Trying Delicious New Foods and Making People Hate You

Earlier this week, I went to London with my friend Rory in order to visit my friend Mairi. The three of us had a delightful time (or, I did at least, I assume they did too) and other than enjoying the company of two of my very best friends, my favourite part of the day was probably trying some new delicious foods.

We had a nice lunch at Camden Market, a place which has lots of options for food which I don’t commonly encounter. Rory decided that we could try Peruvian food and I’m very glad that he did, because it just so happened to be a very delicious cuisine indeed.

We both had an ‘Inka Box’ which is a kind of salad made up of black beans, spinach, red onions, peppers, rice and, most excitingly plantains. I’d never heard of these before, but they’re the savoury sibling of bananas – I certainly hope that I will have plenty of opportunities to eat them again in future. Of course, my food also came with a generous helping of hot chilli sauce.

What was especially interesting to me was that they sold Inka-Cola – the Peruvian alternative to Coca-Cola. I’m not exactly fond of Coca-Cola and tend to avoid drinking it because I rather dislike the taste (the sugar free versions are pretty good though) but Inka-Cola was amazing. A much nicer taste and it has a pleasant creaminess to it as well. I can only imagine how nice a diet variation would be.

But, of course, you can’t eat delicious savoury food without following it up with delicious sweet food. Shortly after, we got some liquid nitrogen ice cream. It was much smoother than normal ice cream and I loved everything about it. Mairi got honeycombs with hers and then let me have some too and I liked them very much.

Anyway, after a fun day out in London, Rory and I were riding home on the train. The whole time we were engaged in lively conversation – joking around, laughing and generally passing the time as effectively as possible. That was all well and good, but when I got off, I realised we had been in the quiet carriage, so I imagine that all those people hated us – but at least our own stomachs did not.

You may wonder why this post isn’t accompanied with any images of the food I ate. Well, the reason is that when delicious food is in front of me, I can’t gather my sense enough to not immediately eat it. You wouldn’t expect a dog, for example, to stop and photograph its food before eating, would you? No

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StreetPass Quest II

I always appreciated that the 3DS came with a number of free games. SteetPass Quest was one of my favourites and I was very pleased when Nintendo went ahead and added a sequel for free via a software update!

Functionally, it’s very similar to the first game – you recruit the Miis of people you have StreetPassed so that you can use them in a miniature RPG quest. But this time, things have been enhanced. This time there are branching paths, which gives the game much more depth and provides a strong incentive for replaying it afterwards. Different paths will bring you to different enemies, different hazards and different hats for your Miis to unlock.

One new feature I was particularly pleased about is the ability to hire Miis that you’ve StreetPassed before – not only does this give you the option to use your friends’ Miis every time you play, but it also means that if you need a Mii of a certain colour to use a specific type of magic (e.g. a white Mii to vanquish darkness or a blue Mii to put out fire) you don’t just have to wait until you StreetPass somebody who happens to have one in that colour (or to keep hiring wanderers until you get the right colour.)

One thing that is a bit strange though is the fact that your Mii has a son and daughter – both who look exactly the same as them, other than their hairstyle. As well as being king and having children, to what extent is my Mii actually ‘me’ anymore? It’s an interesting, if strange, way to use Mii characters.

Overall, I also think there’s just a nicer level of presentation to this game. The animations look smoother, the monsters look better and I feel that more effort was put into this game. Obviously it’s still a small, novelty game, but it’s a good improvement over its predecessor.

Rating: 6.7/10

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Matt Baume’s Culture Cruise

I recently came across a really interesting YouTube series (Matt Baume’s Culture Cruise) which analyses the representation of LGBT people in TV shows over the last few decades. Here’s my favourite one so far, based on an episode of Frasier:

The videos area really well made and Matt Baume clearly knows the shows he’s discussing really well, while also having a strong awareness of LGBT history and what was happening when the different shows aired. He speaks about the subject in a fair and considered way – I find him easy and engaging to listen to. Click here if you’d like to see a full playlist. Other episodes I’ve watched spoke about The Simpsons and Quantum Leap – have a look at the playlist as I’m sure you’ll find something you’ve watched on there. They’re such good videos that I just wanted to help them reach as many people as possible!

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Doctor Who: Cat’s Cradle: Witch Mark by Andrew Hunt

The Cat’s Cradle story arc in the Doctor Who New Adventures is nowhere near as cohesive as the Timewrym one. They all deal with the TARDIS being damaged (which happens in Time’s Crucible) but are otherwise not connected – so don’t be put off of reading this if you’ve not read the others, as it is essentially self-contained.

The first book was very much tied into the mythology of the Doctor Who series and something I found quite boring (despite loving the mythology). The second book took the Doctor and Ace on an adventure very different to any they’d been on before – it was a very dark and experimental. The third, meanwhile, feels much more like the kind of Doctor Who story you’d find on television – only if it were a little more adult. And I don’t mean to imply it feels like something we’ve seen before. What I mean is that this feels like a good, new episode of the show.

