Underneath my yellow skin

Walking away from the First Flame

I heard The Pina Colada Song on my way home from Cubs today, and it put me in the mood…to play more Dark Souls! It’s my Dark Souls fight song, and I’ve heard it twice in the past week. That must mean something, right? I recently learned that there is a second ending to Dark Souls II. Rather, to Scholar of the First Sin, which is the remake/update of DS II because DS fans were so upset with the vanilla sequel. It’s pretty cool that there are still things I don’t know about the games even though I’ve played the hell out of them, much like when I found a mini-area I had never seen before in DS II, but I doubt there’s anything big I’ve missed. Then again, I missed the second ending, so who knows what else I’ve missed? I think it’s because DS II is the least-talked-about game in the series. I haven’t played the vanilla version of this game, so I can’t comment on that. I have let it be known that I think SotFS is a really good game, but it’s not a great DS game. Anyway, the biggest difference is

*SPOILERS*

There is a character, Aldia, who is the brother of King Vendrick. He’s in the vanilla game, and you have to go to his keep for reasons. However, you never get to see him, and he’s more of an urban legend than anything else. FromSoft decided to change it up for SotFS. I mean, hell, even the name is in reference to Aldia, so it’s the first hint that he’s going to feature more prominently in the remake.

In the second half of the game, he shows up at bonfires to talk to you. He gets increasingly smaller every time he appears (which is three), and he’s not human. I can’t describe what he is, exactly, but he loves the sound of his own voice. Then, you have to do things in a certain order (and I will admit I knew this before going into the end game) in order to have a certain thing happen. Does that sound deliberately vague? Well, it is.

In the vanilla game, there is an area called the Throne of Want. You walk forever to get there, and it’s the boss arena for two different bosses. First, Throne Watcher and Throne Defender (a duo), and then the final boss, Nashandra–the queen. You can also kill King Vendrick at some point, but it’s optional (and a HUGE pain in the ass). In order to have Nashandra show up, though, you need something called the Giant’s Kinship, which you can only get from defeating the Giant Lord in a memory. You cannot access the memories without the Ashen Mist Heart, which you need from the Ancient Dragon in the Dragon Shrine–which you can only access after beating the Guardian Dragon in Aldia’s Keep. Yes, I am spoiling the whole end game, but it is under a spoiler tag, and the game is four years old, so I think I can get away with it.


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The struggle for good health

I feel as if I’m on the cusp of getting sick.

Again.

I’m done. I just….

What if this is my new normal?

Quick note: I have a history of bronchial-related issues in the past. There was a time where I had bronchitis or something similar every year. Not just for a few weeks, either, but months. One time was epic because it lasted nine months.

Nine. Freaking. Months.

By the end of it, I was so desperate, I begged my doctor to give me antibiotics even though I knew it wouldn’t work. Let that sink in. I knew antibiotics wouldn’t help (and I am against them for the most part), but I had been hacking and dripping for so long, I didn’t care.

My doctor did so reluctantly, but she warned me it wouldn’t work. I told her I knew, and took them, anyway. And they made it worse! I looked up the side effects of the antibiotics (which I should have done before I took them. I usually do my research ahead of time), and they were the same as what I was already experiencing, but worse. I finished the whole run, of course, but I will never do that again. Yes, it was a last-ditch effort, but it made things worse.

Then, I started taking taiji, and I stopped getting bronchitis. It wasn’t a one-to-one like that, but I’m sure taiji helped me with those issues. Then, I started flying on a frequent basis, and my system couldn’t handle it. Now, I have to deal with this bullshit for the past few years. It might also be grief from my Raven suddenly dying nearly two years ago. In fact, the anniversary is coming up, which might be why I’m more melancholy than usual.

That is neither here nor there. My immune system is proving to be not great, and I know I have to go to the doctor. Which I don’t want to do. My current doctor is really great, but there’s still a sense of dread in going. It’s time for me to suck it up and do it, but that doesn’t mean I’m happy about it.

