Reviewing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

BOTW-Share_iconMy horse died. It wasn’t even an epic, valiant death. I was fighting a simple moblin along a forest path while riding my horse, and the creature swung at me with a big sword and killed my horse. It was very unceremonious. However…

Right before that battle, I had just fought and defeated something called a Guardian, a tentacled robot that is one of the hardest enemies in the game. It was the first time I had tried fighting one, and I succeeded. I was riding my horse for that battle too, and there was a frightening moment when the robot shot a laser beam at me that set my horse on fire and almost killed me. My horse and I both survived and we won the fight, but were injured. I knew it was time to bring my horse back to the stable so he could heal up after this intense battle, but instead I was curious about a nearby forest path I saw, and I went in that direction instead. That was where I encountered the moblin who delivered the killing blow to my horse. It was my fault that my horse died, because my thirst for adventure overcame my desire to take proper care of him.

In Breath of the Wild, you can tame and keep any number of horses, but this particular horse was the very first one I ever tamed. I had named him “Boko” because I rescued him from a bokoblin. He was immediately very friendly to me, as if thankful that he was no longer being used for malicious purposes by a bokoblin anymore. Our “bond” rating had reached 100 before I even bought a saddle for him.

This story is why Breath of the Wild is a perfect 10/10 glorious masterpiece. I had an emotional connection to that horse. In this game, the world is so fully alive and so real, with characters who have daily lives and schedules and do things like run indoors when it starts raining, and with animals who flee if you run up close to them or shoot an arrow towards them, and it so powerfully adheres to its own laws of physics and chemistry, that you will create your own stories and adventures.

No one else will ever have the adventure that I opened this review with. It simply can’t be replicated. The game world is insanely massive and will be full of experiences that are wholly unique to each player. The combat and exploration are very fun. I generally hate the idea of “crafting” in games, but the cooking in Breath of the Wild is actually really easy and enjoyable.

The game is an absolutely flawless fantasy-survival simulator and I have a lot of trouble putting it down, even after around ~25 hours in. Get it.

*Bonus review: the Nintendo Switch is an amazing console. I use it exclusively as a handheld (though the main feature is that you can easily switch between playing on your TV or using it as a handheld), and it’s the best gaming experience EVER. The 3DS and, formerly, the Game Boy, were great but this is the first time that home consoles, with their meatier content and better graphics, have become playable on the go or around the house, and that’s amazing. Other reviews whine about lack of Netflix, or a wonky left Joy-Con, but that’s all made-up. They aren’t real problems, and this console has already created and allowed for some of the best gaming experiences I have ever had in my quarter-century life.

Building My Very Own Tiny Home

I have been homeless for 6 (six!) months. I live in my mini van. Thing is, there is a housing crisis in Los Angeles. Housing is absurdly expensive and not-at-all plentiful. In addition, getting a legit, salaried job is hard. You need more than just ambition and a bachelor’s degree.

In order to live as prosperously as I can during this insane time of my life, I took a few weeks and spent several dozen hours renovating my mini van, converting it into a full-fledged tiny home. It was a project I desperately needed to do, because even though I had kept everything clean and tidy and well-organized prior to making these changes, there were so so so many things in my car-home that could have been a lot better. I was lucky enough to temporarily stay with a friend so I could work on these renovations.

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First, I took everything out of my car. Which was literally everything I own… I had already been living in it for 4 months by the time I decided to do this crazy project. I parked in a Home Depot parking lot and took this photo. The space is approximately 3′ 6″ wide x 6′ long.
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Inside Home Depot, I bought all of the wood I would use for this project. This picture doesn’t properly convey the massive amount of wood I purchased. That is a huge amount of wood. Each of those boards was nearly twice my height.
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And because those boards of wood were so massive, when I loaded them into my car, they couldn’t fit. Every plank was too long. It would have been really dangerous to try to drive back to my friend’s house and get to work. So that meant…
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…I would have to cut the wood down right there in the parking lot. Thankfully, I also bought a saw and a tape measure while at Home Depot. All this just so I could shut the back door all the way. I regularly referred to the saw as “Saw Gerrara” because Star Wars Rogue One was about to come out, and I am a huge nerd with no carpentry skills.

