A Sobering Thought

A while ago, I came across a saying along the lines of, “You only love God as much as you love the person you hate most”. I don’t remember where I heard it first, but I’m sure I’ve heard it since.

I think the saying is accurate. It seems to echo 1 John 4, where it is said that you can’t love God, whom you have not seen, if you don’t love your brother, whom you have seen.

Now, it might be argued that “brother” might cover only a small proportion of people in general. Perhaps actual family, or it might extend to church family, which seems to be the context of this verse. This argument would not take into account that it’s the people closest to you, who are best at pushing your buttons.

Living with extended family-in-law, in relatively close quarters, toes do get stepped on fairly regularly, and of course there is the occasional blowup. When one’s toes are stepped on fairly regularly, in a limited number of ways, by a small subsection of household members, maintaining an attitude of goodwill can be difficult. It happens when I am the “one” in that sentence, and I can observe it when others are the “one” in that sentence. Harder to see when I am the “small subsection of household members”.

And then there’s the example of Cain and Abel. It’s not uncommon for loving your actual brother to be hard.

That argument aside, though, it’s not just brothers, extended family, or church family. Or co-workers or anyone else you’re obliged to spend a bunch of time with. In Matthew 5, in the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus replaces the old Law with the new, the instruction is to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”.

I have heard, at least a couple of times on AFR, that it’s hard to hate someone whose salvation and well-being you are praying for. But how about some examples of this in action?

Jesus, of course, at his humiliating execution: “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they do.”

St Stephen, in Acts 7, while being “bludgeoned to death with big rocks” (that last quote, a slightly censored line from a Kevin Smith movie): “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”

Early martyrs are described similarly, though sometimes later ones you might find responding with threats of damnation and such.

Dying to oneself, taking up your cross and following Christ, denying yourself, humility. We see these themes. We see asceticism throughout church history, perhaps most obviously, but not exclusively, in monasticism.

Take this story from the Desert Fathers. I’ve heard it a few times, but on searching for it just now, I found it at this link.

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A brother came to see Avva Macarius the Egyptian, and said to him, “Abba, give me a word, that I may be saved.” So the old man said, “Go to the cemetery and abuse the dead.” The brother went there, abused them and threw stones at them; then he returned and told the old man about it.

The latter said to him, “Didn’t they say anything to you?” He replied, “No.” The old man said, “Go back tomorrow and praise them.” So the brother went away and praised them, calling them, “Apostles, saints, and righteous men.” He returned to the old man and said to him, “Did they not answer you?” The brother said, “No.”

The old man said to him, “You know how you insulted them and they did not reply, and how you praised them and they did not speak; so you too, if you wish to be saved, must do the same and become a dead man. Like the dead, take no account of either the scorn of men or their praises, and you can be saved.”
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Of course, easier said than done. At the moment, for me, actually remembering any of this stuff when interpersonal difficulties arise, is the difficult part. Or, to put it another way, doesn’t really happen. If I can remember, then actually do it, I think it would be worth it. Theoretically, living together could make saints of us all.

DRM Rant: Brought On By Civilization IV

I am not a fan of DRM. You sell your product, now let people use it. I can understand why the companies put it on, of course, they don’t want people copying their product. That’s not unfair, of course, but the end is not achieved by the means. People break the copy protection, and share the cracked games, ripped movies, and so on, and then other people go looking for them and downloading them. Don’t put the DRM on and pass the savings on to your consumers, more people will buy the product.

That’s not the only issue, of course: DRM can negatively impact legitimate users.

Like, I can buy Blu-Rays and not watch them on my computer, because I stick with VLC and most Blu-Ray discs don’t work on VLC.

Or, I can put Myst 5 or Star Wars: Empire At War in my machine, and they (at one point) complained that I had VirtualDrive on my computer. I didn’t, and that’s not any of their business anyway.

Had a legitimate disc of LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy, it worked once, then every time after that told me to put in a legitimate disc rather than a copy. Got Battlefield 2142 second-hand, wouldn’t let me use the CD key in the box (“already registered to somebody else” – well deregister them! The key is mine now), and I wouldn’t pay more than twice what I originally paid for it, to get a new key (“throwing good money after bad”). I was only interested in the solo campaign, not multiplayer online, apparently didn’t make a difference.

