Review | 2021.11.27

Back 4 Blood suppressed Beretta graveyard

Rewind 19 months:

ChrisChris Two weeks ago it was uncertain how this covid thing would play out. I don't think much has changed. I get the feeling we'll look back on this as either the biggest overreaction since terrorism or the epic disaster we absolutely could have avoided.

Omicron seems to be taking off worldwide and while we have some idea of what to do with pandemics now, if this variant resists vaccines we could be in pretty bad shape. If the markets are any indicator, people are worried that this will break our already stretched finances/medical staff/supply chains/public calm.

icantfuckinreddit icantfuckinreddit Does the knot go on the side of your neck or the back of it?

So let's escape all that and talk about streaming, books, video games, and fish.
Streaming (also some fish): Cowboy Bebop

The anime

Cowboy Bebop anime Swordfish Earth reentry

I'm always on the lookout for an anime that is, well, not tropey. That is, no mechs, no high schoolers saving Japan, no superweapon final form only used for the final boss battle, etc. Cowboy Bebop was recommended to me long ago, but only recently was it added to a streaming service that I had.

I blasted through the single season and was pretty happy with it. The speculative sci-fi world is charmingly nonsequitur - like a cousin of retrofuturism. There are neat storylines and great nuggets of dialogue that shine through if you can suspend disbelief about various unlikely aspects of the near future. The show hops around the solar system from episode to episode, letting the viewer see unique and interesting worlds. Similarly, it's refreshingly unformulaic.

Cowboy Bebop anime Spike shotgun

I recently read someone praise the protagonist for being a remarkably complex character. I'm not sure I agree, you find out Spike's major (non-)motivator late in the series and that pretty much lays out his whole shtick. He's mildly OP (and thankfully not completely OP) in combat situations, though the outcome bounces between Spike emerging victorious and the baddie getting away.

For me, Jet and some of the extended cast are far more interesting.

Cowboy Bebop anime Edward Ein silhouette

One of these is not Edward. As a cerebral character to rival Jet, I expected more from her. Instead she just sings and dances in the background of the scenes set on the Bebop. Edward was introduced as a cybercriminal that RCE'd both a police car and the Bebop but proceeds to spend the rest of the series using these valuable skills to do the occasional web search. And her AI buddy disappears altogether.

While some of the episodes are kind of campy (rival cowboy, fridge disaster), some of them are superb. The Scratch/Heaven's Gate episode is a creepy nostalgia trip.

The live action adaptation

Cowboy Bebop Netflix live action ship jump gates

Unbeknownst to me, Netflix aired the anime because they were creating a live action adaptation with John Cho as the lead. I'm three episodes deep and probably going to finish the season though I'm not itching to binge it.

Cowboy Bebop Netflix live action Vicious fish

This adaptation appears to be a remix of the stories from the anime (and manga?) - some plot arcs occur in different order and paired differently. Having just watched the anime, I'm happy it's not a shot-for-shot remake and that there are some nondestructive partial rewrites.
Streaming: The Wheel of Time

Wheel of Time Amazon series

Since the mainstream success of GoT, streaming services have tried their hand at making a fantasy/sci-fi smash hit. The most recent Amazon endeavor is thematically closer to GoT than the others; The Wheel of Time series.

Three episodes in, I'm not sure I'm going to last the season. Somehow they converted a classic book series into a story that feels very much like it's from the young adult section of the Amazon online bookstore. While my friend (who read the books) confirmed that the protagonists get chased throughout the first book, this plot mechanic feels flogged to death in this adaptation. Rather than using gentle urgency like LotR (running from Nazgul, journeying to Mount Doom), WoT has Teen Chosen One Squad constantly having their heels bitten by monsters and wolves, only to escape by passing through an invisible wall of various forms (river, forbidden town, lol the wolves were just guiding us).

