Underneath my yellow skin

I’m (un)comfortably numb

As the news about the coronavirus variants continues to pop up on a daily basis, I find myself becoming increasingly numb to it. I know why this is; it’s because my brain is shorting out and can’t take it. I’m so angry at the assholes who refuse to get vaccinated out of defiance (not those who can’t or POC who have reasons to be wary). We had a chance to get this thing on lock, but, no. We couldn’t be arsed to do that and I’m furious.

The fury is buried under layers of numbness, however, because I simply cannot. It’s the cumulation of the last four years and it’s my self-defense mechanism. I’m not proud of it, but I’m also not proud of how Americans are acting right now. It’s American individualism run amok and it’s a disgrace. I’m also pissed at the Republican leadership for fomenting the dissent strictly as a political move. A week ago, 50% of the Republican members of the House of Congress refused to say whether they were vaxxed or not. While shouting about how it was personal choice and no one got to tread on their freedom.

Riddle me this. If they truly believe that the vaccination is from the devil and to be refused at all costs, why won’t they say they’re not vaxxed? It’s simple: they’re vaxxed. They just want to keep their base riled up as a way to get at the Democrats. I don’t doubt there are some who are not vaxxed, but I’m pretty sure they’re fine with saying so. One of my Twitter people tweeted about a kid (well, late teens) posting on his Facebook that he was getting the vaccination, but don’t worry, he was still a Republican. This was in an article about the faces of the anti-vaxxers. I tweeted to her, “Tell me that the Republicans are terrible without saying the Republicans are terrible” because the vaccination should not be political.

Side Note: The CDC has not handled the messaging well at all. I understand when you make a message to the public, you want to be as definitive as possible. I once had a doctor (the best doctor) who, when I told her I smoked two or three cigarettes a day, she said it wasn’t that big a deal. I asked why the message around smoking, then, was that it was the very worst and if you inhaled one lungful of smoke, you were doomed to die before the age of thirty? She said because if doctors said one or two cigs a day was ok, the nuance would get lost and most people would take it to mean they could smoke a pack a day.

I saw her point, but there had to be people like me who would prefer the unvarnished truth. It was the same during the pandemic. At the beginning, the message was that masks were unnecessary for the hoi polloi. Supposedly, that was because they didn’t have enough masks for the health care providers. I call bullshit, but even if that was true, it was the worst way to get the message across.

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The good, the bad, and the Dark Souls

I’ve been playing an indie game called Death’s Door by Acid Nerve. It had been on my radar because of the gorgeous graphics and the fact that you’re a crow with a red sword. I mean, that’s really all I need to know because I’m simple like that. It’s an action adventure Metroidvania with more than a dollop of Dark Souls frosting. I am not just making that up in my fevered Elden Ring-starved brain, either. Both streamers I’ve watched who were playing it mentioned it more than once. There’s even a character who is highly reminiscent of a Dark Souls fave, not to mention one who is similar to an NPC in Sekiro. I will, of course, get to that later in the post.

Side Note: I have finished the game so there will be spoilers throughout the post. Fair warning to turn back now if you want to play it unspoiled.

First, I need to rave more about the environment of Death’s Door. It’s moody and dripping with atmosphere. The crow is wearing a jaunty little scarf and you can find a Discarded Umbrella that is shit as a weapon but is a great accessory. I love the crow’s quick little walk and the head tilt when they think there’s something interesting. They are a silent protagonist, but they exude so much personality.

Before I get into what I like about the game (and there’s a lot to like), I need to talk about one big thing I don’t like right from the start. It’s the combat. I’ll get more into it later, but for now, I’ll say that it’s the combination of too many mobs, not enough variety, the need for twitch responses, and not being able to heal during combat. Oh, and having 4 hit points. That’s right, 4. There are ways to boost it, but only up to 6. I’ll get more to that in a bit.

The premise is that I’m a reaper crow who is going out and getting souls. In the beginning, I’m dropped off at the Reaping Commission Headquarters. The security guard is called Baul Plarth and I know I’m in for some droll humor. There’s a typist named Agatha who just loooooves typing and Chandler the Handler who is a hard-bitten crow who is a middle management type who is constantly worried about his job being harder. Then there’s the mysterious Vaga who has a book on his head and makes cryptic statements about a better life out there.

