Apocalypse Log: Part 3

Again, crossposting the stuff I’ve been writing to amuse myself and my family to hopefully amuse you guys too.

Apocalypse Log: Day 18

Scavenged at the grocery store today. Barely escaped with my life. Mutants were everywhere.

Apocalypse Log: Day 19

Apparently Chaos Demons feed off of each other. When you separate them, you have considerably less Chaos Energy to dispel. Without her younger sister, the older one periodically decides to just clean the house when she gets bored. Or she’ll do her homework. She’s generally out of the way. This is amazing. Takes me back to a fonder day, one I can barely remember now.

Apocalypse Log: Day 25

I had to drive to Denver today. For essential business, yes, but it’s always a pain going to Denver. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, Denver is what, in the old world, we used to call a city. It runs younger and more hipstery than most, and has inexplicably summoned a murderous horse-devil to a place of honor in its airport, but otherwise, mostly typical. It does have one fatal flaw however. Some years ago, as far as I can tell, Denver decided it didn’t have enough space in its schedule for both drivers ed classes and its autoerotic asphyxiation course, so apparently it decided to just teach people to do both at the same time the way everyone in Denver drives.

So, even though there was only a fraction of the usual traffic on the road, two times, I still had to combat mutants driving two ton death machines trying to murder me. I’m not sure whether that’s because of the apocalypse, or just business as usual for Denver.

Apocalypse Log: Day 31

Went scavenging at Costco today. Supplies were surprisingly intact, likely because Costco itself exists inside a separate dimension of which only the select few may enter with their sanity intact. Costco can be very dangerous in the best of times. The Madness of Stuff it instills can drive a strong soul to a sobbing quiver. It is impossible to accurately describe to one who has not already endured it. Costco is a test of character, it likely has what you desire, but you must walk the shifting halls in a realm where time has no meaning while gremlins offer you samples seeking to fill your shallow physical needs to distract you on the path there. There is no rhyme or reason to that place. Shredded cheese is not located near the sliced cheese. Fresh fruits are in a garage connected to the butcher’s station. Port existed there last week, it’s gone now. You could die in Costco, and nobody would ever notice in those winding halls.

It is a true peril to your physical life and your mortal soul, but it was fully stocked with supplies, so I unlocked the dimensional portal with my membership card and headed inside. In spite of the cabal’s initial advice that this was utterly useless, now, we’re supposed to wear masks, I assume so the mutants don’t see how beautiful we are and attack us out of jealousy of what they have lost. Following this guidance, I shrouded myself in an American Flag bandanna and put on my leather gloves for safety. Thus dressed like I was going to rob the place, I walked into the portal as if I was going to rob the place. Nobody batted an eye. I assume because they’ve been robbed plenty of times since the apocalypse started already. I did not proceed to rob the place.

It seems a few of the mutants have glommed onto the idea that those of use still clean have started to wear masks, but don’t quite seem to understand why. I spotted one older mutant wearing what was clearly a pair of Pokemon underpants as a mask. An odd sight, but it makes me stand out less, so I rolled with it. Walking among the mutants was a strange experience, but not an eventful one. I did manage to escape intact, but not entirely successful. Costco has still buried my port under the waves of time.

Apocalypse Log: Day 32

As part of my employer’s efforts to make me a hero and save people from being cast out into the cold, probably Infected streets, I’ve talked to hundreds of people with our emergency assistance interview processes. I’ve started to notice that perhaps there’s a tell, in this stranger apocalypse where you never know who is truly safe to be around, as to what affiliation they might belong to. Many, many people will answer the questions “Do you have any children living with you?” with something along the lines of “Oh yeah, I have my dog/cat/mongoose/whatever.” Those people are almost certainly Toilet Paper Hoarders and should be either avoided or exterminated with extreme prejudice. If they refer to their pets as “furbabies” in their answer to that question, they are probably also mutants.

Take this information. Use it to survive. Be a Survivor.

Apocalypse Log: Day 35

Ended my week of helping people with emergency assistance by approving a rather significant amount of money for someone I’m pretty sure was outright lying to me about their need, but I had to approve anyways because I have no way within the constraints we’re working with of knowing with certainty.

Being in customer service mode all day long has left me totally fine with staying in the stronghold all day, because I don’t want to deal with the people in the outside world anymore anyways.

The Benefits Rant

This is not going to be a fun post.  It’s not even a post for any of you.  This is one for me.  I need to vent my feelings about something for a bit, and I can’t do it on any channels that bear my slave name for fear of the local press picking up on it, so here it is.  Feel free to ignore this one, and we’ll get right back to the usual fun, entertainment-oriented content next week.

If you’ve been following my Apocalypse Log bits, you may have seen that I’ve started helping my employer, a local government agency, process applications for emergency assistance in the Corona Crisis.  I’m actually really proud of that, I enjoy actually being able to help so directly in this situation.  Basically, my agency set aside a bunch of money to help with April’s rents and major living expenses, thousands of people applied to it, and I follow up on applications and conduct interviews to determine if they get financial help and how much they get.  It’s good work.  It’s also pretty stressful, but it’s not necessarily a bad kind of stress.  But there’s one thing that’s just sticking in my craw.

Most people get denied. And its getting to be frustrating.  Really frustrating.  I got to approve two people for funding today, and that’s the first I’ve been able to all week.  After processing a couple of dozen cases.  There are hordes and hordes of people applying for benefits that are completely ineligible in the first place.  And on the one hand, in my usual job, I’m usually all for having people apply to what they could reasonably get, and not having them pre-sort themselves out unless it’s clear they wouldn’t get it.  That’s having some rather serious consequences, here.  We are slow to respond just because of the sheer amount of cases on there.  A few weeks on, and we’re still working through the applications we got just three days after we opened it, most of whom we cannot help.  There are tons of people on this list who do actually need the help, but we cannot reach them yet just because we’re still having to sort through the massive amount of people who don’t.  Particularly as April’s rent is a week past due in some cases, us not being able to reach these people in time is having some dire consequences as landlords start trying for eviction proceedings.

Some people are just coming for help at the wrong place.  We’re not paying rents for people when there are already other programs with state or federal funding that can help them.  So the tons of people with children coming to me, I have to deny and refer to another program that can directly pay their rent, because that one’s designed to help people with kids and this one we need to stretch the available funding as far as we can for the people that can’t get help elsewhere.  It is a major task to reach out to them and make sure they’re getting to the right place, but I can understand it because it’s not like these people have the same encyclopedic knowledge of available benefits and resources like I have to maintain for my usual job.  For a lot of them, this is the first point of contact with the system they’ve had, and they apply here because they don’t know where they’re really supposed to go.  It’s still a burden on our system, and it’s still keeping us from being able to help the people who really need it, but I can understand where their coming from.

