Five Doctors

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rifftrax-doctor-poster-e6ff5abb7ba43188e4d31a7234bf8e8d-1One of the things that I do occasionally with some coworkers is go to the live broadcast of Rifftrax.  The concept there is a little odd given that the actual “live” show is in Nashville but is simulcast to theaters around the country…  two of which are in the Tulsa area.  Generally speaking we all meet for dinner first and then attend whatever they happen to be Riffing at that time.  Traditionally this is some movie down on the deep B and or Cult status list.  I think the last one I saw before last night was Samurai Cop back in March, and hands down the best one ever was them taking on The Room.  The weird thing about last night is that I was not terribly sure how I would feel about them Riffing on one of my Fandoms.  I’ve been a Doctor Who fan since my father indoctrinated me during the very long rein of Tom Baker.  Whatever concerns I might have had vanished quickly because their send up of the Five Doctors was amazing.  Pretty much everything we ever thought while watching some of the campy 80s shows…  took verbal form.  If you have a chance to see it I highly suggest it.  They are doing the traditional rebroadcast on August 24th so you might check to see if it is available at a theater near you.  I highly suggest the “live” Rifftrax experience in general.

Past this I don’t have a whole hell of a lot to talk about.  The problem with a Rifftrax night is that I don’t get home early enough to really do much in the way of gaming.  It was not long before I was downstairs conked out completely.  The following story is related for humor… and for evidence of how generally dead to the world I was.  I turned in pretty early and at some point during the night I apparently got up to use the restroom.  I don’t remember this at all, instead it was just like I suddenly woke up and was on the toilet….  and had apparently been there long enough to have my legs completely fall asleep.  So in my sleepy state I had to figure out how to finish my business…  and then pull my pants up and somehow stabilize myself as blood goes rushing back into my legs.  There was a point where I legitimately considered crawling on the floor to bed.  Even weirder was when I managed to hobble my way to the bed and sit down…  I couldn’t quite reason how to lift my then “full on pins and needles with a vengeance” legs up into the bed so I could lay down again.  This is of course way more than you bargained for when you decided to click through to my blog this morning.  While I do suggest Rifftrax… I would not suggest this whole walking on legs that you can’t actually feel thing.  It is an overrated experience.

 

Praise Jick

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Another game that I have been playing a more than significant amount of is West of Loathing.  The attraction of this stick figure graphics clad game won’t make a whole lot of sense unless you too played an awful lot of Kingdom of Loathing.  For those not already indoctrinated… “KoL” was one of the early browser based role-playing games launching in February of 2003.  I am not entirely certain when I first discovered it but I believe it was sometime within that first year.  I would love to say that I have access to my original account…  but that is tied to an email address I no longer have access to.  What set Kingdom of Loathing apart other than the unapologetic programmer art…  was a sense of humor and a general aura of fun around the game.   You chose from classes such as Sauceror, Pastamancer, Turtle Tamer, Disco Bandit, Accordion Thief or Seal Clubber…  all with their largely goofy and nonsensical abilities.  Now you might exact the game to play like a parody of an RPG, but in truth it had a significant amount of depth and was fun in its own right once the gags became a little stale.  This was one of the first times I had encountered the “energy” mechanic that limits how many turns per day you could take, and in truth without Kingdom of Loathing I question of anything like a Fallen London would have ever gained traction considering it uses much the same format.

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What West of Loathing does, is combine all of the elements that I loved about the point and click adventure style RPG that was Kingdom of Loathing and bring it into the real time interactive gaming world.  Instead of navigating through a series of mouse clicks and menu items, you actually go out and explore the world with WASD and keys to interact with objects.  It has been awesome to see all of these scenes that are extremely reminiscent to that of KoL animated and moving on my screen…  with just as many physical gags worked in as I would have expected.  One of the early things you notice is that various objects in the world will add items to your configuration menu.  For example you unlock a check box that is labelled “Stupid Walking” which causes your character to cycle through a series of bizarre walking moves from the dog “butt scoot” animation to something similar to the Monty Python Ministry of Silly Walks gag.  Another option is “Best Font Mode” that shifts everything from a Serif font to something resembling Arial…  none of these really have any major effect on the game they just do goofy things because the game is goofy.