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How to deal with my broken mind

I have a broken mind. This has been true since I was a kid. Or rather, I’ve always been different. I loved to read and always had my nose in a book. I devoured them rapidly, moving from one to the next the second I was done with the first. A part of the reason why was because I hated life with every fiber of my being. I can’t remember a time when I thought it was a good thing to be alive and is it nature? Is it nurture? I don’t know. Or, more to the point, it’s a complex mixture of both. By my mother’s account, I was a happy and cheerful toddler–though she is an unreliable narrator. She looks at things in the past through rose-colored glasses, mostly so she doesn’t have to deal with the negative ramifications that linger.

I am pretty sure this is one of her coping mechanisms in dealing with my father because he’s pretty unrelentingly negative. I also know that her childhood wasn’t the happiest and that she never felt like she was loved by her mother. Who, by the way, was a real piece of work. Probably shouldn’t have been a mother, but it was expected of women of her generation and culture (Taiwanese). She definitely favored her sons over her daughters and for whatever reason, my mother was her least-favorite.

All that is to say that my mother came into parenting with some faulty ideas as to what it takes to be a parent and what it meant to be a parent. More specifically, a mother. I also think one of the reasons she decided to have children was to have someone to love her unquestioningly, which was destined to fail. You don’t have kids for what they can do for you–ideally, that is. Many people do, much to their own detriment.

Ever since I can remember, I was not happy in my own skin. My mom made dresses for me, which is so not my jam. I like a long flowy skirt and I wore a dress now and again in my twenties, but it never felt right. It wasn’t a gender thing, but a sensory thing. I hate clothing and try to wear as little as possible. Dresses generally cover more than other clothing and is restrictive to boot. I liked to climb trees when I was a kid–which was also something that I was told I shouldn’t do as a girl–and that’s really hard to do in a dress. I was considered a tomboy and frowned upon for being, well, too much.

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A mishmash of ideas floating in my brain

I’m hot and swollen and just done with it all. In the last two months, we’ve had several weeks of 90+ temps, and a solid week of ‘feels like’ 102 and above. Yes, we get some 90 and 100 degree, but not like this. normally, I use my air three or four times a summer–it’s been putting in work this year. I’ also have my personal fan going on high 24/7 and drink tons of cold beverages. I’m wearing a tank top and shorts, and I’m STILL hot. To me, 65 is when it starts to get unpleasant for me and 90 is untenable. 100 and above? That just hurts my feelings.

Here’s the thing about the heat–it makes me very sleepy. However, I can’t actually sleep in the heat so I’m getting less sleep than usual. Then I spend the whole day being groggy and working at half-productivity. It’s a vicious cycle because no amount of cold can change the actual temperature outside. And, look, I realize that I’m very lucky. I have a house. I have air. I don’t have to be out in the heat. I don’t do physical labor. And still I hate the heat so much.

In addition, I have a multitude of swollen mosquito bites that are making me miserable. I am allergic* to them and they swell up, lasting for days if not weeks. They are tender to the touch and can sometimes be unbearably itchy. I try not to scratch them as it just makes it worse, but sometimes, nothing can stop that itch.

Pairing the heat with the mosquito bites means that I’m miserable. The temperature is currently climbing and is ‘feels like’ 94. It saps my energy and my will to do anything. Writing, my bread and butter, is interspersed with my bitterness at being miserable. The pandemic has been hell on my concentration and I don’t know when I’ll get my focus back. I am still able to get shit done, but it takes three times the mental energy.

I’m also mad about the pandemic itself. I can’t help thinking it didn’t have to reach this point, but that would have entailed changing the entire fabric of our society. It would mean we needed to have put our collective foot down years ago when the Republicans started going off the rails about science and not pretended that their viewpoint was equally valid. We’d actually need to go even further back and value education again, but I’m not getting into those weeds. Needless to say, it’s frustrating as hell to see all these people blithely ignoring science because of their feels, and what’s even worse, not learning a lesson from it.

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Something old, something new

I need a new game. Again. I say this every time I finish a game, but it’s true. I’ve given up on the Imposter Mode in Going Under (Aggro Crab) because it’s not fun at all. I tried it a few times in the past week and it just aggravated me every time. I’m not quite at the point of uninstalling it, but I’m close. I really want to plat it, but I haven’t even made it to the third boss yet. I will admit that not being able to win at the Imposter Mode has dampened my enthusiasm for the game in general. That’s not entirely fair, but it’s my honest feeling. I know I don’t have to do the plat and I got a good forty hours out of it, but the grind for plat, the one-off bosses, and the Imposter Mode have really left a bad taste in my mouth.

