Gadget Review: quitting smoking with an e-cigarette
Dec30

Gadget Review: quitting smoking with an e-cigarette

Okay let’s get the “tsk”ing portion of this post over with early: I started smoking when I was 16 and an idiot teenager. I quit for a year here and there, and in the last few years I’d dropped down to smoking 3 or 4 cigarettes a day at most. Smoking has some pretty obvious downsides like going outside in the winter, and, y’know, all the terrible associated diseases.

Despite all of that though, I like smoking. It gives my hands something to do when I fret. “Popping outside for a smoke” is my favorite way of taking a break from stressful social situations, and I’ve met some pretty rad people outside in the smoking areas over the years. (I guess huddling close together under a tiny overhang during a rain storm is a good ice breaker.) I’ve used a cigarette as punctuation in so many conversations, angrily jabbing it in the air to emphasize a point or screwing up my face in confusion as I exhale out of one side of my mouth.

But again… diseases. It’s hard to ignore those, particularly as a mostly sensible adult.

Thanks to a timely and appreciated gift from Santa I was able to invest in a vape over the weekend. As of today I’ve been analogue-smoke-free for four days and I haven’t shouted at anyone, which is probably the best (and most succinct) review I could give. But read on if you’re interested in more details of The Future of Smoking.

If you start researching vapes and e-cigarettes, you’ll quickly realize that they’ve established their own little culture, which seems pretty similar to hotrod culture. People (mostly dudes) are extremely into modding and upgrading their vapes, building their own heat coils, and blending their own juices, and while that’s cool it can also be a little intimidating to someone like me who just wants to quit smoking in the easiest way possible. There’s lots of talk about “vaping tough” and “throat hits” and who can produce the most vapor and … yeah. Just ignore all that.

Vapes are generally made up of three sections: the battery, the chamber where the juice goes and the heating happens, and the tip where you put your mouth. In my case I’m using an “iStick” by eLeaf for my battery, which amusingly enough is recharged via mini-USB like most other tech peripherals. My chamber is a Nautilus Mini, which promises to be the “next generation of clearomizer tank systems” (see what I mean about all the jargon?) and holds up to 2ml of juice at once which is apparently quite good. The tip is, um, whatever the guy at the store stuck on it.

vape 330x500 Gadget Review: quitting smoking with an e cigarette

The vape juice itself comes in different nicotine concentrations (I use 6mg, which is on the low side) and a whole world of flavors. Apparently most quitters think they want a juice that tastes like tobacco and while I thought that myself at first I’m glad I went with the suggestion of getting something different. When you really think about it, cigarettes taste pretty gross. Why not upgrade?

I’m using the “Dolce Nero Te” (sweet black tea) by P.O.E.T. and I really like it. It’s sweet and flavorful without making me think of candy. My runner-up and the next bottle I’ll buy is Khaleesi by Wicked, which is described as “strawberry and apple with a menthol finish” and was quite pleasant. There are some pretty terrible flavors out there too — I tried one that was supposed to taste like Fruit Loops and yep, that sure tastes like I’m smoking a kid’s breakfast cereal — so you may want to wander down to your local vape shop to try before you buy.

It took me a few tries to get the hang of smoking from the vape, but now I get a good amount of smoke that satisfies my urges. And although the vapor has almost no scent to those around you, it feels right in my mouth and looks right when I exhale, which is a big contributor to my brain accepting the vape instead of a cigarette.

I have found a few downsides to switching to a vape but they’re pretty minimal. The form factor is larger, and I think if I didn’t carry a handbag around it might be a pain to keep it in my pocket all the time. Also refilling the chamber with juice is kind of awkward and takes some practice.

My setup was about $70 for the rig plus $13 for the bottle of juice. The fellow at the store guessed I’d go through a bottle a week, but it looks like in practice it’ll be more like every two weeks. That’s actually not much less than I was paying for cigarettes at my low consumption rate, but a definite improvement from a health perspective.

So far I’ve been very satisfied with my decision to switch from cigarettes to a vape. It tastes better, is better for me, and I kind of feel like a cool robot lady from the future when I use it.

Best (mostly horror) Movies of 2014 #listmas
Dec22

Best (mostly horror) Movies of 2014 #listmas

I watch most of my movies through digital distribution instead of going to the theatre, but when I review the lists of great movies in 2014 it all seems a little .. meh. I commented on Twitter that this may not be a great year for movies, and was soundly and properly rebuked.

movie tweet Best (mostly horror) Movies of 2014 #listmas

Mr. Game Introspection here is absolutely correct in retrospect. There were a number of popular and great movies that were released this year, I just didn’t see them.

I do need to make more of an effort to see new movies. Nightcrawler looks great but not “$40 for a ticket + gas + popcorn AND I have to put on grown-up pants” great. Same for Birdman. Gone Girl was a fun and gripping book that I highly recommend, so I imagine the movie is also great. Boyhood and Interstellar both irritate me on principle, probably unfairly. Basically what I’m saying is that apparently I’m a big fussy grump.

