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Back to Protests, So Little Time to Write

Yesterday’s protest was just the beginning of something, in large part because the gendarmes made sure of it, using tear gas all day instead of extracting the few troublemakers, and eventually beating up even peaceful protesters after shit really hit the fan late in the evening, just minutes after I left. But this won’t be a protest report, but just a very quick personal post, since I’m going back there today and I guess a new series of protests just started, so there won’t be much time for writing.

Got up at 3 PM yesterday, and also had to walk to Victory Square, since dad was using the metro card. So I had to rush, which also caused me to hit my head, fortunately not badly, on the corner of the table after picking up something that fell when I got a plastic bag, just to have it with me in case I’ll need it, and then I struggled to tie my shoes and put an ice cube there sort of at the same time, eventually keeping the cube under my cap for those few moments until I actually left, which was after 5 PM anyway, actually seeing 5:08 PM when I checked my phone just after I walked out of the building. That meant there was no way I was going to get there at 6 PM, as I originally intended, but thought 6:30 PM would be fine as well, not expecting many people to be there so early. Yet quite a lot were there at 6:20 PM, when I reached the area, needing to first go left and around, since a gendarme told me to do so. And it was a while longer before I actually got back to the Square to stay, since I first went to the toilet, some distance away.
Once back in the Square, I started wandering around and taking pictures, actually taking almost 250 in total, which has to be by far the most I ever took at any event. Unfortunately, I had left the image size on small on the auto setting and only realized it after I used it to take a picture using the flash, after it got dark and I had switched to manual for the regular pictures. Admittedly, you can still pretty much make out what’s in those pictures, and this is also what allowed me to take so many pictures using only two pairs of batteries, one of them used before, but there are a few pictures I sure wish I’d have taken with a better resolution, in particular those taken from a TV station’s platform, which I climbed on while they seemed to allow it. It was just after 8:10 PM then, so still quite early, but later on I wasn’t really seeing people on those platforms anymore, only some climbing part of the way and stopping at some point, so I didn’t try again. Did try to get on the truck that’s brought there and used as a stage by those who bring the sound system, but I got pushed back by a guy, so I guess that wasn’t allowed either unless you were one of them or someone approved by them.
Pretty much the only time when I got in the “hot” zone was rather early in the evening, but even so I caught some whiffs of tear gas, since it had started being used hours before I got there and it kept being used, canisters being fired as well. Did manage to take a handful of pictures before getting out of there though, since I didn’t actually get that close to the line of gendarmes. Got close to them in other parts, but things were calm there, and in general I tried to keep safe, being very careful even when I was getting back to the middle of the Square. Caught a few more whiffs of tear gas even so, when I did that, and when I also saw flares I quickly turned around and walked in the opposite direction. Some were just staring at the flares, saying they were fireworks and looking as if at a show, while many were sitting down when tear gas was fired, even though that doesn’t help, possibly quite the contrary. There was actually an odd moment when I was quickly making my way away as the wind was bringing tear gas over and had to weave around and even pretty much hop over others, as nearly everyone seemed to be sitting down.
At 10 PM I was on Kiseleff, just where it starts, and managed to see something on my phone about people gathering across the Square and talking about a march, which seemed like a good idea to me. But I had to be very careful as I made my way around, also looking for a few more signs to take pictures of, and when I finally got to the corner, past Antipa, and was trying to assess whether I could attempt to cross into the “hot” area I saw a wave of people heading my way. So I made haste ahead of them, until I saw a guy with an interesting sign heading the other way and I tried to go after him. Couldn’t catch him though, and soon enough I felt the reason for that wave of people, so I gave up on taking a picture of that sign, crossed the road and headed the other way again. Remember checking the time and seeing that it was past 10:30 PM already. Tried to turn around and go back after a while, when things seemed better, but there was more tear gas just as I was approaching the Square again and I caught the worst whiff of it then, forcing me to turn around again.
Since by then I was already considering doing that, I kept going until I could turn left on the next road, then made my way around to eventually returned to the Square, at 10:45 PM. So it can be said that it took me 45 minutes to cross the Square. And then 15 more before I actually left, since I made my way around with some care, taking a few final pictures, and walking away at exactly 11 PM, after admittedly just standing around for the last few minutes. It was quite clear that something nasty was coming, but based on the flow of people and the positioning of the gendarmes I was estimating 30 more minutes until it’ll happen… Yet it seems that it happened only a few minutes after I left, when a few assholes beat up two gendarmes left behind by the others, and at 11:10 PM, or 11:11 PM according to their own statement, the gendarmes moved in to clear the Square, triggering street battles that lasted into the night.
It was after midnight when I got back, seeing some things about violence in the Square on the way, including a guy who stopped to watch the news on his phone somewhere between Obor and Iancului. And passed another guy with a t-shirt I recognized from the protest just before Iancului, so I wasn’t the only one walking a long way. But it was only after I actually got back here that I learned what had actually happened, and was still happening. Also had a brief annoying exchange with dad, then quickly went through the pictures, posted them, and rushed to make something to eat, since it was past 1 AM by then already. And it was about 5:20 AM when I got in bed, and quite a while longer before I managed to fall asleep… Only to be woken up by dad drilling and cutting stuff before noon. In fact had woken up earlier, I think at 10:50 AM if I remember correctly, to pee, so I’m not even sure I had properly fallen asleep again when he woke me up. So now I’m heading back there, to who knows what will happen this evening, on too little sleep… And without having taken any of the recommended defensive measures. And without enough batteries to take anywhere near that many pictures again.

