Do You Believe in Ghost Cats?

Today would have been my cat’s 19th birthday, but four days ago, due to rapidly declining health, I had her put to sleep. She’d had kidney problems for years. When she was 2 1/2, she had an episode of acute kidney failure and almost died, but with aggressive treatment with SubQ fluids and a good vet, she survived, but her kidneys were permanently damaged and she drank LOTS of water every day for the rest of her life. The kidney failure didn’t start to get bad until maybe a couple years ago, when she started eating less and losing weight, and a year ago she was put on an appetite stimulant, which kind of helped, but not really. At her peak, she was 11 1/2 pounds; a year ago, she was 6 1/2, and two weeks before she died, she was 4 1/2. She’d also had blood in her urine a few times in her last few months, and the vet said that while her tests didn’t show anything (other than VERY diluted urine) she might have a bladder tumor or something. So that was bad news. He also said they don’t treat it in cats her age, so at this point, it was just a matter of quality of life. At that point three months ago, she was still eating and drinking and acting pretty normal, albeit a bit slower due to age, but she didn’t seem bothered so I didn’t put her down at that time. But as she continued to lose weight, and eat less, and seemed to have more and more trouble jumping up and down off the bed, I knew the time was coming. When she took a harsh turn for the worst over the course of the past weekend, going from being relatively “normal” on a Thursday to not being able to even get up by the following Monday, I knew it was time. I tried to get her in that day, but due to COVID, the earliest appointment I could get was that Friday, so we had to wait. And wait that cat did, she hung on, even though I told her she didn’t have to. I had kind of hoped she would go before Friday, so she wouldn’t have to die in the “scary place” with strangers, but alas, she didn’t let go. She was in VERY bad shape her last day though, unresponsive at times, I think maybe slipping into and out of consciousness, I’m not sure. Anyway, I took her in to the vet, but I didn’t have the heart to go in with her and watch her die. I hope she forgives me for that. I hope her death was quick and painless.

The first night without her, I was awakened around 4am by thumping noises and then the squeak of my computer chair. Now, I dunno if ghosts are real, or if there’s an afterlife (I tend to think not) but if they do, and if there is, maybe my cat found her way home and sat on “her” chair to let me know she was OK and back with mommy.

Kaia, my sweet fuzzmuffin, I will miss you more than you’ll ever know. R.I.P. my sweet kitten.

Kaia McBoo, first and last of her name,

hunter of crickets, waker at dawn,

thiever of trolls, stealer of sammies,

biter of ankles and elbows,

lover of catnip and bacon,

protector of the realm,

clever, feisty, playful, “cartoon cat.”

you will be missed.

Say hi to BUTCH, and Scuttles, and Suzy, and Dr Heit, make friends with Spotless, and Symon, and Spacecat, and I’ll see you on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge.

Sept 21, 2002- Sept 17, 2021

Back From the Dead!

Wow it’s been awhile, hasn’t it? My boring life hasn’t inspired any posts so yeah. Well, the whole COVID thing I guess is a big deal, but, being an extreme introvert, my life didn’t change all that much anyway. But one thing has changed lately and that’s DOGECOIN!

Let me take you back to the month of December, 2013, when I was putzing around on Reddit as I often did (and do) and somehow I ended up on the Bitcoin sub and someone had posted something about a new coin based on Litecoin that they were calling Dogecoin, after the DOGE meme so I went over to their new sub and checked it out and it was kinda funny. I’d heard about Bitcoin, and wanted to know how it worked, but at the time Bitcoin was worth about $1000 a pop if I recall correctly, and I was kinda poor at the time and playing with real money on something I knew nothing about and that was notoriously volatile was a no go. But alas, this new Dogecoin was, well, NEW! That meant it was worthless! It also meant that maybe if I got in early and mined some while it was easy to do, and held onto them for awhile, they might grow in value like Bitcoin did and I might be rich someday LOL. I mean, I said it was a joke coin, right? LOL.

Anyway, I read everything I could on that /sub about what it was, and crypto in general, read how to mine it, how to handle wallets, how to backup your coins to cold wallets and all sorts of fun geeky things. The learning curve was a bit high, and it took me a couple weeks to get the mining thing down. Tip: Don’t try to mine crypto, even a newly “minted” one, on your home computer solo. You’re wasting your time (and energy.) Use a mining pool instead. And prepare for that mining pool to be “hacked” because it will be, eventually. LOL. Welcome to Crypto!

Luckily for me, the mining pool I was using didn’t get hacked until after I’d gotten bored with mining and had transferred my coins out (which I did, daily.) Tip: Don’t transfer your coins out daily and hold them in the same wallet for years. Why? Because years later when you “remember” you had a wallet and try syncing the client’s backlogged BILLIONS OF TRANSACTIONS, it will take weeks. At least. And the old dying tablet your client was on will never sync and you’ll have to dig through your old backups to find the right file, copy it to an SD card and slap it in a newer device with a freshly downloaded client and it will still take weeks to sync. LOL. Welcome to Crypto!

