Yo-yos 8/9/18

Yo-yo

I was one of those kids that had a new hobby every couple of months. Somewhere around 12-14 I was way into yo-yos. I bought most of the ones I could find locally, which was basically just the Yomega Fireball and others like it.

In fact I remember it was a huge deal with the local hobby shop got the VIPER, which cost an absurd $45. I just had to have one and – as expected – it ruled.

I remember learning yo-yo tricks was pretty difficult back then. You had the little paper printouts that came with yo-yos, or maybe a book, but that was pretty much it. Eventually I ran out of stuff to try to learn, and completely forgot about them. Kind of wish I still had that Viper though 🤔

All it took was one podcast episode

There was an episode of Matt Haughey’s great podcast Hobby Horse with Jeff Atwood, talking about Jeff’s obsession with yo-yos. He talked about how yo-yos are now cheap, abundant, and largely very good. The thing that got me interested again was the discussion of a different kind of yo-yo I did not know existed – unresponsive yo-yos.

Unresponsive yo-yos have a wider gap and bearing, which allows them to not return from sleep while being jerked around. This is handy for doing all sorts of crazy tricks. Then when you’re done flailing around, you do a specific type of bind to get the yo-yo to return to your hand.

Seemingly by accident I have now amassed 13 14 yo-yos.

Another aspect of this that I did not expect was the incredible amount of trick tutorials and yo-yo information out there. From YouTube channels to an extremely dedicated subreddit, there is no shortage of interesting (and supportive) people out there doing cool things with yo-yos.

Yo-yos I’ve liked so far

  • YoyoFactory Replay & Replay Pro I like the weight & feel of the Replay. Nice and big; pretty comfortable. This is the yo-yo I buy for people when I think they should try them out.
  • YoYoFactory DV888 My favorite responsive metal yoyo so far. Smaller than you’d expect, but feels great. I kind of want to get another one in this color way.
  • Caribou Lodge Dune Kind of ridiculous how expensive this one is, but it feels so nice. This is the first “fancy” yo-yo I bought and I do not regret it. One thing I’ve learned is that in Canada someone has the copyright to “yo-yo” so they call them “return tops”. Super weird.
  • Recess FIRST BASE This is a perfect starter yo-yo that comes with a size C bearing to convert it to unresponsive. I’ve been pleasantly surprised how great this yo-yo feels, even for being $20.

Buying a TV 5/15/18

TV

I made the mistake of buying a TV in 2018. This isn’t a big deal if you don’t really care what kind of TV you want – they are abundant and extremely cheap – but of course this process took me a week.

The 2015 Vizio M50-C1 I have had for a few years has been generally very good. It does 4K adequately well, and has plenty of inputs for anything I could throw at it. But, because it is an early 4K TV it doesn’t do HDR and has some HDMI limitations.

Then last week I found a great deal on one of last years OLED TVs from LG, which threw me into a tailspin.

Unsubstantiated opinions about OLEDs

For a while I figured that the next TV I would upgrade to would be an OLED. My iPhone X screen is an OLED and I really like staring at it all day, every day. A gigantic panel of this sort of amazing screen would great, right? Well, sort of.

After doing some research about OLEDs I found a few flaws that I don’t think I could handle – especially if I was planning on spending $1300+ on “the ultimate TV”.

First, the OLED panels are too “fast”, which creates some weird motion smoothing problems with slow panning content. Second, OLEDs are not great at dealing with image retention. This will definitely be a problem when I play games with a persistent onscreen UI.

These are dealbreakers.

HDMI 2.2

One thing I didn’t expect to be a problem is the amount of HDMI ports that support HDMI 2.2. HDMI 2.2 means that sources can output 4K/60hz/HDR content. Many of the “high end” LED TVs out there, like the Sony X900F only have two ports that support HDMI 2.2. Of course, I have 3 things I would need an HDMI 2.2 port with (PS4 Pro, Xbox One S, Apple TV 4K).

Ok. So I need 5 HDMIs, and at least 3 of which need to be able to do HDMI 2.2.

