Wednesday, October 31, 2012

#MayaelFTW returns

Time for another round with the #MayaelFTW deck.

Balefire Dragon is taking the place of Vagrant Plowbeasts. With Spearbreaker, Avacyn, and Deathless Angel already protecting my guys more effectively, Plowbeast has become less useful. Balefire Dragon is a card I've been meaning to try out since Innistrad, but never got around to. It seems pretty strong. I don't have much in the way of Loxodon Warhammer sorts of things to buff it, so it might not be superlative, but even without support, the ability should be good on its own.

I took out Akroma, Angel of Fury for Utvara Hellkite. Akroma has been consistently so-so. She's decent against decks she has protection from, but even in those matchups, she's not exactly winning games singlehandedly as a Shivan Dragon variant. She's been on the bottom of the pecking order for a while, and I don't feel too bad cutting her. Utvara Hellkite is a card that--as I may have mentioned in my RTR set review--interests me. I think it's worth testing. And hey, I even added another dragon. (Dragon count: 4)

Lastly, I've swapped Hellkite Charger in favor of Mana-Charged Dragon. I haven't been liking Hellkite Charger very much. Its ability is rarely useful, and the haste isn't relevant when I play it on someone else's turn, so it's been a vanilla 5/5 flyer pretty often. Mana-Charged Dragon still fills the "Mana sink for alpha strike" role, but it adds trample for free, and there's an off chance that someone else will pump it for me.

The list looks like this now. (Click to enlarge.)

Then I played a few games for testing and never saw any of the new cards, so meh.

Monday, October 29, 2012

How I'm voting.

Election day is right around the corner, so I guess it's time I wrote about my positions on the issues.

For president:

I'm pretty firmly in blue camp, and I don't think it's a close decision at all. I agree with Obama on 90% of all major issues, and the other 10% are issues where the two candidates agree with each other. Conversely, I disagree with Romney on more or less his entire platform. I've also been very satisfied with Obama's first term, and I'm willing to put a lot of trust in him as a leader.

Plus, he has the dreamiest baritone.

Of course, California is already as done a deal for the dems as it's gonna get, so meh.

For senate:

Honestly, I haven't been following this race at all. I don't know who the candidates are. I assume it's the current senator up for re-election? Feinstein? Yes? Okay. Sure. I'm just voting along party lines here because I like President Obama and I expect a blue congress to follow his lead. I guess Feinstein is, uh...fine.

Proposition 30:

I support 30. The state has a budget to balance, and the only way to do that, realistically, is to raise taxes. Prop 30 does that, and it has a trigger to automatically slash education spending if it doesn't pass. As a student, those "education spending" cuts are essentially coming right out of my pocket anyway, so, uh, yeah. That would suck.

I know a lot of Republicans in the state legislature are all like, "No, we should never raise taxes, never!" But it's kind of naive to expect to deal with the deficit that way. I mean seriously.

Proposition 31:

Um, okay, so this is the one about reforming California's budget process. I support reforming the budget process, so that's cool.

It does a few things.
  • It mandates that all bills be made public at least three days before the legislature votes on them. Which is fine, I guess? But why is it part of this proposition? Does it have anything to do with the budget...?
  • It forces any new thing that would cost the state $25 million or more to be offset by an equal amount of spending cuts or new taxes. I'm fine with that.
  • It establishes some sort of performance review system for state programs and stuff. guess, sure?
  • It allows the governor to declare a fiscal emergency, in which case he or she would gain the power to unilaterally cut spending until the budget is balanced, unless the legislature intervenes with their own plan within 45 days. So that's quite a bit of power the governor gets there. Am I comfortable with this? Uh...maybe? I'm not sure...
  • It changes the budget to once per two years instead of once per year. Is this good? It seems good.
  • It adds some extra statements of intent, projections, and such and such to the budgets. Okay.
  • It lets local governments enact "Action Plans" that allow them to deviate from state plans, unless folks from the state work with them to, like, not, or whatever. I don't get what this is supposed to accomplish. It seems like it adds a lot of extra bureaucracy and basically lets local governments flaunt state regulations. And how does this help the budget?
Did I miss anything? So okay, there's a lot of stuff in this bill, and as far as I can tell, I, uh, don't understand what sort of impact it will have on anything.

So, as is standard procedure on things I am confused about, I'm just not going to vote on it. Unless someone convinces me one way or another.

Proposition 32:

So this is apparently part of some political battle between unions and corporations. It would limit campaign donations from unions, or something. And apparently it interacts in weird loopholey ways with the laws regarding Super PACs, I don't even know.

To be honest, that groups donate to political campaigns doesn't bother me much, and I just can't get worked up about this measure. So I'm not going to vote here either.

Proposition 33:

Car insurance? What? I don't care about this one. Next, please.

Proposition 34:

Ending the death penalty. This is an issue that has been well-trodden. A "Yes" vote is to eliminate the death penalty in California. A "No" vote is to keep it.

