We’re Going on a Dragon Quest…

…gonna do some grinding.

…lots and lots of grinding…

…I hope I don’t fall asleep!

The last time I played this game, I’ll admit that it got boring pretty quick. It was groundbreaking back in 1990, but needless to say RPGs have come a long way since then and grinding as your primary storyline doesn’t take long to get old.

Now that said, this time around I ended up finding the first in the Dragon Quest series on the Switch because they happened to be running a sale where the first three games together were under $10, so late one night last week after the kids were in bed I decided to give it a go. Lucky for me, apparently back in 2014 this got ported to iOS and that upgraded version is what eventually made it to modern consoles, so as you can already see the graphics are much better, and it felt like the XP and leveling got tweaked a little because the grind wasn’t nearly as tedious as it was in the past.

I even got Christopher mildly curious as he watched me play for a bit here and there between his own games, so I let him take a few rounds and (luckily!) I was in a place where all of the monsters were pretty easy to kill and he could just attack without having to worry about healing and doing anything else!

It turned out that the playthrough wasn’t really that bad this time around and after about an extra half hour of grinding tonight, I was able to take out the Dragonlord and call it a day. I think it worked well for me this time because surprisingly the simple playthrough made it something that I could casually play while watching the kids do something else or even a bit in the car while I waited for Christopher at swim class.

I haven’t really played much for mobile games in a while because these old eyes of mine can’t handle the tiny screens and even on my phone, there’s not really room for controls without taking up half of the real estate on the screen. But the Switch seems to be a good option that I’ve wanted to see for a long time – full-size buttons and a BIG screen, your usual library of console games, and it’s just as easy to dock it to the TV to play on the couch with a controller when you’re not out and about, which is honestly most of the time for me.

I’m actually kind of looking forward to digging into DQ2 & 3 now that I’ve got the first one behind me, albeit with copious use of this walkthrough because I’m just here to enjoy the game, not solve puzzles these days! I’m not sure how much of the Dragon Quest series is available on the Switch to date, but I’d love to slowly work my way through and eventually get back to DQ8, which I played through on the PS2 while my wife was in nursing school and thoroughly enjoyed!

So watch out, slimes – this grind has only just begun… 😉

20 Things I Wouldn’t Have Expected About My Life 20 Years Ago…

In the summer of 2001, I still lived in my Mom’s basement years after all of my friends had moved off to college. The auto parts warehouse I had worked for my entire teenage life had just been sold to our competition, but I didn’t really care because all of my time not shuttling auto parts around Northern Michigan was being spent building my first big website.

Looking back, just about everything in my life has changed from those days, so I thought it might be fun to muse a bit about those changes tonight…

