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Category Archives: Life, Living and Loving

Thank You For Your Service

Today is Veteran’s Day.  My grandfather served; my father served; I served as did my late uncle and brother… and my youngest son served as well.

Today is the day where we remember and thank all veterans of any service branch for the sacrifices they’ve made and continue to make to preserve and defend our way of life.

And, really, every day should be Veteran’s Day because each and every day, there are veterans putting their lives on the line for us.

And we should never, ever, forget.

 
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Posted by on 11 November 2018 in Life, Living and Loving

 

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Well…

Not only is it Bisexual Day, today’s my 63rd birthday and there are days when I don’t feel like a guy in his 60s… and days when I do. I think about it all and the bottom line is that I’m glad to be here to be talking about turning 63, all things considered.

I think, “What have I done?” and it all flows through my mind in a flash; I think about what I haven’t done and while there’s a whole lot of stuff I guess I could do, chances are good that if I haven’t done it, it’s probably because I don’t want to.

How do I feel? Well, last week I tweaked a muscle in my lower back and it decided to travel down to my butt and hang out for a while, making it painfully interesting to do anything other than sit or lie down and a reminder that I’m not quite the spring chicken I once was… and I tend to hear my 83-year-old mother’s voice in my head saying, “Getting old is for the birds!”

I now know what she meant the first time I heard her utter those words – it’s still good to be around to complain about getting older, though. After a while, birthdays just get to be just another day; a birthday never really loses its significance but the days when I’d party and celebrate like a demented rock star are just fond memories and you get to understand that just being able to wake up every day is cause for celebration all by itself.

Wait until y’all get to be sixty – you’ll understand what I mean. I look in the mirror every morning (and whenever I’m in the bathroom) and I see the same guy I’ve always seen, just an older version and, wow, I seriously look more like my late father than ever before, something that’s always made me shake my head because for the longest time, I looked more like my mother.

Go figure. As I was trying to get the soap out of my right eye while washing my face, I thought about those days gone by and when my thoughts were on what I wanted to do/be when I got older and, oddly, a thought from when I was in the third grade popped into my head. We were doing math (we called it arithmetic back then) and the teacher asked us to figure out how old we’d be on our birthday in the year 2000. For me, the answer was 45 but when you’re 8, that seems so far away that your old just can’t think of the year 2000.

Tack on another 18 years and, well, here we are, older, allegedly wiser, a bit dinged up here and there but not so much worse for the wear. The beard is a bit more grey, I spend a few seconds making sure I don’t have one or more of those long hairs that now want to show up in my ears but grateful I don’t need a weed whacker to get rid of whatever strands I do see.

Oh, and no prescription for Viagra, at least not yet; what woke me up this morning was, um, me rolling over and the morning wood kinda didn’t want to move with the rest of me – fellas, y’all know what that’s like, right? Ouch!

Still, it really is just another day, one of the 22,995 days I’ve experienced so far and, of course, I want to experience many more days.

 
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Posted by on 23 September 2018 in Life, Living and Loving

 

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The Gaming Doldrums

I’m an avid gamer and while I don’t have a ton of games (compared to my son-in-law who has hundreds of games for his Xbox), I guess you reach a saturation point and while I have close to 100 games, there’s not a one of them I feel really hyped to play.  I’m still playing – I added Dead Space 3 and Forza Horizon 2 yesterday and took them out for a spin, played a little Minecraft and State of Decay 2 and even played an older game, Watch Dogs which I’ve finished several times already.  And I realized I was just playing them to have something to do and not necessarily because a game is very exciting to play.

I will admit that I was having a lot of fun playing Minecraft and putting a new theme through its paces… then Minecraft updated and the theme broke so its creator has been rushing to fix it and it took the fun right out of the game, well, at least until the theme has been updated so it won’t break any time soon.  One of the goals of State of Decay 2 is to destroy all of the plague hearts and enter into what’s call a legacy period; your leader has some special tasks to do and, upon completion of those tasks, you can go to the next phase of the game and you can select two other people from your community to go with you.  Sound really cool… but, in actuality, you’re just restarting the game in a new location and the only real perk is that whatever your selected characters are carrying, they get to keep it.

Otherwise, you’re starting over from scratch, which is a bummer given that throughout the first part of the game, you’ve been scrounging and scavenging for loads of stuff, building facilities and creating outposts to support your community – the one I had before the transition was nine characters strong and our home base was pretty secure and tricked out.  Only to find that in this legacy mode, I’m right back at the same place I started the game from (which was probably picked at random by the game).  The only good thing about this was I was already familiar with the area so I didn’t have to do a lot of thinking about where I could find supplies and other things and when the game told me to look for another place for us to live, I knew exactly where I was going, well, after I had to pick up two new recruits first.  And, oh, by the way – the plague hearts are back and after all I went through to destroy the originals – and the many characters who died in order to make that happen, yuck, I’m not messing with those damned plague hearts any time soon.

