Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cafe World

I've played more than a few Facebook games, but after awhile they all seemed to be repetitive and...well...boring. It also didn't help that many of them had difficulty working properly in the Facebook interface and by the time some of the problems got fixed, Facebook updated their programming and the game interfaces were problematic...again.

This is still going on today. It's kind of a pain, especially with Zynga games because they're so neighbor intensive. So why is that a problem?

Well, because just when I build up a decent set of neighbors in Cafe World (CW), they get so irritated with the faulty game play and all the problems which Zynga seems to be very slow to fixing. that they decide to quit playing and block the game. So, that means, I'm losing neighbors and game players all the time and I've had to resort to fan websites to build up neighbors that play CW.

Okay, so everyone does it, so why should it seem like a big deal? Because Facebook would prefer that you only "friend" those you actually "know."Um...well...that's all fine and dandy if your friends and family actually play these games, but for me, none of them do, and I'm not alone.

I have to admit, I've actually met some very interesting people through game play, even people in my own state I never would have met if it weren't for Facebook games. So, I don't mind needing to find gaming friends.

I do have a problem with overzealous games, as do most people. Then, I discovered farming games. I tried Farmville, but that game has never loaded right and takes forever just to get to the screen and then freeze, so I stopped wasting my time there. Plus, there was too much to do. Same thing with many of the other Zynga games. There are just too many tasks/goals, and some of them can be so difficult, if not impossible to accomplish, so I gave up even trying as it took all the fun out of playing.

News flash - most of us average game players don't mind a challenge, but games are a way for us to escape the stresses of our everyday lives and have a little fun in the process. I like video games, I do, but the last thing I want is to be repeatedly frustrated by game tasks. Some of them I'll do, some of them I'll skip if I can, and some of them I'll have my husband do if I need them to continue to play the game.

So, when I discovered Farm Town, I began to enjoy it, but even that one got old...the growing times were annoying and they took too long, so I kind of only play that game once in awhile. I like it, I just wish it didn't take so long to grow stuff.

That's why I liked Cafe World, there were so many items to cook that took under an hour, and a ton you could cook in 5 minutes. It made it easy to play the game when I wanted to, for as long as I wanted to. Then, the more I played, the more challenges popped up. That was all great and everything, until they put these ridiculously short time limits on goals, requiring you to cook hideous amounts of long cooking dishes (some up to 2 days), and making the only thing that can help you (timed spices) cost Cafe Cash, and too costly to even desire to pay for it, making the game begin to become unplayable. 

Some time back, I wrote about how I thought Cafe World should make different types of spices and make it easier for us to get spices to help us spice our dishes.

Well, they sort of did. Unfortunately, the last week or so, one of the ways - The Food Polls - haven't been working for most of us. It's not counting all the voting we are doing and it's forcing us to post a poll several times a day. So, is this a Zynga problem or a Facebook interface issue? Either way, I'd think the Zynga developers would be trying to fix it as soon as possible, but players don't seem to be seeing much improvement.

There's also another problem, Cafe World developers keep adding new timed goals and taking some away, and every time they do it messes up the functionality of game play - something that continues to annoy long standing and loyal players.

Loyal game players are getting so annoyed with these continual problems that they have been dropping off the radar for months now. In fact, some time ago, I hired several people for my ice cream cart, but only 2 of them play now, so it's impossible to get the number of people CW requires to operate the ice cream cart.

I've since added a ton of new neighbors, but even these new ones have begun to reach their limit and are torn between playing and quitting. If CW wants to retain these game players, they need to listen to them, and change a few things for the better. Here's what could be improved:

1. Timed goals can be a fun challenge, but the timer for each goal should start when the individual player actually chooses to start the goal. For example, the Joe and Lisa wedding challenge had 20 parts, and not everyone got the same amount of time because of the goofy way the global start timer worked, which was hideously unfair when the timer should have started for each individual player when that player chose to start the challenge rather than on a global clock that started at an unspecified time that no one had any clue of. That was the dumbest thing. Not only that, but if you accidentally hit the "back" button on the goal - like I did with the Joe goals - I didn't see the Joe goals again until I had 5 days left on the Lisa goals. Boy was I surprised - and miffed and frustrated - when I saw that I only had 5 days left to complete 10 more goals. I had no shot whatsoever of earning that groom stove...grrr!

