My house was built in 1903. It was originally something like 700 square feet. Over the years it had an addition put on the back, and a basement dug out. At some point, someone paid to put in eight-foot tall ceilings, leaving the ones at ten feet in place to form an odd dead space. The point is that it's old and heavily modified.
One of my earlier projects was to put in a pull-down ladder so access to the attic was easier. At the time, one of the reasons I did it was so I could use storage space up there. After insulating it--none of the house has any insulation--I put some plywood down so I could store boxes above the 'new' (like fifty years old) section.
The problem was that while I was up there I got a look at the original chunk of the house. It still had knob and tube wiring. Thankfully, it was only for one branch circuit. Everything else was modernized or installed much later--from the basement (that didn't exist when this stuff went in). I've posted a picture so you can get the idea.
The name comes from insulating knobs that hold the wires and insulating tubes that they insert through joists/rafters to run wires through. In my house, they ran buses of wire on ceramic insulators. Note that these insulators were nailed to the rafters where any roofer might damage the wiring. Then, when they needed to run power to a fixture or receptacle, they ran a set of wires (one hot, one neutral; this is long before the notion of grounding) down the insides of a couple of ceiling joists.
The best part is that any time you need power, you just splice into those buses. After perhaps eighty years of service, this left endlessly spliced wires all over the place. The modern National Electric Code requires all wire junctions to be in a junction box (with a few esoteric exceptions).
That's not to say it wasn't a valid way to do business. A properly installed K&T setup is nominally safe. In my case its served for likely more than eighty years without the house burning down. What creeped me out about it personally is that the wire insulation becomes brittle. When I was installing a new bathroom fan (inline in a six-inch duct), I had to deal with this stuff and I had the experience where you flex a wire and the insulation just snaps like a twig. The wire remains fine which is the problem. It will happily carry voltage through that insulation break, ready to do some real damage. No doubt that explained a lot of seemingly needless applications of electrical tape that I kept running into.
So, after almost three years of vaguely worrying about this, I decided to fix it. I bought a hundred feet of 12/2 (I know I only need 14/2 but I purposely installed heavier wire), a hundred feet of EMT (electrical metallic tubing), and climbed up there with my fish-tape and bender to replace it. Ten junction boxes later I had gone through about 70 feet of EMT. I'm sad to say it took me a total of about twelve hours. No doubt an electrician could have done it in half the time.
Most of the receptacles and fixtures are still wired with lines that are older than dirt, but the bus is all up to code. Baby steps. I worry less now.
Like most people, my girlfriend and I are trying to lose weight. We have finely tuned our eating for a gentle glide into lean healthfulness.
Of course, no punitive food plan is sustainable. You might last a month or two, but eventually you will find yourself wanting an indulgence. In that sense, weight loss is a psychological pursuit. You need to build in indulgences.
For my girlfriend and I, one of those indulgences is that every Wednesday when we go shopping at our local King Soopers, we get a 9-ounce bag of Ruffles Original Potato Chips. Every Wednesday night we gorge on potato chips, rhapsodizing about the glorious taste and texture of our favorite chips.
Last week they weren't there, so we bought the larger bag conveniently on sale for $3.50, fifty cents more than our normal bag. It's more calories, but we did it.
Thankfully, this week the Ruffles in our size returned. At least I thought they did. Being the suspicious curmudgeon that I am, I was suspicious that an entire line of Frito Lay chips could disappear for a week, ever. So I looked at the bag and found that the nine-ounce bag is now eight and one half ounces.
The thing is there is no substitute for Ruffles. The closest mass-market alternative is Wavy Lays, but they are made by the same company. Ruffles are simply the best potato chips available.
Now I have a grudge against Frito Lay. I even went to their website to complain, and guess what? I was asked to specify what product I was whining about, but their website only lists the 9-ounce bag. Even their own IT systems can't keep up with the perfidy of upper management.
In bulk, potatoes cost on the order of twenty cents a pound. Frito Lay peels and fires them and turns around to sell them to us rubes for--depending on exactly where you buy--anywhere from $6 to $15 per pound. You'd think there was enough value added in there so that they wouldn't have to chisel people like us out of half an ounce of chips.
And before you even ask, no, there was no "Now with fewer chips!" banner on the bag. They were sneaky little shits about it.