What I’m really starting to burn from is the people who have the means to pay their expenses yet apply anyways.  Again, I can understand where this is coming from.  I’ve never been unemployed, I’ve had the right combination of skills, choices, and luck to avoid that.  But I work entirely with people who are, and I know how worrying and panic inducing it is, particularly when you’re dealing with a system with no end in sight.  Moreover, if I was faced with having my savings rapidly exhausted and an uncertain future, I’m sure I’d be on the lookout for potential sources of help as well.  As I said, I understand.

But I don’t sympathize.  The past couple of weeks, hundreds of people learned I don’t care about sparing their savings.  A statement said to me today; “So the fact that I’m only going to have $200 left at the end of this month, that means nothing to you?” That’s right.  It doesn’t.  Nor am I swayed by the many people I’ve talked to who say that they need help now even though they can pay their rent and all expenses for the next several months because who knows what the future will bring, or who have accounts set aside that they don’t want to dip into, or who have already paid their rents and want us to pay them back.  Nor am I going to spare you from awkward conversations.  If you haven’t yet, you will still need to have a probably not-fun talk with your bank in which you discuss your options for keeping your home or car, and it’s only if there aren’t any options there that I will step in.  If you haven’t been working on getting unemployment, I’m going to ask about it, and push you in that direction if applicable. We need to stretch these funds as far as possible, because frankly, we may not even have enough already for everyone who’s applied.   And moreover, as is always a factor with government, all the dollars we’re putting towards this have to come from somewhere.  In giving money out like this, we’re either going to have to recoup through taxes or cut other, beneficial programs later.  This is all going to have ripple effects that we’re not even sure of yet.

So yeah, I have tons of people on my application list, far, far more than those who are actually facing the kind of need we can actually help with, who are clogging up our systems and keeping us from using our time to really help people.  I’ve gotten pretty good at denying people.  And many are really good with it, still remaining understanding and friendly even when told help is not forthcoming from us.  What really chafes me are those who have the gall to act out when told they don’t qualify.  Tons of people getting surly with me, or argumentative, on being told that they have to pay their own rent.  Not only are they making life worse for others by clogging up our systems in mass and keeping us from reaching them, they feel so entitled to this money that will neither have an immediate effect of keeping them from being homeless or making sure they can return to work once the world isn’t an apocalypse that they try to engage with verbal battle with me in a vain hope of… I don’t even know what they think is going to happen with it.  And I’m in good customer service mode then, so I have to use my verbal jujitsu skills to gently end the conversation rather than salting the earth and shattering the most dearly held parts of their self-image.

And the funny part of it is that you can’t tell for sure in advance who is safe to discount, because people are absolute shite at filling out applications, apparently.  It’s not like ours are even hard.  So, people suck, so we have to be careful of discounting people en masse and still have to spend the time talking with them, yet we have to do so knowing that our job is more to find the needle in the haystack than it is to be the giant money cannon.  And our job is that way, because it turns out that when you say “Hey here’s some money come get some if you need it” the line between need and want may as well not exist.

So yeah, everyone out there facing homelessness in my community who I’m hoping are not actually able to find this, I’m sorry we haven’t been able to swoop in and keep you afloat.  I would love to do so, but I have literally thousands of people standing between me and you that shouldn’t be there.

And now I’m done whining.  Next time, we’ll go back to something fun and probably super dumb in the best way.

Apocalypse Log: Part 2

Because using my snarking as an outlet produces content that works both for my social media here as well as the stuff I use my slave name for, here’s some more of those Facebook posts I’ve been putting out venting about the current Coronapocalypse.

Apocalypse Log: Day 8

As is standard, school is not in session during the post-apocalypse. This poses several problems, foremost of which is that it unleashes those Chaos Demons I had summoned into this world upon us, all the time. And while our bodies may be at risk from the mutants, the Infected, and the toilet paper hoarders from the outside, our very minds are at risk from the ever present threat of the Chaos Demons and their attacks on our sanity from the inside.

As is usual, I spend much of my weekends with the Chaos Demons alone. The smaller of them awoke at 5:30-ish in the morning, and rather than joining her elder sister in their traditional Saturday morning ritual of destroying my living room while I slept peacefully because who would be awake at that Godforsaken hour, she instead decided to spend the next half hour screaming at me for milk, then waiting long enough for me to lull back into the first stages of precious sleep before screaming again. When I finally relented and got her milk from the fridge, she took one sip before falling peacefully asleep.

I’ve changed my mind on what we’re eating first once we run out of food.

Apocalypse Log: Day 10

I managed to scavenge some fortune cookies. Given the current situation, the fortunes therein seem like the universe is truly mocking me.

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I ventured outside today. Not on a scavenging run, not seeking to make a preemptive strike in defense of the stronghold, just scouting out the landscape. At first, the thought of doing so without weapons gave me pause, but then I remembered that I had to get an open carry permit for my arms because our local government professionals declared that they were, and I quote, “total cannons”. The outside world is a surreal place. When the weather is warm, there are only children outside. No adults. When I go outside on a beautiful day, I only encounter those 18 and under, for whatever reason. The adults only seem to emerge in the snow or rain, when the children vanish. I assume that this is related to the mutations they’re all undoubtedly going through. Maybe its related to worms, only emerging into the open air when there’s precipitation because it enables them to breathe through their skin.. I’ll have to investigate this further. I did spot several adults out there in vehicles. I have been unable to ascertain their current state of physical form, whether mutant, Infected, or TP Hoarder.

My partner, for reasons unbeknownst to me, has doused the floor of my war room liberally with vinegar. I would like to assume that she’s doing so to purify any ghosts entering the stronghold, but we’re not at the point in the apocalypse that we’re at significant risk of that, and she did not concoct the vinegar solution with sufficient herbs to serve as a good purifying agent. I have to assume she would know better, but that leaves little reason that presents itself. I worry that isolation is beginning to have effects on her.

It has rained or snowed each of the past several days. With the way things have been growing, I’m just grateful that it’s not fire that’s falling from the sky.

We are out of port. Situation currently looks grim.

Apocalypse Log: Day 11

I fear I may have let my guard down today, with fatal consequences. Encouraged by my success at venturing outside yesterday, I went out for a run today. About halfway through my run, my body temperature started to rise, and some time afterwards, I felt rather short of breath. As I recall, those are both symptoms of the disease we’re all defending against. I fear my long tenure of successfully being a survivor is coming to an end, and soon, I shall join the ranks of the Infected. I will wait for confirmation before taking drastic action, but I remain prepared to cast myself out into the wastes at the slightest sign of this progressing.

