GHDR 2021 October 10 Report: Characters, Revisited

GHDR 2021 October 10 Report: Characters, Revisited

"Divinity's Reach in Guild Wars 2"

New character in Guild Wars 2, an MMORPG

I’m a little late with today’s monthly progress report on Groundhog Day Resolutions, and it’s kind of a rambling one. Last month had been a tough month emotionally due to the death of my cat and ongoing feelings of disconnection with work, so I decided to focus on self care. When I am in a depressed mood, I obsessively consume media and lose myself in another world. It’s not intentional, but it has the effect of being a vacation away from myself that has lead to reconnecting with virtual worlds!

Last Month’s Review

To recap, here’s the current list of insights for 2021:

  • I’m applying a singular focus model of focus, based on the hypothesis that I only have two chunks of attention available. One chunk is reserved for “conscious interaction with the world”, and the other is assigned to the singular focus. For the first half of 2021 it was “getting better at software development”, and the current focus is physical health.
  • I identified that my life revolves around conceptual modeling as a learning style and preferred activity.
  • I’m pondering why my desire to be part of a great team has disappeared after so many years of being really important.

My project goals were to write some good documentation and do some design work on a GUI, which are ordinarily pleasurable activities. However, for full motivation I need to have intense conversations about design and principles; right now the project is in a state where that discourse is a distraction from more pressing concerns. So, rather than bill hours doing speculative work that may not be in the best interest of our remaining budget, I decided to just take care of long-lingering personal projects.

  • I cleaned up the living room, gathering stuff to take the landfill! This include the cat things that I no longer need and have been bumming me out whenever I saw them.
  • I got a new resident permit for the landfill, and threw out a small mountain of junk.
  • I updated the ETP Almanac for 2022 PDF; goal is to start updates in June so people planning ahead a year can have it available
  • I started taking care of Q1-Q2 financial data for my accountant, which I just remembered I didn’t finish…oops
  • I FINALLY set up the Nintendo Switch with Ring Fit Adventure and a thick exercise mat. This is an exercise game that uses a simple motion controller to put you through a variety of running and targeted exercise in the context of saving the kingdom through your awesome gym skills. I had been putting it off for most of the year because of the cat, but that is no longer an issue.

It doesn’t seem like I did a lot, but it is better than doing the NOTHING that I felt myself slumping into. It was just about all I could manage. The rest of the time was spent contemplating my failure to complete personal projects and being depressed about not knowing quite what to do about it. I have tried SO MANY THINGS. I’m reminded of stories where the protagonist is a girl who befriends a wild horse who would be an amazing racer if ONLY SOMEONE COULD TAME IT, and then the kid and horse create a strong rider-horsie bond and go on to win an important race or something. Sigh. I love horsie stories.

A Few Wins

I’m still slowly coming out of the depressive slump, and have been indulging myself in sensory activities. This is a huge improvement over not wanting to do anything at all. I’ll review this part with pictures:


Smoker Experiments

I have been obsessing about dry rubs and marinade powder after discovering that powdered soy sauce exists (BELOW LEFT). I’m also trying to figure out ways to cook delicious foods with a minimum of recipe prep, and the idea that I could sprinkle a soy sauce powder blend on something and then immediately air fry it lit my imagination on fire.

I started out with a regular dry rub for ribs, and stuck them in the smoker as is (ABOVE) for a baseline, then moved on to Taiwanese pork chops in the air fryer. A good Taiwanese pork chop has a sweet/salty profile with sweet potato starch crisping on top of it, and I wasn’t sure if an air fryer could handle it with the limited heat. However, the soy sauce + sugar + garlic powder blending I made (essentially a dry teriyaki sauce, BELOW MIDDLE) worked pretty well, though I didn’t have the right starch to use.

soy sauce powderteriyaki powderair fryer temp

With a bit of tweaking (i.e. adding some MSG and tapioca starch) my Taiwanese pork chop hit the 80% mark (ABOVE RIGHT). It just isn’t as crispy and cooked the way I want (It’s promising but there is still a lot of moisture to get rid of without overcooking the pork chop. Still, the results are not bad (BELOW)

cooked porkchop result!@– Another recipe I’ve been trying is a spicy chicken sandwich that used to require overnight marinade in Frank’s Red Hot, a mildy-spicy vinegar hot sauce that is popular here in the Northeast. It’s used a lot for buffalo wings, and when I was trying to invent a substitute for the bacon in a BLT I tried using it with a thinly-sliced breast of chicken.

