Caster's Corner - Livestreaming on Twitch

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Let's Play Ash of Gods: Redemption - Everyone Together Now! - Chapter 8c

Thorn and his band finally arrive in Opacum. A brief happy reunion between Mact, Gleda, and their grandfather is in order, but the demands of the siege are on the top of everyone’s mind. Thorn must give an account of himself the king, then there’s a final banquet to attend before the siege.

I Made A Big Mistake - Vlog 2018-43

I made a mistake. It cost me a channel strike, but that's not a huge deal. What's important was how I reacted to it. It turned out to be an excellent reminder that it's best to have all of the facts before jumping on social media to be angry about something.

First impressions aren't always what they seem.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Free Flash Fiction: Fireworks

With Halloween just a day away, I thought I'd share a little bit of flash fiction I wrote recently. This hasn't and won't be published anywhere else.


The window was open just enough to let in the cool night air. The raucous sound of cicadas in the trees had given way to the gentle chirp of crickets. I was almost asleep when my youngest daughter entered my wife’s and my bedroom.

“Daddy!” she sniffled between sobs, “We need a new house. The walls are scaring me.”

“Oh sweety.” I mumbled, trying to get my tired brain together. “It’s nothing.” By this time I was awake enough to hear the muffled “Boom! Boom!” sounds mixing with the crickets outside. “We live near the baseball stadium, and it’s Friday night. They’re just doing fireworks, and it’s shaking the walls of this old house we’re renting.”

I could tell she wasn’t buying it. I also didn’t want to spend another night with her little feet kicking me in the head though, when she inevitably somehow managed to turn herself upside-down in bed between my wife and me. “Come on. I’ll take you back to your room and show you that every thing’s okay.” She nodded slowly.

I dragged myself out of bed and jammed my feet into my slippers. It was too warm for them, but the hardwood floors were filled with splinters and that would have really woken me up. The thumping was getting louder now. I wondered if this was the last show of the year or something, because they were really pulling out all the stops. Had the previous shows been just as loud and I simply hadn’t noticed?

My little girl slipped her hand into mine and I walked her out of the room. As we headed down the
hallway, I caught a glimpse of the schedule for the local minor league team that one of my boys had taped onto the wall. White? I stopped and looked again, closer this time, and checked the date on my fitness band just to be sure.

There was no home game tonight. The team was on the road.


The sound was getting louder now, and there were no open windows in the hallway.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Until Next Spring (Fall 2018 Edition)

That wasn't how I wanted the World Series to end. I really hoped that the epic Game 3 battle was going to be the turning point in the series. For a good chunk of Game 4, it looked like that would be the case. Then it wasn't.

I can't think of a better way to close out every season than with the closing words of the voice who defined Dodger baseball for me.

And so, once again, here's Vin Scully's farewell message.

"When the upcoming winter gives way to spring, oh, rest assured, it will be time for Dodger baseball."

Friday, October 26, 2018

Let's Play Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance - B6M7 - Unsatisfactory Reunion

It's the last Family Business plot mission! Uncle Antan has sent you a message claiming that he's found your father and brother alive, and that he needs your help rescuing them. Something seems a little off about this, however.

Without getting too much into plot spoiler territory, let's just say that your main job in this mission is to stay alive against waves of TIEs.

What's really needed here is one more Family Business mission to tie up loose ends, or maybe an entire expansion pack (those things that we got before DLC) to resolve some of the plot threads here. Sadly, this is all we're ever going to get.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Book Review: MindWar (MindWar Trilogy Book #1)

Mix some elements of The Matrix with  Ready Player One, and a throw in a bit The Last Starfighter for good measure. That's a decent summary of the feel for MindWar, the first book in the Mindwar trilogy from Andrew Klavan.

Our protagonist, Rick, is the former star quarterback for his high-school team, cut down and crippled from a severe auto accident just days after his father had run off with an old flame, leaving Rick, his mother, and his eight-year-old younger brother to fend for themselves. Rick is angry, in pain, grieving, and finds his only comfort in the virtual worlds of his Xbox.