But hey at least I had backups! Tip: Make a backup every time your wallet sends or receives coins. Preferably test the backup (on another device) to make sure it’s valid before you delete a client or app from your device. You’ll thank me later. And keep multiple copies of your backups. For instance, I keep both digital and, if possible, “hard copy” backups of my private keys and passwords for those encrypted keys.

Anyway, I had fun playing around with Dogecoin, mined a few hundred of the coins, enjoyed reading all the cool stories on Reddit about Dogecoin helping the Jamaican Bobsled Team go to the Olympics, how donations of Dogecoin helped bring water to people in Africa, how Dogecoin sponsored a race car, and lots and lots of heartwarming stories of Do Only Good Everyday. I eventually got bored and years passed. Until in 2017, which until recently, was the last time I got excited about Dogecoin because it had hit $0.01 per Doge! I remember way back in 2013 thinking it would be amazing if Dogecoin ever hit a penny a doge. Like, nearly impossible, but it would be cool!

Well … since the beginning of 2021, one Dogecoin has gone from being worth about $0.01 to an all-time high of $0.45 a few days ago. Woof! Much Wow! When you consider that originally, Dogecoin had a set number of coins (100 billion? I forget) but miners blew through that in like, six months, so they made it have an unlimited number. And that they’d revised how it works at least a couple times (requiring everyone to upgrade to new clients and make new backups or their old wallets WOULD NOT WORK) and then merging with Litecoin, it’s kind of astonishing that it’s not only still around, but growing in value. WTF is going on? Well, for one, Elon Musk. For two, Robinhood. The former occasionally promotes it on his Twitter (as a joke? As a troll? Because he’s invested in it? Who knows!?) and Robinhood, the app which has been in the news lately quite a bit (LOL) apparently controls a shit ton of Dogecoin wallets. Well, the top ones anyway. Allegedly. Woof. There are also rumors that Coinbase, a crypto exchange, might support Dogecoin soon. Right now I think you can only trade other coins to/from Dogecoin on that platform.

So, dear Shibes, while I won’t advise you to “invest” in Dogecoin, you might find it a fun thing to play with to learn how crypto works. If you do, however, decide to hop aboard the MOON Rocket, here are a few more tips I’ve found during my Dogecoin adventure over the past few years:

Tip: Read before you leap. Always know what you’re doing before you do it. Crypto is dangerous if you don’t pay attention. You can lose your coins due to lost, invalid, or corrupted backups, hackers, malware, protocol changes, scammers, sending to the wrong address, forgetting your password, writing down your private key wrong (LOL) and a bunch of other ways. Remember: Crypto transactions are IRREVERSABLE. Once coins are sent, they’re gone. Be wary of crypto websites, loads of them are infected with malware that can not only steal your coins, but install backdoors, keyloggers, etc on your device. Be very, very careful. And NEVER DOWNLOAD SOFTWARE unless you are absolutely sure it’s legit and clean.

Tip: Make sure you understand the basics of how crypto transactions work. Know the difference between a send address, a receive address, and a change address. Make sure you know what a transaction fee is and how much it is. As of right now, the default transaction fee for Dogecoin is 1 Dogecoin. But that may change. FWIW, the transaction fee for Bitcoin varies depending on blockchain congestion and other factors.

Tip: Understand the difference between a private key, a public key, and a public address. NEVER SHARE YOUR PRIVATE KEYS! When backing up, make sure you back up EVERY PRIVATE KEY FOR EVERY ADDRESS IN YOUR WALLET, including change addresses.

Tip: Make sure you know the difference between sweeping a wallet and importing a wallet. MAKE SURE YOU KNOW THE DIFFERENCE!

Tip: When printing paper wallets, do it on a computer that is disconnected from the internet. Preferably one that NEVER goes on the internet. Never, ever, generate a paper wallet on a live website. TEST the wallet to make sure the key is valid (scan the QR code in a wallet app, but DO NOT IMPORT/SWEEP IT. Just make sure the code generates a valid key. You don’t want to send your coins to an invalid wallet then find out it was invalid later when you try to retrieve your coins.

Tips for Wallets: Secure you wallets. Encrypt digital wallets. Encrypt the device your wallet app is on. Paper wallets should be kept in a dry, safe, secure location. Preferably with another copy of it in a second dry, safe, secure location. Digital file backups should be kept OFFLINE in a secure location. Make sure you also keep any passwords, seed words, PIN numbers, etc safe and that you know which ones go with which wallet. If you’re paranoid, keep the passwords in a separate location from you wallet backups.

Tip: NEVER STORE ALL YOUR COINS IN A WALLET APP OR ONLINE EXCHANGE. Keep them safe in offline wallet backups (digital, paper cold wallet, hardware wallet.) Transfer only the coins you need to the app or exchange, do your transaction(s) then transfer them out. Be aware that without the private key to EVERY ADDRESS IN YOUR WALLET you do not “own” the coins.

Tip: Never store your backups on the same device as your wallet. Don’t store them on your computer either, unless it’s an offline computer. Backups contain your private keys, and ANYONE WHO HAS YOUR PRIVATE KEYS CAN SPEND YOUR COINS.