2. In timed challenges, the goals should fit the timing.

2a. For instance, when there's only a couple of days to complete as many as 10 parts to a challenge, and you're only going to give 10 days in which to complete them, then the items you need to cook should not take you that long, especially when you require that 50 items be cooked. 50 dishes that take 1 day to cook for 1 part of a goal is ridiculous at best, especially when we are limited in the number of stoves we are allowed to have.
  - yeah, I get it, it's CW's way of forcing us to use spices. That would have worked, but I used mine all up just mere days before for the winter challenges, and no way was I going to invest in more spices - not at the prices they're asking for!

2b. That's not the only problem. Considering collecting items by asking neighbors directly can take days, even weeks as I continue to discover, the collected items should be done through global posts so those that are playing regularly can opt to pitch in. It's even taken me longer than 24 hours on occasion to collect things through global requests. It's these parts of goals that are keeping players behind. Why not require things to be purchased with coins for some of the goals? That would mix it up.

2c. The limit on the number of stoves, and for many players counter space, is cruelly low. If it weren't for my concentrating on the Buck stoves, I wouldn't have had nearly enough stoves to complete the Lisa goals I did complete. And no, I had no shot at making any of them ultra stoves. Sure it sucks, but I have 5 stoves each with multiple burners (1 with 4, 2 with 3, 2 with 2).  But seriously, why only 1 stove every couple of levels? Why can't we have more stoves, especially when there are timed challenges to complete?

3. What's with all of the spices (outside of salt and pepper) costing Cafe Cash only? I understand why the newer spices should be as they do much more than just help cooking time along, and even instant spices since just 1 works to complete a dish that takes a couple of days, but why can't we buy 12hr, 6hr, and 1hr spices with coins? Seriously, we should be able to buy some of these spices with coins.

4. Hello, I keep clicking to give people stuff and it says I'm earning 1000 coins and 500 cafe points. The coins appear, but the cafe points don't always show up. That's an inconsistency that needs to be fixed.

Okay - Buck's back, but 120 servings (Kabayaki) at 12hrs per dish! 20 light tubes (asking people directly) and I've got 5 days to do all 5 of them! WTH? Seriously, I appreciate the second chance at the stoves, but why only 5 days? I have 5 stoves that need to not only be completed, but 5 stoves to upgrade to ultra too! That's a bit of a crunch! It would probably take me 5 days per stove just to finish expanding them! The only way to finish these tasks anywhere close to on time, you need a ton of spices, which isn't necessarily all that fair because you can really only get the amount of instant spices required is to buy them outright. 

Like I said, I enjoy the challenges, I just wish there would be more time for the timed challenges, or cooking dishes that didn't take as long. Right now, I only have a couple of 50% stoves, and even with them, cooking 120 dishes at 12hrs per dish for 1 part of the upgrade to ultra challenge for 1 stove seems to be completely impossible. At this point, I'm going to do what I can do to finish expanding the other 4 stoves. If I'm able to get 1 to ultra, it will be a miracle....

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Neck Pain and Bell's Palsy - Part 1

Part 1 - Leading Up to the Diagnosis

Hey all!

I haven't posted since last April because...well...the continuous migraines just became too much to handle, and once I started mending, I needed to withdraw from everything.

I withdrew partially to encourage my healing, but the other part was due to embarrassment because I had let so many people down when I neglected all the book blogs. So, I buried myself in the world of anime.

This jaunt into the world of anime taught me much about my own writing as well, but that's for another post. As I healed, I began to reach back out into the internet world, beyond just playing FB games.

