Rant Time

Today’s blog will be something of a minor rant. But first, the normal stuff. Mhari and I are doing well. Mhari’s arm (which suffered a strain from a very minor fall some weeks back) is doing much, much, much better. Dr James and time together helped her heal from things. And she’s regaining grip strength rapidly. And that helps my personal frame of mind a great deal.

On the MMO front, we’re mostly doing the normal things in the normal ways on the normal game. Haven’t done much on the Issue 14 open beta this week. Mostly because I’ve sort of got tired of dealing with the bugs (which are to be expected… it is still beta for a reason, after all) and just been generally tired.

On the movies front, Mhari and I watched Twilight during the past week. (It might have been Tuesday night.) I’m not going to go into a deep review of the movie as plenty of people have done that out on the web. Personally I thought the movie was slow and not all that good. But I also don’t feel like I wasted the 120 some minutes that I spent watching it. It was a movie. It was sort of a vampire movie. Best thing I can say about the movie is that the ‘family’ of vampires in it were cool. I was expecting dark purposes and evil and things from them, but they are really a family and that was cool to see. But otherwise it was a ‘ho humm’ movie to me.

And now, the rant…

You see, last weekend we got the ‘World of More’ letter from Comcast, telling us that they were going to do away with analog transport of channels above channel 34 on their cable. And in support of this they would be providing us with little boxes for our TV’s, free of charge, so that we could keep watching the channels we are paying for. We have Basic and Expanded Basic. Comcast is doing way with Expanded Basic and forcing (no matter what THEY call it, it is still force) their customers to go digital.

In the letter they gave a number we could call. I set it aside to deal with ‘later’. But on Sunday (I think… might have been Saturday) I received a call and it was Comcast calling ME to see how many of the free boxes I needed (and trying to sell me a Starz package free for the first year… I turned it down, but it took three trys for them to accept me turning it down). The long and short of the call is that I told them we had 3 TVs (which we do). And they said they would be sending them to me in the next 3-5 days. I said okay, shrugged and hung up, going back to my game or whatever I was doing at that time.

Then Monday on our door is a UPS tag saying that something from Comcast had been tried to be delivered. And on Wednesday the moons and planets were aligned and I picked up the package from our complex landlord.

When I opened the package there were three units in there. A larger DCH70 set-top cable box and 2 PACE DTA’s. The Motorola DCH70 is the standard digital tv set-top box used by Comcast and is a no frills box that supports Comcast On Demand and the like. It has some on-board ram for storing a limited amount of content locally allowing it to do some minor DVR-like features. When you plug it in, it sounds like there is a hard drive spinning up, but it might just be fans. I don’t know.
 
And the DTAs (which it SAYS is for Digital Transport Adapter but could easily mean Digital to Analog) are little boxes with a coax in and a coax out, a serial port (mini-plug style) for technician use, and a channel 3/4 switch.

All of these boxes were easy to install and came with all the cables and things. The DTA’s also come with a little dongle for the IR receiver for the remote control for the box so you can hide the box out of site and just have this little button of a thing where the IR signals can reach it.

Speaking of the remotes, the one with the DCH70 is a ‘Universal Remote’ and can be set up to control the other A/V devices you are going to use with it. The remote with the DTA is a basic semi-universal remote in that like the simpler remotes, you type in a code based on your make of TV and it can then control your TV for you, with it doing channel changes on the DTA (with your TV tuned to channel 3 or 4) and the volume control from your TV and the power button controlling both DTA and TV at the same time.

Once things were installed, I then had to call in to Comcast’s Digital Activation service center and get activated. All the information I needed for that was in the letter that came with the package. EXCEPT that it DID NOT tell me that I would be chasing back and forth to each of the TVs doing things at the direction of the person on the phone. I was chasing from room to room making sure the screen said the right thing and then they had to ‘send signals’ to each of the boxes to tell them to download their programming. 45 mins for the DCH70 and 30 mins for the DTAs. Sure glad I didn’t get any work calls during that time. (I was working from home.)