And so we have a thematically-exhausted messiah plot arc coupled with a bunch of squabbly teens either being petulant or shouting "run" to each other as they are already running. I really hope there's more to the story than this. I'll be optimistic since the book series is pretty well-reviewed. For a few more episodes, anyway.
Books: Ringworld

Larry Niven Ringworld book cover

This past week I finished the Ringworld audiobook I had bought for kid time/construction. While I applaud the worldbuilding and (successful?) commitment to scientific legitimacy, the story's execution fell short. The story quickly goes from grand adventure to Crichton-esque disaster and escape. This plot shift is a pretty big let down after the tease of a massive, artificial, inhabited halo world. While the galactic history of the titular artificial world is kind of neat, so much of the book's conversation is wasted on lengthy explanations of building materials and mindless romance. And yeah, while the novel is fifty years old I still expect a higher standard of how women are written in sci-fi.
Video games: Back 4 Blood

Back 4 Blood zombie train car

Left 4 Dead holds a special place in the hearts of the lolbaters crew - whether it's retro gaming sessions or shout outs to the greatest driver of all time, Jimmy Gibbs Jr. We were pretty excited to try the unofficial sequel, Back 4 Blood.

Back 4 Blood gauntlet zombies MP5

The core elements of the original games remain intact:
Back 4 Blood decks

New to the game:
The focus seems to have been to do some lightweight modernization (adding shooter-looter elements) as well as randomization for replay value.

Video games: Gloomhaven

Gloomhaven Steam video game football Raiders

WFH has left something of a Gloomhaven gap in my life. Chase said the Steam version was true to the tabletop game, so I put together a squad with Ted, Jon, and Rob.

Okay, we need a guild name.
Charterstoners Jon
Fantasy memes also play.
Fellowship of the RNG
The Mildlings
Oh I better buy the license. Ted
??? I won't get any Harry Potter references.
Leatherbound Books
Blood Ocean

We played some scenarios on Guildmaster; this is both recommended and also by accident because I didn't read up on the campaign types. I expected kind of a tabletop simulator version with sprites and whatnot, but this game got the full 3d treatment. The production value adds some immersiveness, though since the game is so heavily based on card mechanics the animations and such might be a bit confusing. I might be overly concerned and this can be filed under learning curve, but a lot of the cards displayed in the tabletop game are less obvious on the computer screen. While not needing to figure out enemy actions is a huge blessing, it also probably feels more like X-Com to neophytes.

In any event, Steam GH is a lot of fun and a great opportunity for me to play classes I didn't try in the tabletop game.
Video games: Nioh 2 is pretty long

Nioh 2 demon Tokichiro

I think me and J are like three or four story missions from the end? We fought and killed our bff. Then he killed us because he was a demon. Then we went to the afterlife (I think). Then came back. Then fought our bff's bride on their wedding day (she's a large house with an eye and numerous very large tentacles).

I'm not sure what's next but hope we can achieve the thing that we want to do.

In all seriousness though, the game has a lot of content and while the combat has become somewhat repetitive, the environments remain fresh, attractive, and interesting.
Video games: roundup

Risk of Rain 2 RoR2 Guragura the Lucky

Maybe if omicron has us back in lockdown, I can dust off some of the backlog - Cyberpunk, Intruder, RoR (new DLC), and Squadrons.

Mass Effect 3 Legendary Citadel Turian

My offline gaming is still ME3-focused, I just haven't done any of that in a bit. J and I downloaded Magicka 2, a charming top-down brawler with a crazy elemental magic system and a Divinity-esque sense of humor.

Fish: really, I wasn't joking

Aquarium jellies

We weren't sure if a nine month old would enjoy looking at fish and other sea life. Happily, Dani had a great time at the aquarium and (separately) a pretty okay time at hot pot.


The Ritchie family lost someone this month. We're still processing it and I can't bring myself to write anything except that we look fondly on our twelve years with the Kaf dog. In time, thinking of our many experiences with him will bring us joy and not a sense of loss.

Infopost | 2021.11.08

Hilariously, the housing meltdown looks mild when you pull back to SPY at $469. It wasn't mild.

So everyone's agreed there's going to be a market pullback, right? Any day now. Yeah, I know, bears have successfully predicted 4 out of the last 20 crashes. If this is sustainable, I'll eat my modest gains and some crow. So let's set that aside and assume we'll drill *at some point*.

But let's not be bearish aside from accepting bear facts, I won't try to predict if the catalyst will be China or interest rates or retail investors. Let's talk about bull things, since this was initiated by someone asking me what my long term plays are.

They are nothing right now (well, individual bonds and SPCE), because the falling tide carries all boats. I'm not sitting in cash, of course, I'm buying energy dips, commodities, Costco, and positions I can sell calls on. I'm biding my time for - to paraphrase one of the founders of my company where that green star is shown above - the buying opportunity of a lifetime.

