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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2021: The COVID Paradox

Posted in COVID-19, Health by commorancy on May 10, 2021
The Thinker by Rodin

Many people, including the news media, are under the belief that COVID-19 is permanently subsiding in the spring of 2021. This is borderline delusional. There are solid reasons why this is likely not the case. Let’s understand why and explore.

Vaccines

Yes, the vaccines are a cause for hope. Unfortunately, the design of these vaccines doesn’t warrant celebration that the virus is going away any time soon. While the vaccines may help reduce symptoms and mortality rates, the vaccines likely won’t stem the tide of the virus spread (at least not instantly). Why? We’ll need to understand the mechanism of action for these vaccines.

The vaccines have been designed to teach the body’s immune system how to respond to this virus invader, or at least the portions that do the damage. It does that by taking certain portions of the virus’s genetic makeup and have the body respond to these genetic markers as though the virus were present. However, it does this by not having the immune system take a severe response, but instead only a mild response. This teaches the body about this foreign invader without having to become infected or have severe symptoms.

That’s a great design, but it also has one humongous flaw (and several others, which I’ll circle back to). That major flaw is that it still allows the virus to infect the vaccinated person. More than this, the vaccinated person can still spread the virus to others should they become infected. While the vaccine purports to reduce the effects of the virus’s symptoms, because portions of the virus are already understood by the immune system due of the vaccine’s method of action, the vaccinated person can still become contagious and transmit the virus. This contagious transmission is one of two big flaws that threaten to undermine the vaccine’s usefulness (at least in the short term while the United States attempts to distribute the vaccines to everyone). The second being…

Vaccine Longevity

Each vaccine’s duration has been assumed to last between 9 and 12 months in duration. That means that a vaccinated person can expect reduced symptom effects (after COVID-19 infection) for between 9 and 12 months, assuming this suggested manufacturer longevity holds true. By comparison, it has been typically found that a person who survives a natural infection from COVID-19 without having been vaccinated has antibodies that last about 3 months. For natural infections, 3 months after survival of COVID-19, antibody tests may no longer find antibodies present. Whether 9-12 months for the vaccine or 3 months after a non-vaccinated COVID-19 survival, the body is likely once again capable of a full blown severity COVID-19 infection.

With that said, we have a bigger problem looming. Before I jump into the looming problem, let’s discuss what’s happening today.

Spring 2021 COVID-19 infection rates

During the spring and summer of 2020, infection rates drastically dropped after winter had passed. There are a number of reasons for this fact, but suffice it to say that the pattern we saw in 2020 we are now seeing again in 2021. States (and news media) now believe that the vaccines are the reason. However, in spring 2020 we had no vaccines available and the virus infection rate went down just as dramatically.

While I know that state officials want to believe that the vaccines are playing a big part in this reduction of cases, the real answer is that the vaccines likely aren’t contributing much to this decline at all. The reduction in 2021 is most likely due to the same reason(s) we saw in 2020, without vaccines. The vaccines may contribute a tiny bit, but logic dictates that the reduction is simply because a warmer, sunnier outdoor season is upon us. Once the spring rolls around, people are outdoors more often, instead of huddling in stores, in restaurants or in their own homes. Less indoor huddling means less mechanisms of transmission. Thus, lower infection rates. Weather may also be a factor in the reduction, such as rain, humidity and storms which may reduce COVID-19 air transmission and surface longevity. Whatever the combination of reasons, it’s clear that what happened in spring and summer of 2020 is again repeating in the spring and summer of 2021. Yet, I hear crickets for news media discussing this.

Because this is most likely a repeating pattern, the fall and winter of 2021 will again bring more infections. The question is, how many? Will the vaccine make a dent by the fall? That’s a double-edged sword. Let’s now jump into the looming problem I mentioned above.

First Vaccinations

The first person vaccinated in the US for COVID-19 was December 15, 2020. Nine (9) months from December 15th is September 15th, 2021. That means that if the antibodies have worn off by September 15th, all of those first responders, elderly and those early vaccinated will again be ripe for infection by the fall and winter of 2021… assuming they don’t receive a booster vaccination sometime in mid-to-late summer.

Looming Problem

Because of all of the above, the COVID-19 infection rate is likely to go back up to record numbers by the fall if those early vaccinated don’t receive a booster shot soon. It also means that those who received a shot in late spring or summer of 2021 are more likely to endure a COVID free fall and winter than those who received their shot in December 2020 or January 2021.

Remember, though, the vaccine doesn’t prevent virus spread. It only reduces symptoms after infection. Those who are infected, but vaccinated can still spread COVID-19 to others around them while they remain contagious. Worse, because symptoms are drastically reduced, some people might not even know they have been infected other than a runny nose, itchy eyes, a slight fever or some other easily ignored symptom. Those vaccinated could even assume a mild cold or even allergies.

What that all means is that those who are vaccinated can easily keep the spread going unknowingly, particularly to those early adopters who may lose their antibody protection as early as September, possibly even earlier.

CDC Planning and Pattern Recognition

While the CDC has been intensely focused on getting the first round of shots into people’s arms, the CDC, CNN, New York Times and all the rest have completely ignored this looming threat that is but only a few months away. Worse, the optimism of this seasonal downslope is once again tricking people into a false sense of security. We were tricked into it in 2020 and the fall of 2020 was the worst in our history. Here we are again being sucked into this trickery a second time. It seems that the United States is entirely ignorant of its own recent history repeating.

This situation is as plain and obvious as the nose on the proverbial face. Anyone who can see patterns can see this is a repeating pattern. This repeating pattern, unfortunately, has an unexpected twist: the antibodies will be subsiding in the earliest vaccine adopters by the time December hits… which means that the 2021 holiday season may shape up to see one of the worst COVID death rates on record. Not only are we entirely ignoring the downslope pattern of the spring and summer, we are ignoring the fact that the vaccine antibodies will be expiring in the earliest adopters just at the time when COVID will be ramping up transmission rates again.

Can this juggernaut be stopped?

Unknown. The vaccines don’t halt the spread, unfortunately. If all of the United States can be vaccinated (and boosted) before September, maybe. Eventually, the virus will burn itself out because every vaccinated person will have been infected and survived. Once there’s no one left to infect, the virus will cease to exist. That’s herd immunity.

However, the United States is under a ticking clock. Because the health departments, the White House and the CDC are so focused on simply getting first vaccinations completed, they are entirely forgetting about those early vaccinated whose clock is ticking down to the holiday season.

Keep in mind that being vaccinated in December 2020 or 2021 January, February, March or even April, the antibodies will not carry you through the entirety of Winter 2022. Which means that a vaccine’s effects may start waning in the middle of a new pandemic surge.

States and Reopening

Because states have decided it’s time to reopen in full, that middle seats are again open for sale on airplanes, that movie theaters, pubs and restaurants are back to 100% seating, we are opening the United States up to an even worse seasonal pandemic in fall and winter of 2021, particularly without taking into account the longevity of the vaccine. Without boosters for those who received shots in December through April, the virus will again have fully vulnerable hosts to infect by winter.

States which have chosen to reopen in full are simply feeding into this pattern and into this false sense of security. They are also setting each state up for a particularly bad holiday pandemic season.

Alarmist

Some might call this article alarmist. I disagree. I call it being a realist and being able to recognize patterns. No one can really know the longevity of a vaccinated person. We won’t know until we know. The vaccine designers can make guesses, but that’s as good as it gets. We could find that the vaccine longevity is 6-8 months. We might even find that some who’ve received the vaccine might last as long as 3-5 months, in similar form to a non-vaccinated infection survival. We’re guessing about longevity. Even I am guessing based on the numbers given by the vaccine manufacturer.

Still, a booster is a must. To be completely safe, we must assume that 9 months is the limit. Meaning, those already vaccinated will need to have a booster prior to 9 months to make sure the antibodies remain active for another 9 months. This, at a time, when most of the population hasn’t even had a first shot.

The White House

Joe Biden and team have stated they are making the pandemic response a priority. Yet, you can’t make the virus a priority when you aren’t planning for ALL eventualities… even those listed in this article. Planning to stop this virus means not only inoculating first timers, but keeping those who are already inoculated valid. I can’t even recall one single news service like CNN, MSNBC, CBS, ABC or any other large audience news service discussing this potential looming crisis.

Unfortunately, too many of these news services are far too optimistic and wish to bury their collective heads in the sand as if the vaccine is the end-all-be-all. That once we have a vaccine in our arms that it’s all over. Optimism has its place, but not when discussing a pandemic. A pandemic needs a realist, not an optimist. It needs someone who identifies patterns, calls them out and helps prevent that pattern from recurring. It also needs someone who understands exactly how these vaccines work and calls out gaps in when and how these vaccines might fail us.

The White House needs a better set of persons managing the pandemic instead of Dr. Fauci and the CDC. Optimists won’t stop a virus. Only doing the right things will. Unfortunately, the White House is allowing states to reopen in full without warning of these looming conditions.

Is the Pandemic Over?

While a lot of people seem to think so, I’m very cautiously optimistic. Instead, I’d rather look at all of the problems that can occur and see that unless these problems are handled before September, the fall and winter could see very bleak times again. In fact, I’m so cautiously optimistic about this, that’s why I’m writing this article. It’s easy to get caught up in this spring downslope as a sign that it’s ending. Unfortunately, we saw this same downslope in 2020 (as I stated above). Because of these repeating patterns and because of the (lack of) longevity of the vaccines, that’s exactly why I’m cautiously optimistic and exactly why I’ve written this article.

It’s too easy to get caught up in a false sense of security and then as October rolls around, we’re seeing a huge uptick in admissions to hospitals once again. I’d prefer to not see that occur, but unfortunately the United States and the expiration of the vaccines is setting us up for exactly this scenario.

Maybe I’m wrong. If I am wrong, I’ll be the first to admit that I was wrong. I’ll also be very happy if I am wrong, because that means far fewer deaths. Unfortunately, it’s not me who’s controlling these situations. It’s the vaccine makers, the state legislators, the White House, the CDC and even the news media who are making these decisions. It is these people who may be setting us up with a false sense of confidence that the virus is subsiding.

However, I don’t believe the virus is quite yet done… and it will find a hole to work its way into. The COVID-19 virus doesn’t care about human rhetoric, news programs, politics or optimism. It cares about one thing only, replication. That’s what it does. If the vaccines begin expiring just at the time when the holidays roll around, the viruses will find that weakness and exploit it. That’s what a virus does.

What can I do?

If you have already been vaccinated, you need to discuss getting a booster shot around August 2021 to reinforce your antibodies going into the fall and winter. If you have elderly loved ones, you will need to make sure they also get a booster. Remember that the vaccine doesn’t prevent infection or transmission. That means that having the vaccine, you can still bring COVID-19 home and infect those around you. If their vaccine antibodies have expired, but yours is still active, that means they could be in for a more severe infection or possibly death.

Additionally, you still need to wash your hands thoroughly before touching loved ones. You need to wear a mask. If you work in a high risk job interacting with lots of people in a public space, you will need to be cautious when you arrive at home to loved ones… taking all precautions. Precautions like washing hands, taking a shower, washing clothing immediately and wearing masks in close proximity to those who are more vulnerable.

At a workplace, you should avoid face to face contact when necessary and avoid small conference room gatherings with others. Instead, you should request your manager to adopt at-desk virtual meetings (i.e., Zoom or similar) to allow for minimal interaction and contact with other face-to-face workers. The phone is also your friend. Use it to contact workers instead of walking to their desk. If people like to swing by your desk for drop-in requests, ask them not to do this. Instead, ask them to email you or call you on the phone instead. Email and texting are additional options.

Workplace environments also tend to be petri dishes, including toxic air conditioning systems which can easily spread coughs and sneezes around the entire office. If it’s a multi-story building, the air flow handling system can carry particles from other office spaces into yours. This means you should step outside as often as you can. Get out of the building and away from a crowded work environment. Unfortunately, stepping outside probably means enduring smokers. You’ll want to avoid smokers as well, unless you smoke.

Finally, you should contact your healthcare provider to determine how to get a booster going into the fall. Without a booster of those early vaccinated, the fall of 2021 can easily turn into something worse than 2020’s death toll. A false sense of security is a very real thing. Let’s not get trapped into it again this year.

Unmasking the Vaccinated

The CDC just today (May 13, 2021) issued new guidance that the vaccinated no longer need to wear masks indoors or outdoors, nor do they need to follow distancing guidelines. On the surface, this seems like happy news. Let’s understand why it is not happy news and why it plays directly into what could be a terrible pandemic winter.

Masks do little to protect the wearer from receiving the virus. If someone without a mask coughs or sneezes, wearing a mask is of little protective value. A mask, on the other hand, prevents a cough or sneeze from traveling beyond a few inches, thus preventing spread via long and wide air transmission.

Without a mask, a sneeze can travel 8-15 feet. With a mask, a sneeze might travel just a few inches away from the person wearing the mask. Let’s apply this to those who have been vaccinated or even to those who claim to be vaccinated (more important distinction).

The CDC has opened the door to allow basically everyone to remove their masks. Why? Because there’s no way to tell who has been vaccinated and who hasn’t. There isn’t some magical instant mechanism to see who has and who has not been vaccinated. Worse, the COVID hoaxers are real. They’ve been patiently hiding behind the scenes waiting to pounce on the day when the mask mandate is lifted. Here we are. Effectively, the CDC has told everyone they can remove their masks… not just those who are vaccinated, but everyone. Since there’s no way to tell who has been vaccinated, it’s now a free-for-all.

Worse, because the vaccinated can easily spread the virus far and wide, because they can become contagious, this is the first salvo towards another much more wide and deep pandemic surge. The CDC is supposed to be the Center for Disease Control, with “control” being the operative word. Yet, here we are. The CDC’s guidelines have given the United States a free-for-all open door pass to remove masks… this at a time when only 32% of the United States population has had only one shot. Less, if you consider those who have had a full two shots and have waited through the build-up period.