Initially the reception on the DTA’s STUNK. Lots of digital dropouts and blocky vision so common to incomplete signals. But after an extra hour, that all faded away and settled down and Mhari says the signal clarity for her TV, which was never that good with an analog signal) is more than fine. Better than the analog signal.

The only problem we had left was that one of Mhari’s channels that she likes to watch, the History Channel, wouldn’t work. All it gave was a ‘One Moment Please’ message explaining that the signal was temporarily interrupted. I spent another hour on ‘live chat’ with a support rep trying to get that channel to work on both the DTA-equiped TVs. Eventually, it finally worked on Mhari’s TV. It still doesn’t work on mine, but I am sick of trying to deal with it and the rep said to just take the unit to the nearby service center and they will swap it. GRRR.

Now, here are my gripes and purpose for this rant…

Thanks to being FORCED to go to these boxes, we can no longer record anything on channels 35 and up as those channels are soon going to go away in analog form to make way for more ‘on demand’ and pay-to-view content. And if we want to record anything above 35, we would have to have the box in line to the DVR and make sure the set-top box is set to the channel we want to record from. And we don’t have IF Blaster tech in the DVRs because them being ‘cable ready’ was supposed to avoid having to worry about that issue.

Second, I bought an HDTV for myself back in January. When I hooked it up to cable I suddenly had 720i or 1080i additional channels I could get from my cable. Now that I have this box hooked up as required to get the 35 and up channels, my 1080i and 720i signals from the channels BELOW 35 are GONE and no longer usable. If I want to get those, I have to disconnect the DTA so it doesn’t interfere. GRRRRRRRRRRR! Now I only get HD from my Screenplay HD. And if I want HD from Comcast I am going to have to pay Extra for it. GRRRRR. Or use a antenna to get the broadcast signal.

So, I am now really quite upset with Comcast. Their advertising campaign about not having to worry about the Digital Switch (now coming this summer rather than having happened last month) because you have Comcast, while true, is misleading. People with analog equipment DON’T have to worry, but not because things are not going to have to change, but rather because rather than having to spend (or get for free with a coupon) to get a converter box, instead Comcast is going to SEND you a converter box and make your VCRs, DVRs, Dual Tunner TIVO series 2’s and the like next to useless in the same way that the Digital Switch is.

What I am most disturbed by is that I really, really, really don’t want to have to buy new DVRs with CableCards, and then be charged by Comcast for these ‘extra TVs’ that will be connected to their system, just to be able to watch programs on MY schedule and NOT on the schedule of TV Executives and advertisers.

Of course, to be honest, both with myself and the world at large, do I really WATCH true TV any more? Yes, I had been recording Heroes to watch later. I believe Mhari records Desperate Housewives or some other set of programs. And we sometimes learn of a program that we’d like to see and set up a one-time recording of it. All this because we play our City of Heroes games during the primetime hours that these programs often are aired at, and want to watch the programs later, on Tuesday or Thursday night or on the weekend when we are NOT playing CoX. We like to adjust the TV viewing to OUR schedule and not adjust to the TV’s schedule.

However, that being said… Heroes, as an example, is available on a NUMBER of sources either starting the same night it is aired or the next night. We have a Roku, and through that we can watch Netflix Watch Instantly things directly on our TV. This includes Heroes at no extra charge beyond our normal Netflix subscription. Programs like Dr. Who we can usually watch the same way as soon as the DvD set comes out. Or buy the DvD set ourselves and watch it (or both, as we have done of late – we own the DvDs but are watching it through the Netflix player as it is more convenient).

So far, nearly everything we might want to watch is available on DvD or through the Netflix player on the Roku. And recently the Roku added support for Amazon. This means that if we can’t get it ‘free’ via Watch Instantly on Netflix, and don’t want to wait for the DvD to reach us in the main, we can RENT it through Amazon! And all without watching Cable TV. Or ‘broadcast TV’ for that matter.