Written by Cavalary on August 11, 2018 at 3:41 PM in Personal | 0 Comments

Good and Bad News After Having My Eyes Checked

Was saying that I was getting increasingly worried about my left eye and eventually got myself to tell dad about it, and he scheduled an appointment. Well, that appointment was Tuesday, supposedly from 11 AM, but we got there at 10:35 AM, with me pretty much fully shut down and struggling not to have another meltdown since waking up, and went in earlier. Or more or less earlier, since it was quite a mess there, plenty of people waiting, most of them old, likely having arrived hours earlier and at least some of them waiting to have surgery, and at one point dad was called in while another person was sent out to wait for the eye drops to kick in, then I was also called in while dad waited for those eye drops to work, then we all took turns going back for the second part. And it was all very rushed, the doctor quickly saying that if we sit and talk she won’t get me checked out after I had barely managed to somehow say a few things after she asked what the problem was. Then she didn’t even want me to go out to get my glasses, instead just telling the other one to start putting lenses in to test me directly, and even rushing her when I started struggling to read letters and she didn’t immediately change the lens.
Either way, apparently my glasses are still fine, no change there after almost 11 years. However, when she actually checked my eyes there was good and bad news. At first she mentioned seeing something in my right eye, but I was already aware of that and when I said what I had been told back then she just moved on to the left, which is the current problem, and where she said she noticed scarring on the retina. They both had a look, seemed to confirm that they were seeing the same thing, and I can’t quite make out everything that got written down, but was told that the cause was likely a minor eye stroke I had quite some time ago. So the good news is that only a very small area is affected and it’s not something degenerative, shouldn’t in itself get worse, but the bad news is that nothing can be done about it either, so I permanently lost that little piece of my field of vision from my left eye, which gets added to that tiny piece lost to that indentation on the retina of the right one that I was told back then that I likely had since birth. And while nothing about this was said there, I’d say that the even worse news is that, if it already happened once, and while I’m still quite young as well, the risk of it happening again, probably with much worse consequences, will likely only increase from now on.

Moving on, after we got out of there it sure was weird, those eye drops and the sunlight making us almost blind. Dad was saying he was walking mostly with his eyes closed, I just kept my right one open a little, trying to look through my eyelashes and managing reasonably well, looking ahead a little more when there was some shade and mostly just a little in front of me the rest of the time. Managed less well when I stopped at the farmers’ market on the way back though, since dad had somewhere else to go and we therefore went our separate ways. In the shade it was manageable, though I couldn’t quite trust myself to pick good stuff by looking at it even there, but sunshine pretty much made me unable to see, and for example I couldn’t see anything at all on any price label not in the shade. Did wander around for a while, waiting for it to get at least a little bit better, but even after getting back here I was seeing green and red, as if I had stared at bright lights for quite some time, and even a few hours later, when it otherwise seemed fine, I glanced at the sky and thought it was still sunny until I was surprised by lightning, which made me look more carefully and notice that it was actually cloudy.
As for the market, it seems that prices went up, so stayed away from cucumbers and only got half a kilogram of tomatoes, out of the cheapest ones I could find that weren’t a complete mess, and even those were more expensive than those I bought before. Also almost tricked myself with plums, since I found some small ones that looked nice enough and were also cheap, but somehow messed up a very simple calculation and put 660 grams on the scale while thinking I should be paying as much as for 750 grams, but the guy who was selling there told me the correct price and didn’t seem to want to go through the trouble of finding small change, so rounded down to what it’d have been for half a kilogram. Could have been left with only that much, if not even less, when the bag I had the plums in tipped over after I set it down when picking those tomatoes, the plums spilling all over and some of them rolling under the stall, but I managed to gather them all back, even if I had to reach under there and even use one of the ears of corn which I had also purchased to just manage to reach the last one and carefully pull it out.

Going back, since I mentioned trying not to have another meltdown, of course I had one Monday, when I was in the kitchen and dad insisted on trying to talk to me about the appointment, trying to get me to explain just what the problem was, and I just lost it, throwing down what I had in my hand at the moment, which fortunately was just an empty cup of yogurt and therefore didn’t break, and running to my room screaming repeatedly that I didn’t know, including I think several more times after slamming the door, as I was pushing against it to make sure it stayed closed, before curling up in a ball in bed. Only went out of my room to run to the toilet until he went to bed that night.

Further back, Sunday evening I went out for a little walk and happened to bump into Alex, who ranted for some 20 minutes as I sort of just stood there, both of us stopped on the corner of the road, since he had just crossed and I was about to when he noticed me. He actually mentioned some interesting things I hadn’t been aware of before and which I’d have wanted to know more about, and of course I wanted to say some things as well, but since we were face to face, I barely got a few words out, and probably quite stupid ones too. What was annoying was that one of the first things he did was ask what did I do for a living though, and I of course just asked whether it mattered and then only added that it wasn’t when he said I had an interesting brain and he was just curious whether it was put to use. Seriously, what people generally do “for a living” is breathe and drink and eat and sleep, the other meaning of the term being something we must get rid of, not continue to define ourselves by! And when even those who strive, or at least strove, to change things fail to see that, or at least to act like they do, it’s not just frustrating, but also sad and disheartening.

As for Disciples, just have two of those “Divine Empire” scenarios left. Finally finished number 17 Sunday, then that same day moved on to 18, which was the first one from this series that I couldn’t play with the Undead, as I had played all the others until then. But I picked Humans and finished it that night, since it seemed really easy. Number 19, which I started Monday and finished yesterday, was trickier, but also somewhat interesting due to the map. Did quit and reload the autosave at one point, Monday night, after losing my main leader in an improperly planned attack on a strong neutral city, but otherwise it went well enough. It was also the last one I could play with the Undead, so I did so again. Now I guess I’ll go back to Humans for the last two and see how that goes, and then I’ll have another review to write… For a game started over a year ago and with the main campaigns finished just about a year ago, since I’ve been working my way through this series of scenarios, on and off, since then, taking them as something of an expansion and wanting to finish them before considering the game completed.

