Orange you glad I didn’t say ananas?

Watch your back, and don’t front on me now.

Did you know that it’s possible to make a mood ring style toilet seat? A friend commented that people probably wouldn’t stay on the seat long enough to get the full effect. I, a pooping connoisseur, was about to correct them, then realised that I don’t stay on the seat long enough. For a while I’ve known that when I go #2, the peeing part of the equation often takes longer than the alternative. I read a study recently whereby they found that most mammals, regardless of size, take about 20 seconds to empty their bladders. It’s probably safe to assume then, that I take less than 20 seconds to drop a dump. Just one or two pushes, and it all comes out. I know this is unusual, and I’m happy to consider it remarkable. It’s a skill. But it’s also buoyed by a high fibre diet and a few cups of coffee. While sitting on the toilet considering all this, I started to wonder if that would be a useful skill in an apocalyptic environment. It would definitely lessen the amount of time spent in a vulnerable position. Then I realised that since it’s partially attributable to coffee, I might not have the same capacity for quickness in that sort of scenario. Then I pondered if coffee would be a useful substance for a medieval army. Would it liven up battle weary warriors? Was coffee around in those days? If not coffee, were there other stimulants? Was snuff a thing? Is snuff even a stimulant? What is snuff, now that I think about it? Then I finished my poop.

The above ramblings brought to you by two big mugs o’ joe. And thanks to this reddit thread for answering my questions.

I must confess, I’m writing right now, but I want to be doing anything but writing. Nothing against y’all or this, but there are SO MANY great options for me right now:

  • It’s not warm outside, but the sun is bright and it’s a gorgeous day. I could be out there in my onesie or something.
  • There’s a big Magic tournament being broadcast, and there’s a ton of interesting stuff going on in the game at the moment.
  • I could even be playing Magic. The most recent limited format is amazing. I just had a match with someone that took over an hour, and it was down to the wire in almost every game. Tight matches, we were pretty evenly matched (in that we both made mistakes and strong plays). The games involved tiny incremental advantages and long game strategies. It was such a gripping match. I kept yelling out to my girlfriend (still wrapped up warm in bed) about how tight the twist and turns were. It was such a good game that honestly, I didn’t care who won. I just felt stoked to be enjoying the flow so much. I ended up taking the third and final game, and almost felt like I needed a cigarette at its summation. It’s times like these that I wish I could’ve actually chatted with my opponent to tell them how greatly I was enjoying our competition, and wished them a nice day. C’mon Wizards, give us a “Have a nice day” emote already, you cowards.
  • I haven’t eaten a ton today, and the kitchen is stocked with great food. We even have four types of cheese (five, including Cottage).
  • Twitter is filled with memes mocking Trump for his circular fake tan disaster photo. While usually I’m against teasing people about their appearance, I’m very fine with this instance for several reasons: Trump continuously punches down and shits on people for things out of their control. He demeans people because of the way they look, their weight or anything he can pick at. He’s a bitter, narcissistic and vain man who has no capacity for criticism. Better yet, he does his own makeup and does a terrible fucking job. Best of all, he’s obviously stewing as the world sits back and relentlessly mocks him. I know just how mad it will make him, and there’s little that makes me happier than the idea of Trump parading around throwing an infantile temper tantrum because he didn’t get his way.
  • I still haven’t watched Uncut Gems and I know just how anxious that film will make me. What better day to stay inside and let my organs tremble?

Well now I have the time to do all of that. Catch y’all on the flipside.

I choose power over whelming

When Doom Guy is at a bar and wants to get to know someone he thinks looks cute, does he IDDQT?

