Monthly Archives: May 2016

Fallout 4 DLC “Far Harbor” impressions

 I’m up to the final decision point of the latest Fallout 4 DLC “Far Harbor” & have my choices figured out fairly well so I think a few comments – fwiw – are ready to go.

On the whole, I’d say it’s one of the three best DLCs of the entire series. Not quite as simply fun as “Old World Blues” for New Vegas, maybe not quite as enjoyable overall as I found “Point Lookout”.

 
It’s easily the most quantity of NPCs with depth I’ve seen in any of their DLC (even more than “Lonesome Road”). It might even be argued that, overall, there’s actually more story here than in the Fallout 4 main story.   Side quests are key to immersion here, more than usual IMO.   I don’t know how much you eventually truly “care” about the NPCs you meet but the approach here certainly makes more of them feel alive and provides a feeling that they’re unique & in this sub-universe, rather than being so generic.

There is one VERY irritating mechanic introduced, a section of puzzle games required to progress the main story that feels a good bit like a simplified version of Portal. If that ain’t your thing — and it’s certainly not mine — then just use the various walkthroughs already posted online & get it over with.  Given my utter lack of interest in anything Portal-esque, those walkthroughs were probably the difference between playing & enjoying versus walking away from this DLC completely.

The settlements that become available are quite large by F4 standards, though with the annoying build cap still in effect on consoles that’s a lot less meaningful that it could be.  (yes, I know there’s a work-around for that but it’s still imperfect).  The new weapons didn’t excite me much, the improved basic armor is nice to be able to have for settlers current and future.    A few new food/health items aren’t bad, at least one new building type is now available for you as well.

Also, I definitely recommend playing this with Nick Valentine as your companion, moreso if you have not finished his affinity quests previously.   There’s a lot of insight into Nick to be had here, though less impact if you’ve already dealt with all he had to offer originally.   I say recommend because, contrary to how it might appear from the early hype, you can start this “detective story” without ever picking up Nick to tag along.

Could it have been better?  Of course.  Without getting into spoiler territory, I’d like to have seen more options to … well let’s say “make eco-system improvements”.  Having individual choices about members of certain factions would be great, there’s still largely all or nothing outcomes by faction, along with one maybe-we-can-all-sorta-get-along ending as well.

On the whole though, I’m quite satisfied with the DLC, most welcome after the first two were fairly weak and added little to the basic game that couldn’t and shouldn’t have been there from day one.

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Ready To Rock (weekly playlists)

Three new songs, plus one re-entry, join my weekly Spotify Top 40 with the latest update

Missing songs this week:
None

New to the Spotify list this week
No Prisoner – Awaken, Post-American World – Megadeth, Circles – Pierce The Veil, Too Far – Romantic Rebel (re-entry)

Dropping off the Spotify list this week:
Happy Song– Bring Me The Horizon, Emotionless – Red Sun Rising, Closer – Silversyde, Blameshift – Sons Of Texas

For the larger (nearly 200 songs) YouTube version there’s nearly a dozen songs added including new tracks from Trapt, 3 Doors Down, Nonpoint, 3 Pill Morning, Leo Morrachioli and more. You can find it at this link

Also, if you’re wondering exactly how all of this gets put together – the hows & whys of it – this old blog entry probably explains more than you ever wanted to know.

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Graduation Day

Hmm.

Heck of a start to what should probably be some highly profound bit of writing from me.

I mean, it’s not exactly every day that your only child graduates from high school.  And I’ve only been pondering what to say or write for how many years now?  Yet, here I am, mostly not able to get beyond “hmm”.

I’ve even wondered “why write anything at all, if you’re this stuck?”.  Contrary to what I sometimes think it may look like, I really don’t write for the “major events” for the public.  It’s just a format that I’ve grown comfortable with, one where I seem to find more of the words that I’m looking for than I do when trying to speak them one on one.