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Much like Kingdom of Loathing you are absolutely flooded with items that vary from the completely useless vendor fodder to things that you probably should hold onto just in case there might be a use for it later.  The game will gleefully allow you to consume or destroy a major plot device that will keep you from unlocking segments of the game.  As a result there were several things I failed to do in the introductory area…  that you can apparently never go back to.  The game will also gleefully push you in front of mobs that you have zero hope of actually beating.  It turns out at least in one of these cases I was supposed to allow it to beat me to unlock something I needed for another quest.  However I muscled through and used up my stock of dynamite to be able to succeed.  One of the best parts of the game so far is the fact that it is fairly forgiving of your mistakes when it comes to taking deaths… and will functionally respawn you in a save space as though you simply got beat up and had to retreat.  As far as classes go in West of Loathing you have a much more limited set to choose from.  I went with the Cow Puncher which serves as the Muscle stat class for the game, but you can also choose from Beanslinger the Mysticality class or Snake Oiler the Moxie class.  Pretty early in the game I started down a bit of a secondary path of Necromancy and can now summon all manner of skeletal creatures to help fight for me.

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At this point I have played around five hours of the game and have unlocked a decent chunk of the map so far.  The game itself feels like this weird mix of a Maniac Mansion style adventure game blended with the original Fallout.  As you move between objectives on the world map you encounter random events, and if you just want to partake of the random events…  there is the Wander button that makes your character literally roam around in a circle around your current objective.  In Kingdom of Loathing there were a number of endless combat areas that allows you to level up specific stats or farm for specific items, and this game keeps that concept with several locations including something that allows you to keep jumping into combat as often as you like.  One example of this is a fountain that is spitting out snakes… and you can walk up to it and grab a snake to fight as many times as you like if that sounds like something you actually want to be doing.  There is a bone pit that I go to rather often to find the components I need to summon skeletons.  The absolute best part about West of Loathing is the fact there is no energy mechanic.  That is ultimately my frustration with the original Kingdom of Loathing or Fallen London…  is that I play them in spurts.  I might want to play for a few hours and then will go for a month without playing it again…  and that goes specifically against their model.  West of Loathing on the other hand is something I can roam around at my pace without worry about encountering any hidden barriers.  Ultimately if you ever played Kingdom of Loathing I highly suggest you check out this game, and at only $10 I have gotten more than my enjoyment out of it thus far…  and feel like I have only barely scratched the surface.

Sehnsucht

I’ve been sort of circling around a drain lately that is Magic the Gathering.  I go through this every so often, thinking that I really wish I could play Magic again.   The key problem is when it comes to this game, I am largely a man out of time…  or at least out of synch with the community of the game.  I’ve talked about my experiences with this  before, but functionally I bought my first Magic the Gathering cards during Unlimited.  I managed to pick up a single starter deck, and then was ultimately confused how to make that starter deck work, not realizing that they were by nature completely unplayable without additional pack support.  I sat on that until around the release of revised when I finally pulled my head out and learned how to play the game.  At this point Magic was really not a big deal in the small town I grew up in, nor the neighboring town where I had a store where I could actually purchase it at.  During this time I picked up a smattering of things from Arabian Nights, Antiquities, Legends… and by the time Dark was released I was 100% in on this game and bought a ton of it the day it was released at my local comic shop.

Back then we largely ignored the way we were supposed to be playing the game and instead ignored the 60 card deck size and played an assortment of whatever the hell the best cards we had were.  Most of these decks were somewhere in the range of 150 cards, and were deeply filled with cards we just happened to like playing with like the Sengir Vampire or Hypnotic Specter.   I bonded heavily with Black as a color and still to this day I cannot really fathom playing any deck that is not at least aligned with black…  my perennial favorite being Black and Green which I have later found out is also called Golgari.  The thing is you can pretty much hand me any color combination that includes black and I will be extremely happy to play it.  The other place where we broke the rules is that we tended to play with a ton of people around a table and this went down one of two ways.  Either we played in a free for all fashion where anyone could attack anyone else…  or after the release of the Jyhad card game we adopted some rules from it.

That game had the concept of Predator and Prey…  so you attacked the player on the left and defended against the player on the right.  We functionally adopted this concept for Magic the Gathering and it left some really interesting things going on…  namely you never could completely go full tap on your prey because you would then leave yourself completely open for attack from your predator.  Additionally there was a significant amount of bargaining going on… and collusion.  Functionally we had one friend who refused to touch Black anything due to I think some pseudo religious conviction… and instead played largely mono White or White and Green.  The moment he played Karma which is a card that causes players to take damage for every swamp they controlled during their upkeep…  there were deals to figure out a way to either disable that card or outright remove him from the game.  Similarly there was usually a significant amount of aggro generated by someone who played a Rack or a Black Vise that has similar effects based on your current hand size.