 

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I had never sawed thick wood before, and it took me 3-4 hours. Day turned to night.
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Eventually I was able to fit all the wood into my car.
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Stupidly, I made these permanent nicks in the back bumper of my car, while sawing. Saws are sharp.
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On a new day, Saw Gerrera and I got right to work. I didn’t have a proper workbench or wood shop to use, so I just leaned the wood sheets upright against my car.
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After considerable hard work, I bought this little guy from the clearance section of Walmart because I fucking earned it. Best 50 cent purchase ever.
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Also at Walmart, I bought some stuff. From left to right, there is a carpet, a bunch of hinges and locks for the furniture (I’ll explain more on that later), curtains and curtain rods, and 2 dressers that I’d have to assemble myself. I don’t know why I thought that a blue carpet would go well with red curtains; I really just wanted a splash of color in the place and figured that would do it.
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I began building the frame of the tiny home. You can already tell how bad I am at carpentry.
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After a certain amount of sawing and screwing-in nails, I got these very painful red marks on my hand. Hand blisters? They hurt a lot and took weeks to heal.
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When it would get too dark out to keep working, I’d go inside and work on the furniture.
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I decided to use door hinges as a means of connecting the dressers to the floor of the home. If I ever tried to drive around without these large pieces of furniture being nailed down, they’d go tumbling and probably break a window or something. So this was a really important step.
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A new day of measuring and laying down the floor. You can see that I did an absolutely terrible job with the saw. But it turned out stable in the end, which was all I cared about.
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I still had a ton of wood leftover so I piled it up in the car…
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…and placed it in the nearest dumpster. This particular dumpster was already full so I just laid my trash on top of everything that was already in there.
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Then it was time to install the curtains!
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The first splash of much-needed color.
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Hey, remember that tall 4-drawer dresser I assembled? It didn’t fit. Here it is on its side, about to be transported by me to the dumpster. I think I made 3 or 4 trips to that dumpster during this project.
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Thankfully, the smaller dresser did fit, as did my nifty treasure chest, next to it. I also installed the carpet. There are ropes across the drawers of the dresser because, in motion, those doors would be flung out if they weren’t restrained by something.
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In order to make the carpet fit, I had to cut it up into chunks, and it made a big mess.
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I nailed some baskets into the walls to use as shelves, and put some more storage containers along the wall, and bam! Tiny home completed. I have plenty of room for everything I own, it’s extremely well-organized, and I have more room to move around, and to sleep.

So there you have it. That’s my tiny home. I have been living with these renovations for a month now, and it has made my life supremely easier and better. However, homelessness is still extremely stressful. I still have to be stealthy to avoid having the cops called on me by frightened neighborhood folks. I still have to pee in a bottle, and find a good opportunity to dispose of my piss later. There is still no electricity or running water, which are awful things to have to live without. I still have to spend a lot of time on the street, and in LA, the other homeless people here are crazy. Like, a violent and scary kind of crazy. I have been threatened, and seen homeless people threaten each other, on an almost daily basis. So I really need to get out of homelessness. It’s not safe. It’s not comfortable. It’s extremely unnerving and risky. But at least the horrible, painful, slow process of reaching a better life has become a little bit more bearable now that I have a much more genuine tiny home.

 

 

Revisiting the Historic Women’s March

I should have posted this sooner, but I thought that the massive protest known as the Women’s March, held in major and minor cities all over the country, would be the talk of the town for at least weeks to come. I was wrong. It turns out that in Trump’s America, each weekend is a new major protest, following week after week of unbelievably corrupt actions coming from Washington.

In any case, here are some simple photos and stories from the brief time I spent at the Women’s March in Los Angeles.

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I took the metro to get from Santa Monica to downtown LA. It was my second time ever using the metro here, and the first time doing it by myself. I spotted this pretty green mountain and thought it made for a nice photo.
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And the clouds that day looked like snow. It was a beautiful afternoon.
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Still on the metro, I saw this smashed Trump pinata as I got closer towards downtown, hanging from someone’s balcony. The day was about to get weird.
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I arrived later in the day, so lots of folks were already there, trying to leave. The size of the crowd was immediately obvious.
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One of the first things I saw was this recycling bin full of protest signs. Some people, disrespectfully, threw trash into it also. The first thing I thought was, “Is this a ‘take a sign, leave a sign’ program?” Nah. Protest signs were simply littered all over downtown, often not even in bins or trash cans.
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This photo does not convey how tightly everyone was packed into the same crowd. It was hard to breathe, and I am amazed I even got out eventually.
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The stage where they had speakers, singers, and more was massive. This was the best angle I could get.
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There was an awesome wall made out of the protest signs. It was just radical.
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Here’s a closer look at a small section of that wall. It’s rather vulgar, but so is the fact that the president of the United States has bragged about committing sexual assault, and then refuses to take accountability for it, and says those who accuse him of sexual assault are “looking for attention.”
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And of course the metro ride home was much more packed than the ride there. It was really hot in there.