Tip: Be wary of exchanges and apps that do not let you retrieve your private keys. Without the private keys you don’t control the coins. This is often how online mining pools or exchanges or wallets get “hacked.” You can use them, but be aware the coins may disappear. Also, apps like Robinhood, you don’t even have a wallet for your coins there, its sorta like they just kind of loan you the coins in a sorta agreement kind of way and their TOS actually says they can choose not to support crypto at any time with no warning so yeah.

Tips for Mining: Don’t bother. LOL. If you must, then find a trustworthy (LOL) mining pool, then transfer your coins out to a temporary wallet, then periodically transfer from that wallet to a more permanent offline wallet or wallets. For example, you could use a wallet app to receive weekly coin transfers, then periodically send the entire contents to another wallet, then generate a new wallet address on your app to receive the next batch. What you don’t want to do is have a bunch of transactions that come from mining pools in your main wallet/backups because it will be difficult if not impossible to sync the client eventually. It also bogs down the blockchain when people try to sync those types of wallets.

And lastly, NEVER BUY MORE THAN YOU CAN AFFORD TO LOSE. In my case, my initial “investment” in Dogecoin was zero, because I mined the coins myself. So any gain is profit. Well, minus taxes if I ever cash it out. LOL.

That’s about it. Have fun, don’t panic sell, buy and HODL for The Future!

Tip: If you’re feeling generous, send a snack to my Doge: DBe3KzS1dMqvcGuvt4gGn3dUEHuaR9e7JP

DNA Roots

A couple months ago I took a DNA test at one of those ancestry/health sites, and one of the features of their website (23&Me) is they list your DNA relatives. I didn’t have any really close matches, but a couple of 2nd cousin matches came up, as well as a handful of more distant relatives. I didn’t bother to contact any of them because 1) I didn’t want to barge in on people’s lives and 2) because I’m adopted I’m a bit wary of opening a can of worms LOL. Well, a couple days ago I logged in to check, and there was a message from one match! Based on our conversation, it seems we share a great-grandfather. The best part, though, is that her information matches the genealogical research I’ve done, so I have both genealogical evidence, as well as genetic confirmation of part of my family tree! How cool is that?! And even better, that line we share goes WAY back in the United States. I’d traced it back to before the Civil War but it goes back further, she’s going to send me more info that she has to help me fill in the blanks. This is cool, because my mother’s line is hard to trace because I had almost zero information on her, so hopefully I can fill in some of those maternal lines I’m missing.

The funny thing is that my adoptive mother also has roots going WAY back in the United States, two of her ancestors signed the Declaration of Independence. Wouldn’t it be weird if I turned out to be biologically related to my adoptive family? (Both my bio mother and my adoptive mother’s ancestors came from England.)

Finding Me and the Joy of SNPs

One thing I’ve been thinking about doing for years is taking one of those DNA tests that tell you your ancestry and whatnot. There are two main reasons for this: One, since I’m adopted, I wanted to get more information on my ancestry, and to hopefully confirm what little family information I have from my adoption papers. The other, I wanted to see if some of the recent medical issues I’ve had might have a genetic basis, and what other surprises might await me in the future. Well, I finally did it. Over the Father’s Day weekend, several DNA testing companies had sales, so I took the plunge. I decided to go with 23 and Me because, based on the research I’ve done, it seemed they offered more “medical” type information, and because they offer a “raw” DNA download that can be useful if you don’t want to pay for the full-blown Ancestry + Health test. So, I plunked down my $60 and got the Ancestry Only version, knowing they test the same thing regardless of which test you actually pick (it’s more efficient that way, and you can, of course, “upgrade” later which really only means they charge you a lot of money to generate a few reports.) It took about 3 weeks total from placing the order to results, and I have to say, I’m quite pleased.

First, it confirmed that the information in my adoption papers is, indeed, correct (my papers say my bio-father was of Norwegian ancestry and my bio-mother was of English, Irish, and Scottish ancestry.) It also confirmed that the limited genealogical research I’ve done with what little data I had, appears also to be correct, as I found a DNA relative who is apparently descended from my maternal great-grandfather, and has a couple of the same surnames in their ancestry that also appear in my family tree research, confirming I’m following the correct lines. And a couple of these lines lead back to before the Civil War in the southern USA. Which brings me to one tiny surprise in my test results: seems I have a little bit of Sub-Saharan African DNA. I know it was fairly common in the south, for some mixing to occur between whites and slaves, so this isn’t really unexpected. But it’s both cool and disturbing at the same time, because there’s a possibility this DNA got in my ancestry due to non-consensual relations.

