Wednesday, March 28, 2012


I'm going to just go ahead and throw this rant out here before my head explodes. I'm sure you've all dealt with it enough to know what I mean, even if not quite to the same extent.

There's something about the whole Captcha system that will just never get along with me. I appreciate the effort to cut back on the amount of spam we see on the internet, but it's getting somewhat out of hand. Why should I have to prove that I am a human every time I want to say anything? I had to prove I was a human to create an account to begin with, why isn't that enough? Must I prove my humanity every time I type? Here's a fact: it lowers every time I have to type a Captcha.

Whose idea was this?!

To make matters worse, most Captcha systems are so bad that I actually need someone else to sit down at my desk and type them in for me. Recent advances have done little to absolve my issues. Captcha too convoluted to actually read? Click this button for audio Captcha! Not very helpful to a deaf person, sorry. As I sit here helplessly rolling my face across my keyboard in an effort to login, whatever I had to say is lost to frustration. My time would've been better spent typing to myself in Wordpad and then hitting delete.

Were they actual words, at the very least I could make out whatever letters I was able to and then use my autism powers to figure out what the hell it is I'm expected to type in. But they aren't actually words, not usually, so I've no way to solve the puzzle.

Is there a particular need to smoosh it all together unintelligibly? Are lines, spots, and shadows really doing anything except pissing people off? What's with the Captchas that are multiple colors? Do you know what that crap looks like to a color blind person? It looks like a fucking Matisse! Chill out, guys. We're not trying to combat Skynet or Cylons here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

False Sense of Security

I'd like to preface this by saying it is not typical for me to be left stranded places, but sometimes shit happens. I have a late class 8:00PM - 10:00 PM twice a week. Campus is also only a mile or so from home, so the term stranded is used loosely here. Also tales in which there are an enraged Inari are rare, so they should be shared. With that out of the way, here's the story.

So last night, as with every Monday, I went to class. The plan, as with every Monday, is that after class Aaron would pick me up so that I do not have to walk home alone. This was especially imperative last night as I spent the better part of the day rolling around on the floor miserable and sick. Not to mention that it is, in general, a terrible idea for a young woman to go walking alone so late after dark in any city and ours is no exception. Even in as nice of an area as we live. On top of that, it was cold since out here temperatures dip well under the 50's after sunset, even in the summer and expecting my ride to be there in a timely fashion -- I was not bundled half as well as I should've been.

I was sick enough that even despite my flawless attendance record at college, I was entertaining the idea of staying home. Unfortunately, my professor is a man of rebellious nature who does not believe in keeping schedules. On a plus note this means he does not mind if you are late or even absent entirely. On the negative this means I had no idea when the midterm exam will be. I tried to send him an email to find out, but as a terrible hippy, he apparently doesn't much bother with things like reading his business email prior to business. In short: I had to go to class.

So to class I went, only to discover the exam would be later in the week. Since I was already there, I decided to just seclude myself in a corner as to not spread my plague and tough it out. Class always wraps up at about 9:45PM, so I sent Aaron a text to come get me and headed for the parking lot. For whatever reason, he always arrives around 10:00PM anyway so as the minutes passed I really thought nothing of it. Then however more minutes passed.

And more.

And then more...

Bringing the time to 10:30PM. I sent a few other texts, but all went unanswered. Now I have to make this clear: had this not happened once before, I would not have been mad at him. A few weeks ago he had fallen asleep and left me stranded on a particularly cold night for over half an hour, but I couldn't really blame him for falling asleep. People get tired. They fall asleep. I figured AFTER that incident however that he would at least, in the future, have the foresight to keep his phone on or near him just in case. But yeah, apparently not.

I started texting a friend of mine to pass the time before finally deciding to pick myself up off the curb, cross the vast now-empty parking lot, and walk home. Livid. The combination of being sick, exhausted, and famished was enough to make the mere prospect bring me to seethe. The fact that Aaron was fully aware of these three things set me to a boiling inner rage. I dared some transient to try to mug me. I was going to ruin their fucking night with a combination of relentless feet to the groin and mace.