Side note: Instapot shenanigans. I decided to try a pork recipe that had four ingredients without looking at the actual directions. I bought the pork, though only 2 1/2 pounds rather than 4, and then read the recipe this morning. First part is to separate the pork in two batches. Ok! I can do that. Next is to add oil to the pot, press saute, and brown each piece. Wait. What? Oil wasn’t one of the ingredients, and how much oil? How long will it take to brown? I quickly Googled on how to brown pork in an Instant Pot, and a recipe for pulled pork from the Food Network was the first link. I read it, and the first part was almost exactly the same. It also required 4 pounds of pork for eight servings, so apparently, it’s not an insane amount of pork.

Anyway, it also said put unspecified amount of oil in the pot, cook the (six pieces) in two batches, but they at least gave a time for the browning (5 minutes per batch). This is what I was talking about when I mentioned all the assumptions that go into a recipe. It’s reasonable to assume that people who cook know this shit, but that leaves us n00bs out in the cold. That’s why I also Googled cooking in an Instant Pot for beginners, but I came up with very little because of my dietary restrictions.

I was going to start the pork this morning after my taiji routine, but I felt defeated once I started reading the instructions. That’s one of the problems with depression. Even something as simple as dividing the pork in two pieces and browning each piece was too much at that time because I hadn’t planned for it. I will do it in a bit, but ugh.

Part of the reason I got the instapot is because of how everyone raved about what a time-saver it is. How you don’t have to watch it. You can ‘set it and forget it’. Well, yeah, but you still have to do the prep stuff, including, I guess, browning the meat. The actual cooking the meat? Yes. That can just be left cooking. And, it takes much less time in an instapot. But overall, it’s still cooking. As I’ve had pointed out to me, what I want is a food processor (to cut down on prep time). Yeah, not doing that because it feels as if I’m going to get thrown even further into the deep end.

I’m not giving up on it yet, but I do feel a little hoodwinked. All this shit that no one tells you because it’s so basic to them is new to me and intimidating. I don’t like cooking. I never have. This is not making me like it any more. I really shouldn’t have started with the instapot, but it’s too late for that now. Again, making a Dark Souls comparison. I kinda feel as if I’m doing a onebro run as a n00b, which is not the way to play the game.

Back to my health. It sucks. A lot. I’m tired of it. I need to figure out what the fuck is wrong with me. I don’t think it’s fibro or chronic fatigue (yes, I Googled it), and my best guess is that it has to do with a compromised immune system.

I will say it’s frustrating that I keep having to deal with this because I don’t interact with the public that much, so why the fuck do I keep getting sick? I am beginning to believe it’s allergies. I am allergic to all pollen, dust, animals (yes, including cats. I’m less allergic to my own, but not completely allergy-free), scents, and pretty much everything else. I like to joke that I’m allergic to air. Which isn’t that much of a joke, come to think of it.

Anyway. My mood is this right now:

Adventures in instapot land

ha, no.
Mashing these should be eeeeeasy!

I got my instapot, which is a story in and of itself. It was supposed to come on Wednesday. I was puttering around the kitchen on Tuesday, and I got an email saying my instapot had been delivered, but they didn’t want to leave it unattended, so they would try again. They tried to deliver it without ringing the doorbell or knocking on the door, apparently. I was in the fucking kitchen. I would have heard someone walking up to my front door. I can give them absolution on the doorbell because one is broken and the other is wonky. However, I definitely would hear a knock.

They came right before noon, so the next day, I brought my laptop to the dining room to work while I watched like a hawk for the Amazon driver. That was another problem–they said I could give delivery specifics, but when I clicked on the link in order to do so, it was just a long list of all the companies they employed to deliver things. I didn’t know which one they were  using, so I couldn’t contact anyone specifically. Anyway, I saw a FedEx driver, a UPS driver, and a USPS driver in the span of an hour. None of them were for me, however. Noon came and went, and I was getting antsy. The message hadn’t said they would try the next day, but that would be the natural assumption, right? I worked as best as I could, but I couldn’t help staring out the window. The minute I glanced away, there was a car in my driveway. It was snowing lightly that day so I saw the tracks.

I blinked. A car? A plain ol’ car? Apparently, Amazon is moving towards the Uberification of delivery, which I do not approve. Who the hell am I supposed to contact with my delivery concerns? I mean, I’m sure they have a way, but they make it really difficult to discover. Anyway, I was just glad to get my instapot, but my god, the box was huge. I wasn’t quite expecting how big it was. Was I going to have room for it?

