The Big Ask

‘Why don’t you ask her out?’ I’d ask. ‘Don’t you like her?’

‘Like her? I’m nuts about her. I dream about her. She’s beautiful. She’s the kind of woman my mother would never let me go out with. She’s what I watched my roommate Norman screw for four years at BMS. A centerfold.’

‘So why don’t you ask her out?’ 

‘I’m scared she won’t like me and say no.’ 

‘So what? What have you got to lose?’ 

‘The possibility—if she says no—that she might have said yes. Whatever I do, I don’t want to lose that possibility.’
Shem, Samuel. House Of God (Black Swan) (p. 118). Transworld. Kindle Edition.

I’ve been thinking a lot about love lately. It all started with a conversation at lunch. Queenie said she gets annoyed at women who pretend that they didn’t notice someone is into them (while reaping the benefits of it). I interjected and suggested that maybe some of those women really don’t notice that someone is into them. Queenie replied that it’s not possible, it’s obvious when someone is into you. Both Jal and I disagreed, and said we had a hard time telling if someone was into us, or just friendly. Both Queenie and Roger said they found it easy, with Queenie adding that maybe we just struggle because we’re geeks.

After speaking to some other people about it, it’s neither limited to geeks, nor do geeks always struggle. There seems to be a general trend for Team Hard To Tell:

Overanalysis

I’ve definitely been in the situation where I’ve seen two people who are obviously into each other, but neither of them seems to realise it. Why is it easy to see when you’re on the outside? Part of it is probably because you have nothing to lose – you’re just the observer. When it’s happening to you, when you’re the one with skin in the game, then suddenly you feel apprehensive about making a move. Did they say they like the same bands as you because they’re trying to impress you, or because they genuinely just happen to like the same bands? Did they volunteer to help out with an event to spend more time with you, or because they just wanted to help out? Did they take you up to their room, dim the lights, take their clothes off and have sex with you because they like you, or because they’re from Canada and they’re just being polite?

Self-Confidence

Just the idea that someone could be interested in me seemed so alien at one point in my life. Even now, having been with MrFodder for so many years, I still have this fear that one day I’ll wake up to a note on my pillow saying, “Ha ha, it was all a joke. As if anyone could love you. I’m going back to my real wife.” And then an egg flies through the window and smashes into my face. I think Never Been Kissed has forever ruined me. So when it comes to trying to work out if it’s friendly or flirting, I’d side with friendly, because who on Earth would flirt with me?

Risk Aversion

It’s just not worth the risk of losing such a great friendship. Sure, you could ask them out, and maybe there’s a 10% chance they’ll say yes (the low self-confidence thing coming into play). Is that really worth the risk of losing the friendship?

The three things are fairly similar, in that the underlying sentiment is that it’s better to be safe than sorry. But I got an interesting response from Herb:

Herb: emotions are temporary
Herb: attraction is temporary
Herb: being interested in someone is temporary
Herb: like i honestly find it weird
Herb: yes i can have an intense crush on someone
Herb: but that really means nothing
Herb: unless you are that close to them
Herb: and truly know so much about them
Herb: you are attracted to your idea of the person
Herb: the more you know someone
Herb: the more you might realise they are a good match
Herb: but until you actual embark on a relationship
Herb: those feelings are essentially meaningless
Herb: they are just the catalyst to start a relationship
Herb: and if it doesn’t start then w/e
Herb: so just be mature enough when they reject you
Herb: and remember all those crushes in the past that now mean nothing

I wouldn’t say my past crushes mean nothing, as I still sometimes get that jittery feeling when I bump into someone I had feelings for in the past, but I barely ever think about them now. The feelings that seemed all-consuming at the time are a faint blip on my radar. But I think in the grand scheme of things, he’s right. Maybe it’s just a symptom of getting older / working full time, but I barely spend time thinking about old flames, and it’s usually triggered by bumping into them or seeing something that reminds me of them.

Still, the quote at the top from House of God still resonates with me: “The possibility—if she says no—that she might have said yes. Whatever I do, I don’t want to lose that possibility.” I still remember that intoxicating feeling of spending time with your crush, and even if they don’t outwardly say they feel the same way, the fact that they are willing to spend time alone with you deludes you into thinking that maybe they do, and that was enough to keep the possibility alive for me.

Maybe I’m just really slow, but when I have a crush on someone, it tends to last a long time – usually years. I’ve been thinking about what makes it end? Obviously, if it lasts years, it’s probably one-sided, so you’d think at some point I’d have made the conscious decision to give up on it. Nope. I think what typically happens is that someone new comes along and takes centre stage, but since I’ve never actually gotten over the old crush, it can come back to whack me in the face if the new person falls out of the spotlight.

After having a long-term crush fade somewhat recently, it got me thinking about how that actually happened, and I think it’s because I finally realised there were no reciprocal feelings. I opened Schrödinger’s box and discovered whether the cat was alive or dead. It was well and truly dead, and the smell it was giving off made me regret not opening it sooner.

I still don’t know what the secret is to being able to tell whether someone is attracted to you, though the people on Team It’s Obvious seem to have a higher opinion of their own appearance (based on my perception of their opinion of their own appearance), so maybe it’s just easier for them because they have more experience. Though someone pointed out that the might be equally as clueless, because until you actually find out from someone whether they’re into you or not, you never really know for sure. I could walk around thinking that I turn heads everywhere I go, but it’s entirely possible that there’s a fire truck that is following behind me, and everyone is looking at it wondering where the fire is.

However, as the captain of Team Hard to Tell, I have to say that the waiting around hoping your crush will ask you out isn’t worth it in the long run. If I were to give advice to past me, I would say set a deadline (e.g. 6 months – which I know is still a long time, but it’s a lot better than multiple years). After you hit that deadline, it’s time to open the box and move on if required. I think there’s some benefit in waiting for your friendship to mature and to give the chance for the other person to develop reciprocal feelings, but at the end of the day, someone is going to have to make a move, and assuming you’re outside high school, or somewhere really gossipy, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be you. I think most people are mature enough to not hold it over your head if you like them and they don’t like you back*

* Though that might vary depending on the person, so I leave it up to you to decide whether they thrive on the drama and attention or not. As for a guide on how to tell whether they do or not, I can’t help you there, sorry.

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2018: A Year in Review

It’s understandable if you had the impression that I had abandoned this blog, mostly because I pretty much have. I think writing a post every day for a year was pretty exhausting, but also because I’ve taken to writing in my personal journal now instead. I think I originally started my blog because I wanted a way to air out my thoughts, and putting them out there meant that I could get feedback. But the person that I was in 2004 is quite different to the person that I am now. I feel like I have a lot more confidence in myself, and my need for feedback has been greatly reduced.

Still, I think reflecting on a year is still a fun exercise, and I enjoy sharing the things that I’ve learned, the ways in which I’ve grown, and just some cool stuff that other people may not know about, so here’s another yearly review blog post.

I seem to have become somewhat notorious for my new year’s resolutions, and even though my original plan was to build up my first aid skills, it actually pivoted to learning how to sing. I’ve always been ashamed of my singing voice, and felt really uncomfortable singing the national anthem, or even Happy Birthday. For the longest time, I believed that singing ability was just something you were born with, but QC insisted that anyone can learn to sing, and I think hearing her say that in the back of my mind over many, many years finally wore me down, and I signed up for lessons. My singing teacher was so lovely, which is probably the main reason why I stuck with it for as long as I did. She’s this adorable nerdy dork, and she clearly loves what she does. I’m still a terrible singer, but I have a lot more confidence than I did before. I even performed on stage twice!

