Random Thoughts – Randocity!

Is it safe to drink soda left in a hot car?

Posted in Health, summer, tips by commorancy on June 29, 2021

This question seems like it should have a simple answer. However, the answer is more complicated than it would seem. Let’s explore.

Canned Soft Drinks and Beverages

Canned sodas are hermetically sealed and are bottled with bacteria free water. This means that high heat won’t grow anything undue. However, sodas have flavorings, artificial and sometimes natural colors and sugar or artificial sweeteners. Depending on these ingredients, sodas can deteriorate if left in hot conditions.

Canned sodas are “bottled” (or canned) in aluminum cans. While aluminum is heat safe, think about the aluminum foil you use to bake with, there is no problem with the aluminum itself. In fact, because the drink is fully sealed and not exposed to UV light, this method of storage with heat probably offers your best chances of retaining a drinkable beverage even after being exposed to excessive heat. If the aluminum were the only problem, this section would be over.

However, we must also consider the ingredients. The good news here is that artificial and natural colors are generally heat stable. Again, think about baking with food coloring. Colors don’t degrade under 350ºF / 176.7ºC baking temperatures, which is far lower than the heat your car interior should ever be.

The same goes for soda flavorings. Most flavorings are designed for baking purposes which also reach high temperatures needed for baking.

What’s ingredients are left?

Sweeteners and preservatives. Depending on the sweetener, it might or might not be high heat stable. For example, it is known that Aspartame (aka NutraSweet) is not high heat stable. As temperatures increase, Aspartame begins to break down into components such as methanol. Keep in mind that Aspartame is made up of 10% methanol, 40% aspartic acid, and 50% phenylalanine.

Methanol is a highly toxic substance that, when heated above 86 degrees F (as it is in your body), is metabolized into formaldehyde (embalming fluid) and formic acid (the poison in fire ants).

https://www.downtoearth.org/articles/2009-03/13/aspartame-potential-risk-lurking-your-cabinets

As the above quote states, at 86ºF / 30ºC is when methanol begins to break down into formaldehyde and formic acid. This temperature is well lower than the temperatures which can be reached inside of a hot car. During a hot summer day, temperatures in a car can reach temperatures 20-30ºF / 5-10ºC hotter than the outdoor temperature. For example, a 90ºF / 32ºC ambient outdoor temperature can see temperatures rise to between 110ºF-120ºF / 43.3ºC-48.9ºC inside of a car.

If a beverage you’ve left in the vehicle contains Aspartame, it may not be safe to drink if the can has reached these high temperatures. For canned drinks, it takes between 30 minutes up to 1 hour to heat a can up to these high temperatures once in a vehicle.

Beverages that contain other sweeteners, such as saccharine, sugar, stevia or agave, are considered heat safe sweeteners. Sucralose (aka Splenda) claims to be heat safe, but may or may not be. If a drink contains Sucralose, you might want to taste it first. If the drink is no longer as sweet as you expect, a portion of the sweetener may have broken down in the heat and it’s not recommended to drink.

Bottled Drinks

There are two different types of bottles: glass and plastic.

Glass

Glass bottles are safe to drink so long as it contains heat safe ingredients. However, if the bottles have been exposed to UV by sitting in direct sunlight, some of the coloring might have faded and flavors may changed. I’d be cautious if the bottle has been sitting around for hours in sunlight. I’d strongly suggest a smell and taste for any bottle which has been sitting in UV light for longer than 1 hour. If the bottle has been sitting for an hour, then it shouldn’t be problem. Always use the nose and taste test to determine suitability for drinking. If it doesn’t taste right, spit it out, then toss it out.

Plastic

Plastic bottles are different beast. Plastic bottles can leach plastic and chemicals into the beverage after sitting in a hot car. This goes for water bottles and flavored beverages. If your beverage has been sitting for hours in direct sunlight in a super hot car, toss it out. Don’t risk it. It doesn’t matter if the ingredients are heat safe. It’s the plastic leaching that becomes the problem with plastic bottles.

Wine, Beer and Spirits

Wine is a drink that is best kept at room temperature (i.e., at or below 78ºF / 25.6ºC). If wine bottles are exposed to higher heat, such as 85ºF / 29.4ºC or hotter, the bottle of wine can be ruined. By ruined, the flavors change, the subtle aromas are lost and the bottle may increase tannins, making the wine unpalatable. The longer the wine remains at a high temp, the more the wine may turn into a flavor resembling vinegar. If you open a bottle and it tastes of vinegar, the bottle is bad. This goes for all wines including white, red, rose and bubbly.

Beer, like wine, will also sour and go bad when stored above room temperature for long periods. Unlike wine, beer is carbonated. This goes for sparkling wine and Champagne as well.

If you’re paying a lot for your wine or beer, you want to keep it in your car near an air conditioning vent, then remove from the car as soon as you arrive home. If it’s an especially hot day and you need to do a lot of running around, I’d suggest bringing a cooler with you and placing these into a cooler with ice. That, or shop for these items last.

Spirits, such as Tequila, Vodka and even Liqueurs can go bad in high heat. This is especially true for liqueurs like Bailey’s Irish Cream, which does contains dairy cream. Anything containing dairy should always be stored refrigerated once opened. However, Bailey’s Irish Cream remains shelf stable if unopened and is stored under room temperature conditions.

Changing Flavors

Regardless of whether a drink contains high-heat safe ingredients, sitting in super hot conditions or subject to UV exposure for long periods isn’t good for any food or drink. If you accidentally leave a case of soda cans in your car for three days or longer, I’d suggest tasting one first. By tasting, I mean just that. Taste and spit. If it tastes at all funny, then the cans are bad.

When buying drinks, it is suggested to take them into an air conditioned climate as soon as possible. Sure, you can run around for a little while while shopping, but be cautious for how long. If you know you plan to shop the entire day for hours, then plan to bring a cooler and place beverages and food items into the cooler to keep them stored properly and safely.