Anyway, here’s a screenshot of my ancestry breakdown (I removed personally identifying information for obvious reasons):

myAncestry

That’s all pretty cool and all, but the real fun began when I started digging around in my SNPs or Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms. These are the mutations that make up our genetic diversity, and there’s a really nifty website called SNPedia that has all kinds of interesting stuff you can look at. 23 and Me has a DNA browser feature where you can plug in the name of a SNP, like say, rs4680 and then you can take the information they show as your genotype, and compare that to the information on SNPedia to see what version you have. SNP rs4680 is the “Warrior Gene” which, apparently, I have the allele for. This is interesting because the traits for the Warrior Gene are things like higher pain threshold, resilient, lower dopamine response, tend to handle stress better, and can turn their brains off when in “aggressive” mode (I guess warriors make better killers, because they can turn off empathy while they’re killing people?) Now, I’m pretty un-warrior-like, although I do have a bit of “fight back” when I’m attacked, although for me, this is mostly verbal, not physical aggression. But when I was a kid, I did sometimes get a bit physically aggressive if someone taunted me enough (I got sent to the Principal’s office once for pushing a classmate “because she dared me to.”) I tend to think I’m not very good at handling stress, and I’m a wimp when it comes to pain, but that’s mostly pain that lasts awhile, I am sort of tolerant of short term pain, but the anticipation of pain freaks me out (like my recent month-long adventure with the root canal from hell that I should probably blog about, or not.) So, maybe there is a bit of genetic predisposition to aggression or vengeance, but my environmental factors of being a small, shy, wimpy kid reprogrammed the “Warrior” out of me. Or maybe the test is wrong. Most (all) of the genetic traits these studies use are just based on samples that report stuff, or phenotypes that seem to correlate to genotypes. Correlation doesn’t mean causation and all that. Which is good, in a way, if you were to have “bad genes” for stuff like cancer.

Anyway, I haven’t plunged the depths of my SNPs yet, but some things are confirmed correct, such as that I hate bitter foods (I have all three of the “bitter tasting” genes), and cilantro tastes like soap (I’m heterozygous, but I still taste soap, but it’s a tasty soap.) I burn easily and have a hard time getting a tan (I have several genes that relate to that, as well as at least one “freckles” gene) and I’m apparently smart (I have several of the “intelligence” genes.) But I also have a gene variation that says I prefer sweets over salty (WRONG!) and that I supposedly can’t smell the stink of asparagus pee (WRONG!) so take results with a grain of salt.

As far as the health stuff, it looks like genetically, I’m pretty good, I don’t have risk factors for alcoholism, drug addiction, most cancer including colon and skin cancer, stroke, atrial fibrillation, type 2 diabetes, depression, and I’m lacking most of the “fat” genes. I do have a gene that increases risk of developing alzheimers and one for multiple sclerosis, but I also have a gene that supposedly predicts a lower chance of cognitive dysfunction as I age. I have one of the BRCA1 (breast cancer) genes, but lack the others, as well as the BRCA2 genes. I’m also not a carrier for Cystic Fibrosis (i3000001 in 23 & Me, rs113993960), which is something that my adopted mother’s family has unfortunately dealt with. I don’t have kids, but if I had, at least they wouldn’t have inherited that dreaded disease. I also have the gene that supposedly makes Viagra more effective, good to know if I ever grow a penis. 😉 That same gene though, also correlates to things like heart disease, so maybe not so great. I do have some risk factors for heart disease, specifically things related to sclerosis types, as well as hypertension and higher than average LDL cholesterol. Given I’m taking blood pressure meds, and on a statin (not happy about that, I’ve heard bad things about statins, and my cholesterol levels are barely elevated) I’d say that is spot on. Also, if my genealogy research on my bio-father is correct, he died in his 50s, as did a bio-brother, makes me wonder if it was heart disease related. I also have a gene that may be related to autism (I’m bit “odd” in the social relations department, not sure if it’s my early childhood environment of being in foster homes until almost four years old, or DNA, or a bit of both) and I might be prone to ADHD (I tend to have a bit of trouble focusing, especially on things like goal-setting or intense study, and I tend to notice EVERYTHING around me, sounds, smells, visual stuff, it’s hard to focus on conversations in busy places because I hear everyone.) I seem to be lacking most of the “anxiety” genes though, which is interesting, since, especially when I was a kid, I was a bundle of nerves and I still tend to talk myself out of stuff because I think of all the horrible things that could happen.

All in all, I’m quite pleased, I was expecting all sorts of genes for stuff like depression, alcoholism, anxiety, obesity, heart problems, cancer and whatnot given what I know about my bio family (from adoption papers) and my own experience (recent skin cancer and I’m a bit more “fluffy” than I’d like, and have always had to be careful about diet or I gain weight.) Most of the “bad genes” I have are offset by “good” versions of other genes. So hopefully that means more things are in my control. Which is sort of bad that more things are in MY control, can’t blame my DNA for everything.

What a Disaster!

I was going to wait until Trump hit his first hundred days in office, but given recent events, his regime may not last that long, so I’m going to give my opinion now of where I think things are going, based on where they’ve been.

First, I can say, in my opinion, Trump has been a complete and utter failure at all but one thing: chaos. The man is a chaos machine! Between his love of “fake news” (the real fake news, not the real news he calls fake) to his use of Soviet era disinformation techniques, to his ability to lie with impunity and even contradict himself before he takes another breath, the man is a Master of Manipulation. So much so, in fact, I think he’s even deluded himself!

