Goodbye, Rhodey

Last night, our dog, Rhodey, passed away very suddenly. In hindsight, with his history of heart disease, we suspect that he had a heart attack. We got home from the grocery to find him agitated; he went to his bed, cried out in pain, and flopped over. We tried to comfort him, but he died in minutes. He did not seem scared, and we were with him. But it still hurts, to lose him so suddenly.

20150102_190424

We adopted Rhodey in August 2013. He was four years old at the time. We had originally intended to bring Sam’s family dog, Jade, up from Florida that year, but her mother decided to keep Jade with her in the end. Sam wanted another dog, and I was supportive of that decision. We looked around for dogs needing a second home. We found Rhodey through some pet adoption site. He was not our first choice, or our second, or our third. But he was the first inquiry which resulted in a response from the owners. We had a house visit. He was so friendly and glad to meet us, but he was confused. He also slipped into a bedroom while we chatted with the owners about his history, peeing on the carpet in his moment of free reign. He met our cat, Aizen. Aizen hated him. Aizen had a bad history with dogs. He hissed and swiped and growled at Rhodey. But Rhodey didn’t mind; he was just interested in Aizen. (Over time, Aizen would grow to tolerate Rhodey, but he’d always bully him, swatting at him and setting him up to get in trouble. Rhodey would sometimes snap at Aizen in warning, if he’d been hit around too much, but he never hurt Aizen, and he always seemed to want to be that cat’s friend.)

On that first visit, I had my first walk with Rhodey. His previous owners used a halter, which didn’t do much to restrain his tugging. He didn’t like it very much, and I’d soon abandon it after adoption. But our first walk went rather well. He enjoyed smelling the walking paths of our apartment complex. I quickly fell in love with him.

20181226_143911

The one visit was enough. Sam and I agreed to adopt him. We knew about his medical history, that he’d had some history of seizures. We knew he’d had some trouble adjusting to his owners’ new baby. We soon came to suspect, given the scanty size of the medical records and the animal hospital diagnosis with no ongoing treatment, that they had also decided he was just too expensive. They hadn’t had him very long; they got him when he was maybe one or two, and they gave him up when he was four (they claimed that he had  originally been seized from the property of a drug dealer before they got him from a shelter). But they did love him; I remember the wife weeping and kissing him goodbye many, many times. (Almost ten years later, I’d see my own wife weeping and kissing him goodbye many, many times as he lay still, curled up in his bed in the back of the car, looking for all the world like he was sleeping.)

We of course wanted to get him established with a vet quickly, to establish a regular care-provider, to get his shots updated, and to figure out what was going on with his seizure incidents. The vet performed tests and ruled out seizures. I remembered asking him if he could be having “pseudo-seizure” incidents, like in humans, because of how anxious he was. He said it was possible. He also detected a murmur and an enlarged heart, so we learned that Rhodey had heart disease. Over the years, we’d increase doses, switch medications, and get another medication added on to try to halt the spread of the disease. We had been warned that he was at risk of, or was in the early stages of, congestive heart failure in the past year, but he seemed healthy most of the time. He would sometimes cough. He vomited sometimes as well, not more than other dogs it seemed, but still something we tracked for a while until we felt assured of the relative infrequence of the events. His occasional cough and the occasional vomiting didn’t ever seem to get any worse; I might even have said it seemed better over the past couple years. He was always a lazy dog and enjoyed sleeping, but he also loved to play and walk with us and explore. He still had “seizure” episodes, a few times a year or less, but they weren’t increasing in frequency and the vet had already ruled out a larger concern. Since they were so short, lasting minutes, and his shaking was calmed by our soothing words and pets, it was better to wait them out, at least to us, than to go to an animal hospital for an issue that would be resolved by arrival. Those episodes also seemed decreased over the past couple years; I can’t even remember the last one. His death resembled one of those episodes, at first. In hindsight, we wonder if those “seizures” had actually been mini heart attacks.