It was an era when we played whatever seemed cool without a lot of forethought into the deck design.  You would sit down and never really know what you were going to encounter, and a good part of that made it exciting.  It was less about “combo magic” and more a period of just playing whatever the hell felt good.  There was this period during college where I really was not playing much, and I skipped most of Alliances and Mirage…  tagging back in during the tail end of Visions and was completely back in my prime for the release of Weatherlight and Tempest.  My world largely shifted with me starting to care about what was then called “Type II” magic…  which I believe is now called “Modern”.  Functionally it is a limited format and was the birth of what became block play where you were functionally limited to whatever the current block was and the previous one for deck construction.  I had entered a few tournaments before, but they were largely big sloppy messes that were super fun until the last rounds where they were completely dominated by whoever had the power nine.  In college however I started actually caring about proper deck construction and the game shop I played at was both extremely supportive to players but also a fertile ground for really fun pick up games.

The shop was constantly opening boxes of product for singles to sell, because the massive internet sales thing was not really in place.  In fact the few sales that I made wound up with me meeting up on IRC with magic players and arranging trades.  This is how I completed my play set of Jester’s Cap and Helm of Obedience when I was working on my Millstone deck.  What all of these box openings meant more than anything was that the shop had a robust commons bin, and it became tradition to build cheap decks from it and then battle each other.  Some of the absolute best times playing magic were done playing with a few dollars worth of cards.  However I also had many competitive decks that I broke out when they had weekend tournaments.  This is the first and only time I have ever really been deeply engaged with the card shop life.  From there I graduated college and got busy with the real world… and largely stopped following Magic the Gathering.  It has always been something I am fond of, and over the years I pick up the occasional random booster pack just because I love that freshly opened pack smell.  There is something magical…  no pun intended…   about opening a pack of cards and having the possibility of getting something interesting.  I also find it somewhat magical about getting resented with a slate of possibilities in the form of all of those common cards that can potentially interact in interesting ways.

The problem is…  I just don’t have a card shop home to even begin to get involved with if I so choose.  Nor do I honestly really have the dedication to bring myself to go on a regular basis.  Sure there is Friday night magic, but it is a way more serious scene around here than I really want to be part of.  I wish there was a weird league of people who played oddball “fun” decks.  However for many Magic players…  “fun” seems to be “winning at any cost” and that is not exactly drift compatible with my views.  In this current nostalgia for a time that never really existed other than the scope of my close circle of friends..  I’ve found myself watching a lot of videos on Youtube about box opening.  The one linked at the beginning of this post takes me way back because while I’ve only ever cracked one box of anything… and it was Mercadian Masques that I happened to win from a drawing…  I have opened more than my fair share of old school packs of Magic the Gathering.  This is one of those moments when I lament not really having a good circle of geek friends in real life to hang out with.  Since college I have largely been focused on online communities and have let some of my real world ones atrophy to the point of simply no longer existing.  We have a pool of gamers at work and I keep kicking around the concept of trying to create some sort of magic the gathering scene there.  The only problem is I am afraid that it might end up not being what I am actually looking for.  More than anything I think I just want to travel back in time and partake of some of those big free for all matches that we used to play.

The Wall

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Originally I was planning on simply just calling this an off day and not making a post at all.  However you can blame Kiwi for suddenly summoning the desire to actually do this thing that she told me to do.  This is a segment of the wall behind my computer monitors and something I stare at a lot.  That map of Norrath has been up on my wall since the Kunark expansion to the original game.  The figures…  also have been up on the wall since I first got them…  and some random googling is telling me that the expanded universe line was released in 1998.  Considering we moved into the house in 1999 either my memory is lying to me or I got them awhile after they actually were released.  I am pretty sure the Cloud figure traveled with me to the house and then was put up in a place of honor.  I have a Vincent Valentine figure from the same set somewhere… but I have zero clue where that somewhere might be.  I have so many random figures and collectibles that I really do need to make an effort to display them in a more sane and rational manner.  Functionally like my original tweet states… I feel all glitchy this morning.  My brain is full of a bunch of segments of ideas but none of them really have cohesion enough to form an actual post from them.  So instead you are getting this non-post of a post largely because once the seed was planted I thought it was a funny idea.  I am sure I will return to being inspired and more or less functional tomorrow.  Today however you are getting complete nonsense.

