Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Look! Chris makes a political endorsement!

Here comes something that I haven't done in... what, at least six years?  To be honest I can't remember.  I think the total amount of times that I've endorsed a candidate has been less than three.

(Okay, I guess I kinda endorsed myself during that very wacky school board race in 2006, but that mostly came during the process of chronicling that process here on the blog.  I didn't actually come out and say "I endorse myself!" although that would be kinda funny...)

For many years I have had a policy and I have kept strictly to it, without any exceptions.  It is this: I will not vote for any candidate whose campaign runs a single negative ad against an opponent.  If a candidate cannot win on her or her own merit, then that candidate doesn't deserve my vote.  All a negative ad demonstrates is that the candidate running it is more interested in power and prestige than in the people.

I'm telling y'all here and now, that my ballot wound up having a lot of blank spaces at the very start of this campaign season.  I've been watching every race like a hawk, showing partiality to none.  Longtime readers also know that I am not partisan.  I vote for the person, not the party.  Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, independents... each and more have been represented in the ballots I've cast.

Incidentally, one of the most absolutely worst things that a person can do is vote a straight-party ticket.  Too many people fought and died so that we might have the rights of citizenship.  Those rights do not include casting votes without thinking about who you're voting for.

Some of these notions won't find approval with more than a few.  But I don't care.  You shouldn't come to this blog or that of anyone else and expect commentary fitting the status quo.  Around here, we laugh at silly concepts like conventional wisdom.

But anyway...

Here, with less than a week left before the election, after observing this season very closely, I can confidently attest that there is at least one candidate who has passed my test.  The same cannot be said of his primary opponent in the media, and it certainly cannot be said of the two "front runners" in this state's U.S. Senate race.

If this candidate runs a negative ad in the eleventh hour, I'm going to withdraw my endorsement.  But this far along, seeing what I have, I don't think that it's going to happen.

Say no to the negative ads!
Vote Mark Walker for Congress!
So it is that The Knight Shift and its eclectic proprietor gladly announces that in North Carolina's 6th District race for United States House of Representatives, I am going to heartily endorse Mark Walker.  Not only because his values and beliefs as in such close alignment with my own, but because he has run the cleanest campaign that I have probably ever seen for office at the national level.  Not one commercial - be it television or radio - has come out of his campaign aimed at an opponent.  And I seriously believe that he is going to win election in very large part because of that.  People are fed-up and tired of negative campaigning.  People are hungering for real character and integrity.  I would never intimate that Mr. Walker is a perfect candidate, because there is no such of a thing.  If he does win election to Congress, there will be things that I will disagree with him about.  That's just the nature of this carnal world where we each strive to see through the glass darkly.  But I can very confidently affirm that voting for Mark Walker will be one that for the first time in a long time will not be a vote that I see myself regretting.

If anyone asks, I'm not affiliated with the Walker campaign.  I haven't volunteered for it, I haven't made any phone calls or passed out literature.  I've never met Mark Walker.  I do know many others who do know him personally, and not one of them has not attested that he is a man sincere in his beliefs and convictions.   These are people who I respect a tremendous deal and if they say that about Mr. Walker, I'm inclined to believe them.

So again, Mark Walker wins this blogger's enthusiastic endorsement.  And I will encourage this blog's readers who are also in the 6th District of North Carolina to do likewise.  And if you want to know more about Walker, his background and what he stands for, click on over to his campaign website.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

GOG.com has released X-WING and TIE FIGHTER!

Today shall be a day long remembered...

Courtesy of the amazing folks at GOG.com (the GOG stands for Good Old Games), what are by far two of the greatest computer/video games ever wrought by mortal hands have gone on sale today, ready to be enjoyed by a new generation or by those who have longed to reminisce about those heady days of the early Nineties.

Stick it to the Empire in
X-Wing
...
And I would be saying that even if they weren't Star Wars titles!

X-Wing was an astounding and revolutionary game in its own right and when it came out early in 1993 it took the industry by storm.  With a brilliant combination of 3D graphics, rich user interface, an immersive storyline and balanced yet incredibly challenging gameplay, X-Wing was the Star Wars experience that everyone wanted but few thought we would ever get.  This was the combat simulator of its time and even by today's standards it holds up incredibly well.  At last, players could join the ranks of the Rebel Alliance in the fight against tyranny, with a variety of fighters: the X-wing, Y-wing, the ever-slippery A-wing and the powerhouse B-wing.

