Monday, August 01, 2022

Random Rant (Names)

I... *ahem*

*shuffles*

I collect...

*fidgets*

I collect names. I admit it. I'm a name hoarder.

My parents were super-generous and gave me three. Well, they started out by giving me just two, but added a middle name. I actually have an amended birth certificate with my middle name added. I like all of them.

Laura = Victory, my original first name. Most people in real life call me by it. It's a good name. A solid name. It's been used by lots of people, both good and bad, but I like it.

Jean = Gracious, my middle name. Added kind of last minute to my infant self, I still like it. It is also a decent name. I have used it quite a bit online - mostly in games as part of a character name.

Dunham = My original last name. It means something like "village at the hill" or the like. It came down to us from a fellow who changed his own name to it during what might have been a mid-life crisis. The family history on the subject is very interesting.

In college I added a nickname by choice: Tegan. I used it exclusively online and in fandom for many many years. There are more people in this world who know me as Tegan (or my grumpy "RealTegan" when "Tegan" was taken) than as Laura.

Then I married a fellow and decided to collect HIS name as well, and Gjovaag came into my name hoard. Gjovaag is the name of a place in Norway where my husband's ancestors came from. They, too, changed their name when they left that place and went to Stavanger - apparently their name was so common there they just used their old home town name instead. At least, I *think* that's how it worked.

Anyway, at the moment I have five names. I like them all. I've kept them all. And that's nifty.

There are people who have changed their names and don't want to use their old names. That's also fine. What's not fine is when someone changes their name to something new, makes it clear they want to use that new name, and then some jerk comes along and uses the old name. That's a bad thing.

Just because I hoard names doesn't mean I insist on using old names or deadnames for people who don't want them. If they've buried a name, leave it buried. I'm happy to sit on my hoard of names, but other people are different. RESPECT THOSE DIFFERENCES.

This has been a PSA triggered by nothing in particular.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Newbery Medal Winners: The Cat Who Went to Heaven

The 1931 Newbery Medal went to The Cat Who Went to Heaven by Elizabeth Coatsworth. For once, a nice, short, succinct little story won. This was not a long slog of a read like some winners have been. A poor straving artist in historical Japan adopts a kitten when his housekeeper brings it home one day, because she can find no food. Named Good Fortune, the cat's name proves to be prescient as the artist then receives a commission to paint the death of Buddha for the temple. As he paints, the artist contemplates the life of Buddha and the roles the various animals he paints had in his lives. It's a neat framing device to tell a series of short animal stories. Coatsworth also tells the story of Buddha himself. A Western writer in the 1930s writing about historical Japan could be cringy today, but this respectful treatment holds up well, even if it may not be completely accurate. Because of the complicated relationship between Buddha and cats, Good Fortune has a lot of opinions about the artist's work. It all works out in the end, however, as one would expect.

My local library did not have a copy of the book, so I put in an interlibrary loan request. They acquired a copy from the local university. Normally libraries let their books out to other libraries for three weeks, but they let me have it for seven! And when I saw the book, I knew it wouldn't take me near that long. (Sure enough, I read it in less than an hour!) The big surprise, however, was the age of the book. Although it's still in print, this was a fourth printing of the first edition, from August of 1931 and only a year after the initial printing. If it weren't for the library tape and card pocket in front, this could be a very valuable book! It's held up well for being over ninety years old, but I don't plan to just leave it in the outdoors return box anyway, I'll make sure to return it when the building is open and I can return it directly to the librarians.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Hugo Awards 2022 - A few thoughts and a couple of rants

Yes, I have been reading the Hugo Awards finalists, trying to work my way through them at a decent pace. I have read a few of the nominations, but far from all of them. So here I go with some of what I've already read/watched/whatever.

First up, let's look at Best Novel. I finished The Galaxy, and the Ground Within, by Becky Chambers, first, then realized I probably should have saved it for last. Chambers books are thought-provoking and twist your mind, but in a gentle and friendly way that makes them a relief to read. As a palate cleanser, her books are the best by far. This one is no exception. A solid tale of a group of strangers meeting under strained circumstances and getting to know each other, it plays out both gently and powerfully. I genuinely liked all the characters and laughed along with them (the bit about cheese just had me howling). I could have sat and read just about each character for another few hundred pages, but Chambers sets up the situation then plunges the reader into a bit of stress which cements everything. Excellent and wonderful, and a book you can easily read without knowing much of her other works (I've only read a couple). I don't yet know how it'll hold up compared to other finalists, but it is definitely worthy of a Hugo Award.