So… really, what do we need with Cable TV any more? Hell, if it wasn’t for Comcast’s great broadband internet service (said internet service being something that makes the Roku able to work at all) I would likely ditch Comcast altogether at this point. I only need it for internet service.

Oh, and by the way, Said Comcast Internet service would cost more if we were not also Comcast Cable TV subscribers… so that little thing sort of means we aren’t likely to switch it off yet.

Now, we have been getting HUGE amounts of offers from AT&T UVerse to go over to THEIR system. I am getting sorely tempted. Again, if their internet service was as good as Comcast’s is, and their cost was less than or equal to what Comcast charges AND I could record TV and use my HDTV without the stupid restrictions that have come into being… I’d jump in a minute.

Lastly… I don’t see CableCard slots being advertised with HDTVs… do any of them come with those slots without my having to have a stupid cable set-top box to talk to my cable system?

Right now I am just wondering how soon it will be before Comcast starts charging me as if I were one of their digital subscribers, which would mean at least a $30 month jump in my bill. AND I am expecting to be charged rent for these ‘free’ boxes they sent me.

All I know is, right now Comcast is pushing me away more. And contributing more to my stopping watching TV. Can’t say that’s a bad thing, really… but it really doesn’t sound like that would be their Intent. Don’t they want to KEEP customers, not lose them? Aren’t they in the business of feeding my supposed TV addition, not curing me of it?

Anyway, that’s my rant… I’m done with it. It’s not all coherent, and it’s not all rational. But it’s there. Thanks for wading through it, and if you just skipped to the end, I won’t blame you. I’ll be back next week, hopefully with praises for something, not a rant. Have a good weekend!

Greetings StarFighter!

No, I’m not writing about old movies and video games this week, it’s just a title that popped in my head to attach to this week’s blog post, nothing more.

Mhari and I are doing fairly well, this week. The usual back aches and her arm still hurting her from that fall a couple of weeks back. And I am suffering the usual fun health side-effects from high levels of stress generated by my day job and balance out by the fact that I still HAVE a paying job.

Most of the week has sort of gone by in a blur with all the work at work. That’s the way it is, the busier you are with work, the quicker it goes by in retrospect. And I really have been working this week, that’s for sure. However, it’s the good sort of work. Actually being productive and feeling that one is actually DOING something rather than hurrying up and waiting for something to happen or some computer process to do its thing.


Over in the City of Heroes universe, on Monday Flying Fox’s team finally acquired the 8 heroes needed and started the Dr Quarterfield Task Force out in the Shadow Shard. Already it’s been kinda fun. Yes, it’s a lot of fighting the same thing all over the place, but it’s still content none of the regular crew have done before.

Wednesday two of the Wolf Pack’s members we off with visiting parents and the like, so the rest of us decided to just hang out in the base and get back to the Silver Mantis Strike Force next week. In other words, two players were unavailable and the majority of the rest of us decided to head over to the test server.

Tonight it will be time for Thrilling Adventures again. I’m looking forward to the team making further progress in things.

Last week we tried to do some of the Ouroboros missions… and ran smack dab into Nosferatu in on of the arcs and found him IMPOSSIBLE for us to do enough damage to, even with a team of 6. Mainly what we needed was another healer and a true tank. Having a Kinetics and/or Radiation Controller would also have helped… though if we had had 8 players he would have been an AV and even harder to beat. We just DON’T have that exact right power mix. We have 1 Mind Control/Empathy Controller as our healer, 2 Keldians (a Peacebring and a Warshade), 2 scrappers and a Blaster. No real tank other than the Keldians turning into Lobsters… and they just can’t take the negative energy drains that this EB does. So we dropped the task force and decided to go do other things this week when it’s time. Maybe the Vanguard missions. We do fine against Rikti. And I have gotten over my annoyance with trying to do the Vanguard stuff in a group.