I'm voting Yes. It doesn't make fiscal sense to spend millions of extra dollars executing a prisoner instead of just issuing a life sentence without parole. A death sentence isn't any more effective than life in prison as far as preventing recidivism, since obviously they'll be locked up and removed from society. So let's be honest, the only reason for the death penalty comes from a punitive and misguided sense of "justice". And that's bullshit. So, Yes on 34.

Proposition 35:

This proposition would increase the penalties for sex trafficking (including registering traffickers as "sex offenders"), and would divert more resources towards fighting it. It would also add some legal protections for victims of sex trafficking, and would force sex offenders to release information about their internet activities.

I have two problems with this proposition. First is that I don't really understand the context around it. I don't really know anything about the human trafficking situation in California. How big a problem is it? How effective are our existing methods of dealing with it? Etc.

And the second problem is that I'm betting the rest of the voter population doesn't know that stuff either. So why is this being done by popular vote? The campaign on this issue isn't about effective solutions and good policy, it's about "Human trafficking is bad! Vote Yes because human trafficking is bad!"

This isn't an issue that should be on the ballot at all. It should be handled by the state legislature. So I'm against it as what feels like an abuse of the initiative system.

Proposition 36:

This is basically reforming the "Three Strikes" Law. Okay, I know I just railed on using ballot initiatives for criminal law, but I have to support 36 because of how absurd the whole idea of the "Three Strikes" Law is in the first place. I mean, when I first learned about it, I laughed because I thought it was a joke. But no, you can get a life sentence for shoplifting. What?

Anyway, with this measure, the "Three Strikes" rule would only apply to serious or violent crimes. Petty crimes could still get increased sentences, but not life sentences. That's much more reasonable.

Proposition 37:

This is the one that requires labeling of genetically modified food. And I think it's stupid.

Look, I get that some people like their food to be homegrown and organic and 100% "natural" or whatever, but there's no evidence that GMOs are harmful in any way. And what, exactly, are you hoping to accomplish? Say GMOs really are harmful. Is labeling them supposed to make them safe?

It all boils down to fear and paranoia, and I'm not buying into it. It imposes additional costs for food producers--which would then be passed down to the consumers, making food more expensive--and it does so for no good reason.

Remember those guys who fought against free wi-fi in Sebastopol because they were afraid it would melt their brains? Don't be those guys.

Proposition 38:

This one would raise taxes and allocate most of the revenue toward education.

Okay, I mean, I'm all for education, but I'm really uncomfortable having measures like this on the ballot. Budgeting decisions like this really shouldn't be made through the ballot initiative system.

I support 30, but it's on there because the state is required by law to run it past the voters before they can pass it, so it's different. Also, 30 doesn't earmark its revenue towards a specific program, which is a practice that really messes up our budgets.

Oh, and the San Francisco Chronicle makes a very compelling argument:
An analysis by the left-leaning California Budget Project concluded that the measure "may not increase total school spending by as much as some estimate because the Legislature could reduce other state education spending." One point for voters to consider: Public colleges and universities do not get anything from Prop. 38 - and could bear the brunt of resulting budget cuts.

So, No on 38.

Proposition 39:

It would remove a tax loophole for corporations and allocate about half the new revenue to clean energy projects.

I don't support this proposition. Yes, closing tax loopholes is great, but again, we shouldn't be using ballot measures to earmark money toward specific programs like this. Why would we lock ourselves into spending that money on clean energy when we could spend it on schools, hospitals, parks, research grants, or any number of other worthy things?

The problem with "ballot-box budgeting" is that everyone is always like "Look! The money is going to [program X]! You like [program X], don't you?" But money that goes to [program X] is also not going to [program Y] or [program Z]. Would you vote for a bill that takes $550 million away from education funding and puts it toward clean energy? Because that's exactly what Prop 39 does. Opportunity cost.

Okay, yeah, close the loopholes, but we shouldn't have to lock into new spending every time we do that. Just raise the taxes and put it towards one of the many struggling programs we already have. No on 39.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Well, I could have a cup of ramen, or I could have a can of beans. Or both, I guess. I dunno, I just felt like drawing them fighting.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Sea Will Claim Everything

So I tried out The Sea Will Claim Everything. And it's a very cute point-and-click game with hand-drawn graphics and a creative story.

Then, in a hilarious alchemy accident, I got eaten by a drawing of a bear, and... died? I think?

I didn't realize this game had loss conditions, or else I would have been, like, saving. So I got caught by surprise and I guess I have to start over now. That sucks.

I mean...WTF? Just, randomly...a bear? I don't even know what to think.

Anyway, it's a cute game, but it's not all that spectacular. It mostly just boils down to "Click on everything you see until something happens." (This is a common flaw among point-and-click adventure games.)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Monday, October 22, 2012

#MayaelFTW: Return to Ravnica review

Okay, it's time to share my thoughts on how the new cards affect Mayael the Anima. I've been playing Mayael for a long time now, and I'm still continually tuning my list, and there's a new batch of cards that could be worth adding. Let's get right to it.

