it's 2/2, twintails day. by far the cutest hairstyle, love the damn things. anyways i just remembered like i do every couple months that i have a bunch of loose, photocopied reference sheets from the cult classic anime oretwi (俺、ツインテールになります。) buried in the bottom of a drawer, which i bought for 2000 yen at mandarake a few years back. i'm not sure if these are available anywhere on the internet, i haven't seen them myself but i haven't looked either. anyways i scanned a couple sheets of aika today just to celebrate, maybe eventually i'll scan them all or at least put all these sheets into a binder or something. also this is a good test to see if the fixes i made to the blog page make pictures show up properly now, since i didn't have any to upload before.
an html element i'm very fond of is the dl description list element, which i use on quite a few pages "merely to create indentation" in exactly the manner you are warned not to do in the mdn web docs. by my reckoning there is only one place where i've used the dl element appropriately. finding that dl element would probably be good for a scavenger hunt on my site if i ever decide to do one. anyway, up until now, the blog page was also based off a dl element, but no longer. why the capitulation? well, first off, i noticed that the page was starting to get excessively long, and due for some trimming in one way or another.
the main reason, though, was that i noticed that for whatever reason, certain pictures i'd insert into blog posts would end up puny no matter how i put them in. this was concerning because i wanted to put some pictures of art i'd seen into a blog post, and obviously that wouldn't do. i suspected it had to do with everything being in a dl tag, and so i decided to finally ditch it.
in retrospect i am pretty sure the picture punification was not because of the dl tag at all, but either way it is fixed now. also i accidentally deleted the pictures i wanted to post in the first place. oops. in other news i messed around and made some margins bigger so hopefully writing on the site is a lot more readable now.
an exhausting day: a one hour flight that felt three times longer, a train ride the same length, and not a crumb to eat. this was all on top of having not slept nearly long enough to recover from how hard i had worked the day before. and so i ended up shambling the darkened streets looking for somewhere to dine.
i soon stumbled upon someplace still open, beaming soft beckoning light to the sidewalk. it looked brand new, it certainly hadn't been around last time i had been around these parts. it was KYURAMEN. idly i thought about how phantom places of respite waylaying wearly lost travelers is an extremely common theme in fairy tales and a few goosebumps books. the nature of the establishment recalled to me miyazawa kenji's tale the restaurant of many orders (注文の多い料理店) in particular. but i went in anyway.
the entire was very chic, heavily japanese-inspired. wood slats, red lanterns, paper screens, and one wall covered in those small wooden cards with stuff written on them that you see at shrines. the vaguely-asian but certainly not japanese host led me into a private booth sealed off with a curtain door and paper walls. they were already going quite hard with their interior design alone.
the real confusion began when i started to inspect the menu, a rather thick, spiral-bound affair. the first five or so pages were dedicated to a hagiography of the restaurant's food, as if i still needed more convincing to actually eat something in the restaurant after being seated and opening the menu. i didn't read the text very closely but i did notice it had a stilting quality, like it had been written by a foreigner. mostly this came through in the word choice and awkward commas placed like, this. curiously, they had very little to say about the restaurants origins, which is the one thing i really wanted to know. there was only a vague paragraph referencing "The Founder" as if he was a mythical figure or a cult leader. the only thing i gleaned was that he was not japanese, since he reportedly visited japan many times to "study ramen".
the next pages, as one might expect, exhibited the ramen offerings. they did so rather gratuitously, taking up a full two page spread just for three menu items. the ramen itself wasn't unusual, but then i noticed you could upgrade any of them to a "combo" including a pork bao bun and thai ice tea. excuse me? then, on the next page, i saw it: the KYUBURGER. to go between two disc-shaped buns made from rice, you could choose from a variety of exotic meats (teriyaki beef, pork belly, soft-shell crab, eel). to drink? thai ice tea, of course. and on the side? obviously salt and pepper crispy corn... wait WHAT???