But all that changes when his gaming prowess makes him the ideal candidate for the MindWar project. Somewhere, a shadowy, brilliant Russian oligarch is plotting to destroy the United States using a networked virtual world from which he can infiltrate any electronic system. All Rick has to do is infiltrate this virtual world, find out what the bad guy is up to, stop him, and get back before his mind disintegrates. No problem.

The book presents a fast-paced, easy read that's appropriate for older teens, but still enjoyable for adults. There's plenty of action, and good pacing from the virtual world to the real world and back again. Klaven generally stays away from technical details that could pull knowledgeable readers out of the story, although there are a few slip-ups with an aircraft where he seems to forget whether it's a single- or multi-engine aircraft.

An interesting inclusion is a couple pages of discussion notes at the back of the book. The book itself could best be described as "Christian literature adjacent." What I mean by that is that one or two characters are overtly Christian, but Christianity, or religion in general, isn't a central theme of the story. The author also doesn't beat the reader over the head with extra scenes of characters praying or quoting scripture which would make no sense in context. The discussion notes add an element that would make this a good pick for a youth group or other reading club.

While MindWar is clearly the start of a trilogy, it also gives a solid resolution, while still setting up the next book in the series. I'll definitely be putting the remaining books on my To Read list.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Let's Play Ash of Gods: Redemption - Social Visit - Chapter 8b

Having finally arrived in Opacum, Hopper must make himself known to everyone who’s arrived before him. Amma, Prince Treeg, Bran Victi, and others all require his presence. What do the Reapers want with the dead menhir of Opacum?

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Around The Web - You Fixed It Wrong

Most people who've built or maintained anything for any length of time have at least one of these stories. The redneck engineering fix. It's either something they did, or something they discovered that a previous owner did. When I was a teen, my dad was working on restoring an old Porsche 911 he'd bought for cheap at a police auction. At one point he found that part of the body was being held together by C clamps!

That restoration didn't work out.

Here, on the other hand, we have a story of a small motorcycle rescue, and a pair of truly jaw-dropping engine "fixes" by a previous owner. Check it out. I'll wait.

Rideapart - 1974 Honda CB200 Restoration Engine Trouble

So far, I've never done anything quite that bad to anything. On the other hand, I haven't bought a motorcycle from Facebook, Craigslist, Ebay, or a local auction with the intention of restoring it. Yet.

My crowning moment of redneck engineering to date was shoehorning PC motherboard into a case of entirely the wrong form factor. Fortunately, that particular mistake isn't around any...

Hang on again, I'll be right back...

*Imagine noise and crashing sounds as the author moves stuff on the shelves in his garage*

I'm not sure why I've allowed this to follow me around for twenty years. But what you see here is the top of the line in cutting edge 1997 PC technology - a Pentium 200 with MMX, 16mb of RAM, and some other components. See those black brackets in the corners? The one in the upper left is really obvious. Those are actually mounting rails for the optical media drives that my stupid teenage self repurposed to make the motherboard fit in the case.

I ran out of brackets, and hard-mounted the CD drive in the case. When a disc would spin up, it would sound like a weed whacker.

I said the motherboard fit in the case. Well, mostly. The ports on the back weren't quite accessible. Pliers and duck tape to the rescue!

Teenage me was an idiot sometimes. But it worked! That rig ran reliably throughout four years of college and beyond until I finally had enough money from my first pair of post college career jobs to buy a shiny new gaming PC!

Monday, October 22, 2018

Who Reads Anyway? Vlog 2018-42

Finished the book I've been reading, which only puts me three behind schedule for my challenge this year. I don't think I'm going to make it. The next thing on my To Read pile is not what you'd call light reading.

But it's going to be a fun week. Valkyria Chronicles 4 playthrough is in full swing, and I'll have a full review of MindWar coming up on Thursday. Ash of Gods: Redemption and Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance videos are still running as well.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Let's Play Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance - B6M6 - All Together Now

We're wrapping up the prelude to Endor now, gathering the entire Rebel fleet together to make the attack. The final step is to escort some of the remaining battle groups back to the fleet.

