…just another face in the crowd.

What’s Happening

Posted by Rankyn Phyle on 2015 Sep 13

For the last couple of days, I’ve been dreaming about my old comic book store.

Two nights ago I was dreaming about turning the garage on my mother’s house into a new store.
But it was being done in the style of all these "house flipping" shows I’ve been watching lately where they throw a graphic up on the screen with the cost of each improvement.
Framing: $1,500
Drywall: $900
Plate Glass Windows: $2,000
And so forth.

When it was all said and done, it was kind of a nice space.
But then I’d probably have to name the store something stupid like Krazy Kuntry Komix to attract the locals.

Then last night it was more like I had remodeled my original store.
I was putting the finishing touches on it because the building was still empty when the group of dwarves from The Hobbit comes in and wants to murder their leader and bury him behind my store.
I was ok with this as long as they didn’t mess up my new carpet.

A little while later as I’m digging around in the floor in the front part of my store (apparently the carpet was put down over dirt?), an old friend from high school comes in with a couple of dead celebrities (Cher and Elton John) and wants to know if I’ll chop them up and bury them under my store.
I calmly explain to him that they won’t both fit in the hole I’m digging so what we’ll do instead is put them in boxes and ship them to random addresses via UPS.

Maybe the fumes from all these boxes of old comic books stacked against my wall are starting to get to me, not unlike the way the trees attacked humanity in The Happening.


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Up the Stream without a Paddle

Posted by Rankyn Phyle on 2015 Jul 18

If you ever find yourself in the market for a streaming media box, do yourself a favor and just buy a Roku​.
You’ll thank yourself for it later.

Sure, if you’re a prisoner of the Apple ecosystem, an AppleTV might be a better option for you, but for those of us lucky enough to be on the outside, you’re not gonna find anything better than a Roku.

Chromecast? Cheap but because it has no remote, you’re at the mercy of your phone or tablet, hoping that they will acknowledge its presence if you want to use it.
Streamed a Netflix​ movie with it and now want to pick a different one but for some reason your phone doesn’t list it as an available device? You’re out of luck.
Maybe you could try unplugging it from the TV to reboot it or come back in a couple of hours when your phone will magically decide that it exists again.

Amazon Fire TV? A decent option if 1) You don’t mind that it’s more interested in pushing all things Amazon on you than playing your media, and 2) It’ll sometimes decide that it can’t transcode your media right now but then will do it with no problem later.
I think that my biggest irritation with it’s UI is that when I select an app to launch (such as Netflix), it will sometimes take me to the product info page for the Netflix app instead of just launching it.
”No, I’ve already ‘purchased’ the Netflix app so I don’t need to read about it to decide if I want it or not… just launch it.”

Roku is straightforward in its simplicity.
It does one thing and it does it very well.
I click the Netflix app, I start watching Netflix.
I click the Plex app, I start watching my local media.
The remote stops working, I change the batteries and carry on.

I bought a Chromecast when they first came out as a cheap streaming option for the TV in my bedroom.
I hate it.
The only thing I don’t regret about it is that it came with several free months of Netflix so that pushed it’s net cost down to about $10.

I bought a FireTV Stick for my (non-technology inclined) mother as an inexpensive way for her to watch Netflix.
The cluttered UI and inconsistent navigation confused her so I gave her my Roku and used the FireTV Stick for myself, figuring that the release of a new Roku model was imminent and I could live with the FireTV Stick in the meantime.
Big mistake because there was no R4 in sight, but at least she could watch Netflix.

So last week I found a good deal on a refurbished Roku Stick.
It’s under-powered so the UI is a little sluggish but it runs Netflix & Plex and plays all my media.
Now I’ve once again got a good device on the big tv, an acceptable device in the bedroom, and a Chromecast for sale on eBay.
At this point I should be able to patiently await the eventual release of the R4, at which time I’ll probably give the Roku Stick to my mom so she can watch Netflix in bed.

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99 Cred Balloons

Posted by Rankyn Phyle on 2015 Jun 24

I’m a little surprised that day two of the big credit dupe in Star Wars: The Old Republic​ has come and gone with no hotfix.

It’s not even one of those things that requires you to dance on one foot under a full moon to exploit… it’s as simple as buying a 1cr item from a vendor (as intended) and then immediately selling it back for 100cr (unintended).

