Thursday, December 29, 2011

Blognari Sex

I had a spare minute today between brunch and taking the car in for maintenance and decided to check out the blog stats, since I've been away (holidays/Star Wars -- sorry). What I found was surprising and maybe a little flattering? Verdict is still out on that one. What the hell, guys?

Really?
Can you see which search term I'm boggling over here? It's not the random people Google searching my real name, or the people searching for me in states I've been to. It's that fifth one down there. Yeah, that one. I'm not sure what to make of that or the fact that as many people have searched for that as have searched for clover honey.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

RE: Happy Holidays


I drew you a cat. His name is Bowie because he has a blown pupil.
Based off actual cat.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy Holidays!

It's 75 degrees today and beautiful in Southern California, where I'm spending my vacation. I had a fabulous holiday. I hope you all did as well. I awoke to breakfast in bed, followed by gift giving, Mario Kart, wonderful company, and then Bag of Bones and a feast.

We brought Eileen a cat and all required feline amenities. Aaron received a plethora of cooking utensils (a set of pans, oven bowls, etc., etc.), Skyrim, a new leather belt, and some comfortable shirts. I received some lovely clothing, hand-crafted turquoise jewelry, a trio of sparkly stackable rings, a wooden tea chest filled with delicious teas, and my grandfather's gift to me will arrive once we're back in Sacramento.

I have tons more to say but sadly not the time to say it, so I'll keep it brief. You'll hear from me again next year, where there will undoubtedly be a blogsplosion! So stay turned for that. If I don't manage to get around to it before it's time, though I think I will, happy New Year everyone!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Caffeinari!!!

I'm not sure if this is something that happens to all narcoleptics or maybe just me, but it's something I experience several times per week if not daily. Heck, it may even happen to some of you normal folk. I don't know.

I've been prescribed what equates to top grade Speed for my condition but refuse to take it. Instead I self medicate using caffeine. Tea or coffee more often than not, all throughout the day. Sometimes however I wake up so remarkably sleepy that nothing I do seems to help at all.

Slept 8 hours. Still sleepy.

I start out slowly, hoping a cup of coffee will turn the morning around for me. Set me off to the right start I must just be shy of reaching.


Mmm, coffee.

And yet...


Not feeling it.

Not one to surrender so easily, I get another cup. Perhaps my coffee to water ratio was off today.


Surely, this will do it.

Nope.


$&#@ you sunlight.

Now I'm mad. But with nothing to direct my frustration towards, I glare out the window and seethe in the general direction of the sun for making it daytime. Then I drink four or five more cups of coffee as fast as I can.


What was that sound?!

Not even this wakes me up. Instead I just get paranoid. Every noise I hear is a burglar. Maybe I can work with this though. Maybe I can frighten myself into feeling less sleepy.


Maybe not.

So I get another cup of coffee and sip at it longingly. Forsaken by the sun and early birds everywhere.


Whatever. Why not?

Then all of a sudden without any warning at all, something happens. Something finally happens.


Oh my! What a nice day.

Suddenly I'm way more awake than I had been moments earlier. I'm also chipper. Even so, I somehow don't realize the caffeine is catching up to me, so I continue drinking my coffee until this happens:


OMG EVERYTHING!!!

Now everything ever is the best and I am able to do anything. Whatever I needed to do gets done in record time. Even things I didn't need to do get done anyway, because doing things seems like the greatest idea I've ever had. The harshness of reality melts away and suddenly the world is composed of rainbows, cupcakes, and purring kittens. It could be the caffeine Armageddon and I was the only one to be raptured but it doesn't matter because it's fantastic.

Then I crash and wind up laying on the floor of the computer room curled up beside the bookshelf. Immune to the effects of caffeine for at least six hours.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sweden

Oh, hey Sweden. How's it going?

Recently Sweden has appeared on my audience summary and has already almost caught up with Malaysia in the way of number of viewers. Good job Sweden -- appear out of no where and take over. I like your style.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Have You Heard?

B-b-b--

The West Coast has a lot of interesting birds. Back East I could name every bird that flew by without a pause but here I'm clueless. Forced to scour the internet for answers. Many of you probably don't realize just how varied the wildlife is in different places around the country, so I decided to give you a little peek. While these might be common sights to those of us living in California and nearby states, back East all of this is totally foreign.

There are these giant black and white birds with long tails and yellow eyes that  are just really impressive to behold. My best guess is some kind of Magpie, but I actually have no idea.

King of dead grass!
There are also these large blue, gray, and white birds that I see from time to time that I recently discovered were called Scrub-Jays. I'm not sure where they got their name from, but they're quite beautiful birds with a color I'd compare to a clear sky.

King of benches!
I have yet to see any Condors, but here's hoping that one day I will have the opportunity. They aren't very pretty to look at, actually bordering on hideous, but I find them magnificent. As I do most birds of prey. I've seen several Hawk varieties, though we had those back East too. I hear there is a significant population of Golden Eagles and even some Bald Eagles out here, but like the Condor I've yet to witness any myself. There are a good number of Peregrine Falcons though, usually seen on our drives down to L.A. perched on fence posts.

King of fences!
Also, there are lots and lots of Hummingbirds! Such as Anna's Hummingbirds which look a lot like Ruby-throated Hummingbirds back East only the color encompasses their entire head. I see a lot of these around Burbank, sometimes three or four at a time all swarming around a patch of freshly opened flowers.

King of blurry images!
And Calliope Hummingbirds who, again, share a similarity to Ruby-throated Hummingbirds only their throat feathers are much longer giving the appearance of a beard.

King of beards!
Even a couple of Black-chinned Hummingbirds, which have a misleading name. The color is far more purple than it ever is black. Unlike a lot of other Hummingbirds the rest of the plumage is kind of dull rather than the vibrant greens you see on both male and female alike of other types.

King of purple!
One of the things that surprised me was the amount of Swallows in the cities. When I think of Swallows, I imagine Barn Swallows out in the country somewhere away from the busy streets. However, in Sacramento particularly there are flocks of them along the river. Of several varieties.

King of trees!
Of course there are also more common sights, such as Sparrows and Pigeons which can be found everywhere. Same as they are back East. I haven't seen any Chickadees here though. I guess maybe they prefer the colder weather? I also haven't noticed anything such as the Red-Winged Blackbird or Golden Finch either. Though I have seen plenty of Crows and even a massive Raven. Back East you see mostly Blackbirds and Starlings rather than Crows, so it's kind of interesting to see an entire murder of them just hanging out.

Even the Gulls here are more diverse, ranging from sleek aerodynamic birds I've never seen before to the basic Seagull you spot everywhere. I haven't seen any Canadian Geese here, not even flying overhead which is hugely shocking to me. Canadian Geese rule the skies where I'm from and you'd often see numbers upwards of twelve or more at any given time in any given season. Instead they have weird things like the Coot.

Yes, those are its feet.
Disclaimer: I did not take any of these photographs. They are the result of Google Search. While they are fantastic, I claim no rights to them, etc., etc.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Star Wars: The Old Republic III

I'll say.
This is my third entry regarding SWTOR. Part one can be found here and part two is located right there. Seems to be that my original suspicion regarding the pre-launch guild system has been confirmed. Maybe I should be a gaming prophet rather than a simple reviewer.

Originally Posted by DavidBass
RP-PvP – Players are encouraged to roleplay and act ‘in-character’ while playing on an RP-PvP server. Players are automatically flagged for PvP outside of the designated 'safe' areas (such as Origin Worlds, Capital Worlds, and the Republic/Imperial Fleets; see below for more info).


The pre-launch Guild Headquarters currently allows you to select between three different server types for your guild: PvE, PvP, and RP, which will determine your server placement during Phase 3: Deployment. During Deployment, we will be placing all eligible guilds that select 'RP' onto RP-PvE servers by default. If a guild wishes to exist on an RP-PvP server, they will need to create their guild manually on a new server once they reach their Capital World (Dromund Kaas or Coruscant) and create their guild.