Angel of Serenity

Right off the bat we have a sweet one! Angel of Serenity does something we don't have a lot of access to: it's a fatty that's also a multi-target pinpoint creature removal spell. Sure, we've had cards like Hateflayer, Living Inferno, Bogardan Hellkite, Admonition Angel--but none of them are remotely close to this level. Angel of Serenity offers a powerful, unique, useful effect at a reasonable cost with a healthy-sized flying body, and I feel comfortable pegging her as one of the best cards for Mayael to come out of this set.

Even if she dies immediately, you still get to bounce the creatures. And she can target your own creatures in your graveyard, too--they'll go back to your hand when she leaves play. There are also those ever-popular tricks to permanently exile the targets with instant-speed sacrifice or blink sorts of effects, if you're so inclined.

Basically, a great creature removal spell that is also a fatty. What's not to love?

Martial Law

This one I'm not so hot on. Basically a worse version of Prison Term, which isn't even particularly good. Not much to say here--it's overcosted and underpowered.

Rest in Peace

Now this is a hoser. It turns off all the graveyard shenanigans, past, present, and future, and it does so with merciless efficiency. My build is very light on graveyard interactions, so I went ahead and added this card, and it's been performing very well so far. There's always at least one deck at the table that wants to abuse the graveyard for loopy card advantage shenanigans, and loopy card advantage shenanigans are one of the easiest ways Mayael can lose. Rest in Peace shuts that down. It might seem narrow, but it's actually a lot more universal than you'd think.

If my deck were heavier on the shenanigans itself--like one of my past builds that played around with Death or Glory and Marshal's Anthem and that sort of thing--I might want to skip this, since it is symmetrical. But it's a big whammy against a very large portion of the field, and making unfair decks play fair is powerful.

If you run just about any white deck, you should strongly consider Rest in Peace.

Rootborn Defenses

Making the team indestructible actually isn't the worst. This is a little too much mana to pay for that effect, though, especially since so many fatties already have some sort of built-in resistance to ordinary destruction.

Chaos Imps

Vanilla flyer with only 6-7 power? Yeah, that's not gonna do it. If you're running Chaos Imps, it's because you have some very serious card availability issues.


Pauper interlude! I've played Incurable Ogre in Pauper Mayael with no shame, and Cobblebrute is strictly better. Cheap fat is hard enough to come by that this man should be a strong consideration in Pauper.

Guild Feud

Hoo boy, this card. It's pretty crazy. I am always on the lookout for wacky chaotic library effects like this one, and so far, I think it passes muster. It's nowhere near the power level of Lurking Predators, of course, but it does a good job of creating an exciting minigame.

The thing you need to understand if you're thinking about playing Guild Feud is this: you're not going to win every time. Some amount of the time, you're going to flip three noncreatures, and your opponent is going to get something awesome. Now, the Mayael deck has a lot of very good creatures, and the odds of winning are going to be pretty high. But you can't win them all. If you're not comfortable with that, don't play this card, because it will make you rage.

For my part, I'm happy rolling with it, rawdog-style. Random moments like this are what #MayaelFTW is all about.

Tenement Crasher

Pauper interlude! Another common fatty, and its stats are respectable, I guess, albeit nothing special. What's most notable here is that this is indeed a beast, which means it works with Wirewood Savage--not irrelevant. I'm not sure if it makes the cut, but it's worth thinking about.

Utvara Hellkite

This is an exciting effect, but I've been burned by Godsire before, and I'm not sure it's good enough on its own. I could be convinced, but my initial reaction is that it'll need dragon synergy to be worthwhile.

That being said, it's certainly not unreasonable for Mayael to run dragons. I don't know what critical mass is, but if you've got some number of big red flyers, you might do well to check this dragon out.

Also, shout-out to the token subtheme, which is getting more and more viable with each new set. Rith, the Awakener was never much of a powerhouse to begin with, but it's almost embarrassing how much worse she is than this guy.


Much like Rest in Peace, this is a nice hate card. However, artifact hate isn't at quite the same premium as graveyard hate, since there are a lot more options to choose from. Rest in Peace is easily the biggest and baddest of its category, but Vandalblast has steeper competition to contend with. Woodfall Primus and Terastodon already take out artifacts, and if you want to go real deep, you can also run Hoard-Smelter Dragon or Rustmouth Ogre. And those guys are creatures that work with Mayael. For noncreature spells, you've already got your mass removal suite, Akroma's Vengeance and the like. Oh, and Fracturing Gust, which is instant-speed, hits enchantments, and gains you life. Shattering Pulse only hits one thing at a time, but it's an instant, which is a big deal.

You get the idea--the market for artifact hate is very competitive and the slots are very limited. It's easy to hate on artifacts incidentally without dedicating a whole slot to it. Also, a large portion of the time, Vandalblast is only going to be a value card that you play as a 4-for-1 to set the opponents back on mana a little. That's good, but it's not exactly an essential effect.

I'm not ruling it out, but I don't think I want to spend a slot on this. I wouldn't fault you for including it if you're so inclined.