I am annoyed. I am insulted. I am depressed that there is no alternative.
I will have my revenge.
Credit goes to the people who came up with the very compelling trailer for this movie. It was a complete bait-and-switch that fooled my girlfriend and I. Ha ha, you got us. I hope you reap what you sow.
In colloquial terms, this is not a "normal" movie, not a movie designed for mass market appeal. You might call it artsy, but to me it was self-indulgent dreck that I hope to scare you off. I'm serious, I don't think any amount of drugs can turn this movie into an enjoyable experience.
Let's start with the music. Sad to say I don't have the lexicon to specify it precisely, but they made use of loud, high-pitched female vocals that sounded vaguely religious. It certainly felt medieval, but they used them constantly. Instead of using them tactically to underscore or enhance a scene, they just kept assaulting my ears with it more and more as the movie progressed. It was akin to reading triple exclamation marks after every sentence.
The story is a very abstract hero's journey. The main character, Garwin, is not a knight despite being the king's nephew and the fact that everyone addresses him as one. That's sort of the point. He wants to prove himself. A chance comes on Christmas Eve when the Green Knight comes and lays down a challenge: see if you can land a blow on me, but whatever you give me I'll return to you in a year's time. Quickly establishing his stupidity cred, Garwin takes its head off using the king's sword.
Now's a good time to mention that they throw up a lot of text messages during the movie. Being artsy asses they wouldn't dare use voice-over, but they make abundant use of chapter headings and place indications. Normally I wouldn't complain about that, but in their case they use a very stylized sorta-kinda gothic font that is very hard to read in the half-second that they flashed these messages on screen. Several times my girlfriend asked me what they said because she couldn't read them. I could often only provide her the first word or so because the damnable font is so visually confounding. I took it as a personal screw-you from the moviemakers.
So the movie sets Garwin on his quest to be a knight or man or something other than the slimy piece of shit that he is. Slimy? Oh yes, he has a paramour that he uses badly and discards. He also spends the year leading to his next meeting with the Green Knight getting drunk every night. He is not an underdog. He is not likable. He is not interesting. He's a boring, weak, spoiled rich boy (with a witch mother) with nothing engaging to observe in him.
It doesn't help that the movie is shot in relentlessly depressing light. It's like the part of Excalibur when, the king being out of favor with the Lord, the land is blighted. Seriously, there isn't a single shot with the sun in it. I noticed one peripheral scrap of blue sky in one scene. It's bleak. And these guys don't do anything subtle or understated, so that bleakness is one long blazing note of shit through the entire movie.
Anyway, Garwin goes on his quest. It's shot in the same landscape as Monty Python's The Search for the Holy Grail. At least it looks that way, all scrabby browns and mud and desolation. He gets robbed. He starves. He's befriended by a fox. He generally has a miserable time until he's almost there. He literally falls down on the doorstep of some manor house where they patch him up. What does our knight do? He bangs his host's wife because, you know, he's so tragically flawed. To the asses that made the movie, no doubt that woman represented a test for the 'hero' on his Campbell journey. I don't care. The execution was bizarre and off-putting.
You get the vibe, right? My girlfriend suggested we walk out, but I kept watching both because I paid my money and I'm trying to be open minded about it. We get a bizarre ending to the movie, but WAIT, there's more. That ending was just a vision. So after suffering through a very surreal, bizarre, bleak vision of Garwin's future, we rewind and get the ending I originally expected.
I say to hell with the false ending. I say to hell with the unreadable font. I to hell with the relentlessly depressing tone. I to hell with the ear-splitting singing voice over and over and over.
This is the point where I might point out specific mistakes and highlight the good bits that shine through, but this movie doesn't deserve any analysis. Also, there weren't any good bits. This was the worst movie I can remember paying to see. Watch it at your own peril.
Once again HBO saves the day. If I had driven to the theater to see this movie and paid for admission, I would have been very upset. Thankfully this movie is one of those COVID-19 era releases that hit both theaters and HBO at the same time.
The cast is strong. The production values are strong. Where this movie falls down is the writing and direction.
The first problem is that, in terms of story, everything is an abstraction. The flick opens with a murder of a district attorney. It's implied that the killing is to stop prosecution of a criminal case, but we don't get the details. Through the course of the entire movie, we never learn what's properly at stake or for whom.