I pray someone shall take care of my family once I am gone. Chaos demons and all.

Apocalypse Log: Day 12

There’s a time to be a hero. And there’s a time to be a survivor.

Today, I’m a hero. Yesterday, my employer, our local government, had set aside some money to help people in this apocalypse with nowhere else to turn. Today, my employer imbued in me the power over the lives of the people applying for it, charging me to approve or deny their requests for assistance according to my merest whim. Well, and also a set of guidelines and standards, but mostly my merest whim.

Most were denied. This aid is only for people with truly nowhere else to turn. Most were eligible for some other program that could help them, which fair enough, they probably didn’t know about it, so I hooked them up. Some went straight for this last ditch hail mary pass by their county without exploring all the other options available to them, which, sorry, we’re not paying for the things you can just make go away elsewhere. Some applied for help even though they’ve already got the savings and income coming to meet their expenses. At least they were honest about it.

You know who did get help? The people who already had their budget worked out, and knew just what bills they had coming, what resources they had available, and exactly where their gaps were. Those who didn’t weaken themselves with children that made them eligible for other (better, but shhhh!) programs. Those who were already committing their resources to fill their needs to the greatest extent they could, and needed solely something to take care of the rest. That’s right. Those most successful at this were the Survivors. Just like me.

I worked hard at it. And as the fruit of 8 hours of labor between myself and others, we managed to complete most of the applications we had received in the first fifteen minutes that program was open. ……..this is going to be a long week, isn’t it?

Apocalypse Log: Day 13

My girlfriend has scavenged us up a bottle of port and Costco quantities of scotch, thus reminding me why I date her. It’s the little things in this apocalypse that touch you the most.

 

Apocalypse Log: Day 15

I’ve talked to probably around a hundred people the past two weeks, all of them either over the phone or on the other side of a webcam. Particularly with the cabal tightening their martial law and not allowing us out of the home but for certain, approved purposes, I barely even see anyone walking on the sidewalk outside, or come across them on my runs. The only people I talk to face to face are my partner and the Chaos Demons in my stronghold. I’m starting to get the strange sense, what if no one else is real? What if the apocalypse has been even worse than I feared, and the only ones left not mutated or, hopefully, Infected are those of us in my stronghold? What if everyone I’m talking to on the phone or chat is just a simulation put together by the cabal, to make us think that things are still mostly normal? How would I know?

An unrelated thought, although our organization-issued laptops come with webcams, almost none of my coworkers will turn them on for video chats. I suspect it’s to hide that fact that nobody changes out of their pajamas anymore.

Apocalypse Log: Day 17

Let’s play a game.

I live in a world where the government has mandated that we are not allowed to go outside. Nearly everyone’s lives revolve around multifunctional pieces of advanced technology that both the government and giant megacorporations with loose morals use to spy on us, which is widely known but generally accepted. Contact with other humans is hazardous to your health. Everyone carries a general air of depression about them. I spend my evenings hooked up to a virtual reality machine just so I can feel what being outside and talking to another person face to face is like, because I haven’t done either in so long I have forgotten.

Am I a character in a dystopian cyberpunk story, or am I Aether in the modern age? Is there even a difference anymore?

Apocalypse Log

Hey folks!

Something a little bit different today.  I had planned to have the next bit of the Persona 3 retrospective out a week ago, but, much as I hate to be propagating the “All Coronavirus, All the Time!” of the rest of the internet, I work in a human services organization, my region’s the first and hardest hit of my state by viral stuff and lockdowns, and I haven’t had the capacity to be putting the usual post together.

Still haven’t yet, although things seem to be settling into more of a routine.  In the meantime, I’ve been blowing off steam about the situation by posting about this stuff on Facebook, and figured that might entertain you folks as well.  So, to follow, as I work on getting back to our usual personal entertainment-based content, enjoy my screeds on the Coronavirus social distancing measures we’ve been facing.

Apocalypse Log: Day 3

It’s been 3 days since our local government imposed martial law in response to the Novel Coronavirus outbreak, and the first working day we’ve had. I think we’ve adjusted rather well. Not that it’s been easy. There’s been a lot of changes. Never knowing who is a potential ally and who might be one of The Infected. The cabal-imposed shutdown of all services and businesses in the community. Our right to free assembly negated. But I’m a survivor, we adjusted, and our stronghold is relatively well-equipped.

Not perfectly, however. On paper, all seems well. We’ve managed to secure a comfortable stockpile of toilet paper from the horde. Our escape routes and contingency plans are starting to take shape. And, on paper, we have enough food to last an extended siege. But there are small flaws we’re still working on at every stage. The food issue is currently the biggest one. As I said, on paper, we have enough. We could withstand an 8 month siege just on our stockpile of girl scout cookies alone. But if we’re seeking to thrive under these conditions, we need to do better. We’re running dangerously low on key nutritional groups. We only have eight half-full bottles of wine and spirits, for example. And we’re almost out of both Frosted Mini-wheats and milk, and I fear for the state of the house once that occurs. Seeking to forestall that, my partner had gone out salvaging yesterday. She returned after several hours in the infected wastes with bagfulls of provisions and tales of store shelves nearly picked clean by the mutants. Most of this food was contaminated by the insidious poison, ‘sodium’, but I suppose that was to be expected in this environment. She did not return bearing the familiar shape of a precious gallon of milk, but she did return with a carton of a familiar shape. Wasn’t quite the quantity I hoped for, but my excitement grew, and I could already taste the white ambrosia in my mouth. That crashed to the floor as I turned the carton over, and read the word ‘oatmilk’. This is a cold hell this world has turned into.

To do: Talk with the kids about which pet to eat first once we run out of food.

Apocalypse Log: Day 4

There’s a strange dichotomy to survival situations. Twin impulses that work against each other, yet both must be considered. The one, the impulse to act, and act now, that something must be done and it doesn’t matter what it is. The other, that it’s safest to wait, to watch, to stay where you are like a turtle in its shell. People who aren’t survivors listen to one or the other without consideration. That’s not a strategy that will serve well in these dying times.

It’s a natural course of events that public utilities don’t last long in the apocalypse. And so it wasn’t unexpected that our stronghold lost electricity in the wee hours of this morning. A lesser person might have left the stronghold immediately to try and rectify the situation. However, this carries the risk of running into whatever mutants, Infected, or TP Hoarders caused the outage in the first place. Of course, the threat of whatever vile presence ended the electricity in the first place may have prompted a lesser person to remain in the relative, if dark, safety of the stronghold. That, likewise, would have been a mistake. After all, without electricity to power our devices and beam wifi into our stronghold, it was only a matter of time before members of our party turned against each other.

