Tabletop Highlight: How to Waste Your Time and Destroy Your Relationships

Are you tired of your peaceful and content existence? Do you have valuable relationships you wish to destroy via petty arguments and baseless accusations? Do you feel like you have too much time on your hands and not enough to spend it on? Do you find yourself desiring to feel either the same penniless destitution my generation finds so common or the baron-ish wealth of the landed gentry from a time before anyone but a blooded noble was considered fully human? If you answered “Yes” to any or all of these questions, then I have the solution for you, you potentially masochistic misanthrope.

The solution to your lack of actual problems is clear, stranger. Simply go to the nearest book or game store and purchase yourself a copy of Monopoly! If you can convince your treasured friends and family to play it with you, they will not be treasured by the time your game is through. If you’d prefer to draw out this revolting and evil alienation you so desire, you need not worry. Depending on how many people you have convinced to join you in hell, it may take several days for them to realize their burning hatred of everything about you from your smug grin to their mental concept of you as a thinking, feeling individual. A single game of Monopoly, if played correctly by a competent bunch of adults, can take in excess of three hours, and it is only that short when one or more players is excessively more skilled at deception, betrayal, and debauchery than the others.

Despite the seemingly innocuous nature of this chunk of cardboard, the game of Monopoly is actually a clever device that was created by distilling all of the worst things in the universe, such as war, hunger, income inequality, the housing market, police brutality, the abuse of power by elected officials, the stock market, and anyone who walks around in a top hat and a cane as a part of their usual outfit without being able to understand that they look like a bit of a jerk. After that, a few other awful concepts were thrown in for flavor (capitalism, gambling, and vanity), and now any child can cry themselves to sleep at night as they listen to their parents arguing over whether the banker has been skimming off the top or not. Both adults know the banker has had their hand in the cookie jar, but one of them has no proof and the other is the banker who will refuse to admit it because they have gone from the sweetest, most honest person in existence to a horrendous and unrepentant liar in a matter of hours.

Wars have been fought over money and land in the past, and this game now allows you to bring the horrors of war to your family and home. You may go the entire game without seeing a bloody corpse, but that’s only because verbal eviscerations and emotional destruction don’t leave corpses, merely the hallowed-out husks of once-vibrant people. Argue with the people closest to you with such reckless abandon that problems from the very beginnings of your relationships will resurface and raise the stakes at the start of every turn, from who wins a simple game meant to emulate land-ownership by the incredibly wealthy into a competition to determine who has the moral high ground. Such vile hatred shall be spewed that you will find yourself dwelling on both what you heard and what you said for at least several days afterward. If you cannot shake it off and make yourself believe that it was simply a game and not a nuclear missile shot straight at all of your relationships, then such feelings will consume you until there is nothing left of who you once where or you have gotten extensive therapy.

Despite the giddy anticipation I can sense you feeling as you contemplate this mental and emotional self-destruction, I must urge you to reconsider. You may revel is such depravity, but please keep in mind that innocent lives hang in the balance. Sweeter souls than yours can be destroyed by Monopoly, if only be being caught up in the wake of destruction that follows this foul pastime. Spare yourself and these poor beings the wrath of capitalism pretending to be a family-friend game. Pick up Settlers of Catan instead.

A Man of Numbers

All Theodore cared about was numbers and all he wanted out of his life was to find particularly challenging sets of numbers to play with. Let the others have their social lives and their romances. Numbers were all he needed.

Columns of reference numbers scrolled past as he looked for a break in the sequence. Each column’s total should equal all of its reference numbers added together which should equal the total of the column left of it plus the number of reference numbers in the column.

It was a tricky algorithm, but it ensured only he could create new reference numbers. If they didn’t all add up correctly, the program wouldn’t close when he tried to exit. It meant staying late, frequently, but he didn’t mind.

After almost two hours of searching, he found the new reference number and followed it to the document it represented. It was a few sheets of transcribed meeting notes someone had hidden on the network.

After he finished reading through them, his heart was racing as he typed an email to his boss. They were hiding something from their bosses and he’d found them! He hit send and went home. Tomorrow couldn’t come soon enough.

The next day, he met his boss on the main floor to watch two security guards and the man’s manager talk to the culprit for a moment and then gently guide him out. Theodore recognized his cousin Bill, as Bill tried to pull away from the guards.

Bill saw him and shouted. “Theo! Please!” The guards grabbed him and continued to guide him toward the foyer. “Theo! Tell them! We were just making plans to throw a surprise party for Gus’ birthday tomorrow!”