During my trek of anger I kept in contact with my friend just in case. So someone would be conscious and aware of my absence if worse came to pass. I grew up in Detroit. You make the best of a dangerous situation. However narrow the prospect of danger may actually be.

About halfway I get a call. It's Aaron, who is by the sound of it getting in the car right then. I bark at him that, "I'M WALKING!" and consider hanging up. Thus was my rage. However he sounds apologetic enough that I agree to just stay where I am so he can come get me. I was pissed off, not unreasonable. This was a calculated fury, not blind.

Earlier in the day we had made plans to go out together to get some dinner after class, so he extends that offer. As mad as I am though, hunger is far from my mind and I insist I just want a can of soup. At home. He also extends the offer to let me punch him, but I refuse out of fear that I may somehow damage him irreparably with my spindly noodle-arms.

At the turn-off to the road which leads to home, he stops the car to ask me again if I'm sure I don't want something else. Pho, to-go, perhaps. Hm...

I had wanted pho earlier, being sick and all, but did not want to sit in a restaurant angry and sick. Take-out hadn't been something I considered. I hesitate a moment before agreeing to go to our favorite pho place, that just so happens to be open late, and get some pho to-go. On the way and in the waiting area he continues to be apologetic enough that my rage has simmered down to a quiet seething once more and when he offers to walk with me across the street to get an Icee and whatever else of my choosing, while our order is being cooked for us at the pho place. I find my altogether bad mood lifted enough by this point to find this arrangement acceptable and we head across the street to the convenience store where I get a Coke, a large cherry flavored Icee, a little tub of icecream, and cookies with brightly colored M&M's baked into them.

Prize in hand, safely accompanied and ready to return home with our food, we cross back across the street and Aaron heads inside to pick up our order. I unlock the car to get in. That's when the creepiest creepy hobo staggers up behind me, totally obliterating personal space, and rasps something unintelligible at me. The dimly lit parking lot does little to make this situation anything other than something you see on an episode of America's Most Wanted, so I'm kind of eager to make him go the hell away.

I assume the guy is asking for money, since that is what they always ask for, and inform him that I have no cash on me. Normally that isn't enough to placate them though and they either continue to hassle you or become belligerent, neither of which I wanted in the dark, so I reasoned that I had no money because Aaron had taken all the money into the restaurant with him. The guy had seen Aaron leave my side to go into the restaurant. This seems to work and the guy goes staggering off toward the pho place. I climb into the car and lock myself in.

Talk about a false sense of security. Granted, Aaron was fully prepared to come back outside when he noticed the guy had cornered me. But still. How ironic that my whole lonely abandoned experience, where I should have been in the most peril, turned out to be the time of the night up to this point where I was safest. wtf?

The rest of the night was pleasantly uneventful. We returned home, ate pho, watched Netflix on the sofa and then I curled up in a ball and fell asleep on the floor of the computer room. Perhaps tonight I'll break open the icecream, I think I'm feeling well enough now.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Zenni Optical

Today's the day I finally get around to writing this blog for you guys. I know I promised it like, three days ago, but then Star Wars happened. (That's an acceptable excuse right?) This is a review of my recent purchase from Zenni Optical.

As most of you know, I wear glasses -- even though I forget them more often than not. I don't have a reliable case for my glasses and only had a single pair, so unless I planned to keep them on my face at all times, it was kind of a bad idea to casually drag them with me places. To make matters worse, my health insurance only covers a single pair of glasses every ten years. Which means between the day I get my glasses and the ten years after that I damned well better be really careful with them.

To make matters worse, the frames covered by my insurance are inexcusable to anyone who does not live in a TARDIS. We're talking throw-backs not from the 90's, but the 80's. Thick round things in shades of taupe and faux animal horn. I could probably get away with wearing them, since I'm rather well known for my not giving a shit, but I shouldn't have to. Besides looking hideous, they're also heavy. With my tiny nose, heavy glasses just won't work as they'll simply slide right off my face.

