Monthly Archives: February 2015

Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

EDIT:  I just saw that the practice site is closed, so I get to make the long, arduous trek to my warm abode.  My point still stands, though, so I’m going to keep this post up.

It’s currently snowing in Denver.  It’s about time for me to leave for heavy practice, and I don’t know how many people are going to be there.  I could struggle through traffic for an hour just to find myself the only one there.  Or I could call it a day, head home, and prevent the people who do show up having enough bodies there to make armoring up worth it.

I really hate days like this.

It’s a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation.  And there’s no way to know if it’s going to be worth it before I get there.  I’d love to not have to drive on snowy highways surrounded by other travelers who have forgotten how to drive since our last snow.  But I also want to hit my friends with sticks.  To make matters worse, the weather isn’t the only reason practice is sure to be thin: Estrella is this week, which means a bunch of people have gone down to Arizona (myself not included, obviously).

*sighs*  Let’s be honest, I’m most likely still going to make the drive out to practice.  I’m hoping I won’t be disappointed, but I have my doubts.

It’s All Relative

One of the downsides to my new desktop is it isn’t exactly what you’d call mobile. I guess I was spoiled with my laptop; even though I didn’t drag it around much, I always had the option of unhooking the extra peripherals and plopping down on the couch next to my girlfriend. With the tower, not so much. This means that if I want to use the not inconsiderable computing power that is now at my disposal, I have to sequester myself in my office.

Every once in a while I’ll get fed up with this arrangement and drag my laptop back out. Sure, I won’t be able to play the newest games, but it’s much easier to type on than my tablet, and we can spend time together even while I’m blogging.

But holy cow does it seem slow now.

I know that it really hasn’t slowed down that much since I built my new computer. It just seems like it. Windows seems to take forever to load, programs respond more sluggishly (or at least seem to), et cetera. And it’s not like this is a new experience for me. This inevitably happens every time I upgrade my hardware. Maybe it’s exacerbated by how long I generally wait between upgrade cycles; intermediate upgrades would be less drastic, but are extremely hard to do on a laptop.

Don’t get me wrong, I love that I was able to build my own computer. It’s just that I miss the portability afforded by the laptop form factor. I’ve experimented a bit with network streaming and remote desktop applications, but either the technology isn’t there or our wireless network backbone just isn’t sturdy enough.

But even as I write this (on my laptop, sitting on the couch), I can feel the keyboard warming up, the battery running down, and I am reminded why I upgraded. I just wish the change in performance wasn’t thrown into such sharp relief.

Maybe I should install Linux?

Where Does The Time Go?

Where does the time go, when you’re an adult? Take tonight, for instance. It’s about 7h30 as I write this. All I’ve accomplished so far after work tonight is to do my grocery shopping, heat up some leftovers for dinner, and finalize my hotel plans for the coming weekend. I still have to write, and I’d also like to get a shower in. What I had hoped to do was to have a nice quiet evening, one where I could kick back with a video game. That is, if I could decide what I wanted to play. By the time I finally get around to what I “set out to do,” it’s likely to be three hours after I got off work, and I’ll have a good hour or two (if I’m lucky) to relax before I have to go to sleep if I want to be any sorts of functional for the work day tomorrow.

Intellectually, I know this feeling of not accomplishing anything is irrational. Like this weekend, for instance. I recently picked up a new pair of gauntlets for SCA heavy combat, and I got them padded up and re-gloved for use at practice this week. In the grand scheme of things, the turnaround on this project was lightning fast; I still have components for a new breastplate I’ve been meaning to assemble for the past six years. But I still feel like I’m wasting time, like I can’t accomplish all the things I want to, no matter how hard I try.

How can I fix this? Do I need to carefully audit what I’m doing every minute of the day? That seems like it would take a lot of mental effort, not to mention more time. Do I just need to adjust my expectations? Probably; if you figure out how, please let me know. I guess one of the costs of being a responsible adult is all the time you spend on things you need to do, at the costs of things you want to do.

If so, that’s really a downer, and I wish there was a way around it. Maybe with enough money one can buy time, but I’m nowhere near that threshold. For now, I guess all I can do is just soldier on, letting the slight resentment towards my obligations build up over time, until it overflows into a weekend where even less gets accomplished than usual as I binge on some book or video game.

Miracle of Sound

So I’ve started listening to a new video game podcast, and it’s been pretty fun.  It’s entertaining, it’s crude, and I’m having fun with is so far.  But one of the hosts is a musician by the name of Gavin Dunne, who releases work under the name Miracle of Sound.   His songs span a wide variety of styles and genres, and are largely inspired by video games and other geek culture mainstays.

Oh, and did I mention he does all the writing and performing all by himself?

