Fallout 76: My Take

Someone asked me my take on Fallout ’76, so here it is…

I’ve been considering posting about it, just haven’t gotten around to it yet.

The game, in and of itself, is just fine. Those bitching about the actual gameplay are the same ones who bitched about Fallout 4, New Vegas, etc., and then played the game every day for five years. Everyone bitches about the games when they first come out and then it becomes their favorite.

The graphics are good. The gameplay is good. There are challenges of running into characters and monsters at significantly higher levels than you (more so than any other Fallout series games). I also love that unlike other exploring/open map games where no matter where you go the characters and monsters tend to match your current level or are just a few levels higher, wandering or exploring too far from your missions can mean you’re a level 10 running into a level 62 Angler that kicks your ass in two seconds.

Survival mode is default. You have to eat and drink or you’ll die. Your weapons and armor degrade and you have to constantly repair them (luckily weapons/armor/tinker workbenches are common, but you can only carry so much junk with you). You can catch diseases from sleeping in the wrong place, getting attacked by monsters can give you diseases like blood worms, bleeding sores, etc. So you have to make sure you have a stock of food, water, disease cures, etc. I enjoyed playing survivor mode in Fallout 4, and while 76 is a bit watered down from full blown survivor mode in Fallout 4, it still creates a bigger challenge than just running around carefree.

That being said, there are legitimate gripes and bitches about this game. These are mine:

1. Forcing me to buy PS Plus is bullshit. I had to spend money for PS Plus beyond the price of the game. There’s no reason for PS Plus at all. Other online multiplayer games didn’t need PS Plus and this one didn’t need it, either. This was purely a money-making scheme and it’s bullshit.

2. There is no single player mode at all: it’s 100% online and there’s no reason for that, either. The forced online doesn’t affect the experience of gameplay at all and has zero bearing on missions, exploration, etc. I personally don’t connect with anyone on the servers, don’t play with friends or join random stranger’s teams. I play by myself. There are Lone Wanderer cards that give you bonuses for being alone. The only time I even interact with, as in play next to, other players is at “events,” which are scattered throughout the map. I get that not interacting and wanting to play alone is a personal choice, but I think the forced online is a problem, especially when you consider that…

3. There is no way to pause the game. The only way to save is to setup your camp and rest. You can only setup camp outside of areas. That’s if you want to move and rebuild your camp all the time, which a lot of players aren’t doing because they’re building elaborate camps. My camp is nothing more than a bed, my stash, a cooking station (to boil water and cook food before it spoils – that survival mode again). So you have to make sure that when you play you have time set aside for no work, no calls, no girlfriend asking you to come help her get something off the fridge, no bathroom break, nothing at all that pulls you away from the game. If you’re stationary too long the game seems to intentionally send something to attack you (I admit this may be correlation and not causation, but it has happened ever time, which lends me to believe it is intentional). The three times I found a “safe place” to hide while I took care of something I ended up being attacked and had to run back into the room. One of those times it was a mole rat on the roof of a seven-story building that had no mole rats in it while I was exploring the building itself. It took me so long to get back to my office that I was at 10% health and about to die before I killed the mole rat and had to use three Stimpaks to get back to full health and had to cure a disease the damn thing gave me. The fact that I can’t pause it when my girlfriend needs my help drives both of us bonkers. I’ve just had to die a few times because relationships are more important than games. Which, by the way, if you die, you lose all your junk and have to go back to your “grave site” to collect your brown bag of junk (did they get that idea from No Man’s Sky?). Or you can just leave it there and find new junk.

4. A lot of players truly enjoyed the aspect of building settlements, keeping the settlers going and happy, and experimenting with building. The game teases you with finding “workbenches,” but they’re useless and can be taken over by other players if you’re not there to defend them, which unless you’re not sleeping, not eating, not taking a bath, etc., then you’re going to lose that workbench as soon as you sign off. I don’t think Settlements are necessary for this game, but I think having them would have significantly helped tone down some of the anger, allowed for more junk storage, and would have kept with the entire Vault 76 mission.

I enjoy playing the game, but I don’t play it as much as I did Fallout4 (which I still play) or New Vegas because I rarely can allot several hours of uninterrupted time that allows me to play. I’ve spent significantly more time playing Red Dead Redemption 2.

Doing the online only was a bad move in my opinion. Making online an option would have made this game much better in many ways.