I may not have enjoyed it quite as much as the second Cat’s Cradle book, but I have to say that this is a pretty solid Doctor Who adventure. The Doctor and Ace arrive in Wales and find that there have been sightings of mythological creatures in the area – sightings which are being covered up. Their paths cross with a couple of American backpackers called Jack and David (whose portions of the story I enjoyed just as much as the Doctor and Ace’s) and I think Andrew Hunt has done an especially good job of not depending too much on the character who we have already been endeared to. Even if this was just a novel about Jack and David, I think I’d have loved it.

The story ends with a satisfying twist which I appreciated very much. It’s a book which wonderfully blends together sci-fi and fantasy – and also realistic day to day life in small rural towns. It’s expertly written and I always found myself excited to read the next chapter. One criticism I have is that there is one particularly strange scene which is never explained – perhaps it will be picked up on in a later novel, but at the moment it just feels like a plot hole. Ignoring that, it’s a pretty good read indeed.

Rating: 8.4/10

Buy it here.

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Unofficial Chinese Pokémon Cards

A few weeks ago, I was blessed with a rare visit from my world travelling friend, Tulin. Together with my housemate Sophie, we went to get some delicious food and had an all-round lovely evening.

Not only was her company appreciated, but so too were the gifts that she brought me, including, most interestingly, some unofficial Chinese Pokémon cards. Here’s a quick look at all of them:

I know the quality of the photo may not be perfect (it took a couple of attempts) but I have to say that I really admire the quality of the cards. Though the art style doesn’t quite match up with what you’d get in official packs, I do like that they have their own aesthetic. My favourite ones from these are Darkrai, Aerodactyl and Geodude. It was a really nice gift and a glimpse at something I’d otherwise never have encountered. I shall keep them safe.

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The one way 3DS will always be above the Switch

I love the Nintendo Switch. It’s a fantastic new addition to Nintendo’s line of consoles. I like that it can be played on the television and on the go. I like lots of the games on it and I like the general aesthetic and design of its interface and hardware. It many senses, it is superior to the Nintendo 3DS. Except one.

StreetPass. I carry my 3DS with me everywhere I go in the hopes of getting a few StreetPass hits. Back in 2011 to 2015, I would get lots of StreetPass hits every day I’d go out. I loved the StreetPass games and the content in other games which you’d get if you did get any StreetPass hits. I also loved the pedometer that it had and how that factored into StreetPass games – I’ve already written a blog post about my love of the 3DS pedometer.

I mean, it’s not perfect. My 3DS is horribly tattered due to the fact that I carry it everywhere with me and I am glad that my Switch isn’t. I just really loved the days of finding people’s Miis inside my console – there was a certain communal feeling to it. It was nice to know that lots of people were playing the same games as me and to have their play-throughs influence my own. The Switch is great – but I’ll always miss StreetPass…

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Battletoads in Battlemaniacs

I kind of enjoyed playing Battletoads on the NES and I found Battletoads on the Game Boy pretty good. As the SNES is a console for which I hold a great deal of nostalgic affection, I was pretty excited to see its Battletoads game.

In some senses, I loved it, in others, I was disappointed – and I think that the disappointed was only due to my own expectations. I was looking forward to seeing a brand new adventure for the toads, but really this game is just a fancy remake of the NES original. The Game Boy version is probably more different from the NES game than this one. I’ll admit that the story is different (the toads go into some kind of virtual reality) and there are a few fancy extra features, but the game is largely the same.

You’ve got a level which is essentially just a remake of the original Turbo Tunnel (with some nicer visuals), you’ve got a level which has you using lots of fast moving snakes as platforms and dodging spikes (just like the original), and a level where you’re racing an enemy downward through a tower (again just like the original) and, most horribly, you’ve got a level which remakes Clinger Winger (an ordeal I hoped never to go through again.)

But I will say that if you go into this expecting a slightly remixed remake, you’ll be delighted. The controls are better than the original, the music is better than the original and the graphics are nicer than the original. It’s also easier than the original, which might be a disappointment to some hardcore fans, but I feel that the first game was too hard and this winding down of the difficulty is a welcome change.

I’d say that if you’re a more casual gamer who always wanted to try Battletoads, then I would certainly recommend this over playing the original. It’s a better experience all round and, unless you really want a challenge, I think most people would prefer this one. I’m surprised it wasn’t included within Rare Replay…

Rating: 7.9/10

Buy it here.

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A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin

Attentive readers may remember my review of A Game of Thrones from last year and wonder why I bothered to read the sequel after I clearly didn’t enjoy it very much. The problem is, once I start a novel series, particularly one where I have to invest so much time to just finish the first book, I feel I have to see it through to the end. I am mildly interested to see where it all goes (especially as so many people seem to love the adaptation) and so that’s why I kept going into the second installment.