With calm calculation, I determined we could ration the remaining power retained in our devices for approximately 10 hours. Perhaps more than that if we used our wine and spirits to supplement that time. That gave me a framework to work within. This time was a resource to me. I made my plans, gathered my resources, girded my loins, and waited for the opportune moment. Too soon, and one would have to fend off whatever fiends still remained in the power plant. Too late, and one would had to waste energy on one’s own family. No, I armed myself, I planned, and I waited. There is a time to be a hero, and a time to be a survivor, and this was not the former.

As was demonstrated when power returned 40 minutes later. Undoubtedly, someone had entered the power plant before the time, and sacrificed themselves in returning electricity to all us stronghold hoarders. Although their impatience cost them much, I do have to respect, and honor, their sacrifice.

But still, I am a survivor.

Apocalypse Log: Day 5

I am given to wonder about the wisdom of splitting up our workers into their own independent strongholds. It seems a rather calculated risk. On the one hand, sure, you never know who is in the process of becoming one of the Infected and might soon unwillingly turn on you. On the other, it seems like at least my place of employment would be a lot more defensible than most people’s strongholds, and that’d we’d be a lot better poised to defend our collective bounties of toilet paper from the hoarders as a group.

My work is one I am technically able to conduct remotely, but doing it solely from the stronghold has been a strange experience. For one, the local economy getting screwed harder than a shop class 2’x4′ means I’m largely stuck with addressing my customer’s symptoms, not their cause. Sorry, we’re saving our beds for those most at risk, so stay at home, no testing for you, take these food assistances and unemployment insurances to make sure your condition is manageable, and wait for your symptoms to decrease. That’s not enough for everybody. Many of my clients are still reaching out to me. “Save us,” they plead. “Sure,” I respond. “I can’t meet in person, but let’s set up a phone call or google hangout.” Then, their fear shows. They react as if the phone lines are part of the Infected, that by calling, they will be exposed to the virus as well. They let this fear rule them. They are not survivors.

Luckily, I am.

Apocalypse Log: Day 6

Our complex dumpster has become a microcosm of the state of our fallen civilization. Somebody, who perhaps was attempting to ensure that they would eternally burn in Hell for their sins, threw away a dying smoke alarm that still had enough juice in it to beep incessantly over the course of the day. Anyone who thought they might have a relaxing post-apocalyptic afternoon had those plans crashed as an endless alarm bored into their safe strongholds. Somebody else had placed some small furniture in front of the dumpster, and the rest of our fellows, who apparently didn’t have the survival instincts required to sidestep a chair, started dumping their trash in front of the nearly empty dumpster instead of actually in it.

It is disgusting what our civilization has come to. I thought long and hard about correcting it, throwing the trash away or digging through the dumpster to find the fire alarm. However, with the threat of Infection omnipresent, it was too much of a risk. There are times to be a hero. And there are times to be a survivor.

And I’m a survivor.

In other news, my partner has scavenged both milk and Frosted Mini-wheats. In light of this, I have decided to forgive her for the oatmilk debacle. Supplies of wine and spirits are somewhat reduced, although we still have enough to last some time. Port has become the official drink of the apocalypse.

An Amazon Preorder Problem

Fair warning, this post isn’t going to be like most of my other posts.  Most of them have something constructive to offer.  Or, at least, intended to be constructive.  Like, you’re supposed to be amused or inspired or enlightened or struck by how cool and sexy that Aether guy is or something like that.  This post is just me mildly ranting about something that’s largely inconsequential, with maybe a hint of consumer notice.  One might wonder why I’m even spending the time here on it.

Because I feel like it, that’s why.

Businesses like pre-orders.  It’s good for them.  For producers and retailers, it gives advance economic information on what the likely market for this product is going to be, gets a committed buyer in you, and gets people purchasing items for the intended price, before market forces have the chance to adjust it.  For consumers, the advantage is really only if they expect there to be an insufficient supply of the item, which for games has been fading in the world of cheaply produced storage media and digital distribution.  So game publishers will sometimes add incentives for it.  Preorder bonuses, what not.  Because they want you to get preorders, because it’s good for them.  Sometimes you just preorder because you know you’ll want the game at launch either way.

But however you do preorders, a central conceit of them is that once the item is out, they’ll actually send you the thing.  Apparently, Amazon is trying a maverick new business practice where instead when the item you ordered is released, they just don’t do anything.  That’s right, this is a marvelous new feature where you can take all the time you were going to spend on that item you were hotly anticipating and spend it bonding with your friends and family, going out and volunteering, and overall making your life better instead of enjoying time with your new item.

So… yeah.  I kind of like buying games to commemorate things, when the opportunity presents itself. One of the very very few odd things about me, I guess.  Souvenirs and other simple visuals I’ll inevitably end up sticking somewhere and largely forgetting about them, clothes and useful things will get worn out and destroyed eventually, but games will come back in memory and in turn remind me of the events and people around them.  Every time I think back to Final Fantasy Adventure, I remember the childhood road trip with my Grandpa in which he got me the game.  Metroid Prime 3 reminds me of one of my old, departed, college professors, as I bought it with money I earned helping him put his property in order in the last months of his life.  And early last year, I put a couple of month’s work into a competition, ended up winning a chunk of money in it, and thought I’d get myself the physical release of Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove to create some memory callbacks to the experience later.

So I preordered it.

On Amazon.

That was a mistake.

The early parts of it weren’t their fault.  When I originally preordered it, it was coming out in May of last year, but then the developers delayed it indefinitely  Eventually they announced a release of December 10th.  So… there’s like a six month delay between when I expected I’d get it and when I actually should have gotten it that has nothing to do with Amazon.  I use my family’s account, so that holiday season, I couldn’t check in on it for fear of getting Christmas spoilers.  But December 10th came and went with no Shovel Knight.  Well, sometimes things get delayed, and the holiday season’s a busy one for both Amazon and the postal service.  Maybe it’s just running late.  But then a week passed with no Shovel Knight.  Then two.  Then Christmas.  Still no Shovel Knight.  Check the order now, and it’s saying it’ll be there by January 4th.  Never actually was shipped.  I call up Amazon Customer Service, trying to figure out, hey, what the heck, is this actually going to come for real?  I was told it will definitely be shipped out, and would be there January 4th.  It wasn’t.  Call Amazon Customer Service, it’ll definitely be there January 27th.  Check Amazon later, it’s saying January 29th.  For a game that had been out almost a month, and I had preordered almost a year ago.

So I cancel that, order the exact same game through Amazon (Prime shipping is addictive) and the game is in my sexy hands two days later.  Leading me to wonder what the point of preordering in the first place was.  It literally got to me faster and more reliably ordering after release than it did through preorder.

