Parenting

Tonight, I had trouble sleeping. Partially because I had four cups of coffee today, the most recent was around 9. It’s almost 2, and I’m still up. I just finished watching this week’s episode of The Rookie. The protagonist had his son going into open heart surgery.

A client at work called me today. Their server has just enough extra CPU activity to cause more noise than they’re used to. Everything looks fine, but I just checked it again to see if there were any signs of ransomware.

I’ve joked around in the past that “my networks are my children”. Maybe I’m just oversensitive, but I’m worried. Irrationally so, most likely. Somewhat like a parent has that underlying worry about the well-being of their children.

If this is what being a parent is like, even a little bit, then I seem to have a hard time believing it’s something I would want. I wish it wasn’t so terrifying.

Journeyman: My headcanon for the remainder of the series

Journeyman was a series that debuted alongside Chuck and Heroes back in 2007 on NBC. Its late time slot, low marketing push, and coincidental timing with the WGA strike of 2007 meant that the show was destined to be canceled after just thirteen episodes. However, having re-watched the series, I thought through how I would make the series continue, had it been up to me. If you haven’t seen the show, go watch it, because reading this blog post won’t make much sense.

 

Creator Kevin Falls indicated that the ‘back nine’ episodes of Season 1 would include a few notable things: Katie and Zach living elsewhere for a while, and Dan and Jack becoming roommates. Olivia was going to die in episode 20, with Dan bringing her back in episode 21. This would, however, mean that Dan lost Katie and Zach, with no idea how to get them back. Since he’s the creator of the series, we’ll go with that, and pick up with that in Season 2.

We start Season 2 with Dan hitting the bottle, hard. Jack tries to give him some moral support, but is simply unable to console him – he doesn’t even remember Katie. Olivia travels forward in time again, and joins Dan in being upset, as she has found out that Henry died storming the beaches of Normandy. They read Evan’s journal and read how many things could have happened, had Evan not intervened…and they decide to work through their grief and continue traveling. They end up traveling together to the past to help someone, and end up being successful, and they part ways and go back to their own time.

The next episode involves Dan getting let go from the paper. Hugh feels bad about it, but more cuts means that it’s just been impossible for Hugh to keep covering for him. Dan travels to the past, and his job is to win the lottery…just enough money to sit in a bank and compound some interest, so that he can spend the rest of the show living off the interest of his winnings when he returns to the present. In this episode, Theresa has her baby. The episode ends with Dan running into an elderly Olivia.

In Episode 3, Dan and elderly Olivia interact for a bit. She tells him a few stories regarding what else she learned over the course of her life, though she laments that the last time she and Dan interacted before then was the time she needed to go on. However, on this visit, the two of them go on one last mission together to get Katie back. They are successful, but they both return to the present. Katie and Zach are back, remembering everything. Katie and Olivia see each other and speak briefly, but then, Olivia dies.

Episode 4 begins with Olivia’s funeral, where Dan meets one of Olivia’s siblings. Dan then tells him about Olivia’s life and her traveling to the future and so forth; he shares details about Olivia’s life in the past. Dan travels back to help somebody and does his thing. The episode ends with Theresa traveling for the first time.

In an echo to Olivia’s direction of travel, Theresa only travels to the future. In an inverse symmetry to Dan and Olivia who only interact when Olivia is on a mission, Dan and Theresa only interact between missions, giving her advice for the next one. In episode 5, Jack and Katie bond over their feelings of helplessness while their respective spouses are on-mission, while Dan and Theresa get closer over their experiences as time travelers. Nobody cheats on anybody, but throughout the series these dynamics come up from time to time. We don’t see Theresa’s missions to the future; we only hear about them through dialog.

Throughout the rest of the season, those are the major ingredients that drive the plot: Dan goes on his missions,  Theresa on hers, sometimes they are linked and Dan’s job is to give info to Theresa or vice versa, Katie and Jack decide that the six of them should share living space to help each other out during mission times. Over the next several episodes, this all settles in, but toward the end, Olivia’s sibling tries to go public with his sister’s story, which garners the sort of attention Elliot Langley warns them about. Langley meets up with Dan to give him a flash drive with all of the information he’s compiled, and burns everything else. Langley dies enabling Dan to escape. The season finale ends with Dan, Katie, and Zach huddled together, and Jack, Theresa, and the baby huddled as well. Dan’s family all travels to the past, while Jack’s family moves to the future.