The reality is, it’s way too early and too fast to be mandating mask removal. Worse, this now opens the door to massive spreading by the vaccinated to those who have yet to be vaccinated. It’s a bad situation now being made worse. Sure, the numbers are dropping, but not because of vaccinations, but because of the repeating pattern we saw in 2020. While I know the CDC believes that the vaccines are responsible, that is a mistaken, almost deluded belief. Yet, here we are.

How this all plays out is as yet unknown. However, I’d expect to see infections begin ramping up by mid-july with hospitalizations increasing all throughout August and September. By December, we’ll likely once again be so deep in the middle of deaths that the CDC will have to reverse all of this guidance and realize, too late, that the vaccines haven’t made a dent. Oh well, I guess we now get to see just how bad it can really get even with vaccines in play.

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Fallout 76: A Guide to a Bloodied Build

Posted in howto, video game by commorancy on March 3, 2021

It seems a lot of people don’t really understand how to manage a Bloodied character build in Fallout 76. It’s not terribly hard once you understand the details. Let’s explore.

Bloodied Weapons

There are many different types of legendary weapons and armor in Fallout 76, but none really more rare than Bloodied weapons. In fact, there are a number of relatively rare spawning legendary items in the game including Unyielding Armor and Bloodied weapons. Just visit Purveyor Murmrgh at the Rusty Pick and roll your chances to find out. You’ll find that it’s quite rare to roll a Bloodied weapon or get a piece of Unyielding armor. The most common armor received from the Purveyor are Assassin’s, Bolstering and Zealot’s, with the most common ranged weapons being the Zealot’s Gatling Laser and Zealot’s Laser Pistol.

What exactly is a Bloodied weapon? This legendary weapon effect increases damage of the weapon as the player’s health decreases. To get the most out of this legendary weapon effect, you must keep your character’s health as low as possible. Unfortunately, Fallout 76’s developers didn’t offer the player a way to manage the character’s health directly. Instead, the player must find substances in the world to keep the player’s health low.

Combat?

One might initially think that combat is the way to do this, but no. Well, it is one way, but it’s not the most optimal way. There are easier ways to do this, but it will take just a little effort to find the necessary items to manage a low-health character situation.

Toxic Goo

There are few items within Fallout 76 that confer a substantial amount of health reduction on the player. One of these mechanisms is radiation. As radiation increases, health points (HP) decrease. By keeping radiation of the character high, the HP always remains low no matter what foods or medicines are consumed. In fact, this game mechanic is really the only mechanic that functionally works to keep your character’s health at a specified level. By keeping rads high and health low, you can take advantage of both of these conditions using different Perk cards.

One foodstuff item that can impart a boatload of radiation onto the player rapidly is Toxic Goo. This consumable is found primarily at one location in Fallout 76. That location is WestTek Research Center in the Savage Divide. This consumable adds 125 radiation points per vial consumed (more if you suffer from Radworms). It also does it even with the Lead Belly card in place, which means you can leave the Lead Belly card on while still consuming and taking 125 rads per vial. It takes about 3-5 vials (depending on your HP bar length), to get HP under 60. Don’t take too much or else your character will die.

To obtain Toxic Goo, head to the WestTek Research Center (not far from Foundation), which houses a lot of super mutants. You’ll want to enter through the back door of the building. Going in through the front is pointless unless you really like mowing down lots of super mutants to get to the large cylindrical vats of goo in the back. If you enter through the rear of the building, the vats are right there. On the outside of the rear of the building, there are about 5 super mutants, a turret and a dog. Once inside, you only have to clear out one or two dogs and about 5 super mutants to get to the vats. If you have the Sneak card, you might even be able to get away with only one or two kills and then sneak your way up to the vat and grab a bunch of goo and fast travel out of there.

You’re also going to need the perk card Traveling Pharmacy or the backpack equivalent perk to reduce the weight of aid items. This will reduce Toxic Goo weight so you can carry a bunch with you. I usually stock up and carry about 150 of them at a time. When I get down to about 20, I head over and fill up again.

Under 60 HP?

Keeping your character’s health under 60 is the magic number for a Bloodied build. Over 60 and you don’t reap the rewards of a Bloodied weapon or Unyielding armor. Though, you can still reduce your health more and gain a few more damage points. This number exists for several reasons. A Bloodied build is a bit more complicated than simply drinking Toxic Goo and grabbing a Bloodied Gatling Gun. While that will work, you’ll want to also outfit your character with some damage and radiation resistance to avoid mucking with this build. This number is also optimal for keeping most creatures from one-shotting you instantly. Though, recently, Bethesda has given a major buff to too many enemies in the game and too many enemies can one-shot your player, regardless of either’s level, depending on their attack method.

Armoring up for Bloodied Build

Note, there is no Bloodied legendary effect on armor. This effect only exists for weapons. There are several armor effects which work well with a Bloodied build, including Unyielding and Bolstering armor. Sentinel armor formerly existed in Fallout 76, but was removed and replaced with a crappy equivalent.

Sentinel armor formerly afforded 100% protection while standing still (effectively god mode armor), but this legendary armor effect was removed from the game. Sentinel armor was a fan favorite for a Bloodied build for the first 12 months of the game’s existence until Bethesda did away with Sentinel as a primary effect. Bethesda’s developers replaced and updated a tertiary Sentinel effect equivalent, which is literally worthless (75% chance to reduce damage by 15% while standing still). Not only does it reduce damage resistance down to a max of 15%, it will only offer that protection 75% of the time… which with Fallout 76’s developer math will actually occur less than 10% of the time. Worse, you won’t even know if the effect is working or not. There’s no notification to the player if the legendary armor’s effect has actually worked. Worthless.

Unyielding and Bolstering are the armor legendary effects of choice for a Bloodied build. These effects operate 100% of the time as you would expect of any legendary effect. How can you call something a legendary effect when it only works no more than 75% of the time? Why even add something that crappy to the game? Simply just get rid of it from the game entirely. I digress.

Unyielding works not only by having damage resistance (limited to the armor piece worn), but by increasing all SPECIAL stats (except Endurance) by up to +3 for each piece of armor worn. This means that you can gain up to +15 to every SPECIAL stat if you wear a full set of Unyielding (two arms, two legs and chest piece). Why is this important? Because you’ll get a permanent +15 buff to strength, perception, charisma, intelligence, agility and luck so long as you maintain low health. You can raise up Endurance in other ways, but not with Unyielding armor. If you happen to find 5 pieces of Unyielding Marine armor, you can really get your damage resistance up there.

Bolstering armor, on the other hand, doesn’t buff any SPECIAL stats, but it does increase damage resistance the lower your health. By keeping your health low, whatever armor type you are wearing will see a buff to damage resistance and hopefully keep your character alive even up against large foes. In this case, you won’t necessarily need to wear Marine armor to get a higher amount of damage resistance. Though, wearing Bolstering Marine armor wouldn’t hurt.

Personally, I prefer Unyielding armor because of the +15 extra charisma points means I don’t need to worry about putting on the Hard Bargain card to get the best buy and sell prices at vendors. Adding +15 to luck also means better drops at the end of quests and from dead enemies, especially from enemies like the Scorchbest Queen. Unfortunately, any extra points cannot be used to place more perk cards on the stack. Only applying a Legendary SPECIAL card and ranking this card up will afford extra points for card use, but that means you’ll need your character to be at least level 200 to have enough spare slots and enough perk coins to spend. You can mix and match Bolstering and Unyielding in whatever proportions work best for your character.

Damage Resistance

Because a Bloodied build requires keeping health low, that means your character is constantly vulnerable to certain types of attacks, like Suicider Super Mutants whose mini nuke can easily kill your character in one hit. Additionally, being hit by the Scorchbeast Queen or Wendigo Colossus or even just a plain old Wendigo can probably take your character out with one hit. For this reason, Bloodied builds will want to combine with Sneak and other sneaky features to remain hidden while attacking. Not only does this keep you at distance from your enemies, it affords you 2x or more bonus damage from attacking while hidden.

Brahmin Milk

One trick to maintain to a Bloodied build at just the right amount of health is Brahmin Milk. Before this consumable came along, there was no way to tweak your health in small amounts easily. This consumable is the only foodstuff in the game that not only increases health, it simultaneously removes a small amount of radiation. This means you can nudge your health up by a tiny amount while reducing rads. I believe each Brahmin Milk adds about 8 HP and removes an equivalent amount of radiation. Best of all, drinking Brahmin Milk has no chance of removing mutations from your character. This means you can combine Toxic Goo and Brahmin Milk even with characters below 30 and run a Bloodied build.

Unlike Radaway which affords a chance to remove a mutation without having a maxed Starched Genes card in place, drinking Brahmin Milk doesn’t do this. Though, without a maxed Starched Genes card, you can still gain more mutations.

This next part is where wearing Unyielding armor becomes a major benefit. Milking a Brahmin is entirely dependent on your character’s luck. With the +15 buff to luck while wearing Unyielding armor, you are guaranteed to get at least one milk every time. Typically, you’ll get 3 or more. Wearing Unyielding armor, I have occasionally received 5 milks from all 9 of the Brahmin in Flatwood… that’s 45 milks! With the additional 3 Brahmins now at the Wayward, that adds a possibility of 15 more milks for a possible total of 60. Typically, I pick up no less than 30 milks, and with Unyielding + Low Health, there’s zero chance of seeing that kicking behavior from the Brahmin, meaning you failed to milk it.

To carry this much milk around, you’ll need to have the Good with Salt perk card. This card reduces food spoilage by 90%. This means you can carry around a lot of Brahmin milk for a long time, though Toxic Goo doesn’t expire.

Perk Cards

As mentioned above, there are a number of perk cards you’ll want to consider while keeping rads high and health low.

Low Health + Unyielding:

  1. (I) Nerd Rage — While below 20% Health, gain 40 Damage Resist, 20% damage and 15% AP regen (3 star)
  2. (A) Dead Man Sprinting — Sprint 20% faster at increased AP cost when your health is below 50% (3 star)
  3. (L) Serendipity — While below 35% health, gain a 45% chance to avoid damage (3 star)
  4. (E) Lifegiver — Gain a total of +45 to your maximum Health. (4 star)
  5. (L) Last Laugh — You drop a live grenade from your inventory when you die. (1 star)
  6. (A) Evasive — Each AGI point adds +3 Damage and Energy Resist (Max 45). [No Power Armor] (3 star)

High Radiation:

  1. (E) Radicool — The greater your rads, the greater your strength! (+5 Max) (1 star)
  2. (E) Ghoulish — Radiation now regenerates even more of your lost Health! (3 star) (only somewhat effective)

More Damage:

  1. (A) Adrenaline
  2. (I) Nerd Rage
  3. (P) Rifle, (A) Pistol, (S) Melee, (S) Heavy Gun and/or (S) Shotgun damage multiplier cards
  4. (L) Better Criticals
  5. (L) Bloody Mess
  6. (I) Demolition Expert
  7. (C) Tenderizer

Damage Evasion:

  1. (E) Rad Resistant — +40 Radiation Resistance (4 star)
  2. (E) Nocturnal Fortitude — Gain +40 to Max Health between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m (2 star)
  3. (E) Ironclad — Gain 50 Damage and Energy Resistance while not wearing Power Armor (5 star)
  4. (E) Fireproof — Take 45% less damage from explosions and flame attacks (3 star)

Sneaky + Bloodied + Unyielding:

  1. (A) Sneak — You are 75% harder to detect while sneaking.
  2. (A) Covert Operative or (A) Ninja — Ranged or Melee sneak attacks do 2.5x normal damage (3 star)
  3. With Unyielding, take advantage of ALL luck cards to gain better chances to repair armor, weapons, better VATS chances and better critical damage. Too many Luck cards to list here, but take advantage when wearing Unyielding.

Cards and Armor to avoid:

  1. (A) Born Survivor — Falling below 40% health will automatically use a Stimpak, once every 20s. (wastes Stimpaks)
  2. (E) Sun Kissed — Slowly / Quickly regen radiation damage between the hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. (ensure teammates DO NOT share this one).
  3. (Legendary Perk Card) What Rads? — X Rad Resist, restore X Rads per second. (like Sun Kissed, avoid)
  4. (Legendary Armor) Life Saving armor — This armor, like its sister card Born Survivor above, wastes Stimpaks.

What are some other useful legendary armor effects?

Of course, there are other useful legendary armor effects, but none more useful to a low health, high rads build than Bolstering or Unyielding. These are the two best primary effects to wear. However, if you wish combine your Bloodied build with the Chameleon mutation, then you can’t use Bolstering or Unyielding and still have the Chameleon mutation work. To have Chameleon work, the only armor that’s useful to wear is Weightless. In fact, the Chameleon mutation requires that you are limited to Weightless armor if you wish to combine a Bloodied character with a functional Chameleon mutation AND still have functional armor.

Other secondary effects that are useful to a Bloodied + Chameleon (and, in general, a sneaky Bloodied sniper) is the “Increases action point refresh speed” secondary legendary armor effect. This effect stacks with each piece of armor worn and drastically (and constantly) increases action point refresh speed. This legendary effect is quite useful if you intend to use V.A.T.S. It is also great at being able to run extremely long distances without stopping… great at getting away from persistent enemies and remaining at a distance. You’ll only find these secondary effects on 2 and 3 star armor… with 3 star armor being the best to find.