I have two gaming profiles on my Xbox One so that means that whatever games I have, I can play them with either profile.  Sounds redundant but for me this is a good thing because, at least in theory, I can play a game under my main profile, find all kinds of ways to fuck things up, then go to the game in my second profile and not make those mistakes.  So under my second profile, I’ve destroyed all of the plague hearts and started doing the legacy quests until I ran into one I don’t know what to do with:  I have to build a sniper tower to protect the base… and I don’t have anywhere to build it.   What it means is that I’m gonna have to tear down one of the facilities already in place and I’m not sure which one to tear down because I don’t know how many legacy tasks the game is going to throw at me and if I tear down the wrong one, my community might be in deep doo-doo.

But given what I know about this part of the game, I’d also say that it probably doesn’t – and won’t – matter which facility goes away because when the tasks are all completed, they’re gonna be left behind unless – and I just thought of this – I break them down, recoup the materials, and then move on to the next level of the game.  I might do this – not sure at this moment but I still feel like I don’t wanna be bothered with starting over from scratch again… and I already know there are two other areas of the game that I’m not particular fond of as a starting point.

Sure, I have two new games I can mess with but, again and overall, I’m not feeling it a whole lot.  I’ve played the other games in the Dead Space collection and they’re a bit insane; racing games can be fun and more so since I tend to crash a lot and even though I think of myself as being a seasoned video game car driver.  While giving Forza a test drive, um, my Lamborghini got airborne, flipped over about three times, and landed on its wheels and facing in the right direction; then with a BMW, I was passing one of the cars the game throws in your way, got a tire onto the dirt a little, and went for a crazy, spinning ride through a field.  Loads of fun if not a bit aggravating at times; I know it’s gonna take me a bit of time to get used to how the controller interacts with the cars and develop the right touch to go fast and not be a crash test dummy.  Normally, I’d look forward to the challenge… just not while I’m in the gaming doldrums.

Sometimes, you just don’t feel like playing your favorite games and while a new game will present an interesting challenge to learn it, bleh, sometimes that’s just too much like work.  The bad thing is that there doesn’t seem to be a time limit to the doldrums so it’s not like I can say that my gaming will be back to normal in a couple of days; maybe it will, maybe it won’t.  In Minecraft, I’m restoring yet another ocean monument using a theme that, in truth, I don’t use a lot – and just because I don’t use the theme a lot.  A couple of days ago, I ran into something I’ve never seen in the game:  A landlocked ocean monument.  Oh, sure, there was some water on the side but these things are usually totally submerged under water… and this one wasn’t.  It was, except for the very top of the monument, buried in debris and in such a way that I had to get creative in digging it out.  It got a little frustrating and I was on the verge of abandoning the project because I’m used to these things being underwater so I kinda messed up the boundary that had to be created between what water was there – as well as dam the various waterfalls that could cause a problem and, well, digging it out wasn’t easy… and then I discovered that the monument’s support columns were very different!  The top part of the monument was exactly as I expected to see and I actually stopped what digging I was doing so I could take a really good look at these “new” columns and figure out how they were constructed.

Did I mention this thing was landlocked in a swampy area and that even with a Potion of Night Vision, you can’t see underwater all that well?

And while I found this unexpected find to be challenging, I wasn’t exactly excited to do it… but since I started it, I had to finish it and the doldrums were urging me to just give up the restoration.  I kinda hate this because it takes the fun out of playing any game and I can’t wait to get out of this gaming funk…

 
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Posted by on 2 August 2018 in Life, Living and Loving

 

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The Ocean Monument

The picture you see is the inside of an ocean monument in Minecraft.  The thing to note is the interior of the monument didn’t look like this when I found it; take away the patterns in the floor and all the lights that you see… then imagine, if you can, this entire space filled with “debris,” for lack of a better word.  Let me set the stage for ya…

Those of you who play Minecraft probably know about ocean monuments and, if so, you also know how hard they are to find and how hard they are to get to since they’re sitting at the bottom of the ocean and, in Survival mode, patrolled by guardians who pretty much kill anything that gets close to the monument.  I can’t say for certain but I know that when you create a new world, you can count on at least one of these things being present somewhere and I’ve seen up to three of them in one world.  In Creative mode, you can easily find the one closest to you – just invoke the /locate monument command and it’ll provide you the coordinates and you can teleport yourself there or, since you’re in Creative mode, fly to the coordinates.

The monument has a distinctive look and even if you happen to stumble across one while rowing a boat in the ocean or, gasp, bouncing along the water on your way to dry land, you can, at the least, see the sea lanterns at the very top of the monument.  Getting down to it is gonna be a problem if you don’t have the right stuff on you to prevent yourself from drowning – special potions and enchantments – and don’t forget that unless you’re in Survival/Peaceful mode, those guardians are waiting to fry you with… lasers.  Yeah, Minecraft is pretty much a low-tech kind of game except for the guardians’ weapon of choice.

The monuments, externally, are all the same; texture packs can change the way they look and, here lately, there’s a room at the top of the monument that seems to change its configuration and depending on the texture or world pack you’re using.  What’s the big deal?  Well, I’m glad you asked!  One of the monumental tasks (and, yes, the pun is intended) you can undertake is to make the interior of the ocean monument look like the picture I’ve provided but there are some things you gotta do, oh, like get rid of all of the water surrounding the monument, uncovering the monument to free it from all the debris it contains and is surrounding it, then restoring it to its former glory; what you do with it after you’ve done all of this is up to you and the picture tells you what I’ve been doing with them.  Other players have done some pretty cool things with the interior of these things and even I’ve thought of a few things I wanna try somewhere down the road.