Theodore’s stomach lurched. Gus, his boss, turned to him and sighed. “Dammit, Theodore. Not again.”

Saturday Afternoon Musing

You even wonder how much better the environment would be doing without all the crap people mail you in order to entice you to get a credit card, take out a small loans, refinance student loans, apply to committees, or help fund organizations that somehow got your home address but not your phone number? Sure, the relative cost to the company sending the junk mail isn’t very high because paper is still pretty cheap and I’m guessing they’ve got some way to save on postage for bulk mailings because stamps are fairly cheap for inter-US mail, but that stuff has to add up eventually. The same thing applies for environmental impact. Sure, it is a lot easier to measure the impact of ten thousand sheets of paper instead of just the five that went into making the advert for a credit card with outrageous terms hidden deep inside the fine print, but it still adds up eventually. Especially when you take into account how often they send them.

Its like budgeting. Sure, finding a way to save five cents per day on something you’re paying for every day isn’t a whole lot, but that’s a dollar fifty in a month and a little over eighteen bucks a year. Over the decade I’m probably going to be paying off my student loans, that’s over one hundred eighty dollars. And that’s from a single five cents saved. Throw in the other dozen places I can do the same thing and suddenly that’s gone from one hundred eighty to almost two thousand, two hundred. One on its own doesn’t add up to much over time, but all together they do.

Given that a credit card company can send two thousand offers before it hits the magical ten thousand measurement mark, it seems like it’d take a lot of people to really make any kind of impact. But it isn’t just one per person. It’s two per person per month. Sure, the customer list is probably smaller than I think it us, but that’s twenty-four a year for me. suddenly, you only need eighty-four people to pass the measurement mark and I’m willing to bet there are at least that many people getting them in my neighborhood. Throw in the fact that I’ve got four loan companies, five credit card offers, three places I actually bank with/have loans with/had a credit card with at one point, and don’t forget all the places I have memberships that could be upgrade to include a credit card. In total, I probably get some fifty pieces of junk mail a month that I need to sort through for personal information, shred, and then dispose of, which all adds to the environmental toll. Suddenly, it’s starting to feel like I’ve dealing with ten thousand sheets of paper on my own. All without even getting into the “or current resident” crap that just goes straight into the recycling bin.

What a waste! The most frustrating part for me is that I’ve opted into the paperless option for every single one of my accounts and banks and service providers of every kind, but I still keep getting shit sent to me. It’s incredibly frustrating. I’m literally never going to do anything but dispose of this shit for me and nothing I’ve attempted to get them to stop has worked. I’m just going to keep getting this shit no matter where I go because there’s always someone new sending me junk mail as soon as I finally get one of the others to stop.

It just seems like such an inefficient, wasteful system whose only end is going to come when we all get neural uplinks and they can beam the credit card and personal loan offers directly into our brain. Except it probably won’t because junk mail also infects the internet and we still get it in our mailboxes as well. There’s no escape. We’re awash in a papery nightmare of unceasing advertisements for everything from solicitations for a local dentist’s office to a forms asking if we’d like to upgrade our credit card from platinum plan A to electrum plan B that gives us a slightly higher interested rate but also gives us an extra percent cash back on miscellaneous purchases that are almost never what we need to buy until right after the promotion has ended.

Capitalism in the US sucks a lot of the time, because people have found a way to use it that helps them succeed at the expense of either the environment or a bunch of other people, but this is a way that it sucks all of the time. It produces a ton of useless waste for no other reason than to grease the cogs of the money machine in order to turn an ever higher profit from quarter to quarter.

What a waste. I’m going to go for a walk in the sunlight now and calm down from this rant. Have a good day.

Breathe. Hold. Scream.

Breathe, in deep then out,
Against the coming dark.
Breathe, in deep then out,
And watch the lightning arc.
The storm, the end, comes swift
And ebbs away your will.
So breathe, in deep then out,
And let your pulse grow still.

Hold your head up high
Against the wind’s onslaught.
Hold your head up high
So they will see you fought.
Out-matched, out-classed, out-run
But not ready to die.
So stare into the gale
And hold your head up high.

Scream into the storm
To prove you’re still alive.
Scream into the storm
And maybe you’ll survive.
Broken, beaten, bloody
Of body, of soul and mind.
So scream into the storm
And pray that fate is kind.


Breathe, a gasp for air
Against the rushing rain.
Breathe, a gasp for air
To flush away the pain.
The Storm, the start, is here
To wash your will away.
But breath, a gasp for air,
Your will is here to stay.

