You Can’t Stop The Signal

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YESTERDAY was a black day.

But there’s still hope.

There are already those seeking impeachment on the grounds of conflicts of interest. There are still investigations into ties with Russia (which, I suspect, will turn up documented proof that the Trumpsterfire laundered Russian mob cash through his casinos and/or hotels).

And there are marches and demonstrations going on. It looks like the Women’s March in D.C. today has brought more crowds than the inauguration did, and they’re going on nationwide – and even worldwide; there’s a march in London as I write this, and I know there are others. (Update: I just checked the website and at this moment there are at least 673 marches going on all over the world.)

You Can’t Stop That Kind Of Signal.

So like they say, Prepare for the Worst, but Hope for the Best.

And always remember: there are more of us than there are of them. No matter how bad things start to look, you’re never alone. We’re all in this together, and we WILL beat this.

Misbehave.

RESIST.

Look At The State We’re In

WE’RE in a bit of a mess, aren’t we? There’s a president-elect, and the people he’s named as his cabinet, who are surrounded by controversy and illegality and just plain stupidity in the same way that a pile of dog poo has flies around it.

What amazes me is that despite all the obvious stink the whole situation has, Trump’s supporters are, in many cases, still in denial about the smell. You’d have to have been living under a rock for the last few weeks to have not got a feeling that something was very wrong, no matter which side of the fence you’re on.

How did we get here?

Well, first of course there was the election. We know Russia was behind the hacking of the DNC servers and the release of anything damaging they could find. And of course there’s going to be something damaging; these are POLITICIANS we’re talking about here.

One thing that was known about weeks ago was that the RNC servers were also hacked. But anything incriminating that was found, the hackers kept to themselves. And I suppose you could conclude that they didn’t find anything dirty or incriminating or illegal there because there was nothing to find. But, come on, does any sensible person really, honestly believe that? I repeat: these are POLITICIANS we’re talking about here. So one thing that’s been buzzing about is speculation that Putin is holding it in hand as a threat to Trump and others. I.e.: do and say what you’re told, or that shit goes public.

And then there was the whole Fake News Thang. Seriously, that had – and still has – a lot of the more extreme Trump supporters believing in pedophile rings and murder and all kinds of other crap. These extreme supporters plainly have no critical thinking skills whatsoever. Print an outrageous claim and most sensible people will want to make sure they have the facts before they subscribe to it. Not the extreme supporters, though: they take it in, no matter how crazy it sounds, because GODDAMMIT IT JUST CONFIRMS WHAT I WANT TO BELIEVE COS, Y’KNOW, LIBRALS. And they accept every word that spews from The Trumphole: he won the popular vote (he didn’t), Russia didn’t hack the election (they did), ok maybe they did but it didn’t affect the outcome (it did). Who needs facts when you can just let Putin Trump do your thinking for you? Trump could say that Bernie Sanders is actually a reptiloid from another planet, and these people would probably believe it.

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Read it, accept it, no filtering or actual logical thought about whether what you just read makes any sense at all. Then we end up with idiots waving guns around in pizza joints. I think many of these people are the same ones that read – and believe – crapsheets like the Inquirer and the Globe. (And I know people – well, one person, anyway – who reads those things and believes every single word.)

Moving along from the election, then, and the next thing was December 19 and the Electoral College vote. And the question we should all be asking is WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED HERE?

See, the Electoral College was set up (by Alexander Hamilton, at least primarily) as a guard against the wrong kind of person becoming president: agents or favourites of foreign powers, those without the qualifications for the job, the “merely famous”.

But the EC has had its teeth pulled. In many states, the electors must, by law, vote for the same person that their state voted for. In other words, the electors in those states are there to rubber-stamp the result, no more. A state could vote for Pat the Postman or Rasputin or Adolf fucking Hitler and the electors would have to go along with it. If they don’t, they can be fined and go to prison. So there’s hardly an incentive for the electors to actually, you know, do the job as intended by Hamilton.

So, even though there were electors who truly understood their duty, and who tried to make sure the other electors were also aware of that duty, and who voted against their states’ vote for Trump, it wasn’t enough.