You'd think that the Rebels could have spared more than a pair of A-Wings for this job, but maybe there were a lot more strike groups needing escort than were mentioned in the briefing. Yeah, we'll go with that. Regardless, the first part of this mission is pretty easy. Use the A-Wing's speed to ensure that the Assault Gunboats can't chew up the Defiance too badly, and you'll be fine.

The second part is a bit tougher. The Independence is already in a bad way when you arrive, so you need to focus on knocking out enemy TIE Bombers while still keeping yourself out of the clutches of the TIE Fighters and Interceptors. Fortunately, your A-Wing does have a full load of Concussion missiles and can grab a reload or two from the hanger of the Independence. I'm not a big fan of Concussion missiles, but they're pretty handy against unshielded Dupes. No reason to come home with full missile magazines at the end of this mission.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Is this the Year?

I don't know. This hasn't been the dominant year like 2017, but then again, that all ended in heartbreak, so regular season dominance isn't a great indicator.
Watching NLCS Game 5 in my lucky shirt.

But as I'm watching the Dodgers play a solid game behind a classic Kershaw performance after last night's thirteen inning battle, I can't help but think that maybe this is the year. The Boys in Blue can win one more in Milwaukee.

A rematch with the Astros would be sweet vindication. A matchup against the Red Sox would be a battle of the coasts. Either way, thirty years after the last time the Dodgers were World Champions, maybe this is the year they finally take the title again. I'm a believer.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Let's Play Ash of Gods: Redemption - How To Sneak a Witch Into a Beseiged City

The long journey is nearly over for Lo Pheng and the Warrior Wenches. Opacum lies just ahead, if they can only find a way in. Perhaps rescuing another group fleeing to Opacum with enemies at their heels will work.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Military Genius Isn't Restricted to One Side

Over the weekend, my Twitter sidebar helpfully let me know that Robert E. Lee was a trending topic. Normally this means some band of historically illiterate ne'er do wells are trying to get another statue torn down, but not this time. This time, the usual group of people were working themselves into a frothing frenzy because President Trump had the unmitigated gall to refer to General Lee as "A great general".

Mind you, in the context of the larger quote, President Trump was actually talking about General Ulysses S. Grant, the man who finally outmatched Lee in the Civil War, but of course who needs context when you've got a mob to keep perpetually outraged? Personally, I find it incredibly humorous that the same ignoramuses who get dramatically angry at the very mention of American Exceptionalism are suddenly upset that there might be great military leaders who fought against America. But who needs logical consistency anyway?

This brings to mind one of my favorite quotes from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: "Goose-stepping morons should try reading books instead of burning them."

But in the interest of providing a bit of educational service for any Millenials who slept through the hour of public high school history class devoted to actual Civil War combatants, or who skipped school entirely the day they were covering World War II, here are four of the greatest tacticians of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries who fought against America.

Robert E. Lee

Wikimedia Commons License

May as well start here. Lee is actually an incredibly interesting, and complicated, individual. An American general who fought in the Mexican-American War and became the commander of West Point, he had no desire to lead the Confederate Army. However, when his native Virginia joined the Confederacy, Lee felt he had no choice but to resign his commission and return to defend his home state. Like many men of his time, Lee considered his allegiance to his state as more important than his allegiance to his country.

Among the many excellent books about Lee is a collection of his letters home to his family, collected together by one of his sons. These letters give a fantastic glimpse inside the mind of the man, and reveal a lot of his conflicted decision making.

Then there's Lee's military record during the Civil War. Admittedly he was aided by a series of totally incompetent Union generals opposing him, but from 1861-1863, there's no denying that Lee won victory after victory for the Confederacy as the army made their way north into Pennsylvania.

Lee would never have been as successful as he was, however, without our next man.

Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson
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A tactical genius in his own right, General Stonewall Jackson was Lee's right-hand man. His tactical decisions remain required reading. His death in 1863 deprived Lee of his best general at the worst possible time, and may have changed the course of the war. Had Jackson led the Stonewall Brigade at Gettysburg, perhaps the battle would have turned out dramatically different.

Isoruku Yamamoto

Wikimedia Commons License
Another fascinating individual, the architect of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was completely against going to war with the United States. In fact, after he apologies the the U.S. ambassador for the bombing of the USS Panay in 1937, he began receiving death threats from ultra-nationalists inside Japan.

