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Nuclear Unicorn

Nuclear Unicorn's Journal
Nuclear Unicorn's Journal
November 23, 2013

Magic: the Gathering; or, a thread in which Nuclear Unicorn gets her geek on

Lover Boy has an acquaintance from work (we'll call him Steve) who is an Army vet the same as Lover Boy. We went over to Steve's house last night for dinner and drinks and Lover Boy noticed Steve had a shelf on a book case stacked with cards from the popular trading card game Magic: the Gathering. Apparently, Lover Boy played while he was deployed, as had a number of his fellow soldiers (the things you learn even after years of being together).

It seems it was a thing with them. Apparently this is also where Steve developed the hobby as well only he kept it up even after returning to civilian life. I had also seen the game played while I was in college but I never played.

Steve lamented not having as many opportunities to play and asked if we wanted to throw down a few hands. Steve's girlfriend (we'll call her Margaret) protested saying it was wrong to impose on company but I could see in LB's eyes he was carried back to some fun memories so I said I was willing to learn how to play.

The premise of the game is each player takes the role of a "planeswalker" a being capable of moving through wild, magical universes filled with amazing creatures and phenomenon. Each planes walker has a repertoire of spells they are able to cast as they battle their opposite members.

In practical terms the players have a deck of cards.

These cards come in several types, i.e. land, creatures, enchantments, "instants" etc. In order to possess power sufficient enough to cast the spells players must "tap" the power of the land but you can only lay down 1 land card per turn (assuming the luck of the draw puts them into your hand) you take so there is a slow build-up of your power.

Moreover, the land cards generate different colors of magical "mana" which are used to power similarly attenuated spells. Swamps produce black; forests, green; mountains, red; islands, blue and plains, white. Some more complicated spells require multiple colors.

Each turn you may tap some, all or none of the land you have put into play and at the beginning of your next turn they all reset.

Tapping land for power allows you to play other spells you may have drawn, such as creatures. Creatures are rated for the amount of damage they both deal and can absorb. They remain in play until they are removed by another spell or they take more points of damage from combat than they are capable of enduring.

Enchantments have effects that remain in play until something forces the enchantment to end. Other cards, such as "instants" resolve immediately but any number of instants may be played consecutively by any players so long as they have adequate untapped lands. For example, I tried casting several spells against Steve only to have him constantly thwart my efforts with a "Counter Spell" card.

When creatures battle the player who is currently taking their turn announces which creatures in play are attacking and against whom they are attacking. Other players are then allowed to declare which of their own creatures are blocking. Sometimes combat is spiced-up with a round of furiously cast instants but in the end the attackers and blockers subtract the amount of damage they do from the amount of damage the opposing creature can sustain. Any creature that has its defense ability reduced to 0 is removed from play. Attacking creatures that survive combat may actually inflict damage upon the designated planeswalker.

Each planeswalker starts with a life score of 20. Although this number may be increased by various spells the toll of spells and creature attacks eventually reduces the player to 0 forcing them from the game.

Last night I played 3 colors which I enjoyed. At first I played a red goblin deck. The illustrations on the cards and the text portrayed them as humorous if albeit self-destructive creatures that attack en masse to overwhelm players. however, while they were fun to play I couldn't seem to get the deck to play as I was told it was designed. We'll chalk it up to my n00bishness.

I also played a green elf deck. I had more success with that one as it produced so much mana I never seemed to be at a loss to cast any spell I wanted. Soon I had a sizable army of elves that plucked enemy flyers from the sky and over ran their defenses.

The last deck I tried was a black deck. It had plenty of nasty effects such as forcing Steve's creatures to attack Steve himself and inflicting diseases that wore down ever increasing amounts of the enemy's life.

Lover Boy played a white and blue angels and priests deck and I could see he had remembered how to play. He also took over the goblins and ran roughshod over the table.

Steve fancied his blue or blue-black decks with many flying creatures and he could string together combinations of spells. Although I was at a decided disadvantage playing against him I learned a lot watching how he manipulated seemingly unrelated spell effects to tremendous potency.

Margaret didn't play but she was my able coach.