Luckily the last time I went to the optometrist, the guy was super nice and gave me an employee discount so that I could get these frames:
Nothing fancy.

Rather than these frames:
What the fuck?

And they still cost me about $150 out of pocket. That's with just a regular lens and no fancy coatings such as scratch-resistant or anti-glare. So you can perhaps comprehend why I don't want to take them on vacation with me. If I forget them, or drop them off of a boat, I don't really have the cash to replace them. That's when a friend of mine suggested I look into a website she had heard about through an acquaintance.

Zenni Optical.

Now, I was extremely hesitant about this service at first because you could allegedly buy a pair of glasses for $6. If that doesn't make you skeptical in this day and age, you might have something wrong with you. So I hesitated for a while and then couldn't get my optometrist from back East to give me my prescription, so I hesitated a while more. Then I finally just went and got my prescription renewed out here and went ahead and bit the bullet.

I chose frames on the cheap end, just in case I was about to get screwed out of my money, and input my information. My total, with anti-glare coating, came out to be under $15 which also included shipping. I fully expected that at this juncture, I would pay them and then never hear from the company again. Which wouldn't have been a huge loss. I paid by credit card and could easily reverse the charges if I had to. It isn't rocket science.

About twelve days later however my package arrived. In it my new glasses, a cleaning cloth, and a case. Not bad considering I paid less than I would for a fast food meal. The glasses look nice, certainly like I paid more than $6 for the frames, and seem hardy enough. The anti-glare coating actually makes them easier to see with than the pair I paid $150 for. All in all, this is a website that I will be using again and would recommend to any of you who wear glasses.

As for the shopping experience, the hardest part (aside from picking which frames I wanted as there is quite a wide selection) was deciphering my eye prescription and measuring my own PD -- which is the distance between your pupils measured from the center of each. The prescription I decoded with help from Wikipedia and the PD was easily handled since the website itself has a guide to assist you in getting an accurate measurement. Even so I was still a little nervous, mostly about my prescription being entered incorrectly, but when the glasses arrived I could see out of them perfectly, so Wikipedia must've managed to explain it all well enough.

In summary: Zenni Optical is an easy to use website with fantastic selection and pricing. There's really no reason not to order from them if you wear glasses. If you've ordered from Zenni Optical yourself, whether due to this review or on your own, I'd love to hear about your experience.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Surprise Racism

So thanks to the limits of health insurance, despite not being better, today was my last day of physical therapy. This meant that aside from getting a massage and electrode-therapy for my neck and shoulder, I also got to have another on-on-one evaluation with the therapist.

She is a middle-aged woman, one of the only American-born, English-speaking people employed there. None of which is important until a little later in the story.

She and I see eye to eye on a lot in regards to her place of employment. On any given day she is having a bad day due to the general rudeness of the secretarial staff she has to put up with. Mostly, they seem to treat her poorly because she does not speak Russian and they feel that she should. This bothers her because we're in America and she's an American -- why should she be expected to learn Russian? Kind of understandable. It also bothers her because she's a DOCTOR and they're fucking secretaries.

Now, at no point does she imply that all Russians are assholes, otherwise I wouldn't agree with the sentiment at all. It's specifically the people she works with who are assholes and they just happen to be Russian.

Every time I speak with her, we discuss the inefficiency and poor behavior of the staff. For instance, how when I needed my medication refilled, they put me on hold for over two hours and then never bothered picking up the line again. How I had to go through withdrawal not once, but twice due to the complete incompetency of the secretarial staff to do their job properly. Inexcusable really when your job consists of: answer the phone and pass on messages. In this case they were wholly incapable of accepting the fax from the pharmacy and giving it to my doctor to reauthorize the refill and fax back. They didn't even have to use their mouth-holes. They just had to pick up a piece of paper and hand it to someone else.

