All posts by Paul Gardner

I'm a 25 year old student from Columbus, Ohio, currently majoring in English at Ohio State. This blog will be a space for me to store and showcase my professional quality work that I have created. I will also share my most up to date contact information and resume for networking purposes.

A Sims 3 Experiment: Day 43

Week 7: My Only Friend, the End

Day 43: Aliens and Face-paint Demons

Day 43 began early, before dawn had even arrived. The house was asleep and everything was quiet when, all of a sudden, a massive boom rang out, followed by some sparkly chime noises. I’m not afraid to say it started the crap out of me, mostly because I didn’t know angelic volcanoes were in the Sims 3. But then, I saw someone walking up to the front door. Was the person the reason for the noises? Maybe it was their car? Pete was nearest to his wakeup time, so I sent him down to answer the door. I couldn’t have picked a better person.

Is...is that an alien? Amateur astronomer Pete is talking to an alien?
Is…is that an alien? Amateur astronomer Pete is talking to an alien?

I thought it was just a crazy ugly Sim, like a regular person. Or an elf, maybe, but then I realized it was wearing some kind of space suit, and my thoughts were answered. But why was he here? Was it because of Pete’s telescope activities? He hadn’t used it in a while, though perhaps this alien was from light years away, and had only just witnessed Pete’s meddling into powers beyond his comprehension. But then again, this alien showed no interest in probing Pete’s nether regions. He didn’t seem to have any kind of agenda at all. He just showed up, rang the doorbell, and proceeded watch funny videos with Pete on his smartphone.

First contact, everyone. Made possible by LolCats
First contact, everyone. Made possible by LolCats

This went on for about an hour, but then it was time for the alien to leave. You’d think he want to hang around longer and explore this new land, or at least analyze it for colonization, but he had more important places to be, so he teleported into his phallus-shaped space ship, and zoomed off into the night sky.

Godspeed, good sir. To you and your dong-ship
Godspeed, good sir, to you and your dong-ship

Pete, having just had the experience of a lifetime, went inside and took a shower, showing no signs of delirium, panic, or even extra excitement. It was as if he hadn’t just been visited by a being from another planet. Way to be SimEarth’s ambassador, Pete. Now the Vulcans will never notice us. Anyway, by now the rest of the house was waking up, mentioning nothing about the sonic boom that rattled the walls just two hours earlier. Though, Robi did have more important matters to attend to.

I’m guessing he’s writing a love letter. But to who??
I’m guessing he’s writing a love letter. But to who??

Such a mystery would never be realized, as he gave no further indication. He’s a total enigma, that Robi. Still, I couldn’t help wonder who he would be sending a love note too. My first guess was Janet, as she was the only person he’d ever been romantically involved with. But, knowing Robi, he could’ve just as easily written a love note to a head of lettuce. Even so, that’s love. Pete had never even written a love note to his girlfriend. Then again, that could also explain why she hadn’t called in over a week…But, there was no time to dwell on such things. MML had apparently made plans. They were going to the Seasonal Fair, to stuff their faces with elephant ears, puke behind the port-a-jons, and make fun of carnies. Hopefully. I actually had no idea what the Seasonal fair was.

Well, it has food trucks, so that’s a good start
Well, it has food trucks, so that’s a good start

For whatever reason, they decided to wait until 6 pm to go, even though they had the entire day off. By then, it was pretty deserted, which would normally mean no lines for any of the attractions, except there weren’t that many attractions here. There was a small playground for kids, a few food stalls, a roller skating rink, and a soccer field. Oh, and a curious table that Robi and Claudia were standing behind. Out of nowhere, they were joined by two other fair patrons who had apparently been waiting in the shadows for the perfect time to reveal themselves. And then, this happened.

Quite possibly the greatest picture ever taken
Quite possibly the greatest picture ever taken

It was a close race. Everyone’s pile of hotdogs depleted at just about the same rate. I knew Robi would have no problem, but I couldn’t fathom how Claudia was even in the contest, or how she was holding her own. I’m sure these weren’t vegetarian hot dogs, and it’s Claudia, the shy neat-freak. Yet there she was, tearing through those wieners like a woman possessed. In the end, however, it was down to Robi and that skinny blonde chick on the end. I’m pretty sure they both finished at the same time, but the game gave the award to the girl. I was about to have Robi challenge her to another contest, in order to determine who the true champion was, but then everyone started to feel…sick.

The woman in the black dressed had just run away and started spinning circles in the field behind them, presumably driven insane from the sheer amount of hot dogs she had just consumed
The woman in the black dressed had just run away and started spinning circles in the field behind them, presumably driven insane from the sheer amount of hot dogs she had just consumed

After that (and a few quiet minutes of adjusting their pants) it was time to enjoy the rest of the fair. As a group, they headed over to the skating rink, which had some of the worst lighting I’d ever seen. As they began, a skill bar popped up over their heads. I wasn’t sure which skill it was translating too, but none of them were all that good at it.

 They’ve either just fallen down, or they’re looking for a contact
They’ve either just fallen down, or they’re looking for a contact

After a thrilling half hour skating around and holding onto each other in an attempt to not fall over, it was time to move on. At this point, they dispersed and started to do their own things. Claudia made her way to the face painting booth, Farrah found some swings to chill out on, and Pete headed over towards the bathrooms. Robi continued to skate, or so I thought, until I clicked on him and saw this:

The worst part about this, is that someone had to paint his face like that, which meant there was an actual demon in the face-painting tent
The worst part about this, is that someone had to paint his face like that, which meant that there was an actual demon in the face-painting tent

You would think, since he voluntarily went into the tent, that he would be a little happy about it. I guess not. He looks more like a kid who’s being dragged around on his mom’s errands. Cheer up, Robi! You can wear your face like this when you play gigs. Like a demonic, skeletal version of Peter Criss. Face-paint atrocities aside, the rest of the night was spent enjoying the rest of the fair. And they were having a blast, despite Robi’s appearance of the contrary.

“Look at all this fun I’m having…” he said with no emotion at all
“Look at all this fun I’m having…” he said with no emotion at all

By this point, it was nearing midnight, and everyone was starting to feel tired. It was time to head home. It had definitely been a fun day. What’s not to love about a fair, even one without any rides, or carnies, or even an elephant ear. Ok, so it was a pretty disappointing fair, but at least the group enjoyed themselves.