Explosions

Carbonated beverages have one other problem with high heat. As more and more manufacturers reduce costs, they tend to make their product containers (cans and bottles) as thin as possible. These containers are safe when stored in appropriate conditions. However, under high heat conditions, these containers can weaken and burst.

As high heat creeps in, this weakens a plastic bottle or can, which can lead to an explosion. Safety is a concern when buying a case of cans or plastic bottles and choosing to leave then in a hot car. Glass bottles should be safer in regards to exploding, but the beverage itself may not survive high heat conditions.

Summer Safety Tips

Always store cans and bottles in a cooler, if at all possible. If you know you plan shopping at a number of stores, plan to bring a cooler with ice. This way, you can store cans and bottles in the cooler while remaining out and about. As our summers seem to be getting hotter and hotter each year, carrying around a cooler becomes ever more important.

If you’re buying expensive beer, wine and spirits, then you definitely want a cooler. There’s no danger in storing wine at ice temperatures for a short time, but there is definitely a danger from wine becoming too hot. Same for beer and spirits. For soda or bottled water, it’s fine to remain in the car for a 20 minute drive home, but if it needs to remain in the car for hours, then you’ll want plan a cooler for these as well.

As we move into the hotter days of summer, plan to spend for and use a decent cooler for those days when you need to be out and about for longer than a few hours.

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What is Critical Race Theory?

Posted in advice, racial divide by commorancy on June 24, 2021

Critical Race Theory is, as it is so named, a theory. The words ‘Critical’ and ‘Race’ define this theory, but not entirely. The handful of so-called academician drafters of this theory sought to explain the lack of improvement and standing from the mid-1960s into the mid-1970s for the continuance of societal inequality for people of color. Let’s explore.

What Critical Race Theory Isn’t

Too many people and so-called scholars believe that this theory encapsulates all law going back to the beginning of time. That’s false. Critical Race Theory was a theory designed in the 1970s to explain specifically why the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s didn’t bear much equality fruit for people of color… or more specifically, why that movement didn’t see changes to the body of law between the 1950s and 1970s. This theory is a thin attempt to explain why the racial divide didn’t shrink dramatically between these specific years. However, while CRT wasn’t intended to encapsulate every law in existence, there is certainly plenty of law to examine to determine if this theory might actually apply. In reality, it doesn’t apply to the word of law, but it may apply in other unexplored ways.

Complaint

In fact, Critical Race Theory is simply a complaint. It complains that the racial divide still exists and seeks to explain this continued divide simply by complaining. While the racial divide did shrink between the 1950s and the 1970s, those who put forth this theory weren’t at all happy with the overall amount of shrinkage in that 10-20 year span and, thus, those academicians penned this theory.

I’d argue the opposite. The Civil Rights Movement brought about significant change in the area of racial equality in that time period. No, the Civil Rights Movement results weren’t perfect. No, it didn’t give those of color the same standing in every single area of society that were afforded to white people by the mid-70s. However, anyone expecting that level of complete equality in that short time was honestly expecting way too much. Bodies of law simply don’t change that quickly. It’s a slow barge and it takes a very long time to turn.

Critical Race Theory, though, primarily seeks to offer a possible explanation over the existing body of law if viewed through a single solitary lens… a lens that is, by its every crafting, is already biased. However, complaints without solutions are also pointless… and here we arrive at the crux of the problem with Critical Race Theory. This article seeks to explain why CRT only complains, but offers no solutions.

Complaint Validity

Don’t get me wrong, complaints have a purpose, but only if there is some form of remediation attached to that complaint. For example, if you buy a defective item at Target and return it, the complaint is the reason why you returned the item. However, no one would head over to Target without said item in hand simply to complain that the item is merely defective. What point does that serve? The person you complain to doesn’t care about that and they’re not even in a position to do anything to solve your complaint. They’re there to accept exchanges and returns, not listen to complaints.

The one and only time filing only a complaint is useful is if injury or death is involved. However, you wouldn’t head to your local Target store to file that specific complaint. You’d file that complaint to a court in the form of a lawsuit.

No, complaints are only useful IF, as in the Target example above, you bring the defective item in for a return. Putting it all together, the complaint is why the item is defective, the remediation (or solution) is in the exchange or refund. The same goes for CRT. Simply that CRT postulates that law was created by “white” people for the agenda of favoring “whites” over “blacks” is merely a complaint. CRT doesn’t seek to change, alter or remediate that problem. It simply attempts to postulate such a problem exists.

Like the defective item returned to Target, a complaint over why the item was defective may not actually be true. For example, a so-called defect might, in fact, be simple user error. That the person using the product might not fully understand the use of said product. If you don’t fully read the instructions, you can’t know if the product functions in the way you want. For example, not all glues work on all surface types. If you bought a glue and assumed you could glue two pieces of Teflon coated plastic together and the glue fails, that’s not a defect, that’s user error. Even though Target will accept your complaint by calling it a defect and then exchange or return the product, that doesn’t mean the complaint is valid.

Likewise, Critical Race Theory doesn’t seek to modify new laws, change how laws are created or alter existing laws to “solve” a perceived racial injustice problem. Indeed, the complaint in CRT hasn’t really even been validated as a problem. It simply postulates that a problem might or might not exist.

Black Legislators

One issue with Critical Race Theory is that black legislators have been part of the body of lawmaking since at least 1868! Postulating that because “whites” have “always” crafted law and that law somehow disfavors “blacks” is, at worst, disingenuous and, at best, insulting to those black legislators who potentially helped craft some of that legislation.

That’s not to say that whites haven’t primarily been part of crafting and passing state and federal laws. However, few laws specifically include words such as race, creed, color or gender in its body of text. Most laws that actually touch on the topic of race are those laws which sought to free slaves or that specifically mandated such legislation as affirmative action.