  1. I’ve finally learned that I can’t just eat whatever I want, and it’s not the worst thing ever … though I do miss the taco pizza from my hometown pizza place that was a Friday night staple for me back in the day.
  2. I have three kids, and I live in the suburbs, and I’ve worked for the same employer since I first moved to Florida.
  3. P.S. I moved to Florida! In 2001 it seemed all but impossible, but a couple of years later I finally made what is still probably one of the single biggest changes in my entire life by moving away from everything that I ever knew in search of something more.
  4. I’ve been married for going on 13 years now.
  5. I’ve published multiple books. None have been successful enough to support me financially, but I’m still proud of each of them.
  6. I’m raising three kids – two of whom are on the autism spectrum.
  7. I’ve gotten to share my passions for video games and Legos and superheroes and all sorts of fun stuff with my kids, and it’s pretty awesome.
  8. I haven’t really touched a guitar since I moved to Florida.
  9. Or my SCUBA gear, although this summer I’m introducing the kids to snorkeling in our pool and we’re all really excited about it.
  10. My go-to alcoholic drink is still the same as it was when I was 21 – a simple rum and Coke, although now I like to mix it up with some Cherry Coke or grenadine.
  11. I didn’t truly understand most of my grievances with my hometown until I experienced something different.
  12. I used to be really into Disney World, but the last few years have really soured me financially.
  13. …which is somewhat ironic because I make more than I’ve ever made in my life, but my life is also much more expensive these days and my priorities have changed.
  14. For example, to blow my 21 year-old brain – the hospital bills for all three of my kids staying in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) each for several weeks after they were born totaled in excess of one million dollars. Thank god for insurance.
  15. Speaking of god, I’m still not a believer, however my wife is and I respect her immensely so it is possible to co-exist with the right person.
  16. There’s some music from growing up that I just can’t listen to anymore – a lot of the loud alternative rock mostly, though I do revisit the classics from time to time. I’ve been listening to No More Tears by Ozzy in my minivan trips to the grocery store lately … because I haven’t owned a sexy car in quite some time now.
  17. I’m grateful that my grandpa planted the seed for investing in me back then because I think we have a stable retirement plan today because of it.
  18. There are bits and pieces about where I grew up that I miss, but it’s often overshadowed by politics and the lack of diversity that I don’t miss from there.
  19. Despite being the resident nature boy my last years in scouting, I kind of hate nature these days and hate getting called on to deal with bugs and snakes and other pests that find their way into our home!
  20. I can’t think of a single problem I had when I was 21 that still matters to me in the slightest. 😉

#HealthBlog, Post #4 – Temptation Around Every Turn…

One thing that’s become more apparent as I make my way through month two of my great 2021 transformation is that it’s almost comical how much temptation I find myself surrounded by on a daily basis that I used to indulge in quite regularly over the past years when I’ve been mostly gaining instead of losing.

It’s really nuts – just the other day, I realized that pretty much every time I got in the car to go somewhere, stopping off for a snack or a meal had been part of the trip … whether I was filling up gas at Wawa and grabbing a slushee and a bag of chips or a candy bar for the road or just grabbing fast food for lunch when I was out to pick up the kids or run other errands. And then add in things like weekly pizza delivery and Uber Eats…

I was literally eating out almost every day – it’s honestly a wonder that I didn’t gain even more than I did over the last couple of years!

Looking over a quick sampling of some of my favorite go-tos, almost everything clocked in at over a thousand calories and this was just for a single meal, or sometimes even just a snack!

  • Dominos – Memphis BBQ Chicken Pizza (3-4 slices) – 1,050-1,400 calories
  • Chick Fil A – Spicy Chicken Sandwich, Medium Fries, Large Coke – 1,100 calories
  • Taco Bell – Chicken Quesadilla, Other Random Crap – 1,000+ calories
  • Pizza Hut – Personal Pan Pizza, 20-oz Dr. Pepper – 900 calories
  • Wawa – Large Cherry Coke Slushee, King-Size Reese’s Fast Break candy bar – 700 calories
  • Firehouse Subs – Medium Smokehouse Beef & Cheddar Brisket Sandwich, Large Cherry Coke Freestyle – 1,290 calories

Though it’s a sad realization that I’m not in my 20’s anymore and can’t just eat whatever I want, whenever I want, let’s be honest that the pros definitely outweigh the cons these days for avoiding all of this crap that had once been a mainstay in my diet – health, longevity, being able to keep up with my kids, not being ashamed of pictures.

And it’s not like I can’t still enjoy an old favorite once in a while, but every single day is unrealistic once you turn 40. Hell, it was probably unrealistic once I turned 30, but at least we’re learning now…

(For my next post, I’ll share some of the other things I’ve been eating instead of all of this garbage – it honestly hasn’t been bad, just different. And that different has helped me to lose 17 pounds so far, so that seems worth it to me!)

Coronavirus, Day 433 – Much Ado About Masks…

I don’t think it’s the right move to tell people that it’s ok to stop wearing masks and other COVID precautions once they’ve been vaccinated just yet.