The Solution

After spending a few days digging around, looking at all sorts of TVs from anyone that sells them, I found that the TV that best fits my needs is the new 2018 Vizio P55-F1. Based on the details about the 2017 model, this will do everything I’ve been looking for (HDR, plenty of 4K/60hz ports), while still looking as good as possible for an LED.

I need a nap.

Vizio Addendum

Vizio got slapped with a fine back in 2017 for spying on users/selling their data without consent. This sort of thing is basically unavoidable at this point, but as a precaution I have always had my TV’s MAC address blocked through my router.

Even though I’m sure it still collects all that extremely lucrative data about how much Fraiser we’ve been watching, at least it can’t go anywhere ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Favorite Games of 2017 12/29/17

I tried to dedicate more time to actually finishing games this year. Usually I will buy games as they come out, play about 30% of them, and move onto the next new thing. Luckily there were a ton of amazing games this year so sticking with them was pretty easy. Here’s a list of my favorites:

10. Nioh (PS4)

Samurai Dark Souls had me on board immediately, and the core combat loop is just flawless. I just wish Nioh was half as long as it is because then I might stand a chance at ever beating it.

9. Tacoma (PC)

I really enjoyed exploring the world of Tacoma. Fullbright does an amazing job at setting a mood and Tacoma is no exception. Also doesn’t hurt that Tacoma takes place in a weirdly plausible future where corporations are feudal overlords.

8. Universal Paperclips (iOS)

I’ve only played a few of popular clickers over the years, but Universal Paperclips really got its hooks into me. I played the browser version at first, got stuck, and dropped it. Eventually I picked up the iOS version and beat it over the course of a couple days. Maybe now I’ll check out SPACEPLAN again.

7. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PC)

PUBG is a terrifying game to play solo. You’re dropped in the middle of nowhere and every sound you hear could be some maniac trying to kill you. My heart starts racing just thinking about it.

On the other hand, playing in a group is hilarious and insane. Everything can and usually does go wrong, and its almost always a lot of fun.

6. Dead Cells (PC)

In Dead Cells you can jump off a ledge, hold down and then Tetris-drop style fly toward the ground and obliterate any enemies below your feet. This mechanic alone is why Dead Cells is on this list.

5. Steamworld Dig 2 (Switch)

Steamworld Dig 2 is a really solid metroidvania that took me by surprise. It is perfect on the Switch, and just an extremely chill place to spend some time. While it is never particularly challenging, the puzzles are interesting and traversing the world quickly becomes very fun. I think I just have a soft spot for grappling hooks.

4. Everything (PS4)

You could put some Alan Watts quotes over anything and I would be on board, but Everything blew me away. You control everything from a fleck of dust to a flock of seagulls, an entire planet to section of fence. There isn’t really a point beyond fiddling around and thinking about the interconnected nature of the universe, which is Extremely My Shit.

3. Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy (PC)

I saw Getting Over It when it was initially released as part of Humble Monthly, and decided I could wait. It seemed like a silly idea that I didn’t need to try out immediately.

Months later the game arrived on steam and, surprisingly, iOS. I picked it up on iOS and quickly realized I should be playing it with a mouse. It took me about 10 hours to learn how to climb everything – culminating in a run that takes about 10 minutes on a good day.

What I didn’t expect was that Getting Over It would be a incredible piece of art, critiquing both itself and the medium. I could listen to Bennett Foddy talk about games as art/failure/garbage all day.

2. Super Mario Odyssey (Switch)

Odyssey is just a masterclass in game design and polish. Every single nook and cranny is filled with charm. Over 60 hours I ended up with about 560 moons and all of the purple coins. I loved every second of it.

1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch)

I don’t think I could have asked for a better launch title on the Switch. I wrote more about Zelda earlier this year, but recently went back to check out the new DLC. After 100 hours Breath of the Wild is still one of my favorite games of all time.

Other games I played and liked

Nier: Automata (PS4)
Night in the Woods (PS4)
Cuphead (PC)
Yakuza 0 (PS4)
Horizon: Zero Dawn (PS4)
What Remains of Edith Finch (PS4)
Absolver (PC)
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (PC)

Gunpla 7/27/17

Gundam

The thing I like about Gunpla (short for Gundam Plastic Models) is that it’s basically LEGO with an extra element of craft involved. You need to be a little careful cutting out the parts, but also you can use markers to make the paneling pop out more. It’s sort of like manual Ambient Occlusion in a way.

