Underneath my yellow skin

The problem with Souls-like games

badass blacksmith, but a bit broken.
My buddy, Andre! Er, Bataran.

So, there’s a little game called Ashen that was exclusive to the Epic Store for a year and just was released on Steam earlier this week. I had my eye on it when it was first released, and then I noticed it was on Steam. I snapped it up and eagerly dove in. It’s a Souls-like, and I read a bit about it but not much as my thing is to go in as fresh as I can with the games. That doesn’t last long as an hour later, I’m madly Googling shit. Unfortunately, in the case of Ashen, not many people have played, but we’ll get to that in a little bit. I was immediately taken by the graphics as it felt very paper-craft/cut-out to me. It had a charm to it, and the little bit of reviews I read were mostly positive. I knew there were AI companions, and I was on the fence about that going in. Still on the fence now, but I’ll get to that later as well.

Jumping in, there was very little character creation, but I made her look as Asian as possible. I wasn’t able to name her, unfortunately, but then I just dumped in. The buttons were mostly the same, but there were a few that made me raise my eyebrow. One was putting jump on Y. Um, no. That’s not where the jump goes. I tried to put it on A, but that was was for interaction, and I was sternly informed that they could not be on the same button. I swapped the two, which isn’t ideal, but A has to be jump. Just B is roll. This is life. This is how it  is. And it can never be changed.

The rest of the controls are similar enough, but we’ll come back to the jump in a bit. I  know I keep saying this, but I’m trying to do this in an orderly fashion, which is not like me at all.

In the beginning, I have some rubbish weapon and some rubbish clothing and a rubbish shield. The enemies aren’t very memorable, and the spear-chucking woman quickly gets irritating. Also, spear-throwing is…um…problematic. That’s your projectile in this game, and you have to aim it. It’s not enough to lock on it and throw. You have to manually aim to throw the spear, which when you’re running around and fighting enemies in general is not doable for me.

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Should it stay or should it go?

so many questions!
Yes, no, maybe?

Still in the research phase of planning an elimination diet. Quite frankly, it’s mostly because I am balking at actually doing it. I know I have to do it or rather, I should do it if I want something resembling a regular life. Although, I may have to give up my idea of what that is. I may never have the same amount of health I did before I started getting this array of illnesses/allergies/sensitivities/whatever the fuck it is. Part of it is probably age. Shit just slowly starts to deteriorate as you get older. I like to joke that I can still stay up all night; I’ll just pay for it for the next three days.

Today, at Cubs, I looked at almost everything I eat on a regular basis. Not the cookies because I need my chocolate. For now. Although I did also get dark chocolate almond milk. I looked up every ingredient, and most of the ones I checked were low FODMAP. However, almost everything I buy has either onion or garlic in it. I stopped buying hummus and almost all sauces. In fact, the only condiment I am currently using is mustard. Oh, and some salad dressing, but I have a hunch that isn’t a good option. I had already bought it, and I’m cheap AF. Also, maybe I’ll resent it less if I ease into it. The chicken I buy has dehydrated onion powder on it. I bought it anyway because I can’t give up everything at once. Or rather, I have to steel myself  in order to do it.

One of the other issues is that I have comorbid health issues. I already know I have gluten and dairy issues. I also have migraines, so I have to deal with triggers for that as well. As I wrote about recently, I figured out that caffeine is probably a trigger. Which is ironic as it’s also what staves off a migraine. Now, I might have to deal with IBS or something similar. And that road is hard and arduous. And I’m still stuck in the ‘it’s fucking not fair’ phase.The thing is, I know while it’s not fair, it’s not terrible in the grand scheme of things. I mean, it’s tedious and annoying, and it’s making me grim at the moment. However, compared to a million other things, it’s really not so bad. I just need to get over the fact that I’m so annoyed by it and move on already.

One thing I’ve learned from my research is that it’s not just high FODMAP and low FODMAP. It’s about portion size, which is something I am not good at. Or rather, I hate watching portion sizes for many reasons. One, it makes eating more of a chore than it already is. Two, it’s a slippery slope for me into eating disorder. Three, it’s tedious. But, in an elimination diet, it’s important because a low FODMAP food can easily become a high FODMAP one. Let’s take blueberries for example. 20 blueberries is low FODMAP. Anything over that is tiptoeing into bad territory. So, yeah, portions are very important.