The next one I read was A Desolation Called Peace, by Arkady Martine. I had not read the first novel, which this is a sequel to, so I was lost in places. But not so badly lost as I've been reading other sequels. I quickly got into the rhythm of this universe and enjoyed learning more about each character and how they interacted. By the end of the book I had a very good sense of what had happened in the first book. Overall, it was a good book, solid and worthy of a Hugo. It also managed to provoke some very strange dreams, so that was interesting.

I have not yet read the other four finalists. I'll try to post something when I get through those.

In other categories...

I read "The Sin of America", by Catherynne M. Valente, finalist for Best Short Story. This is one of those painful tales that I can see being required reading in a literature class. And while I don't think it's bad, it's a little too painful and on point for me to say I "enjoyed" it. Hugo worthy? Certainly. Will it be at the top of my ballot? Unlikely.

In the Best Series category, I've read enough of The World of the White Rat, by T. Kingfisher (Ursula Vernon) to say that I absolutely enjoy this universe and want to read more in it and I'm quite pleased to put it on my ballot at the top, unless I manage to read enough of one of the other series that is so fantastic to knock it off my pedestal. But yeah, this is a great series of books.

I have a request of all future people nominated in the best series category. Please Please Please Please PLEASE include in the packet a small text list of the works included in the nomination (every eligible work) in a suggested reading order. Nothing fancy. Nothing major. Just a freakin' list so we know what books to look for if we aren't certain and don't have to Google it and run through a dozen different variations of what books might be in that series and oh here are the ones that just got published but they aren't part of the nomination but here they are anyway and no, that's not a part of the series but someone listed it anyway and ... so much irritation could be removed by just listing the works.

In Best Graphic Story, I read Far Sector, written by N.K. Jemisin, art by Jamal Campbell, as it was coming out and yeah, it's worth a Hugo Award. An excellent series and that's coming from a comic book fan who doesn't much like intergalactic stories. It was just so well written, nicely layered and beautiful. Well worth the effort of reading. Right now it has the top spot on my ballot, but I haven't read the other books yet so that could potentially change.

I read “How Twitter can ruin a life”, by Emily St. James in the Best Related Work category and it still stings. The anger I feel at the mob who caused all that pain... and yet I understand completely. The essay lays it out very cleanly and clearly, and so I find it to be Hugo worthy. As with other categories, it's on the top of my list at the moment simply because I haven't read anything else in the category, but I certainly could see it staying there.

To my surprise, I've already seen three of the six finalists in Best Dramatic Presentation: Long Form and four of the six in Short Form. I have a nit to pick with the Dramatic Presentation categories that I'll start with, though. There are two Dramatic Presentation categories: Short Form and Long Form. There needs to be a third. Serial. For example, in Long Form, we have WandaVision - a series. Up against a bunch of movies. In short form we have a bunch of single episode of series - five of which are NOT standalone episodes. At least as far as I know. The Arcane episode is the culmination of eight episodes of build-up and in no way could have the impact as a standalone that it would if the viewer had seen the rest of the series. Expanse is utterly incomprehensible if you haven't seen the rest of the series. For All Mankind? I've never seen a single episode. Will I understand the season two finale? The only standalone episode is Star Trek: Lower Decks, which is hilarious and wonderful and just freaking GREAT... but it's literally the only one on the list you could possibly understand easily without seeing other episodes. And I have issues with giving a Hugo Award to any work that cannot stand on its own. I'm clearly in the minority, but that's my opinion.

Okay, so now that's out of the way... Best Dramatic Presentation: Long Form. I've seen Dune, Encanto, and WandaVision. All of them are good, although Dune left me a little cold (ironically enough). For sheer power, WandaVision has Encanto beat because of the length of WandaVision compared to Encanto. For sheer enjoyment, Encanto is the clear winner. I will attempt to view the other three finalists before I make a final decision, but it's going to be difficult because putting a movie up against an entire TV series is a lot like comparing apples to oranges. Yes, they are both fruit, but you enjoy them differently.

