A Gaming Return

Today was a day of role playing with Kathi, Brian, Joe, Laurie, Kelly, Daniel, Phillip, and me. We returned to Changeling: The Dreaming, moving the setting from Seattle to Port Angeles. Some of us who had played before picked up where we’d left off, with our same characters and a back story to explain the move. Some of us were new to the game and created new characters.

(As I type this, it sounds to me like I’m describing the new season of some TV show.)

I’m playing the same character I played before. I didn’t do much preparation before today’s gaming session. (I couldn’t even remember my character’s name.) I figured it would all come back to me as we played – which proved to be the case.

My character’s name is Jessica Peppercorn. She’s a 12-year-old girl who wants to be a professional writer. She writes a blog named Queen of the Stix. (She is not happy about moving away from Ballard.) She also writes Twilight fan fiction. (After I created that part, I realized that I don’t know anything about Twilight, so I may phase that out.) She’s a good student who enjoys research. Both of her parents work for the School District. They live in a nice house in town.

In her natural fae life, she is an Eshu. She’s a natural storyteller, and a descendant of Shahrazad. In the previous game, Jessica inherited Shahrazad’s lavish palace, making her a valuable member of the team. She is also a fierce fighter who possesses something called the “word of destruction”.

Not much happened in today’s session. It was mostly getting the new players acquainted, and the experienced players up to speed.

It was a fun day of friends, dice rolling, Brian’s stew, beer tasting, and hilarity.

stew

Another Green Book

An Abundance of Katherines, by John Green, was published in 2006. It was his second novel. It was the fourth novel by John Green that I have read.

The first sentence of An Abundance of Katherines is: “The morning after noted child prodigy Colin Singleton graduated from high school and got dumped for the nineteenth time by a girl named Katherine, he took a bath.

Colin has dated nineteen girls in his life. All of them are named Katherine. All of them dumped him. Colin’s parents are sympathetic and offer support.

Colin is a prodigy, but not a genius. The book explains the difference: “Prodigies can very quickly learn what other people have already figured out; geniuses discover that which no one has ever previously discovered. Prodigies learn; Geniuses do.” Colin wishes he was a genius. He decides that all he needs is one “eureka” moment to become a genius.

His best, and only, friend, Hassan Harbish, convinces Colin that what they need is a road trip. It will help Colin get over Katherine XIX, explains Hassan, and could possibly result in that “eureka” moment.

Colin’s parents think a road trip is a terrific idea. Colin has to lie to Hassan’s parents to get them to agree.

So Colin and Hassan leave Chicago on a road trip in Colin’s car – an enormous gray Oldsmobile named “Satan’s Hearse”. They get as far as Gutshot, Tennessee, where they meet a 17-year-old girl named Lindsey Lee Wells, who has dated only one boy in her life – a boy named Colin (whom Colin and Hassan name The Other Colin, or TOC). Colin and Hassan are employed by Lindsey’s mother, who owns a factory which manufactures tampon strings. Their job is to interview the residents of Gutshot for a history book Hollis (Lindsey’s mother) is writing.

Colin and Hassan adjust to their new lives in Gutshot, Tennessee. Colin works on a formula of past Katherines. He hopes to use it to chart the course of all romantic relationships, and produce his eureka moment.

Colin Singleton has a gift for words. He speaks eleven languages. He’s a genius at anagrams. (Although, as Lindsey points out, he makes words out of other words, but doesn’t invent new words, which makes him a prodigy, not a genius.) He once memorized the first ninety-nine digits of pi and then constructed a ninety-nine word sentence with the first letter of each word corresponding to the digits of pi. (The sentence begins with: “Catfish always drink alcoholic ether if begged…”)

Hassan Harbish is a practicing Muslim, who constantly teases Colin about his lack of religion. Hassan practices his own, unique version of Islam, however: He believes that alcohol is haram, for example, but drinking only half a can of beer with the local Gutshot kids should be allowed. Hassan is also a slacker, with no plans for college, or anything else in his life. He figures that his father is rich enough that he doesn’t have to do anything.

