Diablo III: Marklark, BeepBeep and Moira the Bland

In May 2012, Blizzard released the third installment of its can’t-click-fast-enough-to-survive beat em up Diablo. Initially plagued by many issues, such as the dreaded Error Code 37, the monstrosity that was the Real Money Auction House (don’t have enough in-game gold or time to grind/farm for your virtual goblin head squisher? Use your/your mom’s hard-earned real-world money to save yourself the trouble!), lack of ladders to keep replayability high or even possible, the always-online DRM requirement and a real lack of content to keep anything interesting beyond the initial playthrough.

After beating the game on Easy/Normal and running out of money/equipment that wasn’t either absolute garbage or broken, I uninstalled it, thinking to never touch it again.

And then…

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Walls of Barely-Readable Text: Grammar Edits

Aside from finding suitable content to write about, the lack of an editor is probably the greatest detriment to the overall content of this site. Written primarily in the dead of night in lieu of beneficial sleep, what sounds great at midnight can result in a post that makes one regret typing the first letter.

So, from now on, all late-night work will sit unpublished until a rested set of eyes scrutinize what the toil of the midnight oil could not.

Site of the Moment: Ever since it drew the ire of the incessantly annoying realtor aggregator website Zillow, I have been thoroughly educated and entertained by McMansionHell.com, a site run by an architecture student, mocking everything that is wrong with the tacky, overpriced monstrosities that have the gall to call themselves mansions. Even if you’re not a fan of architecture, you’re likely to enjoy her well-written commentary. You’ll most likely learn something along the way, too.

Song of the MomentHumans are Such Easy Prey – Perturbator

While I may be obscenely late to the agressive side of 80’s soundtrack inspired synthwave, this song has been on my gym playlist ever since I discovered it by accident on Spotify. Clearly obsessed with the Terminator saga, namely the first one, this lyrics-free anthem to the destructive capabilities of the T-800, model 101 is catchy, aggressive and inspiring when you need just one more rep to finih your set or a few more parts to finish your masterpiece.

Life Without Internet: What is One to Do?

The Internet as we currently know it is pretty much a necessity in today’s society. Without it, what is one to do in order to find a job, communicate with others and catch up on the day’s events? Without an Internet connection, a majority of the modern world’s sources of entertainment would not function to their maximum potential or cease to function at all.

A couple of weeks ago, on the morning of Father’s Day, the Internet was shut off due to lack of payment. Went to check the stats for this site, an article about online privacy and ->POOF!<- no more connection. Called the cable company, only to find that without a hefty-at-the-time $157 readily available, we were to be left in the digital dark. No funds were available, so radio silence it was until the bill could be paid.

Much like our experience with Hurricane Matthew, the girlfriend and the tot took it the hardest, since they were left at home all day while I was at work. No Internet meant no Blippi, who the toddler adores more than most anything in the world. No Netflix for her mum, who uses it to keep sane during the day of a hyperactive toddler. As many of my hobbies don’t require an active Internet connection, I was quite alright. During my first day, I even managed to get in a lengthy doodle, in this case of an imagined beachside, complete with stuck-on debris.

 

I found it to be quite nice to not have any chance of distraction, aside from the occasional grumble from the tot or her mum. Normally, with ample online access, my attention is pulled left, right and center, with ever more things to browse, read, explore and consume. Without it, it was just me, an active imagination and my canvas.

Subsequent attempts at producing further works was met with some difficulty, as these attempts felt like one-upping a hit album. Fortunately, these attempts were saved for future efforts, which should prove to be equally productive, given the right set of circumstances.

Fortunately, we had electricity, so we weren’t sent completely back to the days of old. My cell phone still worked, so we were still reachable. Television was out, so our long-stagnant collection of DVDs and Blu-Ray discs saw use, including my finally getting to watch the Star Wars saga collection in Blu-Ray that I received this past Christmas.

In short, life still went on, albeit in a slightly inconvenient manner. As with the time spent during the hurricane, our biggest point of contention was filling the time that was usually spent reading something online or watching television. So, in case you find yourself in danger of losing your digital connection to the world, pick up a hobby that doesn’t require online access. You’ll be much happier when the connection goes dark.