Rhodey loved to do anything with us. I used to run with him, at our first place with him. Sam would sometimes join in, trailing a block behind. Rhodey and I would open up. He’d gallop alongside me, pull ahead, push me on. I tried to make sure he could go as fast as he wanted, leash lax enough to keep him sprinting. Over time, I ran less, and so did he. Our second place on the Near West side had a little backyard, and the sidewalks through the neighborhood weren’t as connected, and cars raced down the streets. We didn’t walk him as much there, relying more on the yard. But we have a lot of memories still of walking him around the block of a neighborhood church, or taking him on long walks along the White River in the spring and summer and fall. Our last move to Beech Grove, just three weeks ago, was into the first home that we owned. He hadn’t quite adjusted to it yet, but he was finally coming around to our new off-the-furniture policy, however loosely enforced it was, and accepting the concession of beds for him wherever we’d be and a big area rug for him to mix things up on. (We had previously bought him a new bed to replace his old, ratty one. He hated the new bed by itself, so we piled it on the old bed for extra cushioning. I think enough of his smell was on it that he liked it rather a lot when we set it apart as its own resting place in the living room at Beech Grove. It was probably his favorite resting place. Sometimes he’d even get up in the middle of the night, leaving the bed at our side to go to the living room bed. This new bed, the bed he once hated, was the bed he retreated to, to die in.) He was still a little tentative about the stairs; it’s always taken him time to get adjusted to staircases, and his long, spindly legs would often trip whenever he’d try to race up or down the Near West duplex to greet us in a hurry from a bedroom nap or (more often) to scream his social anxiety away at any passersby.

20170325_171753.jpg

In Beech Grove, Sam was taking him on regular walks in the evenings again, and we had a fenced-in driveway and backyard so he could come out with us anytime we were doing anything. And Rhodey was my constant companion as I took care of yard work or unloaded groceries or worked on a project in the garage or carried tools back and forth. He seemed to like this yard, and the long stretch of driveway, a lot. I always imagined him getting back to his racing dog roots, running up and down the concrete, once we’d gotten enough cleared away from the garage to park a car in it, once we could have enough space for him to truly be uninhibited on that long flat surface. We’d made good progress to that goal in the week just prior to his death.

20190711_220039

This is just Day One for us in a post-Rhodey world. But I can anticipate that it will take a while to adjust to the silence. No more clitter-clatter of nails on hardwood. No more barking out the window, or whining to go outside or to get a special meat treat, or huffing and groaning as he settled down to bed at night. Walking into the kitchen is the worst for me; he’d always trail me in, just behind, and rub up against my leg to hope for a little taste of whatever I had. (His favorite snack was carrots, but he loved bits of my lunch meats too.)

20170507_150348

He loved to be with us, always. He loved to cuddle with us. He loved to stand by our side. He loved to hustle under our feet whenever we were carrying anything at all, of course. It was always sort of annoying and sort of amusing; he just wanted to help, but he couldn’t. When we were sad, or mad, he just wanted to help too, but as usual, he couldn’t. He’d cry and hop up on his, digging into our arms or torsos with his claws, and that was sort of annoying and sort of amusing, too. He was very empathetic but didn’t know what to do; his concern for us was often enough to defuse things a little. If we were hugging or dancing in the kitchen, Rhodey would want to hop up and dance or hug too. And even though he hated car rides, crying and whining in fear for most of any trip, if I ever went to get something from my car with him by my side, he’d wait for the door to open and would hop inside as soon as he could, just because he wanted to be with us if we were going somewhere.

He used to cry whenever we had a gate up to keep him out of a room at the first place. We gave that up pretty quickly, only using a barrier to keep him out of the kitchen when we had food out. (This later barrier wasn’t secured to the door frame, but he was very rules-based and saw any barrier as a rule Not to Pass; eventually, in our last year together, he learned that he could nudge it out of the way to get to the food, resulting in some messy antics.)

WP_20141220_17_25_50_Pro (2)

He’d cry when we left and when we came home, too. He got better over time, eventually shifting to barking, and gradually calming more and more over time. But he still had a very special cry for when Sam came home. I sadly don’t have a recording of it, but he’d cry, “MwaMAMAMAMAMWAMA.” We joked that Sam was his mother and I was just That Guy.