The other big development in my life was meeting Raichu. Before I go into the story, I want to make it clear that I am not in love with this guy. I feel like I have to say this because I’ve talked to a lot of my friends about meeting him, and the response is usually along the lines of, “Should MrFodder be worried?”

Pharmacist invited me and redbeanpork to a guild dinner organised by one of his former SW:ToR / WoW guild leaders, Raichu (obviously not his real name). He had not met me nor redbeanpork before. I didn’t know anyone else there other than Pharmacist and redbeanpork, and when Pharmacist went to talk to some of his friends, and redbeanpork went to get a drink, Raichu came and sat down next to me. He said, “I’ll just sit here until redbeanpork is back. You’re Fodder, right?” While everyone was wearing a name tag, he couldn’t see redbeanpork’s because he wasn’t there, and he couldn’t see mine because it was on the opposite side of where he was sitting, which meant that he remembered both of our names despite only briefly talking to us when we arrived.

It’s been so long, so I don’t remember what we talked about, but he was really engaging and funny. He introduced me to some of the other people sitting at the table, and got us all talking with each other, where previously, we were all doing the stereotypical nerdy thing of sitting awkwardly at the table. After that, he moved onto the next group of people, and did the same thing.

I was in awe with the way that he interacted with others and I tried to watch him as much as I could throughout the dinner. He was the butt of a lot of jokes, but they were all in good-humour, and it was obvious from the way that people spoke to him, and about him, that everyone respected him a lot. The way he moved from conversation to conversation, inserting himself seamlessly and keeping everyone entertained, is something I’ve always wanted to be able to do. He was the ultimate host.

Michael asked me if I prepare topics of conversation before I meet someone. I don’t do it for him, because I feel like we’re close enough now that I don’t need to, but it’s definitely something that I do with people I’m not so comfortable with. When I bump into acquaintances, or friends I’m not so close with, I often have this moment of panic, “I haven’t prepared anything to talk about!” and then try and find a way to get out of the conversation as quickly as I can. Pharmacist said improv classes help with that, so I took a trial class a couple of months ago, and signed up for some classes next year.

And then the Christmas party happened…

When it comes to parties, I’m probably the type of person who wants to be in the kitchen cutting up lemons, or setting the table. Give me a task and I’ll happily do it. I’m not comfortable with extended small talk. I had no problems putting my hand up to help organise the work Christmas party. Until all the politics kicked in. When it was just my team, organising the work Christmas party was easy, we could do what we wanted. This year, our party merged with another team’s party, and it was hours of  meetings, discussions, arguments professional debates, and approvals. It was tiring, but I could handle it.

The day of the party itself, that was a whole different story. I don’t mean to say this like a brag, but I know a lot of people in the department. I had so many people grabbing me for a quick chat. I think I spoke to close to 200 people that day (in groups, not individually!). I found an excuse to duck back into the office, and I remember sitting at my desk thinking, “I don’t want to go back.” But I couldn’t leave my partner in crime, and fellow organiser behind to do all the packing up himself, so I forced myself to go back – after all, the show ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings (the singing lessons have paid off already!).

The other eye-opening thing for me was the Christmas lunch. Every year, I organise a work Christmas lunch with people who I haven’t seen in a while. There was someone who I really wanted to invite, but I was afraid he would say no. So I invited a bunch of people I knew he liked as a way to entice him to come. He accepted my invitation. Unfortunately, one of those people was a firm believer in “the more the merrier”, and my small 6-person lunch turned into a 24-person lunch. Due to the way in which we were seated, I only had the chance to speak to the one person I wanted to see for about 2 minutes as I was leaving.

I’ve learned two things from the Ghost of Christmas Party, and the Ghost of Christmas Lunch (I wonder who the third Christmas ghost was):

  • I’m never going to be Raichu. I’m sure I could bust my ass, and go to improv classes, and toastmaster classes, and maybe even pick-up artist classes in a huge effort to learn the art of charm. But it’s a huge gamble to think that I’d even like it in the end. Based on past experience, I don’t enjoy being the life of the party-type person, and neither my job nor my hobbies require me to be that kind of person. Do I really want to put in so much effort to develop a skill that I hate using?
  • “No” is not a bad answer. There are so many books and classes about “Getting to Yes“, and while that particular book has some good advice (work out what you are and aren’t willing to negotiate on), I don’t always need to get a “yes” out of someone. If that person didn’t want to have lunch with me, that’s OK. It’s not really a personal attack on me – maybe he doesn’t enjoy my company as much as I enjoy his.
    • I definitely feel that way about some people, and it’s not because they’re not great people, it’s just because we don’t click as much as I do with others. There are some people whose company I enjoy across a wide variety of situations, and some people whose company is very situational for me.
    • I could spend a lot of effort trying to get a “yes” out of this person, or I could spend a lot less effort getting a “yes” out of someone who actually wants to spend time with me.
    • That being said, maybe over time I could become better friends with him and it wouldn’t be so hard to get a yes, but I think in my old age, I’ve started to settle on a core group of friends, and I’m OK with that. Life isn’t a popularity contest and your self-worth isn’t measured in the number of friends you have or the number of people who like you.

So all of that was a really roundabout way to cop-out of my super host resolution. I think my resolutions over the past few years have been mostly with the aim to be more “normal”. But I think I’m starting to feel more comfortable being “peculiar”. Part of why I wanted to be normal was because I always felt like the characters I imagined in my head were too weird, and if I ever wrote a book, they would be dismissed for being unrealistic. However, in the last bit of writing I did, none of the feedback I got was about that. I do still feel like my dialogue is too stilted, and I have been paying a lot of attention to conversations lately, but I think I’m ready.

I’ve mentioned this a few times already, and it has gone on the backburner, but I think 2019 is the year I start seriously trying to write a book. Even if it means a mad rush during NaNoWriMo, I’m going to give it a shot!

(As a side tangent, I told someone about signing up for improv classes and his response was, “There are only about 4 people who are good at improv (he listed a bunch of people I don’t remember and Stephen Colbert). Nobody else can get on their level, so there’s no point in even trying.” I didn’t have the courage to say it out loud, but I thought to myself, “Were you even listening to the story about Raichu and wanting to get better at talking to people? And also, you don’t need to be the best at the world in something to want to do it!” I actually thought I would hate improv, but I think it was the first time in my life I tried something new and found I was naturally good at it. Obviously not Colbert-level good, or even performance-ready good, but it felt comfortable, and I didn’t walk out thinking, “Wow, I really suck at this, I’ve got a long way to go.”)

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2018 AMD Dota 2 Pro Series by Convictus eSports Group

It’s not every day we get a huge Dota 2 tournament in Melbourne, so of course it was something I had to mark in my calendar: the AMD Dota 2 Pro series, run by Convictus eSports Group. The total prize pool was $50,000 (AUD), which isn’t TI levels of money that you can retire on, but it’s by far the largest prize pool in the Australian Dota 2 scene. Despite being held all the way over here, the team list was nothing to sneeze at, featuring both this year’s TI winners, OG, and Kpii’s new team, Mineski.

I’ll admit, I was really excited to see Kpii live!

The Production

The quality of the production at this tournament was more better than I expected. Full disclosure, this is the first time I’ve spectated a Dota 2 tournament live, so I don’t have much to compare to. I’m more of a player than a spectator, and generally only watch TI and occasionally a major. So to be honest, I wasn’t expecting much – maybe something like the Mara Cup (YouTube video) they showcased this year at TI where it’s just some fans sitting and watching the players play.