That wasn’t the last gasp for that, though. That came this Friday past, January 6, when Congress met to ratify that vote. And just before that, we found that at least fifty of the electoral college votes were illegal. Yes, FIFTY, at least, and it could have been as many as a hundred. In some cases the electors voted on behalf of regions (counties or wards or however it’s broken down) that they don’t reside in. In others, the electors hold other government positions at the same time, and that’s against the law; for example, from memory one of the electors for Florida is also the state’s Attorney General.

So, if the votes were illegal, how could they possibly still count? I mean, they were ILLEGAL, right? But it turns out that in another case of teeth-pulling, members of Congress can point out that the votes are illegal – but if their objection isn’t accompanied by a signature from a senator, it’s ignored. Did one, even just ONE senator step up and do the right thing? Nope. Not. Even. One.  Joe Biden had no option but to go by the rules, and dismiss the objections. And so Congress ratified the EC vote despite the fact that Trump is everything the EC was set up to prevent, and that many of its votes weren’t even valid.

What a clusterfuck.

So, where are we now? As I see it, we’re in a kind of limbo until the inauguration. We’ve already got the banana Republicans set to tear down the ACA, which will rip healthcare away from twenty to thirty million people (including, I suspect, a fair number of Trump voters who didn’t think it would happen); and they’re trying to defund Planned Parenthood (again) which will, if they succeed, will endanger the lives of millions of Americans who rely on them for cancer screenings. We’ll have a climate-change denier in charge of the EPA, and a twat who doesn’t like public schools in charge of education, and a religious shit-for-brains VP who believes evolution isn’t real and (like too many people) seems to think that science is all a matter of opinion. On top of that, they’ll be sitting in those chairs without any ethics oversight, opening up opportunities for corruption on an unprecedented scale. And world-class traitor to America, Donald J Trump, Putin’s pet finger puppet, will have the nuclear codes. Well done, Trump voters! Thanks to you, we’ll all be Putin’s bitches. Bend over and take it like a man.

What’s the best we can hope for? I originally gave Trump eighteen months, tops, before he does something so incredibly stupid and illegal that even his supporters can’t go along with it. I’ve adjusted that estimate down a couple of times, and at this point I’d give him at most four months. When the hammer falls, he’ll be out. (I still have this delicious vision of him being dragged from the White House in an orange jumpsuit and shackles and thrown in the back of a police van, and taken to an “undisclosed location” never to be seen again.) Or maybe, as some have said, he’ll get bored with the whole president thing and fuck off to play golf somewhere while Pence takes the wheel. (Not that I’m saying Pence in charge would be a good thing – he’s a weapons-grade shit-for-brains, too, but certainly less of a liability than Trump. Lesser of two evils, I guess.)

Last comment: Trump was going to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it. Then it was going to be more like a fence. Now he’s saying Congress is going to pay for it, then Mexico will pay it back. (Mexico has already told Trump where to shove that idea, so good luck with that.) Now, I read yesterday that the wall, if it ever materialises, will cost $1 billion. Trump’s a billionaire. So, Trump, why don’t YOU pay for it and send the bill to Mexico, so the rest of us don’t get stiffed. Let us know how that works out.

Until next time . . .

 

 

Get Terra Mechanica for 99¢ thru 12/24

YEP, blatant self-promotion time: Terra Mechanica is a Steampunk anthology which has a story by yours truly in it. Here’s the pic and the blurb from the publisher’s Facebook page:

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From: TERRA MECHANICA: THE VOYAGE OF VALERIE MCGRATH by Peter J Ford: Sent on a desperate mission only she can fulfill, a dedicated researcher discovers the war her government wages against its own people, and the planet they rely upon for survival. Ebook available for $0.99 on Kindle, Nook, Kobo and Smashwords through 12.24.16. http://amzn.to/2i0cfeH

It Isn’t Over Yet

TWO more days. That’s how long before the electoral college casts the votes that will decide who becomes President of the United States.

