A Better Afternoon

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Yesterday was not the best of days. After writing my blog post, in reflecting on what had transpired earlier in the day, my mindset reverted to the one I was in during the argument, and that started a whole new argument. The one in the evening wasn’t as long, though, and things were much better by the time bedtime rolled around.

Today has been much better. We had a couple of our dearest friends stop by for a visit while they were in town, and we enjoyed conversation and lunch with them. It’s always nice to be in the presence of someone that you can just be yourself in front of. There are so many people that I feel like I have to have at least some level of “the mask” on for, but not these two. With these two I can genuinely be myself. (That’s not to say that I’m faking it for everyone else, but almost everyone has people that they have different levels of comfort zones with, and these two are part of my innermost circle.)

We had a good time eating and shooting the breeze about a ton of stuff, and as always got to learn a little bit more about one another. It’s been a good afternoon.

A Rough Afternoon

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The usual activities of the day were interrupted this afternoon by a clash of symptoms between me and my wife. She was asking me if I knew a song that was going in our evening show, I said no and instinctively looked over at her laptop to see what song was playing, and that led her to tell me lightheartedly that she didn’t want me to look. I never heard the lighthearted part, what I heard was her being upset at me for spoiling the surprise, so naturally my first response was to apologize for ruining the song and to immediately start kicking myself for screwing things up. This led to things getting heated between us and as is our usual M.O. we both forgot what we were arguing about in favor of new things to argue back and forth. We managed to get calmed down and I went in the bedroom to do my learning for the day, and she very curtly let me know her displeasure with leaving. Turns out I hadn’t announced my intentions – I thought I had – and I was just up and leaving the room without saying anything. This led to more of a blowup, and finally I went into the bedroom and closed the door and started trying to get my learning done.

Try, being the operative word.

I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t concentrate, and one of the games that I excel at I failed four times in a row because I wasn’t paying any attention to what my choices were and just tapped my phone seemingly at random. This led my wife to come into the room and mention my continued failing, and that started a whole new argument that lasted longer than the one in the living room. We were both shouting, and I was as usual absolutely adamant that things go exactly the way that I was envisioning them, which made her dig her heels in more.

I don’t remember a lot of details, but she just would not let me take responsibility for starting the argument. Finally, after what seemed like hours, we agreed that we were each responsible for our part in the argument and that closed it down for good, but not before we were both absolutely pissed at ourselves for not having better control of ourselves in the situation.

We went on the air, apologized for not being our usual high-energy selves, and did the show. Tonight’s show took a little more out of me than shows usually do, and I’m quite tired. Can’t wait for bedtime.

A Celebration of What Once Was

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This afternoon and evening has been spent at the 13th anniversary celebration of City of Heroes in Paragon Chat, the XMPP server that’s set in the City of Heroes universe. My wife and I broadcast for two hours during the eight-hour show, and I was present for all eight hours.

The event was a great reminder of what a fantastic community City of Heroes created. Even over four years after sunset, dozens of people are still coming together to celebrate the game that we loved. People were sharing their favorite moments from the game, people were visiting with old friends and new, people were carrying on roleplay that still told the stories of their characters. There were costume and biography contests, there were trivia contests, there were badge races and other games. It was a full slate of activities for a game universe that went silent so unexpectedly back in 2012 and it was joyous to watch. It was my pleasure and my honor to have been able to participate in the event, however small my role was.

The organizers of the event really outdid themselves and everyone was having fun.

City of Heroes was the first MMORPG that I ever played, and it will always hold a special place in my heart, not so much because of the gameplay, but because of the absolutely phenomenal community that was built up around the game. They were and are like a second family to me, and they filled that role at a time when my first second family was far, far away. I will always be grateful for the time that I spent in City of Heroes and for the many, many real-world friendships that I’ve forged there.

Busy Day Today

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Thursdays are my busy days. In addition to being a shower and shave day, an activity that’s taking up more spoons than usual because of my knee, which is still kind of touchy for long periods of time, it’s CPAP deep cleaning day and radio show day, which means that all the things that I normally do with my day get pushed around to make time for the extra activities.