“Okay, I see what you’re saying… what’s the problem?”

It’s simple:  In Survival mode (and not Peaceful), chances are that you’re going to drown, die, and wind up respawning again before you can erect a wall of some kind around the monument.  Some who tackle this use glass, glowstone lights, or sea lanterns and even whatever stones they can find… but whatever you use to build the containment wall, you’re going to need a lot of stuff to accomplish this while avoiding guardians and drowning which is why I’ve never attempted to drain one in Survival mode.  Minecraft purists would say that tackling an ocean monument in Creative mode is taking the easy way out but I can tell you that even in Creative mode and having access to every material the game has to offer, it’s not easy to do this and takes a lot of time to finish.  As an example, some folks that are on the game’s Facebook forum report that it takes them months to expose the monument to air; since I’m retired, I can spend a lot of time doing this (and provided I don’t have something else I need to do) and it takes me days to get the monument looking like the picture you see.

The first time I did this, I found myself overwhelmed by the task at hand; it looked “easy” but proved to be otherwise and even though I eventually finished the task, there were many times when I wanted to abandon it.  One of the things needed to do this is patience and another is perseverance.  Every time I decide to do this – and after I initially said I wasn’t gonna ever do this again, mind you – I take a deep breath and say to myself, “Okay, let’s get to work…” and begin the arduous task at hand.

First, I gotta examine the monument to see what kind of shape it’s in, particularly its support columns.  I recently discovered that those columns are 16 rows long from the bottom of the interior “ceiling” to the “floor”, completely trashing my thoughts that the columns were only six rows long.  So, the first thing is to dig down at every column until I’ve exposed the 16 rows and while I’m at it, restoring where the columns are missing its prismarine blocks.  As I dig down, I’m also digging out away from the monument to establish both a walkway and the point where I’ll start building the containment wall, which will go from the bottom of the monument to just above the surface of the water.  I recently expanded the walkway from two blocks wide to three, starting the containment wall at the fourth position; I have an idea for this extra space but actually haven’t worked it all out and compared to what’s next in this process, it’s insignificant at this point.

Building the containment wall literally takes thousands of whatever I’m using to create it – and maybe now you understand why I do this in Creative mode and not in Survival; there’s no way I can carry all that material and, in most cases, the monument is located in the “middle of nowhere” and without any land nearby.  I could use the material I’ve dug out to make the wall but even doing this initial work generates more material than I can carry; the good thing about Creative mode is that I can dig for days and not pile up material in my inventory.  The lights you see in the picture are sea lanterns and along with becoming the containment wall, they also provide light; again, Creative mode lets me use a potion that will “light up” things and they are needed because, as you might expect, without light, it’s pretty damned dark down there.  Every time I do this, I’m always trying to work out a more efficient way to create the wall but it’s still time consuming just the same.  Once I’ve located all of the columns and restored their outline on this one side (four across, sixteen down) as well as exposing the walkway and where I’ll start the wall, I’ll start laying down the sea lanterns on all four sides until the wall is level with the area just above where the columns begin.  Once I’ve built the wall to this point, I will fly around the monument and use sponges to seal off any gaps that lead to the interior of the monument; by doing this, it makes it “easy” to contain whatever water is inside the monument and, here lately, that’s not been a whole lot of water because it seems since the latest updates to the game, every monument I’ve come across has been filled to the top with garbage (I’ll get to this part in a moment).

So… the containment wall has been built to a certain point and gaps closed with sponges; the next step is to close the gap between the containment wall and the monument with sponges which seals off the bottom of the monument from the rest of the water.  Once this is done, I remove a corner sponge and “dive down” into this space, replacing the sponge I took out… and now it’s time to get rid of the water that’s been trapped in this space.  Using sponges makes this easy but it’s still a bit of work to keep flying around the monument and sponging up the water; the game’s creators have improved the physics the game employs, i.e., the water has currents and it “moves” and this alone can make getting rid of the water interesting because it keeps pushing me out of the way and other annoying things.  It might take me, oh, maybe twenty minutes to soak up all the water in this space but once it’s done, I now have a dry space to work in and it’s on to the next step: Cleaning out the interior of the monument.

This can take days for me to do and more so since, as I mentioned, all the monuments seem to be be filled to the brim with junk and there’s no easy or simple way to get rid of it outside of maybe a command you can use; I know it exists but I don’t know how to use it.  That means clearing out whatever’s inside the monument the hard way – one row of junk at a time.  It is monotonous work; not only do I have to clear out all of the junk inside, but I also have to remove all of the junk that’s in the five rows between each column to expose them on all four sides.  At one point, I though about using TNT to get rid of as much of the junk possible… except, um, I have a tendency to use more TNT than I need and the last thing I wanna do is do any more damage to the monument than already exists.  To keep from putting myself to sleep with this repetitive work, I’ll section off areas, cutting a huge area of junk into more manageable areas and whittling them down until there’s nothing but clear floor and all columns are fully exposed.  Next, restore all of the columns.