It’s not that I have any real big issues communicating verbally with my child or anything.  We actually, perhaps, communicate a little too well at times.  We lapse into shorthand, with reference points from a wide range of subjects, almost too easily.    It’s just that, well, some things just seem as though they’re too big, too momentous, too milestone worthy to allow ourselves that easy out.

And so I write.  Or try to.

But what on Earth do I say that hasn’t already been said?  I’m not exactly the picture of healthy living, so I’ve generally erred on the side of saying things to him as the moments come, not confident in the wisdom of holding anything back for later.  I’m not yet 50, but it’s been quite a while since I’ve been comfortable buying green bananas.  (Okay, I don’t actually buy bananas period.  I don’t like them, I don’t eat them, it’s just a metaphor).

think I’ve managed to make it clear to both him and the rest of the world that I couldn’t possibly love him more, be any prouder of him, be any happier with him as both a child and a person than I already am.   We’ve actually been quite blessed in that regard I believe, we’ve certainly had our ups & downs as any parent/child relationships do but overall I believe he’s been secure in the knowledge that he’s a child that is truly beloved.  Not only here at home, but by grandparents and great grandparents and an array of other relatives.   Indeed, his life has been one where love surrounded him, for which I’m truly grateful.

You’ve heard that thing about how “it takes a village“, he had one with a lot of residents.  From neighbors that greeted us at the car when he came home from the hospital, to a restauranteur that was our mutual island of sanity during the stay at home dad years, to his “harem” of various teenage girls that were part of our lives.  Part baby-sitter, part older sisters, part best friends, they were instrumental in helping get him from infancy to where we are today.  I could go at considerable length here, certainly can’t omit a number of male influences either.  His gaggle of girls brought into our lives some amazing young men, who shared things like football and video games and all sorts of other guy stuff.  But what they really gave him was time and attention, positive influences & role models.   They were prisms of sorts, lenses that allowed him to project himself into different roles & begin to contemplate questions like “who am I” and “what do I want to be”.  They were also invaluable support as we faced the most traumatic parenting moment of all:
the start of school.

Every one of you helped get us to today, my gratitude for the help is tremendous.

We were mostly an own-our-business and work-from-home a lot family in his youngest days.  You’ve never seen a more sad sack pair of parents than us on his first day of kindergarten.  Oh we got out of the parking lot fine enough, heck I bet we were at least 0.1 miles from the school before the tears started.  He was fine, we were pretty much wrecks that spent the rest of the day watching the clock & counting the time until he could come home.   Minus the tears part, I’m not sure we’ve entirely recovered from that sentiment yet.

Looking back, 13 years of school, it’s kind of a big blur right now.  3 schools (including three in a four year span), 2 towns, and lots of … stuff.

————–

Son of mine, from the first school you learned some things that have served you incredibly well.   You hold doors open, you say sir and ma’am at the appropriate times, you keep an eye out for the younger students around you.  Those behaviors all became so deeply imprinted on you that they quickly became simply part of who you are, intrinsic, natural.   Those things may not be purely academic but they’ve proven time & again to be among the most valuable lessons you ever received.

From the second, you began to learn about your own adaptability.  Uprooted, transplanted, thrown into deeper water than you’d encountered before.  But you steadied yourself, you grew, you swam.  You learned the value of “fake it til you make it” and began to develop some valuable skills in an area we might call “figure it out“.

And then the third stop on the road so far.   That deeper water from before suddenly got a lot deeper, and with a lot swifter current.  I don’t know if there’s really any better summary of those years than one of our running family jokes, the one about how we should print t-shirts that read “The Acad Experience” with a nice Jimi Hendrix motif.   I’d feel dishonest if I didn’t say something here about how that phrase has more nuances and possible interpretations and applications than could be covered in several thousand words.   But a lot of those are … things for another day.

