Friday Five

Let’s take a break from the RPG stuff and do a ‘normal’ set of prompts for a change!

1. What luxury is totally worth the price?
Butter. We don’t eat bread, but when we did, we totally got butter instead of margarine. Butter is not that more expensive, and it does taste a lot better.

2. What is the most unique or silliest problem you have going on in your life at the moment?
We still have to decide where we’re going to order food from to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Which is kind-of the opposite of a problem, but still.

3. If you were so wealthy you didn’t need to work, what would you do with your time?
I would stop working, and dedicate my time to writing, reading and playing RPGs. And probably a lot of travel too.

4. What is the most tedious and/or the most exciting sport to watch?
I think every sport is tedious to watch if you don’t know what it is about. Sports are about people doing interesting tricks, but if you don’t know the nuances, it’s just people running around — sometimes there’s a ball involved too. But if you know the rules and can recognize great or smart moves, then you can appreciate what is going on. And that is what makes it exciting.

5. What do you think the ideal age to be is?
I strive to make my current age the best age to be for me.

While we’re posting on prompts, let’s also throw in a Friday Five!

1. Did you grow up with your parents together as a unit?
Yes and no. My parents are still together, but when I was a young kid my dad traveled a lot. When I was a teenager, he worked in Germany and had an apartment there. He’d leave Monday morning, return Wednesday evening, leave Thursday morning and return Friday evening. So during the week, it was just us three. I did miss him.

2. Did you reach adulthood with four living grandparents?
My biological paternal grandmother died long before I was born. But my paternal grandfather re-married, and so my ‘step-grandma’ was the only grandmother I knew. All four of them were alive when I was an adult (defining ‘adult’ as ’18 years old’), but my maternal grandfather died not too soon after.

3. Is your extended family a close one or not?
Not at all. After my paternal step-grandmother died, I have not had contact with that side of the family. (Something to do with the inheritance, and I decided that if my family could treat their siblings like that, I was better off keeping my distance.)

4. Does your family have a ‘black sheep’?
My father’s younger brother was the black sheep (the prototypical ‘rock & roll uncle’), but he died in a car accident before I was born. I have his name as my second name, and I have a younger cousin who is named for him. It was a traumatic experience for the family.

5. What is your first memory of a family member that is not your mother(s) or father(s)?
I… don’t really know?

Friday Five

What’s your favorite color this week?
Judging by the colour of the T-shirts I wore, black. Same as any other week! 🙂

What job would be very unsuitable for you?
I did a ‘career & studies test’ when I was 14. The clearest result that came out of it was that I am not suited for ‘caring’ jobs, like nurse. I have to agree — and it hasn’t changed in the 34 years since.

What’s your favorite Olympic sport?
Something individual, obscure and very technical, like shooting. Did you see that photo of the sharpshooter who got the gold medal? It looks like she’s pausing during a stroll in the park, but this is what peak performance looks like in that sport. Notice the customization of her pistol handle — are those stamps? And she had a medallion from the Witcher books & video games on her pocket too. I love stuff like that.

Have you ever found yourself stuck out in the rain?
Yup. In summer, you can get really fierce bursts of rain (often with thunder!) here that seemingly come out of nowhere…

What does the tooth fairy do with our teeth?
You know how the evil guys collect the dirty nails of the dead to build their ship Naglfar, which will be used to ferry monsters to Asgard when Ragnarok comes? My assumption is that all of our teeth are collected by the tooth fairies, in order to construct a giant tooth-mecha to battle against those monsters.

Tomorrow, it’s the start of the annual RPG-a-day! I intend to follow along, as usual — brace yourselves.

Friday Five & GenX

What toys were popular when you were a kid?
This was the height of the 80’s, the time of cartoons on TV pushing toys. They were expensive though, so not many kids had ’em. A friend of mine had quite a bit of Star Wars action figures. Lego was popular as well, and when Lego Technic was released, it was a bit of a sensation.

What musicians were popular when you were a teenager?
When I was 12, everyone was into Doe Maar. It was a huge thing when they split up. Later on, Michael Jackson and Madonna ruled the roost, along with basically any act produced by Stock, Aitken & Waterman — including the now infamous “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley!