I decided to try Nuclear Throne by Vlambeer again to see if I was any better at it. It was the first roguelike I had played, which was diving into the deep end. It took me hundreds of hours just to make it to The Throne, let’s not talk about how long it took to actually beat The Throne. This time, I reached The Throne in less than ten runs and then promptly died when it barfed its rads all over me. I knew it was going to do it, but then it didn’t, but then it did. It was instantly deflating. I haven’t made it back yet and I’ve played probably thirty-plus more runs.

Robot is my main with Crystal my backup. The rest of them I could take or leave with Horror being more on the leave side. I think my mouse setup is not helping, but I’m still not good at this game. I had an amazing build the time I got to The Throne, but I haven’t been able to replicate it since. This game really depends on twitch reactions, which I do not have, and heavy RNG. If I get dropped into a mob, there is no chance I’m going to survive.

I think the game is really good, but the ramp-up is too high. I doubt I’ll be playing much more of it because the ceiling is still there.

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Limitless possibilities

Here’s the thing about taiji weapons. They’re like Lay’s: you cannot eat just one. Er, I mean. It’s really addictive–at least when it finally clicked in my brain. My brain is broken on many levels. One, I have a hard time doing anything—even things I like. Someone in the weekend thread on Ask A Manager asked how to make themselves do exercise on the regular. Other people gave good advice, but the one that I had to counter was to do it when you felt like doing it. Why? Because I never felt like doing anything. I related how when I first started practicing taiji at home, it was literally five minutes a day. The way I did it was to put it on my to-do list. Get up, brush teeth, feed cat, do taiji. I emphasized that it wasn’t a YOU HAVE TO DO THIS YOU LAZY ASSHOLE, but more matter-of-fact like, oh, right. Do the taiji thing. It expanded to ten minutes, then fifteen, and now, with my new-found love affair with the weapons, it’s 45 minutes to an hour.

I didn’t get into it, but the five minutes a day was so resentful on my part. In fact, before I started practicing at home, I went from one to two to three classes a week because I wasn’t practicing at home. When I started practicing, it was a quick section of the Solo Form (or part of a section) and then some stretches. The stretches were fine, but the Solo Form was not. I still am not a huge fan, but the Medium Form is way more my jam than the Long Form.

I’ve documented how I fell in love with the sword and it’s still very dear to my heart. Then, my struggles with the Sabre Form that has turned into a deep appreciation. Currently, I am intoxicatingly infatuated with the Double Sabre Form. It’s my everything and I would do it all day long if I could.

When I think about the weapons, it’s all about the feelings they invoke. The sword makes me want to dance and Carly Rae Jepson’s Call Me Maybe is the perfect song to dance with the sword to. I mentioned in the aforementioned forum that before taiji, the only exercise I liked was dancing. Weightlifting was tolerable and I hated the rest of it. Now, I’m pleased to be able to combine dancing with taiji weapons because they are my two favorite physical activities (well, excluding sex*). I have chronic depression and it’s hard for me to find joy in anything.

I can find quiet moments of contentment such as chilling with my cat. I can be engaged by activities such as playing video games. I can be pleased chatting with friends. My brother came over last night and we tried the new Thai restaurant down the street. That was a really enjoyable time. But all of these are very muted. Which, to be fair, is my style in general. It’s partly just my demeanor and partly the depression.

All that changes when i grab my double sabers and wait for the music to start. Or not. Even when I practice with no music, there is joy in my heart as I move the double sabers in the air. I am someone who feels chained in so many ways, but when I do the Double Saber Form, I’m free.

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Living in an echo chamber

I love the internet. I just wanted to get that out of the way because I’m about to do a thousand-word post on why I hate a certain aspect of the internet. First, though, my ode to the internet and how it’s opened up my world. Back in my twenties, I was a hot mess. I was deeply, chronically depressed and could barely drag my carcass out of bed in the morning. I am lucky that I have always had at least one really good friend to moor me (shoutout to Kat who has been there with me throughout the ages), but I still felt isolated and lonely.

The internet changed all that. While sitting at my desk, I can get on my computer and visit places all around the world. I don’t have to leave my house to visit all different kinds of communities that I might not have available in my neighborhood or surrounding areas. I can talk to anyone about anything. It was wonderful and made me feel a little less alone, but not completely. Why? Because even on the internet, I was a weirdo. I was fine with it, but it underscored that even on the wide world web, I was a misfit.

It started when I was into politics and visiting political websites. I would get really into them and then realize a few  months or a year later that everyone was saying the same thing. It was understandable, but I got bored and frustrated because I felt the conversations were stifled. I would move on and try to find something different and then it just repeated itself.