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A Sims 3 Experiment: Day 42

Day 42: MML Gets a Mascot

What would you think if stumbled into the bathroom to find someone just sitting on the toilet. Not using it, mind you. Just chilling out. Myself, I’d be confused. That is how the final day of week 6 began, in a haze of confusion. The reason:

She apparently woke up early just to do this. Whatever makes her happy, I guess
She apparently woke up early just to do this. Whatever makes her happy, I guess

I don’t know why. I didn’t even know “sit on the toilet” was an option. But, she had found some way to cheat the system, and she was taking full advantage of it. Perhaps she just needed a quiet place to think for a while. And, for a short time, she found it, until the ringing of four separate alarm clocks announced the end of sleep for the rest of the house. For Robi, waking up must’ve been a welcome relief, because he started his day in a shitty mood from a bad night’s sleep. Of course, the best remedy for such things is to have your lover feel you up in the hallway.

Either that, or it’s piggy back time!
Either that, or it’s piggy back time!

Now, before I go too much farther, I need to interject here. On Day 42, I was loaned a couple of expansion packs, namely Seasons and University Life. At the time, I thought that the latter wouldn’t really be of any consequence to this experiment, unless they all suddenly decided to quit the band and enroll at school. The former was more interesting to me, as it added a bunch of nifty stuff to the game, like temperatures, a seasonal community fair, and seasons (of course). Nothing too huge, but something else to add some zest to their lives.

And possibly determine when Robi could and could not stand outside with almost no clothes on
And possibly determine when Robi could and could not stand outside with almost no clothes on

For the time being, however, life remained normal. It was a gig day, but the show wasn’t until 6 at the Plasma Lounge, so the gang had plenty of time to kill, which they did with swimming, painting, and chatting to one another. In fact, it was actually fairly boring. Sims can be boring as hell if you’re not actively controlling them. They’re almost like goldfish. They eat, poop, stand around doing nothing, and sometimes do entertaining stuff. Luckily, Robi is one of those “touched” goldfish who thinks he’s actually a pigeon, which creates so much entertainment. Unfortunately, today was not one of Robi’s crazy days, leading to a case of the doldrums for everyone.

Janet was having absolutely no fun just sitting there and staring off into space
Janet was having absolutely no fun just sitting there and staring off into space

Luckily, through the power of technology (and the fast-forward button), it was soon 6 pm, and time for the next performance. For whatever reason, venues that are on the top floor of a building prove to be difficult obstacles for my Sims to traverse. It routinely takes them an hour to simply get into an elevator and ride it to their destination. So, now that all of their gigs are in such locations, I need to send them into town about two hours before start time. Of course, this time, they all arrived well before 6, which made for some downtime. They all grabbed a seat at the various bar areas in the Plasma Lounge, and basked in the recognition that was being showered upon them.

Off topic, but that bartender looks a bit like Jane Lynch, doesn’t she?
Off topic, but that bartender looks a bit like Jane Lynch, doesn’t she?

Finally, the show began. Unfortunately, despite it being at the optimum time, in one of the town’s most upscale locations, the place was deserted, save for the random guy who was playing the piano when we came in. Like always, that didn’t stop them, and they played yet another awesome show. In fact, Robi continued to play even after it had ended, well after the throes of exhaustion began to set in. He just kept drumming.

What a guy. Play those drums, Robi! Play the shit out of them!
What a guy. Play those drums, Robi! Play the shit out of them!

Now, for some reason, this is where the night took a strange turn down a little street I like to call “WTF”. First, all four of them began to dance with each other. Yes, even Claudia. They were the only patrons in there, but damn it, they wanted to dance. It didn’t seem too odd, since they had just gotten paid. But why Shy Claudia would be joining in when there were strangers around puzzled me slightly. I didn’t have much time to think about it though, because Robi decided it was time to get crazy.

He's totally about to go streaking through the quad
He’s totally about to go streaking through the quad

Since when did the “streak” option become available? And then it hit me: University Life. Of course, But, Robi being Robi, he didn’t need copious amounts of alcohol and friends cheering him on to strip down and run around. That’s just what he likes to call “Tuesday”. And so he ran, junk dangling and flopping about with narry a care for who saw, who it hit, or whether it got caught in the elevator door (it didn’t, thankfully). The rest of the band just kept dancing, by now totally fine with whatever craziness Robi decided to carry out. Of course, as streaking is a form of public exposure, he could only run so far before the authorities arrived.

I kept hoping that he would fight and resist, but he complied with the officer
I kept hoping that he would fight and resist, but he complied with the officer

I assumed he was on his way to jail, and that I’d have to send the band after him to bail him out. Fortunately, the cop just took him home and charged him $500. As for the others, they arrived home at the same time, so they were able to see him being lectured to (again) by the same cop as the other day. Now, you may think this is kind of a big deal. Robi had just been placed in handcuffs after being naked in public. But, as soon as we went to open the front door, something miraculous happened.

Oh my god….is that...the Masochistic Murder Llama?? We have a mascot!
Oh my god….is that…the Masochistic Murder Llama?? We have a mascot!

Ok, so that’s the University Life college mascot, but you better believe that we adopted it as the band’s mascot on the spot. Robi was so excited he changed into a suit and proceeded to lose his shit.

Seriously, he started acting like a teen girl at a One Direction concert as soon as he saw that Llama
Seriously, he started acting like a teenage girl at a One Direction concert as soon as he saw that Llama

And then, after the Llama departed, a bucket full of school supplies magically appeared on the sidewalk. Everyone got a free school shirt and a pennant for clicking on it, as well as the opportunity to take a school placement test. Would anyone like to guess who decided to take this test?

 Did you guess Claudia?
Did you guess Claudia?

Now, I don’t know if this automatically enrolls him in school, but I guess we’ll have to find out. He just really wanted to take that test, I guess. He stood outside in the dark for like an hour, filling out the paperwork. Good for him. Let him follow whatever dream is in his head this time. As for the rest of house, they were pretty much exhausted, and collapsed into bed as soon as the excitement of the mascot visitation had faded. It had been an eventful day, and a fitting close to week 6. I had hoped that by now, MML would have been filling stadiums and arenas, but who’s to say when that will happen. As long as they’re happy.