However, because V.A.T.S. is fairly broken in the most recent builds of Fallout 76 (spring 2021), your V.A.T.S. mileage may vary depending on your weapon and amount of action points (AP). Regardless, having a lot of AP and regenerating it rapidly is exceedingly important for anyone who depends on V.A.T.S. for getting hits on enemies. You don’t want to be standing around waiting for AP to regenerate at a snail’s pace. You’ll need to consume AP enhancer foods (i.e., Corn Soup or Company Tea), wear Action Boy/Girl, or, better, wear the “Increases action point refresh speed” legendary effect on armor. Though, it’s exceedingly rare to find (or roll) this effect on legendary armor.

Other effects that can help a Bloodied build, but that aren’t super important are +1 to a specific SPECIAL. This secondary effect can be found on both legendary armor and weapons. If you’re planning on being a sneaky Bloodied melee build, having +1 to Strength on weapons and armor is important to add damage to the melee weapon. Keep in mind that the +1 to a SPECIAL doesn’t allow you to add more perk cards. Only the Legendary perk SPECIAL cards do this, up to a maximum of 5 points and even then you have to be above level 50 to even get one legendary perk card slot. However, having one character above level 50, allows all secondary characters to have the same number of slots as the high level character. For example, a character who is above level 300, will see all 6 Legendary perk card slots opened, allowing all other characters (of any level) in that account to also have 6 slots. At least, this is currently how it works as of 2021. Bethesda is constantly changing the rules of this game, so this rule could change in the future.

One other effect that is also useful to a sneaky sniper is “become harder to detect while sneaking”. This effect is equally rare to the action point refresh speed perk. It’s doubly rare to find it on Unyielding or Bolstering.

Most other legendary armor effects, while they can be nice, don’t offer that much benefit to a sneaky Bloodied build.

Rolling for Legendary Effects

Some useful effects can come attached to Legendary weapons that you can get from Purveyor Murmrgh. However, these effects are only active while you actively wield that weapon. If you put the weapon away or switch weapons, the effect is gone. If you rely on a specific effect on a weapon, you’ll need to keep that weapon out 100% of the time.

I prefer not to let my character become dependent on effects attached to weapons and, instead, prefer to find the effects attached to armor pieces which can be worn. This is why I’m constantly using Scrip to roll new 3 star Legendary armor pieces and hope that I get one decent piece every 20-30 rolls. However, I’ve been recently getting one Unyielding piece about every 30-50 rolls at Murmrgh. Unfortunately, those 3 star Unyielding pieces that I roll tend to have useless secondary effects… effectively making it a one-star Unyielding. I don’t keep these.

I’m specifically wanting Unyielding with “Increases action point refresh speed”. So far, I’ve gotten zip from Murmrgh in the last 100-200 rolls. When I top out at 1000 Scrip, I will roll about 6 pieces and see what I get. That takes my Scrip down to 640 plus scriping whichever pieces I don’t want, taking my Scrip up to around 800. Yes, I lose Scrip in this process, but it’s the only way to get exactly what I’m wanting. Though, it’s kind pointless that this is the process Bethesda has saddled us with in this game. I don’t know why we can’t choose the effects we want rather than having to roll the dice and waste excessive amounts of time and Scrip.

Other Legendary Effects

Another legendary weapon effect that’s extremely useful in low health situations is Vampire’s. This legendary effect gains a brief amount of health regeneration per bullet. This effect is particularly pronounced with high fire rate weapons.

Weapons such as the Minigun, Gatling Laser, Gatling Gun, Flamer and most other automatic weapons work exceedingly well with Vampire’s. It also works reasonably well with fast melee weapons, such as small knives and a Vampire’s Mr. Handy Buzz Blade. The best weapons, however, for the Vampire’s effect are shotguns. Because shotguns spew out up to 30 pieces of shot at a time, each piece of shot offers a regeneration effect, with up to 30 pieces acting like consuming a Stimpak. With a high fire rate shotgun, you can maintain your health even while being struck by gun fire or by melee attacks even from larger creatures like the Mirelurk Queen’s acid spray. Some consider these high fire rate Vampire’s weapons god mode weapons. However, you have to be cautious because while it does keep your health high, you can still be staggered which can then open you up to attacks. Also, some enemies can one shot a Bloodied player at around 60 health.

Note, there is some discussion that the Vampire’s Legendary effect might be removed from Fallout 76. If you’re wanting Vampire’s weapons, you might want to go searching now (Spring 2021). Unfortunately, if the effect is removed from the game, it is also likely that Bethesda will drastically nerf (reduce the effectiveness) of the Vampire’s effect, basically negating it, like its sister Two Shot Explosive weapons before it. While Bethesda can’t remove already owned Vampire’s weapons from people’s inventories, they can reduce the Vampire’s effect to being useless.

Bethesda can even completely change how Vampire’s works. For example, instead of transferring health to the player, it could change to only confer health 10% of the time. The Bethesda developers can also make it so that players can no longer sell, drop or transfer Vampire’s weapons via vending or trading, thus making these weapons entirely useless and worthless. Be cautious if you are making your character reliant on this weapon. You might want to also consider trying other weapons instead, like Bloodied.

If Bethesda does get rid of it as a primary effect, it’s likely that Bethesda will turn Vampire’s into a secondary legendary effect that only operates some percentage of the time. A secondary effect could even turn into something stupid like 75% chance to add 1 point of health over 3 seconds as a secondary effect. Not only would that limit how fast the health is transferred, it only offers a maximum of +3 HP over 3 seconds and reduces the chances of actually getting it by 25%. Not only would each bullet strike roll the dice on whether you even see the effect, if you do get the effect, it’s limited in how much health you get out of the deal. Whatever Bethesda does in this area, it will make Vampire’s weapons effectively useless. If you’ve got Vampire’s weapons, use them now while they still work as they were originally designed.

Nuke Zones and High Radiation Areas

If you’re in a Nuke Zone, you’ll need to wear Starched Genes at max level and wear some form of high radiation resist armor (Chinese, HazMat, Power Armor or Diving Suit). If you don’t rely on Speed Demon (see bugs below), you can wear Power Armor. However, you’ll want to drink a radaway to keep your rads at a lower level, but also leave your health low. Don’t drink food or take stimpaks, though. Eating or drinking any HP increasing foods, will halt your bloodied build. If you lose any health, drink water only. This will increase health by only a little and allow you to maintain a Bloodied build. Also, remove any cards like Dromedary, Good Doggy and Slow Metabolizer that yield more HP for food eaten while in a radiation zone.

Putting It All Together

Toxic Goo increases radiation by +125 for each vial consumed regardless of Lead Belly. Each Brahmin milk decreases radiation and increases health by 8. These two together allow you to maintain your character’s health just below 60. You can keep it lower than this if you prefer, but this combination of foodstuffs is the only way I’ve found to achieve and maintain consistently high rads and low health at a specific level.

Weapons that boost your abilities at this low health include Vampire’s and, of course, Bloodied. Armor like Unyielding and Bolstering enhance the Bloodied build to allow this build to be maintained without constantly dying, particularly in combination with the above listed perk cards and properly configured legendary armor.

Secondary armor effects that can enhance your build include “Increases action points refresh speed” and “Become harder to detect while sneaking”.

Finally, a low health Bloodied build works best as a sneaky sniper build which doubles the damage level of the weapon and maintains a distance from the enemy.

Bugs

This article wouldn’t be complete without mentioning various bugs in Fallout 76 when maintaining a Bloodied build.

  1. When your character falls in battle and respawns, your character’s health resets to a default value of between 70 and 80 HP. This is frustrating if you’re trying to keep your health at or below 60. The game forces this reset upon respawn… which leads to the next bug…
  2. Toxic Goo fails to work for approximately 1 to 3 minutes after respawning OR logging into a server. This means that if you were in a heated battle and you want to get back to it quickly, you can’t lower your health until Toxic Goo begins working. This can be particularly problematic if your character has become overencumbered as a result of respawning with higher HP when combined with losing strength buffs from wearing Unyielding armor.
  3. Some world servers load your character in with HP and Rads different (and higher) from how you last logged out. This is similar to bug #1 above. You may need to wait for Toxic Goo to work to apply the +125 rads to lower your health and begin playing.
  4. While not exactly related to this build, it can affect your Bloodied build. Many players rely on the Speed Demon mutation to increase reload speed and to run faster. Wearing Power Armor breaks this mutation. If you enter any Power Armor set, Speed Demon’s faster reload stops working while in it and for a time after exiting. The game will eventually correct itself after a couple of fast travels. The takeaway is, don’t use Power Armor if you rely on Speed Demon for faster weapon reloads. Instead, opt for the Cave Diving suit, Chinese Armor or a HazMat suit to avoid radiation damage in nuke zones and avoid broken mutations… and rely on being a sneaky sniper to remain far away from enemies and still do maximum damage.

One possible workaround for a broken health situation when combined with the Toxic Goo failure is to drink Brahmin Milk first. This can force a change to HP and rads and sometimes allows the Toxic Goo to begin working faster. Sometimes this workaround doesn’t work. Dirty water may also work. Carrying around dirty water isn’t as optimal for this purpose as Toxic Goo, but it may avoid the Toxic Goo failure-to-work after respawn bug, but it also means carrying and drinking a crap ton of Dirty Water to match the 125 rads you get from drinking one Toxic Goo.

Annoyances

Suffice it to say that Fallout 76 has a lot of annoying little problems. With a Bloodied build, there are plenty to find. One in particular is the new ally by the name of Solomon Hardy. He’s a former medic from the Brotherhood of Steel. While it’s nice that he’s a medic and a merchant, his dialog is particularly annoying if you choose to carry a Bloodied build. Several of his dialog pieces contain annoying bits about “bleeding all over the floor” or that the player “shouldn’t be bleeding like that”. Solomon makes incessant comments about bleeding everywhere and being injured, constantly offering to treat the injuries. That’s pretty much what makes up his dialog every time you pass him.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to get him to stop with his incessant badgering and complaints for medical assistance. I got so annoyed by this constant unnecessary dialog that I ended up removing him from my CAMP and replacing him with another ally. I know that I’m carrying a Bloodied build. I don’t need to be reminded about it every few minutes by Solomon. Be warned that if you choose to add Solomon to your CAMP and you carry a Bloodied build, you’ll be forced to listen to his incessant complaints about your character’s low health condition.

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COVID-19: Fact vs Fiction

Posted in botch, business by commorancy on February 24, 2021

Detective work is an art, not a science. However, Dr. Sanjay Gupta attempts to be all things to all people, yet fails at being a journalist or a detective. He definitely shouldn’t quit his medical day job, that’s for sure. Let’s explore.

Fact vs Fiction

Sanjay Gupta hosts a CNN podcast that purports to separate fact from fiction when it comes to matters all things medical. However, in his CNN podcast on February 24th, 2021, this podcast does everything except separate fact from fiction.

On this episode, Sanjay Gupta speaks to random person Peter Daszak, a rando with a British accent (which Sanjay seems think lends his words some credibility) who purports to be some level of official on a mission for the World Health Organization. We’ll circle back around to Peter Daszak’s involvement in this shortly. This person claims to have visited Wuhan and then spouts all sorts of rhetoric as to the origins of COVID-19. As this podcast progresses, this guest digs an ever deeper and deeper hole about the wet market origins with Sanjay capping it with question similar to, “Does this rule out COVID-19 having begun in a lab” (paraphrased).

I’m getting ahead of myself a little. Daszak makes a bunch of statements about the wet market as having been the possible origin, but then always qualifying his statements as “coulda”, “woulda” and “shoulda”. For example, he claims that the markets had a lot of frozen meat. I’m sure it did. Yet, none of that meat tested positive. In fact, in every case where he mentions a type of meat, none of it tested positive for COVID-19. Then he later mentions other additional wet markets where some people might have visited as a possible origin. Yet, no mention of testing or of any positive outcomes from those wet markets. Deflection at its finest. Let’s continue, shall we?

“See only what you want to see”

This is where fiction trumps fact. In fact, it seems as this podcast progresses, Sanjay and Daszak both heavily wish to see the wet market as the origin, yet even having over 900 samples from the original Wuhan wet market with none testing positive for COVID-19, that logically and clearly says that the wet market wasn’t the origin. If you want to believe science here, the science of zero COVID-19 samples in any of the food tells us that the wet market was definitively not the origin… at least, not by food.

Because people tend to congregate in markets en-masse to buy their groceries, it may have been an origin only because of a human-to-human transmission super-spreader event.

Of course, both Sanjay and Daszak espouse “follow the science”, yet there is no science at all involved in direct detective work. Science may be utilized as a tool in detective work, but using science as a detective tool has failed to uncover the wet market as a food origin. If any wet market in China had been an origin for COVID-19, at least some food samples should show positive somewhere. Yet, they don’t.

Sanjay and Daszak seem to be in this podcast to sway minds through disinformation, not actual information. Actual information shows proof. Daszak clearly has none, but then there’s subtext for his motives (more on that below). That lack of proof means that this podcast is attempting to spread disinformation by pointing fingers towards the wet market and away from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

China’s Agenda

China wants to be let off of the hook for the spread of COVID-19. They want this so badly that they’re willing to do or say anything to make that a reality. China doesn’t care about lying or disinformation. In fact, they’re more than happy and willing to see credible “western” medical scientists put their reputations on the line to tow China’s “we’re innocent” line. China is not innocent in the spread of COVID-19, but then neither are other countries.

It’s unmistakable. COVID-19 began in Wuhan, China. It didn’t begin in Singapore or Italy or South America or anywhere else in the world. It began in Wuhan, China. It’s also clear that we have no proof that it began in wet market food… which means that it likely began via human-to-human transmission… which means there is a patient zero.

Patient Zero

Where is patient zero? As a professional medical scientist, THIS is the question Dr. Gupta should be asking. Instead, he’s asking questions about the wet market in an attempt to pin this firmly on animal to human transmission via food. Yet, when all of the samples from that wet market are scientifically tested, nothing confirms that the virus began at the market… or at least it didn’t begin via consumption of a tainted animal purchased at the market. If COVID-19 began in a wet market, it began because of a human super-spreader event.

