Stephen R. Donaldson’s Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Fatal Revenant

We had to actually look up what “revenant” meant. Normally I would’ve had that one.. but unfortunately D&D references always skew my memory. It means, literally, ghost. Or more exactly disquited spirit (thank you Wikipedia) from Eastern European folklore.

Not having finished the novel I can’t comment on if it ends well, but at the halfway point it’s proved to be up to Donaldson’s usual standard. Characters filled with emotion and human foibles thread through the story along with the empowered embodiments of ideas and extremes. While there aren’t a huge cast of central characters each one is thoroughly, almost exhaustively, plumbed for depth in typical Covenant novel fashion.

Even taking the detail of Fatal Revenant into account (normally something that turns me off to a novel) I like the book. For some reason it clicks quite a bit better than other novels that expound at length on detail. Thinking on it, that’s probably due to the exposition being used on the characters, rather than merely their surroundings. Thomas Covenant novels evoke a visceral reaction that most books can’t, and this latest book is no exception.

Plantronics Explorer 220 Bluetooth Headset

Returning the unimpressive Jabra headset to Staples, I now needed to pick out a new headset to give a go-round.

Staples, by the way, tends to be very friendly about accepting returns. It’s one of the reasons I buy from them if I need something local or might end up exchanging it due to a lack of reliable information on the products quality.

Since it’s the same price ($39.99) i decided to go with Plantronics Explorer 220.

So far the unit seems to hold up well. Plantronics ear piece seems to be a much nicer fit. The sensation that I was hearing muffled audio is gone, although there is now a bit of static hiss in the background. I would guess that’s the trade-off between filtering and hissing in a mid-range unit.

We’ll see how the battery life and comfort hold up after a few days of use, but so far I’m more impressed with this unit out of the box.

On the Rain Slick Precipice of Darkness Episode One from PA

I had to pick it up. There really wasn’t a way around it, what with the game being available out the gate for Linux.

And it’s good! I’ve been playing Penny Arcade’s “On the Rain Slick Precipice of Darkness Ep1 for the past few hours (since I finished working) and it’s fun. Initially there was a bit of a hiccup loading the game but once I gave it a few tries it started up.

Another quible is that it eats massive amounts of CPU time on the x86_64 Debian release that I run on the laptop. Even so, the performance is okay once the game is going. Just don’t expect the system to be doing much else. Might be a x86_64 specific or Debian edgy specific problem, dunno.

Gameplay is similar to an updated Monkie Island or Zak McKracken. The engine is fairly novel, and delivers the story in a fun and simple manner. Don’t expect to be facing an incredibly tough stat building RPG.. the combat progression so far is fun, but it doesn’t get in the way of plot progression or the storyline.

And what a storyline! It’s got well spliced comic scenes liberally sprinkled throughout with pointed over-the-top humor that’s made Penny Arcade famous.

Rendering the PA crowd in 3D really seems to have payed off as well. The style captures quite a bit of Gabe’s feel for the pen with rounded lines and a realistic/cartoony presentation.

Check out the demo from the Greenhouse and grab a copy if you like it. For 20$ on any platform, it’s quite a bargain.

Penny Arcade Rain Slick Precipice of Darkness Screenshot 1Rain Slic Precipice of Darkness 2Rain Slick Precipice of Darkness Opening Screen

Jabra BT2010 Mini Review

After brief consideration of all the contenders for my Bluetooth headpiece dollar at the local Staples, I settled on the Jabra BT2010.

And am finding this to be a rather nasty mistake.

Sound quality with the BT2010 is so-so when paired up with my Samsung M510. There’s quite a bit of squelch on the line, muting the highs and lows of whomever is speaking to me.. which makes them completely incomprehensible when they modulate their pitch up or down.

Battery life is excellent. It’s been going for a few days so far and hasn’t had an issue. They appear to have gotten this bit right, as it seems to stack up to it’s expected 7hours on time or 200 hours standby. In mixed use the little Jabra does fairly well.

But where it really falls down is the comfort. This thing is equivalent to sticking a rock in your ear. I tried it on both the right and left side of my head, just to make sure it wasn’t something odd. Another thing to note on the comfort level scale is the solid plastic wrap-around for the ear. Not only is it uncomfortable, it doesn’t keep the unit attached to your head very well.

Don’t even consider their claim that you can wear it without the ear clip. It doesn’t stay on with it most of the time.

So I’d say avoid the Jabra BT2010 and go for something with a more comfortable earpiece and better ear-clip mechanism.

Building a House (Out of Sand)

To wit, sandbags.

Building materials, as you may (or may not) have noticed, are expensive. Really expensive. So how do you throw up a small structure on that spare plot of land you’re eyeballing because it’s really cheap and somewhere convenient?

Exactly the question I’ve been asking myself. You can get a decent plot of land anywhere on the cheap, but what to put on it to make it a bit more useful as a stopover destination.. there’s the rub.

