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Ovirew Blog

Hooked on: AMC's Halt and Catch Fire

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Some Background

Over the past couple of weeks I've slowly become wrapped up in AMC's latest TV series, Halt and Catch Fire. Set against the backdrop of the early 80's the show loosely follows the early personal computer revolution in Texas' Silicon Prairie, featuring the fictional chip-manufacturing company Cardiff Electronics.

The show's title is taken from an actual computer code. On older computers, "Halt and Catch Fire" was essentially a self-destruct phrase that would overload CPUs, causing them to overheat and become unusable.

Now 6 episodes strong, HACF is shaping up to be a show that I now look forward to watching each week. When I first saw commercials for the series I was interested, but it took me sitting and watching a few episodes to get into it. Adimittedly, that is probably not the show's fault - the subject matter is technical stuff, with not a lot of action, and the show does its best to keep things interesting with the characters and story.

The series focuses on three main characters: Joe, Gordon and Cameron. Through a series of escalating circumstances, the trio are put in charge of a project at Cardiff Electronics to create a computer that rivals the IBM PC. Facing difficult odds and many uphill battles, the team must constantly change and adapt their ideas in their quest to create something more than just a PC.

Joe: The man with the plan. Or lack thereof.

Joe MacMillan (Lee Pace, of Pushing Daisies fame) is considered to be the Visionary of the group. From the outset of the series, he was the one who orchestrated everything to kick-start the project, and he's good at talking to persuade and manipulate people. It's unclear just what Joe's ultimate motives are, but his history with IBM and his father has some connection to why he is so determined to rise above mediocrity in the industry.

Gordon takes a chance for something greater.

Gordon Clark (Scoot McNairy, Argo) is the group's Engineer. He builds the computers, and knows the technical side of the industry better than the other characters. Despite his knowledge and experience, Gordon has, ironically, fallen into a bit of mediocrity in his life. He has difficulty balancing his work life with his family, and has trouble embracing newer methods that contradict years of work in his field. He is slowly learning to stand up for himself and think big.

Cameron is a mess, but her thinking is ahead of its time.

Cameron Howe (Mackenzie Davis, That Awkward Moment) is the Prodigy of the group, rounding out the team. Rebellious and closed-off, she drops out of college and starts working for Joe and Gordon to write software for Cardiff's new PC project. Her new ideas and short-temper make her a challenging addition to the formula of the cast, and the latest episode went so far as to compare her to the future of the field.

Cameron, Joe and Gordon discuss business for the first time together.

The Story So Far

(Warning: Contains some spoilers.)

Joe goes scouting at a college and is impressed when he meets Cameron, a young girl who not only knows a lot about computers, but also can think outside of the box about them. The two characters both seem to have troubled pasts, and bond over that and their interest in computers, and begin a complicated intimate relationship.

After this, Joe is hired on at Cardiff Electronics, due in part to his previous work experience at IBM. Within a short period of time of obtaining this new position, Joe reaches out to employee Gordon, who impressed him with his previous work in the field. Joe convinces Gordon to reverse-engineer a then-standard IBM processor with him, and after some hard work they walk away with a binder full of code for the IBM PC.

The trio unites at Cardiff, as IBM's lawyers come to check their stories.

The next day IBM finds out that Joe and Gordon have reverse-engineered their CPU, and everyone at Cardiff is up in arms over the news. They determine that the only way they can proceed is to actually enter the personal computer industry and compete with IBM, using a clean-room technique to build their own processor on-par with an IBM processor. IBM learns this because Joe told them about it, forcing Cardiff's hand to get them to do what he wants.

IBM's legal team shows up at Cardiff's doorstep and questions everyone involved, including a newly-hired Cameron who will be writing the new PC's BIOS program. Joe dodges questions about where he vanished to after leaving IBM, and tells them they have no legal recourse. Meanwhile, Gordon receives a promotion and his own office.

John isn't happy about being manipulated by Joe, but is a good sport about entering the PC biz.

Cardiff's CEO John Bosworth (Toby Huss, The Adventures of Pete & Pete) is already angry about being forced into the situation at his own company, and things get worse when he begins losing longtime clients and business-partners due to the circumstances. Furthermore, the company is forced to downsize and fire many of its employees to stay afloat for a while longer.

Cameron secretly lives in Cardiff's offices for a few nights while working on the BIOS, during which time she faces a lot of mental block and clashes with Joe and Gordon. A near catastrophe occurs when she loses all of her BIOS due to an electrical shortage, but this is revealed to be a ploy by Joe to teach Cameron to be more careful, and to get the company some press.

Joe projects a Steve Jobbs-esque personality around the office, to inspire his team.

Cardiff needs to do more than simply enter the PC game to compete with IBM, they need something new. Joe eventually finds inspiration for this new concept - a portable computer. Progress is made on its development, but the engineers run into problems with getting the motherboard to fit into a smaller case. Gordon's wife Donna (Kerry Bishe, Scrubs) provides some much-needed perspective by using both sides of the motherboard, but all of her work ultimately goes unappreciated.

Another bottleneck arises in finding material to use for the portable PC's monitor. Gordon goes through his father-in-law's connections with the Japanese to get cutting-edge screens for the computers, but nearly botches the deal by getting drunk and not letting Joe do all of the talking.

Cameron struggles with pressures and poor social skills, but her innovative thinking nabbed her a promotion.

