Hey dudes, I wrote a short story and have published it on Amazon. You can find it here if you'd like to check it out. Thanks to @darthorange for helping me edit it and with the title. I'm putting this here and not linking it to the forums because I'm not sure how I can bring this up in a thread without it sounding like self-promotion. But I bet it's ok to self-promote in a blog that isn't linked to the main forums. Or at least I'm assuming that's true. Regardless, there's the link if you want to check out this thing I wrote.
I'm thinking about submitting a little story I wrote to Kindle Singles just to see how it all goes. But this is the first creative work I've ever written and have no idea if I did this all correctly. I'm worried about things like pacing, tone, punctuation, the flow of the narrative. Also I have no idea how to create a title. So I'm asking for help here. Anyone want to help me by reading through it for errors, creative and other-wise, and maybe throw me some titles before I submit it? I could send you an e-mail with my current draft. Just PM me your e-mail address.
So why do all health care professionals make such inappropriate jokes, are so sarcastic, and such incredible cynics?
Well, we're not all like that. But a lot of us are. Here's the thing, whether you work as an outpatient mental health therapist, a dentist, a hospital worker, at a community medical clinic, or anywhere else you deal with bad things all the time. My job, which is now half as a regular outpatient therapist and half as an intensive outpatient therapist involves hearing about suicide, homicide, illegal activity, trauma, victimization, abuse. All of the things people try to avoid or avoid talking or thinking about if they experience them. For me, that means 8+ hours a day, some days up to 15 hours, of hearing the worst things that can happen to people.
It's my job to help people overcome these problems. To do this over the long term, that involves helping people realize they can overcome those problems without me or any other mental health therapist. This takes time. For some issues, a LOT of time. And in that time there will be a lot of failures, setbacks, and frustration. In the process of helping someone I'll feel inadequate, confused, stuck, angry, sad, unprofessional, hopeless. It's all because, to do my work, I need to be in the mindset of my clients and many of them have entirely given up. I also need to care about them. I need to want them to succeed. Which makes it even more frustrating when things go wrong.
I'm not alone in this. Every health care professional will feel similar. What's worse is that there's nothing we can really do about it besides continue to work with the client and think about new ways to improve their lives. We don't have an avenue to vent in an immediate way. We don't have quick fixes to move past what's bothering us. Like our client's we can feel all these emotions and have no place to put them.
Well how does this explain sarcasm, cynicism, and inappropriate jokes?
That sarcasm, cynicism, inappropriate jokes, and just bitching overall is our outlet for venting. It might be inappropriate and we'd never do it in front of clients or non-health care people. But with health care people, professionals can become pretty unprofessional. We can say very mean things about ourselves, our clients, our profession, the world. And we get very raw and mean and people would be very upset with us if they heard it.
So you're assholes?
Well, maybe. Here's the other thing, if we didn't care we wouldn't get so frustrated. It's like how frustrated people get at their family members. People can yell about how they don't care about their family members but if they really didn't care they wouldn't yell about it. They wouldn't mention them because they wouldn't ever cross their minds because you don't consider the things you don't care about. For example, I don't care about Bjork. So I never think about Bjork (besides just now that is). So in a vacuum, we sound like assholes. But taking into account why we're being such assholes I don't think we're actually assholes. We're frustrated and we need to vent and we'd rather laugh about what we're venting about then just get pissed. Because no matter how much we bitch the situation doesn't change. So may as well laugh about it right?
It sounds like you all need to see therapist and take your own advice and whatnot and so on and etc.
Yeah yeah. Here's the last thing, health care professionals are not perfect. No matter what we say or how we act. We all fuck up. I say dumb shit constantly. At times I'm an idiot. I just made a thread about how my own saliva kind of freaks me out. I can be unreasonable and rude. All the bad things a person can be a health care professional can be. That's because we're human. We do our best, we know how to do our job, and we try our best to live our personal lives as well as we can. So if you hear a therapist or another health care professional complaining or seeming like a piece of shit remember that we are trying our best and we will at one point or another, professionally or personally, fuck up. Try not to hold it against us.
So these regularly updated blogs didn't really stay particularly 'regular' huh?
Well, I started a new position at my job and have been very busy. When I get home, I'm tired and don't feel like typing. When it's the weekend I need to make up for all I didn't do in my personal life during the weekday. And the pattern continues on and on. So though I was keeping up with Rocksmith and playing guitar and didn't do a good job letting all of you know that.