i was absolutely flabbergasted. where had i stumbled into? in any case what i had to do was obvious: i had to get a kyuburger. i pressed the button to summon the waiter for my order. did i forget to mention that? they had a button on the wall for calling the waiters. i had seen it a few times in japan but i had yet to see anywhere courageous enough to deploy it stateside, even in aggressively japanese restaurants. a waiter appeared almost instantly and took my order of a pork belly rice burger, with crispy corn and thai ice tea.
ruthlessly efficient, the food appeared in barely five minutes. first one waiter dropped off the crispy corn, then right aftwerwards a different one came in with the thai ice thai flanked by another dropping off the rice burger itself. i noticed that all seemed to be wearing subtle earpieces.
so here it was, crispy corn thai ice tea and the rice burger. i tried to pick up the burger but it was still a bit too hot to handle. instead, i munched on the corn, the taste of which i can only describe as being "fried bits". it was inoffensive however not particularly compelling, i do not think i would get it again. where did they even pick up some an unusual dish? i don't think i've ever seen it anywhere else before, and i can't really think of any ethnic cuisine to which it might belong. there was no question, though, of where the thai ice tea originated, which was quite good although that might just be the sugar talking.
then, the piece de resistance, the burger. i attacked it again with my bare hands but the fragile rice buns resisted the attack. you would think that they'd compact them somehow to make them more sturdy but no, they are just regular rice grains held together in that shape by pure stickiness. this is probably why they provided what appeared to be a plastic knife and fork behind the burger, which i picked up for my next assault. in fact they were quite solid and certainly not made of plastic. i also noticed that they were oddly elongated. the burger yielded to them easily and i have to admit it tasted pretty good. i guess you can't go all that wrong with pork belly and mayo, though there was an issue where the seaweed garnish would get stuck to the rice and swept up for the ride, spoiling the flavor and texture somewhat. overall i do not think the structure of the dish was ideal, the top rice patty especially felt like it kept getting in the way. if you have to eat it with a knife and a fork anyway then might as well ditch the whole burger pretense and make it more like an eggs benedict, with a single rice patty on the bottom topped with meat and sauce.
i said before that the interior vibe was immaculate, but it was severely lacking in one crucial aspect: the background music in the restaurant accompanying my meal was some of the most painfully generic pop music i have ever heard. i can't believe they dropped the ball this hard when the restaurant is desperately calling for its own idiosyncratic background soundtrack, like when muji had haruomi hosono compose "watering a flower" for their stores. the only relief was the sound of two employees just out of sight beyond the walls of the private booth cleaning the floor, rhythmically pouring some water from an old five gallon soy sauce bucket and then scratchily spreading it around the wooden floor with brooms.
when i was done eating, i summoned the waiter again with the button, and they promptly appeared with a tablet with which i settled the bill. i exited the restaurant, returned to the cold dark sidewalks. despite eating, i was still in a bit of a fatigued daze, if not even deeper in thanks to the surreal meal i had just experienced. was any of that real? kyuramen must be one of those places that only appears if you are completely out of it. i wouldn't be surprised if i couldn't find it again the next day. or, i do find it and there's nothing bizarre about it at all, it is a completely ordinary ramen joint.
when i boarded the plane and sat down at my seat, i spotted an endangered species: an inflight magazine. once upon a time there were thriving ecosystems in seatback pockets, but now on nearly every airline they have become barren wastelands containing only generic safety cards and maybe a credit card ad. covid was the last straw for many of the survivors, done in not only by the dramatic decrease in passengers but also the fact that they represented yet another potential transmission vector.