This is kinda/sorta easy since they’re all made out of the same material – those prismarine bricks I mentioned but it’s time consuming to fly around each column and replacing whatever’s there with the bricks; while I’m doing this, I’m thinking about the floor and what I want to do with it.  My latest thing is the pattern you see in the picture but once the floor has been fully exposed, you’re only limited by your imagination when it comes to how you want it to look.  As I restore each column, I’m also adding the lights you see on each column, as well as lights along the ceiling; the “see in the dark” potion only lasts eight minutes (and I usually go through about 100 of potions just doing this part) so the lights become a necessity.  Once the columns have been restored and lights placed, it’s time to work on the floor and in whatever way that’s come to my mind; compared to everything else I’ve done to this point, doing the floor is quite easy… but there’s still a lot of work to do.

After the interior has been done to my liking, it’s time to leave this dry and lighted space and go swimming to finish the containment wall – but taking a moment to go to one area of the monument and seal it off with sponges.  To break the monotony, I’ll actually seal myself inside this rather large and maze-like space so I can sponge up all of the water inside; that can take an hour or more and employ the use of thousands of sponges.  Getting rid of all the water in this interior space is a pain in the ass… but not even as bad as the next step:

Getting rid of all of the water trapped within the containment area.  Some of the other players who tackle this use sand to sop up all the water in this space and I even thought about using sand myself… except what you’re really doing is replacing all of the water with blocks of sand that, eventually, will also have to be removed.  It’s too much of a pain for me to calculate the volume of water to be removed; oh, I can do it and I know the math involved… it makes my head hurt so I try not to think about it.  By using sponges, I don’t have to fill the whole space with them (and like I stupidly did the first time I did this) and I keep working on more efficient ways to use the sponges so that I get rid of all the water but makes removing used sponges not so much of a chore.  My latest thing is to quarter off the top area of the monument by creating walls of sponges; from there, it’s a matter of laying down rows of sponges in an area, slowly but surely lowering the water level and removing used sponges – it’s easy to get rid of them as I go along than to leave all of those sponges in place and cleaning them up later.  It’s almost painfully time consuming and the water isn’t making it easy to move around as it buffets me here and there, making flying around underwater not so easy.  To remove all of the water from the four sections can take hours as well but the way I do it, for now, seems easier and less painful that filling this huge space with blocks of sand.  Now, in Creative mode, I’d never run out of sand… but if you can, try to imagine how much sand you’d need to fill this space that’s maybe sixty rows high on all four sides and maybe fifty rows high and above where I’d already sealed off the bottom of the monument.  Do the math – I refuse to but trust me when I say this is a lot of space to fill and even more sand that has to be used, recovered, and reused until all of the water is gone.

As much as I want to see exactly how much sand is needed to do this, nope, no frigging way I’m doing that; it just makes a hard thing to do even harder in my opinion.

It takes me days to do this in Creative mode; in Survival mode I don’t know – or want to know – how long it would take me but, like I said, some Facebook forum members report that it takes them months doing this because, of course, they don’t have the time to constantly work at this due to work, school, and other things.  The bad and maybe even funny part is that every time I do this, I tell myself that this will be the last time I work a monument and, indeed, as I explore the world, I might run across another monument; I’ll see it, remember what I just went through doing the other one, and just pass it by.  Even when I create new worlds I don’t go looking for them any more but, um, sheesh, if I happen to stumble across one, fuck, why not – let’s work this one anyway; maybe I can think of better ways to uncover one that won’t take three or four days to complete.

Other than making oceans of lava disappear, I think this is one of the hardest things one can undertake in the game and especially in Survival mode.  It makes battling the mobs of bad guys look easy and carefree and the only places in the game that I think could be a lot worse are the Nether and the End World.  Getting to the Nether is easy – just build a portal… and then hope that once you step through it, you don’t find yourself plummeting to your death, which has happened to me more times than I want to admit to.  The End World isn’t so easy to get to; first you have to find a stronghold – which may be under a village or not; you have to navigate the stronghold and it’s a maze and even when you find the End Portal, you need certain items to activate it and those items aren’t easy to come across in Survival mode.

But those last two places are for another discussion.  Why go through the hassle of exposing an ocean monument to air and doing other stuff with it?  Because it’s there.  It will test your patience and your ability to stick to the job once you’ve started it and while there’s no Xbox achievement for doing this, I tend to get a great sense of accomplishment doing this.  I currently have 44 worlds I’ve created and have messed around in and I’ve not bothered to work at least one monument in every world because, um, I’m not that patient and, really, if you’ve done one of them, you’ve pretty much done all of them outside of whatever additions you might make, like as you see in the picture.  I actually have a video of one monument I completed with the help of my son-in-law; while I was working the inside parts, he was building additions to the monument that, honestly,  I never thought about doing.  Sadly, WordPress won’t let me include the MP4 video in this post, which is a damned shame because the completed and modified monument is, in my opinion, spectacularly pretty thanks to my son-in-law’s work.

