Why Game of Thrones is ruining A Song of Ice and Fire

For years now I have delicately danced around major plot points in the ASOIAF universe. Every situation where the TV series or books come up starts with: “Where are you? What’s the last thing that happened?” Everyone’s entry point into the series has been disparate and I so cherished my times getting shocked by each turn of the page that I want, desperately, to preserve that experience for every that I talk to.

This post contains spoilers up to the Season 6, Episode 3

See? Even though the show has “caught up” to the books and even passed them I still can’t help but protect the few secrets that remain.

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Physical Fatness: Update 2

So I thought it would be good to check in on January and February progress on increasing my activity and reducing that all important statistic: fatness (weight).

I’m down 10 lbs since the beginning of the year, which isn’t as fast as I’d like. It’s a little under a pound a week, and my goal was to be in-between 1-1.5lbs if possible. I still need some work on dietary restriction but how am I doing on activity?

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Physical Fatness: Update 1

As I blogged before I’ve been trying to increase (and track) my daily activity for consistently. I’ve been pretty good about the tracking portion of that, just not the increasing part just yet.

Let’s take a look at October:

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I’m definitely doing better so far in November for comparison:

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The success I started seeing increasing my steps and activity at the end of October has rolled into November but I still haven’t hit the 10,000 step goal on any days. I just need to keep increasing the length of walks I take with Ghost to get over that hump on a day.

I’ve gotten to almost 2 miles on a walk, and the puppy seems to be able to handle it well enough. I keep having to remember that he had surgery less than a year ago to remove excess cartilage from his elbow. So I can’t push the dog too far, but he seems to enjoy short jogs and longer walks lately so I should get them in before old man winter rolls in for an extended visit.

As far as calorie tracking goes I have a hard time remaining consistent. I dutifully track breakfast, lunch and mid-work snacks but find it hard to get in a rhythm tracking dinner or snack that occur at home. Something about the regimented way I go thought he work day lends itself to building habits. But the moment I cross the front door into my house it all goes out the window for some reason.

I have reduced portion sizes a bit as a result of the tracking I’ve been able to remember to do. Especially limiting the over-eating I was doing at lunch. But I still need to get some traction with dinner and reducing the amount of eating out I’m doing.

Lord only knows what will happen to my self control through Thanksgiving next week. Pray for my belt.

First Impressions: Steam Controller

My long awaited Steam Controller arrived in the mail yesterday and I’ve tried to put it through it’s paces.

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I do like that everyone has glommed onto the packaging style that Apple has made so famous. The Steam Controller arrived in a clean looking box, no blister packaging to wrestle with and cut myself on.

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I find myself fond of the look of the controller, it’s unique and that helped me to want to try the thing when pre-orders became available. I already have the best possible standard gamepad available for the PC, it’s called the Xbox One controller. If the Steam Controller is going to find a home in my daily routine it’s going to have to do something special.

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The back plate pops off in a satisfying way to reveal the battery compartments in each handle. Hey, name brand batteries! Neat. The buttons that are part of the grip are a little too easy to press, and don’t have a very satisfying throw to boot, same goes for the shoulder buttons. The triggers are an interesting take, they have a digital click at the bottom of the relatively short throw that will instantly remind you of the Gamecube controller. And that’s a good thing to me.

As far as the face button and analog stick: they are serviceable. I don’t really have any complaints other that the buttons are in the analog stick position compared to any controller. The focus here is on the big trackpads and not the traditional buttons. As a result the buttons are kind of hard for me to find when I need to hit them and transitioning from the trackpad to the buttons causes me to occasionally hit the wrong button. Maybe that will change with time.

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The trackpads are where the rubber hits the road. Do they feel comfortable for shooting? Mousing? Camera control?

The short answer: not really.

I knew that the trackpads would fall short replacing the mouse or an analog stick for shooters or any twitch aiming action. But I expected them to feel better for point-and-click controls. The range of motion and precision of the trackpads just isn’t there. I can’t get the right speed or acceleration on the settings to make the controller feel right to mouse with. There isn’t enough precision, as you move your thumb around slowly the mouse seems to stair step everywhere, clicking from position to position instead of smoothly transitioning.

