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Beowulf's Three Acts

I see Beowulf centering around three ideas:

The Hero Who's Never Been Defeated - Beowulf vs Grendel
The Hero Who Discovers that He Can Be Defeated - Beowulf vs Grendel's Mother
The Hero Who Knows that He Can Be Defeated - Beowulf vs the Dragon

Seen in this light, the story segments of Beowulf become a natural progression, one naturally leading to the other. While these mirror age (as discovery must mirror age), his age really isn't the focus. The experience is the focus.

The story seems to ask: which is the best hero? Which is real courage? I think that the story answers its own question. The hero who knows that he can be defeated is the greatest hero because he conquers his own fear and fights anyway. When Beowulf fights Grendel, he has no fear. When he fights Grendel's mother, he learns fear. When he fights the dragon, he fights despite his fear, praising the nobody who was the only one of his retainers bold enough to fight the dragon with him.

In that respect, we could say:

The hero who has never known fear.
The hero who discovers fear.
The hero who has conquered fear.

Long Weekend

It's in-law visiting time here in chez home. On Saturday night, we had over John (in from Singapore), as well as Mark and Izzy, and Tony and his daughter Aggie.

My wife's mom and Ed flew down on Sunday, so I went to pick them up. While there, I swung by my old neighborhood, getting a gander of the place. Many things haven't changed, or if they've changed, I've changed as much as they have. Mostly, I'm struck by the lack of big trees in front yards. Were there more there at one time or is the neighborhood just weird that way? It might just be fashion.

Jenny took Joy and Aggie to an SCA event, where the girls got to run amok and she worked on her youth marshall creds. The week was madness as she worked on stuff to get ready, including sewing a second set of youth armor and buying all sorts of stuff so that Aggie could thwack people, too,

With Presidents' Day this morning, and the inlaws sleeping over, I made lemon poppyseed muffins. I could have used a second lemon, and the poppy seeds should have been unground, but I don't care. They came out good enough to eat.

I was able to deploy the new bookshelf for the in-laws. That's good, because when they get over, I need to move stuff out of my office, so my need for shelf space goes up. However, before, I had to put my empty shelf into the bedroom fro the in-laws. Now that is rectified.


Fallout 4 (2016)

Fallout 4 (2016) brings us back the same Fallout that we've known since Fallout 3 and Fallout NV. The wasteland is the wasteland and war, war never ends.

I'll get to the bad stuff first. The bad stuff for me is more apparent, while the good stuff takes a little thinking about.

This game went on too long for me. If a game goes over 100 hours of gameplay, I get bored. Once I finished exploring the wasteland, I rushed through the ending, happy to be done. Which brings me to a second part of the game, unengagement. I often walked through these quests, no caring who lived or died. Part of this was their use of random quests to fill out the game. At first I didn't notice this as the quests were new, but once I got to know that these were just randomized quests, they lost any real story meaning for me.

The story didn't feel like a 200 years later sort of story. That never felt right. This story should have been a thirty years later sort of story, or maybe seventy, but not two hundred. For two hundred, I needed a wasteland stranger and even more decrepit than Fallout 3.

I felt pretty mixed about the settlement system. Early on, I just ignored it. Later, as the end game came on, I appreciated its use in game play. Its through the settlement system that you build rapport with the Minutemen. By literally walking in their shoes and taking on their jobs, you build an appreciation of their goal, which is to rebuild the Commonwealth. When the end choices come, this gives them a powerful implicit argument to support their side, which is what I went with. I could support a military dictatorship (the Brotherhood of Steel), a meritocracy (the Institute), or a Democracy (the Minutemen). I'm not surprised that I went on to support the democratic solution.

I enjoyed the robot content. Here is where the humor and the twisted ideas of the original Fallout remained in full force. Here is the biting social commentary and outlandish personalities. Everywhere the robots showed up, they worked.

With the customizable guns and armor, I wound up enjoying the equipment crafting system a little less than I had expected. Once I settled on my kit, very little came around that could replace it. I went the rifle route, with a close rifle and shotgun, and a sniper rifle for longer ranged engagements, with my combat rifle and sniper rifle acting as my main weapons. I didn't have the points to put anything into hiding, so I wasn't a super-sniper.

I spent my entire game with Dogmeat. His strange wandering about patterns made sense for a dog. When I went about with a companion, they always felt a bit weird acting as strange as Dogmeat did. For most of the game, I was heavily committed to the lone wanderer lifestyle.

As for VATS, I didn't use it at all. That saved me a massive number of points, but it made dealing with insects absolutely infuriating. Otherwise, I found that I didn't need it for most fight. By pointing with my mouse, I found that I was well coordinated enough to hit most opponents.

While Power Armor was interesting, I found that the armor provided just as many negatives as positives, so I went about in Combat Armor instead, doing just fine in most situations. I only fell back on power armor when the radiation levels got too high or the opponents got too tough for my level.

Unlike previous Fallouts, this Fallout scaled well above 30th level. Only when I reached 60 did I start encountering enemies that proved ridiculously resilient. In previous Fallouts, that happened around Level 30. (If I ever play Fallout NV again, I am so taking the level 30 limit perk.)