That’s what I find really impressive.  I’ve spent the past few days working my way through his back catalog (it’s available for streaming on Spotify and Youtube), and holy cow.  I can’t even wrap my head around how much time and effort it would take to write and perform one song, let alone the sheer number that he’s cranked out.  He’s like the Stephen King of prolific musicians (shut up, I happen to like Stephen King).

So if you’re looking for some new music to listen to, I can highly recommend Miracle of Sound.  Take some time, check it out, maybe put it on in the background while you’re doing other stuff.  It’s certainly made my past few work days more enjoyable.

Slow & Delicious

Both my girlfriend and I work full time. Far too often the last thing you want to do after a long day’s work is come home and cook. At the same time, I don’t like eating out too often. It gets expensive, and overflows the refrigerator with leftovers. Before we moved in together, nights where I didn’t know what to cook would be filled with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, simply to keep the hunger-beast away. And when I was working at Costco it wasn’t a big deal; even if I worked a full shift, I was often home by 2pm, which meant I had enough time to sit and decompress before getting back up to prepare something from my meager repertoire. How best to solve this conundrum?

Technology, my friend!

This past holiday season, our friends bought us a slow cooker. For whatever reason, we hadn’t gotten around to testing it out yet, but this week we decided to try something different. I usually go grocery shopping on Monday evenings, so I just picked up a few extra things and we prepared to have shredded barbecue pork the next night.

Holy cow was it tasty.

The first thing I noticed when coming in the door was the smell. We had started cooking it before we left, and the savory aroma permeated the living room and kitchen. In fact, that my have had something to do with the dogs unnatural exuberance upon getting home. The meat shredded so easily it barely had enough structural integrity to make it to the cutting board in one piece. The sauce was nice and sweet, and I ended up eating way too much (of course) far too quickly (it happens). Even the dog was a fan; you’d have though we tied a string to his tail given how fast he sat for a sample.

And the best part is, we’ve got meals for pretty much the entire week! All we have to do is pull the ceramic pot out of the fridge, warm it back up, and we’re good to go. So thanks, oh wonderful friends, for a most useful and tasty gift.

Titles Are Hard

My writing seems to be slipping a lot lately, and I’m not sure what to do about that. I haven’t looked at the numbers, but I feel like I’ve been regularly missing at least one, if not as many as three posts a week. Is it because I’m busier than usual? Is the dog really taking up that much of my time? Or am I slowly but surely losing interest in writing?

I hope it’s not the latter. Because when I do finally sit down to do it, I really do enjoy blogging. Sure, I often open up the word processor with no idea what to say, but then I just start writing and come up with all sorts of neat stuff. I tend to go off on tangents, but I like to think I wouldn’t have ended up in that state of mind without the unrelated stuff before it.

I do feel bad posting whatever weekly variation on “I don’t know what to write today” happens to jump out of my fingers. It’s the sort of thing, to be honest, that I wouldn’t want to read from someone else, so why should I expect people to read it from me? As such, I’ve been trying to cut down on the number of those posts I write. Not outright skipping a post because I have nothing to say (hopefully), but shall we say, feeling less bad if I happen to run out of time one evening.

And I’ve been doing that a lot lately. I guess I just don’t have much in the way of interesting things happening to me that make for good blog posts. Such is the risk of writing about yourself, I guess. At the same time, I do still enjoy writing. And I’m worried that if I stopped to put this blog on hiatus I might not come back.

I think part of it is not so much the pressure to write every day, but to have something posted by noon. That self-imposed deadline, so I think, allows me to get my writing out at a time when a good number of people will see it (e.g., bumming around on Facebook during lunch). But far too often the time I have to write is when I get home from work myself. But then I have to eat dinner, put away groceries, or whatever else didn’t get done during the day. And I find it harder to think about something to write when, for lack of a better term, I get put on the spot.

I don’t know where I’m going with this post. I guess I’m just trying to sort out some ideas in my own head. Don’t worry, any of you still reading my words, this blog isn’t going anywhere in the near future.

(Don’t) Play This

I’ve been talking about how I’m working on convincing my inner voices that playing video games can have its own merits beyond wasting time. And while that’s true, some games really are just wastes of time. One of those is Clicker Heroes.

And I can’t stop playing.

The concept is simple. You click on the monster to do damage. Monsters give you money. Money lets you buy heroes. Heroes boost your click damage, as well as doing a certain amount of passive damage per second (DPS). The more damage you do, the tougher monsters you can defeat, which gets you more money, which lets you buy more heroes, which lets you do more damage… Ad infinitum.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the sort of game you sit down at for a good six-hour session on the weekend. But it is the type of game that you can have open in the background, while surfing the Internet or doing other things. Eventually it gets to a point where it basically plays itself: you get enough DPS that monsters basically disappear as soon as they spawn, and all you have to do is check in occasionally to spend the gold you’ve accumulated and restart the forward progression.

