Food Report

There were several upper management types in the office yesterday for some meeting or something.

This morning, I noticed that the office self-serve cafeteria had been restocked. I don’t know if these two events are related.

The broken refrigerator was still broken, but at least it had been emptied. The working refrigerator had been filled with sandwiches, salads, and a variety of cold drinks – including Dunkin Donuts iced coffee. (I’m hoping those Starbucks bottled drinks will return someday.)

I’m still making coffee at home, but I was happy to see iced coffee is back in the cafeteria.

With the cafeteria down for so long, I’ve become a regular at the Columbia Center food court.

A few more restaurants have reopened in the food court recently, but it seems that about half still have never reopened since the pandemic shut them down. The closed places have been covered over with blank white walls. One day, a door had been left open, and I got a glimpse inside the closed shop. It was still there, with all the equipment in place – Columbia Center had merely built free-standing walls around it.

It appears that many companies have returned to their offices (but not mine), and with the food court at half-capacity, and no other fast food in the area, there are long lines at every eatery.

There are a couple of pay-by-weight buffets that I’m especially fond of: Market Fresh and Asian Express.

I remember Market Fresh being strictly a salad bar (I may be wrong about that) but these days, it also offers a good selection of hot foods.

This week, Market Fresh started serving breakfast, also a pay-by-weight buffet. I went there on Tuesday and today.

Asian Express offers a good variety of, yes, Asian food.

I like to go to Twice Burgers. I like their burgers, but I like their fish and chips even better. The downside is that it’s one of the more popular places in the food court, and food is cooked to order, so the wait can be long. (It’s worth the wait, though.)

The Evergreens app on my phone stopped working. It’s feels more like they’ve stopped taking online orders, more than the app not working, though. I may go back, wait in line, and have one of their salads someday.

I occasionally have a bowl at Juicy Cafe. My favorites are the taco bowl (the daily special on Tuesdays) and the Thai ginger peanut bowl.

Today, I had a Cobb salad with an A&W root beer from the office cafeteria. It was okay, and it was convenient.

My Thoughts On: Life By You

I’ve seen the announcement trailer for Life by You, the new life simulator by Paradox Interactive and Paradox Tectonic.

I watched the live announcement event on Monday.

I showed the announcement event to Phillip last night.

Phillip seemed to have a stronger negative opinion than me. (Please tell me you’re not going to buy this crap.)

I think Life by You looks impressive, but, unless something drastically changes, I’m sticking with The Sims 4.

Even if Life by You wins me over in the next few months, and I end up buying it, I see myself playing The Sims 4 alongside it.

Paradox Interactive, along with Colossal Order, is the creator of Cities: Skylines, and that’s part of my opinion of Life by You.

(On a side note, I think that naming games is not Paradox’s strength. I love the game, but what does Cities: Skylines even mean? And Life by You doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. That’s not a criticism. It’s just an observation.)

Yes, Life by You is still in development, and when it releases in September, it’ll be in early access, but what they’ve shown us so far has emphasized the world over the people. When people are shown, they’re mostly shown from a distance, emphasizing their surroundings more than them.

So far, Life by You looks more like a small version of Cities: Skylines than a large version of The Sims 4.

Maybe the developers are still working on the graphics for the people and don’t want to show them off yet. But, if so, this seems to suggest that the world is more important to them than the people.

The Sims 4 gets criticized for its small worlds, its loading screens, its rabbit holes, and its lack of cars. I think that Paradox is smart for emphasizing that Life by You will have a massive open world, completely customizable, that people can drive through without loading screens or rabbit holes – the things you don’t get with The Sims 4.

That’s cool, but it’s exactly why it reminds me of Cities: Skylines, a game with a massive open world, fully customizable, that you can drive through.

Personally, the small worlds, loading screens, and rabbit holes have never bothered me. The Sims 4 (and the Sims games before it) has always been about the Sims and about households. To me, it’s about houses more than neighborhoods or cities.

