Review — War Crimes

Of the many novels written in the Warcraft universe, I’ve actually read a scarce few of them. To be honest, this is only my second. However, having played WoW off an on for the majority of my life, and having many brothers and friends that are well versed in Blizzard and Warcraft lore, I’m quite familiar with the characters and events, generally speaking. I won’t give spoilers here, though, for as familiar as you may be with the story before and after this book, the novel itself does contain some pretty neat, self-contained things.

War Crimes is a somewhat recent addition to what surprised me to be a collection of over twenty canon books, and chronologically it was the latest addition to the universe until Before the Storm published last month. It takes place between the Mists of Pandaria expansion and the Warlords of Draenor expansion, serving as a segway from one to the other. It explores the trial of Garrosh Hellscream, the former Warchief of the Horde after he basically killed thousands of people and was, to put it mildly, a jerk to everyone, even the people who should have been his friends.

I’ll be honest—I didn’t expect much of this book. The main plot is a trial, and I hated Garrosh’s character simply because he’s boring. In fact, if I were to buy a Warcraft book, it probably would have been one of my last choices for those reasons. When I’m reading a story like this, it’s generally because I want to dig deeper into a universe I’m already familiar with, and not only does this book basically not have that, but it doesn’t have very much action in it, either. It is, as you might expect, almost entirely placed in the Temple of Xu’en, where the trial takes place.

But the book is fair. To call it a bad read or a waste of my time would be out of line. It does the characters justice while also showing different sides of them. It explores the morality and virtues of many of the main characters in Warcraft lore, and you see different sides of them you might not otherwise notice. Flashbacks are used as evidence in the trial (via magic, of course), so we also get to see some interactions between characters outside this moment in time, and that can be really interesting when you didn’t realize those characters knew each other at X point.

I’d say one of the best things about this book is that it’s a balancing act of two parts, and it does a great job. Writing a book (or any piece of media) based on a game where the player has a direct impact on the environment or story of that game is hard. You have to either pretend the player doesn’t exist, which makes any player made choices seem inconsequential, or you make the player a main character, which only works if they don’t get to make their character. The second part is writing a part of the story that isn’t important enough to be essential to the gameplay, but is interesting enough to not waste the reader’s time.

War Crimes does a great job on both of these fronts. The players are the ones that managed to defeat Garrosh and put him in “prison”, but they aren’t necessary for the trial. Players want combat, and this part of the story has very little of it. You wouldn’t want a trial scene to be in your video game anyway, unless you’re playing Ace Attorney, in which case what is a bloodthirsty orc doing there? As far as being interesting but not essential, the story does a good job of that, too, exploring nuances of characters, as I’ve already explained. The ending of the story is a bit obvious if you’ve played the beginning of Warlords of Draenor, or have seen even the trailer of it, but nonetheless it’s a good read.

Overall, this book is a good read if and only if you are interested in understanding the personalities, flaws, or beliefs of the major characters in the Warcraft universe. You really get to know the characters as people in this book, not as the walking stereotypes they can sometimes fall under. If you want to read action scenes, understand the lore of Azeroth (or Draenor etc.), or read about the major events of the world, you’re better of picking up pretty much any other book in the universe.

As a side note, it dawned on me reading this book how little opinion Warcraft players probably have based on the characters in the lore. Basically any player will tell you that Cairne Bloodhoof, or Vol’jin, or Jaina Proudmoore are basically cool people. (Or at least they were, given various points of the story.) For as divisive as Warcraft tries to be—splitting the players into Alliance or Horde—I’ll bet 90% of the playerbase will be able to tell you which are the honorable, good characters from both factions, because while the lore tries to paint in broad strokes of “good and evil”, it does a great job at putting both of those extremes in either side.

Review — Brief Cases

Finally, a new Dresden book! …kind of. I think that I started reading The Dresden Files about five years ago, around the time Cold Days came out. By the time I was just about caught up, Skin Game was published. Up until that point, the books were being churned out practically once a year, and well, that was three years ago now. I picked the wrong time to get caught up!