I used to love cheating in video games as a kid. Games were more about the experience than the challenge. I just wanted to have fun and play around in those worlds. I’m sure that if I grew up in a time where sandbox games were big, it’s all I would’ve played. As it was, we had side scrolling beat-em-ups, first person shooters, strategy games and fighting games. I was IDKFA, It Is A Good Day To Die, Left Down Left Right Down Right Left Left Right Right and Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A all the way down. And up, left, right, etc for good measure. I spent so much time memorising cheats, that I never really got good at the games. I’d say I was better with memory than twitch response. Maybe I should’ve played memory based games instead. I played so much Mortal Kombat 3 that I learned all the fatalities (plus many of the babalities, animalities and “friendships”) off by heart. It was less about being a skillful player, and more about seeing cool shit happen. Of course I was more interested in whether or not I could behead someone with Fei Long than knowing how to combo someone to death.

I don’t know that I’m super interested in cheating anymore. I’m not talking about vidya games, I mean IRL. I don’t really play anything but Magic Arena these days. My methodology lately has been to try and do things correctly, rather than skeeving off on tasks. Over time I’ve come to see the difference between outcomes when effort is applied. Oftentimes if you put the work in, the result is more pronounced. Seems like a given, but it’s a harder lesson to learn than you’d think. Why not just do a half-arsed job all the time and enjoy your freedom from duty? Because the rewards are cumulative. When I do a good job at something, I not only feel better about myself for having put effort in, but bask in the results. If I clean something well, it’s easier to clean it next time. Or I get used to the amount of work it takes to do something right, and it feels like less of a chore each time.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m not gonna look for loopholes. A guy can still grift, right? I like following rules when they make sense, but so much of the time they’re arbitrary. Or they require you to supplicate yourself before overwhelming capitalist forces. Am I not going to take advantage of a corporation? What would be the point? Our merest actions are unlikely to affect their bottom line, and they exponentially profit off of us. I’m fine evening the scale. Or at least, figuring out how to play within the rules while subverting their spirit. Oh, so I can only buy a maximum of ten cans of tuna at a time? What if I buy ten, walk out, then walk back in and buy ten more? Seems entirely legal, and I’m incredibly okay with it. It’s not cheating if you’re playing by the rules.

Also, ain’t nothin’ in the rules says a dog can’t play basketball.

Mostly for the bones these days

Y’know what? This entry is for me.

Pork bone stew tonight! I’m getting pork bone stew tonight! I’m sure none of y’all are as excited about this as I am, and that’s on you. I, myself, am utterly stoked. It’s been too long since I had that meaty, beautifully spiced mainstay of Korean cuisine from my favourite locale, but it’s cold as fuck and I want it. I’m an adult, and that’s my decision to make. If I’m gonna buy into capitalism, I may as well take advantage of it and follow my desires as they arise. Or at least the pork bone stew based ones. What’s the harm? It’s cheap and incredibly filling. I might even get two meals out of it. They tend to put it together with a ton of side dishes. What’s more, I can use the bones afterwards to buff up the next bone broth we make. Pork bone stew, the gift that keeps giving.

I’m getting the stew to go, because I’ve got a date with Twitch tonight. It’s the greatest time of the year in the online Magic the Gathering community: Cubemas. Let’s back step a little. In Magic there are a bunch of formats. Limited Magic means you’re opening a bunch of packs, choosing an individual card from each pack and making a deck from what you’ve chosen. The format is extremely high variance and skill testing. Not only do you need to know a bunch of deck archetypes, but you need to understand colour signals to read the draft and suss out which colours are open. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ll end up with a stack of cards that barely fit together. Your deck will be sub par, and you’ll get run over. On the contrary, if you’re great at limited, you’ll end up with some amazing decks and run over others. I’m not great at limited, but I love watching skilled played. Which is where Twitch comes in. I’ve got a handful of players I regularly watch. Some of the best players in the world stream often, and you can watch live as they draft a deck, interacting with chat. It’s really cool to be able to ask questions in real time and learn the ‘why’ of what they’re choosing.

Cubemas is another step up entirely. A “cube” is a subset of cards deliberately chosen to be put together in rotation. They’re randomly assorted. You won’t see the same card twice. Often cubes tend to be higher powered than normal sets. Around Christmas, Wizards (the parent company) puts together a curated collection of some of the most powerful cards in the game. Accordingly, the decks people make are absurd. The potential for both success and failure are off the charts. Watching amazing players do insane things never ceases to be a good time, especially when they have the skill level to mess around and still do pretty well. I’ve got my pork bone stew, I’m almost home, and I can hardly wait.