There are lots of fond memories that I have of our time with Rhodey, far more than the above, far more than I could share here, but I’ll still share a few more.

One time, he was so excited about me getting home that he tried to do a back-flip and landed on his back. I was worried for the moment it took him to groan, roll over, and hop up. He was fine! And still glad to see me! But he didn’t try any back-flips after that.

20160611_145754.jpg

One time early on, as Sam and I walked him, Rhodey tugged so hard that he pulled free from my grip, and we were terrified as he dashed in front of a car, narrowly avoiding being hit, to chase down and tree a squirrel. He thought we were playing when we came after him, but he eventually returned to us.

20170513_135302.jpg

One time, in the dead of winter, maybe in the first or second year together, I was walking him on an icy sidewalk, and I slipped and fell. Rhodey could have run off, free from his leash, and he always loved to tug and dash. But he immediately trotted back to me, trying to lick me and make sure that I was okay. (He never, ever ran away. Sometimes he’d dart out the door, but not to run off somewhere–he just didn’t want to get shut in when we were heading out. He always wanted to be with us.)

20170513_135300.jpg

One time, at the Near West place, I left a side gate open while mowing. Rhodey was out with me and pushed through to go out. He walked around the sidewalk, a normal walking route (if there was a path, his impulse was to follow it). When I looked up to see Rhodey a fenced-in yard away on the sidewalk, I couldn’t tell who was more surprised: me or him. It seemed like he’d thought he was supposed to go out there, had no idea we weren’t coming with him, and couldn’t remember exactly in that moment how to get back! Sam cried out in worry, but I cheerily called, “Hey, Rhodey, come here!” And I started gesturing and walking toward the side gate; he immediately started mirroring my movement. We met around the corner, and he was so excited to see how to get to me, he started galloping toward me, and I gave him a big hug and walked him back into the yard.

20170513_135258.jpg

On a couple occasions, we bought him plush squeaking toys. He would tear them up so quickly, removing each squeaker device with almost surgical precision before ripping the fluffy stuffing out. Because of this, we mostly played catch with a couple balls, or played tug of war. We found that a local butcher sold dried liver dog snacks just in the past week, and he’d been enjoying the leisurely experience of chewing on them. Sam meant to get him a chew bone from that butcher next week.

20180228_230448.jpg

On many, many occasions, I remember him hitting his snout against the swinging trash can lid to get at the trash inside. No matter how many times we shooed him away, he’d come back. And when we weren’t looking, he’d pull out a tasty used napkin or old bone or some other junk, and he’d scatter plenty of other trash on the floor before dashing to a bed to gnaw on his illicit booty.

WP_20150802_21_56_27_Pro

And almost every morning and night, Sam made sure to give him his medications. She was more consistent with him than with her own meds. She would give him the meds first with peanut butter, until the doctor told us that the salt content was dangerous and that we should try something like marshmallows. Marshmallows worked well until he had to take an even bigger pill. He’d spit it out, no matter what Sam did with it. So over the past few months, he got the treat of a marshmallow and a glob of peanut butter to lick off her finger. (It was a compromise that she always regretted, but it was the only solution we found to get him to consistently take his medication without spitting it out.)

20150105_204428.jpg

He was always phobic of a potty accident in the house and would hold it as long as he had to, even though we never scolded him on the rare event of an accident. One time, he pooped in the house and was so ashamed that he tried to hide the evidence under his bed. On the other hand, when we moved to Beech Grove, he was happy to relieve his anxiety bowel movements in the basement.

20161219_142250.jpg

One time, he bit Sam’s brother when he tried to take back a napkin from the dog. Lee was just trying to help–it had cleaner on it and could have poisoned Rhodey. But that was the only time he ever bit anyone. And despite his previous owners’ concern about their child, he loved kids. We used to tell people not to pet him, but that changed to “be careful and let him come to you,” to “sure, you can pet him.” Other dogs sometimes came up to him off the leash, and he tolerated them as well as he could, snapping if they got too aggressive or spent too much time trying to sniff his butt (a nervous, socially awkward dog, he typically kept tail down, presumably to avoid dog-identification). But if he could approach dogs on the same terms, he could become friends. He was friendly with other dogs when he was boarded. He was friends with my mom’s dog when we visited. He was friends with some dogs of our friends when we visited them. As anxious as he was, and quick to bark through the window, he genuinely enjoyed other people and other dogs. He just didn’t know the right way to communicate that, I guess! (In his last month of life, Sam insisted that we get a ThunderShirt. He never seemed to mind thunder or fireworks, interestingly, so I thought it would be pointless. But it seemed to have worked well at soothing his anxiety. He seemed a lot calmer and barked a lot less after he started wearing it.)

