Tag Archive: Zen

YOINK! 1000 Awesome Things

A website I go to every now and again when I need a pick-me-up (or some nostalgia), is 1000 Awesome Things by Niel Pasricha.

With all the rampant negativity that seems to frame our culture these days, I find a site dedicated to highlighting all the little bits of awesome of daily life to be… uh… awesome. The bits of awesome are generally very small things that we’ve all experienced and (often enough) take for granted.

What might you find there? Well, using a Q-Tip improperly, for one. Or maybe you’re more into that first bit of peanut butter that comes out of the jar? How about people farting in public? A tough one, eh? Well, then you’re probably like me and plan to use your snooze alarm by setting your clock early.

No? Well, you’re no fun at all. You’re probably one of those people who thinks the peak of awesome is being the contractor who holds the stop sign during road construction. So very typical of you.

-Confusion is a state of mind, and it’s awesome.

I’ve had a Blue Nintendo DS for about as long as I’ve been in a relationship with TacoMa’am.  That is to say, about 8 years now.  It’s had a good, long run, but it’s starting to have an issue with charging the battery.  Likely the battery or the charging circuit is toast, which isn’t a huge issue except that it’s an 8 year old piece of hardward now, and the batteries are hard to find.

Well, no, batteries are easy to find, actually.  Finding a battery that will hold a charge as long as the original battery is hard.   Most of the batteries I’ve looked at thus far are sporting a play-life of about half of what the original battery was able to do.  So I have to decide whether or not I’d like to replace the battery with one of these knock-offs or just put the DS out to pasture and find myself a shiny new hand-held device.  The 3DS has some nice games, but the mixed reviews about its performance rather detracts from my enthusiasm to get one.  Similarly, the Vita looks nifty, but I don’t think I care for that weird touch panel.  I could get a snazzy phone and just play games on that, but phones of that caliber typically require an extremely expensive monthly plan, and frankly I think it would be more cost effective to buy a hand-held system and keep my current cheap phone plan.

I know, First-World problem, right?

Maybe I’ll just buy the damn battery, fix the thing, and just live with shorter play times.  This DS has been my single, solid portable gaming system for 8 years now, so maybe it’ll go another 5.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

This week’s game is the snarky MMO simulator Progress Quest.

Yay progress!

Calling Progress Quest a game is stretching the truth a little.  Progress Quest is actually a jab at most MMO’s focus on grinding for better stats and equipment.  What Progress Quest does is just automate the whole grinding experience (as does a similar game Grind Quest).  Basically the whole “game” is just a series of progress bars, text fields, and numbers describing a character and what he’s doing to make those numbers and progress bars go up.  It’s a refreshingly honest look at what grinding really is.

After I had finished a session of Progress Quest, I was ready to do some real grinding in Aardwolf.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

You may have noticed that I’m pretty quiet on the front of modern video games, to the point where I rarely mention them. The reason for this is two-fold.

First, everyone and their brother talks about modern games. You can’t go two pages on the internet without hearing about the latest release of Mass Effect, Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, etc. Anything I could say about those games would be hugely redundant and, frankly, just add to the chaotic din surrounding these games. On my side of things, I’d rather talk about games that see less face time these days. These tend to be either old-school games (such as the NES games I talk about a lot), “casual” games (internet flash games and so forth), or the occasional independently released game (SPAZ). I certainly play a lot of the modern games you hear about in other places, but frankly I’d rather talk about the games you may not have heard about. And that’s more interesting to me, and I think gets my message out to more of a niche audience. Certainly my impressions of Mass Effect 3 are likely to get lost in the tens of thousands of websites that are talking about it, many of which are professional journalists who have inside scoops and whatnot. However, not many people are extolling the virtues of Terranigma these days, so competition is lighter and my voice is slightly more likely to be heard.

Second, I don’t get as much time as I used to for video games. When I was a younger person I could easily spend 6+ hours in a day playing video games, and a rainy weekend could see that number easily double (though if the weather was nice, I’d likely be out fishing or doing yard work instead). These days I get between 2 and 3 hours on a daily basis in which to play modern games. The rest of my time is pretty well taken up by home-ownership, parenting, craft and woodworking projects, blogging, and any other hobby that I want to spend time on. Games that used to take two to three days to finish up now take two to three weeks. As such, I’m far more picky about what games I chose to play. I purchase far fewer new releases, and focus more on games that have been out a few months and have established reputations of being good (plus, by that time the good games are cheaper and often have player’s choice version with packaged DLC included; not to mention those buggy releases have a chance to be cleaned up *coughBethesdacough*). I just don’t have the kind of time to invest in what might turn out to be an awful game. Nor can I just take a day off from work and do a 24 hours power gaming shift. If I take a day off work, I still have to be a parent and a homeowner. And, since many of the modern games I like are violent, I’ve chosen not play them in front of Tron. As such, I don’t usually get any extra play time on my days off (unless Tron takes a nap, which doesn’t happen that often anymore). I get more time to play ‘casual’ games and MUDs because they aren’t objectionable to the young eyes and can be dropped at a moments notice if Tron wants to wrestle with me on the floor for a few minutes.