united's inflight magazine "hemispheres" seems to be the sole survivor. wondering how they could have possibly pulled it off, i opened it up and set my own (cerebral) hemispheres to work on the contents. my sample size expanded a bit on the next flight as well, which was still carrying the hopelessly-outdated december 2022 issue (yes, it's published monthly!). here are my ecological findings:
there is a small group of apparently fiercely loyal advertisers who have probably been running ads in hemispheres for well over a decade. i know this because i vividly recall seeing basically these same ads while horribly bored and thumbing through as a kid. one of them is this 4 page section entitled "THE BEST DOCTORS IN AMERICA", memorable because each page always featured a single stern, serious man posing confidently in a crisp suit astride a tasteful deep blue background. most of them have absurdly specific specialties or are plastic surgeons, and all are located in hip metropolitan areas. all of this i remember noticing as a kid, but what i didn't notice was the small text above "THE BEST DOCTORS IN AMERICA" which says "these doctors are among". maybe it actually wasn't always there and they had to add it after some lawsuit or complaint. then there was the text underneath that said they were "..selected by the nation's leading providers of information on top doctors". it is probably one of the most bizarre niche ads i've ever seen.
another interesting ad niche is "executive/professional matchmaking" services. there were ads for three separate ones and i don't think i've ever seen an ad for this kind of thing anywhere else. they were in close proximity to several ads for luxury condos "starting at $1.5 million", or an investment opportunity in a portfolio of "lucrative" real estate like the hotel that served as the model for the overlook hotel in the shining (minimum investment: $50,000). keep in mind this is the magazine that they put at every seat in the plane.
also advertised: an evening with dr. zahi hawass "the world's most famous archeologist" (archeology must be doing pretty poorly lately because i have not heard of him). for a price, he will reveal to attendees of his lecture tour the SECRETS of ancient egypt. finally, near the back of the magazine was a humble, poorly-designed ad for "PLASTIC INJECTION MOLDING" from a random company in michigan "seeking new projects".
i suppose then there's the actual "articles" to consider. maybe this is how they pulled it off, because most of them sound like ad copy or at the very least contain paid promotion. a short piece about a roadtrip goes suspiciously in-depth about the specific model of car used, for example. there is a whole section near the back that is just a grid of products that look like they belong on "shark tank". examples: "superfoods for dogs" and "portable blender". in the december issue it was called the holiday gift guide, in the january one, "new year, new you". i actually quite enjoyed that particular section because it reminded me of the dearly departed seatback skymall magazine, with its quirky selection of dubious (but amusing) domestic gadgetry served up by the likes of hammacher schlammer or however the heck it was spelled.
each issue seems to have two headline articles: "3 Perfect Days" done for some city, and then an interview with a B+ list celebrity. neither are blatantly advertisements. there's also always a "letter from the CEO of united" (which i'm sure he never actually writes) but those are pretty much ads for united. i was unable to read any significant portion of either of the "3 Perfect Days" articles because they were simply too nauseating. they were apparently written by different authors but never in a million years could you tell. the celebrity interview in the january issue was the guy who voiced the meerkat in the lion king. why would he possibly stoop so low as to appear in hemispheres? well, it appeared he was doing it to promote some new film project. advertising strikes again.
the only other takeaways from the articles: apparently "sober bars" are A Thing now, and there was also this incredible turn of phrase in one article: "...a forgotten but known genius." i suspect that the reason hemispheres is still around is that their ad sales team is the best in the business, and they have a willingness to turn pretty much the entire magazine into advertising. at least they still have the route map in the back with all the curvy lines connecting cities although even that part has been neutered. now you only curvy lines for the sparse international destinations, and they were very faint. i wonder what the atmosphere must be like working in the hemispheres office right now. they are nearly the last in their niche, waning industry. are they making enough money that they feel like they're off the chopping block, or does it feel like they have the sword of damocles looming over them?