Then, just as all began to seem right with the world - hey, I was managing my pain, I was able to get out and be active even during cold weather, and I began working seriously on one of the stories I've thought about for some time. Not just hacking out the story, but building it using a sort of outline - something I've never done before. So, yeah, I thought things were going great.

Then, on January 20, I came down with a pain in the neck. No, not a vampire, a literal pain in the neck. While the pain didn't assert itself until a Friday night, I believe it had been building and began manifesting itself through the eye "ticking," "fluttering," or whatever you want to call it. At first I thought my eye was just "fluttering" (rapidly opening and closing) because the air in the condo was dry. That had been going on for at least 5 days prior to the pain I began to feel in my neck and head.

At this time, I must go back a little as I realize some other facts may be relevant. Roughly Monday of that week (Jan 17), I started to feel like I was getting a sinus infection, but waited a day thinking it might have just been congestion caused from allergies to dust (I hit a couple of dust pockets along the way while I was cleaning the kitchen and other related areas)...

Okay, so now that I look even closer at my own recounting, I'm beginning to wonder if the "eye flutters" started even earlier, such as the Friday to Saturday before that (Jan 13, 14), than I'm recalling and I just didn't pay attention to it.

Anyway, our new fridge was coming Wednesday (Jan 18), and the last thing I wanted was to be was ill. When getting ready for the fridge, I stumbled upon some current unused antibiotics (Amox, Clav) that I had to stop using before because it made the migraine that came with the last sinus infection that much worse (I had been off caffeine at the time, so I had no real recourse to deal with the migraine pain in the first place and sure couldn't tolerate it getting worse) that were still good. So, I started taking them. That was about early Tuesday (or late Monday night). By about Wednesday, I noticed that my ability to taste foods had disappeared and was replaced with an oily taste/coating in my mouth. It was very weird and something I had never experienced before that I can recall. I thought that the antibiotics were responsible and thought that even though the bottle said the meds were still good that maybe they went bad, and stopped taking them.

[Note: I know, I know self-medicating, blah, blah, blah. However, I'm prone to sinus infections and have been for years. I get on average 4 to 6 of them a year. If the meds aren't working initially, I'm not going to throw out good money because it just means the meds aren't working because I waited too long to see the doc about said sinus infection, and it's nested deep in my sinus cavity. So, I save that which doesn't work one time for another time. It has saved me some trouble, especially when a sinus infection would crop up when I was out of state or camping...basically, I save those extra meds (on the rare occasions I have any) for emergency purposes only. Besides, once you've had as many sinus infections (I'm 39 years old and have been dealing from at least the age of 15. 24 years times 4 infections a year minimum equates to not quite 100 of them. Experience in getting them is just as valuable as a dr learning how to diagnose the symptoms...) as I have, you know when you have one without question. You also know when your body is capable of healing itself without help and when it's time to go to the doctor.]

Well, my sense of taste didn't return and the oily feeling/taste remained. By Friday night (Jan 20) I began to feel headache pain similar to a migraine, but it was accompanied by neck stiffness. Along with that neck and head pain, I felt all kinds of head pressure, much like a sinus infection, but only on one side of my face, which has happened to me before, so I didn't put much stock in it being anything different than a sinus infection. As it reminded me of a migraine and I get some relief using ice, so I started icing the area down.

However, by the next day (according to my husband's memory), I noticed that half of my face wasn't working, but I still felt some tingles and numbness (like you feel when you get a shot of Novocain), and I began to feel a little worried, but I wasn't going to let it put me in a tailspin. Positive thinking can do wonders when dealing with weird stuff.

In fact, I felt pretty good that morning and got all bundled up to go out disc golfing at Tendick (a disc golf course in WI). I even went so far as to enjoy a Baltic Porter from a local brewery (Silver Creek in WI) after we finished the round. The beer was okay, but the taste  was extremely muted. Normally, I consider that beer to be quite decent, so between the continued lack of taste and the facial paralysis/tingles, I knew something was not right and had plans to contact my doctor on Monday morning anyway.