I guess this understanding between her and I lead her to some sense of comradery with me that I honestly would've rather avoided. Since it wound up leaving me speechless and feeling really awkward. Basically what happened is we went from casually lamenting the terrible work ethic of the office staff, to me uncomfortably nodding to a remarkably racist rant, culminating in her proclamation that she'd be voting for Santorum.

So what exactly did she say? Paraphrasing here, because it makes me feel dirty... her first issue was that we've got a black president who wants to turn America into a black country. Whatever the hell that even means. A country where she, a white woman, would be paying health insurance on top of taxes for the have-nots. I'm not sure where she got the idea that "Obamacare" would force her to not only continue paying her personal health insurance premium but mine and everyone else's too AND higher taxes came from, but this is what she thought. And if this is what people think then I can now understand why so many people are so adamantly opposed: they're flipping idiots.

She then went on to say that we'll be in another war soon because America is controlled by Jews and the Jews of Israel are appealing to us for help with Iran right now, despite the fact that they can handle that shit themselves because they have about two dozen nuclear warheads of their own. Her words, not mine. Jews are warmongers who're about to ruin the world. This very evening by the sound of her concern. There are quite a few issues I take with this, aside from the racism. Primarily that she thinks a country should solve their disputes with nuclear warfare rather than asking for help. If that's how the people of the world solved all their problems, there wouldn't be any people of the world.

She then proceeds to place all of her faith in Santorum to fix things. The whole time I'm just smiling and nodding because I'm so flabbergasted by the surprise racism that I don't know what the shit else to do. Not that I was afraid to stand up and oppose her blatantly racist remarks, but I was just so completely shocked to be hearing them in the first place I was stunned into silence. It's honestly one of the weirdest situations I've ever found myself in the middle of, and that is saying a lot.

No, man! We are not racist BFF's. I just think the staff in your office are douchebags. Why are you telling me all this crap?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Friday, March 2, 2012

So, FFXIV...

This is going to seem terribly delayed, considering how long ago the game came out, but if we've learned anything it's that a) I am a slacker and in general b) time means absolutely nothing to me. Perhaps I was simply waiting for my opinion to be justified, but it's more likely that I simply tried to block the experience out to the best of my ability. Because honestly, playing it was a lot like witnessing a horrible crime.

With the news recently that worlds (servers) are being forcibly merged due to population deficiency, I felt it was about due. Maybe because my harsh review seemed more justified now than it did before? I don't know. Anyway...

I'll preface this by saying, I could only stomach the game for roughly a week during beta. Mind you it was the final build in beta, only several days prior to retail launch so Square should've had their shit together. I presumed they would take what they had with FFXI and build/improve from there. That is not however what they did at all. It seems that for some reason or another they decided instead to start from scratch, rush, and then leave everything half-assed.

Let's begin with character creation. First things first -- this shit's weird. The arrow keys will filter through your menu options and do nothing to control the camera. For that you need to awkwardly use J, K, L, and I. Why? I don't have any flipping idea. But there you go. You're welcome. I probably just saved you a good three minutes of, "wtf???"

You have five races to choose from in FFXIV: Hyur (human), Miqo'te (cat-girl), Lalafell (elf-gnome-thing), Elzen (elves), and Roegaydn (man-beast). Each of those has two additional clan options with slight variances such skintone and starting attributes, but ultimately it doesn't seem to particularly matter a whole lot. Also some clans don't allow you to be certain genders so the whole thing feels a little last minute to me and I can't be assed to get into it in any amount of detail.

Selecting individual features is pretty lackluster, with no color wheels or true sliders to speak of. At the time in which I played there were, for example: five height options, three voice options, anywhere between seven and sixteen skin tones, between six and nine hair styles, and an impressive thrty-two hair color options -- though most are nearly identical to each other honestly, so you could probably half that. You can further customize your hair by selecting a highlight color on top of the base color, but honestly the lightning makes this process moot much of the time.