Here’s a bonus picture: Robi’s face as the cop was cuffing him. I laughed so hard
Here’s a bonus picture: Robi’s face as the cop was cuffing him. I laughed so hard

 

A Sims 3 Experiment: Day 41

Day 41: F$#k the Police

Day 41 saw the last free day before what would be the biggest show of their career: Club Plasma. I had (incorrectly) assumed that they would all understand the gravity of the situation, and spend the day on their instruments, honing and practicing and tweaking every little detail of their performance until it was absolutely flawless. Instead, it was just more of the same. Farrah went outside and watered the garden in her underwear, Claudia started on a new (and surprisingly decent looking) painting, Pete began a Jazzercise regimen, and Robi worked out like a man possessed (probably because he is possessed).

“MAKE THOSE PECS BULGE, ROBI! FEEL THE BUUUUUURRRN!!!”
“MAKE THOSE PECS BULGE, ROBI! FEEL THE BUUUUUURRRN!!!”

Oh well, so much for honing their craft. I’m sure it wouldn’t make that much of a difference. They were all level 10, and the chances of them growing rusty in five days was slim. And so, while they played, I tweaked the house a bit, incorporating the newest free item Claudia had received earlier that morning.

Total make-out couch on the awesome make-out balcony
Total make-out couch on the awesome make-out balcony

I didn’t know if anyone would just go out there and chill, but if it were me, I’d definitely include that in my list of selling points were I selling the home. I mean, who doesn’t love balconies? Anyway, like most things in their lives, they didn’t seem to care that much about anything new. They just kept on keeping on with the usual. That is, until Farrah had to use the bathroom, and this happened…

Oh HELL no!
Oh HELL no!

The rage was palpable, both from my Sims, and from me. How the hell had she gotten into my house? Why won’t she just leave? What’s worse, at this point, she thought it would be great tabloid material for her to walk in while Farrah was on the toilet, and start taking pictures. Oh, she crossed the line. Swimming in my pool for 12 hours – child’s play compared to this. But, of course, when I told her to “stop doing that” she simply continued to “do that”. I was stuck, there was nothing I could do to make her leave, short of luring her into a room and setting it on fire, but that would mean damaging my own home in the process. Thankfully, it was at this point that I remembered we could call the police. And so I had Robi do the honors, as this intruding bitch was his sworn enemy. Feeling triumphant, I had him change into his formal wear. Seeing the look on this woman’s face as the police hauled her away in cuffs would be one to cherish, and Robi would need to look his best. However, when the police arrived, I was confused to find them walking right past the offender, and marching straight up to Robi. Apparently, they had no intention of escorting this intruder off of the Llama property, and instead yelled at Robi for calling them.

Don’t taze me, bro!
Don’t taze me, bro!

Words could not express my displeasure. Of course, I say displeasure to try and soften the harshness in my words. What I mean is, I was pissed. I thought this was supposed to be a life simulator. They could at least give you the option to call the police on an intruder. Who was never invited inside to begin with. Casa del Llama is not some brothel for down-on-their-luck photographers to come and hang out. But, the best part about all of this hadn’t even happened yet. No, that occurred immediately after the cop left (oh, and he charged me $500 for wasting his time). Just as the police cruiser was pulling away, Jennifer McWhoreFace (that’s the paparazzette’s real name, honest) walked out of the house and left. Sigh. You know, I guess this is why you hear so many reports of celebrities beating the crap out of paparazzi. Anyway, with that unpleasantness behind us, it was time to move on with the rest of the day, which was easy for them because they’re Sims, what the hell do they care that their privacy had just been violated.

To be fair, Robi seemed a little off. He made dinner for everyone (very nice quality too) and didn’t try to bang Janet. He was acting….normal
To be fair, Robi seemed a little off. He made dinner for everyone (very nice quality too) and didn’t try to bang Janet. He was acting….normal

The mood was further lightened when Pete received a call for the next gig, a show at the Banzai lounge the day after the Club Plasma show. I guess, now that they had been invited to play a club, taking the Banzai gig was a step back, but a show’s a show, and Masochistic Murder Llama will never disappoint their fans. It was almost as if the SimGods heard such thoughts, because just then, Robi received a free gift: A portable fire pit.

Aww yeah, s’more time bitches
Aww yeah, s’more time bitches

With a little rearranging of the pool deck, and a few chairs thrown in, Casa del Llama looked better than ever. Of course, being the maniac that he is, Robi spent about three hours in front of the fire, gazing into its flickering trance, mesmerized by the glowing warmth as it washed over his face. Feeling every wave of heat as it caressed his ass…

Classic Robi
Classic Robi

I’ve stopped questioning the  things he does. Unless it’s something ultra crazy, it’s just the norm for him. Like here, as he’s toasting his ass on the new fire place while Pete skinny dips in the hot tub behind him. I don’t think I would even blink  if Robi stripped down and stood naked in front of the fire. And so he stood, for the next couple of hours, the heat on his ass until it was time to go to bed.  I saw him pass by Janet on his way to his room,  where they presumably they exchanged a sly wink and probably some purring.  The rest of the house was already asleep, save for Pete, who was still naked in the hot tub. And he stayed naked in the hot tub, until 5 am.

I actually thought he fell asleep at one point, and I was preparing for him to drown  or cook to death. But, fortunately, he managed to wake up and stumble to bed, exhausted and extremely pruned.
I actually thought he fell asleep at one point, and I was preparing for him to drown  or cook to death. But, fortunately, he managed to wake up and stumble to bed, exhausted and extremely pruned.


It had been quite the day, full of bathroom invasions, police brutality, and toasty asses. That’s about all a day can contain, if you ask me. And so I drew it to a close. Because of Pete’s hot tub fetish, it was now 6 in the morning, and the others would be waking up soon, ready for the biggest gig of their lives. Hopefully.

A Sims 3 Experiment: Day 40

Day 40: Fisticuffs and Fornication

The feeling of maturity that was so palpable the day before continued strong into the next morning, as it found Robi up early, watering his tiny garden.

Two lettuce sprouts and a fledgling grape vine. Hey, I like the initiative)
Two lettuce sprouts and a fledgling grape vine. Hey, I like the initiative)

Now, being a celebrity has its drawbacks. Most prominently, the paparazzi. Robi couldn’t even water his lettuce without some nosy bitch barging on to the – now fenced-off – Llama property and snapping some pictures of him. The nerve of some people. Because of this, Robi was forced back inside, cursing that she-devil, watering can still in hand. Luckily, the ladies of the house were having some quality girl-talk, which he was more than happy to join.