There were booths for the players, they had high-profile casters, and even SirActionSlacks as one of the hosts! Prior to the tournament, Danog, Rangers and DareDevilDota showed Slacks around Melbourne, and they filmed some segments of them doing various things, including going to a water park which I really want to go to now! I think Slacks was a really good sport about everything they had him do – including a shoey. I’d never heard of a shoey before, and I learned something about Australian culture that I didn’t really want to know… I won’t describe it, in case you also lived in blissful ignorance like I did, but if you want to see it, here’s a clip from Twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/convictus_esports/clip/FitPoisedLapwingANELE

There was also a tech booth outside the conference room, where you could check out and / or buy stuff between games.

They also organised player signing sessions and Q&As, but I didn’t get a chance to check them out as I was watching games.

People who bought VIP tickets also got a showbag.

 

There was also a water bottle, but I must have lost mine. In case you can’t see from the tiny picture, there was a mousepad, two T-shirts (one from Convictus esports Group (size M) and one from AMD (size XL)), a flashlight keyring, pen and phone ring stand thing. VIP ticket holders also got the chance to meet OG backstage!

The Games

The games themselves were really great to watch. I didn’t expect to be able to spend most of a day watching Dota 2, but other than a break for lunch and one for dinner, I was riveted. The quality of the games was really high and all of the teams played their hearts out. There were a lot of aggressive plays, and all of the games were quite action-packed. I’m sure most people were surprised to see OG drop to the lower bracket, but they managed to hold out through the elimination rounds until the semi-finals against Newbee.MGB. They won the first game, but Newbee.MGB seemed to find their stride, and dominated the final two games, taking them to the grand final (Dotabuff link for the series: https://www.dotabuff.com/esports/series/1499502-unknown-vs-mineski). They continued that streak, confidently winning the first two games of the best-of-5 grand final against Mineski, and I was pretty crushed going in to watch game 3.

It didn’t help that Mineski then gave up Grimstroke, which Newbee.MGB had shown themselves to be really strong with all tournament. But Mineski seemed to have woken up, and did really well in game 3. Watching that game made me so happy, because it’s so nice to see Shadow Shaman have such a strong impact. Kpii also did so well on Brewmaster, getting so many good stuns and cyclones with his pandas. Checkout this fight: https://www.dotabuff.com/clips/mineski-trades-4-for-2-4262233447-726435df0edf

Unfortunately, about 32 minutes into the game, another DDoS attack seemed to hit, and the casters’ connection cut out. From the spectator point of view, it seemed to go to a black screen, and then suddenly, “MINESKI VICTORY” appeared. I went back to watch the replay, and Mineski took a really good fight near the Dire secret shop, with some great Wyvern cold embraces protecting the team against Troll Warlord. Cat you ended up calling GG.

It wouldn’t be a grand final without a divine rapier or two! Phew, I nearly cried when JiaJia’s Luna managed to wipe Mineski while defending her base. You can see it pretty clearly on the gold graph.

Fortunately, JT’s amazing Morphling plays keep them in the game, they manage to grab one of the rapiers, and even though Luna manages to farm up a second one, it’s not enough to stop the Mineski train, and we fortunately get a game 5.

When Mineski last picked Tinker, I groaned a little inside. You have to understand, that it was around 11pm by this point, and the tournament started at 9am, so it was a long day – and I wasn’t even the one playing. Fortunately, the game wasn’t your typical Tinker snorefest, and ended up being the most exciting. There was a lot of back and forth, as you can see from the networth graph.

Despite the late hour, I wasn’t feeling sleepy at all, it was an edge-of-your-seat game. I really thought Newbee.MGB were going to take it, but Tinker’s buyback to save the base made it too hard for them to push in. It was a grand finish at the end: https://www.dotabuff.com/clips/mineski-teamwipes-newbee-mgb-4262448841-0e572d6d6808

The Memes

And what kind of Dota 2 tournament would it be without its memes?

Shoey

I think I covered that earlier. I still think it’s gross, but it became a meme.

Glen (Glenn?)

As I mentioned earlier, the tournament suffered from some DDoS attacks, causing either the casters’ connection to drop out, or the game to lag out completely (https://www.twitch.tv/convictus_esports/clip/AgileBlindingCobblerImGlitch). It seemed better by the second day, with the players being able to play on most of the time, but there were quite a few pauses throughout the day. Mish and Slacks did a great job keeping the audience entertained, but Glen became an unofficial hero, as the Internet connection seemed to get fixed whenever he got up on stage. MLP ended up giving him a tie signed by OG as thanks.

Slacks (left), Glen and Mish

The anime mousepads

There were a few AMD giveaways throughout the tournament, including I think CPUs and graphics cards, but nothing was more coveted than what Slacks was alternatively calling the “anime mousepads” or the “weeb mousepads”.

The famous AMD anime mousepad

There were a few competitions to win one, including: singing, answering questions about Sailor Moon, acting out iconic Australian movie scenes. One guy one a graphics card, but decided he wanted to swap it for the “second place” prize: the anime mousepad. That shows you the true value!

Box Hill

OG.Jerax’s flight didn’t land until after the first day of the tournament was due to finish, so one of OG.Ana’s friends stepped in to save the day. A previously unknown player, who for some reason chose the somewhat sketchy Melbournian suburb of Box Hill as his gamer name got to play with some of the biggest names in Dota 2, and he really held his own. It’s true that OG did drop down to the lower bracket, but he played amazingly well to keep them in the tournament. Unfortunately, as Jerax was back for the second day, he had to get benched, but he will always be in our memories.

I really hope he does manage to get on a team after this.

I’m fat

Being in front of a mic when you signed up for it is hard enough, so I can’t imagine the pressure you’re under when you have a mic shoved in front of you. Kinda rough to answer the question, “Tell us something about yourself” with “I’m fat”, but it can happen: https://www.twitch.tv/convictus_esports/clip/KindSmallShingleNerfRedBlaster

I thought it was endearing.

Conclusion

Personally, I had a great time. Sure, the DDoS pauses were annoying, but I think Slacks in particular kept things going. Oh, how could I miss mentioning the AMD rep (whose name was Adam, I think… or Matt or Mark…), he was funny. Celebrity Heads Dota was fun.

With the audience response to “Am I an agility hero?” about SirActionSlacks a resounding, “No!” Poor guy. I think he did well at the water park obstacle course, he deserves to be an AGI hero! In my brief sojourn as a caster, we had a situation where the game was paused for a long time, and it’s really hard to fill in that void with chatter. I have a lot of respect for Mish and Slacks doing such a great job keeping people’s spirits up.

It was also fortunate that they had the Slacks in Melbourne videos to play.

Overall, the games were fun to watch, and I’m glad there was a chance for some up-and-coming teams to show off their skills. It’d be nice to see more Australian Dota 2 players around, and even though I’m well past even considering a professional Dota 2 career, I want to see eSports in Australia grow in general.

Maybe so I don’t have to sheepishly admit to my co-workers that I’ve logged 4500 hours in the game.

 

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Vegan vs Non-Vegan: Choc-Chip Cookie

The latest in my battle with Jal about whether vegan food is disgusting or not. We realised we were both trying to argue different points: I wanted to prove that vegan food can be as good, if not better, than non-vegan food, and he believes that adding “vegan” to anything is just a sign to say it’s going to be horrible.