Thankfully, a new short story anthology was released, and boy was it nice to get some more Dresden. I recently started listening to audiobooks at work, an with me working full time, I’m getting through them pretty fast. So I am simultaneously ecstatic and depressed that I’ve already finished.

But before I get started let me add a qualifier. The thing that sucks about this review is that it’s more pointless than most reviews. The people that know Dresden will buy it automatically and love it, because it’s the Dresden we all know and love, but the people that don’t know Dresden shouldn’t get it, because like his other short story anthology, there are lots of time skips and even more spoilers. (The last two short stories take place after Skin Game). So instead of me framing it into the vein of “is this worth reading”, I’ll speak plainly in terms of what I liked and didn’t like. That said, this review is not spoiler free. I won’t be discussing many spoilers by virtue of the fact that my opinions tend to paint broad strokes, but I don’t see much point in writing a review that’s half spoiler-free and half not. So let’s jump in.


I’ll start with what I didn’t like just to get over it. The first is that a lot of these stories have sexual contexts I don’t much care for. I mean, I’m not surprised, that’s always been a Dresden thing. But after taking a break from the series and reading so many other things, I’ve noticed how just how much Jim Butcher tends to describe women based on how insanely hot they are, and how naked they tend to get because “the world of vampires and the fey are very sexual realms”. Logical, sure, but I think it would be fair for me to say that the story could redistribute the sex into more polarizing zones. Take it out where it isn’t necessary and emphasize it where it is rather than just putting a little bit pretty much everywhere. (Side note: I am willing to concede that maybe I’m just being dramatic and prude, but at the same time I don’t think the Dresden series would lose much of anything if there was less sex-but-not-actual-sex, you know?)

My second critique is even more whiny than the first: I didn’t really get to see anything I wanted to see. None of my favorite characters, and nothing awesome really happening. Now, obviously he can’t write about important people doing important things in a short story collection—you can’t force your entire reader-base to buy something that’s supposed to be a side adventure—but still. I wanted to see more stuff that had… meaning. “Zoo Day” is probably the best example of this, and it was definitely my favorite story. We see a potentially bad news character introduced, but it was done in a way that doesn’t take away from the main plot when they inevitably return. I also wasn’t a fan of the same plot structure of “retelling a story” used in two of the twelve stories here, though Butcher isn’t much to blame, because a lot of these stories were written at various times over the years and put together, not written for this book.

But the stories in and of themselves are great. I loved everything about the Bigfoot stories, especially the fact that they all dealt with different issues while (unconsciously) foreshadowing future ones. “Zoo Day” is a masterpiece, too. A long scene told in three different perspectives dealing with three different conflicts is great, and Mouse being the narrator to a story was a lot of fun. Top notch.

I love where the series is going, especially considering the scope and the perspective strength of some of the characters, but it’s also nice to take a break and see characters deal with more mundane issues—it puts the huge ones in the main series in a better perspective.

But also I’m mad that Butcher introduced the Lovecraftian mythos in a single short story and we’re probably not going to see much else from the Old Gods for a long time, if at all.

Review — Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Okay, as always with a review of a recent thing, I’ll write the spoiler free version first, then the spoiler-not free version after that. There will be a clear dileneation, don’t worry. Before I get to even the actual review though, I have a confession. I never saw the 2015 Jurassic World. These movies being what they are, though, I didn’t expect to really need that much context, and I was right. It’s not like jumping into Two Towers having never seen/read Fellowship of the Ring.

Alright: actual review. Overall conclusion is that its plot is sort of a mess, and I think a lot of things could have been handled better. For what it is, though, it does its job. It has all the suspense and action you would come to expect from the series, and I think it makes a fine addition to the series. I think it goes without saying that Jurassic Park is still by far the best one, but it often isn’t fair to compare movie sequels to their predecessors. For a lot of reasons, they simply can’t live up to the expectation.

My major gripe with the movie is actually the trailer that I saw. Now, I hate watching movie trailers, and this is the biggest reason. The movie that I expected to see from that trailer is not the movie that this was, and I’ll go into more detail on that later (with spoilers). It’s worth noting that I did not watch the “Final” Trailer until writing this now, and it does a much better job showcasing the basic plot without misdirection. That said, for that to be my biggest issue is probably a compliment.

