Siren

My cousin got married in Hot Springs, Virginia the other weekend. I went out for the ceremony. Now that the kids are two, my wife and I figured that buying four plane tickets for one person to attend an event was a little superfluous.

Growing up in Pennsylvania, I’d actually never been to that part of Virginia before. And living in Indiana now, I don’t know if I’m just tree-deprived or what, but man that state is gorgeous! Hairpin turns included.

I brought my Switch with me, eagerly looking forward to some time to myself. I got some writing and reading in under my belt, but I also played an S-ton of Switch. I’d purchased I am Setsuna, a game I’d had my eye on for a long time, specifically for this trip. Yet, when a friend loaned me Mario Kart and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for my travels, all I did was play Zelda. A game I’d already played and beaten on his Switch.

In fact, I’m still playing it. Much to my detriment.

Gaming-wise, the Switch is the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me. And the worst. It’s portable nature means its never far from my side and I’m always playing it. After playing Zelda on my friend’s machine, the final nail in the convincing-myself-coffin to buy my own was that now that my kids have transitioned to their toddler beds, it means we’ve pretty much lost our family room for nightly hangout space. The room is right across the hall from their bedroom, so just being in there will wake them up. Our retreat is back into our own, now baby-free, bedroom with my X-Box 360 to watch movies, the last iteration of Apple TV, and our old TV from almost ten years ago. Sensing a trend here? Outdated technology.

My Switch comes with me of course. I never know where I’ll be allowed to hang out and play games, so having a console not far from hand is a great perk. It also means that as I type, say, this post, I keep glancing over to that blue and red siren sitting on the edge of my desk.

If I was having a hard time getting back into Altered Egos, then the Switch isn’t helping things.

Know what? I think that’ll do for blogging today. I just remembered that there’s a gentleman in a hot air balloon selling monster masks that I need to go speak with.

[Taylor is busy]

I’m still chugging along …

I’ve been writing like a maniac this week through my typical morning sessions, but lately I’m adding a second one in the afternoon to help reach the end of the novel faster. In books past, I used to be able to write on the weekends. Last weekend’s laziness aside, I’ve been pretty busy with the impending arrival of the two babies so that’s been eating up most of my time.

I awoke to a text message from a friend the other day who recommended the iPhone game, Lifeline, to me. As you’ve probably guessed right now, my life isn’t exactly set up for another game to steal my attention, but he convinced me to give it a shot and boy is it nothing how I imagined it being.

Lifeline isn’t a game in the strictest sense. It’s more like an experience. The gist is you get a text message from someone who’s asking for help. This stranger, Taylor, is a science student who snuck aboard a spaceship that’s now crashed on a moon outside Tau Ceti. As the name implies, you’re Taylor’s lifeline. All you do is talk to Taylor and advise him on certain decisions that ultimately affect his life when given the prompt. Usually, he takes that advice and says he’ll get back to you and you get the message [Taylor is busy] while he’s off doing said activity.

IMG_1545

IMG_1544

That’s it.

That’s the game.

But I gotta tell you, I’m completely hooked! It’s a choose your own adventure where you care about the protagonist. Every time he goes off on some venture, I’m always nervous about what’s gonna happen to my new friend without me knowing about it. Last night, he convinced me that he should spend the night in some other wreckage he discovered instead of trekking it all the way back to his original ship. Some wreckage, I might add, that he was pretty sure he spotted some other kind of life form scuttling about …

Lifeline doesn’t demand much from you and occupies more of your thoughts when you’re not playing it, which I find pretty novel. When you turn on the push notifications, you get his messages that pop up in “real time”. It’s to the point now that I’ll stop what I’m doing to check my phone when it buzzes and my wife will ask, “What’s Taylor up to now?”.

There are so many branching paths, that it can’t help but feel like a unique story. My friend who recommended it has already lead his Taylor to destruction, I found out. However,my Taylor, who’s been at it about three days now, is still kicking by his last transmission. He’s on his way to investigate a non-natural pinnacle he spied in the distance at the moment. He’ll text me next time he gets the chance.

As someone who’s fascinated by telling stories to others, this thing gets all the right hooks in me. I’m both voyeur and protagonist, but yet I can’t see anything. I’m helping the story, but he has to describe it to me while my mind fills in the blanks. It’s a fascinating thought experiment about the nature of stories.

I’m hesitant to talk too much to my real friend less something get spoiled, but through the few notes we’ve compared, we’re experiencing too completely different stories. I was genuinely scared when Taylor asked me to look up how many rads it takes to harm someone so he could sleep next to cooling reactor engines. I hope I gave him the right answer. I still worry about what I might have done to him.

Well look at that. There goes my phone. Seems he’s run into a huge crater and needs some advice… Gotta go!

The Quest for Pants

Now that the wife is off for the summer (well until January now), it means that I don’t have to go home to let the dog out at lunch anymore. While that means I get more work done and can then leave that work earlier, it’s only been two days but I already miss my puppy. Her and the video games.