Moreover the lack of a d-pad becomes apparent when you play a retro style game. I used Downwell as my test game for this. The analog stick isn’t very precise for the platforming in that game and the left trackpad is a poor substitute for a d-pad. So I’m left looking at my Xbox controller longingly thinking about picking up the wireless adapter… a product I did not purchase specifically to force myself to try the Steam Controller and give it a fair shake.

I figured that the type of game this controller best opens access to is a slow mouse based point-and-click type game. I loaded up Broken Age to test out the experience (I’ve been meaning to finish that game out). I could not have been more frustrated, an analog stick would be a better way to interface with that game. Which really defeats the whole purpose of the damned controller!

I’m going to give a turn based strategy game a shot, something like Civilization: Beyond Earth would be a good fit. Maybe that will find a use for the Steam Controller. But that does seem a little frustrating, I have to go looking for a use for this controller? Shouldn’t Valve have set up some games that showcase this thing? It seems a little crazy that consumers, in the form of the Steam community creating profiles for every game out there, have to create the justification for their purchases?

That’s not even including the sheer level of anger I felt attempting to type using the Steam Controller’s on-screen keyboard. I was wracked with physical pain as I tried to slowly pound out a simple sentence to a friend on Steam who saw me playing a bunch of games. I felt like I was rehabbing, I know how to type and I had a keyboard three feet away, why was I forcing myself to slowly click my way through when I could pick up that keyboard and be done in three seconds?

So, I’m not very far into testing the Steam Controller, and I’m going to give it more time, but I’m having a hard time seeing what it’s for. The phrase that keeps leaping to mind while I use this thing is “a solution is search of a problem”. I usually hate that cliché because it seems so dismissive of new ideas, but in this case it feels all too appropriate.

Getting Back on the Band Wagon

I made a solid effort to get back into shape a couple years ago. I made decent progress but stalled out after moving from an apartment complex with a gym on site to where I live now. It doesn’t seem like much but the ten minute drive to the gym really did make it fall out of my daily routine.

I am incredibly lazy.

hat fact is probably the largest part in getting me to my current size (285lbs, I’m only 6’1″ so that’s a BMI of “you might actually be deceased already”). My ideal weight would be somewhere around 220. I’m sure medical science would say 185 is a true ideal weight. But I think I know my own limitations too well.

Speaking of limitations I think reducing my weight by 65 pounds is a big chunk to try and tackle so I’m targeting a smaller goal. Assuming an ideal weigh loss rate of about a pound-and-a-half a week I’ll be looking to take out 25 pounds in 5 months. Mostly by reducing portion size and making sure to move more everyday.

I’d love to increase my activity and say I’m going to start going to the gym every day and eating broccoli and baked chicken breast every meal but I know better. I’m going to start by trying to max out a step counter (more on the technology side below) and eating less. I’ve talked to my workplace about bein able to get a standing desk, but that might not happen.

I’m hoping to be more consistent about blogging about it here to give myself a cadence and chance to reflect, change bad habits and reinforce good ones.

And because I’m a sucker for technology I’ve gotten myself something to help motivate. I had a Fitbit for the longest time, a Fitbit One in particular. I really did like racking up flights of stairs and steps, but I kept losing the darn thing or forgetting to grab it.

So I snagged a Band 2 when pre-orders went live. The watch concept fits into my lifestyle well. I forgot how much I liked wearing a watch, ever since I got my first smartphone I stopped wearing a watch.

WP_20151031_17_51_09_ProBetween tracking sleep, heartrate, elevation changes, steps, UV exposure (important for long Cleveland winters) and many other things that don’t surface much I should get more data than I could possibly want. I can create custom workouts to load onto the band that I’ll run in the morning. I’ll also be tracking my nightly walks with Ghost and any other time I can get out and go for a walk.

BuildAWorkoutI’ll also be using MyFitnessPal for calorie tracking, I think honestly tracking how much I was eating made the biggest impact three years ago when I hit my all time low weight. I wanted to use LoseIt but I don’t have a good app solution on Windows Phone. So until a better option appears I’ll have MyFitnessPal.