Why No New AggroChat

This past goes down as one of the more bizarre weekends in a long while.  Those of you who listen to AggroChat are waking up realizing there was no new podcast episode and this is due to some extenuating circumstances.  Saturday for the most part was a pretty chill day, and I had settled into my office to prepare to record.  I was just literally about to start trying to cobble together some semblance of show notes… when I had a knock on the door.  My wife was on the phone with my mother in law and she had been in a wreck out on the turnpike.  Granted this is 9 pm and there was a massive storm bearing down on us, so while my wife offered to go pick her up alone…  I didn’t really want her going out there completely alone especially considering that we knew it would mean a two hour plus long round trip to take her mom home eventually.  I gave my apologies to the AggroChat crew and threw some actual outside style clothing on…  and rushed out the door.  It turned out she was on the Turnpike slowing down to get off at the next exit, when someone hit her from behind.  It came out while sitting on the side of the highway that the guy had been reading a text with cruise control locked in about 80 mph, and when he realized he was coming up fast on her…  he swerved attempting to dodge and only caused his car to spin out and flip…  and then catch on fire.  Thankfully both car loads of people were okay, but this also set in motion a whole string of events.

We dropped mom-in-law off at home and I stopped to get some form of caffeine for the trip back.  It was about when I got back on the turnpike that the skies opened up and began what would ultimately be this massive storm.  Thankfully it remained a pretty chill drizzle until we made it back to town.  Around about midnight thirty we ended up in bed and were both conked out pretty fast.  Our niece lives on property adjacent to where mom-in-law lives… and she agreed to spend the night just to make sure nothing was wrong.  The ambulance had checked her out at the scene of the accident but we were still concerned because when you take an 80 year old person and put them through a pretty severe car wreck…  there is going to be at least some soreness.  Because of this… when we did make it to bed my wife turned her phone up fairly loudly as it sat on the nightstand charging.  Thirty minutes after falling to sleep we were woken up by a weather app on her phone going off and informing us that we were under a thunderstorm warning.  It was around about then that the skies opened with this hurricane style deluge of rain.  We fought through it and attempted to go back to sleep…  when about another thirty minutes afterwards we were awoken again by the same app informing us that we were under a Tornado watch.  Thankfully the area of rotation was not near us and unlikely to come our way…  but it still shifted us into a night of trying to sleep while listening to the television just in case that changed.

Yesterday was a bit of a blur as we sort of slept walked through the day.  After church our niece dropped mom-in-law off at our house, and my wife and her made a trip to go see the car.  Functionally the entire back half of the car is gone…  the trunk is now functionally pushed into the back seat and thankfully no one was back there.  Now Saturday night while on the side of the road my wife attempted to cram everything she could find in one of those giant blue IKEA bags that I keep in the back of my SUV as a just in case…  but then we always forget it is there and wind up buying a new one when we do make it to an IKEA.  However in this case it was super handy, but there were a handful of things that they missed under dark of night that were visible during the light of day.  There is little doubt that the car is going to be totaled, and and at the scene of the wreck the guy confessed to texting while driving so there is going to be zero doubt on whether or not his insurance should cover this.  I feel like this is a not so subtle time to state that this should serve as a reminder why you shouldn’t be futzing with your phone while driving.  Especially not while going 80 on a pretty congested turnpike with limited visibility because a massive storm front was bearing down and blotting out the stars.  The most frustrating part about all of it… is that mom-in-law had no intention of being on the turnpike and was simply there because she missed her turn due to some construction and was trying to find a way to route back to where she needed to be.  All of this is why there is no new AggroChat episode, and why I am still groggy as shit from lack of sleep.  My hope is that tonight I will be far enough removed from the events to be able to get a normal nights sleep, because last night it felt like I didn’t get great sleep either because I was almost too tired to sleep.  The Tornado that blazed through town was rated as an EF2, and I was so groggy yesterday that it did not dawn on me until this morning that I have a few friends in neighborhoods that were in the storm’s path.  So here is hoping they made it through okay.