Showers take a little longer than usual because I shave my head and part of my face in the shower. It uses more water than shaving at the sink, but cleanup is considerably easier and the convenience is worth it. It doesn’t take me a long time to shave, maybe five minutes to make sure it’s perfectly smooth with no extraneous stubble, but certain parts of my head are trickier than others. The hair on the back of my neck grows in some weird configuration and I have never been able to find just one direction to shave to get it smooth. The back of my neck will usually have the lightest bit of stubble on it just because I can’t find all the grains I’m working against. Moving out of the shower and to the sink to shave the lower part of my face and the front of my neck also takes a while, since once again there’s no rhyme or reason to the grain of my hair on my neck. I have a system to get it mostly done, but it’s time consuming.

It should be noted that I don’t shower and shave every day. Even at my peak functionality, I’d never shave every day; my skin is sensitive and shaving every day does damage to my skin. But while I’ve been in a period of extremely low functionality, I got out of the habit of showering every day, something that just doesn’t feel important when you don’t care about yourself and you never leave the house anyway. I’m in the process of re-establishing that habit, so I have alarms set throughout the week to remind me that it’s time to hop in the shower, wash down, and take the stubble off. They’re working, although recent travels have tossed a bit of a monkey wrench in the establishment of the habit and so I’m basically starting over.

The CPAP deep clean isn’t that much different from a regular clean, which I do on Mondays. (I’d do it more often, but the Velcro on my head strap gives out sooner than my insurance allows me to replace it with a daily removal, so I’ve learned to space cleanings out across the week instead of doing them every single day.) The only difference is that instead of soaking my water reservoir in warm soapy water, I let a 1:2 white vinegar/water solution soak in it to descale the inside, then rinse in the soapy water to get the vinegar smell out. I also soak my head strap to remove oils from the neoprene, plus remove the hose nozzle and silicon seal from the machine itself to soak it. But it still takes a little time to do, and it has to be done earlier in the day than later, since everything needs to be dry before being reassembled for use that evening.

The radio prep is a topic I’ve gone into before in my blog, and while it’s not as time-consuming as it would be were I manually programming the show, it still takes a bit of time getting all the segments for the show laid out and ready for air time.

In the broad scheme of things, this doesn’t really add that much to my day, maybe an hour and a half total. But that’s on top of the other things that I have in my checklist to do for the day, and those things can run long on occasion. So Thursdays are a little hectic.

Three weeks from today will be especially hectic. On top of everything else I have to do that day, I’ve got an intake appointment with my new psych med manager, and that has the potential of eating two hours out of my schedule, depending on traffic and length of intake. Still looking forward to it, but that Thursday is going to be a logistical challenge.

That’s enough rambling about how busy I am today. Time to go get some of it done.

A Disappointing Experiment

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Steam’s current midweek sale offers selections from the Arkham franchise: Arkham Asylum, Arkham City, Arkham Origins, Arkham Origins Blackgate, Arkham Knight, LEGO Batman The Videogame, LEGO Batman 2 DC Super Heroes, and LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham. Of these, I already owned Asylum and City, and really wanted to pick up the rest of the franchise. Funds being what they are, I opted instead for Origins and LEGO Batman, and bought the same for my wife. We were very excited about LEGO Batman, and since neither of us had finished Asylum or cracked City, we were content to let Origins sit by the side while we fired up LEGO Batman.

The music was very familiar: the Batman score by Danny Elfman. This was a great start to the game, we thought. We adjusted options for our graphics settings and dove into a new game. We were met with three separate cutscenes, one for the game workshop’s logo, one giving the backstory, and one setting up the first episode of the game. The cutscenes were fun and lighthearted – I especially liked how Clayface was more interested in spinning around in a chair than the strategy meeting he was attending. And after a fairly comical introduction, our heroes, Batman and Robin, took center stage for the game play.