20190102_222931.jpg

Rhodey was dumb. That was a recurrent comment of mine. He wasn’t a smart dog. He wasn’t exceptional in any way. But he was sweet and loyal. He loved us, and all he wanted in return was to be loved (and to get the occasional carrot). He had such sweet, sympathetic brown eyes. And his trim, long-legged body paired with those soulful eyes and his striking blond-and-white fur led many, many people to tell us over the years that we had a pretty dog, a beautiful dog. Many wanted to know what he was. We always said a Whippet mix; we’re not sure what the mix was, though, but his eyes (not at all Whippet dog eyes) and his coat were peculiar for the breed. Sam eventually settled on Whippet and Border Collie. Presumably because of his coat alone, his previous owners claimed he was a Corgi/Whippet mix, but the vet found it rather unlikely (the vet, in fact, was rather surprised to find our long-legged buddy on the first visit when the vet tech had noted him, based on our phone conversation, as a Corgi mix).

WP_20151107_11_15_30_Pro

Like I said, Rhodey was dumb, but he was sweet and loyal and caring and funny. He had a mischievous personality. He adored us. He wasn’t very grateful for treats and other concessions like furniture time (who can blame him on the latter when he had free roam for most of his life with us), but he more than made up for it by his joyousness in being with us. He liked to play, he liked to sleep, and he especially loved to cuddle with us. He loved to rub between my legs as I patted him down and scratched at his sides. I’d drum my palms over his flanks and he’d do a little step-step-step-step dance with his back legs, tapping away on the floor. I gradually shifted Sam away from the habit of letting Rhodey sleep on our bed, but he always had a bed next to us. Even though his bed was on Sam’s side, almost every night, he would come stand by my side of the bed and wait for me to give him pets. We performed that ritual for the last time the night before his death.

WP_20160207_18_05_19_Pro.jpg

We had roles with Rhodey. Sam was his best friend; I was his protector. He would most often choose play or cuddling with Sam. But if he was afraid or nervous, he would come to me to be soothed. I don’t know when I’ll get over the guilt I feel for failing him, for not being able to protect him at the end. He didn’t seem scared when he died, and he had us with him, but I couldn’t do anything to help him. Maybe I could have. Maybe if we’d started CPR sooner. Maybe if we’d realized something was different. I don’t know if anything would have changed the outcome, but it hurts me so much that I couldn’t help him when he needed me. Just as bad, when we thought it was a normal episode, Sam stayed by his side to comfort him while I went back to bring in the groceries. I didn’t get very far into that, though. He worsened so rapidly in just a few minutes; he responded briefly to me, tracking me with his eyes, when I came back to him, but he was lost so quickly after that. I wish so, so much that I had been by his side for the whole time. He deserved that. But at least his best friend was there.

Sam & Eric Fancy.jpg

Rhodey was about four when we got him in August 2013. He died a little before 9:10 PM on July 27, 2019. We always said that his birthday was July 4, so by our estimate, he was just over ten years old.

Rhodey didn’t have to be exceptional. He was his own dog. He loved us very much, and I hope that he knew how much we loved him in turn. Despite his anxiety, despite his mischief, he did seem to want to be a good boy, and there were many times where he did something clever or obeyed a command that made me very proud of him. He didn’t have to be exceptional to be beloved; he just had to be himself.

100_2095.JPG

I love my dumb, sweet, loyal, caring, good boy. And I can’t imagine that I’ll ever stop missing him.

20170109_185623

Goodbye, Rhodey.

