Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Computer Games 11.01

I didn't want to include this, but considering it is one of the biggest addictions I currently have, I must.  Most recently I essentially finished my course through Fallout: New Vegas.  It is an amazing game, set in the Mojave and Las Vegas, NV in a post-nuclear holocaust world following an alternate timeline that split off around 1910.  Naturally, there are robots, laser weapons, mutants, and music from the 40s and 50s, as well as western swing.  Not music I would normally listen to, but it suited the world quite well.  It is made by Bethesda, and is technically a role playing game, but you do not interact with other real people, just with characters programmed by the game designers.  Also, it is an open world format, meaning you can essentially walk in any direction you want - there is no place you can't really go, so no conventional 'levels'.  It is great but after a year of non-stop playing, and re-playing, and even downloading user mods to make the game more challenging and add new quests, I think I have reached the end of it.  

I play my games through Steam, which is a client that manages your games, stores saved games online, and lets you purchase games and download them to play.  On Halloween, Steam was having a sale on 'scary' games, so I took the opportunity to look through their list of games that were on sale and purchased F.E.A.R (1, 2: Project Origin, Extraction Point, and Perseus Mandate), Amnesia: The Dark Descent, and S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Call of Pripyat and Shadow of Chernobyl.  

Of the aforementioned, I have played a little of F.E.A.R., which reminds me a lot of the Half Life games, except a little less interesting because it reminds me of Half Life.  I have been playing Amnesia, and that is definitely a game that is difficult to play - not because it is necessarily challenging, but it requires emotional endurance.  The premise of the game is you wake up in a dark spooky castle with amnesia and you find a message to yourself that you must find this man in the basement and kill him.  As you go, you learn there is a "shadow" following you, and you must not let it catch up, and there are notes and messages here and there that you find that give you more pieces of the puzzle.  If you are in the dark for too long (if the oil in your lamp runs out, or there are no candles or torches nearby) then you start to "lose sanity" and your field of vision starts to pulse, you hear the sound of scratching or scraping, and you can't tell if there's a monster nearby or if you're just going insane.  If you do happen to run into a monster that you can see (there are some which you cannot see), then you must hide in a corner and look away from it - looking at it for too long will drive you insane and make it catch you more easily.  If you are familiar with the writings of HP Lovecraft , think of the his stories Herbert West - Reanimator, The Lurking Fear, The Hound, The Rats in the Walls, The Unnamable, and The Outsider, to name a few.  Amnesia feels like you are the main character in one of Lovecraft's stories.  And you almost feel like you are losing sanity points as you play.  I am going to play some more tonight, if I can stand to walk down another dark corridor, knowing any moment I might see...

Other games I have played through adoringly in the past four years include Bioshock, Bioshock 2, Left 4 Dead, Left 4 Dead 2, Half Life, Portal, Portal 2, Plants vs Zombies, The Path, Starcraft, Starcraft 2, American McGee's Madness, and Alice: Madness Returns.  I will have to do an entry about how each of those various phases went, as they are still very close in my mind, and I did projects at the time for each, including a Bioshock themed New Year's Party, which turned out awesomely.  As for now, I think I have to bite the bullet and load Amnesia...

P.S. Skyrim came out and I am absolutely dying to play it, but I already know without playing that it will be even more addicting than New Vegas - it is from the same studio, and has a setting that I will want to explore even more and has better graphics and there are dragons.  I will never sleep again when I finally get it...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Self Improvement 10.02

I am still running, trying to go every other day at sunset.  I'm a little concerned for my knees and ankles since running is a little rough on the joints - and because I am doing an orthopedic surgery rotation, images of the inside of people's knees keep on popping into my head while I run.  I just picture the bones pressing down, my menisci bending side to side... it's amazing how much wear and tear joints get, and yet considering how much weight they carry, it's also amazing that they last at all.  I think I am going to start taking Glucosamine to preserve my joints (not Chondroitin, which clinical studies have failed to show is more effective than placebo).    