Daily Creative Thing

No Blaugust

It’s been ages since I have done a heading in my blog, but I didn’t really have an image I wanted to put with this.  Considering it is getting dangerously close to August and I have had a few people ask me…  I will not be hosting some large Blaugust event this year.  For three and a half years I did my blog every day thing, and it was interesting.  In that process I learned a lot about myself and a lot about my readers.  However I am no longer the bastion of regular blogging that I once was, and similarly I don’t really feel like I can carry the banner of “blog every day” quite so highly.  Now the truth is Blaugust was never really “my” thing…  firstly because there was another group that had independently been using that hashtag for ages apparently.  Secondly the “festival” for lack of a better terms was more about the community than it ever was about me.  So if you find yourself really wanting to do Blaugust, then go for it.  This has been the year that the institutions have failed in the blogosphere.  We had no Newbie Blogger Initiative and would not have had Developer Appreciate Week were it not for Rav picking up the torch and carrying it onwards.  I hate that I am adding Blaugust to the pile but I am just not feeling it right now, and in truth wasn’t last year because I did a fairly halfassed job of trying to make it happen without requiring a lot of support.

If someone is interested in picking up the mantle and making it theirs… I welcome you with open arms.  That said what is happening this year that is not exactly Blaugust but similarly themed is “Daily Creative Thing”.  My good friend Grace felt like she was not taking the time to do creative stuff anymore, and had let some of her hobbies fall by the wayside.  As such in the spirit of Blaugust she decided to start trying to force herself to do at least one creative thing every single day.  What classifies as a “Creative Thing” is pretty open to interpretation, but as a side effect of this process she spawned a secondary blog where you can see a bit of her daily process.  Some days it has been a drawing, others working on some crocheting, and one day some origami.  The purpose being just to keep doing something interesting and fun and creative every single day… and then posting the product.  I myself am contemplating doing this throughout the month of August, because there are a lot of creative things that I just stopped doing for some reason along the way.  Namely I just don’t sketch like I used to, and I am not entirely sure why I stopped.  I used to be one of those kids that was rabidly sketching in every single class…  and then at some point I just stopped.  Its like going to art school some how tarnished the fun… because instead of going and drawing goofy things… everything was deadly serious and representative.  I would love to unblock myself and let the creativity flow once more, so maybe this is the time to do it.

 

Discarded Hulk

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I know I have started out many a Monday post with something along the lines of it being a weird weekend, so I am going to refrain from doing so today.  The odd factor comes from the fact that we were pretty busy… but also mostly busy around the house.  I’ve talked about my wife who is a teacher several times in the past, but one of the side notes that you need to know is that teachers here in Oklahoma have very little support for all of the things that are required to make a classroom work.  My wife for example gets a $25 credit…  per school year to buy anything she needs for her classroom from what is in effect the school district storehouse.  Most teachers don’t even get that…  so we spend a lot of time doing things in an effort to augment her classroom experience.  Anecdote aside… how this factors into our weekend is that for years we have had what is effectively a office work group printer that I happened to adopt when a workplace was sending it out to salvage.  They were more than happy to have me truck it away…  instead of having to pay some electronic recycling people to come and do the same thing.  I was trying to figure out about when we got the Laserjet 5si…  and to the best of my knowledge I would guess around 2005-2006 ish.  The piece of this that you need to understand is that it was effectively a 23 inch by 23 inch by 23 inch cube that weighed about 150 lbs.  It effectively sat in the corner of my office taking up tons of space…  and any time there was a paper jam I had to try and balance the unit while turning it around because it was way too big to actually get to the back side without doing so.  The other thing you need to know is… that there are several times a year where my wife will print up to a ream of paper worth of materials for her classroom in a single evening.  So it is simply not cost effective to try and do that with a consumer grade laser printer.

This week the computer she had in her office finally gave up the ghost, which is not terribly surprising given that it was an ancient Gateway FX P6831 laptop circa 2008.  So like always this lead us to craigslist to see what all was available in our area on the cheap.  While we didn’t really find anything, given that our craigslist seems to be entirely made up of laptops and custom built rigs that someone overpaid for… and still thinks is extremely valuable.  However in her travels she happened upon a reasonable looking printer that in theory could replace the mammoth beast and give us some more desk space.  It turns out a company was surplussing all of their HP Laserjet P3005 printers and we were able to pick up a relatively low print volume printer for $40.  This however left us with the daunting task of moving the beast downstairs…  something that I am shocked I was able to do by myself years ago…  I know at the time it involved using an office chair as a makeshift handtruck and then slowly lifting it a single stair at a time.  Thankfully I am much older and wiser… and simply opted to remove the two addon printer trays, duplexer and toner cartridge which turned it into something that was way more manageable for us to get downstairs.  This left me room to set up the new printer, and also coincidentally gave me room enough for the Canon Pixma MG3620 color printer that I picked up off Amazon for $30 a week or so back.  Which means for the first time in probably a decade we have a reasonable color printing option.  However the directions that came with the printer…  were for a completely different model and it only took me a couple of hours of trying to set things up in vain for me to realize this fact and to grab the correct directions from the Canon website.  Unlike past wireless printers… you cannot apparently set it up over USB and then set its wireless credentials…  you instead need to do some bullshit mobile phone set up process.  However once I got the correct directions it went pretty smoothly.