Players of Civilization IV on Windows 7, 8.1 and 10 machines have noticed that their game doesn’t work on those systems any more. Games of its era often used Digital Rights Malware (that’s what it really stands for, right?) that put files where they didn’t belong, to check up on their users.

Microsoft have recently issued updates that stop these kinds of shenanigans. It causes a big inconvenience to a lot of people still playing games from that era, but as these DRMs can leave security holes in a computer system, I’d say it’s a good call. And perhaps unusual for a company that has been known to have a level of paranoia about users being legitimate (I recall hearing of genuine users being negatively affected by the Windows Genuine Advantage check, when that was introduced, though I never had a problem).

I’d say this is another case of companies using DRM, and legitimate users being negatively affected. This harsh judgment is softened, however, by the fact the game worked for around 10 years without a problem.

On the other hand, why would a company be concerned about the DRM on a ten-year-old game, when they have more recent versions out?

for Civilization IV, at least, the Beyond The Sword expansion has had the 3.19 patch for years now, one of the benefits of it being that it doesn’t require the CD to run anymore, so it doesn’t fall afoul of this new problem.

Earlier, I used the 2K games support system to suggest they add a similar patch to regular Civ IV and Warlords (an earlier expansion). In researching the problem, I found one thread suggesting that 2K games might be giving away Steam keys to the game, for legitimate users.

I haven’t heard back yet, so I can’t confirm the accuracy of that suggestion. Yet.

As I actually run Beyond The Sword, and, more often, the Planetfall mod, I don’t feel that affected. I’m sure I have plenty of games that will now refuse to work, were I to try them.

How many people will be hunting for NoCD cracks for games? How many people are driven to pirated versions of games because they work better than the legitimate versions?

The great philosopher Princess Leia once said something along the lines of, “The more you tighten your grip, the more systems will slip through your fingers”. Hopefully one day, the publishing companies will realise just how much this applies to them.

Book Review: Ready Player One

Much of the Earth’s population are plugged into a virtual-reality game called OASIS. In the real world, the distance between rich and poor is much greater, and living conditions for the non-super rich have deteriorated.

The creator of OASIS kicks the proverbial bucket, and gifts his entire fortune to the winner of a contest, which involves finding a series of easter eggs hidden within the OASIS game environment.

Corporate groups, clans of regular users, and lone wolves, all compete in trying to decipher clues, solve riddles

Our hero, Wade IRL and Parzival in OASIS, is a lone wolf who is deeply immersed in the obsessions of Halliday, the deceased creator of OASIS. These mainly revolve around ’80s videogames, moves, TV shows, commercials, music, role-playing games, and culture. In 2044, this somewhat specialised knowledge becomes rather important to a lot of people.

I really enjoyed this book, I enjoyed the geekiness, I enjoyed the sci-fi, and the narrative holding it all together was very engaging. The latter part is very important, as when the story is geeking out over parts with which one is less familiar, you don’t want the unfamiliarity to disconnect you.

I picked up the book from a thrift store, thinking it looked interesting. I started reading it recently, after (but not because) I heard that Spielberg was going to direct the movie.

Thinking about a movie, there’s going to be so much that will look really cool, but they’re going to have to cut out so much to make it fit the running time. Also, licensing so many different elements from so many different properties could get expensive, and leaving anything out is bound to make someone irate.

A few nights ago, I was reading it after I went to bed (I think [hope?] I was more than halfway through at that point), thinking I’d read a bit, then stick the bookmark in and get some sleep. What actually happened was that I finished the book (bar the acknowledgements section at the back), and went to sleep somewhat later than I intended. To give you some idea of how engaging it was, or my enjoyment level, or something of that ilk.

Ready Player One is by Ernest Cline.

Ready Player One on Amazon

Service Book Update: Nearly There

The service book I’ve been working on, has passed through a bunch of version numbers as various little problems have surfaced (one of the most recent being a missing “us” in “forgive us our trespasses” in the Lord’s Prayer), and the formatting has had some tweakings, so in theory it’s easier to pick up again after skipping stuff (mainly the Tones you’re not doing that week).