the recent new year's er... festivities are still fresh in my head, which has got me thinking about one of my pet lit crit theories again. my proposition is that the most literary drug is alcohol, based off my observation that it is really hard to sift through the wikipedia articles of acclaimed writers without constantly tripping over the word "alcoholism"the second most literary drug, in my opinion, is opium. see, for example, de quincey or coleridge. it is really unfortunate that opium has been completely supplanted by its upstart, far too potent descendants. the dream of sitting back on a winter night in a big comfy easy chair beside the roaring fireplace and sipping some opium tea before bed is dead.. maybe this is just because of the sorts of books i read, after all i started my literary journey many years ago with infinite jest, basically half of which is about rehab/alchoholics anonymous and almost certainly based on personal experience.
i've shopped this theory around several times, unfortunately not really to anybody who's done as much reading as i have. one stoner of course countered with cannabis, a proposal i felt was laughable when i considered the creative outputs (or frankly any outputs) of the stoners i've known. mostly their knowledge and abilities begin and end with encylopedic knowledge of maurijuana strains and products, along with a series of increasingly byzantine procedures for consuming them in the highest dosages possible. anyways, as an example, this stoner offered up jack kerouac who apparently spoke fondly of smoking weed in his most well-known work on the road. i'd heard of kerouac but i wasn't really familiar with him or his work, so i moseyed down to wikipedia to see if this claim held up. and what should i find in the last paragraph of the introduction but this sentence: "In 1969, at the age of 47, Kerouac died from an abdominal hemorrhage caused by a lifetime of heavy drinking." case closed: kerouac was not a stoner, he was an alcoholic who dabbled in ganja on the side. in fact i had just gained a new alcoholic writer to support my theory.
i also submitted my theory to one of my far-better-read friends, although to be fair he probably takes too many book recommendations from me to be an unbiased source. he is a big stephen king guy, so he floated cocaine as a possibility. king famously spent most of the eighties on an extended cocaine bender, during which he wrote many of his most popular books, some of which he doesn't even remember writing. i heard an apocryphal story one time about king reading a book one time and feeling the oddest sense of deja vu, then turning to look at the title page to see if he had already read it only to discover that he had written the book. at the time i refuted my friend's claim by declaring that stephen king writes genre fiction not literature (which escalated into a wonderful argument), but i did some more research just now and it would seem that king originally took up cocaine to try and quit drinking, then ended up doing both in copious amounts during his decade-long bender. another win for team alcohol? at the very least it's seeming like a common denominator.
anyways, last night i sat down with a glass of wine to watch some bocchi the rock!. i was thinking about getting another glass once i finished it off but then i watched episode 6, in which bocchi encounters an alcoholic bass guitarist on the street. she tries to explain it but bocchi only feels pity. then she says bocchi looks like the type who would get really into alcohol. it occured to me that they do make a drug for social anxiety, it's called alcohol. but the scene that follows in which bocchi imagines her potential "drowning in alcohol" future is just her alone in her room amidst hundreds of empty strong zero cans. i did not get another glass of wine afterwards.
the end of the year, a natural time for retrospection. fortunately it's easy these days to avoid any particularly deep retrospective introspection because every app that keeps data on you (which is all of them, more or less) now spits out a bunch of numbers to "sum up" your year (whether or not they all add up to one complete year is left as an exercise to the reader). you can compare with others and then move right along to racking them up for next year. this year i see that even steam has joined in, when i saw people posting these steam replay things and competing to see who had the biggest numbers. fools, i thought as i posted mine in response and utterly blew them out of the water, this is one of those games in which you win if you have the lowest number, like golf. everyone kneeled out of respect and deemed me the king of gamers.
it wasn't too long ago that my assured victory this year would have been completely unthinkable. i would like to ascribe it to my indomitable will, courage, etc. etc. but i can't help but wonder if i just got lucky, or if i simply grew up. maybe i shouldn't feel so smug and superior about my stats, the exact thing i just dunked on people for doing in the last paragraph. maybe i should aim to be like the guy who got the message "Sorry, this account does not have any playtime this year". then again, perfect abstinence wouldn't be very suboptimal, so i think i am doing just fine.
