Pup/date of a Five Month Old

It’s been stupid cold. No really. Daytime temperatures in the minus thirties and overnights colder. Throw a stiff breeze into that and we were getting feels-like minus forty-five days for most of February. It finally broke into the minus teens over the last day or two, but for a puppy filled with energy who really, really, REALLY wants to go for a walk, it has resulted in three or four too short walks a day while we all hunkered down in the house and dreaded opening the doors. We made do and had lots of indoor action to keep her engaged and worn out, but even the reprieve of a backyard pee didn’t provide much opportunity to enjoy all that fresh snow, what with the stupid, stupid cold.

i big girl nowz

What? A puppy is growing, you say?! She has outgrown her first walking harness, though, so from among of the first things we bought her (and she was virtually swimming in it when she moved in) we now have an outgrown in pile. And while extended family circle of puppies is growing with my parents adopting a Schnoodle a couple weeks ago and my sister welcoming a German Shepherd cross a month or two prior to that, Cricket might still be among the smallest of the group and not bring much value for handing down her hand-me-downs.

i playz fetch

A random tennis ball became an object of fascination in our living room for long enough that I sourced out a trio of Cricket-sized versions from the pet store, by which I mean they were about half the diameter and appropriate for my pup … not used in the popular sport cricket. Those three balls have become beloved treasures, particularly in the cold weather, as we burned off a load of excess energy playing Cricket-in-the-middle and learning the fundamentals of fetch.

treeetz frum my brane box

Finally, as the bell-ringing at dinner time (ie. oh, I see you are eating and not paying attention to me so I will ring this bell at the door not for what you intended which was as an indicator I need to go outside, but rather as a way to provoke your attentions upon me) officially became annoying, we discovered a puzzle box. The pup now spends part of our dinner time trying to unlock the various compartments in which bits of her daily treat have been hidden. Flip, turn, poke, slide… it keeps her busy for five minutes so that we can have a few warm bites. I think we’re graduating to the next level quite soon, tho.

Post-Apocalyptic Badassery in a Mid-Pandemic Wasteland

Whenever I’ve need to get away from the dark melancholy of a world overrun by a deadly viral pandemic I’ve been retreating to a virtual world overturned by a stark nuclear winter.

My Playstation Plus subscription came coupled with a collection of PS4 games that while they don’t showcase the capabilities of my new top-of-the-line, next-gen gaming system are games I never got around to playing much or at all.

Fallout 4 was on both lists, the list of games I hadn’t played much of and the list of games that came along free with the annual subscription I bought from Sony.

And when I logged in to check my trophies and gaming profile I was a little surprised to see that not only hadn’t I earned many of the achievement that go along with this RPG but also that my time-in-game had passed 30 hours over the last couple weeks. Those two data points didn’t exactly jibe.

Fallout 4 is a role playing game (for those unfamiliar with the franchise.) This means that you start off as a character in the game where character is all that really matters. “Character” doesn’t necessarily mean upstanding character, but rather that the point of the game is to develop and enhance the characteristics of your in-game character to advance through a story and accomplish various tasks and goals.

The main big-picture goal is that of finding you abducted son, who was stolen away under shady circumstances while you were locked in a hibernation chamber waiting out two hundred years of post-nuclear fallout.

The small-picture tasks are generally killing undead radiation creatures while you hunt the wasteland for bigger guns and loot to satiate your endless ammunition needs while you make sketchy friendships with settlers by building them crappy shacks to live in and then filling it with mouldering furniture.

Yes, I’ve actually spent more than 30 hours of my life doing this… during a pandemic. Uplifting, huh?

The trickiest part of the new console though is finding games that balance playability and fun on one side with watcher-enjoyment on the other. The PS5 is hooked up to our main television in a common space where schedules usually converge on three people looking to make use of that screen at the same time.

In other words, if I want to play a game (even though it’s the television I bought — welcome to fatherhood!) I get less pushback if its a game that’s entertaining to watch as a spectator.

I’m not one hundred percent sure Fallout 4 is that game but as I progress deeper and deeper I’m finding myself reading up on the lore and in-game plot threads so that I can narrate the backstory to what’s happening to anyone else in the room who finds themselves stuck watching me V.A.T.S. a raider with my nuclear powered shotgun for the two-thousandth time.

Getting trenched in on an RPG is the point of an RPG. Finding immersion in the story, and seeking to drive the plot forward through the progressive adversity of increasingly more difficult is what game makers aim for, I think. I enjoy RPGs because throughout my life, every couple of years, I find myself entrenched in one and loving the time I invest in it.

Some that stand out in my memory are Ultima VII, Final Fantasy VII & IX, Chrono Cross, Skyrim & Breath of the Wild. I’m getting to a point where I could easily see myself adding Fallout 4 to that list… even as it brings a different level of twisted gloom to an already gloomy era.

Reading | The Dark Forest (Cixin)

The Dark Forest by Liu Cixin (2008)

For the first time this year, unlikely the last, I’ve shelved the previous read and moved on.

It was almost three weeks ago when I picked up The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson, an alternative history novel set against the context of a pandemic that wiped out a huge piece of the European population five hundred years ago.

I have not real excuse besides it was a bit of a slog.

Grand ideas, complex characters, and a twisting narrative across multiple story-lines spanning time, space and the afterlife… meet my short attention span, I guess.

I always feel a little bad when nearly two hundred pages into a novel I pick it up, sigh, and then read. Analogously, it feels like walking down a beach, looking for a trail in the sand, while the waves wash away the footprints, while knowing that if you could just find a hint of some other traveller it would lead you to a treasure… or at least a good seafood restaurant.

It also makes me feel a bit numb because set against the backdrop of our own global pandemic, I’m mentally drained and I know if I had less anxiety about the universe I could probably find that trail in the sand and I might actually enjoy The Years of Rice and Salt.

So, perhaps saying I’m shelving it is a little extreme. I’m going to leave it on my table beside my comfy reading chair, and if I feel particularly focussed some day I’ll dig into it again (and check in here if I ever finish it.)

Instead, I pulled the second book in the Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy The Dark Forest by Liu Cixin, a sequel to The Three Body Problem which I finished just over a month ago.

As I dive back into this story of a slow motion alien invasion of Earth, the plot has jumped ahead by a few years as humanity spins up a variety of reactions to the event.

A recap (and spoilers) in the first novel a civilization from a planet from a nearby star system is revealed to be in a bit of a pickle as their triple-sun solar system creates chaotic and cyclically destructive environs for their continued survival. It turns out that some rogue humans replied to some space spam and now the aliens know we exist and are coming to take the planet away… but in four hundred years because even a few light years is a hulluva long way to go. As an advance invasion they’ve sent ahead things called sophons which are advanced computers curled up inside the higher dimensions of elementary particles. The sophons are extremely tiny, but are able to disrupt humanity’s ability to progress technologically by ruining advanced physics experiments that would give us technology capable of defending ourselves four hundred years onward. Also they allow the aliens to snoop on our communications, so … no secrets for us. What’s a species to do!

I guess that’s what I’ll find out in part two of this trilogy.

Hopefully the characters have a longer attention span than I do.