The decision to make RP-PvP servers an option for players was made recently, which is why the choice was not available in the Guild Headquarters to start with. We apologize for any inconvenience this causes, but we hope you are as excited as we are to be able to choose this option for your guild in the game at launch.

This means that even if your guild has been per-registered for months now, you will still have to choose your server manually, race to get off your Origin World, pay the fee, and create your guild before someone else claims the name. Which is, more than a little disappointing. Though obviously I can't claim to be shocked.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Popcorn Ninja

We made an attempt to watch the new version of The Thing this weekend, which was so boring that it put Aaron to sleep. We didn't make it beyond the beginning before deciding to switch movies for, well, anything else. Sean popped some kettle corn and brought the bowl over to where Aaron and I were seated. Well, where I was seated. Aaron was sort of lounging across the love seat with his leg propped up on my shoulder. Effectively rendering me unable to move. He was more central than I was so Sean decided to place the bowl on sleeping Aaron's stomach.

This disturbed and roused Aaron, confused and hungry for kettle corn (apparently). He almost spills the contents by flopping a groggy hand at the bowl, unaware that it is full of food. But even in his half-awake state he expertly manages to determine what is in the bowl and decides that he wants some. Right then. I guess he figured by our reaction to his swatting that he had knocked some out of the bowl and onto himself when he tried to 'defend himself,' so he grabbed what he thought to be a piece of kettle corn and proceeded to toss it into his mouth. Oblivious to the weight and color being all wrong.

I know right away that it is not a piece of kettle corn and want to interject before he puts it into his mouth. However in my fervor all I can get out of my yapper is, "That's not kettle corn! It's a ninja!" Which, looking back, only further makes it seem like we're screwing with him. He puts it into his mouth regardless of my well-intentioned warning then gets a weird look on his face and spits it out. Because it is a ninja.

Popcorn Ninja!
Earlier in the evening Aaron had found the ninja on the end table beside the sofa and proceeded to use its tiny knife to poke me. Repeatedly. Shortly thereafter is when he dozed off, clutching the ninja in his hand while the rest of us made a valiant effort to get through the beginning of The Thing. As he slept however, his grip loosened and the ninja was abandoned on his chest. Forgotten by all.

I don't know if the rest of the room caught what was going on right away, because Sean and I were laughing so hard and Aaron just looked really tired and confused. Also? The movie was not that funny. I'm not certain which struck me more ridiculous, that Aaron had attempted to eat a ninja, or that I was so very concerned about it. As if the ninja would actually murder him from the inside, it would have easier access to all his vital organs after all.

There you have it, the night my fiance almost accidentally a whole ninja. Aaron: Ninja Devourer.

P.S. Yes, Sean, that is your ninja. It was a stow-away on my sweater.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Emil's Birthday

Aaron and I went down to San Jose for our friend's birthday this past weekend; had a lot of fun. Carpooled to Sean's with our other pals Josh and Will. The first night we had some drinks and watched several episodes of the new animated X-Men series. It was bad but at least in a way you could enjoy by making fun of. Beast is a weird cat-man (yet sometimes a dog-man thanks to inconsistent animation), Cyclops is a whiny emo with whiny emo hair, Wolverine compulsively explains his powers every time he uses them, and for some reason Storm can't do anything without exhausting herself like an elderly old man.

Later we tried to watch the new animated Wolverine series but that was just bad in all of the wrong ways. Wolverine starring The Fonz -- I'm not sure how else to describe all of the wrong. I know he's supposed to be a cool guy, but he's also supposed to be a dark, gritty guy. In my opinion, debonair is not ever a word you should be using to describe Wolverine.

We finally turned in around 3:00 AM, only to wake up sometimes just before 9:00 AM. I'm not sure why, but I wasn't groggy or at all despite only having gotten six hours of sleep. Sean served up some big fluffy pancakes with bacon and we laid around playing the 360. For lunch we strolled down to the BBQ where Aaron made tasty burgers for us all.

Ryan came down at some point during lunch and mentioned that he had downloaded a rather comedic documentary about Sex Robots, and the pitiful people who don't simply have a fetish for robots, but are so afraid of actual human women that they won't have anything to do with them. So naturally we headed back up to watch it and sure enough it was as entertaining as we'd suspected it would be. There are a lot of really, really sad people in this world, let me tell you that. Also? Sex Robots are hideous looking.

We spent the rest of the evening watching movies. Commando (you know the one) and Krull which has a young padawan-looking Liam Neeson in it. Braids and all. I think both movies would've made prime candidates for a drinking game, but we needed to head home that night and I'm pretty sure we would've gotten completely sloshed. Instead we had a Kettle Corn feast, then packed it up and headed back at around 10:00 PM.

Our journey was made difficult by the entrance ramp to the freeway being closed. We had to get on going the opposite direction we needed to be going, then get off and back on going the right way. This was further complicated by all of the other off ramps being poorly lit, convoluted labyrinths. Even so, it only took us two tries and then we were on our way.

We made it back around 12:00 AM and then parted ways with our passengers and were greeted by cats who seemed to think we were never coming home. All in all a great weekend spent in great company.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Star Wars: The Old Republic II

This is another entry about Star Wars: The Old Republic, an up coming MMORPG set in the Star Wars Universe. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you can get a summary here. That is also where the first half of this review can be found. Once again, if you aren't a geek or a gamer this post will be entirely meaningless to you. Feel free to skip it.

With the launch of SWTOR fast approaching, I just have a few more things to address. One pertaining to the game itself, the others pertaining to the website and features contained therein. After the first two paragraphs, this is going to seem like one big long complaint, but it's more like me trying desperately to comprehend the thought process behind what's going on because it makes no logical sense.

First of all, this week the launch build went live for beta testers. This means, for the most part, this is what the game will be like on launch day. While several proposed ideas seem to yet be missing (the ability to match all of your armor to your chest piece for example), one thing you will notice immediately is that many of the framerate issues have been fixed. Developers finally acknowledged the severity of the game's memory leak (mentioned in my past review) and have been working to get it patched up before December 20th.

This means that those of you with lower end computers may not have to shell out as much for upgrades as beta originally lead you to believe. Like I said before, the game is not graphically intensive at all. Aside from the impressive scenematics you should be able to run everything on medium or high just fine so long as you meet the listed minimum requirements. That said, if your computer is older than three years it's about time for an upgrade anyway.

Another thing I wanted to talk about briefly is the website's pre-launch guild management. I hadn't bothered listing my guild until just this afternoon because the system is remarkably flawed. At a glance, it's a superb idea: let players who have preordered reserve their guildname and login day one already in their guild. Friends can easily find your guild in the registry and apply for membership so that you all wind up in the same place come launch day. That sounds amazing, how convenient and considerate! But there's a catch, a rather drastic one at that... you have absolutely zero control over where your guild is placed.

What's basically going to happen is that, come launch day, your guild will be ported onto a random server loosely associated with the interests your guild selected at the time of its registration. Not so bad if you selected that you want to be on a PVP or PVE server, as you'll undoubtedly be shuffled off to one of those. Pretty bad if you want to play on an RP server because there is no option to specify whether you want to play on an RP-PVP server or an RP-PVE server. So, chances are high that your entire guild could get dumped on the wrong server type.

This is also a nightmare if you have friends in guilds other than your own that you'd like to be on the same server as. If it doesn't manage to port you to the same server, you'll have to reroll anyway and hope your guild name isn't taken on the server you actually want to be on. Basically it nulls the entire point of having a preregistration feature.

While there is an ally/adversary feature which lets you select other guilds you'd like to play with/against and attempt to put you on the same server, even that isn't guaranteed and  you can only have three total. Not even three of each. Allies have to be the same faction as you are and adversaries have to be the opposite faction that you are. If you're like me, with several dozen friends in several dozen guilds, this only further makes preregistration almost entirely useless for anything other than the possible recruitment of strangers.