For Short Form, Arcane: The Monster You Created is going to be the top of my ballot. Yes, it suffers from the "can't stand alone" problem, but as long as the Hugos have these limitations on works, I'll pick the one I know is best. Likely second will be Star Trek: Lower Decks: wej Duj which was excellent on multiple levels and rip-roaring fun as well. Loki: The Nexus Event and The Wheel of Time: The Flame of Tar Valon are both good, but Arcane has them beat by miles, and Star Trek by a mile or so. I have not watched any Expanse since my first attempt failed. I just couldn't get into it. So I'll leave it off my ballot. My husband has been watching For All Mankind and plans to coach me through the nominated episode, so I'll figure out where it goes when I see it.

The only other category I'm willing to opine on at this time is the Lodestar Award, which has the excellent Chaos on CatNet, by Naomi Kritzer. If the other finalists are even half as good as Kritzer's work, I'm going to really love reading these.

So, that's where I'm at right now. I hope to update again soon(ish) with more thoughts.

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Every American should watch this

Tuesday, June 07, 2022

Sunbasket

Hubby-Eric and I have had a tough couple of years since I fell ill right as 2020 started. He's been my caregiver during that time, which isn't an easy job. I can move around now, walk for short distances, do a number of things... but he's still under a lot of pressure.

One of the jobs he's always having to tackle is food. Now, I have never been a good cook, and he has always been the primary meal creator during our marriage, but I used to help as much as I could, and would sometimes make meals. Now... now I'm lucky if I can stand in the kitchen for more than five minutes without feeling like I'm going to collapse. Without me to help, he's been doing all the work in the kitchen every day. So we started thinking about getting a nice meal service to give him a break every once in awhile.

The big problem with meal services is that I have some dietary needs, so we had to make sure the meal service we picked is careful with ingredients and we could choose options that would work with my problems. After some research, we decided to try Sunbasket. They had high ratings and also lots of options for special diets. The nutritional information is solid, and they offer meals that aren't kits - meals that you can toss in a microwave and go. But they also offer kits, so if we want to try something new and learn new techniques, we have that option.

We decided to try it starting in May, and scheduled our first delivery for May 16th. It never arrived. We were told it was damaged in shipping - apparently someone at FedEx drop-kicked it or something. So... no first meal. They credited us for the cost, and sent our second week of selections on May 23rd.

I got Chipotle butternut squash stew with chorizo, cauliflower, and cashews and Burrito bowl al pastor with plant-based Impossible Beef. Eric got Gyro-spiced chicken bowl with brown rice, fresh slaw, and yogurt sauce and Louisiana-style beef and barley bowl with spicy red pepper sauce. The food was really good. I had issues with giant cauliflower chunks in the stew (why does no one ever cut them into smaller pieces?) but otherwise loved both meals. Eric enjoyed having spicy foods again. It was nice... but then we had to wait for our second week because of Memorial Day.

I am a picky eater, and I despise spicy food. Most of the options in the "fresh and ready" meals are spicy. I also don't much like chicken. I would say 90% of healthy food uses chicken as the protein. So my meal options are usually extremely limited, and I almost always end up with something I dislike (and I'm referring to all my meals, not just Sunbasket). For our June 1st meals I picked Crustless chicken pot pie with carrots, celery, and mushrooms and Smokehouse sausage jambalaya, while Eric went for Korean sweet and sour chicken bowl with brown rice, kale, and carrots and White bean turkey chili. The pot pie was fine, but there was way too much liquid, making it more of a stew than a pot pie. The jambalaya was, as I suspected, a little too hot for my tastebuds. I had to grab some sour cream from the fridge to keep my tongue from exploding. But except for the heat, it was really tasty.

This week we decided to order the same things, so we got Beef donburi rice bowl with edamame and kimchi-lime vegetables and Sweet pea and broccoli risotto. We had the beef last night, since Monday's are Eric's busy day, and ... wow. It was really good. I had the sour cream ready, but it was not hot-spicy at all, though it had a complex flavor. We will have the risotto later.