Then we get the first writerly garbage. Despite this being a supposedly high-stakes situation, the people who contract the killing of the DA are too cheap to pay for a separate team to get the accountant who supplied crucial evidence to that DA. There is this contrived sense of tension that the hitmen must get to the accountant in another city before he sees the news of the DA's death and runs. So, immediately, we're in the bush-league. Guess what? The guy sees the news and runs--with his son.
By the end of the movie, the hitmen get instructions about the sky being the limit on what can be done to get their target. It's asinine. The movie opens with a problem that's not quite important enough to pay for proper manpower, but later on, golly you guys need to get on it. Those sort of ham-fisted story chunks litter this entire movie. There's a lot of ungrounded, unspecified, cognitively dissonant chunks of story that lurch through the entire movie.
Where does Angelina come in? Good question. She really has no connection with the main plot. She is the random person that finds the accountant's kid and makes it her mission to keep him safe. However, to introduce her, we get a look at some firefighter camaraderie to give her flavor. It has a bizarrely random set piece where she sits in the back of a pickup truck with a parachute that triggers at highway speed. She gets pulled out of the truck, flails through the air, and lands on the side of the road. It's like watching Adventures in Stupid White Trash. Make no mistake, she looks great for her age--if emaciated--but her introduction is so stupid that it bleeds into her character.
She, of course, is a tortured soul who can't get over those people she couldn't save last year. She's the super tough chick who, when it's convenient, is literally paralyzed by flashbacks of those nice people standing in the woods. She never sees them die, so all her trauma is their imagined deaths.
That thing about Jolie's character's trauma is one of many directorial slips. If she is going to have paralyzing trauma, find a visual for it, otherwise people like me will nod our heads and admit that its a horrible situation but not feel it. That lack of punch in framing her damage makes the moments where its supposed to affect seem off. The trauma onscreen doesn't match the trauma in scene.
Continuing on to the next writerly mistake, random guy connected to unspecified prosecution involving unknown bad guys who might suffer unknown consequences flees to the brother of his dead wife (making him essentially a stranger). See where I'm going with this? Everyone is unconnected, the stakes are unspecified, and the plot points are essentially random and filmed in the least exciting way.
I could go on, but I think you get the theme by now. The characters are unconnected. The motivations are muddled. The direction fails to engender suspense. It's like someone's student film was given a real budget. I'd love to know the backstory about this production. It wouldn't surprise me if this project got a new director at some point, or the studio had to re-edit it into something plausible for release. The problems of this movie are so obvious that I imagine there's a story behind them.
Don't watch this movie unless its as a cautionary tale in film school.
Well, it's spring. At least in the desert Southwest it's properly spring. I know plenty of other people around the US are still getting pummeled with snow, but here on the Colorado Plateau it's time for planting.
Last summer we replaced a big area of river rock with soil. You can see the corner of that area in the picture of the planter. I didn't get sod for it, so you can see that it's still a fairly patchy chunk 'o lawn.
Doris wants to grow herbs, and her arthritis makes kneeling down for a garden bed difficult, so she asked me about getting a raised planter.
Having done extensive home renovations on this house and my previous house, I have a moderately robust collection of tools. However, as I've never done much fine woodworking or cabinetry, I don't have any experience building furniture--indoor or out.
So I googled around to see what people were selling. It looked like I'd be spending anywhere from $200 to $500 for a decent sized planter, give or take exactly how big it is and how fancy it is. I'm as averse to work as anyone, but I'm also cheap. If I'm going to spend the money, I figure I might as well consider it an investment in tools and skills. So instead of giving my money to someone else, I spent about $100 on lumber and another $50 on router bits to put my own together.
You don't have to be particularly handy to put together a 2x4 frame, but a planter has five panels to it (bottom and four sides). I had never done any joinery. Yeah, I could always use a crosspieces to hold together some slats to make panels, but I had visions of water and soil coming through the gaps. Besides, last year I bought a Mikita compact router (about $90), and I love to learn new, useful skills.