Hold your fist up high
And scream into the sky.
Hold your fist up high
To prove that you won’t die.
Unmatched, stand tall and see
The storm begin to die.
So stare into the sun
And hold your fist up high.

Scream with all your heart
To prove that you’re alive.
Scream with all your heart
To prove that you’ve survived.
Still whole, but bloody,
You won the fight today.
So scream with all your heart
As the storm fades away.

Dad of War: The Classic Road Trip

While I never heard the classic line, “Are we there yet,” I did hear almost every single other variation of that thought while taking turns playing through the new God of War game with my roommates. My first experience with a road trip reference was when the game had just finished the opening sequence, as Kratos, the player character, and his son, Atreus, set out from their home. After a hunting trip and a brutal fight between Kratos and the game’s main villain, Kratos and Atreus head out to sprinkle Faye’s, Kratos’ wife and Atreus’ mother, ashes on the highest peak in all the realms of Norse mythology. Barely even a minute’s walk from their cabin, Atreus asks how much further it is until they get there. Classic.

Despite the fact that this game is the latest in a sequence of God of War games characterized by brutal, bloody fights that Kratos hacks his way through, this one takes a much more nuanced tone, in both combat and plot. There are still moments where you must brutalize a swarm of enemies before you can move on, but the swarms are smaller and the combat is focused much more on combos, abilities, and defensive style fighting, such as parries and dodges. Kratos is still every bit the badass he was in the other games, but one of the major themes of this game is Kratos attempting to control the rage that once defined him. He no longer uses the Chaos Blades he is known for, instead wielding the Leviathan Ax that previously belonged to his wife. It is clear that, as part of his move from Greece to the undisclosed parts of the Norse realm, he set aside much of his past in order to build a new life. This is a main part of the story, so saying anything further would be a spoiler. Instead, I’m going to end by saying that you really get an in-depth look into the character of Kratos, the god of war who tried to leave his past behind but now must come to terms with it as it begins to impact his present.

Since Kratos’ entire past is kept a secret beyond such details as the fact that he wasn’t born anywhere near where the game takes place, his son has very little idea of who his father is. Early dialogue and cutscenes show that Kratos clearly loves his son, but keeps him at arm’s length and is not terribly supportive or affectionate with Atreus. When Atreus is upset about his mother’s passing, Kratos does little to comfort him. After Atreus kills his first human, Kratos gives him the direct but not terribly helpful advice to “close your heart to it.” Atreus is a young boy and Kratos is entirely unsure of how to interact with him. Given Kratos’ past–the death of his first wife and son is what set him on the path to eventually become the god of war he is today–it makes a certain amount of sense that he would have trouble connecting with Atreus, at least in a way that Atreus desires given that he is not being raised in the Spartan culture that Kratos was. The very first extended gameplay you get beyond a few action cutscenes and walking bits is Kratos taking Atreus on a hunt for the first time. He starts it out by asking if Atreus was taught to hunt, making it clear he hasn’t been very involved in Atreus’ upbringing.

At the same time, it is made very clear that Kratos loves Atreus dearly, even if he has difficulty showing it. He tries to reach out to his son, to comfort him, but hesitates. He hides the scars on his arms from the world by keeping them wrapped in bandages, so it makes sense that he’d be afraid to touch his son for fear of hurting him since that’s all he’s used his hands for since his first family died. The first time he gives into his once-defining rage is when the main villain has gotten Kratos stuck in a crevice and says that he’s going to go check out what Kratos is hiding in his cabin. The villain doesn’t know it, but Atreus is hiding beneath the floorboards of the house and Kratos absolutely loses it when the villain inadvertently threatens his son. You see it again and again, and he even says it as you walk around the world in the later parts of the game. He would do whatever it took to keep Atreus alive. Throughout the game, as they walk around and go on adventures together, it becomes clear just how much Kratos loves his son and, as they start to get to know each other, how close they will become as they learn to understand each other. This was my favorite part of the game, watching a father and son bond as they traveled for a common purpose.

Speaking of their common purpose, the game sets up the classic God of War arc. It does an excellent job of re-framing the Norse mythology is a way that lends itself well toward the “kill all the gods” pattern of the past God of War games. The Norse gods are, for the most part, depicted as unrepentant assholes who keep stepping on the other races as they do whatever pleases them. Some of them are pretty messed up by their upbringing, like the villain, but most of them are simply jerks. While the game is focused around Kratos and Atreus being hunted down by the main villain for reasons that aren’t made clear until the end–and even then it’s all supposition on the part of Kratos and Atreus–the story makes it clear that there is much more to come. There’s even a secret ending that hints at what the sequel will hold. If the sequels are all as good as this one, I eagerly await them.