Meanwhile Cameron returns from a vacation Joe sent her on to discover that Cardiff has hired on new employees to work on the operating system software. She doesn't get along well with her new boss, but befriends a pair of friendly geeks who sit near her. Cameron eventually determines that the workers who cheated while playing an adventure-style game she made would be better for the job than honest ones, and convinces Joe to fire her boss and many other workers, and put her in charge of the OS project. She becomes roommates with her geeky coworkers.

While working on the operating system, Cameron has an idea to make the OS user-friendly and 'talk' to the user. News of the idea alarms Gordon, who doesn't want to change things this far into the project, and doesn't want to lose more time when he already doesn't spend enough time with his family. At first Joe thinks Cardiff should ship the computer they've been working on, since it will be cheap and powerful like they wanted, but after spending time with Gordon's family during a storm comes to the conclusion that Cameron might be on to something.

Gordon is my favorite character, thanks in part to actor Scoot McNairy's grand performance.

Personal Opinions

One of the first things that made Halt and Catch Fire a difficult watch for me, was the liberties the show takes with history, and the way the show tries to spice things up and make everything more interesting for the sake of the show. There is certainly a lot of stuff done to make the show more appealing than it might have been if it were a direct account of some real company. But all in all, I'm happy to report it isn't that bad.

You know from the start that this show is a period drama. It's a TV show, of course not everything is fact. When you begin to look at HACF more like a show along the same lines of Mad Men, or really any other TV show starring fictional characters at different points of time (any show), it makes sense. And as a period drama this show works pretty decently. The atmosphere is that of a late 70's, early 80's vibe.

The subject matter of the show, to my knowledge, hasn't really been explored before in any other TV show, at least not as a main storyline. It's interesting because today computers are all around us, they're a major part of society today, and I think that makes this show all the more important. And even if we know how all of this already turned out, it is still interesting to look back and really get an idea of the sort of environment these places were like during the start of the PC revolution.

For a show about computers, there sure is a lot of sex and drama. But so far, now that I think about it, most of those scenes have made sense. I think mostly because Joe and Cameron have messy backgrounds and motives, and Gordon has some problems maintaining authority and respect in his life. The characters seemed pretty one-dimensional to me at first, but as more episodes air that is gradually remedied with more story and background.

A clear favorite character of mine from the start was Gordon, since I can relate to him personality-wise, and I also feel like a logical thinker with big dreams. I'm probably biased since I like the technical aspects of computers. But really I've grown to like something about all of the main characters, as well as some supporting characters like John and Donna.

Donna complements Gordon's quiet personality with a get-the-job-done mentality and ingenuity.

Speaking of Donna, one thing that bothers me is the progressive suggestion that her character is thinking of cheating on Gordon with her boss. Her character doesn't seem like the type, and indeed maybe this is just some thinly-veiled plot to distract us from another development. Perhaps she will be tempted into spilling the secrets of the Cardiff computer to her boss, since she didn't get enough credit for her ideas through her husband.

One thing that is both a blessing and a curse for the program is the pace at which things move. On the one hand it seems unrealistic because the characters manage to do these amazing feats over the course of one or two episodes, like crack an IBM processor or write an entirely new BIOS. On the other hand, it keeps things interesting and makes it so that each episode is essentially the characters dealing with a new problem during the course of development.

I thought to myself tonight that it would have been interesting if the show maybe started a little earlier than this, in the mid-70's or so. It seems like there would have been a lot of opportunity for good story there. But I am given the impression that we will learn more about the past through dialogue in the show. I don't think we will have flashback scenes in HACF, but I am okay with that since they never seem authentic enough in other shows anyways.

Halt and Catch Fire seems to be finding its groove, and if it keeps going in the direction it has been going in, then I think it could become must-see TV by the time season two rolls around.

Hopefully, it'll be a while til it ends!

...There is going to be a season two, right? I guess we'll have to wait and see. But I'm hoping Halt and Catch Fire can be the new sort of workplace period drama for AMC that Mad Men has been. And I think this show could potentially appeal to a lot of people if it turns out well.

Here's to hoping Halt and Catch Fire can make the dawn of the PC era cool and interesting again.

~ Ovirew

Eat Your Peas!

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On Saturday I got Plants VS Zombies: Garden Warfare as an early birthday present, and I've been playing the game a lot over the past few days and nights. One thing I noticed after a while is just how different and unique each class feels. It's not as though the zombies each have some class that mirrors one of the plants classes, rather, each zombie and each plant has a mixture of abilities that makes it hard to categorize them as any one class.

One example of this is the Cactus. She is the only sniper character in the game - there is no sniper zombie character. She can set potato mines about which litter the map and harm players that aren't careful. She can also, if you're in a safe place away from the action, send out a flying garlic drone to reign fire from above.

The Engineer can also summon a flying robot thing, but his Concrete Gun is basically a grenade launcher that works well at a medium range. And the Scientist can set these purple bombs that are similar to the potato mines, but his weapon is essentially a close-range shotgun without much spread damage.

An Engineer can also hop onto a jackhammer and move quickly around maps. A plant it has this in common with is the Peashooter, who can dash happily around and run and jump high for brief moments. And the Peashooter has essentially a medium range gun with spread damage like a shotgun, but not as powerful and more precise.

Etc, etc. There are little similarities between each of the characters' special abilities, but they are all effectively unique - especially in the case of their weapons.

I don't know if I have a favorite map or anything like that yet. It seems like there are only a few maps in the game, but none of them are bad. I think I dread the market map most of the time, and the pirate bay and pirate ship are so-so. I do like the Western day and night maps, and the one in the neighborhood is good. That may be all of the maps, unless I'm forgetting some. But then, I haven't played the garden ops much so far, and I think it has some different stuff. I hope the game gets supported with more free maps in the near future. Maybe one on a spaceship or in a forest - that would be different.