I decided I wanted to do 'real' joinery on the planter panels. Specifically, I decided I would rabbet the panel pieces. I write that like everyone knows what that is. Two months ago, I didn't know the word. It's what you might call a 'stair step' joint. The picture below shows you the pieces of the end panels after I rabbeted them. If you look at the upper panel, you'll see how the wood comes together. Those are rabbets:
Unless you're a hand-tool maven, you'll use a router to create those edges. I'd explain the process, but YouTube is full of proper cabinetry experts who can explain it better than I.
On top of the panel pieces you'll see my cheap-ass pin nailer from Arrow. I'm happy to report that the $30 nailer has performed flawlessly for me. The bigger name tool companies want something like $100 for a pin nailer. I used the pin nailer when I glued up the panels. You might ask: Why nail the boards if you are gluing them? Well, the pin nails are so tiny that you can hardly see them, and they make the gluing process a lot easier. Instead of clamping up all the panels carefully, I just glued them and nailed them with 1/2" pins. The nailer is driven by a compresser. I use a Porter Cable pancake compressor. You can get one of those with a couple of nailers for about $300. When I bought mine fifteen years ago, that's what I paid. I was stunned to see them selling the same compressor with three nailers recently for $300!! Those same Porter Cable guys still want over a hundred bucks if you just want a pin nailer. That's why I bought the Arrow one. If you don't have a compressor, I highly recommend one if you do a lot of moulding or door installations. That's almost all I've used mine for until recently.
Getting back to the planter. In my Googling, I found that everyone said to use cedar for the planter body because it resists rot. You can't use pressure treated wood because you don't want the chemicals to leech into the soil and consequently the food you grow. The thing is, good cedar finish wood is expensive, and I'm cheap (frugal really, there is a difference). One piece of 1"x4"x8' cedar is about $12 at Home Depot. I couldn't help but notice that everyone uses cedar for fence pickets, and those are cheap enough to fence a yard with. At my local Depot, a 5/8"x6"x6' cedar fence picket is about $3.50. Bingo. I designed my planter around those. It's about one picket long, three picket-widths wide, and about three picket-width's tall.
The planter pictured is a 2x4 frame holding five cedar fence picket panels. Being eager to do something cool with my router, I didn't just nail the panels to the frame. I grooved the 2x4 frame to receive the bottom panel, and I rabbeted the outside of that 2x4 frame so the four side panels would be flush with it. Since I don't have a router table, it was a huge pain in the butt to do all that. Having never grooved or rabbeted with a router, I enjoyed it. With some scrap lumber and clamps you can set up jigs to get it done. Again, people on YouTube can guide you if you're eager to explore that pain.
Other than the frugal usage of fence pickets for the panels, I incorporated one other cool thing into the design. If you look at the corners, you'll see they are 4x4s that have had 2x2 chunks cut out of them so the frame corners could sit in them. That was surprisingly hard to do without a table saw. The short story is that I used a circular saw. Mine cuts to a depth of 2.25 inches. So on each post, I made long cuts 2.25 inches in from the edge, and then one at the end. Of course, a circular saw doesn't cut a nice vertical line, so when you cut the surface as far as you want to go, the kerf underneath is shaped like a sector of the saw blade. That is, none of the cuts meet neatly to excise a perfect inside corner from the 4x4. A small bit of wood remains, holding the chunk you are trying to remove. Worse, if you try to lever it up and break the wood, you quickly find out that you don't have any space to pull. There's only one kerf (about 1/8 inch) of space before you are jamming the piece into the rest of the 4x4. What I did to solve this was simply make a few extra end cuts. That gave the chunk being removed more room to bend up and snap the little chunk 'o wood holding it to the rest of the 4x4. The only downside is that instead of a perfect little concave corner, you have little imperfections where the blade didn't cut and you ripped the piece out. So I was stuck chiseling that inside corner smooth. It only takes a few minutes per corner.
Anyway, that's my little build-a-planter adventure. The money I might have given to a manufacturer to do the work for me was spent on some nice router bits. The time it cost me to do it I chalk up to educating myself. The satisfaction I get from the finished product is a nice offset for all those story rejections I get.
I'd post the plans, but I didn't make any formal diagrams, just a lot of notes and some hand-drawn bits with sloppy dimension lines on them. Besides, if you haven't figured it out yet, I'm not really qualified to tell you how to build a planter.
