Underneath my yellow skin

A Thousand Steps to One Foot

Still sick, though marginally better. Shadow has been a great help snuggling up to me and keeping me warm, but he has yet to make me a cup of tea. I’ve had to do that myself. I’m at the stage of recovery where I’m holding my breath, hoping I don’t do anything to set myself back. I don’t overextend myself at this point, but the problem is, when I start feeling exponentially better, such as 80%, I get reckless. I think I can go back to doing what I used to do. Now, granted, that’s much to begin with, but it’s enough to set me back.

I still have some remnants of my fundamental upbringing, and it shows up in nebulous ways. In this case, it’s my frustration in that I’m trying to be better about my health in general, and I’m still getting sick. I went five years bronchial/sinus-issues free, and now, I’m getting sick every year. What’s worse, it’s not just a few days or even a week. It’s one bout of two weeks, a few days to a week of being healthy, then a few more weeks of being sick. There’s no logical reason for me to expect that just because I’m doing better with my health, I should be sickness-free. Well, yes, there is a logical link between taking care of your health and not being sick, but it’s not a direct link. It’s not like, “Eat all the leafy greens, and you’ll never cough again,” but it’s hard not to be a little bitter that I’m working on trying to be healthier, and I’m still dealing with all this shit.

Anyway. here’s a video of Maru putting a bag with a hole in it on his head. It’s too ridiculously cute.

His Name is Nioh and He Advances in Japan: Part Two

let's be samurai homies!
Lady Ginchiyo is a bad-ass!

I’ve been playing more Nioh, and I have plenty more to say about it. You can read my initial impressions here. I’m roughly half-way through the game, and the bloom has come somewhat off the rose. To briefly recap, Nioh is a game that has been called a mix between Dark Souls, Ninja Gaiden, and Diablo. You can probably guess that I’m here for the Souls part, and I enjoyed Diablo III as well. This should hit my sweet spot nicely, and it does. Kind of. I’ll get to that in a bit.  Oh, also, there will be mild spoilers, but nothing huge. Just FYI. When we last left off, I was describing the Estus system. Er, Elixirs. You start off with a certain amount, three is the base, and for every five Kodama you find in a region, you get one more base Elixir that will replenish every time you visit your Shrine. I know I said in my Bloodborne posts that a combination of a set number of Blood Vials that replenish at each Lamp in addition to the ones you pick up as you romp through Yharnam would be ideal, and that’s pretty much what we have here. However, as much as I liked it in theory, it doesn’t quite work in execution if you’re as mediocre at the game as I am. Right now, I’m roughly ten levels above what is recommended for the missions, and it’s the minimal I need to feel comfortable. You can store up to 9999 Elixirs, but I haven’t been able to even reach a hundred extra. One thing in BB that I appreciated was that I could buy Blood Vials. Yes, they were expensive as hell by the end of the game, but I wasn’t spending my Souls, er, Blood Echoes, on anything else, so why not? You cannot buy Elixirs in this game (as far as I know), but you can make offerings to the shrine of equipment/items/weapons you don’t want, and you receive Souls, Amrita, in return. In addition, you may be blessed with a gift, often an Elixir.

By the way, I had a terrible thing happen once while I was making my offerings. I do it regularly, especially when I need a few thousand Amrita for my next level. Once, right before a boss, I was making my offerings as quickly as I could. I’ve gotten into a routine of clicking as fast as possible, clearing up as much of my inventory as I can. I like to keep my load to under half of what I’m allowed to carry 500 items, so under 250). One niggling irritation is that if you’re offered a gift, and you can’t carry any more of that item, it gets sent to your storage. That’s not the annoying part. The annoying part is that when you get a gift, you have to click on it. That’s bad enough, but if it’s being sent to storage, a message saying you can’t carry any more and do you want it sent to your storage will pop up, and you have to click on confirm. That’s two more clicks than should be necessary to accept a gift (it should just be automatic), and it’s especially annoying to have to confirm you want it sent to storage. Yes, it’s a small thing, but if I’m doing the process twenty to thirty times, it adds up. Anyway, you use the trigger buttons to go from one category to the next. Weapons, helmets, torso armor, etc. Apparently, I was holding it down plus hitting another button at the same time, so I ‘made an offering’ of all my weapons that weren’t equipped. Because I was doing it as quickly as I could, I said yes before I had realized what I’d done. I can’t tell you how upsetting that was. Not because I use the other weapons, but because some of them are given as rewards for missions. I actually had already done another sub-mission twice because I accidentally offered up the spear that I received as a reward. Now, I had four or five weapons that I could only get from redoing earlier missions. I didn’t really care otherwise because weapons drop like crazy, but I was still mad that this was a thing.

