They tell many tales of this green and eerie land.
They say that the gods lay beneath us,
That the spirits lay around us,
That the power flows through us,
and to us,
and from.
They say monsters come from the sea, of teeth and terror.
They say a lot of things about Alba.
What will they say about you?
Come and find out.

Alba is a new game of heroic fantasy from Cacosa Dreams – Helly & Rob formally of Broken Dreams and Ian & Anthony Andrews of Carosa, and also me.

It’s a game of stories and legends, it isn’t Odyssey, and it’ll start with five regional events to be announced shortly. We’re not looking for crew yet, but keep an eye on the Cacosa Dreams FB page, and the Alba Interest group, and we’ll talk more soon.

It’s going to be legendary.


The Missing Case Of Fallouts 5-75

Thanks to the good graces of Leigh, I got a beta code for Fallout 76 just in time for the last scheduled betas this weekend. You can see my full stream on twitch for a while, but in summary:

It’s Fallout, mostly. The lack of NPCs at all is a bit jarring, but lampshaded in the fiction, and it’s a bit strange to see other players bounding around the landscape. Also the game defaults to auto-local-audio, so often you can hear the typing of some far off player before you hear their mum calling them for pizza. This effect stretches really far, which means I heard – and was heard by – another person streaming, which was a weird experience.

The opening was a bit of a let down, railroaded, and with few interactive elements (and, crucially, items that you couldn’t interact with in your room but were the same model as you were supposed to pick up later) but once you get out into the wide world everything is open to you. Though I’d recommend following the first few, because otherwise the lack of weaponry is going to spoil your day. But after that it seems very fallout.

Also, there are the usual fun bugs.

So yeah, good for now, you can watch me play more tomorrow on Twitch, if you like.


Hardware Issue

So, I am a professional system administrator. It says it on my business cards and everything. Every couple of months, when I have to explain to the receptionist at the London office that yes, I do work here, and so yes, I should be allowed in. Yes, even though I mostly work from home. I do so by them asking what my job title is, and saying it’s System Administrator. (My email signature doesn’t say System Administrator, it says Lead DevOps Engineer (MIS), but that is a factor of the intersection between global organisation pay grades and job roles in modern tech, and it’s not the subject of this article. Except this subparagraph, obviously).

But all this should be taken with the understanding that my job is to teach servers how to teach other servers how to server, basically.

Last month, the power supply in my gaming PC, Graupel, started making a funny whirring noise. It was out of warranty, but I threw Corsair (who made it) an email asking if this was a known problem, and they sent me a new one, because they are awesome.

When the new one was installed, the CPU started reaching kettle-esque temperatures, and the CPU cooler was making noises like a distressed jet engine. I’ve never really trusted the CPU cooler – it’s an enclosed water cooling system and I fear it – so I got a decent heat sink and everything has been okay since. This week was payday, so I decided to make an upgrade.

My gaming PC has been running out of disk space on the main drive for a little while. It’s got a 256gb SSD, and you’d think that would be enough, but once you have an SSD, and you know how much faster things run if they’re on the SSD, there’s a tendency to put things on it. And while Windows is huge now, and Office is even more stupidly disk space heavy, it’s the games that take it up. (My first hard drive for the Amiga 600 was second hand from my dad’s old laptop. It was SIXTY MEGABYTES. It held DOZENS of games. I would need over EIGHT HUNDRED of those drives to hold a 50Gb World of Warcraft install).

Also, I want an SSD for a different server, so I bought a new 500Gb SSD (for around £80), plugged it in with a USB SATA enclosure, and used some cloning software to exactly clone the old 256Gb drive to the 512Gb one. Took about an hour. Turned off the machine, and went to play Spiderman on the PS4 for a bit.

Later that evening, I decided I needed to check on my Warcrack dailies, and dabble a bit in the new Bard’s Tale game, but realised I’d left this job semi-arsed. So I swapped the drives over and booted the computer back up again.

BIOS error. No bootable drives. Bugger, must have screwed up the cloning.