Like I said, I’m almost home. I hardly have to.

A giant, troll and elf crab warrior walked into a gingerbread house…

I know things have been very JFL42 focused lately. It makes sense. That’s where my priorities have been at. That said, while I was making sure I could get out to my shows, there was a whole new Magic set released. So here’s one for anyone who’s into that.

Throne of Eldraine is a pretty neat set. I’m not entirely sure how powerful it is, but it’s fun, and the flavour quotient is through the roof. Despite my best intentions on getting the best possible EV out of my Magic Arena gems, I played two sealed pools. It’s a reasonably fast format. Both pools had more than adequate removal, but I was pulled into red each time. The obvious MVP from my first pool was Bonecrusher Giant. Of course it’s great. It’s a removal spell plus above rate body that fits into tempo plans. The less obvious MVP was Robber of the Rich, which I pulled in both pools. There’s a lot of keyword soup going on, which proves to be useful rather than cluttered. The reach didn’t make much sense to me outside of flavour reasons, but Robin Hood being an archer makes it feel worth it. It might be good enough for constructed. Notable is the fact that you can suicide him if you just want an extra card, or want to unlock something he’s previously pilfered. Very cool card.

But that’s not really what I’m super psyched to talk about today. Here’s the current standard deck I’ve got going:

Creatures (28)
4x Pelt Collector
4x Wildwood Tracker
4x Growth Chamber Guardian
2x Kraul Harpooner
3x Barkhide Troll
4x Syr Faren, the Hengehammer
1x Voracious Hydra
3x Yorvo, Lord of Garenbrig
2x Nightpack Ambusher
1x Shifting Ceratops

Noncreature (9)
4x Giant Growth
3x Vivien, Arkbow Ranger
2x The Great Henge

Land (23)
1x Castle Garenbrig
1x Gingerbread Cabin
21x Forest

These are not the final numbers, this is what I could assemble with my limited rare wildcards. It wants more Voracious Hydra, it wants Questing Beast and Once Upon a Time. It wants the full alotment of Castle Garenbrig. That said, this deck is still putting up decent results. The Great Henge is The Real Deal. It’s like they took every value thing green likes to do and slapped them on one card. Most of the time in this deck it comes down for 5 mana, then lets you drop an instant Growth Chamber Guardian to gain 2 life, draw a card and chain up as many Guardians as you can get your hands on. If we still had our dearly departed Steel Leaf Champion, it would’ve been obscene. We don’t though, and there’s no use crying over it.

As the deck currently runs, it’s very quick and low to the ground. Yorvo was a card I assumed wouldn’t go as far as I wanted. Just something to eat removal. Thing is, it’s significantly above curve, and if it’s not handled it gets out of control. It’s especially good here because the 1 and 2 drops are so strong. Pelt Collector and Wildwood Tracker may as well be 2/2s for a single green mana. Syr Faren, the Hengehammer, really is the MVP though. The sheer quantity of damage this dude creates is unreal. I had a turn 3 kill with this deck. Turn 1 Pelt Collector, turn 2 Syr Faren, turn 3 double giant growth and turn my cards sideways. 20 damage exactly. If you’re on the draw, that’s one hell of a quick game.

Vivien Arkbow Ranger makes a ton of sense here. She gives some reach/removal, but the trample she grants is awesome. Either she’s pumping up Syr Faren so he can really deliver to ya, or giving your big friendly giant Yorvo the power to beat face with impunity. Or, y’know, keeping Growth Chamber Guardian stocks at the ready. Boy do I love that card. Mostly it’s just really fun to “sleeve” up giant growths again. They play a ton of roles, either representing 6 damage for a single mana with Syr Faren, saving creatures or clinching those games that’d otherwise be just out of reach. Once Upon a Time would really help the deck’s consistency, and allow you to increase your creature quality rather than density. My numbers of Castle Garenbrig are low because I simply don’t have the card, but in the meantime I’d consider swapping another forest for a Gingerbread Cabin. The food isn’t a lot, but it’s also not nothing.

