Monday, June 25, 2012

Sally, Part 43

Sally, Part 42

As they came to the first twist in the path Stacey took a look back at the sliver of sunlight that marked where they'd entered the wood.  It would be the last sunlight he'd see in a while.  Together, they turned the corner and the sunlight was gone.  Stacey felt as though someone had ripped a blanket off of him on a cold winter's day, uncomforted and wronged.

"Is there no other path than through this forest?"  Stacey's voice croaked a little, and he hoped the other two wouldn't notice.

Mattias looked back as warmly as he was able on a path like this, "None less dangerous or uncomfortable.  Don't worry Stacey, we'll be through it before you know it."  He turned back around and walked a few more steps before bringing his head back to Stacey again, "Stay on the path though.  Otherwise, it'll be much longer than you'd think."  With that, Mattias faced the path again, and left Stacey wondering why he hadn't let them kill him earlier.

What was more curious than the lack of light in the forest, was the existence of some.  Not once did Stacey see a beam of sunshine coming through a hole in the canopy, and yet, they all could see enough to recognize the path, even if they couldn't see beyond it on either side.  It was as if there was a magical ray of sunshine that started bouncing between the trees centuries earlier and continued doing so even after the trees grew to their monstrous heights.  Stacey decided not to ask Syrin or Mattias about the light, as Mattias's answer to his last question hadn't really helped him, or even made him feel better.  He'd just trudge on, and be glad there was any light at all.

Syrin led the three, because of his exceptional eye sight, and Stacey took up the rear because of his exceptional... well, because he was Stacey.  It didn't bother him at first, until he started seeing eyes appear between the trees.  Occasionally, he imagined that some of them were just barely off the path, but decided that could not be so.  Wood dwelling creatures are always afraid of and standoffish to people.  Surely nothing would attack, or even come near them on the path.  Nothing would dare.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

It's Not Just Allergies

My wife shakes me, and I try opening my eyes.  It's as if someone laid a strip of Elmer's Glue on my eyelids.  Ugh, allergies.  Slowly, my eyelids tear the barrier apart and I swallow.  Ooh, my throat hurts from the drainage.  What time do I want to get up?  Never.  I move my legs a little.  Oh, no.  It's not just allergies.  My whole body aches.  Suddenly, I need to blow my nose.  Yep, green and yellow mucus stare back at me.  Why?  We have a cake to make today for CB's birthday.  CB starts to cry and I can feel my forehead, ever so slowly, rip away from my skull.  I have stuff to do, a cake to make, stuff to write, stuff to email, stuff to read.  Why me?  Why now?  Even here at my computer my neck starts to scream.  I took some decongestant before, maybe I need to take some painkillers.  Maybe I need to curl up into a ball and cry.  I really hope this only lasts for today.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

6 Stitches

I've been writing about my baby for a while now, and have realized that most of the exciting things that happen in my life are linked to her.  I've also noticed that it's annoying to constantly write, "my baby,"  so instead, when I write about her, I'll refer to her as CB.

Over the past few months CB has really started trying out her walking skills, and she's really getting pretty good at it.  She still looks like a drunk orangutan, but gets around.  Well, we were at Kohl's and she was doing her usual walk around attempt while my mom and sister were checking out.  CB walked to the carts and stumbled a little, but used them to stand up again.  She then started walking to the double doors.  I walked behind her, trying to make sure that she didn't walk in front of the doors or anything.  She went toward the wall next to wall that separated the doors from the carts.  She reached for the wall, stumbled, and I heard possibly the most awful sound in the world: my baby's head bouncing off the edge of the wall.

Quick as I could, I took her up in my arms to see the damage.  Sure enough, there was a growing puddle of dark blood on her forehead.  I stood, trying to tip her head back so it wouldn't get in her eyes (I don't know what blood does to eyes).  My wife came over, apparently more interested in CB's blood getting on Kohl's carpet, rather than the fact that her head was bleeding, as she told me to carry CB out of the store so that we didn't ruin their super fine, already stained, dark grey carpet.  My mom got kleenex from her purse to stop the bleeding and we rushed CB to the Instacare.

The nurse came out and looked at the wound while my wife filled out paperwork.  The nurse explained to us that we'd need to hold CB down, and that it might be traumatic.  I then went back to talk to the doctor, who seemed to feel a little inadequate for the job, and sent us to the ER.

By this time, CB forgot about the gaping hole on her forehead and wanted to play around the emergency room.  All the staff were really nice to her and us, but we figured she didn't really need to be pulling on chords to machines we didn't even know what did, so she got mad at us while we held her.  The doctor came in, explaining that what the Instacare folks told us wasn't really true, about CB needing anesthesia, and that we could just hold her while he stitched her up.  CB screamed the whole time, but once it was over, she was back to stumbling around again.

