Friday, February 21, 2020

DIY Day: Crawlspace Rejuvenation, Part II of II

Continued from Part I

Monday: Cut and install the remaining drywall, while explaining to Maia that you secure the ceiling pieces by wearing them like a turtle shell and drilling over your head.
Tuesday: Spackle the gaps caused by your earlier poor measurements. Quick dry it with a portable dehumidifier then sand it all down.
Tuesday: Apply a layer of primer and then use up the can of paint most likely to rust out in the coming year (Creamy Beige, last used in the living room in 2012). Paint with little regard for perfection, reasoning that no one will ever look in this room ever again.
Tuesday: Cut the remnants of carpet not savaged by mouse poop to class things up just slightly.
Wednesday: Move all of the junk back into the crawlspace to be forgotten, at least until the next themed holiday arrives.

Bonus: Let Maia vandalize one wall since she really wanted to help paint.

tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 2 comments

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Review Day: World of Warcraft Redux

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

The WoW Diary: A Journal of Computer Game Development:
This is a fun look into the development of the original World of Warcraft (2000 - 2004), written by one of the original designers of dungeons and indoor spaces. It's only mildly technical and worth a read for anyone who has fond memories of playing WoW. It gets a little repetitive towards the end but is a fast, pleasant read throughout.

Final Grade: B

World of Warcraft in 2020:
Out of nostalgia for the glory days, I resubscribed for a month of WoW to see what has changed. The answer? Nearly everything. Skill trees are replaced by change-anytime Specializations and Talents (a la Diablo 3) and everything has been streamlined as much as possible to get you to max level. All of the new features are cluttered by detritus from the old, like 800 class trainers scattered all over the cities that no longer serve any purpose in the game.

Logging into old characters results in a confusing hieroglyphic of the few remaining skills on your Action Bar that haven't been replaced and about 30 seconds of glowing notifications while the game grants you the 200 achievements you missed. One of my characters actually leveled up just by walking from a mailbox to an auction house because of some new exploration zone overlayed on an old location.

It's too complex to jump back in after so many changes, so I started a few new characters to learn like a new player. A change I'm ambivalent on is "world scaling", where each zone scales up or down to match your current level. While this lets you quest at your leisure without ever outleveling the quest rewards, it opens up cheese tactics like getting 10,000 experience points for a starting area quest to kill 5 boars, and prevents you from ever running through an old zone without getting attacked by a spider. Animations feel just a little bit more unstable than they used to, with damage done to monsters half a second before your character reacts.

I ultimately quit again after just two weeks. There has always been a conflict between the leveling process and the endgame, and Blizzard has made leveling easier so more people can sit around at level 120. This implicitly takes the fun out of a huge chunk of the game. When you gain levels so fast that you don't even have time to enjoy your current gear or get comfortable with new skills (I went from level 38 to 46 in about 4 hours of questing), you don't get a chance to appreciate the world as you go, and you rarely have an incentive to talk to real people. "Rush to the end where there's nothing to do" is so ingrained in the gameplay now that they might as well remove level 1- 119 altogether.

After canceling Warcraft, I reinstalled Elder Scrolls Online for a free-to-play, solo-friendly experience that's so much prettier looking, and have enjoyed playing it in spurts between drywall installation and Maia care.

tagged as reviews, games | permalink | 1 comment

Monday, February 17, 2020

DIY Day: Crawlspace Rejuvenation, Part I of II

Since no one ever committed to manufacturing my idea for a smart mouse trap, checking the crawlspace for dead mice was a regular activity in 2019. I resolved to seal up the crawlspace in 2020 and finally got started this past weekend.

Thursday: Evict all of the Christmas decorations and myriad boxes of Rebecca's high school memories to de-mouse-poopify. Shred several ruined rolls of excess carpet and throw in the trash.
Friday: Tear out the atrophying remains of the external insulation.
Friday: Locate the mousehole-to-hell and seal it with enough foam sealant to deter a small mammal.
Saturday: Install new insulation, while styling the finest in AmazonBasics safety equipment.
Saturday: Seal up the external insulation with a moisture shield. Use up the leftover insulation on interior walls for no good reason. Briefly consider installing an old-timey spyhole into the next room, disguised by a portrait of a Civil War general.
Sunday: Cut and install the first 64 square feet of drywall in a space completely devoid of true right angles. Initially neglect to remember that the entrance to the crawlspace is much narrower than most of the drywall segments. Hand-wave away any irregularities by saying, "I'll spackle that gap later."