So, three weeks in, I can't say I've judged this service completely yet. I can say a few things though. I'm still disappointed we didn't get our first set of meals, especially since I was told there was "a free gift" in that first package. They definitely did not send any free gift in any of the subsequent orders. I have no idea what the gift was supposed to be, or if it's worth being annoyed about... but yeah, it is annoying.

I've already mentioned the issues with choices. Looking at the menu for next Monday, there are 16 meals to pick from. Ten of those meals are marked as spicy, leaving me only six choices. Of the six, two I've already tried, two are spaghetti (which is so easy to make at home, why would I order it?) and the other two are chicken dishes. So... not much variety for me. However, the next week there are plenty of choices, so it's a mixed bag.

The meals came in a sturdy box with good packing (which makes me wonder just what FedEx did to that first package), and each meal was nicely contained with clear instructions on how to heat them. When we try a meal kit, I'll report how those go. But these are dead easy to make and tasty. The beef from last night was really filling as well, just all around nicely done.

The price... well. The price is a bit high for what we are getting. Yes, they are catering to my special needs, but I can't help but feeling we could almost do as well picking up some crappy tv dinners at the grocery store. They wouldn't taste as good, but this is a pretty expensive option for my meals.

Overall, I'm still undecided. Eric and I agreed to give it a few weeks and hopefully after he's done with his regular teaching for the school year we can fit in some meal kits, but I'm not sure we'll continue this after a couple of months.

Monday, June 06, 2022

Inkwell Tales

Inkwell was curled up on my lap, purring, and I noticed some stray hairs so I reached down and grabbed his brush and started to help groom him. He purred and stretched and made it clear that I was to continue. After a time he got up and wandered off. I set the brush on the table next to me instead of back in the chair's side pocket.

A short time later, Inkwell wandered back and leapt onto the table ... then leapt backwards in that amazing move that only cats do - completely rewinding. He landed on the floor and let out a mighty MEOW of protest at the table.

Baffled, I looked at Inkwell, then looked at the table. The only difference from usual was the brush. I picked up the brush and showed it to him. He grumpily jumped back up on the table, and investigated the scary thing in my hand.

He glared at me again, then stalked out of the room in a huff. I gingerly put the brush back in its side pocket. Minutes later, Inkwell again entered the room, this time putting his paws up on the table to check for scary objects before he jumped up and proceeded back to my lap for cuddles.

Note to self: Do not leave the brush out. I got clutter shamed by my cat.

Sunday, June 05, 2022

Gun Rant

I do not hate guns.

I know, I know, I'm constantly whinging about the evil of the NRA and screaming that politicians who get money from the NRA should be voted out of office. But...

I do not hate guns.

I have fired guns. I have handled guns. I enjoy target shooting. A .22 rifle and a paper target are a joy to me. Handled safely, I have absolutely no problem with guns.

For defense against wildlife in truly wild places, I don't have a problem with slightly higher caliber weapons, responsibly owned by intelligent people. I don't even have an issue with people hunting, as long as they eat what they hunt and follow wildlife expert's advice so animals aren't driven to extinction. I don't really approve of it, and I wouldn't do it myself... I think it's a little childish and disgusting if you can get food in another way... but I'm not going to shame people for it and I'll keep my mouth shut about it. As long as it is done responsibly and legally. After all is said and done, I eat meat and - frankly - the meat I eat is produced in a disgusting way as well. I cannot claim any moral superiority there.

So I do not hate guns.

But I also see that guns should be carefully controlled and maintained, and I see that the "general public" is unable to do so because there are too many people with too many problems. There are always people who go too far, which is why we have to have rules. Some people won't stop until they hit the rules, no matter how much harm they are causing. You cannot leave *anything* completely open and free because someone will always ruin it for everyone else: the whole "this is why we can't have nice things" syndrome.

So limits must be established. The Second Amendment to the US Constitution was never a suicide pact. Reasonable limits are always expected on any freedom. Despite the First Amendment, free speech has reasonable limits on it. This is understood by everyone with even an ounce of brains. The same applies to the Second Amendment.