Keep in mind that there are also many rules and regulations produced by private establishments that have nothing to do with federal, state and local laws. These rules and regulations are outside the body of law. While Critical Race Theory may be much more applicable to such rules and regulations, CRT reaches too far when attempting to explain (or rather, complain about) the vast majority of existing federal, state, county and municipal laws and statutes. While non-legal guidelines might have unfairly treated minorities, these guidelines were not issued by lawmakers, but by private owners and individuals. It can be difficult to establish where law ends and private rules begin.

Private Rules

Rules of private companies begin at the border of that private company, such as when entering a retail store (or even when using Twitter or Facebook). Every retail store has its own set of rules and regulations, some posted, some not. Every store adheres to these company chartered rules and regulations. For example, if a person enters with the goal of being loud, boisterous and with the intent of disturbing the peace, the store has every right to refuse service and eject that person from the premises. The difficulty comes not because the person was ejected, but the race of the person who was ejected.

If a white person is ejected, it would be seen as ‘fair’. If a black person is ejected, it will be seen as ‘unfair’. Herein lies one problem with Critical Race Theory. CRT doesn’t take into account this fair vs unfair argument, which is entirely subjective application of this theory. The store would then be seen as racist because they ejected someone of color, even though the store may have ejected just as many white people for the same exact reason.

Critical Race Theory then becomes less about actually being treated unfairly and more about ways to allow people of color to unfairly complain about racism in situations where they have actually been treated fairly. This also goes for application of laws.

Laws and CRT

Let’s get back to actual law. When a body of law is written, it is written and designed to solve a societal problem. Now, I won’t get into exactly how laws fail society simply because the philosophy behind law doesn’t actually do what it is designed to do… because that would make this article into a book. No. Instead, I’ll remain focused on a body of law as how people assume law functions.

Unless the verbiage of a specific law states that it excludes or includes a specific race, creed, gender or color, it doesn’t. That’s how laws work. Laws are written with specific words. Those words define the condition and resolution. Attempting to “read into” or “read between the lines” …. such as because the words may have been penned by a “white male”, that that situation, according to CRT, somehow makes the law biased towards whites and against blacks. CRT also doesn’t take into account that black and brown legislators may have read the wording of the law long before being adopted, and agreed with the text of it… even being given the opportunity to modify it if so needed.

Laws don’t work by reading between the lines. Laws should work as written. As I said, words matter. It’s all in exactly how the words are written. If no words define a specific condition, such as race, creed, gender or color, then no conditions around those qualities exist.

Critical Race Theory, nonetheless, seeks to apply its biased notion (complaint ), by reading between the lines across all laws regardless of how the laws are actually worded.

Legal Interpretation

With that said, CRT, in turn, fails to postulate legal interpretation. The written word defines the body of law. Unfortunately, it’s not the words that (fail to) do the job, it’s people. People must interpret those words into actionable content… and that’s where the police, attorneys and the courts come into the picture.

While words are merely words, people are free to take those words and twist the vagueness of those words into meanings that were not intended by the original author. This situation happens everywhere… with the Bible being probably the most prominent example of this. Part of the problem is intent. Because the Bible was written at a time and place that cannot be replicated today, anyone reading the text of a passage must interpret it with a current modern mindset. Today’s mindset didn’t exist when the Bible was originally written. Therefore, it’s almost impossible to understand a passage’s actual intent as written by the original author. That original intent has been long lost to time.

The same can be said of the body of law. A law written in 1870 might have been written for a condition which no longer exists today. The author of the law wrote it with a then existing mindset. In 2021, that condition doesn’t exist. Therefore, the law must be interpreted by someone to determine if a similar situation can be enforced today.

For example, there’s a California law that states, “You can’t pile more than six feet of horse manure on a street corner.” In the 1870s, horses were a thing. In that age, piling more than six feet of horse manure might have been a substantial city problem. Today, we don’t ride horses other than for recreation and not very often down city streets. Therefore, this law was penned to solve a specific problem using a specific mindset. That mindset no longer exists today and, thus, this law is outdated. Though, in some cities in California, horses might still be allowed down main thoroughfares even in 2021.

Mindsets and Words

With the above example in mind, Critical Race Theory was written in the 1970s under a 1970s mindset. Attempting to apply a 1970s mindset to every law that has come before (or, indeed, after) is both fallacious and disingenuous. It seeks to explain-complain about how laws may have been written. Though, laws are not about race, laws came to exist to solve a problem that may no longer exist today. The older the law, the more likely it is to be outdated. However, interpretation can read-into the word of law ideas which weren’t intended. It’s the vagueness of those written words which, unfortunately, allow these modern (mis)interpretations.

This is how CRT fails us (and how laws can fail us)…. not only in the fact that CRT is a complaint which offers no actual solutions, but because it attempts to apply a modern mindset and word definitions to much older laws… laws which may not even have applicable uses today. Unfortunately, both judges and attorneys alike prefer to find such nebulous and vague written laws which tie into and support their cases to uphold personal and legal convictions. Such laws may not have even been intended for such use, but modern interpretation lends itself to that agenda. This means that it is the people who are interpreting the laws and who may be adding racist intentions, not the laws themselves.

It goes deeper. Laws must start with police officers. Police are tasked to enforce laws, by force if necessary. However, because laws are written with words that don’t always express clear intent, too many laws must be interpreted. That means that, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” More specifically, because words are easily misinterpreted and because meanings of words can change over time (just check out Urban Dictionary), the current meaning of a word might not be the same as when the text of a law was penned.

Police officers are not necessarily hired because of their prowess with the English language. Instead, they are hired because they have the wherewithal to carry a weapon and put their lives on the line each and every day. However, because they are also tasked to enforce laws that don’t always have clear intent, they must interpret those legal words through their own personal lens. That means, once again, a potential for racism to creep in… not because of the words, but because a living breathing person is tasked to take those potentially vague words and interpret them in ways that they can enforce.

Is Critical Race Theory useful?