Embracing the Chrome Dome

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Here’s how this adventure will end.

Sadly, I’m not talking about the Chrome Dome from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

I am a man. I’m still a bit young, 25, but I have been suffering from a receding hairline for several years already. Many men begin balding at some point in their life. My genetics decided I should start a little earlier than most. Some guys lose their hair around age 17, so I can’t really complain too much.

I struggled with the idea of fully shaving my head and going bald because I LOVE long hair. I think long hair looks great on both men and women, and it’s super fun to create different kinds of hairstyles.

However, even though the hair on the sides and back of my head is thick and full and strong… it is very thin and sparse up on top, in addition to the aforementioned receding hairline.

Last night, I decided to finally embrace the reality that is my balding. Today, I am bald.

I had been growing my hair out for 16 months, and it was longer than it had ever been.

Here are some before photos. You can notice the awful receding hairline, and the awkward “bangs” my hairline created.

And I had to get THESE next photos, because I am so in-love with the man-bun hairstyle. I am seriously going to miss putting my hair into a bun, even though it never really looked good on me.

Lastly, the photos below show the new me. Well, I’m not new. The only new thing is my decision to embrace my baldness. It’s not even been 24 hours, so I don’t really feel any different. But hopefully in time I’ll feel more comfortable and confident and stop worrying about my hair and physical appearance so much. That was the goal in shaving it all off.

Time to grow an epic beard!

How to end mass shootings

This is a very important topic to me, and I apologize for not having any fancy editing or effects or a proper YouTube channel set up, but I didn’t want to wait until I have all that stuff to upload this video.

Please be a part of the conversation, and the solution. Leave a comment, send a tweet, hug a friend. Just talking about it helps, and remember that you can express yourself nonverbally too. Every action you make matters and has power.

The 4 Kindest YouTubers I Met At VidCon

I went to VidCon. As one does at VidCon, I met YouTubers. All of them were cordial, but some were incredibly wonderfully nice and very sincere and so easy to make a real connection with. Here are the YouTubers that I had the best interactions with at VidCon:

Shay Carl

Shay and other panelists were rushed off the stage when the panel concluded, but after a few minutes, Shay popped out just for a hot second to talk to a couple fans. I was one of those two people. Shay is the biggest role model of my entire life, and I wrote this lengthy blog post before I left for VidCon about why he was the sole reason I even decided to go. I went to VidCon for no reason more significant than to thank Shay Carl for all he has done for me. And I got to do that. I only had a brief window to speak with him, and I told him some of my deepest darkest secrets in seconds, almost succumbing to tears. He hugged me and told me I inspire him to do what he does, and was very encouraging. This man is literally a hero. I tweeted about the encounter, and Shay “liked” it. He liked another of my tweets the next day, too. They were my first online interactions with him directly, and it is pretty cool that my very first-ever interaction with Shay was in-person.

Anna Akana

I got Anna for one of my lottery signings (you are entered into a lottery system to wait in a long line to meet a famous YouTuber), and I was so pumped. I have been a huge fan of hers for such a long time. I was one of the very first people in line to speak with her, and when I got to, I told her that she is the funniest comedian on YouTube, how relatable her comedy is, and how her more-serious subjects have really had an impact on me. As I was gushing about how great she is to her face, she got really happy and gave me a big hug. That’s where this photo came from:

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Left: Anna Akana. Right: No one important.

Grace Helbig

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Me meeting Grace. She immediately reacted to my tattoo in a very positive way. Also, Grace is beautiful on her own, but just look how gorgeous she is when placed next to an ugly dude like me.

