Random Thoughts – Randocity!

Brilliant Commercials Series: Verizon Wireless ‘Dead Zone’

Posted in commercials, entertainment by commorancy on July 3, 2021

This somewhat older commercial is, like Spectrum’s more recent commercial, brilliant and funny and sells the product in a subtle, yet clever way. The musical score completely sells what’s going on here in just a few notes. The commercial depicts a typical sort of horror setup where a couple moves into a home not knowing what horrors lurk within, but then it’s all debunked in an instant because of Verizon Wireless. The creepy neighbor is perfectly cast. The atmosphere which is set up here is brilliant and amazing, underscored by that brilliant soundtrack. It all comes together in just a few seconds and falls apart to instant humorous effect.

This one also stars Jennifer R. Morris as the ‘wife’. Jennifer can certainly pick these brilliant commercials. Though, her work in Spectrum’s more recent commercial shows exactly how great of an actress she really is.

Rating: 5 of 5 (perfect atmosphere, scary brilliant with a touch of perfect humor)

Brilliant Commercials Series: Spectrum Mobile

Posted in commercials, entertainment by commorancy on July 3, 2021

Here’s a commercial that is both funny and clever. The humor is spot on. It advertises the Spectrum product in a clever and unique way. The casting is perfect and the humor is timed perfectly. There’s nothing annoying about this commercial. The “genius scientist” (actress Jennifer R. Morris) is brilliant here. Jennifer has done a fair number of commercials in the past, but her work on this commercial is outstanding.

Rating: 5 out of 5 (brilliant and clever)

Part of the Dumb Commercials Series

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Dumb Commercials Series: Uber Eats

Posted in analysis, commercials by commorancy on July 1, 2021

Here’s yet another dumb commercial, but probably not for the reasons you might think. Let’s explore.

What’s wrong with this commercial?

The humor in this commercial stems from Simone’s, “Is that my leotard?” line. Let’s explore this line deeper.

This commercial is not only dumb, it’s disturbing. Here you have a white male wearing Simone Bile’s stolen leotard. Stealing someone’s leotard out of their locker is theft and could also be seen as a form of stalking. Clearly, this guy is trying to be just like Simone. A ‘clone’, if you will. That behavior, in and of itself, is disturbing. Combined with the stolen leotard, him attempting to recreate her routine and the fact that he copied Simone Biles’s Uber Eats order, that’s substantially “clone-ish” behavior. That behavior goes way beyond fan norms into stalker territory.

That Uber Eats decided to create a commercial that appears to depict a stalker showing up at Simone Biles’s practice session is quite disturbing. I’m not even sure how that entire behavior ties into Uber Eats. Is Uber Eats trying to say that it’s perfectly okay to exhibit this behavior towards a notable person?

Being a fan is one thing. Becoming a clone and stealing clothing from your idol crosses the line. That Uber Eats created a commercial that depicts this behavior simply to advertise their food delivery service is questionable. I don’t even see what one has to do with the other.

For the stalker reason alone, this is why this commercial is included in this series. It’s a bad commercial all around. It’s poorly conceived and written. It doesn’t have a point to make. It’s insensitive. However, it is professionally filmed. Regardless of hiring a professional commercial film company, there is really no point being made here that makes me want use Uber Eats to order food delivery. Just the opposite, in fact.

It Doesn’t Stop Here

There is a follow-on to the above commercial that proves that this guy is a stalker… Here, Simone’s, “I guess” line and brow-furrowing look proves that she’s not comfortable with this guy literally hanging around. He appears to have even stolen her leotard again.

Definitely an uncomfortable series of commercials. I’m not even sure why Simone would agree to being in these commercials considering her sexual abuse allegation with Olympics team doctor Larry Nassar.

And then there’s this one…

Rating: 2 out of 5 (depicts stalker behavior in an accepting way)

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Dumb Commercials Series: Eargo

Posted in analysis, commercials by commorancy on July 1, 2021

With this newest series, I will discuss the stupidity of various commercials and call out exactly why they are so stupid, even though it is the stupidity that also makes them somewhat humorous. I will also call out well written and clever commercials. Let’s explore.

This commercial has been recently playing heavily on some networks. I’ve seen it a LOT. Every time I see it, I also think how stupid it is.

American Pie

The commercial resorts to low-brow college humor to get its point across with oddly embarrassing results. The thing is, these two young people cannot possibly be this stupid!