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My Favorite Austin Burgers

How do I judge a burger?

First thing I always do is eat just a piece of hamburger meat with nothing on it. Does the meat have its own flavor? Is it juicy? Is it cooked correctly at medium and no more than medium well (exception made for sliders)? Is the bun too dry or does it perform the job of sopping up juice and add flavor and depth to the burger? Does every burger a place offers taste good or only a single burger? If only a single burger, then that’s fine, but it does detract from being a “burger joint.”

There are a tons of great burger joints in Austin, but only a few were pure bliss, what I call the “hallelujah burger.” The burger that hits your mouth and sends you to that special place in your head where you’re at peace with yourself and everything around you. That place where if you were butter you would melt instantly and ooze all over the floor of the joint. There are also a lot of places that are not burger joints, but have a good burger. Those places had to really stand out to make my list, as I focused on places that catered to the burger lover in me.

NOTE: I fully acknowledge that taste is subjective. I don’t think judging a burger on the quality of the meat, how it’s cooked, if it’s juicy and has flavor on its own is subjective, but once you get past the meat and onto the bread, condiments, and add-ons, then you enter subjective taste. I fully expect people to disagree with my list and that’s perfectly okay. I encourage you to post your own top burgers!

The List

So here they are, from least to best (least being the wrong word to use here, since it did make my list):

But What About?

Where are the standard ones you see on so many Austin lists like Sandy’s, Hut’s, Dan’s, P Terry’s, etc? Well, they’re somewhere between Wendy’s and McDonald’s because they’re just sliders and mediocre ones at that: especially the exceptionally overrated P Terry’s.

So with that said, here’s are my favorite slider joints, which I’ll only eat at if I’m really hungry and they’re close by. Otherwise I’m heading to my tops above. This list is again least to best.

The Problem With Plastic Straw Bans

Okay, so plastic straw bans are suddenly all the rage and quite a few people are lashing out in favor and against. But here’s the problem I see with this…

The plastic straw ban is really just political ass-kissing to shut my fellow liberals up. It doesn’t do a damn thing to stop the problem because a lot of my fellow liberals think these tiny battles are actually meaningful.

Hell, the plastic sippy cup style lids that are being used to replace straws (like at Starbuck’s) use more plastic to make than the regular plastic lids and straws they previously used. The problem isn’t straws: the symptom is plastic and the problem is human behavior.

When we realized lead was killing children we banned lead paint. When we realized asbestos was causing cancer we banned it. We can’t just ban all plastics as kneejerk emotional bullshit legislative action. We need to look at the entire problem and come up with solutions based on science and reason and critical thinking. Ban plastic where it can be banned without affecting people in negative ways. Keep it where it needs be to be kept, but work on solutions to removing plastic even where it’s currently still needed. For example, we clearly need plastic IV bags in hospitals. However, we used to use glass bottles for IVs. Can we go back to glass IV bottles? Is there the will to do that? Is the will there to do that for so many other examples as well?

There are a lot of replacements to straws already in place, such as metal straws being used in homes (we use them in our house) and in places with permanent residents (retirement homes, etc). A few restaurants have started using pasta straws as a replacement. Yes, pasta. And some of us are old enough to remember when straws were made of paper (granted, they weren’t the best, but I’m sure some human ingenuity could improve upon those old-fashioned paper straws).

Why can’t we go back to paper cups at fast food places and coffee shops? Why is my iced chai latte in a plastic cup instead of a paper cup? Why not offer me the option of bringing in my own cup and charging me by the ounce? Why not bring paper bags back to grocery stores? We don’t need plastic bags at grocery stores: we just want them.

People whined about killing trees for paper. We see all these companies bragging about saving paper (a public relations move, not an actual environmental saving move), but that’s non-scientific. Ninety-one percent of all paper products come from self-sustaining tree farms and “second growth” forests (forests that were cut down for other uses before and are being “recycled” instead of cutting down old growth. ONly 9% of paper comes from tearing down old growth forests and that can easily be stopped. Killing off paper is silly, especially since it’s biodegradable (yes, I fully acknowledge the paper-making process has its own issues that need to be resolved: especially the waste it makes). We replaced paper towels with air blowers in bathrooms, but those are electric and use more electricity from coal-based electricity production. But everyone was happy we got rid of paper in bathrooms. It’s kneejerk nonsense that’s not scientifically or rationally based.