(Also let 2014 go on the record as the year I got over Christopher Nolan already. Like you guys, Inception wasn’t even that good and don’t get me started on the “let’s just rely on the volunteerism of our corporate leaders to save us” final Libertarian Batman movie.)

Wait, this is #Listmas so I guess I should come up with some kind of list? Hmmm.

Best Use of a Hollywood Budget

I saw three movies in the theatre in 2014: Guardians of the Galaxy, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and Mockingjay Part 1. All three were a lot of fun and movies I will absolutely watch again on Netflix or whatever. Not GREAT FILMS or anything, but excellent popcorn flicks.

Best Movie That Was Way Better Than It Had Any Right To Be

I only watched +1 because Netflix kept insisting I would like it and I was expecting a kind of dumb teen killer movie. What I got instead was a more interesting and thoughtful time travel thriller with an ending that will sit with you for a while.

Best Effort from the New American Horror Crowd

Man, You’re Next is so much fun. It’s a slasher movie for people who love slasher movies and I watched it with a grin on my face the entire time.

Best Indie Horror

I have to give it to 2013’s Jug Face, which I watched this year. It’s not fancy, but the movie is a good story about family and one woman’s attempts to break away from (sometimes horrifying) tradition.

Best Foreign Horror

This one was EASY — Rigor Mortis is a quirky and unsettling visual feast starring Chinese ghosts and a vampire with very strict rules.

Liore’s Favorite Movie of 2014

Snowpiercer is directed by Bong Joon-Ho, who also made two of my favorite older movies, The Host and Memories of Murder. It’s a crunchy dystopian vision that is a terrible delight to behold. The cast is damn talented, the setting is grimdark, the plot is both real and a glorious allegory. I love this movie a lot and it was far and away the best thing I saw in 2014.

Cat Context 66: The Second Annual Trivia Showdown!
Dec18

Cat Context 66: The Second Annual Trivia Showdown!

cat context vertical Cat Context 66: The Second Annual Trivia Showdown!

It’s the Second Annual Trivial Showdown!

This year Team Aro (Arolaide and Corr) faced off again Team Elly (Ellyndrial and Mangle) in the most extreme battle of wits ever. Okay not quite but they do answer multiple choice questions, solve anagrams, and encounter the evil and capricious Question Master.. who is Liore. Obviously.

Do you know what animal the Bioware designers used as inspiration for Krogan heads? Which number in the series is Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare? What 2014 game’s title can be made up of the letters “nationalize oil”? Will this episode just be 40 minutes of the Google Hangout’s cricket noise? Listen in to find out!

Also we talk about Dragon Age a bit because Liore and Aro seriously can not stop talking about it.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS EVERYONE!

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If you enjoyed this podcast, please “Like” or “Favorite” it in your media consumption method of choice! It makes us feel nice.

* PROOF that some of the sets of Silent Hill were inspired by a family comedy. I’m talkin’ to you, Aro.
* Free Music Archive page for our theme, in THE crowd by The Years

Lordie Lordie, Look Who’s 40
Dec17

Lordie Lordie, Look Who’s 40

(Note: I swear a lot in this. Sorry.)

Okay look, straight up: turning 40 is actually kind of scary. I’m now officially “old enough to know better” and yet I’m pretty sure I’ve learned very little so far.

liore40 355x500 Lordie Lordie, Look Whos 40

“Wait, I’m HOW old today?!”

The Bad

40 is a little scary because of that whole mortality thing but also kind of uniquely scary for women I think. Society, that nebulous asshole, has been heavily implying for the last 25 years that as a (white?) woman I have two primary purposes in life: be (heterosexually) hot and have babies. Oh sure I could also be smart and kind and talented, and that’s great, but those first two are really supposed to be my main wheelhouse. So then I get to 40 and it’s like, “Welp, I’m really not having kids now (by choice in my case) and I’m not a 19 year old hotbody anymore, so I guess I’ll just go sit outside and wait quietly until I get to 65 and Society welcomes me again in the role of kindly old lady.”

In the past few years I’ve noticed more and more that the female actresses I grew up with have disappeared, replaced by (talented, no slight to them) 20 year old versions who appear next to the same actors from my youth. What happened to Uma Thurman or Winona Ryder or Jennifer Jason Leigh? For the most part actresses over 40 get shunted off to the “uncomfortable crow’s feet” aisle of movie casting while Keanu Reeves and Johnny Depp and Ethan Hawke still show up on posters.

I probably sound angry but I’m honestly not, just more bemused and a little sad. Finding role models of a similar age — even just fashion role models — was easy as a teen and as a young woman, but it seems to be a lot more difficult now in impending middle age. Like, where are the cool 40+ public ladies in gaming? Brenda Romero comes to mind, but otherwise they are few and far between. That has bothered me at times over the past year, honestly, but I decided that the dearth just means that I’ll have to stick around and keep being awesome. :)

The Good

As mentioned already, mortality is scary. That’s natural. But you guys, when I sat down to think about it I am totally amazed at how much has happened to me in just 10 years, since my 30th birthday. I live in a different country, I have a different career, I’m in a new relationship. When I turned 30 I had just shuttered my first blog and didn’t foresee writing for the web again. I was months out from buying this little game called World of Warcraft that would have such an impact on my early 30s in particular.