i also think it is funny that the steam replay stats are all in percentages. i feel like this was a deliberate design decision they made, for fear that if they put in some people's actual gameplay numbers they would be horrified and perhaps take it as some sort of wake-up call. i suppose they do not realize just how far gone some gamers are.
i’ve been intending to document my considerable canned coffee can collection for a while now. it would be an excellent comfy indoor winter project, if it wasn’t for the fact that the dismal seasonal sunlight and sickly indoor lights make for poor photographs. then, i remembered some old guides i had seen about how to make a diy lightbox out of an old cardboard box.
i discussed the idea earlier with a friend who knows marginally more about photography and he said to just buy a cheap lightbox off amazon, where there are plenty available under those nauseating nonsense generic brand names used by the countless chinese sellers that seem to be rapidly taking over the platform. instead, i continued undeterred, and immediately ran into difficulties.
first off: the tissue issue. apparently you need some kind of thin transparent paper to diffuse the light into the box, like tissue paper. i really didn’t feel like going all the way out to some art store just for one thing, so i was ready to give up right then and there until it occurred to me, if it’s called TISSUE paper then maybe i can just use some regular tissues, like kleenexes. but first i had to test it with my light source, which i still had not found. every guide recommended lamps, bright white ones especially, however i went through the whole house and somehow found not one single usable lamp. i was ready to call it yet again, before remembering the extremely bright flashlight my mom had purchased to hunt for backyard burglars. i tested shining it through a kleenex and it seemed to work pretty well, so i pretty much had everything i needed to get to work.
the lightbox guides i found were originally intended for taking pictures of figures and i happen to have a figure holding a canned coffee, so i also took this photowhen it was all done, it looked pretty good. shining the flashlight through the tissue at the top really did light up the inside of the box with a soft, smooth, even white light. then i realized it would be very difficult to hold the flashlight in place above the box while also working the camera in front of the box to take pictures. i also couldn’t rest the flashlight on anything, because the bulb had to be facing down unobstructed. the obvious solution was to hang it from something, namely the clothes-hanging rod in my closet. naturally i didn’t have any string or rope, but i was really getting into the swing of improvising by this point, so before long i had tied the flashlight up with an old ethernet cord i had on hand.
from the outside the whole setup looks outrageously janky, and i certainly had my doubts going in. then i got the camera out and started using it, and it was almost exactly what i had originally wanted: a nice little studio in which i could take clean crisp coffee can pictures. truly this is the essence of suboptimalism.
i saw blue skies and the sun again. turns out they were up there all along, all i had to do was take a plane. the clouds are just a barrier, bisecting the world. it's difficult to think of them as a true physical barrier since you can pass through them so effortlessly, so perhaps they're more of a mental or spiritual one. on our side is the ground, the gray, the gloom, constriction, the finite. on the other is the light, the heavens, the expanse, the infinite.
looking up from the ground, the clouds appear gray, but looking down from the window of the plane, they look like white. the clouds cover shrouds the surface uniformly like water, low enough though that some of the highest mountain peaks and ridges are still visible, poking out like islands. this is what the world would look like if the oceans suddenly rose a couple thousand feet, it occurs to me.
after the magnificent orange-blue gradient from the sunset finally fades to black, i look away from the window and have a peek at my neighbors. they are texting or using tiktok. once upon a time, being in flight was a kind of meditative interstitial space where you would be completely disconnected from the world for a time. you were quite literally above it all.
now, the barriers between the domains are rapidly eroding. it started with those telephone headsets you'd sometimes find in the back of middle seats, however the boundary was restored after they were removed due to being too expensive and unpopular. afterwards came the era of screens in the backs of seats, which sometimes offered live tv broadcasts if you swiped your credit card. then after that slow and expensive inflight wifi eventually arrived, mostly peddled by this company called "gogo" and targeted towards business travellers. i mistakenly believed things were still at that stage, but just recently i noticed that the price of wifi has dropped to just $8 on most airlines, a price reasonable enough that even i might go for it without work to do or an expense account. despite this, i do not partake, and keep the old ways alive by devoting my time inflight to reading books, distracted only by a guy sitting near me loudly discussing with his neighbor burning man and how he is using the money he made from getting in on bitcoin early to retire and focus on onewheels.