So I swapped the drives back again.

At which point, Reader, I discovered that I had not screwed up the cloning, for the old hard drive, being a perfect clone of the new one, failed to boot also.

Fortunately, I have a solution to this problem. I have created a Windows 10 USB Recovery Drive, which is Custom Built to Save The Day when the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune reign pointedly and with carefully carved malice on my parade. I created this on a spare USB stick, and placed it in a safe location for just such an occasion as this. 

And one day, I will find it again, but that day isn’t this one.

So after mucking around on a Linux boot drive that I *could* find, I discovered that it wasn’t – as I’d automatically assumed – the MBR having gone weird (Honestly this was a surprise. It’s right up there with “Is SELinux enabled” and “Has SystemD corrupted it?” in my system debugging steps). So I downloaded a Windows 10 ISO (from Microsoft’s own site, because modern advancements are occasionally good) and burned it over the Linux boot disk in some act of GNUTreachery.

The Windows recovery system has been good to me in the past. It has detected startup failures caused by broken drivers, it has fixed the (Fucking) Master Boot Record, it has even rolled back bad updates on occasion. On this one, however, it was as much use as a chocolate heatsink. It could not fix the problem.

And so, at 10pm on an otherwise busy Thursday, I found myself reinstalling Windows. Now, I have a shaky history with the Windows setup system at the best of times, and 10pm on a Thursday isn’t one, but even I was surprised to see in the drives list not one, but two 500Mb SSDs. Identical in form and function, save one was by Seagate, and the other by Crucial. At some point when my last media centre had failed, I had transplanted the drive into my gaming PC and then… forgotten about it.


So this evening I have spent mostly setting up a clean Windows install, in order to fix a drive issue caused by an upgrade that I didn’t even nearly need to do.

How was your evening?


The Cure For Diabetes

A number of people wanted me to see this yesterday, and I can understand why. A couple of hot takes on this:

The Junior Woodchuck’s Guide To Diabetes

Diabetes is a series of conditions linked by the major effect, that the body does not produce enough insulin. Insulin is what the body uses to break down glucose in your blood into energy, so if you don’t have enough insulin, a) your body doesn’t get enough energy, and b) the glucose builds up in your blood.

In some of these cases the body doesn’t produce any insulin at all, but in Type 2, it is usually that either the Pancreas can’t produce enough for the amount of body you have, or the insulin is not of sufficient strength to get through the fat around your organs.  (This is a Very Simplified Explanation, and is therefore Importantly Wrong in some respects on the details)

Your Pancreas Doesn’t Work As It Should, is the big takeaway.

The treatments are varied depending a lot on exactly what your body is doing or not doing correctly, but generally start with medication that reduces the sugar in your blood by adjusting how it’s absorbed during digestion, and then advance to further. Alongside this, you are advised to adjust your diet to attempt to lose any extra weight you’re carrying, because that will reduce the problems the insulin has getting to the right places if that’s the problem, and also by reducing the amount of insulin your body needs, simply because there is less of you for it to have to go to.

In fact, on average, if you can lose 15% of your body-weight from the time your diabetes starts to become an actual issue, it can go into remission, because your shitty pancreas is now producing enough insulin to do all it needs to.

Second takeaway: Eating sugar doesn’t cause diabetes, overloading your pancreas does, and some people’s pancreas isn’t that great to start with.

A) You’re not cured, though. It’s remission. Your pancreas isn’t going to get any better. In fact, the likelihood is that as you get older, it’s going to fail – along with everything else. Also if you put on weight again – as people who lose weight quickly tend to do – it’s going to come back again.

B) The symptoms of diabetes can range from pissing a lot, through feeling tired, being bitten more often, more skin infections (because your sweat has sugar in it which bacteria feed on), more bug bites (because same) and escalate to heart problems (because you have sugar syrup for blood). Or it could look like nothing at all for a long time. Unless you’re getting blood tests every few years (and, if you have a family history in it, you should) (I am not a good example in this respect), it’s hard to catch early. By the time you know, the losing weight goal may have already passed.