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Focusing When Sick and Tired

One of the side effects of being sick is that my mental acuity isn’t where it normally is. Simple things take more energy, and I feel slow as molasses in the brain department. I went to the store today, and I had to put extra effort into interacting with people. It’s not my bailiwick to begin with, though I’m usually adept at it, but being sick makes it even harder. I can’t take for granted that my automatic responses will flow as easily as the normally do. Plus, just walking around exhausts me. When I came home, I grabbed my three drinks (including tea) and two snacks, and I brought them to the living room. I set down the pop, leaning over as I did, and poured some of the boiling tea onto the back of my left hand. This is the second time I’ve done this, and I know it’s partly because I’m sick. It’s also because I tend to be lazy and want to make as few trips as possible. I’ve hurt myself countless times before by overloading myself in an attempt to save time. My taiji teacher has a saying about a donkey and laziness that I don’t quite remember, but the bottom line is that it’s better to make multiple trips with lighter loads than one trip all bogged down. She is right. Hopefully, I will internalize that one day.

OT: Nioh. Ah, Nioh. I’m having complicated feels about the game, but I don’t want to get into that in this post. I just want to say as a pro tip that if you’re a scrub such as I am, weapons matter. I recently faced a boss that was whipping my ass, though she really shouldn’t have been. She wasn’t that hard, per se, but I do the worst against fast humans. Which she is. Sort of. Anyway, I kept tinkering with my load-out and my different magicks, and I was really frustrated because I felt I had her. I also thought she had a couple bullshit moves, but that’s par the course for these kinds of games.

Anyway. My axe wasn’t doing it. It was too slow. The dual swords/sword (both infused with fire, which I thought would be beneficial for this boss) didn’t do enough damage of stagger enough to be viable, and I watched my stock of elixirs steadily deplete. I decided to try my odachi because the strong attack staggers enemies, which seemed to be what I needed. It was a miracle. I used the appropriate magicks for defense, then I just chopped the boss into oblivion with six or seven hits. OK, I’m sure it took more than that, but it was really short. Moral of the story: I’m sticking with my axe/odachi/magicks combo for the rest of the game. Of course, I’ll swap out to other weapons  if I need to, but the axe/odachi duo is really my jam.

Here is a video of Jun’s Kitchen. He’s a Japanese man with some serious knife skills. In this video, he’s making sushi for his lucky cats. Enjoy!

I’m Minding My Body

Still sick. Still grumpy. Feeling an intense headache coming on. ‘Tis the season to be sick, apparently, and I’m just done with it. Unfortunately, it’s not done with me. I’m lying on my couch with my cat, Shadow, on my legs, re-watching The Great British Bake Off, Series 6. I’m sipping my ginger honey lemon tea, and I’m GRUMPY. We got snow last night, so that makes me happy. I love snow so much. Anyway, here’s a video of Maru kneading a pizza whilst nursing on a toy. His sister, Hana, makes an appearance as well. Too cute!

Bonus video of Shironeko (white cat) and his buddy with purple cabbage leafs on their heads. Shironeko is one of the chillest cats I’ve ever seen, and his buddy is very laid-back as well. So cute, and very relaxing as well.

Applying Taiji to My Mental Health–and Finishing The Sexy Brutale

One of the hardest things about being sick is how depressed I get over it. It didn’t used to be this way. Or rather, I used to be depressed all the time, so getting sick didn’t really add to that depression. Also, I mistreated my body so badly, I really couldn’t expect it to be kind to me. I was a hot mess in general, so having bronchitis for months at a time (not an exaggeration) wasn’t that noticeable of an added detriment. However, two things have changed that. One, I hadn’t been sick in years. For about five years (during the middle of my taiji studies), I was blissfully cold and flu and bronchitis-free. Then, I got a cold or flu one winter, and it was hellish. This was three or four years ago, and it’s happened every year since. I get sick (undefined. The one year I went to the doctor, twice, she wasn’t able to pinpoint anything. In fact, I got even sicker after visiting her. Rightly or wrongly, I blame going to the clinic for getting even sicker. It was really awful), and it lasts for weeks. Even worse, I get better, go back to my normal life, and then I get sick again. That’s what happened this time, and it’s discouraging. I didn’t think I overdid it this time when I got well again, but I could be wrong.