Last but not least, woke up early today and went to run before it got hotter. Not quite early enough, as it was 11 AM when I started running, but that was after getting up at 8:55 AM, and after not sleeping well for those few hours either. But it went well enough for a routine run, the time being 48:17, with sector times of 4:25, 5:08, 5:54, 4:25, 4:58, 5:54, 4:29, 5:10, 6:03 and 1:51, making for lap times of 15:27, 15:17 and 15:42. Quite nice to see exactly the same times on sectors one and three of the first two laps, and also that pretty good time on sector two of lap two, which was just when I tried to push a little in order to make sure I could if there was any need to do so. But there was no need to keep pushing after that and I was never actually worried about not getting under 48:30 again, so I just did what I had to do and got back. And now, since I won’t be napping this evening, I sure hope I’ll sleep well and get up late tomorrow, because there’s a protest tomorrow evening and I’ll be going again, for the first time in two months, even if mainly just to see what will happen.

Written by Cavalary on August 9, 2018 at 6:21 PM in Personal | 0 Comments

Once Again, Mere Seconds Faster Over a Half Marathon Distance

Wanted to finish another one of those Disciples scenarios before writing this, but I still didn’t manage it and want to avoid another Sunday update, so this will be a rushed post. Not that avoiding a Sunday update is the only reason to want to write it sooner, the other one being that I don’t want to wait more before writing about yesterday’s run, since I ran again and covered another half marathon distance, the last run over this distance planned until spring. This should give me more options for the next planned runs, so I was considering it anyway, but then dad seemed to decide to insist on giving me money for a pizza a few days ago, which of course made me feel really bad. Somewhat fortunately, the place I tended to buy from before is closed these days, so I had another reason to wait before buying it, which gave me a chance to search for something to do in order to be at least somewhat able to justify buying it, which led to the decision to not only move this run forward, but also push for another record over this distance.
Yes, I managed that new record, 1:48:20, a mere six seconds faster than the previous one. Of course, the difference is that said previous record was quite accidental and I think I could have done a fair bit better if I’d have really tried, while now I did prepare a bit, actually aimed to make a new record and pushed as hard as I could all the way. But I didn’t do better last time, so this is the record, with all the time gained over the first three laps. After gaining 31 seconds over the first lap, 23 over the second and six over the third, I was exactly a minute ahead of the previous time, so after lap four marked a loss of three seconds it was a matter of controlling that loss and I just managed it, with ten seconds lost on lap five, 20 on lap six and 21 over that last portion. Sector times were 4:23, 5:14, 6:07, 4:35, 5:16, 6:08, 4:39, 5:21, 6:09, 4:42, 5:22, 6:19, 4:47, 5:28, 6:26, 4:52, 5:35, 6:26, 1:58, 6:41 and 1:52, making the actual lap times 15:44, 15:59, 16:09, 16:23, 16:41 and 16:53, plus 10:31 for that final portion.
It was pretty hot for something like this, sunny and with the reported high around 30°C, though it was 4:15 PM by the time I started, so the temperature was starting to drop a bit. It was also quite windy, the wind really being a problem in certain areas. And there were some people to go around as well, though it was rather weird, as there were areas that were almost completely empty and then suddenly I had to weave or even look for a way to squeeze through. So the conditions do make me feel better about the fact that I had to struggle so much for such a small difference, and about getting slower just about every sector, but there were moments when I was starting to think I won’t make it. Was thinking I’ll lose 30 seconds on that last portion, and possibly something similar on lap six as well, so after gaining that minute over the first three laps I was aiming to at least keep that difference over the next two, and when that didn’t happen I knew I was in trouble. Did manage to only lose 20 seconds on lap six, but that still left me less than 30 ahead, and with legs already starting to burn almost like they had over the final kilometers of the first official half marathon I ran, needing to just push through it step by step. I calculated 6:40 for that portion’s sector two, so otherwise the final sector three of a regular lap, as the worst case scenario that might still just work, with 6:35 being the safe time, and when I saw 6:41 I didn’t think I still had it in me to make up for it over that final sector. But it seems that I somehow did have it in me after all!

After getting back, I ordered that pizza from the same place I ordered from after this year’s half marathon. A regular one, but of the same kind as that large one ordered then, and this time I ordered some sauce as well, though it would seem that the kind I ordered is more expensive than the listed price for sauces on the menu, which the person who replied only told me after confirming the order, at first saying that the listed prices and therefore the total I mentioned were correct and correcting a bit later, when I had already left the computer. Admittedly, it is listed there with the correct price, but not as a “sauce”, so I thought that referred to something different. Got back and noticed that message after a few minutes, so it’s a good thing I had some coins in my pocket to have the exact amount. Would have intended to leave the delivery guy a little tip if I wouldn’t have ordered a sauce, paying the same amount as what I thought I’d have had to pay with a sauce, but when a somewhat more interesting sauce was offered among the options I decided to get that as well, and then ended up actually paying 1 RON more than I intended even without any tip anyway.
The guy came almost suspiciously quickly though, only just over 20 minutes after I was told it’ll be between 45 and 50, and seeing as I don’t quite see how it’d take less than 15 to drive here from where they are. And he was actually here a bit faster than even that, since he first called to say he was at the door without actually being here. I said I didn’t hear anything ringing, he said he only knocked, I rushed to get the keys and open, but there was nobody at the door when I did. Wondered what to do for a moment, then decided to go down to the building’s door, in case he was actually there, but that was when my phone rang again, the guy apologizing and saying he was accidentally at the next building and will get here right away. He was very apologetic once again when he did get here, but I was just slightly amused. And the pizza was again very good, even though I do still wonder how could it have been made so quickly.

Was so dehydrated though, the pizza, with two kinds of cheese, probably not helping either… Drank two liters of tea that day, and I very rarely drink more than one liter or so per day, also ate watermelon before leaving to run, and I still felt very thirsty, which again very rarely happens. That was probably at least part of the reason why I couldn’t sleep at first, so after tossing and turning for a good hour, at 6:20 AM I got up and made myself more tea, then played some more Disciples, after not playing at all the previous day. Eventually, with another half a liter of tea in me, I got back to bed a bit after 8 AM… Only for my phone to beep minutes later because the battery was almost empty, so I plugged it in to charge and then got back to bed yet again, finally managing to fall asleep a bit later. It was just 1 PM or so, maybe a few minutes after 1 PM, when I woke up again though, and got up then as well. Tried to take a nap in the evening, but dad decided to continue working on something he started to do in the bathroom yesterday just then, so I hardly got any more sleep.

