Looking For Quacks In The Pavement

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Last Gasp of Winter

Sure, we had those days of bitter (and bone-dry) cold and wind, and I think we had a brief icy-rain storm at some point, but proper piled-up snowfall? In Winter of 2022/2023? That’s a thing of the past, at least in westside Portland Oregon metro.

Except, no, apparently not entirely, not yet.

Last Thursday we got snow. Serious amounts of snow.

Picture taken shortly before 5 o’clock in the morning, prompted by some jerk’s car alarm going off for 90 solid minutes. At least I got this pretty winter wonderland snapshot out of it.

Of course, it didn’t really last long. By midday Saturday the roads were mostly clear, and here on Monday afternoon there’s barely anything left hidden in various nooks & crannies.

But, hey, for a couple of days it actually looked like winter around here. Inconvenient as heck, sure, but some part of me loved to see it nonetheless.

Satisfactory – Rail Talk

Here we are, the last of my promised posts from the end of last month. It took me a while to get here but it’s for the best, since every week along the way I’ve learned something new about dealing with trains in the Satisfactory game.

Thank goodness this is just a game, especially one where pesky issues like “gravity” and “structural integrity” don’t entirely matter to what you build.
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In Search Of A Trackball – GameBall

First came the Elecom Deft Pro, and its driver software turned out to be junk. Then came the Sanwa Gravi, and not only did its driver software turn out to be junk but the build quality was lousy.

Now I’ve spent about a month with the GameBall, and I’m… mostly happy with it.

On the upside, the build quality is pretty solid and there’s no actual fussy driver software to fight against. Also, all of the setting changes are conveyed through tapping or long-pressing various parts of the touch-sensitive area on the device. (We’ll get to that in a moment.) This means no fighting with fiddly, misbehaving driver software just to get basic functions working.

I won’t say “on the downside” because I don’t have major complaints with the device, merely mild annoyances. Such as:

  • It’s an ambidextrous design, which is an overall positive design choice since southpaws need love too. But this means it’s not quite as comfortable a device to use long-term as the previous two contenders. Minor quibble though.
  • I had to put a mouse pad under it because of its tendency to rock back a bit on its rubber pads when resting my hand on it. Weird, but not an actual problem once I gave it a cushion to sit on.
  • The ball does “jump” a bit, especially when spinning it “upward.” It’s not much of a jump, but it happens.
  • The scroll function is… genuinely weird. Instead of a standard scroll-wheel combo button or, as Kensington does it, a wheel ring around the ball itself, there’s a trackpad-like touch-sensitive area to each side of the ball. The left side does horizontal scrolling, the right handles vertical. By default they’re set to “continuous” scroll mode, so you swipe your finger a bit and leave it there to keep scrolling as long as you want. This is… not great when you’re trying to do gear swapping in a video game. Which, given the name of the device, would make you think they’d have considered their defaults a bit better. Alas. It’s an easy fix, but I’ll probably never be fully “used to” this mode of scrolling. (I tend to over-scroll when changing gear in Satisfactory, and it’s been a month.)

Customization, which I needed because I didn’t like the default right-button selection, comes in the form of a third-party utility. On Windows PCs, that’s the X-Mouse Button Control software, a sort of universal button-remap program. I worried about having to rely on this but remembered that the actual, official software for the previous two devices were both terrible, so I shrugged and installed yet another software package anyway. So far? So good. (I have my double-click where I want it, and right-click is above the left-click on the thumb side.) I simply… try not to think about relying on a hobby project that hasn’t been updated in nearly three years.

The folks behind the GameBall are apparently working on different designs for the future and I’m curious to see how that goes, but for now? This’ll do… until it doesn’t.

Fire Emblem Somewhat Engaged

After Heroes and Three Houses and Three Hopes, now we’ve landed on Engage, the latest Fire Emblem title. Depending on which long-time fan of the series you want to believe, this either is or isn’t a welcome return to the classic play style and structure of yore.

This’ll take some unpacking. Buckle up.

Zen, my player avatar, about to do absolutely zero damage whatsoever to this bundle of cash on the hoof.
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Quick End-Of-Month Check-In

Let’s see… here are a few things I don’t yet have time + energy to flesh out, though some will get further attention at some point:

  • The GameBall trackball is holding up pretty well so far. At least, it hasn’t infuriated me and does its job reliably. So far. The third in the ongoing “in search of” post series will bubble up here probably in early February.
  • There’s a new Mono Inc record out, I have it, I’ve heard it. I need to sit with it and give it another solid listen-through before I feel like I’ll be ready to give it a proper review. It’s coming, though.
  • Fire Emblem Engage has taken over a lot of my free time, and that’s a good thing. If you have any interest in the game series at all and have read some reviews and seen first-impressions videos, my opinion probably won’t surprise you by diverging from a lot of those… but I want to get a bit further into the main storyline before putting my own complete thoughts in order here. I’ll absolutely be ranting and raving about it before much longer, don’t you worry.
  • I don’t think I’m writing an entire post about how angry I am about the state of housing. Nobody needs to read that, and I don’t need to be writing it. Suffice to say that I feel intensely frustrated by the fact that at almost exactly the time that I paid off the big big loan and started stashing money away for a potential move, the costs of everything jumped skyward and now I just… can’t. I’ve nearly been priced out of existing.
  • Another brief grumble unworthy of an entire post? The folks who make the good version of my primary diabetes-treatment medicine could resolve their supply-chain issues any day now, please and thank you. Taking the other folks’ version is a fuss and a bother and I hate it. (A pill-crusher is involved. Feh.)
  • And to end on a positive note, I need to write up my experiences with trains in Satisfactory now that they’ve been the central concept of my latest solo savegame and an integral part of the co-op game I’m playing with the kids. It’s been fun! But… there are definitely drawbacks to going All Trains All The Time. I’ll get into that at some point in the next few weeks.

That’s all for now, folks. I hope you’re staying healthy and safe.

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