Season 3 involves the usual set of missions, but with a ‘new present’ to which they return. Each side works to deal with the shift; Zach grows up as an 80’s kid while Jack’s child ends up beginning her life in 2030. A few attempts are made to make contact between the families, but Dan isn’t terribly successful. A slightly-younger Langley runs into Dan, who in turn helps him try to communicate with his brother. Through something reminiscent of Frequency, Langley conjures up a radio device that allows Jack and Dan to communicate through time – one of Dan’s eventual missions involves getting the plans to a protege of Langley’s who will eventually meet up with Jack and make this possible. Between the two of them, they are able to figure out a way to find enough leverage to keep the ‘powerful people’ at bay, at which point both return home to the present. One idea I had for this was that they demonstrate the power to cause some sort of tragedy and they deal with the possibility of having to become de facto terrorists to survive. Another idea would be a full-blown underground/off-grid lifestyle, though the need for money and resources to research their mission targets becomes a problem.

Season 4 is the last season, and Dan and Theresa continue their missions as usual, in their ‘new normal’ of a house of six, living off Dan’s lottery winnings, helping people here-and-there. In some cases, they run into people who were mission subjects in the past who remember them. The season ends with Dan and Theresa meeting God, as played by Morgan Freeman, who informs them that this is a calling, and that it is all orchestrated in this way because our lives are a matter of one interaction – one missed elevator or one bad day at work is all it takes to alter someone’s life, and they are proof of that. Dan and Theresa, and Olivia and Evan (both of whom are present, along with a number of extras from earlier points in time) are God’s way of helping humanity be its best.

So, that’s how I’m figuring Journeyman would go.

Why I don’t like Warframe…and how it parallels a difficulty The Church seems to struggle with

Warframe is a video game. Specifically, it’s a free-to-play looter-shooter.

For most of my readership, the second sentence needs a bit more elaboration. A “free-to-play” game is one that isn’t a transactional purchase, but instead costs nothing to play, but has an in-game economy where players can purchase items for actual-dollars as they progress, though an actual financial outlay is not required. Basically every game you’ve ever played on your phone that has had some sort of in-game currency is an example of this model.

A looter-shooter is a game that tends to focus more on a gameplay loop where one, as satirical reviewer Yahtzee Croshaw summarized it, “Go to the place and shoot the lads”. Essentially, one goes to a place, shoots a bunch of lads who apparently deserve to be shot (and who generally also believe that you deserve to be shot), and looks for new weapons and armor and upgrades to those things so that the next time you have to go to a place and shoot lads, you are more effective in doing so. Rinse and repeat for the duration of the game.

My good friend Andrew had recommended I try Warframe. It always bothered me when games have me make a bunch of decisions at the beginning, but I did that thing – I picked my class and my initial powers, and my preferred rifle and sword thing…and I set out to go to a place and shoot some lads.

I’m about 14 hours into the game now. I’ve shot many, many, many lads. Nameless faces, themselves looking to provide me with a complimentary lead transfusion or relieve me of my appendages through a short surgical procedure. I’ve visited a dozen maps and tried multiple mission types…and it has failed to engage me. Fourteen hours in, and I feel like zero progress has been made. I’m some sort of guardian that came back from the dead…I think…but that was addressed in a cutscene early in the game that was incredibly muddy in its exposition. “This was a thriving colony…until the Greneer came” is pretty much all of the backstory I got when I landed on my first planet to shoot lads. Who are the Greneer, why did they come to the colony, who did they subjugate, what have they gained by taking it over? I haven’t met a citizen of that planet so I have no personal investment that I’m aware of; why am I piling up dead Greneer for them? Maybe I’d feel I was on the wrong side of this if I heard what started this conflict, but the gameplay so far doesn’t give me any sense of why I’m justified in emptying ammo clips into fellow soldiers.