It takes less than 5 seconds to create 9,801cr since you can buy 99 of the things at once.
Dedicated exploiters can crank out tens of millions of credits in a very short amount of time.

I mean, at the very least they should have run a hotfix today to just remove the item from the vendor and then fixed the item and put it back in with a regular Tuesday update next week.

There was a notice about it on Tuesday after the extended maintenance and they’ve posted updates about it over time, but it remains unfixed.
If they were going to hotfix it on Thursday, they’d have certainly posted an announcement before now.

UPDATE: Looks like they’re hotfixing it (with very little notice) early Thursday morning.

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Under the Dumb

Posted by Rankyn Phyle on 2015 Jun 22

The third season of Under the Dome starts on Thursday and I’ve got mixed feelings about it.
I’ve got sort of a love-hate relationship with this show in that I wanted to like it and thought it got off to a pretty good start but by the second season, I was really hoping it’d get cancelled so I wouldn’t feel obligated to keep watching it.

It’s not that the general premise is bad, it’s that the people in the town are just very, very stupid, and I’m bothered by that.

I mean, this is a small town so it’s not like some giant metropolis has been bottled in.
People know each other and the fact that they’ve been completely cut off from the outside world by some unknown technology (or magic) means that they’re gonna react in a certain way.
That way is not calm yet firm resolve.
The story is based on a book and I have no idea how it dealt with such a thing, but my point is that given the small, rural population of this area, hysteria should be the order of the day.

But, you say, after a time, people would start to pull together to help each other out.
Yes, this is true, and I could buy that answer up to a certain point.
However, what I thought was a story unfolding over a couple of months (which would have made sense), was apparently a story being told over a couple of days.
In season 2 (after everything that happened in season 1) only a couple of weeks have passed.

This leads into my next point… Given that time is only passing about 1 day per episode, how the hell do these people not remember (or care) what happened yesterday??!?
There’s some Snidely Whiplash level dastardly deeds being done and while most of the people are completely oblivious to it (which seems unlikely given the size of their universe), the ones who aren’t seem to not care about it anymore after the end of the episode.

Hero: That dude was planning to kill most of you because we don’t have enough food.
Townie: Not possible. That dude is a pillar of the community and we’ve only survived this long because of him.
Villain: No, it’s true. And I would have gotten away with it if it hadn’t been for those meddling kids. But I did what I did to save this town.
Townie: Well, ok. No harm, no foul.

And then the cycle repeats for the next episode.

Hero: We could have all safely escaped if that dude hadn’t been so greedy and ruined it for everyone by trying to save himself.
Townie: Not possible. That dude is a pillar of the community and we’ve only survived this long because of him.
Villain: No, it’s true.  I’m on a mission from god.
Townie: Well, ok. No harm, no foul.

This is a series where my 7-episode rule has let me down.
I bought into the premise and now I feel obligated to keep watching the show even though I keep hoping it’ll be cancelled so I can free myself from it.
In the meantime, my OCD demands that I keep watching all the episodes.

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I’m a Genuinely Terrible Mayor

Posted by Rankyn Phyle on 2015 Mar 20

No matter what I try to do to improve the lives of my citizens in Cities Skylines, I seem to make something worse.

I tried to build new roads to alleviate traffic but they all just shifted over to this new road because it was a more direct route and it immediately became a giant parking lot.

So I made parts of it 1-way to divert some of the traffic and they practically stopped using it.

Now I’ve got garbage trucks backed up for miles and a sudden spike in the mortality rate means that the hearses can’t get to the dead bodies fast enough which is causing a health crisis.

Then, to make matters worse, a link in my power chain went down which caused my suburb across the highway to suffer brownouts right about the time the pollution from a designated polluting zone grew large enough that it started contaminating my drinking water causing more sickness and death.

I was using this first city as sort of a ‘sandbox’ to see how everything works without the pressures of a budget, but I’m about to the point of just starting completely over so I could at least untangle my bus routes.

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You Won't Win if You Do Play.

Posted by Rankyn Phyle on 2014 Mar 18

Here’s a little story that serves as proof that my sense of humor did not come from my mother.

I like to play the lottery but only when the jackpots become “worthwhile” (usually above $300 million) because otherwise it’s too expensive to play twice a week every week and that cutoff point keeps the wasted money to a minimum.