I get that the idea is to incentivize people who haven’t been vaccinated yet to go get their shots so that they can leave their masks at home, but the cynic in me who has been stressing out about people not wearing masks around Walmart for the last month has a bad feeling that a big chunk of the people who haven’t been vaccinated yet aren’t wearing masks anymore, anyways.

The next couple of months are really going to tell us if the anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers really are a large number or just a vocal minority as we watch both the new case and death rates alongside the vaccination rate here at home.

If you do the math, it looks like we’ve been averaging about 2 million shots a day over the last week, whereas we’ve seen between two and three million per day over March and April. That’s about 30 million people vaccinated per month if you assume two shots for full vaccination, although we know that about 8 million people have taken the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine to date.

IF we’re to keep up that 2 million a day average for another month, that would be roughly another 30 million people vaccinated and about 25% of the way towards our goal … however it gets even more complicated when you take into account that kids make up about a quarter of our total population and nearly half of those not yet vaccinated…

Here are the numbers that I was able to pull together today:

  • Total US Population – 328 million
  • Estimate for Herd Immunity – 70-80% = 230-262 million
  • Currently Fully Vaccinated – 119 million (36%)
  • To Go for Herd Immunity – 111-143 million
  • # of Kids Under 18 – 74 million

Personally if *I* was making the rules, I’d have asked people to keep it up at least until the 4th of July … which originally I thought was President Biden’s target until yesterday … which would at least put us hopefully closer to 200 million vaccinated.

Maybe it’s because A) I don’t like being around people, so social distancing doesn’t bother me, and B) honestly masks don’t really bother me that much, either. I mean, I wouldn’t necessarily wear one if there wasn’t a pandemic going on, but if you tell me that it will help to prevent the spread and in particular help people who are more vulnerable from catching this awful disease, then no argument here.

Hell, I’m high risk myself due to a chronic condition, and seeing as masks don’t as much protect us as they protect the people around us, it seems only neighborly that I wear a mask for you and you in turn wear one for me.

I know that not everybody thinks that way and some people are just plain tired of all of this, but given what’s at stake I don’t see how it makes any sense to rush it when we’re still a ways from the end. Right now we’ve slowed to about 700-800 deaths a day here in the USA, however India is seeing 4,000 a day … which is a number we experienced here only a few months ago back in January.

Earlier today I saw someone comment that it was time for those at high risk to protect themselves and the rest of us to move on with our lives, which just feels like a dirty, cruel thing to say, and for what? To avoid wearing a mask out in public and crowding each other? That attitude to me just seems selfish after 600,000 people in America and 3.3 million worldwide have died of COVID.

We’re making some good progress and the end is finally in sight – why risk it by being impatient before we’re actually in the clear? If you’ve been wearing a mask for the past year, what are a few more months at this point???

Random Thoughts for 5/13/21

  • I can’t help but feel cynical about the CDC’s announcement today that vaccinated people no longer have to wear masks because I think a lot of people who aren’t planning on getting vaccinated at all are going to take it as a free pass to stop wearing masks, too.
  • The kids’ last day of school is coming up in less than two weeks and I’m equal parts excited for them and terrified for us!
  • I’m looking forward to our pool getting a little warmer soon because I told David that I’d teach him how to snorkel this summer.
  • Despite taking this week off, I got a surprising amount of work done in about 8 hours time. Maybe less really is more.
  • I haven’t done as much writing as I would like lately, but it’s hard to complain because I’m doing well elsewhere.
  • Today is the first day that I found my shorts falling a bit looser since I started my new diet, so that’s kind of exciting.
  • Despite my progress, it’s still hard walking down some aisles at the grocery store – particularly ones boasting all-new S’mores Oreos…
  • Apparently at some point Christopher wrote his name in marker on my TV and he’s very lucky that there are usually black bars over that part of the screen.
  • Next week, hopefully, the evil oak tree in my front yard finally goes, and I couldn’t be happier!
  • Tomorrow would’ve been my older sister Lisa’s 44th birthday.

