one is No Offscreen Settlement Attacks.  You obviously can't know about them if you're not there.  And it's too much to drop everything to run to them every time.  I'm using a couple of others, but they've been hit and miss so far.  One fun one adds an Immersive Fast Travel option.  It's balanced with costs, and you do need to build it in advance.  But it lets you move between settlements in much the same way you can travel between town in Skyrim with carriages.

4. Carry Weight
It just doesn't make sense to haul several typewriters into battle.  I'm on the new Survival option this time, and have a limited carry weight.  Not a real life limit, but something close enough to see reality off in the distance somewhere.  Salvage Beacons helps with this.  With it, you can assign a settler to coordinate supplies.  Then when you drop a craftable salvage beacon in a container, he will send someone to pick it up.  Also one to add backpacks, for esthetic roll playing purposes.

5. Survival
So survival mode isn't a mod, but it was added since I played the first time.  It add a huge element of immersion when you actually need to survive the wasteland.  However, I did need to tweak it.  Smokeable Cigarets lets me save between fights, and gives me a reasonable cost for doing so.  And I did need to add the console back to fix errors.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Theological Skepticism #7

I like Penn Jillette's biweekly podcast.  He's full of interesting ideas.  To be clear, they're not always good ideas.  He has a ton of interesting anecdotes, stories, and metaphors.  So I end up bringing him up in conversation from time to time.

This annoys one friend quite a bit.  He finds Penn to be an arrogant #$@&%*!.  Now, I don't see how he can be considered either of those things, but it's the arrogant part that really confuses me.  This is a guy who wrote a best selling book on how he lost over a hundred pounds, and spent the entire foreword explaining how stupid you would have to be take advice from a juggler on anything; casually equating a Las Vegas headliner with some juggler.  And it doesn't end there.  He's constantly joking about the mistakes he's made, and highlighting what he got wrong.

But it doesn't confound me like it would have years ago.  In my old age I've realized that most people expect everyone to give certain ideas the same respect they would a person.  Those ideas are religion.  He absolutely doesn't do that.  He has actually stated several times that you must respect people, but you can't respect ideas.

This is probably the one thing he's said consistently that I would agree with the most.  I have never heard him elaborate on that, on why it might be true.  But isn't it obvious?  Some idea are goods, and some are bad.  If you respect an idea, you can't criticize it.  You can't tell which are which.  I don't believe in censoring bad ideas.  I believe in discerning them from the good ones.

As for me, I walk the line.  As important as I think it is to move us all toward enlightenment, I also value friendship.  I offend my friends a little with my criticism of religion, but try not to offend them a lot.  That means showing religion more respect than any idea should get, but much less than they think it should get.  You might say giving this respect is a disservice to my friends.  But would they even be friends otherwise?  And aren't they better off having my halfhearted dissenting view because of it?

Friday, May 4, 2018

Preserving a Meal Commitment

Well, of course, of course, no apology required.

I am sitting at my writing desk, at this very moment, instead of having lunch with a good friend, as planned. Not to embarrass anyone I will change my friend's name to Del, as I relate the story.

There was a time when Del and I shared lunch regularly; once a month or so. We would meet at a pizza place near my home, order a spinach-artichoke dip appetizer to share, a beverage ( or two ) and an entree. The spinach-artichoke dip is the best either of us have found … hot, a large serving, lots of toasted bread slices on which to put it, and just the right spicy zip both of us enjoy.

I remember one time he beat me to the restaurant. As I slid into my seat in the booth, he looked at me dead(ly) serious. and whispered, "I have some very bad news."

My gosh; "Who's sick? Who died? Did you lose your job? An auto accident? What??"

"They don't have any artichoke dip today … the artichokes weren't delivered."

I exhaled. "Oh, no … that's bad enough but it's better than some of he awful things I was thinking." 

That time together, while very good, was not the same without sharing the dip we so enjoyed.

Both our lives have gotten busier and we have found it harder and harder to keep up with our monthly lunch. Our last lunch together was in
mid-February and Del confessed to having a particularly difficult and busy time since the beginning of the year. He also assured me things had smoothed significantly, and he was again wanting to lunch monthly. He remains a busy guy, I'm reasonably busy and it has just not worked out.

Since my retreat the weekend following Easter, we had unsuccessfully tried to arrange lunch; slightly over two weeks ago we agreed on today, normal time and place. I salivated; it had been a long time since tasting that dip. Last night he texted me … a work emergency that he could not get out of had come up and he cannot make our lunch date … can we reschedule, please, sorry.

Well, of course, of course, no apology required. Work emergencies happen. I get it. While I am deeply disappointed, we are having dinner tomorrow night, I have found time to write a blog post, and I have a story about which to write. Phoenix rises out of the ashes.

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