While my original recipe works REALLY WELL, but when I learned I could by Franks Red Hot Seasoning Powder and it is even better. I use boneless chicken thighs because they handle the high heat better and are also pre-butterflied from having been deboned. My blend adds a bit of sugar, curry, extra garlic powder. It does need to be finished with some actual Frank’s Red Hot for the vinegar punch. With the air fryer, I can make a tasty hot sandwich in about 8 minutes from fridge to plate.

Frank's Red Hot Chicken Sandwich ThighFried Rice TestClean Wok

I’ve also reseasoned my carbon steel wok by following these instructions I found in an Amazon customer answer. Here’s an excerpt:

Seasoning is creating an EPOXIDE layer. Any edible oil works, safflower or canola may be best (flax not so great IMO). Clean the pan first and heat evenly/slowly on burner. Using paper towels, swab the interior LIGHTLY with oil. Heat till the oil just smokes. At this temp the oil surface tension changes and it will bead-up like water drops on glass. Knock-down(smooth) the beads w/ another paper towel before they harden. Continue/repeat till the oils stops smoking – several minutes. Repeat this 3-4 times. No need to cool down between – just apply oil LIGHTLY w/ paper towels & knock-down beads till it stops smoking – repeat for several cycles. If you ever need to strip & re-season, heat some water+vinegar(or othe acid, oxalic preferred) in the pan, this will dissolve the epoxide easily.

These are the best instructions I’ve seen for seasoning a pan, providing the conceptual WHY behind the seasoning steps. For me, the critical information was about the oil surface tensions and ‘smoothing’ the beads of oil. No other instructions I’ve seen mention that. The entire answer is worth reading!

Anyway, I was able to fry rice in my wok afterwards with almost no sticking (ABOVE MIDDLE, RIGHT). That is amazing. As a result of this success, I realized that the reason food was sticking in my stainless steel all-clad pan was because I was not letting the oil heat up enough. I actually fried an egg in it and it didn’t stick at all!

Japanese Sesame Dressing on Blanched BroccolliHeirloom TomatoesCongee

A local restaurant that I like has a “Crispy Pork Bento Box” lunch that includes what I thought was pickled broccoli. It turns out that it wasn’t pickled at all; it just has Japanese Sesame Dressing over blanched broccoli. I’ve been trying to make this, no luck yet matching the flavor of the original (ABOVE LEFT)

I remembered to visit the local farm stand, which has a huge variety of heirloom tomatoes (ABOVE MID) that I like to try in tomato sandwiches: just a bit of mayonnaise and salt on some plain white bread. For as exciting as this is, I almost never manage to try more than 3 varieties each year before I’ve had my fill of tomatoes.

Asian rice porridge aka CONGEE has been in the news for cultural appropriation, and this reminded me how much I like it. I made a yummy bowl of it for lunch, and it was great. It’s easy to make in the instant pot, which ensures that I don’t burn it while I’m distracted at the computer.

Other Worlds

Food experimentation aside, I found myself being drawn to comforting character-based media consumption. Here are some examples!

Katerina Key Chain TrinketGoing MedievalArtbreeder and Characters

I have unexpectedly been enjoying the anime adaptation of My Next Life as a Villianness: All Routes Lead to Doom, which is an isekai (other world) story where the teenage protagonist is reincarnated as the villian in a visual novel game and doesn’t realize until she is six year old in that world. She trains herself with skills to survive the bad outcomes for the villainess, and in the process does a lot of good things while being kind of a dork. If there is anything I aspire to, it is being a do-gooder dork that learns stuff and makes a lot of friends! To remind myself of this goal, I ordered this key chain of Katerina Claes (the dork) from an Etsy seller in Hong Kong (ABOVE LEFT).