I’ve heard Amazon can be a little hit and miss with preorders.  I rarely preorder games, but have done so before through Amazon without issue.  And I get that Amazon is an organization moving a lot of product, and quantity leads to mistakes, and they’re high pressure as well, which also leads to mistakes.  Things can happen.  But what galls me here is that Amazon had multiple opportunities to detect and correct the problem, at least the times I brought it to their attention, and it didn’t happen.  No problem here, move along sir.  No idea how representative this is of typical preorder on Amazon, or if this might possibly be a nefarious plot by one of my many enemies, but, beware, I guess.  Could happen to you.

Maybe.

But hopefully not.

Notes from the Newbie GM

You come here for the video game content, right?  Too bad.  This isn’t a video games blog.  This is an Aether blog.  Usually I talk about video games, because that’s what’s fun to me.  But really, I talk about whatever the hell I want.

And today, whatever the hell I want is a different type of gaming.  Dungeons and Dragons.  Recently, I picked up the role of ongoing GM for the first time.  Building up a campaign, not just a few one shots.  And it turns out, GM’ing is hard.  Most of the group of players I have here are the same group I learned to play with, and they’re all much more experienced than I am.  Most of them are even more experienced GMs than I am.  As it turns out, GM’ing is hard.  And I think GM’ing for this group is even harder that it would be with a group of complete newbies.  These guys, they freakin’ see right through everything I’m doing.

In any case, I’ve got a handful of sessions under my belt, now.  It’s been an odd experience getting this far.  Here’s a handful of thoughts I’ve had on the process the way up here.

All the Resources are Worthless

Everything geared towards the “New GMs.”  All of it.  Absolutely unhelpful.  Even the things that you think might be helpful.  You would think the Dungeon’s Masters Guide would be essential.  That’s what teaches you how to do the whole thing, right?  Nothing.  If it didn’t come with a list of magic items, it would not be worth anything.  Sure, it has a whole bunch of tables if you’re wanting to roll the dice and randomly generate your world, but just like how procedural generation leads to boring level designs in video games, would you ever expect that to lead to something engaging on the tabletop?  Anything else it has, if you’ve been a player, you already know.  You’ve seen it in action.  You’ve lived it.  And it’s easier to translate that experience than it is to try and pick something up from reading.

But that’s okay, we’ve got the whole wide interbutts at our fingertips, right?  Ehhhhhh…………..  No.  For whatever reason, I’ve yet to see a good newbie GM’s guide.  I’ve even yet to see some newbie GM tips that are helpful.  They’re all either floofy platitudes that don’t really give you anything, they’re concepts that are either over your head or too advanced to work in until you learn to manage your players, very specific things that would not work with the way that you or your players intend to have your fun, or they’re so obvious as to be pointless if you’ve ever been a player.  All of it.  Absolutely all of it.  Even the newbie guides I’ve seen from people who otherwise have intelligent things to say about D&D fit everything into one of those four categories.  And for Kord’s sake don’t go into any sort of online discussion on the subject.  For whatever reason, it seems that the only people heading to talk to others about it have absolutely no interest in actually listening to anyone else.  So many opinions going in all sorts of directions, and no way to figure out what’s good there.

So what do you do if you want to learn GM’ing?  Well, first, spend some time as a player.  You may have noticed that was a common theme of what I had above.  It will do a lot for you if you’re wanting to build worlds of your own to spend time in other’s.  It will teach you things.  From my experience, it’s the best way to get at what you need to know.  Beyond that, just look up regular tips for GM’ing.  Go for the ones for more experienced GMs.  For whatever reason, when they’re talking to the newbies it makes people’s brains go all weird, but you can see some solid material that still gets you what you need to know if you look at what they say to some peers.  Thinking your way through that stuff will teach you a lot more than the weird stuff they’re flinging at the fresh GMs.

Your Players Will Follow Your Lead.  Easily.

From what I’ve been seeing from other GMs, it’s a common struggle to get players to follow on your plot strings.  To actually heed the call, pick things up, and go where you’ve got your material.  Either that pesky free will comes into play, or they completely miss all your intricately laid breadcrumbs, and it’s hard to get them to do anything without railroading.

I have not faced that at all.  Possibly, my experience may be different, because although I’m new, my players are outright D&D fanatics.  They throw around terminology that I don’t even know what it means years after playing.  They seem to have thoroughly explored every new piece of official content before it’s ever even released.  And as I said before, they’ve been seeing right through me.  Oftentimes, they’ve been moving in the direction of the quest before I’ve even laid it out for them.

I just need to hint “hey, there’s a thing there” and they’ll be making preparations for it.  Unless I’m unknowingly being railroady, they’re all actively reading into my intentions and making sure they’re playing along with it.  I’ve gone in some rather off the map directions, and they still keep on top of it.  I had a part where I had the guys basically taking over a town, allocating workers, distributing resources, working out policies, things like that.  I was expecting to actually have to explain this, to more mechanically prompt them into doing it, but no.

I didn’t feel like I even had to suggest it, they picked it up right away. That was a good feeling.

And it makes sense. The game’s not about having the GM against the players. Well, I mean, it kind of is, given that the GM controls the enemies in combat. But it’s not really. They’re working together. And yeah, railroading is no fun. But if players go outside of where the GM made the game, well, there’s really no game. They’d have to sit there while the GM just hammers something out on the fly, and it won’t be as well-thought as the stuff they put prep into. And they know that. So they’re not going to go marching to the east if the adventure is in the west, because that’s not fun for anybody.

That said, you do still have to know their character motivations. Had one player recently who decided that a villain marching through their town wasn’t worth getting out of bed for. Was totally in-character for him, but not super helpful. So sometimes you do have to make the call something that connects with them. In this case, I set his house on fire to get him to do something.

Take that sentence out of context.

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Your Primer to NJPW’s G1 Climax 28

I’ve said it before. This isn’t a video games blog. It seems like that sometimes, because that’s what I usually talk about. But it’s not. It’s an Aether blog. And that means sometimes we have different subjects than the usual around here. Today’s going to be one of those days. Because today I want to talk about wrestling.

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New Japan Pro Wrestling, specifically. Been something of a passion of mine for over a year now. And it’s a good time to be into it. A really good time. The company has been spending the past couple years putting out what many consider to be the best matches in the history of wrestling. They’ve been gathering some of the best talents in the industry, and the results have showing. Perhaps most tellingly, the Wrestling Observer Newsletters rating scale, which many fans look to as the gold standard of wrestling match reviewing, has only awarded more than five stars eight times in its long history. Seven of those times have been matches with New Japan Pro Wrestling within the past year and a half. Hell, they’ve become enough of a powerful presence in the pro wrestling world that even the WWE, who as a rule never acknowledge other wrestling companies, have made some pretty huge references to NJPW over the past several years.

