America’s Roller Coast

The second part of my vacation took place after the last post – fortunately by that point we were out of New England so the drivers were approaching sanity again. Although….there’s something to be said for listening to your dad’s reactions to the incredible reckless driving.

Now, that aside, our final stop on vacation was Cedar Point, the best roller coaster park in America and possible the world. You’d have to ask my brother, he knows a ridiculous amount about coasters. Anyway, I enjoyed the time I spent actually on the coasters, but not the time spent literally anywhere else. It was a VERY hot day and bright and sunny for the most part (more on that later). Which means I hated it. I spent the entire time the sun was out feeling like a slug or something, coated in a constant film of mingled sweat and sunscreen.

That and there were people EVERYWHERE, constantly talking and making noise. Thank God we went on a Wednesday, because that meant there was a significantly smaller amount of attendees than there would be on, say, the weekend. Yeah, no thanks, there were plenty just that Wednesday. At least there was actually space in which to do things, not like my high school’s hallways.

Oh, and the coasters were really good. When I strap myself down my brain decides that now is the best time to review all the things that could possibly go wrong and what would happen to me if they did. Unhelpful in the extreme. I suspect it was lodging a protest of some sort. Anyway this continues until I get to the top of the hill, at which point we go down and I’m too busy enjoying the ride to think about things like death and dismemberment.

So yeah, the coasters were amazing, but I didn’t really think they were worth the sheer agony of the waiting for them. Didn’t help that I was developing a headache at the time, but that’s situational. Eventually we had to go back to the hotel because it started storming – the parking lot could have done with some storm drains, because it was literally half a foot underwater in places. Since I’d purchased one of those woven conical hats and was wearing it to keep the rain out of my face I felt like some sort of Vietnamese rice farmer. There’s a certain point where you give up keeping your feet dry because your socks have turned into sponges and you make this squelching noise with every footstep. Not fun.

But that was not the most important thing on the trip. There’s a place near Dayton, Ohio that sells red velvet cake malts. Which are exactly as good as they sound, if not better. Worth the vacation just for that.

New York City

For the record, big cities aren’t exactly my thing.

Of course, when I say “not exactly my thing” I really mean “the closest I can get to hell on Earth.”

There are WAY too many cars. By a full order of magnitude at least, plus what cars there are are driven by maniacs who probably obtained their license by holding the instructor at gunpoint. Walking is always a pain, but it’s the least hellish of the options for traveling around the city – and if you know me you know how much I hate walking. Seriously, it’s that bad.

The subway and the buses are also pretty terrible. Unless you have amazing timing or just shove everyone out of your way there’s no way in hell you’ll get an actual seat, so you’ll have to stand there hoping nobody picks your pocket and nearly falling over every time the vehicle stops or starts. Which if you’re in a bus, will be exceedingly often.

I’m not kidding. My dad is a better driver than I am, and honestly I’m better than most by this point (‘course I’m an excellent driver…) and he refused to try to navigate this city in his car. We enlisted the help of a friend who lived in the area, and even he had trouble.

That and the NOISE. For God’s sake, every two seconds someone in earshot will decide it’s time for a surprise car horn inspection and hammer the thing like there’s no tomorrow. If you’re really lucky they’ll do it two inches from you and blow your eardrums clean out of your head.

And the people everywhere, none of whom are going to get out of your way so unless you want to ram straight into them you need to basically dodge everyone on the sidewalk. And there’s a hell of a lot of people to dodge as well, so good luck. Plus half of them are smoking about as much as a coal-burning steam engine so say goodbye to your nice clean lungs. And even once you find somewhere to sit down, people walking by will try and sell you stuff or whatnot. I don’t know about you but if I’m sitting there reading a book I don’t want to be petitioned by door-to-door salesmen wannabes, seriously.

That said, we’re at least situated in a hotel fairly close to a view of the new World Trade Center. Take a good long look, Al-Quaeda. You suck forever, and we win.

*ahem* We’re not going there.

That said, I can’t be too hard on New York City drivers because honestly they’re better than the ones in Massachussetts. Although maybe only by virtue of not having as much room because of all the bloody buildings, but eh, I’ll take what I can get I suppose. Unless people want me to rant at them, which I’m only too good at.

And I haven’t taken a taxi anywhere. According to my dad that’s an adventure, so we’ll probably have to do that before we leave the city for good tomorrow.

Just a quick update while I’m on vacation to tell you what I think of the city, I suppose. Hope you found it useful.