I won't lie, my wife held it together throughout much better than I did.  I allowed my little girl to get hurt.  I recognize that all kids get hurt, it was just my first time, and I didn't like it.

Monday, June 18, 2012

What's the Deal with the Guys in Ties and White Shirts on Bikes?

So, my cousin came home from an LDS mission a week ago, and spoke in his church yesterday, so we went to hear him speak and to have a little social gathering at his parents' house.

I've thought, every now and then, that I ought to put something on my blog about LDS missionaries, as they tend to be the face of our church, and the main contact people have with us.  For a few minutes, I sat with my uncle (the returning cousin's dad) and he and I talked about how long it had been since we were missionaries.  It's been five years for me (I'd guess he'd rather I not say how long it's been for him, so I won't).  Five years is a long time.  I barely remember what happened two days ago.  So, I figured that I should probably write about this while it's still stale in my memory, before it starts growing mold.

All my life, I'd grown up hearing about missions and thinking that I would probably go on one.  It was much the same as one thinking that they'll get a job when they get older, it'll just happen.  When I turned nineteen though, the reality of it hit me.  You see, going on a mission in our church isn't just a few weeks building a school in Mexico.  It's two years for men, and one and a half years for women.  We don't choose where we go, and literally none of it has any kind of a vacation flare to it.  It's right when most people get to do some pretty fun things, nineteen for men and twenty-one for women, and people can still go up until they're twenty-five (couples can also go on missions, but they're different in nature).  So, when I was nineteen I really had to think about if I really wanted to go.

Talking to those who had gone on missions was interesting.  There's always a light in their eyes when they remember it.  I know that sounds really corny, but if you've ever heard someone talk about it, you'd know it's 100% real.  They always remember it with fondness, which was always odd to me, because of what they said they did.

A missionary's day starts at six.  There are no 'sleep-in' days.  They exercise, eat breakfast, get ready, study the scriptures by themselves for an hour, and then study scriptures together.  After that, it's knocking on doors (basically cold-calling people), talking to people on the street, teaching lessons, and helping people (as in, helping them rake their leaves, or shovel their walks, or tear down a barn, etc.).  Their day ends at nine, unless they're teaching someone, then it ends at nine thirty.  Once they get home, they plan for the next day and go to bed by ten (maybe ten thirty, it's been five years and I can't remember).  The only different days are Zone Conferences (where a group of missionaries get together, share testimonies and listen to speakers) and Preparation Days (when missionaries do their laundry and go grocery shopping, and write letters to their family and friends).  Missionaries still work on both of these days, they just take a few hours out to do other things.

Along with all of this, missionaries are only allowed to call home on Christmas and Mother's Day.  That's only four times over the whole duration.

When I thought about all of this, I wasn't sure if I wanted to go.  I thought a lot then, prayed a lot too.  After some experiences that are too special to share on my blog, I decided to go.  I went because I knew God wanted me to, for whatever reason.

I know why people talk about their missions the way they do, because I do it too.  You learn to live on your own.  It was rough not being able to talk to my parents very often, but I'm more independent now than I would have been.  You learn to live with someone, even if you don't like them much.  You don't get to choose the guy you're working with, so you learn to work with him.  You learn to keep working, even when someone tells you you're spreading the message of the devil, or they just slam the door in your face.  You learn to press on.  Most importantly though, you gain a relationship with God at a very young age.  You learn to trust in Him.  You learn that He exists, and that He not only loves you, but loves everyone, and it makes you want to love them too.  It may not have been easy, but I loved my mission.  I know I wouldn't be who I am now if I hadn't gone.

If you read through this because you wanted to know something specific about missionaries, but this post didn't answer it, put a question in the comments and I'll answer it if I can.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Fill in Your Own Happening

I went back to my desk, sat down, stared at my computer for a moment, and then smiled.  It's funny how life programs you, I tried to hold back that smile, but it came bursting through anyway.  The news was just to good, to exquisite to hold in the smile that beamed from my chest.  It radiated through my body and out my fingers and toes until I was sure that someone walking by might think I had a lantern that glowed inside of my cubical.  It seemed to bounce off the sound absorbing gray walls, off the picture of me catching a very small fish, through the handle of my coffee mug, and back into me again.