Today, well, that’s for recognition and celebration.  And you’ve certainly received and earned a share of those.  One of your greatest assets might very well be that I really don’t have to point out a lot of the good you’ve taken from The Experience, you detailed many of them quite well in your own speech at Vespers.  You’ve learned that “hard does not always equal bad“, that “you can’t always get it like you want it“, to “be careful what you wish for” and that “they can kill you but they can’t eat you, it’s in the rules“.  Okay, that last one is mostly via your Mom but it still seems to fit here somehow.

You learned the value of hard work, the importance of maximizing your strengths while minimizing your weaknesses while you improved those areas.  You learned how to experiment with things until you found the methods that worked best for you.  You learned how to make lemonade when you ended up with a large case of lemons.

And now here we are.  By the time you read this there isn’t even a wake-up call left before you graduate.

I wanted something profound for today, to find some perfect wording to convey some inherent & invaluable truth to you.   Thing is, I’ve repeatedly used most of the best material I have already.   “Work is what funds play”, “If you want to find the motive, following the money rarely fails”,When you reach bottom, STOP DIGGING” and above all else “Just be Will.  That’s going to be enough for any situation“.   (The fact that your father has “only one nerve left” , perhaps the very earliest lesson you ever consistently repeated back, really doesn’t fit into this category so don’t go there).   The irreplaceable former headmaster Bob Chambers gave you even better advice that I’m always ready to repeat “Be where you’re supposed to be, doing what you’re supposed to be doing, on time” and you’ll rarely find trouble.

That’s ground that’s really been covered already, some of it pretty well worn at this point.  But I do think I’ve figured out what I really want to say to you today:

You’ve done it.  You hit enough shots, you battled through adversity, you played enough defense, you hit the free throw down the stretch.  The clock is about to reach 0:00, it’s okay to look at the scoreboard and raise your arms in exultation.

You did it.

It was not easy, the breaks didn’t always go your way, you fought, you scrapped, you battled.  You made us all proud, for not just the outcome but for the way you represented yourself and those who supported you.

Well done.

It’s a big win, but other challenges lie ahead.  Today is neither the end nor the beginning, it’s really a sort of way station.  Keep striving, keep learning, keep growing, keep doing.  There’s much more ahead of you.

Carry on.

With all my love,
your very proud Dad

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Ready To Rock (weekly playlists)

A hectic week in my personal life coincides with a busy update to my weekly Spotify Top 40 this week, five new songs joining the list

Missing songs this week:
None

New to the Spotify list this week
Afraid Of HeightsBilly Talent, Joyride- Chevelle, Monster – Stitched Up Heart,  Feel You Falling – Devin Williams, Off The Ground – The Record Company

Dropping off the Spotify list this week:
Falling Apart – Papa Roach, In The Dark – 3 Doors Down, War Zone – Light Up The Darkness, Made This Way – The Word Alive, Too Far – Romantic Rebel

For the larger (nearly 200 songs) YouTube version there’s nearly a  dozen songs added including the aforementioned Chevelle and Billy Talent tracks, new Saliva, new Pierce The Veil, the latest single from Stone Broken and more. You can find it at this link

Also, if you’re wondering exactly how all of this gets put together – the hows & whys of it – this old blog entry probably explains more than you ever wanted to know.

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Ready To Rock (weekly playlists)

As I expected, a busy week for changes in my weekly Spotify Top 40 this week, with two new songs entering and three others than made brief appearances previously working their way back in.

Missing songs this week:
None

New to the Spotify list this week
Raise HellDorothy(re-entry), World In Grey- Asfirefalls, Blameshift – Sons Of Texas, Made This Way – The Word Alive(re-entry), Too Far – Romantic Rebel (re-entry)

Dropping off the Spotify list this week:
Bad Reputation – Adelitas Way, Victorious – Wolfmother, Breathing Lightning – Anthrax, I’m America – Cilver, Aftermath – Awaken

For the larger (nearly 200 songs) YouTube version there’s  a dozen songs added including the return of Blacklite District, the next single from Stitched Up Heart, a new one from Clutch, the debut of Atlanta-based Filthy Rebel, album cuts from Jim Breuer and Colt Ford, and more. You can find it at this link

Also, if you’re wondering exactly how all of this gets put together – the hows & whys of it – this old blog entry probably explains more than you ever wanted to know.

