Episode 457 - A Fungus Among Us

Natalie is back after a long time away from the pod, and brings us news from post-COVID life. Patrick has been playing fast and loose with his computer upgrade, but the PC gods have decided to give him a second chance. Then the crew dives into some news updates, checking back in with the unionization efforts at Activision Blizzard, and talking through the new Star Wars game announcement out of Respawn. After the break, Cado's pleasantly surprised to find that Pokemon Legends Arceus is a dramatic departure from Game Freak's usual structure. Natalie is living her best plant girl life in Strange Horticulture, an indie game about plants, witches, and cults. Then we dive into the Question Bucket to decide which X-man we'd least like to cook dinner for us.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://shows.acast.com/vicegamingsnewpodcast/episodes/episode-457
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So what rabbit holes did y’all fell into during the pandemic? These are the new hobbies I acquired (I regret nothing!!!):

  • Fountain pens: I write and journal every day and also enjoy bookbinding and stationery in general so I guess it was only a matter of time. Thankfully I don’t collect anything nowadays so I’m more than satisfied with four relatively cheap Lamys with different nibs.
  • Tarot and Oracle decks. I’m not a spiritual person in any way, so I enjoy these for narrative design purposes, I love combing for meanings and doing different interpretation exercises out of these cards. Plus, the art! I used to make my own oracle cards to generate narrative prompts but using tarot decks is way easier.
  • Board games. Pre-pandemic I didn’t know much about them besides what my friends would make me play, and I was thrown in the deep end with stuff like Eldritch Horror, which was the first modern board game I’ve ever played lol. But I started watching more Shut Up and Sit Down videos and really missed these board game nights, so I got into soloable games and I now have Sprawlopolis, Cartographers, Welcome To, Railroad Ink and… A Feast for Odin lmao. I’ll probably stop my collection here since I really hate how much space these boxes take, but I’m still enjoying them all and can’t wait to actually play them with friends someday.
  • Isekais/Manhwas; I knew of isekais but never really read anything in this genre until last year, when a friend introduced me to a ton of webcomics, manhwas, mangas and such. Wow. Getting a peek into this fanbase, particularly in the otome/romance genre, was honestly the first time I felt extremely old and I can’t say most of what I’ve read was ‘good’ (there were some exceptions, of course!), but these stories and the communities around them fascinate me so much; just consider the fact that a huge part of this industry of supposedly wish-fullfilment stories is predicated on a protagonist with a terrible life, who works on some awful soul-crushing office job, who then has to literally get killed in a gruesome way to reincarnate into a vaguely European aristocracy to achieve happiness… yeah it’s a lot! I just want someone to write a long piece about it and/or maybe I’ll end up writing some kind of subversive isekai myself someday, as a treat.
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I’ve managed to largely avoid picking up new hobby rabbit holes during the pandemic, but like Cado, I have indulged existing hobbies maybe more than I otherwise would have - I’ll loop back to that because of Patrick’s film collection talk near the end of the pod. The exception to this was a period where me and my partner got really into koi-koi hanafuda, starting with digital versions and eventually graduating to physical cards. We’ve kinda stopped playing, but I did get pretty good at hanafuda to the point where I could stomp the AI in Yakuza games and make tons of in-game money (except in Yakuza 3, which is balanced way harder for some reason!).

So - those existing hobbies. Until a few years ago I owned very few films on physical media. I don’t share Patrick’s position on ‘stuff’; my place is full of collectibles and tchotchkes, but I didn’t get many films on Blu-ray specifically because the transfers were often not great and missing in extra features, and streaming was coming in and making it all feel somewhat redundant.

But a few years ago I began getting way more into film - older classics, international cinema, niche stuff - and discovered a number of boutique distributers like Arrow and Eureka (and later, Criterion arrived in the UK). Since then my collection has grown… considerably. It was fun hearing about Patrick’s horror collection reaching around 125 films, I think he said? Especially with all but abandoning the cinema over the past two years I’ve been getting a lot of stuff on disc and similar to him, it can be startling to realise just how many I own because it doesn’t look like nearly as many just on my shelves. I keep a private Letterboxd list to keep track and avoid double purchases and that number of entries keeps going up.

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I suppose my pandemic activity of choice was just ‘watch/rewatch all of Yu-Gi-Oh! and Gundam with my spouse’ and then subsequently my pandemic hobby became playing Yu-Gi-Oh! and building gunpla. Oops!

Watching Cracking the Cryptic got me back into puzzles, too, boosted by playing a few delightful mystery games (Paradise Killer, Return of the Obra Dinn) early last year, and so I’ve bren trying different sorts of physical puzzle activities, too. Jigsaws bore me to death, and I’ve yet to find a good escape room or mutder mystery tabltop game that isn’t bogged down in bad mechanics, but I’ve had fun doing anarchist-themed crosswords in a little book I got called Black Blocks, White Squares.

