Sunday, January 24, 2021

Tech: Slay the Spire review

Slay the Spire wasn't the first roguelike deck-building dungeon crawler, but it's certainly the mack daddy of them all. I initially wasn't interested in the game due to its primitive, Newgrounds Flash-era graphics, but I eventually gave it a try and have been sucked in for 60 hours now:

As someone who's played Magic: The Gathering since the "Ice Age" block, the mechanics of Slay the Spire are pretty familiar - each turn, you draw a hand of attack, skill, and power cards to face off against a foe. You and your enemies can deal both direct damage to each other as well as various buffs and debuffs (the most insidious of which come in the form of additional cards that both thin out your deck and harm you when drawn). As you win battles, you gain cards, which are used to build out your deck and survive fights that get increasingly tough.

The real star here is the game design, which more than any other deckbuilder I've seen, embraces the engine-building and exception-based design that made Magic famous. Between the four character classes (each with their own set of unique cards) and dozens of items, you can sometimes craft unstoppable combinations that allow you to draw and play as many cards as you want, deal infinite damage, or other similarly game breaking effects...if you get lucky. On the other hand, the roguelike difficulty and inherently random nature of a card-based battler mean that sometimes survival requires analyzing a critical turn like a Duelist puzzle column. Either way, it's a lot of fun, and one of the best turn-based games I've played in quite some time.

Rating: 92/100

Books: Endure - Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance

The guys and I have been doing socially-distanced CrossFit™-style training for awhile now. In between sucking wind for fireman's carries, box jumps, and battle rope sessions, I wondered how someone in the best possible shape would do. What drives some people to run further and lift more than others? And what keeps them from doing even more? Alex Hutchinson's book, Endure, investigates the answers:

In case you couldn't figure it out from the Malcolm Gladwell foreword and cover quote, Endure is the kind of sprawling popular science survey that synthesizes dozens of disparate anecdotes and studies into Big Picture messages on exercise and human endurance - sort of an athlete-only version of Outliers: The Story of Success. You get entertaining (and sometimes tragic) stories about the truly exceptional (and somewhat nuts) endurance athletes - the ultramarathoners, the mountain climbers, the deep sea free divers.

Framing it all is Nike's famous Breaking2 project aimed at running a sub-two hour marathon, perhaps the greatest feat in endurance sports. If you've seen the documentary, you know how that ends, but for Eliud Kipchoge and the other inspiring extreme athletes featured in Endure, there really never is an end.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Guns: A rainy day ...

A friend getting her concealed carry permit asked me whether I could take her shooting next week. I never turn down a novice, so I quickly agreed. 

She asked whether she should go ahead and buy some 9mm for the range trip. I laughed, telling her that I haven't seen 9mm on store shelves in about 6 months.

Thankfully, I have a couple thousand rounds of Sellier & Bellot FMJ set aside for a rainy day.

I bought it two years ago for a little north of $300, plus shipping:

This same amount of 9mm, if you could even find it online, would run you three or four times as much - probably more. But I'm willing to dip into it for the important purpose of getting new people into shooting and spreading our Second Amendment rights.

I just hope it stops raining one of these days...

Friday, January 01, 2021

Food: Hoppin' John and collard greens

Hoppin' John and collard greens is a traditional New Year's Day dish in the South, and who am I to mess with tradition? I did use a vegan recipe, though.

The dish is thought to bring financial prosperity, with the collards being green like dollar bills and the black-eyed peas symbolizing coins. Next year, I'm going to use fewer chipotle peppers and green chilies, because the dish turned out to be a bit spicy: