Category Archives: random mental floss

2023 in review

The last day of the year, and what a year, right? Globally, so much bad stuff is happening that it might seem impossible to look for a brighter side, much less to find one. Locally, there’s still continuing food price inflation, higher energy bills, Covid quarantines uncomfortably close to home, (measured in literal meters, so I’m not exaggerating) and mysterious illnesses for me and my hubby. (Mine going back decades, which was previously diagnosed as MS, but now the doctors aren’t so sure. Oh, fun side note, one of my symptoms is losing my sense of smell for brief spans, so now every time it happens, I have to ask, “Is it the usual shenanigans, or is it Covid?”)

But personally, this is the year when I got back my drive to create, and the urge to explore. For a few years now, I haven’t really felt much desire to listen to new music, or to read much from comics or books. I think I was just overwhelmed by all the crappy things happening here and abroad, but also, I had started feeling like I’d hit a rut and had nothing new to offer.

It was close to the start of the year that I decided to get my head back in the games, committing to publish at least one review a week. When that wasn’t possible, I decided to try and make filler just so I wouldn’t get back in the rut. Continue reading


The search for (ever)greener pastures

As November draws to a close, I thought it was time to talk about my plans for the upcoming year, both about my work and about my online social presence. On the work side, it’s been so long since I’ve released anything that you could be forgiven for forgetting that I write fiction. On the social side, unless you were on Twitter, you probably wouldn’t know I exist without a lucky hit on Facebook or Google’s search results. A lot of that is on me, so let me start with a modern mea culpa. My bad.

The thing with deciding not to publish is, during the earliest days of the COVID lockdown, I saw a lot of writers with traditional publishers struggling to sell new books because readers were facing months of financial uncertainty, and even a cheap ebook was becoming a luxury purchase. So I decided that since I had a job editing and very rarely writing for a trade magazine, we would be all right if I just hit the pause button and dropped out of the book trade until the worst of this mess blew over.

Then of course, COVID refused to blow over, and instead blew up into so many variants that there will never be a post COVID world. This fucker is with us along with the cold and the flu for good. Continue reading


CRPG ≠ RPG

Right, first of all there’s still no review for Death Stranding, but in my defense, the reason is that another game has absorbed my attention like an absorbent thing found in all the oceans. I’m sure there’s a name for it, but that isn’t important right now. What is important is that I’m about to say something deeply controversial and divisive to the gaming community at large.

Ahem.

Computer role play games are rarely role play games. Oh sure, they all wear the label like Buffalo Bill would slip on a lady suit had he succeeded in his plan to flay a senator’s daughter. But most are rides on rails that offer illusional choices in the guise of actual role play. But getting four dialogue choices that all steer the story in the same direction does not equal role play. Continue reading


Versus series: Monster battle!

This week I’m doing something a bit different, probably because I’m playing Death Stranding and all the Monster Energy Drink branding is getting to me. (And definitely not because I’ve failed to finish Death Stranding on time for a review this week.) I’m ranking every sugar free Monster flavor I could get my hands on to tell you who is the bomb, and who is the barf. (Literally!)

But before I begin, I should mention two things. First, because I drank uncarbonated taurine drinks as a morning beverage of choice for a few years, I actually like the taste of plain old Red Bull. Lots of folks can’t stand it, and I can understand it is either something you love or hate. Personally, I love it, so that’s my baseline flavor profile for all other brands.

Second, I’m not sure why, but at a certain point, energy drinks lost a lot of their power over my sleep habits. I’ve been known to drink one before bed and still get a good night’s sleep. I think part of this is my choice of drinking the sugar free versions, as I’ve sometimes randomly gone for the regular editions and ended up pulling an unintentional all-nighter. What I’m saying is, I can only review these based on taste, and not on how much “kick” are in them. Continue reading


What has always been, and will always be bad about always online games

You may know from my recent blog posts and my Twitter stream that I have been playing Path of Exile. You may have also heard that this week there was a freak flood in Milan that involved hail and a “river of ice.” These two things may not seem related, except the local server for Path of Exile is in Milan.

In an update post, I’d already written how problems with TIM, our internet provider, had forced me to take several days off from the game. But this latest problem with the flood isn’t just affecting Path of Exile. No, I can’t play a single online game right now because bad weather has reduced our online speeds back to “digital dirt road” levels.