The other thing that took up time this past week was the Issue 14 Open Beta. Yes, Mhari and I were in the closed beta. That’s the NDA thing that we couldn’t comment on. I’ve written 2 AE missions and published them. They are ‘Delivery for Commander Kitty’ (Arc ID 401) and ‘Power and Principles’ (Arc ID 516). I am rather proud of them, but they were the first ones that I worked on and show it in a lot of ways. I plan to do a lot more with this system.

During Closed Beta around 2000 storyarcs were written by the testers. Open Beta started on Tuesday of this week and when I last looked there were close to, or over, 20,000 arcs by Thursday night!!! That’s a LOT of people trying out the system and working on things. During closed beta I only had time to play through around 15-20 arcs by other people. I’ve gotten in about 3 more since Tuesday. Already, without anything going live, I already see how there will never be ANY way to be able to play ALL the player written content. There’s just going to be TOO much.

Of course, when Issue 14 goes live, it sounds like less than 100 of those arcs will be ‘automatically’ brought over as a part of the launch. Its likely only going to be the ones marked Developers Choice that are going to have that distinction. But I am still predicting that it will take less than a day to be up near the 10,000 mark, and well over the 25,000 mark before the end of the week. And I would not be surprised if we hit the 1,000,000 mark somewhere in the first month or two. That’s a LOT of content!

Okay, so here’s what Issue 14 of City of Heroes is: It adds Player-created content to the game. Through the fiction of a company that can provide virtual realities for people, a player can design his own ‘storyarcs’, consisting of one (1) to five (5) missions. The player gets to select or design the person (or object) that ‘offers’ the story’s missions to the player’s character, writes all the text for that contact as well as all the text that is said by people inside the mission, all the text for the clues gathered, etc. The player gets to choose one or more goals for each mission within the story, and assign either standard opponent groups to fight against, or create their OWN custom groups. The custom groups can contain either a compatible mix of standard opponents, or even custom player-designed opponents. For each custom opponent (called a Custom Critter), the designer can design the critter’s costume (in the same way they can costumes for their characters that they play, using the same basic system), and select which primary and secondary power sets that critter’s powers come from… and they don’t have to stay with the archetype-restricted combinations that player characters do, either. And the difficulty (Standard, Hard, Extreme) you select for the critter plus the power level (Minion, LT, Boss, Elite Boss, AV) of the critter determines how MANY of the powers from those sets (and WHICH ones) the critter can use in the missions it is placed in.
 
Also needed to be selected for each mission is the map that the action will take place on. You select this from a wide array of the maps already in the game, such as Office Maps, Caves, warehouses, outdoor locations, etc. The type and size of the map you select determines how many of what types of goals can be in that mission.

Goals range from the ever disliked ‘Defeat All’, the common ‘Defeat Boss’, collections (where you have to, in the mission, click on one or more special objects to complete that goal), and a lot more. You can add ambushes, patrols, destructible objects, objects to defend, allies to rescue that will join you, hostages to rescue or kidnap, and battles that are breaking out without even you lifting a finger.  Goals can be set to being ‘required’, or they can be optional. Some goals can be set to ‘trigger’ when another goal is completed, creating a ‘chain’ of events.

And extra little bonus that makes a lot of sense is that all the work you do on your storyarcs, custom groups and custom critters is ACCOUNT WIDE. That means that you could be on as ‘Hero 123’ and work on something, then another time or later in the session, be on as ‘Villain XYZ’ and work on the SAME missions. What character you are connected to does not matter. What matters is the ‘mission’ files and ‘critter’ files that will be written out into special directories on your hard drive. This DOES mean that you can’t work on them on a different computer without copying those files over to that other computer, but it does allow for some interesting possibilities. (For example, it’s possible to use your currently being played character’s current costume to be used as the costume for a custom critter you are working on during that session. Thus permitting, without going to a tailor or previously saving out that character’s costumes, you to create a ‘Custom Critter’ version of your Hero or Villain and then including them as a Custom Contact or foe within one or more of the missions you are writing. This also provides a quicker way than Icon/Facemaker to export your costumes from your character, BTW. Especially as the Architect Entertainment buildings are more places in the game than the Icon/Facemaker locations. And they don’t cost INF to use.)
 