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This was just one vignette of the random stuff we did this weekend, and most of it isn’t really worthy of writing about.  However now we have the mammoth printer sitting in our living room because the person who had said they wanted it…  backed out when they realized just how damned big it was.  Thinking about sitting it out on the porch one day and posting a “free” craigslist post to see if anyone will come get it.  I would love to give it to a school or a church or a non-profit agency because it still prints insanely well… and the toner has gotten to the point where you can get it for like $20 in the secondary market and it will print something along the lines of 60,000 copies off that single toner.  Until then however the cats think they have a new toy and one of them has taken to periodically laying on it.  As far as gaming goes…  I largely played Diablo 3 and with significant help from friends am nearing the point where I get my pet in the seasons journey.  Right now I am on a more annoying objective step which involves running bounties until I get five jewelry patterns, which will then unlock the last few pieces of the Rathma necromancer set.  After a few seasons of playing Demon Hunters…. everything feels slow…  but the Necro in particular feels extremely slow when pushing Rifts and Greater Rifts.  Getting the two piece weapon set has greatly improved this but it still feels slower than I am used to even when being drug behind a much much higher leveled friend.  All in all though the Necromancer is still insanely fun, but as we talked about this weekend… I am curious how many previously devoted Witch Doctor players have made the swap to Necromancer permanently.

Week with Axon

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I have now now been using my new phone for a week and thought I would talk a bit about some of my impressions this morning.  Firstly I feel like I need to explain my decision process a bit and how I ended up with a non-AAA manufacturer phone.  For some time I have balked at the price of cell phones.  Yes I am old enough to remember a time when you just walked into the cellular carrier and they gave you whatever phone you wanted along with your one year contract.  After a point that became a two year contract, and eventually a discounted rate on the phone…  and now they just charge you a monthly fee as part of a rent to own style scheme to dilute the cost of your insanely expensive hardware.  I’ve not swapped phones nearly as often as the manufacturers would really like me to…  my first “smartphone” being a Samsung Blackjack 2 which upgraded into an iPhone 3gs which caused me to venture into android land… where I have had a Samsung s2 and a Samsung s5.  My natural upgrade path would then probably be the Samsung Galaxy s8 but those are around $800… and I didn’t want to spend that amount of money on a phone.

As a result I started looking at a handful of other phones, the less popular brands looking for what is essentially the best bang for the buck.  I looked at the product offering from OnePlus, Moto, HTC, Huawei and ultimately ZTE.  The finally decision point came down a duel between the ZTE Axon 7 and the Huawei Honor 8…  and after reading a whole slew of reviews I finally pulled the trigger and ordered my Axon 7 for around $350 from Amazon carrier unlocked.  For sake of reference in the marketing image above… I have the dark grey model on the far right.  I was honestly expecting to get what felt like a second rate phone, but what I got instead was something that seems almost indistinguishable from the traditional quality of the flagship phones I have owned.  The phone arrived in this weird white leather texture box that was extremely thick that slid apart to reveal a whole bunch of pack in items.  Firstly there was the phone, that came out of the box with a screen protector installed.  Secondly it came with a rubbery phone case for you to use if that is your thing… until you likely went out and got your own case later.  It would probably provide a bit of shock proofing, but more importantly some grip which I will get into later.  There was the ubiquitous charging brick with a fairly long usb type c cable, but what I was not expecting was a little adapter that let you use a micro usb cable and convert it to type c.  Finally there was a pack in SIM removal tool on a rubber keychain, allowing you to in theory take it with you…  though any straight pin or paperclip will do the trick to eject the SIM card tray.