Deadbridge Goliath

The problem here, I think, is that it's essentially vanilla. 5/5 for 2GG is efficient, sure, but the Scavenge ability costs a hefty chunk of sorcery-speed mana. A lot of the time, Deadbridge Goliath is just going to be a 5/5.

I could imagine a build where "just a 5/5 for four" is good enough. Like an aggro sort of deal focusing on cheap fat, with Mayael as a late-game post-Wrath card advantage engine. And it's not a bad card. The Scavenge will be relevant in some games. +5/+5 on something with trample is no slouch, and it resets Persist creatures.

I imagine most versions of Mayael just won't be interested in it, though.

Worldspine Wurm

Here's a card.

There are a few other fatties already fighting for the "10+ mana unkillable creature" slot. How does Worldspine Wurm stack up? Well, I'm pretty sure Ulamog and Blightsteel are more powerful. However, they have the big drawback of being, uh, you know... unfun. They can be pretty miserable no matter which side of the table you're on. But Worldspine Wurm, not so much. It's a straight 15/15 trampling monster--good, clean, fatty fun.

Then there's Darksteel Colossus, who is more traditionally indestructible. I feel like Worldspine Wurm is the clear winner in that fight; 15 is significantly more than 11, and its token-making brand of indestructibility works better against sacrifice effects, which is a big upside. (Or with sacrifice effects, don't forget--Worldspine Wurm with Greater Good is quite the blowout.)

There's also those other Eldrazi, but they're all worse than Ulamog anyway, so meh.

You don't want to have too many eleven-mana creatures, but Worldspine Wurm seems like it's as good as they come.

Armada Wurm

Seems solid. Getting the token immediately puts it well ahead of Utvara Hellkite off the bat. And ten power of trample is a lot. Oh, and of course there's synergy with flicker effects and whatnot.

Yeah, pretty solid. I could definitely see myself running it and being happy with it. (And again, shout-out to the token subtheme.)

I wouldn't call it an auto-include, but it's good.

Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice

If you're looking for a four-mana lifegain creature with a big butt, Wall of Reverence is that-a-way. Populate is cute for that token subtheme, I guess.

Chromatic Lantern

Hmm, yeah, seems nice.

If you're in the market for a mana rock, I think this is worse than Darksteel Ingot or Coalition Relic. I also think it's worse than Selesnya Keyrune, but I could be wrong there.

You could certainly do worse, I suppose. If you want your mana fixed, Chromatic Lantern will definitely fix it. It works with Maze of Ith and Diamond Valley too, if that's your cup of tea.

So yeah, it's fine. Nothing special. Don't get too excited.

Selesnya Keyrune

I actually like this, as far as mana rocks go. The 3/3 body isn't impressive, but it is relevant--it can keep early attackers off your back sometimes, and it's cheap enough that you can activate it and still have enough mana for your Overrun effect when you alpha strike.

Mind, I'm not actually going to run it, because I favor land-based ramp. But if you like artifacts, I think this is better than the Time Spiral totems (if only by virtue of tapping for two colors).

Under the Diglett

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Poetry that makes a lot more sense when you understand the context, Part II

Confessions of an Unwanted L

You want her to be straight
So she can fit in
Like everyone else 
So all the lines can be clear
Everyone in their places
So everything can be perfect
In your little world
Well guess what
That's not who she is
Sorry if you're disappointed
You'll just have to deal with it

Friday, October 19, 2012

In which I gripe about homework

Well, looks like I'll be cooped up doing homework for a while this weekend.

To kick things off, I'm working on my ENL 106 homework tonight. I have to draw phrase markers (trees) for a dozen sentences. They are long, long, meandering sentences with many adverbial clauses.
We should have been expecting something strange from Persephone, obviously, but her manner has remained cheerful yet obdurate and she is working things out under difficult circumstances.
There is no way I finish this in one night. I'll see how far I get before falling asleep and pick up from there tomorrow.

Tomorrow is Saturday, and I'm designating that as my "Do the reading" day. I've got hella stuff to read for both Poetry and Lit, and from the skimming I gave it, it's pretty dense. So I'll finish off the rest of those sentence trees (who knows how long that'll take), then I'll get everything read. Depending on how long it takes me, I can start on my analysis of the readings for 5P -- I have to give a presentation on one of the readings, with a slideshow and everything.

It's probably too optimistic to expect to finish all that on Saturday, especially if I want to catch some of the Pro Tour coverage, so I've allotted a couple hours to get said presentation together on Sunday, and I'm hoping I'll have been able to at least get a few notes jotted down from before to help get me started.

I've also got an essay to write for UWP 101. It's not due until the week after next, but it's a profile essay, which means I need to interview someone. And that, of course, means I need to schedule an interview with someone. Who? I don't know. Anyone interested in being interviewed?

Oh, and there's a piece for the Chorus where I'd really benefit from a little practice and review. So another thing to squeeze in. that everything? I think so.

Somewhere out there is a grad student rolling their eyes at my easy 18-unit workload.