I don't dislike any of the classes, either, though there are some I play more than others. Chomper is hard to use because you have pretty much only melee abilities at your disposal, and Sunflower is hard to use because it has low health. Cactus is strong, and has a really wide variety of abilities which I think I'm starting to appreciate. And then Peashooter is the plant I choose most of the time since I like him so much, though I can be hit and miss.

On the zombies side, I started mixing it up more from the start. I guess Scientist is still my favrorite zombie, but he has low health and I don't always make it to bodies before they respawn. Engineer is probably my least favorite - I mean he is fugly and he has an odd mix of skills. All-Star has high health and is essentially a walking turret-carrier with unlimited ammo, an his dash attack is great when it works. And then Soldier has proven himself worthy with a fantastic gun with rapid fire and decent range, and a devastating rocket attack.

When it comes right down to it, all of the classes have something to offer. But sometimes it is a good idea to respawn as a class that the team really needs. If everyone is a peashooter, there is nobody to heal or add some surprise to your roster.

Something I need to remember to do is stick together with teammates. It's a thing I forget sometimes, or a thing that doesn't always work, but if you stick close to your teammates you're MUCH more likely to survive an encounter with enemy players than if you go it alone. Strength in numbers in a team-based shooter, who'd have thought?

And of course, character customization is awesome. And the different game modes are all awesome. I still like good ol' Welcome Mat, and it seems to get the players. I think this game is great and fun. Glad I got it!

I also got Guacamelee and Max and the Brotherhood of something for free. Haven't played them yet, and haven't touched any of my other games since I got PVZ. I think I am having longer play-sessions with PVZ than I did with Halo multiplayer on a lot of those nights, now that I think about it. Or maybe it's just been a while since I sat and played a multiplayer game for 3+ hours.

The microphone aspect of the game is still an oddity, though. Can anyone even hear me when I play? I occasionally hear other people. But most of the time I see speakers flickering and nobody is talking. Creeeeepy!

~ Ovirew

Happy 4th, Thoughts & General Update - 7/4/14

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Happy Independence Day, folks!

Whew, that picture's pretty BA.

Anyway, so I guess I just wanted to talk a bit before I go to work later. I don't really have any particular topics in mind, just general stuff.

The main thing on my mind right now is college. And money. But right now let's talk about college.

I'm finishing up my third week of college tomorrow. In my first class we have been dealing a lot with number conversions, and we started talking a bit about the different kinds of ports on a computer. Next week it sounds like we might get a bit of hands-on time with computer pieces, which could refresh my memory and be a nice change.

My second class, probably my most difficult one for me, went really well yesterday - it was probably my favorite day in that class so far. Our school librarian gave us another presentation like the week before, and though I had to be quick at taking notes and a lot of that subject matter is challenging, I see where it could make a world of difference in whether I succeed or fail at moving on with this career. It really kind of scares me how important proper formats and grammar and resources matter.

For the remainder of class, we essentially got into talking about different personality types, and what our personal strengths and weaknesses are. We took a few different kinds of tests to determine our own personality types. I came to the conclusion that I am a visual and logical person first and foremost, and that I have a mind that is good at organization. That could change over the years - I could get better at other stuff, I could get even better in these areas... Who knows? But it seemed like a pretty good overview of where I'm at.

My third and final class, which I've been to twice thus far, has probably been the most slow-going of the bunch. I think that's because it's a morning class and people are tired, and also the class is already small but people keep showing up less and less. Last Saturday a bunch of students seemed to treat the class as though it were some joke. They came into class several hours late, and many of them just took off after an hour or two of class time.

Something we did as an assignment for that last class, was this online test where you solved math problems to give you an idea of how much you know and remember about various kinds of math problems. I did horribly, but I kind of expected to - I was stuck on the very first problem, and it didn't get very much better from there on. Of the 40 problems, I gave answers to 10, some of which could have been wrong after all of that. I had to sit and read up on a few terms to remember how to do a couple of the simpler problems, the rest were just too confusing and I will probably have to re-learn that work from scratch.

I remember learning to do some of this stuff in high school, but never remembered a lot of it. I remember a problem I frequently had in high school was that it took me a while to figure out formulas, but by the time I was okay with one and we moved on to the next subject, I would forget how to do previous formulas as I tried to comprehend the new stuff, resulting in me mixing steps from different formulas in my head. And now since I haven't worked with a lot of this stuff in nearly 10 years... Well, it's back to the drawing board.

We have a lot of assignments where we write a few paragraphs on something, and try to use what we've talked about in class to explain it. We have some other assignments too, but most of them have been writing assignments. I usually end up writing a lot more than I need to. I think I could get better at these writing assignments over time.

So school is going pretty good for the most part, classes have been interesting this week. It's hard to believe it's been almost a full week since last Saturday, since that feels like it happened almost yesterday. Tomorrow I also have off from work, which is a plus.

I have no real plans for today. I did some homework that's due tomorrow earlier, and I am going to work the rest of the night. My fiancée and her mom went to her aunt's house for the day. One thing I can say about the Fourth of July is, it's kind of odd here because you can't just go to the street corner and buy a bunch of fireworks and set them off at night. I also didn't see a whole lot of celebratory stuff at work, besides a bunch of patriotic t-shirts. A bunch. It just feels like this holiday just kinda came and will go. And just like that, we're pretty much halfway through 2014.