We already know exactly how transmissible this virus is. We also know that it can live on surfaces, sometimes for days. This means that COVID-19 could easily have begun by patient zero visiting a wet market… which is a common practice for buying food in China.

Again, where is patient zero? We already know the Wuhan Institute of Virology had both been studying and housing animals infected with a variant of SARS-CoV-2 (aka COVID-19). The lab workers had been tending to the animals, including cleanup of their feces and urine. There is some question as to whether the WIV’s safety procedures had been properly followed prior to the release of COVID-19 in early December 2019.

On the one hand, you have a wet market of animals, none of which have tested positive for COVID-19. On the other, you have the Wuhan Institute of Virology which houses animals known to test positive for COVID-19. I’ll let you do the math here.

While Sanjay and Daszak are adamant that it “must” have started in the wet market, Ocham’s Razor disagrees. The simplest answer is that COVID-19 got out of the lab. Let’s understand how.

Lab Release?

Around the time that COVID-19 (or at least an unknown illness) began to show in China in early December, a lab assistant went missing from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Her name was Huang Yanling. The lab director, Shi Zhengli, has continually disavowed that the virus escaped from her lab. Yet, this missing lab assistant has never been accounted for. It has been assumed that Ms. Yanling was actually patient zero. Through that supposition, she may have been the person who first became infected, spread it around Wuhan in a super-spreader event and then may have died from it… with her body having been burned.

Ocham’s Razor asks, “Why?” Because she (along with others in the lab) worked at the Wuhan Institute of Virology tending to the infected animals. But then, she vanishes without a trace? Is she alive or dead? No one seems to know and Shi Zhengli shrugs this disappearance off as normal.

When you’re dealing with an outbreak like COVID-19, you can’t discount missing lab assistants from the equation. Yet, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Dr. Anthony Fauci seem to ignore this logic and conclusion jump right over to the diversion of the wet market… which, again, has effectively been proven not to have been the cause of the outbreak.

Again, on the one hand, we have no proof that any wet market animal has tested positive (science). On the other hand, we have a missing lab assistant from the Wuhan Institute of Virology with no explanation of their whereabouts (detective work). Sure, it seems circumstantial, but no one has done an official investigation. Not the WHO, not the CDC, not China and not the United States.

Like a magician who wants your eyes staring at his right hand while his left does the switcharoo so you don’t see how the trick is done, the WHO, China, the U.S. and the worldwide medical community want you looking at the wet market while a young lab assistant, Huang Yanling, disappears from a lab housing COVID-19 infected bats. Yeah, if that’s not misdirection at its finest, I don’t know what is.

Bats and COVID-19

It’s widely agreed that COVID-19 began in bats. Which animals were housed at the Wuhan Institute of Virology? SARS-CoV-2 infected bats, of course. Captive animals don’t just clean up their feces and urine on their own. People must clean it for them. To do this, lab assistants must wear the proper hazard protection gear to avoid accidental exposure while cleaning up the animal waste. Without proper protections, transmission from animal to human can become a reality. Did the WIV fail to properly set up hazard protection? Did this lab assistant fail to wear said protective gear at all times? This lab had already been warned of improper safety procedures years before the incident.

Two State Department cables show that American embassy officials in Beijing made several visits to the research facility and sent two official warnings back to Washington in early 2018 about the lab’s inadequate safety measures. This was at a time when researchers were conducting risky studies on coronaviruses from bats, The Washington Post reported, citing intelligence sources.

https://www.voanews.com/covid-19-pandemic/chinese-lab-checkered-safety-record-draws-scrutiny-over-covid-19

Let me put it this way… which is more likely?

  1. Someone ate an infected bat from a wet market? or..
  2. A lab assistant not following established procedures released COVID-19 from the lab via themselves?

Considering that this lab had been warned of improper safety procedures in the past, I’ll let you do the math. It’s not hard math either. Again:

  1. Are we looking at infection from a wet market, which hasn’t found a food sample with COVID-19?
  2. Are we looking at infection from a lab with known unsatisfactory safety procedures and a missing lab assistant?

Occam’s Razor is fairly clear here. So is K.I.S.S. (keep it simple stupid). Logic dictates that it’s #2 as the source, not #1. Regardless of what people have stated, it’s fairly clear that the Wuhan Institute of Virology is the most likely candidate. The question, why aren’t more news outlets, the government and other officials like Dr. Fauci and Sanjay Gupta looking in this direction?

Conflict of Interest

Most doctors look up to Dr. Fauci as their guide for all things COVID-19. Unfortunately, Dr. Fauci isn’t as innocent in all of this as he appears. Dr. Fauci headed up the NIH at a time when that organization helped fund the Wuhan Institute of Virology to the tune of over $700,000, perhaps more. This funding was for Gain of Function research.

It gets worse.

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave.”

Who exactly is Peter Daszak? I’m happy you asked that. He runs EcoHealth Alliance, a British non-profit that, in 2018, identified the possibility of SARS-CoV-2 variants, over a year before the pandemic. Why were they able to do this? Because this British non-profit funded research through the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Where did EcoHealth Alliance get its money? From the United States government, of course. Remember that over $700,000 above? Yeah, that’s where some or all of it went.

That money was funneled from the United States NIH to EcoHealth Alliance and then apparently that money landed at the Wuhan Institute of Virology for virus research. It’s not like EcoHealth Alliance is a direct research firm. Nevermind that the Obama administration had banned the use of funds to further Gain of Function research related to viruses in 2014 to prevent this situation from unfolding. Unfortunately, that ban was lifted in 2017 by the NIH (headed by Fauci), leading to further research and perhaps directly to this pandemic. Without that money funneling through outfits like EcoHealth Alliance to such subcontractors as the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the world might not be in this situation.

It takes money to operate expensive research facilities. Without that money, no facilities. Of course, the U.S. Government doesn’t want to get involved in such risky research directly or have that research on U.S. soil, which could backfire on the United States. Instead, it’s fine to funnel money through intermediates so that the United States can absolve itself of involvement through plausible deniability… even though it’s as plainly obvious as it is here. The U.S. indirectly funded research that lead directly to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Is China still at fault? Most certainly. That facility is located in China. China operates it. It is completely on China to operate such facilities responsibly and safely. However, the United States NIH cannot disavow involvement when a very large sum of money landed at that lab, helping them fund SARS-CoV-2 research and possibly leading to the virus’s release. It’s particularly worrying when considering that this research lab indirectly received funding from the NIH, headed up by Dr. Fauci at the time. Dr. Fauci had to know where that money could or would end up. Even still, the NIH could have asked how that money was to be spent by its recipients.

Plausible Deniability and Gupta’s Podcast

I have no idea how culpable or complicit Sanjay Gupta may be in this situation, but it is entirely irresponsible to host a person like Daszak by allowing them to push the wet market disinformation as the source when there has been no actual science proving the wet market’s direct food involvement.

Instead, Daszak’s culpability and possible complicity is evident by his non-profit’s funneling of money into the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which firmly places him, EcoHealth Alliance and its reputation at risk. No. He can’t risk that. So, going on a show like Dr. Sanjay Gupta lends credibility to his assertions that the wet market was the location where it began, never mind that science shows there’s no food evidence. However, a super-spreader event is definitely not out of the question. But then, the question arises, who was patient zero and where began their super-spreader event? I think we already have the answer to that question above.

For this reason, it’s important to read articles and understand the situation for yourself. Don’t take statements from people even who appear well intentioned at face value. You must dig deeper for answers to your questions.

We definitely haven’t gotten the whole answer from China or from the United States. Instead, the media, medical professionals like Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Dr. Anthony Fauci have danced around the issue. With this article, it’s clear to see why they are doing so. To put forth any other narrative about where and how the virus began puts their own careers in jeopardy.

Unfortunately, mainstream media would never pick up such an article like this because it damns not only such people like Dr. Fauci, it damns their own journalistic credibility because the United States government won’t play nice with them after such an article, citing them as “wild conspiracy theorists”.

Being labeled a “conspiracy theorist” is much the same as being accused of sexual misconduct these days. It’s enough to get you fired and labeled as a “nut job”. When, in fact, there’s nothing at all nutty about the statements. In fact, it’s just the opposite. However, even if Dr. Fauci is a “nut job”, he’ll never be openly called that because of his position within the United States government.

For this reason, it’s why we are now facing a political rift across party lines. It’s why Republicans can storm Capitol Hill and most will likely be let off for “good behavior”. Can’t have “well meaning” Republicans being held to justice for damaging property and killing people. Since when is a playing a party affiliation card now a “get out of jail free” card? It seems this, along with the above, is the state of affairs these days.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta needs to rename his podcast. It’s not about Fact or Fiction, it’s about perpetuating disinformation and lies. With Trump, we’ve already had enough lies to last a lifetime. We don’t need yet more lies being spouted from supposed medical professionals. This is why you must question everything.

Update for June 2, 2021

As of June 1, 2021, many of Dr. Fauci’s early pandemic emails from 2020 have been released based on a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. From these emails, there’s much to read. Too much to really discuss here. With the release of these emails, suffice it to say that Fauci’s world is beginning to unravel. FOIA is one of those bane freedoms that people who work in the government would like to see abolished. Thankfully it exists and eventually allows unclassified government documents to be released to the public. I’d suggest reading the emails for yourself. However, as of this update, I’m at a loss to find a site that archives only the text of these emails. For now, you’ll need to visit news sites.

Searching Google for only the emails leads to what I deem ‘spearch‘, a combination of the two words spam and search. It’s when a site like Google chooses to bring garbage listings to the top of the search results rather than the search results you’re actually wanting. Google’s search panel’s AI understands exactly what you want, but instead, it intentionally usurps those results by planting garbage results, which attempts to direct you to those garbage sites with useless information for the sake of more ad revenue.

If I can find a site that simply allows reading only the email test without all of the unnecessary and extraneous garbage content, I will update this article.

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Republican Brinkmanship

Posted in botch, government by commorancy on February 13, 2021

The Republican party has a cancer within. That cancer is fairly obvious as well. You might be thinking, “Well, what is that cancer?” That’s today’s article. Let’s explore.

Democrats

Before I get into the meat of this article, let me be perfectly clear. The Democrat party isn’t a bunch of saints. Oh, no no no. These Democrat Senators and House representatives have their own fair share of problems, too. It’s just that at this very moment, the Republican party is in much more shambles than the Democrats. At least the Democrats did not urge their constituents to lay siege to Capitol Hill. The Democrat party is also at least holding onto the purpose of their platform unity and party, unlike many in the Republican party.

Note, I’m not planning on getting into the ‘right’ vs ‘left’ arguments in this article. Why? Because the cancer within the Republican party has nothing to do with ‘right’ vs ‘left’ points of view and everything to do with embracing the wrong ideology for this political party.

Republicans and Trump

The Republicans (also known as the Grand Old Party or GOP) is a party that stretches back to somewhere around 1854. Today (or at least prior to Trump’s election as President), the party’s platform primarily espoused conservative leanings and smaller government. Not all party members believe in that point of view, but most of the Republicans do.

Enter Trump in 2016. Trump is a capitalist businessman who is the child of a wealthy well-to-do real estate family. Much of his fortune was inherited from his parents. However, he has also made a mark for himself in real estate. His tactics have been mostly ruthless in his business dealings. That became fairly obvious fairly quickly once he took office as President, but it should have been obvious on his earlier TV reality show, The Apprentice… where the point was to fire those who didn’t perform. That firing action is actually a key element of the show and you could tell that Trump actually enjoyed every minute of that segment. One might even assume that Trump enjoys inflicting pain on others.

As Trump stepped into power, so began his concerted effort to win the 2020 election even in 2016. He sowed seeds of discontent and doubt surrounding the election early. His whole “mail in ballot” rhetoric began very early in his tenure as President and then he ramped it dramatically over time. It was clear that Trump intended to try and subvert the election process in some way if he could. He sowed these seeds early to let the weeds grow, and grow they did.

He gained a substantial following of people with extremist points of view… with people who wholeheartedly believe conspiratorial efforts are under foot. That, most importantly, the Democrats hold enough sway and power to actually subvert an election… never mind that the Democrat party is no more or less powerful than the Republican party. In fact, the Republican party was more powerful than the Democrat party with Trump elected, yet Donald Trump needed to pretend that the Democrat party had the upper hand so he could force lies down people’s throats.

More specifically, Trump offered a big election lie that somehow the Democrats subverted the election and managed to get Joe Biden elected by cheating. Trump tried time and time again to put forth his election rigged assertion in court. Every court that reviewed his claims dismissed the suit as meritless… yes, even from judges who were appointed by Trump himself. None of the judges would entertain that the election was “rigged”. Trump simply had no proof. However, there were a lot of statements from people who claimed to work for the election, but they were simply statements with no proof to back up the claims. They were mere accusations, or lies, if you will.

Trump’s Presidency

As Trump grows his presidency through his 4 years, he begins facing the real possibility of being a one-term president. He realizes that the populous could, in fact, choose a new candidate and force Trump out. Trump has already admitted that he’s not a good loser. Well, that’s as obvious as the day is long. To avoid his being ousted, Trump begins the election lie early… by targeting mail-in ballots. His attack on mail-in ballots is the basis for beginning the “big lie” that grew and grew over time… particularly once it was clear that Trump had lost both the popular vote and the election and the fact that COVID-19 more or less ensured mail-in ballots.

After his lie begin in earnest, Trump was relentless in perpetuating this lie every day after the election closed. Not only did he perpetuate the lie using his voice via videos, he perpetuated it on Twitter and social media and by enlisting his Republican party-mates to help him perpetuate his lie. He even enlisted his attorney to lie for him. Anyone Trump could enlist to perpetuate his lie he would manipulate and use. Trump’s lie agenda stopped at nothing to make sure his lie could reach far and wide.