So, story isn’t its strong suit…fine. Story isn’t always necessary for a fun video game. I am sure nobody who has ever played Tetris has wondered where these boxes are coming from, why they are falling, or where the boxes go when they disappear. It’s a bit of a juxtaposition to be emptying ammo clips into Greneer without cause and calling it ‘just a gameplay loop like Tetris’, but let’s go down that road for a second…

The game’s loot mechanics have yet to pay off – I’m still using my initial weapon set. I haven’t come across a single weapon or armor pickup. There’s a crafting system, but every single ‘blueprint’ I could use requires resources I haven’t come across yet. I came across my first in-game merchant on my last play-through, but he didn’t have any weapons for sale. The second merchant sold fishing gear. I’ve gotten a few upgrades to my existing weapons, but I still haven’t gotten my first sniper rifle, and short of buying one, I see no way to get one. Fourteen hours in, and I’m sitting on a pile of resources that can’t be used because I don’t have enough other resources to make even low-end equipment. I’m shooting the same lads for the same nonsensical reasons with the same guns and I’m wearing the same armor. The Warframe Wiki has 6,354 articles as of this writing…and I’ve come across reasons for maybe a few dozen. There is indeed an encyclopedia’s worth of terms, but none of them have seemed to have any bearing on my ability to get new gear. This loop is broken.

Now, you might be thinking, “well duh, Joey, the reason for this is that you’ll pony up for the weapons you want! That’s the schtick of free-to-play games, right? Why are you surprised?” I’m surprised because there’s another free-to-play game that got me to compromise my principles and pay for in-game items…and the $100 in total I spent in it is more than I’ve paid for any other video game I’ve ever owned. I was constantly playing that game, to the point where I was rude to a friend and playing it while we were out getting sushi and I had to apologize to him because it was borderline addictive behavior. That game is Star Trek: Timelines.

Timelines is basically a computerized card game; its gameplay loop reminds me a lot of the Star Wars CCG that I played in my adolescence. One acquires different Star Trek characters, then upgrades them by acquiring items, which is done by going on missions. The missions involve picking a group of characters to do different tasks, assigning them to those tasks, a dice roll, and a pass/fail each task. Do a god enough job, you get a bunch of loot at the end, as well as experience points to level up your characters. It’s really easy to pick up and figure out. There are a few different in-game currencies, resource management is inherent throughout the game, and the game kept me coming back – and spending money on four different occasions – because I actually had fun doing it.

The fun I had playing Timelines was rooted in a sense of progress. I got to see characters level up, I got to complete missions with those leveled-up characters I couldn’t complete before. I got plenty of loot. Sometimes it was immediately useful, while other times it was enough to be indirectly useful and I was able to make progress in steps. For about six months I was playing daily; it straddled the line between ‘habit’ and ‘addiction’. It was my cruise to Bermuda in 2019 that broke the habit; with very limited internet I spent ten days not-playing it, which broke all my inertia-based streaks and made it far easier to not-return to it. I still drop in once every few months, play a round, and leave it…but the reality is that in that six month span, I spent money on that far-less-ambitious game.

 

So, what did Timelines do that Warframe doesn’t? Here it is…Timelines made the first hours rewarding. Its gameplay was obvious from the beginning, failing missions didn’t have a price tag, early character leveling was easy, basically every item drop had something useful, I started with a massive amount of the mission currency and early missions used very little of it. There were virtually no barriers to progress. When I failed my first mission, the way to advance my characters enough to solve it was obvious, and allowed me to do so without paying money. As I continued playing, I started wanting characters I didn’t have, sometimes for stats I needed to complete missions, and sometimes it was based on liking a particular character…and the store made sure I knew how to get them. The game has ways I can play with friends, or with strangers I meet in-game, but I can play all by myself if I want and never interact with another player.

Every single one of these attributes contrast with Warframe’s design for newcomers. I can’t build, the earned currency is useless, I can’t try different weapons, it seems to try and press me to play co-op missions and then simultaneously make me feel more ‘alone’ in-game when I do so. I might be more engaged with Warframe if I better understood the story, but I don’t. I might be more engaged with Warframe if I felt like the actions I took and the choices I made in the game impacted the game world, but they don’t. I might get some amount of enjoyment out of it if I was allowed to try any of the weapons beyond what I started with, but I’m not. There’s nothing for me there. I uninstalled it.

Here is where I finally compare it to faith: it is incredibly easy – and common – to have faith feel like Warframe if you’re new to considering eternity. This is doubly true if one has had a bad experience with faith in the past, or if one presently has a particular faith and is considering a different one. Christianity has a whole culture surrounding it, and it’s very, very easy for newcomers to be confused regarding what is directly Biblical and what is merely cultural. It’s easy, as seasoned Christians, to forget what it’s like to be in the “early levels”.