If you want a good RPG with a lot of fun fights, excellent character development, a fun plot, and a gorgeous world full of a variety of activities, I definitely suggest picking up God of War. The kicker is that the game was only released on the PS4, so you also need access to one of those. I don’t know that the game is worth buying a PS4, but I think it’s a good enough reason to upgrade to a PS4 if you need a new blu-ray or DVD player as well.

Ready Player One: The Movie

I have a lot of mixed feelings about this movie. I enjoyed watching it, for sure, but I feel like I’ve got a few too many problems with it to really come up with a positive review as I look back on it. The effects were great, the movie did a great job of pulling me in, and the characters were a lot of fun to watch. At the same time, the plot felt very rushed and kind of oddly-paced, the main character basically Mary Sue’d his way through everything, and all the other characters pretty much just fell by the wayside in order to let the main character stand out when he really shouldn’t have.

To be clear, I had only read half the book before seeing this movie so I’m going to completely discard my feelings about the movie as they relate to the book. I’m going to focus on the movie as a movie and then, once I’ve finished the book, review the book in a separate post.

I really enjoyed the visuals of the movie. It looks like mostly CGI, which made a lot of sense given that most of the movie happens in a virtual environment. The effects team did a great job of mixing wondrous and mundane so that everything felt familiar and understandable while still feeling different and interesting. Subtle shifts in the environment, the variety of the characters depicted who WEREN’T just copy and pasted from some game, the movements and body language of the characters was superb, and the few mixed live-action/CGI shots were sewn together wonderfully. There were almost no awkward angles, the battles flowed like a mighty river, and the few scenes we got off the character’s while they were logged into the virtual world were hilarious depictions of the sort of odd way the virtual world translated to the real one. all together, it did an excellent job of keeping me invested in the movie aside from a few points when the plot or writing threw me off.

Despite those moments, I have to give the writers credit for taking a story that is difficult to tell without the slower pacing of a novel and turning it into something a coherent movie plot. The world takes a whole lot of introduction to make sense in the book and the movie manages to not only skip most of that, but make the world feel more real in one fell narratorial swoop. That being said, it feels like an incredible stretch that no one figured out the secret of the first challenge until our main character just got lucky and stumbled onto the answer. Because that’s what he did. He got stupidly lucky and just stumbled his way into the correct solution. He didn’t have a flash of insight, he got spoon-fed the answer by a robot. Being an avid gamer myself and knowing people who take gaming to the point of an unhealthy obsession, I can say that someone would have figured out the secret of the race in the first month.

In a similar vein, it was incredibly frustrating to watch a bunch of uber-gamers work together without so much as an argument or attempt to get one over each other. I can’t even get that level of cooperation out of my friends when I play Overwatch and that is a game literally designed to promote teamwork. Most of us gamers have a massive competitive streak and I have a hard time believing that not a single one of these top five gamers thought about going for the prize themselves. They eagerly stand aside for the main character and one of them, the main character’s romantic interest and the player who seemed to be his main competition, literally declares that the main character has to be the one to take their one shot at the prize. That’s seriously a (paraphrased) line from the movie. Its even repeated a few times and absolutely no one says anything against it. Every other player competing for the prize is some amazingly skilled and wealthy character who has spent a huge amount of time accruing items, weapons, armor, and skill, but they all stand aside for the leather-clad, pistol-toting main character who was so broke at the start of the movie that he had to slow down during races to collect the coins from dead characters in order to get enough fuel for his car to finish the race. Seriously. One of the characters turns out to be the leader of some kind of rebellion and they immediately stand aside to let the main character take the lead as soon as he shows up (which only happened because they rescued him). It was so grating to see a powerful, strong character immediately defer to this wimpy, useless main character.

Seriously, aside from knowledge of the subject matter relevant to their search, the main character had nothing going for him. He should have been outclassed at all turns and only isn’t because everyone around him does everything for him or he just gets lucky. He shouldn’t have won. Anyone who was obsessed with this competition as the movie said all the other characters were, should have been able to figure out what the main character did. That’s the trouble of solving intellectual puzzles in a movie: there’s no way to show the character straining or working hard without showing them fail and failures are trimmed down in most movies so that the director can save a few minutes for more action sequences or proselytizing from the movie’s moral authority.