I haven't done any of the DLCs, mostly because I don't want to pay for them as they cost more than what I paid for F4 on sale. The main game gave me enough content. (Admittedly, Nuka World does look tempting. There has to be something twisted to it.) Eventually I may purchase some content, but not until it's cheaper.

Upcoming Stupid Films

The following fills all look so completely stupid that I'm in:

* King Kong
* Power Rangers

King Kong has a giant ape going apeship on giant monsters. WIN! Power Rangers has giant robots fighting giant monsters. WIN!

I don't expect any decent acting or anything. Hell, I don't even expect them to be any good in any literary, cinematic, or even coherent kind of way. As long as they have sufficient setup for giant fights, I'm in. I'm so so IN.

Birthdays of the Absent

Valentine's Day made me think of my wife and daughter. I didn't think of H's birthday until late that night. 17 years since I dated H, and she still comes to mind. Sometimes I miss her, most times I don't, but she's still an absence.

The Forever War (1974)

The Forever War (1974) by Joe Haldeman is a kick in the gut, followed by being drawn and quartered. This books grabs you by the throat and demands your full attention, sir, yes sir. A relatively short read by modern standards, it makes use of every word, no padding necessary.

Relativity is the name of the game, and as soldiers go off to fight a future war, the world they left behind becomes increasing strange, increasingly alien, until there is literally no difference between the aliens that they are fighting and the aliens that they defend. Everyone becomes a man out of time, living hundreds of years beyond any time known.

While this may be a war story, in no way does this story glorify war. As time and technology creep forward, so do the horrors of war, men in mechanical suits treated as disposable as any other piece of war equipment, their lives enslaved to an endless war. A forever war.

Is this book really that good? Yes, it really is that good.

Maid of Memory, Draft 2

I've wrapped up draft #2 on Maid of Memory. This one is hefty compared to many of my books, weighing in at 85k words (or about 320 pages). Next, I'm back onto Maid of Hope.


The Ship Who Sang (1969)

The Ship Who Sang (1969) by Anne McCaffrey is a fixup SF novel of a ship containing a malformed human, otherwise called a "brain." The novel read quite archaically, resembling an SF novel from the 50's far more than the late 60's, containing stiff sentences paired with stiff dialog.

If you're looking for the far smoother McCaffrey from the 1970's, this isn't it.

As I read, I often found myself getting bored with each story, the weak plots overwhelming the otherwise dull and underdeveloped characters. Helen, the ship, aside from singing, frequently has no other personality traits worth speaking about.

The book itself is a veiled feminist work, where the ship is paired with a brawn, but the ship works through various brawns as she goes, much like a woman, freed through the sexual revolution, was now able to trade partners. Likewise, the brawns frequently have the character and flaws of bad husbands, especially those bad attitudes more frequent before women's liberation.

While I praise Anne's aims, the results fail more often than they work.


Does the Imperial City in Oblivion Have a Realistic Defense? I saw this question come up elsewhere, so I'll tackle it myself.

I would say, yes, the city has an excellent historical defense.

Its primary defense was in conquering its neighbors. Having neighbors that can't war with you is the single best method of defending your own territory and cities. We see this strategy used over and over again. Not only does conquering your neighbors deny them the ability to attack, the conquered enemies add their economic and military power to your own, further deterring others who seek a fight. Just to start a siege, an invader would need to eliminate multiple Imperial armies and have successfully cleared a supply route to the capital.

The city itself is defended by the Emperor. While we see some of what the Emperor can do at the end of Oblivion, we surely don't see everything. The city also has a well established school of magic, giving the city quite a supply of able mages. Having a big bottle of magic whoop-ass that you can use against your enemies surely makes attacking the city that much harder.

The walls themselves look perfectly adequate to keep others out while keeping everyone inside safe. Successfully prosecuting a siege against the Imperial City would take considerable time and resources. That's not saying that the walls are impregnable, because given enough time and enemies, nobody is impregnable. However, the walls are more than sufficient to hold out while awaiting the arrival of intact Imperial legions.

If the Empire has reached the point where it has no armies, is under siege, and the opposing army is sufficiently well managed that it can supply itself and build a causeway over the walls, the city won't stand. As far as I'm concerned, that's a mighty high bar to reach, which makes that a mighty good defense.

On the other hand, Whiterun defenses look good, but they're nothing compared to the Imperial City. They don't have a magic bottle of whoop-ass as a last ditch defense, they don't have field armies capable of returning, they have few sympathetic allies, only one resident wizard, and their defenses are in poor repair. How much punishment can those walls take? Who knows? In the short run, their walls do their job, but against a long siege, especially by determined attackers, their walls would fall.


The weekend passed by well enough.

I wrapped up Fallout 4, siding with the Minutemen. I rather enjoyed how the settlement system gave you an attachment to the Minutemen that you couldn't get from any other faction. While everyone else was out there shooting stuff, they were the only folks building the Commonwealth, and on that rested my decision.

I've made progress on my shelves, giving the framwork two coats of primer, then a coat of green. I had thought that I would also paint the shelves green, but now I think I'll give the shelves a clearcoat, giving the shelves a green and wood combo that you'd find in the late 80's and early 90s. It looked good bad then, and it should look good for me now. I still need to attach the hinges to the side pieces, then complete the shelving.