Unfortunately, my body had other ideas. Saturday night (Jan 21), the pain in my neck and head returned with a strange sort of vengeance. It hurt, a lot. I felt like the right side of my face was going to explode. However, I needed to know where this pain was stemming from so I could give the doctor as much info as possible. Not only that, but I felt that if I knew where it stemmed from, I could get a better idea of what I was dealing with myself. Eventually that night, the pain sort of "settled" on the neck, head, and right side of my face with a loci behind/below my right ear.

There was something different about this pain though. It wasn't throbbing, but felt like the area was "burning," as if on fire. Okay, so by this point, I realized that this head pain could do some damage if I couldn't get it to calm down, not to mention drive me crazy. So, I began icing it down again, but not at 20 minute intervals like I was doing the night before, but constant - this was around 6pm Saturday night and I continued to ice it through the night (as long as I could control the position of the bottle of ice) and the next day.

By Sunday (Jan 22), I was feeling even more miserable and beginning to wonder what could be causing this. I was able to actually figure out from a Google search that it was possible I was suffering from Bell's Palsy - depending on the cause.

See, I've had Chicken Pox 3 times in my life: once in grade school and then again when I was in my 20s (early and late). Due to the fact that these later episodes came on the heels of vaccines for chicken pox, understanding how diseases like to mutate, the fact I worked in the daycare industry at the time, and considering how close in time those later two outbreaks were, I honestly believe (and still do) that I have come in contact with 3 different strains of the chicken pox. If a flu virus or other virus can mutate, why not chicken pox? That line of thinking always made sense to me. So, when I saw that one cause of Bell's Palsy could be the chicken pox (shingles) virus, I began to wonder if that was what I had.  

The morning of Jan 23rd, I called my primary care physician and left a message to fill him in on what happened over the course of the weekend. I saw him later that morning. While I managed to fill him in on as much as I thought relevant, I did leave out the part about the antibiotics...my head hurt so much by this point that I forgot to mention it, plus I felt that I just wasn't being heard.

I honestly felt that I was suffering from a bad sinus infection/right ear infection because my right ear felt like it wanted to explode. He didn't seem concerned or anything. He just proscribed a low dose of prednisone (40mg to start, which is low when considering what many of the medical information out there says) and a barbiturate for the pain that other painkillers can't seem to touch. I even asked him, "Aren't you even concerned about the extreme pain by my ear? It really feels like my head is going to explode." (This may not be exact, but pretty close to what I actually said.) No, he wasn't. In fact, he told me to come back in about 3 weeks.

Three weeks! Um hello! If the pain in my ear continued, I was afraid I could be at risk to lose what little of my hearing I have left! Okay, I can hear, but I seem to have an awful lot of trouble understanding and hearing people due to fluid and what not from my allergies, and I know several people who have had ear problems and lost their hearing in one ear because nothing was done in a timely manner.

So, in the parking lot of my primary care physician, I called the offices of the ear, nose and throat physician I had seen on previous occasions for sinus infections my primary care physician didn't really want to deal with. They got me in on Wednesday (Jan 25th) with the physician's assistant. They were going to delay that a week and have me see the man himself (Dr. Kandula), but my concern over the extreme pain in my ear and my strong feelings that a sinus infection could be behind all this helped them decide that coming in sooner could be to my benefit.

The blood tests my primary care doc took were negative. That means that the usual suspects he was testing for (Diabetes being one of them, and I am assuming the chicken pox virus being one as well) were not the cause. I ended up getting an MRI on Thursday (Jan 26th).

Luckily for me, the MRI results didn't show anything bad, which is a good thing.

So, what did the specialist/physician's assistant proscribe?

A higher dose of prednisone (than what my primary care physician, which was a 40mg taper) - a 60mg taper (60mg for 3 days, 40mg for 3 days and 20mg for 3 days) - as well as 10 days of amoxicillin.

See Part 2 for more info on how my recovery is going so far.