And now let me get back to mention a few earlier things as well, so I won’t end up needing to catch up again later. In fact I’ll start by going just a little earlier, to the night before the run, when I was making a note of it being just a beautiful summer night. Not hot, clear starry sky, no wind to speak of, stillness and silence that the crickets only enhanced, and the orange glow of the streetlight behind the building only adding to it. I’m usually quite bothered by these lights, but these orange ones can enhance these moments… And remind me of the nights when I was living with Andra, or still there after she left, and happened to be on the balcony at a very late hour, looking down at a similar streetlight in front of the entrance of the next building and thinking the same thing.

To finish this, I’ll also mention that on August 1 I took out the recyclables, after dad had cleaned up some stuff and there ended up being a lot of boxes to throw away, among other things. Also noticed, when I put my pants on, that the pen which should have been in a pocket was no longer there, so not sure what I did with that, and while I see one like it in the kitchen I doubt I somehow left mine there. Either way, had a few bags to fill with everything dad had taken out, the plastic which had also gathered and a few old electronics he was throwing away as well, and took the opportunity to take the used batteries which had also gathered. After dropping off the paper and plastic, went to Carrefour to try to exchange those batteries for two new ones, according to the sign, but the person at customer service saw me holding them while standing in line and told me they had no batteries to give before it was my turn. So I just walked away, had a quick look inside, then went to the nearby Kaufland as well, dropped off the electronics there, put the batteries in a pocket since I no longer saw the sign advertising a similar exchange scheme there, had a quick look inside there as well, then came out and asked the person at customer service whether they still exchanged them after all. At first she told me I could go in, leaving me confused, but when I asked where should I go, and repeated the question about the batteries, she apologized and said she thought I had asked whether I could go in with the little bag I had them in, then did exchange them for two new ones.

Written by Cavalary on August 4, 2018 at 11:58 PM in Personal | 0 Comments

Going to the Dentist May Have Made It Even Worse…

Got back to Disciples and managed to finish two more of those “Divine Empire” scenarios these days. Started number 15 Saturday and due to forgetting some things it was a very bad start, so I quit and restarted quickly, going well after that until I took a break. When I got back for a bit, before eating that night, a rash attack caused me to lose my good leader, but I knew I didn’t need a leader to complete that scenario, so just continued like that. Right after eating I did load an autosave, since I continue to not make any other saves while playing these scenarios, after trying something I realized wouldn’t have gained me anything even if I could succeed, but then continued to the end, finishing it just before going to bed. Then started scenario 16 the next day, but only managed to finish it just before starting to write this post, and that happened only because I wanted to get it over with and rushed after a point, as otherwise it could have taken a fair bit longer. So now I just have five left until I’ll be able to say I completed the game, since I consider this series of scenarios to be something like an expansion, and I sure hope I’ll get through them in August, and then write a review as well.

This week’s run was yesterday, ten kilometers again, the time again being just a normal one, 48:22, with sector times of 4:19, 5:11, 5:56, 4:28, 4:59, 5:55, 4:35, 5:09, 6:02 and 1:48, making for lap times of 15:26, 15:22 and 15:46. Woke up, grabbed something to eat, not including one thing I usually want to eat before running, and went out, not even drinking anything and not managing much when I went to the toilet either. But it was cloudy, so the Sun wasn’t a problem, though the humidity was. Wind was also not a problem until the end, when at the start of sector three of lap three I suddenly found myself heading into quite a gust, which was also a problem on the next longer straight. Did need to push a bit in order to manage that otherwise normal time, but the second lap’s second sector showed me that I could do better if I needed to, so I wasn’t exactly worried, though I did slip three seconds behind the time I was aiming for at the end of sector two of lap three and five seconds behind it after that sector three where the wind was something of a problem. Though that didn’t happen on those exact sectors, a few people were a problem as well and it can be said that they caused that loss overall, since there weren’t that many in the park but there were some, including a few that got in the way, either due to coming from opposite directions and coming together right in front of me or simply not looking when crossing or changing direction.

After running, ate some more and then went back out, going to the farmers’ market, and to this pharmacy that’s on the way, getting some stuff for dad from there too. That caused some problems though, since it took too long and then I had to rush once I got to the market, so I just had a quick look through the area where those selling fruit should be and missed the guy with some nice and cheap plums that was somewhere else, picking a few from some pretty bad ones that another had at that same price. But I was looking for apricots first, yet after dismissing the one or two that had expensive ones I ended up getting all of one kind of fruit that same guy that I also got the plums from after that had, which ended up being just very little over one kilogram, so paid for it as one… Yet those were actually small peaches, not apricots, and since the label just listed the price and I was rushing, I confused them, so I’m very unhappy with the fruit I got this time around. Good thing I didn’t lose them, at least, since I had left the bag with them there after I also got the plums, only realizing it after taking a few steps, stopping to try to put those bags into another and seeing I just had one, as the guy didn’t call after me.
That still left the matter of cucumbers and tomatoes, but by then I was really rushing, since it was getting closer to 7 PM, when that market closes, according to the listed schedule, though I did have a quick look around at least. The cucumbers I got are pretty bad, but I found no better ones that didn’t cost more, so I just grabbed the two thirds of a kilogram that an old woman still had. It was worse with the tomatoes, as I did mean to check exactly what one or two others had at that low price but eventually ended up grabbing some from two women, the older one looking and behaving like the proverbial mother-in-law. She first asked me whether I’ll buy all of those they had at that price, and I said no way, then she meant to pick them and put them in my bag herself, but I just kept the bag out of her reach and kept picking myself, so she realized she’s not getting anywhere and did something else for a moment, until I put the bag on the scale and saw that it was just a few grams over two thirds of a kilogram, so took my bag off the scale and told her the amount that’d be. She had none of that though, instead rather harshly asking what did I mean by that amount and taking the bag to check herself, saying nothing else when she saw the weight and I asked whether I had been wrong.
That was all I meant to get, but had also noticed a guy with the kind of peppers I want at a good price, so I got some of those as well. But he wasn’t nice either, not at the end at least, as he didn’t have the scale in reach and I gave him the bag to check the weight after I picked some, then after he said one more would be needed to get to one kilogram he complained that I put my hand on one and didn’t take it, though when he saw that the one I gave him after that was smaller he didn’t say anything else… And I ended up with a bit under one kilogram, in fact, and two or three of them were quite bad too, which I didn’t notice at the time since it was quite dark there, as it had started raining a bit. Only lasted for a moment though, so it wasn’t a problem on the way back.