Still, as much as doing this can be a major pain in the ass, I actually find it relaxing as I methodically do the work; I’ve done this so many times now that I’m not really thinking about what I’m doing outside of the logistics of getting it done and, yeah, a downside is that it can be so monotonous that I’ve found myself starting to nod off from time to time.  As I work, I do think about some stuff, like, how many blocks really make up the containment wall and, at the least, thinking about the math required to compute the exact volume of space inside the containment wall; I think about how many bricks actually make up the columns including the blocks on the inside; the columns are actually “solid” blocks of prismarine bricks; each row contains 16 blocks and there are 16 rows down to the floor and, if memory serves me, there are 25 columns – again, if you wanna do the math, be my guest.  But as I’m thinking about stuff like this (and refusing to do the math), I’m methodically getting it done and I always seem to surprise myself to find that I’m done doing something.

Those of you who play Minecraft and have done this know what I’m talking about; those of you who don’t play the game, well, um, if you ever choose to play it – and I’m not saying that you shouldn’t play Minecraft (it’s actually pretty addictive), if you ever come across an ocean monument, ya might think twice about tackling one and more so if you don’t have the time or the patience to do so but, then again, if you need to work on being focused and being more patient, this’ll be the thing you wanna try to accomplish…

Provided you don’t drown first or get killed by guardians, of course – I did mention this earlier, didn’t I?

 

 
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Posted by on 25 July 2018 in Life, Living and Loving

 

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More Gaming!

As some of you may know or remember, I play Minecraft and I’ve been playing for a while now; those of you who also play this game knows that when you create a new world, there are some basic things you need to do (unless you’re in Creative mode, which makes doing this easier) and in no particular order:

    If you started with a bonus chest, destroy the chest and pick up everything including any torches set around the chest.
    Find some trees and start chopping them down to make wooden tools, a crafting block, and charcoal (I’ve denuded whole areas doing this part)
    Think about a shelter and especially in Survival mode (unless you’ve chosen to start in Peaceful mode so you can do all of this without getting attacked when night comes); my daughter and her hubby have taught me a few tricks about this part, including start digging a mine shaft – then, once you go a few levels down, dig into the side of the shaft and carve out enough space to, at the least, put down your crafting block, a furnace (if you have enough cobblestone), a large chest or two, and space for a bed.
    Begin or continue your mining efforts to collect coal and iron – lots of coal and iron.
    Hunt for food while exploring the area.

Well, after getting the Norse Mythology World pack, most of this was easy since it set me down inside a fortress or keep, filled with buildings and villagers so it was all about raiding the houses for the chest most of them contained – I wound up with more food than I’ve ever had starting a game.I left the fortress/keep and wound up in another village and a really nice house at the coordinates 118, 68, -131; those of you who don’t play won’t understand this and those who do, just wait to see why I mentioned this – it’ll become clear shortly.After chopping down more trees and exploring the houses for more loot, it was time to go looking for coal and iron which means exploring the area. One of the common sense things about this moment in the game – and more so when you won’t have a compass – is to put down torches along the route you’re taking so that you can find your way back to where you began your exploration, which I did and was able to find a little coal and a bit of iron.This Norse pack has some beautiful constructs and I can’t imagine the effort it took to create them so I went to check them out to see what hidden goodies could be found and since one such area was along the path where I’d already laid down torches, not a problem.One of the things I’ve learned to do playing this game is to use the Notes app on my iPad to write down stuff about the world I’m in, like, what I named it, the seed that generates the world and, importantly, the coordinates of my home base and, sometimes, other stuff like villages, etc.. it helps to do this when my son-in-law or daughter drops into my world and they like it enough to create one of their own – hence my noting the seed number.Guess what I didn’t do? Right, just wait for it. At this point, I knew where I was in the area and it was fascinating enough exploring it that I didn’t need to write this stuff down because I could see my house from where I was… right up until I was in the water checking out a wharf that had a chest – in the dark – and fell over the edge of a waterfall.And wound up getting lost for several hours and all because I never bothered to write down the coordinates of my home base; this is what I consider to be a rookie mistake of the highest order. I found a lot of other structures included in the world pack, found a lot of chests and loot I could use – oh, and did I mention that the world opened in Survival/Easy mode so when it got dark, I was getting attacked at every turn? I’d been wandering around the damned place for almost two hours before it dawned on me to set the game level to Survival/Peaceful – yep, that’s how bent out of shape I’d gotten about getting lost.I’m almost out of the food I had on me (that’s when I changed the game mode – duh) but was still nearly hopelessly lost. I could have set up shop in many of the places I found but I was determined to get back to where I started and finally, three and a half hours after I started out, I finally found my way back to my home base.After emptying my inventory (which was full) and writing down the information I should have written down before I started exploring, my first act was to kill all of the villagers where I’d set up my base… that’s how pissed off I was and, besides, they were in my way. Before I got back to base, I saw the entrance to a cavern that had torches in it – and I knew I hadn’t placed them. Once I killed the villagers, I wanted to find this place again so I could see where the torches led, that and when I took a moment to peek in the cavern, there was a lot of iron to be collected.Now, what I should have done was explored that place when I stumbled across it but, no, I figured I could find it again easily enough… yeah, right. I ran around the whole damned area looking for this spot (and, no, it never occurred to me to write down the coordinates when I found it) for at least another hour, talking to myself so much in the process that Linda thought I’d lost my mind or something, which wasn’t far from the truth at this point.What I wound up doing is another thing I’ve learned to do – copy the world I’m in and put it in Creative mode – my son-in-law taught me this one and you do this to prospect the world for things to do in your Survival world. It seems redundant but this actually helps and especially when digging mine shafts. I duplicated the world and flew around for another hour before I found the cavern entrance again; I wrote down the coordinates, went back to the Survival game, and explored the cavern and it had a large chest with some nice stuff in it as well as lots of iron and gold – and was a good place to dig my mine shaft.Oh, and I murdered a nosy villager who kept getting in my way while I was digging down to bedrock in my mine shaft. Once I got down to bedrock, I carved out the area, finding iron, redstone – and I needed both to make my compass – as well as more coal and the reason why mining can be fun, diamonds. Luckily, this time, I didn’t run into any lava while digging, which is what usually happens to me and I don’t even wanna talk about how many hours I’ve spent getting rid of lava so that, when my mine is ready, I won’t encounter it again.Those of you who play the game and like to mine knows exactly what I’m talking about, right? There’s never enough gravel when you need it!By the time I returned to my home base, I was exhausted and still miffed at myself for the rookie mistakes I made in this world.