Kaitlin & I were at the MoPOP a while ago and in the horror exhibit there were a bunch of plastic model runners on the walls. Seeing them up there kinda jogged my memory about how its kinda fun to put together models.

Also, I’ve been playing a lot of Overwatch lately and really like this awesome Gundam-inspired Pharah skin. I was looking for some sort of Pharah figure, but all of the ones available aren’t that great.

So I figured I would just cut to the chase and build a Gundam.

Now, a month later, I’ve built 4 and bought 8 different ones. I started with a pretty basic small one, but eventually got into the 1/100 scale Master Grade Gundams. I really like the level of detail in the MG ones compared to the smaller guys. Everything is just a little bit higher quality.

Now the main problem is that I’m running out of space on my desk for these things.

Bookshelf 4/27/17

Shelf

Our living room always had somewhat of a space issue. After rotating the TV to be on the longer wall, we didn’t have a great solution for our books. We ended up moving an old IKEA 2×6 bookcase over there, and left the old mounted one in place. This sorta bugged me for years.

Eventually, we planned on buying a new set of bookshelves for that wall. Most of the options we could find were okay, but not really what we needed. I was going to pull the trigger on a couple of these ones from CB2, but they were backordered for months. I’m actually really glad they were.

After talking about it, Kaitlin was like “what if we built our own?”. I initially dismissed it because I didn’t think I had the space/tools/experience to make anything that looked good. Then I realized that people can actually make some really nice shelving out of steel pipe & some minor woodworking.

So, I started mapping out the shelf in OmniGraffle. This made it a lot easier to plan out which length of shelving would actually fit on the wall, and some of the other details that are hard to ballpark. That said, once I got down to building it the whole plan shifted significantly.

Shelf Plan

Raw steel pipes + the fittings to connect them don’t exactly round down to even numbers, so most measurements had to be adjusted on the fly.

I bought some lumber at a lumberyard here in town, and had them cut the main shelf pieces down to 12”×80” & 16”×80”. They weren’t exact, but they didn’t really need to be.

Then I went and bought some sawhorses, a jigsaw & a bunch of other crap to start piecing this all together. Using our covered garage area actually wasn’t too bad for the week I was out there. I think it only rained on one of the days, but even then water never got close to my stuff.

The bad parts

  • Removing all of the packaging tape & stickers from 60 different pipe pieces was awful.
  • Hand-sanding the 6 shelves was a total pain in the ass. I probably should have just rented some sort of sander to do that part. It would have been easier to get the shelves down to a finer finish, too.
  • I did most of the wood preparation on the floor, so eventually my back started to kill me.
  • While assembling the shelves, I had the great idea of drilling in the top wall flanges first. Turns out that because of the way the threads go, it then became impossible to finish assembling. So, I had to take it all out & re-drill 😒

The good parts

  • Using the jigsaw to make some wire cutouts along the back edge was totally worth it. It’s hard to see, but its my favorite detail.

    Cutout

  • I’m glad I recessed the pipes into the shelves a little bit. This took some doing, but I think the outcome was worth it. A lot of pipe shelving people make just has the planks sitting on the shelves with the pipes out front. Not as nice.
  • Making the bottom 3 shelves 16” deep was a last minute change, and I’m really glad we did it. The records & turntable fit really well, and I think it makes the whole shelf look more stable. Also the cats really like sleeping on blankets on the bottom shelf.

All in all, I think the shelf came in around $600. Which, compared to how basic the ones I was about to buy were, seems like a pretty good deal.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 3/31/17

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Plenty has been written about Breath of the Wild. It’s fantastic, and easily one of my favorite games of all time. That said, I’ve had somewhat of a checkered past with Zelda games so let’s recap:

Ocarina of Time (N64)

I was exactly the target market for this game when it came out, yet somehow it completely missed me. We must have rented it at some point, but I’m mostly bummed I never got to play it back when it was still technically impressive.