The cure is diet and exercise!

So this is why I think Tom Watson’s advice is dangerous. 

First, good on the chap. Losing that amount of weight is hard, because you’re fighting against your own model of how food works as well as your body’s expectations of energy levels. It’s an impressive achievement.

I did the NHS Diabetes Education session (Diabetes2Gether) last week

But generalising it isn’t great. An emphasis on diet is already in the NHS education training for people newly diagnosed, and while it was fantastically useful once I got on the course, because it explained in simple terms exactly what the problem was, it still ended up mixing the concepts of “Things that are bad because of the disease you have” and “You should avoid these things because they’re bad for your health”. For example, Carbs turn into glucose. It’s not _sugar_ that is bad, but they are the “worst” kind of carbs. So in a perfect world, cutting out carbs completely would be the solution. Sadly everything else contains stuff that’s also bad for you without moderation, and the eduction pieces have to mention that, so you end up with a message of “This is bad for your condition, but these things are bad for you anyway, and don’t do this (for condition), don’t smoke (for health), eat five portions of fruit and veg a day for health (but not too much fruit because of the condition).

And the public announcement that Mr Watson has “reversed” his diabetes with a strict diet and new exercise regime is something to be congratulated, but it’s also something that, in his position on a decent salary with a job that gives him a lot of freedom over his own schedule, is not available to everyone. It’s a lot like the apocryphal TED talk by a multi-millionaire who did it by winning the lottery, recommending everyone give up working and buy lottery tickets instead. It worked for them, it’ll work for some people, but it’s advice as part of a general set of solutions.


So I’ll stick with my stack of mediation and my lower calorie diet – plateaued though it is – and the advice of my doctor. Which is, incidentally, that congratulating yourself overmuch for rapid weight loss makes it a lot harder to admit when you can’t sustain it long term.


The unrelenting tyranny of always being there

Last week, my computer stopped working. After a few months of threats, the fan on the PSU got to the point where I replaced it (Corsair let me RMA it, even though it’s out of warranty) and when I replaced it the water cooler on the CPU started buzzing like an angry beehive and the CPU temperature climbed into values better associated with tea than electronics. 

After ordering a new cooling unit and some thermal paste to attach it to, I realised I was out of cleaning alcohol to remove the old thermal paste first, and so – after some brief googling to make sure it wasn’t a _really_ dumb idea, got to work with some cotton swabs and a small bottle of vodka.

I’m a professional server manager, really I am.

Worked like a charm, the thermal paste attached, the new heatsink went on, the machine’s running quietly again, and no longer can I cook very small bits of bacon on the tiny electrified rock at the heart of one of my hobbies.

That hobby is computer gaming. I’ve been playing a lot of Warcraft lately, especially with the new expansion having come out. I’m still missing a lot of the cool-factor from the end of the last expansion, but I’m gearing up for the brand new raid content with the aim of this being the first expansion I can track in real time, rather than catch up with later on.

Also there’s Destiny 2, which I’m enjoying a lot, and Two Point Hospital, which is a “Spiritual Sequel” to Theme Hospital. It is, in fact, more of an updated remake with the serial numbers filed off, but to be honest that’s fine by me. Lots of nostalgia there.

But mostly, last week I quit Facebook.

There are a few reasons for it, mostly to do with a building dependance – I like having my friends in my pocket, but the habit of checking in so often was bad for my ability to do other things, and shovelling text into the maw of it was getting to be an over-reliance. For various reasons, my inability to stay away plus a few things that were going on left me feeling like I was constantly living under a dark cloud. This built up until I had a… somewhat spectacular failure of democracy and grace, at which point, hating myself a lot, I deleted the main & messenger apps from my phone and the shortcuts from Chrome, installed a thing that blocks the site on my primary browser profiles, and went away.