Critical Race Theory might have limited value in that it seeks to draw attention to the existing body of law in a way that shows that it needs oversight. However, it seeks to do so in the wrong way. Bodies of law, in fact, need both oversight and to be kept up-to-date. When laws become outdated either because the original intent no longer applies (manure doesn’t pile up on street corners) or because the condition no longer exists (we don’t use horses for general transport), these laws need to be stricken. In fact, new laws need to be written which enforces oversight upon the body of law and which can auto-stricken and invalidate outdated laws.

Unfortunately, such oversight is still missing in our body of law. This allows useless and pointless laws to continue to exist in perpetuity. This is the the kind of oversight that Critical Race Theory should attempt to put forward with functional solutions, but which it fails to do. In fact, having this entire theory named ‘Critical Race Theory’ both misnames it and turns it into something that makes it controversial. The word ‘race’ in its title automatically makes this theory divisive by the word’s very inclusion.

Though, I personally ignore that problem entirely. Words are just words. Just as laws are also just words. It’s the word interpretation by living breathing people where the words become ideas and where ideas can become a problem. It’s these misinterpreted ideas that are causing the problems, not the words. As long as attorneys, judges and juries all incorrectly agree on word definitions, then laws (even if not originally intended for a purpose) can apply incorrectly to situations unintended.

In other words, it takes people to interpret laws to determine if that law’s text applies to a specific situation. It is this interpretation where problems come to exist, not in the body of written law. Interpretation is the bane of human existence. It’s where people determine what is valid and what isn’t. To interpret, people must bring in their own prejudices, thought processes, teachings and values to reach a conclusion… conclusions which, yes, can become racist.

In short… It isn’t the body of law that’s racist, it’s the people who interpret those laws who are. This is exactly where Critical Race Theory fails us.

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Game Review: Days Gone

Posted in botch, reviews, video game by commorancy on June 20, 2021

This former Sony PS4 exclusive game (now also available on Windows), while sporting only the rare fun game mechanic, is hands-down one of the worst single-player games I have ever played. It’s not bad in the same exact way as Fallout 76, but it is definitely the absolute worst game of its kind. Days Gone needs to begone. Let’s explore.

What’s wrong with Days Gone?

That’s a good question. Let’s dive deep into this Sony Interactive / Bend Studio disaster. It’s funny. You would think that Sony could put together good games… especially considering that they seem to keep hiring large ghost developers behind the scenes to put these games together. Well, you’d be wrong. Let’s take a look at Ghost of Tsushima to understand where Day’s Gone goes so horribly astray. Even though Ghost of Tsushima would be released not quite one year after Days Gone, they both share similar problems. Both games must have also been in development during the same time frame.

While Ghost of Tsushima could have been a good game, it copied way too much of Assassin’s Creed for its own good and didn’t do it very well. Though, both Days Gone and Ghost of Tsushima are very pretty games, looking beautiful can only take a game so far. The blowing reeds and flower petal particles in Ghost of Tsushima are wondrous to behold, same for the Oregon mountainous landscape in Days Gone. It’s the game’s mechanics which undermine all of that beauty. Why would I want to play Assassin’s Creed set in feudal Japan when it’s not even written by Ubisoft? Yeah, so there’s that. Regardless, the problems that plague Ghost of Tsushima are the same problems that also plague Days Gone, except Days Gone is even worse than Ghost of Tsushima by an order of magnitude.

With Days Gone, the problems start right from the beginning. First, the game steals the hero’s bike away from him. An unnecessary start to this disaster. If that were the only problem, I could live with it. Second, the sole point to stealing the motorcycle is in giving the player a way to spend time rebuilding the bike… a completely unnecessary included mechanic. That’s the least of the problems with the bike in this game, however. It’s perfectly fine to allow us to rebuild the bike to our own whims and on our own time, but the stolen bike storyline was entirely unnecessary.

Even More Bike Problems

The motorcycle given in concession to the stolen bike is crap by comparison. This crap bike requires the game player to grind, grind, grind for money to repair and enhance the bike. That means heading out to do all of the missions in the game. Except we then run afoul of all of the insipid bike mechanics.

Gasoline UsageStupid Mechanic #1

That this bike mechanic exists is entirely insipid. Real world motorcycles get between 35-40 miles per gallon on average. That means a full 6 gallon tank of gas should see a motorcycle go around 240 miles. In Days Gone, a full tank of gas lasts about 5 minutes of driving, or maybe 3-5 miles. The game literally forces you to stop and gas up about every 5-10 minutes of play. It’s an incredibly time wasting game mechanic. I get that the game wanted to add some measure of realism around requiring gasoline, but this mechanic is overkill and overly burdensome on the player.

If you’re planning on adding this level of burden to the player, then at least have the decency to allow us to disable requiring gasoline as a game option. Grand Theft Auto isn’t that stupid. Why not follow GTA’s formula which doesn’t require gas at all? Gassing up the motorcycle constantly is not only repetitive, it’s insanely stupid. If you’re going to include a gassing up mechanic, at least make it realistic enough that you can drive from one side of the map to the other and back on a single tank. This problem is the first in the tip of this game’s cracking iceberg. Oh yes, it does get worse.

Paying for GasStupid Mechanic #2

When you’re out and about running around, gassing up every few minutes, you can find gas canisters and gas pumps which offer infinite free gas. You just pump and go. However, when you finally meet up with the various factions, these factions require that you pay for gas. Why would you ever do that? Just drive a little bit up the road and find a gas can in the back of a truck that will completely fill the tank. It’s the complete opposite of how this mechanic should have been designed. You should be required to pay for gas at pumps and get free gas with the factions.

RepairsStupid Mechanic #3

Motorcycles don’t just randomly fall apart as you ride them. Yet, in this game, they do. Hopping over the most insignificant little ramp immediately causes damage to the bike. Meaning, by the time you land, the bike already needs 15-30% repair work for each and every little bump. See, I told you that it gets worse.

