Underneath my yellow skin

Darkening my soul

Ian and I were talking the other day about how I was difficult to recommend games to because I was very picky about games. Not only that–it’s difficult even for me to tell what I will and won’t like before playing the game. Well, more what I will like. I am usually very good about knowing what I won’t like, but even in that I can be surprised from time to time. Such as The Surge by Deck13 Interactive. I was expecting it to be trash and to hate it (but I had to try it because it’s a soulslike and it’s in my contract). While the former is mostly true, the latter was not. Maybe it was because I had such low expectations of it, but I quite enjoyed my time with it and finished it–which is more than I can say for the vast majority of soulslikes.

Anyway! Ian joked that it was easy to tell what game I would like–actual Souls games. That made me laugh. He’s not wrong, though, and WHY ISN’T ELDEN RING IN MY HANDS ALREADY??? *Ahem* I keep thinking I’ll like soulslikes, but I…don’t. Or more truthfully, I mostly don’t. There have been a few exceptions, but the ratio is dismal. I’ve tried dozens of soulslikes and have really enjoyed two. The aforementioned The Surge and Salt and Sanctuary by Ska Studios. Having said that, there are qualifiers. I enjoyed The Surge, but it was very much in the vein of ‘this is way better than I thought it’d be so I’m pleasantly surprised’. As for Salt and Sanctuary, it’s a slavish homage to Souls and while I enjoyed playing it, I immediately forgot it once I was done. Ask me to name a single boss in either game and I can’t.

So, yeah. I don’t like soulslikes–I like Souls games. Some people are grumbling that Elden Ring is going to be basically Dark Souls IV. Which, it’s not, but if it were, I’m all over that! I’ve watched the trailer at least a half-dozen times since it dropped and I get stoked every time. I want this to be good sooooooo bad. I’m trying not to get too hyped because I don’t want to be crushingly disappointed, but this game excites me like none other in recent years. I feel for Miyazaki because there is so much pressure on him (well, FromSoft in general, but he IS FromSoft) to produce the perfect game every time. He got almost universal praise for Bloodborne, but there has been some amount of pushback for all his other games*.

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I’m slicing and I’m dicing

My thumb is nearly 100% and I can’t get over how great it is. When I had trigger thumb, I rationalized that it wasn’t that bad. I rarely had to use my thumb so as long as I babied it, it was fine. Not great. It was always tender and I always had to be careful about bumping it, but it was fine. Or so I thought. Now that it’s back to normal, I can’t believe how much I had to accommodate it and how much it low-key bothered me. It’s only in retrospect that I realize how restrained I was by it.

In a metaphysical way, it’s the same with any flaw a person has. It’s hard to see how much it hampers you while you’re in a situation where using it doesn’t seem so bad. Or working around it. It doesn’t help that I have an insanely high tolerance for pain plus my mother’s mentality of stiff upper lip. When I got my steroid shot, the doctor warned me that it was going to hurt because it was in a very sensitive spot. I exhaled as she pushed the rather long needle into the base of my thumb and it was nothing more than a sting at the site of the needle. I didn’t react and we went on with the appointment. At the end of it, she asked how my thumb was feeling. I said fine and she gave me a strange look. She said I was very strong (or something similar) because that was a very sensitive spot for a shot.

She sounded almost admiring of it and I wanted to tell her it was not a good thing, but I just nodded. Someone accused me of humble-bragging when I tweeted about my reaction to the second shot or rather trying to garner sympathy. I wasn’t, but it made me think about how we’re supposed to react to medical things. In a letter to Ask A Manager today, someone who suffers debilitating migraines (of two different types) and was wondering if when they returned to the office, she could get away with crawling on the ground. She worked for a huge company and the vast majority of the commenters were appalled at the idea. The few who pointed out that it was akin to a disability ask were shouted down.

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I’m as cold as ice

It’s 69 degrees (nice) and I’m a happy clam. It’s still outside my comfort zone, but after two weeks of over a hundred, I’ll take it. Being outside didn’t make me want to claw my own face off and I could actually feel a nice breeze. I fucking hate summer. We get a hundred day here and there, but nothing like the last two weeks. Even with air con, a fan blowing high, ice water, ice packs, and as little clothing as possible, it’s miserable. I can’t think in the heat–it feels as if my brain is frying. It makes me snappish, irritated, and unable to concentrate.