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More frustrations with FODMAP

So, I’m planning the FODMAP elimination diet thing, and I’m in the exploratory stage. One thing you must know about me is that I don’t do anything quickly. I take forever to make a decision, but once I do, I go in whole hog. My BFF once said after I got my cats that it seemed like I had made the decision with the snap of the fingers, but when she thought more about it, I had been talking about it for a few years. It’s the same with all the decisions I make. I think about it a lot, and then I research it to death, then I do everything all at once. It happened when I decided to lose weight, twice, to great detriment (because I have a really strong will once I actually decide to do something), and it was the some when I eschewed gluten and dairy. Only once in the two-and-a-half years did I decide to give it up–on my trip to Malta–and that was only for two days.

As I’ve noted before, I’m pissed that I have to do more. I’ve given up dairy, gluten, and caffeine, and that’s a lot of shit. The caffeine was the hardest to give up, but it’s the one I miss the least. To be fair, I do drink a cup or two of caffeinated tea every week or so, plus a caffeinated pop if I go out to eat. I bought some cold coffee this week and then got a piercing headache from drinking it. I woke up with a horrible headache–teetering towards a migraine–and I’m pretty sure it’s salt this time. Been eating a lot of chips lately, and even though they are reduced salt, it’s still not great. In fact, I’m eating some as I write this. I had given up chips a long time ago, but I’ve added them back in. I know I need to cut them out again, but it’s not something I’m happy to do right now.

I read a FODMAP article about how the person who helps her clients achieve a low-FODMAP diet liked to focus on what they COULD eat rather than what they couldn’t. I appreciate this approach, and I understand why she does it. However, it’s really hard for me not to be resentful about what I can’t have, especially because I don’t cook. Not only do I not cook, I don’t like to cook. I *can* cook, but it seems like a waste of time. I hate prep work, and I don’t see the point in cooking for one. Yes, I know about batching it and freezing portions. I hate defrosting stuff.

Here’s the thing. I have to give out about ten times the energy that ‘normal’ people do in order to do even the simplest things. This will be a factor in what I have to say later as well. So, yes, defrosting food is not a big deal. Really, it isn’t, especially with microwaves. But to my brain, it’s almost insurmountable in addition to nuking food in general. Yes, you can take it out ahead of time and allow it to defrost naturally–which I do with the roast chicken when I buy it. But, doing it for more than one thing is too much for my brain. For whatever reason, my brain shuts down when it’s more than a few simple steps, which is something I’ve adjusted for all my life. It’s difficult to explain it to people who don’t have the issue because it sounds stupid. Believe me, I know it sounds like bullshit when I try to describe each step it takes for me to, say, go to the grocery store. By the way, this is relevant for later as well.

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A little bit of this…a little bit of that

I still am on a quest to find the One True Game (of the moment). I will note that I’m going through some personal shit at the moment, so that might be influencing my mood at the moment. I’m also dealing with health issues (which, sigh), so I’m not always up to trying something new. I’m not really up to anything arduous, including my beloved Souls. The only thing I can play with any regularity is Binding of Isaac: Rebirth*, and that’s maybe one game a day plus a go at the Daily Run. It helps that I only have to use the keyboard as well. It’s very minimal exertion, which is pretty much all I need at the moment.

At any rate, I’m trying to find other games. There is a Steam sale going on because there always is, and I picked up Vampyr, DMC 5, and Gris. By the way, I have a disgusting number of games in my shame pile. I can’t tell you how many because, as I said, it’s disgusting. Before the sale, I heard tell of a game called Disco Elysium. It’s a open world RPG detective noir game, and it sounded like it could be right up my alley. I have been searching for a lifetime for a detective game that is actually enjoyable and a good game. I have tried countless of them over the years, and I have only tasted bitterness and disappointment. The Sherlock Holmes games that everyone loves so much? Bollocks. I’ve tried five or six of them, including the most recent two, and I hated every minute. Well, that’s not completely true. There were glimmers of goodness, but overall, it was tedious, grinding, not good gameplay. The reason I kept trying is because people loved them so much. I thought I must have been missing something, but I finally gave up. Until they are done by someone else, I’m not buying another Sherlock Holmes game.