“Oh no, Claud. You’d look beautiful in the blue eye shadow. Also, I am the Devourer of Souls”
“Oh no, Claud. You’d look beautiful in the blue eye shadow. Also, I am the Devourer of Souls”

It was at this point in the day, things began to heat up a bit. Now, from what I’ve seen of Sim relationships, they’re pretty much all crazy, all the time. There can be a stretch of a week where nothing will happen between two Sims, and then the next day, it’s like each one has treasure buried in their faces, and the only way to find it is with each other’s tongue. And, of course, like many a steamy escapade, all it takes is one touch.

He’s giving her a massage. Get your minds out of the gutter. At least for now
He’s giving her a massage. Get your minds out of the gutter. At least for now

And, that first touch leads to another,

“Just so you know, I have to wear two Magnums at once”
“Just so you know, I have to wear two Magnums at once”

Until finally,

No comment needed
No comment needed

Yeah, Robi totally banged the Swiss Butler. The game was quick to inform me that it was indeed his first time, which I just can’t accept as truth. A dude like that, there’s no way he didn’t have sex with something at some point. Whatever the case, he must be the Zeus of boning, because Janet strutted around for the next four hours in her underwear, finishing her butler duties like unclogging a toilet, mopping the floor, and washing the dishes, while strutting, and never bothering to put pants on.

Post-coital montage!
Post-coital montage!

What the rest of the household was doing while these two were gettin’ freaky, I have no idea. But I hope it doesn’t make things awkward whenever they pass Janet in the hall. For his part, I don’t think Pete know’s that anything actually happened. He was too caught up in painting some atrocity that should never see the light of day.

Now, despite the level of fornication that occurred in Robi’s bedroom, it was only 2 pm, which is unfortunate, because it meant that bitch of a paparazzi was still there. Oh, no I’m sorry. She was still there, and swimming in my damn pool. I’m not one to simply deny someone a refreshing dip in the pool, even if they show up uninvited and presumably jump my locked gate to get to it. Pools are fun, and there’s no reason to get upset in its wonderous, liquid presence. But, when said uninvited guest proceeds to stay in your pool for eight freaking hours, neither myself nor the members of MML will stand for it any longer. Both Farrah and Robi went out repeatedly and told her to “stop doing that”, which is the equivalent of whining from the upstairs window, but whatever, it was the best they could do. When she still hadn’t left an hour later, Robi snapped. First, he called her mother a llama, which I didn’t realize was a thing until he said it.

Do you need some aloe vera…
Do you need some aloe vera…

Then, he proceeded to mock her appearance, which was made all the better by his awesome gestures and facial expressions.

...for that sick burn!
…for that sick burn!

At this point, this escaped mental patient (the paparazzi, not Robi) lost another screw herself, and attacked! And I mean, she jumped on Robi and thought she could beat him into submission.

Robi Duboise, about to choke a bitch
Robi Duboise, about to choke a bitch

Now, it was a clear case of self defense, so I felt no need to lecture him on gentlemanly behavior. Besides, he wore a suit while he showed her what was up, so he kept things classy. Apparently, that was finally the motivation she needed to understand she was no longer welcomed. And so, with a final declaration that Robi was now her nemesis (seriously), she took off in an awkward, toddling jog into the sunset, presumably telling herself to not look back. It was as fitting an end to a day as could be expected anymore. In a single day filled with kinky Swiss-style sex and paparazzi beatdowns, I was lucky that something hadn’t caught on fire, or that the police hadn’t been called. Or both. A day without the cops showing up is always a good thing.

 

A Sims 3 Experiment: Day 39

Day 39: Face in the Suds

Day 39 began with Farrah’s first jog. Since the addition of the exercise equipment, everyone was becoming  much more health conscious. At least in their actions. They would now get fit on their own, with Robi pumping some Extreme Iron, Pete and Claudia hopping on the Richard Simmons band wagon and sweatin’ to the oldies on the TV upstairs, and Farrah dominating the running situation. Seriously, that morning she woke up, drank some juice, changed her clothes and took off out the door. I didn’t even realize she was jogging until I noticed that she was not in the house. I found her halfway up a hill, apparently trying to take a short cut.

She still hasn’t quite gotten down this whole jogging thing yet
She still hasn’t quite gotten down this whole jogging thing yet

I was proud of her. I just love it when my Sims take initiative, even with something as simple as going for a jog. Of course, when she finished and drove her car back home, that pride was diminished just a bit (mostly because I was questioning just where the hell in her track shorts she was hiding a car), but still, good for her. Robi decided to jump in on the whole “responsibility” thing as well, volunteering to make lunch.

Don’t let the fancy ingredients fool you. This ended up being microwaved hotdogs
Don’t let the fancy ingredients fool you. This ended up being microwaved hot dogs

Beyond this sudden surge of maturity, life continued on as normal. If, by normal, you include Pete’s sudden infatuation with painting.

I don’t even want to know what this is supposed to be
I don’t even want to know what this is supposed to be

Or Robi’s overt and steamy romance with Janet the Butler.

No joke, I found them like this four times that day
No joke, I found them like this four times that day

Actually, let’s just take a minute and reflect on this. Bertram left because, apparently, we hadn’t made him feel at home. And now Robi has dedicated most of his free time to making Janet feel at home in his bed. That’s my theory, at least. It could very well be true love, but I bet if there was an “ass-smack” option in this game, he’d be using it explicitly. I mean, as it is, he’s already gotten her to skinny dip with him.

Nothing says "down to skinny dip" like pigtails
Nothing says “down to skinny dip” like pigtails

In fact, I’m pretty sure they would’ve spent the entire night making out and swimming naked were it not for the call of Janet’s job. One minute, her Swiss Alps were free to explore the ever-so-nice waters of the MML pool, and the next, she was plunging, face first, into a cascade of detergent bubbles. At least she’s just as enthusiastic about butlery as she is getting naked for my crazy drummer.

I could tell this was insanely arousing for Robi, because he left the room and stood at the top of the basement stairs for a while, all by himself
I could tell this was insanely arousing for Robi, because he left the room and stood at the top of the basement stairs for a while, all by himself

With three days still remaining before their next show, the gang still had quite a bit of free time ahead of them. I wasn’t sure what lay in store for all of us. But, as you’ll soon see, it was quite a doozy.