Even though the weather is much more tolerable, it’s still not fun for me. I’m fine with 20-50 degrees, but I prefer it under that, honestly. Down to zero is nice and then it’s a bit nippy when it gets to sub-zero temps. I talked to Kat Friday night and we reminisced about how back when we used to go out, we’d have such a different reaction to the weather. She’s a Florida gal and revels in the heat. When we went out in the summer, I would be whining and moaning about the heat, barely able to move while she would be flitting around, clearly in her element. In the winter, however, the shoe was on the other foot. She would be hunching over, shivering, demanding to know why my spine wasn’t scrunching up. I, on the other hand, would be in my element and loving it.

As I grow older, my ability to deal with cold gets less attuned*, but my ability to deal with heat hasn’t gotten better at all. If anything, it’s gotten worse. I would love to live in a place where the weather never rose about 50 degrees.

Let’s talk demos. Still trying them out and I really dig it. I can play a game for ten minutes or an hour and not have to commit to it. During the Steam Next Fest, there are so many demos! This is both a good thing and a bad thing. It’s good because I can try out any game that catches my eye without plunking down money for it. It’s bad because, well, there are so many bad games out there. That ain’t throwing shade at video games because that’s the case with, well, everything. 98% of pop culture is pure crap. That’s just the way it goes.

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Demo(lition) woman

It’s Steam Next Fest! What is that? I had no clue when Ian told me about it. I thought it was yet another Steam Sale, which, to be fair, it is, but it’s also a conference/festival/etc. Summer seems to be the time for this shit to happen, which is fine. In this case, that means many demos! I’m a casual gamer at heart and with casual games, demos are expected. Casual games are probably easier to make in general so it’s no biggie to have a demo, but it’s really nice to be able to play the first hour or the first chapter before buying. And that’s with a $7 game! With hardcore games being upwards of $70, it makes sense to want to check it out before buying.

In fact, that’s one reason Game Pass (Xbox and PC) is such a good thing. You can play the games for free and then buy them if you really like them. It’s pretty great that most of the stuff coming up on Xbox is going to be on Game Pass from day one. Which includes PC. I’m here for that and my Game Pass library is growing to the point where I have a pile of shame over there as well.

First, I’m still playing Cozy Grove by Spry Fox every day. It’s my comfort game and it’s my way of starting the day–well, continuing the day. I don’t do it when I first get up–that would be my taiji routine after feeding Shadow, but I usually do it within a few hours after that. Nowadays, it takes about an hour because I have so many resources to gather plus helping my spirit friends and, most importantly, Fashion Grove! I had to help one of my friends leave this mortal coil–look. This is difficult to explain, but they’re spirit bears who are caught in limbo. When they need help, they’re translucent as is the area around them. Nothing grows in the translucent areas and the animals are frozen. After I help them, they wave their paws in the air and become colored again–as is the area around them. Animals spring back to life and you can harvest fruits and flowers again.

Anyway, once you fill all five of their hearts, they are ready to move on. That happened with one of the characters and I was caught off-guard. I was trying to back out of it because I wasn’t ready and managed to flub it up so I didn’t get her final story scene. That bothered me and still does, but I can picture it in my mind (also, not going to play the game all over again just to get there because that  would be two more actual live-time months). I actually said I wasn’t ready for her to go. Afterwards, she turned golden and she’s still there, but I can’t talk to her. Or rather, she can’t talk to me. She still sends me on fetch quests now and again, and I can still buy/sell from/to her when she does, but other than that, she’s just there.

Today, I had a task to do for another spirit bear and he said it was one last craft. I adore him and did not want him to go so even though I had the material he needed, I refused to give them to him until I had done absolutely everything else for the day. Then, I gave him what he needed and it wasn’t actually the thing that pushed him to being released. I was relieved that he was still going to be around.