Had I known happiness before this?  I couldn't be sure.  I didn't remember it if I had.  It seemed that bad times stuck in my head better than good, and things hadn't been good in a while.  After I lost my last job, and my wife left me I went through what some might call a bit of a rough patch, if I were being totally honest, I'd say I went through 35 whiskey bottles, 83 cases of beer, 41 plates, 17 doors, and 7 women whose last names I don't remember (or possibly never knew), all in about three months.  It was alcohol, destruction, and sex for those months that acted as very small band-aids on very serious lacerations.  At the end of it I realized what had happened.  I realized the mistakes I made and I sobered up.  That's about when I got this job.

I've really only been working here a short while, but after getting news like that, it might be my favorite job ever, just because I received the news while in this building.  I knew my luck would turn around.  I knew that if I started living right, if I started sobering up and going back to church that God would smile on me, and surely he did. 

After a while I stopped trying to hide my smile.  I was happy, damnnit.  Happier than I'd been in a long while, and it was due, and I wasn't about to try and hide it.  It was a good day, the start of many good days.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Sally, Part 42

Sally, Part 41

Syrin was the first to stand, wordlessly commanding the other two men to follow.  All three had finished their cherries long ago and were as ready as they'd ever be.  Stacey wondered why Syrin had stood.  Maybe this mission was real, and Syrin's desire to save his brother overcame his love of the soft grass and cool breeze.  Stacey could think of no other reason.  Even slavers had to enjoy slowing down for a moment.  He wanted very strongly to believe that they were going on this journey for the reasons Mattias gave, and for a moment, he almost allowed himself to.

The forest looked terribly ominous.  Behind the timberline was nothing but black, even the brilliant sunset to the east could not break through the thick branches.  Stacey wondered if there was another way, but said nothing.  As they approached the first two trees, unofficial sentinels guarding the path, Stacey thought he saw something out of the corner of his eye, a small person, but when he turned to look the vision had vanished.  He immediately told himself that he must be seeing things, but the jumping of his stomach would not listen.  This forest is not where he wanted to be, but Mattias and Syrin kept moving, and his legs could do nothing but follow.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Oh, Mcdonald's

Yesterday, I woke up at 3:35 AM to drive my dad to the airport.  On the way back home, being the amazing husband that I am, I thought, "Hey, my wife loves fast food breakfast, I should stop and pick her up some."  So I did, and ended up with one of the best fast food cups I've ever owned.

It's really not funny unless you know the story though (as most of you will).  Several years ago, there was a woman who got coffee from Mcdonald's.  As crazy as this might sound, the coffee was hot.  We learned later that the lid may not have fit exactly right either, but this is still ridiculous.  She spilled the coffee on herself and it burned her. Don't get me wrong, I've spilled many a hot beverage on myself and I can feel for this woman, but I never would have thought to do what she did.  She sued Mcdonald's, and because Mcdonald's is a huge corporation, they paid her off.  In many ways, the day I found out made me a little sad.  It was obviously a stupid law suit, and just because I think Mcdonald's makes sub-par food, doesn't mean that they deserve to be sued.

For years I've thought of that law suit being one of the many indictments of humanity.  I assumed that we must really be going downhill is someone can sue a restaurant for burning themselves.  I got a little bit of my faith in humanity back yesterday morning, for on my cup was written, "BEWARE: COLD ZONE.  Careful - the beverage you're about to enjoy is extremely, impossibly, awesomely cool."  I laughed the whole way home.  Did they pay that woman a bundle of money?  Yes they did.  Did they take the hit and just move on?  Apparently they did not.  They saw, out of the wreckage of a frivolous lawsuit against them, a way to make one hilarious cup.  I may not love your food, and I may think you're a soul sucking conglomerate,  but you had one funny cup there, that on a deeper level, made me respect you a little bit more.  I'm usually not Mcdonald's, but today I am, I'm lovin' it.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Know My Weakness

Everything I hold hear.  That's what they've got in their hands and I'm just the short kid, jumping as high as he can, trying to reach it, but their arms are just a little too long.  It's demeaning is what it is.  I've spent my whole life building my reputation, my wealth... it's difficult to think that someone can just swoop in and take it away like this.  Makes me wonder what's worth it, if anything is worth it.  If they can do this, what stops them from doing something else once their demands are met?  I've tried to think of a way out, I've talked to them, I once even tried to threaten them, but it was no use.  They know my weaknesses.  It's a rigged deck, and they have all the cards.

The saddest part?  It's difficult for me to even say it.  The bullies are my parents.  That's how they know so much, that's where they get their power.  The best part is that they do this and tell me it's for my own good, like I don't know what decisions I want to make.  It's despicable is what it is.  The two people who are genetically designed to love me, and here they are, holding this over me, all so they can impress some friends.  What parents treat their kid this way?  It's criminal, when you think about it.  It's blackmail and theft.  It's wrong.  If they weren't my parents, if I was over eighteen, I could get a lawyer and win with any jury, but as it stands, I'm only sixteen, and I have no money for a lawyer.