A Sims 3 Experiment: Day 38

Day 38: Responsibility

It had been a while since the last gig. No longer was I concerned about the fate of the band because my four Sims were turning out to be just as entertaining simply by living their lives (Seriously, Robi’s the man). But, I felt that I needed to do a bit more in order to push the limits of the experiment as far as I could. Up until this point, whenever anyone would receive a phone call asking them to hang out with another celebrity, or fill in as a drummer for another band, or any of the several other “Celebrity Opportunities”, I’ve politely declined. I wanted the band’s fame to come from the band itself. But, I now realized that could potentially be a detriment. Perhaps the lack of recent gig-age was because of a stagnancy in Celebrity status amongst the band members. Everyone had been a three-star for a while. And so, when Claudia received an invitation to play piano for sick hospital children, I accepted. For the kids, right? And I did the same when some other local band asked Robi to fill in as drummer. And when Pete was asked to test a secret, military bass down at the military base. And then a ribbon cutting for Farrah, and another for Robi, and a picture opportunity for Claudia. On and on it went, until they each had completed three Celeb “missions” in just one damn day. And wouldn’t you know it, later that afternoon, MML received an invitation to play at a club called Plasma, a definitely step up from the Banzai Lounge.

Farrah’s excited face
Farrah’s excited face

Thanks to my recent expenditures in the “fun” sector, the gang was never bored despite the lack of shows that were coming their way. Between the usual jam session and midnight skinny dip, as well as an artistic outlet and some exercise equipment to keep them in peak physical shape, they had just about everything they could want.

Except a talent in painting
Except a talent in painting

Day 38 was one of the busiest the band had experienced since the beginning, and most of it was conducted on an individual basis. Which is just fine. They’re friends, and they’re in a band, but they don’t have to do everything together. In fact, it’s good that they get out every now and then. It’ll help them stay sharp and excited to play the next show.

Not to mention it allows them to have some face time with fans. Surprisingly, this is Robi’s pose. I expected something much more obscene
Not to mention it allows them to have some face time with fans. Surprisingly, this is Robi’s pose. I expected something much more obscene

In fact, the day passed so fast, I hardly had a chance to focus on anyone in particular. There was just so much going on. Luckily, the day came to an end with a random stranger standing outside the front door, serenading us as we fell asleep.

Truly, this is a sign of our fame: Joe Stranger and his Pink Leopard guitar
Truly, this is a sign of our fame: Joe Stranger and his Pink Leopard guitar

Not many bands have their own, separate, one man band to apparently follow them around and play for them. It was an honor, even though he was terrible. But we’re nothing if not humble. So they politely pulled their pillows over their ears and tried to ignore the twanging clunkiness erupting from his guitar. Just another day.

Clown Shoes’ Crunkle Sam Barleywine

crunkleSam

Though it can sometimes feel that IPAs are the hottest commodity in the craft beer world these days, it’s important to show just as much love to the rest of the brew spectrum as well. WIth that in mind, today’s review is quite the distance from an IPA. It’s Clown Shoes’ Crunkle Sam Barleywine, an 11% monster of malty bliss and tongue numbing strength. I’ve been a fan of barleywines since I first experienced their potent fury, enraptured by just how much massive flavor could be contained within one flimsy, glass bottle. Crunkle Sam is no exception. It may not be the absolute strongest barleywine out there, but don’t let it hear you say that.

crunkleSam

The experience begins with a potent aroma of rich bread malts, bringing a slight roasted quality that adds a bit of toast to the mix. Even in the aroma, there’s a hint of an alcohol tang that sticks to the inside of your nostrils. Following the bread, dark fruits galore arrive in force, consisting of raisins, plums, a few figs, and even a cherry or two. Curiously, at the sides lie faint vapors of citrus, mainly grapefruit and orange zest. It’s not the same style of citrus you’d find in an IPA. Instead, it’s just flavor, with no pithy bitterness. As this brew is basically a massive malt cannon, sweet notes of brown sugar and caramel show up with a passion, not inundating the nose with sugary notes, but instead glazing the bread to create that traditional “ultra-malt” profile. Near the end of each breath, a faint dusting of cinnamon coincides with a low rumble of Grape Nuts as the aroma resets. Complex and rich are definitely two fitting adjectives here, my friends. This wonderful bouquet rises up out of a rich, dark brown brew, complete with a light khaki head.

On the tongue, the alcohol arrives from the first drop, kicking your tongue with a righteous tang that sends it tingling immediately. Rich malts follow, mainly hearty bread and a touch of Grape Nuts, mingling within the alcohol sea. Again, brown sugar and caramel flow in from the sides, somewhat subdued compared to the aroma, but still discernible amongst the bread notes. There’s actually quite a bit of hoppage within this brew, which is evident from notes of fresh pine and citrus that chill out beneath the malts. This creates a buried, citrusy sweetness that arises every now and then, but the hops’ largest contribution is a noticeable bitterness at the back of the tongue, lasting through the malt wash and staying from start to finish. Notes of over-ripe apples arrive next, bringing and earthy fruit quality that mingles with the caramel notes to near perfection (aww yeah, caramel apples). Near the end, the hops also donate a bit of peppery spiciness, bumping up the alcohol burn a bit. To some, this can be off-putting, especially as it’s a sign of young age (the alcohol edge mellows with time. For me, I happen to enjoy the bracing strength and burn, so it doesn’t bother me. The flavors end with more dark fruits (raisins, but there’s a cherry vibe every now and then), before everything more or less fades from the tongue, presumably from the unmasked alcohol quality. It’s harsh, in the most delicious way.

Crunkle Sam is an awesome example of a barleywine. Huge malts, mild fruits, pleasing sweetness, and a numbing tongue when finished. Again, this bottle may be a bit young due to just how sharp the alcohol edge was, but I’m not complaining. Drinking a barleywine should, in my opinion, be an experience that you need to prepare for. One shouldn’t simply grab a bottle and enjoy. Respect the brilliance and new-age alchemy that is a barleywine, and it will most certainly respect you. If you pick this up be sure to snag two bottles minimum – one to enjoy as is (if you’d like) and one to age (if you have the proper aging settings). That way, you’ll be able to see the difference between a fresh and aged brew. If you only have the one bottle, it’s all good. You’ll still experience the massive flavor that Crunkle Sam has to offer. Enjoy it, for sure.

Crunkle Sam will be best enjoyed as slow as possible, preferably over an evening where you can just chill and relax. Let it work its calming magic as you sink into a world of liquid, bready potency. I wouldn’t advise drinking with any food – the flavors of the beer are already complex and shouldn’t be muddied or altered with anything from the outside. Clown Shoes’ Crunkle Sam earns 9 Beards out of 10. Pick up a bottle to experience the  massive flavor for yourself.

