Interesting read on how Google search is useless these days

For the last year (probably longer) I’ve become more and more frustrated with my Google searches. I’ll search for something that should have an obvious answer yet most of the results aren’t even related to what I’m searching for. It feels almost impossible to find an answer to anything anymore, even something as simple as “what time does X event start?”. I’ve found that I need to add ‘reddit’ to the end of my searches to even find an answer.

I was browsing Apple News the other day and came across this article in The Atlantic: “The Open Secret of Google Search” which describes my experiences with Google to a T, right down to searching Reddit for anything that requires a simple answer. If you’re as frustrated with Google as I’ve been lately I suggest giving it a read.

It’s been awhile

Hi, I haven’t done this in quite a long time. I had let my domain lapse for awhile but finally renewed and figured I should write more often. We’ll see how that goes.

It’s been a busy couple of years. I’ve finished school since the last time I’ve checked in here and have been working as a tax accountant. I’ve passed two of the four CPA exams and am working to finish up by the end of the summer (probably another reason I should’ve just let the blog die).

In video gaming news, I was fortunate enough to secure an Xbox Series X shortly after launch and have enjoyed it quite a bit since then. Game Pass continues to be an amazing service that keeps getting better. Honestly, one of my favorite games I’ve played in the last two years is Microsoft Flight Simulator on the Series X. It’s such a beautiful game, and it never gets old flying around gawking at the scenery.

I’ve gotten back into collecting and listening to vinyl records which has been a lot of fun as well. It’s nice to put a record on and listen from start to finish. While I love the access that streaming music allows, I’ve often found that I tend to only listen to a few songs and have gone years without listening to some songs on albums I like. Here are just a few of my favorites from the last year:

I made it out to Pennsylvania to visit family after a year of mostly isolation. My wife and I explored Philadelphia, and I finally attended a Penn State game.

With that, I need to get to sleep. Thank you for stopping by, and I hope to pop in more often.

Battletoads PC Game Pass Xbox One controller fix

When I tried launching Battletoads on PC game pass it would only let me control it with mouse and keyboard. I tried connecting my Xbox One controller via a wireless adapter, and via USB, but neither would work. However, when I got to the character select screen I found that pressing start on the Xbox controller would add a second player that I could control via the controller.

I figured out the cause of the problem, and wanted to share it here. Apparently the game doesn’t like it if you have a flight stick plugged in (as many probably do if they’ve been playing Flight Simulator 2020). As soon as I unplugged it and launched Battletoads again it recognized the controller input for player one without any issues.

Hope this helps you if you’ve been frustrated like me.

TIL: You can rent UHD Blu-rays from GameFly

Did you know you can rent UHD Blu-rays from GameFly now? I didn’t. I recently re-upped my GameFly subscription after a hiatus and was surprised to see the 4K Blu-ray discs available.

UHD Blu-rays are still rather expensive, usually $25-30 each, so it’s nice to have the option to rent one on occasion. The last one I purchased was 1917, which was great, but I’m not huge on rewatching movies, and if I do it’ll probably be via the digital code that came with the disc. I’d much rather rent a Blu-ray to watch a movie in its highest quality rather than buy one. I’ve rented 4K movies through a variety of streaming services and on a variety of services, but the experience has never compared to the crisp, clean picture and high quality sound that the discs offer.

I’m on the $22.95 2-disc plan right now, getting ready to start The Last of Us Part II thanks to GameFly. I usually use one of my two slots to play a game I really want to play, and the other to take a chance on something I definitely wouldn’t buy otherwise (that’s Truck Driver for the Xbox One at the moment). So it might be worth it for me to occasionally use my “I might not like this” rental slot to watch a movie now and then.

GameFly has one disc plans for $15.95 a month, and they eventually allow you to upgrade beyond two disc plans once you’ve been a member for at least two consecutive months. In comparison, Netflix’s DVD.com plans only offer non-4K Blu-rays for $9.99 and $14.99 a month for one and two disc plans respectively. GameFly is of course focused on video games, explaining the higher pricing, but the movie rentals are a nice bonus.

In the process of writing this post I also discovered that RedBox offers some UHD Blu-ray rentals for $2.50 per night, but the availability seems scarce, at least at locations near me.

Finally finished The Last of Us

I started playing The Last of Us back on the PS3 but it never really hooked me. The Last of Us Remastered was one of the first purchases I made when I first picked up a PS4 Pro, however I again played for an hour or so and fell off. With all of the hype (and controversy) surrounding the release of The Last of Us 2, I decided to dive back in, and I’m glad I did!

Even when I played it on the PS3 I thought the game looked great, but on a PS4 Pro it’s one of the better looking games I’ve played. The environments are incredible, and littered with small things that can spark conversation between the characters. I would wander into a room to find Ellie playing darts which made her character feel more like a real person, and not just a tag a long character. These moments and the detailed environments also improve the pacing of the game. There are many intense moments that will increase your heart rate, so it’s nice to have moments to calm down despite the darkness of the world. The bright lighting and signs of normalcy interspersed throughout the world really distinguish The Last of Us from other post apocalyptic game worlds. Ellie asking Joel about life before the outbreak humanize the experience, it’s not all violence and darkness (though there’s plenty of each for sure).