Remaining Steps

  • Cutting and installing 80 more square feet of drywall.
  • 3 rounds of spackling.
  • Sanding, priming, and painting.
  • Move 80 tons of stuff we rarely use back into the space.

Tune in on Friday for the thrilling conclusion!

tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 2 comments

Friday, February 14, 2020

Review Day: A Conjuring of Assassins by Cate Glass / Carol Berg

There are no major spoilers in this review.

A Conjuring of Assassins is the second book in the Chimera series by Carol Berg, writing under the pen name, Cate Glass. (I also reviewed Book One, An Illusion of Thieves last year). The author delivers a satisfying, self-contained story that can be appreciated on its own, but doesn't push the overall series forward in a significant way.

Book Two picks up immediately after the grand caper in Book One, with Romy and her friends recruited to solve a tangled political problem by using their particular talents. The first 20% of the book is peppered with plenty of gentle recap, which will be great if Book One isn't fresh in your mind but more irritating if you're reading them back-to-back. There's an overreliance on coincidence to introduce new story elements, such as Placidio the swordsman running afoul with the Pizotti family, Romy's encounter with a familiar lawyer, or the discovery of an injured man in the fog.

Once the characters begin their new assignment in earnest (around Chapter 6), the book finds its stride and will keep you hooked until the end. The heist storyline is centered more around political intrigue and influence this time, adding a well-executed layer of interest above simply stealing a MacGuffin. I have always appreciated the way that this author builds suspense in a central mystery by methodically dropping hints and reminders of key questions until the master plan becomes clear to the reader -- this approach works particularly well in the Chimera series.

The characters (both new and old) are well-written although they don't evolve much beyond their starting points. Granted, this makes tons of sense when you consider that the entire book takes place in roughly a week, but the characters sometimes toe the line between being interesting in their own right and treading water as mere plot ciphers.

More noticeable is the fact that the world-building takes a backseat in this outing. This is a fun "heist of the week" story that takes place in Cantagna -- the intricate foundation of societal structure, mysticism, and beliefs that the author established in Book One is no closer to culmination by the end. I would have appreciated a few more breadcrumbs to keep me invested. For example, we see the 'sniffers' in action many times, but are no closer to understanding their predicament or means of detection. Romy's visions of antiquity are obviously telegraphing something about future books, but the reveals relegated to the final pages of Book Two offer more questions than answers.

With calibrated expectations, there is a lot to love in A Conjuring of Assassins. This is a tasty morsel of a story that acts as a refreshing palate cleanser in between volumes of your favourite byzantine epic fantasy. Read it for the well-choreographed caper plot that doesn't fall back on a trite, neverending succession of backstabs to surprise. Read it for the main characters that realize they are made stronger through their trust and friendship and the supporting characters that are too delightfully complex to label as pure villains. Just don't be surprised if you reach the end and are left wanting, like a mid-season episode of Alias!

Final Grade: B-

tagged as reviews | permalink | 0 comments

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Chad Darnell's 12 of 12

12 pictures of your day on the 12th of every month

6:29 AM: Showered and ready for the day.
6:41 AM: Bagel for breakfast.
7:17 AM: Squeezing in some work in the early hours.
8:48 AM: Breakfast with Maia while Rebecca goes to a PT conference / class.
11:10 AM: The grandparents stop by to get their Valentine.
11:45 AM: Eating bread. Just bread.
1:14 PM: "No, daddy, don't say that! This is bunny's warren not 'lizabeth's warren."
2:28 PM: This nap does not seem to be very naplike.
2:57 PM: Catnap.
4:15 PM: She'll only play if there's music on the stand.
5:41 PM: Dinner at Ford's Fish Shack after finding that The V has closed permanently.
6:39 PM: "I missed you, mommy!"

tagged as 12 of 12 | permalink | 0 comments

 

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