Father Dan gave the thing a quick once-over today, and gave it a thumbs up. But then a part that has been slightly-problematic-but-we-kinda-got-used-to-it was pointed out, and so I inquired about how OK it was to modify that bit.

There’s a psalm that’s read early on in the service, 104 in the Western numbering, and the translation that’s in the service books we’ve been using is a bit awkward: the Thou/Thy isn’t so bad, but there’s places with “hast” rather than “has”, but then the rest of the text uses “did” rather than “didst”, and that sort of indecisiveness doesn’t help it just flow off the tongue.

We have some options, but we’ll probably stick with Thou and Thy, but more modern language for the rest.

There’s still some bits I think I’ll pick the others brains about:
“The mountains rose, the valleys sank down to the place which Thou did appoint for them. Thou did set a bound which they should not pass, so that they might not again cover the earth”
I wonder if “Thou appointed” might be better than “Thou did appoint”, and “Thou set a bound” without the did. That kind of thing.

So, nearly there, and I’m looking forward to when we can print off a bunch of copies of Version 1.0, the one we’re happy to use for the services. Version 0.9b and 0.9c both got labelled “Final Review”, I hope I can avoid a similarly-labelled 0.9d.

Placing The TV

Perhaps you’ve been following the saga of the TV, which is kind of an extension of the saga of trying to get Blu-Ray to work.

Short version: Got Blu-Rays, DVD player in my computer died, got a Blu-Ray player that works fine, but free software doesn’t play Blu-Rays very easily, because [judgmental comment about Blu-Ray publishers redacted]. Got given a standalone Blu-Ray player, projector didn’t have HDMI. HDMI to VGA cable didn’t give a picture on projector. Picked up an allegedly intermittent 55″ TV from a thrift store for $5, but so far so good with that. Needed somewhere to put this monster TV.

The thought was that we could put it above the basement fireplace. With the stand, the TV was too tall to fit on the mantle, and while there were some thoughts as to how to mount it on/above the mantle, there were some issues that made it tricky. It would basically have to lean against something, which wasn’t ideal, that something would have to be created, which wasn’t easy, plus chaining it to the ceiling just in case, and putting something on the mantle to make sure the TV didn’t slip off was mind-boggling because whatever it’s made of wouldn’t be happy with any plan of that nature.

Browsing Amazon one day, I found a wall mount, which itself wasn’t the best idea because it would have to mount on brick in that location. Sent the link to it to mother-in-law anyway, she fired back a link to a ceiling mount she found while looking at the wall mount.

The ceiling mount could attach straight up onto a ceiling, or at a 90° angle onto a beam. There is a beam up there…

I chipped in towards the mount, which was cheaper than the wall mount I found, anyway.

It arrived Wednesday, and my uncle-in-law cut through some plaster in the ceiling, to get to the beam. Which turned out to be not quite big enough. The next day he stuck some boards together to attach to the beam, which the ceiling mount would then attach on to. I lent the occasional arm to hold it in place while he attached it, and then attached the mount to it.

We put the TV up Thursday night, using a lot of brute strength. First time was fairly awkward, but we got it. Then we had to take it down, because the parts of the mount on the back of the TV had accidentally been put in the wrong way round, so the adjustment screws were unreachable. Putting it up the second time was a lot easier.

The adjustment screws wouldn’t tighten, though, and the TV gradually tilted more and more. Not dangerously, but not convenient, either. The pole part of the mount is in two parts, so telescopic. So today we lowered it, thinking that we could remove the TV that way to fix the tilt adjustment, now that we knew how we wanted it. Turns out, it telescopes quite far, and the TV was sitting on the fireplace, while the pole could extend a bit further. No taking it off that way.

While it was down, I could reach down the back of the TV with a spanner (US: wrench), to hold the nut in place while the screws were tightened. Bit awkward, and the wrench didn’t really get a lot of leeway, but uncle-in-law tightened the four upper screws that way (I was only needed for two, the other two didn’t have nuts), then we awkwardly raised the TV back to position. There were two more screws that needed doing, that could only be reached from underneath. I tried using a flashlight and looking, but in the end it was easier to go by feeling. Fortunately that worked, so the TV is now stuck in place.