To emphasize my point, here’s the trailer for the Sims 4 Cottage Living pack. It shows off the awesome new world, but the Sims are front and center. Life simulation is what the developers seem to have wanted to show off rather than world creation.

I’ve never played The Sims 3, which had an open world, but I’ve watched gameplay on YouTube. Watching a Sim driving through a neighborhood is cool, but isn’t it just a fancy loading screen?

I wonder about what sort of computer is required to run this game. We have a fancy new gaming computer, but not everyone does. Our previous computer could barely run Cities: Skylines. How many Sims 4 players will have to buy a new computer to play Life by You?

Watch any YouTube video by a creator who had been hired by EA Games to create lots for an expansion pack, explaining the process, and you’ll hear them talk about the restrictions placed on them so that the pack will run on older computers.

The Sims 4 gets criticized for its reliance on DLC. Why should we have to pay extra money to get a changing table in the game? Judging by the comments in Monday’s live event, there seems to be more than a few people who believe that Life by You will eliminate this “money grabbing” model. I’m not convinced. The only reason my Cities: Skylines cities have tram networks is that I paid for DLC. My cities have university campuses because I paid for more DLC. Taxis and pedestrian streets came with DLCs. I’ve bought a lot of Cities: Skylines DLC, and there’s plenty more that I haven’t bought. I have nothing against DLC. DLC adds flexibility to a game, and new content keeps a game interesting.

The one turn-off I have about Life by You is about control. The live event proudly proclaimed that players will have full control over the people in the game. There will be fully customizable speech menus. You’ll be able to control exactly what people say (in English) and how other people react to what’s being said. Instead of telling a Sim to “go here,” you’ll be able to guide a person with a mouse or keyboard, controlling exactly where they go. One of the things I love about The Sims 4 is the unpredictability that comes with its autonomy. I guide my Sims more often than I control them. I can tell a Sim to “go here,” but they might get distracted along the way. I can create two Sims as love interests, only to have them dislike each other. I can create a Sim as a mere placeholder to occupy an apartment I want to renovate, only to have that Sim charm themselves into becoming a main character who eventually gets killed by a Murphy bed. I love that my Sims constantly surprise me.

The Sims 4 has a cartoonish look. Life by You seems to be going for a more realistic look. I see nothing wrong with this.

There were many comments in the live event, and also several YouYube videos, predicting that Life by You will kill The Sims 4. I’m not convinced. I think I’ve made my point that the two games will be offering different things. I don’t think one game will necessarily be better than the other. What are you looking for in gameplay, and which game will give you what you want? Players will choose one over the other, and not everyone will agree.

If anything, I think competition will motivate The Sims 4 to improve.

I No Longer Like Metro Transit

Phillip and I rode a 10 bus to Downtown yesterday afternoon, Sunday the 19th. We saw a movie at Pacific Place. After the movie, we had dinner at Johnny Rockets and did a little shopping.

After shopping, Phillip asked, “Light rail or the 49?” I replied, “Let’s take the 49.”

We walked over to the bus stop at 9th and Pine. There was a Service Change notice taped to the bus stop sign. Beginning Saturday, March 18, it said, this stop is permanently closed. It listed a couple of stops on Pike where we could catch the 49.

“It’s strange that we never received a Transit Alert about this,” I said. “At least not that we know of,” replied Phillip.

What Phillip was referring to is the fact that our phones have been flooded with text messages about which trips on which routes wouldn’t be operating that day. It’s gotten so bad that we pretty much ignore them.

We walked over to 7th and Pike. Route 49 was listed on the sign, but I didn’t completely trust it. I checked OneBusAway. It said a 49 would be stopping there in 10 minutes.

I thought about why I never ride buses home from work anymore. There’s been some construction going on at 4th at Pike, and the bus stop has been moved to the other end of the block, marked only by a small paper sign taped to a light pole. I tried it on two days and saw some buses stopping at one end of the block and some buses stopping at the other end. It was too confusing, and, apparently, the bus drivers were as confused as the passengers. Metro Transit has terrible communication.