I’m not knocking TIM, because even if they have some slow times, they are rarely down and gone for any length of time. I’m not even knocking Path of Exile itself, as it’s been a pretty good time. (Although the last act I played was pretty unbalanced, with a boss fight so terrible, I was shouting “That should have been a cut scene!”) No, this time I want to talk about how this current local disaster highlights the logical flaw in pushing for all games to be always online or live services. Continue reading


Where the hell have you been, 2020 edition

Obviously I don’t have to explain what’s been going on for most of this year. There’s a lockdown in effect, and with the hubbers working from home, our slow ass internet connection won’t allow me to be online at the same time he’s working. But I was actually off the net for a couple months before that and the reasons may shock you. Or not.

In February, I went out to the plot of land set aside by our landlord for a garden and started digging up weed roots. This took me the better part of four months. For one thing, with the land not being used in years, the top layer of soil was close to 80% roots. I’m not exaggerating, either. On a daily basis, I loaded a wheelbarrow with roots and carted them away, always thinking, “Surely, I’m getting close to the end.” And every day, I dug a bit more and found more damned roots.

There were days when I ignored aches and pains because I thought, “Oh, one more meter won’t hurt.” Then that night, I’d get full body shakes and end up stuck in bed for anywhere between two and six days. I thought because I had MS, this was a job a healthy person could easily do in a week. But then my neighbor, inspired by my work, started in on her own garden, and after turning over one row in a two day flurry, she too ended up confined to bed for two days. She’s a teacher and a soccer coach who still plays with her friends, and this wrecked her. So it shouldn’t be a shock that it took me so long to clear three rows measuring one meter by five. Continue reading


A look back at 2018…

This probably should have gone up on January 1st, but Dark Souls III isn’t gonna play itself. (I’m actually playing several games all at once and hope to have something ready for review soonish. I’m also close to finishing a book for review, and I can say that review will be mostly positive.) Truth be told, I’m hard pressed to think of what to say about 2018. It’s wasn’t a bad year compared to some in recent memory, but it wasn’t stellar, either. It’s the homely year, the kind of year that attractive years take along on pub crawls to make themselves look more alluring. It didn’t overstay its welcome or shit the rug on its way out, so…I don’t know, I guess I’ll mostly be remembering this one somewhat fondly.

It was a year I released a book, albeit it almost two years late. (Sorry about that. I blame my self-esteem as much as my health for that one.) But I used to be able to release four and five books a year, and so one book is…well, it’s less than I’d hoped for. By the same token, I’ve been less able to post reviews for books and games. I can’t afford more than a handful of games per year thanks to my less than stellar sales record (again, my fault; I need to do better at promotions) and I’ve had difficulty reading for most of this year. (Or more precisely with reading and retaining what I’ve just read.) So on the surface, I know it’s seemed like I haven’t got much done.

BUT—and, like my expanding rear it’s a big but—that doesn’t mean I haven’t been working. I’ve been serving part-time as an editor of an international glass print magazine and web-site, and this year, I also began writing articles for them. The pay is pretty good, but we’ve still had money troubles due to the move from Milan to Pavia. I’m glad we made the move despite the financial strain. I have an office of my own, and with our new kitchen, I’ve become more enthusiastic about cooking again, something that’s pleased our neighbors and my husband to no end. I do miss Milan, but Pavia is full of its own charms, and I’ve enjoyed hunting them down one day-trip at a time. The hubbers is also closer to his mom, and that’s having a positive effect on his mood. So all around, I’d call the move a win-win even if it is keeping our bank account strained for the time being. Continue reading


What’s going on with me…

I must first beg forgiveness for not posting a new review recently. As I mentioned in my last game review, I have plans to write up a little somethin’ somethin’ for Wizard of Legend, but in the time since I said that, I’ve still not been able to force myself to play much of it. Or…any of it, really. (When I can find time to play anything lately, it’s been Magic the Gathering: Arena or Fallout: New Vegas.) Obviously, when I do get around to reviewing it, you can expect it will be light on gushing praise. (Which I feel a little guilty for because it looks pretty and has good music. It’s just, everything else is…no, I’ll save it for the review.)

