I got nothing for a title

Our youngest daughter, Karalyn, the Seattleite with a career in video, was taken by ambulance to the ER this morning, after a weeklong bout with COVID. The trouble was revealed to be bloodclots in her lungs and left leg. She’s now recovering from emergency surgery, apparently well. But Jenny’s crying because this is the first surgery Karly has gone through without her mom there.

Change of topic: Since childhood, I’ve looked past every bully to the toadies empowering him. Take away those chickenshits, and the bully deflates, unwilling to fight you alone.

Confluence of topics: As a father I’m pissed, because COVID would be less of a problem if not for the ignorant, asshole antivaxxers. Especially the MAGA toadies standing behind Donald Trump. A bully whose political power has cowed the Republican party for a dozen years. I hate a bully, but I utterly loathe their toadies.

(Yeah, this just got political. But we’re in an earthquake of political shakeups this decade, and it’s stupid to pretend we’re not.)

Every bully and mob of toadies also has a crowd of onlookers. People either too afraid to get involved or too entertained. In this case the mass of genuine conservatives who have either caved to the mob for the sake of expediency or back it for financial gain.

An aside: Admittedly, I’ve always had philosophical differences with the Republican party. I don’t think the human race has achieved this level of civilization through a “That’s mine, hands off” attitude. Competition is fine for sports, but I believe that at heart we’re a collaborative species that excels while working together over Nature’s challenges. That’s philosophy. I’ve never despised anyone for a different point of view there.

Well, except for Conservative Evangelical Christians. The tribe from which I come. The “Why does my tax money have to go to food stamps for deadbeats?” gang. The ones who never really noticed that Jesus didn’t tell the rich man, “Donate all your money to a church or a museum,” he said “Give all your money to the poor.” The Christians who sort of gloss over the parable about everyone getting an equal wage. The Christians who oppose collective social support, but never really realized that we all share the same roads.

Again, those social issues are merely philosophical differences I have with conservatives. But don’t tell me you’re Christian and also espouse them.

Back on topic: The whole Republican party has twice now had an opportunity to choose differently in their primaries. And again, they’ve overwhelmingly chosen the bully, because … see my point about toadies and bystanders, above.

I used to admire the caution and discipline of conservatism. But their repeated choice of Donald Trump has left me with little respect for the Republican party. We’ve now walked well past philosophy into ethics, with life and death more pointedly on the line than ever.

So let me pointed to Trump supporters. You’ve chosen not just a team with a different point of view, you’ve joined the ranks of my enemy. (And if you’re in those ranks as a Christian, it’s your inatentiveness to your own instruction manual that pushes me and others toward atheism.)

If this post offends, measure that against a father’s offense at how Trumpism has contributed to his youngest daughter’s health hazard. You’ll understand how little I care about a few bruised egos.

To everyone else: Vote. And speak up in solidarity. The only way to break up a gang of toadies is to push your way through the bystanders and stand behind the bully’s victims.

Quod scripsi, scripsi

Steam Deck Playstation

Linux has sort of scared me. Sure, I come from a pre-desktop generation, typing things like C:\>D\lester\games\nevadasmith.exe on a black screen to launch a program. But Apple and Windows soon spoiled me with desktops and mice, with clickable icons and framed program screens with mouseover menus. I didn’t want to return to command line boxes if I could at all avoid it, and for Linux I feared it inevitable.

Then my Barcelonan buddy Abe bought a Steam Deck and brought it to Gary Con as his “laptop.” Packed it with a slim Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. Airport Security rules didn’t even make him turn on a handheld gaming device.

As a bonus, SteamOS runs atop a Debian-based Linux desktop. A less-than-scary desktop to get my feet wet. Now toss in a couple of out-of-date Chromebooks that I can afford to experiment on, and after some research, installs, and uninstalls, I settled on the super lightweight Bodhi Linux for the older one, and eventually on OpenSUSE for the newer one. Mainly both were choices for space, but user-friendly installation played a big part. (Arch was daunting to this relative newbie.)

Chromebooks aren’t actually designed for anything but ChromeOS, so there’s a little bit of under-the-hood work to replace their BIOS with something new. It’s not uncommon to have to troubleshoot audio; and some of the upper row of Chromebook keys (volume, brightness, refresh, etc.) don’t generally work immediately post-install. But there are so many friendly YouTube videos and message boards to walk you through, and communities devoted to different Linux devs and forks. It didn’t take much searching to find a script to remap the keyboard, nor to fix the sound on the newer machine (the old one had no sound problem at all).