The only redeeming benefit to this feature was that it bestowed upon you your own guild site and forums. Which to most people is a great boon as otherwise they have no ability to get these sorts of things up and running themselves. Even this however is pointless. Two weeks post-launch this feature is going away. Which means that essentially whatever guild community you've been fostering on your nifty swtor.com provided site is going to be gone too. You may as well have hosted your own to begin with.

Long story short: you're where you would've been had this feature never existed at all come launch. I can't complain too much, as I'm sure on paper this idea worked well, but in practice it just doesn't work at all and seems to lack any foresight whatsoever. Let's be frank, foresight is a pretty important skill in maintaining a functioning community, especially when that community is composed entirely of gamers.

Finally let's talk about account security. As I'm sure many of you have noticed over the last few months, Bioware seems freakishly obsessed with your account's security, to the point where they're ironically compromising it. Every week or so they send out a mass email telling us that our passwords have been voided and to visit their site to create a new one. Thing is, the more you have to input your account name and password, the more likely you are to have your account information compromised. Because let's face it, not many of you are creating entirely new passwords every time they prompt you to do so -- and I can't blame you. By the time the game has launched you'll have no idea what the frak your password is anymore.

Offer account authenticators, make us answer security questions upon login, submit us to email verification when we attempt to login from a foreign computer, but don't make us enter our account name and password every time we try to navigate to a new part of the website. If the keylogger you downloaded from that HOT SCHOOL GIRL WOMAN SEXY LADY link didn't snatch your info before, it will definitely have now.


SWTOR: Part One.
SWTOR: Part Three.
SWTOR: Related.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Music Phenomena

Have you ever heard a song that sounds like it means one thing or perhaps reminds you of something or makes you think of something that turns out, has nothing whatsoever to do with the actual song? Lyrically or musically? This happens to me a lot. Maybe it's because I'm deaf and therefor make snap judgments in my head about songs based on bass and tempo -- the only part I can hear without earbuds or obscene levels of volume. Or maybe it's because I'm autistic and certain things just send my brain to certain places. I don't know. Either way I'm curious to know if it happens to you guys.

"What the hell are you talking about Inari?" Fair. It's early and I'm still fighting off the holiday's sleep deprivation. Let me try to explain.

I'm not talking about misheard lyrics, though those can be comedy gold. I'm talking about when you hear a song for the first time. Your very first impression of that song before you take into account what it may actually be about. You may come to this judgment before you know the name of the song, the song has even gotten to the point of words, the tempo, or maybe even the ambiguous lyrics during the chorus. The key part of this is that once considered or looked into, you discover that the meaning of the song is in actuality totally opposite what you thought. You were in effect, completely wrong and/or off base.

That upbeat song from the radio last week you thought was happy-go-lucky? Actually about depression. That song from your friend's party you thought was about the innocence of youth? Actually about prostitution. Etc., etc.

So what are some personal examples? The most recent is Perfect, by Guster. It makes me think of baby tortoise eating a tomato. It's actually about heroine addiction. Even though I'm aware of that now, I still imagine baby tortoise eating a tomato instead. It cannot be un-thought even though I know better.

Semi Charmed Life, by Third Eye Blind makes me think of silly summer romance between middle schoolers. You know, the kind where you date and hold hands but still think kissing is icky? Yeah, that. It's actually a song about meth. I was thinking perhaps my view of this song was colored by my age at the time of its release, but no. I didn't even actually hear this song until I was well into high school because it wasn't really my kind of music (:hardcoreface:). I think it's more related to all the, "Doo doo doos," at the beginning.

Mr. Tambourine Man
, by Bob Dylan I always thought was about a guy who just really liked happy tambourines. Who doesn't? But no, it's also about drug addiction which seems to be the case a lot of the time. To be fair, in the 60's writing openly about narcotics in songs wasn't allowed. So the vague misleading lyrics were a necessity. I never expected the Tambourine Man to be a shifty drug dealer though.

Cherry Lips, by Garbage always seemed like a song about a powerful, sassy young woman. It's actually about a sassy young drag queen. It is also somewhat about child abuse. As it turns out though, I guess it is a song about a sassy woman, even if unintentionally, since it was based on a story allegedly written by a drag queen who was later revealed to be a middle aged house wife. Perhaps my mistake was actually prophetic.

I'm sure there are others, but I didn't put much forethought into this before sitting to write it out. Not that I dedicate much time to brainstorming to begin with. I kind of just come up with an idea and then run with it. That right there is a plan for success. amirite?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I had to be up before 6:00 AM so I'm far too groggy to write anything creative. I just wanted to be sure I said, "Happy Thanksgiving," before heading to L.A. for the weekend. Have a good holiday, and don't forget to be thankful!

I am so thankful for my family and friends. Both those back East and those right here on the West coast. Without them, I wouldn't be the person I am today. I'm thankful that I found Aaron, the love of my life. And I'm thankful for Neelix and Intruder, who seem to think it's 8:00 AM (time for breakfast) no matter what time I crawl out of bed. Also, I'm thankful for my readers, who don't seem to mind if I have nothing to say at all.

So just once more before we hit the road: Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What's In A Name?

This time of the year always gets me thinking about family. Probably because I know this time of the year, back East, they're all getting together at my mother's house for Thanksgiving. Which is why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It has nothing to do with the food, really, it's the togetherness. Family members you normally don't have the pleasure of seeing on a daily basis, or perhaps even weekly or monthly basis, all collected under one roof.

Unless of course you're one of those people who dislikes their family, in which case you probably loathe Thanksgiving. I've never really understood people like that. Unless your family has committed some unspeakable transgression against you, you should really just forgive and forget. Even if they are perhaps a little obnoxious at times. They are your family after all. Your only family. I think they deserve that much. Sweet potatoes, my family isn't perfect, but you get over it. No one is perfect.

But I digress, I've gotten away from where I was headed (huge surprise). November reminds me of family, even though I'm three thousand miles too far away to spent it with them this year. Being reminded of family especially reminds me of my mother and in turn her decision to rename me several years after I was born. And that is where this entry was supposed to be headed. It dawned on me that prior to this very instant, I've never brought this up in my writing. Meaning some of you know because I've told you and others are wholly clueless. Let's fix that.

When my mother was pregnant with me, she and my father could not come to an agreement about what my name would be. To make things more difficult, my father was something of a controlling d-bag who would turn down my mother's suggestions just on the basis that he hadn't come up with them. And, to be fair, not all of my mother's suggestions were stellar. If it were in her hands exclusively I almost would have been named Midnight and very narrowly would have escaped being named Storm. Cool names for a comic book character. Challenging names to be saddled with through elementary school. Instead my father would intervene, declining not only Midnight and Storm but also Jean and several other more common first names.

The only name they could both agree on was Michelle. Yet even then my father insisted on having his way. He declared that were I to be named Michelle, which at this point was the only name on the table, there would have to be an S before the C. Mischelle. My mother agreed just to finally be done with it, but this set her to seething. Something you should probably avoid shortly after your wife has just given birth. As she filled out my birth certificate she decided that if he was going to add an S -- she was going to take out an L. Thus I was born on a snowy April morning and named Mischele. A name that no one would ever seem capable of spelling right ever again.

After a handful of very bad events my mother and father would divorce. Or rather, my father would disappear into the night fearful for his life (I love my grandfather), and a few years down the line the court would nullify their marriage at my mother's behest. To this day no one knows where my father actually is. Every time he's located, he vanishes yet again. I would live seven years as Mischele before my mother realized there was nothing stopping her from renaming me. After some consideration, she decided on Inari, which as I've mentioned previously means Silver Fox. However, renaming your child after-the-fact is no easy feat.

