darthfar: (Default)
Am nursing a splitting headache and a cough that only manifests at mealtimes. When I first came down with it, I thought I'd caught the bug that had been circulating in the family. But it's been a couple of weeks, everyone else has recovered, and I'm still hacking up a lung every time I eat. Gak.


Remind me again why I play Left4Dead exclusively with friends? Oh yeah. Because of the unchecked idiot infestation in cyberspace.

I was playing a round with a friend on Easy last night (it being said friend's initiation into L4D-for-PC), and I thought I set the game to "Friends Only". Apparently not. Some random person whose handle consisted of more weird symbols than letters joined. "Okay, sure," I thought, "I guess we could use another player".... until the fucker suddenly started shooting us. This wasn't a simple case of Friendly Fire; this was a serious case of, "I'm in here to wreck your game so DIEEEEEEEE!!!!" Thankfully for us, you can't kill a fellow Survivor on Easy however hard you try, so neither of us took damage, but - god! He(?she?) left before I could find the kick button. I wish I had the pleasure of expelling them.

It's almost tragic how all courtesy and good behaviour automatically melt into thin air the moment you give people the mask of anonymity.

At times like these, the NationStates legislation necessitating licences for minors to use computers becomes much less funny and suddenly far more appealing.


I've decided that I like Godfather II after all.

It wasn't an easy transition. In the first place, I'm more of a "shoot first, don't really bother with questions later" kind of gamer, rather than a strategist; the thought of a strategy-steeped GFII was what caused my reluctance to purchase the game in the first place. It didn't help that the graphics (when I started playing it) were ugly. Granted, they would've been acceptable three years ago, but compared with the most recent games (I need to devote a whole journal entry to Ghostbusters...), you could see it was sorely lacking. The fact that they killed off Aldo Trapani (the player's character in GFI), whom I'd grown accustomed to, in the opening sequence of the game did nothing to endear me to it. But once I got to the meat of the game - slamming people against the wall, smashing up stuff, taking wall cover and shooting enemies in the head - in other words, stuff I was actually good at - things started getting fun. A lot of the original game elements are still there - multiple weapons, execution styles, bribes, explodable safes, extortion weak points, contract killing - coupled with favours, special bonuses (like armoured cars and brass knuckles) and new "privileges" of being a Don: a crew that goes everywhere with you, whose members possess different skills; financial statements, territory management, crew management (do everything from dressing and promoting them to improving their skills, to even marking them for death!).

In Godfather I, any business you took over automatically became the Corleone's indefinitely. Not so in this game, as I learnt the hard way, from skimping on the money and posting too few guards at my first acquisition. Before the day was over, Carmine Rosato's men had declared war upon my new bakery and wrestled it back. The second fight broke out at La Maison Rouge, where I had at least posted five men; I wound up detouring to the place myself to turn the tide of the battle. Lesson learnt. Guards are good.

In retrospect, it does make sense having the game start with the player being Don, rather than some other schmuck working his way up the food chain, because there's a continuity that flows from the first game into the second. I still don't know what the hell the Don himself is doing running around the streets of New York, soliciting contract hits and extorting store owners, but hell, I don't care. It's fun. Maybe it's a little on the repetitive side, and I would've preferred a simple 2D map that was easily accessible while driving (is it too much to ask for the Mafia I-type map overlay?) rather than the snazzy zoom-in 3D one in this game - pretty, but oh so annoying when you're driving from point A to B, and suddenly forget the way - but I've no major complaints at this point.

Oh, and I'm still the worst driver on this side of New York. You'd think that, having played Mafia I two million times, I'd have at least learnt to navigate a computer car. But no, I still leave trails of fallen street lamps and dustbins and prostrate pedestrians in my wake. At least no cars have actually blown up yet.


I was regaling my students yesterday with tales of predatory fungi that snared hapless nematodes and sucked them dry. (We were still doing Dynamic Ecosystems). It brought back fond memories of that SF-horror story I wrote back when I was in school, about a mutated strain of Arthrobotrys that predated on humans, complete with utterly cliché laboratory scenes and DNA technology. (The story was titled, appropriately - if somewhat unimaginatively - "Fungi Imperfecti"). Good times. I'd post a link to it, but really - who'd want to read it?

My cousin and I once discussed how, in a certain light, pathology of disease was beautiful. Unfortunately, it's not an opinion I've managed to convinced anyone outside the realm of science and medicine to share.


I recently finished my epic (for me) comic rendering of the chapter Orestes Fasting, Pylades Drunk from Victor Hugo's Les Misérables. Since I'm not about to post the whole damn thing to dA, and I need a place to archive it, I might as well bung it here for the entertainment of anybody who might stumble upon it:

I don't really know why I chose to tackle that chapter (or, indeed, go beyond a single-scene rendering, as I'm apt to do). If pressed, I might grudgingly admit that it sort of saddens me how Grantaire can only reach out to Enjolras by means of the Ultimate Sacrifice, and how their reconciliation is only possible in the shadow of annihilation. Eh, it's something I just had to get out of my system.

I feel slightly guilty about making my (female) art beta cry over this, though. That's one person who isn't going to be reading Les Mis anytime soon.
darthfar: (Default)

After possibly scaring three of my students off pork and sushi forever the other day when I explained the life cycle of tapeworms, I've been mulling anew over mankind's tendency to overreact to microorganisms.

It amuses me when people get into a panic over microbes. Seriously. [The worst was when the world learnt about H1N1, and my community went right into a, "Don't talk to anybody; for heaven's sake, don't even leave your house!" frenzy. (I am not kidding, though I wish I were).] Oh sure, I agree, precautions have to be taken when a highly communicable disease is on the rise, or if there's a chance you might catch something from the lifestyle you lead or the food you eat. But there's a great deal of difference between precaution and paranoia, between making sure you boil your water and cook your pork chops well and put off your travel plans, and oh, say, swearing off meat all together, distilling your water and going about in a gas mask, y'know? [Oh sure, Ty and I were idiots in our second year of college when we swore off beef, but that didn't last long, because we eventually worked out for ourselves that life had to go on. LOL.]

Yet, if it only tickles me that people respond to any information about pathogens with panic, it annoys me when someone claims, "Microbes are bad!" And it enrages me when I see products like antibacterial soap and antibacterial mattresses and antibacterial underwear in the market. Seriously, WTF. You're surrounded by microorganisms, like it or lump it. They're the first to welcome you into the world, and they sure as hell are going to be the last to usher you out of it when you die. So what's all this about trying to get them off your walls and off your hands and your bed and your clothes? you can't fight them off forever. Nor should you1.

People, most microorganisms are good. You use them in industry, to make cheese and bread and alcoholic beverages. You use them in medicine, synthesizing insulin for people who've stopped being able to make them, and antibiotics, which are the golden bullets in the arsenal of medicine (even if antibiotics abuse has threatened to crumble its pedestal). In the lab, where you clone genes into them, or use their enzymes in DNA technology. Hell, they even perform community service, synthesizing vitamins in our gut, digesting oil spills and breaking down our wastes, so that we don't have to drown in seas of The Dead. And even those that don't do good don't generally bother us either. And yet, for all the good they do, people remain fixated with the minority that WANT TO KILL US SO WE HAVE TO DECLARE WAR FIRST OMG2.


I'd wax lyrical about how their so-called "war" against us isn't even personal (unlike most workplace spats), that they're just eking out a living, and that they don't even realise what they're doing, and how humans encroach on their turf and encourage their spread (and resistance), but really, that isn't the point, and besides, even *I*'m not naive enough expect that level of empathy from the common folk. The point is this: respect. There isn't enough of it on the human side of the human-microorganism relationship. I'm not talking about reverence of microorganisms. Reverence of anything is wrong, because it goes beyond the realm of logical thinking. Respect for anything or anyone, even your enemy, is all about recognising them for who they are and what they can do, and how you stand with them. In this case it's simply a case of not carelessly disregarding their potential (be it good or bad; the ones that do bad *can* get really nasty), but not going too far in overestimating their capacity for harm either. Unfortunately, it's pretty much a losing battle there. Medical professionals are trained to deal with them as nothing but adversaries; the general public know next to nothing about them (hell, even science students don't encounter them until the sixth form), until the latest epidemic hits - and then of course, all the bad stuff comes out. And we know the majority of the public never stop to think, or do their own research anyway...

Gotta get them young.

And maybe I should ease off a little on the enthusiasm in sharing the beauty of parasite life cycles. LOL.

Enough blathering!

1The only exception is if you really have reduced immunity, or you're caring for somebody who has.
2Abusing antibiotics and vaccines isn't the answer either.


Mother recently got herself a Nokia 6303. No frills, but it's sufficient for someone whose usage of phones doesn't extend beyond the realm of messaging and voice calls. Only annoying thing: she's not too keen on exploring the phone because she's afraid to break it. That about sums up her relationship with her PC, and why I'm called upon to do tech support several times a night. [No problem, except when I'm up to my neck in a major horde attack (haha), and I can't go on answering the same questions over and over...]

That's the key to mastering any new technology, isn't it? You can't be afraid of it, to begin with. Exploring your device on your own and experimenting will get you much farther than getting someone else to do something for you, or watching over their shoulder as they do it, because you'll not only be finding out what you should do, but what you *shouldn't* do. (A negative answer doesn't mean no answer!). And, as an added bonus, you might also find something you'd never have discovered if you played safe. And if you're afraid of damaging it... Hell, shit happens. Things break. You can deal with it when it happens. That's my motto anyway. ;-)

Oh, and a little thinking will get you places. If you know 6 x 9  = 54, you should also know that 9 x 6 = 543. I'm just sayin'.

3Unless you're operating in Douglas Adams' universe, in which case 9 x 6 = 42. Which is perfectly correct, btw. Just not in base 10 arithmetic.


I've been playing Godfather II, which a mate at the gym was nice enough to give me his copy of. Haven't played enough of it to be able to write a decent review of any sort yet, and it's hard to evaluate the experience objectively rather than succumb to the temptation of comparing it to Godfather I (you can't compare apples and oranges) and other mob-type shooters in general. We shall see.

In the meantime, meet Don Dominic, who probably looks more at home stacking books in the library than slamming people into cash registers, and commanding whole armies of made men:

Yeah, my player characters all tend to wind up slightly geeky. Gosh, I wonder why.


1. Why is it impossible to find Simpson's Forensic Medicine textbook in even the biggest bookshops?
2. For gizkas' sake, I helped my cousin get his copy for USD26 a few years ago. Now I check on Amazon and it's something like USD55 - WTF?
3. Where can I get a copy of the 12th edition for something even resembling a reasonable price? Granted, I've wanted my own copy for years, but I'm not paying through the nose for it either.

July 2016

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