Month: July 2017

Year of the Console, July Review. Battlefield 1.

Welcome back to the TLYW Year of Console Gaming. It’s the end of Month 7 and we have reached the exact halfway point in our specially extended year, which is 14 months long. There has been a great deal of work, meal preparation and relationship-building this month so I have played Battlefield 1 rather sporadically, making a start on its single-player War Stories, which amount to only a portion of the whole game. Despite playing it in small bursts, it’s been a very absorbing game, to the point where I almost forgot I’d ever played anything else. I would have struggled to remember what we played last month.

As you know, we are following a dramatic historical trajectory throughout the year. July was the month in which we fully settled into the 20th century, which of course means war. Set during WW1, Battlefield 1 takes place in France, the UK, Italy, Turkey and Mesopotamia and is based on real events. I travelled around by tank as well as sneaking around on foot. The scenery, whether French villages, Italian mountain ranges or Mesopotamian deserts, would be gorgeous if everyone were not constantly blowing each other up and destroying buildings.

For the second consecutive month, we have not only screenshots but real gameplay. Here I am, in character as Daniel Edwards, a British soldier, driving around a muddy, ruined village in my tank, taking out German tanks, artillery and infantry. This mission is based on the Battle of Cambrai, 1918.

Screenshots

Battlefield 1. Electronic Arts (2016), PS4. A first-person shooter set during World War 1.

Plot and setting: The game begins with a series of single-player missions, set in half a dozen countries and climates. The missions are based on historical events in WW1 and the player adopts various unique characters to complete self-contained quest lines, or War Stories. These quest lines prepare the player for eventual multiplayer gameplay.

General remarks: This was an interesting change for me because Battlefield 1 is very rich in story while not being a RPG. There’s no character development as such. I never really got to know my character, Daniel Edwards, he didn’t have much internal dialogue. However, as a young soldier and tank driver for the British army in France, he and I certainly saw dramatic and terrifying events unfold. Battlefield 1 is nothing if not atmospheric. In strong contrast to most RPGs, it isn’t warm, decorative or obviously romantic. It’s brutal. It can be nail-bitingly tense but is not particularly relaxing.

Thumbs up: Amazing graphics and exciting gameplay. My heart was in my mouth as I stealthed around German camps in the dead of night, looking for spare parts for my tank and trying to pick off Nazis quietly without attracting everyone’s attention. The quest lines are clear and well-structured, there was plenty of action and most of the time I was clear what I was supposed to be doing, never having played a war game before.

Thumbs down: It’s an exciting game but it’s also a bit depressing. I loved being drawn into the drama but I also recall how much I enjoy games that offer blue seas, placid beaches, tropical flowers, palm trees and opportunities for quiet solo hunting or even house building and crafting and Battlefield 1 is the wrong place to look for that stuff. War is serious business and is not pretty.

Return to?  I recognise why this is such a Titan of a game. It is beautifully imagined and engineered. It looks great. It works and gives satisfying gameplay. It’s polished and professional. It offers entertainment and drama with a measure of real history. It’s a very macho game and I cannot say when I will return to it, however I acknowledge its many merits and technical accomplishments.

It’s almost August and time for a new Game of the Month! Kick-off on Tuesday, so stay tuned.

In which I waver and have dark moods.

I have been in a funny mood the last couple of days, since about Saturday evening. Irritable, pensive and gloomy. To what shall I attribute it?

  • Could be hormones. I am the right age for swinging hormones, or it could be a time of the month thing or it could be exercise-induced testosterone surges or whatever.
  • Eurgh, I have faulty lights in my house and I have to engage an electrician. If the whole place needs rewiring, it will be very, very expensive, running to thousands of pounds. This is enough to make anyone annoyed and depressed.
  • I went on a carb binge over the weekend because I was just so tired of constantly eating raw vegetables and watching my weight waver within a range of the same two pounds for the last two weeks. I am back on the healthy eating wagon as of this morning. I wrote that sentence and then ate several pieces of Mint Aero with my breakfast smoothie.
  • I want to do demanding exercise classes at my gym but at the same time I am plagued by various allergies and itchy skin right now and I know this is a sign that I’ve run down my immune system instead of boosting it. I need to rest and preserve myself and get my energy up, clear my skin, then resume doing insane classes at the gym where you heave weights around until you pass out.
  • There are certain aspects of work that I find annoying, which I guess is true for everyone. I’m not very patient with bureaucracy.
  • Being in an actual relationship for the first time since 2010 brings its own rewards and challenges. On the rewards side, it is a warm and mutually beneficial social exchange, we are genuinely fond of each other and my house is clean all the time. On the challenges side, I picked someone highly intelligent and observant who notices everything and is very interested in getting to know me. This is unnerving because it is something I haven’t experienced for a long time. Usually, my relationships involve making sure the other person is kept at a distance. We don’t discuss deep, personal topics. I discourage personal remarks and they don’t ask penetrating questions. We keep things light and cheerful. I now realise that I haven’t let anyone get to know me well for several years. I just don’t let people get that close. Also, it’s conceivable that I might be a bit crazy. You don’t notice this as much if you don’t let people in.

So that’s why I’m grumpy today. When I’m in a better mood, I actually have some nice photos to show you, but they will have to wait. Let’s have a tune instead. This is 90s rap artist, Da Brat. In this beautiful video, many famous singers and rappers of the era come together for a party and to see her perform. The vibe is gentle and everyone is happy. For me, the most special and poignant moment is at 1:26, where the late Biggie Smalls, arguably the greatest rapper of all time, arrives with four of his honeys, affectionately holding two of them by the hand. He was always a ladies’ man. Precious moments in rap history. Biggie died of fatal gunshot wounds three years later, in 1997, aged 24. If I could choose between having Princess Diana come back from the dead or Biggie Smalls, I would choose Biggie.

Da Brat: Give It 2 You (1994)

Finally, a definition of “over-exercise”

So, as you know, I have been over-exercising. I can infer this because my hair is shedding in large amounts, my skin is breaking out and I have been unusually exhausted (although, paradoxically, feeling more energetic when awake).

This is very, very annoying, esp the falling hair because I am a woman and I want my hair on my head, not all over the floor. Also, I now can’t get my grey roots dyed until it stops shedding, which could take 2-3 months and I can’t swim because chlorine and swimming caps are hard on your hair.

The thing is, we all know in theory that you shouldn’t over-exercise, but how much is ‘over’? Huh? If I knew that I could have avoided it in the first place. It’s not like I’ve been lifting huge barbells for 8 hours a day or pulling monster trucks with my teeth. I was exercising every day but I didn’t think I was overdoing it, I’m convinced that plenty of athletes and body builders around the world exercise every day and I thought the NHS shared the same view.

OK, so I’ve finally found someone who is willing to specify exactly how much is too much. Shin Ohtake of maxworkouts.com says “When I mean exercising too much, I’m talking at least once a day and for a duration of an hour at minimum doing mostly cardio related activities.” That’s me, isn’t it. I was exercising 7 days/week, for an average of 2 hours, sometimes more, doing mostly cardio, such as vigorously marching up and down hills.

Even more annoyingly, according to Shin, over exercising makes you store and retain fat instead of losing it, which explains why I’ve had no significant weight loss in two weeks.

So, how much exercise should I be doing?

Shin says to stop doing long cardio sessions because it eats away at lean muscle mass and makes you hungry.

Do short (eg 30 minutes), high-intensity workouts instead.

He doesn’t say how many times a week to do this, but I looked up the NHS guidelines and they think that on a weekly basis, 75 minutes of vigorous cardio plus two sessions of resistance exercises is about right.

I would like to keep going to Total Conditioning class at my gym because it is a demanding workout and I feel like I’m getting value for money. That class is about 50 minutes, is certainly vigorous and is mainly strength with some cardio. There’s a second class called Body Pump that sounds similar, hopefully slightly less brutal, so I’m going to try that as well. So that’s my plan for a while. I’m going to take two classes/week at the gym, starting this Monday and in between I’m going to do no exercise at all. We’ll see if that helps. No more 10-mile hikes until further notice.

Thanks for listening to me blathering on. Here’s a tune. Don’t get up and dance. You’ll just wear yourself out.

Iggy Azalea ft. Jennifer Hudson: Trouble (2014)

Brutality at the gym.

Holy Mother of God. Total Conditioning class at the gym last night was the most physically challenging experience I’ve ever had in my life. I was kidding myself if I thought that going on 10 mile walks and lifting a few dumbbells was achieving any significant level of fitness.