Other family members didn't seem to "get it." And, through no fault of my own as a child, I had serious issues learning my own name. At the time every member of the family had a different nickname for me and at school I thought my name was my ID number. Like a child-bot. Adding one more name to the mix just confused me further. I was Short-stop and Punkydunky and Duchess and Mischele and Schele and Inari and countless others which seem to escape me now. So for a while, the change went totally under the radar.

When I was deemed old enough to be given the complete story, I was at that age where you rebel just for rebellion's sake. Everyone at school already knew me as Schele so even if I accepted that my name wasn't actually Mischele anymore, it would be a task in tedium to get people to quit calling me that. So I just didn't bother trying to explain it to anyone. It wasn't until I was about nineteen or twenty that I really took the time to consider where my mother was coming from and appreciate the name change for what it was. A celebration of her independence.

By then Mischele was so ingrained into people's heads that to this day most of my high school friends still refer to me as Schele. I made an effort to introduce myself to all new people as Inari, to honor my mother's decision and get it to catch on, but that just segregated my friends into groups. Those who call me Schele, those who call me Inari, and those who interchange the two freely. This has lead to some confusion, surely, but I feel like an ass demanding people who've known me for twelve or more years call me something other than what they knew me by. Particularly since I rebelled against the change so adamantly in the first place and the whole situation is partly my fault. So I never correct them or get anal about it. I am both Inari and Mischele.

And there you have it: the reason I have two first names.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Art & Dungeons

Wait, what?
Tons of fun last weekend. Josh and Will came over on Friday. We spent the evening creating second edition D&D characters and drinking, then ran a game Saturday afternoon. This lead us to the discovery of Rumbeer, a combination comprised of rum and root beer which later got out of hand with the addition of port. It was good prior to adding the port. Aaron cooked us all a delicious meal and we ate it while watching episode one of The Walking Dead which, turns out, isn't the best dinner television. Good show though.

Our party consisted of Josh's anti-charismatic blindly loyal Templar, Aaron's Psionic bird-man, and my oblivious good-intentioned thief -- who got us into the whole mess. Surprisingly no one died. We did however do the exact opposite of what the campaign expects you to do. Over throw the tyrant ruler? Nah, we're siding with him. Sorry.

On Sunday we met up with a woman from Aaron's boot camp class and her husband, and went to the art museum. We got up dreadfully early considering the previous two days and as I sat there groggy and unenthusiastic I distinctly remember thinking, "Why am I up so early? I hate art." Which is kind of funny, considering. It didn't help that I was rushed through my daily routine, with only enough time to hop in the shower and wash my hair. But after a hastily eaten bowl of oatmeal I was happy to go along.

I hadn't been to an art museum in a decade at least, so despite my start to the day I was actually pretty excited to go. There was a baroque exhibit this weekend, which I'm not sure exists every weekend or not. They made it sound fleeting. But I like baroque, which shouldn't surprise anyone since I obviously like vibrant colors. We saw a lot of really magnificent art and some sub par art as well, but that's to be expected. They have to collect a little bit of everything. Not that some of the art wasn't good, I'm sure for it's genre it was great. There are just some methods I find lack luster and kind of lazy. But I digress.

What really caught my eye was the braille on the exist sign. I wasn't aware that blind people go to visual arts museums. Especially since they have rather strict no-touching policies. I guess they do though? Seems odd to me, but I'm hardly one to talk.

P.S. I know many of you read without subscribing, but given that I write based on whim rather than any sort of schedule, you may find that subscribing makes things easier.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Star Wars: The Old Republic

"Another game review?" Well, sorry. I'll post again later with an entry about my life if you somehow find that sort of thing more entertaining. Promise. But this entry, this one right here? With the NDA recently lifted, this is a blog about Star Wars: The Old Republic, commonly referred to as SWTOR. An up coming MMORPG set to release in December by Bioware, EA, and Lucas Arts. So if you don't know what I'm talking about, aren't a gamer, or aren't a geek... you can go ahead and skip to the next blog and save yourself a lot of time and confusion.

Lets start with character customization. This is a good foundation of any game review and all games. On a scale of one to ten, one being severely lacking (example: World of Warcraft) and ten being super fantastic (example: All Points Bulletin), I'd give this game a hopeful three. Hopeful in that it will improve before you get your hands on it. Both graphically and when it comes down to options.

At current your options are quite limited. There are nine races total all of which are basically human. Such as human with spikes (Zabrak), human who is blue (Chiss), human without eyes (Miraluka), human with cybernetic implants (Cyborg), human who is pale (Rattataki), human who is green (Mirialan), and human who is spiky but their spikes are covered in flesh (Sith). The most nonhuman you can achieve is tentacle-head human (Twi'lek). And not all races are created equal. Some have way more options than others, even if unnecessary or uncharacteristic. You can pick through fourty-seven shades of beige for a human, but only seven colors (way less if you remove choices which are the same color but a little duller) for Twi'lek -- a race renown for coming in every pigment in the universe. Um, what? That can't be right.

Not that you won't see other more alien-looking races as you're playing. You will. There are a number of Trandoshan, Rodians, Ithorians, and other such iconic Star Wars species peppering the world. You just cannot play them as a race. Why? I don't know. I would have loved to play an Ithorian, but oh well.

Once you've chosen your race you can change their hairstyle provided they have hair, their eye color provided they have eyes, their skin color and their face. Some races have tattoos, piercings, or various head-dress to select from, but often only if they lack another trait to customize (i.e. hair, eyes). There are about twelve faces total, four Caucasian-looking faces, four African-looking faces, and four Asian-looking faces. There are no sliders to further refine individual facial features such as your nose, or cheek bones. What you see is what you get. There are four body types total to choose from. The first is anorexic looking, the second is your standard build, the third is meathead and the fourth is rotund (which is not actually all that fat).

Also, for some unknown reason, all men have strangely protruding chests which, from a distance makes them all appear female. I have no idea why this is, but it's very off-putting and will undoubtedly cause more than a little confusion.

Class is restricted by race, which I dislike. If someone told me I couldn't be an astronaut because I'm part Irish, I'd be livid and probably become an astronaut just to prove a point. Not that I'm honestly comparing video game racism to real life racism; having dealt with both personally. It's also not that I dislike racial tension altogether. In a story arch it can actually add a lot of depth. But in character creation it's just mechanics and wholly unnecessary. There is no discernible reason why Jamie the Chiss shouldn't be able to do what Quinton the Mirialan can do. I don't care what thinly veiled excuse Bioware tries to sate us with. Quite simply it's bullshit, especially when race offers no benefit that would somehow make one choice superior to another. Choice of race is entirely aesthetic.

Would benefit from AA being reintroduced.
The character models themselves are somewhat dated. Similar to those found in Dark Age of Camelot: Catacombs, even if higher res. Which says a lot considering Catacombs was released in 2004. Of course I could also do the more obvious and compare them to Star Wars: Galaxies character models, but that isn't much better given those are dated even earlier at 2003. This is 2011; we expect more. But I can let a game slide by on has-been graphics so long as the mechanics are entertaining and the plot is good. While the mechanics aren't anything fabulous, average by all accounts, the story is entertaining enough.

I experienced a lot of framerate issues playing on a decent laptop even though the game is less graphically intensive than several others I play without incidence. So I don't know what's going on there. The likely culprit is a memory leak, even though you'd suspect that kind of thing to be fixed by now (during the final stages of beta). I had to turn all of my options to minimum for the game to even be playable, so to those of you playing with older computers (even if they function fine with other current games) will probably need to upgrade as well. If you normally play on a laptop, I'd recommend a desktop PC anyway. That said, even though every server was at cap population every day, the server lag wasn't bad at all. Hardly even noticeable at prime time.