All in all I had a good time and now Big Bang Theory seems ever slightly closer to my soul. I would definitely do it again and if anyone is curious about playing please set aside our trepidation and treat yourself. It is a game that will challenge you mentally. The art that adorns each card is fabulous and the "flavor" given to the game makes me smile just recalling how rich it seemed.

If you actually made it this far, Thank-you,

October 17, 2013

Being skeptical of government based social welfare is not the same as being against social welfare

Where I live a long time resident was left paralyzed after surgery. The local church went to his house and refurbished it for wheelchair access and had a cook-out. It was all pretty amazing to see. The gentleman didn't have to apply for help, wait for approval or anything; they saw the need and they went.

October 6, 2013

Lover Boy reviews Oliver Stone's, Natural Born Killers

Not to me but kinda to me.

I've long told him his mind is under-utilized. He happily considers himself a "work a day grunt" as he puts it and he is actually content. He certainly works hard and I'm proud of who he is.

Yet, he also has a very keen mind and a feeling soul. It is part of what has always attracted me to him. We watch movies or whatnot and he always seems to get more from them than I ever will and I was the one who went to school to be a writer.

So, I asked him if I could post his thoughts on the movie,
Natural Born Killers. He was hesitant but agreed as a favor to me. It will be noted he is not a left-leaner but I'm OK with that. His comments include political observation but the review is not politically oriented.

Presented without edit or commentary, except to say --

* * * * * * * * *

If you see something in a movie but the director didn't intend it, is it really there?

I'm thinking of Oliver Stone's rendition of the Quentin Tarantino story, Natural Born Killers.

I cried, but that's OK because it was a happy cry.

From what I've read about the story it bears little resemblance to the original story though I will admit I like some on the directorial/storytelling devices Stone incorporates such as using a black and white flash cut and projected scenes to portray the underlying emotion or psychosis in a scene.

But as I was reading production notes and trivia I learned that Stone's interpretation of the film was about the commercialization of human tragedy through "reality TV" when the reality is: there are humans that have been brutalized by a desensitized society that either exploits or glosses over the human tragedy thus creating the predators that torment the society that spawned them.

Well, no fucking shit. That seemed obvious throughout the film. Too obvious. In fact, the point seemed so obvious it seemed obvious that it couldn't possibly be the point.

What I saw instead was:

We watch the man on the street interviews of people idolizing Mickey and Mallory and initially we are left to think "By Jove there is some deep sickness at work here." We are supposed to hold these people in contempt that they could so easily be star struck by such depravity.

But then, as Mickey and Mallory are making their final escape from the prison you see them heading down the hallway towards the promising blue light of the outside world. Yet -- after learning of the depravity of Scagnetti (the deranged cop played by Tom Sizemore) and McClusky (the prison warden played by Tommy Lee Jones) -- you actually feel a twinge of exhilarant hope that the protagonists will be free...in spite of just how murderous we know them to be.

In other words, for a moment we become the idolizing man on the street we had earlier held in contempt.

But near as I can tell that was never Stone's intent. From Stone's descriptions it seems more an anti-capitalist you-commercializing-pigs-got-what's-coming screed the cranky, old socialist tends toward.

To me it's about 2 people clawing their way from the pit they were born in. Sure, people die but it's not like they're innocent people because -- as the Bible will tell you and the news will verify -- there is no such thing as innocence on this world.

I think an otherwise great film was "ruined" at the end by showing M&M together with a large, happy family. This exit to family also somewhat diminished the other Tarantino script (but also not directed by him) True Romance. Had the film ended with the grainy TV camera shot looking up as they limp away arm-in-arm I think it would have preserved a powerful, predatory uncertainty. Showing them as a happy family relieves us of the burden of having rooted for them. It's good to know they went on to be better humans then the parents that bore them but how much more powerful could it have been to know the lovers wandered off and remained at large, for all we know, very capable of erupting again.

Contrast this with True Romance. Clarence and Alabama started in love. The violence that swept them away was secondary; it was their reaction to save the love which was the beginning of who they were. In Kill Bill, the Bride essentially starts "in love" when she leaves behind her life as an assassin for the love of her child and her love-born reaction to having lost that child.