I found Chuck Wendig because I read his non-fiction book: The Kick-Ass Writer. His writing advice wasn't innovative, but I'm always on the lookout for a new take on the truisms of writing, because it's often the thinking around 'the rules' that reaches me more than the rules themselves. Chuck's book on writing has some hilarious vulgarity in it. The man has a talent for perverse imagery. So I wanted to see how that would manifest in his fiction.
When I got to the acknowledgements for The Wanderers, he commented on how an 800-page book gets a lot of help. I didn't realize just how long the book was as I read because I was on a Kindle, but it explained a lot. The book is, to my taste, bloated. For a successful author with a lot of experience pumping out traditionally published books, I didn't understand how he could let this book go out at its final size.
This enormous novel sits at the intersection of AI Apocalypse and Medical Horror. He develops a few interesting characters. There's Marcy, the Amazonian ex-cop with a mysterious connection to the wanderers. Then there's his take on Satan in human form, Ozark Stover, a white supremacist, homosexual rapist. Properly evil characters always entertain. Then there is the enigmatic Black Swan AI who he doesn't allow to talk until the end of the book (seriously, he hobbled perhaps the most interesting character). The rest of the characters were, to me, boring as hell. Worse, they tended to be the POV characters.
The heart of the plot is the mysterious flock of walkers, ostensibly the wanderers of the title. They are zombies by another name, except they're benign. They don't go hunting for grey matter. They just walk and walk and walk.
For me, that's one of the biggest problems with the narrative. It focuses on a group of uncommunicative, boring walkers. They're in Indianna. Oh, now there in Idaho. For some reason they're now in California, but they're going to head back to Colorado. I didn't care.
Worse is that our POV characters are a CDC doctor named Benjamin Ray, and a farmer's daughter named Shana Stewart. If ever there were two people who had just about the least interesting points of view to put on a page, it's these two. How many pages of 'gotta protect my sister, Nessie' can you stomach? I have a high tolerance, but it goes on forever. Likewise, Dr. Ray has a boring incident in the past where he lied about some disease and ruined his career. How many times can I read about that milquetoast character's regrets over Longacre? Whatever it is, I met my limit.
The third major POV character is Mathew Bird, a pastor in dipshit Farmville who exquisitely defines boring to me. He's got this small world with small thoughts and the most parochial concerns I've ever read about.
I'm not saying these aren't valid or occasionally useful characters. I am saying that they are boring as hell and should only be taken in small doses. As the venue for laying out this story, they did not particularly entertain.
That's the theme of my complaints, focus and length. Among these 800 pages there is a gripping story. Unfortunately, that gripping story is told via the most boring 'through line' of the 'story space' that one might conceive, at a crawl.
Sci-fi fans look elsewhere. Although there is a good dollup of next-level AI going on here, Chuck has chosen to focus on the humanity of the story at the expense of whiz-bang tech intrigue. And, to beat that expired equine, he does so via the most boring humans to live on paper, slowly.
I think those flaccid, boring 800 pages could be cut down to about 250 pages of fairly snappy reading. With some rewriting to focus on the more interesting characters, it could really sing. But as published, it just bored the snot out of me. By the last third of the book, I was skimming extensively. Because even when events were building to a climax, he was slow-rolling the crap out of the plot.
There's no aguing taste, right? If you're the kind of reader that enjoys being immersed deeply in the minutiae, this book may appeal to you. Did you enjoy the long, slow slog of Frodo and Sam through Mordor? Then maybe this book is for you.
Chuck is still in there. I saw a flash of him when Marcy told off Ozark Stover. It was the most enjoyable part of the book to me. The man can write some trash talk.
So, with apologies to Mr. Wendig, whom I like, I have to say I can't recommend this book.
This is the first major studio release that I watched from home. That's of course because of the COVID19 pandemic. Sad to say, I didn't enjoy it.
This is one of those books that kept coming up on book lists and reviews. It's hugely popular, so I thought I'd give it a try.
The technological conceit of this book is personality uploading. Bob is super-rich and buys a cryogenic preservation insurance policy. It's not a spoiler to tell you that, surprise surprise, he ends up needing it. He lands in a dystopian future, denuded of all his riches, and quite literally the property of a religiously zealous government. What ensues is a novel based on Bob becoming the heart of a Von Neuman probe (self-replicating, galaxy exploring).
