Monday, May 29, 2023

Wasteland 3: a very short review

Wasteland 3 is (obviously) the third volume of the Wasteland video game series.

I played the earlier games in the series many years ago and so I was familiar with the basic structure: you command a squad through various adventures in a post-apocalyptic Western USA setting, completing a series of quests that typically involve a certain amount of turn-based combat. As your team members level up, they acquire improved skills and can scavenge materials from the world and construct improved tools, weapons, and armor.

Wasteland 3 is very story rich, with many many characters and side quests and locations. Along the way, you end up being forced to make various choices, which drives the game toward an overall conclusion. As befits a game with such a bleak story in such a grim setting, the outcomes are pretty unhappy but you do get a chance for an uplifting result here and there (for example, I bonded with the hard-luck characters Lucia Wesson and Marshal Kwon).

I played Wasteland 3 over a period of about 6 months, at times taking breaks of several weeks due to other Real World Issues that were occupying my time. I think Wasteland 3 is best if played in a fairly dense time slot, because keeping all the various characters and storylines in your head is complex and if you forget who's who the game becomes pretty disorienting. So near the end I was just kind of flailing around to finish it.

I also somehow picked up the edition of Wasteland 3 which contained several large add-on features, with large additional map areas and large additional story lines. I rather liked the Steeltown add-on, but didn't have as much interest in the Cult of the Holy Detonation add-on, which I thought was silly and bizarre.

A particularly strong part of Wasteland 3 is the soundtrack, which is full of remakes of various old Americana music from all genres. It's very tongue-in-cheek, and very effective. Each time you face a "boss" battle, the game plays a special song, and more than once I dragged out the battle in order to continue listening to the crazy funny songs.

Wasteland 3 is certainly not for everyone, but it was fine entertainment for me.

Saturday, May 27, 2023

My springtime of live music

One of the things I missed during the pandemic years was going to see live music, so it was lovely to get a chance to see some of my favorite bands this spring.

Here's a very short trip report.

We made plans to see Bonnie Raitt at the Chumash Casino in California's Central Coast region on March 11, but unfortunately mother nature had other plans, and a combination of a family health crisis and a series of terrible spring storms caused us to abandon those plans at the last minute. Luckily, my brother was able to use our tickets; unluckily, they caught COVID at the show. However, I really do like Bonnie Raitt's newest album, Just Like That..., which won a Grammy this year for Best Song I believe?

At the end of April, we saw Joseph at the Fillmore in the city. Joseph are the three Closner sisters from Oregon; we've been listening to them since 2016's I'm Alive, No You're Not was on steady repeat in our car stereo. The Fillmore is a classic SF venue which has played a major role in American music history over the last 70 years. It's a tiny place, and mostly standing room only, though there is a tiny upstairs balcony. It's dingy and loud but the earplugs are free and there's still a basket of apples at the entrance. And the staff are super-friendly. And it's always so fun to wander around and look at the pictures and posters on the walls!

The Joseph show was really great, I loved it! This was the first show of their tour and they sang their hearts out. Their new album The Sun is great and they had a nice collection of new and older songs. They also did a breathtaking cover of the Rascal Flatts song Here Comes Goodbye. It's not surprising that various fan tapes of this great version are starting to be shared online.

Opening for Joseph was a band I'd never heard of from London, Flyte, who quite impressed me and I've been enjoying listening to their music since the show.

In mid-May, we saw First Aid Kit here in Oakland, at the wonderfully-renovated Fox Theater. First Aid Kit are the Soderberg sisters from Sweden, and we've been passionate fans of them for a decade, ever since we couldn't stop listening to 2014's Stay Gold. This was the middle of the First Aid Kit tour, which started in Europe last winter as part of the release of the new album Palomino, which is very good and much awaited, as the band had been silent for nearly 4 years after they had to cancel their 2019 tour quite unexpectedly.

Opening for First Aid Kit was another new-to-me band, Hurray for the Riff Raff, who are quite promising I think. Here they are from 5 years ago, captured on NPR's Tiny Desk Concert series.

Then, just this week, we made a 400 mile road trip to see a big favorite of mine, Lord Huron, at a venue I'd never been to before, the Redding Civic Auditorium. Lord Huron have become a big act and they typically fill big name shows like this summer's upcoming date at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado, so we were unbelievably lucky to get to see them in this tiny spot in Redding. They bring a lot of high production values in their show and we loved this performance. They haven't put out new music in a while, but they did include several new songs during their show so hopefully we'll see some new release soon?

We first started following Lord Huron around 2015, when I heard their music on the soundtrack of the Robert Redford movie A Walk in the Woods, adapted from the Bill Bryson book. At that time, they were still seen as "that new band from Michigan", but they're a big LA-based act now.

Opening for Lord Huron was Allie Crow Buckley, who has a fine voice and I enjoyed her performance as well.

Really, except for the storms of March, we had as perfect a springtime of live music entertainment as we could possibly hope for, and it sure was nice to get out of the house and actually see performers performing and entertaining.

Monday, May 22, 2023

Shadow and Bone

Wow what a strange end to that strange Shadow and Bone series on Netflix!

I loved the whole Eastern European feel and style of the show, and there were lots of interesting side characters (yay Jesper -- one of the best characters I've seen on TV in a long time!).

But for a show where our heroine is supposed to have the power to summon the Sun to dispel the Dark, it sure wasn't a show full of sweetness and light.

And it emerged from a Young Adult book series?

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Rust is an interesting programming language

I've never been much of a programming language junkie. I know several programming languages extremely well (C, Java), and many programming languages very poorly. And I don't spend a lot of time keeping up with the world of programming languages.

But I've been trying to learn more about Rust, and I'm finding it completely fascinating!

What I know so far is:

  • Rust is a very "serious" language. It's industrial strength, very capable and extensive, with excellent documentation (including of course "The Book") and an astounding set of available software libraries.
  • Rust is not a beautiful language! Although it benefits from the many decades of programming language invention that precede it, it does so by borrowing bits and pieces from many different programming paradigms, and the result is rather a mess. And it does itself no favors by making peculiar style choices. Its preference for terse expression causes it to use highly abbreviated terms such as 'fn', 'mut', and so forth. It worsens this ugliness by incorporating a number of important concepts into single character punctuation symbols, so that '!', '?', and even "'" have important meaning, and every single character matters, so that '(val)' and '(val,)' have critically different meanings. 90 seconds of web searching will find you dozens of lovely pages venting against Rust's dense and awful syntax.
  • Rust is easy to get started with, but challenging to get comfortable with. You can find many many fascinating introductions to Rust, and it's simply remarkable how easy it is to find tutorials like "Let's build a gRPC server and client in Rust with tonic" or "Rusqlite is an ergonomic wrapper for using SQLite from Rust". And you'll be amazed at how just a few dozen lines of code can build a complete working program that you can compile and step through in your debugger. But boy do those few lines of code hide a vast amount of complexity underneath! And if you want to understand what your little example program is actually doing, be prepared to invest some serious time.

I don't know how long I'll remain infatuated with Rust, but it's been a very interesting few weeks diving in.

Friday, May 5, 2023

Lake Shasta is full

Pretty amazing! Lake Shasta is the largest reservoir in California, the 8th largest in the USA, and it was only about four months ago that it was essentially empty. Oroville is at 93% itself.

Oh, by the way, there was more rain this week.

UPDATE: We went to Redding on May 24 and May 25. I've never seen the Sacramento River so full! There was water everywhere, and snow-capped mountains in every direction.

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Nah, wrong word today

Never had a fish as a pet, never plan to.

Dogs, OTOH, absolutely.