I’m coughing a lot. I get this coagulation in my throat, and then I have to hork to try to get it out. It immediately settles back in again, and it’s infuriating. It’s better today as the ball of snot (that’s how I think of it) lodged in the back of my throat is smaller, but it’s still there no matter how much I hork. I have mentioned a time or a hundred that I am a huge control freak, and not being able to will away my sickness pisses me off. It’s not rational nor reasonable, but I still get irritated when I can’t hork out the snot ball for good. I get pissed that I tire so easily and that going to the store drains me completely. I wake up, and the only thing I want to do is go back to bed.

I know that being mad at my body isn’t helping. It’s not going to mend faster simply because I internally yell at it. It’s frustrating because in other areas of my life, I’ve been able to relax and not get so uptight about what’s happening. The example I pull out every time is when I got in my car crash. The second I realized that I couldn’t prevent it, I relaxed and suffered no more than a massive bruise on my abdomen from the seat belt and the airbag. The key was to realize that there was nothing I could do to prevent it, relaxing, and accepting that the crash was going to happen.

I wish I could do the same with being sick. Do the things I know that will help me get better, then just ride it out. Getting mad doesn’t help. Berating my body doesn’t help. You know what does help? The Sexy Brutale. OK, not really, but I finished it recently, and I needed a graceful segue into talking about it. Spoiler warning: I’m going to try my best not to spoil anything about the ending, but I can’t talk about it without a few minor spoilers. In addition, I want to include pictures from the end game, and if you’re going to play the game, you best just skip this all. Everything about the game is below the cut.


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Not Down with the Sickness

I’m sick. Again. I feel like a broken record (do the kids even know what a record is these days?) because I’ve bees saying this every few months in the same resigned tone. This time, it started with a tickle in the back of my throat that turned into a coagulated mess blocking my throat. Every so often, I have to give a very concentrated (and loud) HUUUUUUUUAH to clear my throat, and it immediately becomes blocked again. Hm. Reminds me of Congress.

Anyhoo. I alternate between chilled and flushed, and I’m mostly huddling miserably under my blanket with only my cat, Shadow, to tend to me. He has many sterling qualities, but nursing is not one of them. He can’t make and bring me a cup of tea, for example. What he CAN do is snuggle with me (which he’s doing right now. Well, he’s snuggling next to me, which is close enough), and I do appreciate it. What I don’t appreciate is when he meows incessantly in the morning the second I’m awake until I get out of bed to feed him.

I’m drinking my tea, sucking on my cough drops, and trying to get enough rest while watching the old seasons of The Great British Bake Off. That’s about all I can do right now. Here’s a video of Alan Rickman making tea. Damn, I miss him. Still? Always.

The Sexy Brutale: An Underrated Gem

sexy sexy brutale!
All the world is a stage.

I’m a mystery aficionado, and I have been since I gobbled up Encyclopedia Brown’s adventures as a kid. I graduated to Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden, preferring the latter to the former because Trixie was a hotheaded teenager who oftentimes acted before she thought, which I could sympathize with. Nancy Drew wasn’t a real girl, but I do love Kate Beaton’s concept of Nancy Drew as a crazy woman who is making up all the mysteries in her mind (h/t Ian). I strayed into dreadful teenage romance novels (oh were they horrid), but I never gave up my true love–mysteries. I read every HerculePoirot story by Agatha Christie when I was a teen, each at least four or five times, and some up to fifty. My favorites are The Big Four and Curtain, by the way. I’ve seen all the David Suchet series, too, and he IS Hercule Poirot. I’ll have to see the Kenneth Branagh version of Murder on the Orient Express, of course, but it’s going to suck. He sucks as Poirot, and the trailer is devoid of everything that makes a Poirot story work. However, to be fair, all three previous versions of this movie are terrible (including David Suchet’s. His Catholic rant at the end destroys any credibility the movie might have). I think this is a Poirot story best left as a novel and not a movie.