So can you play guitar?
It depends on how you define 'can you play'. I would probably consider myself an average player now. I can play rhythm well if the chords aren't too complex. I can do barre chords but when they require more then two fingers +the index for the barre I can't do it. I can play most regular chords unless they require me to stretch my fingers across four frets. But other then that, with practice, I can play the rhythm sections of most, but certainly not all, songs on electric and acoustic. Prior to Rocksmith I wouldn't have been able to say that.
It has also taught me a bit about improvising and creating my own songs, though indirectly. By reading music and seeing how so many different songs are composed and playing them out it makes it easier for me, when just messing about on my guitar, to see how to pattern a good melody and think about song structure. I've already written 2 songs since playing Rocksmith. It's also shown me, through brute force, how to adapt after making a mistake while playing a song.
Are these things that are exclusive to Rocksmith or could you learn this elsewhere?
It's probably not exclusive to Rocksmith. But it's nice learning with Rocksmith because, at any time, I can throw in the disc and start practicing and what is in there is good for a novice to learn.
You sounded like there were some caveats with the 'can you play' question...
Yeah. The thing is the lessons in the game are really good at introducing techniques. Many of these techniques I had never heard of. But it isn't so good at correcting you when you mess up those techniques while practicing or, at times, recognizing when you do the techniques perfectly. Here's an example. There's a whole lesson on palm muting. Which I'm not good at. But the game can't distinguish between a palm muted note/chord and a regular note/chord. So I have a perfect rating on this lesson but if you asked me to play a song with palm mutes in it I would be sunk.
The lessons also highlight where my blind spots are. I'm a terrible lead. I can't do tremolo. I'm only average with bends and can't put slides in my songs and still get to the position I need to be for the next measure with much ease. I would have hoped that the lessons would help me with these problems and sometimes they do. But more often then not they don't and that's really disappointing.
Would you recommend it?
If you want to learn how to play guitar and don't have an awful lot of free time then, yes, I would totally recommend it. Some might say it is better to work with someone and, seeing how the lessons work in this game, I might agree. But this game is certainly a good method for training as well.
NOTE: These are the best games of the year I played. Meaning there are probably a bunch of games that might have made this list had I played them but I didn't so I can speak to them.
This game speaks directly to my tastes. The atmosphere is awesome, the exploration is fun, the puzzles are interesting and unique, it looks amazing. It's exactly what I want out of a game.
This game looks awesome. But, though I can play it relatively well on my PC, the framerate isn't consistent enough for me to play through it. So I gave up on it. Maybe, after I get a new PC, this will end up on a future list.
Gone Home is a really good story. It has its problems for sure. I think I like it less than a lot of people out there, particularly the press. But, I can't deny that the story, both the main story and the stories under the surface (particularly with the Father), were some of the most interesting I've seen in a game all year. Which says a lot because , besides the references (which were a bit on the nose for me), there's nothing about the story that speaks directly to me personally. But they wrote a compelling story that I found easy to get wrapped up in. This was all helped by fantastic voice acting.
I never owned an SNES and only played A Link to the Past when it came to the Virtual Console on the Wii. Even then, I only played about half of it and lost interest. So A Link Between Worlds wasn't really made for me. But the design of the dungeons, the world, and the gameplay was so well done, so well considered that I couldn't help but be wrapped up in it. It was a fantastic game while it lasted and the best Zelda game I've played since Wind Waker.
I had no interest in this game when it came out. I had never played a Devil May Cry game before it and had bought Bayonetta for cheap and didn't like it much. Though I like God of War and Ninja Gaiden well enough this style of action game isn't usually a style I care for. I ended up getting this game during one of those Steam sales and, after a few chapters in, it all clicked. It is so fun. The combat didn't grow old, the graphics are amazing, and I actually found myself caught up in the story. It's a really great game.
I heard about this game during the quick look with Patrick when it came out originally on PC and thought it looked neat but I didn't really give it much thought. Then it came out on the PS3 this year and thought I'd give it a shot. Holy shit. The story, the music, the graphics. It's all so good. The gameplay is good enough but what sells it all is the presentation and story. It's amazing how caught up I got in a story about blocks. Though it doesn't end very well the journey getting there is fantastic.