This lie not only continued unabated, it grew to a point where gullible voters began believing this lie because such news services like Fox News perpetuated this lie through its very own anchors spreading false narratives. Even to this day, Trump still insists on perpetuating this election lie… an outrageous lie that is actually so absurd that anyone with half a brain can realize there’s no possible way that the election could have been rigged in the way that Trump has claimed. Trump could have at least tried to come up with an election narrative that was even marginally believable, but he didn’t. You don’t have to be a Republican or a Democrat to see the absolute absurdity in his lie.

Republican Party

The lie by itself wouldn’t have been a problem on its own. However, it’s how Trump mobilized that lie into action by extremist groups that led to the riot on Capitol Hill on January 6th.

Trump supporters would like to disconnect each linked event from one another and claim that the whole isn’t the sum of its parts. Meaning, that Trump’s connection to Qanon months earlier had nothing to do with those Qanon groups that up showed up on Capitol Hill on January 6th. Again, anyone with half a brain could figure out that these events were conclusively linked. One would not have happened without the other. It was these series of events that are all linked together and which led up to the riot on Capitol Hill.

Trump can most certainly feign ignorance over the matter, but that’s not only disingenuous, it’s an outright lie. Trump knew most certainly who Qanon was months before the election. He knew exactly what they were capable of doing… that’s the reason he invited them to Capitol Hill. That’s the reason he invited all of those extremist groups to Capitol Hill. You can’t invite extremist groups to an event and then not expect extremism to occur. That’s like hiring a clown for a party and then claiming you didn’t know the clown would act like a clown.

Speaking of parties, let’s move into the meat of this article. The Republican party has allowed and indeed perpetuated Trumps lies and cancer to infect the party. The party has even endorsed elections of people into House and Senator Republican roles who have extremist viewpoints and potential extremist affiliations. In other words, the Republican party appears to have been infiltrated by extremist groups. Yet, the Republican party turns a blind eye to all of this.

Republican Insanity

The Republican party was formerly about conservatism, smaller government and lower governmental spending. Today, the new extremist version of the Republican party is more about bearing arms to coerce people into action and tell lies that get people to mobilize. That form of extremism has no place in any political party, Democrats, Republican, Libertarian or Independent. Governing people in congress is about words, not about violent actions.

Worse, these extremist republican party members… who will remain nameless because you know who you are… are about as dumb as a brick if they think the American people (Republican or Democrat) won’t see through their failures and lies while in office.

For example, by ignoring the Impeachment trial, by failing to vote to convict, that sends a clear message, not that Donald Trump is innocent, but that the Republican party is firmly corrupt. Any elected Republican who actually believes that the extremist Republican contingent is large enough to vote to keep these sad lying sacks in office is literally delusional.

The vast majority of Americans, Republican or Democrat, do not hold extremist beliefs. They do not believe that guns and violence are the answer. Most Americans know that guns and violence aren’t an answer. Yet, you have an elected Republican official holding up his fist in solidarity towards known radicalized extremist groups who believe in conspiracies… people who are the exception, not the rule. What does that solidarity say? It doesn’t say good things. As I said, the vast majority of Americans believe in the rule of law, not in radical extremist agendas, such as attacking Capitol Hill by beating cops over the head with the American Flag or by pummeling them with fire extinguisher.

For so many duly elected Republicans to actually believe in violent extremism says that these people are literally delusional. Worse, these elected people aren’t likely to remain in office come next election… if those elected officials can even manage to remain in office that long. Few Americans want someone who’s literally loony toons representing them… particularly people who endorse violence against other Americans.

Impeachment Voting

What it comes down to is how these Republican Senators choose to vote. Their vote says all that it needs to say about those in the Republican party.

Literally, President Trump incited into action groups known to have extremist tendencies. He used ‘fighting words‘ like ‘Fight Like Hell’ which is not in any way protected speech. Inciting people into action regardless of whether you knew that it would erupt into violence, but that did is enough to exempt those words from First Amendment Rights. The sheer action caused by the utterance of the words ensures the words are not protected speech.

A number of people have tried arguing Trump’s ignorance of Q and their motives. Yet, those arguments are effectively invalid. You might not know the first time, but you would definitely know the second time. Inviting known extremist groups to a rally and then setting them loose with those words defines those words as ‘fighting words’ which are excluded from First Amendment protections.

These Republicans who wish to ignore all of the above and attempt to paint a picture of an ignoramus President is about is sincere someone running a red light camera and stating the picture is not them, when it clearly is.

We have not only the speech that President Trump let loose just minutes before the riot, but we also have images from within Capitol Hill showing the damage inflicted not only on the building grounds, but the injuries sustained to the police and the deaths which occurred. It clearly shows a sad day for America when a sitting President lets loose an extremist mob on Capitol Hill to inflict as much damage as they can.

It gets worse when the President sits idly by and does nothing to stop the mob and everything to reward them with the words, “We love you. You’re very special.” What rational President does this to his own party members?

Capitol Hill Police Involvement

Some have argued that part of this blame is on the Capitol Hill police being unprepared. To a degree, this is true. If Capitol Hill police had adequately prepared for a mob to descend on Capitol Hill, it’s entirely possible the mob wouldn’t have even breached the perimeter. Shoulda-woulda-coulda. While the police do have some culpability in not properly and adequately preparing for a mob that day, Trump shouldn’t have even held a rally that day. Yet, he did.

Trump’s sole goal was to disrupt, stop and halt the counting of the electoral college votes. He wanted the whole thing to fall apart… not that halting the vote count would have stopped Biden from taking office as the electoral college vote verification is largely a symbolic gesture.

Still, the disruption from the mob only delayed the inevitable. The vote count proceeded later into the evening after the mob had disbursed. What Trump hoped would happen, didn’t. Yet, the event occurred, terrifying members of congress, including the Vice President.

Republican Senators

What it comes down to in the ongoing impeachment trial is that many Republican Senators are treating the impeachment as if it’s a joke, that it’s not real. It is real and it’s going to go down in the history books. Additionally, those who vote against impeaching Donald Trump are likely to lose their position, not keep it.

Why? Because the American people don’t like lying, cheating, violence condoning, delusional people representing them. Any elected Republican Senator who believes that voting against impeachment will somehow curry favor with the voters will instead find themselves out of office come next election, if not sooner than that by being forced out or recalled. If you want to stay in office, they must to vote for impeachment.

Voting for impeachment means to uphold the constitution, America, disavow violence and prevent a morally bankrupt President from trashing the presidency on the way out. Voting against impeachment means that that Senator believes in selfishness, that violence is the answer and that a President can do whatever they want whenever they want. That’s not why Senators are voted into office. If you, as a Senator, cannot even do the job you were voted into office to do, then expect to be expelled… if not immediately, then at the next election.

Simply put, voting against impeachment means you are an untrustworthy Senator. If a Senator thinks that America will reward them for being untrustworthy, they’re completely delusional. America will not reward you with another term for perpetuating a baseless lie… a lie that proves that you are untrustworthy.

Make No Mistake

Republicans also seem to be under the delusional belief that they were somehow protected during the Capitol Hill riots. I can guarantee you that ANY party member would have been attacked if found: Republican or Democrat. You can’t tame a mob. If any of those mob rioters had found a sitting Senator or House member of any party, the mob members would have acted first and asked questions later. Meaning, Republican or Democrat wouldn’t have mattered to those extremists. They would have attacked any member of congress on sight if they had been able to.

Republicans seem to be under some delusional belief that those extremists were only after the Democrats. Wake up! They were after you too. Certainly they were after Mike Pence. They were after and would have attacked ANY congressional member of any party affiliation without hesitancy. That Republicans seem to think that they were somehow protected during the mob incursion is an insane point of view which is justified in their own minds, but has no basis in reality.

If you can manage to get another Republican President elected in your lifetime, you’ll be lucky. It’s going to be a very long time before much of America will trust Republicans, particularly if the majority of Republican Senators vote against impeachment. Wake up, Republicans… do what’s right before it’s too late to salvage what’s left of your shattered party. Many Americans have been wanting to do away with the two-party system. Well, this may very well be the opportunity to make that a reality.

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Game Review: Control

Posted in video game design, video gaming by commorancy on February 12, 2021

505 Studio’s Control is game that seems like it should have been a good game. Unfortunately, it’s an average third person shooter with a lot of problematic game design elements sporting one almost redeeming concept. Let’s explore.

What kind of Game is it?

Control is a game about, well, control of sorts. Not so much the control you might expect, but the control that the game designers want you to come to know. Basically, your player character, Jesse, is thrown into a world of objects dubbed O.o.P. or Objects of Power. These are everyday objects that contain a supernatural force. In this sense, the game ripped off Friday the 13th The Series and Warehouse 13. Both of these TV series revolved everyday objects imbued with a supernatural element that, if harnessed, would typically lead to wanton destruction.

In this same vein, the game world in Control has this same problem. These everyday power objects not only allow people to harness the supernatural forces within, these objects bestow unique abilities upon the bearer. However, in those aforementioned TV series, their objects not only gave the person a supernatural ability, it typically sapped the good out of the person leaving only evil behind. In this video game, this object situation does not similarly exist. The player character remains in full control of their faculties and remains sane and able to ward off any evil that may be part of the object.

As you might surmise, as you progress and find more and more power objects, the player character grows in strength and abilities. That’s how the skill tree opens and progresses. The game is much like other similar superhero games like the Infamous series, The Darkness series and, to a lesser extent, Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed series. Basically, as you find and gain abilities, your character’s strength grows. It’s obvious that this setup is leading to a final boss level where you’ll have to close out the game using many, if not all of the character’s abilities to defeat that final boss. It’s a fairly standard and cliché setup for a video game.

Story

The story in this game is mostly utilitarian. It primarily exists for the purpose of creating this video game. The story is essentially there to support the character’s gaining of new abilities, not the other way around. The character finds herself in a building called the Federal Bureau of Control (FBC)… it’s this video game’s equivalent of the FBI or CIA… with the added twist of also investigating all things of a supernatural nature. This situation she finds herself in affords her new abilities along the way. Though, she already has one ability that she’s already gained as a result of exposure to a power object when she and her brother were both kids.

Now, Jesse finds herself confronting the very outfit that kidnapped her brother, but at the same time becoming the FBC’s savior because the building has somehow gone completely out of control… which, this story setup is probably predictably obvious.

The first object of power that Jesse finds (well, technically the second) is a gun which now affords her protection. There’s nothing really very special about this object of power other than it’s a gun. I was a little disappointed to find the game developers offering up the weakest of all power objects as the first that she finds. I mean, what’s the point in finding an object of power if it doesn’t somehow confer a new supernatural ability? No, instead we find a gun that’s just a gun. It shoots bullets, but other than that it doesn’t do much in the way of anything else. It’s not even a very powerful weapon. It’s simply a pistol. So far, the game is starting off weak.

Abilities

As the game progresses, Jesse gains more and newer powers and abilities. The difficulty is that this is a slow row to hoe. Meaning, this game is about as slow burn as it gets. Don’t expect to get many abilities very fast at all. They definitely come to Jesse at a very, very slow pace.

Still, her abilities and powers grow as she slowly finds the objects to help her improve her situation with “The Hiss”. As I said above, the building itself has gone out of control. Most of the people in the building are floating catatonic many feet above the ground. These unfortunate people are under the control of what Jesse dubs, “The Hiss”. It’s basically a form of mind control that forces people into this catatonic floating state. Jesse and any who are wearing a Hedron Resonance Amplifier (HRA) can avoid becoming a casualty of “The Hiss”.

As Jesse progresses into the game and into the building, she finds all sorts of departments investigating all sorts of paranormal activities, including ESP, telekinesis, mind control and so on. Unfortunately, the game throws all of this information at you, but Jesse makes no comments on any of it. It’s like she’s simply expecting to see all of this stuff as she makes her way through the Bureau of Control building. Nope, to her it’s not a surprise at all. Yet, to the player, the questions all remain open as the story addresses none of this.

Control Points

As Jesse makes her way through this labyrinthine maze of a building, she finds red circular zones with 3 parabolic dishes aiming at the center. These control points, once “cleansed”, allow Jesse to fast travel to these points in the building. As a game mechanic, fast travel points are convenient. For the game’s story, this whole system feels contrived. Regardless, the control points not only allow Jesse to straighten out screwed up parts of the building through “cleansing”, it allows her to use these points to move around the building more easily… which is needed in this convoluted design of a building.

Puzzles

As with many games of this nature, Jesse’s challenges sometimes involve cryptic puzzles to be solved. This means working out how to solve the puzzle, sometimes using abilities, sometimes not. For example, one puzzle involves getting punchcards into the correct order in each terminal of five total terminals. Once done, the machine dependent on the correct order of cards inserted into the terminals can then be started. Of course, once started, the machine fails leading Jesse to yet another area of the building to get something else.

When Jesse isn’t solving puzzles, she’s fighting enemies, she’s conversing with an NPC or she’s running around in the building. Many of Jesse’s quests involve either fetching something, doing something for someone or attacking enemies or being attacked.

Combat

Since we were just talking about this very topic, let’s expand on it. Combat is part of any first or third person shooter; otherwise, it’s not a shooter. The enemies in this game are The Hiss, a nebulous set of voices that invade a person and can eventually possess that person and have them do things, including fight. All of the enemies in the game are former FBC officers who have been possessed or transformed by The Hiss. The Hiss is a nebulous enemy who lives in an alternate dimension from the game’s 3D human inhabited world. This supernatural force can reach through into the “real” world and control humans. The Hiss doesn’t seem to have any special agenda other than taking up arms against the game’s protagonist… at least, none that the game has let the gamer in on.