Sometimes it is easy being green.

If I’m not getting my life back, y’all are coming down with me

Oh dear, I’ve been sucked back into Shandalar.

Let me explain. Shandalar is a Magic the Gathering video game from 1997. MtG has had many other video game properties since 1997. Battlegrounds was weird, real time stuff. Didn’t work. Duels of the Planeswalkers (later known as Magic: Duels) was okay, just straight games with a story mode and deck builder. Sometimes neat little bonuses. Then that got discontinued. Magic Arena has been amazing. It’s like a streamlined version of Magic Online. It’s colourful with cool effects. The UI is mostly pretty well done. It’s free to play with in game currency. They’re hunting for their white whales, and the rest of us plebs provide a player base for them to battle. It’s a working eco-system and a pretty huge deal for the future of Magic. I’ve spent innumerable hours in the past year on this game. I love it to bits. It’s not Shandalar.

Shandalar is my forever mistress. It’s hard to escape, because it’s so fucking fun. For people who haven’t played before, I figure I might give some tips. First of all, if you want to play on Windows 10, here’s a really good tutorial from streamer Gaby Spartz. It’s an old game, there’s some finagling required. Okay, the gist of Shandalar is that it’s a MtG based RPG. You wander around a world map battling cronies of evil wizards, building your deck up over time. Eventually you battle the wizards and save the land. Sometimes you’ll find dungeons, which have old cards very few of us get to play in real life. Black Lotus, Ancestral Recall, etc. The game also features an ante system, which means you can lose your precious cards, or steal cards from opponents. The ante system, while heartbreaking in real life (and thus has been expunged from paper magic) actually makes the game really fucking exciting. You’ve got skin in the game, and you’ll feel super shitty losing a Mox Sapphire to some dork on a horse.

With that out of the way, here are some tips for the game:

  • Money. Money is a thing in this game. It helps you buy cards in towns, or from vendors. You can use it to buy food, which helps you keep a good speed walking around the map. Money is important.
  • Towns have different economies based on their size. It’s a good principle to buy cards you want from smaller towns. Or if something’s a good card in a small town, you might be able to flip it for more money at a larger town. Buy your food from small towns if you can.
  • Liquidate everything you’re not gonna use, and try to sell your more expensive cards at big cities. You’ll get a lot more for them.
  • Once you can consistently beat enemies, they’re a great source of revenue. Sometimes you’ll randomly get really powerful cards from them too.
  • Travel by roads. It’s faster and you can evade enemies.
  • The honest to god best thing about having money in this game is being able to pay off enemies instead of battling them when you’re trying to get around the world map. When you start out, your deck will be shite. A multi-coloured monstrosity. You can streamline it eventually. Before you do, however, your win loss rate will be pretty rough. If the choice comes between risking losing a good card to ante or paying 40 gold, the gold is well worth it. I mean, you’re in the game to play Magic and have fun, so do that too. Just don’t lose your key cards to errant druids.
  • The upside of paying people off is that it frees you up to do quests for towns. This will help you power up faster.
  • Quests: Take quests that give you mana links. Your life starts at eight or ten. Each mana link you get raises your life total permanently by one. Once you have 15-20 life, the game gets more reasonable and you’ll find yourself actually winning games.
  • Quests: At the start, do the dorky quests that just require you to take messages around in exchange for single amulets or mana links. When your deck gets good enough, you can start doing battle quests where you’ll get two or three amulets for defeating powerful enemies. It’s great. You can use these to buy new cards.
  • Amulet rates: Vendors sometimes sell cards by type and amulet colour. Rares cost three (very occasionally, four) amulets, uncommons cost two and commons are one. It’s a good idea to have multiples of three amulets whenever you open dialogue with a vendor. Once you choose to engage with a vendor, you won’t be able to engage with that same vendor again.
  • Contract from Below is in this game. It is fucking insane. Take a chance to play with it, because you’ll never, ever get a chance to play it in real life. The extra ante is irrelevant. If you’re drawing 7 cards for B, you’ll usually be winning that game.
  • There are different random locations that appear on the world map. Little mountain crags, sunken ships, graveyards, alabaster columns or little forest hovels. They’re random events, and usually have a more positive outcome than negative. Sometimes you’ll wander into a thieves den and they’ll steal half your amulets or gold. Mostly though, you’ll find cards, merchants who’ll sell cards for gold or amulets, or dungeon clues. Sometimes you’ll find a powerful monster with good spells up for grabs.
  • When you have a random encounter with a powerful monster, you usually don’t put cards up for ante. It’s risk free. You might as well take the battle and sell the cards, because otherwise the monster will just disappear for good.
  • Dungeons. Get dungeon clues so you know what you’re encountering. Life losses/gains are carried over between matches. There are dice that will give you a bonus of either extra life or a card to start with. You can accumulate life bonuses, but once you have something to start with, getting a new dice replaces that entirely, even if it’s another life bonus.
  • Dungeons, cont: The best practice in a dungeon is to entirely avoid battles if you can. Scope out every available hallway without taking dice if you’re able to. Leave dice scattered around, and once you have no choice but to battle someone (to get a treasure (which in this instance is always an amazing rare card)), collect dice until you have something good to start with. It’ll make the battle a lot easier.
  • You can run as few as 40 cards. Once you’re below 40, the game will start randomly adding in lands to your deck. Try to keep at 40-43 (in case you lose a battle out in the world and want to stay above 40 cards). You can run up to three of each card until later.
  • Worldmagics: There are a bunch of worldmagics. They’re not all created equal. The ones to get are:
  • The one that lets you walk through swamps faster.
  • The one that lets you walk through mountains faster.
  • The one that stops you consuming food when you’re walking through a forest.
  • The one that makes cities offer more cards for sale.
  • The one that lets you run up to four copies of each card in your deck.
  • MOST IMPORTANTLY: The one that makes the evil wizards require five conquered cities instead of three. It’ll give you so much more time

Speaking of time, that’s all I have right now. If you’re into Magic I implore you to check this game out. It’s sincerely amazing, and despite (or even because of) the graphics, it’s a riot. It’s very exciting, gripping, and I don’t think Wizards of the Coast will ever make another game like it. It’s not a lucrative enough system.

Happy casting, friends.

You ain’t seen nothin’ jetty

Greetings from cottage country. I’m splayed out on my belly, lying atop a dock. Or is it a jetty? What’s the difference? Is it a matter of protrusion? It’s certainly a matter of confusion. Who cares? I’m on holiday.

I’ve got a writing partner here with me today. She’s working on some comedy bits while I type. We’re chatting, discussing, thinking about wording and intonation. Well, she’s bouncing ideas off me anyway. It’s beyond idyllic here. This dock/jetty (I looked it up, I think it’s a dock rather than a jetty. I also learned that jetties are used to disperse currents and create a safe harbour for seafaring vessels (or since they need to disperse currents, maybe they’re sea fearing)) is idly rocking, and it’s absurdly pleasant. Our neighbours are whipping out on their stand up paddleboards, having a great time. We can see right across, it’s a gorgeous view.

Okay, cut to an hour and a half later. I didn’t get my writing done, ’cause we chatted a bunch instead. Now we’re back in the house, it’s a hive of activity. People are walking around clothed, in their undies or nothing at all. One of our pals walked in from the bunkie. There’s a great flow. People are chopping potatoes for some kind of hash. Someone else is frying stuff up in a pan. There’s some Big Chill style motown bursting out from a portable speaker. I’m getting repeatedly distracted, but I think that’s part of the process. Who knows? We’re on cottage time now, baby. Today’s writing has been a slog, not because I’m not enjoying it, but I’m having a hard time with stimulation overload.