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I got back into skateboarding and broke my arm!

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Saw the title and immediately thought of this video for some reason.

~20 years ago, my parents had a huge DVD collection. This was a weird hobby for them because:

  1. They refused to ever rewatch any movie on principle because they “already knew the plot”.
  2. They bought a lot of random movies from the clearance rack without knowing what they were about and never made an attempt to get around to watching them.

When they moved, they got rid of the whole collection because streaming existed, so my lasting memory is how much money they spent on DVDs they didn’t care about and never watched. I do not collect physical DVDs.

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I’m literally blasting the pod from my phone speakers while doing the dishes, that’s how I always listen

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Let me tell you the story of how one new hobby set in motion all of my hobbies to follow it for the entire year of 2021.

Lego: In the winter of 2020 I had a week off and decided you know I haven’t touched Lego in like 10 years and this big pirate ship looks very cool and I’m in a position where I can afford it so over the course of a week I built that and I had a blast! So I started thinking about how I loved building with Lego as a kid, it is probably the hobby that rivaled video games for me and how you know this would be a cool hobby to get back into but more so in the MOC type of building. Now my brother and I grew up sharing everything including Lego and he was arguably into it more then I was so I didn’t want to just call up my parents and say “Yo I’m coming to reclaim my childhood” despite how much that would probably excite them to get the space back. But my brother still lives at home and it would feel weird showing up and asking him to help me sort out what is mine when I am very much in a position that I could just buy new Lego and let him have our Lego outside of like one or two sets that have sentimental value to me.

So I started by looking around on ebay for what it would cost to just buy a pound or so of random Lego because I figure best to start with a random assortment and start building then figure out what it is I need for specific MOC’s. It turns out $13+ per pound on ebay which is a lot for a random assortment that has almost assuredly been picked over by whoever is selling it.

I began hunting around more and reading forums/blog posts and that’s when I found out Goodwill has an online ebay equivalent where people are buying used Lego a lot cheaper. Lego is so popular on the site it has it’s own subcategory. Which makes sense because if you’ve been in a Goodwill in the last 5 years you will probably have noticed that it got a lot harder to randomly find cool things that is undervalued, they ebay it first and if it doesn’t sell they put it out. It is worth pointing out that Goodwill knows exactly who they are catering to on this site, you can not only have it send you email alerts for saved searches but you can export out a CSV of all the auctions you have taken place in or watched. So I started watching it and ended up winning a 23 pound lot for $45 which comes out to about $2 a pound which is a lot cheaper then ebay even if you remove say a pound for random garbage and non Lego building bricks. However what I had failed to take into account is that the Lego being sold on ebay by reputable sellers is already cleaned and doesn’t have random garbage in it. I will admit it was kind of fun to sit down and just sort through 23 pounds of Lego taking it all apart while listening to music and podcasts. Once you get into a rhythm it’s kind of relaxing. Anything that wasn’t Lego but wasn’t garbage such as hot wheels cars went in a box and off to a friends sister who had young children. Anyway after sorting it had to all be washed which is easy enough, warm soapy water and a toothbrush or if it didn’t look particularly grimey into a delicate bag where it could be soaked and shuffled around in the soapy water before rinsing.

However the surprising hard part is drying Lego. I started out by just laying it out on a towel with a fan pointed at it on a table and shuffled it around like every 4 hours. This took about 24 hours to dry I would estimate and it is only holding a pool towels worth of Lego, so not much. I then saw people online recommending using a salad spinner. I tried that and while it did remove some water it did not remove all the water and it was not exactly efficient and left you with a very sore arm after doing that for about an hour. My roommate and I are renting a house and because we both work from home we turned the master bedroom into an office and the closet became sort of a network closet. The closet is not dangerously hot but walking in you can immediately tell it’s not only warmer but drier. So I started trying to come up with ideas on how to utilize that. Lego on a towel on the floor didn’t exactly help it dry faster as it was still pretty easy for water to get trapped between brinks and the towel. It was also a hazard in general to just have this towel laying on the ground covered in what amounted to plastic caltrops. My original idea was to build a sifter and attach a motor to it to vibrate it and knock the water out but that seemed more complicated then it needed to be. I have friends who are into growing and mentioned I should look at spice drying racks but I couldn’t easily hang them up in the closet because of how the bars are positioned and almost all of them revolved around the idea of opening and closing the drying levels which seemed cumbersome, luckily the algorithm heard my pleas while browsing and presented me with the idea of a sweater drying rack. Thus the Lego grow op was made

Not only does it take only about 4 hours to dry, it takes less space and holds more!