What unique personality traits do you think you have in common with others born around the same time as you?
If a trait is shared with others, it’s not exactly unique anymore, is it? And to be honest, I don’t really know — GenX is mostly forgotten and invisible in the grand scheme of things because the older ones are indistinguishable from Boomers and the younger ones are indistinguishable from Millenials.

Do you think stereotypes about your generation are accurate?
The stereotype is that GenX have had to fend for themselves all their lives. The idea is that GenX was the last generation of ‘free range kids’, but the fact is that we were just sent off so our parents could do their own thing.

A few weeks ago, someone shared this photo of a mother using a trash can to constrain her baby while she is crocheting in the partk, as a symbol of why GenX’ers are the way they are.
It made me recall something from my own youth. My parents bought their house in ’70, when it had just been built. A house in the suburbs of Eindhoven, headquarters of Philips, and everyone worked there. It was a huge draw, and so houses were being built in Eindhoven and the towns around it. And as usual when new houses are being built, young families buy ’em, and so you get this concentration of parents and kids with roughly the same ages. Maarten was the same age as my sister (who is two years older than me), the oldest of two sons. And he was an asshole — he had a thing for my sister and she was the only one who could rein him in. If he came to our house to ask if she wanted to play with him, she asked my mom to keep me inside so he wouldn’t hurt me.
There was a reason why Maarten was such a pain. His mother was from a larger city, and she hated living in a village. She wanted to be among people, and it was not in her nature to just sit at home to wait until her husband came home. So she regularly went to the Eindhoven city centre — alone, without her kids. She shut those inside their rooms, and she’d take out the door handles so they couldn’t leave their rooms until she came back. Everyone knew this was happening, but it was just one of those things that people shrugged about and never did anything about. Small wonder Maarten was not socialised.
My mom told me the story of how Maarten’s mom shut herself in by accident. She had already taken out the door handle but then had gone inside the room — and the door had closed, so she couldn’t get out. She called for help through the window (neighbours had keys of each others houses, of course), and my mom snickered a bit that they had left her there for a fair bit before they freed her, to make her feel what that was like. But of course nobody really did anything about it, and nothing changed.
Then, after a few years, they moved away, and I don’t know what has become of Maarten. I hope he has found a way to deal with the way his parents treated him.

GenX’ers are, as parents, very different from their own parents. I think that proves that most GenX’ers didn’t really have a happy childhood.

What do you admire about other generations?
I love how Millennials do not accept the status quo and keep looking for ways to make things better. It is clear that things must and can change, and that the values we inherited from older generations just don’t cut it anymore.

Friday Five: Food

Food is an important subject of this blog, so I couldn’t pass up a food-themed Friday Five.

1) What is your favourite food?
Okonomiyaki, no contest.

2) What is your favourite food preparation method?
To execute? Frying. Eggs, burgers, stir-fry, it’s all fried. And it’s relatively easy and non-intensive, which is why I use it a lot.

3) What is your favourite cuisine or style of cooking?
I don’t think I have one? I mean, there are things in Japanese cuisine that I really like, but also a lot of things I don’t. And that’s how it is with pretty much every cuisine. I do like strong tastes — western food can be kinda bland (there’s this ‘joke’ about how Europe colonized the whole world for the spices — and then not using them.)
I like a bit of a pepper kick, but if it gets too hot, then all I taste is the heat, not the food.

4) Do you have any dietary restrictions and if so what are they?
I can eat pretty much everything without ill effects. But I do have some strong preferences: I dislike sea-food (I can eat smoked salmon or tuna, but prefer not to), and I don’t want to eat organ meat (liver, tripe, etc).

5) If you could introduce the whole world to one ingredient to improve their culinary experience, what would that be and why?
I… don’t know? There’s not a single ingredient that goes with everything — it’s mostly combinations that work. Like in European dishes, it’s onion, carrot and celery; in Japanese dishes it’s dashi, mirin and sake; etc. Knowing those combinations allow you to get the basics done, allowing you to work from that.
For instance, bolognese sauce and beef bourgignon both use the European base, and then add different things to make two distinct dishes — but deep down, you taste that base of onion, carrot and celery in both.