This experiment pits the Serious Eats Choc Chip Cookie recipe against America’s Test Kitchen’s Vegan Choc Chip Cookie recipe. A quick comparison of the ingredients:

Non-vegan:

  • butter
  • ice
  • flour
  • baking soda
  • salt
  • white sugar
  • brown sugar
  • eggs
  • vanilla extract
  • choc chips
Vegan:
  • flour
  • baking powder
  • baking soda
  • salt
  • light brown sugar
  • coconut oil
  • water
  • almond butter
  • vanilla extract
  • choc-chips
Unfortunately, the addition of the almond butter (I couldn’t find that, but did find almond spread at our local supermarket) meant that the cookie was not redbeanpork-friendly.
Anyway, I did the usual experiment set-up, and here are the results:
Non-vegan: 3
Vegan: 10
Both: 1
In a surprising sweep, the vegan cookies won by a large margin. I was surprised because I think the Serious Eats choc-chip recipe is my current favourite, and I’m always on the look-out for better choc-chip cookies. It’s one of the few foods that I will nearly always try even if it contains dairy / egg (the only thing that would stop me was if it had peanuts).

I proudly showed the results to Jal who said that the addition of almonds changed the flavour of the cookie, and it’s likely that people just liked the taste of almonds, and that is what made them better. He said I had to make one without the use of almonds. I asked if this was going to turn into a no true scotsman fallacy eventually, but in hindsight, I don’t think that’s right. Maybe moving goalposts, but maybe that’s not right either. 

He conceded the point that at least for choc-chip cookies, a vegan version could pass, but said that in order for him to accept my vegan choc-chip cookie, I had to make a nut-free version, as nuts are a common allergy. It is possible that the results could be biased by people who have nut allergies not being able to take part.
Still, my vegan co-worker was pretty happy with the cookie, and for the first time since I met him, he sent me a message over IM with rainbow emoji thanking me for the cookie.
In other cookie-baking news, we had another housewarming and Captain challenged me to another cookie bake-off. I beat him with the same vegan cookies, so the next challenge is Singapore noodles. Eggy also challenged me to make a decent sugar-free cookie. And redbeanpork challenged me to make a decent vegan gay time ice-cream. So many challenges, so little time!
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How Now Brownie Cow

It all started with IP. The conversation turned to vegan food, and as usually happens, someone will eventually say that vegan food is a waste of calories and inferior to non-vegan food. I think the vegan brownies I make aren’t that bad, and usually have people going for seconds, or thirds, so I thought maybe I could complete against a non-vegan brownie.

I’ve never made non-vegan brownies before, and my first attempt was a disaster (tried to do a full batch in a smaller baking tin, and the outside burned before the inside was cooked (even considering brownies are meant to be undercooked in the middle). I made a half-batch and it turned out much better.

Vegan brownie recipe: http://www.veganbaking.net/recipes/brownies-and-bars/brownies/ultimate-brownies

Non-vegan brownie recipe: https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2018/02/bravetart-glossy-fudge-brownies.html

Anyway, the usual set-up, plate A was the vegan one, and plate B was the non-vegan one. I also put one each on IP’s desk to make sure he’d get his own sample, as well as Jal, because he’s my new experiment design consultant, and I wanted to know what he thought.

I didn’t want to bias the results by asking people to guess which one was the vegan one, and I thought it wouldn’t matter whether they knew or not (is that unethical?) as long as they were judging based on taste. But I asked Jal and IP to guess which was the vegan one. Jal picked B almost right away, saying that he figured the better tasting one would be the non-vegan one. IP said he had an idea, but wanted to know what the ingredients were for each before guessing (as in, he wanted me to tell him the ingredients of the vegan and non-vegan brownies, without telling him which is which). He picked B as well.

As for the taste test part, B won quite convincingly.

9 votes for A
23 votes for B
1 vote for both

One person even wrote this on their vote:

It looks like the people have spoken: vegan isn’t as good as non-vegan. Or maybe I have to continue my search for a vegan brownie recipe.

I wish I had put more thought into trying to get a scale out of the experiment, rather than a binary A vs B result, so I could tell just how bad the vegan brownie was compared to the non-vegan one. I found out who wrote the vote above, and he said that B was easily superior to A, so I’m guessing they were quite far apart in quality levels.

As I found with my number guessing experiment, people don’t follow complex instructions, so making the set-up too complicated results in a poor response rate (and the food being eaten for nothing!).

What I also find interesting with these experiments is that the food is usually all gone by lunchtime. I put out 50 brownie pieces, but only ended up getting 33 votes. Where did 17 of the votes go?

Posted in experiments, Food and drink | Leave a comment

Bottled Up for a Week – the Messages

My last two posts on this topic can be found here:
Bottled Up for a Week – Intro and Sending
Bottled Up for a Week – Receiving

So you can live through what I lived there, below is a list of all the messages I recorded, as well as my comments on why I accepted or rejected them. As I knew I’d be uninstalling the app, on the last day (days are separated by black lines), I recorded whether I would have accepted or rejected them, but rejected them all so someone else could get them.

I mentioned in my last post what worked, and here’s a small summary of what didn’t work (for me, personally):

  • short, “nothing” messages, like, “Hi”, or just emojis, without something captivating in their bio
  • quotes / song lyrics, without any explanation for why they chose to put that in their message
  • messages that sounded desperate / overly clingy, e.g.
    • Friends means life ………can u be my life :) :)
    • I love you so much (heart emoji)
    • Hey
      I would love to yours till you disown me !
      and Then !!!
      I would still be yours till I disown myself !
      And then !!!
      I am yours forever
  • messages telling me that I’m beautiful / amazing, which they can’t possibly know, because we haven’t met yet
The above picture is a word cloud of all the messages I received.
Below is a word cloud of all of my responses.
I couldn’t find a nice way to format all the messages, so I’ll just link to a Google sheets spreadsheet instead:
Just as a reminder, before you criticise my decisions and say you would have accepted people I rejected, this is my own personal preference for the kind of people I enjoy talking to.
Posted in dating, experiments, Relationships | Leave a comment

Bottled Up for a Week – Receiving

(This is quite long, so if you only want to know what I think worked, there’s a TL;DR at the end.)

As I mentioned in my last post on the app Bottled, I started recording the messages I received in the app, and added some comments about why I chose to toss or keep the bottle (which I’ll post in my next post, with names redacted). Why did I want to do this? Mostly because I’ve heard from my male friends that it’s ridiculously hard to meet someone as a male on a dating app like Tinder. I wanted to see what it was like (though Bottled is not a dating app!), but I also wanted to see if I could narrow down what kind of messages were more or less successful.

Please do not take this as a generalisation on what a good message looks like! This is what I personally found worked / didn’t work. Different people are going to prefer different styles of messages, so it really depends on what you are looking for. I was looking for someone to chat with to learn about new cultures (as I am married), but I tried to keep a dating mindset in the back of my mind while doing this, for the sake of this experiment. Personally, there’s not much difference to me when it comes to someone I enjoy talking to, and someone I’d want to date.

Also, keep in mind that other than choosing an age range and a gender preference (and a country if you buy a specific item), you can’t choose who your message goes to. So it’s not like people were picking me because I had a super gorgeous photo up or anything like that.

I also incorrectly thought that people seeking friendship would only get matched with other people seeking friendship, and I was completely wrong – it seems that the app will match you with people from any setting.

When it came to replying, I tried to keep a few things in mind. A lot of my friends complained that the burden of conversation mostly fell to the guy. He had to come up with a witty opening, if the conversation died, he had to pick it back up, and more often than not, if the girl did open with a message first, it would just be “hey”, so the burden still remained on his side (if he also replied with, “hey”, the conversation would be left to languish). I tried my best to hold up my share of the conversation burden, despite being horribly cringeworthy and overly perky.