...or blow Rebels to smithereens in
TIE Fighter!
But not to rest on its laurels, the following year LucasArts released TIE Fighter: still considered by some to be THE best computer game of all time.  TIE Fighter turned the tables and let gamers take to the skies against the scum and outlaws that the Rebels really are (the intro sequence alone are enough to make one giddy about blowing Rebel fighters out of the stars).  TIE Fighter improved on everything that made X-Wing work, and then some.  An even more interactive story/campaign and array of craft (including the TIE  Defender and my personal favorite the TIE Bomber) gave you all the tools you'd ever need to show them pesky Rebels what's what.

And as of today GOG has made X-Wing and TIE Fighter available and 100% compatible with modern systems!  If you're still playing these classics with old CD-ROMs (or even the original floppies), you'll never again have to juggle disks.  For $9.99 each you can download a DRM-free single-file installer and set up either game (or both) on any moderately-equipped system from Windows XP on up.

Incidentally, for the ten bucks you're actually getting two flavors of each game: the original DOS version and the "Collector's Edition" that ran on Windows and required a joystick (the DOS games could be played with a mouse).  The Windows-based Collector's versions have prettier graphics.  But the DOS ones have the iMuse MIDI score that changes dynamically as events in the game are triggered (i.e. the Imperial theme starting up as a Star Destroyer suddenly arrives on the scene).  The Windows editions have Redbook WAV audio instead (meaning it doesn't change per combat conditions).  Personally, I'm going with the DOS versions at least at first.  Having an iMuse score with the game itself more than justifies the price tag.

So what are we waiting for?  Mash down here for X-Wing and aim here for TIE Fighter!

These two games have been the most hotly-demanded on any modern game-delivery platform and now after years of yearning GOG has given both Star Wars fans and general gamers alike what they've wanted more than most.  And along with these two GOG is as of today also offering other classic games from the LucasArts vault: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (which some will argue is really the greatest PC game ever and not without reason), Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, The Secret of Monkey Island, and the very twisted Sam & Max Hit the Road.  More LucasArts games are promised for the near future (maybe I'll finally get to play Full Throttle...)

So there it is: X-Wing and TIE Fighter for modern computers at long last.  Go get one.  Or the other.  Or get both.  Now.  You know you wanna.

(I'm holding off until after I finish writing my book.  Getting to play X-Wing again is going to be a present to myself :-)

Friday, October 24, 2014

So... you wanna watch Chris play the Doctor Who theme on his dulcimer?!?

Sure.  Why not...

I've mentioned a few times that ever since late spring I've been taking lessons on playing the mountain dulcimer.  So far I've notched up quite a repertoire but I'm still learning the real basic mechanics of what is truly a beautiful instrument.  Still, I've come a long way in a short amount of time :-)

Anyhoo, from the very beginning I've had in mind to play the Doctor Who theme on dulcimer.  It's something that I've played around with for awhile now and... well, I think that I've got it.  Just needs a little more finesse, is all.  Only tonight did I figure out the last half of the second strain of the theme.  When I get really good I'll string them all together nice and flowing.

Okay, so if you want to see and hear what I've done so far ummm... well I can't post it on YouTube at the moment 'cuz for some reason YouTube doesn't like it when I try to publish from my iPad.  But fear not!  I've uploaded the video onto Facebook and made it public so that anyone can watch it.

Just a work in progress.  Next time it's gonna be even better but I'm still rather proud of how it's turning out already :-)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Fixing iPad and iPhone "bricked" by iOS 8.1

So the other week I upgraded my iPad (it's an iPad 2) to iOS 8.0 and since then there was some significant slowdown of apps, and Safari seemed especially effected.  Oh it worked, just not at the brisk pace that I'm used to.  Anyway, last night I finally updated to iOS 8.1

Never, never again will I do such an upgrade to my ever-trusty iPad 2.  And yes, I know that I should upgrade the iPad itself.  It's three and a half years old, after all.  I guess it's seen me through an awful lot so there's that sentimental value.  If and when I finally retire it I'm thinking of putting it in a shadowbox and hang it on my wall.  But until then I'd still like to get at least a little life out of it.

Anyway, I started the update and went to sleep and when I woke up this morning it was supposed to have been all ready to go.  Except that it was even slower than it had been before.  So, I powered-down and waited 30 seconds then turned it on again.  And for the next 30 minutes or so I was staring at the silver Apple logo in the middle of a black screen and going nowhere fast.