Dream Journal : I Bought a Mall

In fact, mall was really an understatement as my dream progressed!

It started with an incredibly large apartment – bigger than any house I’ve ever seen, to the point where I had a bunch of people come over to help me inspect the place and get settled. I had oddly discovered that one of the windows didn’t lock correctly, so I wanted to go over the entire place to see what else needed to be addressed, but as we wandered the rooms just kept going and going…

…also, apparently there was a mini-golf course outside, though that never actually got played!

Just outside the entrance to my apartment was a lounge that seemed quaint, but was also surprisingly large with several connected rooms each filled with a small number of patrons each. As I realized that this was now also mine, I was intrigued by the idea of walking around in the evenings as people drank and chatted the night away. I think there might’ve been some gambling involved, too?

At one point I remember sitting down at the bar and counseling a young waitress who was great at her job, eventually asking if she wanted the position of head maître d because the current person when I bought the place wasn’t working out.

The biggest surprise, however, was when my wandering led me to discover the full blown shopping mall that was also connected to the growing complex that was my new home! There was a huge computer store and tons of boutiques, a salon, and several larger stores, too. I was actually going to get a golf cart to help me get around the complex because it was so large, and I had an assistant who I would communicate with via radio for seemingly mundane things like turning down the AC in an area that was too cold.

It wasn’t until me and some friends were wandering around the computer store – which was more like a warehouse – that reality started to catch up with me and I began to wonder how in the world all of this only cost me $1,300 a month!

We ran for a while among all of the computers when we thought a security team was chasing us, but it wasn’t until I was back at home and waiting outside to meet somebody because the entrance was hard to find in all of it that an expensive, black car pulled up and the original owner appeared to explain that the purchase price had actually been $13 million a month, not $1,300.

Coronavirus, Day 425 – My Achy Achy Shot

Color me vaccinated!

Well, I’ve had both of my shots, anyways, so about ten days from now I’ll be vaccinated … though it’s hard to tell in our world right now exactly what that really means…

My “COVID morale” over the last week or so has definitely taken a few hits on account of the following:

  • Florida’s Governor overriding every local government and suspending all COVID-related orders across the state.
  • Many counties following suit and admitting that they can’t enforce their own ordinances anymore. (my own county did this at the beginning of April)
  • Word on the street that theme parks are loosening their own restrictions.
  • A promise already that schools this fall will be in person and without masks.
  • …despite a not-zero number of kids who have caught this thing.

Seriously, almost 4 MILLION kids have gotten COVID?! And over 250 of them have died!

I get that we’re talking about BIG NUMBERS here and the averages are still quite low, but when so much of the rhetoric – especially from our governor – has been that, “COVID doesn’t affect kids at all – it’s a crime not to have these schools fully open!”

I think my big fear right now is that now that we’ve gotten a good number vaccinated (31% fully as of now, 40% has at least one dose), we’re going to see the counts stabilize just long enough to “get back to normal” and drop the rest of our restrictions, and then this summer we’ll see another wave because everyone who was going to get vaccinated will have done so, but not necessarily enough for us to truly achieve herd immunity. 

The truth of the matter is that the lower stats lately are really only good as compared to the previous peaks – averaging 50,000 new cases every single day, particularly when 20+% of them are apparently kids, isn’t exactly anything to cheer about…

One thing I will admit is that I’m starting to agree that COVID probably isn’t something that we’re ever going to truly be rid of – it’ll get down to a more manageable level and we’ll probably see it wrapped in with our flu shots – but it will never go away. The question is, to what level will the stats fall before we declare that “victory” and try to move on with our lives, particularly considering that some want us to have done so already???

I get that in the grand scheme of things, tens of thousands of people are both born and pass away every single day. Hell, even with all of that death, 220,000 new people were born today alone!

