Friday 5 April 2024

Ross Scott on Stop Killing Games

I've been watching Ross Scott, aka Accursed Farms' Freeman's Mind and Ross's Game Dungeon videos on youtube for years so I knew he was concerned about game publishers destroying video games for years. When Ubisoft decided to kill their online servers for The Crew, he kicked things into high gear. 

Basically, if you own a copy of The Crew, you're about to lose access to the game you paid for, forever. The move to online only games means there are more and more games each year dependent on publishers to maintain services that allow you to play. Once they stop, poof, the game - and the money you spent on it - are gone.

I'm embedding the long version of what he want to do to stop publishers from doing this. But if you want the VERY short version, he's got a 50 second video here.

There are 2 aspects of his campaign, depending on where you live and if you own a copy of The Crew.  If you own The Crew and live if France, he gives information on how to bring up the issue with Ubisoft and the French consumer protection agency. If you don't, or live elsewhere, he's setting up petitions you can sign.

In addition to the video, he's also got a website,, with more information.

Tuesday 26 March 2024

Book Review: Anxiety Workbook for Women by Bianca L. Rodriguez

Recently I’ve been working on reducing my anxiety so I requested this on NetGalley.

The book has 2 parts (Understanding Anxiety & How to Manage Your Anxiety) and 9 chapters (Anxiety & Women; Navigating Life with Anxiety; Calm Your Body & Mind; Observe Your Anxiety & Identify Your Triggers; Release Yourself from the Cycle of Worry & Rumination; Replace Your Anxious Behaviors with Healthy Ones; Navigate Relationships and Manage Social Anxiety; Acknowledge & Address Specific Phobias; and Reclaim Your Life & Reach Your Goals). The book ends with a short list of resources, online sites for additional help if you need it.

The first chapter has a lot of repetition, which is great for getting you to really take in the information. I found it helpful to learn why anxiety exists and how it’s meant to help in dangerous or unusual circumstances. Anxiety becomes a problem when it overstays its usefulness.

The book progresses through teaching you about anxiety, then ways to deal with different aspects of it using a variety of exercises. I found some activities worked better for me, but the variety means people with different ways of learning and thinking - and different levels and aspects of anxiety - will find useful activities. There were several exercises dealing with intrusive thoughts/ruminating on past actions, on how to relieve black & white thinking, etc. Unexpectedly the book didn’t just deal with ways to improve yourself in private, there’s a section on how to do small talk and introduce yourself to strangers. The chapter on breaking down goals into manageable pieces was also unexpected and useful. I really appreciated the reminder to celebrate your successes.

It is useful to try various exercises, even if you don’t think they’ll work for you. I did the ‘write a letter to your anxiety’ and it was surprisingly insightful.

Through the work I’ve done over the years some of these lessons were no longer necessary for me, but I could see how they would have helped (and were similar to techniques I used in the past).

If you suffer from anxiety and want to learn techniques that can help, give this workbook a try.

Tuesday 19 March 2024

Book Review: Cascade Failure by L. M. Sagas

Pros: fun and interesting characters, tight plot, some thought provoking moments, good fight scenes


Here’s the back cover blurb, which is simply perfect.

There are only three real powers in the Spiral: the corporate power of the Trust versus the Union's labor's leverage. Between them the Guild tries to keep everyone's hands above the table. It ain't easy.

Branded a Guild deserter, Jal "accidentally" lands a ride on a Guild ship. Helmed by an AI, with a ship's engineer/medic who doesn't see much of a difference between the two jobs, and a "don't make me shoot you" XO, the Guild crew of the Ambit is a little . . . different.

They're also in over their heads. Responding to a distress call from an abandoned planet, they find a mass grave, and a live programmer who knows how it happened. The Trust has plans. This isn't the first dead planet, and it's not going to be the last.

Unless the crew of the Ambit can stop it.

The characters are so much fun. They’re all neurotic in complementary ways. Surly and snipey at times, talkative and playful at others. Eoan’s curiosity about everything was a real joy. Despite their arguments it’s clear Nash and Saint are a tight knit crew. Seeing Jal and Anke dropped into the crew’s dynamic made for some great interactions.

The plot is tight with enough down time to get to know all of the characters between chase scenes and fights. There are some real tense moments.

The politics of this future are suitably complex without taking over the story. There are a few decent questions about morality and whether it’s better to focus on the needs of society at large vs saving your personal friends and family. And who should make the necessary sacrifices.

It’s a book about the choices we make and how we deal with the consequences of the bad decisions of our past. Of working as a team to complete a goal. Of betrayal and redemption.

It’s a delightful story that, though it dealt with heavy issues at times, left me feeling hopeful about the future.