A drawing of The Kestrel about to blow up because it's on fire

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Again, I'm going to go ahead and post my homework. This is the essay from the outline I put up two days ago.

    From across my desk, I hear a whisper. “Open me...oooopen meee...” Oh no. I look down. It’s the booster pack again.
    I know the voice is only my imagination, but my gaze is drawn, as if by an Izzet electromagnet, to the glossy blue-and-indigo foil of the Return to Ravnica booster. The wrapper crinkles invitingly under my touch. The Selesnyan mage adorning the package seems to beckon.
    Opening a booster pack is one of the purest thrills in the game of Magic: The Gathering. Whether it’s the indigo trim of my Return to Ravnica booster, the silvery white of Avacyn Restored, or the jet-black of Magic 2013, every expansion set’s booster packs bundle fifteen randomized cards in crisp foil wrapping: eleven common cards, three uncommons, and most precious of all, one rare. The rarity distribution is more or less constant, and the cards are all from the same expansion, but the exact contents are always a mystery.
    Return to Ravnica is Magic’s newest expansion, released earlier this month. Back in 2005, when I was still new to the game, Wizards of the Coast released Ravnica: City of Guilds: a set that took place in a world where one sprawling, ecumenopolitan cityscape covered the entire globe, and society was controlled by ten “guilds”, each representing two of the game’s five colors. It was wildly successful, both critically and commercially. Now, seven years later, Ravnica is still one of the most beloved settings in Magic’s history, and as of this month, the long-awaited sequel to City of Guilds has finally arrived to bring the guilds to a new generation of planeswalkers. Return to Ravnica features five of the ten guilds from the original. The other five are slated for Gatecrash, the followup expansion to be released this winter. All of them are eagerly courting fresh recruits. Join the white-blue Azorius Senate, Ravnica’s bureaucratic legislative guild! How about the blue-red Izzet League, a guild of mad scientists notorious for their explosive experiments? Perhaps you’re more interested in the black-red Cult of Rakdos, where the success of a wild party is measured by its body count. Or do you prefer the black-green Golgari Swarm, caretakers of both life and death?
    I know where my loyalty lies: with the Selesnya Conclave, the green-white guild dedicated to harmony and unity. So when the time came to choose a side for the Return to Ravnica prerelease — a special event to celebrate the unveiling of the new set — I already knew exactly which guild I’d be playing. Sure enough, I shuffled up a green and white deck (with a splash of blue) filled to the brim with efficient creatures ready to overwhelm my foes. And for good measure, I signed up for a second flight later that same day. After battling through eight rounds for the glory of the Conclave, I stood strong with a 7-1 record. Hardly daring to breathe, I hovered tremulously near the counter where prizes would be paid out. Finally, my name was called: twelve packs. Twelve. Twelve packs. Twelve honest-to-goodness Return to Ravnica booster packs.
    But today, there’s only one booster pack on my mind. Just one of the twelve. Once again it whispers: “Go know you want to...ooopen meeee...”
Opening a booster pack is a gamble. As long as it’s unopened, its value is fixed — it’s a solid $4 no matter what’s inside. But once I crack it, I’m stuck with whatever I’ve got. I could end up with a powerful land card like Overgrown Tomb or Hallowed Fountain. I could be the lucky recipient of a rare and valuable planeswalker card like Jace, Architect of Thought. Or... or I could open a useless junk card like Guild Feud, Search the City, or Volatile Rig. There’s plenty of space in between, of course — a mid-tier rare like Loxodon Smiter might be worth around the same price as the original booster it came in. Not the most exciting card to pull, but it’s better than whiffing.
My hands itch. My pulse quickens. I want to rip the foil off of that booster pack and flip straight to the rare. I can already hear the crinkling. I can smell the fresh fragrance of ink and glue. I can sense the cards inside calling to me, begging me, pleading for me to release them into the world. It’s no use resisting. I don’t have the strength to hold back. I can’t...I have to...I...
The wrapper is torn. Tenderly, I tug the cards from their broken shell. One at a time, I inspect the spoils.
The commons are always in front. The first is Drainpipe Vermin: a dinky little rat. Worthless.
Swift Justice: a white spell that powers up a creature temporarily. Unexciting.
Horncaller’s Chant: a green sorcery that summons two enormous, trampling rhinos. Meh.
Chemister’s Trick: an Izzet confusion spell that can be overloaded to cause mass panic. Eh...
Golgari Longlegs: a simple, boring creature with reasonable stats, but no abilities.
Axebane Guardian: a druid that grants its caster additional mana. Useful, perhaps, in a deck with expensive spells like Horncaller’s Chant.
Keening Apparition: an efficiently-costed creature who can sacrifice itself to dispel an enemy enchantment. Could be worse.
Viashino Racketeer: a shady back-alley salesman who trades a card in your hand for a random one from your deck.
Sewer Shambler and Drudge Beetle: two Golgari monsters that can rise from the grave after being defeated.
Eleven commons, none of them particularly interesting. Here come the three uncommons. Soul Tithe. Ouch, that’s a weak card. It has a few interesting rules interactions, but I’d never put it into my deck.
Slitherhead. Hmm, not too bad, I suppose. It’s another Golgari zombie that can buff a creature from beyond the grave.
Bloodfray Giant. That’s one of the Rakdos Cult’s heavy hitters. Monstrous stats at a bargain price. Unfortunately, it’s not very good at playing defense.
There’s also a basic Forest with beautiful new artwork by John Avon, and an advertisement insert pointing me to the Planeswalker Points website. But that’s not important. It’s time for the moment of truth. The rare. Is it a hit? Is it a miss? It’s...