Zoo Trip

Recently, as in a full week ago, I went on a trip with my family to the Henry Doorly Zoo. We were, initially, planning on a trip to see my grandparents out of state, but that was canceled on the grounds that in a week we will be leaving for a VERY expensive trip to New York City for a while and as such my parents are monitoring their funds very carefully. I was upset about this cancellation because I had been informed by one of my friends who had visited the zoo that they had added cuttlefish. For the record, cuttlefish are my favorite animal. I’ve probably already said that but it’s worth saying again, I like them just that much.

A compromise was made. Instead of a trip super-far out of state, we just went to the zoo. Which meant I got to work for most of last week as well – probably a good thing, I could always use more money. Anyhow, we went to the zoo (after staying the night in a hotel and watching Battlebots) and the very first thing we went to was the aquarium. We pretty much blitzed through most of the beginning stuff – there’s only so many fish you can look at before the “normal” ones start to blend together. As such, the only ones we really spent time at were the penguins and the big shark tunnel – you know the one, where you walk through a glass tunnel surrounded by sharks, big grouper-type fish, sea turtles and stingrays.

At that point we hit the jellyfish exhibit. Now, I’ve always been a big jellyfish nerd. My username, Flagmouth (Flagmauth for my Youtube channel) is derived from the order Semaeostomeae, a group of jellyfish that tend to be the biggest and most impressive-looking ones. So when I got to see my first real jellyfish exhibit (which is to say it wasn’t a bunch of moon-jellies that looked like plastic bags with four-leaf-clover tattoos) at Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, I was excited. I saw a sign saying that they had lion’s mane jellyfish. My inner nerd started rattling off statistics faster than most auctioneers: “Cool, those things can be ten feet wide and a hundred feet long I can’t wait – oh.”

Yeah, they can be that big but Shedd’s jellyfish were only about four inches in diameter, if I’m being generous. I was, understandably, disappointed.

Going to Henry Doorly’s aquarium I expected this same size difference – I went there last year too, on a trip to my grandparents’ place. But this time I had a question. I looked at the tank for purple-striped jellyfish (labeled as purple-stripe sea nettles but that’s neither here nor there) and noticed that there were six of the little things drifting around. Going back to my Wikipedia-reading days, these things could grow up to three feet in diameter and twenty feet long. The tank wasn’t big enough to hold one jellyfish that size, let along six of them.

Being the obstinate borderline-OCPD Aspie that I was, I waited near a staff door and when an aquarist came out I proceeded to interrogate him. He confirmed that the jellyfish weren’t fully-sized (their coloration also indicated they were juveniles) and said that they never would be, because they couldn’t provide the food for animals that big. Turns out, the reason why so many aquariums have moon jellyfish is because they make really good food sources for anything with jellyfish on the menu, which makes me feel rather silly for not having figured that out on my own. But aside from that, he brought up another point (which I had anticipated this time, go me). The aquarium simply didn’t want jellyfish that big. Whether it was the purple-striped ones or the neighboring egg-yolk jellyfish (which can grow up to the size of washing machines in the wild – obviously not at Henry Doorly Zoo, though) a bigger jellyfish tank would be a building and maintenance nightmare.

The reason is that jellyfish can’t just be stuck in a tank like about every other marine species in an aquarium. They’re drifters, so in an ordinary rectangular tank they’ll end up stuck in the corners unable to get out. And nobody wants to spend all day yanking them back to the middle of the tank so they impress visitors. So they need a cylindrical tank with a constant current in order to keep mobile. Also, remember in Finding Nemo? That filter intake that sucks Nemo in? Those things eat jellyfish. And no aquarium worth its salt (ha ha, pun not intended) wants their animals turned into confetti.

So, with that question answered, I pointedly ignored the sea anemones begging for attention and moved on. Then we found the cuttlefish.

And we stayed there for a good fifty minutes. Among other things I saw one of the animals cosplaying as a Reaper from Mass Effect (and immediately stopping when I called it out, given that I’ve played Mass Effect the cuttle probably feared for its life and/or plans at world domination) and one of them exchanged peace signs with my brother. Or possibly flipped him off European-style. Cuttlefish don’t live in American waters so I’m beginning to suspect the latter. Which is hilarious, either way.

Once we FINALLY got tired of the cuttlefish and decided to let other people see past us, we pretty much spent the rest of the visit doing mostly nothing. We ate some stuff, hated that one bat exhibit that smells like rotten fruit, didn’t see any prairie dogs because it was raining and interviewed a meerkat on sentry policies in desert dome exhibits. Also I refused to move from an exhibit until I saw burrowing owls. I eventually played my ADHD card and left anyway, but the next exhibit had a burrowing owl in it anyway that wasn’t being antisocial so we stared at him for a while.