Despite his opposition to the war, when he realized that its coming was inevitable, he used his position as ensure Japan had the best possible chance of winning. Recognizing America's significant advantages in natural resources and production, he pushed for fast, debilitating strikes that would decisively end the conflict before America could win a war of numbers. His death in 1943 was a huge blow to Japanese moral, although it's debatable whether his skills would have changed anything at that point.

Erwin Rommel

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Yes, an actual German. Not a Nazi though, although that's likely a distinction which would be lost on the crowd who're busy declaring everyone they disagree with as racist sexist Nazi homophobes. Rommel was a brilliant tank commander in World War II, leading the armored blitzkrieg through France in 1940, before taking command of the North African campaign. Loved by his men, respected by his enemies, he was another complex, fascinating individual.

Rommel was never an actual Nazi, as he never joined the party. He was, however, quite ambition, and forged an intense personal friendship with Adolf Hitler. Ultimately he became part of a failed conspiracy to assassinate Hitler, and was given the choice of whether to face a trial that would destroy him and his family, or take the "honorable" way out with the assurance that his family and reputation would remain intact. Rommel chose the cyanide pill.

That's just four names from the last two hundred years who fought against the United States. There are plenty more, and of course one could easily reach back through the centuries for numerous additional examples of brilliant men who fought for the wrong side, for whatever their reasons. Names, actions, and strategies worth acknowledging, not sweeping into some forgotten historical corner because people don't like the banners they fought under.

Monday, October 15, 2018

The End of An Era - Vlog 2018-41

It was an eventful week. I'm now the parent of a teenage boy. My oldest daughter got to experience her first rock concert, as we caught the Lynyrd Skynyrd Farewell Tour. We got our first snow of the year. Finally, a three-and-a-half year long Let's Play of the Star Wars: X-Wing series came to a close as I completed the final mission in X-Wing Alliance.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Ready Player Two! A New Streamer Joins the Fray!

I’m writing this sitting at my laptop, watching my newly minted teenage son conduct a takeover of my Twitch channel and play Star Wars: Battlefront II online. This is a rite of passage that I hadn’t planned, but that seems to suit him perfectly. I’m not sure I recognize this kid. He’s not stuttering, he’s totally confident talking to a camera, and completely unconcerned that there are actual people watching him take on other players around the world.

Sometimes, this boy is so much like me that it hurts. He didn’t want to see a movie this year, just play multiplayer RTS games with me in the morning, go to lunch, then game online and on Twitch for the first time in the afternoon. I probably would have done the same thing at his age if given the choice.

He’s a challenging glimpse into what I was really like at that age. Reality doesn’t always line up with my perceptions. I’m proud of the kid though. A lot of times I’m too close, all I see and hear are the irritating things that I want to correct, and it’s difficult to imagine the butterfly that’s going to emerge from this cocoon. Stepping back like this though, trying to see him through others’ eyes, I think I see it a little clearer. There’s a long way to go, sure, but I think through God’s grace, that he’s headed in the right direction.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Let's Play Ash of Gods: Redemption - Chapter 7b

Thorn's party starts to make their way to Opacum. Mact has been rescued, but there's only one save place left.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Around the Web: The Crew 2 (Xbox One) Review

"What if someone made a racing game that threw almost every class anyone could think of into the mix and just let players race whatever?"

Fun with the livery creator. An MHI theme for this hovercraft seemed about right. Now if only I could add a .50 cal turret on the top.

That seems to have been the question that the designers of The Crew 2 started with, and were fortunate that Ubisoft allowed them creative freedom to do so. At least, that's my opinion in my review of The Crew 2, which is now up at Marooners' Rock.

GeeBee. Statue of Liberty. Party.

While the game overall has some polish issues that aren't present in competing open world racing games such as the Forza Horizon series, the overall package is fun enough to make up for the flaws. Racing Hovercraft, Jet Sprint boats, Monster trucks, aerobatics aircraft and more is more is so much fun that a lot of the "core" driving races feel pedestrian by comparison. It's certainly not an accurate, high-fidelity simulation of anything. Neither is the Ace Combat series. But when the games get hit the fun formula correctly, realism doesn't really matter.

