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Christmas 2018

The Season of Perpetual Food

I have a mixed history with Christmas. I need my alone time and the holidays are filled with people and activities and socializing and more people and travel. Thankfully, this year the travel was done pre-Christmas so I didn’t have to go anywhere more than a few miles to my sister-in-law for the morning to view the ceremonial small child unwrapping presents.

Which we did and had am excellent breakfast there as we played Headbanz. It worked pretty well and showed how hard some of us guessed at very easy items. The premise of the game is you put a card on your head which you can’t see and ask yes/no questions to figure out what it is.

I learned that I overthink the answers and need to keep it to simple things. Example cards were Giraffe, Train and Sandwich.

I struggled mightily with butterfly after determining it had wings and flew, but was not a bird or a bat, or Fly (another card we’d seen earlier).

The main event is of course, the Christmas Dinner. This year we hosted and my wife worked up the menu including a broccoli salad (very fresh and not filled with mayo), roasted potatoes (because the Big Potato mandates their inclusion at every holiday meal) spinach dip with fresh veggies in a sourdough loaf bowl (because you need fuel to prepare the rest of the meal).

The main course would be a double-header of grilled salmon and grilled turkey legs.Grilled SalmonGrilled Turkey Legs

It was my second time grilling turkey legs and my first time grilling salmon. I largely winged the salmon and focused on not over-cooking it. My key to any properly cooked meat is to remove it from the grill about 10 degrees before it hits the recommended temperature. It’s still going to cook inside and instead of dry, tough meat, you have a juicy, moist meal to enjoy.

We set the table. Complete with plants and a small child.

Christmas dinner set at the table with my nephew present.
Christmas dinner set at the table with my nephew present.

Christmas was a success. We sat in front of the fire and played some more Headbanz and visited as adults who have eaten too many delicious foods do on holidays.

Claw Machines

I’ve noticed this with newer claw machines. I was once good at claw machines. I would walk out of an arcade with four or five stuffed animals because I knew the two most common tricks.

The first trick was to see how far forward and back the claw would actually reach. Many machines owners would group animals at the very front and back of the machine, beyond where the claw would be able to reach. The same goes for the claw machines in a row, where the inside walls are short so prizes can sometimes fall out of the claw and between the machines. These machines also grouped prized next to those middle walls where the claw could not reach them. So a well-stocked machine would actually have very little available to win.

The second trick was to pack the stuffed animals in so tightly, the claw would not be able to grab anything at all. It would descend on to a pile of stuffing and lay there uselessly grasping at air, then retract with a lot of nothing. I would walk over to a claw machine and see if anything was actually available to win. A prize that was previously almost-won and dropped on the pile was a good choice. So were slender animals with bodies the claw could easily grab. I was even lucky enough to grab a prize by its tag once.

Even though I still enjoy claw machines, I don’t play them nearly as often because I’ve seen where they simply don’t try to grab the prize. I didn’t know it was all controlled by the machine, but it does not surprise me. The claw that simply doesn’t grab is the biggest letdown because no amount of skill will lead to a win. I might as well hand two quarters to the next child I pass, my return will be just as good.

No Couch Co-Op

With the rise of internet-enabled gaming (specifically Xbox Live for me). There is a lack of “couch co-op”. That is, co-op gaming where both players are sharing a couch. I love to play Destiny because of its cooperative gameplay. While it’s too redundant for my wife to play, she’d love to play things too. But the only couch co-op things that do co-op well are shooters like Halo and Call of Duty. And again, without a storyline, they’re not going to hold her attention.

Destiny Confessions

We looked over a number of Xbox One games this weekend and found some stellar-looking title such as Never Alone and Child of Light. But in reading reviews, the co-op is either a pain to deal with or relegates the second player to a minor role in the overall game.

That’s disappointing. We are two grown adults who want to play something together. And it’s getting harder and harder to find games that hold our attention. We enjoyed Fable III, even though it had its issues with the co-op system mostly around camera angles and the relegation of player 2 to a supporting role. Which I was fine with, but it was still disappointing.

There are so many games which don’t even offer the option for co-op at all. Online or local. But it’s even harder to find anything with a story line that has a good cooperative experience. There are a number of games which offer co-op modes. Such as a survival mode, or something tacked onto the game. Again, this is fine for a few playthroughs but eventually becomes tedious and repetitive.

One of the best co-op games to my mind was Chrono Trigger, which I played with my brother on the SNES growing up. We each had a character to play. We were both fully invested in the story. We both had characters we could upgrade, buy new weapons for and customize to our liking. Neither of us was sentenced to sitting and watch the other person play, only helping in minor ways.

It’s maddening when browsing Xbox online to try to find games because it doesn’t list whether a game is multi-player or not. The Xbox itself shows whether a game is single player only or provides co-op either through Xbox Live or locally. The web site doesn’t offer any of that information. As a result, I usually go to Cooptimus and get a list of their games since they’re focused on the co-op experiences.

I’ve found a couple of possibilities and will report back once we get a chance to play them. But it’s getting harder and harder to find something to play for two adults. Especially when we recently picked up a few tabletop games that we’ve had a blast with.

Haikus

After seeing the swarm of pixel people invading Twitter, I found the source and tried out Eightbit. I decided since it already checked into Foursquare I would play a game with it and would write a haiku to go with each check-in. I had a lot of fun with it for a while and have since removed the Eightbit web link since I don’t see any point in continuing to use it. It did offer some amusement trying to compose a haiku for each place I went. Here are a sampling of the ones I wrote.

Large man seeks work pants
Casual man reserved
Winning comes on sale

Watching Annie Shop
Shoes to the horizon line
Will they have The Pair?

Piles of laptops
Messily adorn my desk
Agree to the terms

Sitting on a bench
Waiting for the big blue bus
Will it beat the rain?

A pharmacy run
Another long wait for pills
No babies for us

Tiny droplets dance
Careening beneath my feet
Foot fatality

iPad Not Top News
Earthquake Tsunami Japan
Thoughts and Cash Eastward

Mountains of sweet cake
Enormous menu chock full
Worth the wait to dine

Secret travel line
Speeding silently beneath
Masses overhead

Waited for a bus
Stranded when it deserted
All daily riders

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