And, yes, I know technically this isn't a 2013 game. But it is my list and I say it's the 7th best game this year.
Infinite is a game with really high 'highs', a lot of meddling stuff, and really unfortunate lows. The story is really great...most of the time. The gameplay is a ton of fun, until it isn't and grows tiresome. That entire middle section was a bit of a bummer wasn't it? Remember the 'mother' story line? Yikes. But, kind of like with Kairo, the things Infinite does really well (the sense of discovery, the art design, the concepts that drive the story) all speak to my sensibilities. So I found myself ignoring some of the unfortunate parts because the amazing parts were so good. But it is in the middle of this list because of how many ways it didn't live up to its potential. I think I'll remember Infinite as being more disappointing then anything else as years go by. But it was also a great experience while it lasted.
This game came out of nowhere didn't it? The gameplay in this game isn't amazing. But it is so unique and interesting, due to the control scheme, I found it pretty easy to forget those shortcomings. At times, even by the end, controlling the two characters with the two analogue sticks felt a bit like tapping my head and rubbing my stomach. There's something just really cool about a game that can do that to me. It was certainly unique for games this year. Then there's the story. At the end of it all, a bullet-point breakdown of the story in Brother's wouldn't yield a particularly engaging story. But there are moments within it that are so well done. I made a whole thread discussing the ending and how I reacted to it. The way that ending tied the control scheme and mechanics into the emotion of the scene sealed this game as making this list. It just came down to where. It turns out it's going in at 5.
Whether I'm a fan of it or not, mobile is an important platform for games now and in the foreseeable future. Knowing this and accepting it, I always wanted to see games that would take advantage of the platform. I don't just mean using the touch screen to slice objects, pick them up, or whatever else. I mean really take the device and do something with it that couldn't be emulated anywhere else (or at least not easily). That's what Year Walk does. The game itself tells a really intriguing story and does use the features of the device, like motion sensing, to create novel puzzles. But what really pushes this game over the top is the companion app. Not to give anything away, but the interaction between the companion app and the game is so novel, so unique that I couldn't have ever imagined it myself. Maybe that just means that I'm not particularly creative. But once the nature of that relationship was made clear to me I was amazed. It was one of the best moments of the year to me.
This is a purely gameplay pick for me. Yeah, the story is fine and the journey up to the resolution (which I didn't much care for) was engaging enough to keep me interested. And Lara is well characterized. The apparent 'ludonarrative dissonance' that was brought up over, and over, and over again didn't bother me in the slightest. But what makes this game amazing is the gameplay. Everything works so well and is so much fun. There are so many pieces and moving parts to the gameplay but it never felt overly mechanically due to really smart design decisions. The cover, for example, is completely contextual and out of the player's hand. But it always worked the way I wanted it to. The shooting was the most satisfying I had experienced all year and the exploration, though simple, was still very fun. This is the only game this year I 100% and I loved every second of it. Then add in the presentation. I played this on the 360 and it is one of the best looking games on that system and ran at a nearly perfect 30 fps. That all added to the gameplay experience. Where Uncharted is fun despite some of its gameplay (mainly its shooting), Tomb Raider is great because of its gameplay.
I love everything about this game. If my #1 pick hadn't come out this year this would be my top pick easily. I played the hell out of this game. The graphics, the music, the gameplay. It all works so well together. It is just fun, pure and simple. Sometimes I just want to play games and just have fun. I don't want to think I just want to see pretty graphics, hear good music, and experience fun gameplay. Last year that was Forza Horizon for me. This year that game was Bit.Trip Runner 2.
I knew next to nothing about this game before I played it which I think was the best way to experience it. I didn't know anything about Joel, Ellie, the world, the disease. I came to know about all of it through the game and it was so well done. The 'it's good writing for a game' remark still holds true to me for most games. But every year, and more as each year goes by it seems, more games become the exception to that rule. Eventually, maybe, they won't be exceptions. Eventually they might just become the norm.
In the case of Last of Us, the writing is the best example of an exception to that rule. Besides one small part, the dialogue is better than most movies I've seen this year and the story that is told, and the ending that you go through, is incredible. It is one of the best experiences I've had with a game purely because of the writing and story.