When the 3DS remaster came out in 2011 I put in an honest effort to make my way through it, but just couldn’t do it.

Wind Waker (Gamecube)

I loved Wind Waker all the way up until the final 1/4 with the protracted Triforce fetch quest. At some point I must have hit a wall and just figured it wasn’t worth it anymore.

Wind Waker: Remastered (Wii U)

Played it straight through and absolutely loved it. Some of the changes they made to quest structure and sailing around were 100% necessary.

Link Between Worlds (3DS)

Really enjoyed this one but eventually sort of fell off about 2/3rds of the way through. I should probably get back to it at some point.

Minish Cap (GBA)

I picked up an awesome backlit original Game Boy Advance , and started playing through Minish Cap. It was generally pretty enjoyable, despite some of the usual trappings of a Zelda game. I think I made it about halfway through before diving back into one of the Catlevanias.

Breath of the Wild (Switch)

Over the last 10 years or so, open world games have sort of bloomed into a weird genre of their own. The GTAs of the world present you with a [basically] open world where you can go and do whatever you want, whenever you want. Many games started to emulate this structure, and design tropes started to set in.

  • Climb towers to reveal parts of the map
  • Your map gets checkered with a bunch of boring crap to do
  • Nothing is fun, and none of it matters

Alright so maybe I have a chip on my shoulder, but I’ve definitely gotten tired of this style of game. Far Cry 3 was pretty good, but most of the recent open world games have been largely boring (Assassins Creed, Watch_Dogs (sorta), other Far Crys, Dragon Age: Inquisition, etc). I’ve learned that I just don’t really get any enjoyment walking around checking off pointless quests just to do it.

One exception is The Witcher 3, which was mostly exceptional.

Anyway, Breath of the Wild took a lot of those tropes and turned them in interesting ways. The whole world actually felt like it was worth exploring. I spent about 75 hours total in that game, primarily just climbing and walking around looking at stuff. The whole thing just oozes a level of craft you don’t normally see in games.

My only problem is that now that I’ve done all 120 shrines, I don’t really have much of a reason to go back to it. I mean theres no way in hell I’m going to find all 900 Korok seeds.

Tabletop RPGs 3/22/17

Dice

It seemed inevitable that after getting way into board games, I’d eventually end up interested in tabletop RPGs. I’ve always been sort of curious about them, especially after years of playing video game RPGs.

Pathfinder

My first introduction to RPGs was with the Pathfinder Beginner Box. After comparing it to the similar D&D offering, it was clear that Pathfinder was the winner. It came with some great standees and a grid map for creating your own dungeons. Everything you would need to hit the ground running.

Problem was, when we tried it out we kinda hit the ground confused. Lots of mechanics to keep in mind, too much structural ambiguity for new players (and me as an inexperienced DM) – so that first time through wasn’t a whole lot of fun.

The bigger issue is that I basically have no idea where to start. Tabletop RPGs are a huge thing, and you can do practically anything you want. Unfortunately I kind of freeze up with that kind of freedom – especially when I’m not really sure what I’m doing.

Mouse Guard

After reading a glowing review of Mouse Guard, I decided to pick it up and see how it worked. The premise sounded awesome and the art was great – maybe this would be the ticket. On a weekend trip I sat and read through the rulebook, and about 75% of the way though I got really bummed out.

Despite the interesting theme and world, Mouse Guard really didn’t seem like it would be much fun to play. It seemed like many of the RPG systems had been abstracted out to be clunky and unintuitive.

Ultimately I was just disappointed. I thought if this wasn’t going to work, maybe I’m just not cut out for these sorts of games. Maybe the tedium is just not with it? I couldn’t really tell. I decided I’ll just have to revisit Mouse Guard after learning a different, more traditional RPG.

Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition

After chatting with someone in my office about Pathfinder/D&D it struck me that I might have just made the wrong choice out of the gate. It’s my understanding that Pathfinder was created when D&D (now in its 5th edition) took a turn toward simplicity. While I can totally understand wanting to maintain a certain level of complexity – maybe D&D might be the right level of RPG to start with.