i am astonished when the artsy-looking girl next to me puts down her phone, reaches into her bag, and of all things pulls out a DS lite with a gameboy advance cartridge shoved in the front. it is pokemon firered. she is trying to catch moltres, soft-resetting when she fails. every time she tosses a pokeball, she angles the DS sideways so that she can spam the A button with all her might. i know a thing or two about this, i have been down this path before. i consider letting her know that smashing A while the pokeball shakes to improve catch rate is just an urban legend and doesn't actually work, but i refrain. after only a few tries, she gives up and goes back to her phone.
i decide to go to the flight attendants at the back of the plane and see if i can convince them to give me some alcohol for free, since earlier i moved to a middle seat to accommodate a lady with young twins who failed to book seats next to each other. they are always willing to go out on a limb for you if you save them from a potential incident. sure enough, the flight attendant reaches back into the cart and hands me not one but two little bottles of hazelnut coffee vodka. i stay behind and make a little bittle of conversation, accusing distant international rival air carrier lufthansa of some vague past seating-related impropriety. they haven't flown anywhere near here in at least a decade. sensible chuckles are had all around and i feel safe to return to my seat. the volume of vodka looks somewhat intimidating after i pour it all into a cup with ice, but the flavor is strong and the alcohol content is weak. what a great flight, i think after i finish it all.
it's very fitting that december started off with some light snow. it doesn't snow that often here so it's really something special, especially because after a snow is one of the only times you can see blue skies this time of year. when it snows it's as if the clouds throw themselves on the ground and leave holes in the otherwise perpetually overcast sky. because of the rarity everyone always gets caught unprepared, like me living out in the outrageously hilly outskirts of town with tires so bald they're off the norwood scale. but it was a light snow so by the late afternoon everything looked pretty much navigable again thanks to melting and other cars clearing the way with the tracks. i watched the progress anxiously as today was the appointed day of one of my biweekly arcade visits (i will let the reader choose if by this i mean "twice a week" or "once every two weeks") which i absolutely had to go through with. as i got on the road, i wondered what i was even worried about because by that point it was just a little bit damp.
everything was just as i had feared on the return trip several hours later though, when all the water on the road had time to freeze in the cold darkness. on even tiny inclines i watched cars in front of me slide around like butter in a hot pan, and then even felt myself lose control at several points. that was on the flat parts, too. then came the first big hill: as i crawled up, i saw a line of headlights coming down, spaced out like they were social distancing, creeping along at under half the speed limit. what a difference compared to how people normally drive down that hill. then i took the turn, and faced the steepest hill. the burly car in front of me gingerly ascended, sliding to and fro across the width of the road. i decided i was not about that life and parked the car at the bottom of the hill.
from there i walked the remaining mile home, which took a lot longer than usual because the route was both dark and extremely treacherous since there was also ice on the sidewalk. i was also wearing shorts but i didn't really mind. it felt eerily quiet without any cars out driving or people around. the whiteness of the snow covering everything contrasting with the dark somehow adds to the effect. things didn't feel dead, just subdued, hibernating. theoretically people were all still out there cocooned in the houses around me, but this was only evident to me from the gentle hum of heating units or the dim flickering glow of the television screen in a window. somehow i made it home without slipping or getting hypothermia.