There ARE limitations to the Mission Creator. Storyarcs are limited (currently) to 110K each. And Custom Critters, due to all the costume information, take up a LOT of space in the file. So a single Storyarc can only fit a rough maximum of 14 custom critters at a time, regardless of how many missions you have in that storyarc. This requires some careful consideration when you are making storyarcs. Your custom group might contain any number of Minions, LTs, Bosses, Elite Bosses and AVs in it. But the moment you add ‘Huge MegaGroup’ as the enemy in your mission, the creator is going to tell you that you are in the red and can’t publish that mission! So you will need to create subsets of your Huge MegaGroup that only contains no more than 14 of those characters.

Personally, I make my Huge MegaGroup first. That way each of the characters has the proper ‘Display Name’ when they appear in the missions. Then I add them into a separate group called something like ‘Team X’ which contains a couple of minions, a couple LTs, a couple Bosses. I don’t put any Elite Bosses or AVs in the Subset Group. Instead, when I add a Defeat Boss goal, I select to choose the boss from ‘All Custom Characters’ and select ONLY that particular EB or AV from the list. That way ONLY that boss gets added to the Storyarc file and I don’t waste any of that limited 110K of storyarc space on characters that will never appear in the missions.

The other tip is to use characters from ‘standard’ groups everywhere you can. Standard opponents take very little space in the storyarc file. Standard opponents have a limited level range that they bring with them into a mission… so keep the group’s level range in mind… as the level range of the groups in it affect the level range of superpowers that’s going to be allowed on a mission. Some groups, like the Council are going to be available level 1 through 54. More info on standard groups are to be found on guides people are already writing out there and making available on the CoX forums… and don’t really belong in my blog. I’ve already gone to too much detail here as it is.

There are of course, more to Architect than just writing missions. There are rewards for playing those missions, in the form of something called ‘tickets’. When playing player designed content in the new system, rather than getting drops in the form of Recipes, Enhancements and Salvage (you still get Inspirations and INF, as well as XP if the level range of the mission is one where you didn’t have to be suppressed down below your actual level) you get ‘Tickets’. When playing solo, this is often a LOT of tickets. You also get Bonus Tickets, in an amount based on the amount of tickets earned from defeating foes. If you earn a special day job badge, that bonus can double! Tickets can be used to buy Enhancements (at the maximum level your character can use), Large Inspirations, Random Rolls for Uncommon and Rare recipes, and your choice of Uncommon and Rare Salvage. Need that Mu Vestment to complete building a IO? You can buy it with Tickets! (A -LOT- of tickets.)

The other reward for playing AE Storyarcs is badges. Whole PASSELS of badges. There are badges for earning tickets, for NOT earning tickets because you have too many, for defeating virtual enemies, for defeating custom virtual enemies, for rescuing/kidnapping people, for destroying things. There’s an Exploration badge (Thrill Seeker) inside the main AE building, and even a special badge (Early Bird) for connecting to the game during the introduction of Issue 14 to the game! And another badge in the Ticket Redeeming system that you can BUY (for 1000 tickets) called Payoff.

There is also a new day job badge (Architect – Grants extra Bonus Tickets when completing storyarc missions) for logging off in the AE building. And we know there is a Day Job Accolade as well, though I don’t know if anyone has figured out what other Day Job badge is needed in combination with the Architect Day Job badge to get it. Someone may have figured out by now. I haven’t read the boards today.

In addition to the architect system mentioned above, Issue 14 also brings a few minor Quality of life improvements, a 6th rank to the SuperGroup system (Super Leader, of which there can be only one per supergroup), independent security settings for supergroup storage containers (which I think only the Super Leader can edit, I’m not sure), a number of new systems for Arena PvP combat, and a number of special ‘PvP’ oriented Invention sets.