Tomorrow, getting back to it... Plan is pretty much wake up, go to college, get some lunch, then later go see my fiancée's friends who are in town. I don't know if we'll hang out with them much, from the sounds of things we might not really be able to. I guess I'm okay with that, I wouldn't mind having a little more free time tomorrow.

I started playing the original Plants VS. Zombies again on a whim the other day. I guess I figure it'll tide me over until I get Garden Warfare. It's been fun, and I actually forgot about some of these plants after all of this time.

Oh yeah, also had kind of a weird session with the psychologist yesterday morning. I feel like I walk out of the sessions and have learned something, but I'm not really sure why he's so focused on these specific issues that I didn't think needed to be focused on right now.

I also skipped sleeping the night before last, and took a 1-2 hour power nap last afternoon. And last night, I stuffed myself silly with food when we went out to eat after class. It was good, but the loss of money and the fullness weren't worth it. That will be a learning experience.

~ Ovirew

And my first XBO disc game will be....

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Plants VS Zombies: Garden Warfare!

I finally made a decision about which Xbox One game will be my first major disc purchase. After the less-than-mediocre Crimson Dragon, and the pretty decent Halo: Spartan Wars, I've decided that I want Plants VS. Zombies: Garden Warfare to be my next Xbox One game. It will ultimately drive me to get Xbox Live Gold again, in the process also giving some added value to both of my other games. Now I can co-op CD and SW, and enjoy the team FPS matches of GW.

I am still interested in Dead Rising 3, but I think I will wait on that game for a bit. By the Holidays it will probably come down in price, and around that point I may have some time off to actually sit and work on a story-driven game like that. Garden Warfare just seems like a much better fit for me right now.

I had been leaning towards PVZ for a few days now, but it was ultimately the announcement of another free content pack for Garden Warfare coming out tomorrow - Tactical Taco - that sealed the deal. This makes three free DLC packs for PVZ, which is already a $30-$40 game. That is a tremendous value. The game looks good, looks fun, and I honestly don't think I've been this excited about the PVZ franchise since the original PVZ game.

The Tactical Taco party pack includes a number of new skins for existing characters, such as the Citrus Cactus. The one I am most interested in is the Berry Shooter. The add-on is sponsored by Aquafina, so I'm thinking that the costumes draw inspiration from some flavored water with real fruit flavoring or something, lol. It also includes a brand new map, set in a western town, which will be a nice change of pace.

I think I'll have lots of fun with this game. Don't give a shit what these other gamers think. So it looks like I've found the perfect way to kick off my 26th birthday. Let the battles between death and nature commence!

~ Ovirew

General Update - 6/27/14

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Over the last few days I was going to make a different new entry, but on the first attempt I decided to scrap it - on the second attempt I was nearly done when my browser lost everything. Yeah... Kinda over that idea, now. The plan was to talk about my 10 most memorable Halo weapons. Would have been a nice change of pace.

Since I don't wanna get into anything that involved again for a while, I'll settle for a general update blog.

Here we are, already back to Friday. This week really whizzed by - seems like only yesterday it was Monday, stressful Monday. We're also nearly through June - my next day off will be the first day of July.

Quick note: I guess my sister got some good news about her condition recently, so that was good to hear. The doctors were more concerned she had a more serious and rare form of her condition, but luckily it seems to be a much more common one.

I guess one word I would use to describe the last couple of days is 'accumulating'. The first week of college classes was easy, and I finished all of my assignments just fine. This week things aren't too much more challenging, but I've noticed that keeping on top of my homework could become difficult. It's also taken me a lot more time to complete assignments than I initially figured it would when I started them. I guess my main concern is that I could quickly become buried in homework if I'm not careful.

I'm still really excited about college, and the possibilities it brings to the table for me. My teacher is really good, and I look forward to working with a lot of the other teachers there in other semesters as well. But I get frustrated when we waste time in class and things become too laid-back - I am paying for my future, and I feel like it goes to waste at times. I don't mind discussing intelligent things in class, but it bothers me when the same people constantly call out and interrupt the teacher and others, and I hate when we get so off-track that it doesn't seem like we're making any forward progress with the class.

I've come to the conclusion that my Tuesday night class is currently my favorite one of the three. I feel like I am learning things about the subject matter I will deal with regularly in my field there. The other two classes fit into things, I get it, but one of them deals more with helping us become successful at getting hired and communicating well (my least-favorite, I think), and the other deals with problem solving. I guess the thing I'm most excited about is doing the hands-on stuff, and learning more about computers. But as the weeks pass, I'll eventually get to that stuff.

I've really gotten back into the habit of staying up late again lately. Idk, I guess I just feel the need to unwind then. But it's caused me to get into this weird new cycle where I sleep, do homework, go to work, play some games and go online, and then sleep again. Yesterday I slept in real late. I guess I'm worried because it seems like I have to make time to cram things into my weekly schedule now, and I didn't feel quite like that before starting college. My work schedule makes things odd to begin with. Anyway, it's something I'll have to figure out.

So next month is July, and in a little over 2 weeks it's my Birthday. My girlfriend has talked about possibly buying me an Xbox One game to mark the occasion, and as I mentioned in a past blog, I was debating between two games - Dead Rising 3, and Plants VS Zombies: Garden Warfare. ...Well, I still am debating it. It's not an easy choice, but I want to pick the one that will keep me the most entertained for the next several months, and hopefully longer.