Further, as you get clothes-lined or snipered by road side ambushes, the bike’s damage level immediately goes from 100% to 0%. There’s no chance of seeing less damage from an ambush. The bike’s repair level is always at 0% after an ambush of any kind. It’s like the bike is some kind of child’s toy made of plastic or something. This tiresome repair mechanic combined with the constant tank refilling makes the bike more of a hassle than a help.

Worse, it takes at least 10 pieces of scrap, probably more, to repair the bike from 0% to 100%. Looking for scrap in this game is also pain in the ass… finding two pieces here, one piece there, cracking open hoods of cars in among a bunch of ghouls. Anyway, you can drive around when the bike is 20% repaired, but that means one tiny little bump and you’re back at 0% again. Both the gas refilling mechanic and the repair mechanic combine to make the entire bike worthless and clinch the disaster that is this game. You could probably walk to locations faster than riding a bike, were it not for the ghouls.

Ghouls and Apocalypse

Here’s where we finally get into the Days Gone story, such that it isn’t. Basically, the world has undergone an apocalypse. A virus has been released that has turned many people into zombies, not unlike the ghouls in Fallout 76. The ghouls are pretty much ripped straight out of Fallout, lunging attacks, screaming and all. It’s like the developers said, “Fuck it, let’s just steal the Feral Ghouls right from Fallout”. So, that’s what they did. While Fallout 76 has modified the Ghouls to be able to run like the Bionic Man at supersonic speeds, the Ghouls in Days Gone remain at least a bit less superhuman than that. That doesn’t make them any better.

The point is, it’s basically an apocalyptic world pretty much like Fallout. Instead of radiation being the culprit, it’s a virus. Regardless, the power plants don’t work, towns are abandoned, ghouls roam the land and the story attempts to unfold what went on and why the ghouls act as they do. It’s a very weak story designed only to give the hero character motivation to find his girlfriend after they get separated.

He also has a brother who loses an arm to burn damage because of other threats across the land. Of course, the world wouldn’t be complete without some deranged faction with loony toons followers, which seems to indicate the first stage of the virus. The second stage of the virus is the ghouls who have no mental capacity other than instinct to kill only. The third stage of the virus is when the ghoul turns into an albino version and gains significant strength. There is a fourth stage of the virus when it turns a ghoul into a hulking brute beast. Not sure how that happens, but the hero encounters one as a boss. If there are further stages, and there probably are, I’ve not yet played far enough in to encounter them.

The ghoul mechanic works okay as an enemy, but it’s also way too much like the ghouls in Fallout. Couldn’t they come up with something new? The ghouls are only a small part of this game’s problems.

Quests and Map Markers

Here’s where the rubber meets the road, literally. The game has you traipse all over the map using that weak ass bike for each and every quest. Noooo, the quests can’t possibly unfold close in proximity. The game literally has you go to one side of the map, perform a quest, then drive all the way across to the other side for the next one. This constant and incessant yo-yo movement is tiresome and highly annoying, particularly when you’re constantly required to refill and repair the bike halfway across the map each and every time.

There is no efficiency in layout of the quests on the map. It’s super annoying and yet becomes completely predictable. This means you’ll need to drive by a refill station at the halfway point before completing the trip to the quest marker… every single time.

There’s no fun to be had with this mechanic. It’s simply becomes tiresome after the third time doing it. Repetitive? Oh, yes. Fun? No way. This game is certainly on its way to being one of the worst games ever.

Ghoul Hordes

Here’s another game mechanic that seems to have been added just to see if it could be done technically. Sure, there’s a story element that weakly ties into the hordes. Additionally, the hordes seem mostly to have been included to also inconvenience the player. There are literal times where the horde goes right over your bike which is parked somewhere away from you. When you want to go back to your bike, you can’t because the horde is right there.

Let me also state that, in general, hordes are basically unkillable under most circumstances. What I mean is that for a player to attempt to attack a horde means certain death. There are so many ghouls in a horde, you simply don’t have enough bullets or melee damage to kill every single one. The only thing you can do is hide in the bushes and wait for them to walk by… slowly… which is like watching paint dry. You can’t do anything else while waiting on a horde. Yet another insipid game mechanic.

That isn’t to say there isn’t a way to defeat a horde as I’ve done it. You must do it at a location where the horde can’t get to you, like on top of a small cliff where only your bike can reach. So long as the ghouls can’t climb up, you’re safe. You can stand on the edge, craft and rain molotovs down onto them. Molotovs are actually the best way to handle ghoul hordes in this game… and these are the easiest grenade-style weapons to make. Unfortunately, ghouls are very agile and can amass in very large numbers quickly and silently. Don’t take a horde on unless you know they can’t get to you.

With that said, hordes are an unnecessary inclusion. I get why they were added, but they’re mostly a nuisance since there’s no general means of taking them out. Taking out a horde requires a very specific set of circumstances which don’t occur often… unless you explicitly know how to plan for it.

Motorcycle Chases

Inevitably, you’ll run into one of the many poorly designed motorcycle chase routines in the game. In fact, these seem to happen about every 5th quest. You’ll arrive at a quest marker and a random motorcycle will speed by requiring you to chase and “subdue” them. Oh no, you can’t kill the biker. You must keep them alive.

Worse, though, is that your gun holds perhaps 10 shots and you’re limited to which guns you can use while on a bike. Oh, but you’re not just chasing one bike, you’re chasing 3 bikers: a primary biker you need to subdue and two random bullet sponge bikers riding just behind. These bullet sponge bikers were included simply to waste bullets. By the time you get those two gone, you’ve already wasted half of the ammo in your gun. This means you have maybe 3-5 bullets left to attempt to stop the fleeing primary biker… not enough to actually do the job.

If the game mechanic only had you chase ONE biker, you would have well enough ammo to do the job. Instead, the game forces you to waste ammo on unnecessary random bullet sponge bikers that honestly make no sense being there.