Thankfully, all of the “good” characters shared that job.  No one person acted as the moral figure and the constant interaction between the characters kept things interesting when they were all around. Their banter was fun to listen to and they all did an excellent job of keeping the story moving along despite the awkward plot choices. The biggest problem I had, was that there was almost no awkwardness when the characters meet for the first time. Only two of them have been friends on the internet for very long, but they all seem to fall in together like they’ve been the best of friends for years. As someone who has had several of those “meet someone in the real world for the first time after really getting to know them in the electronic world” moments, I can say that they’re almost always awkward to some degree or another. It expedited the plot, but it pulled me out of the movie a bit.

There’s a lot to be said about all the references I saw and all of the ones I didn’t see, but I’m going to skip over that because finding the references for yourself is a significant chunk of the fun of the movie. I wouldn’t want to take that away from you. Which means I think you should see it. Probably not at full ticket price, but it is definitely worth the $5 for a Tuesday showing at a Marcus theater or however much a ticket costs at your local cheap theater whenever it hits the cheap scene. Or rent it when it comes out on DVD/Blu-Ray. Whatever you prefer since this really isn’t a movie you need to see on a big screen.

Coldheart and Iron: Part 14


After a lot of stretching and a good amount of grumbling, everyone finally broke through the inertia of the last several days and started on their assigned tasks. Leaving two Wayfinders behind to guard our shelter, Natalie took us all north. Three people abreast, we started digging our way through the loosest snow on the top of the drifts and piles. I took point and we dug until we’d passed the powder before moving forward. It was awkward to have three people with snowshoes and shovels digging shoulder-to-shoulder, but we eventually hit our rhythm and started progressing more quickly.

Behind us, led by Natalie, five people dug out the rest of the path, scooping up the packed snow and tossing it back and to the sides were people on snowshoes used it to form barriers to prevent more snow from getting blown into the path we were digging. Anyone who wasn’t a primary digger was ducking into buildings we passed for supplies we hadn’t collected earlier or tidying up behind the heavy diggers.

Every fifteen minutes, the heavy diggers rotated, swapping out with the people who were just toting supplies around. Every hour, the front diggers traded jobs with the people using the heavy snow to border the path. Midway through my fourth shift, we reached the edge of town. There were still drifts beyond the borders of the town, but most of snow had been blown away in the high winds or had caught up against the edge of the town. Some of the drifts reached all the way to the top of the few two-story buildings where the town abruptly shifted from businesses on what used to be the main road to some kind of farmland.

Natalie called a break and I sat down to rest with everyone else, grateful for the chance to give my back a break from all of the shifted and moving. It kept my abs rock-hard, which I appreciated, but my back was starting to protest that I was too old for such heavy labor. Natalie paced around, checking the map she held in her hands against the landscape around us. As I watched her mutter to herself as her head swiveled around, one of the Wayfinder trainees to my right, a woman named Tiffany, nudged my arm.

“Water bottle, Captain.”

I took the proffered water bottle and drank a few small swallows, barely enough to wet my mouth. We had more work to do shortly and I didn’t want to get slowed down. Once I was done, I passed the bottle to my left and settled back against a snow bank to rest for the remainder of the break. A moment later Tiffany grunted.

“I have a hard time believe that map can mean anything in a world like this.”

After a moment’s pause to see if she was talking to someone else, I shrugged, keeping my eyes closed. “If you know what to look for, you can start to see things beneath the snow. Big enough landmarks are usually always visible.”

“How does she know which ones are which, though?”

I opened my eyes in time to see Tiffany waving her arms at the great white expanse that stretched to the horizon, dotted with white pillars and mounds haphazardly spread around. I looked over at Natalie, watching her take a finger off of her map to point at one of the less remarkable white pillars. “Practice, mostly. Plus, she’s got a knack for the kind of visualization required to see beneath the snow.”

“Sure, sure.” Tiffany nodded but then held up her hands in hopeless supplication. “I just want to know how she does it! Any explanation at all.”

“You’d have to ask her, then.” I settled back against the snowbank and closed my eyes again.

Before I had even finished settling into a comfortable position, I heard Tiffany’s voice raised in a half-shout. “Lieutenant Captain Natalie!”

I sighed and opened my eyes, watching Natalie look up from her map, the focused expression she wore being replaced with an annoyed one. “What?”

Tiffany, who’d been waving her hand, slowly dropped it. “Sorry, er, I was wondering how you could figure anything out using maps from years ago when everything is covered in snow.”