    I toss what’s left of the foil wrapping into the trash. It croaks out one final, mocking crinkle. The cards will probably languish in a shoebox. Search the City will get an obligatory place in my Junk Rare Box, yearning in vain for the day it finds a real home. I hold out little hope that such a day will arrive. The adrenaline rush is over; the booster pack is gone.
    From across the room, I hear eleven more whispers...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

At some point I have to question why I'm keeping a separate blog when I'm already writing like 1000 words a day for school. Here's my poetry homework instead.

Okay, Eagleton, so you think Porphyria’s Lover isn’t about a giraffe, do you? I take that as a challenge, sir! Here’s how it happened. Porphyria invented a transfiguration beam to turn giraffes into chimpanzees. She tested it on a giraffe and he turned into a chimpanzee, whom she named “Lover”. She tried to teach Lover about religion, but giraffes and chimpanzees are both naturally curious, and Lover, who already secretly detested the woman who took his giraffe-ness from him, decided to test whether God was real by seeing if it was impossible to strangle Porphyria without divine intervention preventing it. So Lover tried it and voila, dead Porphyria. Then the murderous giraffe-ape bastard hung out for a while before running away to eat some leaves. QED.
I can do that because Death of the Author. We’re not beholden to the poet’s original vision. Once it’s out there, it’s out there, and any interpretation is valid as long as it can be backed up by textual evidence. I realize that Robert Browning didn’t write it with giraffes and chimpanzees in mind, but that doesn’t matter. A poem can be interpreted to fit into whatever context you like. It just takes a little creativity.
Okay, yes, I do also realize that Eagleton’s point is more that the text has inherent meaning to it, as opposed to it being completely subjective. It’s fair to argue that some interpretations make more sense than others. And his concession that a secretive group of English professors could use “syrup” as a code word to conceal their feelings on historicism from their colleagues does, admittedly, prove he does not lack the necessary imagination. So I can’t say I strongly disagree with him here. Only a little bit, I guess.
I smiled at the Cloud-Cuckoo-Land reference in Jarrell’s poem. I hang out on the TV Tropes Wiki a lot, and over there we have a trope we call “Cloudcuckoolander” to refer to characters like Luna Lovegood or Pinkie Pie who seem like they have their brains in a different universe all the time. That being said, “North” is definitely not a poem I’d expect to see from Pinkie Pie. Gloom gloom gloom. Just throw a party or something and it’ll all be fine, no need to go worrying about everything all the time.
On the Roethke, I see “The Pit” as one of the riddles you’d find in a Redwall novel. Like the heroes are looking for the lost staff of Martin the Warrior or something, and they find this clue that tells them to look under the tree roots, and talk to the mole who lives there, but watch out for the evil, uh, snails, and their leader, Mother Mildew, a giant, uh, giant snail, yeah, that actually totally works. I’d read that book. See, Eagleton, I can interpret it however I like. They had talking riddle-solving animals back whenever this poem was written, right?
Also, Sylvia Plath’s daddy is a Nazi vampire? That’s pretty messed up. If my dad were a Nazi vampire, I mean, I can’t even imagine. Oh, wait, this is one of those figurative things, isn’t it? So who is she talking about, then? Her literal father? Or is “daddy” supposed to be a metaphor for...uh...something? Actually, I could probably see it going either way. You could have your Nazis being written about as “daddy” or your father being written about as “Nazis” and end up with reasonably similar poems. I’m leaning towards Nazis. But I’m sure there’s a good name for a rock band in there somewhere. Oh, and the tulip poem is okay too, but I don’t have much to say about it.
Regarding the Berryman: Inner Resources, ha, that’s a good line. I can just imagine how that goes. “Mom, I’m bored.” “Johnny, haven’t I told you that saying you’re bored is only confessing you have no Inner Resources?” “...Mom, I have no Inner Resources.” That droll acceptance of the implications — brilliant. I like it. Also, what is chicken paprika? Never heard of that before. I know what chicken is, and I know what paprika is, and I’m guessing chicken paprika is either chicken-flavored paprika (?!) or chicken spiced with paprika (that’s probably more likely). And who exactly is this Henry person? Henry Ford? John Henry, the steel-driving man? Henry Kissinger? King Henry V? Just some random guy named Henry? Just some random girl named Henry (or I guess Henrietta)? The poetry takes on different meanings for all of these. I kind of like the Henry Kissinger version.
Then we’ve got some “Deep Image” styles of poems, which are supposed to focus on powerful imagery and narrative. I can indeed see some of that in Kinwell’s “On the Oregon Coast”. We can see the first few lines of the poem dedicated just to describing the waves breaking against the shore and sweeping a log across the beach. He uses both visual and audio details — “pewtery sheen on the water” alongside “bass rumble of sea stones”. And the narrative element appears both in the pseudo-narrative of the floating log and the meta-narrative of a conversation about evolution. Would I see these things if I weren’t being prompted to look for them? Well, in this case, probably, yeah. Seems like sort of the point of the poem. But even with the background info, interrupting with that anecdote seems oddly out of place. Essentially the only segue is “Since I’m talking about a beach, let me tell you this story of this one time I talked to this one guy and, oh, there was also a beach nearby. (Is that a coincidence or what!)”
“Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm” is the first poem today to make me put it down, sit back, and wonder what the hell I just read. “I have wasted my life.” Woah. What. Huh. What happened to the bronze butterflies, the chicken hawks, the fields of sunlight? Why is life wasted? That’s a curveball if I ever saw one. On reflection, I think the speaker means that he wasted his life not doing this. Like, “I can’t believe I ever worked all day in the city when I could have been lying in a hammock at William Duffy’s farm!” That’s my best interpretation. Either way, it’s a jarring last line that feels like it comes out of nowhere. I was surprised. Oh, and again, deep imagery — this poem does do a lot of image-painting for the reader, with, again, bronze butterflies, fields of sunlight, et al.
And “A Blessing” clearly has the narrative going. Breaking into a horse pasture, basically. Uh...that’s fine, I guess, if you’re into that kind of thing. I’m not really into horses. Pinkie Pie notwithstanding.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