We hooked it up to the Blu-Ray player, and proved we hadn’t broken the TV by watching the nearest Blu-Ray to hand (which happened to be The LEGO Movie). I’d played a bit of the movie up here when we were testing the TV and Blu-Ray together. The player remembers your place in the disc. So setting it up Thursday night, I called the kids over to see, and the disc resumed right before the song which was appropriate to the moment: Everything Is Awesome. We watched a chunk of the movie then, but then the kids had to go to bed. So tonight, proving we hadn’t broken it this time, the rest of the movie was watched.

So far, so good.

The mount advertised itself as coming with an HDMI cable. Which it did. And it came with a spirit level, a keyring flashlight, some cable ties. I claimed the keyring flashlight because I keep borrowing flashlight from kids, and haven’t got round to getting my own. Uncle-in-law claimed the spirit level. I think everyone’s happy.

Here’s the link to the mount. Strong, sturdy, comes with useful extra stuff.

New Set Day! And STCCG Brief History

I’ve collected and played the Star Trek: Customizable Card Game since 1994, or possibly 1995. The first cards I got had the 1994 copyright date. Initially, the company that made it, Decipher, branded it as The Next Generation, as they only had the rights to that show at the time. A bit later on, they got the rights to the other TV shows, and the movies.

Adding lots of cards over a long time does tend to make a game convoluted. Some rules changed from the original rulebook, and a long Glossary came into being to help clarify what some cards do, and/or their interactions with other cards. After several years, the game got a bit complicated even for Decipher, and they started afresh with a Second Edition (2e). They made some cards that were backwards-compatible, which were initially well-screened, but then later on some crazy ones slipped through, which were either too powerful, or did absolutely nothing, in 1e.

Decipher ran into financial trouble, and lost their licenses (they had a Star Wars game or two, and a Lord Of the Rings game). Decipher passed on the use of the 1e and 2e mechanics to a players’ group called The Continuing Committee. I think they did something similar with the Star Wars game, but I never really got into that.

The CC started with an emphasis on 2e, but slowly worked their way into 1e, starting with making printable versions of useful cards, before branching out into making new cards.

After a few sets, the CC made a big splash with a set called The Next Generation. One of the problems they had encountered was that the power level of the game had increased over the years, but returning players were much more likely to have cards from the first three sets (Premiere, Alternate Universe, and Q-Continuum, often abbreviated to PAQ), which is really a very different game to that of any stage after, even beginning with the following set, First Contact.

They actually did a very good job with different ways of making old cards useful (and not just as backing for new cards). They also made The Next Generation a starting point for a new format, Block, which is an excellent environment for introducing new players. There’s a limited card pool, which makes it easier to learn, then you can throw in more cards later.

The first three Block sets concentrated on The Next Generation, establishing as a powerful faction in the game, despite their below-average general card power.

In the game, Voyager cards were distinct by being generally stuck in the Delta Quadrant (and being somewhat ahead of the power curve of anyone else), and Original Series, Original Series movies, and Enterprise were distinct by being from different time periods. TNG and DS9 weren’t so distinct.

The second three Block sets concentrated on Deep Space Nine. Game mechanics were given to TNG and DS9, in the first 6 Block sets, to make them playable as distinct factions (of course, you have the ability to not use them, and have a deck crossing over as many shows as you like).

It’s release day for the first of the next group of Block sets. This group focuses on the Mirror Universe. This first set, Crossover, concentrates on its appearances in DS9. There are 5 DS9 episodes featuring the Mirror Universe, and the two factions (the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance and the Terran Rebellion) are already represented in the game (the Terran faction usually mixed with the Terran Empire from the TOS episode Mirror, Mirror). This set capitalises on the DS9-only mechanic (so the Terrans don’t get too crazy good), and even gives each faction multiple ways to play (basically with or without Mirror Terok Nor).

The next set is intended to focus on TOS, and the third set in the block is intended to feature the Mirror Universe as it featured in Enterprise. This last is not distinct in the game yet, though there are some Backwards-Compatible cards from those episodes.

If you’re interested in picking up a somewhat intricate game, with many possible interactions, check out this unofficial rulebook (on which is based the forthcoming official rulebook).