As she walked over, Natalie smoothed her facial expression. “I know where roads are and signposts that mark out locations and miles on roads make distinct snow piles. If I can find the roads and the mile markers, I can find out where the other landmarks are by comparing distances between the mile markers and my map.”

Natalie turned the map around to show the satellite imagery map she had marked almost beyond comprehension during our many trips through the Midwest. “I’ve got a lot of notes about how the storms like to pile the snow and the other Navigators in the Wayfinders all take similar notes that we upload to the net, so we can compare how the world around us changes as the snow slowly blankets the world.”

Tiffany, who had been trying to read the map and nodding along as Natalie spoke, caught herself still nodding fifteen seconds after Natalie had stopped talking. Once she stopped her nodding, she cleared her throat. “So, it’s all about your notes and your experiences?”

Natalie shrugged. “Mostly. Other than that, it’s instinct and the confidence to trust my gut.”

“So, I could learn to do that?”

“Of course.” Natalie smiled. “Do you want to?”

Tiffany nodded and stood up as Natalie gestured for her to follow. I watched them walk away from a moment before taking a deep breath to help me refocus on relaxing my sore shoulders and back. After what felt like far too short of a time, Natalie had us all standing again. We dug out the area around the end of our path to make a tall embankment using heavy snow so we had something to prevent more powder from getting blown down our path. After we’d erected the barrier, we turned and headed back, picking up the supplies people had taken stacked in the cleared area as we went.

By the time we got back to our shelter, it was mid-afternoon. After dumping off our supplies, taking a five minute break, and refilling our water bottles, we headed out to help the nomads finish digging the local paths. They’d finished more than we expected, but there was still enough work left to keep us busy until the sun was starting to go down. When we returned to the shelter, we found the laborers tiredly shuffling into their area. While the nomads went to their area and Natalie herded the Wayfinders into ours, I resisted the call of food and bed to go check on the Laborers.

When I got to the door, I found them all huddled around their cooking fire, talking quietly as a group. When I stepped around the wall, Trevor cleared his throat and stood up. “Can I help you, Captain?” The conversation fell silent as every single one of them, to a man, looked over toward me.

I shook my head. “I’m just here to check on your progress, see how you’re doing.”

“We made it to the store.” Trevor smiled wanly, his entire posture speaking to his state of exhaustion. “We spent the extra time we had widening the pathway a bit more so we can make use of the flatbed carts we saw just inside the doors.”

“Excellent thinking!” I mustered up all the enthusiasm I could. “That was a great idea.”

“All thanks to Steven, over there. He’s the one who spotted them.” Trevor gestured to one of the men on my side of the cookfire. “Other than that, everything went about as expected. Smooth sailing.”

I nodded. “Great. Then I will leave you all to your dinner.” I waved and stepped behind the wall, but pantomimed walking away so that my feet grew quieter with every step. After a couple seconds of that, I stopped to listen. Almost a full minute later, I heard the laborers start talking again. Even though I stood and listened for fifteen minutes, I couldn’t hear a word they said. Normally, they were quite loud and rambunctious, but tonight they stayed extremely quiet. Unsettled, I silently made my way back to the Wayfinder area for dinner and sleep. Before I let myself drift off, I made sure to mention what was going on to Camille and Natalie. They agreed it was weird, but the only productive suggestion was Natalie’s. Tomorrow, we would make sure there was a Wayfinder with every group of laborers, to keep an eye on them.

After a long night’s rest, the next morning dawned colder and windier than the day before, but a quick review of the paths showed the embankments were holding strong for now. Natalie started breaking us up into groups to gather more supplies and the day passed quickly. At the end of the day, all of the Wayfinders who had been watching laborers reported that they’d seen nothing out of the ordinary, though they were still a bit more sedate than usual. When I checked on them at night, they were just as quiet. It was a very weird sensation to hear more noise and commotion coming from the nomad area than the laborer area.

Our third day of supply gathering has us mostly focused on raiding the Menards for supplies and using them to turn the shelter into a proper supply depot. Labeled shelves, partially refrigerated storage for medicines that would benefit from it, waterproofing everything, and then finally doors and locks to prevent anyone but Wayfinders from getting in. The finishing touches lasted into the fourth day and then we took the rest of the day to rest, double-check stocks, and prepare for our departure in the morning. We all retired early, some of us sad to be leaving this shelter behind and the rest of us all too happy to finally be on the move again. I flip-flopped between the two groups, from one moment to the next, but I put it from my mind as dark fell and decided to just enjoy my last night of sleeping somewhere warm and dry.