This chase routine wouldn’t be so bad if there were ways to carry more ammo with you on the bike, but you can’t. All the ammo you carry on your character is all of the ammo you have for that gun. Because there are limited guns you can use while on a motorcycle, once you are out of ammo, the whole thing is done. Without ammo, you cannot subdue the biker without trying to ram him off the road, which is next to impossible on the crap bike they’ve given you. If you could swing your melee bat at him or his bike, you could easily subdue him. The game doesn’t let you use this weapon while on a bike.

Here’s where the game gets its crap reputation and why Days Gone is one of the worst games I have ever played. If, as a developer, you’re requiring us to use a bike, then damn well let us carry as much ammo as we please. Why 10 pieces only? Ammo doesn’t weigh much and even if it does, you could store it on the bike somewhere. You might have to stop to reload, but you could then continue. Unfortunately, the game offers the player no such mechanic. Once you’re out of ammo, you’re pretty effectively forced to abandon the chase and try to buy ammo, find some in a cop car or attempt to locate ammo at some other place. This means you simply can’t finish that quest. It also means you’re going to be redoing that quest over and over and over until you can find just the right set of circumstances to get that dumbass on the bike to stop. Why the game developers didn’t allow us to use all of our weapons, including the melee weapons (which can be used one handed), I have no idea.

One last thing about this chase is that the game refuses to let you go faster than the bike ahead. The game always keeps the biker ahead of your bike regardless of how fast you are traveling. This makes it almost impossible to straddle along side the biker to knock him off. Oh, and guns? Yeah, the primary biker gets to carry not only pistols, but shotguns and molotovs… something the game doesn’t allow the player to do.

Again, nothing fun about these chase scenarios… at all. Simply tedium and frustration only.

Factions

Here’s where the game takes a U turn. There are three factions which you can “join”. By “join”, I mean become a mercenary for. Ultimately, you’re only in it to take quests, fetch things and kill intruders. These quests earn you reputation points and money with each of the factions. Though, why you’d want to be friends with these factions, I’ve no idea. All three of them are run by stupid, insensitive schmucks. None of them understand the gravity of what’s going on out in the world, nor do they really care to know. As long as they have the fence that blocks out the ghouls, they’re happy. All three of the factions really make no sense being there in the way that they are.

It’s actually one of the dumbest game mechanics I’ve seen in an apocalyptic game… especially considering that all three factions are nearly identically configured. Other than in a video game, how could that ever happen?

Ultimately, the factions are only there to dole out quests for the player and offer up money to buy crap.

Disappearing Quests

Here’s another mechanic that always makes me angry every time I see it in a game. You’ll be playing along and something randomly comes along and kills the player’s character. With this game, not only is there an incredibly LONG reload time waiting for the entire game to almost completely reload, once it does reload the quest you were on has completely disappeared along with any enemies who were there.

Worse, these are apparently one-time quests which appear once, but don’t appear again… so you can’t retry. This is true of the roadside ambushes. When they appear, you have one chance to subdue the attackers. If they kill the player, that mini-quest is long gone and won’t appear again… so no vengeance in this game. This situation is entirely frustrating to the point where I want to break the game disk in half. Thankfully, it’s a digital copy and that’s not possible. Though, I most certainly have considered deleting the game from my console several times. For whatever reason, I keep coming back to it in hopes that it might get better. It never does.

Fun in the Game

There are a few places in this game where I have had at least a minimal amount of fun. Though, it has nothing to do with that crap ass bike, the rail quests or any other story progression. The one and only one fun element is taking out the ghoul nests. These are side quests that are solely designed to enable fast travel to points beyond the nest site. However, these activities are probably the most fun thing to do in this game world. The reason is, there are no artificial constraints forced onto the player, like the bike chase artificial weapon constraints that sap all of the fun out of what could have been great fun.

Because clearing out the nests is entirely an open world side quest, you can use whatever weapons you want, choose whatever tactics you like and do it as you see fit. The developers don’t stand in your way by having you do it in some very artificial and unusual way. With all of the primary quests, it’s all so rail based. Each of those primary quests are so artificially constrained, so in-your-face and so unnecessarily burdensome, the player must fully play by the developer’s rail-based rules to complete it. You can’t venture off of your bike and choose to do it your own way, otherwise the game will detect that and fail the quest.

With many of the side quests, there are few, if any constraints on how you to achieve your goal. If you wish to be sneaky, that’s your choice. If you want to lure the ghouls into a specific spot and take them all out with a bomb, go for it. It’s all left entirely up to the player. It’s these open world tactics that make this game fun. It’s also the artificially constrained main quests that make the game repetitive and tedious.

Game developers need to learn that open world games without any play constraints are way more fun than rail-based quests. Such quests, in the case of this game, force the gamer into artificially constrained play methods to complete that quest… such as being forced to craft and throw a molotov, but you cannot use any other weapons. While molotovs have a place and a use, they are not always useful for every situation. Let the player determine the best strategy to employ for quest closure. Don’t force the use of a strategy onto the player as it makes no sense and saps the fun out of allowing the player to choose their play style.

Enforcing a specific play strategy onto a player is best left up to a game’s tutorials. Tutorials are designed to show the player how to use a molotov or a pistol or a sniper rifle. This is the one and only one place where artificial constraints can be used. Players understand that tutorials are designed to teach how to use a specific game mechanic. However, once in a open game world, those constraints need to disappear. When they reappear as part of a primary quest, the quest becomes more about fighting the constraints and less about actually completing the quest.

Open world games need to remain open world 100% of the time, not whenever is convenient for the developer. That developers seem to think we want to play under super-artificial constraints is both stupid and asinine. We don’t.

Side Quests vs Main Quests

If side quests can offer fully open play, thus allowing the gamer to choose his or her strategy, then why are the main quests so constrained? It’s a valid question… one that game developers need to pose internally to their team. If the game can offer fully unconstrained questing with side quests, then it can also offer fully unconstrained questing with the main story quests.