 

The Table: Casual Class, Sad Risotto

Saturdays are great for doing many things, be they fixing the various broken/malfunctioning things that a busy workweek not allow time for or just sitting on a park bench watching your children play at the local park. They’re also great days for going to places that thirty minute work lunches otherwise prohibit, such as a casual sit-down restaurant that just opened up downtown.

The Restaurant: Cooking Food So You Don’t Have To

Promising simple, well-made food from quality ingredients is nothing new, as the less-is-more trend is nothing new in the culinary world. However, for the area, a new face promising such things is always a welcome break from the well-tread landscape saturated by fast food chain restaurants.

The Good: Replacing the well-loved Mac’s on Main, there are many great things to look forward to at The Table. Immediately after entering through the familiar heavy wooden doors, one is greeted by a well-thought out, striking blue-grey with white trim aesthetic, tasteful lighting using the currently trendy retro light bulbs with the long elements and the bold, golden glow to cast a welcoming warmth and adding to the overall casual atmosphere. Above the bar, a mounted bicycle accompanies the confident message that The Table is the best place place for breakfast, lunch and dinner. A bold claim indeed.

Wait times were short, fortunately, which was a relief since the first question after the initial greeting was whether or not we had a reservation. After a five to ten minute wait, a table that had been sitting bare for the entire time we were waiting. No matter, we were sat, drinks and appetizer ordered within five to ten minutes of arriving. Initially, we were a tad suspicious of the recommended tomato tart, worrying about the possibility of the eggs overtaking the flavor of everything else. Thankfully wrong we were, as the tomatoes truly shined, a sweet star setting high expectations for the entrees yet to come with its flaky crust, the right amount of eggs and oh, the tomatoes! Honestly, if I wanted a light lunch, I’d take the tart with a trio of well-prepared scallops or perhaps the hanger steak that came with the other entree ordered.

Not long after the appetizer was finished, the main stars of the evening arrived. For the tot, a meal of a grilled cheese sandwich and a side of thyme and salt seasoned fries as what she really wanted, a stack of pancakes, were not available to order for dinner. As for the girlfriend, she ordered what was to be the true celebrity of the evening, an exquisite hanger steak, prepared rare accompanied by mashed red potatoes, Rockefeller butter and grilled vegetables. Beautifully prepared to order, the steak was tender, juicy and a melt-in-your mouth delight. When paired with the potatoes, vegetables and butter, culinary bliss was achieved.

The Bad: Being a off-and-on watcher of Hell’s Kitchen, I was quite happy to see a dish that contained two of the staples used to test the mettle of contestant’s culinary might: scallops and risotto. After the exquisite heirloom tomato tart and locally-brewed pale ale had come and gone, I was excited to see what these often difficult to pull off menu items had in store. I’d like to say that my taste buds went on a journey of delicate flavors, well-defined textures and satisfying finish. Unfortunately, such was not the case, with the scallops being rubbery and the risotto mushy with both completely devoid of flavor.

Neither entree item was helped by the heavy dusting of breadcrumbs, which gave the risotto the appearance of snow with a heap of sand on top. On the menu, it mentions royal trumpet mushrooms and brie to be in the risotto. Aside from a tiny sliver the size of my thumbnail, no further trace of mushroom was present and the almost non-existent brie is a tad too subtle for me.

What really saddened me was that, for the first time in almost thirty-two years, I had to send a dish back to be re-prepared. Upon re-preparation, the scallops were properly cooked, if not particularly flavorful and the risotto was relatively the same. It is my hope that a new batch of risotto was made after the dish was sent back. For the price of this one dish, I could have eaten four spicy chicken sandwiches, all of which would have had twice the texture and flavor I was expecting from the risotto. With the breaded chicken, the breading would have helped; with the risotto, the breadcrumbs seem to be an attempt to hide the lack of flavor and underwhelming texture in what should have been a shining example of a upscale casual dining experience.

By far the biggest disappointment, as I had been anxious to try risotto ever since first hearing about it and watching it being made on television. This disappointment was made all the more striking by the fact that even my daughter’s simple plate of grilled cheddar on ciabatta and fries with just the right amount of salt and thyme. How does a kid’s meal at five dollars taste better that a fancier meal that costs more than three and a half times as much?