The gameplay, on the other hand, had some bumps for me. It took me about an hour to get used to the controls and I didn't really start to like how it all felt until the end of Fall. Even then, at best it is a tense experience but nothing noteworthy. Well, maybe that isn't quite fair. The stealth in the game is pretty well done and the shooting, being as off as it is, helps build that tension (which is surprising as, on paper, the shooting should be very frustrating as a result of being so loose and inaccurate). But looking back, the experience I had with the gameplay was fun enough. But what pushes it over the top for me is the story, writing, and atmosphere. The gameplay is good enough that, even with its faults, it ended up adding to the overall experience.
When making this list, I thought back on the games I had played and tried to put myself in the position I was when I played them and compare that to what I think about them now. Tomb Raider was really fun to play and the atmosphere was great but the story and characters, besides Lara, were pretty poor. Bit.Trip Runner was pure fun and the atmosphere, graphics, and music were all great. But those sort of platformers will always be marked down by me personally because, as I mentioned before, I'm a sucker for worlds, atmosphere, and writing. Dear Esther was in my top 5 last year purely because of the writing, atmosphere, and exploration and the gameplay in that game is nearly nonexistent.
Last of Us has good enough gameplay that is improved because of how tense it is. Add that to a world, story, atmosphere, and writing that is the best I experienced all year, and potentially all this generation, it was the clear stand out for me.
Saints Row 4, Fire Emblem, Rayman Legends, Grand Theft Auto 5, Splinter Cell: Blacklist, The Novelist, Gran Tourismo 6, The Stanley Parable.
Hey, weren't you doing that '60 days of Rocksmith' thing?
Hey, shut up.
Ok, well, so what sort of questions are you answering today?
...I'm not really. Instead, I'm going to throw a temper tantrum about the DSM 5!
What's the DSM 5?
The mental health field's Bible. It has all the diagnoses that a mental health professional can diagnosis and still get paid because of insurance companies and whatnot. This new one, the DSM 5, is the newest and I have finally really took the time to read through it and am now ready to bitch about it!
So it is all bad?
Well, not all bad. They tried to do add more detail to the different diagnoses. They actually say the word 'clinical formulation'! I like that.
Kinda. I mean a lot of it is the same. And even some of the stuff I'll eventually bitch about are older things from the DSM 4. And they kept personality disorders which I like because there was a fear they may get rid of them. So that's good.
Ok, so what's to bitch about?
Well! First, they got ride of the 5-axis diagnosis system! Man!
Yeah! Well, I guess I don't miss it really. But now I need to re-write our assessment paperwork. That sucks. By the way, the five axis system basically was a way to signify what you, as the clinician, were diagnosing over 5 categories; relatively short term mental health disorders, long term mental health disorders, medical problems, social and environmental factors, and a general functioning assessment represented by a number score. Now you just sort of diagnose. Full stop.
They changed how trauma disorders work. So, a trauma used to be defined as a life threatening, whether actually life threatening or not, that occurred directly to directly or witnessed. And a bunch of other criteria. NOW, you can experience a trauma, apparently, simply by hearing about someone you loved who was traumatized. You don't even have to be there. You simply have to hear about it.
Yeah! And there are two primary diagnoses you can diagnosis with trauma. PTSD and Acute Stress Disorder (ASD). Before, you could diagnosis ASD if a certain number of symptoms were present following a trauma for up to a month. If the symptoms persisted after a month the diagnosis would change to PTSD. These symptoms, before, were pretty severe. They may or may not be considered beyond a normal response to, say, being raped or having a gun to your head or some other terrifying experience depending on who you ask. But there were at least enough severity that not everyone who experienced a trauma would get an ASD diagnosis.
NOW, the symptoms are much more broad and you need fewer of them to make the diagnosis. I have a feeling everyone who is traumatized would meet criteria for that diagnosis.
What do you mean by broad?
Basically, the more broad and general a diagnosis the easier it is to diagnosis more people with that disorder. If the disorders are too broad the eventually you'll describe EVERYONE as having a disorder. This is bad because disorders are meant to describe abnormal behavior. If it describes all behaviors it isn't really describing abnormal behavior anymore. We'll be describing normal behavior as being abnormal. Then everyone has a mental disorder. Good for therapists' wallets for sure. But it's inappropriate and gross.