Even as Christians, it’s common to struggle with matters of the faith, the state of earth, and the omnipotence of God. It’s super common for me to look at a situation and be like, “uhm…God could totally solve this in, like, 20 minutes, and even that’s 19 minutes more than He would probably need, and it really wouldn’t be that much of an inconvenience for Him…yet this problem still exists, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯”. One of the things that’s been a bumpy part of my faith is trusting that God is addressing the matter in some way or another, and that my perspective is limited and also is nowhere near understanding the nature of God’s ultimate desires and intents. It’s taken as long as it has to get here because it’s easy to use “He works in mysterious ways” as a hand-wave dismissal of the matter at hand, rather than see such situations as the sort of thing that requires a level of faith far higher than I presently have and trust in His perspective and goodness. If I, someone who has been a Christian for over 15 years (or 30, depending on how you count) can still have difficulties with the fundamentals, then it would be a pretty terrible thing for me to expect that from someone who is new to the faith, or who doesn’t ascribe to the faith at all.

I’m not saying that Star Trek: Timelines’ Skinner Box mechanics are the sorts of systems The Church should seek to implement. I’m also not saying that the primary reason anyone comes to Christ (or attends a particular church) is purely a function of the people, ignoring the role of God in both The Church and the life of the non-believer or new believer. What I am saying is that as long term Christians represent – or misrepresent – Christ in how we interact with those who don’t share our beliefs and/or our knowledge of what the Bible says. It is very easy for our representation of the Gospel to alter its perception, not because the Gospel has changed, but because we misrepresent it. 

If we’re going be an encouragement to those around us to pick up their cross and follow Christ, we need to make sure that we aren’t treating them in a way that makes them feel like the way I did playing Warframe: lost, confused, alone, overwhelmed, powerless, and primarily concerned with parting me from my money. The Gospel is none of those things, but if we’re representing it as such with our lifestyles and our interactions, it will be of little wonder why we contribute to new believers deciding they are better off uninstalling.

Am I insulating myself?

I continue to use my phone without Google services, and I like it. I finally feel free. But now I’ve started to wonder.

I remember watching “The Matrix” for the first time back when I was 15 or so…and I remember thinking about the nature of what motivated the characters and why. “Freedom” is a word that gets thrown around alot, but there is a part of me that, even back then, seemed to resonate with Cypher, the one who negotiated with Agent Smith to get plugged back into The Matrix in exchange for giving up Morpheus. Now sure, the betrayal part wasn’t cool, but wanting to get plugged back into The Matrix? That made a whole lot of sense to me.

Cypher was having a steak dinner. Not really, but it was real to him. What was everyone else having? One nutritional supplement. That’s it. For the rest of your life. Neo found love in Trinity, but Morpheus never did. If Cypher was looking for female companionship, there were no options on the ship after Switch died. They spent their days constantly on the run from the Sentinels, they never saw daylight, there was nothing they got to truly own…the list of drawbacks continues, while the list of advantages of not-being in The Matrix doesn’t. We root for Morpheus and Neo and Trinity because they’re fighting the good fight…but in practice, was Cypher really so off base for wanting to live out his life back in The Matrix? I don’t think so.

It’s been about a month since I’ve been using this phone completely Google-free. I can take pictures, but not nearly as good as the photos I can get using the Camera app from OnePlus. SwiftKey is still inferior to Swype. Visual Voicemail barely works. Frost, my Facebook replacement, acts strange and has trouble loading pictures sometimes. I can’t be sure that it’s truly software related, but my 5G performance is generally worse than LTE…and that’s just the things I know.

I don’t use TikTok.
I don’t use Craigslist.
I don’t use Snapchat.
I don’t use  Youtube (except in a browser).
I don’t use SoundCloud.
I don’t use Twitch.
I don’t use Office.
I don’t use a Fitbit or other fitness band.
I don’t use Teams or Slack or Monday.
I don’t use CashApp or Zelle…though I do use Venmo and it works.
I dont use Discord.
I dont use Spotify.
I don’t use Pinterest.
I don’t use Walmart or Target or pretty much any shopping apps.
I don’t use Google Docs or do much in the way of document editing on my phone, unless you count this blog.
I don’t use Uber Eats or Doordash or pretty much any food ordering app.
I don’t use Alexa or Google Assistant or Siri.
I don’t use Ring or a security DVR.
I don’t use Neighborhood or Next door or Everyblock.


The list goes on and on…and I’m starting to wonder if the experiences I eschew to spend my days on a command line on my desktop are worth it. People are finding things they like, buying and selling things amongst local people, ordering new foods, chatting with the people it’s been a social taboo to meet, and I’m sure there are hundreds of other things that mobile apps are doing, but I’m not.