The game world seems nice (if smaller than anticipated), at least on par with other titles on the market. I wouldn't consider the game particularly visually impressive by any means, but it isn't abysmal either. It can hold its own. The scenematics however are remarkable. Seriously. Graphically, musically, emotionally, it's all captured spot-on. Which is impressive for something completely computer animated. Most times animated people just come off as strange and unnatural looking, but not here. Mouth movement, facial expression, all very thoroughly thought out and executed. I would high five the animation team if I met them on the street.

The music is one of the things that really set SWTOR apart. It is far superior to that found in other games, particularly MMORPGs. Some you'll recognize, some you won't -- but all of it is suiting and helps to immerse you in the world you're adventuring in. At times it got stuck in a loop which quickly became annoying, but such bugs should be fixed well before 0 hour.

However where the game really stands apart is in the questing. Each quest is completely voice acted and well done at that. When you talk to an NPC you are pulled into a cut-scene where you don't just mindlessly nod to everything the NPC is saying only to click an [accept quest] button at the end. You are presented with dialogue options. How you answer could effect the outcome of the quest, or even the tasks you are sent to do. You may even offend the NPC so much that they attack you or refuse to offer you a quest at all. It's entirely in your hands. Sometimes you may even encounter reactions to your dialogue that surprise you, which hasn't happened to me in a game since like 1999.

That, I found magical. There aren't many MMO's on the market where that sort of control is offered. In fact, I can't think of any other examples. While you are questing, the game feels very much a single player RPG, but you aren't sitting alone in the dark all by yourself like some recluse. You can play it with friends. Lots of them.

Much to my dismay, there doesn't seem to be a lot of role-play potential. As it exists right now, you cannot sit in chairs or lay down and many of the emotes do nothing at all. Interacting with the environment is exceptionally limited, and by limited I mean you cannot interact with it whatsoever. That said, WoW has existed as long as it has with those same faults and yet if you look hard enough, you can find role-play there. So, it's not without hope. It would certainly benefit from a couple official RP servers, if nothing else.

In regards to servers, during beta there were twenty US servers, nine of which were PVE and eleven of which were PVP. Two additional servers existed for UK players, both PVE. I'm not sure why European gamers didn't get a PVP server, your guess is as good as mine.

For veterans of Star Wars: Galaxies, you will encounter many familiar sounds and songs in the game. Particularly the chirping of mouse droids (MSE-6). Without noncombat professions however, the cantina scene will be nothing like you're used to. I hope cantinas will become social hubs, as they were in SWG, but without much reason to go there except to log out for rested experience, I somehow doubt they will be. There also doesn't seem to be any indication that there will be player housing. Especially not Open World player housing. This, in my opinion is a rather blatant mistake.

One of my larger concerns is that this game's longevity will rest largely in the hands of former SWG players (read: people who like Star Wars a lot). Bioware and EA should be attempting to offer more options than the game's predecessor. Not less. When you take a franchise license from one company and hand it over to a new one, you should really try to exceed previous expectations.

All in all, I would recommend the game, even if only to discover the stories therein and then cancel. If you've played a year, you've gotten your money's worth. I pre-ordered, but couldn't justify the added expense of the collector's edition or even the premium edition. Especially considering the collector's edition will burn a $179.99 hole in your pocket and in return you only get a handful of swag.

tl;dr: The good: cutscenes, quests, music. The bad: customization, graphics, features.

SWTOR: Part Two.
SWTOR: Part Three.
SWTOR: Related.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Advice

I'm going to go ahead and just let everyone know ahead of time about the launch of a new section here: Advicenari. An area specifically for offering advice to those in need of it. No matter your problem, I'll try to help you!

Advice is something I've done on the internet for a while now and I figured it's about time I get it all in one place. It'll save me time, you time, and hopefully offer comfort to those in a situation they'd otherwise feel alone with. Feel free to click above and check out the early beginnings. There isn't a whole lot published yet, but I have logs dating back to 2007, so once I have the spare time there will be a postsplosion.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

RE: SWTOR

I'm permitted to say this much. Take from it what you will.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Value of Pie

For the last three days we have survived off of pizza and copious amounts of Sprite. We had a beta to play, you see. On Friday we grabbed a five-meat stuffed pizza from Papa Murphy's --  that is five kinds of meat and cheese then a layer of crust, then additional meat and cheese on top. The beast weighed about two or three pounds. It was a delicious thing of beauty. And thus commenced our gaming weekend.

Beta launched at 5:00 PM Friday evening and we played nonstop until 4:00 AM Saturday morning. That's nearly 12 hours of nonstop playing. Then we slept until 11:00 AM and woke up to play again until 10:00 PM to break for dinner. Almost 12 more hours of nonstop playing. We took up the mantle again around 11:00 PM Saturday night and continued on until around 3:00 AM Sunday morning. Which is only 4 hours of nonstop gaming, but tagged on the back of the previous 12 and it's quite excessive. We got up around 12:00 PM or so and, after a shower, got right back to it playing until beta concluded at something like 9:00 PM. Then we resumed real life and ate an actual meal.

As we ate our herb-baked chicken, we watched an episode of Dexter. In this episode of Dexter there is a scene where pecan pie is being consumed. This gave us an extreme craving for pie. So much so that we actually threw on some clothes and went to the grocery store as soon as the episode concluded. They did not have pecan however so we had to settle on pumpkin. Pie in hand, we returned home triumphant and watched another episode of Dexter, during which we managed to consume THE ENTIRE PIE. Yes, you read that right. The whole pie? We ate it.

Aaron and I each ate half a pie unto ourselves in one sitting. I regret nothing! I knew when he asked if I would like more pie that the adult thing to do would be to say, "No. We have had enough pie." But rare is it that I base my decisions on the adult thing to do. So my answer instead was, "Yes. We NEED more pie."

Sunday, November 6, 2011

DC Universe Online

DC Universe Online is an MMOAG (massively multi-player action game) centered around the DC Universe and iconic DC characters therein. Up until recently you had to purchase the base game itself and pay the typical MMO fee of $14.99 per month. It is now a FTP (free to play) game with perks for being a paying customer, either through buying items from the shop using real-world currency of $5.00 or more which grants you premium access, or you can opt to continue paying the monthly subscription of $14.99 which grants you legendary access.

So what's the difference? Well, for starters legendary access obviously nets you more perks. Such as additional character slots for a total of 16, all available DLC for free, 60 inventory slots, 48 bank slots, 20 auction slots, the ability to form Leagues, the ability to trade items and cash, unlimited in-game currency, 1 vault ticket per day, and the full range of social options.

Premium access is unlocked once you've spent a total of $5.00 or more on in-game items. Premium access nets you 6 total character slots, 42 inventory slots, 24 bank slots, 5 auction slots, the ability to join Leagues, the ability to trade items only, up to $2000 in-game currency, 1 vault ticket per 3 days, proximity voice chat, and up to 6 text messages per 30 seconds.

Free access is available to everyone and includes the base game as well (making the entire experience 100% absolutely free), but is pretty limiting. You only get 2 character slots, 28 inventory slots, 12 bank slots, no auction slots, the ability to join Leagues, cannot trade, up to $1500 in-game currency, 1 vault ticket per week, and 6 text messages per 30 seconds.

You can view a hand dandy chart here.

You can play as either a hero or a villain. The choice you make will drastically alter the story of the game as you play. If you are playing PVP, this will mean you can freely attack members of the opposite faction in the world when you come across them. Naturally, I made a villain.

Meet Robot Teacher's Assistant! Evil sidekick to Dr. Professor.
Don't put too much thought into whether you really want to commit to possibly being ganked while questing or miss out on PVP entirely forever. You can freely switch between PVP and PVE at your factional headquarters at the Phase Shifter. It works like any other teleport pad in the game except it switches you from PVE to PVP or from PVP to PVE instead of physically changing your location.

This is handy if, say, you'd like to complete a quest but are finding it all but impossible due to an excessive amount of PVP. This usually isn't because people are just griefing twats though, fact of the matter is that most quests in the game share areas cross-faction. In example in one villain quest you are stealing civilian souls, but the hero version of that same quest line has them defending civilians in the same spot. You will run into PVP a lot, which makes questing more exciting, but at times may slow your progress since you're too busy fighting actual people to fight the NPCs you need.