You can’t buy lottery tickets in Nevada and I’d have to drive at least an hour to stand in a huge line at the California border to get them.
Instead, I just ask my mother to pick them up while she’s out and about since you can get ’em at every convenience store in Texas.

Now, my mother doesn’t really understand how the lottery works and instead of checking the numbers for herself, she scans the ticket and emails it to me so I can check them.
Hell, I’m just impressed that she can usually figure out how to use her scanner.

Anyway, she sends me a scan of today’s ticket with the message: “I’m scanning you the winner!”

My reply: “I’m gonna need you to scan a different ticket because the one you scanned didn’t win anything.”

So she sends me two more scans of the same ticket with the message, “Hope this one is better!”

I know what you’re thinking… “Hey, that’s kinda clever. Why are you complaining?”

Because I know my mother and she didn’t send the new scans to be a smartass, she sent them because she thought I didn’t get the others.

 Published by WebStory

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Posted by Rankyn Phyle on 2014 Feb 01

Why is it that this weekend, everyone I speak to seems to try to initiate small talk by asking me a question about the Super Bowl and my viewing plans for it?

I mean, there’s really nothing about me anywhere that would indicate that I give a rat’s ass about sports.

So then why do they seem surprised at my reaction when I tell them I will not only not be watching it but am also beyond uninterested in either the gameplay or the outcome of it.

In the past I have been mildly interested in the commercials (one year going so far as to take the feed as it came down and edit the game out from between them), but now that you can watch them all online before AND after they air, who cares?

This all started with the apartment manager asking when I went to pay my rent.

He honestly seemed at a loss that someone actually didn’t care about the game.
He was not the only person I had this same exchange with today.

Apparently being in a hardware store is a manly thing to do and manly men discuss Super Bowls in hardware stores.

Nope, I just wanted to buy some bolts for my headboard because the ones on it right now are too short and can’t be properly tightened and I’m tired of waking up in the middle of the night because my bed is squeaking, not because I care about millionaires getting physical with each other while other millionaires get richer.

Now, most of the time when I order pizza, I usually get a 2-pizza deal. I like cold pizza and that gives me one to eat today and another to eat tomorrow.

So when the pizza dude brings me my stack of boxes and asks me if I’m gettin’ ready for some football, I suppress the urge to beat him to death with soggy cardboard and just tell him “yes”

 Published by WebStory

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Legacy 50

Posted by Rankyn Phyle on 2013 Dec 13


It was exactly 2 years ago today that I started playing SWTOR (post-beta) and I have finally hit Legacy 50.

In honor of this momentous occasion, I fished up a thread on my old SWG guild forums where I had posted my early likes and dislikes about the game (before I had any idea about what I was doing) and now I’d like to share my stream-of-consciousness ramblings with you.

It was fun for me to look back and compare my very first impressions of the game with those of today.

I don’t like:
– Learning curve. You get it with every new game and it’s not hard, but there’s a LOT of stuff and it kind of feels like they expect me to learn it on my own and I’m just SOL if I don’t pay close enough attention when the help bubble pops up the first time I encounter something. Fortunately, everything seems to have a tooltip.

– Chat interface. I’m sure once I’ve customized it, it’ll be better but I find the default chat difficult to keep up with because of the way it’s presented.

– Mini-map overload. So much data. This is another thing I think will get better once I get a feel for how everything interconnects.

What I do like:
– No giant walls of quest text. DCUO was great in that you didn’t have to read your quest objectives. You essentially got a briefing en-route to your destination.

– Quest dialogue that matters. I’m not sure how much it matters, but at least I’ve got some options for how to progress when talking to the quest givers.

– Cutscenes. Finally quest interaction is more than just clicking on an NPC and taking the quest. It may, however, get annoying if they prove unskippable after I’ve seen them eleventy different times with alts.

What I’m on the fence about:
– Instanced story quest progression. It’s a cool concept and solves a lot of problems in giving the single-player experience in an multi-player environment but I don’t like the big red/green doors and the way players appear/disappear through them. This is mostly an aesthetic complaint so maybe they’ll come up with something that looks better eventually.

– In video terminology, their mission cutscenes have some bad edits in them. If you were recording a dialogue between two characters, you would not cut it together like this. Maybe the average gamer won’t be bothered by this but it bothers me.