There is most definitely a part of me that feels a bit like Ariel… Wanting to be where the people are and finding myself  wondering if my aversion to echo chambers and endless online accounts means that I have simply made an echo chamber of my own. I sit, wondering whether the nuance of the liberty I feel is a technicality in that I spent a massive amount of time and effort to simply custom build my own prison.

Google collects a metric truckton of data from everyone, and yet, the world turns. Nobody else gets concerned if Google has all their contacts; nobody in my contacts list isn’t in someone else’s phone that is uploaded. My texts are synced on someone else’s phone, and even if my location is only partially traceable based on the amount of disabling I have implemented, my work phone remains on my person with far fewer limitations.

Why am I fighting this battle? What am I fighting for? “because I can”? Because I’m somehow sticking it to “Big Tech”? Because I’m worried about my data being accumulated and monetized while also using Facebook and doing nearly all my shopping with a credit card?

Maybe all of this effort is just me spiting myself. If Google turns on the billion people that already have Android phones and somewhat-consensually sync all their data, then I’m very unlikely to be “spared” from whatever happens. I’ve got friends who expressly opt into giving Google data in pretty much every possible way… And they seem happy.

Betrayal aside, maybe Cypher was right: the steak he ate wasn’t real, but the experience of eating it was, and it was an experience he could have inside The Matrix that he would never experience as long as he was “free”. Maybe my quest for a Google-free phone is little more than a quixotic waste of time, and I’d achieve greater happiness by going back to the phone’s original software from the manufacturer, leaving my phone modding days in the golden age of the HTC HD2 or Galaxy S3.

Or maybe, freedom is ownership…and even if “freedom” boils down to constructing my own prison, at least it’s mine.

Wow…Going Mostly-Open-Source on Mobile Is Hard!

Hello everyone!

 

I hope everyone has had a fantastic New Year. It’s 2021. All it has to do is be not-as-bad as 2020. I’m tepidly optimistic.

 

About a month ago, my Nokia 7.2 decided to install an update. This bothered me because I did pretty much everything in my power to get it to not-download updates, and then telling it to not-install updates it downloads…and yet, it did it anyway. This ruined root, which in turn caused an issue with booting, which then caused issues with Wi-Fi, and to this day the phone disconnects from the cellular network far more than it should. 

When I got my OnePlus 8T+ 5G functionally-for-free as a result of shuffling around some things with my cellular plan, I decided that I would finally cut the umbilical cord and install a Google-free ROM. Turns out…that requires a lot more commitment than I thought…

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Why “Among Us” doesn’t appeal to me

Yes, I visited my family for Thanksgiving. 

 

My niece and nephew enjoy the game “Among Us“, as do millions of other people around the world. I bought a copy of the game trying to give it a shot, but the game doesn’t have a single player mode or a training mode where you play against bots…so, it sat for a bit until my niblings asked to play it with me, so I did.

Now, having watched a Youtube video or two on the topic, I knew the rules and such so it wasn’t an issue at all to play with them. I’ve played a few rounds, and while it’s enjoyable enough to do with them, it’s far from something I look forward to doing once I get home. This got me thinking: why do these young kids enjoy the game, along with no shortage of people my age and older, but I find it the sort of thing I’m not looking forward to playing at all?

 

I think the biggest reason is because the skill in the game stems from being able to either lie effectively, or figure out who’s lying to you. If I’m the impostor, I win by lying to people. If not, I accuse people who may well not be the impostor.

 

This sort of difficulty happens a lot in life. A game with such scenarios as a central mechanic don’t strike me as the sort of thing that draws me in.

Who knows; maybe next year they’ll be ready for Civilization.

Surviving Covid…and Defining Fear

I got Covid. And I no longer have it.

 

I was very fortunate. Aside from the first day or two after the onset of symptoms, I’ve worked through worse colds. My sense of smell is taking its time to return, a lingering side effect which seems to be commonplace. My case was very, very mild. Like I said, I was fortunate – it was so similar to a regular cold that I almost didn’t get tested.

A coworker spent time in the hospital as a result of Covid not too long ago. There’s no clear reason why I didn’t have a similar experience. Whether or not the science eventually sheds light on the common thread regarding the severity of symptoms, I can only attribute my experience to God’s protection, and yes, I will give Him credit for that.