You may also find yourself separate from friends if you login. Don't worry, you can play together. The game creates instances of areas and covertly dumps you into them based on population  at the time to make your play experience run more smoothly. If you and your pal can't see eachother, form a group and then sync phases.

Anyway, let's review things.

Character customization is a very precise process which will allow you to truly diversify your character's appearance. Unless you're copying a DC character, you're unlikely to come across another person who looks exactly as you do. You can also change your costume and color palette in-game after creation at any time. So if you later decide that bondage mask was a bad idea, you aren't stuck with it. You should also be aware that the options present at character creation are only the base of what will later be available to you. Throughout the game you will discover and unlock a plethora of new styles to further customize your ideal costume.

You start out with a series of choices. Gender, physical build, power type, transportation method, weapon specialization, and mentor. Some of these are obvious, the others I'll explain briefly. Transportation will dictate how you traverse the DC world. Your options are flight, super-speed and acrobatics. Power type defines your super powers. Things like telekinesis, gadgets, ice, fire, and magic can be expected. Lastly, your mentor will determine where in the world you start out and a bit of your story arch. Each has their own area of expertise. As a hero you can choose Batman, Superman, or Wonder Woman. As a villain your choices are The Joker, Lex Luthor, or Circe.

There is a lot of controversy about the control set-up being too 'console' in the PC version of the game. Most of these complaints seem to be from people who expected DC Universe Online to be an MMORPG. But like I've already mentioned -- that's not what it is. Anyone who has ever played an action game on their computer will find the controls similar to that. WASD for movement, mouse look, 1-6 for actions, 7 uses consumables, and 8 fires your trinket if you have one equipped. Left mouse is used to perform melee attacks and right mouse is used to perform ranged attacks. Hitting them in various tapping and holding combinations will perform styles you've specced into. Tab cycles through nearby enemies, Ctrl loots, spacebar jumps, and Shift is used to break crowd control. Pretty basic stuff there.

The game itself is visually impressive. The environment is immersing, with locales such as Metropolis and Gotham City fully explorable. It's reminiscent of MxO's game world, which I gave a glowing review of back in the day. Unfortunately SoE has a difficult time maintaining IP licenses and The Matrix Online no longer exists, so you'll just have to take my word for it.

The soundtrack is fitting for the world and whatever you happen to be doing in it and it seems as though every NPC in the game is fully voice acted. For better or worse. Some of the voice acting is top notch. Some, not so much. That seems to often be the case, though.

The gameplay, once you're accustomed to it, is intuitive and entertaining. Keep in mind, once again, that it is not an MMORPG. It is an action game. So it will play differently than what you are used to if you're coming from the typical MMO background. No auto-attack and no sticky targetting (not to be confused with target lock, you can lock targets).

Stability is something of an issue currently as SoE merged all of the servers together. Why? I don't know. Merging them all together seems excessive no matter how poorly sales might have been. I guess they like making their playerbase angry (SWG, anyone?). But I digress.

You have EU-PVP and EU-PVE which is effectually a single server and US-PVP and US-PVE which is also a single server. Characters however cannot interact with eachother unless they choose the same server type. While those playing PVP are on the same server as those playing PVE, they're invisible to one another. This causes population problems during peak hours where you'll either find yourself waiting in a queue to login, or find yourself suddenly staring at your desktop when the server crashes. If you're playing for free though, you can't really complain too much. As a legendary access member you'd probably be livid though.

In addition to world PVP (if you play PVP) there are also battlegrounds you can queue up for. Be forewarned though, BGs were clearly an afterthought in this game. Once you die in a battleground you must wait upwards of 7 minutes to respawn, which means you basically lose if your team dies because the whole round only lasts about 15 minutes total. There also seems to be some issues with leaving a BG once you're inside of it. I got trapped for a good 4 additional minutes last night and then once I was finally able to leave my client crashed. So, queue at your own risk. They have fixed the BGs and they are now quite fun to partake in. Queue up while questing and it really breaks up the grind to 30 (level cap btw). Since the game is skill based and not so much level based, this means you can join the fight at any time and still stand toe-to-toe against even cap level players.


Summary? The game is definitely fun too play, even given the inconveniences caused by over-crowding. Since it's free, I see no reason why  you wouldn't play it, unless you're short on HD space. The game is large. 17 gigs off of steam and 14 gigs if you download it from the official website.

P.S. Don't judge the game based upon my screenshot. My laptop is atrocious and my graphical game settings reflect that.

Edit: I love it when I feel my review of something has been justified. DCUO was voted MMO of the Year shortly after this was written!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Mercy Killing

As many of you know, I keep a pet snail named Pumpkin Cadash. I've had her since she was a baby, so little you had to be extra careful picking her up or you'd accidentally squish her. She's now almost an inch in diameter. Moved up from a small glass jar to a half gallon terrarium complete with substrate, rocks to eat off of (keeps the veggies out of the loam), and a fake plant for exercise. She leads a happy snail life.

Last night Aaron went to the office to drop off our rent. He confessed when he returned that he had accidentally stepped on a snail. I could see he felt really bad about it, probably more because he knew it made me sad. He explained that he saw a snail on the sidewalk that looked like it had crossed the entire parking lot to get there (they are usually confined to the little park-like area beneath our bedroom window). Out of curiosity he was maneuvering around trying to see its trail in the streetlights. So preoccupied with this task was he, that he failed to notice the second snail in the crack of the pavement. Crunch!

I asked him if he thought it was minor or severe, because snails can theoretically survive without their shell so long as the shards hadn't impaled its soft innards, or the pressure hadn't crushed its body entirely. He replied that it was pretty bad and that he stepped on him again after-the-fact out of mercy. The only kindness he could offer it after having mashed it into the sidewalk. We presumed it dead. I pouted all night, though it was the right thing to do.

This morning after finally crawling out of bed around 9:00 AM, I made myself some coffee and got dressed. I then went to the office to put our Netflix in the outbox.  It's remarkably chillier than I had thought it would be and my long-sleeve shirt wasn't enough to keep me cozy, so I walked quickly. I dropped off the DVD, made small talk with the property manager, and headed back. That's when it caught my eye -- the snail Aaron had stepped on last night in the crack of the pavement -- STILL ALIVE. Writhing around in the cold, fractured remnants of its own shell. I was mortified.

That shiny part is his exposed insides.
I immediately scooped him up and brought him back with me. Aside from the obvious, he seemed well enough. The weight of Aaron's foot had not caused internal bleeding and by the looks of it, he had narrowly escaped being impaled by his own shell as well. The only dangers he faced were baking in the sun, being eaten by an animal, or freezing to death. I rinsed him off under some tepid water to warm him up and carefully removed all of the loose shell fragments. I then hunted down the jar Pumpkin used to call home and lined it with shredded cabbage and ground egg shell (excellent source of calcium). I doubt he'll feel much like eating any time soon, but cabbage is one of my snail's favorites, so I figure if anything could serve as an enticer cabbage would probably be it.

So long as he wasn't left out in the cold for too long, I think he may pull through. It'll take time, but if I can encourage him to consume enough calcium daily he should be able to rebuild his shell. If so I can release him back into the wild. If not, he'll need to be kept in captivity perpetually otherwise he'll be eaten.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

You Have Probably Noticed

Unless you are completely unobservant you have probably noticed the addition of adverts on this blog. I feel obligated to say a few things about this just so none of you get the wrong idea. This is not Google's doing. I wasn't forced to include them or anything like that. I added them by choice. Therefor when you click on them I, personally, am receiving a portion of the revenue. So don't misunderstand and assume this was done against my will and I don't get anything out of it. That isn't the case.