Going back to the beginning of the period covered by this post, Wednesday I meant to write the review for Ember, but just as I was trying to get ready to start, at 3:30 PM, there was a power failure. Actually waited a couple of minutes, then called to see whether the machine had any estimate to give, but it was of course too soon for that, the only message being one for another area, which was supposed to have power restored around 8 PM. So I turned off the computer some seven or eight minutes after the power failed, which may be the longest amount of time yet, then called again, this time hearing a message for this area as well. Since it said that power was going to be restored around 7 PM, I crawled in bed, but it seemed that power was intermittently coming back on within minutes, and I’m not sure whether I had fallen asleep or was just about to when I was definitely awake again due to shouting and knocking on my door to let me know that the power had been restored. No idea why that was considered necessary, but that was it for sleeping then. Didn’t turn the computer back on just then though, logs stating that I only did that just before 5 PM. Then I started struggling with that review, but stopped after the positive aspects, briefly getting back to it to just start the bad ones before going to bed. Then I finished it the next day, managing to post both here and on MobyGames mere minutes before midnight. Then I read it again and made a few little changes before going to bed.

But the relevant part of this post took place Friday, when I went to the dentist to see what could be done about that chipped crown. The appointment was for 10:45 AM, but when me and dad got there the receptionist said it’ll be about 20 minutes more, then even went to ask the doctor how long it’ll be and came back to say that yes, about 20 minutes. So we got back here to make shopping lists, since we were going to go together after that, getting back I think just before 11 AM. But those 20 minutes stretched on, and it was 11:15 AM when the assistant told me to come to the other room and get on the chair, and past 11:30 AM when the doctor finally came as well. So I had a fair bit of time to just sit there, alone with my thoughts in a dentist’s office, and get more and more anxious, getting to the point of needing to hold off a panic attack that was starting to threaten.
The actual bad part started after that though, because the doctor came with two suppliers after her. They had arrived while I was waiting, delivering something and talking to the receptionist and to someone else who seemed to be the accountant, but they were also waiting for the doctor and when she finally finished with her previous patient she asked them to come after her and present their products while she was working on me… So she rushed in with them after her, quickly asked me what’s she supposed to do, then looked in my mouth and started doing something in there while talking to them, seeming to pay no attention to me and, as far as I can tell, taking a bit off the ceramic crown from the bottom, saying that hardly anything seems gone, it was probably an extremely thin bit, and perhaps because it was too big, so she’ll do that to prevent it from happening again. It was only when she said she was done that I could get myself to say that the bit that came off was towards the back, but she said nothing seems exposed there either, and that it wouldn’t be a problem if metal would be exposed anyway, though one would assume that if I wanted a ceramic crown I don’t want exposed metal in my mouth and therefore it would be a problem for me regardless of what she says. She tried to show me that it looked fine, but there was no way for me to see there despite her saying that it should be visible with the way she was holding the mirrors. And she said the crown was no less sturdy now that she just took a thin layer off it.
This definitely feels all wrong, and as if I went there to make things even worse. Yes, she didn’t charge for it, but she shouldn’t have charged for it anyway, since the crown itself should be under warranty for years to come. But instead of fixing what came off, somehow putting something there again, even if it was just a layer from the surface, she didn’t do anything at all about that and instead actually took a bit off the rest of it, and I don’t know how making it thinner could possibly not make the ceramic less sturdy. Plus that I couldn’t trust what she did there either way when she was obviously paying little to no attention to me, talking to those men about products and their site and prices. And those men obviously wore no masks either, and I’m not quite sure how much she kept hers on while talking either. It’s possible that she did, but I really don’t remember.