I’ve also been playing a colony sim called Going Medieval that’s in early access on Steam. It’s a genre of game that’s new to me, but I really like it. The premise is that you set up jobs and tasks for your medieval-era colonists who are rebuilding their life after the Black Plague wipes everyone out. You can also make custom scenarios, and so I made a “lone wolf” scenario where you start with almost nothing as a single settler at the beginning of winter. To make it fun, I made a backstory about “Lady Sri” escaping from her dolt of a husband Lord Phillip Ruminant, faking her death and bringing only her favorite hat, her grandfathers fine long bow, and a few books to teach her how to survive as a settler. The evil Lord Ruminant sends waves of thugs at her, but other colonists come to seek her settlement out because they remember her kind competent nature! The story maps into the general game loop, where colonists arrive one-by-one and you are beset by bandits who try to kill you every so often, and it’s fun for me to imagine such stories about the characters in games I’m playing.

On a different note, I stumbled upon Artbreeder, the art generating machine learning application that can take a starting set of data and synthesize variations that match its characteristics. In art terms, it can take one drawing and make it look like another one (hence “art breeder”). I was curious whether I could use it to take low resolution portraits of my old Star Trek Online characters and interpret them into a more realistic form…the answer is OMG YES (ABOVE RIGHT) and it’s simultaneously exciting and alarming. It took only about 15-30 minutes per portrait to get into the ballpark “feel” of each character.

Vivlan SriSrilana NutmoonDyman Sri

With all the activity based around characters, it is not too surprising that I started thinking about playing MMORPGs again, especially with the recent hype for New World from Amazon Game Studios. It’s been quite a while since any AAA-type MMORPGs like World of Warcraft have come out, so it’s a breath of fresh air.

This got me thinking about Guild Wars 2 again, which is currently free up to level 80 in the core game, and has several paid expansions available. There is a new one coming out, and it occurred to me that I had never gotten past level 39. That means I have not seen ANY of the expansion content, but have been stuck in the circa 2010 computer graphics world. Thus, I formed a new goal: SEE THE NEWER STUFF IN THE EXPANSIONS, which would require hitting level 80 at minimum. Since we can’t travel anywhere, this seemed like a good way to “get out of the house” virtually. Plus, I just like these kind of games and was feeling nostalgic.

I didn’t remember how to play, so I created a new character to re-familiarize myself with the mechanics. I ended up creating several characters with different skillsets, and then started imagining their backstories as I am prone to do. Because I get invested in their backstories, I also try to make them look the part by working with the low level armor that I currently have (ABOVE ROW).

I’ve enjoy dressing-up my characters, and they each have some part of me in them. This has caused me to also evaluate my own goals as reflections of what the characters were going through in the world of Guild Wars 2. This is a new realization, and I am finding it rather comforting. Because I care about my characters, maybe I feel less isolated even though they are characters from my own imagination reified in a virtual world? In any case, I think it is helping lift me from my grouchiness. Maybe my heart just needs to feel good about something I’ve made or contributed to, and as weird as it sounds making MMORPG character stories is one that makes me happy.

Something to think about this month!

The Month Ahead

I have some general goals:

  • Maintain a streak of daily plays of Ring Fit Adventure. My current streak is 3 days. Can I maintain it for 30 days? 60 days? 90 days??? This is related to my “physical health” singular focus goal.
  • Wind up work on the billable projects
  • Finishing updating products for 2022 (Word Counting Calendar)
  • Make the 2021 Nanowrimo Calendar (it’s only a few weeks away)
  • Organize and downsize more stuff in the house (make space for new projects)
  • Work on my own website and ecommerce presence. I need to prioritize myself over other people’s work SOMETIMES.

I am also going to try to advance to level 80 in Guild Wars 2 (I’m on the Henge of Denravi server) so I can start to see the later artwork in the world. I’m also enjoying the reflection I do for each character, imagining their reactions to things in the game world and trying to select looks that match their backstories. I think there is something important about this process, but I’m not sure what it is. Perhaps next month I’ll have something more definitive to say about it.

Overall, the best thing I can say about September is I got through it and am not more demoralized. I’m engaging in more escapist activities (food, character-based gaming) but it is something I probably needed. So that’s it for this month’s rambling report…wishing everyone a good October!

About this Article Series

For year 15 of Groundhog Day Resolutions, I am writing about TRANSITIONS. All related posts on this subject are posted on the  2021 Groundhog Day Resolutions page. You can also find the link under the INVESTIGATIONS menu item on my website.

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