Dead Rising 3 has quite a bit going for it. I bought a 360 for Dead Rising, DR3 could be my first major One game. The first game was really frustrating, this one seems to be a lot less frustrating so it's like it wants me to give the series a second chance. It's a single-player game, I wouldn't mind a nice single-player game. And if I really wanna take advantage of it there's co-op and a hard mode. But really just the idea of killing evil zombies again with crazy weapons, and dressing up in odd garb while doing it is what is most appealing.

By contrast, PVZ: Garden Warfare has kind of become the game I'm leaning towards as my first purchase. Truthfully, a few occasions spent watching the fun and insanity of the game on Twitch helped to secure my interest in the game. Simply put, it looks great! What it has going for it is a cheaper price tag - it's $40 versus the usual $60. There's a ton of unlockables for your different plants and zombies, different gameplay modes, and even two free DLC packs that have released since launch. It really looks like a fun, solid shooter. I'm most excited to play as Dr. Toxic and the Pea Shooter.

PVZ would, of course, require me to get Gold. So I'd probably have to ask my fiancé to buy me three months or so. That would put the cost on about equal footing with DR3.

I still can't decide which game would be the better choice right now, especially with school. But perhaps PVZ would since I could play it in short bursts if I chose, and I probably wouldn't get too tired of it over a few months. Then again, idk.

To be fair, I think I'd like to get both games at some point. But for the time being, I need to choose one to make good use of my XBO.

Well, I'm finally starting to get tired, time to hit the hay. I could use a good dream, one of those kinds you sort of remember when you wake up from it. Maybe a dream that means something deep. That'd be cool. Alright, til next time...

~ Ovirew

The Side Effects of Preparing for a Better Future

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Today I'm feeling... A little depressed, maybe. Not real bad depressed, just kinda sick of the hum-drum day-to-day flow of things maybe. I'm actually feeling fine, for the most part.

And maybe there is a bit of mental block going on this afternoon, an inability to think about things real deeply. I have a few questions to answer in an email for a college assignment. It's a real simple assignment, and more than anything it involves just giving my perspective on what I think something means. But maybe I am just not ready to do it quite yet. To be fair, the assignment isn't even due until next Saturday.

I think more than anything, the cause of my slight depression and my inability to want to work on answering these questions yet is the same thing: I have to go to work in a few hours, and I'm just not upbeat and happy about that. I'm not looking forward to work, so I'll spend these next two hours or so just wanting to relax and not having to think too deeply about anything. Since I will likely deal with some form of bullshit and stupidity over the evening.

All things considered, work hasn't been going badly, or as badly as it could potentially go. It's just that it seems like it's gotten increasingly difficult for our crew to get the simplest of tasks done. And I've reached the point where I am getting sick of dealing with the people I see at work on a regular basis - people in my department and other workers whose shift overlaps with ours.

We also lost another worker in our department this week, since he transferred to another department. It makes things rough because this worker has been with the store for many years and has more knowledge and experience about our job position than a lot of the newer people. The loss of a skilled worker is one thing, the lack of a replacement is another.

Starting college this past week has been mostly a very positive thing. I really don't think I regret this decision at all - it is probably one of the smarter decisions I've made over the entire course of my life. It's a decision that could lead to much bigger and better things for me. But the downside to that is I have something to do every single day of the week now, there isn't a 24-hour period of time anywhere during the week now where I can do nothing and have no obligations.

I have less opportunity to unwind and recharge. And, when my college schedule is combined with my work schedule, it almost makes asking for additional time off impossible. Vacation time is something I can look into, if I even have any at my workplace yet. But asking for a third day off seems like a longshot anymore. For now this is probably just how things have got to be, but come second semester I may need to make changes.

I actually left my computer open to this page for a little while, just came back to it after like 30-60 minutes. I'm not sure what I was going to add next, not sure if I even knew roughly what I wanted to say next.

Anyways, I guess the main subject of this blog is that I'm starting to face some early conflicts between work, college and my personal life. I should add that I put in for a day off to visit with some of my girlfriend's friends when they came into town next week, since they are having a baby and don't come this way very often. I didn't get the day, but that may be because my manager just didn't notice that I put in for it, or maybe didn't care since I already have two days I need off. I also worry about if I should take a day to go visit my sister, who has been experiencing health problems since earlier this month.

Time for work. My hopes and expectations are that I'll get through today, and have a more enriching and happy day tomorrow, and learn more things that will help prepare me for a better future.

~ Ovirew

Moving Forward

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Today was pretty eventful, for the most part. I wasn't busy straight from the moment I woke to the moment I got home, there was some downtime here and there, but this morning and evening I was really occupied with things I had to take care of.

This morning I took my fiancée to a doctor's appointment. Then we stopped and had breakfast. Then we had a session with another type of doctor. Made a separate trip to get money and then pay that doctor. Made a quick stop at our wedding venue, to drop off some paperwork. Almost found a wedding photographer but not quite. Had lunch at a sandwich place I'd never been to before - that was good, yum. And then there was some rest time until class.

I didn't really get to talk about school yet, but so far it is going well. The atmosphere definitely takes some getting used to. Everything is laid back, but at the same time we are learning some rather important things. There's a lot of calling-out amidst the classroom. And our teacher will spend a lot of time getting us to understand an idea by asking us what we think certain words or things mean, through his teaching style. We also have the same teacher for all of our courses this season, which is probably a positive.