Conclusion: Though Gordon Ramsay would have spat the risotto out and called the chef a donkey or something worse, I still have high hopes for this restaurant and want it to succeed. Hopefully, this experience was a fluke, a bad night in the history of a restaurant still going through the settling process after opening. If I had gone by myself and had nothing else to base my experience on, I wouldn’t be going back. However, despite the failure of my dish to impress, everything else was more than enough to ensure a return visit in about six months or so, to see if tonight was more than a one-time occurrence.

Rating: 3.5/5

Pew Pew, Snap Snap: An Adventure in Polymer

Choices, Choices…

For the longest time, I didn’t particularly care much for any part of the machined steel top and molded polymer frame that comprises what is arguably one of the most popular handguns in the world. “Too boxy,” declared I. Decided when my first held pistol was none other than the equally world-famous Beretta 92FS which, in addition to being a reliable handgun, also boast what many argue is a fine-tuned, curvy aesthetic, a stark contrast to the no-nonsense, no-need-for-the-frills box shape of every Glock in existence. It wasn’t until I became more familiar with everything that could be done and just how flexible the weapon system was, converting from a simple sidearm to almost anything one could want with only a few interchangeable parts and for the really fancy-pants crowd, a little bit of gunsmithing. Want to shoot only 22LR? There’s a mod for it. 50GI? If you have one of Gaston’s 10mm varieties, there is a mod for that too. Want a carbine to shoot longer range? Simple change of the slide can make this happen. Have crappy ammo that you got at some two bit Fuddtastic gunshow? It’ll eat it with glee and ask for more.

Circlejerk and poetic waxing aside, through exposure, education and extensive handling during my last position as a gun salesman, I knew a Glock was in my future. The only question was… which one? The newish wunderkind and every Glock EDC aficionado’s wet dream G43? The hunting sidearm, hand cannon and 50AE candidate G20? MOS or regular sights? In the end, much like any Honda fanatic who started with a Civic will tell you, it’s all about the basics. Just as Honda has their Civic, about the only real comparison that transcends audiences in terms of functionality and upgrade/modification markets are even close to that of the austrian lead flinger, most Glock enthusiasts start with the G17, first in the lineup and grandfather to everything else that bears the now-infamous moniker of Glock. Needing a firearm to fill the 9mm Luger hole I, too, chose to start with model 17.

Why a Glock? It was not an easy choice, but one that was roughly three to four years in the making. For quite a while, I wanted something that was chambered in 9mm. Not necessarily for any reason aside from cost of ammunition and magazine capacity, both of which are factors to consider when shooting in competitions, which often mandate ~150-200 rounds per match and at least for IDPA, have rounds that require more than the 8-11 rounds carried by your standard .40 S&W or .45 ACP pistols, thus requiring a time-consuming reload and degrading overall end results. Prior to the Glock, I was using my trusty Beretta 96 which, though familiar, was limited in its capacity and at least competition, not all that competitive, especially against lighter, faster and higher capacity adversaries. If it were true, I’d say it held its own against the sole revolver competitor, but he isn’t known as Master Long for nothing. A new solution was required.

Enter the search for a new contender. Now, my lackluster IDPA results didn’t spur the search for a suitable 9mm, though it definitely placed a little more urgency on coming to a suitable conclusion. Much weighing of the different features and possibilities was done. As sexy as the 96 and 92FS are, I couldn’t help but lean towards the 17, even with the shiny curves and striking, almost-obsessive familiarity with the weapon system fostered by eight years of almost daily carry. Nothing says I won’t be getting one eventually, but for the foreseeable future, the G17 will be my competition firearm of choice.

Range Report: Paper Enemies Tremble

Buying the weapon was the beginning of making the decision to use it for IDPA/Steel shooting. Two hundred rounds, five thoroughly perforated targets and one shootingWon't you donate even one dollar to save this poor target and his family? lane hanger later my mind was made up. Loading the weapon’s magazine with the last two rounds is still a bit of a pain and the trigger’s slightly heavier than I’d like it (a 3.5 pound trigger kit should remedy that problem nicely), but once I became used to these minor issues, the pistol shot like a dream. Not a single stovepipe, double feed or failure to fire/eject was encountered though all two hundred rounds put through the pistol in the course of the hour. I’m sure the targets complained, but as there were quite a few others at the indoor range, no one heard their screams. Although this fine fellow on the right was but the first of many punched full of holes, I was surprised that his fellow targets all looked much the same, with variance due to my focus on certain aspects of marksmanship like only head shots, keeping the groupings as tight as I could while shooting at 5/7/15m and other self-imposed challenges.

