Elves, demons and choo-choo trains

I’m currently following not just one, or two, or three, but four different shows, and will probably watch them through the end of the fall season. This hasn’t happened in a long time, probably not since anime’s annus mirabilis 20071.

Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End is the most interesting of the quartet. The title character is an elf mage who years ago was part of a band of heroes who defeated the demon king. She’s short and looks quite young, but she is actually at least a thousand years old. She doesn’t age and has little sense of time passing. At one point she spends six months looking for a particular flower. For her human companion, that’s half a year of her life; for Frieren it’s no more than a single afternoon.

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Today’s quote

Silicon Graybeard:

… go outside on a clear, dark night. Wait until your eyes are used to the dark and look up. Everything you see that is shining by its own light is nuclear powered. Everything you see shining in reflected sunlight (the moon, the planets), all of that is lit by nuclear power. Now look toward your house or a nearby city. Everything you see is lit by chemical bonds being broken and re-established. As someone put it, “everything God powers is nuclear; everything man powers is fire.”

See Astronomy Photo of the Day for numerous examples of nuclear lighting.

Return to Paragon City

2 a.m. December 1, 2012

Eleven years ago NCSoft notoriously shut down City of Heroes, the first superhero MMORPG. I recently discovered that it has been revived, albeit unofficially. Someone obtained the code several years ago and ran it on a clandestine server. Word eventually got out, the code was shared, and there are now several Cities available online. I’ve been playing a little on “Homecoming.” Avatars I’ve designed so far include “Alpha Ralpha” and “MacCruiskeen,” with probably “Willy McGilly” and “Jirel de Joiry” to follow.1

This might be of interest to John C. Wright, if he doesn’t already know.

Update: NCSoft has granted Homecoming an official license to host City of Heroes. It looks like the game will be around to play for a while.

No more spinning beachballs

I’ve had my new laptop for two weeks now. Articles on switching from Apple to Windows recommend that you quit using your old Mac cold turkey, and that has been easy. Windows 11 feels very Mac-like, and I’ve had little trouble finding my way around. The new computer is also much, much faster than the aging iMac, thanks to solid-state drives. I can check my mail thirty seconds after turning the laptop on; with the old Mac, I had time to shave and fix breakfast before I could delete the morning spam. Whenever I do use the old Mac, everything happens in slow motion. (I expect that the current generation of Apple computers with SSD drives are as fast as my new Windows machine, but the prices range from Too High to Absolutely Ridiculous, and they generally aren’t upgradable.)

With one major exception, most of the software I used on the Mac has Windows versions which I could — usually — install on the new computer without buying again. (The exception is Logic, the digital audio workstation that I’ve been using for over twenty years. It is Apple-only, and it is the only remaining good reason for using a Mac.) Sometimes the installations went smoothly. Applied Acoustics Systems conveniently assembled all the instruments I’ve bought over the years into a single file to download, which installed everything in the right places and authorized them, all at once. They get an A+. Native Instruments’ installer also got it right the first time, which is important when the total download is nearly 600 gigabytes and needs to be split across two drives (the applications on the main drive, the samples and soundware, which constitute the bulk of the downloads, on the capacious external drive). NI also gets an A.

IK Multimedia, however, gets a D. The installer for their “product manager” would not launch the first few times I tried. Re-downloading it didn’t make any difference. Just before I sent IK an angry note, I tried once more, and this time it worked and installed the installer. The total IK download was about 450 gigabytes, and as with NI, it was also to be spread across two drives. However, the product manager screwed things up. Although I told it that the sounds were to go on the external drive, it ignored me and put most of them on the main drive. Fortunately, it was easy, albeit tedious, to fix: copy all the misplaced files to the correct folders, launch each application one by one and tell it where to find the sounds, and delete the superfluous files.

Embertone gets a C-. Here again you need to download an installer. Unfortunately, the link to that installer goes to “This site can’t be reached.” I finally heard back from the company yesterday and all is now well, but they need to update their website.