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Letting the First Flame die out naturally

ain't no love like elder dragon love!
Luna and Teo, the yin-yang of Elder Dragon love.

First of all, health report. Feeling a bit shittier than yesterday, but still better over all. Got a bit of snow yesterday, which makes me happy. Got my instapot (yes, that’s what I’m calling it from now on because it amuses me) and bought the ingredients for vegan mashed potatoes and gravy. Will mess about with that later. By the way, let me reiterate how difficult it is to find recipes that are JUST dairy-free/gluten-free, but in this case, vegan is fine. That might be my hook if I start blogging/vlogging my cooking with my instapot endeavors. I’m only doing it because of my sensitivities–otherwise I’d be chowing down on cheese, bread, and pasta on the regular. I don’t want paleo, keto, vegan, vegetarian, whole30 or top 8 free recipes. It’s frustrating because I can find gluten-free recipes and dairy-free recipes, but only gf/df recipes are few and far between.

On to Monster Hunter: World. I’ve been trying to quit the game for weeks, and I’ve been playing it less and less as time goes on. I didn’t play at all yesterday, butt I can’t give it up completely. Why? Well, there’s still a ton to do for one (Tempered Kirin, I’m looking at you). Two, they keep adding new content. They just announced the USJ: Gold Star Treatment and the USJ: Blazing Azure Stars! (related) a week apart in which you get the Azure Star loot. It looks cool as hell, and, of course, I need to get the Palico armor set first and foremost.

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(Un)Healthy, (not) wealthy, and (un)wise

I’m feeling better today, which is a relief. I dragged myself to taiji yesterday, despite feeling like crap, and did just enough. I had a private lesson with my teacher, and near the end of the class, she asked if I wanted to do some Solo Form or some Sword Form. I said, “This will surprise you, but let’s do the Solo Form.” Surprise because I love the Sword Form and still merely tolerate the Solo Form. But, the Sword Form is a weight-bearing activity, and I was simply not up for it. The Solo Form, on the other hand, was gentle (especially the first section, which was what we did) and easy on my aching body.

After class, I picked up a few things at the co-op and then went home. I crashed in the early evening, but I still felt better than before I went to class. Actually, I felt shitty upon awakening (around seven-thirty), and then improved throughout the day. That’s why by noon, I felt (barely) good enough to go to class. Bottom line is that taiji is good for me, but it’s just a matter of having the energy to get there.

When I’m sick, it’s the worst when I first wake up and right before I go to bed. Unless I’m really sick, I generally can maintain throughout the day. That’s why I think it might be allergies along with whatever else I’m fighting. I’m tired of it, so I will actually see a doctor when I can get the energy. This week, next week at the latest. I’m skeptical that she’ll be able to find anything, but ruling out possibilities is just as valuable as finding the actual cause. Or if not as valuable, at least it allows me to focus my worry. Some ideas. It’s an immunodeficiency problem, iron deficiency, chronic fatigue, or fibromyalgia. It could also be a problem with my thyroid medication, but I get that checked every year, and it was stable the last time I checked.

I just did a quick Google, and I’m more convinced than ever it’s allergies. I’m allergic to everything. I’ve recounted before that when I take the allergy test where they put all the allergens on your thigh, my entire thigh swells up like a balloon. My brother and I were talking about the allergy shots we got when we were kids, and all I can remember is how miserable I was after each shot. My arm would swell up and be hot and itchy. My brother couldn’t even get the shots because he didn’t reach the threshold for getting them. The last time he tested for allergies, he got hives.

I’ve cut out dairy and gluten because of my sensitivities. I know they don’t reach the level of allergies, but it’s still not fun to spend a half hour on the toilet every time I eat either. I don’t use any scented products because of allergies, and I can smell most people’s perfume/cologne/body wash from ten feet away. I don’t like how Americans are so obsessed with covering natural smells. I much prefer the smell of of an honest sweat than of the crap people used to cover it up. I don’t use deodorant, and I’ve never had a complaint about it. I also don’t take a shower every day or wash my hair every day.