Sadly, there's no helicopter racing category. Yet...

Monday, October 8, 2018

Monday Vlogging: Temporary Single Parent - Vlog 2018-40

Having one half of the parenting team gone for a long weekend really makes a fellow appreciate her efforts more.

One particular observation that kept occurring to me over the weekend is that I don't know how single parent hobbyist streamers make it work. I'm getting off easy, because my wife had the meal plan, lesson plans, and most of the laundry already squared away, so I didn't have to do a major shopping run, plan kids' schoolwork, or spend too much time worrying about the kids having clean clothes.

If I did have to worry about those things, I doubt I would have had time to prep video and blog content for the next week, much less actually sit down and play some games at some late night point.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Let's Play Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance B6M5 - Shuttle Tyderium

Now this is a serious story mission. Granted, there's two other versions of how the Rebels acquired this shuttle before Return of the Jedi, but as far as I'm concerned, this is the one true canonical version.

The toughest part of this is the waiting. I found out the hard way that aborting the docking procedure breaks all of the scripting, so even after the commandos (led by General Crix Madine) tell you that you're clear, you need to wait until the docking script actually completes to exit the station.

Other than that, the main tricks are to keep more than a half kilometer away from any Imperial fighters that could identify the Sabra, and keep the TIE Bombers away from the Tyderium once it launches from the station.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Book Review: Mr. AWANA

When my wife first told me that she wanted our kids to go to AWANA, I was skeptical. I hadn’t grown up with an AWANA program in my church, and everything that my wife had told me about the program made it sound like a gender-inclusive Bible Boy Scouts thing. Oh, MLAGW had certainly enjoyed her time in the program as a kid, and still kept most of the trophies she’d earned for Scripture memorization, but I just didn’t see the big benefit.

That was over eight years ago. Now, all five of my kids are somewhere in the program, and MLAGW has been teaching a class of Sparky girls (ages 3-5) for several years. I understand the benefits. It’s a social place, in the church but not officially a part of the church, where kids can have fun and make friends. For some parents, it’s a chance to drop the kids off somewhere safe and have a few quiet hours every Wednesday night. For some kids whose parents don’t attend a Sunday service, AWANA might be the only place they hear a Gospel presentation. The long-term benefit – kids who grow up with a head full of memorized Scripture – pays out eternal dividends.

But how did this massive ministry start? It certainly didn’t spring, fully formed, into thousands of churches around the globe. Mr. AWANA tells the story of AWANA, through the words and recollections of its founder Art Rorheim. From Art’s early recollections, to the ministries that laid the foundation for AWANA, to the growth of the program from a single club to a global ministry, Mr. AWANA provides a much better understanding of what this organization is, and why it’s so vitally important to today’s world.

Unlike a lot of memoirs, Mr. AWANA isn’t organized chronologically, but topically. An admitted side-effect of this is that some stories are partially repeated in different chapters. This repetition usually comes in the setup of a particular recollection, and is repeated for a different reason each time. However, it’s an effective way of clustering relevant entries, such as Art’s visits to various AWANA chapters around the world, into an appropriate group when the actual visits occurred over a span of multiple decades.

zser54Mainly, this book gave me a much better appreciation for the ministry that has played a profound impact in the lives of my wife and our children. It’s greatly increased my sense of gratitude to both the AWANA leadership and the workers around the world who keep this ministry going every week. Even more shocking, it’s made me question whether I should be trading my two hours of peace and quiet on Wednesday nights to instead help out with a class of screaming boys. I might be losing my mind.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Let's Play Ash of Gods: Redemption Chapter 7a

Hopper's party makes their way to Opacum via the Water Menhir. Hopper has a no good, terrible, very bad day.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Around The Web - The New Yorker Discovers Christian Rock

Credit where credit is due, this New Yorker article that covers a brief history of Christian Rock is pleasantly un-snarky in its tone.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Monday Vlogging: Sometimes I Actually Finish Games

Maybe I'll get my play throughs done a little more frequently if I'm only focusing on one at a time...