At 7th and Pike, a stranger asked me when the 49 was coming. Ten minutes, I answered. What about the 11, he asked. I still had OneBusAway open. I’m not seeing it at all, I told him. Phillip asked: Doesn’t the 11 run on Sundays? Not according to this, I replied.

“It’s weird that right after the new Convention Center opened, they close the bus stop,” I said to Phillip. “The stop that’s right across the street,” Phillip added.

The 49 did arrive, and took us home.

When we got home, I looked through my Transit Alerts. There was a message sent on Friday about Saturday’s service changes. I read through it, but there was nothing about that bus stop closure, or about the 49 reroute.

I went to Metro Transit’s web site and searched for the 49. There were no service changes listed.

“Metro sucks,” I said out loud.

Today, there was a story in the Capitol Hill Blog about proposed bus reroutes when RapidRide G opens on Madison Street next year. Route 10 will move off of Olive Way / John Street, and onto Pine Street, and will no longer stop at Capitol Hill Station. Route 11 will be rerouted off of Pine Street and onto Olive / John, and will stop at Capitol Hill Station. And route 47 will be eliminated.

(I thought the 47 was already eliminated.)

(I’ve never understood the reasoning when, years ago, service on the 43 was cut back and the 10 was moved to Olive / John to make up for the loss of service. If bus service is needed on Olive Way, why cut back service on the 43 at all?)

When I got home today, I completed Metro Transit’s online feedback survey. I told them I didn’t like the proposed changes at all. I told them that it’ll suck (I used the word “suck”) for people on 15th Avenue who want to get to the U District. With the 43 practically non-existent, their only real option will be to ride the 10 all the way south to Westlake Station and transfer back up north to the U District. It’ll suck for people in my neighborhood (west of Broadway) who want to access the shopping district on 15th. (The 11 will cross 15th, but won’t really serve the shopping district.) I told them that the 47 is a necessary route, pointing out that not everyone in my neighborhood is physically able to make that steep uphill walk to Capitol Hill Station.

(After I submitted the survey, I did some investigation. A ride on the 10 bus, from Ada’s Technical Books, on 15th Ave, to Capitol Hill Station, is about a half a mile. Then the Link light rail ride up to U District Station is somewhere around 3 miles. If the reroute goes through, a ride on the 10 bus, from Ada’s to Westlake Station, will be 1.7 miles. Then the Link ride to U District Station is about 4 miles, with a stop at Capitol Hill Station. Getting to the U District will, indeed suck for folks on 15th.)

“Metro sucks,” I said out loud.

A Week In The Life Of Souxie Tartosa

I am loving the new Sims 4 expansion pack, Growing Together.

I liked High School Years when it first came out, and I still like it, but I’m a little frustrated by some of its gameplay. Proms are too short, Graduation is too long, both are confusing and buggy, and I don’t like that classes are always in the same classroom with the same teacher. I’m still upset with the aging glitch that came with the pack’s update and nearly ruined my Kilmer family legacy gameplay. But I love the world of Copperdale.

I am very frustrated by My Wedding Stories and how it broke the whole wedding gameplay. I still can’t get the civil ceremony to work at all. But I love the world of Tartosa. (I’m kind of regretting naming Teri Tartosa after a world, but I never expected her to be a major player.)

I have no opinion on Werewolves. I like the world of Moonwood Mill, but I have yet to create a werewolf Sim. I’ve had no problems with it.

Now, with Growing Together, I have experienced a minor glitch here and there, but no major game-breaking bugs. More importantly, the features that came with it are amazing. I am impressed with how much it changes the game. (When I first played it, I could not get the new walks around San Sequoia to work. I tried with a couple of Sims, and a couple of pairs of Sims, but the action just went away before it even started. I searched online for information on the bug, but couldn’t find anything. Then I tried later, and the walks worked perfectly. I’m guessing it was the Sims rather than the game. I loved that when Sally and Teri went on a power walk together, they’d stop every once in a while to stretch or drink some water, and that time when Sally resumed walking without Teri, Teri ran to catch up and then resumed the power walk alongside Sally. Nice.)