It’s clear he only trusts a very small circle of allies, and that circle is getting smaller and smaller as his paranoia rises. It’s also gotten more nepotistic: His weasely son-in-law (who apparently has taken on the role of not only adviser, but has filled many of the empty jobs in the President’s cabinet, as well, but is also filling in when, say, the Secretary of State is too “fatigued” or the ambassador of, say, Israel is, I guess, not as qualified (LOL)) now plays an important role in his inner circle. The real reason, of course, is because Trump doesn’t TRUST people who are actually professional and qualified in their positions. Which is why he has recently brought on his Golden Child, Ivanka, to fill in as the “eyes and ears” of his administration. She’s already been that, of course, but now she gets her own office, title, and unfettered access without any of that nasty criticism that comes with being an interloping family member poking around in other people’s business. Plus, it makes it a whole lot easier for Jared and Ivanka to make business deals for themselves and their kin, if they have easy access to not only the President, but also to that tasty Classified information that lets them know, say, the weaknesses, of, say, certain world leaders. An added bonus: they get the dirt on what the FBI, CIA, and others know about the Trumpster’s connections to Russia, so they can hide evidence and obfuscate facts. He also recently brought on the husband of Kellyanne Conway, to act as legal counsel, perhaps to prepare for the inevitable hearings that will start any day now, if we’re lucky. I’m sure he’s been giving the President and his staff all the details of what “really” happened, so they can all collude with one another on what the “truth” is so when they testify, they won’t look guilty. LOL.

Anyway, the Master of Chaos had his “best week” last week, which consisted of, in no particular order:

  • His son-in-law being accused of being in a bitter feud with Steve Bannon, that other Master of Chaos (plus anarchy and white supremacy!) currently still stuffing up the Trump administration even though he’s “off” the NSC (allegedly)
  • The GOP cheating to get their Supreme Court nominee confirmed
  • Pretending to be bothered by a chemical weapons attack against the Syrian people by either: Assad, Russia, some rebel group, or maybe it never really happened
  • Reacting to that chemical attack by attacking an empty airfield in Syria, completely and utterly missing the entire runway despite 60 missiles being launched (only one, allegedly, missed the target)
  • Pissing off his white supremacist, alt-right supporters by attacking Syria after promising no war (it was HILLARY who wanted to attack Assad!)
  • Getting media praise for his attack on Syria (WTF media?)
  • Media realizing fake Syria attack was fake, and Russia was in on it, and Trump forgot to tell Congress before he attacked. Oops
  • ISIS (or Russia or Assad) resuming chemical attacks on Syrian people from VERY SAME AIRPORT THAT TRUMP ATTACKED
  • Issuing a notice to Congress he was attacking Syria (after the fact)
  • Basically ignoring the fact ISIS said there would be more attacks, and on Palm Sunday, ISIS attacks two Christian churches in Egypt, and Trump says meh, let Al Sisi handle it.
  • Plays golf while Rome is burning

Now, I don’t want to accuse the man of doing anything he hasn’t but, damn, dude, could you have fucked up any worse? Oh, why yes, yes, he could. He could move warships over near North Korea. Oh wait, he’s doing that now. Maybe this next week will be even BETTER than his last, best, week!

Anyway, after all that blither, my prediction of what’s to come for America: Trump will make a “very good deal” with Russia, whereby Russia agrees to help the USA fight and overthrow Assad (even though Russia has been pro-Assad since 2011) and in exchange for their kindness, Trump will lift sanctions against Russia! Because, you know, it’s bad Assad kills his own people (with Russia’s help) but it’s fine and dandy Russia kills not only its own people, but those of Ukraine, as well. This is nothing more than a cover to again try to the convince the world there is NOTHING TO SEE HERE in regards to Trump-Russia collusion for bad things, like throwing elections. And dirty business deals in exchange for lifting sanctions. It won’t work. Again. But the media will fall for it, again, briefly, before they realize he duped them, again, by looking “Presidential.”

Trump will also announce a “really big deal” with China, whereby China will help the USA bomb the shit out of North Korea and assassinate Kim Jong Un in exchange for Trump building big hotels and casinos in China to help pay off the hundreds of millions of dollars of debt he and Kushner owe China. Buy American, Hire American, y’all.

Ivanka and Jared will announce they’ve been promoted, to Chief of Staff and Chief Strategist. Bannon will be gone, but not forgotten (he’ll go back to writing fake news at Breitbart, only this time, Trump will realize Breitbart is actually fake news, now that the news won’t be favorable to him.) Priebus will be gone, and will write a book. The circle of wagons will tighten as more and more moles are exposed and booted out (they’re all, certainly, Deep State spies put there by Obama!) And it’ll be the Nixon years, all over again.  Eventually, Ivanka will learn the meaning of the word “complicit” when the indictments come. And hopefully, finally, the stinking house of cards will come tumbling down and take the GOP (and part of the DEM) with it.

By the way, the Russian roots apparently go VERY deep within the GOP and its supporters. Many, many of the people in Trump’s cabinet have dirty ties to Russia (and the associated Dominionism movement) and many in the GOP, from local government all the way up to the top  have ties, as well. Trump’s admin isn’t the first to have been “infiltrated” and it probably won’t be the last. And yes, there’s even Democrats in on the game. If there’s one good thing that can be said for this whole Trump nightmare, it’s that it should crack wide open the corruption, on both sides, in our government, and maybe the people will start paying attention in the future. If not, then the future America has to look forward to is living under the Russian Inquisition. Putin is the Constantine of the 21st Century, he’s weaponizing Christianity against Democracy, and using big money, big data, and the media to do it. Be warned.