Here I'll use the rote disclaimer that this is information, not advice. I'm a cautious investor, forged in the fires of the subprime meltdown. I also don't do this for a living; just supplemental income and fun. But I know a bit about tech and I read some stuff.

DCA people will say I should buy/hold through the dip. That's fine for them, here's why I won't:
Saturn V rocket stylized style transfer stonks

So what do I plan to buy? I have some time to build the list, but here are my starters...

Ticker(s) DD
SOFI Warren Buffet says it's better to buy a good company at a fair price than a fair company at a good price. According to Jes, SOFI is great. They IPOed somewhat recently and have been expanding their business from peer-to-peer financing into banking and stonks.
MJ et al Full legalization is inevitable right? It's not a first term thing unless Biden is backed into a corner. As states legalize, the sector should grow. I prefer ETFs to limit exposure to any company that could be shut down by the feds on a whim.
NVDA The future is vector compute. For gaming, for graphics, for crypto, for machine learning; nVidia's only potential competitor is AMD. If graphics processors weren't enough, nVidia may someday finish acquiring ARM (all things mobile/embedded).
SMH Silicon is going in everything. TSMC is an obvious player here, but SMH gives wider exposure.
BATT It's hard to get exposure to battery mining/production without trading futures. Needless to say batteries are kind of a big deal.
JNK et al If there is a pullback, we could see widespread bankruptcy and defaults on high yield bonds. This could create a buying opportunity for junk bond ETFs that suddenly tank.
URA Uranium gang. A lot of countries and companies have made pledges to reduce emissions. I expect this to take the form of loudly-advertised wind and solar with lots of whisper-soft conversion to nuclear.
SPY/SPX/QQQ Of course, the beauty of a full-market pullback is that you can get into the high-IV ETFs and sell covered calls as you go up.

Storypost | 2021.11.07


Beirut beer pong fire night

After a covid year off, Friendsgiving returned to San Marcos where we squeezed eight families into a not-particularly-code-compliant VRBO. The last part isn't all bad; it meant there was a 30' waterslide and we could play Danger Pong.

Erin booked the patio at Pure Project for her hubby's 40th, complete with drink poker chips and Urbn pizza.

Pumpkin carving knife Halloween

Since FG landed on Halloween weekend, the kids carved pumpkins and trick-or-treated each of the bedrooms in the house.


Halloween costumes Tour de France crash WallStreetBets fuckboy

We spent actual Halloween strolling the neighborhood with Mom. Since we missed the Cooley party, we kind of half-assed the costumes.

Halloween costume Tour de France crash lady allez opi omi

Jes's costume was borderline in poor taste, particularly for cycling enthusiasts such as myself. If this doesn't ring a bell:

Tour de France crash lady allez opi omi

Having a suit, sunglasses, and hair gel, I decided to celebrate another one of 2021's signature themes by costuming as the so-called WallStreetBets Fuckboy:

WSB WallStreetBets fuckboy with diamond hands

Well, I also have diamond hands, but needed to order a red tie and diamonds *for* my hands.

Halloween costume WSB WallStreetBets fuckboy diamond hands

There were a few other WSB memes I considered - a Wendy's bag, an ape costume, an ornamental gourd - but I simply didn't have enough hands.

Halloween costumes WSB WallStreetBets diamond hands

I made up for the lack of physical referential content by being as in-character as I could. Guh.

Squid Game I also dealt in futures

AnotherDegenerateFKAnotherDegenerateFK What if the stock market is a game set up by some old guy who used to enjoy trading when he was young?

On the subject of WSB...


Borderlands Infinity Pistol load screen Vladof

Well, not really a yolo, more like an attempt to buy the hype. NPR had told me that this season's Supreme Court agenda has a lot of guns and reproductive rights. Investing in the latter isn't super straightforward, but in the case of the former, it looks like an NY gun group is suing to get universal CCW.

In their case heard Wednesday, the New York gun group argued that the language of the Second Amendment - securing "the right of the people to keep and bear arms" - refers to two separate rights. To "keep" arms is to be able to own them, while to "bear" arms is to be able to carry them, they argued.

The most recent major Supreme Court decision on guns came more than a decade earlier in District of Columbia v. Heller, when the court held in a 5-4 ruling that the Second Amendment protects the individual right to carry a gun for self-defense inside the home.