Last week I picked up the D&D Starter Set. While the set is significantly less flashy than the Pathfinder Beginner Box, it seems to be exactly what I’ve been looking for. Hopefully I can wrangle a few people together and get this show on the road.

Guitars 3/7/17

My first guitar was a $100 Squier Stratocaster that came bundled with a tiny 15W Crate amp. Both were terrible, but they were enough to wail out some bad riffs in my friend’s basement. Eventually I replaced it with an equally terrible Epiphone Les Paul Special 2. The bands didn’t get any better either.

One band – named Alternative Ending for some reason – came to an unceremonious end after our bass player got a girlfriend. Following that I played in a string of metal and punk bands, usually in some sort of rhythm role.


I’m realizing now that I never actually put in any effort to learn how guitars worked. Learning guitar, as I understood it, was mostly just reading tabs and learning how to execute them with the right timing. Turns out this is a pretty limiting way of approaching guitar. When you don’t understand how everything fits together, it becomes much harder to branch out beyond the handful of songs/riffs you know.

At some point in high school I ditched the Epiphone for a much nicer, but sorta tacky Schecter C1 Classic. It actually fit in pretty well with the sorts of bands I was playing in at the time.

Schecter C1 Classic

Eventually I stopped being in bands, and sold that guitar when we moved to Seattle. Meanwhile I had started to really enjoy playing Kaitlin’s acoustic guitar. It was moderately comfortable and let me fiddle with something while working from home. Last year I went and picked up a classical guitar because I wanted a guitar that was A) smaller and B) had nylon strings. It’s perfect.

Now I’m pretty sure I want to get an electric guitar again. The only issue is that because space is a premium, I wont be getting an amp anytime soon. I’ve had decent luck with the Apogee Jam, but this time around I will probably upgrade to the iRig HD2.

In an effort to learn some more about music theory I’ve started working my way through LightNote. So far, it’s been exactly what I’ve always wanted – lots of visual examples and interactive tools to explain the concepts. Even with just the basics, it’s been super helpful for demystifying things about music/guitar that I never quite understood, but could tell I was screwing up.


I picked up a black Telecaster and couldn’t be happier. Most of the electric guitars I’d played in the past had weirdly thick necks and a set of super heavy guaged strings. I’m sure that was partially because I was playing in metal bands where you’re just thrashing on the guitar, but still. The neck on this Telecaster feels like the right size for my hands, and the strings are super easy to play on. Kind of a nice surprise.

The iRig HD2 & Amplitube have been good enough for what I need. It took me a while to find a sound I liked within all of the simluated amps, but ended up with some really nice ENGL stuff. I’m still impressed by just how good the digital amps can sound.

Telecaster

Nioh 3/5/17

Nioh

Nioh is a terrific video game. It’s definitely in that weird genre of super difficult, but rewarding games that beat the crap out of you. Calling it just a samurai Souls game undersells everything it brings to the genre.

Nioh treats the Stamina bar a bit like Active Reload from the Gears of War series. Blow a bunch of stamina swinging at a dude – then wait a split second and hit R1 to regain all of that stamina immediately. Early on, it becomes clear that you will need to be juggling this at all times – especially during intense fights.

To take it to another level, the enemies in Nioh can create temporary pools of stamina-regeneration-stopping Yokai realm. Then, if you nail a perfect Ki pulse the ground around you will clear any of those pools. The game is built around having you spinning several plates at the same time.

Bloodborne rewarded aggressive play by giving you back lost health if you kept swinging at enemies. This was a nice addition to the Souls formula, but Nioh’s stamina button feels much more active.

From Software’s Souls series has an endearing charm to them. Everything’s kinda janky, but the overall experience is top notch. The quality of Team Ninja’s Nioh is almost stunning. Moving around feels tight and deliberate. You can dodge in and out of encounters with confidence. The sort of thing that really matters in an intense action series.

One knock against Nioh is the lack of a large, interconnected world. Given the context of the story, it makes sense – but some of the isolated levels can be kinda boring.

Anyway, if you’re even remotely into the Soulslike genre, I highly recommend Nioh.