Photo via USA Today

The reality is that if every bit of plastic ended up in properly maintained landfills there would be zero issue with plastic (especially landfills that reclaim methane buildup for energy usage). But the problem is people not disposing of them properly so they end up in the waterways and oceans killing animals: like that whale that died with almost 80 plastic bags in its stomach: literally died from starvation because there was no room left in its stomach for actual food. Or the video of the turtle with the straw stuck in its nose that caused so much outrage over straws while a gazillion plastic bags and plastic water bottles (a much bigger problem than straws) and six-pack beer rings are floating around the oceans killing animals as well.

There are solutions for this entire thing and one of the biggest ones is to get rid of our disposable attitudes toward everything from electronics to plates and cups to utensils, etc. We need to start repairing things that break instead of just tossing out that monitor or TV or phone and actually get it repaired instead of putting it in the garbage. We need to stop buying plastic and Styrofoam plates and cups and utensils.

Austin, Texas banned plastic bags for good reason a long time ago and recently the State of Texas overturned plastic bang bans via the Texas Supreme Court. It now won’t be long before plastic bags liter Austin’s streets again, getting into the sewers, finding their ways to the streams and rivers and out into the Gulf of Mexico. The reality is humans are the real problem: plastic in the waterways and oceans is just a symptom of human stupidity.

So because humans are too stupid or lazy or just don’t care to properly dispose of their waste so that it ends up in properly managed landfills, we now have to take drastic kneejerk reaction legislative measures. Humans are the problem: plastic in the waterways and littering our cities is just a symptom of that problem.

So how do we fix the real problem of human behavior? We can’t (at least not in terms of decades – just look at how long it took for the anti-smoking behavior modification to make a dent and people still smoke cigarettes). We can’t fix human behavior like that. So we have to accommodate it and come up with viable solutions and alternatives so that if human morons throw their trash into the street it doesn’t kill animals in the ocean or kill off coral reefs. We need a scientific and fact-based approach to this and kneejerk bans of straws are neither scientific nor fact-based and just a band-aid placed on a sucking chest wound of humanity.

Dear Fellow Liberals: Let’s Talk About Comedy

Dear fellow liberals,

We need to talk about comedy and jokes. Right now a good percentage of you are giving Conservatives a hard time about their feelings being hurt over Michelle Wolf’s material at the White House Correspondence Dinner. You are calling them hypocrites for being upset at her “vulgarity” and “being offensive” when they have spent the entire Trump campaign and presidency being both of those. You are calling them out for putting up with Trump’s offensive comments and behavior while they are now throwing a fit over Michelle’s comments. They should be called out for letting Trump get away with his actual vulgar comments and behavior while getting upset at Michelle’s non-vulgar comments (her use of the word pussy was clearly a reference to Trump – she wasn’t using it in her own vulgar way).

Michelle Wolf at the WHCD. (Photo by Cheriss May via Getty Images)

Let’s be honest: most liberals are being hypocrites here as well. How many times last year alone did the so-called liberal “social justice warriors” rail against a comedian? How many times did you personally get offended by a comedian after hearing about the “public outrage” in your Facebook feed? How many times was there public backlash against a comedian who made a gay joke? Who made a joke you found racist? Who made a joke about fat people (or skinny people) and liberals hated that body shaming stuff? Who made a joke about transgendered persons? Who made a joke about his girlfriend that liberals found sexist?

Of course Conservatives are upset. They are upset for the exact same reason you get upset when a comedian makes fun of your pet issue: be that LGBQT, obesity, mental illness, sexism, body shaming, etc.

This is what I refer to as the “It’s all funny until they make fun of me or my pet issue Syndrome.” You will sit there and laugh at the fat jokes and the jokes about the special needs kid, but then the comedian made a joke about a gay person! How dare he! That’s my pet issue! Now I’m going to rant and rave and call this comedian out for being a homophobic asshole!

So here’s an idea: stop getting butthurt by comedy. You cannot laugh at all the jokes except the ones that make fun of your personal pet issue. Comedy, by its nature, is offensive. You can sit there and say, “Not all jokes are offensive,” but what you mean is, “Not all jokes are offensive to me.” Just because YOU didn’t get offended doesn’t mean the joke isn’t offensive to someone or some ideology or some mindset. So chill out and let comedians do their thing without getting upset because they made fun of your personal issue.