 
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Posted by on 6 July 2018 in Life, Living and Loving

 

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Let the Games Begin!

I thought I’d take a few moments to remind everyone that I’m a gamer and have been for a long time and these days, I’ve been playing a lot of Minecraft, which has been getting updated to include more features, better graphics and even more bad guys who are more than willing to make you respawn and lose everything you’re carrying in your inventory. I’ve managed to acquire three add-ons – an Egyptian theme, a Norse theme, and one called Chroma HD that has some amazing graphics that makes the deliberately designed 8-bit game look a lot more realistic and, most notably, the chickens – which are everywhere in Minecraft – look more like chicken than ducks.My biggest pain in the ass is a game called “State of Decay 2,” a game where the world has gone to shit and zombies are everywhere and the object of the game is to have people in your collective, establish a home base and other useful outposts, gather much needed things like food and fuel… and while avoiding or eliminating the zombies that are in endless supply. This is another game when going out at night isn’t a smart thing to do and I recently told my son-in-law, I feel safer playing Minecraft at night and on the hard level than I do playing this game.The game, since it’s release, is not without problems that have required a few updates, which is to be expected but the thing that really bugs me is the kind and number of tasks that are to be done while you’re trying to maintain adequate levels of supplies so that the members of your collective do’t get pissed off and leave or starve to death. Doing these tasks can get you killed and turned into a zombie and unlike some games, if the character you’re playing with dies, that character stays dead and gone.It’s kinda hard to develop any real strategy and in a way, the game has a same beginning requirement that Minecraft has: Ya need a place to live and you have to gather supplies and, via mining, establish a source for critical items like coal and iron. State of Decay 2 isn’t very different in this regard but with zombies running in hoards – including one called a juggernaut that you do not want to tangle with (unless you wanna get ripped in half) – maintaining a happy and healthy collective can be rather frustrating.Oh, did I mention the plague hearts? Taking out a plague heart isn’t that difficult… once you can take out the hoard of zombies that gather around one then, if you can accomplish this, beat and band on the plague heart and hope that another batch of zombies don’t overwhelm you and make you dead.For any task – from scavenging for supplies to helping other “communities” with their survival efforts – you can take a member of your collective with you and, at the least, they’ll take on the attacking zombies while you focus on the task at hand. The downside is that the person you take with you can’t help you gather up the supplies that can be at any location; at most, you can have a pack that carries a max of eight items that also includes the stuff you need to keep your ass alive, like meds and weapons. Now, there are vehicles all over the place, some immediately drivable, some that can be repaired enough to drive and those vehicles have a trunk that can store some items – I’ve seen up to six spaces in the trunk but it’s not enough space at times and you wind up leaving stuff behind and, hopefully, you can go back for them if you can.The game has a multiplayer mode where you can invite up to four of your friends to join your quest for survival; they can fight with you, pick up and carry the stuff that you’re unable to, and even share stuff that they have. I play with my son-in-law and that dude is crazy in that we can jump in a car to do a task… and he’s hip deep in zombies and tends to dive right in without carrying any meds, not having enough ammo for whatever gun he’s carrying, or having his melee weapon break. He throws caution to the wind while I’m a lot more conservative about this; if I can avoid fighting off a hoard of zombies, I’m good with that – I just wanna do the task and get the hell out of dodge.At some point you have to grow your collective, which starts out with four survivors; some of them have necessary skills like medicine, gardening, and mechanical already… but some don’t so on top of doing all the other stuff you need to do to survive, you have to search for manuals that teach a skill and those aren’t easy to find. I’ve found that there’s nothing worse than having seven vehicles in desperate need of repair and you don’t have a mechanic in your collective who can go to the workshop you have to build and create repair kits; without them, you’re walking to wherever you gotta go and even though you can sneak past some zombies, ya can’t sneak past all of them and you’ll wind up having to fight them and get injured.It is a fun game to play but it frustrates me to the point where sometimes I have no idea what I need to do or the tasks I do have aren’t so doable under the community’s current state, like, in one community, all seven of my people were sick or injured and in no shape to do anything and I had to gather and use supplies to update my infirmary to a level where I could, with one click, get them all healed.This isn’t one of those games that keeps playing even when you’re not playing it; if you exited out of the game while in the middle of getting swarmed by zombies, when you go back to it, you’re gonna be right back in the situation you left which is very bad, of course. On the other side, if you update one of your facilities – and some updates can take up to thirty minutes – if you leave the game, that update wont keep happening “in the background;” nope – you return to the game and you’re still waiting for that update to finish.One of the goals is to eliminate all of the plague hearts but doing so doesn’t get rid of the zombies and does, in fact, makes even more aggressive zombies to appear and attack you at every turn – and even inside your home base. You’d think that getting rid of all of the plague hearts would end the game but I’ve been told that it doesn’t – it just gets worse, if you can imagine that.In fact, in one community, I got rid of all the plague hearts but at the expense of having my seven member community reduced to three people in short, grisly order. I’ve often found myself at a location and my vehicle destroyed and now I have to return to base on foot and my base can be 2000 meters (1.24 miles) away. In one such situation, I trashed my truck killing zombies – you can run them over and it’s rather messy – managed to avoid the roaming hoards, and I was literally a few feet away from the safety of my base… when a juggernaut (and a hoard) appeared out of nowhere, killing my character and the one following me before I had a chance to react to the attack.At that point, I was ready to quit playing this game and if getting decimated in this fashion wasn’t bad enough, when I told my son-in-law what happened, he thought it was funny.So there you have it. I do have other games that I play, thanks to my Xbox Live and Xbox Game Pass memberships; one gives me free games to play and the other lets me play games without having to pay for them and for as long as I want; if I don’t like a game, I just uninstall it and look for something else.I currently have 12 active games and 72 games I can install and play so it’s not as if I don’t have games I can play that aren’t so frustrating… so why am I playing the ones that gives me fits?Because it’s something to do – why else would you play a game? It is to note that one of the 72 games I can install is the first version of State of Decay and believe me when I tell you that I have better success playing the second game than I have the first! In the original game, every time I go out on my first mission, my character gets killed! I’ve installed the original game six times… and have uninstalled it six times.Sheesh…