 

I have one friend who has virtually no concern about getting Covid at all. To be clear, it’s not that she believes Covid isn’t real, it’s an ambivalence toward getting Covid. Her concern is far more focused around government overreach and societal norms being shifted, and to that end, I don’t think she’s completely wrong.

 

In contrast, I was speaking to a friend today with whom a catch-up dinner keeps getting postponed. Despite implicit availability, he is hosting a small number of family members; his household has committed to a  voluntary lockdown until they leave out of concern of catching Covid. Despite the unlikelihood of getting Covid from me, the concern is so great that his family is eschewing the outside world until his family heads home. The desire to avoid being the cause of a family member getting sick is understandable; I don’t think he’s wrong, either.

 

Personally, I always took the stance of “if I get the ‘Rona, I get the ‘Rona”, wore my mask, and left it at that. I made it eight months, but I did, in fact, get the ‘Rona. I’m very much aware that such a stance is far easier to have in retrospect when my experience with being sick didn’t involve a ventilator.

 

As I bring faith back into the picture here, there is yet another line whose limits are worth exploring. Both individuals I’ve referenced above share my adherence to Christianity. They would both likely agree on the validity of 1 Timothy 1:7 – “For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.” (HCSB). They would also both likely agree on the validity of Proverbs 20:15 – “A fool’s way is right in his own eyes, but whoever listens to counsel is wise.” (HCSB).

 

When it comes to Covid, I feel like it’s so unclear: Somewhere, a line is crossed between “listening to counsel” and “having a spirit of fear”. Inversely yet synonymously, that same line could be drawn between “following one’s foolish way” and “having a spirit of power, love, and sound judgment”. Both sides would argue that what they are doing would fall under ‘wisdom’ rather than ‘spirit of fear’, and yet their approaches are mostly opposite each other.

 

Christianity is no stranger to people achieving virtually-opposite conclusions. I’m certain you can come up with your own example. In the case of Covid, however, I’m not talking about government policies or something that ends up being fodder for a future statistics class. I’m talking about the tightrope walk between “trusting in God” and “being cautious”. I’m reminded of this scene from Austin Powers. It’s amusing to find a biblical parallel at a Blackjack table, but ignoring the fact that the antagonist was cheating in the clip, they both said they wanted to “live dangerously”, but only one of them did so.

 

Christianity isn’t safe, and wasn’t meant to be. No matter where you look in the Bible, someone had a rough time advancing the cause of Christ. Someone did something unsafe for the advancement of the Gospel; virtually every apostle died in connection with their spreading of the Good News. At the same time, the difference between spreading the Gospel and spreading Covid is undoubtedly self-evident: one saves, the other, well, doesn’t.

Both of the people in my examples would agree that only one of those two things is worth dying for, but I think they’d also agree that it’s possible to die of Covid without dying for Covid. What one calls “living life without fear”, the other would call “living life without prudence”. What one calls “esteeming others above one’s self”, the other would call “living in fear”. What I called “leaving it in God’s hands”, others would call “unnecessary risk”.

 

I really don’t have a conclusion I’ve drawn, or some spiritual or practical insight I can express. It feels like we’re all right, and all wrong at the same time. This is the precipice of moral relativism – a bottomless well to which the Gospel gives no credence or merit. In terms of the practical, I don’t think that any of these approaches should be made illegal, or that they’re inherently immoral. I do think, however, that there must be a way that God is most glorified, and that all three of us seek to pursue that method, while finding ourselves on divergent paths as a result.

 

I hope that the correct path becomes more apparent as time progresses. Until then, I wish you all good health, and a good holiday season.

I tried to cook a Grilled Cheese from Facebook. There was…mixed success.

So, this video crossed my Facebook timeline recently…and it looked fantastic, so of course I had to try it. I learned some things in the process…

 

It can be expensive.

I was out of a few things (red pepper, brown sugar), but I opted out of others (that thinly sliced cheese officially listed as ‘Normantal’)…and still spent $40 on ingredients. stone ground mustard, sage and rosemary (I got the dried stuff because it’s good to have around), brie, and most of the other ingredients all added up pretty quick. Obviously it was all supermarket sized packaging, so I could easily make 3-6 of these, but at $8-$12 per sandwich, it’s nothing I’d call a bargain.

Ciabatta bread is a pain.

Don’t get me wrong, this stuff is delicious, but the video was a bit deceptive in that the loaf shown rose relatively high, and was quite dense. While I’m sure an actual bakery could sell such a thing easily, the supermarket I went to only offered a loaf of ciabatta about 18″ long and about half the height of the one shown.