Side Note: Casual game devs get away with so much shit. I kind of put the Sherlock games in this category, but not quite as bad. They churn out the same game over and over again with the slightest tweaks–sometimes, not even tweaked at all. In addition, for the love of god, do not have a cut scene before I have a chance to mess with the options. I play casual games without the sound, and I turn off the sound as soon as I can. The Sherlock games are not that bad, but the basic gameplay doesn’t change at all. Or rather, it didn’t and then it did with the modernization of the games, but then it didn’t again.

Disco Elysium. I didn’t know much about it before I bought it. I knew it was dystopian and D&D based. By the way, ever since I started watching the Oxventures, I have a desire to  play D&D. Jane is playing the character I want to play–Prudence, a tiefling warlock who has dedicated herself to Cthulhu–but I found out from the interwebs that a tiefling warlock is so basic. I have a feeling that the D&D community is going to be a lot like the Souls community. Mostly good folks, but with a very vocal minority who blather on about the right way to play. Let’s face it. Mostly young white dudes because that’s how it is in most nerd communities.


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Food map? FODMAP it is! *Sigh*

I’ve been aware of the FODMAP elimination diet for years, but I’ve always shied away from it because it’s really damn restrictive. I’ve already eliminated gluten, dairy, and caffeine, which is the reason I don’t want to do the damn diet. I feel as if I’ve given up so much, and I don’t want to give up more. But, my symptoms are getting worse, and it’s exhausting to have to deal with the aftereffects. In looking over the lists of what you can and can’t eat on this elimination diet, I found out that cauliflower is high FODMAP, which might explain the terrible reaction to the Cauliflower Bezule I had while I was in Philly.

IT WAS STILL WORTH IT!

The problem is that I don’t cook. I tend to eat a lot of prepared food, processed and otherwise. Many of the items on the high list are in many processed foods including onion and garlic. Let me give you several other items on the ‘do not eat’ list, particularly ones I like to eat. Mushrooms, peaches, watermelon, apples, beans and lentils, gluten and dairy (already given up), cashews, honey and other sweeteners, and alcohol. The last isn’t a problem for me. This is but the tip of the restricted list, and I get tired just looking at it.

Giving up dairy and gluten wasn’t fun, but it wasn’t hard. There were plenty of substitutes, and I rarely miss it. Yes, I do occasionally want a dumpling or cheese, but it’s not something that has a negative impact on my life. This, on the other hand, is an ordeal. Right now, I’m big into hummus. Chickpeas are medium FODMAP and garlic are high FODMAP. I love potatoes, which are low FODMAP, but can be irritable, nonetheless. Thankfully, citrus fruits are low FODMAP, which is good because I eat an orange a day.

I just read an article about how you should think about what you can have, not what you can’t. There’s plenty! You can have salmon and green beans and potatoes, for example! Actually, that sounds delicious. The problem is that I don’t cook. I will have to cook. These two things are mutually exclusive, and I don’t know how to reconcile it.

My nose is burning. It’s hurting like hell. My head is softly thumping, but it’s not migraine levels. Yet. I stopped drinking the cold coffee I bought, and that seems to have done the trick. I might check it by drinking some of the coffee because, science.

I really am not feeling blogging this week, so I’ll end this hear. I’ll leave you with yet another Oxventure. Actually, it’s the first of three episodes, and Andy Farrant who plays the rogue pirate, Corazon de Ballena (nee de Leon, kind of) has to pretend to be a young paladin named Chauncey. His voice and manners as he pretends to be Chauncey had me in tears. I earmarked where it all started in the video below. There is also a lot of homoerotic tension in the quest as well, which is delightful.

The feeling of MEH

I’ve been *sigh* fighting health issues this week. Mostly migraine related, but also sinus-related. Plus, I just got my period today, which I was expecting, but it’s never welcomed. I shouldn’t complain about the last, really, because I’ve been very fortunate with my period over the years. In my heyday, I got it two to three times a year for three days at a time. Don’t worry, I asked my doctor about it, and she said as long as I got it twice a year, I was fine. And, since I didn’t want to have kids, it helped me attain that goal as well. When I had sex on a regular basis, I had my period more regularly (damn body working against me!), but when I went without, my period was all over the place. Wait. In addition, it was light whenever I had it, and I never had too many physical side  effects from it. The worst of it was that I was a bit bitchier than usual and my boobs were tender. MAYBE I got a weak cramp here and there, but that’s it. Nowadays, I barely even know I have it, and I’m pretty sure I’m perimenopausal if not menopausal.