So, running.  That's self-improvement #1.

Also, still working on eating properly - I tend to do pretty well, aside from when my boyfriend cooks a huge meal or I have a really bad craving.  I am doing a mini-experiment.  I like garnet yams, great source of vitamin A - you know that somewhere between 100-400% of your daily required vitamin A can be found in one medium sized yam?  (I tried looking, the numbers were all over the place).  Also a great source of vitamin C.  Now, I have periodic acne, emphasis on "period"-ic.  I usually have one active spot though no matter what day it is, and I am currently controlling it with an antibiotic at night, Skinceuticals 0.5% retinol cream, and Skinceuticals daily moisture for oily skin.  This combination seems to do a good job not aggravating my skin, and I'll throw in the occasional exfoliation when my skin feels congested.  

Now...the rationale behind these treatments (and trust me there is a point to this):

The antibiotic is Doxycycline, a Tetracyline antibiotic, it works as a bacteriostatic agent, meaning it stops them from replicating - it doesn't kill them, but it slows them down.  Doxycycline also has some anti-inflammatory effects as well, which always helps with acne as well, since acne is an inflammatory process.  Side effects include upset stomach (I take it at night now because it'll cause nausea in the morning), cannot be taken any time close to dairy products because Calcium deactivates it, photosensitivity, and it can cause bone deformations in fetuses and children under the age of 8, so only non-pregnant people over age 8.  

Retinol, or retinoic acid, is a vitamin A derivative that, while very toxic if ingested (Accutane, a last-ditch but very effective cystic acne treatment) can increase skin turnover when applied topically.  This increased turnover helps to decrease acne and decrease wrinkles.  Side effects include dry skin, irritation, worst case you can have a severe skin reaction.  

Now, dietary vitamin A is not the same thing as retinol, however it does concentrate in significant amounts in the skin.  Remember people saying if you eat too many carrots you'll turn orange?  Well, technically it's true, just doesn't happen often unless someone goes on an all-V8 diet.  Vitamin A is also an antioxidant, as is vitamin C, which is necessary for collagen formation (think scurvy, or vitamin C deficiency, with bleeding gums and bruising).  

The experiment is this: Will ingesting more dietary vitamin A and vitamin C improve my acne and skin in general?  It is extremely healthy, a good source of fiber, a good source of antioxidants, and tastes good.  I shall be eating 1/2 of a baked garnet yam per day, and in one month if my skin is better then I shall conclude that it may be helpful.  

On another note, I am hoping to get the Aveda Black Malva shampoo and conditioner because it has pigment in it that is supposed to help darken hair - this way I can have darker hair without using harsh dyes, and Aveda products smell pretty great. I used to use Pureology, but they are even more expensive than Aveda - it's on my birthday list, if I don't get it then I will buy it myself. I can't wait to use it!  

Monday, November 21, 2011

Creative Projects 7.05

Shutterfly had a deal recently where you could get 40% any photobooks ordered, so of course that gave me the extra push I needed to do the book of me and my boyfriend's pictures from the past 5 years - the highlights at any rate.  I finished that after about 5 hours of work, showed Kit who thought it looked good, and ordered it along with my UCSD album.  I saved about $62 dollars too, just from that 40% off and free shipping on orders over $30.  I am looking forward to having physical books to look through.  I shared the album with Kit's parents and our friends online - for privacy purposes I would rather not just post it on a public blog.  So that's one creative project checked and in the mail.

My next project - the pressed plants - is springing into action.  I bought a flower press at Michael's and some fresh herbs at the market, so when Kit decides what arrangement he would like we will give it a shot!  

Also, I have another project that I came up with as presents for Kit's parents - it sucks when the parents are divorced not only because of the emotional stress it placed on the child, but also because then you have twice as many "parents" to buy things for as normal when the holidays roll around.  I shall be purchasing some plain wine glasses and etching their initials into the glasses, along with a grape design (stencils and solvent material from Michael's - no freehand).  I figure that works for both sets of parents, is personalized, and shows effort.  