We lifted weights. We did 18 different kinds of squats, lunges and crunches, all while holding weights. I thought my heart was going to burst out of my chest. After the class, my legs were shaking so much that I had difficulty walking down the stairs to get to the changing rooms. When I made it, I sat in the changing room for several minutes until I was reasonably sure I wasn’t going to pass out. Then I slowly crept home, like an 80-year-old on an icy road. I ate a huge, protein-heavy chicken salad and fell asleep.

I feel as weak as a kitten today and I am doing nothing today but resting. I was supposed to go out with Harry but I don’t feel I have enough strength in my legs to walk around.

I am still eating very cleanly, I’m not starving hungry. If I want a mid morning or mid afternoon snack, I have one – usually a boiled egg or a couple of rice cakes with plenty of almond or peanut butter. I’m pretty sure I’m getting enough protein, I have protein every time I eat something. All the details of everything that I’m eating are on the Rising Heroes page of this blog, if you are interested. I keep meticulous records every day. I’m drinking at least 1 litre of water every day and I’m taking a multi-vitamin with iron as of right now.

Today is Day 15 of the new health regime, which is long enough to start seeing a difference. I’ve lost some weight. I’ve lost 6 pounds in total. Perhaps rather alarmingly, 5 pounds of that came off in three days. I weighed 163.6 pounds at the start of Day 1, a Tuesday, and by Friday morning of the same week I weighed only 158.6. My weight has been falling at a more moderate pace since then, with small fluctuations. I weighed in at 157.0 this morning, Day 15 (Tuesday again) and I would like to be down to 156 point something by Friday. My goal is only that of losing 1lb a week from now on, I would be happy with that.

My hair is still falling out in large amounts and I’m obviously not happy about it. I can’t see anything wrong with my diet but I might be over-exercising, maybe? I didn’t think I was overdoing it, last night’s class being an unpredictable exception, but I’m going to try to slow it down a bit and exercise on alternate days for a while instead of 7 days/week. I would be panicking right now if I hadn’t seen this before but it happened to me in 2011 when I was at exactly this stage of a quest to lose 33 lbs (which I eventually completed). At that point, I’d lost five pounds, so I was right at the beginning of the journey, and I was going out running every day. My hair was falling out so I slowed down the exercise regime and that seemed to fix it. So that’s why I’m going to cut back on exercise for a while until my body is behaving more normally, even though exercise is every bit as addictive as sugar and I want to be in the gym all the time. Wish me luck for hair recovery.

And that’s all today’s diet and fitness news.

George Romero

We’ve just lost George Romero, a kind, gentle man and a creative genius who single-handedly invented the zombie genre in Western pop culture, one of the most significant, prominent and compelling genres that culture has ever known. I knew that news of his death was coming and yet I can’t believe it. I should be going to bed and instead I am at my desk, sobbing and texting people I haven’t spoken to for years because he is irreplaceable.

He had a spectacular career that spanned my entire lifetime. What will we do without him? I have no answers. George. We will miss you so much.

bub

Dinner.

img_3766

Chicken breast. 2 slices of Swiss cheese (high in protein). Salad with rocket, spinach, golden cherry tomatoes, half a bell pepper, small amount of honey mustard salad dressing. 1 pint of water (not shown).

There will be some sugar in the salad dressing but in general I am doing well at cutting back on sugar. I’m gradually craving it less as time goes by and fruit tastes sweeter, which is a sure sign of my taste buds adjusting.

Scary.

OK, so I realised that I can’t just keep on doing the same exercises over and over at home because I am not a professional athlete or fitness instructor and I’m probably not designing a very complete programme for myself. Also it’s too easy to wuss out of exercises that I don’t like doing, eg who really likes doing crunches or burpees? Eurgh.

That’s why I have just been SUPER BRAVE and signed up for an actual CLASS at my gym tomorrow evening. I am going to do the Total Conditioning class. It sounds terrifying and I am convinced I am going to be the weakest, most unfit person there, but at least I am TRYING. Also, I get all these classes included in my gym membership so I might as well use them, right?

Wish me luck. I am really not kidding about being scared. I am expecting it to be like this. Eurgh. They are even doing push-ups. I hope I make it through without embarrassing myself.

On a positive note, I’ve been working my arms for days and I can feel that I am growing biceps. You can’t see them right now because they are under a layer of fat but when the fat comes off, my arms are going to look amazing. I love strong arms on women, I think they look fantastic. That right there is what we are aiming for. Look at her strong shoulders and back as well. Sexy. I bet she wouldn’t be scared of Total Conditioning class.

biceps