For example, the NERO quests require eavesdropping only. You can’t engage the enemy at all and you cannot be spotted. Why? This is insipid. There is absolutely no reason why I can’t choose to engage this enemy and take out those who get in my way. If I can take out random ghouls all over the place, I can take out the NERO guards as I see fit. Again, insipid.

Yet, when you go to burn the nests (side quest), you can choose exactly how you want to do this quest, though you will have to use molotovs to burn the nests. But, if you choose to take out every single ghoul, that’s your choice. How you choose to take them out is also your choice. You can sneaky-sneak up behind them and use your boot knife or you can pull out your favorite pistol and gun them down. You can even stand on a ridge and sniper them. Again, your choice.

With NERO agents, you’re given some weak story context about them wearing Kevlar. Hello, Kevlar doesn’t cover every exposed portion of their body. This is a virus laden apocalypse, their Kevlar is probably damaged. Yet, no. The game prevents pulling out the weapon to even try. Kevlar also can’t stop damage from grenade or fire based weapons.

If side quests can offer the flexibility of choice for how to complete them, then the main quests need to also offer this same level of flexibility. As I said, these main quests are too artificially constrained to specific tasks and objectives, deciding for the gamer in advance how to complete it. For the main quests, there is only one correct path, all other paths lead to failure.

Repetitive

With all of the above stated, the game is highly repetitive, main or side quests. Once you do about 10 quests of any form, you’ll find yourself repeating them over and over… such as burning nests. This activity is always the same, the only thing that varies is where the nests are located, which locating them can sometimes be the only challenge. Being an errand-boy is also one that becomes repetitive. Indeed, you’ll even find yourself performing similar quests in the same town multiple times. Yes, it gets old.

Most games which offer quests do have a repetitive nature, but Days Gone is overly repetitive. Not only do all of the enemies look identical, they are identical, particularly the ghouls. To make money in this game, for example, you have to hunt ghouls or animals and collect meat or souvenirs. These items can be sold to faction merchants for credit in that particular faction.

This money can be then used to buy weapons, supplies and bike parts depending on which of the 3 factions you visit. Once you embark on the chore of hunting ghouls, it’s very, very repetitive and not much in the way of fun. The ghouls themselves have specific attack types which are easily avoided once you understand their inane strategy. The same can be said of most enemies in the game, not just ghouls.

The one type of attack that you cannot avoid is being clothes-lined or sniper ambushed. By the time you see either, they’ve already pulled the bike out from under you and sent it to 0% repair land. Again, these ambushes are both predictable and identical each and every time. The part that isn’t predictable is where the ambush is located. The game randomly spawns them in trees or in places you can’t see. Because there’s no warning system, it can be almost impossible to avoid being ambushed. Yes, there are flashing question marks on the map (?), but these sometimes appear without any warning.

Gas and Missions

This game is also, unfortunately, terribly inconsistent with gas usage while in missions. Some missions don’t use any gas at all. Some rely on the gas that’s in your tank and will run it out. You have no idea which mission uses gas and which doesn’t… that is until after the mission starts. This is probably one of the most ridiculous inconsistencies in this game.

Either all missions need to use gas or none need to use it. Having some require it and some not and not knowing which is which makes me again want to break the game disk in half.

This inconsistency is probably one of the more egregious problems in this game and is a serious enough problem that has made me want to rage quit this turd of a game several times. Gas isn’t something you can find easily or quickly. If you’re going to toss me into a bike chase to take down some random NPC, then you damned well better make sure gas isn’t consumed during the chase.

If gas were readily available all over the place in this game or if you could carry extra gas in a can on your bike, I wouldn’t rail so hard against this problem. However, gas is very difficult to quickly find in this game. It’s even more ridiculous that you also can’t carry spare gas on your bike. It’s worse that you can’t drive more than about 2-5 minutes before the tank is empty… that’s just overly stupid.

Again, if you’re setting me up for a chase, then the gas consumption needs to halt for the duration of the chase. There’s simply no time to take a detour to stop and fill the bike up in the middle of the chase. That just doesn’t work. Attempting to locate gas during a bike chase will end that chase in failure. It’s the same problem as running out of ammo. You can’t carry spare ammo with you or on your bike. You’re forced to go to a merchant or hunt for a cop car and spend time cracking it open to raid the trunk. Ammo is another item that’s not easily found simply lying about. It can only be found in very specific locations throughout the game and it takes way too much time to find it. Invariably, the chase will take you in some direction no where near a gas pump or any ammo.

Overall

This game is trite and cliché. The play value is crap. The quests are uninspired. The game is repetitive and insipid. The game is not thoughtfully designed for either functionality or fun. There’s really very little redeeming about Days Gone other than its very pretty rendering engine. I feel sorry for the graphics and map designers. They spent a lot of time and effort to make the game seem very realistic. Unfortunately, the game mechanic designers completely failed the graphics guys. The game’s mechanics are horrible, insipid, repetitive and, at times, unplayable. The story is even worse to the point of being unengaging. Why should we care about these people, Bend?

Graphics: 9.5 out of 10
Audio: 8.5 out of 10
Combat: 3.5 out of 10
Bike Combat: 2.5 out of 10
Main Story Quests: 2.5 out of 10
Side Quests: 7 out of 10
Overall: 1.5 out of 10

Recommendation: Rent only. Do not buy this absolute turd of a game.

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Applebee’s Review: A Long Time Coming

Posted in dining healthy, food and dining, reviews by commorancy on June 16, 2021

When I visit restaurants, timeliness of a review is paramount. Even just a month or two later, the entire restaurant staff could have changed and along with them, a restaurant’s bad practices. However, with this particular situation, I don’t really even care if that specific restaurant location is open any longer. Yes, there is still an Applebee’s open in that specific town and at that location. Let’s explore.