 

The Future is Full of Mods

Since it is almost infinitely customizable, I do foresee many a customization coming to this pistol very soon. Almost all of them will be internal in nature, as the aesthetics have grown on me since first holding one many years ago. As mentioned above, a lighter trigger will be first, along with a polished feed ramp. Fortunately, I was able to acquire a Gen4 that already had AmeriGlo GL-201 night sights installed, so no need for new sights at the moment. I originally wanted a Gen3, as the side grip texture feels odd in my hand, but I predict it, too, will grow on me as more and more rounds are expelled from its barrel towards its enemies, paper, cardboard, fibreboard and steel alike.

 

TL;DR: I bought a Glock. It shoots good, pew pew.

Whiteboards: Christmas Time is Here

Christmas: a joyous time of the year for most, as people make plans to meet with their loved ones, both far and nearby, and non-retail business operations nearly grind to a halt under the massive weight of holiday cheerfulness. Who wants to balance the books for the year when there’s merry to be made and had by all but the most stringent of bean-counters? That’s what January the first is for, they say! While this was not always the case, for many wanted to do their due diligence in making sure their balance sheet was in fact as close to even on both sides as humanly possible before letting the eggnog flow, call volume was far below their usual volume, allowing for more whiteboard doodles, with a more decidedly secular Christmas theme than usual. Due to their fragile nature, I was only able to document two, one for me of Santa ready for flight, complete with flight goggles and a sleeker, more practical garb more akin to a flight suit than his traditional garments. The second was more traditional in nature, with the milk and cookies set out next to a fireplace and a Christmas tree, decorated to the nines and well-stocked to boot.

Santa, Flightmaster

Free of Bugs and Frozen Eyeballs

Dry Erase Marker on Whiteboard
2016

To say this was done prior to the fireplace scene for a co-worker would be a fib. I actually ended up doing this to help decorate my desk after doing so much to help others make their desks more festive, as was the purpose for the Christmas Eve scene. Not only had I run out of whiteboards to doodle on, I was feeling a tad burnt out at time, which would explain why while Santa is relatively detailed, he’s not particularly high quality or even finished really. His goggle lenses aren’t filled in, the beard is not but a blob and the fur lining depicted in the button line, cuffs, hat and hem are just as blob-like as the beard itself. The dingleball on the end of the hat shares the same fate, make this a nice doodle, but not much else. As usual, the overhead lighting manifests itself here as with every other whiteboard doodle, which irks me to no end.

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Call Center Whiteboards: Now in Color

Shortly after starting to doodle to while away the available time and relieve some stress and frustrations, I decided that not only should I add color to my illustrations, but also get myself a larger board, useful for many different things, larger illustrations being among them. Unfortunately, many of the larger illustrations have been wiped away or damaged, but since they were mainly constructive venting in whiteboard form, I am not too terrible distraught at their loss. Perhaps I’ll fire up Painter to recreate them for a future post. The end of this week saw many drawings made, as my co-workers have seen them at the desk of others and heard me talk about doing them being a pleasant experience and wanted to have one of their own done. Today’s offerings were for my own desk, though I did a few that I’ll work on photographing for sometime next week. The hardest part thus far is reducing the amount of overhead lighting glare that is caught by the camera.

So, without further ado, I present “Le Cheeseburger” and “Queen Bee” :

“A Burger Good Enough to Eat”

"Le Cheeseburger" / 2016 / Marker on Whiteboard
“Le Cheeseburger” / 2016 / Marker on Whiteboard

Ah, the simple cheeseburger, loved by people all over the world. Shortly after moving desks as part of a personnel realignment, I was whittling a period of especially long available time away trying to decide what was going to be on the board that everyone sees when they walk behind me. Since my drawing of Mr. Krabs stewing in a soup bowl had been damaged in the move, a new doodle was needed. Not having anything immediately come to mind, a simple cheeseburger would have to do, preferably with a side of french fries and a mandatory tasty beverage to accompany them.