He just might have been a Weeping Angel because he didn’t move at all while we watched him. Granted he didn’t turn to stone either, but hey, maybe he’s a special Weeping Angel.

Difference of Opinion

Let me put this as delicately as I can: Sword Art Online is a terrible anime.

I believe this to be objectively true. A while back my friends finally convinced me to start watching anime, which is a worthy pastime. At least, if you can put up with the fact that some of the animators are convinced they’re making porn. Seriously, if I wanted to watch porn, I’m pretty sure I could find it. Give me well-animated fight scenes, thanks.

Back on topic, one of my friends had sworn up and down that Sword Art Online was easily the best anime of all time. Having no frame of reference, I believed him. Why wouldn’t I? The guy generally has good taste in this sort of thing. Sure, when I looked it up opinions seemed rather divided but I still went in thinking I’d enjoy the anime.

Well, that turned out not to be the case.

It was awful, much more so because I had just finished watching Attack on Titan, which is amazing. The story started with a good premise, good character ideas, and it seemed to be shaping up for a good show – and then the author threw it all away. The main character turns into an overpowered god akin to Superman back before kryptonite, the side characters’ lives all revolve around him, and the main premise of the show is OUTRIGHT IGNORED for a good ten episodes or so. Then the author must have gone “Crap, there was a plot I needed to get to!” and solves the whole thing in two episodes. By introducing someone who FINALLY beats the main character, except nope, deus ex machina.

Just…just no.

And amazingly there are people who LIKE this. I literally am incapable of understanding how such a thing is possible. But whatever, I’m widely considered insane by my peers and am fine with that.

From what I have seen so far, this is objectively poor writing. And I would like to point out that I went in trying to like the anime. I tried so hard. But…I just couldn’t enjoy it. It made me very sad.

And of course, I tried to explain this to my brother when he watched SAO and said he liked it. I said it was fine if he liked it as long as he acknowledged that it was poorly written – the two things are separate in my mind. He told me that the poor writing was in my opinion, and proceeded to respond the exact same way no matter how much I argued with him.

Now, whether or not I like something is definitely my opinion. But really, by every standard of writing this is terrible. It’s like Twilight – the writing sucks, the romance is terrible, but it’s wildly successful…somehow. Whatever. People can like and dislike whatever they want (except Frozen. You will like that or I WILL FIND YOU.) but there are some things that are just poorly written. I doubt anyone could say that the stories I wrote in first grade about Battlebots stopping an alien invasion were any good, objectively.

The problem, of course, is that objective standards for writing are in and of themselves questionable. You can’t create a mathematical scale for measuring how well something is written. Hence the ability of my brother (and dad, at one point) to just stand behind their “In your opinion” argument. But there are differences. For example, the first anime I ever watched, Infinite Stratos, was similarly terribly written with a rather wasted premise. I enjoyed that one. I have no idea why I enjoy IS and hate SAO, but the contrast has made me try harder not to say that something is “good” or “terrible,” because that’s very hard to back up unless you’re a professional critic. And even then people are more than capable of disagreeing with you. If you ask me about something like that I’ll usually say what I personally thought about it and then what I thought from a more objective viewpoint.

I do prefer to account for others’ opinions on the matter, after all. Except regarding Frozen. That’s the one thing I’ll allow myself leeway on. You don’t like Frozen, all bets are off.

The Flood

I meant to write something up for this earlier in the week…but I think I can be excused.

You see, on Sunday, I got up, talked with my family about how awesome Battlebots was going to be (it was that awesome), and then got on Skype to chat with my friends.

The last thing they heard from me was, “Oh **** my sink is flooding talktoyoulaterbye!”

So yeah, that happened. The plumbing apparently went temporarily on strike and failed to drain the water from the washing machine properly – causing my sink and the laundry sink, as I live in the basement, to overflow.

Fun was had.

I got to move my entire computer desk in order to get the water out of the carpet, which meant I was unable to access my gaming rig for around twenty-four hours at least. This was extremely frustrating, because I had just got a whole bunch of new games on sale and wanted to play some of them. Or maybe watch a new anime.

I got to do exactly nothing on my list except run damage control in my room for a day or more, since the entire room was taken apart to keep everything out of the water coming from the sink.

It wasn’t fun. I mean, I probably wouldn’t have gotten to the stuff I wanted to do ANYWAY, but still. If I’m going to put something off, I want to do so on my own bloody time, thanks. I don’t need help at procrastinating, I’m very good already. It’s this stupid crap that comes up on short notice with no warning that really gets on my nerves. Same thing happened a while ago – I had to use my dad’s car to deliver pizza because I ran over a screw and lost a car tire. I was just about ready to blow my stack the entire night – thank God it was a slow night or I would have probably melted down and spontaneously burst into flames or something.