That’s what I love most about open-source and community built stuff. And it’s what brings me to this particular post.

You already know that, using community info, I installed Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines with the incredible, fan-made, Wargames app on my Steam Deck. Supposedly couldn’t be done; I’m here to say it plays wonderfully.

And then I came across EmuDeck, a program for running PS2 games and a couple-three dozen other systems on a variety of desktop OSs (even Windows, if you must). But EmuDeck has an especially super strong Steam Deck community!

The video in this post is my Steam Deck running PS2 Primal, one of my favorite games of all time.

Setup is pretty easy. But prepping a game’s ROM is time-consuming—like, hours per game to create an ISO from the game disk, and then compress it to something smaller, like CHD format. Then comes the painfully slow transfer of files that size from the PC where you prepped them to the Steam Deck itself. But while they’re building, play Primal or some other favored PS2 game. And while they’re transferring, get some sleep.

All of the above gives me the added pleasure of moving steadily farther from the Windows and Apple corrals, where office suites and graphic programs grow increasingly intrusive and require upgrading hardware, dumping perfectly good old machines.

Now it’s time to learn the process for porting PS3 games to Steam Deck. That’s another example of the couple-three dozen EmuDeck can handle.

Bypassing Bloat

Photo by Brian Yurasits on Unsplash

I am sooo sick of Web bloat. 🙁 Google’s search results now with an AI summation of the topic, for example, then scroll past a full screen of sponsored entries, before finally reaching any actual search results. I’m less annoyed by Facebook’s endless ads, given they’re easily identified and scrolled past, but still, unpleasant.

Yes, dot com means “commerce,” and the commercial Web is what made the Internet public, but yeesh. It’s like more billboards than scenery nowadays.

This recent dive into Linux has revealed some OS-agnostic options to reduce it. The Chromium Project browser is less intrusive (and leaner software than Chrome, Edge, or FireFox), and Startpage.com is a much, much less troublesome search engine.

And software bloat and adware:

Unable to bear Adobe PDF Reader‘s unwelcome influx of offers to add features, or to find its screen capture tool I used for printing shipping labels, I’ve switched to SumatraPDF on Windows and Okular on Linux.

Similarly, I wanted a word proccessor and a spreadsheet reader that didn’t mean installing an entire office suite (I’m looking at you, Microsoft, OpenOffice, and LibreOffice). AbiWord and Gnumeric fill those needs nicely. The first has a Word-like menu bar; the second maintains the F9 function I needed to repopulate Cut Up Solo GM-less oracles.

Some of these may suit your needs as well!

“I Want to Save the World, but I’m Just a Level 1 Skeleton” solo RPG

Here’s something I’ve been wanting for months to give a go: I Want to Save the World but I’m Just a Level 1 Skeleton. A solo dungeon crawl RPG about your rise from grave to greatness. This weekend I finally carved out an honest-to-god mental health day, printed a PC sheet, and gave it a try.

It’s a hoot. Short enough for a read-through in maybe 10 minutes. Easy enough to catch the main concepts right off the bat. Random enough to change the flavor play to play. Mechanically insightful enough to please my design sensibilities. And tongue-in-cheek enough to amuse from the get-go.

I don’t normally journal solo RPG plays, but this one begged for a record of battle decisions, like fighting a stone giant who tosses boulders, by daringly talking trash while tossing handsful of chalk dust into his eyes. Eventually convinced him he was so tired from throwing those heavy stones, that he fell over and shattered.

I wouldn’t say this has the long-term legs of something like Four Against Darkness (even without 4AD’s ongoing supplemements) but honestly, this is a stand-out design in terms of ability dice choices and the narrative its action invites. I’m sincerely impressed with its core mechanics, and the elegant ramifications of its artifacts and overlord powers.

Definitely recommended for solo players! And the optional co-op and GM rules look promising, as well. I’ll certainly be giving this some more table time in the future.

photo of my desktop setup for the game
My tiny desktop setup with Gary Con XVI dice tray & Black Death Cinderskull dice by Black Oak Workshop