The Joy of Candy

By Shamus
on Apr 30, 2017
Filed under:
Personal

I mentioned this last week, but not everyone listens to the podcast. So here is the text version:

One of the great delights of parenthood is introducing someone to candy. You get to be the one to put the very first piece of chocolate in the mouth of another human being. You get to see the look on someone’s face when they discover that chocolate is a thing that exists!!! Granted, they haven’t usually mastered language enough to describe the experience, but (judging by most photo albums) toddler facial expressions are worth a thousand pictures.

Things didn’t work out this way with our oldest. When Bay was growing up she couldn’t tolerate candy. Give her some candy, and twenty minutes later she’s gone red in the face, with dark circles under her eyes, and is engaging in uncharacteristic self-stimming behavior. As a parent, it was pretty unsettling. I’m not going to detail all of our efforts to figure out exactly what things were doing this to her, but it was not a precise process. Eventually we discovered that if we kept her away from corn and the usual food dyes, she was fine.

About the same time, we discovered I couldn’t have corn either. My symptoms were different, but the result was the same: Eat corn, feel terrible.

We called this a “food allergy”, but I’m not convinced this has anything to do with the immune system. Then again, I don’t know what it is. When I was growing up, I never heard of anyone who was “allergic” to corn. That’s crazy! That’s like being allergic to water! But then as the 90s rolled around I’d occasionally hear about people having this problem. Then in the 00s the problem afflicted Bay and I. These days it doesn’t seem uncommon at all. I know several people who can’t touch corn without taking a voyage through the Valley of Regret, down the river of Oh God Why Did I Eat That.

The worst is when I go to a party or family gathering. Continue reading »


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The Site is Shaping Up

By Shamus
on Apr 28, 2017
Filed under:
Notices

Yes, I know we’re all sick to death of talking about fonts, cascading style sheets, and site layout. But it needs to be done. I mean, you wouldn’t want the site to still look like this would you? Of course not. Let’s just get it over with.

The short version: I’m nearly done tinkering with the site. Let me know if anything is still broken in terms of usability. Please be specific.

The 1,000 word version:

If you’ve ever clicked on the “archives” drop-down box above, you’ve probably noticed that this site has been running continuously since 2005. There are people old enough to vote now who weren’t old enough to read when this site began. During that time, screens have become both larger and smaller. Desktop users have embraced 16:9 jumbotron monitors while mobile users have created a demand for sites that can be comfortably read on a five-inch screen.

The well of content is deeper and the needs of the readership are more complex. This wouldn’t be a big deal if I was one of those fancy professional web developers with hipster glasses, an iMac, and a $10 Starbucks coffee too complex to pronounce. But I’m an aesthetically numb engineer and I’m mostly half-assing my way through this increasingly challenging job. Some of the challenges are just a normal part of web development, while others are problems created by past-me. (That lazy bastard.)

So let’s look at the problems I’ve left for myself. Also I’m going to “decorate” this post with archived images of how the blog looked in years past.

Continue reading »


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Arkham City Part 14: Freeze Tag

By Shamus
on Apr 27, 2017
Filed under:
Batman

Dr. Freeze has set up shop in the old Gotham City Police Department. He’s got his weapons back and he’s wearing his suit. Batman hands over the blood and Freeze sticks it into a machine that looks like a centrifuge but is actually a space magic science machine. The cure appears in less time than it takes to make toast. I’m sure you’ll be unsurprised to discover the cure comes in the form of blue science juice.

Before Batman went crawling around under Arkham City playing Tomb Raider for three hours, these two had agreed that Batman would get some blood from Ra’s, and Freeze would use it to synthesize a cure. But now that he’s holding the cure in his hand, Freeze wants to use it to negotiate with Batman.

That’s actually kind of reasonable. Freeze is a supervillain, he doesn’t like Batman, and he’s not really getting anything out of this deal.

Joker has kidnapped Nora, Freeze’s frozen wife. Freeze wants Batman to rescue her. Again, this is reasonable. If Freeze storms the place and starts killing Joker’s guys, one of them might hurt Nora. Or she might be hurt in the battle. Or they might threaten to hurt her and he’d have no choice but to retreat. But Batman? This is the perfect job for him. He can slip in, pacify the guards, and secure Nora’s cryogenic container.

Continue reading »


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Nan o’ War CH9: Fifteen Men on a Big Ol’ Chest

By Rutskarn
on Apr 26, 2017
Filed under:
Lets Play

Having just killed a bunch of thugs to protect a man I’d just beaten up to scare him into paying me to kill a bunch of other thugs who were probably paid to beat him up to scare him into paying me to protect him, I think I’ve proven that my capacity for vicious, backbiting, syntactically ambiguous crime is bottomless. Really, I have no moral standards whatsoever. But you know what I do have?

Regular standards. Screw this Mickey Mouse mine mission that keeps popping up. Actually, you know what, screw this whole territory. I think I’ve had enough of rum-dandy colonial life. Time to really commit to this romantic aesthetic and cruise up the island chain to Þe Olde Pyrate Faction.

Note the differences between a pirate town and a regular town. For one thing, there`s a pirate flag. For another, when I set foot on shore, all Spaniards worldwide wrinkle their noses in unison and make a note to hate that granny they`ve never met.
Note the differences between a pirate town and a regular town. For one thing, there's a pirate flag. For another, when I set foot on shore, all Spaniards worldwide wrinkle their noses in unison and make a note to hate that granny they've never met.

Behold the Caicos Islands! I can’t wait for these to be settled, uh, ten years from now.

Continue reading »


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The End of an Era

By Shamus
on Apr 25, 2017
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

I’ve been collaborating with Josh Viel since 2010. We’ve done Spoiler Warning for seven years, and The Diecast for Four. But as of now we’re going our separate ways. While I haven’t personally spoken to Chris yet, I’ve been told he’s leaving too.

