Category: personal

Throwback Computer Games: Zork

I’ve been playing video games for quite some time. The other day, as I was watching my kids play Animal Crossing, I thought back to what things might have been like if I’d been stuck in quarantine for a couple of months back in 1985. I’m pretty sure that was before I got an Atari even. The only computer games I had to speak of were the ones on my dad’s old Heathkit computer. Green text on a black screen. We had Space Invaders (the only copy I could find right now is the Atari one, but close enough). Eliza. DND. And, of course, Zork.

I remember playing Zork a ton, though I’m not sure how many times I actually did. For those of you too lazy to click through and play the game (shame on you!), it’s a fully-text-based game. You wake up in the middle of a forest, standing in front of a white house. There are no instructions at first, and you have to just sort of try different commands until you figure out what you’re supposed to do. Go north. Go west. Look. That kind of thing.

If you’re patient and stick with it, you begin to figure out what to do. You find equipment, and you go exploring in a maze beneath the house. And . . . that’s about as far as I ever got. If I had been in quarantine, I wonder if I would have beaten Zork.

The world may never know.

The bottom line, however, is that I would have been a whoooooole lot more bored than my kids are. No Netflix. No internet. A limited supply of board games. Dealing with “what to do” would have been a very different story.

I bring that up not to tell my kids how lucky they have it. No, I’m much more concerned about myself. Today I am just grateful we have all these ways to distract ourselves. Because if I was stuck here in the house with nothing more than Zork, and my kids had the same next-to-nothing to do?

I think we’d all go crazy.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

A Much Needed Snow Day

Astute readers will have noticed that I didn’t post anything on Friday. When the quarantine hit and school went online, I assumed my snow days were a thing of the past when it came to this semester. The weather gods had other ideas.

We got 9 inches of wet, heavy snow on Thursday night. (Some places in Maine got 20 inches!) This brought down power lines across the state, with much of my town losing electricity. Because of that, school was canceled for the day. The bad news is that power stayed out for a lot of the state for the entire weekend. Many of my friends didn’t get power back until yesterday, and I still have friends who are without power as I type this. (A situation that won’t be helped by the 50mph winds we’re supposed to be getting later today . . . )

Personally, we just lost power for about three hours, though we did have our internet go down until last night. For almost all of Friday, even the LTE network was down. (No power to the cell tower, perhaps? I don’t know how those operate.) And while it’s been a terrible situation for many, I have to say that personally, there were some definite perks.

Going all of Friday without being able to be online at all was just lovely. I’m already a self-confessed technology addict. That’s not always a good thing. In fact, in many ways this “work from home” thing has made me even more hooked on screens. Before, I could check my work email at all hours and not have to worry too much about coming across anything noteworthy unless it was a real emergency. Now, it seems like I might get “real” email at any time of the day, so checking email at 7pm might lead me to feel like I need to get work done right then.

24 hours without the internet was just what the doctor ordered. I didn’t even have to feel guilty about not checking: there was no way I could check, even if I wanted to. So instead, we played board games as a family and worked on Animal Crossing some when the power came on. In the evening, we watched blu-rays.

Up until then, I was beginning to feel very worn down. Discouraged. Friday was a great opportunity for me to catch my breath and feel more in control of things. (Again, my sincere apologies to the rest of my friends who had to go without power for so long. The only silver lining I can think of for you was that it wasn’t colder than it was, so (hopefully) no one had to worry about freezing pipes . . .)

Anyway. I’m back in the swing of things now, and I hope power comes back to the rest of you in the very near future. Pandemics, volcanoes, earthquakes, power outages, tornadoes. I keep looking out the window expecting it to be raining frogs. Maybe that’ll be later tonight . . .

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

The Banana: Nature’s Perfect Fruit

I’m not going to say I play favorites when it comes to eating my fruits and vegetables. Bring me a nice plate of pineapple or some steamed broccoli any day, and I’ll gladly wolf them down. True, I have been known to turn my nose up at the occasional egg plant or brussels sprouts, but in general, if I come across a vegetable or a fruit that’s ready to eat, I’m not against eating it.

This is something Denisa has marveled at for years. How I’ll eat something if it’s ready, but if it’s not ready, it’s as if it doesn’t exist in the refrigerator. But come on. When I’m moseying over to the fridge, it’s because I want something to eat this second. I want the lowest bar possible. Something I can take out of there and consume right now.