Since then the dark cloud has lifted quite a bit. I’ve not been able to close or suspend my account – I’m admin for some pages and apps, and you can’t do it until you’ve passed them off – and while I’ve been feeling a bit disconnected in general, enough people have used other methods to contact me that I’ve generally been fine. I went in today to check for messages and see if anything massive had gone down, and I might try to keep to that weekly for a bit.

Plus, I’m a little more likely to update here, I suppose.


Nutrient Sludge Reviews

Week One: Replaced lunch each day with my chosen brand of nutrient sludge.

Monday, “New Vanilla” flavour, blended with ice:

An expensive cheap vanilla milkshake. A day out at the beach in England, pleasant enough to be fun, but just enough cloud to keep the joy at bay. Notes of vanilla, a dream of hospital walls, a lick of the cliffs of Dover.

Tuesday: Same, blended with ice, frozen peaches and banana:

A day trip back to the holidays of yesterday, mostly unchanged. A more expensive cheap vanilla milkshake, luxuriously thicker, bananas litter the sidewalks, with the peaches a photograph of a fading memory. More notes of vanilla, the dream is the same, the taste of the cliffs remains.

Wednesday: New Vanilla, blended with frozen peaches and refrigerated overnight:

The same day out, fewer bananas, the peach still a distant memory. Thin particles of chalk dust on the air, like someone cleaned a blackboard eraser nearby some minutes ago, perceptible but unseen.

Thursday: New Vanilla, blended with cocoa powder, made in the morning and refrigerated until lunch.

A seventies version of a fifties diner on the sea shore, off-brand covers of rock and roll on the jukebox and quorn-burgers on the grill, a chocolate milkshake with your third-best partner and the agreement that you’ll go to the prom together if nobody else asks you. The kind who cleans the blackboards is in the booth behind you, and you can tell.

Friday & Saturday: New Vanilla, blended with cocoa powder and frozen strawberries and fridged for a couple of hours:

An actual fifties diner, a jukebox with nothing but the hits of Elvis. A promise made with haste and honour, a dance into the night. Maybe it’s you who cleans the blackboards all along, but it doesn’t matter.

Sunday: Vanilla blended with ice and Huel “Pineapple & Coconut” flavour sachet

A bright day on a sunny beach, the skies of blue and the sands of gold. The memory of a piña colada on the breeze. Hardly anyone for miles in any direction, and your “Blackboard Monitor” badge reflects the sun back on itself.



A Brand New Day One

It’s all a bit male-author-self-discovery-novel, to be entirely honest.

After a couple of decades of dodging the issue with increasingly obvious symptoms, I eventually signed up with a GP who told me a few things I already know (It’s bad to leave 20 years between doctors appointments, and I display signs of depression), and – after a bit of blood work and admin faffery – that I’m type-2 diabetic, my blood sugar is mountainous, and I should get this under control before it very literally actually kills me.

(She was nicer than that).

A collection of paraphernalia

The resulting changes come in waves, as administration and postal services cause things to arrive. Prescriptions for pills to lower my blood sugar arrived automatically and – Thanking our better past for the NHS – free, and ramp up to their full dosage over the next month. With that I got a pill management thing, because pre-prep and routine help me actually do things and feel more comfortable with it.

Being me, I found a glucose monitor that interfaces with my phone and produces various nerdy graphs I can obsess over, and that arrived this morning, so I can stab myself in a medically approved manner.

Over the next week I’ve got appointments to get my feet stabbed to check for nerve damage, referrals for other bits and bobs.

It’s also finally kicked me into getting back on the “exercise” bandwagon, and back into watching my calorie intake, which will also help me get my blood sugar under control, rather than the four times “normal” it’s currently hovering below.

So I’ve signed up for the slimfast of a new generation, at the moment in the form of Huel, as a meal replacement thing. First results are… not great, to be honest. It’s filling, if a bit chalky to drink. However: If you have any opinions upon this, especially if they involve comparing the thing I am consuming in order to improve my health to vomit or worse, I would appreciate restraint in comments here or elsewhere.