Another thing that I wasn’t a huge fan of was the final 20 minutes. I feel like it could have been much bigger and better, but I would be willing to concede that that’s probably controversial, and I can see the merits to the version they went with. More on that later, too.

Overall, I think it was okay. The actors did a fine job, there were (as you’d expect), some awesome camera shots, and the action was approachable. I think the character motivations were often very shaky, though, and I felt a lot of the plot twists were uninspired. Solid movie, you get what you paid for, but I feel it could have been great. (Also, super bonus points for not making basically no romantic subplot whatsoever. I don’t know what happened between them in the previous movie, but I’m glad romance doesn’t get in the way of the plot here.)

And now: Spoilers!


Alright, my four issues with the movie.

  1. The trailer I saw was all about escaping the island and whatnot. I was led to believe the film would take place on the island, and the climax would be the volcano blowing up. Instead, everyone was off the island in half an hour and the rest of the movie was about the politics of trafficking dinosaurs. I mean… what? Sure, the plot made sense, but you’re going to put the actual exploding volcano practically in the exposition? Yeah, okay.
  2. We’re (literally) told that the Indoraptor is the smartest and most deadly creature to ever walk the Earth. And then when it (of course) escapes, it’s just a big, fast thing with claws and teeth. How is that any different? You tell us it’s smart, show us it’s smart. The smartest thing it does is figure out how to open a door that was made of glass to begin with. I guess you could argue that it breaking the elevator was smart, but that looked like an accident to me, when it should have totally been intentional. You also tell us it can smell things a mile away, but can’t pinpoint people hiding behind a thing ten feet away? It’s supposed to be scary because it’s smarter and stronger than other dinosaurs, and then… it really isn’t. (I also don’t get why they needed Blue alive. They already made the dinosaur before the trafficking thing happened, what was Blue even for other than to help the good guys?)
  3. Okay, I know this is stupid, but the tech guy. Franklin? His character was dumb. Why would a “germaphobe” let’s call him go to an island infested with creatures that want to eat him? The only character motivation we’re given as to why he’s there is a throwaway line about how his dad made him come. I mean, no. His character was funny and all, but nothing about his existence made sense for the plot.
  4. The ending is stupid. Why does Jeff Goldblum have a speech about dinosaurs being out in the wild when there’s like a dozen escaped dinosaurs? The amount of threat they pose to the public is laughable, and realistically, the worst damage they could do is in the form of disrupting the ecosystem through bacteria. They would all be tracked down and (probably) killed within a week. That’s not a setup for a sequel and I’m mad that the movie tried to tell me it was.

P.S. I think it’s interesting that literally nobody but the audience knows that the grandpa was murdered. Everybody knows he’s dead, sure, but the only guy that knew, the murderer, also died. Inconsequential, I know. Plus, he would 100% have died in the chain of events that took place in that house anyway, but I think it’s a thought worth considering.

Review — Heroes of the Storm (Jun. ’18 Edition)

Since Heroes of the Storm is basically the only game I play given how busy I am, I think it’s only fair that I take the time to dedicate a little bit of my blog to it every once in a while (beyond saying “I’m still playing HotS” in the monthly updates). Being an online, MOBA style game, it’s constantly getting new features and characters to play, so reviewing it at one stage of its development will be totally different from another, even in broad strokes like “state of the game” as I intend to talk about here.

So, for timeline context—the newest character and battleground were released a few weeks ago: Yrel and Alterac Pass. This is following the releases of Deckard Cain and Fenix.

Overall, Heroes seems to be in rough shape, even with the newest batch of content. Keeping myself updated on the subreddit for the game means reading a lot of complaints about how toxic people are (as with all MOBAs), how reporting other players does nothing and there’s no reason to do so, and how frustrating a lot of characters are to play against. There’s a power gap between newer characters and older ones simply because the system is advancing, albeit slowly.

