Monday, December 14, 2015

That Year in Review Thing

We're approaching the half-way point of December, so that inevitably means that people are going to start posting their year-end lists.  Their best of these, their worst of those, yada yada.  I have done some of these in the past myself.  This year, however, I'm more or less grateful that the year is coming to an end, and I'm also grateful that my sanity is still relatively intact.  I hesitate to just blatantly state that 2015 has been the worst year of my life, because it detracts from all of the good things that have happened.  Not only that, but I've always felt that it's unhealthy to label anything as the "worst ever".  Unless it's Donald Trump.

However, that doesn't change the fact that in this case, it's actually true.

It all started in June.

If you live in the same region as me, you'll remember that June was incredibly rain-filled.  I believe the final count for the rainfall in inches during the month was 13, which is absolutely insane.  I think we had rainfall for over 20 out of the 30 days in the month.  Five of these days had incredibly heavy downpours, and as a result, my basement (which is where John and I live) flooded each of those days.  One of these was horrible, and it actually forced us out of the basement.  We were essentially flooded out of our home.  I remember standing there with a wet vac, sucking up the water.  It was coming through the walls faster than the vacuum could pick it up.  The drains underneath the house were, too, flooded, so the water wouldn't even go down the drains.  It was a nightmare.  And it felt like every time we would get things cleaned up and dry, more rain would fall and more water would flood into the basement.  This also happened during a period in time when I was putting in anywhere from 10-12 hours a day at work.  I was already tired and stressed.  I really don't know how I got through being flooded out of my own home in addition to what I had going at work.  Actually, that's not true.  John is the reason I got through it.

The rain finally stopped as June ended.  But that was only the start of our problems.
We got John a new computer in June.  It arrived right after we got the flood cleaned up.  Getting it set up was an exercise in patience and emotional management.  It didn't work at first.  It took hours of re-installing the operating system, getting all of the updates installed, ensuring all the proper drivers were in place.  It was the normal process that is required for any new computer, but it was a stress-filled activity because of the circumstances.  We were already tired and weary from watching our home slowly fill up with water.  Add to this that John already felt guilty for allowing me to spend so much money on him.  When the computer seemed like it wasn't going to be usable for the intensive video recording and editing he needed to do on it, he came unglued.  We got it working, but the computer failed at least twice more over the course of the rest of the year.  One, we lost everyone on the OS hard drive and had to re-install.  Once more, the motherboard went and we had to have it replaced.  And let me tell you, THAT was a joy to behold.

So, one day John upgraded his graphics card driver and rebooted his computer.  It wouldn't even boot into BIOS.  We tried just about everything -- changed the monitor power cord, change the monitor, swapped out video cards, swapped out the RAM.  The computer was still under warranty, of course, since it was only six months old, so we called the manufacturer.  The conclusion was that the motherboard died.  Fixable of course, but the problem here is that the manufacturer's policy is to have the computer shipped back to them so they could install the new one, free of charge of course.  However, that would take at LEAST a month to accomplish.  The beta for World of Warcraft was looming, which would provide John a great opportunity to grow his YouTube channel and expand his subscriber numbers.  Being unable to make videos for an entire month was unacceptable.  We knew that Best Buy sold computers from this company (ibuypower), so we asked if we could take it there to have them fix the computer under warranty.  The answer we got was the next best thing, really.  Ibuypower agreed to send us the motherboard, so that we could take it to Best Buy for repairs.  We'd have to pay for having it installed, but we wouldn't have to pay for the motherboard.  We were more than willing to accept that.
The motherboard arrived shortly after this, and we promptly called Best Buy to schedule an appointment.  We explained the situation to them, stating that we had an Ibuypower computer, it was under warranty, and we needed a motherboard to be installed.  They were very helpful on the phone and scheduled an appointment that day.  I should add that this was on Black Friday.  We had to go to freaking Best Buy on Black Friday.  Fortunately, it wasn't TERRIBLY busy, because we didn't go early in the day.  Plus, everyone was shopping, not going to the customer service desk.  We brought our computer in, said we had an appointment, and were them promptly told that they don't install motherboards.  I cannot even begin to describe how angry I was.  I can understand Ibuypower not knowing this, but I called Best Buy and made an appointment!  I specifically told them that I needed a motherboard to be installed!  They said no problem, and made the appointment.  Then I get there and am told they don't do that.  I was able to prevent myself from screaming at them, and instead asked them for the nearest place that WOULD install a new motherboard.  They sent me to a locally owned shop right down the road from where I work, and by favor of the gods and demons, they were open on Black Friday.  The guy there said he would do it no problem.  And he did.  It was done the next day, and it only cost us $60.
Let's not forget that a few weeks after it was repaired, the computer rebooted after installing Windows Updates, and proceeded to display a black screen with the words "Missing operating system." on it.  Fortunately, it was merely because the updates screwed up which hard drive the system was looking at for the boot sequence.  But COME THE FUCK ON.