Grace was super nice and we had such a great little chat. I told her about how the “song” from her movie, Camp Takota, which obnoxiously goes “Camp, camp, camp it up!” has been stuck in my head for literally years. She told me I put a curse on her because now it would be stuck in her head too. When I walked away, I said to her, “Stay amazing!” and she said, “Likewise!” She also made a pretty great face during one of our photos:

 

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Grace is also an amazing hugger. She’s a seriously awesome person.

 

Peanut Butter Gamer

I’m not as into the gaming side of YouTube, but Peanut Butter Gamer (Austin Hargrave) was on a panel that I went to, and he was really generous with his time afterwards, talking to every single fan even though he got swarmed. He is, in my opinion, the funniest gamer on YouTube, and I told him that, and he was very sincerely thankful for my compliments. I think it’s because he’s just a normal dude who happened to make it big doing something fun that he loves. I don’t think he ever saw himself as the inspirational public figure he has come to be, so he is super humble and just a really nice guy. He was one of the first YouTubers I met, and I took a photo with him, and it was so blurry that I didn’t bother to take photos with any other YouTubers for the rest of the convention.

The end.

I did meet a TON of other YouTubers, and they were all very cool, and it was so great to meet them, but these 4 people were the coolest, nicest, most genuine YouTubers among all the ones I happened to meet. Go subscribe to their channels.

Why I’m Risking Life and Limb to Attend VidCon

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Colette and Shay Butler, as they appeared when I discovered their YouTube channel. They’ve both gotten older, and Shay has lost ~100 pounds since this was taken.

It’s to say thank you to Shay Carl Butler. And to his wife, Colette, as she’s every bit the hero that he is.

I discovered their YouTube channel, Shaytards (which, I assure you, is a name that has nothing to do with “the R-word” and has everything to do with the word “unitard”), in early 2011, which was a very critical time in my life: I was a freshman in college, in the last few months of a very harrowing year that had me fearing for my very survival due to a sociopathic roommate who constantly harassed me and eventually threatened to kill me. While my peers were going to parties and getting really drunk and having lots of sex, I was trying to figure out how to stay safe. I was also having a lot of problems at home, and didn’t feel like I could confide in anyone or have anyone to turn back to.

The Shaytards changed my life. They made a new video every single day, and the content was nothing more than fun family home-videos. When I began watching, they had just had their fourth child, and each video they made (called a “vlog,” or video blog) featured lots of shenanigans as the silly and fun-loving Shay and Colette raised their kids.

I had never even comprehended the idea that families could be so happy. Watching their videos caused a radical paradigm shift in me. I was super-depressed, and had been through high school and as a kid, and here was this family having lots of fun, day after day after day after day, and Shay sharing his fatherly words of wisdom like “happiness is a choice” and just constantly giving lots of, well, I guess, “pep talks” throughout the videos. And he was totally honest that, yeah, when the camera was turned off, sometimes the family would fight, and things weren’t always perfect– but when the camera was on, none of that was staged or faked. And that might have been hard to believe if there weren’t so many years of videos showing such an amazingly happy family. Not only was the family so often happy, but over the years we got to see Shay and Colette have their fifth child, Shay lose 100 pounds, and selling the family business (a YouTube enterprise called Maker Studios) to Disney, for 500 million dollars. When I first started watching, they were rather poor. This is one hell of a successful family, and they have really motivated me every day since I started watching.

Shay was a very involved and connected YouTuber, and I discovered many other YouTube channels, and became a very active member of the YouTube community, because of him. I’m subscribed to over 50 channels that I watch frequently and regularly today. At one point, I was subscribed to over 100 channels, but wasn’t watching them all so I unsubscribed from some to clear out what’s called your “subscription box.” What’s nice about YouTube is that you get access to an infinite number of channels and content, all for free, and can watch at your own convenience.

What’s also nice about YouTube is that, unlike TV, it’s a social media, somewhat similar to Facebook. Content creators like Shay are able to read comments made to them on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, or whatever other online platform that people communicate to them with. And they will respond to certain comments or questions in their videos. There is clearly a relationship between content creators and their audience. And it’s a very special relationship, especially with people like the Shaytards, who let you in to see so much of their lives.

So today, in 2016, I have been actively watching various YouTube channels for five years. Since 2007 or so, there has been a convention held every year, called VidCon, created by YouTuber/Entrepeneur/Renaissance-Man Hank Green. I’ve always wanted to go, and this year I am.