When I started playing games, I wanted to find a mystery game that grabbed me the way a novel did. I played all the Poirot games. Atrocious. I played several Sherlock Holmes games. Disappointing. Lately, I played Kathy Rain, and while it started out strong, in the third act, it came crashing down around my ears. I will say even before then, I’m done with adventure game logic. I like solving puzzles, but not when it’s ‘combine a twig, three pieces of twine, and a stone to make a key’. An axe, maybe, but a key? Or having to backtrack through several areas just to pick up that piece of lint you couldn’t pick up before, but knew you’d need. I tried the Blackwell series, and ten minutes in, I was following a walkthrough compulsively.

I admit it. I gave up on finding a mystery game that I actually enjoyed playing. It didn’t seem possible! The things that work in a novel just didn’t seem possible to recreate in gameplay. Then, I saw a review by Jim fucking Sterling son of The Sexy Brutale, and I was immediately intrigued. Now, as Jim Sterling notes, it’s difficult to talk about the game without ruining the brilliance of the conceit, so let me say if you’re looking for a good detective/murder game in which you have to prevent murders from happening, then this is the game for you. I bought it for $9.99 on Steam during the last of the endless Steam sales, and it’s normal price is $19.99. I’m not the best to ask about pricing because I usually wait for games to go on steep sale before buying them. I’d say The Sexy Brutale, developed by Cavalier Game Studios and Tequila Works, is worth $19.99, but it is a short game, and the replayability is very low. It’s definitely worth the $9.99 I paid for it. I might play again just to smooth out the rough edges, but probably not. If that’s enough to hook you at all, I’d suggest you stop reading and pick up the game. The rest of the review is behind the cut (after the Jim Sterling review).


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Staring into the Abyss

The other day, I was talking with a classmate about depression. I was saying how the thing I fear most is when I get hit with depression (serious depression, rather than the low-key depression I normally suffer) is that I’ll be plunged back into the darkness and not be able to come out of it again. Intellectually, I know it’s just a temporary state, but because I lived in it for twenty-plus years, it’s easy to feel as if it’s back for good. It used to be my normal state, and it’s weird to feel it envelope me again like a well-worn coat. It’s shabby, and it has holes in the elbow, but it still fits. Not well, and it doesn’t block out the elements as it used to, but it’s still my old coat.

I’ve stretched that metaphor as far as it can go. The point is, it feels familiar, but still strange.  I can’t believe I used to feel this way all the time; I don’t know how I survived it. I think it’s because I didn’t know any differently at the time. I’ve been depressed for as long as I can remember, and I assumed I would feel that way forever. When the fog started lifting, it was so incremental, I didn’t realize it until I was well out of the darkness. Going back to it, even briefly at ten times less the intensity, it shakes me.

It’s fucking horrible. I’ve tried to explain what it feels like before, and I’ve never come up with an adequate description. Everything flattens out so that when I’m looking at something, there’s a flat affect. Not that it loses color–that only happens when I have a migraine. It’s more like my brain refuses to register there’s color. I become detached from my body or rather, from my brain. There’s a slight wall between me and everything/everybody else, and I feel emotionally cold.

I used to have nightmares all the time, some of them narrated. It was strange to watch myself do something in my dream and to hear a dispassionate male voice say, “She is now walking into the room” and the like as if it were a movie. It often felt as if I were watching a movie, and I was semi-conscious it was a dream, but not enough to lucidly dream. To me, it symbolized how unconnected I felt from myself, and it was a manifestation of my mind/body split.

When I was in college, I started having dissociative states in which I would disappear for up to an hour at a time. I don’t mean physically, but mentally. I’d be talking to someone, and then I’d ‘come to’ and realize I’d lost a chunk of time. Apparently, the other person never noticed, which makes me extremely nervous to remember. Then, it started happening during classes. I’d be ‘out’ for the whole hour, my notes would be filled with gibberish, but nobody seemed to notice. Those were both bad enough, but then I started doing it while I was driving. I’d be on the freeway, then I’d ‘wake up’ several minutes later not knowing how I got there.