Even without running water or electricity a campsite style layover’s not bad. But I always liked a cabin over a tent.

It appears there are a few options. Sandbags can be used to make a reliable structure (makes sense, they work for instant dams). Although to be honest those places look all together a bit too crunchy for my taste.

An outfit out of Africa intends to make a system for putting up a sandbag based structure that looks pretty slick. Unfortunately, their website doesn’t leave me with any indication on their status as a real company.

To get a better idea, this page on Sandbag shelter prototypes (mostly for disaster relief) contains video and picture documentaries of various implementations around the world. These folks also have some nicer looking structures than some of the other sites I ran into.

Thoroughly Confusing Last.FM

Since I seem to be hung up on Last.FM lately..

Last just can’t seem to keep up with my musical preference. If you’ll look over to the right, most of the entries are grayed out. It can’t figure out what I’m listening to.

Is it really that hard to see “6Zeromancer_-_Stop_The_Noise” and parse that down to Zeromancer or 6Zeromancer (we’ll assume the former, if you did a cross reference for validity) track called “Stop the Noise”.

C’mon. Cut us a bit of programming here.

TSR Releasing Dugneons & Dragons 4th Ed. RSN, Collective Yawn From Audience

So does anyone else actually care about D&D 4th edition? I’ve gotta admit, this is probably the least worthwhile thing that’s popped up on my media radar.

The conversion over to 20 base play was a big thing. 3rd Edition actually involved a lot of changes to make the game more comprehendable to players just starting to play.

(and this went over well, albeit irritating to anyone currently playing with the somewhat easier if higher learning curve 1st edition rules)

But that’s what you get when a bunch of technical folks design a math system for doing something. High learning curve with a fairly efficient method of accomplishing your goal. I’m sure that’s worse for sales.

So what do you get with the new shiny 4th edition, aside from new cover art?

Apparently, a lot of “Warcraft”-isms. Fancy names for things that have been around, if not codified in the “official canon” since the inception of the game. When they’ve made an official class called “Warlord” (see here) I don’t hold out much hope that this’ll be a meaningful release.

Remember, I don’t need to even *buy* the book to play the game anymore. The rule set, when reduced down to a bunch of D20 rolls, fails to need much explanation. And really, do you need to buy loads of manuals for a game that’s basically made up on the fly by the storyteller? Or in advance, for that matter… but they’re still doing the heavy lifting. The reference material is only marginally relevant.

Hell, I don’t even like the whole “ability and feat” thing. It adds in too much fiddly stuff to remember, detracts from the story, and at the end of the day doesn’t help much… this type of thing works for CRPGs because the computer is remembering everything for you.

When I have to actually track all sorts of things, try to figure out what a character needs the “lockpicking ability” instead of just having a single quick chart for the rogue class…

In short, I think I’ll go run a game without any extra cruft, just the base stats to roll against, and see how that goes to test this hypothosis that it’ll work smoother.

Until next time.

Where did Warren Ellis’s “Fell” Go?

So it’s been a while since the Fell trade paperback was published right? Mid last-year or so.

And then it just stopped being published. Which is kinda irritating.

My best guess is that they’re not paying Ellis and Templesmith enough to make it worth a constant release.. despite the comic being one of the hardest to find blockbuster sellers I’ve ever seen.

Granted, it does have a hard format to write. But while it’s very dense it’s also very short, which in theory balances out. For a good example of why, see many of the webcomics (or heck, even Phil Phoglio’s stuff, he’s been doing the format for ages). So the “it’s incredibly hard to do” statement doesn’t really wash for me.

So what with Ellis being hot property as a writer and all, he’s probably making more doing other projects at the moment and DarkHorse has to take what they can get. Just speculation.

Still, Fell is a great series and I’m patiently waiting for more releases. Even if I do have to make runs out to comic book shops that still have issues in stock (re: in New York) whenever they decide to release one.

Recent Diggable Media

It occurred to me that I haven’t put a series specific write up for anime lately, or anything on what I’ve been reading and listening too. Here’s a brief post to remedy that, possibly with some specific write-ups later.

Reading:

  • “Whitechapel Gods” by S.M. Peters
  • “Undead” by Richard Lee Byers
  • “Wrath of a Mad God” by Raymond Feist
  • “Twilight Watch” by Sergei Lukyanenko

And watching:

  • Welcome to the NHK!
  • Karas
  • Zombie Loan
  • Night Magician
  • Samurai Champloo
  • Ouran High School Host Club
  • Genshiken Season 2
  • Rental Magika
  • Denno Coil

And basically listening to the same run of audio. Nothing really exciting on that front. Groove Coverage, Tiesto, Ferry Corsten. Anjunabeats Worldwide off di.fm. A good run of Last.fm.

Even though it keeps insisting that I want to listen to bad 80’s New Wave and seriously clangy industrial, which I don’t.

And that’s it for now. Maybe I’ll have something up on the series or some single tracks that have caught my ear out of the noise.