I’ll look to update every week or so. Wish me luck.

Update This!

Update Frustration

I had one of those frustrating experiences again. The kind of experience that makes you yearn for a simpler time in console gaming.

My frustration is from the PS4 this time around but it applies to both consoles, so don’t think I’m being one sided. This kind of scenario occurs on both consoles right now.

I was looking to have something to play in bed last night, so before I shut off the TV after watching another episode of Tiny House Hunters (curse you tinyhome buyers!) I stumbled up to the entertainment center and ejected Dragon Age: Inquisition out of the PS4, a game that’s not so much fun to play via remote play, and slapped in DriveClub (#Driveclub?).

Quick trip to take the dog out one last time, and then back the bedroom to relax and test out the post PS+ Edition waters in Driveclub.

I turn on the Vita to find that it needs a system update, it hasn’t been that long since I played the PS+ games this month, so the firmware must be recent. Whatever, set it to update and put the Vita down. I’ll use the restroom and when I come back I’ll be ready to race.

Minutes later I’m back and ready to go.

Boot up remote play, log into the PS4. Can’t find Driveclub on the main menu, the disc is in but I still have to go to the library to find the game. Alright, let’s go.

System requires an update…
Damnit!

Well, here we go, what happens when I initiate a system update from Remote Play? You get booted out when the system restarts as I suspected. Try and log back in, won’t connect, must still be working. Wait a couple minutes, played some Murasaki Baby (man that game makes creepy noises non-stop). Log back in through remote play: success!

Alright time to race!

Driveclub requires an update… time left to download 20min

Well, time for bed.

After a half hour of updates and frustration I would still have to wait 20min to download an update for a game that has been installed on the system since February? This is not the console simplicity I expected. I would have had an easier time playing The Witcher 3, which just released a big patch 1.07, because my big complicated, difficult-to-use PC has all of my games updated and ready to go at any minute.

With the exception of the initial build; it’s beginning to be the case that PC gaming is so streamlined by various services (Steam, GoG, etc.) that it’s a simpler experience than consoles nowadays. Maybe I should’ve played 30 minutes of The Witcher 3 instead of trying to play a console game… maybe I would have gone to bed having played a game.

They Still Make Final Fantasy?

You may have seen some comments from a GameSpot interview by one of Final Fantasy XV‘s directors, Hajime Tabata:

“Speaking honestly, an all-male party feels almost more approachable for players. Even the presence of one female in the group will change their behavior, so that they’ll act differently. So to give the most natural feeling, to make them feel sincere and honest, having them all the same gender made sense in that way,” Tabata said. The game certainly doesn’t shy away from the theme of male intimacy, with the party sharing a tent, protecting each other in battles, and holding no qualms about showing open concern for one another.

For Tabata, the journey will have the cast adopting what he dubs a “boys will be boys” type demeanor. “It was the story we wanted to tell and what we wanted to show players,” he explained.

“The world might be ready to see the curtain lifted on what boys do when girls aren’t around, when they come out of the tent all prim and proper. That’s kind of the idea behind it… we think, male or female player, that everyone will feel a certain connection and bond with the four characters.”

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Physical versus Digital: Fight!

Digital versus Physical: it’s the debate that continues to define this generation of consoles. Starting with the game trade-in debacle of the Xbox One announcement, all the way through the reality of needing to install every game – disc or otherwise – the impact of the new reality of game distribution is significant. Don’t get me started on how boring my unboxing experiences were for both consoles…

So what have people done in this new era of game ownership? Did the masses remain resolute in their preference for physical media? Did everyone switch to the bold new future of digital “ownership”?

I’ll start with what I ended up doing. I’m a pretty big proponent of digital media; just take a look at my extensive (shameful?) Steam library. But now that we’re over a year into these new consoles, what did I end up really doing? Here’s a picture of the top shelf of my current DVD rack:

Collection

A decent selection, but you’ll see these titles fall into two different categories: launch window and gift. Read more

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