But I think it’s easy to discount life when you only look at death from such a high level overview. Were the 14,000 deaths from COVID today around the world not worth the rest of us taking precautions for because 26,000 people died of cancer or nearly 50,000 died of heart disease? I’ve seen a lot of people get into these weird arguments about personal responsibility and probability and not living their lives in fear, but mostly I think it comes down to whether you’re able to be compassionate for other people or you’re just seeing COVID as something standing in the way of you having a good time.

Also, while cancer and heart disease aren’t communicable diseases, how much COVID spreads is directly determined by what we do as a society, so I’ll be “curious” to see how the graphs change into the summer months across states and countries with varying vaccination rates.

Maybe I’ll be wrong and it’ll turn out that Michiganders should’ve been able to go fishing all along, but I doubt it.

P.S. I had originally meant to write this blog post about my reaction to my second shot, but then I kind of got off on another angle there! Regardless, my arm ached a bit, then I had some nausea and trouble sleeping overnight, and now two days later the ache is mostly gone and all that’s left is a bruise.


#HealthBlog, Post #3 – The Next 10 Pounds Are Always the Hardest…

First and foremost, I suppose I need to accept some credit where credit is due because although a couple of weeks ago I wrote about my weight loss going kind of slowin reality I ended up losing 10 pounds during the month of April!

*hold for applause*

I guess it’s tough because I know that in the past when I’ve tried to lose weight, I tend to lose a bunch of water weight right off the bat and it’s a nice little drop, however this time it really has been slow and steady for the most part, which I know is how it’s supposed to go anyways, but I digress.

I think I’m both excited and nervous about May because while I’m generally feeling good about the new choices that I’m making, it’s still a question mark as to what the long term impact will look like … not that two months is long term…

Part of it is really because in all of my various attempts over the years, I’ve only ever been able to lose maybe 20 – 30 pounds, and usually I’ve stalled out closer to the 15-pound mark.

And I know that I don’t necessarily have to lose another 10 pounds this month – again, it’s a journey, not a destination.

Maybe it’s just that I’ll feel better about saying that “I’m working on losing weight” again once I get past my previous points of failure. It’s not that it doesn’t count until I clear those previous hurdles, yet sometimes it kind of feels like it.

It reminds me of a bit from comedian Tom Segura I heard a while ago where he talks about imagining explaining to people how he’s lost all kinds of weight without actually having lost it yet … as in the classic, “It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle…” line and so forth.

I think because I’ve tried to do this so many times, it feels a little fake to celebrate these smaller milestones that I lost and then eventually gained back and then some. It actually makes me wish I had some sort of record that I could hold myself to as I progress to be able to say, “Now I’ve lost 25 pounds, and I weight what I used to weigh five years ago…” or something like that.

Or maybe I just need to stop thinking about it and go do something productive instead! 😛

Coronavirus, Day 416 – An Unofficial Survey About Masks

So first of all, the good news – our local school district has announced that masks will be required in our kids’ schools for the rest of the school year!

Granted it’s only another month, but you may recall that this was a big issue earlier this month for me because my county dropped its mask mandate and the schools were contemplating theirs, as it hinged on a statewide order that is set to expire at the end of this week.

Now I don’t know what happened because our governor still hasn’t announced whether it will be extended or not, but apparently the schools decided they had more power than they thought and just decided to pull the trigger anyways. Maybe somebody figured that a lawsuit is going to take longer than the next month to get resolved anyways, so who cares?!

Well, I do, and I’m both happy and relieved by the result.

That said, this afternoon was also interesting on social media because after reading the announcement online, I shared it to our community’s Facebook group as no one else had done so yet and what followed turned into a rather interesting social experiment for me. I mean, I knew that there were going to be some negative reactions because it’s clear that not everybody is onboard with wearing masks.

But I’ve always wondered just how many were of that opinion because A) people who bitch online tend to be the loudest, and B) I’ve observed both good and bad days just going to our local Walmart at various times. If I go after the kids are in bed around 9pm, I’d say the vast majority of shoppers are wearing masks, but if I go around 10am after I drop David off at school, it’s far worse to the point where my trip last week was pretty uncomfortable.