We had a great night yesterday. We arrived, and the group who got there earlier were already a bunch of drinks in. I played catchup rather adroitly, and played darts at the same time. I won, somehow. The game itself wasn’t the hard part. See, I’m not a competitive person. I love cheerleading my opponent when they make good plays, but my opponent asked me specifically to trash talk her. I was puzzled, because I’m ever aware of the difficult line to walk when it becomes mean. I don’t like being mean. I tried, and I think managed to not destroy her very being. I did destroy her in the game though. This place is super stocked with board games, etc. Someone found a card game that was basically a forum to encourage intimate conversations, so we talked deep into the morning. I was somehow drunk enough for a nice deep sleep, and woke up grinning.

But now? Now it’s time for lunch. Catch y’all on the flipside!

I cracked the code! He’s just saying that to throw us off his trail!

Forgive me while I watch this video of Billy Joel flipping out on repeat for the rest of the day.

It’s so great. I have no idea how many times I’ve seen it already. I’m sure everyone already knew about it, but e-fucking-gads it’s hilarious. I got so sweaty laughing that I became relieved I keep a towel at work. It’s not just the juxtaposition of seeing a usually benign artist like Billy Joel losing his shit, there’s so much more going on. Hearing him intersperse furious production demands throughout his lyrics (“When am I gonna take control get a hold of my emotions-STOP LIGHTING THE AUDIENCE. Why does it only seem to hit me in the middle of the night-STOP IT.”) was a good enough gag, but it’s only amplified by the joyous muppet on the keytar in front of him barely breaking his stride. Then if that wasn’t adequate, he fucking FLIPS THE PIANO and runs out front to start wailing on the stage with his mic stand. Perhaps I need to learn more about his ouvre aside from “We Didn’t Start The Fire” and “Uptown Girl”. Wait, maybe he did start the fire.

I had another flying dream last night. They’re not super uncommon, but this one felt quite sustained. What I thought was interesting (and I knooooow that everyone falsely thinks that their dreams are fascinating), was that flying in this particular dream had a profoundly physical element to it. Flying was like a muscle. None of this magical levitation, there was a specific action linked. I just tightened something inside of me. You know when you tighten your core? It was like that, but further internal. The more I tightened it, the faster I’d ascend or move. It felt incredibly visceral. I’m not gonna try to really pin down the narrative (something about being in a small yee-haw Western outpost and having to hide my ability, so as not to appear a witch), but it was so strange actually intellectualising the sensation and how to work it best. Like trying to better understand your gait and how to make it more efficient. Throughout the dream, I noticed my ability increase substantially. Maybe it was just someone mentioning the film Chronicle the other day, but the ties were pretty apparent. Y’know, I’m well overdue for a Spider Man dream come to think of it.

I got bored today and figured I could play a harmless prank. A few weeks back, I talked about the mysterious package that showed up at my desk. This left me with an interdepartmental envelope. Everyone else was out at a stakeholders’ meeting, but since I’m leaving soon, I got to skip it. I took the envelope to my co-worker’s desk (the one who sits right next to me) and jotted down her name/desk number in the appropriate sections. Inside I put a little note on a post it. “TAG! You’re it! No tag backs!” That was it. I sealed the envelope and took it downstairs to the mail room. So far it hasn’t been delivered. Maybe it’ll come tomorrow, who knows? My eternal hope, is that it suffers the same fate that the envelope did on its way to me. That took months to deliver, MONTHS. If this thing kicks around the system for several months, then she ends up with a dumb tag note from someone who used to sit directly next to her, how great would that be? It seems silly, but fun, and I’m sure something like that could lift her day immediately. Do I feel guilty for tying up the mail room with my own dumb jokes? Likely not as guilty as I should. Who knows, this could move all around the company and start a building wide game of tag. Why would that be something to feel guilty about?

If anything, I’m sure perennial firestarter Billy Joel would approve.