With that out of the way I then had to come up with a way to store and sort it. This was actually possibly the hardest and most time consuming part. Because there is no such thing as a perfect Lego sorting system. You can find a million threads online of people debating what the best way to sort Lego is. You see there’s over 18,000 unique designs. This means you cannot break all parts out into unique bins you have to come up with a system that works for you. I ended up spending a week+ researching different methods people use before settling on one that someone had designed labels that could be printed off and taped onto your bins. I then spent an absurd amount of time sorting Lego pieces. It was again, kind of relaxing because I am one of those people where things being sorted is just how life needs to be.

Anyway by this point about 3 months have passed nothing is built but I’m all in and I figured I have this elaborate system I should keep on it so I spent maybe a month just watching auctions and noting down prices sold and created a spreadsheet.


(PPP = Price Per Pound and PPPWS = Price Per Pound With Shipping)

I used this spreadsheet to determine what I should bid on certain lots based purely on weight which is against what a lot of other people bidding would advise because they are looking to see what sets are visible in the images and what minifigures are in there (minifigs are incredibly valuable often going for $3-20 on average per figure depending on figure). However I do not care about this, I just want to build. In the end I ended up buying roughly 92 pounds at $4.26 per pound.

This is when my sorting system began to fall apart. I had of course figured that some part categories would have higher numbers such as tires then say some more uncommon like plants. But I had not counted on things like flat 2x4’s being incredibly common and taking up a ton of space which completely upset the sorting I had done as the bin was overflowing and in need of an upgrade. In fact at this point almost all bins were overflowing on my nice little tool parts box and in reality needs to be redesigned from the ground up.

At this point I realize there has to be a better way. I have to be able to automate this in some fashion. It turns out that is a very hard problem to solve! You ideally want these Lego coming down a conveyor belt being photographed and identified by something like tensor flow then sorted. But there’s over 18,000 unique part designs (not including color) how do you even begin to sort that in a manner that doesn’t require a massive amount of space? Some people have built systems for doing it but they’re limited to space constraints. I’m a perfectionist I can’t just limit it all to 18 buckets! So before I went down another rabbit hole of spending several years developing a sorting space conscious sorting machine I decided that was the part where I drew the line, I was just going to hand sort.

I am still cleaning and sorting bricks and have only built like 2 things… the hobby has become not building with Lego but the logistics of Lego.

Also Lego as an investment is a wild ride that I am surprised more people have not written about. There are groups of people out there who instead of buying stock or commodities for investments are instead buying Lego. And it oddly makes sense. The ROI on Lego is really high, Lego does not depreciate value unless damaged. If you own something like an old Harry Potter set it’s gone up in value. There are websites and blogs dedicated to speculating on what sets to buy for long term and when to sell based on age of the audience then vs now. I found out through this that I actually know someone who is buying Lego sets and piecing them out and selling the parts individually on brick link as a means of secondary income and it apparently turns a fairly decent profit. Lego just never stops surprising me with what people are doing with it.

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First of all, that pirate ship does indeed look sick as hell, but second, this journey was incredible! I love reading deep dives about relatively niche but intense hobbies like this.

(That sorting machine is BANANAS, what the helll??)

Also, I meant to link this very relevant video in my previous post:

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Sorting 92 pounds of Lego by hand is giving me flashbacks to playing Wilmot’s Warehouse.

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It’s not as bad as it sounds!

I just have a giant tub of unsorted washed Lego sitting out. When I need to take a 5-10 minute break to clear my head I go over and grab a sandwich containers worth of Lego and sort it. Gives me time to think about whatever problem I’m stuck on while keeping my hands busy and not requiring a lot of extra thinking.

Also moved from playing games and watching video/podcasts to sorting Lego after work on the weekdays for the most part. Realized part of my depression was from sitting in a room all day for work staring at a monitor only to then continue to do the same into the evening. Moving about and being in a more well lit room helped a ton.

Now what would have been awful to sort was the 641 lbs of Lego I bid on that was going to be my last Lego purchase in a very very long time…

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It was about a 2 hour drive from me and the listing clearly stated you had to either pick it up in person or hire someone like UPS to do the pickup. I didn’t really have any kind of plan in mind if I would have won other then rent a uhaul and convince some friends to help me move it and that it would make for a wild story for the rest of my life and become known as the guy with 641 lbs of Lego. I reached out to the Goodwill to ask where this came from because 641 lbs of Lego does not just randomly show up as a donation I imagine but they were not interested in discussing it. The bid immediately got out of control as soon as there were 2 days left on bidding and IIRC whoever won that ended up paying through the nose on price per pound just on the bid alone. Was something like $10 per pound without factoring in shipping at all which if they weren’t local would have just been an absurd amount of money to ship.

I think if I would have won that I would have had to get into the automated sorting and learning how to sell which who knows where that would have then led to.