Roberts said Heller's precedent would be the "first thing" he would look to when considering this case. "We, I think, generally don't reinvent the wheel," he said.

So, a couple things. First, I have a sinking suspicion the 'generally' qualifier was purposeful - like "we're gonna overturn Roe v. Wade" purposeful. Second, while the DC v Heller reference seems to indicate Roberts understands a distinction between self-defense in the home and in public, the rest of the article made it at least a toss-up.

Borderlands door mat god blesses this house my ak protects it

Also, it's somewhat mind-boggling that the Constitution would protect the right to carry in public as critical self-defense but I can't, say, put an eight foot wall around my house. But I digress into what happens if this thing actually goes through.

Anyway, my YOLO was RGR, SWBI, and OLN. In the (investing) best case, SCOTUS says, "CCWs for all" and these tickers go to the moon. Either from hype or a real arms race. In the worst case, the perma-bull market keeps pumping. Well, that's the worst case in this market, in reality this news has coincided with RGR earnings which weren't so good for share price.

SEC report

SEC report GameStop GME meme stock WSB
Great to see the term "meme stock" appear in the SEC report on GME/Citadel/RH. Kind of disappointed they didn't mention stonks tho.


TSLA makes no sense to my boomer brain. Zac
P/E is almost 400.
Inflation + meme value + years ahead of other automakers in electric.
Still doesn't justify the cap.
But that is the timeline we are in.
I would like [employer] to become a meme company.
Maybe you should be more Musky.
We should just let Musk be our CEO.
I'm sure he could do it part time and just say some crazy things to push the stock higher. Zac
And our actual CEO could continue running the company.
Seems like a great new model, CEOaaS.
Boomerkrieg retrospective

January 6 Washington Post article tunnels Guy Fawkes

Staying with some of the drama out of DC, I read through the WaPo investigation of the January 06 Boomerkrieg. It's not short and contains a lot of information that should be familiar to people who have followed this saga.

That said, the article offers some interesting perspectives from DHS personnel, DC police, and a few of the insurrectionists.

Del Mar Sky Deck

The Gentleman's Beer Exploration Society also returned to action at the Del Mar Sky Deck. It's a neat place for food and drink.

Nikon D850 Smallrig frame flash sync cable

I bought the Smallrig rail system for the D850. It has a bunch of attachment mount points that are mostly used for video. Still, it's nice for off-camera flash and affixing the camera strap at the top and bottom of the right grip.

It turns out I needed to upgrade my DNG converter, but it took some looking to find older versions that work with Win7.

This one worked and it looks like based Adobe keeps them all in that directory.

3rd generation Toyota Tacoma oil filter wrench

The time came for the new Taco's first oil change under my ownership. I was a little confused when the K&N filter was just the filter element and some gaskets. I guess this model has a reusable filter housing. As usual, the last shop overtightened the filter.

3rd generation Toyota Tacoma TRD skid plate in box

Oh yeah, and changing the oil requires removing the skid plate. Never again, I ordered the TRD skid plate with oil change access.

3rd generation Toyota Tacoma TRD skid plate mounted

Being OEM, the TRD plate went on without drama. The only thing that caught me out was that the TRD skid plate bolts don't attach in the same place as the stock plate. The TRD plate uses bolt holes that are already used to connect subframe pieces. No big deal, but one of the bolts was a bit tight and I kept worrying the frame piece was somehow under mechanical load. Probably just corrosion.

Oh yeah, folks on the forums stressed using lower-than-spec torque on the bolts. It's definitely better to be safe than sorry for this part.

Death knocking meme NFL running back injuries Derrick Henry

My fantasy season peaked around week four.
No code

Processing language rocket example

There hasn't been much solo gaming or coding in the past couple weeks, but I used some nap/stroller time to go down wiki rabbit holes for generative art. Some bookmarks:
Neural networks deep learning artbreeder character designer
It's rare to find deep learning samples that are representative of actual results, but Artbreeder demonstrates some cool GAN stuff.

On the subject of GANs (which I haven't yet tried), this guy had a post with advice on training them. To summarize:
I hope I didn't screw any of these up when I transcribed them. Anyway, coding soon.
The homefront

Backyard veranda structure horizontal slats redwood terrace

Getting the occasional construction session in.