I recently learned that there are corresponding food allergies to pollen allergies (from the Mayo Clinic). It was an eye opener, and it immediately made sense. I’m allergic to every kind of pollen known to womankind, so if there’s a pollen-food connection, then it makes sense that I’m finding myself increasingly sensitive to different foods. The most frustrating part is figuring out which ones are causing the reactions. I need to do a more scientific study, but I get tired just thinking about it.

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Battling the holiday onslaught and other miscellaneous thoughts

Now that Thanksgiving is done and in the bank, of course the whole nation turns its attention to Christmas.

*sigh*

Before I get to that, however, I want to rave about how adding twenty minutes of stretching to my taiji routine when I first get up and sprinkling more stretches throughout the day has really helped my back and my leg by extension. I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s amazing how my back pain has nearly disappeared, and the numbness in my right thigh changed into fiery hot pain in the upper thigh, then fiery hot pain just above the knee, and then back to numbness but to a much less degree. Then, after class yesterday, it was back to fiery hot pain, but only for a few seconds. In addition, we did the whole Solo Form (Medium) yesterday, and for the first time ever, I was able to do the whole form without my back hurting like hell by the third section.

However, my sleep is all over the map, which means I’m probably getting sick again. Which, you know, sucks. I’m so fucking tired from the minute I wake up until the minute I drop off to sleep. I also have this thing where if I miss the window for falling asleep, I’m up for a good long time. I was up for nearly twenty hours yesterday, not for any good reason, but just because I couldn’t fall asleep.

Now, let’s talk about NaNoWriMo. I said before it started that I was going to set my own goal because writing 50,000 words a month for me is not a problem. I was already writing 2,000 words a day for months before that, so yeah, I wasn’t worried about 50,000 words. I said I wanted to look into marketing and publishing, but that didn’t happen. I’ve decided I will set aside a different month to do it in. In that month, I’ll lift the 2,000 words a day requirement and focus on editing, marketing, and publishing. I’ve decided which novels I want to publish (one which is on my other website), but I need to do a little updating.

So, what have I been doing this month? Starting four different novels. I worked on the first one for a few weeks, then decided to shelve it. The second one lasted a few days, I think, and the same with the third. Then, I had a conversation with a Twitter friend, @NotSoSilentMajo, who inspired me to start something completely different. I don’t want to talk about it right now because I prefer to wait until I’m done with a novel before talking about it, but I can say it’s urban fantasy. I’ve never attempted fantasy before (though I love reading it), so I’m excited about it in a way that I haven’t been in quite some time. Thank you, @NotSoSilentMajo for giving me the kick in the (not-so-flat yellow) ass that I needed to get out of my rut!

Now. On to Christmas. Me when thinking about it (apropos because I dressed up as Yoko Ono for Halloween one year):

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Winding down Monster Hunter: World, oh, and yeah, Thanksgiving

femdante is way sexier than mascdante.
FemDante in all her glory! And the Dante Devil Sword–which is actually a Charge Blade.

I am writing this on Thanksgiving, which is a weird day to me. First is the fiction Americans are told as children as to how the Pilgrims came to America, were welcomed with open arms by the natives, and they celebrated together by eating turkey and maize and whatnot. It’s a flagrant whitewashing, and it took me way too long to learn the truth. Christopher Columbus was an asshole who got lost, brought death, slavery, and pestilence to Native Americans, and there was no happy turkey dinner. It’s true the Native Americans at the time helped out the foreigners, which I’m sure thy regretted by the time Columbus was through with them.

In addition to that, I hate holidays in general because they bring out the worst in people. Or rather, they put so much pressure on people to have a certain kind of day, it’s stressful. Thanksgiving and Christmas in particular fetishize families to the point where if you don’t have a good relationship with your family, are estranged from them, or simply prefer not to spend time with them if you had your druthers, you are made to feel like a freak, an unfeeling asshole, or a wide range of other negative things. I feel alienated on a regular basis, and no more so from Thanksgiving to Christmas,

How am I spending my Thanksgiving? Much like any other day. Writing, watching YouTube vids, reading, playing MHW (Lunastra dropped today, which I’ll get to in a bit), snuggling with Shadow, and overthinking things. I don’t think it’s sad, and I don’t have any desire to celebrate–especially as I can’t eat most of the staples of Thanksgiving dinner, anyway.