As is hinted at by the title, the tone is very light. Even the darkest bits of the narrative, which aren't particularly dark anyway, aren't very affecting. That's not a complaint, but in terms of your emotional engagement with this book, don't expect intense emotion or drama. Expect a light-hearted, safe romp.
Since the nature of these probes is to be self-replicating, over time Bob builds more of himself--hence the legion bit in the title. By an unexplained quirk of the technology, none of Bob's clones is exactly Bob. They're all Bob variants. That makes for some fun self-loathing bits.
The Bobs are smart, funny, nice guys that constantly make late 20th century cultural allusions. For instance, one uses Homer Simpson as his avatar. One names himself Riker after the ST-TNG character. In that sense, these books have a Ready Player One flavor to them. It constantly mines those cultural references to good effect. Eventually it got old to me.
Because all the Bobs are shades of the original, it didn't hurt much to see a few of them get destroyed. There is never a situation in this book where there is real jeopardy for Bob or his interests. There is very little conflict or resolution to speak of. With all their computing cycles, the Bob's never invent anything more than some of the very old sci-fi standards like FTL communication. That is, even with years of inter-stellar travel time, the Bobs don't evolve in interesting ways.
Plot wise, this book in the series sort of focuses on what happens when one of the Bob's goes back to Earth. I say sort of because that sub-plot is one of many. The book bounces between Bobs with each chapter. Chapter headings list the Bob variant that serves as the POV character, his location, and the date. So the book, rather than one coherent story, is really a collection of Bob vignettes broken into pieces. By doing this, the author has robbed us of a lot of the fun of a strong novel. There are no great story arcs or character arcs. It really is more like a collection of linked short stories.
My point is that although the multiplicity of Bobs is cute, it got old quickly for me. The inter-Bob banter got stale. The technology likewise was boring. For instance, the only weapons he builds are ballistic masses (fast moving things that destroy via kinetic energy), both for ship battles and on planets. We never get anything innovative, it's just Bob-as-fanboy getting to build some of his sci-fi favorites. The plots, likewise were stale to me: simplistic ship battle, simplistic first-contact, simplistic refugee politics. In the end, everything works out. To me it was the afterschool-special of sci-fi.
I won't finish the series because I'm not that interested in where this author will take things. From the title of the third book, I can make a pretty good guess.
It's extremely popular, so I seem to be in the minority. This book simply didn't appeal to my taste. If you want a breezy, upbeat, quick read that evokes a lot of cultural nostalgia, you could do a lot worse.
Eridium comes in purple bricks in Borderlands (I'm only talking about Borderlands 2 here, but I'll leave out the 2 to avoid going nuts) that you use to upgrade your character at Crazy Earl's in Sanctuary.
When I first started playing--years ago--I figured out that you could use the slot machine's at Moxxi's to build up Eridium. If you had the cash, you could build up a big stash and upgrade your character attributes. For low level characters, those upgrades are crucial: backpack slots, ammo limits, grenade count, etc. Of course, building up the cash to build up one's Eridium is difficult in normal game play.
The "Assault on Dragon Keep" DLC or what is sometimes called The Unassuming Docks (of potentially little importance) changed all that. That DLC is designed to be done after the main story. As such, the minimum recommended character level is 30. Even at 30, it can be a tough slog to get through the Unassuming Docks to Flamerock Refuge. I used to not care so much, but it turns out that Flamerock Refuge is crucial because of the Tiny Tina slot machines in that Ren-Fair incarnation of Moxxi's (which doesn't exist until a Torgue mission summons the tavern into existence). Tiny Tina's slot machines in that tavern are the crux of what I alluded to in my title.
The thing about Tiny Tina's slot machines is that they run on Eridium, 2 per pull. But, crucially, they have a frequent 3-rainbow payoff of cash, lots of cash. The payoffs of cash are so over-sized that it creates a loophole in Borderlands economics. You can spend all your money in Sanctuary's slots to get Eridium to spend at Flamerock Refuge's slots, but in the process, you will more than win back whatever you spent to get that Eridium. This means you can, ad infinitum, go to Sanctuary, build up Eridium, and then go to Flamerock Refuge to spend it, simultaneously recovering all your cash in the process.