Either way, after that me and dad went first to Auchan, with the car, also taking the plastic bottles and one can which had gathered. We went in through different doors, since I was going to the recycling machine and he had something to pay first, but when I got to the machine I saw that it wasn’t working, so I just left everything there, alongside what had been left by others, and when I left I saw quite a lot more left in that area. So I went into the hypermarket quickly and dad wasn’t where he said we’ll meet, and he still wasn’t there when I got back, after getting cat food. But he appeared a little later and we talked about what each was going to get for a moment, but I wasn’t exactly sure why I came along, and my mood was obviously bad after what had happened at the dentist. Still, we had split the things that were on the list, so we went separate ways, yet he found me again as I was looking at something from his list… Something which we both forgot about after that, since he said he’ll look for other options first.
I did get what we meant to get out of what was on my list, plus some things for myself since I was there, so I won’t have to go again this week. And it was a good thing I got the yogurt then, and that I got two boxes of it too, because each box was scanned for the price of a single yogurt. I somehow forgot to check the price for them myself, so I don’t know whether it was an error in the system, but I do recall the cashier actually looking at the box and making sure she scanned the code on it and not one on one of the yogurts inside, so it’s possible that she noticed what showed up and wanted to make sure it hadn’t been her mistake. It also surprised me less than it should have when I saw the total, because it was just then that I was realizing that I had calculated with twice as much cat food as I actually bought, so knew it should be a fair bit less than I had calculated and didn’t yet know exactly how much. It was a nice surprise though, and once again showed that such mistakes at Auchan really are mistakes, since they can go both ways.
Still, after paying less there, I paid more to charge my phone card, and the guy there seemed quite clueless. I wanted to just activate it for a while longer, and had seen that there had been changes and that charging with just one Euro should offer 15 days now as well, but asked just how it is if I charge with that amount, to make sure, and the guy first said there was no active period offered for such low amounts, then corrected himself to say there was no grace period when I told him he was wrong. Then he looked up, saying he knows there were changes and wants to give me the correct information, but apparently he looked up the old information instead, as he told me I get five days for one Euro, ten for two. But I wasn’t sure those new terms were applying already, so I said I’ll charge with two, to make sure I’ll have it active at the start of August as well… Yet when I got the message, it said the active period will end after 15 days, so the new terms did apply and I could have charged with just one. The guy really seemed to have no idea though, not trying to get one more Euro out of me.
Went out after that, sending dad a message to let him know. It was starting to rain a bit, and I didn’t remember where the car was parked, so I searched for it for a bit, until dad called and told me, since he took a while before seeing my message. What was rather unpleasant was that, after realizing the car wasn’t where I thought it’d be, I stopped next to some beggars who kept nagging me even if I just ignored them completely. Got nagged a bit more after I found the car, after dad called, but I continued to ignore them and they eventually looked for others. Would have been very unpleasant otherwise, since dad said he’ll be out quickly but still took a while longer, and in fact I was just about to go to the free bus stop when I saw him coming out, with a full cart, since the free bus that comes here was supposed to come just then and I meant to take it and just send him a message to let him know. They did start nagging again when we got back to the car though, and quite insistently, but all they got was the 0.50 RON coin in the cart, which dad let them put back for us.
Then we decided to go straight to the other hypermarkets, with dad stopping at Kaufland and me walking to the nearby Carrefour, comparing prices by phone, so he got some things and I got others. A guard seemed to get very interested in me while I was looking at sugar after getting off the phone, since he stared and then followed right behind me as I searched for another kind of sugar, only stopping when I left that area. Not sure what I did then to make me suspicious in his eyes, but I might have looked a little suspicious later, after getting a bag of cat litter, checking the price, seeing that it was more than the listed one, and going back to take a picture of the price on the shelf, so I’ll have proof when I’ll complain, since dad had said that I should take one after all, even though it’s a bit cheaper somewhere else and he’ll likely get more from there after we’ll get back. Either way, got back to the sugar after that, first meaning to take a full batch, then realizing that there were I think ten in it, or definitely more than the six I had to get. So I put the batch back and took the six one by one, and I was doing that when the employee working in that area came and said that if he’d have known I wanted a batch he could have given me one, then realized I was taking fewer and asked if I had changed my mind and I said I wanted fewer in the first place. As I was walking away he asked whether somebody had punished me to carry so much, since I hadn’t taken a cart, and told me to take care of my back.
Since making sure they don’t charge less is their problem but making sure they don’t charge more is mine, I pointed out the price difference for the cat litter when checking out and the cashier seemed a bit bothered by that, saying she’ll give me the difference but just rounding up the change and therefore giving me only a third of it. I said that wasn’t quite right, but was about to walk away even so when she told me to go to customer service and sort it out. So I did just that, one person called for a price check, but I pointed out I had a picture too and another came and asked to see it, trying to figure out whether it was the same product. She didn’t quite seem convinced, so I was waiting for that price check, but after another moment she said there was no more need for the check and just gave me the difference, which was therefore on top of what the cashier had already given me. And I found a couple of coins on the floor there as well, plus one more earlier, I believe somewhere at Auchan.
Then I called dad to tell him I was done and to ask whether he had left already and I had to walk back, but he said he had just gotten back to the car, so I got back there and we came back together as well. Considering how much stuff he had bought, not even both of us could carry all of it back up at once anyway, and in a way it was a good thing because after going back for the other things he came back with some money, saying a guy had hit the car in the parking lot. He mentioned something about it being a good thing that he wasn’t just in that spot too, but I’m not sure whether he said he had just stepped back or that he had to quickly step back to avoid being hit. Either way, the tiny dent was supposedly fixed by just pressing in that spot, but when he asked what should be done about the scratches the guy just gave him some money and asked whether that will cover it. And it’s not like the car isn’t in a very bad shape anyway.

Written by Cavalary on July 31, 2018 at 10:28 PM in Personal | 0 Comments

Review: Ember

Certain design quirks make it quite obvious that Ember was designed for tablets, and I saw articles stating that it may be an all right game for the PC, but it’s an outstanding one for tablets. That may well be true, but it’s also irrelevant, seeing as I don’t care about tablets and will judge it solely on its merits as a PC game. What is relevant, on the other hand, is that, once you get used to them, those controls designed for tablets seem to me to work better on the PC than those designed for consoles that are so often found in bigger titles for a long time now.

Due to said design quirks and a beginning that may not be particularly inspired or original, it is possible that the first impression may be somewhat underwhelming, but rest assured that Ember really does get better as you go along. More importantly, the improvement isn’t due to the fact that the characters gain better and more interesting skills, which isn’t really the case, but instead due to the locations, the books and the enemies. And while the locations are the first improvement you’ll notice, as they will get more interesting until you reach the City of Light, which I’d say is the best the game has to offer from this point of view, the other two elements I mentioned probably require a few more details.
Hardly any of the books available in Ember need to be read and very few even need to be found in order to complete the game, but they offer interesting bits of history and lore, as well as various stories that are simply enjoyable to read, including quite a few that intend to be funny and usually succeed. In addition, various books as well as the game’s story in general also tackle current issues from our world, situations and problems that we’re facing and that we need to do far more about before it’s too late. As such, those who enjoy reading will find themselves searching for all titles and parts and keeping track of what they found and read.
As for the combat, it’s the enemies that make it interesting, the developers seeming to have put some effort into making later battles nicely tactical. This may apply even earlier, for some boss and elite fights or when you simply try to get through an area that’s way above the party’s current level, but late in the game even standard enemies make a tactical approach very much recommended. And I definitely remember the boss fights starting from The Bastille, plus some later elites, most notably the one at the end of a side quest that rewards you with one of the best pieces of equipment in the game. Playing on normal difficulty, using found gear and no consumables until the final battle, and without grinding and only rarely even using sleep as intended, plenty of these battles proved difficult, but they were always fair, a few even seeming a bit like a puzzle to solve. You will need to pause often, maybe move around a lot, possibly make good use of combos, dealing more damage by having characters use skills on an enemy almost immediately one after the other, but perhaps most of all in these battles you’ll need to pay attention to the icons that show up above enemies, indicating the skills they’re preparing to use, and act accordingly.