Right now, the freedom demanded by second amendment extremists is infringing on the freedom of literally every other person in the country by denying us our right to life and pursuit of happiness. It's hard for kids to be happy when any day they go to school might be the day they are slaughtered by a gun nut with an AR-15. People have been murdered by these "well-regulated milita" morons in schools, churches, grocery stores, movie theaters, street festivals... our entire lives are now at risk because some self-important twats decided their personal right to compensate for their own short-comings is more important than every other citizens' right to life.

I do not hate guns, but I hate people who love guns over everything else.

No one needs a weapon of war in their home. If you cannot defend yourself with a .22 you probably aren't intelligent enough to own a water gun, much less an automatic or semi-automatic. The likelihood you'll get yourself shot in a gun battle, probably with your own weapon, is very high if you feel like you *need* an AR-15 to defend yourself. Invest in a baseball bat, instead.

The arguments about defending against a tyrannical government are laughable as well. How long are you going to last against the entire US Army? No, seriously. The fantasies of urban warriors waging a war against the fascist state are just that, fantasy. You stop fascism by stopping it at the ballot box and destroying the propaganda machine that helps drive it - not by feeding into it and becoming the very tyrants you claim to want to defend against. Most gun nuts *are* the fascists they claim they want to bear arms against. They've just been brainwashed into believing they are the good guys. Years of propaganda by the Russian-funded NRA, and Fox propaganda channel have programmed them into being the very thing they hate. And they refuse to see it, because that would mean admitting they are wrong.

I do not hate guns.

But I am tired of people who love guns over their fellow humans. Who love the thought of being some sort of stupid action hero so much that they cannot see the pain they cause. Who worship guns devoutly, send their constant tithes to gun manufacturers and the NRA, who practically pray to their guns and celebrate the deaths of children with little dances on stage at the NRA. I'm tired of them all.

Every day those gun worshippers block reasonable gun control, they drive me further toward more severe gun restrictions. Every time another child, another mother, another cousin, friend, lover dies in a senseless hail of bullets, I want more severe restrictions. Every time I see a politician saying "let's not politicize this" as they turn a crime scene into a gun rally, I want more severe restrictions. Every time I see an NRA member crying that they are the real victims when a fellow gun nut murders someone, I want more severe restrictions.

Every time someone claims these slaughters are false flag operations, I want every single gun nut to be forced to view the crime scene in person and be forced to clean the gore up with their bare hands.

Right now, I'm in favor of reasonable gun control. The Clinton ban on assault weapons should be put back into effect. Other restrictions should be discussed and debated on their merits, not dismissed out of hand by the bought-and-paid for NRA politicians. The longer those politicians block reasonable efforts, the more severe my own position on gun control gets in response.

I do not hate guns. But I'm definitely headed that way, thanks to the NRA and the cult of the gun.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Solar Power

Hubby-Eric and I have gone solar.

Eric did the work, looking into companies and finding a deal that would allow us to install panels with no up-front cost. I'm going to say this right out: we are NOT saving money on this at the moment. If we use the panels for a few years, yes, they will start to pay for themselves. But despite no up-front cost, we will actually be paying more out of pocket for awhile. We didn't do this to save money short-term. We waited until we were in a good financial situation.

The panels were installed on February 22, then we went through a month and change of paperwork and permits being approved before the power company arrived last Wednesday and installed the net meter (the power company employee knocked on the door, but I was gaming with headphones on and didn't hear him. It was a surprise when the power suddenly went out as he restarted the system. I need to make a huge sign that says "RING THE DOORBELL, WE MAY NOT HEAR YOU KNOCK!").

Eric turned on the various switches and stuff, but it wasn't until he reread the instructions and got a notice that he figured out how to finish the installation - and our panels went active.

Yesterday I finally worked out how to get the app to view our usage and generation. And now I'm a little bit obsessed with looking at our energy system.

For example, we have a constantly updating graph that shows our usage (lower red line) in comparison to our generation (upper part of graph). As you can see, generation varies wildly. We have 18 panels on the west side of our roof, which means they weren't in direct sunlight when I took this screenshot. Any variation in the amount of light the panels receive will change the generation levels. This is why relying solely on solar isn't viable for most uses of electricity yet. You need something to balance out the load, and right now for us that something is the regular power grid.