Anyway! Vidya games. The reason I mentioned my health is because when I’m feeling miserable, I can’t play ‘hard’ games. I didn’t even feel up to DS‘ing some of the days, and that’s saying a lot. To be honest, it was because of something stupid. I play DS offline for most of the game because I am human/embered up most of the time (I got gud, y’all) most of the time, and I do not want to be invaded. I hate being invaded in these games. I hate it because I suck at PvP, and I have no desire to waste time fighting someone. In addition, anyone still PvP’ing so long after the games were released means that’s all they do in the games at this point. In other words, my chances of winning are slim to less than none. I will note, however, that I have a better chance when I’m strengthcasting than when I’m pure casting. Magic is shit in PvP given lag issues.

I like co-oping in bosses, though. For whatever reason, you can’t switch from online to offline in-game or even while the game is playing (at least in DS III). So, when I’m up to a boss, I have to quit the game, go offline in Steam, and then fire up the game again. Also, for some inexplicable reason, FromSoft decided not to have Cloud Sync for DS III, so I had to start new games every time I switched machines. First world problem, but what a strange decision. Anyway, the irritation of switching from offline to online has stopped me on occasion from playing because I just can’t be bothered. In addition, while the game is no longer difficult for me, it can be tedious at times. It’s still a slog, and while I can play it mostly on autopilot, that doesn’t mean that I can’t be taken off-guard from time to time.


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Being challenged physically and emotionally

Day three or four of waking up with a migraine. I’m lucky in that I can stand reading and writing when I have a migraine, but I have to keep all the lights off and any sound I have on low. Even then, I have a low level thumping in my brain and a general queasiness. Still, I consider myself very fortunate that I can function at all when I have a migraine; I know many people can’t. I just went to the store to stock up for Snowmaggedon (current prediction 7 to 12 inches, but it’s been all over the place), and I’m exhausted. That’s the downside to trying to operate while migraining–it takes everything out of me. Again, I’m lucky that I can function at all, but now I’m down for the rest of the day.

Is this my life? For the past few years, I feel as I’ve been operating at 75% or less* more often than not. I have a few days or weeks of feeling good, and then it all comes crashing down around me again. I know I need to get a thorough slate of tests, but I’m just…so tired. Going to the doctor is an ordeal for me in the best of times, which this is not. Why? For a plethora of reasons. Let’s start with the fact that I had thyroid troubles since I was young. I was hyperthyroid, though I didn’t know it at the time. I just new I was hot and cranky and couldn’t sleep. There were other reasons for it, of course, but the big one was discovering I had Graves’ disease when I was a tweener. Back then, it wasn’t really well understood (this was in the mid-eighties), and they treated it by shoving pills down my throat. I’m not sure what they were, exactly, but I was taking 27 pills a day. Nine pills three times a day. That didn’t work because my whatever levels were extraordinarily high. They decided they needed to go to the nuclear option (literally?) of radiation. They were quite forthright about the fact that they were giving me their best estimate, but that radiation wasn’t precise. Most likely, they were going to give me too much and destroy my thyroid. This is exactly what happened, and now I have to take a pill every day for the rest of my life.

During that time and thereafter, I had to get my blood drawn quite often. It was on a monthly basis for a while, and I have terrible veins. Again, this isn’t something I knew before I had to have my blood drawn so regularly, but I came away from it quite wary of anyone poking me with a needle (except my tattoo artist). I have many negative memories of that time, including the (male) nurse who insisted he could find my vein from inside my arm and kept wiggling it. It hurt like a motherfucker until I wanted to punch him. He kept saying he wanted to not poke me again (to prevent further pain), but at that point, I would have welcomed a thousand extra pricks. I mentioned that he’s male because the other time I had a really difficult poker was after I was in a car accident. The person doing the MRI was a man, and he was pissed that I hadn’t been poked already before I got to him. He was grumbling the whole time he poked me, and I ended up bruised and sore.