Grading:

Taste: 9/10
Price: 8/10
Looks: 10/10
Drinkability: 9/10
Lasting Strength: 9/10
Overall: 9/10 A-

A Sims 3 Experiment: Day 37

Day 37: Why, Bertram? Why?

It is with a heavy heart that I announce to you, my friends, the departure of Bertram, dear friend and wonderful butler. What? Oh, no. He didn’t die. He just quit. Apparently, if you don’t build a rapport with your butler, they leave. Not just, take some personal time and travel the world. He straight up quit, without as little as a word. Didn’t even say thanks. He hadn’t even worked there a week, so I’m pretty sure he didn’t even receive his first payment. The sad thing is, I didn’t even realize it until he’d been gone for about eight hours. I know, I know. I feel horrible. I was upgrading Casa del Llama a bit, adding some new entertainment features, when I noticed that the upstairs shower was leaking. Wondering why Bertram hadn’t yet fixed it, I went in search of that sage butler. I couldn’t find him anywhere. Eventually, I called the Butler Depot, hoping to receive some kind of information. It said that I didn’t actually have a …. Subscription…and when I searched through my acquaintances, Bertram was listed as a mere stranger. A stranger. He, who had just about saved Robi’s life with his kind words and friendly touch. Bertram, the man who fixed and cleaned and tidied everything without even a word from the household. I was crushed. Absolutely gutted that our negligence had driven him away. And, it was up to me to shoulder all of that burden, because none of my Sims cared. They had new stuff to play with.

I didn’t say they played with it well. But, they definitely played with it
I didn’t say they played with it well. But, they definitely played with it

A new treadmill, the Sim equivalent of a Bowflex machine, a painter’s easel, and of course, the coveted hot tub, because they’d earned it. Of course, this was all before I knew that Bertram had taken his leave, so it all felt pretty much empty for me once it was all said and done. It was times like these I envied the Sims for their ability to completely shut out certain emotions. What was the loss of a faithful manservant when you had new toys to play with.

Remember this painting. If you look at it in the right light, it appears that it could possibly be something worthwhile, in an abstract kind of way
Remember this painting. If you look at it in the right light, it appears that it could possibly be something worthwhile, in an abstract kind of way

Anyway, after breaking in the new exercise equipment, it was time to head outside and take a dip in the hot tub. Fortunately, everyone had the same idea at the same time. Unfortunately, Robi’s idea didn’t involve any clothes, unlike the rest of the group.

Claudia literally just said “I can’t handle this shit”
Claudia literally just said “I can’t handle this shit”

The best part is, after Claudia and Pete got out, Farrah decided she liked where Robi’s head was at, and joined him.

The thought bubbles and facial gestures tell more about this picture than words ever could. Go ahead, make your own story
The thought bubbles and facial gestures tell more about this picture than words ever could. Go ahead, make your own story

After a while, with nightfall in full swing (they spent like, twelve hours checking out all the new stuff), it was time for dinner. Only, no one wanted to make dinner. Farrah, the usual cook, took the night off, heating herself up a Stouffer’s entrée in the microwave. The rest of the group followed suit, but not before I had Robi put in another call to Butlers R’ Us, and requisition our next round of hired help. Seriously, I’m pretty sure there’s a curse on this house. Something is driving away anyone who isn’t part of the band. I actually feel a little sorry for whoever the next guy is, because he’s probably not going to last that long.

After dinner, Claudia went back to her painting, and within minutes, finished her first masterpiece. I had a little fun with it and named it Death of a Porcupine, because such a name made as much sense as the painting itself.

It’s pretty safe to say I could’ve made a better picture smashing my face against the keyboard while Paint was open
It’s pretty safe to say I could’ve made a better picture smashing my face against the keyboard while Paint was open

Valued at a whopping 37 Simoleans, we, as a group, decided the best thing to do with it was hang in downstairs, to provide the band with enthusiasm and motivation whenever we came down to play.

After I set it up behind Pete, he actually lost a level in his piano skills
After I set it up behind Pete, he actually lost a level in his piano skills

By now, it was nearly midnight, and time for bed. The four of them gladly hit the sack as if it had been the best Christmas ever, not even shedding a single tear that Bertram had up and left just hours earlier. I, on the other hand, was an inconsolable wreck, quivering in the corner, wondering where I had went wrong. That is, until the new butler arrived.

She’s definitely a lot more feminine than I was expecting
She’s definitely a lot more feminine than I was expecting

Ok, so there’s no reason why I expected the butler to be a dude other than that’s just how I’ve always seen them. I’ve never personally had a butler, so I don’t know the ins and outs of butlership. That being said, this lady arrived as Janet. Breaking the tradition, she’ll also be referred to as Janet. I considered Hermione for a moment, but decided on using that as her middle name, just in case I really needed to grab her attention. Anyway, Janet arrived in the middle of the night like some kind of Sam Fisher butler, lacking only the night vision and Splinter Cell series to back her up. Immediately, she got to work fixing the leaky shower, mopping up, and defying physics.

Poor woman mopped so hard, she pushed herself through the exterior wall
Poor woman mopped so hard, she pushed herself through the exterior wall

I really don’t know how she did that, but I do know I needed to rearrange the bathroom and tear down the wall just to get her back inside. Oh, she’d better be worth it. Anyway, not wanting to have another Bertram exodus on my hands, I had Robi make peace with Janet as soon as he woke up.

Of course, when Robi talks to strangers, he always confesses his true love: Golden, cyborg jelly fish
Of course, when Robi talks to strangers, he always confesses his true love: Golden, cyborg jelly fish

I simply wanted to build a friendly rapport that would last long enough to ensure Janet felt welcomed and appreciated in her new home. What I didn’t expect is that Robi would suddenly switch on his inappropriate trait and start making out with her on the spot. What I really didn’t expect was that she wouldn’t just like it, she loved it.