Let me be clear here though, this is not me asking you to click on them. Click on them only if you want to. It just seemed like a number of you were writing me concerned about what Google was doing to my blog. I probably should have said something sooner, but I wasn't aware it was going to raise such concerns. Thanks for watching my back though. I do appreciate it.

I wish I had a little more control over what you see, but for now it is what it is. For the most part it seems to randomly generate ads based on the content of my blogs. So you may see anything from advertisements for colleges to advertisements for zoos depending on what entry you're reading. I've taken a minimalist approach as not to detract from the content you enjoy. All the ads seen here are safe and I will never add intrusive adverts, such as pop-ups or ones that move, so rest assured.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

About Halloween

On Halloween we dressed up and passed out candy to Trick-or-Treaters. Which was a strange experience. Trick-or-treating is a lot different these days. Due to the paranoia parents have on behalf of their children in any adult's company other than their own, kids can go no where unchaperoned. Which is fine. I understand the world is a scary place and there are plenty of dangerous people in it.

What's not fine is the parent's laziness drastically impacting their children. Ultimately making them lazy too. You cannot forbid your children to leave the house without you and then refuse to leave the house because you'd rather sit around getting fatter.

Not too pick on obese people (that happens enough I'm sure), but most of the guilty parties last evening fit that category and I doubt it was by coincidence. Sure, some obese people have legitimate health problems but those from last evening just seem to be lazy sods. And before those of you with 'a little more to love' get your panties in a knot, I'm not talking about you. I'm talking about actual fatty fat-fats who are fat solely because they're too lazy to get up and move any distance greater than from work to car and from car to sofa. There's nothing wrong with having a little more cushion for the pushin'. The issue I have isn't with heavy people, it's with lazy people. These folk just happened to be both.

If you've taken offense to this, you're probably furiously trying to justify your laziness right now. Don't bother. If you want to prove you aren't a lazy person, the best thing to do is to just stop behaving like a lazy person. Telling people you aren't lazy isn't going to do much to improve your image if you still insist on using a remote to find your remote to avoid having to get up and search.

Despite all of the children outside we still have this much candy left over:

Oh well, all mine!
Why? Because a bunch of rotund mothers chaperoning their children would just stand in the middle of the courtyard breathing heavily while their children fruitlessly went door-to-door downstairs pleading for candy from people who weren't even participating. To make it worse, when kids noticed the signs upstairs, their parents would call them back before they could get halfway up the steps on their own. Because going all the way up would put them out of view.
Not pregnant. Just fat.
You know how to solve that problem? Use your ham-feet to move your ass closer. This is why the ratio of thin people to fat people has been in steady decline since the 90's. Your laziness should never impact your child's activity level. Once you cross that line, you've gone too far. Congratulations, now your kids are fat too.

"Wait, you guys spent Halloween passing out candy to children?" Why yes, yes we did!

You're right though, typically this time of year we wind up at a costume party out of town. However due to an over-abundance of adult responsibilities and Halloween being on a Monday, we just had a get-together with friends right here at home on Saturday. The idea was to drink and watch really bad horror movies that we could all make fun of, but we wound up skipping the horror movies altogether and watching youtube videos of Swedish men preparing food instead. Which, incidentally, is exactly what happens when Aaron has class and I'm left to cook for myself.

This got me thinking though. Not the youtube videos, but our get together. Halloween as an adult is pretty much exactly like Halloween as a child, only it's no longer acceptable for you to go door-to-door begging for food. Otherwise you celebrate the day in basically the same two ways.

As a child you either: attend a costume party or watch scary movies at a slumber party.
As an adult you either: attend a costume party or have a horror movie marathon where you will likely end up staying the night due to inebriation. So it may as well be a slumber party.

I find this concept of sameness kind of amazing because I can't really think of any other holiday where you celebrate the same way regardless of age. Except, perhaps, Thanksgiving but that doesn't count. All you do is stuff your face on Thanksgiving and most kids actually loathe the day as, "That stupid holiday that gets in the way before Christmas." Or Hanukkah, depending.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Overreaction

Normally it is pretty difficult to gross me out. I'm not squeamish in the least bit. Blood, gaping wounds, corpses, etc, etc.; none of it really bothers me. I mean, I'm the girl who at the age of ten wanted to be a coroner when she grew up. Just to give you an idea of how bizarrely okay I am with situations one would typically react to poorly.

Oh, hey. Is that a dead body? Neat.
Until this morning.

Just before the weekend, Aaron's mother gave him a recipe for tasty fried corn fritters. One of the ingredients is a cup of corn kernels. The recipe says you can add more or less depending on preference, so for our first batch Aaron used half a cup. The recipe also states to, "BEWARE OF EXPLODING KERNELS!" Because apparently when you rapidly heat corn kernels in just such a way, they may explode sending scalding oil and corn bits all over the kitchen like a carpet bomb. Our frying however went down safely.

The fritters were indeed very good, but could have used more corn. Fast forward to Sunday. We decide to make the tasty fritters again, this time with chopped up jalapeno and a full cup of corn kernels. Everything is going fine. Aaron and I are chatting in the kitchen when POP! A kernel explodes, soaring across the kitchen three feet and hitting him in the face. In the freaking face! It stung, but luckily the kernel had cooled enough mid-air to not actually burn him. Thank goodness. Okay, we confirm, more corn does in fact mean explosions.

He proceeds with caution. The rest of the fritters are fried up without major incidence. Then, as he moves in to scoop out the very last fritter, POP! Another kernel explodes, right beneath his hand coating his fingers in boiling hot oil. Immediately the skin on his ring and pinky finger blisters and sloughs off. He thrusts his hand into running water and I'm pretty sure there was a string of expletives involved. It's a bad burn, but not one that warrants a hospital, so we take care of it at home: a shot of whiskey, burn cream, gauze pads and gauze.

This morning we wake up and the ooze has soaked through the pads and the gauze. He needs to change the bandages. I was there as his skin blistered off and even helped him cut away the left-over dead skin that hadn't come off on its own and I was fine. However, watching him painstakingly peel the pads from the wound this morning invoked in me such a violent internal reaction that I had to leave the room. If I didn't gtfo right then and there and lay down for a minute, I was going to boat.

If I don't go away right now, I'll die.
I've never had that reaction to anything before. It was such a surreal experience. Under usual circumstances the only things that could cause that manner of response in me are actual physical stimuli. Such as a virus, bacteria, or spinning in circles for too long. Luckily he was able to tend the wound on his own today, because honestly I'm not sure I could have helped him.

Once I had calmed myself down enough to where I didn't think I would spew uncontrollably, the mere thought of going back into the restroom to assist caused the reaction a second time. I wasn't even actually in the room! The wound isn't even that gross. I have no idea what the hell the problem is.

Edit: Oh, for #$%@'s sake. Proof reading this before posting it made me nauseous again. What the crap?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Varying Degrees of Surprise

Between almost clocking Aaron in the face with a frying pan and Rose sending me an unexpected gift; Saturday was full of surprises. You're probably wanting me to explain why I almost bludgeoned my fiancee to death with a cooking utensil, but I'll get to that later. I'm doing things my way And my way involves addressing Rose first. Nothing you can do about it.

So we're all cozy on the sofa watching episodes of Torchwood on Netflix when there's a knock at the door. Neither Aaron nor myself had ordered anything, I was fairly sure, and the package my mom had sent from back East arrived on Thursday. So I was really curious as to who could be out there. I suspected it was another Mormon. They go door-to-door out here like Jehovah's Witnesses, which I thought was weird but apparently it's common place to the natives.

As an aside, I like to think that mentioning things like The Doctor and Torchwood will cause the FBI or the CIA to show up. :3

Anyway, so Aaron gets up and opens the door and lo' and behold: it's a package! For me. Wait. What? It's clearly not from Aaron and both my mother and my grandfather are on a cruise in the middle of the ocean... Therefor it's obviously not their doing either. Who is it from? Rose. A friend of mine who used to live here before I did, but then moved East around the same exact time that I moved West. Inside is a lovely set of jewelry in shades of orange, yellow, and bronze. Anyone who knows anything knows I adore the color orange, so I was understandably happy about this.