I guess it is still really too early to have any real idea of what college will be like over all, since these are essentially the introductory days, and the days where we are learning to understand what we can expect to learn from each of these classes over the next year and a half. But at least I have some idea of how the flow of a class might go, and what kinds of things I will be learning about. And it hasn't been too stressful or anything yet, which is really good. Perhaps that is a really key point of college that I never gave too much thought to before - it isn't supposed to be stressful. Or at least, it is supposed to be as non-stressful as possible.

And now, for something completely different. So I got caught up (mostly) on the last couple Adventure Time episodes I missed the past few weeks.

Wow. There is the bar, watch it get set higher! Breezy, the first of the newer episodes I hadn't seen yet, showed Finn looking for love again after being without a female love interest since Flame Princess officially moved on and fell for Cinnamon Bun. The episode showed Finn making out with several different Princesses from around Ooo at Doctor Princess' request - including Crab Princess and even the macho mannish Princess that I forget the name of.

I think the one thing I didn't expect to see was Finn making out with Lumpy Space Princess. But it didn't stop there, oh no. Did Finn just... Get it on, with LSP? Wowzerz! The news came after Finn met a bee queen named Breezy who seemed to be his new love interest and wanted his flower hand, but it seems like it was all just a funny misdirection to conceal Finn's unexpected virginity loss. After all was said and done, Finn was finally freed of the cursed arm for good, his arm reborn inside of an exploded tree trunk.

...But it gets better. The following episode, Food Chain, is decidedly the weirdest episode of Adventure Time of all time, I decided. Drawn by a Japanese artist, the whole episode already has a different feel from its peers. But the episode deals literally with the concept of a food chain, and Finn and Jake comprehending it.

Magic Man, who has no other role in the entire episode, appears and turns Finn and Jake into different organisms involved in a food chain to teach them the importance of it I guess. They are turned into birds, big birds, caterpillars, plants, and even tiny bacteria that eat the dead big Finn bird. Finn marries a female caterpillar at one point, and by the end of the episode, Finn becomes some enlightened amalgamation of each of the different organisms he just learned about.

Okay, so maybe it wasn't as weird and bizarre as the Lemonhope episode, but it was pretty close!

Things are going good. They may not be going particularly fast, but I may be getting somewhere in life. I chose to insert this picture because I think it represents pretty well the mish-mash of different things going on in my mind right now. There's a lot on it, but it's difficult to figure out how to harness that mass of brain and sort the information into something useful.

My birthday is fast approaching, as is my wedding which seems far-off yet right now. And I guess one of the biggest concerns I have is the unknown. If my past years of writing on here have gone to show anything, it's that I'm really not sure how I will feel weeks or months from now, or even tomorrow. And right now I'm still not sure how life will work out after marriage and college.

The future is such a tough battle, I don't want to have to keep worrying about the past yet.

I got to thinking a little about when I was younger and in school, and how I never particularly got along with my peers or really had friends. I mostly didn't because I didn't trust people. And part of the reason why I didn't trust people was because I did a lot of listening and observing rather than talking, and I formed untrustworthy opinions of those people - correct or not - that made me wary of them and the people they talked to.

For a moment I thought, maybe if I had tried to make an effort and talk to them, I could have had something to offer those people. Maybe I could have made some positive impact on their lives and, in the process, made some of them into better people. Maybe I could have pointed out some of the things I saw that they could have done better, and sub-consciously helped them improve that aspect of themselves. And maybe I would have seen the good in them, more than the bad.

Maybe that is true. But at the same time, I don't think it falls squarely on my shoulders to make this world a better place. It's unfair that I should have to be the one to play mediator and empathy coach to these people who act like they know everything. I know different people have different viewpoints, and as much as I may want other people to respect mine, I also have to respect theirs'. Perhaps the only way to get over it, the only way that I have found to be successful thus far, is just by moving on and letting time pass.

The truth is, I honestly may never be able to tie up every loose end in my life, as much as I may have wanted that at one time. Life is much too complicated to spend it worrying about the minor details.

I may never be able to talk with my parents and get them to understand where I'm coming from. I might never resolve things with my sister, who I've had a difficult relationship with since childhood. I probably won't ever confront a lot of my fears, or find this perfect balance of Taoism in my life. But those things, they just have a way of not mattering as much after a certain point. The past doesn't matter, not quite like it did to me before.

I think since my meeting with the counselor, I sort of realized that. Along with everything that is going on with my family now, as unfortunate as that whole situation is. Yes, I feel bad for my sister. I'd still like to visit sometime and talk to her some more. I feel bad for my parents having to go through all of this and put up with all of this stress and drama. I'd still like to call them now and then and see how they're doing.

But... As much as I want to feel bad about all of this... It isn't my fault. None of it is. I didn't do or cause any of these problems, in fact I spent a lot of time trying to avoid them and point them out before they became issues. And I've been slowly doing better in my life ever since I moved out. I've experienced a lot in these few short years. I have other problems, but they are my own problems and ones that I will work through. I shouldn't have to deal with my family's problems, they didn't really deal with mine and I didn't expect anyone else to. And maybe they understand that.

Especially, when I am making forward progress in my own life, and I have so many things to be proud of right now. I'm not gonna stop and be sad because life happens. I gotta keep moving on, and that's just what I intend to do. Sorry, that's the way it's gotta be. And I think I'm just realizing all of this tonight.

I feel like I've had a bit of a break-through tonight. It's easy enough to talk about moving forward and all that, but I don't think I've been able to look at it this way until now. The truth is, it is too mentally draining for me to be worrying about everyone else. It takes enough energy just worrying about myself and my immediate problems. And hopefully, I am on the way to making improvements in my life.