I only started recording messages partway through the first day, but of the four messages I recorded, I kept three of them. At this stage, nobody had kept my bottles, so I had nobody to chat with. Other than the guy who asked for nudes, I kept all the bottles that I received. Of particular note was A_France_26_M_Pirate (I’ve given nicknames to all the people I’ll mention in detail, so you can cross reference with my giant spreadsheet tomorrow, the first character is the first letter of their username, the second part is their country, the third their age (if they specified it), the fourth is their gender, and the last is what kind of hat they chose to wear).

A_France_26_M_Pirate had a very generic nothing message, “Im lonely on that beach… Would you join me to talk a bit ?”, and I don’t remember anything noteworthy in his bio, but I mentioned I played computer games. Despite the time difference, he replied almost instantly and we had a conversation going. It probably helped that we had a lot in common, so the conversation flowed quite easily. Being a pirate, he hinted that he wanted to see pictures of me, but I made it 100% clear that there was no chance of that. He didn’t seem to mind, and never brought it up again.
At this stage, I was trying to keep every bottle I received, except the ones where the person asked not to (e.g. only keep this if you want to sext / be my girlfriend), or I didn’t understand the message. I very quickly built up a series of conversations, and the bottles didn’t stop coming.
I didn’t expect my conversation with D_Serbia_20_M_Pirate to pan out, but when I saw that his profile picture was a picture of Snoop Dogg, that opened up the conversation. I started to have a pretty intense conversation with R_UnitedKingdom_36_M_Pirate about MMOs, with c_Germany_blank_M_Pirate about food, D_Egypt_23_M_Sailor about The Godfather, and I was still talking to Receiver#1 about management games.
I think what helped these conversations flow were:
  • we had common interests we could talk about
  • most of the responses were fairly in-depth, so it wasn’t just something like:
    Me: Do you think Don Corleone was a bad guy in the end?
    Him: NoInstead, he spoke about the nuances of the characters, and we were able to have some back and forth discussion.
  • the conversations weren’t heavily one-sided, with one person asking all the questions or one person doing all the talking. It felt like both people were engaged in the conversation, and both people were participating equally.
  • the conversations I enjoyed more were light and funny, but even the ones that weren’t were interesting, with the other person wanting to share things about themselves, and learn things about me.
Pretty soon, my good intentions crumbled, and I started filtering bottles where I felt the person put in a low amount of effort: message was just “hi”, or some text copy+pasted from a song / famous quote. I felt pretty terrible about it, as I still remembered that feeling of having my bottle rejected, but I justified it to myself by saying that it’s better that I have fewer quality conversations than many low-quality conversations.
Not long after, my principles crumbled even further. Since I do have a full time job (believe it or not), I left bottled for before work and before bed (with the exception of A_France_26_M_Pirate who I ended up adding on Discord and messaging throughout the day). Trying to balance reading new messages, with keeping up active conversations, with trying to get some sleep became incredibly difficult. So my criteria for keeping bottles went up. Bottles that I would have kept had I seen them earlier in my journey were being tossed back into the ocean. I became scathingly critical of people’s bios(which makes me a huge hypocrite, because in the entire time I was using the app, I never uploaded a photo of myself, nor filled out my bio).
I couldn’t keep up. I’d go to bed with 20 bottles still in my queue, and eventually dread opening the app again, because I’d feel bad seeing even more bottles waiting. At this point, I decided it wasn’t worth it, and said I’d continue until the end of the week for the sake of this experiment, but I’d uninstall the app after that. For my last day with the app, I noted down all the bottles I would have kept, and wrote the reason why, but tossed them all back into the ocean for someone else to find.
Personally, I hated those messages that said things like, “You’re beautiful and amazing, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.” You know nothing about me, how could you possibly say something like that and mean it? I can see that they’re just trying to be positive, but it just felt fake to me.
A common complaint I see on reddit is from guys saying, “Why don’t women just respond and give us a chance? It doesn’t take any effort, and they might end up finding someone they connect with.” I can understand that sentiment, and if I had received A_France_26_M_Pirate’s message on day 2, he would have been rejected and I would have missed out on many great conversations.
But now I have an understanding of the other side of the coin – it is impossible to maintain existing conversations and also go through the sheer number of new messages, and have some semblance of a life. It took me over an hour to filter through my new messages each day (and I didn’t even do all of them). To some extent, I was almost relieved to see a message asking for pics, because it meant I could reject it without having to mull over whether or not I wanted to start a conversation. Plus, some of the conversations were hard to keep up, and so there was also the aspect of weighing up the risk of getting someone who would be a drag to talk to.
I tried, I really did. Every time I tossed one of those borderline messages into the ocean, I pictured one of my single, male friends saying, “F@#$ you, why didn’t you give me a chance?” (even though none of them would). I can understand why these apps are stressful now, and I didn’t even get any dick pics, and barely any requests for nudes.

Stats

Number of bottles received

170

Hat distribution

# %
Sailor 43 25.29411765
Treasure Hunter 40 23.52941176
Pirate 87 51.17647059

Gender distribution

# %
Male 154 90.58823529
Female 16 9.411764706

Country

# %
India 45 26.471
France 16 9.412
United States 10 5.882
Germany 7 4.118
Morocco 7 4.118
Brazil 6 3.529
Egypt 6 3.529
Portugal 6 3.529
Turkey 6 3.529
Canada 5 2.941
Netherlands 4 2.353
Russia 4 2.353
United Kingdom 4 2.353
Pakistan 3 1.765
Sri Lanka 3 1.765
Switzerland 3 1.765
Iraq 3 1.765
Algeria 2 1.176
Belgium 2 1.176
Finland 2 1.176
Italy 2 1.176
South Africa 2 1.176
Argentina 1 0.588
Austria 1 0.588
Bangladesh 1 0.588
China 1 0.588
Ghana 1 0.588
Greece 1 0.588
Hungary 1 0.588
Indonesia 1 0.588
Japan 1 0.588
Mexico 1 0.588
Moldova 1 0.588
Poland 1 0.588
Romania 1 0.588
Serbia 1 0.588
Singapore 1 0.588
Spain 1 0.588
Sweden 1 0.588
Thailand 1 0.588
Tunisia 1 0.588
United Arab Emirates 1 0.588
Uruguay 1 0.588
Vietnam 1 0.588

Age range

# %
17-20 41 24.11764706
21-25 56 32.94117647
26-30 40 23.52941176
31-35 14 8.235294118
36-40 8 4.705882353
41-45 1 0.5882352941
46-50 2 1.176470588
51-55 0 0
56-60 0 0

Result

# %
Kept 47 27.64705882
Tossed 119 70
Reported 2 1.176470588

TL;DR What worked?

Messages that made it easier to reply to were a lot more likely to be kept. Ask an open-ended question, or list some of your interests.
Messages that explicitly stated what you wanted made it easier to decide how to respond. If you only want something sexual, say it outright. You may have a lower response rate, but at least you know if someone responds, they’re going to give you what you want, which will save you time in the long run.
Again, I’ll say I’m a hypocrite for saying this, but put something in your bio! There were some messages that I was going to reject until I read their bio and found something to connect with.

 

Posted in dating, experiments, Relationships | 1 Comment

Bottled Up for a Week – Intro and Sending

I saw Bottled in the Google Play store, and it sounded interesting. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I tried the app Hello Talk, where you specify the language(s) you speak, and the language you are trying to learn, and it lists people who are the opposite, so you can help each other lean a new language. My French vocabulary was tiny, so most of the conversations died after I told them that I live in Australia and I want to learn to speak French. I did learn some cool things about Nice and Marseilles, and I met a really nice guy from Canada who shared cooking photos with me.