This is where vegetables uniformly break down for me. Steaming something? Cutting it up into pieces? If I wanted to build something, I would have looked for a Lego set. I want something to eat, not a Choose Your Own Adventure. And even when the veggie looks like you should be able to eat it right away, there are still all these steps around it.

Carrots. They should be straightforward. You grab the carrot and eat it. Instead, you typically have to wash the carrot, peel the carrot, and then eat the carrot. I don’t have time to give my vegetable a spa treatment. I’m hungry, and the last thing I want to have to deal with is needy food. I want my relationship with my food to be as brief as possible when I’m looking for a snack. You grab a granola bar, and all you have to do is unwrap the sucker. No need to go looking for cutlery. No need to be near a faucet. At most, all you need is a trash can to throw away the wrapper, and even then, you can just shove the wrapper in your pocket and throw it away later. (Pro tip: do not forget to throw the wrapper away later. Especially if you put your pants into the wash and your wife finds the wrapper . . . )

It’s true that science has discovered (apparently) that if you kill the carrot before it’s fully grown, you can just eat it straight from the bag, ala baby carrots. And baby carrots are about as good as it gets for vegetables. But don’t you feel even the tiniest bit guilty, eating a baby carrot? I mean, you eat veal, and people call you a monster for eating baby cows. But baby carrots are somehow more humane? That’s lifeist, is what that is. As if just because carrots can’t moo they don’t matter. Not that I’m one to talk, as a self-confessed omnivore, but still. Baby carrots? Can’t we call them something else, at least? How about . . . carrot poppers? Carrot tots? Mini carrots? Healthy cheetos?

But nothing in nature quite takes the “I don’t want you to eat me ever” approach to food quite like fruit. Almost any fruit I can think of is rife with danger. Apples have a tendency to get their peels stuck in my teeth, or else they sabotage you with surprise juiciness. (You ever tried to clean a beard up after you’ve dribbled apple juice deep down into the the sub-layers?) Oranges hold onto their peels for dear life. True story: I once sliced off my fingernail when I was trying to peel an orange. (Yes, I was about seven at the time, but still. My fingernail!)

And those are the relatively benign looking fruits. Who in the world looked at a pineapple the first time and decided, “I think I want to put that in my mouth”? Then you’ve got things like mangoes, which are delicious, but I don’t think there’s an actual way to eat one without getting juice over everything. Cherries? Wonderful, but they’ve got those pits inside waiting to surprise you. Blackberries leave little seeds everywhere. Lemons are just pretending to be fruit.

No, when you get right down to it, there’s really only one perfect fruit: the banana.

The banana has no seeds. It doesn’t need to be washed. It comes with its own biodegradable wrapper that’s pretty much the easiest thing to open ever. Better yet, you don’t have to worry about forgetting that wrapper in your pocket, because what sort of a monster would put a banana peel in their pocket?

Bananas taste good at any meal. In cereal or on pancakes. In a peanut butter banana sandwich. Fruit salad. Banana split. They’re the swiss army knives of healthiness. Don’t believe me? Try making a vegetable do any of that. When’s the last peanut butter tomato sandwich you enjoyed? I rest my case.

There’s a reason bananas have become my go-to choice for healthy snacks. Better yet, there are a wide variety of bananas out there. If you get them early in the ripening process, they’re a bit tart. Prime yellow is great. Brown? No problem. You can make it into banana bread. Face it, folks: you just can’t go wrong.

So keep your nasty little seed bombs and fingernail slicers to yourself. I’m going to go with the only really sensible choice. The banana.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Goodbye, Aruba

It’s official (if not unexpected). My Aruba trip has bit the dust. That’s actually the third trip of mine to fall victim to the corona virus. I was supposed to have just gotten back from Washington DC yesterday, having attended Computers in Libraries. Later next month, I was to go back to DC for National Library Legislative Day. But both of those trips were for work. This one was supposed to be for fun.

It’s not a disaster, since I had paid for the whole thing with points, and I’ve gotten all those points back now. It’s more just a disappointment. Though of course, the thought of going to an airport and getting on a plane with a bunch of strangers isn’t exactly the most comforting thought. (I wonder how many people are going to develop agoraphobia after all this is said and done . . .)