So, anyway…

Sally Ironforge and Teri Tartosa brought home science baby Souxie Tartosa on Saturday.

Over the weekend, Sims stopped by to see the new baby, and to congratulate the new mothers.

Matthew Easley (now an Elder) came over from the Daisy Hovel Commune, and brought along fellow commune member, Eve Ryder (currently a Teen).

(I’d planned a blog post with updates in the Daisy Hovel Commune, which I’ve been neglecting for far too long, but Souxie is taking over my game, as newborns tend to do.)

Siblings Briana and Marcelo Kilmer-Sparks stopped by, and brought Briana’s romantic interest, Denver Stroud, with them.

(I’d planned a blog post with updates on Briana and Denver, but, you know… there’s a newborn.)

Tess Ginter, Renee Ham, and Anika Yoon stopped by. Renee didn’t seem too interested in the baby, and mostly stayed in another room.

On Sunday, Teri and Sally bought a washer and dryer, so they could switch to cloth diapers. (I love the cross-compatibility with other packs and kits.)

Eve Ryder returned, alone, explained that she’d dropped out of high school, was interested in working as a babysitter, and offered her services.

On Monday, Sally took paid time off, stayed home with Souxie, and Teri went to work.

On Tuesday, Teri took paid time off, stayed home with Souxie, and Sally went to work.

On Tuesday evening, after Sally got home from work, Souxie Tartosa aged up to an infant. (I’m playing on Long Lifespan, where babies age up after 4 days.)

They redecorated the office into a nursery – and an office.

Sally and Teri became very busy, taking care of an infant. Using up their PTO wasn’t going to last, and Souxie would be too distracting for them to work from home.

Teri and Sally invited Eve Ryder to stay with them for a few days, paying her in simoleons, shelter, and food in exchange for helping out around the house. (As educators, maybe they shouldn’t be encouraging a high school dropout, but they needed help, and Eve was less expensive than a nanny.)

Sally and Teri both worked from home on Wednesday, and even with having live-in help, they didn’t get all of their career tasks completed. Their bosses were not pleased.

Eve helped out a lot. She washed dishes, washed clothes, cleaned toilets, and helped get Souxie back to sleep. (I wasn’t controlling Eve at all. She did all this autonomously. I love this pack.)

On Thursday, Sally and Teri went to work, trusting Eve to look after Souxie on her own.

Eve did a fabulous job. Souxie was well cared for and received plenty of love. (Again, I was not controlling Eve, and the Sims I did control were out of the house. Sims seem to know when a baby or infant needs attention, and what sort of attention to give them. This pack is amazing.)

Eve Ryder went home Friday morning. Sally and Teri sent Souxie to daycare, and they both went to work.

Souxie Tartosa is learning motor skills and verbal skills quickly. Sally took her out for a walk, so she could experience snow. Souxie hated it. (That was my fault, though. I forgot to have Sally dress her in her Cold Weather outfit.)

Pandemic Concert, Post Pandemic

Last night, Phillip and I watched a live streaming concert by Abney Park.

Abney Park began streaming concerts from their studio during the pandemic, when concert venues were closed, and they needed to support themselves. I’m guessing that that worked out for them, because here it is, March 2023, post pandemic, and they’re still streaming concerts from their studio.

As someone who believes in supporting local artists, especially bands that have been self-produced ever since they formed 25 years ago, and have published over 20 albums on their own label, it bothered me quite a bit that the concert was a mere $15. That is, a mere $15 to stream. Two tickets (or for how many people we wished to gather around the computer) to a great show by an established band, for just fifteen dollars. I would have paid more, if they’d asked.