I wanted to give Bottled a shot, because it would remove the language barrier, and still let me learn things about people from other cultures. How the app works is that you write a message and put it in a virtual bottle to send to someone random. You can specify the preferred gender and age range for your recipient, and there’s an item that lets you pick a country, but that’s about all you can control with regards to who gets your bottles.

You can also customise your profile, firstly by defining what you want to get from the app. There are three types of hats you can wear, Sailor (Here to make friends, discover new cultures, learn and share), Treasure Hunter (Roaming the Oceans, searching for the rare gem, your special someone), and Pirate (Here for fun, not really knowing what you are looking for, but always with good intention). I chose Sailor, and I didn’t realise that you could still get matched with Treasure Hunters and Pirates, despite being only a sailor. I also goofed and confused the pirate hat with the treasure hunter hat for the first couple of days.

Once you receive a bottle, you can decide to release it for someone else to find, or keep it, which opens a chat window with the sender and you can exchange messages. To help lure people in, you can edit your bio to add more information, as well as add a photo, however, unless the person has a telescope, the photos are tiny.

To prevent spam, you get a treasure chest every couple of hours, which has the chance to contain a bottle of rum. These bottles are emptied and used to send out your messages. Someone I met said that you can get about 20-30 bottles per day if you’re on it all the time (you can only have a max of two chests at a time, so you need to keep opening the app to open your chests). The devs also started that you’ll only receive a bottle if you’ve been on in the last 24 hours.

There’s a reputation system in the game, and you get 1 point every time someone keeps one of your bottles. You can also gift people items which gives them more points. You start with 20 rep, and it’s displayed on your profile. If your reputation gets too low, you can get banned from the app. I think the only way to lose rep is for people to report your messages. redbeanpork wanted me to report this message, but I thought that would be too mean.

Since I’ve had a few discussions about dating apps, and what kind of messages / profiles work best, I thought I’d document my adventure in Bottled. It’s a lot of information, so I’ll break it up over a few posts, and at the end, I’ll post a record of all the messages I received (with names redacted), along with my comments about why I rejected / accepted them.

Keep in mind, this is my own personal preference! Don’t take my comments as an indication of how everyone else is going to behave. My main intention was to meet new people and learn about different cultures, not to find someone to start a relationship / have sex with. But in my case, it’s the same thing, as I can’t imagine starting a relationship with someone I can’t have a decent conversation with, and I can’t imagine having a decent conversation with someone who I don’t find interesting.

I tried to err on the side of chatting to people if I was unsure whether or not to talk to them, because a few of my friends have said that being on a dating app as a guy is really tough, since you almost never get matches, and you have to do all the work of initiating conversation. I will go over that a bit more in my next post.

————————–

First, I’ll start with my adventures in sending messages, since it’s nice and short. In total, I sent 4 messages. The app actually gives you a tip saying not to send a message that just says, “Hi”, since you’re less likely to get a response.

The first message I sent was:

Hi,

You’ve received my first bottle! Hopefully it’s interesting enough for you to reply. 

I spent far too long thinking of a good username, and then I thought: I’ve never been an early enough user that I’ve been able to get a short name.

What’s the story behind your username?

It was sent to Mexico. Given the time difference, I didn’t expect them to open it any time soon, but I got another couple of empty bottles, and wrote a couple more messages:

If you were washed up on an island and you were dying, what would you write in your bottle?

 

Hi,

I’m from Australia, and it’s yet another hot night. I’m trying to think what would be an interesting fact to tell someone from somewhere else about Australia, and the best that I can come up with is this: 

We had a Prime Minister called Harold Holt who was lost at sea. In Melbourne, there’s a swimming pool dedicated to him. 

What’s your interesting fact?

Then I went to sleep.

In the morning, I got a notification saying that my potential Mexican friend had opened my bottle…. and tossed it back into the sea, along to Germany.

To say I was crushed was an understatement. I’d had the app for about 8 hours and I had already been rejected! My other two bottles remained unopened. I did read a few reviews from people saying that they only got a couple of bottles after a week of having the app, so I was pretty surprised when I saw three bottles sitting at my island. I hadn’t yet decided to document all the messages at this point, so my first few messages went unrecorded, but I did take a screenshot of one of them:

My 45-year-old co-worker said she still gets stuff like this when she uses dating apps, so I’m unsurprised that I got one. But it was the first time someone outside of a game had asked me for nudes, so that’s a milestone, I guess? I don’t remember why I rejected the other two bottles.

Considering my failed attempt to captivate anyone’s attention, I tried a different tact with my message:

Hi,

I’m from Australia and I like movies, food and computer games. How about you? What do you like to do to pass the time?

This one ended up getting rejected 3 times, until finally, Receiver#1, a 20-year-old male from France, made my day by opening my bottle.

Hey I’m from France and I like computer games and food just like you do. Moreover I love making good meal for myself and making my own video games.

I was so happy! We messaged back and forth for a bit, and it turns out he also likes management / simulation games. We’ve both played Cities: Skylines and he recommended a couple of other games for me to try: Rimworld, and Airport CEO, which is kinda scary, because both games are on my Steam wishlist…

He made me incredibly jealous with the food he was eating, and really made me miss being in France. He’s currently studying, and also happens to be a writer, though he was doing a class on French literature, and other than Le Petit Prince, I didn’t have much to contribute to that discussion. The time difference made it a bit hard to have a flowing conversation, but to be honest, I preferred it that way, as it wasn’t a demanding friendship. He’d reply while I was asleep, and I’d reply while he was asleep. It was nice and low-key.

Receiver#1 was the only person to open one of my bottles, but to be honest, after the first day, I didn’t really have time to send out any other bottles.

Here’s what my screen looked like when I woke up on day 2…

Note: You can’t even open the chests when your screen is full of bottles, so I wasn’t able to get any new empty bottles anyway…

To be continued!

Posted in dating, experiments, friendship | 1 Comment

Read It For the Articles

This one is for redbeanpork’s withdrawl symptoms.

I can’t remember if I mentioned why I’m taking a break from writing, but it’s because I want to start writing a book. To help transition from writing blog posts to writing longer-form style things, I’ve been writing long-short stories (novellas?), and I’ve been playing around with Scrivener to see if it suits my workflow. It’s pretty cool, since it lets you write your story as a series of plot points, and then you can go back and flesh things out.

You can also re-organise chapters really easily. It’s weird, because when I was doing English at school, I hated writing outlines, as I thought it was a waste of time. I just wanted to jump right into writing, and spending 15 minutes putting together an outline felt like it was eating into my writing time. Still, I did it because I could never disobey a teacher, and even though I haven’t kept up the habit when writing blog posts, I found it really helpful when starting this story.

What I think is really cool is that you can export your story into a PDF in pretty novel format.

Anyway, as the current story I’m writing is mostly an in-joke, MrMoustache challenged me to write a story, and suggested an erotic story. So in my typical course of action, I decided to do some research. Captain and I went on a journey to find a book to read for research purposes. Our first course of action was to try and find one of those famous Mills and Boon novels, so we tried one of the bookstores in the CBD. They had a romance section, that was oddly bundled with the horror section.

But we played a fun game called, “Guess whether this book is horror or romance?” based on the cover. The sad part is that even after reading the blurb, we still couldn’t work out if it was horror or romance. Captain blames the Twilight series. We had no luck, and the cashier said they don’t stock M&B novels. Though he did tell us that only the first three shelves have romance novels. So all the books we picked up were horror.

So we moved onto another bookstore, and there was a huge wall of romance novels. Funnily enough, it had a sign saying, “Please treat the books gently, as we are finding a lot of books with broken spines”, which I’m taking to mean a lot of people will read the books and then put them back without buying them. Who wants to be see carrying a romance novel on the train, right?