Also, wouldn’t you know it? I made mayonaise one time and it worked, and I bragged that it was so easy and I’d never buy mayonaise again? And ever since then, no matter what I do, I can’t reproduce that result, and none of my tries ‘catches’ and it remains some weird egg/oil/mustard concoction!? I tried every trick in the book, faithfully reproduced the recipe — and it just doesn’t work. I am miffed.

1) Pick one of your favorite movies: what is the title?
Laputa: Castle in the Sky

2) When and where and with whom did you first see it?
Probably at home, on DVD. But the most memorable viewing was in Rome, at the Cinema dei Piccoli in the Villa Borghese park. We got tickets in advance for the 22:00 showing, and the confused person selling us the tickets told us the movie would be dubbed in Italian — but of course we’ve seen it so many times that that didn’t really matter. The previous showing ran a little late when we arrived, and since the cinema is essentially a wooden shack, we could hear the end of the movie before going in.

3) What about the movie makes it one of your favorites?
It is a grand adventure that starts out in a mining town but then ends up in this mythical place, with lots of steampunk in between. Miyazaki’s love for airships is very apparent here. And the movie is also a technical masterpiece: the approach for the raid on the fortress where Sheeta is held with the pirate ornithopters is so exciting visually!

4) If you’ve watched this movie since the pandemic quarantine started, how did it make you feel?
I have not.

5) If this movie was remade, who would you cast for the five main characters and why?
A live-action remake would… not be good. It would probably amount to some human players standing in CGI decors, and that would give the movie a static look which doesn’t fit with such a dynamic story! And animating it again might make it look prettier, but would take away the ‘soul’ of the original.
But a remake with puppetry could be really fun! You can add in some CGI effects if you want to, but the decors would have to be physical. And while you can see that it’s puppets doing the action, the whole thing has a pleasing… physicality… to it that you can’t produce otherwise. The Jim Henson studio would be an obvious choice (their Dark Crystal prequel was fantastic), but the studio that does the wuxia puppetry series Thunderbolt Fantasy is also very much capable of showing lots of action.

1) Have you read more books, or fewer books, this past year than usual?
I don’t track my reading, but I think I’ve read fewer books than usual. But I do read a lot — it’s just mostly RPG books and adventures, and I might not finish them until later.

2) What book are you reading now (or what book did you read most recently)?
The book I really finished reading cover-to-cover is ‘Gouden Jaren’ (“Golden Years”), which looks at how life in the Netherlands has changed from the fifties to the nineties. It really puts boomer entitlement in perspective: they just don’t know any better than that there is this explosion of wealth and they have taken it for granted. They had bought into the system for really cheap (house prices were a joke back in the ’70s compared to today’s standards) and never felt the sting of wages and productivity being decoupled in the ’80s.
I’m also going through ‘Shinto from an international perspective’, written by a Shinto priest. It’s not objective by a long shot, which is very amusing. But it does do a good job of putting shinto in a larger context, which is very informative and accessible. If you have an interest in the subject, I recommend it.
I’m also brushing up on my knowledge of the system of ‘The Sprawl’, a cyberpunk RPG that I’m writing a scenario for. Three experienced players have signed up for a playtest, which should be both informative and fun.

3) What is the best book you read in the past few years?
Oh, wow, I can’t choose. It will probably have been an RPG book, and it would have given me lots of ideas of things to run in it. The most recent time that happened was when reading ‘Exhumed’, a pamphlet RPG based on the Dark Souls games. It unfortunately fell flat during play.

4) Do you read more than one book at a time, or just one?
At any time, I will have multiple reading projects going.

5) How big is your to-be-read pile (or list)?
…please don’t remind me.

1) What has been your favorite job?
I really like the one I have right now, actually.

2) What did you like about it?
Of course there are things that I don’t like about it (it’s a job after all, I do it because I need the money), but there are a lot of things I like about it. Doing product work is a really nice way to have a lot of impact with what you’re doing: every user of the product will use whatever you decide to do. If your product is used by a wide variety of people (or organisations, if you’re doing boring business software like I am), then you will hear lots of different viewpoints and have to weigh them.
The company I work for now is also much, much more people-oriented than the one I used to work for, so that has certainly also helped with my motivation.