Why? I mean one slot machine is as good as another, right? No. Not at all. Tiny Tina's slot machines in Flamerock Refuge not only give out great weapons, shields, and grenade mods, but also legendary and teal weapons. The legendary part is true of the Sanctuary slots as well. Get the vault symbols in Sanctuary and you get a legendary weapon. But in Flamerock, if you get the vault symbols on the slot machine, you get a teal weapon (sometimes called pearlescent). These are usually the best weapons in the game, often with attributes that you just don't get anywhere else. For instance, some teal weapons will automatically regenerate ammunition.
Also at Flamerock, there is a 'spinny ball' thing wherein if the machine comes up three dice (literally 20-sided D&D dice....the whole DLC is a D&D campaign), the drawer opens and a die spins in the air before dropping onto the drawer. The 20 is replaced with a vault symbol. If you roll that vault symbol, you get a legendary weapon. But most important of all is that if you roll a 18 or 19, you get three Seraph crystals. This is the only place in the entire game where you can quickly and reliably farm Seraph crystals.
Seraph crystals are the only things that Seraph Vendors will take. They are the only way to buy an Antagonist shield as well as some other remarkable gear. If you haven't found any of the Seraph vendors, google it. There's one in each DLC. Each specializes in different kinds of gear. The one in Flamerock sells Antagonist shields.
Do you start to see what I'm getting at now? Access to Flamerock refuge gets you the ability to infinitely farm Eridium to get legendaries, teals/pearlescents, and Seraph Crystals.
I consider this Sanctuary/Flamerock slot-machine arbitrage crucial to building a strong character. So crucial, in fact, that I will go to the Unassuming Docks and rush the gate to Flamerock Refuge even though I have no hope of fighting anyone in the docks. All I need to do is to get Bony Pants Guy to spawn, opening the town gate so I can run through to the Flamerock gate. Once you get there, Flamerock Refuge will appear on the fast-travel menu for the rest of the game. You can come and go as you please.
That's not to mention that the Assault on Dragon Keep is the most entertaining DLC, and loot-riffic. Once you complete the story missions, you gain access to Murderlin's Temple which...is a discussion for another post.
After getting generally positive feedback about this story from a few venues, I finally sold it to Abyss & Apex. Of course when I write 'sold' that is to say they bought the first rights to it and four-month exclusivity. Magazines don't buy stories outright, simply the right to print them.
That is my third acceptance this year. So far they are all token markets (as opposed to Pro or Semi-Pro), but you have to start somewhere, right?
Some of you reading this might get the impression that there is a proper payday involved with selling a story, so now is a good time to disabuse you of that notion. The Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) is the organizing body for American sci-fi writers. They're the folks that give out the yearly Nebula Awards. They provide advice and standards to writers. Regarding payment, the SFWA says that the minimum professional rate paid for a story is eight cents a word. So a story like Rick's Legacy, which is 5,600 words, paid the pro rate would make $448. That's for a work product that requires many hours of toil. Semi-pro markets are ones that pay three to seven cents a word. The rest are called "token" markets.
Most moderately successful sci-fi writers have a day job. One must be very near the top of the industry to make a living off of sci-fi.
The point being that this sale is a spiritual victory, not a financial one.
Six weeks after I submitted it, I got a nice note from the editor saying that she really enjoyed my story, and was holding it for further consideration. That's always nice. When you workshop stories, you get a ceaseless stream of negative feedback about every little part of a story. You need a thick skin to be a writer. So, just having her say that she enjoyed it was a thrill. It's always better to be looked over than overlooked.
Of course as the obsessive, data-driven person that I am, I spent the next four months looking at the Submission Grinder for what I call "tea leaves". That site lets you see all the active submissions at a venue, what their recent responses have been, and so on. Slowly the field whittled down to about fifteen open submissions. Three acceptances had already gone out, so I wasn't hopeful. As of yesterday, there were fourteen open submissions on the Grinder. I know that might sound hopeful, but I've been through this many times. I've made over 500 story submissions. It's just torturous watching the field narrow, and hoping. It hurts every time, but I always do it. Like I said, obsessive.
Then, today, after returning from the grocery store, I got the acceptance email and a contract. It feels wonderful, after trudging through this national nightmare, to get some good news.
So, to sum it up: sci-fi writing is a vast plain of poverty and frustration interrupted by a few spots of awesomeness. Your mileage may vary.