An Abundance of Katherines is a funny and touching novel. I enjoyed it a lot. The story is not always believable, but it’s a comedy that doesn’t try to be entirely realistic. The book is clever, and makes humorous use of footnotes. (The Libby app handles footnotes well, by the way.) Sometimes a footnote will add additional information, like explaining who Archduke Franz Ferdinand was, or will go off on a tangent, like providing a brief history of television, or will just add a comment like “It’s true.”, or will contain the entire ninety-nine word sentence Colin wrote. There’s a lot of seemingly random trivia in this book.

Midway through the novel, I became curious about whether Gutshot, Tennessee is a real town, or not. As I suspected, it’s a fictional place. I did find something interesting in my search, however: There’s a list on Goodreads named “Books set in Gutshot, Tennessee”. The list contains just one book.

I want to read another John Green novel, but a different book has arrived at the library for me.

West Edge?

Phillip and I rode light rail to Downtown today, took advantage of the Smithsonian Magazine’s Free Museum Day, and spent the morning at the Seattle Art Museum.

While we were waiting for the museum to open, Phillip spotted a very small sign, high up on a lamp post, that said “West Edge”. He asked me what West Edge is. I looked it up (yea smart phones!) and learned that West Edge is (or wants to be) a neighborhood of Seattle. According to the West Edge Neighborhood Association, the borders of West Edge are Union Street, Second Avenue, Columbia Street, and Alaska Way. There’s something new I learned today.

After the museum, we walked over to Pike Place Market. We had lunch at Sound View Cafe, right before the place got packed. We explored the weird and fascinating shops in the lower market, where few tourists venture.

I bought shampoo at The Soap Box. While the woman was mixing my tangerine sea kelp shampoo, she told me that they were selling a lot of shampoo today, and mostly to “boys”.

We stopped into Metzger Maps, where Phillip bought a map of evolution we’d seen several months ago.

Then we rode a 49 bus home.

How I Became A YouTube Fanatic

I have a job that requires me to sit at a desk for long periods of time, inputting data into a computer, with no human interaction. (I quite like my job.) I used to listen to music on my iPod Shuffle as I worked. (I still do listen to my iPod occasionally, even now.)

Every once in a while, I’d get tired of the same old music on my playlist, and I’d seek out new music on YouTube. When our laptop (the one with iTunes installed on it) lost its Clear internet connection, and I got tired of carrying the laptop over to the library or to Top Pot, I wasn’t adding any new songs to my iPod. I began using my iPod less often at work, and listening to music on YouTube more.

Eventually, I learned that there’s more than music on YouTube. I found old TV shows, travel videos, science programs, and video gaming channels. I discovered a YouTube channel run by a guy called Keralis. Among other things, he’d play Euro Truck Simulator. These videos were perfect for listening to while inputting data. It was just 40 to 60 minutes of a simulated truck driving down a simulated freeway, while Keralis talked about life in general. I didn’t have to pay attention – I could just listen. (Keralis, who now earns a living from making YouTube videos, was born in Poland, but now lives in Sweden. He won’t reveal his real name, but he has shown his viewers exactly where he lives, which – I would learn later – is exactly the opposite of how YouTubers tend to operate.) Keralis played other computer games as well, but it was his Euro Truck Simulator videos that I kept coming back to.

After a while, I began listening to YouTube videos of games I actually played, namely Kerbal Space Program, Cities: Skylines, and The Sims 4, even if they weren’t played by Keralis. My iPod Shuffle was rapidly losing its popularity with me.

Then I bought my first smart phone. A smart phones needs apps to actually be a smart phone, and, for an Android phone, downloading apps requires a Google account. And my Google account gave me a YouTube account.

With my YouTube account, I began officially Liking the videos I liked. I officially subscribed to Keralis’ channel. I subscribed to a few other channels I enjoyed. I got notifications whenever new videos had been uploaded to the channels I’d subscribed to.

I put a link to YouTube on my browser at home, so I could actually watch the videos I’d listened to at work. YouTube became my new television.

I become a YouTube fanatic.

Watching YouTube videos can, and often does, lead me to unexpected places. Sometimes the videos on the sidebar would relate to the video I was playing. Sometimes they would be videos I’d played in the past. Sometimes they seem to be unrelated to anything.