The show was produced well, with plenty of lighting effects and good sound. (One quibble: In this show, just like in previous Abney Park streaming concerts, we couldn’t hear Kristina’s keyboard. I was thinking that when Phillip vocalized it.)

The concert was an hour and a half long. They did songs from various albums, and a few covers – including a new cover: the theme song from Firefly. There was good amount of joking around, a few performance missteps, and a good amount of joking around about the performance missteps.

The concert was advertised as a promotion for Captain Robert Brown’s latest novel, Forsaken Valley. The novel was mentioned a couple of times, but there was very little promotion during the concert.

Our ultra-cheap tickets also got us passes to the after-show virtual party. Phillip and I skipped that. We should attend one someday.

The streaming went flawlessly.

We both enjoyed the concert.

I Read: The Paris Apartment

The Paris Apartment, by Lucy Foley, was published in 2022.

I downloaded it from the King County Library System.

Benjamin Daniels is in his apartment, writing. He wants to move out of this place soon, but his sister, Jess, had called, needing a place to stay. She’s on her way now.

Ben leaves a voicenote: “Hey Jess, so it’s number twelve, Rue des Amants. Got that? Third floor.” He tells her to ring the buzzer, adding that he’ll be up, waiting for her.

A familiar figure walks into Ben’s apartment without knocking.

Then the story begins, three hours later.

Jess had to leave London immediately. Now she’s in Paris, outside of Ben’s apartment building. Her Eurostar had been delayed. It’s past midnight.

Ben isn’t answering the intercom. He isn’t answering his phone. Does she have the right building? This is a fancy building in a posh neighborhood – not the sort of place where Ben would be staying. She ties the knocker on the front gate. She checks the address: Number twelve, Rue des Amants. That’s what Ben said. Why isn’t he answering?

Sophie looks down from the penthouse. She sees a shabby girl at the gate. She clearly doesn’t belong here. No one who belongs here ever uses the door knocker. Even in the most luxurious apartments, thinks Sophie, the scum of Paris will still wash up on your door. “I don’t know how it has come to this. But I do know that it started with him coming here. Moving into the third floor. Benjamin Daniels. He destroyed everything.”

The concierge watches the stranger at the gate from the intercom screen in the loge. She doesn’t belong here. The concierge cannot let this girl in. “I don’t like strangers. I don’t like change. Change has always been dangerous for me. He proved that: coming here with his questions, his charm. The man who came to live in the third-floor apartment: Benjamin Daniels. After he came, everything changed.”

Mimi, on the fourth floor, thinks she heard Ben’s name. She turns and sees her flatmate, Camille. When did she get back? Mimi looks out the window and sees a strange girl knocking at the gate. “There’s just one thing I know. Everything that has happened here happened because of him: Benjamin Daniels.”

Jess finds a way into the building. She finds her way up to her brother’s apartment.

The concierge watches the stranger trespass into the building. “Stupid girl. It would have been far, far better if she’d turned and left this place and never returned. But it’s too late now. So be it.”

Nick, on the second floor, sees a girl in the building. He doesn’t recognize her, but something about the way she moves seems familiar. Is this the younger sister his mate, Ben, talked about? Ben didn’t tell him she was coming here. There were a lot of things Ben didn’t tell him. Nick realizes that he didn’t know Benjamin Daniels very well at all.

Jess picks the lock to Ben’s apartment and lets herself in. The building is U-shaped around a courtyard, and Ben’s apartment takes up the entirety of the third floor. How could her brother, a journalist, afford such a place? She finds his wallet, with euros in it, and the keys to his Vespa. Jess finds some woman’s knickers in his bed. There’s a strange chemical smell in the hall and blood on a cat’s fur.

Where is Ben? Does anyone in the building know? Did something happen to Ben? Is anyone in the building responsible?