She’s wearing gloves while they’re on their way to first base. Pretty sure that means she’s into some kinky shit
She’s wearing gloves while they’re on their way to first base. Pretty sure that means she’s into some kinky shit

Seriously, what the hell is it with this dude. He’s rocketed up my list of my favorite video game characters just because of his personality alone. There’s literally nothing he can’t do (with the exception of acting normal, but that’s what makes him so awesome). He’s like the group’s closer. If they need something done, they send in Robi. If he doesn’t ensure the desired outcome, he’ll kiss it, screw it, or mess it up until it becomes the desired outcome. Such the flurry of activity had made this day last for over 24 hours. I knew it was time to take a break, lest my own heart become torn at by the sudden appearance of Janet, aka Bride of Baphomet. The pain of Bertram was still all too real, but Janet’s quirky behavior was just so…right. Especially within the rest of the group. I had to clear my head. We all need to move on in life, and now it was my turn. I do like to think that Bertram was there for the simple reason of ensuring the safety of Robi. Perhaps, that was his one and only purpose on this SimEarth. I’ll remember him until the end of my days, and deep down, I’m sure Robi will as well.

Goodnight, sweet prince.
Goodnight, sweet prince.

A Sims 3 Experiment: Day 36

Week 5: Growing Up

Day 36: Casa del Vomit

This entry is going to be short. Why? A simple act of nature. Well, not nature in the sense that a tree fell on the house. Nature as in, “shit happens”. Or, in this case, puke happens. A lot of it. It all began in the morning. Everyone had just woken up, and Farrah was making her delicious pancakes for breakfast. The group was eagerly awaiting those flapjacks of awesomeness, and when she placed them on the table, MML straight up devoured them. Within a few minutes of finishing, however, they all gained the “nauseous” debuff. I was perplexed, to say the least. The pancakes were fresh, with no odd ingredients or fancy traits. Just, pancakes. Nonetheless, everyone was feeling inexplicably queasy. I looked around the house, searching for traces of old food, dirty dishes, disgusting laundry. Nothing. I tried to find spoiled items in their inventories. Again, empty. They all went on their way, acting as if nothing was wrong. Though, when I saw Claudia surfing the web, I grew a little suspicious.

This is the first time I’ve seen her use the computer. Looking back on it, I’m sure she was WebMD’ing her symptoms
This is the first time I’ve seen her use the computer. Looking back on it, I’m sure she was WebMD’ing her symptoms

Shortly before 10 am, it began – what I’m calling the Day of Reckoning. It struck Farrah first, doubling her over in stomach-heaving pain. She barely made it to the bathroom. An hour later, it was Pete’s turn.

Dude, take off your sunglasses. If they fall off, you’re on your own
Dude, take off your sunglasses. If they fall off, you’re on your own

Robi, the stoic, headstrong bastard that he is, tried to play it all off, walking around the house as a cold sweat broke out all over his body. Eventually, he walked outside, perhaps thinking that the fresh air would clear his head. It did not.

Kudos to that newspaper girl for holding her shit together
Kudos to that newspaper girl for holding her shit together

For some reason, Claudia came out as he was painting the sidewalk with his stomach contents. Perhaps to check on him and see if he was alright. Needless to say, it was not a wise decision on her part.

A horrifying example of synchronized puking
A horrifying example of synchronized puking

This continued all damn day. Whenever anyone has puked before it’s been a one-and-done thing. They feel sick. They pukes. They’re back to normal. This time, everyone spewed at least twice. Poor Pete emptied himself four freakin’ times. Four! I didn’t know gastro-intestinal ailments existed in the game, but here they were in full force, reducing my group of healthy young adults into a heap of simpering, vomit-encrusted children. Whatever was up with those pancakes, their bodies let them know just how much they hated them.

Pete was curled up in the fetal position in the downstairs bathroom at this exact moment
Pete was curled up in the fetal position in the downstairs bathroom at this exact moment

By now, everyone was feeling pretty down. It was 5 pm, they were tired, disgusting, and grumpy. Surprisingly, they were also hungry, which I’m sure is just part of the illness’ game. It makes them hungry, which fills their stomachs, which is basically the illness’ way of reloading its weapon. It was at this point that Farrah did what I can only describe as “God Damn Stupid”. She made her newest recipe – Stew Surprise.

Really? You’re going to feed people who have been puking all day a pot of something that already looks like puke?
Really? You’re going to feed people who have been puking all day a pot of something that already looks like puke?

Everyone ate it, and against all odds, no one threw up. An instant of game logic not following common sense, I guess. If I would’ve eaten something called “stew-surprise” during my bout of food poisoning, I think  I would try to drown myself in the toilet rather than enduring another round of body-emptying vomit waves. Luckily for these Sims, their bodies simply could puke no more. Now, I’m not saying that this day of days didn’t leave them at least slightly altered. For example, I found Claudia laying on Bertram’s bed, watching TV.

Surely she would’ve realized that the wallpaper was not the normal print she was used to. A definite sign of vomit-induced psychosis
Surely she would’ve realized that the wallpaper was not the normal print she was used to. A definite sign of vomit-induced psychosis

Bertram politely reminded her that it was indeed his room not too long after, and by this time, everyone was ready for bed, thus bringing to close a day with little activity, but plenty of memories. Terrible, terrible memories, but memories nonetheless. It’s safe to say, none of them will ever forget the day the pancakes revolted.

A Sims 3 Experiment: Days 34 & 35

Days 34 & 35: Bow Chicka Wow Wow and the Musings of Bertram

Robi knows Kung Fu. Or, that’s what he’d have you believe, if you happened to catch him making poses in the mirror.

He’s even making the “hiiiiyaaa!” sound
He’s even making the “hiiiiyaaa!” sound

Why is it that every day in Casa del Llama starts in the bathroom. Whatever the reason, today would be one of the most gripping that I’ve experienced with this group. Not because of anything overly intense or exciting. No, it was gripping purely from a scientific stand point. Today was the day that Robi found out he absolutely loved coffee. We’ll start things out at 9 am. Gig day. Six hours before the show. Everyone’s just had a breakfast of waffles, and Robi decides an overly complicated cup of coffee is in order. I think it was something with chocolate-banana sprinkles. Whatever it was, it must’ve been the best damn thing he’d ever tasted, because he made four more.

It’s like he’s staring into the camera, daring us to judge him for his taste in coffee
It’s like he’s staring into the camera, daring us to judge him for his taste in coffee

In true Robi fashion, he drank three of them. Of course, he was buzzed for the next eight hours, which suited him just fine, as he never likes to sit down anyway. Surprisingly, he didn’t do anything out of the ordinary, like rewire the entire house, or have a heart attack. I imagine four, multi-shot espresso drinks are nothing to one who was born in the darkest pits of Hell. I kept my eye on him, wondering if the effects of the caffeine would suddenly wear off at the worst time, like while driving, or in the middle of the performance. The hours passed, and everything went as smooth as can be. He stayed hopped up and full of energy, the others unnoticing his extra-excitable behavior, and before we knew it, it was show time.