Relevant Specs

  • Operating System: Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow (upgraded easily to 7.1.1)
  • Display: 5.5-inch, 2560×1440 AMOLED Gorilla Glass 4
  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 Quad-core 2.15GHz
  • GPU: Adreno 430 GPU
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Onboard Storage: 64GB
  • Expandable: microSD up to 2TB
  • Rear Camera: 20MP f/1.8, PDAF, OIS, 4K/30 video
  • Front Camera: 8MP f/2.2, 1080p/30 video
  • Battery: 3250 mAh
  • Charging: Quick Charge 3.0, USB Type-C
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11ac dual-band, Bluetooth 4.2 LE, NFC, GPS, GLONASS
  • Networks: Both GSM and CDMA supported
  • Dimensions: 151.7 x 75 x 7.9mm
  • Weight: 175 g

The phone was released a year ago so in theory to compete with the Samsung Galaxy S7, but for sake of reference the specs are pretty comparable to the S8.  It shipped with a ZTE android distribution called MiFavor which I have opted to simply go with because it seems to have really solid patching support via a software updater.  It shipped with Android 6.0.1 but through the course of a handful of patches I was able to take it to Android 7.1.1 and it performs really solidly.  One of the weird things going on with this phone is that like many international focused devices it comes with dual SIM card slots.  What makes it interesting is that the second SIM card slot also serves as you micro SD card, which means the device only has the one card tray and everything fits neatly in it.  So far the battery life is excellent and for reference I wound up playing Final Fantasy Record Keeper from bed last night for about two hours and only used 15% of the battery.  The graphics are and screen are beautiful and everything seems to run so much better than it did on my Galaxy S5…  but granted that was a really aging phone at this point.

The only gotchas I have run into thus far is a combination of two things.  Firstly this is a really heavy phone…  like if I got into trouble I legitimately feel like I could chuck the phone at someones head and potentially knock them out… or maybe give them a concussion.  The second part… is that the full Aluminum body is slick…  like insanely slick which is magnified by the fact that it is heavy.  In theory that flimsy rubber case that they give you in the box is probably to help counteract this.  However there have been multiple times I have had the phone damned near slip out of my hand while pulling it in and out of my pocket or just while holding it and using it.  I purchased an aftermarket case that I liked to try and negate this so it isn’t a deal breaker but just something you need to be aware of.  The size of the phone is fine for my giant sized hands… but for most people this is probably going to feel like more a “phablet” and less like a phone.  So far I am loving it and I have zero buyers remorse.  The only problem that I can see with this product is that the pricing seems to be extremely volatile.  I purchased mine for around $350… and yesterday when I went to link it to a friend it was selling for closer to $450.  If you can find one for the right price though I think its an amazing flagship replacement, and very worthy of going up against the more well known phones.  As I continue to use it I will probably do follow ups to this quick review as the device ages.

Netflix Castlevania

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It would be a bit of an understatement to say I was excited about the new Netflix anime series based loosely on the events of Castlevania III.  I have a deep relationship with this game series and while I have not played a lot of them, it was nonetheless extremely important during my formative video game playing years.  The original was the very first game that I saved up money to purchase for the Nintendo Entertainment System.  Back then at roughly age 11, it took a long time to scrounge up the money to buy a $50 video game…  but that was really only half of the obstacle.  To get the game itself required going someplace that had video games… or at least in the case of Castlevania a trip to Toys R Us…  the closest of which was an hour and some change away from home.  To say I devoured the game is a bit of an understatement as well… there are sequences in the original game that are burned into my brain just as indelibly as the Vampire Killer theme is.  I have said this plenty of times… but I count Castlevania Symphony of the Night as my favorite game of all time and consider it pretty damned closed to perfect.  When Koji Igarashi started the kickstarter for Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night…  I threw money at my screen and backed it as soon as I could.  Since then I have played through the demo version that backers got a few times…  so to say I am the target audience is also probably a bit of an understatement.

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The show released officially over the weekend on the 7th but I just finally was able to sit down for a period of time and watch through it last night.  Prior to doing so I had been seeing a bit of confusing press floating around with folks generally being unsatisfied with the new netflix offering.  Firstly this is probably the most bingeable Netflix “series” I have ever seen…  with only 4 episodes weighing in around 100 minutes of total watching.  This honestly felt more like a pilot and less like a complete series, but I won’t get hung up on those details.  What the season is more than anything is setting the stage for the second season.  Since this series is roughly based on the third Nintendo Entertainment System Castlevania game… we go into it knowing some of the major plot points and it seems like the show more or less is following them.  During the four episodes we are introduced to a cast of characters that will play out over the series…  but I found it curious that at least one major character was completely absent.  I am hoping this was just a situation of not having met him yet through the course of the very short few episodes that we got, and will join the team as a later reveal.  The show sets up the central conflict between the early science hating church and Dracula…  and to a lesser extent the general forces of the enlightenment.  For the Christian viewers…  I could see some of the dialog being a little hard to swallow.  For me personally… it did an excellent job of setting up the central conflict that made Castlevania III so different than some of the others in the series.