In NBK, M&M were born from hatred and depravity. It was what they came from, it was all they knew and they never had a chance to know anything else except from TV sitcoms parodied in the opening act. They became capable of love in spite of that. That was their Odyssean journey. Stone robbed the power of that idea from the story showing M&M happily playing with their children. While itself a good thing it robbed the audience of the joyous dread that M&M might once again strike out at us. It robbed us of the terror that should make us beg their forgiveness for what we did to them and by so begging maybe come to some form of penance and improvement. Taken rightly, the story should make us better the way the Israelites were improved having witnessed and then survived the calamities unleashed by God. You know you're no better than the other guy who is getting pasted before your very eyes so let's just fall to the ground covering our heads with dust and pray we never get what we so richly deserve.

That's what makes their escape so powerful. We want our demons to escape from the prison so that they may survive in the shadows, free to torment us the moment we backslide because if they do not then we -- the frail, reveling, over-commercialized, petty creatures that we are -- will never be improved. We need them to scare us out of the pit they were born into but we choose to slide into through our apathy, greed and cowardice.

In the end, that strikes me as the difference between what Stone filmed and I watched. It could be called the same film but Stone sees the world in materialistic terms as socialists tend where I tend to see things in a spiritual context. But if Stone never meant it to have a spiritual context does it really exist?
September 12, 2013

N-th Dimensional Chess: Pawn's Pimp-hand to King's Cheek

So now Assad is DEMANDING we stop arming the rebels. This is all very quaint.

First, over a year ago the US said Assad had to go. The US tried to delegitimize him and treat him as if he were not the official decision-maker for Syria. Now, we are negotiating with him. Now he is re-legitimized.

Second, Russia is handing Assad weapons hand over fist. So, it's "weapons for me but not for thee." Rather cheeky, don't you think?

But that's just a foretaste. Assad also said he needed 30 days to catalog his CW stockpiles. SS Kerry said that was unacceptable. I'll wager they'll spend at least 30 days arguing over whether or not 30 days is acceptable before settling on a timeframe that is acceptable (maybe 180 days?).

This whole "I need 30 days" and "You must stop arming rebels" thingy is just a tremendous game. Expect to see several other demands creeping out over the next few days and weeks. Expect some of them to be rather absurd in nature. It's a ploy with several aspects.

The most obvious is to bide time for Assad. Russia is not going to allow Assad to fall. That is a reality that has to be accepted. Killing 100,000 more people to maintain a hold on power in a region is what Putin calls "Tuesday afternoons."

However, once he has re-secured power for his chinless stooge he will have show that he can hold his satrapy in Syria with more power (and sheer brutality) than the US will holds its fiefdom in Iraq. Hey, there Mr. Arab Prince. That's a nice kingdom you gots there. I'd be a shame if something were to happen to it.

And with each new demand the original demand gets further and further away. If you thought the US public and congress were loathe to go to war over the alleged gassing of civilian wait until you see how much they do not want to go to war over 15-days vs. 30-days or the arming of rebels or whether or not the drapes in the negotiating room in Geneva are mauve with gold trim. And as that non-existent threat of war becomes increasingly non-existent the demands will grow both in frequency and absurdity.

No, Obama will not go back to congress. The proposed AUMF couldn't even pass the Democratic controlled senate; the single most embarrassing indicator of this entire farce. If he circumvents congress unilaterally his presidency is as good as ended, impeachment or not because no one will trust him after that. The rest of his term will be spent watching congress trying to rein him in after he has told them point blank he runs the show without regard or checks or balances.

Play the negotiation game. Draw it out. Accept the fact Assad gets to keep Syria and Putin gets to keep Assad. Let the murderer have his knife fight with the rapist. We wish them both much success. We have our own damn country to run and there's nothing in Syria to save that won't be saved incidentally by an Assad victory. We sure as hell don't want AQ getting a foothold because they can't be controlled by anyone. Walking away with the occasional WOOF! WOOF! WOOF! is the least crappiest of a thousand potentially crappy outcomes.

July 23, 2013

Things are -- happening

I don't know how to qualify them or explain *why* they are happening but I feel them nonetheless. I've been tossing them over and over in my mind for over 6 months now.

