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.

“Productive Adult”

So somehow, I managed to not post at all over the last part of the week. I’ve got plenty of excuses, of course. Wednesday we had people from the home office in town and went out to dinner. Thursday was the first night of dog training classes. And Friday we got to watch an astrophysics lecture in a big theater. So for one reason or another, and given the fact that I had already burned through my buffer, I didn’t end up writing at all during the latter part of last week.

There was a time when I would have felt really guilty about that. And don’t get me wrong, a part of me still feels bad. But it’s becoming more and more apparent to me that writing isn’t the priority that I sometimes think it is.

People say things like “If you truly want to do something, you’ll find time to do it.” And I imagine that’s true to a certain extent. But I find myself in the situation of having so much I want to do, that I’m always pulled in several directions. And for better or worse, my free time isn’t what it used to be. I have to work. I have to do the basic upkeep like grocery shopping and laundry. I have to take care of the dog. I want to read. I want to write. I want to play video games. I want to watch TV shows on Netflix. I want to continue fighting and growing in the SCA. I need to sleep.

I know I’ve made excuse posts in the past, but that’s not quite what this is. This is more me lamenting that I can’t do all the things I want to. And I don’t see a good way around that. I guess there’s not much more I can do beyond enjoying the activities I have time for and not letting thoughts of all the other stuff I need/want to do distract me too much.

Well, I Think It’s Progress

Ewok seems to be doing better, for the most part. Whether that’s because he’s finally getting a sense of his place in the pecking order or because he’s too exhausted to act out, I can’t tell. “Submissive” and “tired” look fairly similar from my point of view.

We’ve started him on the basic tricks, things like “come,” “sit,” “lie down,” and “stay.” That last one is still a bit iffy, but it is coming along. Luckily we can motivate him with basic kibble, so we don’t really have to worry about him getting too many treats; the simple fact that we’re giving it to him often seems to be enough. He’ll come over for the occasional pet, but for the most part he just lies there and sleeps. I guess the mile-plus walks we’ve been taking him on seem to be doing their job.

But while he’s doing better with us, he seems to be doing a little worse with others. He’s actually gotten a bit nippy and growly with some of our coworkers, even ones he was fairly okay with last week. Maybe he’s too tired? Maybe he’s latched onto us as “his people” and doesn’t like intruders? Maybe it’s nothing and we’re just grasping at straws? I don’t know.

I do know that I’m almost certainly over-analyzing things, but I can’t help myself. It’s what I do. Since we’re no longer sure how he’ll react, we’ve been keeping him relatively isolated; avoiding other dogs while on walks, keeping him leashed and close to us while at work, et cetera. I’ve staggered the days I take him in so that he doesn’t have to encounter the dog he had isues with, but even the other, more naturally-submissive dog seems to avoid him. We’ll probably have to do a reintroduction once Ewok’s a little better mannered.

We’ve got our first training session on Thursday, so hopefully he gets along alright with his other classmates. I think part of my anxiety is from basic lack of knowledge: I know I don’t know, so I’m worried about Doing Something Wrong. But I’m hopeful that whatever issues we’re having we can work through, and Ewok will be able to be a productive member of our social circle.

Ranting At Myself

Well, looks like it’s time again for one of my minor Funks, the kind that leave me with no idea what to write about. Which means I put off writing, which means I don’t get to it until late in the day, which means I start wondering if it’s even worth it to post, which makes me feel more guilty when I don’t, which…

Well, if you’ve been reading this blog or have similar issues of your own, you know what I’m talking about.

I guess part of it is the fact that the honeymoon stage of dog adoption is most definitely over. We’ve had Ewok a little over a week, and he’s now gotten comfortable enough with us to start pushing boundaries. Unfortunately, that translates to growling at new people and getting into arguments with other dogs. You know, behavior that is decidedly Not Cool™.

I’ve also encountered my first example of how having the dog to care fore can affect my social schedule. There was an SCA event last weekend, and I ended up staying home to keep an eye on Ewok. He pretty much slept all day, and while I hadn’t really even wanted to go to the event, the basic fact that I couldn’t go perversely made me kind of want to go.

I guess it’s just the fact that the sheer responsibility of caring for a dog is starting to sink in, and it’s kind of freaking me out. I’ve even had the occasional second thought, which believe me, even though I know I’m never going to follow through with them really does a number on my self-acceptance.

So I don’t know. Maybe like I said last week, this is just me getting to the end of my change tolerance. After all, our habits are having to change pretty suddenly because of the dog. And on some level, even though it pains me to say it, I find myself kind of resenting the imposition. And of course putting it like that makes it sounds much worse than it is, but I don’t know how else to put it. Things have changed, and I’m not the biggest fan of change on the best of days. And to make matters worse, I’m beating myself up for feeling that way.

But at least we’re trying to do something about it. We’ve signed up for a six-week training course for Ewok, and I’m hopeful that he’ll be easy enough to imbue with some better manners. And hey, in the end he’s still just a dog, right? I can’t even begin to imagine what new parents have to go through.

And that’s another thing. What does it say about me when I keep coming back to the phrase “Well, at least Ewok’s just a dog instead of a baby?”