I haven't even gotten to the worst of it yet.
In July, my father was taken to the hospital after he was having trouble getting out of his office chair at home.  I was having dinner with friends when my mother called me and left a message.  I was about two seconds too slow in answering it.  She was panicking, of course, so her message left with the impression that he was dead.  I called my brother to get a sane explanation of what was going on.  It was suspected that he was having a stroke.  After many tests, lost blood samples, and incorrect hypotheses, the problems were narrowed down to improper dosages on his medication, mainly his blood thinners.  Over the course of doing all of these tests, however, it was discovered that he had a cancerous tumor on his kidney.  In that instant, everything in my life changed.  Everything.

To be fair about the whole situation, things worked out just about as well as they possibly could.  My father had surgery to remove the tumor, the kidney that it attached itself to, and some of the lymph nodes attached to the kidney.  The tumor was probably about the size of a baseball.  After that, he was screened for cancer again to see if any of it spread elsewhere.  It did not.  He is currently cancer free, and we are hopeful that he's going to stay that way.  I'm very grateful for that, and also incredibly grateful that he is still alive and with us.  He feels better than he has in years.  I can say in certainty that there's nothing more sobering in your life than when you see what your father looks like when he truly believes that he's going to die.  It changes you.  It changed me.  It's a relief now that he's talkative again.  He jokes around, he participates in conversations again, he doesn't keep to himself.  He's back to his old self.  I'm glad.  But, that doesn't undo what everyone has gone though.  It doesn't undo the change that was forced upon us.
This year also decided that cancer wasn't enough on the health side of things.  In July, around the same time that my father started to have health problems, so did my husband.  John began to have severe itching on his arms and legs, and we couldn't get rid of it.  At first, we thought it was poison ivy.  Then poison oak.  Then bug bites.  Then allergies.  Then hives from stress.  We still don't fucking know what it was.  We tried calamine lotion, antihistamines, allergy medicine, steroids, anti-itch creams.  Nothing worked, at least not permanently.  Shortly after this all began, he began having trouble with his bowels.  He would have diarrhea for days at a time, followed by constipation for days at a time.  This was in July.  It is STILL a problem, and we STILL do not have an answer.  We currently have it narrowed down to two things, neither of which are serious, thankfully.  It's yet to be seen if either of these are actually the problem.  We're going to have blood work done tomorrow to test for one of them.  In January, he'll be having a colonoscopy to look for anything else it might be.  This has probably been the issue that has negatively affected us the most over the course of this year, because not only does it affect us directly, but it's been going on for so fucking long.

But cancer, uncontrollable itching, and persistent bowel problems were STILL not enough on the health side of things here in 2015.  My cat has begun having problems as well.  He's peeing way more than usual, and has on multiple occasions just jumped up on the bed and used it as a litter box.  He looks like he's having some problems walking, which seems to be related to his cat litter getting embedded into his back paws.  Most likely, this is happening because he's using his litter box so much each day.  He takes longer to pee than I do.  It's ridiculous.  And because he's used the bed on more than one occasion, I've become terribly paranoid about it.  I check it all the time.  I'm constantly looking over my shoulder to make sure he's not near it.  It's made it so it's become incredibly difficult for me to just relax at home, and it's made it impossible for me to ever play with him on the bed again.

These are the big ones.  There are many more smaller things that have happened, and while not detrimental on their own, they just started to stack upon the already use pile of ballsuck that was looming over our heads for the entire year.  There was the fact that my car's "check engine" light came on and refused to every go out again.  It's still on.  I had to get an exemption on it so that it would pass inspection after sinking a few hundred dollars into trying to get it fixed.  There was the fact that after getting back from vacation this year, which was expensive, we realized that on top of that expense we now had to shell out $600 to the government to allow John to stay here.  The day after I mailed the check for $600, John's computer chair broke in half.

You get the idea.

Given the sheer metric fuck ton of shit that has happened, it's all too easy to start assuming that bad things are just going to continue to happen.  Let's face it:  For the last six months, that has actually been true.  And it looks like it will continue to be true as we move into the next year.

What's important to remember is that somehow, by some miracle of nature, I'm still here.  John is still here.  We got through all of this shit.  And as annoying and stressful and depressing and irritating and hopeless as things seemed to have been, the year was also filled with a hell of a lot of highs, as well, BlizzCon being the most notable of these.  I refuse to allow this shit to make me look to the future while asking the question, "I wonder what's going to happen to me next?"  Fuck that.  I'm going to do what I always do, and take it one day at a time, handling the bad and cherishing the good.  And no matter what, I will continue to consider myself extremely lucky for all the things that I have.  

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Wolfenstein: The Old Blood, or OMG WHAT IS DLC?