The object of the game is to fight your way through enemies (when you defeat them, they disassemble into their component LEGO pieces and quickly fade from the screen), pick up studs as game “loot,” destroy certain items to generate more studs as loot, build certain components to help you in your mission, and solve puzzles to get to the end of the episode.

On solid ground, the WASD control keys are effective enough. The other controls are fairly easy to follow – one key attacks, another jumps, a third is a catch-all “action” key, a fourth allows you to trade between playing Batman and Robin. But unfortunately this game has an up and down component to it, and that’s where I started running into problems.

There’s one point where you pull a lever to open a gate, revealing the component pieces of a grappling hook jump point. A key grapples you to the top of the line, another two keys (jump and direction) swing you over to a ledge. You pull another lever on the ledge, opening a gate in another part of the game below, and continue along to a landing with a ladder. At the top of this ladder, to the left and right of the ladder, are two collection items that will help you progress through the overall game. You just climb the ladder, jump up to the left or right, and pick up your loot.

Except it really, really is not that simple.

The camera angles are fixed in LEGO Batman, and the angle that the game has you in at that point in the game make the WASD keys less than intuitive. Using jump and A does not move you to the left side of the upper landing, it just has you jumping off the ladder to the landing below. Same with jump and D. If you climb too high on the ladder you automatically jump down. Lining up to actually climb the ladder in the first place is an exercise in patience, but it’s nothing whatsoever compared to actually reaching your goals on the upper landing.

I tried once. I tried twice. I tried again. And again. And again. For over fifteen minutes solid, I tried to climb this ladder to the upper landing to collect my prizes. If I climbed that ladder once, I climbed it fifty times – no exaggeration. I just could not get the controls to do what I wanted them to do in any configuration of button pushing. I finally figured out that if you jump just before you get to the top of the ladder, and continue hitting jump, you’ll stay there long enough to make an attempt at clearing the upper landing, but that actually making that jump is very much hit or miss. I finally made it to the right to pick up my prize there, and then tried to jump across the space on the landing that the ladder was coming through. I missed and fell back down to the lower landing. I tried again and again to get back on either side of the upper landing and somehow miraculously made it, got my second piece of swag, and finally jumped down that ladder on purpose for the first time during the whole ordeal.

Later on in the episode, Robin uses a special suit to control a toy car that’s required to unlock a puzzle preventing you from going any further. The WASD controls do not in any way correspond to whatever secret handshake of button mashing I was using to get the car to move in the direction that I wanted it to. Another ten minutes later, and I’d managed to achieve my goal – drive it from a small door in one building to a small ramp in the next building over, drive in, hang a right, and hit three switches on the wall to open the locked doors and allow the main characters themselves in. Previous and subsequent attempts to steer a vehicle in this game were likewise fruitless.

Even the most basic of tasks often required several attempts to get it done right. The fighting was basic enough – move around, get close to the bad guys, mash the button until they disassembled, and repeat. This was complicated considerably once the bad guys discovered firearms, and one of them required a well placed batarang throw to disarm from a distance.

Oh, the batarang mechanic. Press and hold the punch button, move the WASD keys around to target your enemy, and then release the punch button – all while being shot at from multiple foes. Did I mention that your aim moves somewhat independently of the control keys and a successful throw means timing when your reticle lands on the desired target before it swings back to the original position? The reticle is never not in motion, you’re having to aim on the fly. (To be fair, I am absolutely terrible at first-person shooters, where this kind of aiming is second nature.) But my in-game Batman felt a lot like his on-screen counterpart from The Lego Movie, when they attempt to pass through the laser gate – chucking batarang after batarang at the problem until one just happened to hit the target (“first try!”).

It took me over 90 minutes to complete the first episode. Nothing whatsoever in the gameplay felt intuitive or natural. The pace of the game crawled while I started and stopped and started again trying to accomplish even the most basic tasks.

Steam’s return policy dictates that you return the game within two weeks of purchase, having played less than 120 minutes total. After a short discussion with my wife, we submitted both editions of the game for refunds, which were granted sometime later in the evening.