We’ve had disagreements over how I run this site. I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but at the same time I need to explain the disagreement or I’ll end up buried in questions, rumors, and speculation. So here’s the short version: He’s been unhappy with how I run this community and he couldn’t in good conscience continue to participate. The most recent Spoiler Warning post was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I didn’t step in when he thought I should, and I allowed comments to stand unchallenged that he thought deserved censure. (In my own reckoning, I should simply have closed the comments when people got angry. I didn’t feel the need to personally weigh in.) This was only the latest in a long series of disagreements over this sort of thing. This has been a long time coming.

Continue reading »


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Diecast #197: BATTLEGROUNDS, Westerado, Call of Duty

By Shamus
on Apr 24, 2017
Filed under:
Diecast

Direct download (MP3)
Direct download (ogg Vorbis)
Podcast RSS feed.

Hosts: Rutskarn, Shamus, Campster and Baychel.

Continue reading »


2020201171 comments. (Seventy-one is the largest supersingular prime!)



The Worst Job

By Shamus
on Apr 23, 2017
Filed under:
Personal

The modem coughs and screams like someone beatboxing to white noise. Why the shit do modems always default to ear-splitting volume levels, and why can I never remember where you go to change it?

The connection happens and I’m ready to begin work for the day. I open Microsoft Outlook Express, hit “Check Email”, and then brace myself for the worst part of the day.

It’s 1997.

Part of my job involves answering technical questions from our users. This means my email is public. It’s posted on our website, and it’s in my signature on the message board. Which means spam bots have had years to discover it. Which means all the spammers have it. Also, a couple of years ago our company went from free-to-play to a paid model. This pissed people off, and part of the public backlash / protest was that someone signed our emails up for various porn mailing lists.

I don’t know if it’s the mailing lists or the spam bots, but these days I get between one and two hundred emails a day, and 90% of them are advertisements for pornography.

Maybe if you’re young you imagine “porn” means HD video of attractive people doing obvious things that I don’t need to belabor here. But this is 1997, and spammers don’t yet have vast botnets of compromised machines to deliver their spam payload. The internet is slow, bandwidth is expensive, and spammers still sort of pay to send out their spam.

Continue reading »


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Life is Strange EP6: Hella Wowzers!

By Shamus
on Apr 21, 2017
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning


Link (YouTube)

The scenes with David are really hard for me to watch. This stuff with unjust, overbearing, sanctimonious adults in positions of power is a little too real for me. I’m kinda glad I skipped this game now. I give the game full marks for being emotionally affecting, but these aren’t really emotions I care to feel.


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New Site Theme

By Shamus
on Apr 21, 2017
Filed under:
Random

I am no longer the sole regular contributor to this site, so I really ought to discuss things with my blogging roommates before I make any sweeping changes. But I didn’t. I guess I figured it was easier to ask forgiveness than permission.

Changing the site theme is always controversial. I don’t think I’ve ever made a change that didn’t get at least some push-back. But this is a big one, and I expect we’ll have a bit of a shake-out period.

For those of you reading this site from the future, this is what the site looked like yesterday, and this is what it looked like after the switch.

Important changes…

Continue reading »


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Life is Strange EP5: Knock Over All the Things

By Shamus
on Apr 20, 2017
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning


Link (YouTube)

We already gave our answers in the show, but I’m curious what everyone else thinks: This game featured fewer puzzles in the later chapters. Do you think this is due to general corner-cutting, or was it a deliberate response to the player base?

Is clumsily knocking things over supposed to be a major theme in this game? In this episode alone Max broke the snowglobe, dropped the pictures into the oil, and dropped that gizmo behind the washer. Also, there was the anecdote about knocking over the wine bottle.


201030 comments. (A twenty-sided die has 30 edges.)



Arkham City Part 13: Old Old Gotham

By Shamus
on Apr 20, 2017
Filed under:
Batman

Batman descends into Old Gotham to look for Ra’s Al Ghul. Well, I guess this is Old Old Gotham, since Arkham City itself is already built from Old Gotham. The city is a bit young to have this many archaeological layers, but comic book gonna comic book.

There’s some puzzles and travel and combat and other tomfoolery. At the end Batman is barely holding it together. The toxins are catching up with him.

Batman was dosed with Titan formula at the end of the last game and came out unscathed. Joker has endured this stuff in his blood for months and only now is it really getting to him. Batman got a diluted dose via Joker’s blood a few hours ago and already he’s in worse shape than Joker.

There’s actually an explanation for why the toxin seems to be so inconsistent. The explanation is, “It’s a videogame based on a comic book.”

The Joker Toxin has been wearing him down over the past hour or so. The game even lowers Batman’s max health. I’m glad his weakness is reflected in gameplay and not confined to cutscenes. Also, this is a good way to gently increase the difficulty without needing to introduce new foes. Remember that this is a game where it’s possible to get through an entire fight without taking a scratch. The game is just being a little less forgiving about how many mistakes you can make in a fight.

Continue reading »


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Life is Strange EP4: Captain Cringe

By Shamus
on Apr 19, 2017
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning


Link (YouTube)

I think our different reactions to Warren are kind of interesting. Chris and I both feel like Warren represents some earlier, terrible version of ourselves. Chris feels sorry for Warren, but I get mad / frustrated at him. To be clear, when I joke about bullying him I’m not saying I’d actually enjoy hurting him. It’s more that he’s sort of this embodiment of a lot of embarassing moments in my life and I’d love to destroy those moments. It’s not that I want to kick Warren’s ass, but I would like to kick the ass of what he represents.

Being middle aged sucks in terms of health and comfort, but it really is nice to not go through life burning some new humiliation into my memory every week or so.


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