For faces you can choose the basic shape of the face and then further refine it by selectine eyebrows, eye color, nose size/shape, and so forth. Unfortunately for some reason your face shape is directly connected to your bust size if you're a woman, so you may choose the soft innocent looking face only to get in game and realize for some reason you now have a D-cup. The individual options aren't magnificent, but at least they're there.

There are four starting classes referred to as Disciples of War, Disciples of Magic, Disciples of The Land and Disciples of The Hand. Which probably means squat to you if you don't know wtf that crap means.

Disiciples of War are fighters who can choose between Pugilist, who fight with their fists and knuckle weapons; Gladiator, who specializes in sword and shield; Marauder, who wields giant two-handed axes; Archer, who clearly uses bows and arrows; and Lancer, who makes use of a lance.

Disciples of Magic are mages who can choose between Conjurer, who wields elemental magic; and the Thaumaturge, who wields spiritual magic.

Disciples of The Land are gatherers who can choose between Miner, Botanist, and Fisher. What those three classes do should be really quite obvious.

Disciples of The Hand are crafters who can choose between Alchemist, Armorer, Blacksmith, Carpenter, Culinarian, Goldsmith, Leatherworker, and Weaver. All of which should also be really quite obvious as to what they do in the scheme of things.

Incidentally, you can change what you are at any given time by purchasing a new weapon, so none of these choices seem to carry any significant weight behind them, cheapening your need to even make a decision.

After you've done all of this you can choose your character's birthday and patron deity. I still have very little idea what precisely these options did, as they had no discernible effect on my questing or storyline. But you can choose them, so I'd assume they intended to do something with the system.

After all of this, you choose your starting location, of which there are three, which I'm to understand is the key factor in deciding what storyline your character progresses through. Despite being able to travel freely, you can only witness the storyline of the city you started in, so I guess this is truly the only real option you've been given that matters. So I guess if you're really intent on hammering your way through this game, means you should choose wisely.

On to the rest of the game, then. The game is quite pretty, as expected of a Final Fantasy game these days, however from what I saw the story is sorely lacking (also kind of expected these days I guess?). The quests I did were very run-of-the-mill and left me feeling bored, even when faced with impending doom. Go kill obscene amounts of ______. Go collect absurd numbers of ______. And so on. The music left a lot to be desired, particularly for a Square title, and left me feeling outside of the world rather than a part of it.

The lag was a frightening experience itself, which strangely added more excitement to the game than anything in the actual game on purpose. To clarify, the issue was with the game servers themselves, not my internet. I'm fully aware of the difference.

Monsters were never where they showed up in the world, and since most were aggressive, this meant while slowly trudging along from one great distance to another, you'd get attacked by something you didn't even realize was actually in your path. Sometimes, the monster model wouldn't even show up, leaving you standing there trying to fight something invisible. Targeting was a nightmare and it had more to do with the targeting box-size (tiny) compared to the creature you were targeting (huge) than anything else. Though the choice to rely on software mouse rather than hardware mouse certainly did not help matters.

In fact, without a third-party modification for that game to enable hardware mouse, the game was effectively unplayable due to the effect lag has on software mouse. The fact that Square so adamantly refused to include hardware mouse as an option, forcing some random nobody to create the mod on their own speaks volumes as to what's wrong with FFXIV. Which, I suppose is a good place to end the review since just thinking about the game just disappoints me all over again.

P.S. I know it's Square Enix, and many of you would like very much to blame the last half of that equation for the woes here, but honestly old Square could've put more polish on a turd and sold it, with half the time. I mean, they know it's bad. Which implies they knew it was bad! They've sent at least two official apologies to fans, recognizing the poor quality of the product.

Edit: It should be noted, at the very least, in an effort to make up for the extreme failure, FFXIV is free-to-play and there are numerous patches in development meant to correct many of the glaring flaws that have existed tot his date. I would say, however, that these efforts are simply not enough and the release of this game -- no where near completion is the rock-bottom to the recent decline of the Square empire. At least there's no where to go but up from here?