That said, life seems to be a series of disappointments at the moment, and they all tend to glom on to each other, one after another. I’m trying to stay chipper, and most days I succeed for at least of the day. It’s hard to feel really bad for myself when at least the big things are still going fine. I’m still employed, my family is healthy, and we’re all together and doing okay. That’s important at a time when I know that’s not the case for many others. So I’m grateful for what I’ve got, but that doesn’t mean I’m not sad for the things that are falling by the wayside, one after another.

I see them pop up on my digital calendar. Events that are vestiges from what might have been had everything gone the way the world thought they would. Tomas would be at a robotics event this weekend. Daniela would be at cello lessons right now. There were playdates and parties. Track season was supposed to be ramping up. Each of them come up as reminders, and I have to dismiss them. Part of me wants to just delete all of them, but . . . I can’t bring myself to do that either.

Who knows how long this will last. The next trip that might bite the dust is Disneyworld at the end of June. I have no idea what things will look like by then. On the one hand, I’d like to think that by then we’ve got a handle on things. On the other, I can think of few places I could go that will be more germ-y than Disneyworld . . .

Have a nice weekend, folks. I’ll catch you on Monday.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

When to Stop Reading or Watching

The fact that I like to consume a fair number of movies and books is a well established fact. I also tend to be a completionist. I like to finish what I start. The farther along I get, the more likely I am to want to finish something. But as I get older, I’m finding myself more and more inclined to stop reading or watching things if I’m not enjoying them.

I know that sounds like a fairly obvious thing to do, but it’s been difficult for me. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s a corollary to “finish everything on your plate.” But many times in the past, I have forced myself to finish a book or a movie or a TV show, just to say I could.

This week, in the middle of the quarantine, I have stopped reading a book and a TV show that I was in the middle of. I got to the point where I just asked myself, “Why am I reading this? Why am I watching it?” And in the end, I put them aside for different reasons.

First, the book. The Priory of the Orange Tree has gotten really good reviews. A standalone fantasy epic. I’d heard a lot of good buzz around it as well, so I bought it when it was on sale some time ago. I thought this extended time at home would be perfect to start it, and I got about . . . 140 pages into it. There was a lot to like about the book. I was intrigued by some of the characters. I got hints of the bigger plot. But actually reading it . . . just didn’t do anything for me. I found myself more eager to check the news than I did to read the book, and I was making glacial progress in it.

So last night, I stopped. I don’t think it’s a bad book by any means. I can see why people like it, but I also can acknowledge that it’s not for me, at least not for me right now. It dwells on details and world building and characterization. That’s lovely, if it’s what you’re in the market for, but right now I really am looking for escape. The world is lovely and well conceived, but I just want a gripping plot I can’t put down. Will I come back to the book? Possibly. I have a good feel for what it’s about, and I know where to find it now, but at the same time, there are so many other books out there that I could be reading. Why not just read the ones I truly love? Just because I started a book doesn’t mean I have to finish it, and since it takes a long time for me to finish books I don’t love, by finishing that one book that’s taking me forever to get through, I’m sacrificing two or three books I might really adore.

It’s okay to step away.

On the television side of things, I had started Succession a while ago. It’s a gritty show detailing the machinations of a powerful family as they jostle for position in the family owned mega business. Well written, well acted. It’s won a slew of awards, and I’d had several friends recommend it. I was 10 minutes away from the end of the 8th episode (out of a total of 10), and . . . I just stopped it. Why?

Because there was nothing there for me to love. No characters for me to admire. It was a bunch of awful people doing awful things to each other, and each episode seemed to be a contest to see what new awful things they could have the characters do. The eighth episode got progressively more and more slimy, and finally, I snapped. I no longer cared about these characters. They were making terrible decisions, and I didn’t care who won.

So why keep watching? I turned it off and watched an episode of The Office, instead.

Bottom line, I think we should all be a little more ready to put a book down or stop a movie or a TV show. What your criteria for that is going to be is going to vary from person to person. For some, it might be really about content. For others, it could be about quality. Entertainment factor. Subject matter. In the end, it doesn’t really matter why you’re not enjoying something. It doesn’t matter if everyone else loved it. You are allowed to not like things that everyone else loved. You are allowed to love your own things, instead. Sometimes I feel like pop culture has gotten to this point where people are just tribal about things. Territorial. They accost anyone who disagrees with them as if it’s some sort of terrible thing.

Watch and read what you love. Tell other people about those things. If they don’t love them as well, that doesn’t matter. It shouldn’t detract from your experience at all. But whatever you do, don’t just read or watch something out of a sense of duty.

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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