Jess becomes an amateur detective. It’s a mystery confined to a single building, with a small number of suspects and/or witnesses: Sophie and Jacques in the penthouse, Mimi and Camille on the fourth floor, Nick on the second floor, the mysterious Antoine and Dominique on the first floor, and the concierge in the loge. The building itself has secrets: hidden rooms and stairways from a time when it was a single residence with servant quarters. There’s a reason Jess is hesitant to go to the police. Jess has secrets, too.

The story frequently switches points of view. It jumps back in time occasionally. The reader sometimes knows more than Jess.

It’s a multilayered story. There were times when I thought the mystery had been revealed, only to discover that there are still more mysteries to go.

The book does an excellent job of conveying paranoia. Jess is in a place where she doesn’t belong, in a country where she barely speaks the language. She talks to the residents of the apartment building, never sure if they’re telling her the truth. She’s navigating the unfamiliar streets of Paris, and her phone is running out of roaming data, and she can’t afford to buy more.

I liked this book a lot.

Science, Baby!

“We should have a science baby,” Sally Ironforge said to Teri Tartosa.

“Science baby?”

“Yes, it’s this brand new thing. It came with the latest free update.”

“I saw it on TV. It’s all done in a laboratory. It takes about an hour. There’s no pregnancy. And we’ll both be the baby’s biological parents.”

Teri and Sally left for the lab, early one Saturday morning.

They returned home with a baby girl. They named her Souxie Tartosa. (“Tartosa-Ironforge” wouldn’t fit on the birth certificate.)

It was a hectic morning, but in a good way.

Sally and Teri’s favorite vampires, Daryl Robards and Alexander Goth, heard the news and stopped by for a visit.

Daryl and Alexander brought a gift for the baby.

It’s a little wooden horse. Everyone is sure that Souxie will love it.

The lads helped clean up while the new mothers took a much-needed nap.

Alexander was especially interested in how the procedure works.

Daryl and Alexander left in the middle of the afternoon.

Welcome to the world, science baby Souxie Tartosa!

Their Own Home

Sally Ironforge and Teri Tartosa are making their new Copperdale house their own home.

They love the efficient layout of the house. They’re keeping walls, doors, and stairs as they were originally designed, but they’re redecorating the interior.

The day they moved in, when the Welcome Wagon stopped by, they felt the decorations were a little drab for their tastes.

They’ve been adding splashes of color. They want the place to feel bright.

They want the place to keep its traditional look, but also feel modern.

Yes, that’s an authentic Daryl Robards portrait on the dining room wall! It was a housewarming gift from Daryl and Alexander.

Sally and Teri have finished renovating the second upstairs bedroom into their home office. They’ve both advanced into the Administrative branch of their Education careers.

They’ve included a meditation area in their office, for times when situations become tense.

There’s a nice little study upstairs, but they soon discovered, when Daryl Robards and Alexander Goth stopped by on housewarming day, that the space isn’t well suited for conversations.

They opened up the space, and added color. Teri loves color, and Sally loves Teri.

They’re keeping the basement as a spare bedroom for when guests drop by. It isn’t quite finished yet.

Wait a minute… what happened to the office meditation space, and why is there a basinet where it used to be?

A Coffee Diary

Last week, I made a commitment to brew coffee at home more often, and to buy lattes less often. It wasn’t so much that lattes are expensive (although that was a factor in my decision). It was more that lattes used to be a special treat, but with other sources of coffee disappearing, they’ve become a necessity of sorts.

Here’s how that commitment is going.

On Monday and Tuesday of this week, I had leftover coffee that I’d brewed over the weekend, mixed with milk and ice. (Yum!)

After Tuesday’s coffee at home, I was out of coffee – both brewed and to be brewed.

On Wednesday, I bought a latte and a bag of coffee beans at Monorail Espresso, in Columbia Tower, on my way to work.

On Thursday, I felt too lazy to brew coffee at home, so I bought a latte at Monorail Espresso.

(I buy lattes from Monorail so often that the baristas will ask me if I want a 16 ounce latte the moment I step up to the counter.)

This morning, Friday, I finally brewed a pot of coffee at home, and drank a cup before leaving for work.