 
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Posted by on 5 July 2018 in Life, Living and Loving

 

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Because She Asked

I made a comment on a post written by DDJennifer (https://ddjennifer.wordpress.com/2018/06/22/260-more-mike-jen-kayla-equity-vs-equality/) and she suggested that I copy and paste it into a blog of my own… so here it is:

Methinks some people see the phrase “open marriage” and immediately fear the worst right along with not understanding what this really means. In my first marriage, I went through the “process” from being monogamous to being open to being poly and it was one hell of a trip and experience and while no relationship is immune to the problems inherent in having a relationship, it is about equity more than equality and, as I like to say, being able to adopt a mindset where the relationship is about “us” and not about “me” so much.

And while you can never discount individualism in any relationship, being open is about everyone involved working toward the same goal and with the same shared vision. It’s certainly about the core relationship and the mindset of, “What can we do to make our lives together the best it can be?” and then doing whatever that entails and, importantly, remaining vigilant and determined to make it work.

By the time I got to poly, my god, I learned so much about love, sex, and relationships that it wasn’t funny just as I learned that living and loving like this is actually harder than being monogamous – in this, you only have one person to deal with as opposed to dealing with two or more other people in the mix. I learned that you cannot treat your partners under the auspices of equality – that’s a nightmare waiting to happen that, um, sure, I’d wish that on my worst enemy and it would serve them right for being dumb enough to think that equality, as we understand it, can be easily established. Being open/poly is an investment that requires equity and creating an environment where one and all can flourish and as comfortably as humanly possible.

It’s still not easy to do… but it can be done and once you’ve learned how to live like this, you never want to go back to being monogamous if you can avoid it.

When people would question how and why we were living the way we were, the answer was always, “Because we want to and it just works for us and it makes the most sense.”

Now for the other side of this thing, namely, how people who attempt this get it wrong more often than not.  In previous writing about this topic, I’ve repeatedly said that in order to be in an open relationship, you first have to unlearn everything you’ve ever learned about love, sex, and relationships so you can learn another way to do these things.  Monogamy is mandated and to the point where people who aren’t married carry on relationships as if they were married; the same rules, the same restrictions, and the same problems married folks experience except folks in an unmarried relationship can usually walk away from it without getting any lawyers involved.

One of the other things I learned and, again, said a lot in previous posts on this, is that being in an open and/or poly relationship isn’t for the weak at heart or those folks subject to experiencing and displaying certain negative emotions – jealousy and possessiveness among them; I’ve also said that when considering being open/poly, the rules of monogamy are, in essence, null and void because, duh, you can’t “keep only unto yourself” if you’re considering expanding what will hopefully become what’s known as the core relationship.