things seemed lined up for a quiet thanksgiving this year since i am at my mom's. i thought it would be just me and her since my brother has been quite reclusive lately, never speaking, only coming out of his room in a massive hoodie to smoke. i suppose his bipolarity cycles with the seasons. but suddenly, starting earlier this week, it's like he's been rebooting. he was always really into food, cut his teeth on endless hours of the food network as a kid, and was especially into gourmet, michelin guide-type food. on tuesday, a big box marked "KEEP FROZEN" was delivered to the house, filled with all the gourmet essentials: foie gras, caviar, a truffle, fancy french butter with seals of authenticity all over it. i don't even want to know how much it all must've cost. he started appearing in the kitchen more often and holding normal conversations. then, on thursday he came down at noon and pretty much commandeered the entire kitchen for close to six straight hours. it was an absolute frenzy, almost like he was manic again. every surface and appliance seemed like it was being used for something.
around six or seven things started coming together on the dining room table, his special fancy seashell plates all laid out with small portions of carefully plated food. it really did look like part of the tasting menu at a gourmet restaurant. but it was also clear from the looks (and later, the taste) that it was all just a bit off, like the hotel room at the end of 2001: a space odyssey. there were a lot of really strange choices, like one dish that was half a mcdonald's-type oval hash brown (there were a ton in the freezer because i eat them for breakfast) with potato salad and then topped with... caviar of all things. some were a bit too rich in flavor because he overused some of the ingredients like foie gras: one dish was mashed potatoes made with foie gras, with foie gras gravy, and foie gras crumbles on top. however i must admit the main dish of duck breast with a cherry reduction sauce and mashed potatoes was actually quite good. really he might do quite well for himself if he practiced more, but even though it's one of his big interests he rarely actually cooks, just watches people do it on youtube and stuff.
it tasted mostly like hash brown
how do i know so much about the flavor? well, that's because he didn't even end up eating most of it. i don't know what happened, maybe he was just too tired or had no appetite for some other reason, but after working hard for seven hours to get it onto the plate, i saw him take a few puffs of weed from a vape and then sit down at the table lethargically. he nibbled on all the dishes, commented on them, and then declared in a slow and somewhat fatigued manner that he was already full before going back to his room. i don't know if it was the weed or if he was just exhausted from putting in so much effort when he usually does nothing all day. but before he went, i asked if i could have some of the leftovers because i was really curious. i'm glad he said yes because it's not every day you get to have caviar on top of a hash brown, after all.
for many years i used to play team fortress 2 (tf2). my feelings regarding it are complicated. i definitely spent too much time playing it, but i cannot deny that it had incredible gameplay and a wicked sense of humor for what it was. however it's also the game that pioneered the lootbox/microtransaction monetization scheme that's eating much of the industry alive. this might not be so bad except for the fact that in terms of major updates, the game has basically been abandoned for years. when i quit about 3 years ago, updates had already nearly ground to a halt. a major update would come out about once a year, but they started feeling increasingly lazy and cashgrabby, mostly devolving into packaging up and selling a bunch of "community-created" content. there was also a whole thing where they basically just copied the cs:go "weapon skin" and "battle pass" mechanics into the game, because god knows people needed another paid grind event and more things with different rarity levels to roll and lust for.
despite their best efforts, i never put much money into the game. i guess i have my dad to thank/blame for this, as he was a legendary cheapskate who never ceased pointing out everything that he thought was overpriced or a a scam when i was a kid. i still never play crane games or order soda at restaurants. the one thing i did go in for was the battle passes because they seemed like an alright deal. they'd make the game more interesting with missions and you'd get a decent amount of item rewards. however, you'd also get exclusive crates (loot boxes) from them, which was just great since i always love it when you spend money to get the privilege of being able to spend money on something else. as a result, i'd always let all the crates from battle passes gather dust in the depths of my inventory, unopened.
the other day, i logged into my steam account for probably the first time in two years or so. i was curious, so i had a look at how tf2 is going along without actually playing it. i wasn't that surprised to find out there hadsn't been a single major update since i quit three years ago. it seems the extent of valve's involvement since then has been minor maintenance fixes and popping up every six months or so to crate some more community-created cosmetics for consumption.