If you’re still interested after that, check out this page for any PDF that has “starter” as part of its name. If you find someone to play it with, it’s probably best to play two starters from the same block (they’re colour-coded). And you can browse and post on the forums, particularly the Gameplay (1e) board, if you have questions or need help. The people on there are happy to help. And sometimes even experienced players have questions about old cards, so don’t worry about asking questions.

Happy Birthday

A while ago, probably last year or this year, I read an article, probably this one, about a legal challenge to the copyright of that ever-popular song, Happy Birthday To You.

The article mentions that the lawsuit was brought by a documentary filmmaker, and presumably the long legal process will be a significant part of the movie. I can find reference to the filmmaker’s name, Jennifer Nelson, and the film production company, Good Morning to You Productions. Haven’t found either on IMDB (or rather, there are a few Jennifer Nelsons on there, but none immediately standing out as This Particular One), and regular search results yield a lot of news stories, but I didn’t spot a website for the company. Hopefully information about the film will be forthcoming, and highly visible, because right now it’s hard to find the horse’s mouth.

Anyway, if you plan to see the film, I have something to say about the rest of this post:

SPOILER WARNING

The above article gives a lot of details (especially if you read the lawsuit papers, which as I recall were quite interesting), and Wikipedia now gives a lot of details, including much more recent information.

Such as, a federal judge has now ruled that Happy Birthday To You is in the public domain, and no-one has ever needed to pay Warner any money for using it.

Hahahaha, one does rather enjoy Goliath getting his ass kicked, from time to time.

So Warner have been making two million dollars a year for illegitimately granting rights to use the song, for public performances, movies etc. The next time they complain about piracy, man….

When I read that article, however-many-months-ago, I was telling someone about it, and they were pooh-poohing it, even going so far as to look up the copyright status of Happy Birthday To You on Snopes to tell me that the song wasn’t in the public domain. Funnily enough, I found out the recent ruling today, from that very same person. With no reference to the previous conversation, which was, to be fair, a good forgetting-distance ago. I was glad to hear that good came from the lawsuit, so that helped me to not mind too much.

But I did check Snopes, and they now have the updated information :)

New TV Seasons Starting

It’s the time of year when some TV shows are going away, perhaps never to return, and other TV shows are returning, or premiering.

In our modern-ness, we aren’t connected to cable, satellite or regular TV stations, we watch shows on DVD, regular free Hulu, or Amazon Prime. This tends to serve us. The last season of Warehouse 13 never showed up on Hulu, and it’s not free on Prime, so either one day we’ll get the DVD, or we won’t. Same with Drop Dead Diva. Sometimes being cut off shows you which shows you like.

So what shows am I looking forward to, this new season?

Doctor Who has just started, I’m looking forward to getting my grubby little protuberances* on that. Or, perhaps more likely, begging someone to let us come over and crash and watch it at their. Boo! lack of iplayer in the lands of the expats!

Starting in just over a week is Agents Of SHIELD, which kicked off midway through Season 1, when the effects of Captain America: The Winter Soldier meant it could stop treading water. And it’s been pretty good since then, through Season 2. Haven’t watched the previews for Season 3, but I’m hopeful.

And then, of course, Agent Carter, when SHIELD takes its mid-season break. Carter’s first season was really good.

Starting towards the middle of next month is the second season of Manhattan. The first season was really tense edge-of-seat stuff. That kind of paranoia and high-stakes secrecy took its toll on different characters in different ways, and the realisation in the second half of the season that the things you see from the perspective of a character, aren’t necessarily the truth of the matter, that was a nice twist. And they left it on quite the cliffhanger, as well.

Those are the shows I think I’ll be finding time for, this season.

What about you? What are you looking forward to? Post a comment!

*”grubby little protuberances”: 7th Doctor, Remembrance Of The Daleks.

Foundations Podcast Series

Our little church group has been going through this podcast series, a rather tightly-packed introduction to the basics of Christianity in general, and Orthodox Christianity in particular. It’s good for those who know something about the subject, but it should also prove interesting to those who know nothing about it.

The series is Foundations Of The Orthodox Faith, and this page links the first episode at the top, and the last episode at the bottom.

I’m actually having to catch up on my mp3 player, because I missed a bunch of the first few episodes we did. The shortest episode is slightly longer than 20 minutes, the longest slightly over 30 minutes, and there are 8 episodes.

Hope you enjoy!