My lunch at home was when I’d get some prime video game time. It wasn’t long enough to delve into anything on a console, so it usually revolved around Hearthstone and Final Fantasy XIV. I’d binge on one, get burnt out and then start up the other. But now that Hearthstone is on phones finally – thanks Blizzard! – I can play that anywhere. That meant I’d been doing some serious work in FFXIV trying to hit 50 before the expansion comes out.

I like the game. It’s pretty. I might have liked World of Warcraft more back in my heyday of video game playing, but that’s because I felt like there was more to do in WoW. Each zone had more quests and more places to explore. FFXIV is pretty linear. That said, however, I love the main storyline quest in FFXIV. I don’t always read each and every text box, but I appreciate that there’s a throughline that’ll get you from start to finish. I love RPGs and I love progression hooks. I like to think about character customization even when I’m not playing. After stressful days at work, sometimes it’s just nice to go home and bit the ever living piss out of a bunch of kobolds. But there’s another progression hook that’s got its claws in me deep

For those of you who’ve ever played a MMO or any kind of role playing game in general, you know that loot and more specifically gear is pretty important. Now, I’m not always lusting after the most epic gear sets out there – I just don’t have the time – but there is something I do care about … Pants. Or lack thereof.

Here’s how my character looked a couple weeks ago:

1

He was so ridiculous, I had to take a screenshot of him lounging on a behemoth like some kind of androgynous king. I don’t know who’s job it is over at Square Enix to design all of the armor choices, but … this? …. What? How is that …

Fine. Whatever.

So I dug in and really started questing, got a bunch of levels, ran some dungeons and on my last venture, I won some pretty sick pants. It was on a Sunday where the wife was doing something and I told myself I’d just play for an hour or two. That hour or two soon changed into OK I’ll play for however long it takes me to find a pair of freaking pants. So back to that dungeon, I see the pants drop. They’re for monk, my class, and the stats are awesome. I’m psyched. Those two hours had become more like four … maybe five … but it was all worth it. I’d finally found me something to cover those man thighs. Hey, I’m all for wearing whatever you want, but exposing just the inner thigh. Seriously? I’m supposed to be some world renowned bad ass adventurer but I looked like the Village People wouldn’t even take me in.

With baited breath I equipped my new pants …

3

2

I went from Village Person reject to sex slave …

And then we went on vacation.

Now I don’t go home at lunch. I don’t have an opportunity to fix this. I can’t find new stuff. I can’t level up. I just think about those booty shorts. I had thought my quest for pants had come to an end, but it appears that it has just begun …

Sigh.

The Perfect Cherry Blossom

Night number two on my own proved to be as soul-restorative as the first. I started off with some obligatory Hearthstone of course. I knocked out the third wing of Black Rock Mountain pretty easily (saving Heroic mode for something to do later) and finished up the second half of my sole daily quest. My mecha paladin deck self-explanatorily titled Gears of Justice is becoming one of my favorite decks to play. It was fun. The adventure definitely helped add some whimsy – I love reading the new boss’ hero powers for the first time (I stay away from spoilers), but after my arena marathon the other night, I was kind of Hearthstoned out.

Dinner was sushi from the grocery store.

That’s something I thought I’d never utter before, but our Kroger here is enormous. Gargantuan. So big, it could serve as disaster relief for the community in case of emergency. It recently underwent some impressive modifications which added a whole host of food options for dining, not just shopping. We also have a large Asian population in Bloomington. I don’t mean that to sound weird in any way. This is a college town with a direct line to China through our music program. Put it this way, not only is there sushi in the grocery store, there’s a sushi bar in the grocery store. It has a conveyer belt and everything!

Since the wife can’t eat sushi being pregnant and all, I picked up a couple of rolls and something called squid salad. I just had to try it and let me tell you, squid salad is delicious. That’s a second thing I thought I’d never say. I couldn’t find a matching recipe online, but it was strips of calamari, red peppers, ginger, seaweed and mushrooms in a spicy sauce.

Whether it was the sushi or a chicken and egg scenario, but I ended up drinking some scotch and watching The Last Samurai while I fiddled with some Magic cards. That’s another movie I really like. It’s a little – OK a lot – heavy on the romanticism side when it comes to foreign culture, but the scenery is gorgeous. Even half paying attention as I restructured my werewolf deck, I picked up on things I hadn’t noticed over my dozen viewings before. Maybe I did, but I don’t think I really got it, you know? I’m talking about Captain Algren’s desire to become samurai. In an epic steeped in romantic nostalgia like this, of course it sounds awesome to be samurai, but I guess I never truly understood (or had to reremember) just how much Algren hated himself for what he’d done to the Native Americans. He transposes his thoughts and feelings of one indigenous culture fighting modernity onto another in a similar situation.

The rest of you are probably like, “Duh!” But something about it really struck me this time. It’s probably because of my own writing, but I look for meaning and motivation behind actions more than ever before. Also, what happens to Billy Connolly’s character? It’s possible the guy bit it during the initial battle and I just missed it. I was wrangling my werewolf deck under control. It’s still not where I need it to be, but it’s heading in the right direction. The werewolf transformation mechanic is such a cool idea, but its really hard to pull off and be competitive in a timely fashion.