The variety of environments and encounters make the world of The Last of Us feel more real. It’s not filled with the same textures, which makes the game feel like an actual world rather than an assortment of levels that make for good combat zones. That said, the areas in which combat take place allow for a variety of ways to make it through them. You can try to sneak by without engaging anyone, you can sneak around and shiv people silently, or you can go in guns blazing. Each approach feels great, though at times ammo can be scarce. I played on easy, so the guns blazing approach worked well for me, but there were still times I found myself needing to scrounge around for ammo, and toward the end of the game I found myself worried I might run out. Luckily, I never did which kept the game from getting frustrating.

The story of The Last of Us kept me engaged throughout. I always wanted to see what would happen next, though sometimes I had to force myself to step away to gather my thoughts. There’s a lot to take in, and it can weigh on you emotionally, which is something not a lot of games can do successfully. I feel like the weight of the story is similar to the Life is Strange series, as those are probably the only other games that made me want to step away from the game to unpack my emotions.

In the end, I think I’m going to take a bit of a breather before working through the Left Behind DLC, and ultimately firing up The Last of Us 2. If you haven’t had a chance to play The Last of Us, I highly recommend it, even if you play on easy it’s worth having the experience.

Quick check-in

Just wanted to pop in and let you know I’m still alive. I’ve been going to school full time and working, so the blog has kind of been in the back of my mind. I’d like to get back into it.

In the meantime I’ve been playing a lot of Black Ops 4 and have been having a blast, especially in Blackout mode. I’ve also been enjoying Forza Horizon 4 and Madden 19 quite a bit as well. I hope to write about some of these games in the near future, but right now school is taking up most of my time.

 

Arena Soccer in Boise (USA vs Brazil)

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US National Arena Soccer Team Boise The teams warm up

Last Friday the U.S. National Arena Soccer Team came to CenturyLink Arena in downtown Boise to play a friendly against the Brazil national team. Until last week, I didn’t even know that arena soccer was a thing, so I was excited to check it out. Soccer is one of my favorite sports to watch, especially in person, although I’ve only ever attended two matches: DC United vs LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders vs Portland Timbers. The energy coming from the crowd at this events has been unmatched by any other sporting event I’ve attended.

It’s exciting to see a soccer event come to Boise, especially with talk of a minor league team coming to a new downtown baseball stadium (expected to begin construction next summer). The match Friday night sold out CenturyLink Arena which hopefully further shows that Boise is indeed interested in soccer.

US National Arena Soccer Team Boise

We arrived…

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Playing Super Mario World for the first time

Super Mario World WiiU

It may come as a shock that as someone who played his first video game on the NES I’ve never played Super Mario World. Not once. Not even on an emulator. The game that is known by many as one of the best games in the Mario series (even still today), never ended up in my hands through the early 90’s. After the NES I became a Genesis gamer, where you could play more mature games such as the unedited Mortal Kombat or Zero Tolerance.

Although I enjoyed Super Mario Bros. on the NES, I was never very good at it (I’m still not). Super Mario Bros. 2 and 3 mostly passed me by as well, but at least I can say I’ve played them. I love the music and look of the third game, however I’ve never been able to make it past the second world. I’d always get frustrated and quit for good, never to pick up the controller again.

My frustrating experiences with the Super Mario Bros. series led me to mostly ignore the series, at least up until the release of Mario 64 (which I also was, and am, terrible at). I’d often hear people express their love for the Super Nintendo’s Super Mario World, but I never really wanted to try it out as I knew I’d just get mad at it. However, I started to get a taste of Mario World via the Wii U’s Super Mario Maker. I rode Yoshi for the first time, and also experienced the game’s joyful music for the first time. My time with Mario Maker got me interested in checking out World, so tonight I bought it on the Wii U.

The $7.99 price tag on the Virtual Console seemed a little steep for a 25 year old game, especially when much newer games sell for less than $5 on Steam, but I decided experiencing it on a Nintendo console would be better than an emulated experience.

Super Mario World virtual console

When I first booted up Super Mario World, I felt already familiar with the world, thanks to Super Mario Maker. In fact, for awhile I kept expecting to see the evil red x’s that mark a player’s death in Mario Maker to pop up on the screen each time I died an embarrassing death.

Yoshis Island

The hour I spent with Mario World so far was filled with numerous frustrating deaths, as always seems to happen when I pick up a Mario game. I’d jump into the same enemy over and over again, or I’d fall to my death trying to avoid an incoming enemy. Once I got a handle on the controls I didn’t have much trouble completing Yoshi’s Island, however Donut Plains was another story.

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Much like level 2-1 in Super Mario Bros. 3, Donut Plains 1 almost made me quit the game for good before I’d ever made much progress. I kept dying over and over again at the hands of the Super Koopas. In fact the very first one you encounter in the level killed me at least 7 times as I tried to get the cape feather. I eventually gave up on getting the cape and tried to storm through the level, only to meet my fate at the hands of Chargin’ Chuck and his obnoxious baseballs. It took a frustrating 30 minutes to finish Donut Plains 1 (and two continues), but eventually I managed it. At this point I had to turn the Wii U off before my frustration and anger at the game got any worse. I’m dreading losing all of my lives and having to play through Donut Plains 1 again at some point.

I’m looking forward to experiencing more of Super Mario World, yet at the same time I’m afraid of the challenges ahead. Hopefully I can make it through Mario World with my Wii U gamepad intact!