Restaurant Visit

Around 1990, I visited an Applebee’s in a small Texas town about a 20 minute drive away from my college. I didn’t know much about this restaurant when I visited, nor that it was even a chain of restaurants. This was to be my very first visit to an Applebee’s. When I arrived, I thought that the interior felt quite a lot like Chili’s. Even the menu appeared mostly like Chili’s. Because it had so much of a Chili’s vibe, it felt quite comfortable visiting. Yes, I was taken in by that. I visited this restaurant around 1:30PM for a late lunch. My classes were done for the day and I had decided to take a drive and get some lunch. As I said above, the college isn’t located in this town and is a 20 minute drive away by Interstate.

It’s common for this college’s students to visit this somewhat larger town because it has better grocery stores, more diverse restaurants, bigger restaurant chains and a much bigger Walmart. It’s also way less of a drive than the 1 hour it takes to drive into Dallas. Dallas trips were reserved for specific shopping, which was not available when out in the boonies. Keep in mind that Amazon wasn’t yet a glimmer in anyone’s eye, so ordering online wasn’t yet a thing. Driving into Dallas was the only option for obtaining such items as drafting supplies, for example. I digress.

Anyway, around 1:30PM I pull into the Applebee’s parking lot. I enter. I’m seated relatively quickly and order a chicken with veggies meal. The service is average, similar to Chili’s. My drink arrives quickly. I can’t tell you exactly which chicken dish I ordered, but it may have had grilled chicken of some variety in some kind of sauce along with broccoli, green beans and/or corn. It could have even been Chicken Piccata, which is not grilled. The meal actually tasted fine. It wasn’t super outstanding, but it wasn’t undercooked or overcooked. Mind you, I hadn’t eaten any meals at all before this meal as I typically chose not eat breakfast during my college years. This bit of information is needed for what happens next. I finish my meal around 2PM, pay the check and leave.

Shopping

Immediately following the Applebee’s visit, I decide to shop the local Walmart, which is incidentally very close, and a couple of other stores so as to not waste the drive. Around 40 minutes after eating the meal and while shopping, I feel begin feeling intestinal distress, like I need to visit the toilet. I do, but then quickly head back to the car. I still have a 20 minute drive back and intestinal distress typically prevents further shopping.

I had gotten maybe around 40 minutes into my shopping spree before cutting it short after the toilet visit. Cramping and intestinal churning is not too unusual right before having a loose stool. I wasn’t that concerned, but I decided to leave the store. By the time I reach the car, it worsened quickly at about the 45 minute mark, when I felt flu-like symptoms wash over me including fever and chills. That’s when I realized it was food poisoning. I hopped back in the car and waited about 5 minutes longer to see if would subside. It didn’t. I drove to the nearest drug store, bought a few things to help with symptoms including a Tylenol and Pepto, took them and and drove the 20 minutes back.

Nothing comes on that fast other than food poisoning, particularly flu-like symptoms. I wasn’t in a position try any methods of getting the food out and by then it was pretty much too late anyway. Around that time during my college years, I might have been considered to have an iron constitution… that is, I could eat pretty much anything, though occasionally I did have bouts of loose stools. Of course, in 2021, that situation has changed a lot. I’m much more selective on what I eat today than what I was eating in the early 90s. I also have way more sensitivities today than back then.

On the drive home, it was clear, Applebee’s was the culprit. I believe at the time, that restaurant may have been new, having opened perhaps only a few months prior. I wasn’t sure exactly when that restaurant had opened, though. I didn’t much keep up with that sort of thing. Upon visiting, it did seem relatively new. Still, it’s clear that restaurant’s food handling and storage practices at that location were questionable. Other than feeling lousy the whole way home, the drive back was uneventful. Though, I did visit the toilet a few more times, then hopped into bed for the remainder of the day. On the way home, I recall thinking that I should have eaten at the Golden Corral instead. Even though Golden Corral’s buffet was more expensive and the foods were worse in quality, I’d eaten there many times without problems.

That would be the first and last time I ate at an Applebee’s.

Two Months

I’ll spare you the details of what transpired exactly, but suffice it to say that it took approximately two months before I regained my similarly standard constitution, except it wasn’t. Before Applebee’s, I really didn’t have too many food allergies or food problems and could eat almost anything. During that two month recovery window, I seemed to have developed way more food sensitivities. Though, not for chicken. A couple of times I would even have to visit the hospital for epinephrine shots after I ended up with full body hives after consuming foods that hadn’t caused prior problems. At the time, I disconnected these health events, but I’ve since connected them together with the food poisoning event being the starting point.

Once Bitten, Twice Shy

In the early 1990s, there were no such sites like Yelp. Thus, no way to post an immediate review of a restaurant. Thankfully, we now have such review sites where such reviews can be posted. Unfortunately, because this event was before those review sites existed, it meant the loss of opportunity to post this review.

Even if I had called the restaurant to discuss the event, the manager would likely have only given me conciliatory coupons to visit again with a promise to do better. No thanks. That’s like putting fuel on a fire. Once I get that sick from eating at a restaurant, I don’t eat there again. Coupons don’t cut it.

The only thing I can presently equate with this restaurant and the Applebee’s name is feeling severely ill. There’s no way I can visit any restaurants in this chain and feel good about it. To this day, I have never visited another Applebee’s. I won’t visit any in the future, either. If Applebee’s food handling and storage practices are poor enough to cause that level of food poisoning once, I simply can’t trust any of the restaurants in this chain. Perhaps that specific location had poor management practices at the time which led to the food poisoning, but I simply can’t trust that it was solely a local issue. Once I get sick at a restaurant chain, it disgusts me thinking about visiting again. There’s just nothing appetizing at all about Applebee’s. Whenever I see an Applebee’s advertisement, I mute it and leave the room until it’s over.

The reason I have decided to write this article at all is that Applebee’s seems to be ratcheting up their TV advertising. I’ve decided to convey my very old story in hopes that someone else who might have also been food poisoned by Applebee’s can sound off here.

Typically, if a restaurant’s food handling practices are improper, it goes deeper and affects more outlets than one in a chain. If you have gotten sick eating at Applebee’s, please leave a comment below describing your circumstances.

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