So yeah. It’s been something of a week, and to be honest the diagnosis of an incurable medical disorder isn’t the best news I’ve had this year.


One Imperial Hamilton

The Victoria Palace Theatre. In London, at Victoria, down the road from the Palace.

On the 29th of January 2016, I posted this to facebook:

I have, by the force of Peer Pressure and curiosity, started listening to the Hamilton soundtrack. It’s full of some beautiful examples of high crafted rap music, delicious rhymes and ironies. But the tune that sticks in my head?

“And when push comes to shove, I will send a fully armed battalion to remind you of my love.”

That would have been a few months after fyr started recommending it at me. I liked it a lot, so was happy when the London show was announced, then sad again when it booked up a year in advance within an hour of opening. Then a little while later friend Katherine said she’d bought a set of tickets, and would I like to come? April 2018 seemed impossibly far away at that point, and indeed I’ve been through two jobs since then, but I said yes. So today I went to see Hamilton.

Conclusion: It’s really good, you should go see it.

The rest of this post contains comparisons to the soundtrack and various official youtube release versions. I will dispense this advice, now:

  • Jamael Westman as Hamilton is incredible. Towering above everybody else on stage (He’s 6’4″, and about three heads taller than Eliza) and able to control the stage from pretty much anywhere on it, his Hamilton goes on a journey from the ropey disconnected attempts to fit into the dance numbers at the start to a still commanding presence later on.
  • I’m going to try not to get caught up on the height thing, but the shorter Lafayette/Jefferson compared to Lin Manuel & Daveed does kind of change that power dynamic in an interesting way.
  • Mostly, characterisation was the same as Broadway, Jason Pennycooke‘s Lafayette retains a strong “french” accent which had some detrimental effects on the faster raps, but did distinguish him a great deal from Jefferson
  • Less impressed with Burr, tbh. His parts in the ensemble were fine, but he had trouble holding the lead compared to others.
  • He got a lot better in act 2.
  • Eliza too, but that’s a function of the structure, perhaps.
  • I knew “The Orphanage” would break me, but the way the line happened on stage – the flash of enthusiasm “Oh.. Can I tell you?” of introducing someone’s pride and joy. Yeah.
  • Quiet Uptown ambushed me. It waited in the bushes, and it struck. I knew it was coming, I knew it of old.
  • King George was fantastic, petulant and mercurial. Didn’t look anything like the guy in the program, so maybe an understudy?
  • But, an interesting thing: At the end of the John Adams “You’ll be back”, he sat down on a stool and remained on stage, giggling at the Adams reaction, reacting to the events, part of the hurricane, reading the Reynolds Pamphlet, and then vanishing off stage quietly. It was an interesting choice, and the actor was remarkably good at knowing when to steal the show and when to fade as far into the background as that incredible crown let him.
  • The staging and choreography was great throughout, minimal furniture to get across what is needed, but every prop and costume perfect for the moment.
  • I’ve listened to bits of the Broadway soundtrack on the way home, and I can tell the differences now (I was avoiding listening to it for the last few months to enjoy the show as its own thing a bit more), but it’s really interesting how having seen the show, and knowing the movement and context for lines, changes how I hear them on the soundtrack.

It was great, and I’m glad I went. Also, it’s reminded me that theatre and musicals are a thing I really enjoy going to see, and I should do more of that.




Streaming Secret World Legends: Rise of the Morninglight – Part 1

Continuing the streaming thing, here’s the recording of the stream of Secret World Legends I did last night of the start of the recent content update. Maybe with some kind of prewarning I might be able to get more than two viewers of five minutes each…

Computer Games

The Secret Lore: The Morninglight

I’ve been doing readings of The Secret World / Secret World Legends’ lore entries for a while, initially as a way to learn how to do sound mixing with Garageband. It’s been a couple of years since I published one, but I did a new one a couple of weeks ago. So when I wanted something to play with to learn After Effects, I decided to do a video version of that. I’m quite pleased with the results, although it’s a bit “baby’s first steps in After Effects”