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I am a delicate flower, damn it

The heat has finally broken–somewhat. It’s 75 right now, which is still outside my comfort zone, but it’s way better than 107. My parents were shocked when I told them because it’s actually hotter than where they are–which almost never happens. They asked how I’ve been dealing with it. With AC, a fan blowing on high directly on me, iced water, and ice packs. Also, taking off my shirt when the sun goes down. I’m a less is more kind of gal in general when it comes to clothing in part because of hating clothing on my skin and partly because I hate being hot. Oh, also constrained. In my idea world, I would  be naked all the time in a 50 degree world. That’s not gonna ever happen, though, because that’s not the world I live in.

My energy has been sapped even for the few minutes I’m outside when I’m taking a few puffs. It’s just so oppressive, especially when you’re not used to it. It’s similar to how the South deals with an inch of snow–it’s no big deal unless it only happens once every five years or so. We get over a hundred on occasion, but not for a solid week as we did this time. We’re supposed to get back up in the nineties this week, which is just not right. I mean, yes, it’s June and yes it’s summer. But this is Minnesota! We’re not built to deal with sustained 100 degrees.

Even though I’m inside most of the time, I’m still affected by the heat. My sleep has been worse than usual and my brain refuses to think. I’m grumpy, which, admittedly, is my normal state of mind, but it’s also extra with the heat. I feel like a dope for being so susceptible to heat, but it’s the way I am. I love the cold with all my heart and feel alive when the temperature is around zero. But anything over sixty is not fun for me and past seventy, I want to throat-punch somebody. Eighty? Grrrrr. Ninety is unfathomable and a hundo is personally hurtful.

I’m drinking iced water and iced coffee like they’re going out of style, which is helping a bit. But mostly, I’m just mad. I know it doesn’t help, but it’s how I feel.

In better news, my left thumb is roughly 92% right as rain. That steroid shot was a miracle worker, but I’m glad the doc clarified that it might take up to two weeks to work. I had been expecting it to be like magic and work instantly. Knowing that wasn’t the case meant I didn’t freak when it didn’t get better right away. It took a few days for it to improve at all and by the one week point, I was at roughly 60%. Now, I can bend it with very minimal pain and it’s only slightly sore when I touch it. To be honest, I’ll be happy if it stays like this and doesn’t get any better. I’m just so relieved I can use it again.

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Life is (not) like

E3 is going on right after Summer Game Fest and so far, I have been less than underwhelmed. On Thursday, I suffered through two hours before finally getting Elden Ring. There was one or two other games that sparked an interest, but for the most part, I got gloomier and gloomier because I started thinking there would be no Elden Ring. Plus, there was just so much filler. So. Much. Filler. Then, there was the Ubi conference and there was nothing there for me. Nothing at all. Granted, Eurogamer didn’t find much to get excited about, either, in part because it was all trash.

Here’s the thing. I came to the realization a few years back that I don’t really like video games. Wait. Let me expand that. I don’t like most of pop culture in general. I never watch movies–well, rarely, which is why I’m still salty about how much I hated Knives Out. My one movie last year and I was excited to see it and it sucked so much–and I rarely watch TV. When I do, it’s reality competition shows with contestants who are nice to each other.

My point is that it’s not specific to vide games–it’s just me. I don’t like most of what other people like and most of the time, I’m fine with it. Sometimes, though, it’s difficult because I don’t want to be the joykiller when other people are squealing over something I could not give two shits about. It could be Game of Thrones or the endless Avengers movies or Gone Girl, either the movie or the book. I’ve long since accepted that I am an outlier, but it wears on me.

Not only is it pop culture, it’s just me in general. I’ve listed it all before, but here are the ways I’m different than everyone else: Not married; not cohabitating; no children; agnostic; the list goes on. I’m a freak and I know it. I was able to realize and accept it for most of pop culture so I don’t know why it took so long to do the same for video games. I think it’s partly because the first game Ian suggested to me, Torchlight, I enjoyed immensely. I adored the protag because she could be Asian if you squinted. Then, he suggested Diablo III and once the disaster of launch day was fixed, it was lots of fun. Then, Borderlands 1 and 2, which I played back-to-back for over a hundred hours–each? Maybe? I dunno. It’s been a hot minute.

Then, it was Dark Souls, Dark Souls II (SotFS), Dark Souls III, Bloodborne, and Sekiro. On the indie side, Cook, Serve, Delicious! (All three), Binding of Isaac (all iterations, I guess, but mostly Rebirth), Spiritfarer, Hades, and Cozy Grove.