We do not have a battery back-up, nor do we have "sunlight backup", which would protect our house from power loss during the day. We are still dependent on the power grid - the only thing that's changed is that we are now contributing to the power in the system during the day, which hopefully means a little less fossil fuel can be used elsewhere in the system.

Well, maybe not the only thing. We also now have a minute-by-minute view of our power usage, which may allow us to figure out what items in the house are drawing more power than we'd like them to draw, and therefore help us lower waste. We'll have to see how it pans out. Currently, the app is gathering data on our regular habits and trying to determine what sort of power draw is normal for us. In a couple of weeks, it will start giving us more detailed reports, and we can start thinking about changes in our lifestyle at that point.

But I will admit, it's kind of nice to see this on the app:

Sunday, December 19, 2021

The 2021 Hugo Awards

Thoughts on the Hugo winners... all of the best novel nominees were REALLY good, so I would have been happy with any of them, but I'm still extremely pleased that Murderbot won. I very much enjoyed the series and the novel, and I'm very glad I got introduced to it through the Hugo Awards.

My second choice would probably be Piranesi, which still haunts me, but again - all of them were really really good. All of them are worth reading.

For best novella, the winner, The Empress of Salt and Fortune, is the one that keeps haunting me. None of them were bad, but some hit me less hard.

The best novelette winner, Two Truths and a Lie, is probably the only story I didn't like of the novelettes. I didn't hate it but the story rubbed me the wrong way. I think I put it last on my ballot, but I put it on the ballot because I thought it was worthy of the award. So I'm not disappointed.

All the short stories were excellent, and "Metal Like Blood in the Dark" was a great choice. Personally, I voted "A Guide for Working Breeds" and Little Free Library over it, but it was a hard decision.

All of the best series were worthy, but I did have a preference for The Murderbot Diaries, so I'm very glad it won.

The new category of best video game picked a great game, Hades. It was the one I voted for in the top spot. I hope they keep this category or return with it in the future.

The rest ... there's too much to go into. There was SO much good stuff this year. I hope next year's finalists are as excellent.

List of 2021 Hugo Award Winners

Saturday, December 18, 2021

The Legend of Jorts and Jean

This is not my content. I am preserving it here ONLY so I can get at it later when I need a laugh.

"Pam is NOT to apply margarine to any of her coworkers."

Thursday, December 09, 2021

Video Game Review - Ruined King: A League of Legends Story

So, I don't usually buy or play video games right when they come out. In fact, I think I started DC Universe Online four YEARS after it debuted. But I've been very interested in League of Legends for awhile, mostly because of their awesome music videos. With the release of their full animated series, Arcane, I became even more interested.

Now, in the gaming community, League of Legends is a big deal. Players get millions of dollars for being good at it.

But there's a big problem with League of Legends for me. I hate PvP. I don't like any type of Player versus Player games. I have found that I get far too intense and stupid and turn into almost literally a monster. So I avoid PvP whenever possible. I just don't like doing it at all. I will play against people very casually, but in League of Legends, casual doesn't work so well. So I've mostly ignored the game while being fascinated by its lore.

So when they announced a single-player turn-based RPG set in the League of Legends universe that explores some of the lore, I was intrigued. And after I mentioned my interest to hubby-Eric, he suggested I buy it and try it. For the first time ever, I bought a game on release day as an adult and started playing.

Ruined King: A League of Legends Story

After three weeks, I've finished the game (on the easiest setting) and I gotta say, I really enjoyed it.

It's a fairly standard RPG with turn-based battles (you set up your next move, the foes set up their moves, the battle is run until you need to pick what you are going to do again). You start with a single character and eventually "collect" six characters with different skill sets. You run battles with three of them at a time - and depending on which characters are active, you might see different things in the world around you. For example, a certain type of treasure might only be visible to one character, so if that character isn't one of your three active characters as you move around the map, you might miss it.