In other words, The Hiss is pretty much like The Flood in the Halo series. It’s a nebulous enemy who uses humans to possess and propagate itself into the real world. Unfortunately, like The Flood in Halo, possessing a human corrupts and transfigures the human into unrecognizable creatures that afford only basic life or death instincts… much like The Flood in Halo.

Jesse uses her ever evolving supernatural abilities and supernatural weapons to dispatch these unwanted abominations. That’s where the player comes in.

The combat is fairly straightforward, but with some glaring problems. The game strongly recommends using manual aiming throughout the game. However, in the options panel, there is an aim assist mode. If you enable this mode, the game, again, strongly recommends playing the game through with this mode off making some nebulous statement about being rewarded for doing so.

Okay, so I tried to do this for a few levels. However, what became painfully obvious is that the over sensitive camera movement makes manual aiming in this game next to impossible. Most games suffer from this same design flaw, but this super sensitive movement is way more pronounced in Control than most games I’ve played. This makes manual aiming a chore. I could live with this chore, however, were it not for the next additional glaring flaw.

Enemies in Control have near perfect aim every single shot even when hidden behind obstructions. While my bullets miss enemies when I’m shooting at them with the reticle directly over the top of them, enemy bullets connect almost instantly. Wait, it gets worse.

Enemies can shoot Jesse in the head from behind objects with perfect aim and take nearly 99% of her health, sometimes all of it, in one shot. Yet, Jesse’s shots do maybe 10% damage to an enemy even in the head. The enemy’s perfect aim when combined with being so overpowered make the game a joke to play. This game isn’t supposed to be another Dark Souls, which Dark Souls is intentionally designed with combat so difficult so as to make you throw the controller across the room on occasion.

It’s one thing when game developers attempt to make enemies operate at about the same damage level as the player. It’s another when developers clearly don’t give two shits about this and set the enemies as one-shot player kills, yet can absorb every bullet in the player’s gun and still not die. Worse, enemies can literally appear out of thin air, standing right next to you and then summarily execute Jesse in one hit. It’s so absurd that you have to laugh to keep from throwing the controller at the screen.

As a result, I enabled aim-assist. If the game is going to cheat by making enemies so overpowered they can kill Jesse in one shot, it was only fair that Jesse obtains a similar advantage. There’s nothing worse than seeing the death screen in a game over and over and over. It gets worse again.

Death Mechanic

If Jesse falls in battle, the game reloads Jesse back to the closest save point. Because save points can be quite far away from where you were playing, that forces you to spend time sprinting all the way back to that point again. It’s not only annoying, it’s an incredible time waste. It can sometimes even become a challenge to get back there if it requires using lifts or yet more combat to get back there. Therefore, doing something to help mitigate the death loading screen and being forced back to the load point is well worth it. This is part of the reason I decided to enable aim-assist from the beginning.

While I’m okay with a small death penalty, such as consuming points that could be used towards upgrades, we don’t need multiple different penalties. Penalties such as this game has:

  1. Loss of points that can be used towards upgrades
  2. Being forced back to closest save point
  3. Loss of current battle in progress
  4. Confusion over where you end up after respawning

Thankfully, the game doesn’t lose the progress or force you to start everything over from scratch after Jesse dies, but you must determine where you are, figure out where you were and then spend time traversing back over there. You might even run into more Hiss along the way just to get back to where Jesse fell.

It’s not the worst death mechanic in a game, but it’s pretty close to it. Control will lose points for its weak death + respawn mechanic.

Graphics

One shining spot of this game is its world lighting, background objects and atmospherics. It has some of the best atmospherics I’ve seen in a game. It gives the world depth and it serves to give the office space a sense of realism. While the lighting doesn’t work 100% in every situation, there are some lighting conditions that are exceptional. This is one of the shining points in this game, but not the sparkle in this game… that’s coming below. Unfortunately, a lot of game developers put a lot of effort into choosing an engine that offers a substantial level of lighting realism, but then forget to put that same level of effort into the character models.

Speaking of character models, the 3D character models are average in this game, specifically the main character, Jesse. However, even the supporting character models lack. If you want to see character models that look genuinely and stunningly real, you need to look at the Call of Duty series. The character models in Call of Duty are some of the most outstanding and realistic models I’ve yet seen in a game. Sure, even those models look video gamey as all 3D models ultimately do, but they’re probably the closest to using a human model as I’ve seen from a 3D game character. Unfortunately in Control, Jesse (and the rest) aren’t the greatest of 3D models. You can even see that depending on the lighting, the character models can look okay or they can look flat, dull and unconvincing. The hands are particularly bad. It’s like playing a game using Barbie and Ken dolls.

Audio

Unlike many video games which offer the player character no voice, this game does give Jesse, the game’s protagonist, a solid voice. Not only does Jesse have a voice to speak to other characters in the game, this character also has thoughts of her own. It’s a refreshing and welcome change to see a game developer voice the protagonist and give them a backstory that unfolds as we’re traversing through the narrative. Unfortunately, the musical audio portion doesn’t fare as well. The music chosen is not inspiring or powerful. If anything, I’d use the word utilitarian. The music serves its purpose to cue the player into skirmishes, but that’s about as great as it gets. There’s just nothing much inspiring about the music included in this game. There is one exception and that’s discussed below.

Problems

As with most games that have been released in the last two or three years, I find game developers more and more relying on cliché game tropes to carry the story. These tropes make game development easier because most game developers already have toolkits built which can insert these tropes right into the game. Tropes like the press and hold to interact. Tropes like dead enemies dropping health pickups. Tropes like enemies with perfect aim. However, if the tropes were the end of this game’s problems, I might not even mention them. Combined with a bunch of other problems, it just exacerbates Control’s overall problems.

Video games that rely on quests, particularly where the game can carry multiple quests at the same time, have learned to mark not only on the map where the quest destination is, but also mark on the player’s directional HUD system which way to head to get to that destination. Unfortunately, Control does none of this. Not only does it fail to adequately alert the player where on the map is the destination is, it fails to offer a directional HUD or floating marker to lead you in the correct direction.

Instead, the player is forever fumbling his or her way to get to the destination. Sometimes the destination is so obscure and not marked, it’s impossible to find a way to get to it. This problem is compounded by the building’s convoluted and overly complex layout. I realize the building itself is a kind of extra-dimensional structure, able to rearrange itself at will. Regardless, the structure is overly complex requiring traversal of many stairs and small doors to move between and around areas.

Combine this with the fact that doors are level locked, the player has no way to know how to get into an area until you finally and magically hit upon the correct quest that drops the key in your lap.

Map

Yes, the map itself is also a problem. Unlike many games which choose to utilize a separate map screen, this game uses a map overlay. The map overlay obscures the screen itself, yet the screen stays live with the character able to move while the screen map marker moves. This is mostly a negative for the game. It’s great that you can see you’re heading in the correct direction, but because the screen is so overly obscured by the map, trying to traverse the interior of the building can be impossible with the map overlay open.

The only other game that has offered a similar map overly screen was Technomancer. Technomancer‘s game’s map overlay screen, however, chose not to obscure the gamer’s view of the game play field while still allowing the map to be visible. This meant you could leave the map open and traverse the map to your destination. If Control had chosen to allow visibility of the play field at all times, the game play experience with the map open would have been far, far better. As it is now, Control’s kludgy map overlay system is made worse by its failure to be useful other than for quick glances.

This map situation gets much worse. There are times where the map doesn’t even draw in. It’s just a bunch of question marks and words floating in space with no image underlay showing the room layout. You simply have to guess where the hell you are. Even worse, this undrawn map can stay like this for minutes at a time, sometimes eventually drawing in, sometimes not. It’s also weird that the map worked just fine 5 minutes ago, but just a few minutes later it’s not working. I find it exceedingly difficult to believe that a bug this functionally problematic has been allowed to exist in a 505 studio game over a year after release. Though, admittedly this game studio has had a very rough start with Death Stranding… a game that confused a lot of players, was too slow burn and afforded mixed critical reviews. Control also falls into this same boat, but for very different reasons.

Telekenesis (aka Launch)

Yes, this power also falls under a problem area of this game. In a game that allows you to pick up and throw objects, an accurate object targeting system is imperative. Unfortunately, that targeting system fails more often than it succeeds. For example, there’s a point in the game where you’re required to run through an obstacle course in around 60 seconds. As part of this course, you are required to pick up cube structures and throw them into wall plugs to activate them. Far too many times, the game will, instead of picking up the cube which is right under the reticle, it will yank ceiling or wall material down forcing you to send that flying and try again. Sometimes it will fail to grab the cube multiple times in a row using up the precious telekinesis power bar. You only get about 3 tries at this before running out of power and being forced into a slow recharge.

Even with the fastest recharge speed mods, you still have to wait 10-15 (seconds) for the bar to recharge ensuring that you fail the course. I don’t know how many times I had to run through that course before I was able to succeed simply because of this single stupid game design failure.

If you’re developer planning on including short duration timed activities, you need to make damned sure that the mechanics required to complete the course function reliably 100% of the time. Control really failed the gamer with this course. That’s not to say the course cannot be run and succeeded. It will, however, take many trial and error attempts until you can manage to get luck to line up properly with all of the kludgy game mechanics.

Ashtray Maze

Let’s get past all of these pesky problems. What I will say about this particular level is that this level is the payoff for the entire game. It should have been the final thing you do that ends the game. My guess is that this level was designed first. Some developer came up with this level idea which wowed everyone who played it and then a game was wrapped around this one level as a reason for this game to exist.

This puzzle level requires a special object of power to be obtained before it can be run. If you enter into the maze without this object of power, you can only run in circles. Once you have this object of power, the entire level opens up and boy is it impressive. The entire run is so precisely timed to the player that it’s like watching a music video. Yes, even the soundtrack on this level is awesome. As I said, impressive. This level is the sole reason to play Control and, while fleeting, the level is amazing to behold and is the single most impressive thing about this game. After I was done running the level, I was thinking that I want to do it again… it was that impressive.

Unfortunately, one outstanding level can’t redeem a mediocre third person shooter. But, nonetheless, the Ashtray Maze is definitely a must see (and hear) level. It’s too bad the rest of the game couldn’t have been quite so impressive.

Overall

Control is a game not about control, but about being controlled. It’s about, well, nothing much in particular or even too interesting to be honest. This game combines a lot of its not-so-subtle cues from a lot of different games series including Bioshock, Halo, Portal, Assassin’s Creed, Infamous Second Son and Half-Life. In fact, it feels like a mashup of the game series just mentioned. It feels way less original than it should and, thus, it ends up far less impressive overall. However, the developers had a gem of a concept in the Ashtray Maze that they simply squandered away, but which could have been used in many ways all throughout the game to bump up the playability and fun factor of Control.

For example, the silly and repetitive Oceanview Motel sections were not only intensely boring and repetitive, they were completely unnecessary. If those segments had been replaced each with slightly modified runs of the Ashtray Maze, this game could have been much, much better and way more satisifying. I could have done the Ashtray Maze run several times and loved running it every single time. Instead, we got saddled with the trite Oceanview Motel, which is insipid, uninspired, slow and unnecessary. Maybe 505 can learn from these mistakes when crafting the sequel to Control.

One final thing I’ll state is that this game has two endings. This information doesn’t at all spoil the game. However, know that it has a fake out ending and a real one. The fake out ending is still part of the game and there’s a small amount more gameplay (maybe 15-20 minutes) after it, but before you get to the real ending. I’m uncertain why 505 decided to add a fake out ending, particularly so close to the end, but they did. I thought I’d mention it so if you choose to play this game you don’t get caught off-guard thinking that the game ended early and abruptly and put the game away before completing Control.

Graphics: 8.5 out of 10
Sound: 8 out of 10
Game Control: 4 out of 10
Playability: 7 out of 10
Replay value: 1 out of 10
Overall: 4.5 out of 10 (an average third person shooter with only one redeeming level)

What is Critical Thinking?

Posted in howto, rationale, reasoning by commorancy on February 6, 2021
The Thinker by Rodin

Critical Thinking, when taught in a classroom setting, teaches something that approximates critical thinking, but isn’t actually critical thinking. In fact, what is taught is more deductive or logical reasoning than critical thinking. Let’s explore.

This article is 6647 words. At an average reading speed of 200 words per minute, this article will take slightly more than 33 minutes to read it. Grab your favorite beverage and let’s get started.

Critical Thinking Tests

Here’s a test example:

“Some men are definitely intelligent, others are definitely not intelligent, but of intermediate men, we should say, ‘intelligent’? Yes, I think, so or no, I shouldn’t be inclined to call him intelligent.”

Which of the following reflects the intention of the writer well?

A. To call men intelligent who are not strikingly so must be to use the concept with undue imprecision
B. Every empirical concept has a degree of vagueness
C. Calling someone intelligent or not depends upon one’s whim
D. There is no need to be as indecisive as the writer of the above

While there is an answer to this question, I’m not going to go into what it is just now for a number of reasons which will become apparent shortly. Instead, let’s analyze this type of question for its appropriateness for critical thinking skills.

First, let me start by saying that the grammar on this question is absolutely atrocious. Without proper grammar, you can’t make heads or tails of what the question is actually asking. The grammar forces you to trip over the question which then forces you to become distracted by the grammar. This fact alone leads to confusion and interpretation problems. Once we’re off track for the interpretation, we can’t easily arrive at a correct answer. Is this a test writer trick? I’ll leave that for you to decide.

Second, this question has multiple choice answers. I vehemently dislike multiple choice answers for a number of reasons. The first reason to dislike multiple choice answers is that they offer a limited selection of choices. You can’t be free to think through the question critically… which is the whole point in this exercise. Instead, you must keep your thoughts constrained to only 1 of 4 answers. On the plus side, the question author didn’t include the absolutely horrid trick answers, “All of the above”, “None of the above”, “Answers 3 and 4” or any similar type answer tricks.