On the other hand, I have a book I’m reading and enjoying, and yet I can’t say when I’ll be able to review it because I have so much going on here that it’s hard to find downtime to relax and unwind with a book. Maybe I’ll luck out and find some free time tonight, but I’m not entirely sure.

Here’s the thing: we live in a much bigger place, and that means I have to work more often to keep it clean. We also have a yard and a garden that’s supposed to be shared with the neighbors, and I’m the only one free to work on any of this. So any given day here is like “get up, clean stuff, try to fit in a workout, do some office work, do some yard work, and if it’s my turn to make dinner, hustle back to the kitchen to do prep work.” Continue reading


My biggest problem with modern mobile games…

I got a Kindle Fire last year as part of my efforts to engage viewers on Twitch. The plan was, I’d have my tablet streaming the chat from my channel, so that way I could keep up with what folks were saying whether I was on the PC or my PS4. That plan didn’t work because the Android Twitch app was bugged and wouldn’t show people’s comments. So I’d finish a stream wondering why no one said anything, only to check the channel on my PC and see that folks did try to say hi, and since I didn’t respond, they didn’t bother saying anything else. (And on that note, for the love of God, Twitch fix your shit, PLEASE.)

But after moving to the country, where streaming isn’t possible, (seriously, on a bad day, even YouTube can hang if my husband and I dare to watch videos at the same time) I thought I’d use the tablet to play all the mobile games I’d been missing out on by owning a Windows Phone. (This is the last one. Microsoft gave up on their music service, the only reason I was loyal to them, so fuck them.)

Which leads me to the real meat of my gripe, which is a consistent problem I’ve seen is way too many mobile games. You might think I’m taking about microtransactions or “energy limits” to keep me from playing without sitting through a timer, but neither of those bug me. I don’t worry about microtransactions because I don’t have money to spare on random loot boxes with no guarantee of getting the item or character I want. The timers don’t bother me because I pretty much play solely in the bathroom, and right about the time the game is ready to hold my session hostage, I’m ready to shut it off and get back to work, or back to a game on my PC or console. (Granted, I’m old, so bathroom breaks can sometimes take a while to get everything moving out the back door. But I digress.)

No, the real problem for me is constant downloads. You see a game has a 100 MB install file, and you think that’s big. But then right after you install it, it’s got to download updates, and these can end up being around 300 MB or higher. No sweat, though, it’s all installed and patched so now…no, finish playing the tutorial level and here’s another 300 MB download. Five minutes into a game, it’s already nearing a gigabyte of space for a mobile game with static image cut scenes and “voice acting” like “Ah!” “Aargh!” and “Nani!?” Every time I load up the game, it has to download more, and more and more. No, even worse, I might play one level and instantly get another download, halting my session for several minutes. You thought loading screens on your console were bad because you had to stare at them for a minute? Try waiting ten minutes between levels, and then that one minute wait seems pretty mild in comparison. Continue reading


I’m moving just up the block on Twitter

Tuesday I did something I’ve been contemplating for a long time now, going back to the point that I deleted all my old posts on this blog to start over. I started a new Twitter account, in effect rebooting my social self. Unlike the blog, I did not delete my old account just yet. That will happen in January, and in the meantime, I’m posting notices every day that I’m moving addresses. That way if someone wants to follow me over, they can.

The reason why it took me so long to reach a decision on this is due in most part to my follower count, which at present is 1,947. But lately I’ve come to realize that maybe half of that count is marketing accounts. They started off with people behind them, but then one day the owner of the account decided to use a bot to post ads for their stuff, and they never came back. They don’t engage with anyone, they just toss out the same 5 or 6 tweets every few hours to keep their stuff in the stream. (And by stuff, I mean books, music, and marketing services.) So really, what’s the point of keeping 1,000 followers if they never read what I’m saying day to day?

There’s also a very compelling reason for me to start fresh. More and more often, I see on blogs and in comments that Twitter is regarded as one of the most toxic social sites these days. I think it’s no more or less toxic than, say Facebook or Tumblr, but Twitter stands out more because it’s where so many people go to just rant about everything that’s bugging them. It’s a micro-journal, but I think lots of people end up getting tunnel vision, only using Twitter to air their anger without giving their positive side an equal chance to to be shown. People reading their streams get triggered by that negativity and go on the attack, and soon, it’s all just one big fight that no one can possibly win. Continue reading