3) How can a kid become like you when they grow up?
The best advice I can give is: “Stay curious”. Try to find out why things are like they are — very few things are so because of the laws of nature. Often, someone thought this thing should be done in a certain way — but if the right people can be convinced it should be different, it can be changed just as easy. This is the ‘hidden truth of the world’, and it applies to things like economics, politics, but also to boring business processes. Get to the bottom of things, and ask yourself if there are better alternatives.

4) What safeguards do you use to avoid mistakes?
The most important one is: do not take a decision when you’re under pressure. That not only applies to work decisions, but also to personal decisions. I know that nobody wants to get into conflicts, but if someone is pressuring to make a decision a certain way (like in a hard-ball sales pitch), you know that that outcome will be most beneficial for them — and not necessarily for you.

5) What’s changed in the world that you’ve had a hard time keeping up with?
I find myself ill-equipped to deal with the global rise of fascism. I thought we’d know better by now, and I find it hard to adjust to the idea that lots of people are now openly fascist.

Misc

I guess a Friday Five is better than nothing.

1) What’s the best customer service experience you’ve ever had?
Being loaded up in the car of the innkeeper at Aso at 6 AM so that she could drive us around for the next three hours so we could get some views because there was such a dense fog the day before. That ranks pretty high.

2) What’s a very reliable item that you own?
I have some metal utility knives from Stanley that are pretty darn comfortable to use. We use the big one for board and tough papers, and the smaller one for paper (and packages). If they get even a tiny bit dull, we break off the top part of the knife to get another sharp edge.

3) What’s something that wore out, but you replaced it with the same thing?
When we renovated our extension (where our living room is), it was time to replace the four 80cm wide white Ikea bookcases with something else. We honestly looked at alternatives, but everything either did not meet our specifications or was overly expensive. So we replaced them with eight 40cm wide Ikea bookcases in oak foil. Best price/quality ratio.

4) Have you ever left an online review of something you bought?
Yes. I don’t bother much these days, unless is way above or below expectation.

5) What’s a book you’ve read more than once?
Probably The Lord of the Rings. It really holds up well with repeat reading, because you (re)discover details of the story with every new reading.

In other news, last Monday we had the two double doors in the back of the house replaced. While very decorative, we only used one of the doors, and they were of low quality. Yes, they had double glazing, but that doesn’t really help if there are cracks in between them — it was a full 1 degree colder in the living room. Now we have the same type of glazing as we do at the front of the house, and the house is so much more comfortable! Quite the investment, but worth it.

1. Are you crafty?
I like to think I am — I’m good enough at bookbinding to get paid for it.

2. Do you own a sewing machine and what brand is it? If you don’t sew, do you own a glue gun?
I don’t sew, but we do have a sewing machine and a lock machine. And of course we have a glue gun! I don’t regularly use it, though.

3. What is the bane of your sewing/crafting existence? I mean, is it button holes, zippers, or something else?
When applying glue to paper in order to paste it on a cover, the moisture from the glue can make the paper curl up. That’s always a stressful moment. Another one is to glue the book block (the pages) into the cover with end papers. You will only find out how well it went a day after — by which time it’ll be too late to repair any mistakes.

4. When and how did you learn to sew or craft?
I found that I was mostly living ‘in my head’ — in my work I’m always doing abstract stuff, and my hobbies were all abstracted too (gaming, reading, etc). So I wanted to do something that actually produced something. I don’t remember why I set my sights on bookbinding — I might have seen an ad for a course here in the city, and decided that I’d like to try it. I did three courses with that teacher and also did a few one-off workshops. Now I’m pretty sure I can reproduce a binding from the description.

5. What do you consider your sewing/crafting opus or is it still a work in progress?
There are a few things I’m really pleased with. If I have to choose one thing, then it would be the box to hold my pins, because I designed it by myself. Now my collection has vastly outgrown that box, but the concept was pretty solid.