Somehow, I found a YouTube channel named Texan in Tokyo. (Or maybe it found me. I don’t remember.) It was a channel of day-in-the-life style videos of a couple living in Japan. Grace was the Texan. Ryosuke was native Japanese. I was fascinated. I’d never seen videos like these. I wanted to subscribe to their channel. Unfortunately, I discovered Texan in Tokyo right after Grace and Ryosuke decided to leave YouTube. I wrote about my discovery here. Fortunately, they left their channel, and all its videos, online.

I discovered that Texan in Tokyo was not unique. There’s a whole genre of “foreigners living in Japan” YouTube channels out there. There’s a lot of cross-promotion that goes on, too. (“Hello, everyone. Today I’m visiting Tokyo Tower with my friend Rachel, from Rachel and Jun. You can find a link to her channel below.”)

I love these “my life in Japan” video channels. (I’m sure there are channels by ex-pats in other countries, too, but I haven’t yet discovered the right search term to find them.) There are a lot of them out there, some I haven’t yet investigated, some I don’t especially care for, but here are my current favorites.

Rachel and Jun: Rachel is from America. Jun is Japanese. Their videos are mostly about their home life. (Jun has a cooking channel of his own.) Occasionally, they will make videos of their travels around Japan (mostly sponsored by travel companies). They make humorous “how to live in Japan” and “the differences between America and Japan” videos.

Tokidoki Traveller: Emma is a single woman from Australia, living on her own in Tokyo. She does freelance modeling, and other freelance work. There’s no telling how much longer she’ll be in Japan. Her videos are very personal stories of her life and adventures in Japan.

The Uwaga Pies: Kris is Polish. Kasia was born in America, with Polish parents. They met in Japan. Their earlier videos were about the street life and parties in Tokyo. They’ve broadened their subject matter somewhat. (Some of their videos are in Polish.) I have never seen either of them cook – in many ways The Uwaga Pies is the opposite of Rachel and Jun.

I discovered Rachel and Jun from Texan in Tokyo. I discovered Tokidoki Traveller from a random video about tiny apartments in Japan. (It was Emma’s apartment.) I discovered The Uwaga Pies from Tokidoki Traveller.

An interesting thing happened recently. I was listening to a series of videos from The Uwaga Pies about a vacation Kris and Kasia took to Okinawa. They went with several other people, including Rachel and Jun. They all stayed in a large hotel room. Kasia gave us a tour of the hotel room.

Later, I became curious about what Rachel and Jun had covered about that same vacation. In one part, Rachel gave us a tour of their large hotel room. As she passed the bathroom, I could see (and hear) Kasia giving her tour of the hotel room.

Back when we still had cable TV, there were a few reality shows I would tune into. Even though I knew they were scripted, they were, at least, close to reality. These “life in Japan” videos are giving me what I was trying to find on television. I was thinking about this today.

Level 3 Achieved

So, it seems, the secret to having popular concerts in Cities:Skylines is: High Ticket Prices.

Concerts

Just before the upgrade

I suppose the reasoning is something along the lines of: “Wow, these tickets are expensive! NESTOR must be awesome!” But I don’t know.

The other thing I discovered is that adjusting settings doesn’t have an immediate effect, because a band’s popularity doesn’t change until right after a concert ends. That makes sense.

Level 3

The Music Center festival area hosted 18 concerts, had one sold-old show, and a band gained a popularity of 85. Moonlight Fields now has a level 3 festival area, with an audience capacity of 1,000.

Bunnies And Trains

Yesterday, Phillip and Cristina and I spent the day at the Puyallup Fair. (Yes, we know it’s officially the Washington State Fair, but the three of us prefer the nickname.)

The last time Phillip and I went to the fair was seven years ago. Back then, we took a Metro bus from Capitol Hill to Downtown Seattle, then a Sound Transit bus to Tacoma, where Pierce Transit was running shuttle buses to the fair.

Yesterday, Phillip and I took Link light rail to International District/Chinatown Station. Cristina met us there. Then we walked over to King Street Station, where a special Sounder commuter train (running twice in the morning, southbound, and twice in the evening, northbound) took us to Puyallup Station.