I can hear it already, “But those jokes are different!” No. They’re not. They are only different in your head because you need them to be different to justify your hurt feelings. Laugh or don’t laugh. Then move the fuck on with your life.

If you’ve ever been upset in the past by a comedian’s joke and are now defending Michelle Wolf against upset Conservatives, then you are just as much a hypocrite as they are.

Top 30 Synth Albums of 2017

TOP 30 Synth-Based Albums/EPs from 2017!

This list was very hard to do. There were so many amazing albums, EP’s, and singles released in 2017. In order for an album to qualify, it had to be in my library. I get music a lot of ways. A lot of times promoters, record labels, and artists send me their music so I can play the music. A lot of times I have to buy the albums. Sometimes the artists offer the albums up for free on their web page, Bandcamp, or other sources.

All those sources resulted in having 4,396 unique album/EP/single entries from 2017 that I had to go through. That’s a daunting number and it should be noted that there’s no way I have all the new music released in 2017! There is no doubt in my mind that I missed some new music that may have ended up on this list if I had it in my library.

Narrowing the list down:

In order for an album to qualify it had to be new material from the musician/band. So the first thing I did was remove any remix albums. The second thing I did was remove any compilation/best of/greatest hits albums. The third thing I did was remove any singles where the song was part of a later or earlier album. Doing those three things dwindled the number of unique entries to 3,477. Still a daunting task.

Next step was to go through each of those almost 3,500 entries and rate them from 1 to 10. Then I deleted everything that I rated 8 or below. Entries required a 9 or 10 to make it to next round. This processes narrowed the unique entries to 76.

I then re-rated the remaining 76 entries with a much stricter ear. After the re-rating I removed anything below a 9. That left me with 47 unique entries. Then I had to do it again until I got down to 40 entries. At this point, removing anyone from the list physically hurt my heart. The amount of awesome goodness on that list of 47 and 40 was painful as I removed one after another.

Now that I had it down to 40, I had to remove 10 more, who are the honorable mentions. As hard as it was getting down to 40, removing those 10 more was even more difficult!

The Caveats:

  1. Music is subjective. There is a really good chance that your list would be completely different from mine. I did not use any criteria like record sales, listening stats, or anything that would require me to hire someone with a Master’s Degree in musicology.
  2. My criteria for the initial rating and re-rating was asking two simple questions:
    1. Do I want to listen to this album on repeat or just once and listen to a different album?
    2. Are the majority of the songs on the album listenable? The more I wanted to listen to an album on repeat and the more songs on it that were listenable, the higher the rating it got (weighted for singles and EP’s of course). Narrowing those down to just 40/30 was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be for sure.
  3. I am sure that I will get a lot of “But what about Band A and album B? How could you not list those?” See #1. Music is subjective to the listener.

There was a lot of amazing new music put out in 2017. Let’s hope 2018 is just as awesome!

2017 TOP 30 SYNTH-BASED ALBUMS (alphabetical order):

3FORCE — Resistance
3Teeth — _shutdown.exe_
AM Tierpark — Trashy Luxury
Angelspit — Black Dog Bite
Arian 1 — Signals
Blakk Glass — Trial EP
Christopher Anton — Connected
CRYSEHD — EP III
deZeption — Mature
Drab Majesty – The Demonstration
Elektrostaub — Birthday And Death
Funker Vogt — Code Of Conduct
Gary Numan — Savage: Songs From A Broken World
Grendel — Age Of The Disposable Body
Hexheart — Midnight On A Moonless Night
Lorelei Dreaming — Banshee
ManMindMachine — Point Of Departure EP
Missing in STARS — Echo Point
Night Drive — Night Drive
Priest — New Flesh
Reflection — Lumen EP
Schwarzschild — Radius
Stilz — Starcrash
T.O.Y — Pain Is Love
Telekon — Hope for Believers
Torul — Monday EP
Wiccid — By Design
William Control — Revelations: The White EP
Xenturion Prime — Humanity Plus
Zynic — Neon Oblivion

2017 SYNTH-BASED HONORABLE MENTIONS:

C-Lekktor — Out Of My Way
Crüxshadows, The — Astromythology
Dav Dralleon — Depths EP
Forces Of Light — Darklights
New Division, The — No Pride In Paradise EP
Orange Sector — Endzeit (Deluxe Edition)
Slave Republic — Songs For Sinners
Sonic Reunion — Turning Point
Vainerz — Patient
Watch Clark — First Week of Winter