And I’ve said that if you don’t think you can do any of the things necessary, don’t even try it.  You see, we barely understand what it takes to be in a relationship with just one person and the tenets of monogamy are hammered into us almost as soon as we are able to understand them and said tenets are assumed to be inviolate and, importantly, the right thing to be done at all times… except, don’t we find out that this doesn’t work as advertised?  I’ve said and asked not to be taken wrong but for many, being monogamous works and works well but for others?  Eh, not so much.

Relationships erode, decay, become stagnant and wind up ending because, seemingly, there’s no recourse or other alternative to breaking up when, in fact, there’s always been another course of action a couple can take:  Open the relationship and more so when it becomes apparent that there are needs that should be taken care of but monogamy (and a few other things) doesn’t allow for any, ah, outside assistance.  People fret over cheating and I’ve read other blogs about this and their authors asking what, if anything can be done to prevent cheating and other than being single and by yourself, the answer is found in yet another thing I’ve said a lot:  It’s better to beg forgiveness than to ask permission… but what if you could get permission?  How does a couple combat the ever-present threat of infidelity?  Remove the mindset that suggests that infidelity is always a bad thing.  The bad part is that getting permission is deemed to be impossible given what we – as a whole – tend to believe.  But getting permission brings a new set of issues, namely, ya just don’t know how to have a relationship that involves more than one person.

But it can be done, as DDJennifer’s blog indicates.  It’s not without some issues but as I said in my comment, it’s about having a shared goal and vision – everyone should be on the same page while doing their best to avoid the negative emotions.  For instance, I read someone’s blog a few weeks ago and the author said that her and her hubby were now in an open relationship (and she asked for it) but there were times when she felt the need to stake out her territory and even admitted that she felt… neglected at times when her hubby and their new female partner would interact. It’s actually a normal kind of reaction, given what we’ve been taught about relationships… but harboring these kinds of feelings can, eventually, slam the door on an open relationship.  You quickly learn some shit that’s hard to process:  The open/poly relationship is about you… but not really and I’ll keep right on saying that in these things, if you are unable to think “us” more than “me,” you’re usually gonna fail in your attempts to find happiness in this arrangement – and an arrangement that’s a lot more involved than just sex, you know, just in case you were of a mind that these things is purely and solely about sex.  Again, it is… but not as a main focus of being open and poly; the purpose of the open relationship is to improve the core relationship or being able to answer this question:

“What can we do to make our lives together the best it can be?”  Sadly, this question is often difficult to answer because we – on the whole – tend to think in terms of what we’re not going to do, even for the sake of love… and as long as your mind is stuck in this place, being open/poly just ain’t gonna work.  I’ve said that being open/poly is even harder than being monogamous and I’m being nice about it when I say it… but it can be done.  As DDJennifer wrote in her blog, being open/poly isn’t about equality – it’s about equity and it’s an investment of the highest order.  I read and know of single folks who are poly and while I’d not say that, for the most part, they’re not successful at having multiple partners, many of them manage their relationships while employing the rules of monogamy and finding that doing this is kinda hard when you don’t have that one person at your side who not only shares this vision but is willing to stick by your side as part of the core relationship.

Which is why it’s my belief that openness and polyamory works best for couples who are already in an established relationship; the core is already present and, importantly, the core partners are secure in their relationship and their love for each other… and even more important, they are dedicated to doing whatever’s necessary to make sure that core relationship lasts as long as humanly possible… and even if that means adding as many other people as they can and implementing a plan that makes sure that everyone involved shares the investment, goals, and vision of the expanded relationship.

Equity… not never equality and I say this because it’s virtually impossible to establish equality when you’re dealing with different personalities as well as different wants and needs and that, my friends, is the really hard part.  You can’t show favoritism and you do your level best to not to try to treat everyone the same way – equally – but according to who they are; if you think communication is important in a “normal” relationship, you can’t begin to believe how very important this becomes when two becomes three or four; if you suck at time management, problem and conflict resolution, um, you’re already behind the eight-ball.

If you’re reading this and you’re thinking that, fuck, this open/poly thing is a pain in the ass, you’d be right – it is and unlike anything you’ve ever experienced.  At the same time, it can be the most liberating thing a couple could do but as I say, you gotta really and seriously be grown up enough to do this.  Like in any other relationship, you’ll have regrets, problems, and other things that make the day-to-day management of the relationship a bitch to deal with and even I’ll admit there were times in my experiences when I asked myself – and a lot – “Why did I agree to do this crazy shit?”  But I’d remember why I did – because it made sense to.

Is there a sure-fire way to do this and have it work?  Uh, no; the bad part is that while there’s a lot of information available as to how to accomplish this, you’re gonna have to find your way in this.  Hell, if I knew the definitive answer to getting it done and correctly so, I’d be rich beyond the dreams of avarice.  What I do know is how not to do this, what the pitfalls are and, if nothing else, what the basics are.

After that, you’re on your own.

So, Jennifer – how did I do?

 
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Posted by on 23 June 2018 in Life, Living and Loving

 

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