And confused.
Not until several hours later would I even pause to consider that I hadn't given Rose my address. So I turn to Aaron, who at this point is sitting at his desk behind mine playing Might & Magic: Heroes VI, and just as I'm about to accuse Rose of being related to David Blaine he reads my expression (or maybe my mind) and tells me he'd sneakily given it to her. NINJAS!

So yeah, cool surprise from 2000 miles away.

Now as to why I almost beat my fiance to death: it was self defense! Or rather, ill-conceived self defense. He was in the shower, or so I thought, and I was peacefully washing dishes. After about ten minutes or so of this, out of the corner of my eye I see movement! From the general area of the front door! My mind immediately places Aaron as 'in the shower' and perceives the movement as some sort of outside threat. An intruder!

Hide yo' kids. Hide yo' wife.

I turn to look my assailant in the eye, unlike most girls whose reaction is to tightly shut their eyes and swing blindly in the general direction of their attacker. Lucky for fiancee. Recognition took place half an instant before I struck him in the face with a soapy frying pan. Only thing worse than a face full of hard metal? Probably a face full of hard metal AND soap in your eyes.

It doesn't end there. Later we would be surprised again. We had set up an impromptu Halloween party late in the week at our place, since scheduling conflicts prevented anything being set into motion sooner. We weren't sure if anyone would be coming or not, honestly, because all of the invites were accepted tentatively. Participation depending on previous plans, work, school, and family obligations. So at around 7:00 PM we decided to just settle down with some homemade spaghetti, a bottle of red wine, and watch something.

Sometime after 8:00 PM there was a loud and unexpected POUNDING at our door. We were mutually startled! Aaron lept up from the sofa, rushed to the door and locked it. Just in case. Looking through the peep hole revealed none other than our pals Josh and Emil outside. Laughing at our fright. Incidentally, due to earlier circumstance, the pounding at the door was twice as concerning than it would have been normally.

Normally we would have just attributed it to a cranky neighbor, coming to complain about noise or something. Not that we were making noise, and not that people complain often. But this had happened once before. Aaron and I were both quietly reading and our neighbor started pounding to tell us to keep it down. So it wouldn't be far-fetched for them to think actual sound was too loud.

Instead, due to a mysteriously circling police helicopter earlier our minds reacted as follows:
Aaron's mind -- there's an escaped convict trying to bust down our door!
My mind -- the police are about to raid our apartment thinking we're harboring a fugitive!

Not sure why our trains of thought were so different, yet related. My being more fearful of the police than an escaped murderer is probably indicative of something...

...

The night after this point was mostly just entertaining tomfoolery, pumpkin beer, and delicious raspberry tart. We never actually got around to our Horror Movie Marathon, but that's okay. Youtube proved funny enough.

Tomorrow we plan to open our door to trick-or-treaters with a bowl full of fruit just to mess with them. Those who stick around will get actual candy. We bought something like five bags of the stuff. Not the cheap kind, either. Tasty, tasty chocolate. We were going to scare the crap out of them by opening the door to me crab-walking at them like some terrible creature from a Japanese horror film, but I guess at some point I hurt my shoulder. No crab-walking for me.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Things Worth Buying At Trader Joe's

I used to follow a blog which was supposed to be dedicated to good finds at Trader Joe's. However all of their reviews, for some reason, were 3 stars and under. Which isn't really what's good at all. It's more like, "Here some mediocre items and other things you should not bother buying from Trader Joe's." Not exactly helpful.

So I stopped following that blog and decided to just start a list here (in no particular order) referencing all of the things which are actually worth buying at Trader Joe's. This list is not all inclusive -- I will continue to add items whenever I discover something new that's so delectable I endorse it to the entire planet. Be sure to check back. (Updated: 12/09/12)

I'll even break it up into sections for you.

Sweet:
  • Trader Joe's Clover Blossom Honey
  • Trader Joe's Deep, Dark Gingerbread Cake & Baking Mix 
  • Trader Joe's Pecan Pie Ice Cream
  • Pilgrim Joe's Pumpkin Ice Cream
  • Trader Joe's Crunch Black & White Rice Rolls
  • Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Wafer Cookies.
  • Trader Joe's Vanilla Meringues
  • Trader Joe's Sugar Snap Peas
  • Mikawaya Mochi Ice Cream 
  • Trader Joe's Maple & Brown Sugar Instant Oatmeal 
  • Trader Joe's Speculoos 
  • Trader Joe's Sugar, Chocolate & Coffee Bean Grinder 
  • Trader Joe's Journey To The Center of The Cookie
 Savory:
  • Trader Joe's Baked Rice Snack (Yaki Onigiri)
  • Trader Joe's Edamame Hummus 
  • Arabian Joe's Middle Eastern Flatbread
  • Trader Joe's Multi Grain Croissants
  • Trader Joe's Mini Croissants
  • Trader Joe's Wasabi Peas 
  • Calbee Snack Salad Snapea Crisps 
  • Trader Joe's Bite Size Everything Crackers
  • Trader Joe's Raisin Rosemary Crisps
Beverages:
  • Trader Joe's Irish Breakfast Tea
  • Trader Joe's Spicy Chai Latte
  • Trader Joe's Spiced Apple Cider
Alcoholic:
  • Trader Jose's Dark Lager

And there you have it.

As far as produce, you're really better off buying those things elsewhere. The asking price is high for little return. The produce I get from the modest Russian market down the street is every bit as tasty as the produce available from Trader Joe's and costs upwards of 90% less. That's a pretty steep difference. As a bonus, it's family grown, locally.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

At First Sight

No, this isn't a blog about love. It's a blog about a pencil. Not like my other blog about pencils. This is different. Entirely. My bank switched credit card companies and I was sent a new card. It needed to be signed. While blue or black ink is considered "legal" in the department of legal inks, I prefer black for signing my credit cards because it matches everything. Yes. I realize how absurd and trivial that sounds. But so what? So I want my credit cards to match. Shut your face-gap.

My desk is mostly filled with art supplies. Graphite, pigment liners, charcoal, gum erasers, paint, etc., etc. I have a single ball pointe pen in my possession and it happens to be blue. So I turned to Aaron's desk. He has a ton of things residing in his drawers. Highlighters, pens, pencils, rulers, staplers, staples, protractors and compasses, and more staple removers than one human could possibly ever use at once. Seriously, if ever you need a staple removed, call my fiancee.

I figured he probably had a black ball point pen in there someplace as well. Only he didn't.

Everything but what I needed.
Instead I saw a pencil. An ancient-looking Pentech #2 pencil that had been sharpened but never used, judging by the pristine state of the eraser. I was instantly compelled to use it. Only I didn't know what to use it for. On hand I only had my pocket composition notebook and I didn't really have anything that needed writing. Yet I still really wanted to use this pencil. Like, really, really.

Okay, now what?
I sat there like this for some time, just tapping the lead against my paper perpetually. As if that would lead me to some profound statement to write down and share. I was certain that this method would work and soon produce a lifestyle-altering message for the world when I realized I was hungry and that the laundry was done. So you get this.

Happy kitty has to count for something.
Your life will never be the same after this, I know. Sorry for getting your hopes up. But last time I left the laundry sit too long I had to spend thirty minutes laying on my clothing before putting it on to press out the wrinkles with my body heat because we do not own an iron. Which is really a brilliant idea, when you pause to think about it... Stop judging me.

It wrote very nicely though. I have not used an old fashioned wooden #2 pencil since middle school. I had forgotten how smooth and thick the lines made by them are. +Pencil Appreciation+
People who didn't play pre-NGE SWG won't get that reference.

The end.