Unfortunately, Heroes of the Storm was crippled from the beginning. The game’s foundation is an engine (at least) nine years old, as it started off as a mod to Starcraft II. This means that connectivity issues and overall capabilities are limited from the start, and it can’t compete with new stuff, given how fast the gaming industry evolves. This will always be the biggest issue with the game—it’s built on old foundation.

And you can see the aging in the game, too. Older heroes like Raynor have very simple abilities, such as “increase attack speed” or “push enemies back”, whereas heroes like Fenix have “fire a laser that spins around your hero twice, hurting and slowing enemies it hits as it passes”. This becomes a problem when most of the characters being picked in high level play are the ones that were released in the past few months.

Overall, Heroes of the Storm is pretty solid. The best thing about it is that the vast majority of games last 15-25 minutes, and only on rare occasions can you give or take 5 more minutes. It’s completely free, you can play with up to five friends, and there is absolutely no “buying power”. You simply can’t buy stuff that gives you the upper hand against your enemies. (The only thing is, as with most MOBA’s, you have to play a lot in order to be able to buy the characters with in-game currency. Not a lot, mind you, and there’s no hero that you can’t buy with in-game currency, but it’s worth mentioning.)

It does have loot boxes, which the entire gaming community hates right now, but honestly I think it’s fine in this case because it’s mostly cosmetic, and you get them at a reasonable rate.

The game is, as it always will be, at it’s best when you’re playing with friends that don’t take things too seriously. Being competitive is fine, but there’s something about MOBA’s that really churns up hatred for other people. So as long as you’re fine with losing, and you can have fun without blaming the people you’re playing with (even if it is their fault), you can have a good time.

Review — Jukebox the Ghost

I really don’t talk about music often. For the most part, I just have a list of three hundred (ish) songs that I play on shuffle, with wildly different genres mixed in. When I’m not listening to that playlist I’m listening to podcasts or just straight video game soundtracks (as in literally a three hour YouTube video of title song to credits song).

But some time ago, a friend of mine showed me a new band. This wasn’t irregular for him, he always has a new band for me to listen to. It’s mostly garbage, I don’t know how he calls half his playlist music, but the most recent time we hung out he introduced me to Jukebox the Ghost. It got me thinking: how often do people genuinely listen to and appreciate others’ music? I’m certainly not the type to enjoy anything except for the stuff I already have.

And yet, I’ve listened to Jukebox the Ghost almost exclusively for about a month straight. With no sign of stopping, even. I tried listening to my old playlist, and thought about adding some JtG songs to it, but then I thought, “Nah, that would make me hear less of these new songs.”

So, enough of the backstory. Now for the review from the guy that has no idea what he’s talking about.

According to Wikipedia, Jukebox the Ghost is an indie pop/rock band from the most recent decade. It’s a piano-centric band with clear and energetic vocals. In brief, I would say they are a new-age Billy Joel, if he was trying to be Queen at the same time. Maybe the other way around, as the case may be in some songs. On the JtG Pandora station at my work, it also plays lots of Mika (whom I have never heard of and still have no interest in), Death Cab for Cutie (whom I can enjoy), and some late 90’s to 00’s alternative classics (which I am also fond of). This also proves that Spotify is a better radio—I don’t have to listen to stuff I don’t want to, I can just listen to Jukebox.

The weirdest thing that happened with my exposure to this band was that I only liked about three songs when I started listening to them, and as soon as I was apathetic enough to leave others on, I started liking them, too. Now I really like basically all of their stuff, save for a few strange exceptions. I don’t like any of their slow, quiet stuff, because as far as Mood-congruence theory goes, it’s off-putting. I don’t want to feel happy listening to energetic songs and then suddenly have a slow, quiet piano for three or four minutes. I’m sure I’d enjoy those songs in a different mood, but that mood would basically require me not to be listening to that band. (It’s worth noting that they have a Solo Piano version of a lot of their songs, and I hate all of these versions for the same reason.)

They’re a good band. They might have even hit my Top 3 Favorites already. They still have weird things that I don’t like (in a few of their songs, they have Buddy Holly-esque ‘hiccups’ I don’t care for), but overall they know what they’re doing. I don’t have a favorite song exactly, but “Adulthood” is a strong contender.