What I’d like Stranger Things to do next

Reader, I assure you that I have no intention of turning this into a blog about first-time homeowner anecdotes and DIY stories. That said, it’s where a lot of my head space is, as we cross projects off the lists, entertain new project ideas, and work to organize and put away all of our stuff. The weekends see most of the work because we have the time and energy for it. I say that like it’s been a while, but we’ve just been homeowners for two weeks and two days! I’m still very much so enjoying the process, and (knock on wood) there have been no nasty surprises, but even so, the sheer amount of things to do can be exhausting at times.

That said, I did make time to finish Stranger Things 3 over the week. I found that I continue to greatly enjoy the characters and relationships on the show, and I am glad that the show still manages to throw surprises and emotional punches that pay off. I actually found the arc of the season to be a little mundane; besides the gross monster-growing body horror, the whole trajectory of the Mind Flayer using a human host(s) to accelerate its domination of our dimension felt a little like a repeat of Season 2 (keeping in mind, again, that the characters continued to grow and evolve, and to process the tragedies and traumas of the previous seasons, in interesting ways).

Major spoilers follow.


 

The ending was still rewarding. The final couple episodes were action-packed, exciting, and brought everything together rather nicely. Poor Joyce, yet again witnessing the death of a romantic companion–and this time a direct agent in his demise (even though she truly had no other option). I was in disbelief at first. I was sure there would be no way that they’d kill Hopper. The absence of an on-screen death or body set off my bullshit detectors. I kept waiting for him to pop up at any time, even in the parking lot as Joyce broke down realizing she’d have to tell Eleven that her dad was never coming back. When we saw the newspaper headline following the time jump, I finally accepted that he was really dead, and I started to feel a little cheated by it all. He was just gone! And then Eleven gets his letter, and we hear the heartfelt addition he added at the end, and I was crying. Of course, the roller coaster continues, when in the final scene we learn that the Russians are keeping an American  alive at their Kamchatka facility.

It doesn’t have to be Hopper. But I certainly believe it is! Like Agent Mulder (in a completely different dark and weird Americana sci-fi series), I want to believe. (Eleven being powerless leaves a convenient explanation as to why she couldn’t just take a psychic look for him.) What I hope is that Season 4 does something really different, building on the lore in divergent new ways in the manner of Season 2’s expansion of the threat from the Upside Down and the addition of the sort of X-Force street gang. I’d love to see Hopper’s escape or rescue and the shutdown of the Kamchatka facility be a major plot point. And I think that the shift to espionage or military black ops could be a refreshing change of pace and style for the series. I’m sure that Joyce, Steve, and the whole gang of kids will be implicated at some point, if only because I doubt that Netflix would just let the cast go, but it would be fun to see the show move to a whole different locale and type of threat (and narrative), at least for a little while.

Home Secured

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks for me. I’ve now been a homeowner for a little over a week and two days. Sam and I have finished moving in. The rental’s been cleaned out and the keys handed over. We’ve already had a variety of new home projects, including the removal of carpeting (and tiles plus linoleum in the foyer) to expose original hardwoods, the DIY installation of home security, and the very-much-so-left-to-the-professionals needed electrical work to update our panel and breakers and outlets. In the midst of this, we also had to have a cable technician come out to complete cable setup–turns out, the cable company didn’t have a cable line running to our house, and instead it was another company’s coaxial cable that ran in through the exterior of the house (the customer service rep I spoke with on the phone tried to offer me a credit for the inconvenience of having to have a technician come out anyway after I tried to self-install, but the cable company’s system literally would not allow him to give me more than two bucks in credit, which is just some extraordinary corporate bureaucracy).

Some of the rooms are coming into shape, but there’s still a lot of stuff to be put away. Thankfully, the projects we’ve been tackling have been mostly fun and, in general, rewarding. And it will of course be rewarding to get the house tidied up. I like the energy spent on these projects, and we already have several more projects planned for the near-, mid-, and long-term. Homeownership is pretty fun, and I’m glad that we’ve had the privilege of this opportunity!