Well, that inspired Captain, who challenged me to read one of these books shamelessly in the office. And so began the search for the perfect book to read. I should have taken a photo of the shelves, because it seemed like every book was a New York Times bestseller, or had a review by a NYT bestseller, so they could print the words “New York Times bestseller” somewhere on the cover. Of course, not all the books were bestsellers, some were just buy authors who were bestsellers. Anyway, Captain was dubious so he looked it up, and it seems NYT bestseller isn’t really much to cry home about as there is a lot of criticism about which books make the list.

After much deliberation, and some advice from some random person who suggested I sample the first few pages, Captain and I settled on a book that looked like a romance book, but wasn’t too seedy to read in the office (some of them had people making out on the cover). He then challenged me to look the cashier in the eyes with authority while buying the book. The cashier wouldn’t make eye contact with me. SadFace.

It wasn’t all that embarrassing reading the book. The cover isn’t that conspicuous, and for the most part, it seems like a regular novel. Except every time there was a sex scene, or one of the characters was giving a physical description of one of the other characters, it felt like the only thing on the pages were four letters. Two on each page: CO-CK in giant letters, and everyone could see it and know what I was reading. I’m normally a fast reader, but I think while reading this book, my reading speed was twice what it normally is. Thankfully, I only spent one shameful lunch time with this book in my hands, as people were more interested in catching up after the break to ask me about the book I’m reading.

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The Yearly With Fodder

It’s been a wild ride, and now it is time for it to end.

I smashed my previous consecutive blog streak of 120, with my final number being 365. I don’t intend on blogging tomorrow, and I’m happy for the streak to die out – to be honest, it’s a relief, more than anything else. I did kinda cheat, pre-writing some of the blog posts, to make up for the days in which I wouldn’t have time to write / wouldn’t have internet access, but such is life when you’re working full time and trying to do other things, too.

I’ve been asked by a lot of people why I wanted to do this. The biggest part was just the challenge – to see if I could. As MrFodder says, I’m the Queen of high effort, low reward activities, and this is definitely one of those, at least on the face of it. I combined this with my challenge to spend at least $400 a month on non-necessities (i.e. not counting rent and bills and stuff), and the idea behind it was to push myself to do things that I wouldn’t normally do – things that I either considered “not my thing” or things that I normally wouldn’t want to spend money on. I’ve always thought that people tend to settle in their favourite spot on the couch, and they’ll yell at the TV screen how X player is the worst in the world and that they could do better.

But if you’re just sitting on the couch, you don’t understand what it’s like to be in X’s shoes. There are so many perspectives other than yours, and unless you push yourself to try something different, you’ll be forever stuck in that part of the couch that has moulded itself around your ass, and not grow as a person.

Not that I think this is necessary for everyone, but being able to empathise with people and see things from their point of view is really important to me. As I’m slowly moving out of my comfort zone, and talking to people I thought I had nothing in common with, I’m realising that we’re not so different, and getting to know a “jock” who wouldn’t touch a computer game with a 10ft pole isn’t as difficult as I thought. Not only that, but there are things that I’ve learned from him that I’ve taken on board to shape myself into the person that I want to be.

It’s been a difficult but interesting journey, and this post is shaping up to be a long one, so despite what I just said above, I’d recommend settling into the moulded shape of your favourite chair.

January




The first month of the challenge, and we spent nearly half of it in Japan. A side effect of this challenge was that I pushed myself to do things other than shopping and eating while in Japan, and we did some cool things, like seeing a samurai kembu performance, and watching a sumo fight. The highlight for me was definitely the chicken ramen instant noodle factory tour, and that brand of chicken ramen has made its way into our home back in Australia. I built my own computer for the first time, and it took a lot longer than I thought it would.

February




Following all the eating from Japan, I realised I weighed a lot more than I wanted to, so I decided to take up running and work towards being able to run 10kms. Michael and I finally had our tartes aux pommes bake-off, and I won, though I really didn’t deserve to, as his tart tasted much better than mine, which fuelled me to improve even more. I tried to make soufflé for the first time (and failed). I went to see The Consouls perform, a video games jazz band, and they were amazing. I volunteered at a tech conference, and heard a lot of great speakers.

March




Jal finally solved the Truman chips mystery, and it was nothing to do with race, age or gender, and everything to do with the fact that I don’t drink soft drinks. I borrowed a friend’s son for 2 hours, and that was probably the most exhausting thing I’ve done all year, and that includes going to work on very little sleep, and getting up early to run 10kms. I gave my phone number to a stranger who seemed nice, but then asked me a weird question and I stopped responding to her. I lined up far too long for OK doughnuts (a very Melbourne experience). I went to the Arnold Classic, but didn’t get to meet Arnie, and I also saw some French movies, including an incredibly bizarre movie that still makes me think, “What the f#$% happened?”. I put together a parody of Mean Girls and said goodbye to GD.

April



I saw Rove McManus at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Began the 12 week body transformation fitness challenge. D challenged me to a Dota 2 match, where it would be 3 against 1 (me being the 1). I started training to play mid. MrFodder and I went to the Wonders of the World Lego exhibition, which was amazing (and definitely something old me would have considered a waste of money). I took part in Premiere’s Active April again, contributing many hours of workouts to my suburb’s stats, and training with Pharmacist at the gym.

May




I ordered my first lockpicking set, and tried to soothe rising nuclear tensions in Calm Down, Stalin. I volunteered at BAM. I failed many times at making a sponge cake, but got there in the end. I took part in Melbourne Knowledge Week. I went out drinking and didn’t spill any secrets. It was also the first time I threw up due to too much alcohol – not fun. I also got some Shadow Fiend coaching. I lost to D at mini-golf, and saw an art exhibition (Van Gogh and the Seasons).

June




The fated 3v1 Dota 2 match finally happened, and I won! Adam West passed away. I gave up a lot of the most recent technologies, including lights, and had to resort to using candles after the sun went down (thankfully I didn’t set the house on fire). Attended the Good Food and Wine show, and also finally hit 10kms! I beat Captain in a choc-chip cookie bake-off, though it was technically a tie. The 12 week challenge ended, and I didn’t really get very far.

July




Saw Book of Mormon (very funny in a crude kind of way, check it out if you’re in Melbourne!). Made a pact with someone that if I was going to cheat on MrFodder, I’d cheat with him instead of anyone else, which seems like a stupid idea, now that I think about it. Tried to eat on $15 in a week (and failed). Went to an MSO concert which was a tribute to Mozart. Played some sub-900 MMR games of Dota 2 – that was kinda nice, but then became a struggle. Won my first Dota 2 battle cup, with Pharmacist, redbeanpork, MrMoustache and one of MrMoustache’s friends. Went to Fiji and avoided signing up for one of those “holiday share” scams.

August



Found Soulcry again, in FFXIV, though we still haven’t played Dota 2 together, and I haven’t really spoken to him since his hard drive died. Started my multilingual Disney music collection with some French CDs. Saw a couple of movies at the Melbourne International Film Festival. Stalked people for the sake of my nation in Orwell. Got told that someone filmed me watching some “inappropriate adult videos” and they’d release it if I didn’t pay them money, which I never paid them (did anyone happen to get one of these videos sent to them, because if they did, I’d like a copy as there was a great video I saw earlier in the year that I haven’t been able to find again, and maybe they happened to record it?). I managed to get six MrBrioches together to try my coffee ice-cream. Went to a rally in support of gay marriage. Finally unfriended someone that I’ve been meaning to unfriend for years.