Like (so far):
– The combat system makes me feel pretty heroic. So far I don’t feel like I’m just slaughtering rats and even at lvl 5, I feel like I’m kicking ***.

– Death animations. It’s nice to see the MOBs do more than just fall over and stop moving.

– Saw my first quest where my dialogue responses appear to have actually made a difference in the way things played out. I talked my way out of the situation rather instead of shooting.

– In typical MMO fashion, there’s a lot of walking back and forth. There seems to be a WoW-like transit system that you unlock as you discover it but all this running through the wilderness seems out of place in a sci-fi setting.

– The lack of swimming. Even SWG’s lame ‘tread water’ bit is better than this. They’ve followed the STO model of just not having water that’s so deep you can’t stand up in it. I suppose I’ve been forever ruined by Rift’s awesome swimming.

– I’ve really just discovered it but the weapon upgrade system looks pretty cool.

– The ever-increasing cooldown timer for being revived where you died to avoid the respawn and long walk back from the med center, especially when you get revived in a dangerous area and can’t get to safety before your invulnerability timer runs out.

– How the quest “Deadly Delivery” seems less about what I’m delivering and more about how many times I die while doing it.

– Companions from the same quest line all have the same name. So now there’s a bunch of people running around the place with a henchman named Corso Riggs.

– Clothing details such as buckles and pouches on the models look like they’re just a rubberized decal rather than an actual item of clothing since they bend and stretch as the model animates.

– The loading screen text changes to summarize what’s going on with my story.

– I hate it when games don’t want me to have a last name. I don’t wish to be known as “Captain Geoffrey” because that just sounds lame. They didn’t call him “Captain Han” did they? No. I think STO has the best implementation of this because it lets you determine which name the game uses to address you.

– I don’t know if it randomizes them or if they’re static but shuffled, but the conversation responses in quests aren’t always stacked Good/Neutral/Evil so you usually have to put a little thought into which button you press.
Conversely, it isn’t always clear exactly which morality you’re choosing based on the choices that are given.

– The longest available male hair isn’t very long.
– There is no tattoo-less Zabrak face.
– Zabrak hairstyles are pretty lame.

– Separate container for mission items so they don’t take up inventory space.

– The slight delay before the “this corpse has loot” indicator appears because you have to break your ‘run & gun’ stride to wait for it. On the other hand, the indicator itself is very cool.

– Area loot. It’s an option you can activate that will loot all corpses in the area when you click, not just the one you clicked on. Very convenient.

– The area map is very comprehensive and includes more than just walls. You can actually walk around an area pretty well with nothing but your map visible.

– The ‘kick in the crotch’ and ‘bash on head with pistol’ combat animations (especially when used together) are outstanding.

– Enemies die when your grenades knock them off a high ledge.

– Alien voiceovers are done in the appropriate language and you have to read the subtitles.

– Even though I hate the big red/green barriers (as mentioned above), it’s nice that they keep me from wasting time exploring an area that has nothing for me in it.

Like: (sort of)
– I have discovered that the spacebar will let me jump through the quest cutscenes. Not the whole thing, but at least multiple presses will let me skip forward to the “make your choice” option quickly. Hopefully they’ll patch it at some point to skip all the way through it.

– During your open-world quest cutscenes, you don’t see other players around you. This makes the experience more personal and you don’t have to deal with LuuuuuukkkeeSkeyewalllkurrr humping your questgiver while you’re trying to enjoy the game.

– While WoW requires lots of addons to give you all sorts of quest tracking assistance, it’s built into this game.

– Cool things during combat. I threw a sticky bomb at an enemy. My companion shot his grappling hook at him and pulled him over to us. I shot him in mid air, detonating the sticky bomb. The enemy died in a large fireball and went flying across the room.

– Companion appearance items. At least it’s possible for the thousands of different Corso Riggs’ to look different. Being able to turn off other players’ companion’s names also helps hide the fact that we’re all walking around with the same NPC.

– The “affection” stat for companions. I know it’s just a number relating to how well my companions agree with my actions, but it creeps me out when it tells me my henchman’s affection for me has increased. Surely they could have come up with a better name.

– Weekend beta is over.