Mortality is scary but man we pack a lot of living into each day even without thinking about it.

The Lessons

So I lay claim to no wisdom at all, with only the expertise of having survived for 40 years. That being said, here’s some advice that you are free to ignore.

1. You won’t always have certain people in your life, so love them wholeheartedly while you do. And assuming you can and you get along, call your parents.

2. This one goes out to my fellow overweight folks in particular — don’t be hard on yourself about your appearance. I know people can be jerks about it, and we get the short end of the stick sometimes because of it. It sucky suck suck sucks. I know. But don’t internalize it.

For a long time I was extremely hard on myself because how I felt I looked, so pretend for a moment that I do command some level of wisdom at my age and listen to this: fuck that fucking bullshit. No matter what you feel shame about — too fat, too thin, weird butt, wrinkles, bad acne, balding, whatever — seriously, fuck it. Be a friend to yourself. In retrospect it’s such a horrible black hole of time and energy and feelings and it would be so much better to put all of that into creating good things.

Speaking of…

3. Be nice to people. Obvs. A general policy of being kind on both the micro and macro scale makes the world a nicer place and brings a certain amount of inner peace as you get older.

4. Take some risks. Not, like, “should I eat this” risk, but it’s okay to push your comfort zone a bit when life slides an unexpected opportunity your way. In the parlance of our times… YOLO.

The Bucket List

In the next 10 years I want to:

1. Write a book
2. Travel to Southeast Asia
3. Get a dog and a tattoo
4. Make a perfect onion ring
5. Run a 5k (halfway there!)
6. Finish this ridiculous Shaun of the Dead embroidery sampler that I’ve been working on forever
7. Try to care less about whether people like me or not

As it turns out, in two days Herding Cats will turn 6. That’s neat. Thanks to everyone for reading the blog and listening to the podcast and giving me a venue for the occasional rant. Be excellent to each other! Seriously!

Board Game Review: Eldritch Horror
Dec16

Board Game Review: Eldritch Horror

One of the many reasons I decided to relocate recently was that I know more people in Seattle than in Vancouver, and more importantly I know more nerds here. And what do you do with a bunch of nerds on a Friday night? Why board games, of course. In this specific case: Eldritch Horror.

Eldritch Horror was designed to be a shorter, easier version of the game Arkham Horror. Both are published by Fantasy Flight Games, and although I haven’t played Arkham I was assured by experienced players that it’s both super fun and suuuuuuper complicated.

I found this claim to be slightly concerning once we started setting up Eldritch Horror, because it’s certainly no slouch as far as moving bits goes. There’s a large board, about 8 player cards and matching pieces, five different little containers of tokens, and roughly a half dozen separate decks of cards. Arkham Horror takes place entirely in the infamous Arkham Asylum, while Eldritch Horror is set in the world at large. The board covers a map of Earth with a few major cities highlighted and the occasional connecting boat or rail route. There’s a bank on the board that sells a series of artifacts, and a doomsday timer that counts down until the end of the world (and the game).

eldritchhorrorboard 281x500 Board Game Review: Eldritch Horror

Basically what I’m saying is that you may want an experienced hand to help you set up the board the first time. But do not be intimidated by the many, many, many game elements! Once you get going, the it all makes a lot of sense.

At the beginning of the game each player will pick a pre-designed character who comes with special actions. In my case I went with Lily Chen, the martial arts expert who was raised by prophetic monks to one day fight Evil. But don’t get too attached — chances are good that your character will die or go insane and you’ll have to leave them behind and pick up someone new.

charactercard 500x281 Board Game Review: Eldritch Horror

Each round of the game consists of an action phase where each person moves their character, and then a combat phase where you do any fighting in your area. After that it’s essnetially Evil’s turn, which can include spawning more monsters, causing strange phenomena that affect players, or dropping curses.

The overall goal of the game is to solve a specified number of “mystery” cards, each of which give tasks such as “close 3 portals”. To accomplish that players move around the board and complete challenges to collect clues, improve stats, earn spells and artifacts, and kill monsters. Eldritch Horror is co-operative, and some characters have the ability to share resources or otherwise assist their fellow apocalypse-fighters.

My group consisted of half newbies and half experienced players, and while we had a great time we were officially TERRIBLE at saving the world. We didn’t complete a single mystery card in about 90 minutes of play! What made the game fun despite our being awful at it (and the company of course) was the story on each card that (of course) we read aloud to the table. At one point my character gained a bonus because she discovered an alien bug in her brain (!) and therefore learned something mysterious about the universe. Meanwhile a fellow on the other side of the table got on the wrong side of a comet and as a result unexpectedly devoured the character next to him. Oopsie!

My first impression of Eldritch Horror is that it was great fun and definitely something I’d play again. You need some effort for the set-up, and it took a little concentration to understand how the game plays, but the story bits are great and the potential for clever moves and smart plays is clear. Recommended!

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