Calling New Japan the best wrestling has ever been is going to draw some controversy, but it’s got a solid claim to that right now. What’s much less disputable is that NJPW is in the midst of a golden age of the form, delivering a level of quality that people are still going to be talking about for years. They are giving us some of the best wrestling you can see. And with them expanding their efforts to connect with worldwide audiences, a new president who has set a priority of delivering more English content, and with NJPW being on the eve of this year’s G1 Climax, probably their highest profile event of the year, I’ll repeat that. It’s a really good time to be into NJPW.

And you know, I’m a giving person. I like making the world a better place. So for those who were interested in getting into this year’s G1 Climax, I thought to put together a little primer. Just something to make jumping in a bit easier.

New Japan Pro Wrestling

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Even if you aren’t a wrestling fan, you know wrestling. It’s been around a long, long time, and has taken up enough of a place in our culture that, yeah, you know what you’re in for. So let’s talk a little bit about what’s different about New Japan Pro Wrestling from what you might generally see.

One thing that’s been with NJPW since the start is their value on what they call Strong Style. Yes, WWE selling Shinsuke Nakamura as the King of Strong Style is a direct export from here. The company was founded by Antonio Inoki, a wrestler/martial artist who had a stupid fight with Muhammed Ali once that ended up serving as the dumbest possible origin to Mixed Martial Arts. But Inoki was never-the-less inspired by that, and worked that into the company he made, delivering a take on pro-wrestling very much inspired by MMA, boxing, and other combat sports. The company used to go too far with it, demanding their wrestlers also take part in legit MMA competition and seeing plenty of wrestlers make a habit of hitting each other too hard to get more impact out of their supposedly fake moves. They’ve walked back on it since, but it’s still a part of their DNA, and you’ll see a lot of their wrestlers with legit records in MMA, amateur wrestling, kickboxing, etc. behind them. They do strongly value a mix of styles, both drawing inspiration from outside sources and seeing variety in the types of wrestling styles on display.

One of the best parts of wrestling is the drama. It’s more than just a competition, because a competition that’s not really a competition is kind of lame. Wrestling is at it’s best when you’re feeling for the characters in the ring and getting invested in the momentum between them. In typical wrestling, this often takes the place of a sort of soap opera with muscles that will always sound dumb when you try to explain it to someone else but it can actually be pretty awesome to watch. NJPW is way, way more subtle with that. You don’t usually get people standing in the middle of the ring talking about how they’re going to fistinate everyone else. There’s no ladder matches for custody of people’s children, nobody getting into each other’s heads by having sex with manikins, no fake buyouts of the company by future presidents. For 95 percent of the show, it’s all matches. Most of the story happens in the ring, by the behavior of the people involved in their matches. The announcers will deliver some, some of the special content post match interviews will deliver some for those who choose to go with that too, but most of it just comes from watching and gaining insight into how they interact with each other. Some wrestlers are better at it than others, which leads to some differing quality on how this goes. The story also typically goes over a lot longer term, too. Some people, you’ll see rivalries playing out over years, only coming up a bit at a time when they have the odd match with each other. It’s pretty regular to see them set up a moment at one point that’s not going to have the emotional payoff you’d expect for months. When it works well, it works very well. Again, it does lead to some missteps along the way, but what booking doesn’t have its stupid missteps?

They also take a really different approach to match structure. NJPW values the health and longevity of their wrestlers, so the primary style of wrestling match is some variety of tag match. By my understanding, wrestlers are more driven to push the limits and go for those risky awesome moments in one-on-one matches, which leads to more injuries, so they try to save those singles matches for select times. Typically, you only get singles matches when somebody’s challenging for a title, when they’re going through one of NJPW’s tournaments, or in the odd grudge match. The top talent in the company often end up only having about 20 or so singles matches a year, a record way less than most anywhere else. You still see them in tag matches all the time, so you still get a chance to enjoy them for what they’ve got, but you don’t see them completely unleashed but for a few select times.

And frankly, that booking approach comes to define a lot of how things work in NJPW. Titles gain a lot of weight behind them, because the champion becomes the person you’re going to be seeing in singles matches for the next while. Perhaps because of this, the titles are more volatile than in many other promotions. Most champions are only able to hold onto them for a couple of defenses before someone else takes over. Factions are a lot more important to the company’s structure, as well. Most of the talent is divided into one of four different factions. Those factions give the individual wrestlers some identity, serve as a vehicle for both collaboration and conflicts with other groups, and provide the stable of member with whom you’ll see them team with in that multitude of tag matches they use so often.

The G1 Climax

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When I say the G1 Climax is perhaps the highest profile event of NJPW’s year, that might lead you to expect things that don’t quite apply here. The G1 Climax is not NJPW’s equivalent of WrestleMania, the year-turning show in which they pull out all the stops and capitalize on all the momentum they’ve built up. No, that would be Wrestle Kingdom, which is almost always a great experience in it’s own right. Still, not the G1 Climax. In fact, no titles will be on the line during the G1 Climax, no grudges settled, nothing finished.

Rather, the G1 Climax is a tournament. 20 wrestlers separated into two blocks, going against each other in singles matches over the course of a month. There’s no eliminations from this tournament, it’s all point based; two points for a win, one for a draw, nothing for a loss. At the end the two wrestlers with the most points from each block face each other. The winner of that scores a contract that, assuming they can defend it until then, has them challenging for the top title of NJPW, the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, in the main event of next year’s Wrestle Kingdom.

So what’s the big deal about the G1 Climax? Well, aside from the fact that it’s twenty shows over the course of a month of great wrestling, remember that NJPW is protective of their talent, only having them in singles matches on select occasions. And this is probably the biggest select occasion. This is actually where most of the wrestlers involved will be seeing the majority of the year’s singles competition, more matches in one month than they’ll have in the rest of the year combined. This isn’t the only singles tournament NJPW has, but this is the one that gathers the biggest quantity of their top talent, and as a result, has a really great quantity of high quality matches, all in a single place.

Moreover, this is one where they pack a lot of surprises, as well. You’ll see normally invincible champions falter. You’ll see wrestlers pick up surprise victories over people who would normally be way above them in the power rankings. You’ll see matches go in bizarre directions they wouldn’t try anywhere else in the year. Generally, whenever someone beats a reigning champion, they end up with a title shot against them later on, so you’ll see this open up a lot of doors to surprising future matches as well.