We played Oz Fluxx on the train ride from Seattle to Puyallup.

Pierce Transit had a line of free shuttle buses to take us, with a police escort, from Puyallup Station to the fairground. Then, they opened a vendor gate, just for us. That was nice!

It wasn’t as fast as driving to the fair would have been, but it was a whole lot more convenient, and a whole lot cheaper. (But, it still wasn’t as convenient as a couple of decades ago, when Metro Transit ran special shuttle buses from Downtown Seattle to the fairground entrance.)

We got our fair tickets scanned (yea smartphones!) then we headed directly for the food court and ate hamburgers.

We had a great day at the fair. It was an overcast, smoggy day (wildfires?), which was actually kind of nice. It kept the temperature to a comfortable level, at least.

We rode on two very un-scary haunted houses, for fun. We rode on lots of other rides, too. Phillip and Cristina rode on a roller coaster I wasn’t into. The fair had an interesting ticket system: You buy your ride tickets at the ticket booth, and you get a card with a bar code on it. Each time you ride a ride, the person at the ride entrance scans your card, which (I suppose) deducted the ticket number. It seemed like an efficient, paper-saving system, but we couldn’t figure out how to tell how many tickets we had left. What would we have done if we waited in a very long line, only to find out we didn’t have enough tickets?

I almost convinced Cristina that Phillip wanted to try some deep-fried butter, but I wasn’t able to convince Phillip, at all, that Cristina wanted to try some deep-fried butter.

deep fried butter

No

 

When I was asked what I didn’t want to miss seeing at the fair, my response was immediate: I wanted to see the rabbits. I love bunny rabbits. So, we walked through the animal exhibits, including the bunny rabbits.

We’d arrived at the fair at 11:00. The first northbound Sounder train left at 5:50. There was a regularly scheduled hourly Sound Transit bus that could take us back to Downtown Seattle, if any one of us wanted to leave early. (We evoked our standard rule: If anyone says it’s time to go, it’s time to go.) But we stayed the whole day. We didn’t see everything, but we saw everything we wanted to see. We even met Wonder Woman. And, despite what the windbag know-it-all at King Street Station said about it being too touristy, we bought scones.

We caught the shuttle bus back to Puyallup Station, and rode the 5:50 train back to Seattle. The whole operation seemed not as well organized as it had been in the morning – what with the chaotic boarding of the buses, no escort, and the warnings that the train would be packed – but it all worked out well.

Puyallup Station

The last shuttle bus before the train left

An older man struck up a conversation with me while we were waiting on the platform for the northbound train. It was his second time going to the fair – the first time being thirty years ago. He told me he was surprised by how much the fair had changed. The first time he went, it was all about the “agriculture”, with the 4H, farming, and crafts exhibits taking up this much space (palms held shoulder length apart), and the rides taking up only this much space (palms held a few inches apart). Now, he said, it’s all about the rides and vendors, with the agriculture squeezed into one little corner.

There was something about yesterday’s trip to fair that felt different, but I couldn’t quite pinpoint the difference. That man on the platform was right. The fair really did have a different focus. I remembered, years and years ago, walking through entire buildings full of award-winning homemade jams, through buildings full of hand-crafted quilts, through buildings full of 4H exhibits on how to raise a cow, before getting to the rides. This year, I kind of wanted to see some of that “agriculture”, but we would have had to do a lot of searching to find it.

I don’t know if this change is a bad thing, or not.

Phillip and Cristina and I found a table on the train ride back, but we were all too exhausted to play Fluxx, or do much of anything else. The three of us boarded a Link train together at International District/Chinatown Station. Phillip and I exited at Capitol Hill, and Cristina continued on to the U District.

Last night, I was too tired to write a blog post about our trip to the fair.

 

My Latest Music Discovery

Earlier this year, I heard about the death of Nigerian musician William Onyeabor. I didn’t know anything about him or his music. An internet search lead me to a video of David Byrne performing on the Jimmy Fallon show, in 2015. I was confused. I didn’t understand what I was watching. Was David Byrne performing a song written by William Onyeabor? If so, was William Onyeabor a song writer, and not a performer? Or was William Onyeabor one of the musicians in the band performing with David Byrne? Or was the band itself William Onyeabor?

