Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

The Witcher, Season One:
I doubt Netflix's claim that this is the most watched show on their network, because it's really not put together very well. The season acts as an extended prologue featuring the origin stories of three main characters with unnecessarily divergent timelines. At least one character is treading water in any given episode, and there's rarely a hint of any overarching reason to bother watching more. The show tightens up by episode 5 (of 8), but most people will have checked out by then. The 7th episode is the strongest while the finale drops the ball by featuring a Game-of-Thrones-esque battle scene with no reason to care about it.

There's also an overwhelming amount of nudity to cover for the lack of plot progression, which is fine -- but if your story's not strong enough to stand on its own, maybe you could improve it instead of distracting the audience. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: C-

Good Girls, Season Two:
There's a nice arc to this second season about suburban moms turned criminals but it's unevenly paced. A few episodes in the middle had weird time progressions that made me feel like I had missed key scenes of character development somewhere. Some of the same tropes that were already mined in Season One are hit again here. Overall, it remains a fun show to watch and forget about immediately. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B-

Bo Burnham: what.:
Bo Burnham's first one-man act / comedy show is mildly funny and over before it reaches the "annoying" point. A few weeks after watching, however, I remember nothing about it -- none of the jokes had any lasting power. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: C+

InvisiPure Sky Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier:
The problem with humidifiers is that they die on a regular cycle, during which the company making them has changed its name and tweaked one single feature or model number to make it impossible to do any comparison. This humidifier took the place of one that lasted an unusually long time -- 3 winters. It's fine and it works, but is very cumbersome to refill (especially since the rectangular shape prevents it from being filled in a normal bathroom sink). It also loses points for using blue LEDs as a nightlight (with two settings: BLUE and BLUUUUUUEEEEE).

Final Grade: B-

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Monday, February 24, 2020

Construction Day: Screen Porch

We now transport you from the little warren under the stairs to the backyard, where a screen porch is emerging from the Loudoun County clay like a triumphant groundhog.

tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 0 comments

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

 

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