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Going full Mulan Rogue

I need to stop playing Going Under (Aggro Crab) because I’m really starting to hate it. I’ve finished with the main game and have wrung every ounce of content out of it. And more. So why am I still playing? I’ll tell you why and there are spoilers now. There is a mode of the game called Imposter Mode that is not run in any of the main dungeons. It’s accessed from Jackie’s pod (home) and it’s by jumping through her mirror. She had met the imposter earlier in one of the dungeons in the second half of the game (apparently random?) and I ‘defeated’ her in that dungeon. I put defeated in quotes because of course she was coming back and of course it was going to be in her own mode.

I’ve explained before why I don’t like this mode or the big boss fights in the main game, but I’ll briefly recap. In the main game, you go into a dungeon and there are three floors before the boss floor. You pick up skills and other perks along the way. From the beginning, you can equip one ‘mentor’ (coworker) and one skill. The best mentor by far is Swomp who gives the twin benefits of him stealing an item for you in every store and starting each floor with allies. Oh, there are also Swomp Cubes with better items, but they break more easily, which is not usually a trade I want to make. Although, in Imposter Mode, I am all about more damage. The bigger benefit, however, is that there’s a Swomp’s Chill Zone every second level of the dungeon. Sometimes it doesn’t show up and I’m not sure why, but it’s supposed to be there. If you chill with Swomp, then you regain all your lost health. You can do this once on the floor, though apparently in early access, you could do it multiple times. I think once is fair.

Randy, the CEO, would have been the best mentor because he gives you his credit card and you can charge the items you need to it. Except. One, there’s a limit to how much you can charge, and two, you have to drag around a ball and chain of debt with you that grows larger the more money you owe. It hinders your movement which is so key in this game. Also, his other benefits are meh at best. Well, he does let you take his sweet whip out for a drive at the start of the dungeon until you beat it up enough for it to explode, which is maybe a floor or two. I really like how they make the benefits match up with the narrative, by the way.

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My head is not my friend

I have a massive headache so I’m skipping today’s post. Here’s a SNL video instead. Bowen Yang dragging it up as the iceberg the Titanic hit. Bowen Yang, by the way, who was just the first SNL actor nominated for an Emmy. And the first Chinese American nominated as well. This skit caused the internet to lose its collective mind. I didn’t think it was funny the first time I watched it, but it’s a slow burner. Now, I think it’s hilarious.

When the student becomes the master

I’m still bothered by my doctor’s insistence on my weight, but here’s a weird thing. My clothes are fitting better. A pair of shorts that were tight on me months ago are now swimming. There’s the possibility that they stretched, but not that much. My weight is still high so my guess is muscles. My body is made for muscles, thankfully.

Side Note: I am insanely pleased with my biceps. And my ass. I’ll get to that in a second. Yes, I know I’ve blathered about it before, but I don’t care.

When I had to use my desktop briefly, I loved having my dual screens. It was so nice not to have two sets of browsers squished side by side. On the other hand, my desktop does not have an SSD so waiting for it to do anything was torture.

Side Note II: It’s really funny how tech rapidly goes from ‘never in a million years’ to ‘ how the fuck did I ever live without this?’ in a heartbeat. I still remember when I vowed I would never let emails replace handwritten letters and when I vowed that I would never use emojis. Then, when SSD became a thing, I scoffed at it because how much difference could it really make? A lot as it turned out. It’s funny because I am a weird mix when it comes to technology. On the one hand, I use it heavily and know more about it than most people. I said to my brother that I know a bit more than people in general and he said I knew a lot more. It’s hard to judge because I just use it the way I use it.

I rail against new inventions as being intrusive before unwillingly adapting them and then fully embracing them. Currently, I’m thinking about my next laptop because this one is on its last legs I think. I need my brother to take a look at it. I’m also thinking about getting a sit/stand desk with an ergonomic chair because I want to be more active without, well, being more active. I hated actively doing exercise whenever I tried it. I hated the gym. I hated brisk walking. I hated yoga. The only things I didn’t hate was lifting weights and dancing. Or more to the point, I liked the results of weightlifting and didn’t actively hate the activity while I loved dancing.

Taiji has been a godsend now that I’m obsessed with weapon. Not only is it something I really enjoy, but it’s excellent exercise. There’s a weightbearing set that I used to do, but I stopped when I got in my car accident. I would like to pick it up some day, but in the meantime, the weapons are an excellent weightbearing exercise.

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