And you know what? I’m glad I did keep going. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that it was amazing and I certainly don’t count it as a favourite – but I could tolerate and even enjoy it throughout most of the time I spent reading it. I felt that the first book started to become more interesting towards the end and that trend of being more interesting continued.

I liked that the characters were all quite complex and had different motivations. It was interesting to see the different ways that they interacted with one another. Tyrion in particular was very interesting and I was always glad when there was a chapter focusing on him, because he was always pulling the strings and trying to manipulate events for the greater good. I also found myself a lot more invested in the storylines of Arya and Sansa, but I have to admit that they were pretty distressing too. A new group of people called the Faceless were also introduced and though their role as small – I was fascinated. In my opinion, they’re the best part of the series so far.

But as much as there was a general improvement with the overall quality of the novel, some of the issues from its prequel are just as bothersome here. I’m sure there’s not a single female character whose breasts aren’t described – often repeatedly – every time they’re in a scene. The female characters also all seem to have a bath every single chapter too. Martin just seems to write female characters in embarrassingly creepy way.

Then there’s also the fact that so much time is wasted describing the clothes of different characters and on little pieces of scenery. The book is about 800 pages long (excessive) and it probably only really needs to be about 500, but so much time is wasted describing the colour of the doublets of side characters, the interiors of buildings and the size of thirteen year old girls’ breasts.

The ending seemed a bit sudden, as it did in the first book, as if each novel in the series is just one giant chapter in one overall story, rather than a book of its own. Still, I am interested to know what comes next, so despite the flaws, a small part of me does look forward to the next book…

Rating: 7/10

Buy it here.

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The Dreamer Awakes

I had a very interesting dream the other day – one which I may eventually adapt into a short story, but for now it will make a nice blog post.

In it, I was riding on the bus with a friend of mine at the end of a pleasant evening out. I was heading home and feeling good. Things took a turn for the strange when a man riding on the bus started talking to me.

“It’s time for you to leave the simulation,” he said. “Prepare yourself, this will feel weird.”

Before I could say anything, my friend grabbed my arm and said “Make sure you don’t forget anyone. We can only survive in your mind.”

Then I experienced a sensation which I can only describe as being the opposite of slowly falling into a pleasant dream. I felt almost as if I was being sucked out of a dream – finding myself in a sensory deprivation tank.

I was let out and found myself inside a small, clinical building. Through the window, it looked as though I was in the countryside somewhere near Corsham.

The man then explained to me that I was being used to help in a murder investigation. I had been in a simulation for ten years and placed in a situation where I every person I would befriend was a suspect. All of my friends, in fact, were people who I had never met in reality. I only knew their digital copies in the virtual world.

They used this method because by building friendships with people over ten years and earning their trust, I would be able to provide a thorough insight into their minds. Everything that had happened in the last ten years had been engineered to measure their responses to certain things. Every moment recorded.

I felt a little sad thinking about a world where none of my friends had actually known me and I asked a few questions about how each of them were. Many had been dismissed as not likely to have committed the murder and they told me about their lives over the last ten years, most of which was very nice – if a little bittersweet.

I started to think about the people in the simulation. If they were autonomous copies, to what extent where they less than real people? They believed that they were real and I had formed a real connection with them. Just because it existed in another layer of reality made no difference to its significance.

When the man left the room, I took the opportunity to slip back into the simulation – and so the dream ended. It’s very weird for it to have had such a solid ‘plot’ as that, but I liked it and wanted to share it! It was one of those ones which made me feel a little emotional when I woke up.

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Bone-chilling Terror

It was late at night. I had decided it was time for bed. I headed into my housemate’s room to say goodnight. I thought it was going to be a small and pleasant interaction – but I was wrong. With the witching hour close at hand, the two of us were about to have a bloodcurdlingly terrifying experience.

We noticed that the light was shining upon the wall upon something we’d never seen before. Something so terrifying it chilled us to our very cores. It was, in fact, perhaps the greatest evil to exist in the world and it was there in the bedroom. Many would be driven mad by the sight of it – others might weep, others still might scream. I’m not an easily spooked person, I’ll happily wander around the woods or the streets in the middle of the night (even abandoned buildings) but this really unnerved me.

For you see, by an unfortunate twist of fate, we saw upon the wall – actually, we decided that it was probably best not to write about it publicly. So that’s the end of today’s blog post. I thought that by building it up so enormously, you’d all be less disappointed by the lack of climax. Needless to say, we both managed to get out with our lives. I’m sure your imagination will fill in something much more horrifying than I could write anyway – so, I thought, why would I write an ending when they can make a much better conclusion themselves?

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