Friday, January 22, 2016

TGIF 1-22-16

Time flies. It’s hard to believe that the first month of 2015 is already almost over. By the time you’re reading this, we’re looking at one week until February. How are things going for you so far? Let us know in the comments. We would love to hear from you.

I don’t think I’ve given a foster care update yet for 2016. We finished all of the required processes for licensing on our end last week, so that’s a wonderful step forward. We are waiting for the bureaucratic process now - someone has to sign all of those papers, I’m sure - but we are almost licenced. I think the expectation is two-to-three months now, which sounds like a long time (July 2015 to March or April 2016) but is actually a significant improvement over what we were initially told. If I remember correctly, the original estimate we were given was somewhere around 18 months, so we’ve just about cut that time in half. Considering the current state of affairs with the Arizona Department of Health Services (the administration that runs this process, which has been all over the news lately for administration problems, so I probably don’t need to explain), I’d say that might actually qualify as downright amazing.

The foster family experience continues to get better. We have our frustrations, but what family with teenagers doesn’t? What family doesn’t? If you take someone with my issues and add a living tornado to the mix - a living tornado who hasn’t grown up with my issues, the way my other children have - and you might reasonably expect a disaster, but we have had no disaster. Quite the opposite, in fact. There has been some necessary adjustment, to be sure, but it’s also been a fantastic experience that I would recommend to anyone who has the love and patience to share. You’ll go into fostering with the idea of helping someone, but I guarantee they’ll end up helping you just as much.

On a less serious subject, I’ve been getting back into exploring independent entertainment options recently. This is something I used to do with music and games fairly often, but I had gotten out of the habit. The digital and online options today have opened up whole new worlds to independent entertainers, which, in turn, opens up whole new worlds within which to be entertained.

On the music front, I would like to bring to your attention the Kickstarter project for the upcoming fifth full-length album from the band kidneythieves. I’ve been a fan of kidneythieves for years and have never been disappointed. I heard a little from them during my online chatroom days when they were brand new but, while a great place for discovery, the web wasn’t very practical for keeping up back then. In the years that followed, kt were featured on the soundtrack for the movie Queen of the Damned (which soundtrack was far superior to the movie it supported) and then were featured more heavily in the video game Deus Ex: Invisible War - one of my favorite franchises and absolutely one of the best games of 2003) - where singer Free Dominguez gave voice to in-game pop superstar NG Resonance and the jukebox played select tracks from kt’s 1998 album Trickster. I had an “I remember that!” moment while playing the game, spent enough time around the jukebox to hear every track again multiple times, and have been more actively following kidneythieves since then. Now they are coming back for their fifth album, The Mend, and are determined to keep it independent. If you take a look at their kickstarter page, the project is already funded. Every additional donation now is helping to send them on the road where they are guaranteed to up the entertainment quotient exponentially. Guitar-driven electronic rock with a groovy dance beat, fronted by some amazing vocals. If you like anything in that description, I would be very surprised if you don’t like kidneythieves. Give them a listen and, if you like what you hear, consider giving them a donation. Support good independent music where you can.

"Zerospace" is the title track from kt's second studio album. All copyright belongs to them. Encouragement to go to Kickstarter. You know you want to. (More from me after the video.)

For video games, go check out Grim Dawn. If you are a Diablo fan (I mean more specifically 1 and 2, whether or not you like the direction Blizzard has gone with 3) and remember the rash of Diablo clones about 10 years ago, you will almost certainly remember Titan Quest, and you will probably remember it fondly. It was generally regarded as the best of the Diablo clones, and most reviews gave it high marks in its own right, clone or not. I mention this because it is the creators of Titan Quest who have now brought us Grim Dawn. They have followed the same design and gameplay aesthetics that made Titan Quest such a great game, and brought everything into 2016, complete with an original story that takes the standard fantasy environment and gives it the postapocalyptic treatment. It’s easily the best top down isometric roleplaying adventure game I’ve seen in ages, and not just because the basic setting bears a mild resemblance to a current project of my own. The game is currently listed as Early Access, but has been considered “content complete” as of the most recent update. I’ve been playing it for about a week now, and have yet to encounter any major bugs. I’d call that pretty good for “early access,” and it’s a blast as well. Plus, at $25, compared to the current going rate of $50-$70, it’s practically a steal as well.

Enjoy some gameplay from Grim Dawn to encourage you to check this one out.

That’s some of what we’re doing as 2016 picks up steam. An unusual Friday update, I know, but I believe that how you have fun is as important to your wellbeing as any of the more serious elements. This is some of how I have fun. If you have suggestions, let us know.

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