Yes, I know that the above will make some say that my playing style makes games unnecessarily difficult, but that’s just how I play, being very frugal, not using consumables until the end if I can avoid it in any way and not buying much of anything if I can find things I can make good enough use of. I would enjoy crafting, but while it is possible in Ember, I found it unnecessary before the end, which I guess adds to the freedom of playing however you prefer. But if you want to make things easier, on top of being able to change the difficulty at any time, you can gain as many levels as your patience allows, as I’m not aware of any level cap, by killing the enemies that respawn and by making full use of sleep in order to boost your experience gain from kills, you can craft the best gear available for the party’s current level, you can use various kinds of potions and food, which can be crafted as well, and you can also purchase runes from the merchants in the City of Light and Pinnacle in order to get just the skills you want. On the other hand, if you want a challenge or, as in my case, simply want to explore, you can visit locations intended for much higher levels and try to survive, seeing as there’s nothing other than the enemies to stop you from traveling to most areas even early on.

One other thing to mention would be that the game is particularly forgiving when it comes to party members getting “killed” in battle as well, since unless none are left standing, those knocked out will not only immediately recover after the fight, but recover with 20% of their health, and without losing any experience. I’m not quite sure what to think about that and there were only three moments, one of them being the final battle, when I continued after a character got knocked out instead of reloading an earlier save, but I guess I’ll take it as a good thing, because it once again offers the player the freedom to play as they wish… As does the fact that characters that join the party are always immediately raised to the level of the main character if needed, so you don’t have to worry about leveling them or choosing when to meet them.

On a different note, autosaves are also useful. You can turn them off if you want, but if you don’t, the game will save to the autosave slot not only after a certain time has passed and before major battles, but also just before using fast travel to leave an area. And since I mentioned being able to turn off this behavior, there are a few other potentially useful options, such as free camera, disabling moving the camera by clicking and dragging, or opening the inventory whenever the character sheet is opened, this last one being the one I enabled right away.
Back to the game itself, being able to buy back the last items you sold from any merchant, at the price you sold them, also offers some peace of mind, reducing the risk of losing something by accidentally selling it, at least if you realize it in time. But the last thing I want to point out as actually being very useful in the game itself is much more important, and that’s the information displayed when hovering the mouse over an enemy in query mode, including not only the exact current and maximum health, but also the level, class and a strength rating, which may be minion, standard, strong, elite or boss. Since elite and boss enemies are immune to certain skills and minions die very quickly but may deal a lot of damage if you don’t kill them right away, this is important to know.

Unfortunately, since there’s no highlight function and object names only show up when the Lightbringer is very close to them, entering query mode very frequently and therefore pausing the game just about constantly even while simply exploring is pretty much required due to the fact that this is the only way to see objects you can pick up or interact with outside the Lightbringer’s immediate vicinity. Worse, there are a handful of items, I think all of those I found being containers, that for some reason show up in query mode as if you could interact with them when you’re some distance away or in a spot from which the game’s pathfinding won’t allow the Lightbringer to reach them directly, but seem to be simple scenery items, not allowing any interaction, when you actually get close. And then there are also a number of items and containers that can’t seem to be reached in any way.
Also on the topic of items, those owned by others are handled in a rather strange manner. The name shows up on a red background, indicating that taking that item would be stealing, but you can take it with no consequences if no actual NPC sees you, those you can’t interact with not counting. However, if an NPC is in the area they will stop you and your only option is to put the item back. The character won’t refuse to try to pick up the item, which could have perhaps been a better option if you’re being watched, and there doesn’t seem to be any way to sneak or otherwise avoid notice. Some NPCs have schedules that will result in certain areas being clear at certain times and I found one NPC that didn’t seem to care that I was grabbing owned items right in front of her, which may have been on purpose considering her situation at the time, but otherwise if an NPC is there, even if their back is turned, even if they are asleep, they will notice you and you’ll apologize and put the item back, then continue as if nothing happened.

But those are little things, though there are even smaller issues that I noticed, such as the handful of typos in books or the fact that there’s a major discrepancy between what a character tells you about a certain important moment in history and what you can read about it in books found even right next to him. Much more notable but I’d say still minor would be the 99 item inventory limit, which seems to be a completely artificial limit added just to have one. But there are several containers to be found in order to expand it to some extent and you can always get back to sell things well enough, so if it didn’t bother me quite that much despite being the pack rat that I am, it’s probably just a little nuisance… As is the fact that items in containers don’t show up in the shop window, needing to first be taken out before they can be sold. And since I can’t fit this anywhere else, I’ll also mention here that all area maps are displayed completely as soon as you enter an area, with nothing telling you which places you already explored, making it a bit of a pain to make sure you don’t miss anything in open areas.

An artificial limit that bothered me more is the fact that you will meet three companions, but can only take two of them with you at once. It would make sense if there would be more options, but having to just leave one person out after you find all of them feels quite forced. Sure, the areas intended to be explored after meeting the last companion would have needed to be significantly more difficult for a party of four to make sense, but I’m sure that could have been arranged.
Something that bothered me even more when it comes to companions, on the other hand, is the fact that they have so little to say. Then again, it may take an accident to find that you can talk to them at all, as you need to click the main character and drag to a companion in order to do so, which behavior also applies in combat, though the character will say it’s not the time for it if you do so then. Not that you’ll be losing much of anything if you don’t discover this at all.