Graphics software was more of a problem. If I am going to continue to use Photoshop Elements, I will have to purchase it again (like hell I’m going to “subscribe” to anything Adobe). I think I’ll see if Affinity Photo (cheap) or GIMP (free) will do what I need. Topaz Labs does make their “legacy” filters available for download on their site, but the installers put them in random places. You have to track them down and manually move them to the right plugins folder for Photoshop to find them. I may be looking for alternatives for Topaz. Filter Forge doesn’t offer legacy downloads, and you need to purchase the most recent version to install it on a new computer. Adobe, Topaz and FF all get C’s or worse. Other specialized software vendors are more responsible, fortunately; Helicon Focus, PanoramaStudio and Photomatix were all easily installed and get A’s.

Not everything about Windows is delightful. The task bar is stuck at the bottom of the screen where it constantly gets in my way, and, as far as I can tell, it is not possible to move it to the side in Windows 11, as I could the dock on my Mac. Special symbols like a degree sign or an em-dash are simple three-key combinations on a Mac keyboard, but require either an easily-forgotten alt-plus-(number pad) digits sequence or scrolling down a menu to insert. I use a lot of dashes when I write, and this is a damned nuisance.

A tale of Whoopshire

Last year we had a P.G. Wodehouse story for Halloween. This year it’s Robert Benchley’s turn. This is technically a Christmas story, but it’s equally inappropriate for October 31.

Uncle Edith’s Ghost Story

“Tell us a ghost story, Uncle Edith,” cried all the children late Christmas afternoon when everyone was cross and sweaty.

“Very well, then,” said Uncle Edith, “it isn’t much of a ghost story, but you will take it—and like it,” he added, cheerfully. “And if I hear any whispering while it is going on, I will seize the luckless offender and baste him one.

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Spotted toad

Here’s a formal portrait of the “toad lily,” Tricyrtis hirta. The flower is perhaps an inch and a half in diameter. It’s native to Japan and does not like hot sun. I’ve got mine in a spot where it gets shade almost all day, but the little bit of sun in the evening was sufficient to burn the tips of the leaves. In full shade with extra water during hot weather it’s easy to grow. While the flowers are perhaps more interesting than pretty, they do come at a time when nearly all the other perennials have finished for the year.

Of dishwashers and cigarette lighters

The “letter to the editor” today at Dr. Boli’s magazine reminded me (and at least one other person) of Henry Kuttner’s tale from eighty years ago, “The Twonky.” I’ve occasionally wanted to post or link to the story, one of the more prophetic writings of the twentieth century, but until recently I hadn’t been able to find it online. You can read it here.1

Technical question

I plan to purchase a non-Apple laptop shortly. The one I’m most interested in comes in two varieties, identical except for the CPUs. One has an AMD Ryzen™ 7 7745HX; the other has an Intel® Core™ i7-13700HX. The Intel model costs $140 more than the AMD. If I understand what I’ve read online, the Intel CPU overall performs slightly better overall, but not overwhelmingly so. I’ll primarily use the new computer for music and graphics, but I might experiment with gaming, something that has long been a joke on Macs. Is the Intel CPU worth the premium? I suspect that it won’t make that much difference for me, and the extra money would be better used for upgraded peripherals, but I’m not sure.

I figure I probably will need some anti-virus protection for the new computer — something that I haven’t had to worry about with Macs. Bitdefender is the best-reviewed and is not terribly expensive. Is it reliable, or should I consider something else? Are free options adequate?

Morning gloom

The skies here are heavily overcast, and there is no sign of the annular eclipse going on right now other than it being slightly darker outdoors than earlier this morning.

I was luckier six years ago.

Dark times ahead

There will be an annular solar eclipse October 14, a week from Saturday. That will be followed by a total eclipse next year on April 8. The paths of both eclipses cross the USA, intersecting in south Texas not far from San Antonio. Here in Kansas I should have a pretty good view of both, assuming the weather is cooperative.

NASA has maps of the paths at various resolutions that you can download here.