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It was the best of games; it was the worst of games

Let’s talk Binding of Isaac: Repentance by Edmund McMillen. Why? Because. I read a review of it on Steam that has stuck in my mind. The review said (and I paraphrase) that this is the best version and the worst version of the game at the same time. To them, if you’ve never played the game before, it’s the best time to get stuck in. If you’ve played before, then this iteration will be frustrating. I agree with this. Well, maybe not it’s the best iteration, but if you’re new to the game, you’ll probably appreciate it more than if you’ve poured hundreds (*cough* thousands *cough) of hours into it.

I will say if you’re new to the game (or even if you’re not), play on normal for the love of all that is good and holy. Hard is backbreakingly hard. In Rebirth, Hard was harder than normal, but not terrible. Or maybe it just seemed that way after playing it so much. Anyway, Hard Mode is no fun at all, but you have to do it if you want to get all the achievements. As I’ve explained before, if you get an achievement on Normal  Mode, that’s fine and dandy; you still have to do it in Hard Mode. If you get the achievement in Hard Mode, then you get both (as well as all the unlocks for both). So for OG Isaac people, it makes sense to default to Hard Mode. I got one of the new bosses with Bethany, thinking to myself that it wasn’t as bad this time. I must be OP! No, I had accidentally changed it to Normal Mode. Honestly. It’s so much easier. There’s part of me that is half-tempted to do Normal Mode for all the new achievements that would get me because I can go ten to twenty (or more) runs without winning. In the old days, I won more than I lost. Granted, I mostly played with Azazel, Eden, and Isaac with a few Samsons thrown in for fun, but still.

Indicative of the unevenness of the new expansion: The two new characters, Bethany and Jacob & Esau. Bethany is a terrific character and so much fun. I even beat Greedier Mode with her, which is quite possibly my least-favorite mode in the whole game. I would play with her all day every day and have fun doing it. Now let’s turn our attention to, sigh, Jacob & Esau. I’ve written before how much I loathe this character/s, but it bears repeating. I hate them. So much. And so does everyone on the internet. Normally, you can find someone who will stan for any given character, item, etc. There is no one who will say that Jacob & Esau is a good character. The most anyone will do is say that if you have this item and this item and this circumstance and, and, and, well, then, it’s almost bearable.

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It’s too hot, too hot, way too fucking hot, baby

The week of mean heat continues, much to my dismay. Last summer, my AC went off maybe one or two days. It’s been on almost nonstop since Friday (it’s now Tuesday). It’s been in the eighties at 11 at night. In other words, it’s fucking hot. I have the AC on, a fan blowing on the highest setting, and plenty of ice drinks. Also hot coffee, but that’s only because I ran out of coffee. Been drinking it cold in the past few days. I have an ice pack for my thumb, which means putting it on my (naked) chest as well. I’m eating popsicles like they were going out of style.

Speaking of my thumb, I can actually bend it again! By itself! Without pushing on it! With minor clicking and pain! It’s been a week since I got the steroid shot and it’s so much better than before. What a relief. Even if it doesn’t become 100% again, I’m elated with the results. Science works, bitchez!

In the first several days after the shot, I took it really easy on my thumb. I didn’t do any of my left side weaponry or two-handed weaponry, much to my chagrin. I did the right side sword and right side saber, both which involves holding the weapon briefly with the left hand in the beginning and end of the form, but it doesn’t really put pressure on the thumb itself. In general, I don’t use my left thumb on the regular, especially now that I’ve taught myself to use my right thumb to hit the spacebar, but it’s nice that I don’t have to baby it so much.

One of the boons to being dairy-free/gluten-free now is that there are many substitutes that are nearly as good as/as good as/better than the original product. However, that’s also the down side as the subs use much fats to get that creamy mouth feel. I should have realized that on my own, but I didn’t think about it–probably chose not to think about it. Now that I’ve decided to ‘eat healthier’ (put in quotes because it’s all about the numbers), that means cutting out most of the dairy subs. Cheese, sour cream, and soft spreads–I’m using up what I have and buying no more. I’m also cutting back on chocolate and am very close to animal/fish free. Does that mean I’m going to be a default vegan? Yup, pretty much.