The Death of America

OK, maybe that title is a bit overly dramatic. But I’m not gonna lie, this whole Trump thing has my hackles up. I could go on and on about his fascist ways and his malignant narcissism being dangerous, but pretty much anyone who has been paying attention, already knows those things. So I’m going to point out some of the more positive things that could happen under a Trump regime:

School vouchers. With the confirmation of Betsy DeVos, it’s pretty much a done deal that her “vision” of the future of education will begin to take shape. For those unfamiliar with DeVos, she’s a big advocate of federally funded vouchers that can be used to pay for private education of our kids. Great, if you’re a rich asshole who doesn’t want to waste your own money to pay for your kids’ religious school. Great for lower-income parents who want to indoctrinate their kids with religious propaganda and have tax-payers pick up the tab. But also great for rebels who will now have the opportunity to set up private Charter schools to fight the Republican agenda of Christianizing (let’s be honest, they’re not going to Christianize it, they’re gonna radicalize it) America by banning abortion, gay marriage,  free speech (unless it’s religious speech, erm Christian evangelism) and a whole slew of other mind-numbing “ideas” that will keep our populace ignorant and complacent, just like Republicans like them.

Privatization of National Parks. This one has a lot of negatives (selling off public land to drilling and mining companies, for instance, or the building of dreaded Trump hotels in every National Park (god help us) or raising prices of entry so high most Americans can’t afford to visit anymore.) But there are some positives, too. Like allowing states to manage some of the parks without federal government interference, or having parks be bought up by environmental activist groups and charities. Perhaps even “cleaning up” some of the trashier parks like Yosemite, which ain’t nothin’ like it used to be due to way too many people and buses and pollution and drones. Ugh.

Social Activism.  If there’s one thing Trump has done, it’s that he’s gotten people more involved in social activism like protests (both for and against him) and getting involved in our election process. Hell, he even managed to get Russia involved in our election process! OK, I jest. Erm … but he’s got people fired up. And people are learning right along with Trump, how our government works! The importance of the electoral college, for example, in allowing people in disenfranchised areas to have a voice in the political process. (I do actually support the EC, over a pure popular vote, by the way. I’d prefer a party-less, ranked voting system, but I don’t want pure populism. People would cheat. Bigly.) We The People are also learning about things like the three branches of government, which (allegedly) provide a system of checks and balances against a rogue Commander in Chief. In theory, anyway. And many people are learning how to work the algorithms of social media, in order to more effectively get their message across. Bot programming for the people! Hurray!

Redefining What it Means to be American. OK, this one sounds bad, but what I really mean, is each of us has had to really think about what makes someone an American. There are differing opinions, of course. Many Trump supporters have called themselves Patriots, as if they own that title. But I think most people have begun to see what qualities we all share, as Americans. The protests have helped distill this. What, exactly, are we fighting for? We know what Trump wants to fight against, but We The People, deep down, I think, want our country to reflect who we are, all of US. Even the blemishes and the insecurities. We The People are fighters. We will get through this, no matter how bad it gets (and it will get bad, I guarantee you.) And once the blood is shed, and the dust settles, I think America will come out stronger, less apathetic, and more united than we have been in a long time. And as much as I have to grit my teeth to say it, I think that’s one good thing about Trump.

 

Why the Democrats are Screwed …

Given The Donald’s nomination as the Republican nominee for President, I am now convinced that the Democrats are screwed. As much as I despise the Republican party (not necessarily individual Republicans, but the party itself) I actually had faith (haha) that they had a plan to keep the Trumpster from winning the nomination. Maybe they’d change the rules of the convention, maybe the delegates would rise up and protest this obviously “non-traditional” candidate. Maybe there would be a last minute re-entry into the race as an Independent (this could I guess still happen, but given the current situation, seems highly unlikely.) But alas, it seems that the entire party has drank the Kook-Aid. I don’t know if Trump has promised them fancy digs and cabinet positions, or he’s paying them off, or if he’s threatening to sue them (he’s had lots of practice at that) or making some other type of threats, but man, it sure seems the same people who a few months ago were calling him all kinds of dangerous have suddenly become worshippers at his feet. It’s truly bizarre, in a cult-like way. Unfortunately for America, there is one thing Trump is good at, and it’s marketing. He’s not a very good businessman (well, not if you count success as doing things in an ethical manner, anyway) but he is damn good at knowing his audience’s weak points and targeting them with a vengeance. And you know that old adage that if you repeat things enough times, people will believe they’re true? Well, that seems to be one of his main tactics, and it’s working well. You gotta admit he’s got the perfect audience for it: a party of generally good, trusting people, many of whom are religious, with all that “faith” requires. It’s more a “feeling” thing than a “thinking” thing. And that’s why Trump has been so successful in his campaign: he taps right into those deep-seated feelings of fear and vengeance against a common enemy (even when it doesn’t really exist) and he riles up all those unpleasant things like racism and bigotry and nationalism that fuel the hate-driven agenda he’s branding as America. And sadly, he is representative of a lot of Americans: he’s brash, he’s arrogant, he’s selfish and insincere, he’ll lie and cheat to get what he wants, and when called out on it, paints himself as the victim. And he cares more about money and fame than anything else. You know, the American Dream. I’m also pretty sure he’s a textbook narcissist, and quite possibly a psychopath. The narcissist thing isn’t necessarily a huge problem if it’s tempered (I’m pretty sure both of the Clintons are also narcissists) but when let to roam free, it can turn ugly. Trump has the money and the power to “go his own way” and unfortunately, doesn’t take kindly to being told he’s wrong. Because in Trumpyland, he’s never wrong. And that is why he’s dangerous. And that is also why he’ll win. Well, that and the fact the Democrats picked a tainted candidate as their front runner. And given what I know about the Democratic Party, they don’t learn from their past mistakes, so she will win the nomination, and she will lose to Trump in November. Remember how I said that I’m pretty sure Hillary is a narcissist, too? Yep, that arrogance will be her downfall. She knows, just like Trump knows, that she’ll be our next president. Except one of them will be wrong. And Trump is never wrong.  😉