First, why the hell would any couple begin talking about sex in such a blatant way right under their parent’s noses? The answer is, they wouldn’t. Without this, the commercial wouldn’t be nearly as funny. Unfortunately, the writers of this commercial thought that they needed to use this low-brow embarrassment as the basis for humor. There are many ways of crafting humor without resorting to such low-brow schadenfreude means to do it.

Second, who is the person with hearing problems in this commercial? Clearly, it isn’t the father.

To Whom Does This Apply?

The question regarding this commercial’s setup underscores yet another problem. Clearly, the father is wearing Eargo buds. However, her boyfriend/fiance/husband isn’t. If her boyfriend/fiance/husband at that age can’t hear her whispering the word ‘condom’, but her father can mere feet away, then her boyfriend desperately needs an ear exam. She would already know this. Also, if he can’t hear in a relatively quiet environment like that, he really does need a hearing exam. She would also compensate by knowing this fact about him.

In compensation for knowing her boyfriend/fiance/husband can’t hear well, why is she standing feet away trying to whisper-yell at him? It’s like she wants her parents to overhear how well her sex life is going. You’d think she’d walk around that counter, walk directly up to her boyfriend/fiance/husband and whisper it in his ear…. specifically knowing he can’t hear her. Better, wait until they are in the bedroom with the door closed. What’s the all fire hurry to know if he brought condoms right at that very moment? Was she planning on asking Dad for a few if boyfriend/fiance/husband didn’t have them? Ewww…

Unfortunately, this commercial doesn’t end properly by cutting back to the scene with her boyfriend/fiance/husband now wearing a set of Eargo with her whispering again, thus allowing him to hear every word. You know, to prove that Eargo’s technology actually solves that embarrassing problem.

The writers of this commercial lost their way even though it is professionally filmed. The only reason it gets more one more star than it should is solely because it is professionally filmed.

Rating: 3 out 5 (could have been a whole lot more funny and effective)

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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.

[UPDATED: 09/25/2021] Pardon for the interruption. As of early Sept. 2021, Bethesda has rolled an update to Fallout 76 that has disabled interaction and collection of Toxic Goo from the large cylinder pools at West Tek Research Center. It is at present unclear if this change is intentional. However, this change was not mentioned in the release notes. Further, I’ve personally noticed the interior of the West Tek Research building has been slightly altered, removing the small table on the staircase leading up to the Toxic Goo pools. This item’s removal indicates that someone at Bethesda has been actively working on the interior space of this building for some reason. Usually when Bethesda makes small changes to an interior, it’s in preparation for an upcoming update and/or addition to the game, such as adding a new DailyOps quest or the addition of a new event. In this preparation process, it seems that someone has, in addition to the removal of that small cart, also removed the interaction ability to collect Toxic Goo from the pools.

With that said, a few (maybe up to 5) flasks of Toxic Goo still spawn inside West Tek Research Center. These individual flasks can be collected, but that’s not a lot to collect if you’re trying to stock up as described below.

In the meantime, until this issue is corrected, you’ll have to find alternative means to confer large quantities of radiation on your character, such as:

  • Stand near a radiation zone
  • Stand near radiation barrels
  • Stand in irradiated water
  • Fire a gamma gun at your feet
  • Consume foods and substances without Lead Belly on
  • Consume irradiated blood
  • Collect the small number of Toxic Goo flasks in West Tek Research Center
  • Stand in a Radiation Storm

New Legendary Effects

In a previous update (but not necessarily the one above), Bethesda introduced a number of new legendary effects into the game (along with the ability to now roll legendary effects directly onto armor and weapons and now even power armor). These new legendary effects include Aristocrat’s, Gourmand’s and Juggernaut’s. Why is this important? Because these are brand new effects, it seems that Bethesda’s devs have given these effects higher priority over older effects, making these legendary effects more likely to drop as loot than the older effects.

This means that you’ll need to read the below knowing that when I said, “rare” in relation to Bloodied, it’s now even more rare and less likely to get a Bloodied weapon as a loot drop because of these new “higher priority” effects. The same goes for Unyielding armor, which was a rare roll anyway, but now it’s way more rare… especially on power armor pieces. The plus is that legendary enemies are dropping crap tons of power armor legendary pieces, mostly one star. They’re heavy, yes, but legendary PA pieces also offer more scrip per piece when sold than standard legendary armor.

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming….

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

⬆️ See update note above. ⬆️ 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. I’m happy to report that this next bug appears to have been fixed in the September 2021 update. Entering and exiting power armor no longer seems to trigger this mutation bug. Please keep this in mind while reading. 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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