Going to Portland, Oregon (Part Two)

I talked about my general experience of my few days in Portland this past Saturday. I didn’t give any specifics, though, so here’s my travel log!

Friday:

Okay, well, the plane landed around midnight, so mostly the four of us hung out with each other before going to bed. Not much to say there.

Saturday:

IMG_20180602_130403038 (Saturday 1).jpg

The entire city is just built around crazy architecture like this. It astounds me that this is just normal.

The first thing we did the next morning was go see the Saturday Market, which is right next to the Columbia River. There’s all manner of shops for handmade rings and pendants, dyed shirts, various mediums of art, and of course, food. I was pretty impressed by a couple of street performers, though. Their whole shtick was hyping up somebody jumping over random audience members, but they were funny and charming while they did it. It reminded me a lot of the shows you can see at some of the Renaissance Faires I’ve been to. What astonished me most was that they didn’t ask for volunteers, they just pointed at people and pulled them out of the audience and into the performing area. I found that very interesting.

crucible_19x24

At the Market I found one shop of this guy that does amazing art. His name is J. Slattum, I recommend you go check it out. I had a hard time picking which painting to buy. I decided to go with the one that initially caught my eye.

IMG_20180602_132503991 (Saturday Friends).jpg

All three of us surreptitiously took a picture of the other two in this spot, which I think is really funny.

The Saturday Market also has an amazing view of the Columbia River as it looks out into the other side of the city. I’d say the picture below does a good job in describing how I feel about Portland. It’s just a wide, green, flat, and much less dense San Fransisco. As a result, absolutely gorgeous.

IMG_20180602_132557694 (Saturday River).jpg

IMG_20180602_144249202 (City Mt. Hood)

Even the normal train offers amazing views. You can see Mt. Hood in the distance here!

We went swimming in Lake Oswego afterwards. None of us had been swimming in a long time, and it was freezing, but we all immediately decided to swim to a buoy and back as practice. Well, the agreed upon buoy was about 200 feet away, and against the

IMG_20180602_165558828_HDR (Saturday Lake).jpg

We were at a public park (that, unbeknownst to us, was closed at the time) in the middle of a bunch of way too expensive houses.

current. I’m not a strong swimmer, and my costochondritis meant that the cold affected my ability to breathe more than it would most, so I’ll admit I did get scared on the way back. I was so tired I could barely swim, and I never learned how to float on one’s back. I considered asking for help, but they probably weren’t much better off. I didn’t go back in the water after that, my legs ached so bad.

img_20180602_170142978-saturday-eagle-e1528663063326.jpg

Pretty sure this is a bald eagle, which I have never seen before. It hung out with us all day. Super neat, and even from this distance it was clearly so much bigger than the average crow.

After the lake, I was really tired. Both of the friends I was with are very extroverted people. They cannot get enough of sightseeing and talking and being social. We planned on going to a bar where a friend’s band was playing, to which I requested to stay home at the apartment. Upon my insistence, they left me alone and I got some writing in, as well as some much needed rest. I have never experienced anything like this trip before. Being so far away from any family and not having any time to recharge hit me harder than I expected, and for the first two days of the trip I was emotionally drained.

Sunday:

Sunday morning I was excited because that was the anticipated hike day. As much as I love going on walks and hiking, I don’t do it in Southern California because if I go outside I’ll start melting (and yes, before you comment, I have been to Arizona, and yes, I do hate it). I was excited about this hike because it would be going through national forest, and it was up near Pittock Mansion, too. Incredible nature scenery and majestic architecture? Yes, please. (As a side note, it didn’t rain at all while we were there. I’m both slightly disappointed, because I love the rain, and also relieved, because it would have made sightseeing a lot harder.)

As you can imagine, I took a ton of pictures here. I won’t talk about them, I’ll just leave them here for your viewing pleasure.

IMG_20180603_194033011_HDR (Sunday Weird)

Apparently a famous sign, but I’d honestly never heard of it.