I guess I might as well accept my fate.  It will destroy me, but I have no other choice.  I'll be going on  a date with Tara Limb this weekend, the ugliest, smelliest, dumbest girl in school.  Thanks Mom and Dad.  I thought you loved me.

Awwwww, youth.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Fallout 3 Vs. Fallout: New Vegas

The Elder Scrolls IV: OblivionFallout New Vegas

Image found here.                                                   Image found here.

The image of your father's dead lab partner still burns in your skull as you race for the vault door.  The whole vault is after you, though the reasons why are hazy, something about your father (they're after him too, though he's already gone).  You've never been out of the vault before, but now, you have no choice.  You must run, or you will die by the hands of the only community you've ever known.  As you go through the door, you get your first taste of real sunlight.  You're eyes finally adjust, but all you can see are destroyed buildings, and a wasteland as inhospitable as a nightmare.  This makes you reflect on your supplies: a vault jumpsuit, some rat meat, and a pistol with about eleven bullets.  It makes you want, so badly, to find civilization.  You need people, not just because you need a friend, but because they are the only way for you to survive.

What makes Fallout 3, arguably, my favorite video game of all time?  This opening.  When Fallout: New Vegas first came out, a lot of my gaming buddies asked me how it stood out against Fallout 3.  I fumbled around with each of them until I finally figured out which I liked better, why, and why some might disagree with me.  The evolution of my thoughts is what made this take so long to write, but now, I think I have my thoughts in order enough to compare the games.

Mechanically, both Fallouts are incredibly similar.  There's a huge world to explore, one in Washington D.C. and the other in, you guessed it, the desert of Las Vegas.  Both environments are interesting and unique, full of fascinating people, terrifying monsters, and landmarks that make it all believable.  It was fun for me to come to certain metro stations in D.C. while my wife was around because she spent a summer working in D.C. and often knew the stations I was at, along with where she worked.  All the important buildings were there.  I don't know much about the surroundings of Las Vegas, but when I played, my wife and I had taken a trip through there just a few months before, so it was fun to see what was left of some of the towns in the game when we'd seen the town in real life just a little while before.

Both games have tremendous arsenals, but New Vegas's is much larger.  There are more subsets of guns and a larger variety of bullets.  There are also attachments and augments for your guns in New Vegas, where there really aren't any in Fallout 3.  These changes will be a welcome expansion for the gamers who love huge arsenals, but for me, it was too much.  I didn't need that many options, I really just wanted a sniper rifle and an assault rifle.  So, the change wasn't bad, it just wasn't my style.  For a lot of gamers it was probably a very welcome change.

The graphics are just about the same in both.  The art style tries to make your surroundings look real with a bland pallet and dim lighting.  The people look the same in both, including somewhat unnatural looking movements and lack of facial expressions.

Maturity wise, both games are also similar.  New Vegas does have more frequent cuss words, including a lot of 'f-bombs' in one particular area, and it does have 'dancers' outside of clubs while you're on the strip, so it would probably be considered 'more mature' than 3, but for me, that was a little bit of a turn off.

And the main similarity is in gameplay.  You have weapons, you run around, you kill/run away from monsters, and you do side quests while dodging the main quest line for as long as you can.  It's really what makes both games so great.  Both have melee combat the feels clunky and unpolished.  Both have the V.A.T.S. system, which allows you to forget about aiming and let your characters shooting expertise take over to hit specific body parts, and if your character's stats are good enough, make them explode into little pieces that you can find later.

So, what really makes these two game so different?  The opening and reason for your character to do what he/she is doing.  3 is a game of survival, and trying to reunite with your dad.  It's full of moments where you feel unprepared and a little nervous about what's on the other side of that tunnel.  New Vegas gives you a totally different feeling.  It starts off with your character getting his head blown off, some old guy putting it back together, and the rest of the game is about you seeking revenge.  It does have more compelling decisions at the end, but getting to the end felt pointless to me.  I didn't care about seeking revenge, I don't care about that in real life, so doing it in the game wasn't all that fun. In my opinion, the base storyline of the game goes to Fallout 3, and it is so much better that I felt like it spring-boarded the game well above New Vegas.  It's one of my all time favorites and will probably always be, because even on my second play through, stepping out of that vault still gave me butterflies.

The Bottom-Line:  I'm playing through Fallout 3 again, and will probably do so several more times, while I took Fallout: New Vegas and sold it so that I could buy and Assassin's Creed game.