The second half of the second reason to dislike multiple choice answers is that you must decipher what the question author is asking you to do and then keep your thoughts constrained to only those 4 answers… even though your own critical thoughts may lead you to additional answer conclusions not included. This means, you have to put yourself into the shoes of the question author to try and determine how the question author expects you to answer this question. In fact, this makes answering this question less about performing actual critical thinking and more about trying to get into the head of the question author to determine the test author’s motives. That’s not a critical thinking exercise at all. No.

That’s test taking 101. Meaning, it actually becomes more important to understand the test author’s tricks than it is to actually utilize critical thinking skills to answer the question. This is an important distinction to understand about test taking. This is why multiple choice test taking is less about what you know and more about how best to decipher the test author’s motives for the inclusion of the question… and more importantly, how they are expecting you to respond (correctly or incorrectly) to their biased notions. In other words, test authors leave you just enough threads of logic to lead you in multiple directions. Only one thread, if you follow it, leads to the correct answer. Other thought threads, if you are tricked by the question author’s lead, will lead you down the the wrong answer path.

This means you may be betrayed by your very own thought processes. You may postulate the wrong answer simply because the question author led you down the wrong path based on reaching the wrong conclusion. Again, this is test taking 101. You have to become a savvy test taker to understand that the test author is intentionally leading you down the wrong answer path. You have to be smart enough to understand this aspect of test taking to rethink your conclusion to lead you to the correct answer. Again, this has nothing whatever to do with critical thinking skills and everything to do with avoiding test author traps.

Third, this snippet of text is too small to draw any real conclusions. It’s like taking two sentences from the Star Wars novel and then expecting you to understand the author’s intention behind the story. You can’t do this with only two sentences. This question text lacks the bigger context of why it exists in a larger text. If the “author” behind this question included this small statement in a romance novel, for example, and was then talking about a specific character with this statement, you could much more easily draw conclusions to the correct answer because you have wider context surrounding its reason to exist. However, pulling a small snippet out of a larger story, then expecting a test taker to rationalize conclusions without the necessary larger context means jumping to conclusions mostly by guessing. Guessing isn’t the way to critical thinking. Guesswork is best left for situations where the outcome is more or less meaningless. Guesswork shouldn’t be part of or required as a strategy when taking any standardized multiple choice test of any kind. For test taking, you either know the answer or you don’t.

Free Form vs Multiple Choice

Free form answers range in difficulty, but at the same time, require more actual critical thinking. You have to be able to articulate into words the answer to the question. These word answers can then be read by the teacher to understand the student’s thought rationale. That’s the point in critical thinking. For some, writing a free form answer can be easier. For others, it can be more difficult. One thing is certain. Writing a free form answer means you’re not constrained to a limited set of answers… which takes trick answers by wily question authors off of the table. It also takes misinterpretation issues off the table. However, it won’t solve poor grammar problems, such as in the question above.

There, I Fixed It

The question above should have been correctly worded as follows:

“Some men are definitely intelligent, others are definitely not intelligent. Of intermediate men, we should say, ‘intelligent’? ‘Yes, I think so’ or ‘No, I shouldn’t be inclined to call him intelligent.'”

Which of the following reflects the intention of the writer well?

A. To call men intelligent who are not strikingly so must be to use the concept with undue imprecision
B. Every empirical concept has a degree of vagueness
C. Calling someone intelligent or not depends upon one’s whim
D. There is no need to be as indecisive as the writer of the above

In fact, the text of this question, now that this question been grammatically corrected, is technically an alternative form of the classic “glass half-full” vs “glass half-empty” argument. Let’s examine.

Of intermediate men (meaning, men who fall halfway between intelligent and not intelligent), do we call them intelligent or not? Again, this situation illustrates another version of the “glass is half-full” versus “glass is half-empty” argument. Thus, such situations can be both rationalized and stated either way.. and correctly I might add. It’s particularly true when extenuating circumstances are present (i.e., how thirsty you are, for example).

Recognizing that this is a case of “glass half-full vs glass half-empty” should be the critical thinking challenge. Once you recognize this fact, the answer should become obvious. Yet, it doesn’t. There’s no answer here that immediately rewards the critical thinker for recognizing this fact. Instead, we are still left with 4 bland answers… answers that don’t adequately or obviously sum up the question author’s reason for writing this question.

However, according to this test author, the answer is A… “To call men intelligent who are not strikingly so must be to use the concept with undue imprecision”. There is nothing in the snippet that describes a man as “strikingly so”. This “strikingly so” concept was added in the answer and was not part of the question. In fact, the correct answer should be C… “Calling someone intelligent or not depends upon one’s whim.” Why?

Why Indeed

The answer A works only from a utility perspective, but the answer breaks down under scrutiny. The “strikingly so” text, which was only present in the answer and not in the question, was added as a qualifier for the intermediate man. This qualifier didn’t exist in the original text and was incorrectly introduced as a new concept in the answer. This violates answer protocol.

A man who is of intermediate intelligence can’t really be called unintelligent unless someone who is much more intelligent stands next to him. Intelligence is a matter of degree. This means that so long as the intermediate man is the most intelligent man in the room, then the glass is half full… or more specifically, the man is intelligent. However, if the intermediate man isn’t the most intelligent man in the room, then the glass is half-empty… or more specifically, the man is considered unintelligent. It’s all a matter of context.

The label is then applied based on the context (or whim) of the situation… which means answer C, “Calling someone intelligent or not depends upon one’s whim”. Even though neither C nor A correctly or adequately describe this situation, C is the most correct of all of the included weak answers, because C doesn’t introduce new information.

Let’s also keep in mind that the definition of “undue” means “excessive”. Calling an intermediate man intelligent isn’t, in any way, excessive. Anyone who is not unintelligent must be, by their very nature, some amount of intelligent. We all understand that intelligence is a matter of degree. It is not an absolute. Calling someone intelligent doesn’t immediately conjure up images of Einstein and Mensa when using that word to describe someone. Instead, calling someone intelligent means to recognize that they are not stupid. For this reason, this question is better served (as a critical thinking exercise) by recognizing that it is, in fact, a form of “glass half-full” vs “glass half-empty” and then treating the test taker accordingly with an appropriate answer. That is the reason for this answer’s existence… an exercise that the test writer him/herself wasn’t intelligent enough to realize.

Critical Thinking

The above proves that this form of test taking isn’t sufficient to demonstrate if a student really understands critical thinking. This form of test only tests if the student can take tests, not that they understand the concept of critical reasoning.

Critical thinking and reasoning is designed to compare ideas, learn the most you can about it, apply logic and determine if what someone is saying is true, partly true, partly false or entirely false. Again, there are degrees to falsities and truth. Understanding and being able to critically find these half-truths or half-falsities (seem familiar?) is the art of critical thinking. It is a concept that the question author above failed to understand. It is a concept, however, that is the reason critical thinking skills are very important.

To ferret out truth from fiction using logic and reasoning is, by its very nature, a skill that everyone needs to master. Sure, you may know when your kids are lying, but can you tell when your co-worker is lying? Your boss? Your doctor?

You can’t just blindly go around thinking that all of these people are telling you the absolute truth any more than thinking they are outright lying. You need to be able to determine degrees to their truth and their deceptions. This is where critical thinking comes into play. Critical thinking isn’t just about reading text, either. It’s also about reading body language, reading into a person’s words and watching how people interact with one another. To become a critical thinker, you must also be able to read human body cues and nuances. Critical thinking skills are rarely ever just about one thing. It’s a combination of cues, text, conversation and rhetoric that combines to create a whole. Once the whole is created, it can be dissected and analyzed by your brain. The point is, to work through not only the logic or irrationality of the situation, but also to combine all aspects to see the bigger picture. Only then can you really think critically about what you know.

Case in point, the above question. If I had attempted to guess what the question author wanted, I would have gotten the wrong answer… because my analysis was not what the question author was seeking. Instead, my thought processes led me down the wrong path because I saw something in the question that turned out to be ignored by the question author. Instead, the question author took the wrong path by introducing information in the answer which shouldn’t have been there. I would have ignored the A answer because of the introduction of information that wasn’t in the original question. In fact, the introduction of that new information was actually the author’s trick to lead you away from the correct answer… to have you select an answer that didn’t introduce new information.

That’s not the critical thinking that the author intended. Instead, you were forced to use critical thinking to deduce which answer is the best based entirely on what you guess the author expected. In fact, there is even less information to go on about the test author than there is in the question. However, taking a test as a whole, you might be able to, through critical thinking, ascertain patterns in the questions and answers. It is these patterns that might lead you back to the above question to later realize the obviousness of the answer.

Unfortunately, you would have to have answered many questions on the test to realize the test author’s scam behaviors. Once you can recognize the test author’s scams on the test as a whole, you can then go back and rework previous answers to fall in line with that new information gleaned from the full test. This is why there’s an art form in taking tests… and while it might utilize critical thinking, it is more dependent on second guessing the test author correctly. I digress.

Critical Information

Critically viewing the world is important. You don’t have to tell everyone your conclusions. You simply need to be able to reach reasoned conclusions based on all information you can obtain. Conclusions aren’t always correct, but critical thinking isn’t an exact science. Because data is always changing and being updated and more information can be found, conclusions may change based on new data. This is the reason to always remain open to new data with a willingness to update conclusions based on that new data.

Jumping to conclusions is easy. It’s just that people tend to jump to conclusions way before having enough critical information. In fact, many people jump to conclusions with only the barest of information. Snap conclusion jumping is the whole reason why TV sitcom programs like Three’s Company (and many other situation comedies) can even exist. With access to the Internet, everyone now has a treasure trove of information right at their fingertips. Don’t just search one thing and call it a day. Spend some quality time searching and digging and reviewing. Look at all sites… even if the site is primarily made up of kook conspiracy theorists. There are always grains of truth tucked everywhere. It’s the commonalities between the various sites that are likely to lead you to those grains of truth.

If you can call and ask questions of people, you can even gain more insight. Nothing is off limits when seeking information. The worst that someone can say to you is, “No” and then you’re no worse off than you were before. As long as you understand this aspect, you can dig for information and sometimes get the information you need. Most times you don’t even need to call and talk to someone. An email will typically suffice. Some people can even be more forthcoming in email because it doesn’t require speaking aloud, which can be overheard by bosses and other staff. Typing, on the other hand, isn’t a problem… which documents yet another critical thinking exercise.

Getting the information to aid in finding an answer is half the fun. The other half is analyzing the data in your brain for even more ideas. Not everyone has the aptitude or desire for this. I get that. But, critical thinking is still very much a useful life skill.

Testing vs Real Life

Understand that the test question above is the kind of question you might expect to see on an aptitude test, like the GMAT. To pass that test, you will need to study similar kinds of questions like the above. You’ll then need to understand how to read and interpret these questions for the appropriate answer. However, know that that kind of “critical thinking” isn’t the same as you would use in everyday life… and herein lies the rub.

Teaching critical thinking skills in a class room will gear the student towards passing an aptitude test. Unfortunately, such tests don’t adequately prepare the student for using genuine real world critical thinking skills to solve actual problems, get to the bottom of a lie or in any other way support any other real life dilemma. We must rely on a completely different set of thinking skills than those taught in a class room. For this reason, relying on academia alone to impart the necessary information tends to come up short in real world applications. It is for this reason that I write this article.

Academia

Don’t get me wrong. Academia is great for learning new information. The teachers are excellent at getting students up to speed on various topics that they may know nothing about. Unfortunately, as great as they are at doing this, you also must recognize the limitations of academia. The biggest limitation is that university and college classes aren’t great at teaching information that’s real world applicable… or more specifically, how you can apply that knowledge to real world, real life situations. Instead, the student is left to his / her own devices for how to tie course materials to every day life.

Some course materials lend themselves to real world application much more readily than others. For example, accounting classes. It’s fairly obvious that the information learned in an accounting class can be used at an accounting firm. Classes like Sociology, Psychology, Art History, History and even Geology glasses don’t always offer up real world applicable information. They’re “great to know” classes, but can’t often be used in real life. Even mathematics classes don’t always have real world applicable uses, unless you’re a video game programmer. Even then, there’s limited use cases for that information. Knowing Calculus, for example, may not be helpful in programming a video game unless you’re designing a new and better physics engine.

In most cases, however, a game developer will grab an existing game engine off of the shelf which doesn’t require a need to know that level of calculus…. because you’re using an existing pre-programmed engine, not designing a brand new one. You will need to know how to use the engine to its fullest, but that won’t require that level of mathematical understanding.

Academia does have its uses. Specifically, it helps you to get a degree. Having a degree is exceedingly helpful in obtaining a job in certain fields. Unfortunately, much of the required academic information learned at a university is lost in time… which means that the money wasn’t well spent. Certainly, you got the degree out of the deal, which is the primary reason to spend the money. However, not retaining the learned information is a loss to not only in what was learned, but to a lesser degree in the money spent in that attempt to learn. That doesn’t mean all will be lost after earning a degree.

Academia isn’t totally a waste for learned information, however. Some of the information learned can be useful in real everyday life… if you can manage to retain it. If you use some of that information on a regular basis as part of a job, then you will at least retain that information. However, keep in mind that learning information during the pursuit of your degree can become outdated years later. Even such topics as history, physics and mathematics can change as new assumptions are made, as new information is uncovered and as new technological achievements arrive. In other words, some information learned in 1995 might be outdated by 2005, just 10 years later. Indeed, computer systems will be far outdated. Learning to use, for example, the WordStar word processor was entirely outdated by the release of Windows 98 and packages like Microsoft Word. As another example, learning to use Windows 95 had become entirely outdated by 2020 with Windows 10 being the most current edition.