After the hike, we went into downtown to explore. We mostly walked around and did some sightseeing, from going to Killer Burger, to walking by some landmarks, to going into Powell’s (a 5-story bookstore of which I took zero pictures), to getting donuts at Voodoo Donuts.

IMG_20180603_211857210_TOP (Sunday Night)

I’d imagine that Portland is a great place to film a great many types of things, from fantasy to noir to everyday sitcoms. At least, it would be a great place if there weren’t always so many people walking around all the time.

IMG_20180603_213415893 (Sunday Lights)

Even the car ride home in the middle of the night was beautiful.

Monday:

IMG_20180604_084402637 (Monday Bricks)

Monday morning I had a breakfast date with my grandpa, because he lives in the area and I don’t get to see him very often. (And, to be honest, I’m not sure I’ve ever had a genuine one-on-one conversation with him.) Getting up as early as I had to was about as difficult as I expected it to be, but the quiet atmosphere and a good chat was nice. Some familiarity in such a foreign world was a treasure to have.

On Monday and Tuesday our two “native” (they’ve only been here a little while) friends had work, so it was up to me and my travel buddy to find places to see and explore. It didn’t occur to me until Monday that everything in Portland can get away with being made of bricks, because there’s no fault line right under it. I know it’s probably stupid to you, but I thought it was interesting that everything is made of bricks here.

IMG_20180604_132858423 (Monday Park)

Monday was mostly walking around the city, because we honestly didn’t have much of a plan of where to go. We walked through a park multiple blocks long, right in the middle of downtown, which was cool.

At some point we visited Pioneer Square (in the day this time), and we grabbed some brochures of interesting places to visit for tomorrow.

After that, we went through some suburbs. I think some of the best pictures of the trip came from there. I would kill to live in a place that looked like that.

IMG_20180604_153721836 (Monday Books)

On this walk, attached to the gate in front of somebody’s house, was a little box with some books inside. It was one of those “leave one, take one” situations, and I found it fascinating. Inside it was a copy of the first book of the Mistborn series, which made me really sad because as much as I wanted it, I had no book to trade. My travel buddy convinced me it would be okay to take it, just for the story of how I got it.

I thank her immensely for the permission to do that. I would have left it and regretted it if she hadn’t been there.

IMG_20180604_154611104 (Monday Lamps)

We came across an old thrift store of lamps & furniture called “Lounge Lizard”. Awesome place, and it reminded me of the singing improv game of the same name. She had never played it, so I showed it to her on the way back home. As much as I don’t like singing in the presence of others, I rather enjoyed it.

haunted-couch1

We headed back into town to have a late lunch at the Old Town Pizza Company, which was a restaurant that was repurposed from an old hotel. Apparently, the booth where you order food is the same concession stand from the original establishment in 1880, which is insane. I didn’t take any pictures of this place, because it was super dark, so enjoy this picture stolen off the internet. We actually almost sat in this booth, but decided to eat upstairs because… well, upstairs.

At about that time our friends were getting off work, so we headed back home, then went back into town to get ramen before playing a drinking game to Disney’s Hercules. It was a great conclusion to an awesome day.

Tuesday:

Tuesday was very similar to Monday, except this time we had a plan for places we wanted to visit. I’m sorry to say I didn’t take many pictures of Tuesday because I was a bit jaded,

We headed into town, ate fries in a park while listening to live violins, then went into the city proper.

img_20180605_142541981-tuesday-science.jpg

We stumbled across the Church of Scientology, which was… interesting. My friend convinced me to go in and check it out, and boy. They showed us a machine that could “read your thoughts”, which really just detected the presence of electrical signals when you think. The fact that the lady advertised it as borderline magic was insane to me.

img_20180605_142723799-tuesday-take-one.jpg

“Psychiatric drugs: Take one!”

After that, we went back to Powell’s, because it was on the way to a place called the Cookie Dough Cafe. Imagine an ice cream shop like Baskin Robbins, only they have vats of raw cookie dough instead of ice cream. (Okay, they also had ice cream, but mostly it was cookie dough.)