When I work up, it wasn’t to the usual chirp of my water alarm. Instead, I felt a ring of metal poking me in the forehead and heard a voice speaking entirely too loudly for that time of the night. “Make any sudden moves and you and your people will die.”

Tabletop Highlight: Shout-Out to All the Games I Can Carry in My Pocket

From a deck of playing cards to small sack full of stone tiles, I love games I can stick in my pocket or in the side pouch of my bag. I’m a big fan of being prepared and how can you call your Bastion of Nerdiness (built at a time when I was the only nerdy person where I worked and maintained because it felt really nice to have all that stuff with me at all times) fully prepared if you don’t have a game or games you can play with one or more additional people? Sure, you’ve got a first aid kit, clothing/cosplay repair kit, energy bars, and a basic survival kit, but no games to play? What kind of amateur preparation are you trying to do?

One of the reasons I was so excited to buy Tak through the Kickstarter was because one of the options was a travel pouch and a clothe board for the game. The whole idea was to create a version of the game people could carry around with them. Entire sets were built around the idea of being able to travel to a location and find someone else with a traveling set to play against. In the book world the game is from, it is apparently a common practice to make or purchase your own Tak set to bring to taverns in case you want to get in a quick game while you’re having your drinks. The pieces are so simple, even, that you could probably spend fifteen minutes walking around outside and find enough material to play a quick game with someone. I value my really nice pieces, the wonderful stone set I purchased as an add-on and the sleek, beautiful wooden sets I originally pledged for, but I enjoy the fact that knowledge of the rules is all I need to play a game because I can imagine a board and play using wood chips and flattish stones. I still travel everywhere with my full stone set, though. They’ll hold up better in my bag that the wooden pieces.

I also like to keep two decks of cards in my bag. It used to be three, but I almost never play Magic the Gathering’s standard, 60-card style anymore. I keep my Commander deck (99 unique cards plus a single legendary creature card whose colors dictate what colors I can used in my deck”) plus all the dice I need for a game (a lot, thanks to several counter-dependent plays) in my bag, along with a deck of normal playing cards. The Magic the Gathering cards are mostly for use with my friends since I don’t generally play much and usually only play because they wan to. I’d use one of their decks, but I prefer having my own to tinker with when the mood strikes me. The regular playing cards are great for everything from a friendly game of poker over lunch to a game of solitaire when I’m bored and trying to stay away from phone games that appeal to my addictive nature. There are so many games you can play with playing cards that they can be an almost ceaseless fount of entertainment. As long as you enjoy card games and the basic amount of psychology that goes with playing cards against other people.

Another game I’m going to soon add to my bag is Bananagrams. My girlfriend is a huge fan of the game and I’ve got to say that it is growing on me. It is a lot more fun to play when at least three people are playing, but you really only need two people. You also really need to love words because the whole point of the game is to use all of your letter tiles (like scrabble tiles, but without point values) to create words. If you run out of tiles, you say “peel” and everyone has to take a new tile from the pile in the center. Once all of the tiles who have been used, the person who says “peel” when there aren’t enough tiles for everyone to take one wins the game. It is a very simple game and dependent on your knowledge of spelling and how many words you know. Possibly the best part is that there generally isn’t a clear winner until the end because it is possible that you saying “peel” is going to give one of your opponents the letter they need to win the game while you struggle to figure out what to do with the “x” you just picked.

My life has improved since I started carrying games on me all the time, beyond just the general feeling of confidence that comes from seeing myself as prepared for whatever comes my way. For instance, I like to keep to myself most of the time, not because I actually dislike people, but because I’m so often unsure of what to say or how to act. Keeping games on me allows me to create a framework for longer social interactions and makes it easier to get comfortable enough with people to not feel so anxious about saying or doing the wrong thing. Anything I can do to lessen my anxiety has a positive impact on my life, even if this comes at the cost of adding a few extra pounds to an already heavy bag. My mental health thanks me but my physical health is a still waiting to see how all this plays out over the next few years before it comments.

Got any small games I should check out? I’d love to hear about them!

Morning Coffee

Harris woke to the scent of frying bacon, birdsong, and early-morning sunlight. He blinked his eyes, trying to adjust to the light from the window Linda had thrown open.

“C’mon, get up!”

Harris pulled the blankets over his head. Linda sat down on the bed, pulled the blanket back, and gave him a kiss on the nose. “If you wait too long, breakfast is going to get cold!”