As I didn’t have a lighter brown to make the bun and felt it would have been too much to make the patty both black and brown, the unfortunate slab of protein that is the patty was relegated to resembling a burnt block of ramen. I wonder if Copic or any other art supply company makes dry erase marker sets with more colors? Preliminary searches have yielded no results as of yet. None of my concerns seem to have much effect on what the sight of this depiction of a cheeseburger does to many a passersby, though. Often I have been informed that this sandwich looks good enough to eat and others have come back from lunch with a sack from a burger joint, some of whom have blamed my cheeseburger as the source of their craving. I have not been immune to the Call of the Cheeseburger, which makes the fact that a Wendy’s is but a short walk from my desk.

The Queen Bee

"Queen Bee" / 2016 / Marker on Whiteboard
“Queen Bee” / 2016 / Marker on Whiteboard

It’s no secret that one of the secrets to making a queen bee involves copious amounts of royal jellythe sticky white substance secreted by worker bees and fed to all larvae, but those who are destined for the crown will be receive nothing but royal jelly for the entirety of their development. Though those who use it in cosmetics and supplements would have you believe its use has health and aesthetic benefits, conclusions are iffy at best, which leads me to think that it is better used to make more queens to make the honey that I like so very much instead of leading insecure people to believe that it will help avoid the inevitable wrinkles that occur with time and environment exposure.

I don’t have much to say about this one, other than it was originally just a study in not only the effects of using inadvertently mixed colors, in this case yellow and black, to see what kind of effects I could achieve, but also in layered texturing, with the short strokes meant to represent the fuzz of the bee, layered to give the body depth and assist in achieving that round look to indicate a very well-fed bee who will soon be popping out a generation or so of future bees.

Oh, What a Whiteboard Can Do!

Working in a call-center with a clean policy can be tough for someone who likes to doodle as I often do, especially to relieve stress after a difficult or long interaction, which tends to tax me mentally, since outside of my job I tend to be a rather quiet person by nature unless sparked or goaded by something that is going on in my immediate surroundings. Fortunately, whiteboards are provided which, albeit small in stature, provide a creative outlet for breaks and during lunch. While they were originally provided to be used for taking notes, I have found that they are almost the perfect size for either quick or small doodles, with extended periods of downtime used to make more elaborate drawings. The following are black and white due to media limitations – I only had one marker at the time, which came with the board – and were done either for my own desk or those who requested them. I have since moved onto using color markers with a steady measure of success, with more and more of my coworkers asking for them as time goes on. I don’t mind drawing them at all, as it is a steady outlet for post-call stress and I enjoy seeing the smiles they bring not only once finished, but of passer-bys when I have enough time to look up from my desk. The future promises not only bigger boards (I have an 18×24″ I do not only drawings but other tidbits of information currently) but also more colors to start with, as my current palette of nine makes me just want for a wider variety of colors.

Pictures and descriptions after the break!

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Hurricane Matthew: Blustery Rainfall, Moist Carpet and Darkness

Since moving to Florida in October of 2013, every June brought the same questions from the local media: will this be the year that the hurricane drought ends? Every hurricane season (June – November) would come, Floridians native and transplant would hold their collective breaths and exhale on 1 December as another hurricane season came and went without issue or incident. Eleven years in all since the last named hurricane hit Florida came and went in just this fashion. Would 2016 be the year that this all ended?

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Stranger Things: Came for the Music, Stayed for the Weirdness

So, as the title suggests, I initially started watching Netflix’s Stranger Things because I happened upon a posting in one of the Facebook groups I belong to, Synth Wave Emotions! which is dedicated to the increasingly popular trend of synthwave, inspired by the synth-heavy soundtracks of 80’s films. Embedded in the post was the intro screen for the series and the dark, ominous synth lines that have become so notable of the darker tidings of the series. Fortunately, Stranger Things is more than just a platform for the soundtrack, as great as it may be; it draws upon the eeriness of the same cinematic era as its soundtrack, when movies may have been kind of campy but unsettling as well and jump scares were in the minority and used to great effect unlike Hollywood’s more recent offerings, which are more jump and less eerie atmosphere as a whole. I suppose that in the interest of mainstream horror films, my experiences and imagination are better conjurors of spook and fright than what Hollywood is prepared to shove down the throats of audiences as a whole nowadays.

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