what did shock me, though, is that somehow there are still tons of people playing tf2! when i checked steam's stats page, it was the fifth most played game, with over 80,000 players. i don't know if there's a livelier dead game out there. apparently earlier this year they even held a massive protest to try and convince valve to start caring about the game and make some new updates, or at the very least fix the major botting/hacking problem. imagine explaining that to gandhi or mlk.
i have to admit, though, now that i think about it i suppose i can't entirely blame valve for abandoning the game, it's not like they’re under any obligation to keep updating it with major content updates forever. it's free to play, there is more than enough content now to keep people playing for hundreds if not thousands of hours, and the game is now FIFTEEN years old with regular bug fixes and plenty of official servers still running. they've stepped away about as well as any developer has stepped away. even so, a game that's still running but that the developer seems to have given up acquires a kind of strange, dispirited "god is dead" atmosphere to playing it.
next, i peeped some historical player charts on steamcharts.com, and was even more dumbfounded to discover that there are actually more people playing tf2 now than when i quit. in 2019 average player counts hovered around 40-50k, and so far in 2022 they've been between 70-100k. absolutely baffling. how are new players even finding out about it? nobody streams tf2 and the esports scene has been dead in the water, floundering for years. are new players dusting off inscriptions of the tf2 logo in ancient tombs and finding the game after a quest to discover the symbol's origin? who knows. maybe the whole thing is still going off of pure inertia, an endless cycle of old players picking it back up for a bit before quitting again, introducing a few friends to it at the same time. or perhaps something exciting is going on in the community other than "notice us valve" protests that i'm unaware of? or maybe the player count is mostly bots, which were a huge problem when i quit.
then, i was also astonished to discover that all those useless crates from ancient battle passes i'd been hoarding are now worth a decent chunk of change. i kept them around initially because it seemed likely they'd go up in value. after all, their supply is limited and always going down as people open them, but i didn't expect them to go up this much.
a bunch of crates that had literally been dime a dozen when i got them 6-7 years ago as part of some campaign, that were still only worth a quarter each or so when i quit, were now like $5-$7 apiece. my total inventory value around when i quit was just shy of $100, and now it was well over $500. at one point earlier this year it had even been worth close to $700! according to my calculations, over three years my tf2 backpack value is up 485%. over the same period, the S&P 500 is up only 33%. that's one way to beat the stock market i guess.
the issue with my magnificent tf2 crate investment returns is that they're somewhat hard to turn into cold hard cash, unlike real stonks. it's easy to "sell" them on the steam community market, however the payouts are only in steam wallet funds. steam wallet funds are only marginally better than most fake video game money in that you can use them to buy video games themselves. overall i find the whole situation beautifully ironic. i have accidentally made a petty fortune through my past gaming efforts which can pretty much only be used to buy more video games, but i don't even really play video games anymore. such is life.
recently the thought fields have been relatively barren, even after i let them lie fallow for a week or so. usually that's long enough to restore their vitality, but apparently not so this time around. maybe it's because of the impending winter season, who knows. the only writing ideas i've had lately are short, scattered, often somewhat autobiographical or based off something i've encountered recently. in short, they feel a lot like what you might call "blog posts", which is how i chose to classify that thing i wrote last week about breaking my phone(s).
as a result, i've decided to restart the blog on this page as a place for that sort of writing. my last attempt here failed because it occupied a kind of awkward region somewhere in between "blog" and "journal", so this time i'm going to fully commit to the "blog" side. no need for daily posts, no need for keeping posts all really short, no need to keep posts strictly about something that happened that day.
really, in retrospect it was quite silly that i restricted myself like that. i wrote a bit about my motivations on the old page, but those were mostly post hoc justifications. the real reason was that i cooked up a neat webpage layout for a blog based on a calendar and wanted to fill it up properly, which required short daily posts. maybe i should have just made up a bunch of stuff to fill it up with instead of doing it for real. but sometimes, it's making stuff up that's the harder option...