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When the Physical Affects the Mental

I’m struggling, fam. I find that when I get sick physically, it’s a drag on my mental health as well. I know it’s a truism that the body and mind are connected, but I used to believe that my body was nothing but a meat sack for carrying around my brain. My soul or essence or whatever didn’t even come into the equation. I dismissed it as negligible at best or bothersome at worst. I valuedd my brain above and beyond everything else, and I didn’t much care about my body. To be honest, I abused it terribly, though not through the usual avenues of drink and drugs. I have a history of eating disorders ranging from anorexia to bulimia to binge-eating. I think it’s more a question of control (or a lack thereof) than a matter of food. I felt I had little control over anything in my life, so food was an easy target. Also, I wanted to whittle my body away to nothing because I despised it so much. I also self-harmed with cutting and cigarettes, but I haven’t done that in years if not decades.

I have four tattoos, and they were my way of reclaiming my body, though I wouldn’t necessarily have phrased it that way at the time. I wanted a tattoo for many years before I got one, and true to my nature, I got one on a whim when I finally decided it was time. My BFF and I went to the only tattoo shop opened at midnight, and unfortunately, the tattooist was the nephew of the owner, who was still in training. In addition, Asian skin doesn’t take to ink in the same way white people’s skin does (didn’t know this at the time. There are many things that Asian people don’t react to in the same way than do Caucasians, but that’s another post for another day), so by the time he was done, it was puffy, blotchy, and definitely not the black yin-yang in a sun that I requested. To make matters worse, it was on my chest, so it’s not like I could avoid looking at it. PSA: Don’t get a tattoo on a whim. Fortunately, I found an excellent tattooist years later, and he did a representation of Kali (the mother/destroyer goddess of India, grossly simplified) right over my navel, with suggestions of flames. I was so pleased with it, I commissioned him to do a cover-up tattoo on my left breast. It’s a massive purple and blue lotus blossom engulfed in flames, and I adore it. I got my third in San Francisco–a bracelet of red thorns with flames as ‘charms’ on my left forearm. My final one is from my local artist, and it’s a bracelet of flames and waves on my upper right arm with a yin-yang pendant. Originally, I only wanted flames, but my tattoo artist suggested waves to balance it out and match the yin-yang. Brilliant!

I love my tattoos. I’d say they were the first step in me accepting my body. First, grudgingly, and then, in a matter-of-fact manner. I can’t say I love my body because I don’t. In fact, I would still like to lose weight (and, yes, I have a number in mind), but because of my history of eating disorders, I’m worried about going down that road. Any time I try to diet sensibly, it spirals out of control. For that reason, there are several ‘sensible’ dieting tips that I absolutely can’t follow. One is counting calories. The first time I slipped into anorexia/bulimia, I did this obsessively. I can still tell you what the calorie count is of the foods I used to eat regularly. That’s another thing I tend to do–eat the same thing over and over. It’s part of my OCD tendencies, and it’s partly because I get overwhelmed by choices.

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It’s the Most Wonderful Time–Shut the Fuck Up

I hate Christmas. Longtime readers will know this about me because I won’t shut up about it. To be fair, I hate all holidays, but it’s Christmas that really rubs me the wrong way. I wrote an editorial in my high school paper about the crass commercialism of Christmas, and that was thirty years ago. My feelings for Christmas have only grown in disgust since then. Many moons ago, I started posting yearly about the one Christmas song I like (‘O Holy Night’), including several versions of the song. I also posted about depression as many people get depressed at this time of year, whether it’s because of Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD) or dysfunctional family issues coming to a head or whatnot. I know there are other people who feel the same way I do, but we’re drowned out by all the aggressively good cheer. And Christmas commercials. Oh, lord, the Christmas commercials. I saw my first one this year a few days after Halloween, and I’ve been grumpy ever since. The first Christmas commercial denotes my season of personal hell in which I grit my teeth and bah humbug my way through the month.

Speaking of Christmas commercials, that Kay is a ho, ain’t she? Every kiss begins with Kay my ass. I love how Christmas commercials have become a way to guilt your love ones into buying you expensive presents to show you they love you. And by love, I mean I want to burn it in a fire.

Burn it ALL in a fire, Angela!
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