So yeah. It’s not just one great show. It’s a lot of great shows, many that bring things you won’t get the chance to see any other time this year. It’s an excellent jumping on point, or an exciting annual event if you’re already in there. There’s a lot to look forward to here.

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Your Guide to Holiday Home Defense

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It’s that time of year again. The time when that spirit of doom rises over us all. That time when we all have to watch our backs every moment of every day. That time when we all know that Jolly Red Roof Lurker waits for our moment of weakness to invade our homes, eat all our cookies, get uncomfortably familiar with our children, and take the credit for all our thoughtfully chosen gifts. Just this morning, before I got into work, he was in my office. He left me something right on my desk. A tin of cheap cocoa and a couple of mugs with his face on it. To mock me. Just to show he knows where I work and that even though it’s behind a couple levels of security, he can still get into it any time he wishes.

I am many things in life. I’m the world’s sexiest human being. I am the new hope for good in a world without. But I’m also the world’s foremost Santa Hunter. And this year, I thought I would do my part to further make the world a safer place and talk about how to defend yourself against Santa, this year. Now, there’s not a science to combatting old St. Nick. You have to be prepared to be flexible, and honestly, there’s a lot to it that you won’t pick up without years of experience. But Satan Claws does operate according to a rather strict set of rules, and knowing them, knowing how to take advantage of them, could just save your life this year.

It can seem impossible to fight back against Santa. After all, he’s constantly watching everything you do. You know that weird thing you do when nobody’s watching? Yeah, he sees that. He’s also everywhere. Especially this time of year. You can’t go anywhere without spotting signs of his involvement. It can seem overwhelming. But keep in mind you don’t have to worry about all that. You don’t have to deal with him in the stores or out on the streets. Sure, it would be an opportunity to rid us of the red menace once and for all, but leave that to the professionals like me. You just need to worry about defending yourself for one single moment, when he enters your home.

The first step in that is just knowing who he targets. Santa is notoriously prejudiced in his operations. For some reason, the Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and practitioners of many other faiths are generally safe from his invasion. Perhaps the most reliable way of ensuring you and your home is safe is to convert to one of those religions, in which case he might just ignore you entirely.

He also seems to focus more on homes with young children. Being child-free is less of a guarantee of safety, but perhaps something to consider.

What is no guarantee of safety, as many assume, is not having a chimney. Many think that having no fireplace means that Santa has no means of ingress into their home, but that’s simply not true. Likewise, many assume that Santa is a normal man with strange magic powers. Again, not true. Sometimes, Santa may take the form of a man, but just as often, he remains in his natural state, that of an intangible Christmas Spirit. In that form, he is able to enter your home through any exterior defenses, whether locked doors and windows, electric fences, or magical barriers.

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And it is in that form he is most deadly. He’s not able to switch the “From” names on your presents to his own in that state, but he has a far more dangerous tool at his disposal. In his Christmas Spirit form, he can take over people’s minds, possessing them or making him his thrall. If you’ve ever wondered why Santa can appear in so many stores at the same time, or why he looks slightly different every time you see him, that would be why. Those are simply others whose very sense of being he has overpowered. It seems he is only able to do so to adult males, it’s very rare to see a woman under his direct control, but for anyone who falls under it, it seems his call is irresistable; no matter how strong-willed they are, they will do his bidding. Most of the time, his thralls are easily identifiable, for they will wear his guise and his clothing. On Christmas Eve, however, his powers grow, and his thralls may not necessarily bear these marks. You should be suspicious and ready to strike against any adult male in your vicinity. Not every grown man is susceptible to his glamours, many, like myself, seem to be immune. But enough of them are that until proven otherwise, you should be suspicious of your significant others, fathers, grandparents, uncles, and any other adult male relatives. When in doubt, it is safer to knock them unconscious than to hope that Santa has not seized hold of their mind. They may pass an uncomfortable night, but if they care about you, they will undoubtedly be pleased to do their part to keep their home safe.

If you’re a grown man yourself, it seems the best way to protect yourself from Santa’s possession is to keep yourself in an altered state of mind. Get drunk. Stay drunk. Not too drunk, because you’ll still need to be able to fight, but drunk enough. You’ll know when you’ve hit that stage. Just stay there, all Christmas Eve. You haven’t seen any of those store Santas drunk around all those kids, have you? It seems Santa has a harder time seizing someone’s mind when it’s under the influence.

Of course, the men aren’t the only ones in danger. In fact, the women might have it much worse. Particularly the mothers. Santa has a really weird love life. As chronicled by that old song, Santa has some constant, broad amorous affections, but only for mothers. Typically, those already romantically attached, as well. It seems he’ll often use his thralls to place his affections, stealing kisses from their partners, underneath the mistletoe. Which, by the way, is poisonous, because Santa spoils everything he comes across. I suspect that seeing familiar features of their loved ones under his guise opens their minds to the prospect, at which point he begins to work his glamours. Whatever the case, witness reports are constant from young children of finding Santa at his dirty work in the middle of the night, only to begin enjoying the affections of their mothers once he is done. Their fathers, nowhere to be found in all this. Some of you still living with a parent or with kids of your own may be tempted to use this odd amorousness as bait, but this is an advanced technique, with much risk at play. Leave it to the professionals.

Due to Santa’s natural phantasmal state and his possession of your friends and family, it’s not recommended to use weapons. You could easily end up harming those close to you who find themselves under Santa’s power, or you could destroy things within your home without harming Santa himself. But don’t worry, you’ll likely be able to drive him off with simply your natural abilities.

Santa will enter your house in his phantasmal state. In this form, he is largely intangible, and mostly invisible. Most people will not even realize he’s in the home. Those of you with mental powers may be able to detect his entry, and he will be very weak to your mind bullets in this state. If you don’t have those, or if you’re wanting to do some more serious damage, you’ll have to be patient and wait until he takes physical form. He will need to do this before he can interact with anything in your home, whether that’s your cookies, your presents, or your family. If he is able to seize the minds of anybody in your home, he will use their bodies, but if not, he may bring in somebody from the outside through some magic I’ve been unable to decipher as yet, or he may manifest in his own form. He is a skittish creature, and will only take a physical form if he thinks he is completely safe in doing so, so it is of vital importance to either hide well or pretend to be asleep until he appears.

Then you strike. Strike fast, strike hard. He is an accomplished combatant, with strange seasonal magics at his disposal, so the goal is to avoid getting into an extended fight with him. It will be far safer to do enough damage in a single moment to drive him off.