Super Bowl Sunday is an event in my husband's family and their enthusiasm is contagious. Since my dad loves football as well we invited him and my step-mom. My brother was also invited.

This is no small thing because things were very strained between he and I. When we were growing up my biological mother abandoned us, her family. It was left to my dad to be a single-parent/fledgling business owner. My brother did what he could to help my dad take care of the household responsibilities but by the time I hit my sophomore year in high school I was living "wild, young and free" while he was playing dutiful homemaker. The last conversation I had with him before I left for college was him telling me I would, "never be anything more than a stoned slut."

I still feel the sting of those words.

College came and went. I met the man who would become my husband (some of which I wrote about during my time here on DU) and married. My brother had his life and I had mine. He is a restaurant manager and has always been the good student, good employee, hard worker, straight-laced kind of guy. We hadn't spoken through all those years until my father went into the hospital for his heart condition. It thawed the ice somewhat and we had a good talk for a couple of hours just exchanging news of our respective lives. Then, a little over nine months ago my SIL left, taking the kids. My brother was devastated. He was invited to Super Bowl Sunday to get his mind off his troubles and hopefully have a little fun.

During the game he got up and said he was getting another beer. He went into the kitchen while everyone else cheered or jeered the current play according to their team loyalties. I noticed he had been gone a bit long for a simple beer run so I went to the kitchen. He was standing there looking out the window. He didn't turn around to see who I was when I came through the door, he just stood there, the way men do when they don't want to be seen as "unmanly." His pain was palpable.

I didn't know what to say but I wanted to say something. I walked up behind him and put my arms around him. A moment later he broke down. After he regained himself he turned and held me in his arms. He told me I was a good person and how sorry he was for being angry with me all those years. I didn't feel like a good person, I just couldn't bear to see him hurting.

Sadly, his marriage is headed for divorce but my brother is getting stronger by the day. He spends more time with me and our dad now.

The other thing that is *happening* is with my kid SIL, my husband's sister. We spend a lot of time watching her as my FIL is out of town on business or she just wants to spend time with us (my MIL died about 2 years ago). On Sundays we take her to church because it is her dad's wish and especially my MIL's.

When we took her on Mother's Day the kids were taken back to rehearse a song. When they returned each child was carrying a pink rose to present to their mother. My SIL was carrying two which she presented to me.

One in memory of her mother -- the other one was for me.

I don't think I've ever held anyone tighter. Tears rolled down my face as I kissed her beautiful little cheeks over and over and over again.

This post is already over-long. Perhaps soon I'll write about the goings-on with my husband. It created quite the tempest, at first, but I think we're stronger for it now.

Some*THING* is happening. I don't know what it is but I feel it and I'm grateful for it. I'm in awe of it and I welcome it.

June 22, 2013

The abuse of FISA, prosecuting whistleblowers, PRISM, kill lists. Guess what. It isn't about Obama

It's about the guy after him. And then the guy after him and the guy after him. It's about the dark horse candidate whose name we can't even conceive of at this moment who will ride into office on a wave of electoral emotion and assume the helm of a state security apparatus that has insulated itself all efforts to bring it to heel. It's about how that apparatus allows him suppress all threats to the state (by which he means, himself) and a military capable of eliminating anything it catches sight of as well as a congress and media either too weak or too complicit to offer any opposition.

Obama will merely be a chapter in a school kid's history book when that day comes so you can't say it's about Obama. You can't hide behind a defense of Obama to tell us to stop guarding against that day. We're not complaining about Obama -- except to note our soul-shattering disappointment that these things have grown under his tenure after he promised to end them. No, we're looking past Obama. We're looking forward. That's what PROGRESSives do.

June 15, 2013

C'mon people! It's not like this is rocket science.

Oh. Wait. Actually, it is.

Lover Boy and I spend a lot of time watching his younger sister while their father is away on business. Last weekend she came over to the house with her laptop, as she usually does, but instead of working on school projects or poking around the internet she started playing a game called, Kerbal Space Program.