Jumping dramatically to another subject–Monster Hunter: World. Still working on the Tempered Monsters, and it’s still bullshit that you have to track them to get the investigations. Have yet to get a Radobaan quest, so I still haven’t fought him solo. I did the Kulve Taroth quest two more times so I could get the Golden Shell to complete the Palico armor set. It’s ridiculously gilded and pompous, but I love it. My favorite Palico armor set is from Xeno’jiiva, the ‘final’ boss (storyline boss). It’s ethereal and makes Shadow look like he’s late for the wedding. I really wish I could have done the Kulve Taroth Siege properly, but there was never anyone doing it when I went to dive in. Probably because it’s better with a coordinated team of four, which I don’t have.

I did the Code: Red quest multi as I predicted, and I had a blast! It’s a special arena quest in which you fight one monster after the other. First Anjy, then Odo, then Rathalos, and finally, Teo. I went with pure power rather than any element, and I was the team healer per yooz. It’s amusing to me that I’m a Switch Axe user (Swag Axe in the parlance of ‘the community’) and a healer because they’re not that compatible. I don’t care, though, because I’m a healer first and foremost.

Anyway, with a good team of four or even three (had to do it with only two other people once), we can get the deed done in roughly twenty minutes or less. I know each monster has less health than their solo counterparts, but it’s still a thrill to take ’em down. It’s the best when the team works as one, such as the time one of my teammates set a trap for Teo, set down two Mega Barrel Bombs, and the rest of us set down our Mega Barrel Bombs as well. That did HUGE damage to Teo, and he was easy peasy to kill. I did the quest six or seven times, and I even got a Teo gem from one of the fights! I have unlocked the ability for the Elder Melder to make Teo gems now, so I never have to fight Teo again if I don’t want to.

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OCD traits and general update

i'm broody, damn it!
Cute black kitten just because.

I think I’m finally on my way out of the cruds, crossing all my bits and knocking on wood. I’m sleeping less, which is a telltale sign, and I’m only getting the chills very rarely rather than regularly. Yes, I’ll take the positives where I can get them because they have been few and far between when I’m sick. I’m still exhausted, but that’s perpetual for me. It doesn’t matter how much or how little I sleep–I can barely keep my eyes open during the day. In fact, sometimes I just doze on and off throughout the afternoon/evening.

I’ve been thinking about my mental health lately because I’ve been depressed for no reason. And, yes, I know that’s part of depression, but it doesn’t make it easier to accept. That’s not what I’ve been thinking of, though. I’ve been musing over my OCD tendencies (I don’t have OCD, but I definitely have some of the traits). OCD is misunderstood in the general public (as with most mental health issues) or boiled down to someone having to alphabetize their soup cans or checking the door fifteen times in five minutes. There’s more to it than that, and I’ll try to explain how it affects me. In addition, whenever OCD is being portrayed in the media or talked about, it’s presented in an overwhelmingly negative light. I would be the first to admit that it’s not fun for the most part, but there are positive aspects to it.

The biggest plus is that when I plan to do something, I go all in. If I commit to it, it’s gonna get done. The two times I decided to lose weight, I set a plan, stuck to it, and the pounds came off like clock-work, two pounds a week. It’s the same with my schedule now. I wake up whenever, then I feed Shadow his breakfast. He has his own schedule, by the way, which includes meowing in my face before I wake up until I actually get off the couch. After I feed Shadow, I go outside and smoke half a cigarette. Then, I heat up my tea while going through my taiji/stretching routine. That takes about half an hour, and then I write my blog post. After that, I take a brief break (or not) and work for my brother. Then, I eat something and smoke a fourth of a cigarette–or rather, smoke first while heating up food. After a break, maybe playing MHW or a DS game,  then I write my two-thousand words of fiction.

Those are the things I need to do every day (posts only for week days, which means writing them Sunday – Thursday, and work for my brother on week days, Monday – Friday. I write fiction every day), and I have it down cold. When I decide to do something, something in my brain clicks in and it becomes a given. I give it everything I can at the time, and I do it to my best ability. The problem is, it becomes rote over time if there’s no end date, and my attention starts slipping.

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Ripping off the mask

don't look behind the mask.
A perfect facade.