Still hot. Still grumpy. Gonna end it with this video.

Fat, health, and what lies between

I want to lose weight. I got weighed at the doctor’s office and yeah not happy with the number. Even though the rest of the numbers are fine. It doesn’t help that the doctor, much like most doctors, is focused on that one number to the exclusion of the other numbers. I know I’ve been steadily gaining weight in the past several years, even when giving up gluten and dairy. Part of the problem is that many of the substitutes for dairy are full of fat themselves–which I didn’t really think about but was reminded of this week.

I will be painfully honest. I could say that I’m concerned about my weight for health reasons, but it’s not true. It’s all about looks and the fact that as much as I’ve become neutral about being fat, I still would prefer not to be. I know that it sounds like I’m splitting hairs, but it really is a different mindset.

Side Note: It’s similar to when I took the depression survey. I garnered a total of twelve and anything over six is considered worrisome. However, I was sure that I scored fifteen to twenty before (which my doctor ignored), which meant that I was in a much better place than before. That meant nothing to the doctor as she was focused on the 12. I understand from her point of view, but she didn’t even try to see it from mine.

It’s the same with my body. I used to hate it with the heat of a thousand suns. I worked on deescalating that hatred for many years and now I’m mostly neutral about it. I don’t love it, but I don’t hate it the way I once did. I don’t actively want to beat it into submission, for example. Because of taiji weapons, I now like my biceps and my ass. That’s an improvement.

Goddamn it. It’s too hot and I’m wilting like a delicate flower. It’s been 90 to 110 in the past few days, which is way out of my comfort zone.

Hodge, podge, and a little bit of dodge

Still on that Cozy Grove (Spry Fox)/Binding of Isaac: Repentance (Edmund McMillen) tip on the daily. Every morning, I do the loop in Cozy Grove and it goes like this. First, I gather all the resources that are available. Flowers, minerals, nuts, and fruits. Then, I feed all the animals/imps that need feeding. After that, I go to the spirits who need help and do their quests. While I’m doing their quests, I have my divining rod on hand so I can divine as I tromp across my island. I also dig up any resources that are around–onions, sweet taters, taters, etc. Once all that is done, I go to Mr. Kit (and Mr. Kat, the mouse on top of his, a fox, head) to sell my goods. If I overpacked my backpack while gathering resources, I go to him to sell off the flowers. Man, you can make a pretty penny by selling all the flowers.

Once I’m done selling, I turn to buying. First, haircuts. I remember when I first tried a new haircut and realized I couldn’t get my old one back unless it went on sale, I was crushed. Now, I switch it up on the daily and it’s so much fun.

Side Note: It’s interesting looking back on the first few weeks and recalling how stressed I got when I didn’t have enough money to buy something or ingredient to make something–specifically cocoa beans.  There was no way to get except to buy one a day from Mr. Kit and…several at a time from Pandam once a week. And the former was only after you expanded his store–which wasn’t cheap. Everything was scarce and I felt as if I would never be able to make certain items, such as the Bon Bons.

Fast-forward over a month later and now, I rarely have to worry about resources. Money is not an issue at all. Cocoa beans? I have them laying around my tent just gathering dust. I will say, it was still sticker shock when I had to buy a 50,000 old coins item for the mayor today, but I had it on hand. I dropped it like it was no big thing.

The biggest surprise is how much I’ve grown to care about the spirit  bears. They each have a story and most of them are heart-wrenching. I want to help each and every one of them, even though I know that means I’m bringing them closer to their release. They each have a distinct personality and I can find something to love about each of them. There’s Charlotte, the embittered ranger who used to be a Spirit Scout like me. There’s Allison, the pig bear and baker who likes to use, um, unusual ingredients in her creation. There’s my dear, sweet Arjun (ram bear) who has Alzheimer and only wants to be with his beloved wife, Lily. There’s Flamey, my campfire who does so many things for me. There’s Mr. Kit, the tall and silent fox merchant with Mr. Kat, the mouse, sitting on his head. There’s Pandam, the poor red panda wandering salesman who is cursed and miserable.

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