I made do with diagonal cutting, but even that was quite the challenge. Getting even two slices out of it, with a similar size, thickness, and consistency, took well over half the loaf to accomplish. I definitely needed to change from my garden variety steak knife to a dedicated, serrated bread knife to get anywhere near what I was looking for. Moreover, its porous consistency meant that one of the problems I ended up with was that, on more than one occasion, I got a good slice that ended up with a hole in it. For a brief moment, I considered how nice it would be to have a jigsaw handy.

That ‘just wisk oil and egg yolks to get mayo’ section is bollocks.

Okay, not really. That is, basically, how it’s done. However, Gordon Ramsay did a video on making homemade mayo, and there is a bit of an art to it – the slow drizzle at the beginning for starters, and it’s entirely possible I didn’t add enough oil. Since the Facebook video didn’t list any quantities or proportions, pretty much everything I did involved guessing and listening to my heart, which is clearly a bad idea. If you’re going to do the homemade mayo part, do that separately from other parts of cooking, rather than trying to fit it in while you’re caramelizing the onions. And, while the dude in the rustic video did it with nothing but a wooden spoon, don’t be a hero – if you’ve got a Cuisinart, use it.

I ended up with mostly-raw egg yolks for mayo, and the egg/lemon/mustard combination was still a net positive that was present, but not overpowering.

Save that onion-caramelizing trick…but getting that look is tricky.

No seriously, those onions were incredible and, even if you don’t go all out like I did making the rest of the sandwich, adding red pepper and a little sugar to onions as you’re browning them makes it absolutely fantastic. However, getting them to have that crunchy look on a stove top is not easy. It’s a fine line with onions between ‘caramelized’ and ‘burnt’, something not helped by my use of a cast iron griddle rather than a frying pan – stirring and flipping wasn’t a picnic as I’m pretty sure just about every onion spent time on the stove at one point or another. While none of the onions were undercooked, getting that ‘crunchy’ vibe looks like it takes a bit of practice. Even so, don’t let it stop you – even at the browned stage, it’s a recipe to keep around.

Slow and low…and cover it.

Having made it through every step and the only part left being to actually grill it to the point of browning the bread and melting the cheese, those thick slices of bread require very low heat…and, if you’re like me and utilizing fans and/or air conditioning in order to avoid drowning in your own sweat this summer, you’ll basically-never get that cheese melted before you burn the bread if you don’t cover it. Okay, that might be a bit of hyperbole; this is where the ciabatta bread’s porous consistency does come in handy, as more heat gets to the cheese…BUT, if you use thicker slices like I did, you’ll definitely want to cover it. I just used an upside down pot, and it really helped. I had mine cooking for about 10 minutes and it really did come out ‘just right’.

You didn’t need that third cheese.

Hey, I’m interested in how it tastes. I really am. But it doesn’t look like the sort of thing that’s readily available. Aunt Google keeps bringing up results from France and the term lacks a Wikipedia entry, leading me to believe that its availability is prohibitive. I just made mine with brie and sharp cheddar. It’s certainly worth experimenting with others (I’m curious about using goat cheese with a little lemon juice and mustard instead of the homemade mayo), but just those two did the job just fine.

Even a half-baked attempt is well worth the effort.

What really made it work was the culmination of flavors – the rosemary with the bread, the mustard with the brie, the lemon juice with the cheddar…it all just worked really well together. Even my first attempt was fabulous and the recipe seems like it can withstand shortcomings in its implementation. Now, I wouldn’t call ciabatta interchangeable with Wonder Bread, but I would say that if you’re looking for something to attempt – and the admittedly high fat content doesn’t bother you, don’t let the fact that your result doesn’t look the same as this very-well-produced video give you pause.

 

A Fantastic Grilled Cheese

It’s Hard To Let Go: The Ultimate Mass Effect Fantasy Element Is The ‘Load’ Button

I just finished Mass Effect 2 again. The suicide mission is always unnerving because it reflects reality: it’s possible to do everything right and still lose.

This time, I lost Mordin and Tali. This is especially hard, since both of them have core plot points in the third game. Mordin will never gain pennance and cure the genophage. Someone else will do that…but someone else might get it wrong. Tali’s death ensures that there will not be peace between the Geth and the Quarians – without her, the choice is ‘which race will die‘.