The special ‘PvP’ oriented Invention sets are a new concept for the game. These inventions are just like other Inventions in the game, where they provide enhancements to specific groups of powers, and when paired up in sets of 2 or more in the same power, grant bonuses that further enhance the character’s powers, even when that power is not being used. The differences are that these Inventions have TWO sets of bonuses for slotting them together in sets. One set of the bonuses works all the time, whether the character is in a PvE or PvP situation. But when the character is in a PvP situation the additional ONLY-IN-PVP bonuses ALSO come into effect, on top of the normal Bonuses! Some of these sets are VERY desirable, even in PvE.

Also, like Superior IOs in the game, their Set Bonuses (even the PvE ones) are active regardless of the active level of the character. But unlike Superior sets, ‘PvP’ IOs are available in levels other than level 50!

Here’s the catch though: The only way to get a ‘PvP’ IO recipe is going to be off of the ‘Market’ (Wentworths or the Black Market) or through one Player Character defeating another Player Character in a PvP situation. And it’s a SMALL chance of these dropping. And when one DOES drop, the player that earned it can’t earn another ‘PvP’ Recipe until 10 minutes passes, regardless of how many other players they defeat in that time. So these recipes are going to be RARE. As rare or more rare than Superior recipes.

Considering that since Tuesday the Test servers of Training Room and Training Room 02 have been full or crashing from overload (and the global chat server for the test systems has been crashing from the load), and from how many storyarcs have already been written since it went into Open Beta, I would say that there is an INTENSE amount of interest in this new Issue. More than I have seen in one of the Open Betas since Inventions got added in Issue 9. This is going to be a hug addition to the game even though there are no new Epic Archetypes, no new powersets, and no new zones being introduced with this issue.

There IS going to be some new Developer Content, called Celebrity Arcs. But it isn’t going to be a large amount. I think their saving all the big guns of content at NCNC for Issue 15 and beyond, whatever they are going to bring. All I know is while, outside of the content that will be generated by our fellow players, many may look on Issue 14 as having very, very little new to the game. But the breaking down of the ‘Content Wall’ and letting players in to play with creating content is going to be a HUGE addition to the game, well outside even the admittedly inflated expectations.

Many are going to see this system in Issue 14 as too limited. It doesn’t let them do all the things they want to do. It doesn’t let them become game developers. The ability of not selecting exactly where you want to put things on the map is one thing people are already wishing for. Also more control of what powers a Custom Critter has or does not have has been mentioned. Some people are going to be disappointed by the system and it’s limitations. But that would happen no matter what it contains. It could contain the Moon in it and people would want Mars. That’s just the way it is.

As you can tell, I’m very jazzed about Issue 14. And I am VERY happy the NDA was lifted and I can finally talk about this. It was really hard keeping my mouth shut, here and in the live session of the game when playing with my friends. When beta is in closed, you are not supposed to admit to being in it, even if asked directly. That’s one of the surest ways to either get kicked out of it, or just not be invited back when the Next Closed Beta comes up. And none of us that get into these things want to be left out next time. Never.

So, anyways, that’s what I have been doing with my time when not working or sleeping or playing City of Heroes on the live servers. I’m a Software Test Engineer in my day job in the real world… you would think the last thing I would want to do when I got home was do more Software Testing… but when it’s doing it for a game like City of Heroes… I really don’t think of it as more work. I get a chance to make the game I love to play a better place for myself and for my friends, and NCNC gets a skilled tester bashing away at the system. I’ll admit, I don’t try to break the game as much as I work to break the software I test in my day job… but then, that’s the difference between being paid to do something, and doing it for fun.


Gods, I wrote another missive in the little fits and starts between my paid work, didn’t I. Enough of this. Back to the grind stone. I’ll write again next week.

Book Review: ‘Undone’ by Rachel Caine

Undone by Rachel Caine

This is the first book in the new ‘Open Season’ series by Rachel Caine. The series is a spin-off of her ‘Weather Warden’ series, and comes from the timeframe of book 7 in that series, Gale Force. However, while it helps to have read the Weather Warden series to understand the world that the book is written in and for backstory on just what is going on elsewhere in the world, it’s not 100% required in order to read this one.