Even worse, the only thing to do against this is make sure as much is in order as possible so that it doesn’t get in the way of potential emergencies – I always view my bank account as containing only about half of its actual amount of money – if I spend money I have to leave around a thousand or so bucks left over to keep me afloat in case someone wrecks my car, for example.

On a better note, Battlebots is a great show and you should totally watch it so they can make more seasons, because a robot EXPLODED last episode.

Return of the Me

Do not adjust your sets, I am actually back. Writing a blog post.

You might even say that I’m blogging “for the first time in forever.”

Heh. Frozen jokes.

*ahem* Anyway, I wasn’t really sure what I’m supposed to write about, so we’ll see how this goes. The current plan is for me to just write stuff out and hopefully it helps someone. Dad actually suggested that I make a post about the new Battlefront game, since there is now gameplay footage released onto the internet of same.

I’m not sure that falls within the scope of this blog but whatever, I’ll give it a shot.

It looks simply amazing. Star Wars Battlefront 2 was the first video game I ever owned that was worthy of the name (which is to say wasn’t an edutainment game based on Sesame Street or something) and I loved it to death. In the summers when I owned it I spent my days trying to find some friend to play with in the neighborhood, usually failing because of whatever reason, coming back in and playing Battlefront for five or six hours on end.

Basically, it was fantastic.

The premise of the game is essentially this: you’re a soldier on either side of the Galactic Civil War (Empire vs. Rebellion) or the Clone Wars (Republic vs. CIS). You have a gun. There are lots of enemy soldiers. You should shoot them. Essentially it was turn-your-brain-off stupid fun, and it genuinely felt like you were part of this epic battle for the fate of a planet.

Now, the new gameplay footage looks EVEN BETTER. I hooked my laptop up to our TV so I could show my brother and my dad. My brother’s reaction, as expected, was very similar to mine – he stared in slack-jawed awe at the screen and giggled like a schoolgirl whenever something exploded. But the thing was that my dad actually looked impressed and after it was over, said, “I want one.”

He then went and accosted my mother, pointing at the screen (which was showing that you can play as one of the massive four-legged walkers from The Empire Strikes Back) and just repeating “I want one” over and over. So the game has actually managed to convince MY DAD, who hates any game with more than three buttons, that he should play it.

My brother and I, of course, are putting together a curriculum to make sure he won’t be completely lost when the game comes out.

The only potential issue is that EA is publishing it, and they won Worst Company in America (or the world, honestly it doesn’t matter which you get my point) twice in a row for good reason. They have this nasty habit of eating smaller companies and turning good products into watered-down cash grabs. They did this to Maxis and the Sims series, but the problem I had with them was when they wrecked the ending to the Mass Effect trilogy.

Fortunately, DICE (the people behind the new Battlefront game) seem to get screwed over less by EA. That combined with the simplicity of the game (wildly shoot everyone while screaming DIE REBEL SCUM about sums it up) and they’d have to try pretty hard to actively honk off the fanbase before it becomes a problem.

More importantly, it’s another video game I’ll be able to play with Dad. We’ve been playing quite a bit of Super Smash Bros and while his number one cause of death is accidental suicide he seems to enjoy it plenty, which is a nice change from constant shouting matches over the computer and gaming in general.

Anyway, this post seems to have reached its natural conclusion, so yeah. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep posting to this blog very quickly – I kinda missed it.

Little GTHO

Long time no read.

So…I see a lot of people talking about how Aspies really hate driving. As usual, this should be taken with a grain of – actually, just go get a salt shaker and chug it – since it won’t apply for everyone but I figured I’d give my opinion on driving, speaking as an Aspie and a pizza delivery guy.

It freaking sucks.

There’s no way to win at driving. In quite a lot of situations – video games are chief among them, I think – one can screw up without serious consequences. In my case, I can bull my way through social situations purely by sheer force of insanity. Driving…doesn’t work like that. If you screw up, you break a car, or a fence or a mailbox or a person or worse yet a CAT. And then you’re completely hosed. Just like that. Whatever happens, you’re paying for it and possibly losing your license or being criminally charged.

Consider once that I accidentally dented some guy’s car while parking next to it at my bible study group. Being a bible study group guy he was cool about it and all, and since I did think I had not a lot of room I was going all of maybe two feet per hour. Well, it turns out this tiny dent in the car costs $500 for a mechanic to fix. And to put icing on the cake, this was a buddy of his doing him a favor!