Trump hasn’t won. Not yet. And hopefully he won’t win on Monday either. The electors can still block Trump, and if they have any care for democracy in this country, any sense of duty at all, they will do just that. Hell, seventeen security agencies agree that Putin has his puppeteer hand so far up Trump’s arse it’s a wonder we don’t see his fingernails when Trump opens his mouth. Regardless of the fact that those agencies haven’t produced a documented report to that effect—they really haven’t had time to do that in time for the electoral convention on Monday—they’ve made public statements saying that Russia was behind what’s been going on.

Lots of Clinton supporters are, of course, hopeful that thirty-seven Republican electors will vote instead for Clinton, which would make her President. I think the chances of that are so slim that they’d slide under my front door. On the other hand… it’s been suggested that if enough Democratic electors could be persuaded to vote for a moderate Republican, and enough Republican electors could get behind that, it would be a compromise solution that, while awful in its own way, would be waaaaay better than letting Trump within a mile of the White House.

Take eight minutes to watch this. Yes, Olbermann can get a little worked up but I think he’s got a damned good right to. Hell, we should all be this worked up about the mess we’re in:

Alexander Hamilton’s Plan to Keep Trump From the White House

It’s pretty weird to think that four years ago I was very against Mitt Romney; the idea of a one-percenter in charge was abhorrent then and it still is now. And yet, today, if the choice ends up being between President Romney and “president” Trump, then like Olbermann I’d back Romney in a damned heartbeat and consider us all lucky.

[Update on that, having looked into what Olbermann said a bit more: I don’t trust Romney as far as I can spit (no change there) and I don’t think McCain’s up to it. McMullen would be my choice. But any of these guys would be far more acceptable than asshole-elect Trump.]

I’ve heard a couple of people say they’re worried about what the more rabid Trump supporters would do if the electors vote against their darling. They worry about armed Trump supporters starting something.

I’m not so worried about that. Despite his win, only something like twenty percent of the electorate actually voted for him—which means that even if every single one of them went out armed, aiming to cause trouble, they’d still be outnumbered four to one by those who didn’t vote that way. And what would they do, anyway, other than get themselves branded as domestic terrorists?

What worries me more is the vision I have of Trump in power, winding the clock back to the nineteenth century and widening the divisions we’ve seen narrowed over the last few years. That, in my view, is more likely than anything else I can think of to kick off violence on a large scale.

We have a duty to keep telling the electoral college to do the right thing—to keep a Russian stooge with Talents of low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity out of the White House.

Resist.

Peace.

Ranting and Reading and TV, Oh My

THINGS have been… well, hectic is the first word that comes to mind. I’ve been working ten-hour days and seven-day weeks on the day-job project for a few months. Hence: no blog posts, little Twitter activity, and so on. Most days after finishing work I’ve been too tired to do anything more than watch TV until I fall asleep.

At last, that’s coming to a close. Today is the first Saturday I haven’t had to work in quite a while (well, almost; I did about an hour first thing to tidy up a couple of little jobs). And so, time for a blog post. Whee!

So first, let me get the obligatory Trump rant out of the way. Yes, I’m worried. I’m concerned for the twenty million or more people who could lose medical insurance cover (including the people who voted for Trump thinking he didn’t really mean what he said about repealing the ACA… you silly people, you), and I worry about what the impact of a bigoted administration on minorities is likely to be, and I’m scared half to death about the long-term damage a cabinet-load of shit-for-brains climate change deniers will be, and I’m really worried about what a thin-skinned “president” with the maturity of a twelve-year old and access to the nuclear arsenal could do if someone slights him and sets him stomping his little feet.

Whatever happens, the country (and the rest of the world) is in for a rough ride, but there are a few glimmers of hope: there’s still the chance that the Electoral College will do their duty come December 19 and reject Trump the Chump; if they don’t, there’s the possibility that he’ll do something incredibly stupid and illegal that’ll get him impeached (I can kinda see that happening before this time next year, to be honest); meanwhile there are plenty of sensible people on both sides of the aisle who’ll oppose him and his Bizarro-world cabinet of defectives, hopefully enough to be able to stop some of the worst from coming to pass; and then there are the activists like the ACLU and others who’ll be doing their level best, too. Maybe I’m being overly optimistic, but the alternative is ulcers, and having had one of those I’m trying to stay hopeful.