First of all, let me say that this book is wonderful. I enjoyed the pacing and the characters, and I highly recommend it, ESPECIALLY if you have read the ‘Weather Warden’ books.

Now, on to the story, first of all, the main character of the story, is a Djinn… or more correctly, she is until the story begins. For at the very beginning, the ‘conduit’ of all the ‘True Djinn’ unmakes her and remakes her as a human. Not a powerless human, but still a human. And for her to do any of the old ‘magic’ sorts of things now requires that she have a human give her the power. She even needs that ‘donation’ of power to keep living. And she’s not very happy with this. Not at all.

The story is about this newly formed person, whose name is Cassiel, dealing with her new place in existence and with the whole thing of what it really means to be a human and all that entails. You see, the ‘True Djinn’ are those Djinn that have NEVER been human. They’ve been a part of existence since before humans even came into existence. The ‘New Djinn’ are also out there, but they are ones that, in a general sense, were once human and some event of some sort happened, usually very traumatic, and they ‘became’ Djinn.

In recent times (in human terms) there was One ‘new’ Djinn, by the name of Johnathan, that the great powers and mother earth designated as the prime ‘conduit’ for all Djinn. But he gave up his ‘life’ to protect another New Djinn, by the name of David, who is now the new ‘Conduit’, but only for the New Djinn. The True Djinn now have one of their own, Ashan by name, as their ‘conduit’. Cassiel was one of them. Until Ashan cast her out for refusing to perform some mysterious task/duty/something.

So, in the first moments of Cassiel’s new existence as a human, she appears in the bedroom of the human Joanne, the Weather Warden companion of New Djinn David… Those reading the Weather Warden series know Joanne very well, and know what this sort of complication adds. And by placing Cassiel where he did, Ashan, who is no friend of the Wardens in the least, really complicates things for the Wardens.

So they ship her off to Arizona, along with one of their Wardens, an Earth Warden by the name of Manny Rocha, as her new partner. This is supposed to get them out of the mess going on in Florida (happening in the Weather Warden books) as well as gets them out of the way so that Cassiel doesn’t complicate things further. She’s not really trusted by the Wardens, as she’s an Ex-True Djinn, and they don’t trust the reasons Ashan dropped her on them, and because she needs power from someone like a Warden to live. So her motivations to ‘behave’ are not trusted. And the feelings are mostly mutual, because as an ex-True Djinn she has no reason to like Wardens, or humans at all, for that matter. She’s considered unstable, and unsafe. So she’s shipped out of the way.
 
So, what follows is a great example of character growth and story, one that stands on its own as well as compliments the Weather Warden series… and, as it IS the first book of a new series, the book ends with more unresolved issues than resolved ones. And it also leaves us with some really, really good characters, with plenty of motivation to work with. But don’t expect an easy ride. Cassiel is new at being human, and that has good and bad sides, as you can imagine. However, due to the fact that she needs energy from humans with power like a Warden, she doesn’t have the choice to walk away and just let the world go to hell in a handbasket.

I love Rachel Caine’s writing, and I will continue to pick up the Weather Warden and Outcast Season books as quickly as they are released. Ms Caine has another series, with 10 books of its own, called the Morganville Vampires, which I have read none of. I am currently hunting for Glass Houses which is book 1, so I can see if this series is as good, too.

Due to the fact that this book (and series) does tie in to the Weather Warden series, I recommend reading those, starting with Ill Wind and right through to Gale Force before reading Undone… it’s just not 100% necessary. Just without it you may miss a large chunk of the motivation for why David and Joanne (as well as other Wardens in the book) react to and treat Cassiel. All 8 of these books are excellent reads.

Happy Birthday Whyaylooh!