Even the introduction of the iPhone and the iPad have changed academia from 1995. For this reason, many professions require refresher courses every year to keep each professional informed of the latest changes in the industry. Unfortunately, too many industries don’t require such refresher courses.

Learning Everyday

The point to all of this is that critical thinking is left to the individual to both address on their own, but continue to learn, grow and expand their own knowledge and contemplation skills. Critical thinking isn’t something that you put down or use occasionally. You must use this skill every time you interact with anyone. That includes watching the news, reading a book, talking to your friends and, indeed, even interacting with your boss.

What you’ll soon learn is that everyone has an agenda. It may be as small and innocuous as attempting to sway your point of view, but it might be as big as attempting to manipulate you into doing something for them. Critical thinking is an important life skill. This can’t be emphasized enough.

You must be both willing and able to see through to a person’s real agenda. Not everyone wants something from you… at least, not something that’s tangible. Television news programs want your attention and they want to sway you to a specific point of view… a point of view that is dictated by only the information presented.

A real world example

COVID-19 comes to mind. Vaccines do have benefit when designed correctly. However, the agenda now is to push the vaccines at all costs. News programs have been pressing this point almost relentlessly… to the point of ignoring the pandemic itself. We now get 5 minute snippets of the death numbers and we get 30 or 60 minute long segments with “medical professionals” espousing how well the vaccines work… yet, how scarce they are.

We know that. We knew that when the vaccine rollout began. It’s as if the news shows each want to insult our intelligence by assuming we didn’t know that the vaccines would be scarce for months on end. Yet, instead of covering the pandemic and showing us the carnage, the news producers instead choose to show us a whole lot of nothin’ about how poorly and slowly the vaccine rollout is progressing. In fact, news programs have chosen to politicize this whole issue by blaming it on the politicians. I won’t go down into the politicization quagmire that literally has no end. Instead, let’s move on.

These news shows have chosen a one-sided approach to pandemic reporting. Instead of reporting on the actual pandemic, they are reporting on the vaccine rollout and pretending that the vaccine rollout is considered reporting news on the pandemic. Hint: it isn’t. The vaccine is but one small subset of the entire pandemic. The pandemic is about how the virus is spreading, not how well the vaccine rollout is going.

Let’s understand more. The vaccine brings hope. The pandemic brings despair. As a producer, which would you rather report on? Here’s where biased reporting comes into play. The pandemic is not just about the vaccine, it’s about how, when and why people are contracting the virus. It’s about contact tracing. It’s about timely testing. It’s about hospitals under siege. It’s about the resulting deaths. It’s about running out of medical equipment. It’s about all of these things and more…. and yes, it is also about the vaccine rollout.

When a news program chooses to ignore all else to bring the vaccine rollout front and center, that’s disingenuous reporting and it’s the very definition of biased reporting. One might even consider this kind of repetitive reporting as a kind of reporting designed to convince the viewer the vaccine is a “good thing”. This aspect requires critical thinking skills to both realize and understand. If you don’t use critical thinking skills here, you can’t know to visit other news sites to get information about the pandemic itself sans the vaccine rhetoric. Critical thinking allows you to bring all aspects into perspective.

In the last example, trying to convince someone of something by repeating it often is a recent, but definitely not new, trend. As a critical thinker, you must recognize this false strategy to understand just how misleading this trend is. Donald Trump utilized this “repeat often” strategy in an attempt to convince people that the election was rigged. Here we have news programs using this same exact strategy to sway people to the news producer’s agenda about, “pandemic bad, vaccine good”.

Let me just stop here to point out a prior Randocity article about the vaccine. Again, this is another critical thinking article. I’m not attempting to convince you of my point. Instead, I’m offering up various sides and I leave it for you to decide your own point of view. I also don’t use repetitive reporting techniques to barrage you with the same point over and over and over as a technique of persuasion. I could most certainly use this technique, but then this blog would be no better than Donald Trump or various major news networks.

With this article, I want you to rise above these petty persuasion techniques and see these things for what they are… by using critical thinking and reasoning. However, as the saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” I can lead you, but you must choose to understand. I’m not here to convince you. You must make the leap to understand for yourself.

One Last Exercise — COVID-19

Let’s critically discuss the vaccine rollout. The vaccine rollout team has chosen a very specific rollout methodology. A methodology that I have begun to question. There’s no argument that choosing to inoculate those most at risk first seems like the best strategy, but is it? Clearly, those at high risk stand to lose their lives if they become infected. However, how do those at risk become infected? The answer is most likely, by those who are much younger and healthier who bring it to them.

Reasoning this out, it seems that rolling the vaccines out to those at highest risk of carrying the virus around would make the most logical sense, regardless of age. Yes, it’s been stated the vaccines won’t necessarily prevent carrying the virus asymptomatically. Let’s examine who I propose here: children in school. Because children are dependent on adults for their well being and because children must return to school and daycare centers which congregate children into close social groups and because children are not yet capable of understanding the ramifications and risks of carrying around COVID-19, children carriers are the most likely reason those at risk could become infected.

Children congregate socially to play and learn. Because of that, they then pass COVID-19 around and bring it home to their parents. If it’s a multi-generational household with grandparents at home, then those most at risk can easily become infected. The parents can then become unknowingly infected and, for a short asymptomatic time period, carry and spread COVID-19 to work, retail businesses when shopping and others they encounter… even to social events like the year end holiday season.

Many people have presumed this next false logic about children and COVID-19: “Because children are less prone to the affects of COVID-19, this means they are less likely to spread it.” This is patently false. There is no causation between these two separate concepts. Children and adults are both human. Human to human transmission is just as likely from a child as from an adult. In fact, because children are less likely to wash hands often and less likely to cover their mouths when they sneeze or cough, transmission of COVID-19 from a child is extremely high. While the child may never get severe symptoms, that may not be true of those to whom the child has transmitted the virus. However, a child doesn’t have the life experience to understand why handwashing is important… why covering their nose and mouth to sneeze or cough is important… why it’s important to take regular baths and to wash clothing. That leaves adults at greater risk from their own child, particularly if they’ve been at school around other children.

I’ve even seen doctors on news programs implying that children can’t as easily transmit the virus to adults as justification of getting the children back into school. I get this want. I truly do. Parents can’t have their children at home 100% of the time. They need their child back in school. After all, school is really treated primarily as a form of free daycare… with the added benefit that the child might learn something. However, the misguided logic of children being unable to spread COVID-19 is patently false and will bite us all in the ass.

Children can pass COVID-19 to an adult just as easily as an adult can pass COVID-19 to a child. There is no transmissibility decrease from child to adult or adult to child for any virus, including colds, flu and, yes, COVID-19. You are just as likely to catch a virus from a child as from an adult or from anyone of any age. Anyone claiming otherwise is flat out lying to you. Human transmissibility of a virus doesn’t change simply because of the age of the human. Believing that lie could get you and your family dead.

For this reason, using this lie to justify school reopening is ripe for a resurgence of the virus… not to mention, the unnecessary loss of teaching staff life that, at this time, can’t be easily replaced. If school districts want to believe this patently false lie and reopen the schools simply to get the kids back at their desks, then don’t say you haven’t been warned.

Vaccination

If schools wish to reopen, children and teachers must be vaccinated for COVID-19. Why? Not because the vaccine won’t stop children from being carriers, but because it will reduce the amount of time they can carry COVID-19 when they get it. In fact, a child taking the vaccine may actually reduce and limit the child’s ability to transmit the virus to others. If their immune system fights off the virus quickly (in a day or two), a child’s ability to transmit is limited to a day or two at most. Because the vaccine kickstarts the immune system into action fairly quickly, a child should be able recover far, far faster from even an asymptomatic infection than an adult. Vaccination can then drastically reduce transmission from child to child in a school setting. It also drastically reduces the chances a child may transmit it to a teacher (particularly if the teachers are also inoculated) or to their parents.

For this reason, the currently flawed strategy of inoculating the eldest groups first and working downward means leaving school age children as the very last group to receive the vaccine. Again, flawed logic. Yet, parents want schools reopened now. If schools want to reopen, then everyone working in schools, including the children, must be vaccinated. There is no other choice. This means modifying the present rollout strategy to send vaccines into schools by having schools be the next group in line to receive the vaccine. Attempting to open schools without a vaccine strategy will lead to the unnecessary deaths of teachers and staff operating the schools… at which point the schools will be forced to close, not because of the virus threat, but because there’s simply no longer enough staff to operate the school system. Then, the choice to reopen schools will have been firmly shut down until such time as staff can be replaced.

Of course, no new teachers will want to hire onto school districts whose leadership so callously let their own teachers and staff die by becoming infected with COVID-19 via the children, particularly when this situation could have been entirely avoided by choosing a safer distance learning approach. In other words, the schools and school districts will have a logistical public relations nightmare on their hands should such a situation unfold. Not to mention, many, many lawsuits from teacher and school children families alike. Opening schools to 100% capacity without any mitigation strategies, such as the vaccine, is ripe for many, many more COVID-19 deaths, not just in schools. Think about the holiday season surge, but then realize it won’t end until schools end up forced closed because of loss of a critical amount of staff. It’s ultimately a no-win scenario. Believing the lie that schools are “safe environments” without offering a vaccine strategy is likely to end up with the same outcome as the year end holiday season COVID-19 death surge. Here you should use critical thinking to think through this assertion.

Reducing the Spread?

The bigger question… Is anything that we’re doing, including the vaccine rollout, actually making a dent in COVID-19’s spread? As of now, probably not. The vaccine rollout might eventually begin to take an effect, but that probably won’t happen for at least a year or longer. Even if the vaccine reduces the symptoms of COVID-19 to a manageable and survivable level, that still means that COVID-19 still has the potential to be fatal in some risk groups where the vaccine doesn’t work properly or can’t be administered. The vaccine may reduce the mortality rate in an eventual way, but we don’t yet as know how far the mortality rate may be reduced.

On the other side, we are also running against the variant clock. I really dislike the term variant and, instead, prefer the term strain. I don’t know why the news programs are using the term variant instead of strain, but here we are. The primary defined difference between a variant and a strain is its functional difference. For example, scientists believe that if a mutated virus is capable of getting past a vaccine, then it is considered a new strain. If a virus has mutated, but functionally hasn’t changed and vaccines are still equally effective, then it is a new variant. However, I’d argue that if the virus hasn’t functionally changed, it isn’t even a variant … regardless of whether its genome has mutated? In other words, variants aren’t important until they are able to get around a vaccine, in which case it’s no longer a variant, but a new strain.

The clock, however, is still ticking. That means that eventually a new strain (not variant) of COVID-19 will emerge that (almost) completely evades the current vaccines. That means vaccine manufacturers will need to rework the vaccine to include the new strain(s) or provide a booster shot that boosts the antibodies to now include the new strain(s). Though, I’d logically argue that a booster shot that intends to combat a new strain is not a booster and is instead a new vaccine unto itself. Additionally, when a new strain emerges, it likely won’t be a single strain. It will be multiple strains. Once this happens, tracking them all down to modify the vaccines can be a challenge. In other words, the vaccine efficacy is entirely dependent on how long the current strains remain unchallenged. As soon as new strains emerge, this whole situation starts all over again.

That’s an example critical thinking, not the test that began this article. The test example above doesn’t actually detect your ability to reason. It tests your ability to take tests. It’s one of the fundamental problems with academia. Until universities wake up to this fundamental disparity, they remain status quo by offering an alternative universe from reality. Universities need to wake up to the realities of the world and learn to teach real world experience. Right now, the best universities offer is book knowledge which, unfortunately, may only offer less than 20% usability in the real world. For this reason, it’s why corporations shy away from hiring recent graduates for critical business roles… which makes recent graduate employment all the more difficult. Graduates may wonder why. Well, now you have your answer. Only real world business experience offers businesses the safety net they need to know the individual understands how to operate in a corporate culture and do the assigned job to the satisfaction of the corporation leadership team.

A Final Word to College Graduates

A recent college graduate has little to no corporate experience and, thus, has no way to know how to time manage themselves or their job efforts. Time management is never taught in college. The recent grad will eventually learn this, but many businesses want new hires to hit the ground running on day one. Managers don’t want to spend hours and hours training a recent college graduate only to find them walk away from the job a year later for significantly higher pay. For training reasons, hiring managers typically hire recent graduates for significantly less pay than someone seasoned. Training is costly both in time and money, which is a significant part of the reason for the lower pay. To invest that time and money into a recent college graduate only to have them walk puts managers on edge… and makes them gun-shy to try it again. That doesn’t mean a raise won’t be forthcoming to get you up to market levels. Don’t assume you’re stuck at the pay rate where you are. However, many graduates are too impatient to wait.

I realize college graduates want higher pay on their first job, but that isn’t usual. Worse, using a new employer simply to put the company name on your resume for a year is callous and manipulative. It may also hurt your future job prospects. If as a new graduate, you commit to a job, stick with it for at least a couple years. Don’t use the company as a stepping stone for resume experience and discard them like an empty bottle. Sticking with the job increases your marketability for new jobs and increases your chances for much better pay opportunities. Walking away too soon will be frowned upon by hiring managers. Hiring managers will notice your itinerant nature is a problem… particularly if you’ve left the job in a year or less after graduation. They may even insinuate there’s a problem afoot with hiring you. Be careful with your first job as it sets the tone for all future jobs.

Again, this is critical thinking and reasoning skills at work. You must think through all aspects of the hiring processes to understand how and why what you do and how you treat your employer can help or hurt your future career. Learn to use all of your critical thinking skills to think through every situation. Critical thinking is a skill that’s difficult to master, but it is a life skill that will greatly aid you in many different ways throughout your life.

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