Side note: I am keloid. This is yet another thing I learned through experience. This means that I scar twice as bad as other people, and any time I got my blood drawn, I ended up with a massive bruise that lasted several days if not a week. I still have to get my blood drawn every year, and I tell the phlebotomist to use a butterfly needle and take it from the back of my hand. I don’t know when I learned this was a thing, but when I did, it was a life-changer. I remember a feeling of awe as my blood flowed with ease from the back of my hand. And, the prick was nothing–I barely felt it at all. I still have a few phlebotomists who insist on doing it the old-fashioned way first, but they always come around to the butterfly needle in the hand trick.


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The perfect game for me, er date?

In Friday’s post, I wrote many, many words about how I defined myself and how it applied to dating. It was purportedly about gaming, but I spent most of the post focusing on dating. Now, on a day when I’m supposed to be talking about personal issues, I’m going to focus mostly on gaming. Why? Because it’s funny to me.

In the last post, I left it off by describing how death in Dark Souls made me learn this game back and forth. Let’s take the Undead Burg because it’s the first real place you explore after the Northern Undead Asylum. You’re dropped at the Firelink Shrine by a big black bird, and there are three ways you can go. One, across the way by the skellies in the graveyard. Two, down by the mute Fire Keeper, then down again, to New Londo and the ghosts who don’t take damage (unless a certain condition is met). Three, up the stairs where there are more skellies, but manageable one.

One small gripe. Some people ‘in the community’ say it’s obvious that you’re supposed to go the third route because the other two are so hard. My retort to that the one thing everybody knows about the game is that it’s brutally hard. How the hell are you supposed to discern ‘too hard’ with adequately hard? Especially if you’ve never played that kind of game before.

Anyway, here’s the Undead Burg run. Go up the stairs from Firelink Shrine. There will be a boney to greet you. Then one jumps down as another chucks firebombs at you. There is an armored one further down the way, but I ignore him for now. After dispensing with boney number two, I go up the second set of stairs to take care of another boney, then firebomber, then two more bonies.


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The perfect date for me! Er, game

I think I’ve established by now that I am a difficult person to please. Not in the general sense, but in terms of what I like and don’t like. I’m horrible to buy presents for (just give me the damn money), and there are maybe three people who nail it every time. When it comes to popular culture, I’m sure I look like a contrarian from the outside. I don’t like much of what other people like. I keep my mouth shut in general because no one wants to hear someone expound on why she hates Star Wars, Senfeld, or Game of Thrones. Or, hell, why I hate movies in general. That’s a half hour rant in and of itself.

I’ve also been pretty open about the fact that I define myself more about what I don’t want/like/need than what I do. One of the biggest positive (or, rather, proactive) decisions I’ve made in my life is to not have children–which is in itself a negative (lack of something). I am NOT married; I do NOT work a 9-to-5 job; I am NOT a church-goer; I do NOT have children. Those are the biggies, obviously.

Then again, there are somethings about myself that are positive descriptions (what I am). I am…ugh. Even there I run into problems because I have qualifiers for many of them. I slap the label bisexual on myself because it’s the closest to what I am, but it’s not a label I truly embrace. I don’t like pansexual or omnisexual, and if I had to choose, I’d just say I was sexual. Not in a ‘no labels’ sort of way, but because like so many things about me, it’s amorphous. Take gender. I don’t think of myself as a woman per se–I mean, I’m not wedded to the term. I don’t think of myself as a man, though, and I don’t identify with nonbinary or gender fluid.

It’s because I’d rather step behind the labels and dissect what they actually represent. I also think about them as a matter of construct and how they don’t necessarily make sense in this day and age. If you think about it, in many situations, there really isn’t any reason to delineate someone by their gender except so we can have a preconceived notion as to how we should view them.

I can hear you asking yourself, “Minna, what does this have to do with video games? In fact, what the hell does it have to do with dating for that matter?” I’m getting there. One of the other things you should know about me by now is that I meander all around a point before actually making it.

More positives about myself: I study taiji. I love taiji weapons. I love cats, especially black. Shadow is my little buddy, and I love him with all my heart. I devour mysteries, and I write them as well. I love writing. I write an estimated 2,00,000 words a year. That’s a lot of words and why my keyboards don’t last very long. Even the external mechanical keyboard I got a month ago or so is already losing some of the lettering. It’s not a big deal because I touch type as long as the keys last, but it was touted to withstand a lot of pressure. I adore it, though. The heavy push as I press the keys, and the clacking sounds (but not actual clicking). It’s just delightful.

via GIPHY

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