Yes, it is that time of year when my best friend and buddy, Whyaylooh, comes out of his hiding place and looks around and we all pause to see if he sees his shad… wait, wrong creature! No, really its just so cool to be able to wish this fine gentleman a most happy birthday. There’s few in the world that can claim a Friday the 13th as their birthday with quite so much style. You see, he was BORN on a Friday the 13th.

And this is a fine day to have a birthday on. It is also the birthday of:

  • Pope Innocent XII
  • Joseph Priestley, a noted English theologian and scientist
  • Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor
  • Earl Grey, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
  • Percival Lowell, known for his work studying ‘the canals of Mars’
  • Author L. Ron Hubbard
  • Pop singer Neil Sedaka
  • Actor William H. Macy
  • Adam Clayton, the base player for U2
  • Baseball player and Olympian (1984) Will Clark
  • and Marco Andretti, race car driver (grandson of Mario Andretti)

And this day had some interesting events happen on it in history (according to Wikipedia), such as:

  • The planet Uranus was discovered by William Herschel in 1781
  • The Rights of Man by Thomas Paine, was printed in 1791
  • The workday for Women and children in France was limited by law to 11 hours in 1900
  • The film Metropolis was released in 1927
  • The film The Love Bug was released in 1969
  • Apollo 9 returned safely to earth in 1969 after testing the Lunar Module
  • A little company called Microsoft had it IPO in 1986
  • And just last year, in 2008, the price of Gold hit $1,000 an ounce for the first time on the New York Mercantile Exchange

And so, I wish my buddy, Whyaylooh, a very, very Happy Birthday and a happy Friday the Thirteenth!


As to Mhari and I, we’re doing well. I’m not sleeping too well, but that I go through cycles like that and I failed to get to bed as early as I should have, so I didn’t get started well this morning. But I’m doing okay as of this writing. Mhari had a very minor fall last Sunday (thanks to a feral cat in the neighborhood that startled her as she was coming home from the library) that had her left arm a little out of whack. Dr James corrected the minor dislocations of her elbow on Monday and other than being a little sore and weak, it’s a lot better.

Work continues to be stressful and contains extra hours that don’t really contain any extra pay for myself, thanks to the wonders of the current ‘bad economic times’ here in the USA. I just keep thanking the powers that be that I am employed and count my blessings rather than complaining… at least not too much.
 
MMO activities on City of Heroes continue as they have for the past few weeks. Flying Fox’s team (Monday Nights on Guardian Server, hero side) continue to work their way towards 50, with many of the characters hitting level 45. Flying Fox should manage to do so this next session. If we can just get an 8th player (we’ve got 7 consistently) to join us on Monday nights (starting at 7pm PT and going to 10pm) we’d try to take on the Quartermain Taskforce… it requires 8 players to just start it.

Wednesday’s Wolf Pack (Wed Nights, Protector Server, villain side) finished the first villain strikeforce this week, and started the Silver Mantis one. We missed seeing Packhandler at all this week… we guess that he knew we would be finishing the Strike Force and figured he’d not be able to join us. If he shows up Wed, we might break the Silver Mantis Strike Force and start it over with him along. We’d have 8 then for that.
 
Tonight and every Friday night now, is Thrilling Adventures (Friday nights, Guardian Server, hero side). We’re going to start doing Ouroboros missions. There’s a whole slew of missions there that we can do that is stuff most of us have not done past certain points because it just can’t be done properly solo. So, why not. And then we might move to doing the Rikti War Zone missions. In general I feel that this team, despite not having a True Tanker, can take on nearly anything. And who knows, if Whyaylooh comes and joins us for his birthday… we WILL have a tanker, his Avenging Flame! That would be cool!

In other things, Mhari and I are still trying to put in time on that NDA covered project. Once of these days the NDA will be lifted and I might get to talk about it.

Well, that’s all for me, today. I might get some moments to write another book review. The reviews to come are: The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C. Hines, Undone (Outcast Season, Book 1) by Rachel Caine, The Eternity Artifact by L.E. Modesitt Jr and Key to Redemption by Talia Gryphon. And I just started Infoquake by David Louis Edelman.