First of all, this guy needs new buddies because that is UTTERLY RIDICULOUS! Personally, I would have told the guy where he could stick his wrench and just left with a slightly dented car, but then again my car is also as old as I am and hasn’t seen a vacuum or car wash since I got it. Seriously, the bit where people’s feet go in the passenger seat? That is where random bits of paper and pop bottles go to die. So maybe I just don’t care since I’ve not got a nice car, but still…five HUNDRED dollars?

So if that infinitesimally small screwup can put me out five hundred big ones (and this was while I was saving every cent I had for a decent computer, so I was honked off beyond belief), I have to be constantly on guard against anything and everything that my car can so much as touch. The stakes are too high to allow anything else. As such, any time I’m driving around I’m under constant threat and therefore am more high-strung than I am normally, which is quite the achievement.

Next thing – when it comes to the stereotypical rules, I’m something of a rules Nazi. Drinking before 21? Not gonna happen. Sex before marriage? Nope. Smoking? Please. Speeding? Yeah, right. I drive the speed limit whenever I’m on the road, and I do not appreciate jerks tailgating me or otherwise trying to get me to move faster. Just because you can’t read the big boldface numbers doesn’t mean I have to pretend I don’t, deal with it and just pass me next time you have the chance.

Plus the jerks who drive like complete MANIACS or are just stupidly inconsiderate. I can never park in my driveway because my parents need both sides for their own cars. Typically I park across the cul-de-sac in front of a neighbor’s house. There’s room for two cars to park one behind the other. Except this COLOSSAL MORON leaves his pickup there smack in the middle of the spot. Like, if there were actual white lines there to separate the spots he’d be right the heck on top of the line. Seriously, get a freaking clue, you USELESS WASTE OF SPACE!

In case you couldn’t tell, I do actually do a lot of road raging. Not in the form of speeding and driving recklessly, I just scream obscenities and increasingly elaborate insults at my steering wheel.

Back to annoying jerkbags, we have also the people who sit in the right lane at red lights when they aren’t turning right (my home state allows cars to turn right on red if no other traffic is heading that way), thus blocking people (usually me on a pizza delivery) from getting anywhere in a timely fashion. And my new favorite as of school resuming, we have the inconsiderate college student who, rather than just cross the road during the all of about five YEARS with no cars, presses the button to change the traffic light and only THEN crosses, while me and about five other drivers consider pretending our breaks don’t work and run her over. My God, woman, you force traffic to a halt just so you can cross the street? And nobody else? HOW BIG IS YOUR EGO?!

Now for a big one – you can’t multitask while driving. I. Hate. That. It seems to me all my good ideas for my roleplaying site, things to do in a video game, things to do in real life, or things to post on this blog about only ever occur to me in my car when I cannot write them down or do anything. And I can’t even think about them long enough to really get them set in my memory – I’m too busy trying not to lose another five hundred dollars instantly.

Oh, and if you need to fix your car EVER, or even just change the oil or put air in the tires, you need to do about five hundred billion different things, all of which involve potentially burning yourself on hot bits of metal from the engine heat or sunlight, potentially crushing your fingers in things, discovering that you can in fact get grease on that part of your body, et cetera. It sucks. I hate having grease on my hands. I hate hate hate HATE IT!!!!!!!

Traffic lights and signs even get in on the action. They make me paranoid because they can do one of two things: they can get me out five hundred bucks for a violation of one when it’s in the stupidest place possible, or they make me insanely late for a delivery so I lose out on tip money. And tips make up a substantial portion of my income. I maintain that if it is possible to drive down a road and hit EVERY SINGLE RED LIGHT ON THAT ROAD, the Department of Transportation needs to have someone kick their behind up between their ears until they make the thing work. And, once, I delivered to a trailer park that was essentially a gigantic cul-de-sac. As I returned to the neck of the thing to get back to the main road, I see a sign telling me I just drove all the way around that thing the wrong way because apparently it’s one way.

…WHAT GOOD DOES THAT SIGN DO? Tell me when I bloody well turn into the thing, not when I leave! It’s basically saying “you could have got a ticket or an accident this whole time and you wouldn’t know why lol #yoloswag” It’s another reminder that while driving you also have this ENORMOUS external locus of control. You can do everything right, be Pizza Delivery Jesus, and all it takes is one other schmuck screwing up once at the wrong time and BOOM! You’re out five hundred bucks AT LEAST, possibly a car and in my case my bloody JOB, not to mention your ENTIRE LIFE! If this wasn’t freaking necessary for my survival I would swear off driving forever and never leave my bloody house, it’s a waking nightmare every second!