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Ready To Rock (weekly playlists)

Three songs make their debut in my Spotify Top 40 this week, ranging from newcomers to active rock staples.   A kind of medium-sized update, but another heavy dose of changes appears to be coming in the next week or two.

Missing songs this week:
None

New to the Spotify list this week
All The WordsThe Motorleague, Take It All- Pop Evil, Remember Every Scar – Escape The Fate

Dropping off the Spotify list this week:
Take Me To Heaven – Filter, Spider In The Dark – Bobaflex, Stay – Aranda

For the larger (nearly 200 songs) YouTube version there’s  nearly a dozen songs added including an impressive cover of an 80s pop song from Jorn, new music from Brazilian rockers Hardstuff, the latest singles from Megadeth and From Ashes To New, album cuts from Saint Asonia and Hellyeah and more. You can find it at this link

Also, if you’re wondering exactly how all of this gets put together – the hows & whys of it – this old blog entry probably explains more than you ever wanted to know.

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Teacher Appreciation Day

I’ve both read and heard how today has been designated as Teacher Appreciation Day across the U.S. and my morning certainly included a fitting part of that.

My son was among the local high school seniors honored by the Oconee County (GA) Rotary Club as Student of the Semester for their respective schools.  A key part of the proceedings was the selection and introduction by the students of a teacher that had made a significant impact on their lives.

I can vouch without reservation for the deep respect my son has for his selected teacher Alan Hickerson, as well as for the positive influence that he has been.  Beyond the material in English classes and beyond the skills that were enhanced by their work together in Mock Trial preparation and competition, the value of another lesson learned in those endeavors might be the most enduring.  The opportunity to learn, as Will puts it “to make myself better”, that comes with doing tasks that are difficult and that require a lot of digging to meet expectations.  That’s something that will last him a lifetime, both the process as well as the insight that “hard” doesn’t mean “bad”.  If anything, it’s often the opposite.

All of this combines to have me thinking specifically about some of the teachers that I encountered along the way.  It’s a subject that’s crossed my mind on several occasions in recent months, one that I’ve been meaning to address in fact.  Apparently one of the lessons I didn’t quite master was avoiding procrastination, no matter how good my intentions might be.

A fair number of my readers will know some, if not all, of the teachers that I’m going to name.  For those who don’t, I both hope and suspect that you will at least recognize some of the traits and influences that I want to mention.

Some of these teachers I lost track of long ago, others I’m lucky to remain in contact with electronically to this day.   Regardless, their influence remains a part of me.  They deserve credit for whatever I may have learned, just leave the blame for any inadequate application of those lessons on me.   It is also not an exhaustive list, please accept in advance my apologies to any errors of omission.

I distinctly recall with great fondness one of my fifth grade teachers, Sandra Gaines.  I was, well, a different sort of child/student.  She was the first teacher that I consciously felt not only respected that but also actively tried to engage it. Some of that awareness may simply be an increased maturity on my part but to me it felt different.  That instead of being a frustrating — and Lord KNOWS I had to be a nightmare for virtually anyone to have in a classroom —  round peg in a square hole, she accepted me as me and tried to leave room for round to be round.  And on days I was more of a hexagon she tried to work with that too.  How could I ever forget that?  It was something I needed even more than I could realize at the time.

Others who stand out particularly from my elementary years were more notable for the examples that they provided than for any specific classroom experience.  A more dedicated & hard working teacher could not be found than Luke Darby, nor a more dignified person than Leila Brown, nor a more giving heart than Willie Mae Weaver.  In some cases it took well into adulthood to be able to quantify what made those people stand out but even as a child you knew they were special.