Such is the story of many of us older gamers. As we find ourselves more deeply entrenched into the roles and pursuits of the adult person, the less time we have for video games. Between full time jobs, parenting, and home repairs, we just have too much else on our plate to sit down and play for as long as we used to. Our passion still burns, we’re just too busy to put in the hours that our 14-year-old selves used to. I’ve certainly found that where I’d “perfect” a game when I was younger (get all the endings, do all the difficulty levels, do the bonus dungeons/levels, and do all the various extra stuff), these days I’m more likely to just play through the game and call it good.

But, it’s certainly not a bad thing by any means. Having one’s priorities change is just a part of life. Even so, there are days when I just want to spend the whole day wallowing in unbridled hedonism. Days where I’d really just like to pop myself down into my gaming chair and play 24 hours straight of Disgaea 4 instead of shouldering parental and other adult responsibilities. I’m sure one day, when the wife and child are away visiting her parents and I’m home alone on a rainy day, I’ll get up from bed, see the day stretch out before me all full of possibility, and make it only as far as my gaming chair*. It’s those small, attainable dreams that keep a man going.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

*The last time I had this opportunity, I got a weird rush of productivity and ended up working furiously on projects, cleaning the kitchen, mowing and weeding the lawn, and then going to bed an hour early because of how exhausted I was from all the productivity.

As an aside update, I’m sitting at and even 10 unfinished console games in my queue. This comes after the Christmas influx of games which saw five games get added to my queue, most of which I’ve already tackled and put in my finished pile (Winter is always better for getting those few extra moments here and there to play). I feel I’m doing very well of reaching my goal of 5 or less by the end of the year, but I’ve still got to get past my birthday and several awesome releases this year (such as Diablo 3, Bioshock Infinite, and a few others).

It’s inevitable that kids try to avoid the things their parents love as a way to assert their individuality (or whatever reason psychologists give; I don’t know, I’m just an engineer). Both my parents were huge sports fans. Huge. They loved baseball, american football, basketball, and, while they didn’t follow them, could enjoy other sporting events if nothing else was available (Hockey, Olympics, etc). They didn’t like soccer because they had both grown up in the generation where soccer was uncool and they still shared that bias against it. That is probably why the only sport I chose to play growing up was soccer. My parents were thrilled (actually they were; anything to get my butt out of the house and running around).

In order to be a counter-point to my parent’s outwardly jock-ish nature, I ultimately became a geek. Most of the things I enjoy, they can’t understand why anyone would find them fun. They /sorta/ get video games. My dad used to like some first person shooters and my mother enjoys puzzle games like Tetris and Doctor Mario, but neither really understands my passion for them. They entirely don’t understand my love of P&P gaming, and I don’t blame them. Often times I don’t understand my love of it. And my other pursuits (comics, sci-fi, etc) are of equal mystery to them.

In this way, Tron is doomed to not be a geek; initially. He’ll see his parents geeking out with our hobbies and think “Ew, my parents do those things! How uncool!” and pick something else, like sports or cars, to devote his free-time to. Perhaps it’s natural that he do so.

However, despite my effort to differentiate myself from my parents, the older I get the more I’ve begun to echo them. My father is a huge woodworker/project oriented guy. He’s always got something to work on, and if he can do something himself, he will. Looking at my huge project list I realize that I’ve inevitably followed in those footsteps. I may never share his love of sports, but my constant search for craft and woodworking projects echo his love of building very closely.

Similarly, my mother loves to read. If she’s got a spare moment, she usually uses it to read. While I may not read nearly as much as she does (and not nearly as much as I used to), I do love a good book. Often the books I really like are ones that she ends up liking; which makes buying her gifts easier because I can just get her books that I’ve loved that she doesn’t have yet.