And something about it never ceases to draw me back in. I’ll find myself staying up a few minutes later, just to see what level my current build will top out at. I had to stop checking it at work, because it became too distracting. It’s a free flash game, and I’ve somehow been playing it for three months.

The developers have added variations on your basic idle game format. Once you stop making considerable progress, you can do a “soft reset,” where everything resets back to square one (first level, no heroes, etc.), but with each reset you receive a certain number of “hero souls,” a sort of premium currency which you can either use to purchase special heroes (which don’t reset, and can give you bonuses like gold multipliers, extending the boss timer, etc.) or which add a certain amount of DPS when left unspent.

So the whole point of this game is to get the numbers to go higher for their own sake. It’s pretty much a distillation of every abhorrent, shallow, Skinner box game mechanic out there. If I truly valued your company, I’d tell you not to play it. But since I’m a bad person, I’ll just mention that hey, it’s a free game that can pass the time, and can even play itself to a certain extent.

Brief Thoughts

I haven’t been feeling the writing bug much lately, but that probably comes as no surprise. Work, combined with the dog, has me using enough mental energy that when I get home I don’t want to do much other than play video games.

So I’ve been working on that a lot. Mostly on not feeling bad about enjoying myself when “wasting” time on games, and I’ve actually been relatively successful recently. I’m slowly but surely working my way through my backlog, and doing so actually fills me with a sense of progress and accomplishment. After all, if I’m not gaming just to pass the time but to accomplish something, that seems to sit better with my overdeveloped conscience. And it’s not like I’m neglecting my other duties; I’m still walking the dog, doing my job, and making it to SCA practices.

That’s the other thing: I worry that if I “game too much” I won’t be a Productive Member of Society (whatever that means). But in reality, I already am a reasonably responsible adult. I have a full time job, I pay my share of the bills, and I generally do a good job taking care of myself and those close to me. So why should I worry about anything past that?

The funny thing, though, is that if I tell myself “stop worrying about how much you game,” I then start worrying about my inability to do that. So I end up just giving myself something else to worry about. So I’m not going to do that. I’m going to strive to just enjoy myself, passing my free time how I see fit. And if I miss the occasional blog post, I’m going to try not to sweat it too much.

We’ll see how that goes.

Opponents Are People, Too

I noticed something about my SCA fighting recently: I don’t seem to take into account the person I’m fighting.

During a pause in our bouts, my knight said something to the effect of me “knowing what shots he has,” which I interpreted in two ways. First, I should know what shots he’s able to throw from his usual guard position. Second, that I should know what kind of shots he personally uses. And that’s when I realized: I don’t really keep track of what other people do during their fights.

Maybe it’s because I don’t tend to think much when I’m fighting, but I don’t really tend to account for my opponent’s abilities or habits. I go out there, do my thing, and hopefully come out ahead. But I’ve been fighting long enough you’d think I’d have started making a mental Rolodex of the various people I fight, because I’m pretty sure they’re doing it for me.

And maybe I do do that to a certain extent. After all, I’m at least aware of someone’s relative skill level, or how hard they tend to hit, or if they’re left handed. But the idiosyncrasies of their personal styles? I don’t really think about that much. At least, not consciously.

So I found myself with an interesting proposition: maybe in my quest to not think too much while fighting I’ve become too mentally disengaged. Maybe if I take the time to do a bit of research and planning I can get over some of those last few hurdles. After all, I’ve been fighting long enough that I’m sure I do some of this on an unconscious level. Maybe it’s time to start thinking a bit more while I fight.

Not Much Going On

I don’t really have much to say today. Work is going well, morning is still coming early, and the dog seems to be progressing in his training nicely. Overall, a pretty uneventful day.

But I feel the need to write anyway, mostly just to keep myself in the habit. I’ve been lax in my writing discipline lately, but there’s no denying that my situation has changed since I started this blog. I now have a much more intellectually taxing job, which doesn’t leave me with the surplus cognitive drive that Costco did. I’m working more regular, typical hours (thank FSM), but that means I don’t have huge chunks of free time every afternoon. I have to eke out what I can from my all-too-finite nights and weekends, a portion of which I must also (happily) donate to my girlfriend, pets, friends, and family.

So while I’m not ready to put this blog on hiatus (I’m worried that if I stopped, I’d never start back up), maybe I have to relax my expectations a little bit. When I first started writing, I had this idea that I would use my little corner of the Internet to expound on Great Things™, and that people would flock to hear my glorious philosophizing. And while that hasn’t been the case, I like to think that at least a handful of people still stop by regularly. Sure, it probably helps that this are set up to post directly to Facebook and Tumblr, but I can’t complain.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this. This post started out as a thinly-veiled “I don’t know what to write,” and then diverged briefly into various musings. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t know what this blog is supposed to be any more, but at the same time I don’t want to stop. So I guess you get to skim through my disjointed ramblings, if you’re interested.