It’s not so fun to actually move, though, or to clean out a rental, or to re-paint said rental. And there’s the pressure of the move-out deadline. We got a reasonable amount done, and it looked nice enough, and now we can put that part of the process out of sight, out of mind. Which means, while the projects will continue apace, we can have some room to breathe.

Maybe that means I can finally get through the rest of Stranger Things 3

“It is to be commended. What is its number?”

Despite some delays, we’re still holding out hope for a closing at the end of this week on our first home. While a delay of a few days or a week wouldn’t be a big deal, it would be especially nice to close and take possession this week because it’s also the week that my work site has a summer shutdown. Regardless of whether we can actually start moving this week, we’ll at least be getting ready for it, packing and removing some of the stuff we won’t be taking with us.

It’s also a good week for catching up on other things I’ve been putting off. One of those things has just been keeping up with the Clone Wars rewatch, so last night I was binging several episodes, and tonight will get me back on pace with the once-a-week recaps on the official Star Wars website. In the rush of episodes, one small detail stuck with me.

In the episode “R2 Come Home,” R2-D2 must rescue Mace Windu and Anakin Skywalker from a lethal trap by escaping pursuing bounty hunters and contacting the Jedi Order. In the beginning of the episode, R2 is briefly partnered with Mace’s droid, R8-B7, before the latter unit is destroyed. But wait. R8? It looks like an identical model to R2. Why the different designation?

It’s a silly thing to get hung up on, but droid designations have long been really confusing to me. In the films alone, it’s easy enough to decide that the designations might be partial serial numbers or something to that effect. But at least in the old Expanded Universe, droid designations came to represent both the model and unit. For instance, there was a whole R-series of astromech droids that included R2 models, R4 models, R8 models, and so on. (Higher the number, newer the model release.)

Again, there’s nothing in the films, at least that I can think of, that would dictate this interpretation. I think it’s an artifact of the Expanded Universe’s impulse to extrapolate general characteristics from very limited anecdotal film details–like that all Hutts are gangsters, all Rodians are bounty hunters, all Twi’lek women are dancers, and so on. (Thankfully the EU moved more and more away from that, and the new canon doesn’t seem too guilty of that outside of casting the Hutts once more as a Space Mafia race.) And I’m sure that a lot of those generalizations are a result of the need to gamify elements of Star Wars; so much of the broader lore originated with West End Games and was spread in supplements created by WEG and the publishers who filled the tabletop publishing niche in the following years.

The idea that a droid’s name always starts with its model number doesn’t even really make a lot of sense, unless one assumes that there are a lot of droids designated R2-D2, or that owners are picking random elements of a much longer serial number to supplement the droids’ names. It feels more right to imagine a generic droid series, the “R-series,” for instance, with many models and unique designations under that. (Still, I bet there are other so-called R2-D2s rolling around in that galaxy far, far away.)

I got hung up on R8 in particular because that would have been a model released much later in the old EU, but also because the designation seemed to have no practical effect on the droid’s appearance. As usual, I seem to be late to the party. Wookieepedia’s Legends page for R8-B7 has a behind-the-scenes section referencing an old Star Wars Insider issue (58) that apparently explained that droid names are fragments of longer designations. (Without a copy of that issue, I’m just going to have to trust the accuracy of the source. For my purposes, seeing the existence of the proposed theory is sufficient, even if the source is incorrect.) That was before the unified canon reboot, but that seems like a very plausible explanation.

I still want to put too much emphasis on those model numbers, though. I remember as a kid reading about them in Star Wars Gamer issue 3 (“DROIDS”!) and the “Droids” chapter of the Star Wars Roleplaying Game Revised Core Rulebook during the publishing reign of Wizards of the Coast. Something about that was formative enough to lock it in as a thing I “knew” about droids. It’s a hard thing for me to unlearn–even though nothing says that those model numbers aren’t still canon. It’s easy enough to reconcile model number designations with inconsistent droid names under the serial number theory. Searching keywords related to this subject, I stumbled on a Reddit thread that points out that the personal designation of a droid could be pulled from anywhere in its serial number. So even the apparent rule-breaker R8 could really be R2-B17998R8-B7743, or something like that. Still, if that’s true, why even grab random numbers at all? Why not just name your droid “Frank” or “Scruffy” or just call it “Astromech”?