~ Ovirew

Bridging the Game Gap

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Life has been going well. I start college tomorrow, my sister is apparently making some sort of progress with her health situation, and I'm really happy with my decision to buy the Xbox One. If this were the half-time for June, then I think my coach would be giving me a pat on the back and telling me we're ahead by a few points.

But let's focus on that last point again. The Xbox One. As ya'll know I got Halo Spartan Assault and Crimson Dragon for the system so far. Both are good games, but they are technically just Arcade games. And while I was hoping that they would work out as my only One games for 3 or 4 months, the more I've thought about it I'd kind of like a little more variety. Not to mention, a game that harnesses a larger portion of the XBO's power.

I'm thinking maybe I figured out which game I'd like for that to be. Dead Rising 3 is currently on my radar, since I spent some time with its demo and grew to enjoy my short run-in with it. Some of you who've read my oldest blogs may recall that Dead Rising was the game that spurred me to buy the 360; perhaps DR3 will be the first disc game I get for the One.

The reason why I wasn't really considering the game before was, I recalled the original DR being particularly frustrating to play, due to timed events that happened during the game. DR3 still has those, but apparently they aren't quite as stressful as in the first game. Unless you play on Nightmare difficulty. Maybe DR3 will give me a better chance to fall in love with this wild zombie-slaughtering series?

I figure Dead Rising 3 would have a lot of single-player content and overall value, with all of the different crazy weapons you can use and create. It also would not require access to LIVE, so I wouldn't have to worry about purchasing one of those just yet.

Of course, I've also been considering the other possibility a bit. Plants VS Zombies: Garden Warfare might be a fun and appropriate game to choose as well. I know I'm ignoring Titanfall, but I figure this would be a fun and laid-back team-based FPS, while Halo would contain my main multiplayer game. I figure it could contrast well.

With this game, I would have to pay for LIVE subscription time, but the actual game is cheaper than other One titles, and it would grant me access to fun multiplayer matches that I could just jump into and play at any time, without the need to worry too much about story or my save file. Which could be good, considering school.

PVZ GW is tempting, but that idea will remain on the backburner for now since it would still require purchasing LIVE time. And the game has no offline mode, but I guess it's forgivable since this kind of game is one you would want to play online with others. But I also don't know how its user base is. Do lots of people play it? Idk.

I added the game Cuphead to my wishlist, though it doesn't release until 2015. I had read about the game before, but now I know it'll be on XBO! Cuphead is a game with graphics that were designed in the classic Felix the Cat and Mickey Mouse style, painstakingly hand-drawn and painted to look like an old cartoon in color. It looks really neat.

So yeah, that's really all to report for now. I have 3 or 4 months til October, when a lot of the big games come out. I have to focus on school, but at the same time I will still probably have free time, and I'll probably want another game or two. So far it's looking like Dead Rising 3 is that game. But if I feel like some multiplayer, maybe PVZ GW is in the cards, too.

I don't intend to spend any money on these games at this time, but my birthday is coming up and my girlfriend wants ideas. The timing couldn't be better, and it'll be nice to get the most out of my brand new console. We'll see if an XBO game is an acceptable gift idea soon enough.

~ Ovirew

The Last Hurrah

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I wanted to make the most of yesterday. I wasn't sure how I was going to do it - I figured it would be a pretty average day. It was rainy, I couldn't mow the lawn again. We still haven't had a sunny morning in a while. But on a whim, I completely changed my plans and decided to make it a proper day to celebrate.

Spurred on by E3, and my feelings about the games shown at the event over the past week, I decided to make the change. That's right - I got an Xbox One! ...And sold my 3DS and its games, my PS3 games, and the one PS4 game I solely owned, in the process. I'm not saying it wasn't a rough decision to make, but I'm at the point these days where I need games to deliver, or else they're not worth my time.

So yes - I got the Xbox One!

Now I'm officially back to supporting Microsoft on the gaming front. I'm not entirely sure that I share in Microsoft's vision for the future, or the things they want to do with games, but then at least I know Microsoft's plans and they aren't trying to hide them. Microsoft is making games that really interest me, games that I have a pretty good feeling about. And we just seem to be on the same wavelength, somehow. The planets and stars aligned just right, I guess.

So far my feelings towards the hardware are mostly positive. I got the Kinect-less One, so I can't comment on a lot of that voice functionality. The console actually looks, to be quite honest, great. It even has this sort of checkerboard-design to it that I didn't really notice before, it's kinda nice. I'm getting used to the controller well enough. I like that the XBO controller can still run on batteries - imo more controller power options are a good thing.

I was worried before I got the One that I'd be turned off by the system's Windows 8-like software. It turns out that I actually like the Xbox system software better than Sony's. Your apps and programs are separated into three separate panes - the left one houses your favorite programs, which you can 'pin' to the pane. The middle window lets you check your entire game library, play the inserted disc, or use recently-used programs I guess. The final right pane is mostly for online promotion and content. So yeah, actually not a big mess like I was concerned about.

Some things take a bit of getting used to. You can return to the home menu and close your active program from the giant box in the middle pane. You have to hunt for some options and games that you want to access, but pinning them makes access easier. I noticed that the system had a pretty good variety of player icons to choose from, and the avatars still have any purchased or earned accessories you obtained on the 360. I seem to remember hearing that you could use the microphone to input voice commands like you could with the Kinect, but I haven't tried this to see if it works yet.