It was so thick, that a $3 single scoop of cookie dough was almost too much for me to finish, even though I had eaten very little that day.

img_20180605_162723836_hdr-tuesday-tea.jpg

Our last stop for the trip was a brewery called Steven Smith Teamaker. I didn’t know what to expect, but it was lovely. They had a selection of nearly fifty different kinds of teas, and you could buy a flight to try any four. I did this with the resolution to buy the best one, and while I don’t really like green teas, I was surprised when it turned out to be my favorite.

Tuesday Tea

Portland was magical. I learned a lot about the world and myself, and made lots of memories I’ll cherish forever. The day I got back I was hit with a severe… homesickness? I’m sure lots of people are familiar with that feeling, but I had never felt that before. I’m glad that emotion didn’t persist, because it made the following Wednesday and Thursday pretty hard.

Going to Portland, Oregon (Part One)

I went on my first official vacation a few days ago. The plane landed late Friday night and I went back to California Tuesday night. So I thought it would be fun to talk about the trip. In the interest of going to bed at a reasonable hour tonight, I’ll split this post into two. Part One will cover my general experience, and Part Two will be the specifics of what I did.

Side note: Get ready for a long post with lots of pictures. I took an uncharacteristically abundant amount of them. Almost 300 in just 4(ish) days. From the time between the first and last picture I took, my rate of picture taking was around .25 per hour (or 1 every 4 hours depending on how you want to frame that ratio).

IMG_20180603_143148248_HDR.jpgIt’s worth noting right off the bat that I’m very introverted and basically don’t ever leave the house if I don’t have to. Having said that, I wanted to make 2018 memorable by making big changes to my behavior. I don’t like Southern California (it’s just way too hot), and down the road I want to move away from the desert, but I don’t want to move too far to require a plane to see family. Basically, this just means going north to Northern California or Oregon, so visiting the state seemed like a good place to start.

I’ll just tell you right now, I loved it. I only spent time in the Portland area, but the whole place is gorgeous. There are more trees in the densest portions of downtown than there are in some of the parks I live near. To sum up my experience of what Portland “is” in three words: “weird, green community”. And yes, that’s a double entendre.

IMG_20180602_141234693 (Saturday Market).jpgPortland is weird, because people just… talk to each other. In Southern California, conversations with strangers only happen when they’re obligatory, and it’s literally the same conversation every time. If an alien was teleported into LA with no understanding of the English language, I would give him a list of about 5 words/phrases and any surface level conversation would sound normal: “Hi”, “How are you?”, “Good”, “Have a nice day”, and “Thanks”. He could pretty much dictate those phrases at random to a stranger and they probably wouldn’t notice.

IMG_20180605_142405103.jpgIn Portland it’s different. I’m not used to just chatting with cashiers about my cool shirt or Steven Universe or, well… anything. It’s small talk, yes, and I thought I hated small talk, but there’s something about the easy and simple connection strangers are allowed to have that is amazing. We got into a literal argument with some guy over which of us was next in line, because everyone involved was trying to be polite and have the other go first. Spoiler: the guy ended up storming off to force us to go first, so he won. The next day, we walked by homeless people getting tattoos done on the sidewalk, and the people I was with at the time struck up a conversation about fashion. It just boggles my mind, and yes, before you ask, that circumstance made me very uncomfortable.

The city is also very transportation friendly. $5 will get you an all day train ticket, and you can use the trains to get anywhere in Portland within an hour. I got the sense that, depending on the traffic, it can actually be a lot faster than driving, especially since you don’t have to worry about parking or gas. Most of the time, the trains weren’t even that busy, my friends and I almost always had a row of seats available.

IMG_20180603_212008967 (Pioneer Square Night).jpgPortland is also amazing in that everywhere you stand, you can take a great picture. You’re also within an hour of both downtown and giant national forests, even if you’re right in the middle of the city. Plus, Mt. Hood is always in the distance, and having seen a genuine mountain, I now understand that feeling of “I wanna go there and do that”. Another thing to note: living in Earthquake Land also makes me unaccustomed to actual architecture of brick and stone. I’ve seen pictures, but man, the older buildings in the city look incredible.

So, in conclusion: Portland is incredible, and I’m going back someday.