Speaking of clicking and dragging, though you can get used to it quite fine, that control system does feel strange on a PC at first. Click to have the Lightbringer go somewhere, with the companions following, but if you want a companion to move you need to click on them and drag to the desired location, which needs to be very close because they’ll turn right back if they’re more than a few steps away from the Lightbringer, and if the Lightbringer moves again they’ll reposition themselves as well. Also, for the skills that target a location instead of a single enemy or ally, you need to click the skill and drag to the target, which is also how you can target a single creature that’s different from the one that’s the current target, or when the character in question doesn’t have an active target at the time. And this applies to using items as well. Click on the item and drag it to the object you want to use it on in the few places where that is needed, and if you want a character other than the Lightbringer to use an item you must either have that character’s sheet open or click on the item and then drag it to their portrait.
Again, you can get used to this and it may even get to feel less awkward than the controls designed for consoles that are found in the PC versions of plenty of bigger titles, but you should be able to select a skill, or a party member, and then click on the target or destination, and the same would also apply to the “whole party” button. And speaking of that, a way to exclude one party member from a command, selecting the other two for it, could have been of some use as well, though this is a minor thing.

Probably the worst part, however, has to do with each character being limited to just three active and two passive skills, all of them being determined by the equipment worn and having no way to improve any directly. All you can do when gaining a level is distribute two attribute points among the four available attributes, the efficiency of the skills being determined by the associated attribute or, in case of some passive ones, by weapon damage. And whenever you find a better piece of equipment, you have to weigh the better attributes against the possible change in available skills. Yes, you can add runes to equipment in order to replace the skill granted by it, but runes are expensive and can only be used once, and there are only two actual rune merchants in the game. As a result, you’ll find yourself sticking to older and otherwise worse equipment to preserve the useful skills granted by it, and possibly carrying around a few different pieces of equipment in order to be able to use other skills you think may be needed. Which is not to say that a trade-off between positive and negative effects of equipment is necessarily a bad thing in itself, but characters having nothing to do with their own available skills is, and it makes for very limited and downright poor character development.

Character development is also harmed by the fact that maximum energy can’t be increased, except again by wearing certain pieces of equipment, and even then only by very little. And while I’m on the topic of energy, it’s also annoying that there are no numbers listed anywhere when it comes to energy use or recovery. You use or recover low, medium or high amounts of energy, but it doesn’t say exactly how much that is anywhere. Also, while some items that restore health can more helpfully state that they restore half or all of it, others, as well as those that temporarily increase attributes, follow that same rule and do not specify any actual values. It’s quite frustrating and doesn’t allow you to calculate or accurately plan much of anything.

And then there’s sleep, which I made little use of. The game seemed balanced even so, with enemy levels seeming just about right, and I finished it at level 24 when it seems to assume that you need to be at least level 20 at the end, with level 20 also being required by the best few pieces of equipment that can be found. But it just seems wrong to tie maximizing the experience obtained from kills to sleeping at certain pretty exact intervals. There is, of course, some logic in wanting the characters to sleep at certain intervals if the developers wanted to introduce that sort of thing, but it could be handled differently, while such rewards should be offered to players who go as long as possible without resting, or at least that’s how I see it. Instead, the experience boost obtained from sleeping once is determined by the time since the party last slept, up to a maximum of 25%, and gradually drops as you kill enemies after waking up, yet higher values can be obtained if you sleep again after enough time has passed and without killing too much in between. While, again, making full use of this is not needed, having a system that would greatly benefit the characters but making it an exercise in frustration to attempt to properly use it is quite annoying.

To finally move away from such details, I should also say that the story isn’t exactly much to write home about, and the way you choose one of the two endings also seems quite lazy, for lack of a better term. The books save the storytelling aspect of the game overall to some extent, but the story of the game itself pretty much just keeps you moving forward from one point to the next. I wasn’t sure where to put this, how to include it in the review, because it’s not really bad, and it also does quite clearly draw some parallels to some major problems from our world, but some quests, including parts of the main one, did strike me as quite silly, and I’m not referring to anything intended to be funny, so I guess it can go here after all. Again, it does its job I guess, but I’m looking at some of the writing in the books and can’t help but wonder why does it seem like the effort and even skill put into those entirely optional elements wasn’t also put into the game’s actual story, or the characters for that matter, for the reasons I stated above.

And then there are certain technical aspects that need to be mentioned. One is the fact that the game crashed quite a number of times when fast traveling between areas, though the autosaves made at those moments always worked and turned this into little more than a small nuisance, as I could always just get right back to where I was. A much bigger issue, on the other hand, is the fact that the game constantly reads data from disk, and at up to a few Mb/s. I guess this isn’t much of a problem for those with SSDs, but the wear caused by this may be a concern for those of us still using mechanical HDDs. The developers stated that, since the development of Ember started many years ago, they couldn’t switch to 64-bit, or at least make a 64-bit version, and were therefore limited in the amount of memory they could use, but since they also stated that textures are loaded straight from disk before being displayed and music and sound effects are streamed from disk as well, I’m not sure what’s taking up memory in the first place!

To conclude, Ember has certain design and technical quirks you need to be aware of and it doesn’t excel in any area, but it’s an all right game if you don’t expect too much from it. There are limitations, some of them seeming completely artificial, but with the exception of the particularly light and limited character development system they shouldn’t prove to be major problems. The world is open, allowing the player to explore as long as they can survive, but combat is the most important aspect and fortunately it does get better as you go along, with fights becoming quite tactical and not the sort of click-fest that tends to be the norm for action RPGs. For all of that, it’s a quite forgiving game and therefore caters to an audience that can deal with challenging moments but does not particularly seek a challenge. As for the story, it just gets the job done, but some of the books found in Ember can actually be quite good and finding and reading them may be one of the game’s best aspects, at least for those of us who enjoy reading.

Written by Cavalary on July 26, 2018 at 11:48 PM in Gaming | 0 Comments