I consider myself to be part of a waning demographic within the gaming community.  I prefer single-player game experiences, instead of co-op, multi-player, or massively multi-player ones.  I prefer story-driven experiences where the difficulty is not the main focus, rather than incredibly difficult ones with a high skill threshold.  I prefer games with at least a touch of humor in them with gorgeous set pieces and lively virtual worlds, rather than bleak, depressing ones that trigger bouts of depression.  

These days, it feels like I'm in the minority when it comes to that.  

When Wolfenstein: The New Order came out last year and received quite a lot of praise, I was hopeful that a majority of gamers out there still shared in some of my interests.  It was a game that did pretty much everything that has been done before.  It was special, though, because it did them all well.  Everyone already knew that the gun play would be top notch.  It was using the idTech engine, and if there is one thing id knows how to do properly, it's gun play.  Say what you will about Rage:  The actual shooting portion of the gameplay was exquisite, and the same was true for The New Order.  It was also wonderful in so many other ways, though, too.  So many other important ways.  It had everything I wanted in a shooter.  Great set pieces, maps with multiple paths, a likable hero who kicks ass, a bit of dry comedy, a decent story, and plenty of intense moments.

People loved the game, and it gave me hope that perhaps I still lived in a world where that type of game could do well.  Where people weren't so overly obsessed with games innovating, doing something new, or re-inventing the wheel.  But, apparently, that is not the case.  After the reception I am seeing to The Old Blood, it's pretty clear to me that the world merely has the attention span of a gnat and had forgotten what it is that makes a good shooter.  The New Order reminded them of that, and they loved it for it.  But now that the formula is fresh in their minds, any other attempts to maintain that same formula is met with a condescending yawn and a click of the tongue, with comments ranging from "This is the same thing and therefore it's bad" to "This game is the same as this other game that I rated with an 8 therefore since it is exactly the same I will rate it a 6."

With this kind of mentality, I have little hope that the number of games in which I have an interest will not steadily decrease year after year.  It seems inevitable at this point.  The masses just don't like the kind of games that I like any longer.  I only hope that these games end up truly being better, rather than just different.  Innovation is great.  I love it, and I certainly don't wish for it to stop.  But demanding that a game innovate for it to be considered good is a really stupid fucking idea.

All of this, every single point here, has been made without even pointing out that the The Old Blood isn't even a full release game.  It's an expansion.  Back in the days where DLC wasn't a gun, a piece of armor, or a special vehicle, a piece of DLC was actually content.  It was a piece of additional playtime created to give people a little bit more of the game they so loved.  It was to extend the life of that single-player game by adding some new content for it.  That's what The Old Blood is.  People are hating it for doing what it was designed to do.  It's only been a few years, but we already live in a world where gamers have forgotten what DLC is supposed to be.  It's rather difficult to remain optimistic about where the industry is going when gamers cannot tell the difference between a game and an expansion.  It's this kind of ignorant mentality that allows publishers like EA and Ubisoft to further take advantage of their consumers.  Gamers have no one but themselves to blame for this pathetic state of the industry.  You can hate EA all you want, but they are rich with YOUR money.

Monday, May 04, 2015

And We're Back

A little over a year ago, I ceased posting here on this blog and moved to Tumblr.  At the time, my motivations for doing this stemmed  from a desire to have greater visibility.  I wanted people to read what I had to say, and I wanted to see them reading what I had to say.  Tumblr is essentially blogging, but with social networking embedded into it.  It was the perfect solution.  That is, until I finally asked myself one question.


Why do I want more visibility?  Why do I care who is reading my posts?

Once I realized that the answer to both of these questions is "I don't.", it became a lot easier to figure out that the reason why I never blog any longer is because I don't want to put forth the effort into writing for other people.  I merely wish to write for myself, and that has been the case ever since I made my first post here back in 2005.  I sort of lost sight of the fact that a lack of exposure was exactly why I enjoyed writing them.  I could just put my thoughts down in a Google Doc or something like that, but it doesn't have the same kind of organization that I get on a blogging platform.  Call me a narcissist if you'd like.  But you won't, because you're not reading this.  See how it works?

This morning I started looking at more blogging sites, to choose the one that I would like to use to start over.  And then I thought, "Why do I need to start over?"  So, here I am, posting here once more.  It's got a nice familiarity to it.  Even my template with the orange font was still here where I left it, waiting for me to use it again.

And, just in case I forget once again, this blog is a collection of my thoughts and experiences as I go through life.  If you have found your way here, you are more than welcome to read it.  But, I doubt you will find anything extraordinary or interesting.  While it is true that I can be extraordinary and interesting, I am most likely not to very many other people.  There are millions of blogs out there, written by millions of people.  I do not have such delusions of grandeur that I consider the words I'm typing here to be of any significance to anyone but myself or those who love me.

And I am more than okay with that.  


Holy smokes.  The last post I wrote for this blog was on October 18, 2017.  Through the little more than  two years since, this blog has be...