It’s really not something that needs more explanation, because there’s not something truly broken here. It’s just silly, is all.

Securing Home

I think, I hope, that we’re far enough along in the process to say that Sam and I are buying a house. It’s an exciting experience for us, but also, as one can imagine (or remember, if you’ve been a first-time homebuyer before), it’s an incredibly stressful one. Ever since I’ve opted to leave law, my anxiety has largely subsided, but this has been a nice kick to remind me that it’s always waiting for the right moment to resurface!

As such, the past few weeks have been defined for me by difficulty focusing. I’ve been reading less, not for lack of time but for lack of engagement. I’ve been hopping between books, and I’ve been turning to Star Wars more than I should, not spacing it out as I typically try to do. I’ve watched fewer interesting movies and spent more time disengaging with nostalgic favorites and reality TV (we are not planning any immediate home renovation projects, and yet Property Brothers is streaming all too constantly). And despite the truly horrid national news, I’ll admit that I’ve sort of stuck my head in the sand this past month. With concentration camps, planned ICE raids, the threat of impulsive and unnecessary further war, and even more reports of the president’s personal sins in the news, I know that it’s a time for citizen engagement and activism. But I’m where I’m at.

It leaves me feeling a bit guilty and more than a bit vapid, but it’s keeping me calm, keeping my anxiety mostly under control, allowing me the mental space and energy to deal with the responsibilities of work and home life all while going through this drawn-out buying process.

(I should take a moment to say that I’m quite happy with the experience overall, I feel I’ve had good service experiences, I haven’t had to do all that much, and other than one delay everything is moving smoothly. None of that can stop catastrophic thinking.)

I imagine that with better coping strategies, I wouldn’t need to detach myself somewhat from the world to get through a stressful period, especially one seen as such a routine milestone in adult life. But Sam and I are getting through this all together, my work performance isn’t suffering, and I’m not putting on more weight, so I’d say it’s going well enough.

I thought I might talk about the Dick Cheney biopic Vice tonight (great performances and interesting surreal storytelling that offer a tale that is often both wickedly funny and gut-twistingly dark), but my heart’s not in it (if you’ve seen the film, I hope you’ll see the humor in that turn of phrase). I thought I might talk about any of the books I’m currently reading, but I’ll save that for reviews down the line. I find that I don’t have much I want to say this week. So I’ll leave it at that.

Free Time with The Sims 4

EA is offering The Sims 4 for free, to download and keep, through May 28. So that’s become the top activity for my wife and I this beautiful Memorial Day weekend.

I’ve played at least one of the games in every generation since the original Sims, including each of the main numbered releases, even though I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself a fan of the franchise. If not for this particular opportunity, I probably would have never even bothered with the fourth main entry, but I’m glad I did. The varied, branching aspirations and multitude of personality traits available, coupled with greater autonomy, imbue the Sims with more identity and vitality than ever before. You can still hop in and micro-manage the hell out of them, still apply the heavy thumb of a fickle god to their lives, but it’s now often fun to just sit back and let them run through their days, as though you’re the owner of a human terrarium. I feel more like I’m nudging them at the right moments, pushing them toward the completion of their lifetime goals, a benevolent deity that they couldn’t prove for sure is ever really there. And sometimes I push them right into a whole lot of drama–sometimes deliberately, sometimes accidentally–and in those moments, my Sims must be convinced that there can be no god at all.

As has almost always been the case, building my Sim families is still my favorite part of the game. There is so much customization, with virtually everything, including gender, coming in multiple spectra. Then there are all the aspirations and personality traits that I mentioned to round them out as people, not merely bodies. (If we can already run simulations this convincing, it’s hard to shake the implication that we, too, could be operating within a larger-scale sim.)

It’s crazy to realize that The Sims 4 released in 2014. I’m sure that now that I’m playing it, we’ll see an announcement for the fifth installment any day now…

But if you, like me, never bothered with The Sims 4, it couldn’t hurt to pick it up while it’s free!