Kerbin is a fictitious blue-green world not unlike our own save for the facts it is only 600km in radius and it has 2 moons. Kerbin is inhabited by Kerbals, little green humanoids with large, curious eyes and an endearing stoicism in the face of near-incessant catastrophe. The object of the game is to get Kerbals off of Kerbin and into space.

To meet these objectives the player is provided with a library of parts from command modules to fuel tanks, engines, solar arrays, landing gear, etc. etc. etc. With these basic elements you can build rockets, satellites, space stations and even space planes.

It's not as easy as it looks, she explained, as her rocket climbed into the air. She went on to describe how she lost many rockets -- and no small number of Kerbals -- from designs that veered -off course out of control or simply exploded on the launch pad under their own weight. Simply achieving orbit is a feat in and of itself as you have to begin your gravity turn at the right altitiude, which is wholly dependent on your rate of ascent which in turn depends on the mass of your rocket and the power of your engines.

"Well of course. Everyone knows that," I said to my husband who gave me a bewildered shrug.

Her target today was Minmus, the second of Kerbin's two moons. This was an unmanned (unkerballed?) flight as she prefers to send probes ahead of the more deliberate missions. Having easily achieved orbit (?!?!?) she waited until the rocket circled around to periapsis, the lowest point of orbit (the converse being apoapsis) where she had set a maneuver node.

As she approached periapsis she aimed the nose of the rocket towards the point designated by her maneuver plot and when the prograde vector overlapped it she hit the main engine. Checking the map she watched as her projected course brought her into an encounter with the Mun's (the nearer moon of Kerbin) gravity.

Seconds ticked away as a green gauge next to the navigation ball bled away. This was the Delta V indicator, the amount of thrust to be applied to change the velocity and hence, the trajectory. Delta is apparently the mathematical symbol for "change" and V is for velocity. When the indicator hit 0.3 she shut down the engines.

Satisfied she switched from the map to the free camera mode which showed the rock leaving Kerbin orbit. It was simply beautiful to watch as the tiny, beautiful world grew smaller and a glorious universe unfolded. It may just be a game but my heart was seized by the silent splendor of it all.

She accelerated time as the trajectory required a 4 hour, 50 minute time until Mun encounter. Along the way, she explained she would be approaching the Mun from behind so as to gain acceleration and thus conserve fuel. If she were to approach from the front she would decelerate and that would jeopardize the mission.

She also switched to another mission, one that had landed successfully on the Mun. She showed how Jebediah Kermin, her personal favorite due to his happier nature, could walk around the in the Mun's much lower gravity.

Back to following the probe she waited for the Mun to capture the tiny machine in its sphere of influence. She quickly placed another maneuver node and fired the engines at the appropriate time for the prescribed duration. Again, the trajectory plot grew until it changed color indicating a projected encounter with Minmus. She switched back to camera mode as we watched the Mun recede off into the distance.

As we again waited for time to elapse she told me how she wanted to get a space station in orbit around each moon but, she lamented, docking was a skill she had yet to master even though she had watched numerous video tutorials. It seemed an odd confession considering the ease and confidence at which she commanded her current mission.

In time she approached Minmus. She rotated the probe to a retrograde position and fired her engine until the last of its fuel was depleted. She turned the probe prograde vector before releasing the spent rocket stage ensuring it drifted away from behind rather than being in the way ahead of her as she tried to decelerate -- a lesson she assured me she had learned the hard way. She returned the ship to its retrograde course and began burning her final engine to bring her orbit in around the Minmus.

It is a strange and uninviting world of teal blue ice oceans surrounded by menacingly huge white mountains of ice. Bit by bit she worked to lower her orbit. She wondered aloud whether she should attempt a soft landing.

"I think I'll try it!" she announced like one who had no government budget to be mindful of.

Continuing the retrograde burn she slowed the rocket until gravity took over. Then it was a matter of juggling engine burn while toggling the stabilizing system on and off. Her little fingers worked furiously to control thrust and position but -- I am sad to report -- there were too many unlearned variables. Altitude, the jutting terrain, limited fuel and unfamiliar gravity conspired to dash her ambitions and her rocket against the mountains of Minmus.