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One of the complaints that I have seen online about the show is that Dracula is not set up to be a sympathetic character…  and frankly I disagree.  I found myself sympathizing with Dracula quite a bit honestly, and were I in his position I probably would have wanted to burn everything to the ground as well.  As far as matching the tone of the games…  you are supposed to hate Dracula because ultimately that is the core conflict.  Castlevania more or less is about the central conflict between the Belmont family and Dracula.  More or less every 100 years Castlevania materializes in our plane of existence, and the Belmont clan trains to be able to stop him each time.  This series has a Belmont and a Dracula…  so I feel like it met all of the necessary requirements for being able to call itself a Castlevania anything.  I honestly thought all of the character introductions worked extremely well, especially Alucard…  who isn’t 100% on our side and we get that impression.  The real problem with the series as I see it is that I want more of it.  Four episodes was just not enough because it essentially serves as the pregame cinematic setting everything up…  and we haven’t really gotten to any of the meat of the game yet…  or in this case the series.  I mean they had to functionally tell an origin story given that they cannot really guarantee that anyone who is watching the show has ever actually consumed any of the source material.  I feel like they did a great job of setting the stage…  but I am not really looking forward to the likely two year wait until the next batch of episodes.  This time I am hoping they give us way more than four in a single sitting.  This won’t be the show for everyone…  but I am not looking to nitpick something that I never thought I would actually see in my lifetime.  I am more than happy just to sit back and enjoy it.

Needed Break

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This is a weird post and I am not exactly sure how to write it.  I find myself contemplating a break from blogging, or at least greatly ratcheting down the amount that I spend writing.  It feels like for awhile now I have been too little butter spread across way too much toast.  There are so many times I sit down in front of the keyboard in the morning and I have no clue what I am going to talk about, and somewhere along the way a post comes out.  The problem is…  it isn’t usually a very good one.  When I first started blogging I was full of ideas that I felt like I had to get out of my head to keep from bursting.  However the rate at which those ideas regenerated was way slower than the time in which it took to drain the well dry.  Partially it is that I don’t think what I am doing is all that interesting anymore.  I am no longer playing any one game serious enough to be a reasonable source of information about it, and I am not playing enough games to really be any sort of interesting review source.  I’ve fallen into this pattern of largely playing whatever I happen to be playing on a much more casual level than I used to, and as a result you see long strings of posts about my activity in Destiny, Diablo 3, Final Fantasy XIV and occasionally World of Warcraft.  None of which is filled with that much useful information,  nor do I really feel like I have enough personality to carry it off anymore.

I am not really sure what this means, but it all feels like I am forcing the daily blog to be a thing right now.  In truth my blog was never really known for the quality of content, but more the quantity and I guess on some level that is a little bit depressing.  Talking a lot without saying anything meaningful is not exactly my favorite thing.  I know that I don’t want to do anything like nuke the blog from orbit…   I am more the sort to simply let something rot on a server forever rather than delete it.  The problem that I am having is that I wish I could blog with regularity…  but also only do it when I have something worth talking about.  I am not entirely certain if I am capable of doing something…  but doing it intermittently.  My life tends to be a series of routines, and once one is abandoned it tends to be gone forever.  I am hoping that I can figure out how to blog when I actually want to be blogging rather than out of some sense of obligation or devotion depending on which day it is.  It is my hope that by backing off from forcing myself to do this every morning…  that I might be able to get some of my creativity back.  I have this weird problem with when something feels like a job… it ruins the fun for me.  There was a period of time when I used to love development…  and now it is largely something I do to get a paycheck.  Similarly I used to love sitting down in the morning and baring my soul for you all…  but over time that too has started to feel like a job.

Here is hoping I can figure out a way to keep doing this blog…  but recapture some of the fun.  Regardless from this post forward we are entering a new phase of my blogging.  If I have something to say I will say it.  If I don’t however I will just peacefully drink my coffee in the morning and do something else.