Tuesday 12 March 2024

Travel Journal Ideas

I was speaking with a friend recently and we started trading journalling ideas and I realized I'd learned a bunch of things these past few months that she didn't know about, so I thought I'd share them with a larger audience.

For my past few trips I wanted to come back with pretty journals. For France I had this lovely idea of sitting in front of a cathedral sketching pieces of architecture. Well that never happened. These are research trips and they're packed FULL of sites, so there's little downtime. And my priority is photographs - hundreds of them per site, that all need to be double backed up (which for Italy took over an hour a night as my photo file sizes got larger and my phone was old).

Before I left for Italy I researched gifts for techies, looking for ideas for my husband, and stumbled across the Canon Ivy 2 (not sponsored). It's a mini printer that makes... 2x3 inch stickers! They're thin, so they don't bulk up my journal, you can customize them with text and other features (frames, shapes) and there are templates on the app so you can split the sheet into smaller photos (I generally printed all of mine as quarters, with 1/8s for things like food). I made my own mini template with the photo sizes so while I was writing my journal I could block out the space with a squiggled frame and then print and add the photo in later. The photos are on the darker side, a bit 'artistic' looking rather than true to life/vibrant. You can edit them in the app so I tended to brighten mine. There's also a blue sheet in each paper pack that you run through the printer first to calibrate it, and someone online suggested if you get a good one to keep it and use that one over and over again as some give brighter results. The printer comes with 10 pieces of paper. Replacement paper is not cheap though, and you have to use their stuff. (You can see three 1/4 pictures at the bottom of the picture below, the printer, a full page, the blue calibration paper and a full pack of 10 pages.)

While the printer worked great, I still want my next journal to be even prettier. So I bought a bunch of stickers and then got the idea to make my own! I lucked out and found a package of half sheet shipping labels for $1. I started by printing background text in different languages, then stained the sheet with coffee, added some coloured stamps and die cut them out. I've got a lot of stamps and dies from card crafting and it feels good to use them again (I haven't been very crafty the past few years). I cut out various leaves, mushrooms, mini houses, butterflies, cats, etc. I made country labels this way too. 

One of my favourite things about churches is their floor plans, which for research is so important. So I made mini stickers of them to add to my journal. I also started printing images of interesting things I'll be seeing at museums and whatnot (like the Jelling stones in Denmark).

I don't have a colour printer so I set up a page and had a copy shop print it for me. They wouldn't use my sticker paper (unsurprisingly), so I used another supply I'd bought, double sided adhesive paper. That was my original plan for the stickers before I found the labels. I printed mini city crests, manuscript pages, manuscript marginal figures, a picture of the currency I'll be using on the trip, and more museum pieces. I also printed out and coloured mini tarot cards. I'm planning to assign a different tarot card to cities I visit (for example Stockholm = sun card, Nuremberg = justice). I'm also bringing postage stamps. I have tons from when I used to collect them. I didn't have any from Sweden though, so I printed one off to make a sticker of it.

 I doubt I'll use of the supplies I've bought and made, but I guarantee I'll have a pretty journal when I get back!

As an addendum, my Eurail pass came with a premium code for a travel app called Find Penguins. I've looked into it a bit and it tracks your travel and allows you to post photos on their site. People can comment without needing their own account. You can make your trip public, for anyone to see, or private with only those who have the link being able to follow your trip. At the end of the trip you can buy a physical book from them that documents your trip, with a map, and daily information for where you went (city, temperature, altitude, photos, comments). The premium account lets you post more photos/videos per 'footprint' and gets you a free ebook of your trip at the end. If you sign up they give you a 3 month premium account trial - so if you want to use it, don't do what I did and sign up 4+ months early to test it out. Also, for the sake of security, people mention to start and stop your trip tracking at the airport so it doesn't add your house. This is especially important if you're doing the public setting. I haven't really tried the app out so this isn't an endorsement, just a heads up to check it out if you've not heard of it in case it interests you. I may post a review of it once I'm back.

Tuesday 5 March 2024

Books Received in February 2024

 Many thanks as always to the publishers who approved my requests for Netgalley advance reader copies.

Cascade Failure by L. M. Sagas - This book was so much fun to read. Fast paced with a hopeful ending. Look for my review on its release date of March 19.

There are only three real powers in the Spiral: the corporate power of the Trust versus the Union's labor's leverage. Between them the Guild tries to keep everyone's hands above the table. It ain't easy.

Branded a Guild deserter, Jal "accidentally" lands a ride on a Guild ship. Helmed by an AI, with a ship's engineer/medic who doesn't see much of a difference between the two jobs, and a "don't make me shoot you" XO, the Guild crew of the Ambit is a little . . . different.

They're also in over their heads. Responding to a distress call from an abandoned planet, they find a mass grave, and a live programmer who knows how it happened. The Trust has plans. This isn't the first dead planet, and it's not going to be the last.