 Published by WebStory

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Take Your Money and Go

Posted by Rankyn Phyle on 2013 Nov 29

I’m not sure what to make of my Papa John’s delivery person.
After I signed the credit card receipt and he handed over my pizza, he thanked me for my order and wished me a happy Thanksgiving and then it felt like he was lingering a little bit waiting for a tip.
It was very subtle, but all the drivers I used to deal with in Houston completed the transaction and turned and walked away.
It was like he was taking his time to disengage just in case I wanted to reach in my pocket and whip out some money.

Now, given the fact that Papa John’s lets you include a tip as part of your online transaction, I just do it there because it saves the need to do math at the front door.
Also, given the fact that this is probably the most common way they get their tips, it’s reasonable to expect that the drivers are aware of it and can actually see if/what you tipped them before they get to your door.

Furthermore, I tipped $5 on a $7.50 order (including tax and delivery fee).
Yeah, that’s right… a 67% tip. 125% if you only count the cost of the food itself.
1) I almost always tip these guys $5.
2) I was cashing in points and got a free pizza so my actual order would have been $14 (plus delivery/tax) under normal circumstances.

So even at full price, my tip was MORE than generous.

I’m not sure what to make of it.
Like I said, it was *VERY* subtle but he was either lingering just a little bit for some cash or hoping I’d invite him in to split the pizza.

The only other time I’ve experienced lingering of this nature was a few years ago at Fan Faire when the hotel valet brought my car around and I handed him the ticket thinking he needed it.
I fully intended to follow that up with some cash but apparently he decided this indicated that he wasn’t going to get any so he turned and walked away before I could reach back in my wallet for money.

Someone should write a book on proper tipping methodology because clearly I suck at it and almost always over-tip as a way of compensating for the fact that I really don’t know what I’m doing in the hope that these people will be too distracted by the extra cash to think I’m an idiot.

 Published by WebStory

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Arresting Development

Posted by Rankyn Phyle on 2013 Jun 26

I finally got around to watching the new season of Arrested Development (after re-watching seasons 1-3 for a refresher) and I’ve got mixed feelings.

On one hand it was cool to see the story continue but the way they chose to tell the story was a little overwhelming.
That’s not to say that I didn’t like it… In fact I thought it was quite interesting.

However, unlike the earlier seasons (and most other shows), it’s not told sequentially… All of the episodes are telling a single, parallel story.
This means that it had to rely much more heavily on narration than in previous seasons just to keep the story on track because it’s way to easy to forget what you’re seeing.

For instance, you may see a brief scene in episode 1 that’s relatively straightforward but in episode 4 you see the same scene from a different character’s point of view with more background leading up to it and something that was kind of out in left field in episode 1 (not unusual for the show) suddenly makes perfect sense in episode 4 because you’re finally seeing it in context.

It kind of reminded me of the old show Three’s Company and their “overheard innuendo” gags where Jack and Chrissy are in the kitchen doing something harmless like baking a cake. Then Janet comes home and stops just outside the kitchen door and overhears them and suspects they’re having sex (or the 70’s TV equivalent) in clear violation of the roommate rules.
Then the rest of the episode was spent focused on her reaction to what she thought she heard even though you the viewer knew the whole story.

Now imagine that same episode except that you don’t know any more about what was going on in the kitchen than Janet does and Jack and Chrissy keep doing and saying things that seem to confirm the conclusion that both Janet and the viewer have drawn.
It won’t be until a few episodes later that you get to see the exact same period in time but from Jack and Chrissy’s point of view that shows the whole thing was just one big misunderstanding.

So like I said… I thought it was an interesting way to tell the story but because it keeps constantly looping back on itself, the narrator had to play a much more aggressive role than he did in the original series just to keep you on course.

Bottom line: Did I like it?
I’m not sure.

It was a departure from the story of the first 3 seasons (which is only fair because several years have passed) and I thought the method of telling the story was interesting BUT that also means the narrative is very convoluted and you have to follow along very closely to keep up.

I think what made the first 3 seasons of the show so enjoyable was that it was light but clever comedy.
Season 4 is still just as clever but you’ve got to work so much harder to keep up with the story and I don’t know if it would have been possible to do this in the “traditional” weekly episodic format because it practically demands that you watch every episode as fast as you can before you forget what happened.

If you haven’t seen Arrested Development, it’s certainly worth watching but you have to start from season 1 because it’s one of those shows that assumes you’ve seen every episode and doesn’t make much of an effort to slow down and let you catch up.

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