So collectible cards and movies … yep, sounds like my kind of night.

Maintenance for my site is slow going. I’ve been trying to flesh out little bits here and there to add more content.

Side note: I hate it when writers use “here and there.” I mean I get it. It’s a haphazard smattering of something, but you can just say that. I understand the intention, but it always comes off as lazy writing to me. Similarly, I hate “24/7”. Why can’t you just say, “all the time”? “24/7” is five syllables and “all the time” is three. Even though the first is an abbreviation, it’s literally longer to say than summarizing it, but I digress …

I’ve done a little work on the Comics section and uploaded the first 10 issues of my old webcomic NOD: The Animated Series. Once I took the old site down, those issues only lived on my home computer, but I wanted to put them somewhere where they could actually be seen! It’s too many to simply dump on the page so while I’m exploring options of a scrolling or viewing widget, hopefully you can whet your appetite on the first 10.

T-Rex Wants to Hunt

My wife is away on an overnight field trip which leaves me with the run of the house. Well, me and the dog. So with the cat away, the pressure for this mouse to find the right things to “play” is almost overwhelming. It’s not that I can’t usually indulge in my nerdisms, but when it’s just me, there’s this added pressure that I must. Every minute must be accounted for to gain the maximum amount of fun. That I need to really drill down and get as much as I can out of the experience. There were plenty of things I could have done, but last night boiled down to simply two. Hearthstone and Jurassic Park.

I’m a pretty big fan of Hearthstone. It’s on the simpler side mechanics-wise as far as collectible card games go, but there’s just something about it. It’s got claws in me. Big, razor sharp ones with barbs that won’t come out without gutting me. Maybe it’s because it scratches BOTH my Magic the Gathering and World of Warcraft itches simultaneous. Maybe it’s just a fun card game. Who knows?

Anyway, I had knocked out the last of my dailies that morning and needed something to that evening. You know, getting back to the whole indulging myself thing here. So I did a couple of arena runs. Let me make something clear here before we begin. I love the arena and I also hate it. I am not good at arena play.  For those of you who don’t play Hearthstone, it’s essentially a draft so it doesn’t matter how many cards you’ve collected. The game provides them for you. The drafting part is fun. I always feel like I make good choices, but then implementing this ramshackle deck usually shows me how wrong I am. The most wins I’d ever had in the arena was 4. To put this in perspective, you can get a total of 12 before the game lavishes you in riches for “winning” the arena and kicks you out.

In the spirit of indulgence, I bought in and went for a run. I had high hopes in the beginning. Grabbed rogue which is my class of choice and thought I made a pretty solid deck. Boy was I wrong. Finished the run with only 2 wins and 3 losses.

Dismayed, but not defeated I went back in. Grabbed hunter this time and built what I think is a pretty ridiculous deck. So much so, that I shattered my old win total of 4 and by 6-0 I was undefeated. 7 wins is the magic number in that this is when the game rewards you with more gold than it cost to buy in originally and you actually come out ahead. If I could win just one more time, they’d make a movie about my experience.

Nope. Nadda. Nah-ah.

The next three games was a crushing series of defeats. After that first loss, something broke inside of me and all of a sudden my sub conscious realized that it could lose. That’s all did from then on. I swear, though, that my deck played a completely different way in the loser’s bracket than it did with the winners. For 6 games it was nothing but traps and kick ass durability-regenerating bow then I entered a complete drought of traps. A Desert if you will.

Still, it made for an eventful evening. Next up was Jurassic Park to take me right into bedtime.

Let me drive home a second point here. I really like Hearthstone, but I freaking LOVE Jurassic Park. It is one of my all time favorite movies – holding the number 2 slot on the list just in case you were wondering – but more than that, it completely holds up. That film came out in 1993 and totally nailed it. I honestly compare any move that has come out since to see if it has the same level of Jurassic Park quality. The CGI is a little dated, but it still looks great thanks to the animatronics and actual costumed stunt guys. The shortcomings of one style is more than made up with the strengths of another kind of special effect. They figured this shit out in 1993. What’s Transformers’ excuse?Featured image

Seriously, how great is that scene? The T-Rex … the rain … it’s freaking amazing! So what if the goat’s leg is weird or that I don’t understand the geography of the Rex’s paddock … I don’t care. That roar is one of the coolest things I have ever heard. Followed by a close second … “Ian! Freeze!”

I know I’m looking at things with some rose colored glasses too. I love the book, I love these characters, I love the plot, hell, I love everything I’m looking at when I watch that movie. There’s something magical in that film, that awe of nature, that was so perfectly captured. I even love the soundtrack. It gets me every time. That song. You know the one I’m talking about. I tear up every freaking time I hear that song. 20 Years later and I’m still getting chills.

Add a little scotch to savor with one of the best movies ever made on top of a personal best in Hearthstone and I gotta say that it was a pretty epic night. Eventful? Maybe not. But my inner nerd is quite indulged and happily satisfied.

Makes me wonder what I’ll be getting up to tonight?