My assignment for my UWP 101 class is to write a descriptive essay about an object. This space is a brainstorm of objects that are around my room. Good chance I just pick one randomly.
  • Water bottle
  • Hat
  • Backpack
  • Ramen
  • Juggling clubs
  • Return to Ravnica booster packs
  • Old receipt
  • Bike lock
  • Gloves
  • Wristwatch
  • Ethernet cable
  • Kettle
  • Headphones
  • Mousepad
  • Rubber band ball

Friday, October 12, 2012

Man, I was having another great run with the Carnelian--got two Scrap Recovery Arms early on and had a zillion scrap by Sector 7--and the game crashed on me. Ugh. I was totally going to beat the Rebel Flagship, too.

So then I thought I'd take a break from Crystals and try the Stealth Cruiser instead, since that's now the only one whose alternate layout I haven't unlocked yet. No luck, though: I keep dying. Nesasio starting out with no shields is real rough. The cloak helps a lot for dodging the first volley, but it's useless against beam weapons, and past the first couple sectors, trying to keep their weapons down with dual lasers and a mini-beam can be a hopeless endeavor.

My hope is to make it to the last stage of the final boss. If I can manage that, I should have the "Avoid 9 damage in one cloak" achievement in the bag by dodging the power-surge attack. But it looks to be easier said than done.

I also have yet to unlock the Slug Cruiser or the Mantis Cruiser, which is sad, since I really want to try them out. I know the Mantis one is about boarding, and I doubt it'll be much better than Carnelian, but it could still be fun. And with the Slugs, I really just want to kill their crew with Fire Beams or Anti-Bio Beams or whatever sadistic crap they got going. (And the telepathy ability is neat.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

When we first saw the world
It was in primary colors
Even though it was really in black and white
Or rather

When we first saw color
We were enthralled by silver and gold
But the world we knew had dilapidated
The forests burned to the ground
The mountains collapsed

Yet when we looked back with wider eyes
At the primary colors
They glittered like gemstones
Even as the world was swallowed
By earthquakes and floods

While space and time warped around us
And our vision doubled 
We were lost in the glimmering of our diamonds and pearls

Until nothing else was left
But black and white
And black
And white

A drawing of a robot jumping rope

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

My first victory on Normal. Woot.

I have to admit, those beam drones may be weak against a lot of encounters, but against the Rebel Flagship's final form? Wow, do they tear through the super-shield. And that Glaive Beam, too. Doing work.

This was with the good ship Carnelian, which is getting to be one of my favorite layouts. SPOILERS.

Starting out with a teleporter and cloak and three awesome crew members for fighting -- pretty awesome. On another ship, I'd have to drop 75 scrap for that teleporter and another 150 for the cloak, but Carnelian gets them free, and even has Crystal Vengeance to sell for another bonus 40 scrap. And as if it weren't good enough already, the teleporter has four squares, so it can send in some truly frightening boarding parties. Oh, and of course, you get more scrap when you win by killing their crew. Naturally. With a loadout like this, who needs weapons anyway?