So I’ve been watching both the reactions and the comments on this news post for a few hours now … or at least until an admin closed comments because some folks weren’t being very nice … and here are just a few unofficial observations that I’ve made about wearing masks, particularly children wearing them, in my local community…

Of those 194 reactions:

  • Like – 109
  • Love – 29
  • Caring – 3
  • Sad – 9
  • Angry – 44

In other words, 73% were positive and 27% were negative … which is both comforting and better than I was expecting.

Some choice comments…

  • One person was concerned about bullying – of people who weren’t wearing masks – because they believed people were already being bullied about not wanting to take the vaccine.
  • One person repeatedly shared a well-debunked link about masks not being effective.
  • A common retort was to “follow the science” as if to imply that science said that the pandemic was already over.
  • One lady actually did say that the pandemic was over because we have a vaccine and hospitals aren’t overwhelmed anymore.
  • Lots of complaints mentioned “not living their lives in fear.”
  • One person cited losing 53 people in their life to COVID, which is just really horrible.

Other random observations…

  • Of the 100 comments entered, the same people’s names kept coming up over and over … meaning that while it looked like this huge debate, the reality was at least a lot of the back and forth was a small handful of people responding with the same arguments.
  • A lot of stats were overstated on both sides – one person cited 20,000 new cases in Florida every day, whereas we’ve really been averaging about 6,000 cases a day. Another cited “classrooms of 60-80 kids” in close proximity, which is also clearly wrong!
  • One guy told me, “If the government told you eating shit sandwiches protected you against “covid”.. you’d be first in line.”
  • Another fun person had a banner on their profile picture that said, “I would rather shit in my hands and clap than take the shot.” But in a cute way because it used emojis for the poop and the vaccine!

So the good news is, my kids get to finish out the school year uninterrupted and we can worry about what happens next at the end of the summer when we’ve got a few more months, and hopefully more vaccines and far fewer daily cases and deaths to worry about.

On the other hand, some of these folks who don’t believe in the importance of wearing masks apparently also have a strange fascination with shit … which isn’t great for public health concerns in general if they also believe hand washing to be a waste of their time.

Life’s a Journey, Not a Destination…

Admittedly my weight hasn’t really moved much since the last time I wrote – it went down a pound or two but then dipped back up – yet ultimately I’m still feeling pretty good.

This week I think it might’ve finally clicked what Aerosmith was trying to teach me back in the ’90s because of all the various goals that I’m currently working on for the next couple of months, I’m really trying to acknowledge not only the progress, but also the things I’m learning along the way…

For my diet and weight loss goal, I’m learning how to eat better and things that I can enjoy that are healthier for me than what I used to gorge myself on.

For my writing goals, I’m learning what things best influence my own productivity and which types of creative work are best suited for me.

For my day job goals, I’m learning about how to plan for the unexpected and making commitments that are both ambitious but still realistic at the same time.

And for my sleep goal, well, I’m learning that I really need to go to bed earlier if I ever want to succeed at this one!

On top of all that, I’m trying not to take for granted the simple notion that life really isn’t simple at all.

There are so many moving parts in my life right now and I’ve got a lot of different irons in the fire, so maybe when I didn’t excel with writing in a given week, it’s because I was more focused on weight loss or family stuff. You can’t run at 100% all of the time, and when you’ve got a bunch of different goals like I do, I think I need to accept that they’re going to move along at different intervals.

Which is important to understand because I know that being down on myself for “being unproductive” just devastates my work all the more – depression can be a bitch like that – so I’m much better off looking back and trying to focus on the positives, even if I have to dig a little for them, and then doing my best to learn from them as I move forward.

P.S. Fun Fact – The actual origin of the “Life’s a journey…” quote is believed to have been a religious text from about a hundred years ago!