Tron may never share my love of video games (which is fine because that means I won’t have to share), but it’s almost inevitable that he’s going to become a geek of some sort. Even it it’s not until he’s almost thirty. One day he’ll be sitting with his wife/husband/cat watching TV and see the old ruse where the protagonist ducks into a doorway to escape pursuit. He’ll turn to his spouse/cat and say, “Looks like those guys failed their spot roll.” It’ll be that moment when he realizes that he cannot escape the geek.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

Tempered Technojoy

I’ve always had a weird form of Technojoy.  I love technology, I love new gadgets, and I like playing with technological… stuff.  The issue I’ve always had with technology is that it’s prohibitively expensive to always be on the cutting edge.  The cooler, shinier, sleeker, gadget-ier it is, the more expensive it is.  This expense is pretty well directly at odds with my frugal (read: cheap) nature.

There are lots of gadgets which are nearly ubiquitous that I live without, or have lived without until recently.  I’ve never really owned a modern laptop because I have a desktop computer which I keep reasonably well upgraded.  Since I don’t travel that often, a laptop seems like one of those luxuries that I wouldn’t get a lot of use out of.  I do have a “craptop” which is a 12 year-old beast I inherited from my wife when she upgraded, and really the craptop is typically enough for my needs.  It plays my MUD software when I’m on a trip, and has the basics one needs from a mobile computer (internet, wireless, word-processing).  This year my wife will likely upgrade her laptop again (that is, she will replace it with a shiny new one), so I’ll likely once again inherit her old laptop and the craptop will be re-purposed into a satellite media platform for our craft room.

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The Bathroom Oasis

I work at a hospital, so one of the things that are plentiful are bathrooms.  However, most of these bathrooms are for patient use, and being a busy hospital these bathrooms tend to see a lot of traffic.  As such, whenever I have a chance to visit a part of the hospital I’ve never been to before (big hospital so there are many parts that I’ve never actually been in), I always assess the bathroom scene and catalogue it for future reference.

This has lead to the recent discovery of what I call the Bathroom Oasis.  On the fifth floor, across from our cardiology department, there is a section of the hospital set aside for doctor’s offices and conference rooms.  It’s very low traffic and has a few “employees only beyond this point” doors guarding it.  Being an employee who needed to use a conference room, I discovered a wonderland of bathrooms behind those doors of secrecy.  Looking back in the hospital’s history, the area in question used to be a gastro department so the bathroom density in the area is pretty high.  In the one wing of the hospital (probably 30 rooms, 3 of which are conference rooms the rest offices or storage) there are 6 single-occupancy bathrooms and 2 multiple-occupancy.  This is like the holy grail of bathroom availabilty, and as I do much of my work in the Cardiology department (across the hall) I have ready access to this oasis for a large portion of my day.

It’s wonderful, if one bathroom is full I simply have to walk 10 feet down the hall to the next one, and so forth.  It’s the best kept secret where I work, and finding it out has been like finding that one perfect parking spot on Black Friday.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

Loving the Freaks

A few years ago I was at a gaming convention with my wife and one of our friends. While we were waiting in line for… something (badge collection maybe), we met a couple of guys who we took the opportunity to chew the fat with. They were nice enough guys and we had a nice chat in a line that was really, really long. It helped pass the time and we got to gab about gaming.

The next day we ran into them again and they invited us to lunch. So we headed out to a bar and grill, noted for embracing the geek/gaming culture during the convention (they were playing Lord of the Rings on their big-screen when we walked in and advertising their D&D hot-wing special, so we knew we had the right place). During our lunch and conversation with them one of the guys made a comment that stuck in my craw, and ultimately led to me “losing” their contact information:

“I really enjoy [convention], but I don’t know why they allow the furries in there. We don’t need those freaks running around. It’s as bad as when they started letting the Anime people use the small basement rooms to play their crap.”

This struck me as rather hypocritical to say the least. Here we were, a group of 5 twenty and thirty-somethings, going to a convention based around a style of game that is really just glorified make-believe. I didn’t break it to him at the time, but really the whole lot of us are freaks. I’m certainly a freak, my wife is a freak, my friends are all freaks, the only normal one among us is Tron… because he’s too young to really be a decent freak. It seems that if you’re a freak you might as well hang out with them, even if they’re a different brand of freak. As long as both parties are amicable, there’s no issue. There’s plenty of space at the convention to have a few devoted to playing anime, and seeing a guy walking around in bear costume doesn’t really bother me. I’ve been to Disneyland and there are tons of people running around in costumes there, and lines of people waiting to get pictures of it. Similarly, I like Anime, and cartoons in general. A lot of the geek/gaming people double dip into anime/cartoons, so it only makes sense to have it available at the convention. More revenue and more happy customers.