All jokes aside, this is truly an epic picture
All jokes aside, this is truly an epic picture

Like always, the gig went flawlessly, despite the absence of any viewers. MML doesn’t care. A gig is a gig, and they play for the love of the music. And the money. And the fame. And, the fans too, probably, if they would ever show up. Spirits were high after the show. So high, in fact, that Pete called Sugar to come join everyone at the Banzai Lounge to hangout. Now, follow along closely here, and tell me if this is what you would consider to be a normal chain of events in a relationship. First, Sugar invited Pete on a date about two weeks ago. Since then, they’ve gone on three more (which have more or less been decent, blood-pouch consumption aside), and hung out a couple of times besides that. There has been plenty of flirting, making out, and presumably some dirty talk exchanged through heated whispers. My question, is date number five the appropriate date to get buck wild in the elevator?

Ahh, that awkward, first time post-nasty bliss
Ahh, that awkward, first time post-nookie bliss

I’m not judging. Sometimes, the urge just strikes people, regardless of whether they’re at home, or in the elevator of their latest gig. I’ll admit, I had no idea Sims would just turn on rabbit mode without some kind of user interference. With it only being rated T, I thought there wouldn’t be random acts of sex just occurring like some kind of National Geographic documentary. I was wrong. Good for them! Perhaps this was that last big step in their relationship before things became “super-serious”. Or, maybe Pete just let her know that he was DTF, and things escalated quickly. Regardless, he was incredibly happy with himself as soon as he emerged from the makeshift love cave, strutting around like he had indeed just pounded a vampire in an elevator.

 Dat strut!
Dat strut!

There was a downside to Pete’s sexy time. It seemed to place a damper on the rest of the band. They had been chilling at the bar, enjoying some drinks (even Shy Claudia), but after he emerged with Sugar, hair all disheveled and pants on backwards, the rest decided it was time to go home. Perhaps they were just slightly weirded out. Though, I think the event just made them look at their own lives and realize, for the first time, that they were in fact alone.

I’m sure many of you have had this same look as these two. It’s the stare of desolate contemplation
I’m sure many of you have had this same look as these two. It’s the stare of desolation

Actually, the only one who’s spirits hadn’t seemed to sink was Robi, probably because he was still feeling the final effects of his earlier binge coffee drinking. It was clear he had become addicted, because his first action upon arriving back home was to make another round of coffee, where he drank two more espressos. This is where things start to get a little strange. He would stop drinking them. His tiredness level continued to drop, and he continued to fight it by drinking coffee. They had some dinner, and he drank coffee. They watched some TV, after which he drank another coffee. Pete finally came home around 2 am, finding Robi drinking a coffee and the girls already sleeping. Robi simply wouldn’t let himself fall asleep. I was amazed. He was pulling an all-nighter. Even as his sleep bar hit ruby red and he gained the exhausted debuff, he would simply drink another coffee before his caffeine buzz faded, and he stayed awake.

This continued until nine the next morning, when the rest of the house awoke to find him watering a patch of lettuce that he had planted during the night. I didn’t even know he had lettuce to plant. Hell, I didn’t even know you could plant lettuce, but there he was, watering can in hand, standing over a tiny garden.

This dude continues to amaze me
This dude continues to amaze me

By now, the first inclinations of concern were beginning to hit me. Robi had consumed eight coffees, each with who knows how many shots of espresso, and he hadn’t slept in over 24 hours. Even more worrisome, he simply continued to keep himself caffeinated instead of going to sleep. The rest of the group came down for breakfast, but he refused the food and opted for more coffee. He had become an addict in just a day. What had I done?

Robi no longer requires food-like sustenance to survive
Robi no longer requires food-like sustenance to survive

It was another off day, so there was no chance of sending them off to play and making Robi come down off of his buzz. I could only sit back and watch the entire ordeal unfold. After another two coffees, I watched as he approached Bertram for a chat. I can’t tell you what the rest of the group was doing, I couldn’t let Robi out of my sight. If he went into some kind of caffeine shock, I was his only hope of survival. What I didn’t know was that Bertram was trained in the art of de-caffeination.

The soothing touch of Bertram’s magic fingers have cured many an ailment over his years
The soothing touch of Bertram’s magic fingers have cured many an ailment over his years

He then asked his new butler pal for advice. Advice about what, I don’t know, but Bertram told a story of how he used to laugh at the word “ham” as a child. Yeah, WTF is right. Of course, Robi understood each and every word, nodding in agreement as Bertram spoke. Whatever this message of nonsense meant, Robi shook Bertram’s hand, walked up stairs, crawled into bed, and slept for the next 12 hours. Mother of God, Bertram is….not of this world…He’s some kind of angel, sent to watch over my misguided flock.

Truly, the face of a benevolent entity.
Truly, the face of a benevolent entity.

With Robi apparently broken out of his downward spiral of caffeine and no sleep, the rest of the house could go on with their day. For Farrah, this meant reading the newly printed 50 Shades of Baphomet. I have no idea how she got this, because it only hit the shelves a couple of days before, but I’m pretty sure she read most of it in one sitting. She didn’t move for about five hours, caught up in the hot and steamy bliss that was Baphomet and his sensual ways. At one point, Bertram came over and sat down next to her, presumably to sneak a peak at what she was reading.

“He slid his what…..into her what?!”
“He slid his what…..into her what?!”

No doubt, it was far too graphic for his distinguished tastes, and so he set himself about the house, giving new meaning to the butler name.

Yeah, he’s totally fixing the dishwasher. Hiring him was easily one of the best decisions I’ve ever made
Yeah, he’s totally fixing the dishwasher. Hiring him was easily one of the best decisions I’ve ever made

By now, it was nearing the end of the day, and what a day it had been. Robi was now in a mild coma, Farrah was learning about exciting new sexual deviancy, and Bertram was truly the man of the house. What’s more, I could feel the dynamics shifting within Casa del Llama. I just couldn’t figure out why. There was a different feel to the group. Not bad, necessarily, just different. Perhaps they were maturing. Perhaps they were beginning to think about their futures, beyond MML. Whatever it was, I could tell it would have to lead to some interesting events in the near future.