This is a common problem with the DSM 5. There's a ton of disorders in that book and a lot of them overlap. In each diagnosis explanation there's a 'differential diagnosis' section. That section is there for the disorders that overlap with the disorder being described so that it's easier to make the diagnosis. You would hope to only see a few disorders in these sections. In the DSM 5, there are usually 5 or more disorders in this section for each diagnosis. If there's so much overlap, wouldn't we want to wonder why? Maybe we have too many diagnoses and they are all to general in their definition?
This is one of the old problems but I'm really bothered they didn't fix it. There's a sexual dysfunction category of disorders. In it there's a disorder that describes a lack of interest in sex. The silly part is that there are two distinct diagnoses for that one problem; one for men and one for women. Here's the kicker that makes this just so shitty.
So the male disorder, called 'Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder', has a set description for what a lack of interest means. The female disorder, called 'Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder', has the same basic definition for disinterest. However, the female disorder has the description broken down into 6 distinct symptoms. Three of those symptoms need to be represented in order for a diagnosis to be made. For men, there is no such requirement. So, theoretically, you could justify a diagnosis for a man if he meets for 2 or even 1 of those six symptoms. But for women, she needs to meet for 3 or more.
So, in other words, men who have any disinterest in sex is considered abnormal. Women have to have moderate to significant disinterest in sex in order to be considered abnormal. A little bit of disinterest is normal in women apparently. Because men only want sex all the time forever and women don't actually desire sex. Right?
WE are in 2013 and that is allowed! That's considered scientifically appropriate! What the fuck?
Yeah. And here's the last thing, for now. At the end of the book there's a section for proposed additions for future DSM's. I can't diagnosis these disorders but they are being proposed for research and maybe, one day, I will be able to diagnosis them.
There's one diagnosis being proposed called 'Internet Gaming Addiction'. First, they specify online gaming only. The symptoms are things like lack of self-care due to the gaming, ignoring responsibilities, becoming angry and anxious when the game is taken away, etc. Things that are actual problems. I don't know if I'd agree with an entire category for the diagnosis but whatever. The dumb part is offline gaming with all of those symptoms and then some wouldn't meet criteria.
So, if you play COD offline and don't go to work, care for yourself, get angry when you can't play it, etc. you don't have an addiction (also using addiction for this is a little silly too but semantics). But if you have all those symptoms and then play COD online then, and only then, do you have a disorder I can diagnosis. So it's a selective addiction. That's how heroin works right? You aren't addicted when you use in your home five times per day. But you're addicted if you use five times per day while in your car right?
Also, the symptoms could literally apply to anything. You could be addicted to TV, movies, playing an instrument, staring at a wall. Anything fits. It's a silly disorder proposal for what could potentially be a real problem that isn't exclusive to video games, online or off.
So that's it?
For now. I'm sure I'll find something else to yell about later. I'm just disappointed. I want my field to be great. With tools like this it won't be. It makes us look like the laughing stock of the health care field and makes those people that yell about how psychology isn't a real science seem credible. It's kind of embarrassing.
Well, I'm finding a pattern here. In terms of learning songs I'm good up to about a 30% mastery. Which means I'm around the 50-65% difficulty point and and about 70-80% accurate (I think). As with an acoustic, I'm bad at going up and down the neck of the guitar, switching finger positions, knowing where my fingers/hands are without looking down. All the things I'm bad at on an acoustic I'm bad at with an electric.
With lessons, my first go I'm pretty bad at performing the techniques but I'm able to finish most of them (I'll go into this later). But my second and third time throw lessons I do much better and have been able to adapt those techniques into learning songs.
How do you think the game is doing at teaching you guitar?
Ok. It's great at telling you what notes you've missed and why in terms of location. But with other mistakes I make it falls a bit short. Here's an example; I'm trying to learn tremolo. This is where you move the pick back and forth over the guitar as quickly as possible. This is a technique the Edge from U2 uses quite a bit (for reference). I can't get the timing right, or my hand is holding the pick wrong, or something because I can't get this technique to work consistently. The game's tips are to hold the pick at more of an angle....and just do it. That doesn't help me at all. Here's another one. When I was learning how to do palm-muted picking the game couldn't differentiate between palm muted picking and regular picking when they scored me. But when I do palm-mute the strings and get the sound they are looking for the scoring is inconsistent.