Crystals are awesome for boarding. They've got extra HP, so they fight well, but more importantly they can use their special ability to lock down a room. So you can teleport into their weapons bay and activate lockdown to keep them from getting in. Your crew gets to go to town breaking their weapons unmolested, and if they manage to fire off a salvo before the systems go down, just cloak up to dodge it. And then once the weapons are down, you can fight their crew without fear of their medbay: just lock down the room when they get low on health, and they won't be able to escape.

Automated ships and Zoltan Shields are a pain in the ass, but picking up a beam or laser weapon isn't too difficult.

It's also got a pretty decent layout. The most important systems are grouped together on the left side. The teleporter is right next to the medbay. The airlocks are positioned so that you can keep half the ship perpetually vented to fight fires and make boarders' lives very difficult.

In this run, I goofed up and let two of my Crystals die, so I couldn't chain-lockdown. That made things more difficult; the enemy was often able to break through into their weapons room before I could finish destroying it, and I frequently had to make strategic retreats so Maloney's lockdown could recharge. However, I picked up two Mantises and a Rock to round out my boarding party, and I even found up a Slug so I could see the enemies' positions without needing to worry about my sensors.

I found the Glaive Beam towards the end, and it tore the Rebel Flagship to pieces. I just sent in my boarding party to kill all but one of their crew (don't want the AI to take over), and then destroy the shields. Fire bombs took out the weapons, and the cloaks and upgraded engines held back the surge attacks. With the shields down and no crew to repair them (since the one remaining crew member was isolated in the laser room), I could rip into the unprotected hull for 9-12 damage at a time, and the enemy went down in short order. I took so little damage, I didn't need to use any of my nineteen available Hull Repair drones.


So, woot!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

So I am told today is the release of Pokémon Black 2 & White 2.


So now I have to decide whether I'm going to buy in.


I'm thinking about it.

Still thinking...

Okay, so, I am weighing some pros and cons in my head. The big strike against it is that it's still basically the same old Pokémon with a new coat of paint. If the experience isn't going to be different in any meaningful way from the I-don't-even-remember-how-many others, why should I drop $35 on it?

Except hang on, they have a challenge mode now that raises the difficulty. Okay, that's tempting. That's definitely something that would make me want to play this new game. One of my biggest problems with Pokémon is that it's too easy. If I could play through the game on hard mode...

...Wait, what? What do you mean you only unlock it after you beat the game?

You can't see, but I'm banging my head on my desk right now.

I was almost sold there. Almost. But you know what? Screw it. I'm not even going to bother. The more I think about this, the more frustrated it makes me. You can't even unlock it and start over with it, because it goes away if you delete your save.

Well, screw you too, GameFreak. I didn't want your stupid game anyway.

In which I attempt to draw the RTR guild symbols freehand.

Huh, that didn't turn out very good at all.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Putting the "Clef" in "Clefairy"

I'm a little surprised at how much homework I'm getting assigned for my poetry class. She wants a four-page response to the reading for every class. Yeesh. I just finished my first one--I added in some hypothetical dialogue, including a silly little aside about a Simic Guildmage trying to use cytoplastic implants to write poetry automatically; and a cynical, snarky impression of one of the readings as a Poetry Hipster who only reads poets you've probably never heard of.

First impression: doing this for every class is going to be a pain in the neck.

On the other hand, having to write so much is certainly a challenge. It'll take some creativity to find enough content to meet the length requirement. So it's a non-trivial amount of work, but I do expect it to stretch those creative muscles.

Sorry, hang on, I just got a mental image of "creative mussels". Little clams painting pictures and writing poetry. Ahahaha.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Facebook diving

I don't see why people don't like the new Facebook timeline. I think it's cool being able to see all my old posts from way back when.

I agree with my past self. What's the deal with this? Link's Awakening, A Link to the Past, Oracle of Ages and Seasons, none of them had the big overworld gimmick. Everything was densely packed into a big map of awesome gameplay.

Wow. My past self is brilliant. That explains the whole thing! Bill Murray must be time-anchored like Cassie from Animorphs, so when somebody else gets time-looped, he goes along for the ride. I bet it was that kid from those Todd Strasser books who kept switching bodies with people all the time.

I really wanted to go, but I was out of town and couldn't make it. I made up for it later by going to a FNM draft and 3-0'ing the pod with infinite removal.dec.

Burn! Seriously though, I thought I'd read Glenn Beck's book since I liked O'Reilly's, and they're pretty similar, right? Nah, turns out Glenn Beck is a crappy writer. I couldn't get through it.

This one was pretty disappointing even though there was nothing really at stake. We had a rock-solid defense and half the jury didn't even vote. I even wore nice pants. Totally a letdown.

One of the age-old pastimes of high school is drawing on the board before class when the teacher is late. This is a particularly epic group effort from several of us who were sitting on this side of the room; someone snapped a photo and tagged me in it. I think I did the Weedle, Pikachu, Magnemite, and Eevee.

Ahahaha, that one still gets a laugh out of me. Look out, walls! Venit Nex Parietis!

Oh no, there's no link! What was I correcting? Damn, now I have to know! I can't remember!

Three years and counting. Antics have yet to occur. Will report when they do.