Let’s back up a bit though: Between the grades of 3 and 10, I was about as popular as a mouth ulcer. I played video games, D&D, and wore clothes based on comfort rather than how cool they were. Back in those days that made me unpopular kid number 2, right behind that one kid who always smelled like urine. I had few friends growing up because I bore, rather proudly, the geek label (the same label that is so popular right now… *sigh*). As such, I know very well that it’s difficult and rather lonely being the freak, and that freaks crave company of their same ilk, or at least those who can relate.

As such, the inclusion of the Furry, Anime, and Cosplay societies within the gaming convention always made sense to me. It’s a convention devoted to the freaks who loved make-believe so much that they had to create a massive collection of rule sets for it. We wear costumes, we make foam weapons, we create characters with more vibrant backgrounds than you’re like to see in even a novel, and we even have paintings made of our favored characters. We. Are. Freaks. Putting on an animal costume (for whatever reason) or loving to watch Japanese cartoons and dress up as the characters does not seem all that out of place; it never did. Some of the practices within those groups I find a little… yucky, but as long as they’re keeping that stuff private, they can do what they want. If everything is consensual and nobody is getting hurt, all the power to them; just don’t ask me to watch.

But the view has to be more than that. It’s all well and good to accept the groups that don’t really weird me out that much (and who do have redeeming crafts/interests that I like), but it’s another, harder thing to accept those groups that I find truly bizzar. Technosexuals, Smurfs, Emos, and Juggalos to name a few. If I’m really going to accept the freaks, I’ve got to go the whole way and accept those who I wouldn’t even be comfortable being seen with in public. I have to be better than that, and it’s hard.

It all comes down to understanding why these things make us so uncomfortable, and really, it’s a pretty easy thing to grasp: We are uncomfortable with that which we don’t understand. I can’t fathom why somebody would want to paint themselves blue or dress up like a crazy clown. Because I don’t understand it, and I can’t really relate to it, I naturally shy away from it. Many, like those I lunched with, instantly take the path of hateful exclusion because it’s easy and helps build a sense of worth in your own camp (whatever it may be). By excluding those who are weird, and denouncing them, you declare how normal you must be and how good you are. You get double duty by spacing yourself from that which makes you uncomfortable while at the same time feeding your own ego. It’s an, unfortunately, natural response to what is different. It is why change is so hard for humans, and why social progress takes so long. But, what if you want people to accept what you are? Can you really defend yourself from those hatefully distancing their camps from you if you’re doing the same thing to another?

No, you really can’t. And that’s where loving the freak comes into play. If I really, really want to defend my obsession with games, then I must defend the freak as well. I have to point at the Juggalo and the Emo and say “I don’t like or understand that, but there’s nothing wrong with them wanting to do it.” In the end, all the freaks are in it together; even if we don’t understand each other.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

NOTE: By the same token this is why groups entirely DEVOTED to hateful separation don’t have a leg to stand on. For instance: the KKK is about the biggest group of hypocrites I can think of. They hate those who are different but they are shocked, confused, and angry when people hate them. Seems that they aren’t fond of getting dished out exactly what they are serving. Loving the freak is all well and good, but when the “freaks” in question are hate-mongering douchebags, they’re on their own.

A short one today people (*SNERK*), and just a tad vulgar: the penis game.

For those unfamiliar (those who never spent any time as an adolescent boy), the penis game is pretty simple. When you have a group of people in a fairly public place, you take turns saying (or shouting) “Penis!” The loudest exclimation of male genetalia wins, if such a thing can be considered winning.

My best friend and I used to play it while fishing when nothing was biting. You can get some nice echo going off all of those water-front properties.

-Confusion is a state of mind… PENIS!


Apparently I’m infamous enough to be recognized online. Not from my blog here, I’ve got but 6 or 7 fans, but from my daily snark over at YSaC.

One of the things I’ve established pretty well online is the handle “TacoMagic.” As I mentioned in my “about” section, I’ve had the handle for years now; 12 years in fact. I’m TacoMagic over at YSaC, I’m TacoMagic here, and I have TacoMagic as my nickname/handle on many a gaming site.

Yesterday I was over on one of my favorite free flash gaming sites Kongregate playing Swords and Potions, a shop simulator (I live the wild life, woo doggy). Anyway, I was stirring up trouble in the chat room, mostly looking for improvement trades, helping newbies, and being sarcastic, when I get a private message from another player:

“Are you the same TacoMagic that comments over on “You Suck at Craigslist?”

The odds that somebody would recognize me in a chat room for a shop simulator on a gaming website that has tens of thousands of games is… apparently pretty good. It’s a weird kind of pseudo-fame where I can be playing random flash games and be recognized as “Hey, you’re that guy over at YSaC, aren’t you?”

-Confusion is a state of mind, for sale now!