I got distracted by something else, and this unknown musician fell out of my focus.

Yesterday, I was listening to some YouTube performances by David Byrne, which lead me to that Jimmy Fallon performance. The sidebar of related videos included music by William Onyeabor. I clicked, and I listened, and I was hooked.

I finally understood the connection between David Byrne and William Onyeabor. David Byrne is the founder of the record label Luaka Bop, which promotes music from around the world, including the music of William Onyeabor.

I couldn’t stop listening to William Onyeabor’s music. (It’s great music to do data entry by, and that’s a plus.)

Today, I stumbled upon a 31-minute documentary named Fantastic Man, which attempts to answer the question: Who is William Onyeabor? And I finally understood why it was David Byrne, and not William Onyeabor, performing on Jimmy Fallon’s show in 2015.

Norwegian Wood

I’ve finished reading Norwegian Wood, by Haruki Murakami (the author of 1Q84).

I’d learned from YouTube that it’s one of his earlier novels (first published in 1987), and that it doesn’t contain the “magic realism” elements that are typical of his style. I picked it because, unlike other Murakami books at the library, it was available for immediate download.

The story starts with the middle-aged narrator, Toru Watanabe, on an airplane, landing in Hamburg. He hears an instrumental cover of the Beatles song Norwegian Wood, and it brings on some bittersweet memories.

Most of the rest of the book is a flashback to the late 1960s, when Watanabe was in college. He’s best friends with classmates Kizuki and Naoko (Kizuki’s girlfriend). The trio get along great together, but when Watanabe and Naoko are alone without Kizuki, the two of them can’t seem to come up with anything to talk about.

The book follows Watanabe’s college life, his strange roommate, his friends, and his one-night stands. The hippie movement and student protests were part of campus life, but Watanabe participated in neither one.

Toru Watanabe describes himself as an average man, with average abilities and interests. He’s a fan of classic American literature, especially The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, who once said that you can’t trust any man who describes himself as average.

Kizuki kills himself on his 17th birthday, leaving behind no clue as to why. Watanabe and Naoko begin taking long Sunday walks together, gradually growing closer together. Right after her 20th birthday, Naoko checks herself into a sanatorium in the countryside.

Watanabe meets a classmate named Midori, who is an outgoing, uninhibited free spirit – in many ways the opposite of Watanabe. They spend time together, and Watanabe falls in love with her. When he tries to kiss her, Midori informs him that she has a boyfriend.

Watanabe visits Naoko in the sanatorium – a progressive institute where it’s often difficult for Watanabe to tell the doctors and patients apart. Watanabe meets Naoko’s roommate, Reiko. Over the next few days, Watanabe, Naoko, and Reiko become close friends.

Reiko helps Watanabe and Naoko define what their relationship is, as well as what it should be. Reiko also helps Watanabe sort out his feelings for Midori.

Despite the suicides (yes, more than one) and general gloom, Norwegian Wood is a beautiful novel. I enjoyed it a lot.

Reiko makes a passing remark, comparing Watanabe to Holden Caulfield (“that boy in Catcher in the Rye“), and quickly withdraws it, but I think that’s a pretty close comparison. Toru Watanabe is drifting through life, not really knowing what he’s looking for. He’s a borderline curmudgeon, but still a likable character.

There’s a circular quality to this novel, and that fascinates me. For instance, the way Watanabe keeps finding himself in three-way friendships, over and over.

Despite not having that element of magic that 1Q84 would have, there are some weird yet wonderful scenes in Norwegian Wood. I especially loved the scene where Watanabe and Midori are relaxing on the rooftop of Midori’s family’s bookstore, drinking beer and playing folk music, while watching the shop down the street burn.

Norwegian Wood is that type of novel that consists mainly of people sitting around talking, or sitting alone and thinking to themselves. It’s my kind of novel.

Norwegian Wood has one of the best endings I have read in a long time.