I was immediately terrified that my iPad had become broken or bricked or something and that I would never see it or the data I had stored on it ever again.

Some Google-ing however indicated that I was far from alone: many people using older iPads (I've seen reports of iPad 3 and perhaps the generation after that) have been affected by iOS 8.1 and many iPhones going back to iPhone 5.  You would think that there would be some kind of thorough analysis and de-bugging, and at the very least have the device inform users when the newest iOS is incompatible with their device.  Some are wondering if this is apparently Apple's way of compelling consumers to buy the latest version of the hardware.

I know that the newest iPad Air is out this week, and I'm considering getting it soon.  In the meantime I do need my iPad now to be working.

Well, it took me an a hour and a half, but I did come up with something that gets the iPad un-bricked and if there's any consistency between the device itself and iTunes (note: make sure your iTunes is updated to the latest version) this will probably work for you too if your own device is hit with a "black screen of death"...

1.  Open up iTunes on your PC or Mac (I'm using Windows Vista... yeah yeah I'm a glutton for punishment).

2.  With your device unconnected to your computer, make sure your iPad or iPhone is already powered-on.  It's okay if it's still showing the black screen and logo: we're about to fix that!

3.  Connect the iGimmick to your computer/iTunes through the cable.

4.You should see iTunes acknowledging the presence of the device.  If your computer is anything like mine you will see that it's setting up new device stuff through the USB.  THIS IS A GOOD THING!  DON'T UNCONNECT YOUR iTHINGY UNTIL IT'S FINISHED DOING THIS!  You should know when it's done when your iPhone or iPad screen comes up as usual, with all your icons and wallpaper and whatnot.  If you can maneuver around the screen with your finger like usual that should indicate that the device has been re-set and back to normal.  But just in case I would leave it still communicating with iTunes for a little while (say, 10 minutes or so).

5.  While you're waiting for that, it's a good time to start backing up your iToy... so do that.  Do it now.  Or perish in flames.  It's your choice, but not really.

6.  After the backup is done (it took mine about 15 minutes because I had so many space-hoggin' apps on it... and other stuff) it is probably good to do.  Disconnect as normal and proceed to continue enjoying your iGadget as normal.

Last night I updated over the house network via wi-fi instead of going through iTunes, and I'm wondering if that is what was part of the problem.  Maybe, maybe not.  Worth pondering.  All I know is that once it was physically hooked-up with iTunes things started going back to normal.

Now, there's one thing that I haven't done so far.  I haven't powered-down and tried to turn it back on.  Because I'm kinda leery about doing so and having to go through this crap all over again.  I may try it tomorrow if I'm brave enough (I'm trying to get some book written  this afternoon/evening so while I'm in that groove).  If it works I'll let y'all know.  Or if it works for you, feel free to leave a comment about it.

Guess I'll have to get an iPad Air 2 sooner than later.  But that's okay.  I've had my eye on getting a 128-gigabites model for awhile now anyway :-)

EDIT 5:02 p.m. EST:  I should have mentioned earlier that after applying this fix following the upgrade to iOS 8.1, that my iPad 2 is functioning MUCH faster than it had been prior.  It's now comparable to the speed it was on iOS .  Even Safari.  And the touch screen seems a tad more responsive now also.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Get out your Bible and re-watch last night's THE WALKING DEAD

No need to discuss the "Bob-b-cue" or the "shish-ka-Bob" or whatever you want to call it at the end of last night's The Walking Dead 'cuz chances are that you've heard plenty enough of it today and Lord help you if you had to eat ribs tonight.

I'm re-watching "Strangers" right now and something that caught my eye...

After Rick finishes sweeping through Gabriel's church and the rest of the group come in, there are a couple of boards on either side of the altar at the front of the sanctuary.  On each board is an identical set of verses.

The verses are:

Romans 6:4
Ezekiel 37:7
Matthew 27:52
Revelation 9:6
Luke 24:5

Just out of curiosity I went to my Bible and looked up each of those verses.

What I found makes me wonder if that was something intentional on the part of the producers.  As if it's a clue or a sly wink or whatever.  One way or another, each of the verses is about death and/or resurrection.

 Very, very intriguing stuff.

And this show keeps continuing to demonstrate why it's the best on television.