Sometimes, I feel as if I have a split personality. Not in the clinical definition of the word, but in the vernacular. There’s the me at home. I’m in sweats and a t-shirt, my hair in a sloppy bun. I sit/lie on the couch most of the day as I madly type away on my computer, and it’s only recently that I’ve been forcing myself to get up roughly every other hour or so to do my stretches. If you could see a picture of my brain waves, it would be a flat-line with only dips and no spikes.

I know it’s the depression talking, but I don’t see any reason to live. I’m not being dramatic. I don’t actually want to die (I never did. Not even when I was at my most suicidal–which I’m not); I just don’t see any reason to be alive. Nor do I think that many people would actually miss me if I were gone. Let me be clear. I am not going to kill myself, but I can’t motivate myself to do much other than meander through my so-called life.

I’m mostly numb these days. I know I need to see a therapist, but I don’t want to go through the bother of finding a new one. It’s been four or five years since my last therapist and I mutually terminated, and it took me forever to find her. I am not an easy client, and I can fully acknowledge that. I know too much of the lingo, and I’m very good at manipulation of people. I’m not proud of it, but I have to acknowledge it. I try to not do it because it makes me feel slimy, and I’ve watched my father charm the pants off people (especially women) throughout my life.

Another thing I made clear to my last psychologist is that I need someone to call me on my shit. I get into my head and the weeds way too much, and I can run in circles around most people when I choose to. I can use the psych lingo to justify anything or to explain anything, and to anyone with a lesser perception, what I’m saying makes perfect sense. i told my therapist I would try to do this to her, and I needed her to see through it and put her foot down. She was more than capable of doing so, but I had therapists previous to her who simply weren’t.

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Monster Hunter: World, Dark Souls II, and asundry

twice as much fun.
Tandem Bageljuice gliding!

I said last week I was nearing the end of Monster Hunter: World. There was plenty more to do as there is always a ton to do in MHW, but I felt as if I were running out of gas. I’m still playing, albeit more casually (in terms of time put into it). I took on the twin Tempered Bageljuices solo without even breaking a sweat. This is not a humblebrag–just the facts, man. I went in properly buffed. I have an armor/weapon loadout for each monster, which you can do when you have a-mill-and-a-half monies. I update the set whenever I fight the next souped-up version of the monster, and I try to make sure I have Divine Blessing Level 3, Health Boost Level 2 (prefer Level 3, of course), and Defense Boost Level 3 (or higher. I will forgo this for the other two, though). I’m very much defense-based, and I don’t mind if it takes me a bit longer to kill a monster than it would if I were more attack-based. I also had Fire Resistance Level 3 for this fight because the consensus is that Bageljuice does fire damage.

I buffed myself to the max for this fight. I drank my Mega Armorskin and Mega Demondrug, which are fucking amazing. I can’t stop raving about them. They buff your defense and attack respectively by a lot, and they last the entire quest or until you get carted. I got the Grimalkyne in the area, which are the trappers because the quest happens in the Wildspire Waste. Then, I boosted us by throwing a Hardshell Powder and an Attack Powder in the air like I just don’t care. I ate for defense, and then I went to tackle the two Tempered Bazelgeese.

One of the best things about this fight is watching the two Bageljuices go at each other, which they did four or five times during this fight. Not only is it epic to watch; they do significant damage to each other. I’m in the minority (of ‘the community’) in that I think Bageljuice is adorable. I love his podded face and body, and I just want him as a pet. Then again, I think the Nazgul, Dementors, and Ultralisks are adorable as well.

I thought time would be my biggest issue in this fight, but I didn’t even need half the time. My strat was to let the two of them fight each other for as long as possible before they both targeted me. Then, I’d Dung Pod one of them and attack the other. I had the Vitality Mantle and the Health Booster as my tools. The best part is that you can use a mantle and a booster at the same time. So, I’d plunk down the Health Booster, throw on my Vitality Mantle, and go to town on the one Bageljuice until the other one came around. The Health Booster lasts 60 seconds and has a 150-second cooldown. The Vitality Mantle lasts 120 seconds or until you get hit out of its protectiveness, and it has a 360-second cooldown. They are a great tandem, especially when playing solo. That Health Booster has saved my ass more times than I care to admit. Another way I use it is to wait until the monster flees, then plunk it down so me and my Felyne friends can fully heal.

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