I ended up buying two games I was interested in, so I'd have something to play on my new console. Halo Spartan Assault is the one I've spent the most time working on, and it is surprisingly a lot more fun than I thought it would be. The game is a top-down twin-stick shooter, where you control a Spartan and are sometimes aided by AI comrades.

At first glance I thought this game would be more like Halo Wars, or something of that nature. While I didn't mind that game, I actually think I like this one more. Rather than working like an RTS, Halo Spartan Assault is, quite simply... Like Halo, except top-down and 3rd-person. It retains that simple, yet sometimes challenging, gameplay of Halo.

You can hold two weapons, and drop one for a weapon you get from fallen enemies or weapon racks. You have the grenades. You have vehicles you can drive and lay waste with. There are even armor abilities. And, you can activate skulls to aim for higher scores at the cost of personal handicaps. The latter point is important, since you will need to use skulls to get a gold star on most missions.

Missions can become much more challenging when you are going for a gold star. Fortunately you can use acquired XP to rent more powerful weapons - sniper rifle, Spartan laser, rocket launcher; different armor abilities and power boosters before attempting each mission. Finding the right mix of skulls and rented items to tackle a mission with is key.

There is also a story, but admittedly it doesn't seem to matter all that much. You play as both a male Spartan named Davis, and a female Spartan named Palmer, but that doesn't really matter too much since the main focus is on the gameplay. Admittedly, I'm not always sure which character I am playing as at any given time. The game also has co-op and other options, but I can't use them since I don't presently have LIVE. Will try at some future date.

I also got Crimson Dragon. CD is kind of like Panzer Dragoon, and a bit like the flying missions from Drakengard, which I suppose is what initially drew me to this game. There is a lot of emphasis on completing optional quests during missions, such as acquiring all of the glowing crystals in the stage, or defeating all of a certain type of enemy. Defeating some rare and powerful monsters also grants you goodies, such as new abilities to equip to your dragon.

Outside of battle, you can feed your dragon food you obtain from missions to give it XP and raise its level. Your dragon can also have its elemental attribute changed, and be evolved into more powerful forms. This morning I unlocked the option to bring a wingman along with me on a mission, essentially a NPC dragon-riding comrade, which you can command to follow you or lead you. You can also apparently use other players' dragons as wingmen, opening up a lot of potential for assistance in tough missions.

Crimson Dragon is kind of a tough game, and managing to do everything in a given level probably requires lots of trial and error, and replaying older stages multiple times. That said, the game is visually pleasant, and I am excited to play if for no other reason than to make my dragon more powerful.

I know it will be a long wait until a game comes out on disc that I want for the Xbox One - probably in the Fall. But these two games should keep me entertained for a while. And both of them, especially Halo Spartan Assault, is pretty addictive.

I also got the free Beta for Project Spark, downloaded the demo for Dead Rising 3 (which I haven't played yet), and signed up for the Fable Legends Beta. Happy Wars, a free XBLA game, is also probably going to come out for the One sometime by the Fall.

And when Fall does get here... Boy, there will be a TON of games to get. On the PS4 we'll probably get Dragon Age Inquisition and Costume Quest 2. On the One there's Sunset Overdrive and Halo: The Master Chief collection. I'm not sure what else, maybe there will be more by then. Perhaps Ori and the Blind Forest? I forget release dates, I will have to look into that. But yeah, this will be a good Fall for video games.

Of course, Fall is quite a ways off. Can't be talking about October, when we're in the middle of June. And for the next several months, I'll have payments and education to focus on.

Yesterday evening my girlfriend bought us a few necessities to help us get started with school. Some notebooks, folders, and flash drives. I don't know if we'll need more than what we have, but it seems like that'll suffice.

She also took us out for snacks and drinks. It was nice, but it felt like the evening went too fast. Before I knew it, it was 11:00 PM. I decided to join her for naptime then - I don't get to do that very often, and I was admittedly getting pretty tired. Yesterday was exciting though.

It occurred to me that this Saturday morning will be the last one where I don't have to wake up early to get to school. And it actually just occurred to me that my girlfriend might be tired after leaving work to come to school on the other nights. I wonder when we'll have supper on those nights?

There's a lot to mentally prepare myself for over the next couple of days. It looks like on Tuesday, I'll get a better idea of what my weeks will be like for the next year and a half. And hopefully, I can actually enjoy it.

~ Ovirew

Revised Purchase List

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I felt like my blog from last afternoon was kind of getting into personal, depressing territory, and I wanted to bring things back to the focus on games. After all, this has been a great week for games. I felt like it would be practical to list a simple overview of the games I'm interested in on the Xbox One, by order of release date and approximate order of purchase. It'll help me keep things sorted.

Xbox One console

XBL Gold

Releasing through the end of 2014

Crimson Dragon

Halo: Spartan Assault

Super Time Force

Dragon Age: Inquisition

Sunset Overdrive

Halo: The Master Chief Collection

TBD

Crackdown

Halo 5: Guardians

Costume Quest 2

Fable Legends

Mirror's Edge 2

Ori and the Blind Forest

Phantom Dust

Scalebound

So for the most part, those are the games I'm interested in. Could include more but... I'm still not sure of every game on this list now. But it's a good start, and it'll give me some games to focus on.

I think Sunset Overdrive will be my first XBO game, though depending on money and timing and other factors, perhaps Crimson Dragon. I am anxious to try that since a lot of reviewers slammed it. I wonder if it has a demo?

Well that's all for now. Time to enjoy the elusive day off.

~ Ovirew