September




Met some really cool people and destroyed the One Ring™ with them in the Lord of the Rings board game. Had my first HSP… and lived to tell the tale. Went to a Legend of Zelda concert, and nearly cried from the nostalgia. Joined Captain at a VFL finals game (his team lost, but he was happy that he got to see Mason Cox play). Lined up for more doughnuts, and cupcakes on Studio Ghibli day. Got my first sports injury (runner’s knee). Went to a trivia night, and lost due to being terrible at the music round. Sent my first not-suspicious suspicious package. Learned a lot about application security at the OWASP AppSec Day. Joined redbeanpork at a Japanese speech contest, and Pharmacist joined us at the NGV for a Hokusai exhibit. Saw a Shakespeare play. Watched the AFL grand final for the first time (spoilers: Tigers won).

October




Bought a mini-SNES, and relived my childhood with MrFodder playing Donkey Kong Country (that game was so much harder than I remembered). Ran in the Melbourne Marathon, making that my first official 10km run! Made a short stop-motion animation with MrFodder at the Aardman exhibition at ACMI. Complimented someone’s moustache, and started a long series of awkward events with NiceBeardGuy. Went to PAX (as an attendee, not an enforcer).

November




Added Japanese songs to my collection of Disney music. Went to the Shrine of Remembrance for  Remembrance Day. Nearly broke up with MrFodder over Mario Kart. Nearly melted at the Sweet Expo. Paid off my HECS debt!

December




Saw some movies at the Japanese Film Festival. Sent the second of my non-suspicious suspicious packages, and got a suspicious package in return. Had the next of my awkward encounters with NiceBeardGuy, this time involving bananas. Watched an indoor cricket match, and then an outdoor cricket match (The Ashes on Boxing Day). Was part of the studio audience for The Yearly with Charlie Pickering (MrFodder and I watched the actual show last week, and it wasn’t as good as watching it live, strangely enough, maybe because I’d heard all the jokes already). Saw Murder on the Orient Express at the Openair Cinema. Saw Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. Baked a crapton of cookies. And now here we are.

Side note: I didn’t have a spare post to blog about it in the end, but I tackled soufflé again (with the leftover egg whites from when I made the custard ice-cream), and I did it! My culinary white whale.

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Has it been a good experience? Yes. Has it been a bad experience? Yes. I started out strong, full of enthusiasm, and was signing up for events left, right and centre. I’m not sure when it happened, but I hit a wall. Perhaps it’s my introverted nature, and I had exhausted my reserves of human interaction powder, or perhaps it’s just because of other life events, but the whole thing started to become a chore.

I also began to notice that I was becoming one of those people that I detest – an Instaglammer (I’m making this word up): someone who only does things in order to give the illusion on social media that their life is so much more glamorous than it actually is. There were a lot of things that I did this year that I found interesting, but I didn’t have time to try them again because I felt compelled to do new things so that I could blog about them.

Another question that I often get asked is how long it takes to write a post. I average about an hour, but that’s just the writing part of the post, that doesn’t take into account the time it takes doing whatever it is I’m writing about, or the travel time, or the time spent finding things to do. It honestly felt like a very demanding part-time job, which was tough to keep up on top of my full-time job. Probably another contributing factor to me running out of steam part-way through, and the relief I will feel once I hit publish on this post.

Overall, it has been a good learning experience, and as much as I grew to resent it over the year, I am glad that I did it. I’ve definitely become a lot more confident over the year. Maybe it has something to do with getting better at playing mid heroes in Dota 2, or maybe it has to do with the fact that I’m less afraid about trying new things and failing. I’ve failed a lot throughout the year, and you know what? I’m still here. I don’t have people pointing and laughing at me on the street when I walk by. In fact, I’ve discovered that I have a great support network of amazing people who help me pick up the pieces.

Which brings me to the next part: the thanks. Of course, MrFodder is going to get a huge mention here. Having to do this challenge is a huge burden, not just on me, but on him. The frantic rushes home so that I’ll have enough time to smash out a blog post before the midnight deadline. Many hours spent sitting at cafés in Japan, leeching the free-WiFi so that I can publish my blog post. Me disappearing for hours on end, just so I do things to write about. The extra chores he has picked up so that our house doesn’t fall over while I write, and so we still have things to eat. He didn’t sign up for this challenge, but in a way, he has had to do it, too, and I couldn’t have done it without him.

Pharmacist, who has pointed out at lot of mistakes in my posts (ninja mention of QCN who also did the same). Who reminds me when it’s getting close to midnight that I still haven’t posted yet, so I really need to wrap things up and hit publish. I nearly called it quits a few times, but a part of what kept me going was that I didn’t want to let him down. He was always available for me to have short discussions to gather my thoughts, and I’m very lucky to have a friend like him.

redbeanpork – the food master. I feel like I can hardly take credit for a lot of my food adventures this year, since a lot of it is inspired by him. He seems to have this innate ability to find something so delicious that I could have just finished eating a three-course meal, and then I’ll open up a recipe he has linked and feel hungry all over again. He is also definitely the source of the more art-y related activities I’ve done this year, which is something I wouldn’t have done in the past, but I’m glad that I did.

Of course, the Dota 2 support from both of them, having to go through my growing pains as a mid player, and all the complaining. Which is where I should mention MrMoustache, who I feel is going through a lot of the same problems I’m going through while playing Dota 2. And it was nice to have someone to nerd out about Star Wars with! He pushed me to compliment NiceBeardGuy, and even though that didn’t go very well, it has opened up the world of compliments to me. I complimented someone’s T-shirt the other day, and another person’s beard, and both of them looked really happy about it.

Over the year, I’ve become a lot closer to A, and I think we’ve both helped each other get out of our comfort zones. I think we’re close enough now that we’re comfortable enough to talk about those niggling self-doubts, and we can have an honest talk about each other’s strengths and weaknesses. In particular with running, I don’t think I could have made it to 10kms without his support.

Jal and Michael have contributed to so many interesting discussions, and there are quite a lot of blog posts that started because of something I talked about with them. I don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing that Jal seems to treat my stalker nature as a challenge, as I showed him my notes on him and he seems to be encouraging it by saying mysterious statements that are almost a challenge to find out more. D helped by being the subject of a lot of posts, though I don’t think he knows yet.

All the people who helped me take pictures, or posed for one: MrFodder, Special K, D, Jal, TS, Chris, Pharmacist, redbeanpork, Michael, TH, a random person at Fed Square, the pottery lady in Kyoto, Goaty, GD.

Finally, here are my stats for the year.

As of the time of posting, I have 5257 views (only WordPress lets me see yearly stats), across 2982 unique visitors, with 5 likes and 26 comments.

My most popular post (not counting the home page), was the Java 7 certification exam post I wrote a few years ago, followed by the second certification exam post. The most popular post I wrote this year was “Bad Brother is Watching“, about the adult video recording scam.

There were 62 posts that I categorised as having done something new that I wouldn’t normally have done. That’s about 1 new thing every 6 days. I made 45 posts about things that I had cooked / baked.

Unsurprisingly, my top category (other than “365”) was food, with the top 6’s stats as follows:

  1. food – 73 posts
  2. around-town – 67 posts
  3. work – 29 posts
  4. geeky – 28 posts
  5. games – 27 posts
  6. dota2 – 26 posts

I attended 15 different talks throughout the year.

I averaged 783.2 words per post, with the shortest post being 47 words (Road to 10k), the longest being 4068 words (Kiev Major – Main Event: Liquid vs Newbee, Game 1), and a median of 654 words. Here’s a chart of my word count over time.

Thank you for joining me on this adventure. Let’s hope I don’t do anything stupid like this again for a while.

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