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The WWE has been conducting and publishing ongoing research on this for years. Their research seems to suggest that Santa is vulnerable to your finishing maneuver, provided it strikes at the head and is the type that you can pull off suddenly. Your Stone Cold Stunners, RKOs, Diamond Cutters, Sweet Chin Musics, those type of things. In my experience, you can also try for a submission hold, but that does carry a risk that he will leave a thrall in the middle of your hold. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve slapped my Scorpion Deathlock onto Santa only to have to explain to my grandfather why he came to in my hold later.

If you do not have anything suitable there in your repertoire, a stealth attack might be your best bet. Be prepared for the night in your best stealth gear, sneak up behind him as quietly as you can, and make your move when you’re within arm’s reach. I’m a fan of an elbow to the back of the skull, but you know your fighting style best.

If you do find yourself locked into melee combat with Santa, again, the goal is to deal enough damage to force Santa to release his hold and flee. Again, this may be dangerous, but keep in mind that no matter how the battle goes, drawing him into combat means that his dastardly business in your home is interrupted, so you’ve won that part of the battle already. Again, you know your fighting style best, so trust yourself there. Your best bet is to be as aggressive as possible, seeking to deal as much damage as you can as quickly as you can. The shorter your fight is, the safer you will be. He’s got a lot of cushioning on his torso, but strikes to the head and knees work well. Do not underestimate him, in spite of his weight, he is surprisingly swift. Strong, too. In my experiences, though, he’s a relatively simple fighter, mostly sticks to boxing, with some dirty moves thrown in, but his fundamentals there are strong. Fighting him may be difficult, but if you are both careful and aggressive, it should not take too long to force him to flee.

When he does, under no circumstances should you pursue him outside your home. There his magics are most powerful, and he may have reinforcements out there, in the form of other thralls, his reindeer, his wicked elves, or, worst of all, the dreaded Krampus. You may witness some dedicated Santa hunters attempt to fight him there, but it takes years of training and experience to reach the level that you can do that safely. Rest assured that you have protected the lives and safety of both yourselves and the rest of your family, and leave the next steps to those with more experience.

With this, I hope you can keep yourself and your family safe this holiday season. And as always, rest assured that we are ever growing closer to ending the evils of Xmas once and for all.

Cooking With Testosterone: Bison Burgers

Sorry, don’t have a real post for you today.  So we’re going to have this fake post.  We’re getting into the time machine for this one, bringing back something I wrote in… 2012?  Bloody hell, I feel old.  Anyways, here’s some totally cheap content.  I hope you enjoy!

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“Aether, you magnificent figure,” I hear you ask. “Why exactly should I care that you ate a hamburger?” Ordinarily, I’d agree with you. But this is no hamburger! These are bison burgers! These are at least three times as manly as your average hamburger!

“So what?” I hear you ask again. You’re really loud. I can hear you from all the way over here. “It’s still a burger. Absolutely simple to cook.” Well shut your mouth. I’m crippled. It’s the best I can do.

I don’t normally cook meat, because all the vegetarians I live with hate it when I make the house smell delicious and remind them that I’m higher up the food chain than they are. But I do like to break out the bison, once in a while. It can be used in pretty much all the same things beef is normally part of, and it’s leaner and less fattening. It retains its juices better if you cook it right, too, so you can end up with an even juicier patty if you’re awesome like I am.

Started with a cast iron pan. Cooking bison has to be done at a lower temperature for a longer period of time than beef, which is really difficult to manage properly on my screwy stove, but I’m an expert, so I can handle it. I used my traditional burger recipe, mixing in egg to make it juicier and oats to help it stick together better, but it’s juicy enough the egg might be overkill. Then, just cook it like you would a regular hamburger.

As with everything else in life, it’s a lot better with some nice buns. The cheap ones aren’t really going to cut it. The meat’s stronger and gamier then regular hamburger meat, so you’d want to match it with some more prominent flavors. Use a sharp chedder, strong onions, dark lettuce, and top it off with a nice dark ale. Of course, you’ll have to be equally strong to match the bison flavors. Obviously, I had no problem, but you might want to do some serious soul searching before attempting this dish on your own.

I cooked it almost perfectly, if I do say so myself. The only problem was that I went with the cheap store brand onion rings. A bison burger of this caliber deserves the top shelve onion rings. As a result, I’m only able to award myself 49 out of 5 points. I know, I know, I’m ashamed, but I’ve still got one more meal to redeem myself. Stay tuned!

Cooking with Testosterone: Steak and Sprouts

My family cajoled me into writing a dumb thing about cooking again.  I thought there’s a slim possibility someone other than them would enjoy it, so what the hell, let’s share it here.

So what we’re looking at today is steak and sprouts, a meal that became a classic the instant it emerged from my head. You might remember brussel sprouts as those vegetables you haven’t seen ever since you got your own home because your parents always made you eat them because they were ‘good for you’ even though they both looked and tasted like green cow poop. As it turns out, it’s not only possible to make them taste good, it’s easy, you just have to get over that parental idea that only bad things are good for you.

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If you’re lucky enough to have one of those moms who loves you, then you might have no idea what brussel sprouts look like. You can see them in the picture here. I used frozen brussel sprouts for this dish. Fresh brussel sprouts would almost certainly be better, but that’s a risky proposition, as the chances of you eating them before they go bad is almost nil on account of the fact that they’re brussel sprouts. Our first step is to cut them into chunks. Then we bake them. We do this first, because brussel sprouts take a long while to cook. That means that not only did your mom make torture you with her lame, disgusting sprouts, she put a lot of work into her torment too.

After that, it’s time to prep the steak. We’ll rub Worcestershire sauce, salt, and fresh black pepper into both sides. Keep in mind that Worcestershire sauce uses sardines as an ingredient, so if you’re making this steak for your vegetarian friends, maybe find a substitute sauce. Then we’ll let that sit for a while.

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In order to get our sprouts tasting good, we need to add something that counteracts both their bitterness and their healthiness. So we fight the brussel sprouts with another superfood, and mix pomegranate juice with maple syrup. We’re going to boil this concoction down until it’s thicker than the maple syrup in consistency.

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As our brussel sprouts are starting to get crispy, we’re going to break out the manliest of cookware, the cast-iron pan. Requiring regular care and upkeep, with a passionate fandom behind it, and heavy and sturdy enough that you can use it to fight of the horde when they show up at the door, this pan fits every uber-male stereotype I care to think of at the moment. We’re going to drop some oil in it, get it good and hot, and sear one side of our steak. Once that’s done, we flip the steak over, and immediately pop it in the oven, pan and all, for a good bake.

Sprouts are done once they’ve crisped up and are starting to brown in the core. The syrup’s done when it’s a syrup. I’m sure you know what to do then.

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And that’s how it all comes out. So how good is it? Well, I’d tell you, but I wouldn’t want to make you all jealous that I got to eat this and you didn’t.