Onward to high school and I think that, while still immature, our  increased understanding of people and actions tends to make more interactions stand out.
While I will never be someone that professes any sort of great fondness for school days, I can easily recall a number of very positive influences.

Gary Dickinson used humor to make his point with me frequently, effective in at least making me aware of some of my tendencies no matter how poorly I may have managed to curb them.  But his approach made the direction a lot easier to take, and a lot more palatable.

Ron Hunter was one of the first teachers, or adults period for that matter, to look me dead in the eye and say something privately in a very straight forward manner.  That remains memorable to me as one of the first times anyone ever treated me as a young adult to communicate WITH rather than a child to simply e spoken TO.

Bob Bradley changed forever my view of listening to someone read.  That sounds so simple, but for a voracious reader that truly hated being read to, that was a remarkable feat.  In doing so he gave me a previously non-existent appreciation for Southern writers in particular, he taught me the power of the interpretation of words, the impact of words heard rather than seen.  Considering the number of years that I would spend in broadcasting, I’d say those were some pretty impactful lessons, and ones that had very real world application.

I never had Lamar Turner as a teacher in a classroom but to this day I’ve seen no more enjoyable example of someone channeling their passion into a task.  To watch him coach basketball, practices even moreso than games perhaps, was one of the true delights of my school years.  With that came a subtle lesson that shaped me for the rest of my life, that it’s okay to be passionate about something, to be unafraid and unabashed in seeking improvement and success, and how passion combined with effort is a powerful force.

Sandra Payne provided a wonderful example of the importance of balance.  I left her classes with a better understanding — however imperfect my application of that knowledge was — of the concept of “a time to work and a time to have fun”.   I’ve seen few people in any field who ever managed that juggling act better.    I’m not very good at that particular skill, so that probably enhances my appreciation of someone so gifted in that regard.

Roy Cowart provided one of the most memorable experiences of my entire life.  Granted, there’s probably a lot of his former students who could say the same thing, with no shortage of them sweating bullets at the memory (especially in a chalk board was involved).    Suffice to say that I was almost as far from a model student as he had to deal with, and that our classroom relationship was not ideal (translation:  I was a stubborn lost ball in high weeds, demotivated, and reasonably content to remain that way).  It was well after our classroom encounters that he approached me about a relatively small matter that I might be able to be helpful to him with.  I’m not sure that I’ve ever felt more strongly not just the impact of being treated with respect but of feeling worthy of respect in some way.   I don’t know that I could ever put that feeling into words well enough to do it justice but it’s a memory that I’ve gone back to probably more than any other in my entire K-12 experiences.

One other teacher that I cannot fail to mention here is one that I never personally had in a classroom.  My direct interactions with Coach Don Enis were relatively limited compared to many of my peers but I can think of no finer example of someone impacting so many people so deeply and in so many positive ways.  It requires hindsight to really appreciate the importance of someone who had such profound & positive influence on your peers but with the benefit of (hopefully) time-earned wisdom, I now appreciate a great deal the way he improved the world I interacted with by making so many people be better than they would have been without him.

This isn’t the first time I’ve though about any of these teachers, nor the value they added to my life beyond mere subject matter.  And in those thoughts I’ve wondered more than once how many of them would even remember the situations that I’ll never forget.  I’ve wondered whether they realized at the time how much of an impact they were having, that it would stick with me more than three decades later.  My guess is that some will, some almost certainly won’t, but maybe that’s a great way to illustrate one of the most important things I hope every teacher manages to keep somewhere in mind:  you don’t always know when you’re giving a student something they will carry forever.

I’ve also done a lousy job of making sure these influences knew what I’d gained from them, from the lessons they taught or simply the people they were.   A lot of these stories are things that I’ve tried to express only a few times and to a pretty select number of people.  Gratitude is something that human beings aren’t always great at expressing, but I hope no teacher ever entirely mistakes its absence with a lack of appreciation.

Sometimes the beneficiaries just haven’t figured out a way to say thank you.

 

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