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Self Improvement 10.01

I think it's time to admit that this has become a new obsession - running at sunset.  It's just so amazing.  So so so amazing.  I live about a 2-3 minute jog from a trail that goes makes about a 2 to 2.5 mile loop in a coastal area, so I get a perfect view of the sun setting and the ocean and the sky... it's great.  Below are a few pictures that I've taken on the road and from my apartment right before leaving

The bottom two were taken while out on the run with my Droid Incredible, so it's not as nice a camera as the first picture.  I'm looking forward to going out tonight, as there is a lot of cloud coverage so more to reflect color from the setting sun.  Here are some of my favorite tracks to listen to while I run - an interesting mix, I'm sure.

Kamelot - Wings of Despair
Portal 2 - 9999999
28 Days Later - In the House, in a Heartbeat
Game of Thrones - Main Title
The Smashing Pumpkins - The End is the Beginning is the End
Rammstein - Du Reichst So Gut
Lifehouse - Sick Cycle Carousel
Eisblume - Eisblumen
Nightwish - Amaranth (Orchestral Version)
Sirenia - Meridian
The 69 Eyes - Lips of Blood

I have multiple tracks by some of the artists, like Lifehouse, Sirenia, the 69 Eyes, Rammstein, Kamelot, but I didn't want to make it too long a list.  After I run today, I'm going to subject my chubby furry black kitty to a bath - she will NOT like it.  I should brush her first though while I wait for the clouds to start turning.  As for safety, since I am running in the evening solo a lot, I do carry a knife.    

Also, I've been wearing my Lululemon jacket while running, with the collar folded in though, since it's a little too high and hits me in the face, but it's super comfy and works great.  I may need to get more stuff from them, like crop running pants.  Very pricey though.  At any rate, time to get ready, brush the kitty, and have some fun!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Creative Projects 7.04

I know, I know - I haven't posted for a while.  Here's an update on my various projects:

Samurai girl costume - The sword looks great, as you saw in the last post.  The first place I ordered from I "thought" was a bust, but it looks like it might be semi-legit - after 3 months, with no emails in response to my inquiries, and after my money was refunded by Wells Fargo, the original sword I ordered arrived.  So...two swords for the price of one.  That sword from the "crappy" company however isn't exactly what I ordered - the handle is black, which in a way I prefer, but isn't ideal - and the sword blade isn't as long as the one I ordered off of Amazon.  I try to support a smaller business for once, and it ends up being a crap business, so I guess Amazon will continue to get my business.

Now I would have worn the samurai costume for Halloween, except for the fact that the stockings I bought from the Spirit store refused to stay up.  And were uneven at the top.  Also, the shoes I would have liked to wear did not look good with the costume, so I went on November 1st to get new stockings and shoes from the Spirit store for 50% off, and this will be my costume for next year.  I am also growing out my hair so that I can do a fancier up-do for the costume.

Haute cuisine - I am still trying, but lately I have not been needing to prepare foods for myself because the hospitals I am at tend to have physician lunch rooms that I can mooch some food from.  I have noticed my diet has not been as healthy at home though, because I am not cooking as much, so I am going to get back on it.  More evenings of asparagus, sweet potatoes, nuts, blueberries, and other yummy things are coming up.  It is hard when you have a boyfriend who would love to have meat and potatoes every day.

Also I am still a medical student so life is still a challenge.

Topic du jour - creative projects.  A long time ago I decided I wanted to make my boyfriend four plant pressings of his favorite herbs (he loves cooking and especially herbs).  So, I stopped at Aaron Brothers recently just to see if they had the materials, and the floor assistant was nice enough to refer me to Michael's since they didn't have what I was looking for.  I also looked it up online and found this website.

It has a lot of good information and so I shall be ordering some dye chemicals, adhesives, and paper - I already have a quad frame to put them in.  Hopefully it'll be done by Christmas time.