But I don’t have to do that. I can reload my game save and make some changes to who I assign. And if I get it wrong, I can do it again. And again. Until everyone lives.

Beyond the mass relays, quantum entanglement based communications, and all of the other nearly-impossible parts of the game’s story, that ability is the ultimate fantasy: being able to undo your previous choices and avoid having to live with the consequences.

Let’s go save Mordin and Tali.

Millennial Communication Issues: They’re Universal

If you’re looking for a hot take on Coronavirus, go elsewhere.
If you’re looking for a hot take on the death of George Floyd, go elsewhere.
If you’re looking for a hot take on the 2020 election, go elsewhere.

Sorry not sorry, I’m not discussing those topics on this blog. They’ve been discussed and re-discussed everywhere; everything I have to say has been said a hundred times over, and since this is neither Fox nor MSNBC, you’ll probably disagree with at least half of it anyway.

 

With that all being said, let’s discuss this video; crass language warning:

Millennials in Japan Aren't F**king

Jim heads to Japan on a f**king investigation to find out why the millennials there aren't f**king. Is your country the next unf**kable place?

Posted by The Jim Jefferies Show on Tuesday, October 8, 2019

 

I’ll put aside some of the cultural differences; while I admit that I’d be somewhere between confused and creeped out if I were to ever frequent a maid cafe, there are no shortage of cultural differences that go the other way. I don’t think that’s the issue here.

No, I think that what’s at play here is something that is consistent between the US and Japan. We see in the video that both the men and the women seem to be unable to actually communicate with each other. One man indicates that women scare him, while a woman says that men don’t say what’s on their mind. The other man tries to wiggle out of having to attempt to ask a woman on a date, while the other woman seems to dodge the question entirely. 

Now, the video continues by trying to say that the problem is that the absence of car ownership means that young people aren’t heading to some secluded spot to have sex in a car. I mean, that seems simplistic to me. I’m certainly no expert in Japanese culture, but following this line of thinking, I’d expect that ‘bringing a condom to Lover’s Point being a mutual expectation’ would be equally as plausible as there being a conveniently placed vending machine providing them. Even so, Jim Jefferies seems to be looking for a simple answer to a complex question, and does so with merely the appearance of research: there is an entire industry of Love Hotels in Japan, and they’ve been there for a generation. You don’t have an industry with thousands of sites that nobody is using.

Either way, I think the video puts dating, having sex, and having children into a blender, and does so to its own detriment. It seemed that only one person of its panel of four people had been on a date recently. Even if that date led to sex (which it likely didn’t) which in turn led to having a child (which it definitely didn’t), we’ve still got three non-parents on this panel, and four people that seem to perceive the idea of talking to a person of the opposite sex for any length of time to be an idea met with something between ambivalence and fear. 

How did we get here?

Well, I think the issues are pretty similar. Now yes, there’s at least something to be said about having so many things vying for our time and attention, whether it be social media and Netflix to simply working long hours on schedules that make it difficult to find a mutually available time for a date. At the same time, the prevalence of the matchmaking services offered by the gentleman toward the end of the video lends credence to the notion that the desire to be able to meet individuals of the opposite sex hasn’t gone anywhere, it’s just more complicated. The fact that the four people in the video have gone on very few dates doesn’t speak to the problem being ‘bad dates’, but that communication in general is something they all found difficult in one way or another.

So, how can we resolve this sort of thing? Well, I’d probably start out by reintroducing both grace and respect into our interactions with others. Whether a matter of platonic relationships, professional relationships, or romantic relationships, there’s some space between “responding only to perfect expressions of ideas” “tolerating disrespect”, in which grace can and should be shown. I think there also needs to be a greater tolerance for awkwardness; overall I would submit that a renaissance in our willingness to engage in situations that are awkward and prone to conflict would help get past the initial hump our Japanese bachelors and bachelorettes reference. Finally, I think that there probably are some socioeconomic things that probably factor in, itself a topic of in-depth study that goes well beyond a clip from a late-night talk show host and a blog post I paradoxically spent way too much time writing and researching as it is…but I’ll at least point out that countries having more access to education for women has a very consistent trend of lower birth rates and higher ages for marriage

There’s plenty of social issues to address, not the least of which is our overall ability to communicate with each other at a depth that actually matters. But follow the data a bit, Jim: you talked to people in their twenties. Go back and find two men and two women in their thirties – they’re millennials, and they’re probably f**king.