RANT OVER.

Now to other things. As I said, I’m back to something like normal on the work front, and that means more time for other things INCLUDING GETTING BACK TO WRITING, YAY! The Artemis Device has been sitting there since, what, April? waiting for me to edit it so that it can be published. I actually did some work on it today. After so long away from it, I’m rusty; I still haven’t finished chapter 1, even. But I’ll do some more tomorrow and I plan on setting some time aside on work days, too, to get more done. The more I do, the more momentum I’ll get built up and the easier it’ll get. I’ll be glad when it’s all finished, because I have two other writing projects I want to work on but I’m not allowing myself to get sidetracked until this editing is done, done, done. But boy, today was kinda rough.

What else?

Reading: I’m about 80% through Abaddon’s Gate (book three of The Expanse). Damn, these books are good.

TV: I admit it, I can be a terrible binge-watcher at times. I’m finally watching the last couple of seasons of The X-Files (for the first time ever). I watched both seasons of Carnivàle (don’t you hate it when a damned good show gets cancelled because, hey, good TV don’t mean nothin’ if the advertisers aren’t making their pile). I’ve been watching Fringe again, and I’m part way into season 4. Things on my list that I haven’t got to yet: Westworld and Twelve Monkeys.

Enough blog post for now. I call beer o’clock, and time for dinner. Meanwhile, here’s Vixey the cat to keep you company:

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Until next time, gentle reader…

VOTE.

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I’VE said it before and I’m saying it again now: wars have been fought, and many, many people have died to protect your right to choose your leaders. Be proud that you live in a country like that; many places are ruled over by tyrants, and despots, and others who in a properly civilised society would be in jail. You have the right, so don’t let your country down by not casting a vote. Your vote is your voice.

Your vote COUNTS. Never, ever, think that it doesn’t. And in this election it doesn’t just count; it’s vitally important to stand up and be counted. This country—and others—will suffer if Trump gets to move into the White House. I don’t see how any sane person would want to give a lying, bigoted misogynist the keys to the country, or access to the nuclear launch codes.

The Brexit vote in the UK recently was a disaster, but what made it particularly bad was that after it went the wrong way I was reading about people who voted Leave because they thought their vote didn’t matter. Their votes counted, and your votes will count on November 8. Don’t make the Brexit mistake.

Vote. Get out and vote. Do it now, if you can. And even if you can’t bring yourself to vote for Clinton, then vote for anyone else but Trump.

VOTE.

@NoMansSky Is Not The Game I Paid For

THE last few months have been hell. Quite apart from the personal loss (see earlier posts), I’ve been working on a web site project that for reasons I won’t go into, has a lot of work to do in a short deadline, and that’s meant long days and weekends. Everything else has gone to the wall; I’m supposed to be editing Artemis, but after working for eleven hours without a break I couldn’t brain any more. I haven’t had time to write a blog post in months. I haven’t even had the oomph to tweet.

Things changed a couple of weeks ago. August 11 was deadline day. The project still wasn’t 100% (but thanks to RESTeasy and AngularJS, it was close—without those, it would have been way further behind), but enough of the cogs were in place so that preliminary testing could start.

Then came August 12, and with it the release of No Man’s Sky on Steam. So, while I was still busy getting the last bits of the web application working, I was looking forward to being able to relax with a game I’d been waiting for since I’d pre-paid for it in May.

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The trailers had been awesome. Dinosaur-like alien animals wandering along a lake shore. Rhinoceros things chasing prey through a forest. Space battles. Eighteen quintillion planets, each unique. And at last, I could play it.

So I installed it and started playing. No tutorials other than that it starts you off with a busted starship, so you have to figure out how to mine materials to make the repairs. Once I got my ship off the ground I was able to start exploring, and it was fun.

For a while.

Then I realised that it wasn’t as much fun as the trailers and the hype had led me to believe it was going to be. Is each planet unique? Maybe, if you take small variations into account. But I found that a lot of the desert planets are pretty much the same as each other. And the hot planets are pretty much the same as each other. And the cold planets are pretty much the same as each other.