Everything has a solid story reason behind it, and despite what really is an absolutely lunatic combination of characters, it works. I mean, we have a happy Viking-type, a pirate, a samurai, a vampire, a honorable priestess, and a stealthy revenant - all on the same team. But each character has a backstory that you learn throughout the game. Despite some tension, they work together well as you take them on a world-changing quest. I quickly developed a favored pair of characters, which allowed me to switch out my third for whoever I needed in the storyline at that moment.

Gameplay was easy enough on the normal setting, with battles taking a few attempts to figure out, then becoming pleasant puzzles. Learning the fighting system thoroughly helped immensely when I got to the final battle, which pulled in all the knowledge into one nasty bundle. I lost on my first try because I went in under-powered. I made sure to remedy that with a little bit of grinding out the game's many side-quests, and handlily managed my second attempt.

The main storyline is filled with good gameplay - not just fighting. There are a number of puzzles to solve, some obvious, some a little more difficult. Paying attention to detail really pays off - like noticing when an object drops off something. Huh, could that object have a clue on it? Better go find it and check. In addition to the main storyline, there are a lot of side quests. As usual for this type of game, some are ridiculous. Some are necessary to advance. Some are necessary to get better gear. But can you really claim you've won the game if you haven't found Fluffy?

The art is good, and some of the opponents are very fun. I like battling a "Possessed Tome". As in other games, you quickly get a sense of what enemies you can't handle yet and which ones are fine to take on without fear. Unfortunately, just because one baddie shows up in the overall scene you are moving through doesn't mean that when you enter the fight it hasn't brought along a few friends. Ouch. The style overall reminds me, pleasantly, of games I used to play in high school. It is not complicated, sophisticated, or hyper-realistic. It's just fun. I felt like a teenager again while playing.

The story drove me on, because I wanted to read it all and find out what really happened. There is a central mystery to it - the opening cinematic sets it up beautifully. Why did the Blessed Isles fall? What is the Harrowing? You get some solid answers by the end. It's like reading a novel while playing it as well. It was an experience I very much enjoyed. In addition to the main story there were the individual tales of each of our six main characters as well as bits of lore featuring dozens of other characters, some related and some not, that you just find as you explore the world.

On the downside, the initial release had some bugs. The worst were some quests that remained in the quest log after you finish them, and some items on the map that never showed up as completed. As far as I experienced it, fighting and movement were not affected so I was able to mostly ignore the problems.

Another issue was backtracking. Although the game introduces some "quick travel" options, they don't cover everything, and you really do have to retread a lot of ground to finish quests and figure stuff out. It's not ideal, but the closer I got to end game, the less backtracking I needed to do, so it wasn't too bad. It just was bad enough to be noticable.

Also. Fishing. Yeah, that's a thing. Like in almost every game in this genre. For some reason. I don't know why. Fishing. I think it must be a requirement.

In the meta-game, I found it very easy to get Steam Achievements. Most of them happened just by doing all the side quests, and the one or two I missed (the fishing achievement and the "meet every opponent" achievement) were easy to go back and get once I finished the game. In fact, the only two Steam Achievements I still need to do are to complete the game on the two higher levels of difficulty. Which I plan to do, because I enjoyed it and don't mind replaying it.

So, overall, well worth the cost of the game. I enjoyed it quite a bit, and kind of wish I had more of it to play. I hope there is a new story DLC in the future, but I'm not counting on it.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Taking a Short Break from Song of the Month

One reason I started cataloging Eric's Song of the Month posts is because Facebook has a tendency to hide posts. As I started to look for December 2020 posts, this problem has become more apparent. I'm going to keep working on it, but it's going to take longer for me to complete the posts.

If I cannot find the post, I'll put "missing post" on that day. If I know the video for that day, I'll try to post it. Since Eric posted them, some videos may have been removed or had their permissions changed. If I am able, I'll try to find the same video elsewhere and link to that, otherwise I'll try to note the video isn't available. Link rot will set in, and some videos will not be available in the future as well... that's just the nature of the internet.

While I work on finding old Facebook posts, here's the list of songs Eric has done so far:

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Song of the Month - January 2021 - Bohemian Rhapsody

I'm going to work my way backwards through Facebook's confusing system and try to get all the videos Eric has posted for his Song of the Month series. Today's month is January 2021, and the song is Bohemian Rhapsody.