Well, it's not all bad. It's great at teaching you chords, picking, and telling you when you mess up and when you do something right. So eventually, if you have the patience and know how to train yourself when the game isn't, then you'll eventually figure out a technique (or do it well enough that the game will let you proceed).
So, is this a good way to learn to play guitar?
Maybe. I'm still really early into this and I have learned things that I hadn't learned before. But I had also only been in one guitar class in high school (it lasted like 3 months) and everything else I learned on my own. So I don't really have anything to compare it to. But if I'm learning, which I am, I think it is an appropriate way to learn thus far. It may not be as good as with an instructor but it's better then learning on your own.
Anyway we can help?
Yes! I'm having problems with two techniques and the game isn't really helping me with it. With hammer-ons at least (I've yet to get to pull-offs) I can't get the technique down. I can do it on an acoustic just fine. But with an electric the string's vibrations die as soon as I 'hammer-on' to the new position. I've tried picking harder, softer, placing my finger faster. It always seems to end with a the string no longer vibrating as soon as I push down. The game isn't really telling me what I'm doing wrong just that I'm doing it wrong. So what suggestions do you guys have for me?
I'd also take some suggestions on the tremolo problem I explained above if you guys have any. Thanks.
So, if we are being technical here, this is day 4. I got the game/guitar bundle Tuesday and played it a little bit. BUT, this game is junk over HDMI and I did not have component cables for my 360. So, due to shipping from Amazon, these are my impressions of Rocksmith after 2 days. Yeah, I didn't keep to my 7 day schedule either. I will update again in 7 days. But there are some first impressions I wanted to share.
How's the pack-in guitar?
It's pretty good. For a baby guitar. When I first started on the acoustic guitar I played on a first-act guitar that I used to call my baby guitar because it was so small. To me, this guitar looks like a baby guitar to me too. But I haven't seen many electric guitars in person so maybe I don't know shit. It sounds ok though. But, again, I might not know shit.
How's it compare to an acoustic guitar?
These strings are mad light dudes. I play with medium gauge steel strings on my acoustic and can play for about a half hour before I have to stop because my fingers are killing me. These strings are wimpy. I can bend these bitches all day. I tried playing some of the songs I know on the acoustic on the electric and I'm noticing some differences. I like to have strings on the acoustic ring over each other. It makes a cool, loud sound. It's a cool way to play (maybe not technically correct but, again, I don't know shit). On the electric, at least on this electric, chords don't ring over each other like an acoustic. They just sort of culminate together to create this awful, awful noise that sounds nothing like a chord or a song.
So can song you've learned on acoustic work on an electric?
If they are chord-based, and not picking-based, then kinda. But some chords simply don't work. I don't know the names of the chords but I get the impressions some chords just work better on an acoustic and not an electric. But maybe I'm wrong. As it turns out, I don't know shit you guys.
So how's the game?
Fun! The lessons are what I'm focusing on at this time. They are pretty cool. They start nice and slow and do a good job explaining the techniques before you practice them. There is a bit of a problem when you practice a technique. Here's an example. At times I was failing a lesson, like the lesson on bends, but I didn't know why. On the note track they say when your timing is off or when you on the wrong fret or string. But there were times when I felt like a nailed a lesson but was told I had done something wrong. As helpful as these lessons are they can be just as frustrating.
Learn any songs yet?
Nope! I've messed with a few but, as cool as it is to play bits of Walk This Way it doesn't really tell me how to play guitar. It shows me how to memorize finger placement and timing to play a song. I prefer the lessons myself.
So what style of play are you learning?
Well there are three types of guitar play as; rhythm, lead, and bass. From what I can tell this only effects playing the songs and not the lessons. For now, I'm playing rhythm. But I'm going to switch to lead when I feel more comfortable. You know, ten years from now.
Are you any good?
Maybe? It's hard to say. I can do the 101 lessons fairly well. Kinda. But I'm still having problems where I had problems with acoustic. Switching chords quickly is difficult. With acoustic you can hide some of that because of reverb. With the electric I can't seem to hide when I fuck up. Especially when I'm being graded. So all of my mistakes are coming across. I'm also not good at playing quickly. Or picking. Or sight reading. Or having the amount of patience I need to have to memorize.
Will you keep going?
HELL YEAH! I'm having fun. I'm getting tougher fingers and all that. And I am improving. Slowly.