A cathartic "Darn it!" later and she was back in the Vehicle Assembly Bay with a handful of lessons learned, redesigning her satellite.

She then announced she wants to be an astronaut.

May 22, 2013

I think I'll sit out this episode of 2 Minutes of Hate; RE: Apple, Inc.

Apple broke no law. We can't prosecute people for being "wrong" we can only prosecute for acting in ways defined by law as being illegal; otherwise we are not governed by law but caprice and envy. Frankly, I'm impressed that Apple waded into the literally tens of thousands of pages of tax law and were able to so expertly craft the shelter. They aren't to be condemned, they're to be congratulated for being one of the few entities actually able to navigate the labyrinth of contradiction, shift and incompetent construction. It's truly a marvel to behold. That the number of companies exploiting this loophole is so few is an indictment of the byzantine nightmare that is the US tax code.

What if we one day had a tax code that even the "little people" could obey too? Golly!

Congress has no business complaining because they wrote the law. They can change it but I don't believe they will. Perhaps I'm too cynical at the ripe old age of 24 but I think they fear the campaign backlash/loss of tax revenue were they to act in accordance with their professed outrage.

This is just a show for the public. Beat up a few high-profile corporate execs and then do nothing of substance. It gives the people their 2 minutes of cathartic hate and then its back to the usual tedium. I can't share the outrage over this issue because the staged farce is meant to make us outraged so that we still love our masters as they lie to our faces. They're pillorying Apple so you don't notice what incompetent stumble-bums they are as they pretend to look out for our best interests.
February 1, 2013

Well, I suppose that's one way of dealing with it.

My old boss retired and my husband's boss has recently taken me on part-time to help sort out his acounting. He's a good business man but a lousy organizer.

Anyway, it's very blue-collar work. The men on the crews all work very hard in rather uncomfortable conditions for long, grueling hours in a fairly hazardous profession. They pop into the trailer where I work to file payroll or whatnot and they're all dirty, grubby and such Honestly, I knew my husband got dirty but I never realized how bad as he showered before he got home. One guy on my husband's crew is a nice kid (Can I call him a kid? He's 19 and I'm 24). but it seems he has a "thing" for me.

He's always polite and nothing approaching a threat but he's a little slow. My husband long ago took "the kid" under his wing after the kid was barred from enlisting for not scoring high enough on the ASVAB. He's a hard worker and a natural talent working on heavy machinery but you know how some folks are when it comes to test-taking.

Still, when he comes into the trailer he tends to be overly conversational and a few times he'll just stand there and smile sweetly despite my having asked if there is anything he needs until someone else comes along and shoos him away. I mentioned it to my husband who -- perpetual jokester that he is -- asked if I wanted the kid beaten-up at "recess." I instructed him that such extremes would not be necessary.

Last night, towards the end of the day the kid was once again in the trailer just sort of standing there smiling. My husband entered and I figured he would send the kid on his way but my husband instead turned on his heel before he got through the door and left the kid and I there alone.

What the -- ?!?! I just went on organizing my papers.

A few minutes later my husband returned and told the kid he had found the kid's phone someplace it might get sat-on or some words to that effect. The kid took the phone and sat down as my husband went to the back office.

All of a sudden the sound -- the very loud sound -- of flatulence ripped (Can I say "ripped"?) through the trailer. I looked up at the kid who was just sitting there half-giggling (I think it was the male reflex to the sound of farting) until another one sounded. And then another followed by another. Half-amused was replaced by absolute dread as the kid realized he was making those noises. He grabbed his phone as it continued breaking wind --now even louder that it was out in the open -- and looked at me in dread, trying to explain with a small amount of panic that it wasn't him. He fumbled with his phone until it was silenced and fled out into the work yard.

My husband came out of the back office explaining that when a man wants to date a girl he won't allow himself to fart in front of her. Thankfully, he added on his own behalf, he didn't have that problem as he was a married man. It seems he took the kid's phone and downloaded the sound effects and set those sounds as the kid's ringtone. I shook my head and told him, "You are so mean."

He admitted as much but then asked -- with that stupid grin he gets when he knows he's gotten to me --if he could call me sometime.

I punched the giggling boob in the arm.

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