Friday, September 13, 2013

Accomplishments and failures

I took last week off of work, like I do every year.  It's a bit of a no brainer.  Thanks to Labor Day and our revolving schedule, I use 3 vacation days and end up getting 9 days off from work in a row.  I started doing this shortly after purchasing my own home, so I tend to call it Home Improvement Week.  My goals aren't just limited to housework though, I try to get other things done too.

Here's what I managed to get done:

  1. I had about 15 empty cardboard boxes just hanging out in my attic, miraculously with no signs of roaches or mice building nests out of them.  Some of them were boxes from electronics (does anyone else even notice when items tell you to keep the original box for warranty purposes?) but others were boxes I had used in my move four years ago.  I don't plan on moving again for years and yet I was holding on to these things "just in case."  They are now gone, and I have a lot of free space in my attic.
  2. I also took down the Halloween decorations while I was up there.  They haven't been put up yet, I'll probably wait until October for that.  But I hate going in the attic so now they are in the spare room.
  3. Dad came over with his edger and took care of my severely overgrown grass and helped me fix the edger I bought last year and used once before it messed up.  He also brought the pressure washer and I started cleaning up the driveway and some of the house exterior.  It's technically not complete.
  4. I recorded my video segments for my Firestarter review and also guested on an I Hate/Love Remakes episode about Scarface.
  5. Hung up some paintings/pictures that have literally been leaning against the wall for months waiting for me to do just that.
  6. Put my suitcases back in the closet that have been sitting out since the SGC trip in June.
  7. Took down and threw out the mini-blinds in my bedroom that Bad Cat aka Logan had ruined by chewing up the strings that hold them together. I decided to just stick with the light blocking curtains for now.
  8. Cleaned up my Mac hard drive by moving a lot of stuff to the external drive.  Between Targeted and my video reviews, it fills up fast.
  9. Cleaned the bathroom and the kitchen.  I'm a serious procrastinator when it comes to taking care of this kind of stuff, but I'm trying to keep up a better schedule with it from now on.
  10. Filed and shredded a bunch of documents that were making the office look like a disheveled mess.

All in all, that's quite a bit I got done, along with streaming a lot of video games during the week, seeing a show with my friends, having Ethiopian food with my brother, and going out to the movies to see Riddick.

As the subject suggests, I did screw some things up too.  They're really not that serious, but they did end up seriously upsetting me at the time, so I figured they were worth writing about in a "what have we learned" sense.

I wanted to try my hand at cooking steak to see if I liked it.  After having strange carnivorous cravings (I usually eat far more veggies than meat) I thought it might be time to try steak again, but didn't want to spend a lot of money at a restaurant for something I might not like.  So I bought some thin eye of round steaks and started looking up how to cook them.  Somewhere along the way I guess I got mixed up.  I tenderized them by marinating them, and was all set to put them on my grill when I pulled the lid off it and found the plates looked rusted.  With that out of the window, I was looking online and saw most people suggested slow cooking.  So I scrapped the idea to make them that night and instead put them in the crockpot the next day.  I think the page I was reading online must have been referring to an eye of round roast or something, because those steaks ended up so badly dried out they were inedible.  Very disappointing.  I think I'm going to stick to making roasts and hamburgers from now on when I want red meat, because I'm pretty good at making both of those.  I'll find a moderately priced steak at a restaurant and try that instead before I try making another one at home.

The other failure was related to streaming video games.  We're still in our infancy with doing this, and very much figuring it out as we go along.  In trying to figure out what games to do, the discussion inevitably comes up that RPGs are just right out of the question.  This isn't something just Jak and I talk about, I've seen it discussed online, both in relation to streaming and let's plays.  They're boring and tedious, is the usual reasons given.  The problem I have with this generally accepted idea is that I really love RPGs.  They are my favorite type of video game.  Beyond playing a lot of them, I've also spent a lot of time watching other people play them.  I watched my brother play when I was young, and near the beginning of our relationship, Jak and I tried to play through the entire Final Fantasy series and we traded off who played which game, which meant I watched him play half of them.

I understand there's nothing interesting about watching people grind to level up, but I thought that maybe an RPG that didn't take long amounts of level grinding could still be interesting.  So even though all the signs were telling me not to do it, I insisted on streaming Final Fantasy Mystic Quest one night last week.  In an effort to add more to it, Jak and I added the stipulation that whenever we saw the overworld map, we would pass the controller.  It didn't help.  We had a few people watching at first, but they all politely told us they had something to go do and signed off after a while.  Jak and I ran out of things to say, and while we had originally planned to make it to the second crystal, I elected to turn it off after the mini-dungeon before it.

I got really, really depressed afterward.  I knew the odds were against me, but I had really, really wanted to make it work, to prove that these games were fun and likable.  Because I love them, so why wouldn't other people want to watch them?  No one likes to be proven wrong, even when they know the odds are against them.

So why did it go so horribly wrong, even though I thought for sure the game was fun?

Final Fantasy Mystic Quest is an entry level RPG.  While this does mean remarkably less level grinding and no random battles, it also means everything about the game is simplified, including the story.  You enter a scene, someone tells you to go somewhere and get something or talk to someone, end scene.  From there you fight enemies until you find who/what you're looking for, and you're immediately given another task to go complete.  While there is a bit of humor, there's no real emotion to the story at all.

The way the game gets around the "no random battles" aspect on the overworld is by setting up battlefields.  You enter a battlefield 10 times, fighting 1-3 enemies and gain gold and experience.  It's abbreviated level grinding, but it is still level grinding.  And once you get inside the dungeons, the enemies are there and blocking your path so you fight them to continue.  While there are fun sound effects and adorable graphics as the monsters change as they take damage, it still equals repetition that isn't necessarily the most fun to watch.

Perhaps, if Jak and I had been doing this a lot longer, we could have kept the commentary flowing seamlessly regardless of the duller game play.  But we found ourselves running out things to say, and then realizing the large gaps of saying nothing was just making me all the more self conscious and making me do that thing where I was blurting out stuff I shouldn't just for the sake of filling up space.  My disappointment was pretty evident in my voice, and no one wants to listen to a person complain or even worse whine about things.  This last part in particular is why I deleted the stream from Twitch's archive of the show and only have a copy as a private file on my youtube page that no one can see.

So as of tonight, we'll try again.  Zelda II is a hybrid between a sidescroller and an RPG, so while there's a lot of action elements there are also points in the game where you have to grind for experience to give Link a chance to survive.  Jak is the only one playing this time, and he's already done a bit of grinding, as much as you can without really starting any of the true levels of the actual game. But we'll run into that point again, and this time we decided it might be fun to get some people on via Skype, to keep conversation going while he does that.  Time will tell how that goes.  I'm hoping well, as we'll essentially just be chatting with people while having the game as a backdrop.

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