Regular readers of this blog know that I have a growing collection of LEGO Architecture sets, so it would stand to reason that I had very high hopes about the online games. Sadly, I found it to be unplayable. Sadder still, every other LEGO game works on the same control mechanic, so this pretty much eliminates the entire LEGO series from my wishlist. And there were many games on there.

Remember, your mileage may vary. You might download the game and be a whiz at it. It might not frustrate you to the point of distraction. But it did me, and it did my wife, so we no longer own the game. If you wish to try it or any other LEGO online title, I wish you better luck than we had.

A Few Hours of Panic

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Some time ago, we got a notification that my psychiatric medication manager was going to be changing practices and that we would need to sign a release in order for my records to follow her to the new practice. Since I’m self-pay under a special arrangement – $75 per visit – we tried to contact the new office to determine whether they would accept my insurance and whether they would match the self-pay arrangement I had in place. And we waited, and waited, and waited.

While I was in Phoenix, I got a call saying that my May 2nd appointment with her would have to be rescheduled. I told them I was out of town and that I’d call them when I got back in to make arrangements. I sent them an email asking why they’re rescheduling an appointment and whether she was in fact moving practices, as that was scheduled to happen April 1st. They said she was still with them and they could reschedule, and gave me options. I chose to postpone it a week, and that’s when they said that she would be at the new practice at that time and have I managed to get my records sent over to the new place?

This prompted another call to the new practice asking about insurance and self-pay options. No, they don’t take my insurance. Self-pay patients will pay $150 per appointment – double my current arrangement.

So I sent another email to the original practice asking if they would honor that $75 agreement with any other medication manager in the practice, and they said no, that the rate would be $125.

So I started looking for a new medication manager.

My insurance company listed 115 providers within 25 miles of my ZIP code. One phone call eliminated all but 39 of those providers, as they were at a practice that does not accept patients from my county. They transferred me to their Travis County counterpart. They don’t take my insurance either, but they have a financial need process to go through in order to determine self-pay rates. I kept moving through the list.

The next call eliminated three more providers by saying they weren’t accepting new patients. And I went through the rest of that list getting some version of why they can’t take me as a patient. One practice only did clinical trials, another only accepted workers’ comp cases, one number was to an architectural firm. Four were eliminated because they only serve children. One practice said to call back on the first day of the month at 9:00 am and talk with a live person to set an appointment for a new patient, but be prompt, since the new patient appointments for the month were usually gone by noon. (Turns out this is the practice my wife uses, and a call to back channels confirmed they weren’t accepting new patients at this time.) I left a smattering of messages, but wasn’t holding out hope that they’d be the one.

Until one of them called back.

He confirmed that he was in-network for my plan, he confirmed that he was taking new patients, and before long I had an appointment in hand and the intake forms already filled out. The appointment is in less than a month, so I won’t be waiting long, and I’m pretty sure that I won’t be running out of any of my medications in the meantime.

I’m looking forward to this new chapter in my psychiatric care, though I will miss my former medication manager – she was the best I’d ever had, and she’s leaving big shoes to fill.

Up at the Crack of Three

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Last night I woke up at about 2:30 am and inexplicably stayed awake until well after 6:00 am. In an attempt to recover I mostly slept until 3:00 pm, only getting out of bed to do my vitals when my wife came home for lunch. The rest of the day’s been haywire since, and I’ve already broken my five-day-long streak, since I never brushed my teeth this morning.

I’m debating just calling this a wash of a day and trying to reset my sleep for tomorrow. There are several things that I haven’t accomplished yet today and it would be easy to just let them slide until tomorrow, in the hopes that I can do better.

But there’s a larger part of me that says I need to try my hardest to complete my checklist items for the day, and if I only miss a day of full marks by one, I only miss it by one. I do this checklist because it’s a challenge to me, even after 84 straight days of full marks.

So once more, it’s going to be a short post today. I’ve still got lots to accomplish and not that much time to do it in.

Let’s hope that tomorrow will be a bit more regular, shall we?