If, however, by some miracle, Democratic voters actually vote (they are notoriously lax in actually VOTING) and Hillary actually wins, then the Democrats are still screwed. Why? Because of the Trump card. Because Trump will bring Republicans out in droves to vote, and they’ll vote, maybe for him, maybe not, but they WILL vote Republicans in for other offices. The majority of our congress is up for re-election this year, and if lots of Republicans vote, that means they’ll likely win the house and the senate again, and quite possibly by a large majority. And then they’ll deliver the coup de grace: Hillary will be impeached (or worse.) And, depending on who Hillary picks as her running mate, we’ll either end up with a powerless president, whose every effort will be blocked, or they’ll find a way to get rid of the VP too and then President Paul Ryan will rule our land. Hey, yannow, maybe that’s the Republicans’ plan all along.  😉

Our only hope to avoid this awful scenario, is to get everyone who is even remotely Democratic leaning to get out and vote Democrat, not just for president, for everything that’s up for election. This is especially true in swing states and offices that are currently held by Republicans.

Oh, and don’t believe polls that say Hillary will win easily, don’t assume the people of America are smart enough to “do what’s right” because half of them seem to think Trump is the right thing to do. And even if it turns out that most of those “new Republican” voters were not Trump shills or (however unlikely) actual legitimate voters who registered Republican and meant it, but were actually sneaky Democrats who registered as Republicans for the primary to mess with the Republican nomination (oh, if only that were true) still, get out and vote blue. Never trust the media. They lie for money. Paint the map blue! Otherwise, our whole country will bleed red. Don’t kill America. 😦

Heeding the Call

Welp, I hath succombed. I signed up for a lifetime subscription to Asheron’s Call/Asheron’s Call 2. My old characters are still alive and gimped. The game seems to be pretty much the same as the last time I re-activated, except there’s no monthly fee, and the world is even more deserted than before. Some things I’ve noticed:

  • My legacy characters are all gimped to hell
  • Loot drops are insane now
  • Money grows on trees
  • Empty houses everywhere!
  • Facility Hub is the bomb (I don’t think they had this last time, or if they did, I didn’t know about it.)
  • The portal system is both convenient and sad now
  • Death penalty sucks (waaah, waaah)
  • No one plays this game anymore  😛

As far as my gimped characters, I think I might still have a free skill reset, but I don’t want to use it until I’m SURE. Based on appearances, I may have already used it on my main, since the only real gimpy thing I can see is I don’t have shield specced. I think my gimping is more due to how my stats are allocated (I need more stamina) and mostly the pathetic quality of my armor and weapons, and mostly BUFFS. Apparently buffs are REALLY needed now. My old trusty Dagger of Tikola, which I needed help way back when to get, and which was my first real achievement in AC, is apparently useless now (well, except for some quest experience.) So sad. I loved that dagger. It is bonded and attuned though, so it won’t drop on death at least. Sadly, my level 12 newly created mule has better armor/weapons than my level 37 main. And I’m afraid to play with my main because she has cool (useless) stuff on her that I don’t want to lose on death (or have to do a corpse run on, man, I’d forgotten what a pain in the arse corpse runs are.)

Loot drops. Seriously? In just three days, my newly minted mule is not only filthy rich (over 150k in just a few hours playing and selling loot) but he’s better equipped than my main legacy character who has old quest items. Admittedly, they’re low level quest items, but still. He has more trade notes than all my old legacy characters combined. I may have to buy a house just to store his money.  😀

Speaking of houses, empty houses are everywhere! I remember back when housing first came out, I think there were something like 500 total houses released on each server and there was a mad scramble to claim one, and they were expensive back then. Relatively speaking anyway. This was before the instanced housing that is so common now in many MMORPGs. Houses in AC were, at the time, visible on the landscape, and that was all there were. Now, apparently there are a lot more “settlements” and there’s also those old apartments (which I had once, long ago, I hated those things, I’d get lost trying to find where I lived. I only had it for the storage.) Right now though, it looks like I could own the entire town of Cragstone (well, if they let you own as many houses as you want. I don’t even know if it’s still a one house per server rule or what.)