Unless the crew of the Ambit can stop it.


Anxiety Workbook for Women by Bianca L. Rodriguez - I'm slowly working my way through this. While I've made good progress in the past a dealing with my anxiety, there's always more to learn and I'm hoping this book will give me new tools to help quiet my mind so I can concentrate better again. Out March 19.

Manage your anxiety and take control of your life

Learn how to quiet your mind and ease fearful feelings with this simple, practical anxiety workbook for women. Each page offers insight into the underlying causes of anxiety and teaches you how to identify your triggers and develop effective coping methods so you can live with greater confidence and contentment.

The truth about anxiety—Explore what anxiety really is, how it manifests in different ways, and the reasons it is especially common among women.

Proven tools and techniques—Discover exercises from a licensed therapist for soothing anxiety with mindfulness, meditation, acceptance and commitment therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy.

You're not alone—Find hope and support in stories of other women using the strategies in this workbook to overcome their anxiety.

Build the skills to reduce stress and cultivate calm with this supportive anxiety book for women.

Tuesday 27 February 2024

Book Review: Strange Religion by Nijay K. Gupta

The book is split into 4 sections, with 12 chapters, an introduction, and a short conclusion. There are end notes at the back. The 4 sections are: Becoming Christian, What the First Christians Believed, How the First Christians Worshipped, and How the First Christians Lived.

I reviewed an advance reader copy, meaning it wasn’t in its final form. My copy had no illustrations, just captions where the illustrations should go. So I cannot comment on their quality, though there were a good number of them and they’re placed to illustrate interesting aspects of the text.

The author used a decent number of quotes from ancient texts in addition to numerous Old and New Testament quotes. He often tied things together with modern examples which I found a bit jarring but might help a general audience better understand the thought process of ancient peoples.

The book has some great aims and asks some excellent questions. These are questions that cannot be fully answered, as sources are limited, but it was frustrating at times how short the discussion was. The author might give a few possible answers but little or sometimes no reasoning on why these answers should be considered.

For example, in the 3rd chapter he questions why Romans would join the new Christian church when it was so radically different from what they were used to. He mentions 4 possibilities: the intriguing idea of monotheism, the promise of eternal life, that the new faith blended religion, philosophy and morality in a way others didn’t, and the concept of loving everyone. He mentions these but has no follow-up discussion about them and simply ends the chapter. Also strange is the absence of Christianity’s idea of equality as one of those possibilities. Many early adopters of Christianity were rich upper class women (women whose houses were gifted to the church to become buildings of worship upon their deaths). While upper class women had more agency than many in ancient Rome, the Christian faith gave them power over belief in ways other religions denied them. The author does cover the stratification of Roman society and how Christians tried to upend that with their idea of everyone being treated equally within the church in a later chapter, but he never posits this as a reason why lower class individuals might have joined the church in the first place. Even in his conclusion, when he again considers the question of what made Christianity so compelling, he neglects to mention it in favour of purely spiritual answers.

Despite my desire to see more discussion, the book is excellent at giving a good idea of how differently ancient peoples thought about concepts like religion. It was very useful learning how Greeks and Romans worshipped. I also appreciated learning more about how early Christian practice was different from the Jewish faith it sprang from. I highlighted numerous passages in the book that I thought were worth reflecting on. Christianity has changed a lot from those early years, so it was interesting seeing what the first Christians believed and how they followed Christ.

Consider this a great introduction to the topic of how early Christians practiced and how their worship and thought patterns differed from those of the people around them. It’s a fairly short, easy to read book that will give you a lot to think about.

Tuesday 20 February 2024

Movie Review: Nine Days

Directed by Edson Oda, 2020
IMDb listing

Set in a realm that monitors people on earth and chooses souls to be sent there, one of the interviewers who had a bad experience on earth sorts through new candidates. But as he deals with the death of his favourite subject and a candidate with ideas different from the others’, he starts to question the criteria upon which he makes his judgement.

This is a strange but thoughtful movie about life and death and what we got out of those experiences. It’s a reminder to be in the moment, to appreciate what you have.

The interviewer, Will, played by Winston Duke, is an interesting character. He’s clearly upset that he has to replace one of his subjects and his experience on earth was apparently negative. It’s unclear what he’s looking for in his new subject, so there’s an interesting mix of souls trying to cater to what they think he wants and being true to themselves.

Emma, played by Zazie Beetz, does a brilliant job of showing how every moment is precious - even minor, otherwise forgettable ones. That if you really LOOK around you, you’ll see the good in the world. She questions the process and gets the most out of the time allotted.

It’s a thought-provoking film that had me crying in a few scenes.

There are a lot of unexplained aspects of the film, where this takes place for example. Expect to be moved by several scenes and left unsettled by the ending.