And where were these huge dinosauroids? I haven’t found anything bigger than a large dog.

As far as variation across any given planet goes, forget it—explore the few hundred metres around your landing spot and you’ve explored the world, because if you take off and land somewhere else, it all looks the bloody same. No world I found had polar regions and tropics and deserts and mountain ranges and oceans, or even two of any of those. Basically, pick one of the above, and imagine a whole world made of it, and that’s a planet in NMS. So much for spending a few hours exploring to see what a planet has to offer.

I carried on, mining stuff to keep my ship and exosuit charged, and finding new tech “recipes” to improve the ship’s weapons and such.

Warp into a system, land on a planet, mine stuff. Hit the other three or four planets in that system, do the same. Gather materials to make a warp cell, charge the warp drive, warp to the next system. Rinse and repeat. It gets old pretty quick. I began to wonder if there was anything more to it. There doesn’t seem to be.

Even after five or six dozen planets in a couple of dozen systems, I still haven’t found a planet like the ones in the trailer. No big lizards. Quite a few planets are devoid of animal life; some are just dead rocks.

And about those worlds and systems . . .

Eighteen quintillion planets. That is a HUGE number. If every person on Earth was playing NMS, there would be something like two or three billion planets for every single player.

But there aren’t that many people playing. From what I’ve read, the number of players is somewhere around the one million ballpark. But let’s be generous and say they have ten million. That’s still (punches numbers into calculator) something like two trillion planets each.

Yet after fewer than a dozen warps, I hit a system that someone else had discovered a couple of days before. By all accounts on the Steam discussion boards, this is a common occurrence.

THAT SHOULDN’T BE POSSIBLE. Not so often that people are reporting it daily. Not with that many planets. There are basically two possibilities here:

  1. The game is starting all the players in a microscopically tiny region of the potential universe; or . . .
  2. Hello Games and Sean Murray are lying about the number of planets. After all, if they used 32-bit numbers instead of 64-bit, there would be about four billion possible planets. That’s still a bloody big number—so big that I doubt there’d be any way to tell the difference by just looking at the galaxy map. But with “only” four billion planets the chances of running into a system that someone else already encountered are much higher. High enough that it could conceivably happen daily, I think.

So all in all I have to say that No Man’s Sky is a BIG disappointment. And at sixty bucks (which makes it the priciest game I have ever bought) that stings. I feel ripped off.

I’m pretty sure Hello Games, with only fifteen developers on staff, weren’t able to deliver the game with all the content they intended and promised—but instead of saying so, they left the $60 tag on a game that is maybe worth $20. Hell, maybe less—I’ve bought better games for ten bucks.

See, here’s the difference between Hello Games and me: I know I’m not going to hit the deadline for preliminary testing, and I tell the analysts what’s going to be missing, and they tell the customer. So when the deadline comes the customer isn’t all bent out of shape about the missing bits. And in the meantime I’m still working on those bits, and if I can get some or all of them working before preliminary testing becomes Final Qualification Testing, that makes them all happy and shit. HG didn’t do that. They led the customers to believe that the game would look like the trailers, right up to release day, and then everyone’s upset and Hello Games goes all quiet. Not professional, guys.

I’ll continue to check it on Steam every so often, and any time there’s a patch or upgrade I’ll play for a bit to see if any of that promised content shows up. But I’m not holding my breath.

Meanwhile, I’m going to get on my gaming system and play some. But not No Man’s Sky. I think I’ll play Sir, You Are Being Hunted—a game that delivered what it said it was going to.

[Update: I thought about it, and it struck me that HG could have come clean before release day, but they didn’t. They could have dropped the price, but they didn’t. They could have apologised, but they haven’t. They haven’t done a damn thing to make up for what they’ve done. Fuck them; they’re not getting a free ride on my dime if I can help it. If it’s not too late, I’m hitting up Steam for a refund.]

[Another update: Steam doesn’t refund money on games played for more than two hours, a limit you’d exceed pretty easily in NMS. I think it was closer to twenty hours before I even began to suspect that the game wasn’t going to be up to expectations. Oh, well.]