Harris smiled as Linda pulled the sheet back, putting up only a token resistance as she hauled him out of bed. “Alright, alright.” Harris pushed himself to his feet and hugged his wife. “You win.” After putting on his bathrobe and new slippers, he followed his wife’s singing down the stairs to the kitchen. He watched as she flipped pancakes for a moment and then started making coffee. Five minutes later, they were eating.

“I’ve got a few errands to run, Harris, but I’ll be back shortly after one.”

“Alright. I’m going to work on getting our taxes filed after I clean up here. Should be done before you’re back.” He smiled at Linda.

He lifted his mug to take a sip, but the handle slipped in his hands and hot coffee poured into his lap. Even as he leapt out of the chair, part of his brain pulled at him and, instead of a coffee stain on his robe, he was looking at his bedroom.

The shades were drawn and the window was closed. The air smelled faintly of sweat. He looked around his room and tried to see it as he had when he was still asleep. He tried to remember his wife as she had looked that morning, but all he could remember was how her face had looked when she handed him the divorce papers later that day.

Saturday Morning Musing

I started this year, 2018, by telling myself that I was going to put my writing first. Instead of sacrificing my writing time in favor of my friends, catching up on sleep, playing video games, reading books, or building relationships, I was going to write. Not all day, but for at least two hours a day. That seemed perfectly reasonable, since I was already sort of doing that anyway with my, at the time, two months of daily blog entries. Turns out, it is a lot harder than I expected. Not so much the writing time part, because I can make the time for it, but actually making it my number one priority.

When my roommate went to the hospital, I gave up all of my writing time for that day to visit him. I’ve given up multiple days each week to spend time with my girlfriend. I started playing D&D on Monday nights, which often means I’m too tired to write when I get home at 9:30 or 10. I’ve been going to foam fighting practice almost every week, which definitely leaves me too tired to write when I get back. I am prioritizing people and social interaction over writing rather consistently at this point. I do it without thinking. I have a natural tendency to put other people’s desires, or what I think are their desires, before my own, so it can be a difficult habit to break even on my best days.

I don’t really regret it, though. As much as I’d like to have a bunch of writing done or have rebuilt my buffer so I’m not writing blog posts the evening before they’re supposed to go up, I really don’t think I should have made my decisions differently. I want to prioritize writing above everything else, but the world is full of things that are actually more important than getting a thousand words written, no matter how much I want to have written those words. Honestly, I can’t even really say that I prioritize my writing over other things like resting or playing video games. If I’m too stressed or exhausted, I won’t be able to write well. I can sit down and produce words no matter what, but there comes a point when it is easier to just take a break to rest and try again some other time.

Recently, I haven’t been writing as much as I planned. I intended to write an extra thousand words every day this month, on top of maintaining my blog, but I’ve written exactly zero extra words. I sit down to write and wind up feeling too tired to get anything written but the stuff I absolutely need to. I only ever sit down to write at the end of the day because I’ve been spending my work days prioritizing work (as I should be, since it pays my bills and allows me to participate in society) and then I come home and wind up spending time with my roommates or making dinner. I can’t say these decisions are the wrong ones to make, it’s just that I find myself realizing that there’s not really anything to prioritize writing over.

I only play games and read when I’m stressed to the point of needing relaxation in order to sleep at all. I try to sleep enough every night because sleeping too little leads to depression spikes like last week’s and a haze that coats my mind is thought-slowing cotton. I can’t skimp on meals because the act of preparing and consuming a meal is very relaxing to my. I have been letting a lot of my cleaning go, lately, but that’s reaching the point where not doing it is stressing me out more than I’m benefiting from the extra fifteen to sixty minutes I gain from not tidying up my living space. I definitely can’t work less since I can barely avoid my life as it is. If I worked fewer hours, I probably wouldn’t be able to make ends meet or I’d be so stressed that I wouldn’t be able to do anything but desperately avoid thinking about my finances or panic about my finances.

I honestly don’t have much in my life that isn’t something I need to try to be healthy. I probably don’t need a girlfriend, but I really like having one and she’s an immense positive influence on my average mood throughout the week. I don’t really go on trips, I don’t waste time with things that don’t benefit me, like phone games or Imgur, anymore. I’ve cut out a lot of crap and tried to reinforce my life with things that positively influence me. I read more, now that I’m not browsing Imgur for hours every day and I get more done at work now that I’ve removed most of my handheld distractions.

I really should be seeing an increase in the amount of time I spend writing and the amount of writing I get done. I’m really not sure why I’m not, and I don’t even know where to begin trying to find out…