But I have had the absolute worst time setting up for this trip. The convention is held in Anaheim, California. I am currently living in Pennsylvania. Let me tell you about a few challenges I have had in arranging this trip:

It’s expensive.

This was challenge #1. Tickets to VidCon are over $100, and flights to CA are very expensive. Then a place to stay, whether a hotel or Airbnb, adds another few hundred dollars to the cost. By booking so early for VidCon, I did get a reduced-price ticket and flight, thank goodness. However, while I had enough money for the trip when I made the arrangements, recent events in my life have drained my bank account and income, so now I consider it very high-risk to go on this trip. And there have been additional problems such as…

Graduate school was in the way.

When I made arrangements to attend VidCon, I didn’t know I would enroll in some summer classes for my graduate program. And when I did enroll, and eventually got the schedule, I was basically told that I had to choose between taking the class or going to VidCon, as I wouldn’t be able to pass the summer class if I missed a single day, which my trip would have resulted in. Like any sensible person, I chose to take my class and drop VidCon. Maybe I could go next year or something, even though I had already made the arrangements and always wanted to go, just to thank Shay for everything he taught me. But then, later, major life events happened, the same life events that drained my bank account, which also had the effect of me dropping my summer classes. So I was able to go to VidCon after all. But then…

My Airbnb host cancelled.

This part sucked. I had booked well in advance a cheap and nearby Airbnb. It was a much better price than any hotel or anywhere else. But I was informed by the hosts that they would be moving during those days and could no longer host. It was the only affordable Airbnb in the area, but I didn’t want to cancel the trip. I was prepared to go with just a backpack and a small sleeping bag, and find somewhere to sleep outdoors each night. Yes, that’s how crazy I was about going on this trip. Luckily, this past weekend, additional Airbnb hosts opened up their homes, and I do have somewhere to stay now, though it’s farther away (3.5 miles away– so if I walk to the convention center and back each day, that’s 7 miles of walking a day) and slightly more expensive. This is something I was very worried about for a while. But my original Airbnb hosts weren’t the only ones changing things on me…

My flight changed this morning, and this was my first time hearing about it, and I booked the flight in January.

Yep. Originally I was flying out of Pittsburgh at 10 AM and returning at 8 PM later in the week, but just this morning, two days before the flight, I was informed, in no ceremonious way, that my flight was leaving at 6:30 AM on Wednesday and returning at 11 PM on Sunday. So, leaving much earlier and returning much later. Okay then. I had already made preparations with friends to drop me off and pick me up, and scheduled myself accordingly, but now I’ve had to make big updates to my plans in a really short time. What really annoyed me is that the email I was sent made it sound like this was a normal, regular, typical reminder email, as if those were the original times I had booked for. I was never properly notified that the flight changed. But I can be adaptable and move quickly. It’s a strength I have, thankfully. The worst problem is…

I am extremely sick and in a lot of pain.

Over the weekend, I took a shirtless nap in the local park, along with lots of other people in this town. It was such a beautiful, sunny day. Then I woke up, went home, watched Grave of the Fireflies and wrote a great blog post about it the next day, and then I realized that I had become severely, severely burnt. I had no idea that sunburns could hurt so badly. This morning, in addition to finding out about the flight changing, I was feeling very short-of-breath, and my throat really hurt. And my sunburn hurts A LOT, and covers a very large and wide area on my chest. I am in so much pain and feel totally awful. I can’t wait to get back in bed and rest more once I finish writing this post. I don’t know why I thought I could be in the sun for so long without sunscreen, or how I didn’t know that severe sunburns can actually make you sick. Sometimes, you just have to learn life lessons the hard way. But…

I am still going to Vidcon.

I have to thank Shay for all the profound ways in which he has changed my life. There are other YouTubers who I am so excited to meet, see perform, see present, etc. I’m volunteering at the event, too. And it’s going to be crazy, millions of people come to this thing each year. Each year it gets bigger, and each year tickets sell out. I am going to be really sick, walking 7+ miles a day, working all day, and running around to lots of different sessions and presentations to see my favorite YouTubers, and have spent an unsafe amount of money to make this trip happen, and the thing that motivates me to go through it all is the off-chance that I get to say thank you to Shay Carl Butler. That man is my role model and hero. If I get to thank him at VidCon, a place I’ve always wanted to go, all of this pain will be worth it.