The Facility Hub! This thing makes it SO easy to level up, no more running around into dangerous areas to get to quests, no even trying to find quests, they’re all organized by level and you portal right to them. How convenient. And sad. One of the joys of AC in the old days was running through danger and getting lost and discovering cool stuff (Telephone boxes! Giant flowers! Killer rabbits! Snowmen!) Now, portal, boom, quest, done. Convenient, but takes a lot of the fun out of the game. Also, makes it pointless to meet people and gather for a quest run. Speaking of which, where are all the people? So far in the few days I’ve been back, I’ve seen ONE player out “in the wild” in a place other than Arwic. ONE player in three days.

I did a bit of exploring last night on my main character (stuck to newbie areas, even so I almost died about three times.) The world is huge. It takes a LONG TIME to run from one town to another. Mobs stick to you like glue (thank goodness my gimpy main has super high run skill.) Cragstone beach is still fun. I spent SO much time there in the old days, I pretty much lived in Cragstone (my friend who played at the time also had a house there.) Fishing is awesome, even if useless. I miss the old days though. The game is like playing a single player game now. Sort of fun, but not the same.

I’m not sure at this point if I’m going to try to revive playing my old characters, or just start new ones. I’ve already made a mule, to store my phat lewts, and even at level 12 he’s almost more playable than my main. I’ve still got a couple more character slots on my main server. I’ve also got gobs of spots on other servers. I won’t delete my old characters though, especially my main. She was born November 2, 1999. Asheron’s Call came out on November 2, 1999.

AC_Kilesa

 

Asheron’s Call … Again Again

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The other day I found out that Asheron’s Call, an MMORPG I used to play long, long ago finally (after 15 years) went Free to Play (F2P.) Well, almost. If you had had an active subscription at the time the game “closed” they comped your account forever for when they were to bring the server back up. As a bonus, you would also get access to the “beta” (forever version) of Asheron’s Call 2. For those with dormant accounts, you can pay $10 to have your account re-enabled by logging in to the Turbine account management system with your old (post Zone migration) account, and hit the “resume” button. And I think you can buy a new account, too, but that seems to be a bit flaky judging from complaints on the near defunct forums. Then just download the clients, and bam, AC forever.

A few years ago, in 2013, I found out that AC2 would be re-released as a “beta” for those who had an active AC account, so back then I re-activated my by then very dusty AC subscription for a month or so, and went down memory lane. Well, sort of. AC2 was pretty much as I remembered, which was pretty sucky, but I had a better computer by then so it didn’t lag me to death. And it was beautiful. Man that game was beautiful and ahead of its time. But I think that’s part of why it failed so badly (this was a game that shut down something like 2 months after its first expansion pack.) But the gameplay was tedious as hell.

Asheron’s Call, on the other hand, back then was a mixed bag of OMG it’s so awesome to be home! to OMG what the hell have they done to this game??!! And OMG I forgot how ugly this game is. And OMG I can run SO INCREDIBLY FAST I THINK I CAN CRASH THE SERVER. (I read recently, they soft-capped run speed, to avoid that problem.) Apparently, since the game went F2P, they’ve ruined it further by clustering quests together off a central hub location, and by making it super duper easy to level up. Back in original AC, the experience curve was insane. I mean like criminally insane. But apparently now, due to repeatable quests and crazy experience gains, you can level to max 275 in like a week. If you’re lazy. Which is kind of sad, really, because one of the true joys of old Asheron’s Call was exploring the world, happening upon a quest that was HARD and getting a cool reward that meant something because you earned it. Now, you just log in, power level up, get phat lootz drops, and never see the world.

I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to plunk down the $10 to get a forever account on Asheron’s Call. I’m tempted to, but I’m also a bit afraid of what I’ll find. So, for the time being, I’ve returned to Lord of the Rings Online … which has been F2P for awhile now (well not really, but F2P it has a playable F2P model that’s superior than World of Warcraft’s.) Apparently there was a massive server merge while I was gone though, and I found out in order to play my beloved Hobbit, I had to transfer to another server, not knowing who lived there (I couldn’t seem to find a character database to look stuff up, I’m pretty sure there used to be one, but since Warner Brothers bought out Turbine, maybe they took that down.) Anyway, I got lucky and my little Hobbit got to keep her name. My elf Runekeeper had to change hers though, due to it being a bit too popular, but that’s OK because it was too close to another famous elf name and I’d get comments from time to time that made me wish I’d picked something else. So now, I did.

Asheron’s Call and Lord of the Rings online were both developed by the same studio, Turbine Games (who had the clever slogan “Powered by our fans”) but unfortunately, they seem to be struggling, and after having sold off to Warner Brothers a few years ago, and what with the LOTRO license coming up for renewal next year, I’m not sure how much longer any of “their” games will be around. And I’d rather spend my time playing the amazing LOTRO storylines than the nostalgic but now dead storylines of Asheron’s Call for now. I’ll probably be back to AC though, the Call is too strong to resist I think.

(That screenshot at the top was one I found on my computer, from a long ago event that eventually literally changed the world (of Dereth.))