Jan 1st - Song of the Month, Day 1: Right! New month, new year, new song! And boy, do we need this new year! So this month's song has to be a big, bold, brassy one that will knock the door down and say, "Hey, we're not kidding around, this year had better be a BIG improvement over the last one!" So then the choice became REALLY simple. Ladies and gentlemen, and everyone else who may fall somewhere in between, I present to you the Song of the Month for January, 2021!

Friday, November 12, 2021

Song of the Month - February 2021 - Somebody That I Used To Know

I'm going to work my way backwards through Facebook's confusing system and try to get all the videos Eric has posted for his Song of the Month series. Today's month is February 2021, and the song is Somebody That I Used to Know.

Feb 1st - Song of the Month, Day 1: Here's one that I know has at least a few interesting covers out there, and is an intriguing song in its own right. But it's also kind of a dark and bleak song, so I thought it would be a good one for a short month like February. Without further ado, the Song of the Month is "Somebody That I Used to Know" by Gotye, featuring Kimbra.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Song of the Month - March 2021 - Happy

I'm going to work my way backwards through Facebook's confusing system and try to get all the videos Eric has posted for his Song of the Month series. Today's month is March 2021, and the song is Happy.

Mar 1st - Song of the Month, Day 1: It's time to blast ahead and jump start spring. After a couple months of downers, we really need something upbeat and funky. So I looked at my list of potential songs—and there was only one choice!

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Song of the Month - April 2021 - Fade to Black

I'm going to work my way backwards through Facebook's confusing system and try to get all the videos Eric has posted for his Song of the Month series. Today's month is April 2021, and the song is Fade To Black.

Apr 1st - Song of the Month, Day 1: This is going to be a little different for me, since I'm posting a song this month that I barely know and have very little history with. In fact, the first time I recall hearing in was a couple days ago when researching it for today! But this is a request from my brother-in-law, Ray. And it looks promising, there have been many covers over the years. There doesn't seem to be an official video by the band for this song, so this first one is pretty static, but I suspect thing will improve very quickly. Everyone, thanks for tolerating my rambling introduction. Here it is, "Fade to Black" by Metallica.

Tuesday, November 09, 2021

Song of the Month - May 2021 - Stitches

I'm going to work my way backwards through Facebook's confusing system and try to get all the videos Eric has posted for his Song of the Month series. Today's month is May 2021, and the song is Stitches.

May 1st - Song of the Month, Day 1: This one has actually been planned before, but I postponed it a couple times when other ideas came up. But now it's time for another song from this century. I was impressed by "Stitches" when some high school kids introduced it to me a few years ago. Then I saw this video, which is impressive. Then I found out just how young Shawn Mendes is (he was only 17 when this song came out), and was triply impressed. So here, at last, is an impressive song, "Stitches" by Shawn Mendes.

Monday, November 08, 2021

Song of the Month - June 2021 - Sultans of Swing

I'm going to work my way backwards through Facebook's confusing system and try to get all the videos Eric has posted for his Song of the Month series. Today's month is June 2021, and the song is Sultans of Swing.

Jun 1st - Song of the Month, Day 1:

Sunday, November 07, 2021

Song of the Month - July 2021 - Kings & Queens

I'm going to work my way backwards through Facebook's confusing system and try to get all the videos Eric has posted for his Song of the Month series. Today's month is July 2021, and the song is Kings & Queens.

Jul 1st - Song of the Month, Day 1: New month, new song! Those of you who get all annoyed when I have something from this century by an artist you've never heard of, you may as wait until August, because this song is from this DECADE! I heard this on the radio, thought it was catchy, and thought, what the heck! So, with no further ado, here's Ava Max with "Kings and Queens"!

Saturday, November 06, 2021

Song of the Month - August 2021 - Video Killed the Radio Star

I'm going to work my way backwards through Facebook's confusing system and try to get all the videos Eric has posted for his Song of the Month series. Today's month is August 2021, and the song is Video Killed the Radio Star.

Aug 1st - Song of the Month, Day 1: New month, new song! So, in honor of the fortieth (!) anniversary of the debut of MTV, here is the first video they played (back when MTV played music videos):