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Re: Pandemic Hobbies, my hobby of keeping a journal of media I’ve read/watched/played got a lot more intense.

First I bought some nice quality lined notebooks and copied everything from the decaying CVS spiral notebook Ive been using since 2016.

Then for 2020 I decided to rehaul my list system to a combined media list with symbol codes indicating books/videogames/comics/video and make clear indications of months, if I really liked the thing in question…as time as gone on its gotten more and more complex. Color codes have been added, dates of publication, indications of if I actually finished it. Somehow stickers have gotten into the mix.

Its a rabbit hole situation for sure, this journal would not be on this level without the pandemic

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I’ve been trying to find a non-screen hobby recently and some of the things you guys are doing sound excellent. I was working at home all day on my computer and then playing games or going on my personal laptop. That felt grim. “Done with the bad screen, time for the good screen!”

Right now I’ve gotten back into origami, which I dabbled with in high school and then essentially forgot about. I have a nice book with instructions and patterned paper that I chill with for an hour after work. Would recommend.

Also got back into skating (no broken arm!) and exercising, but those come and go with circumstances. I’ve lived 3 places in the pandemic - 2 were amenable to skateboarding, but I lived for a year with my parents on a hill with zero skate parks nearby. That was tragic. Fortunately I have a park now.

I exercise best in a gym, so I’ve been in and out as things change. Right now it’s inconvenient for me to get to and, y’know, a plague zone. Also got a job and suddenly it seems extremely hard to find 2 hours to work out atop 8 hours of work. Not sure how I’m going to manage going forward.

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As someone who added an online Word doc to do just this last year I am taking a lot of notes.

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I picked up a few pandemic hobbies! Two were really great for a few months, but have been hard to keep up with due to price gouging, and another two have been really good for me mental and physical health wise!

The two I were priced out of pretty quickly were PS2 game collecting and Gunpla. I started trying to get physical copies of older games that I find foundational to my taste in the first few months of the pandemic. It was going well for a while, and I even got a pretty great CRT for free on the local version of Craigslist so I could play the games in their original glory! I got Silent Hill 2 for around 30 USD, but by the time I wanted to get SH3, it was going for 60 USD+. I balked at paying the price of a new game for something almost two decades old. These days it goes for 150 USD+.

I started doing Gunpla in mid 2021, and it was a revelation. I also loved Legos as a kid, and putting together little Gundam models scratched some of the same itches. Unfortunately, prices skyrocketed due to some supply chain issues, and it’s hard to justify paying so much for a plastic model! Hopefully prices go down in the future.

At the beginning of the pandemic I picked up running and cooking mostly for health reasons, but both have become some of my favorite things to do. I don’t run very fast, or for very long distances, but just being out in the sun and in a wide open park is great! Cooking has been a great thing to really get into! It’s something where the skill ceiling is so high, and the options so wide that there’s always new things to try! It has been relatively inexpensive as well. I haven’t had to buy much cookware, and even the harder to find ingredients are pretty cheap if you can find somewhere to buy them in person (they’re often 2 to 3 times their normal price if you get them on Amazon). Cooking is time consuming, and the skill curve at the beginning can be very steep, but at this point I enjoy every part of the process! Is cooking the Dark Souls of chores? Maybe. All I know is that sharing food I made with my family is always wonderful!

So, yeah, hobbies that aren’t focused so much on buying products have been a lot more sustainable and rewarding for me!

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With kind of perfect timing for this topic, after earlier saying I hadn’t really picked up anything new, I just got a banjo on a whim (a Deering Goodtime, if that means anything to anyone). I’m infamously musically illiterate and have absolutely no rhythm but several times over the past two years I’ve considered trying to pick up an instrument and learn. It’s my birthday in a few days, so you could consider this either an early present to myself or an impending Mid-Life Crisis, Banjo Edition.

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Gunpla was the initial hobby that kicked off the pandemic for my roommate and I!

He got wayyy more into it then I did and went so far as to buy an airbrush kit and do an order from Hobby Link Japan. Which if anyone is interested in Gunpla don’t buy from Amazon because the prices are marked way above normal. There’s a shop out of Michigan called Galactic Toys that seemed to have fair pricing when I bought some kits.

I have a Liger Zero Panzer in my closet that I really can’t wait to build but it’s also the most expensive model kit I’ve bought and I really want to do a good job painting it so I’ve been hesitant to start it. Really wish the MG Crossbones wasn’t $100 because pirate mechs with a cutlass are something I need in my life.

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I play banjo! You’ve picked a great instrument to mess around with. No rhythm or musical ear required to get started with it at all.

My intensely basic pandemic hobby has been to learn 3d modelling and animation through online courses. I’m quite bad at it, but it is pretty fun to make little robot men walk, and to sculpt truly horrifying faces. It has given me a renewed appreciation for how much actual work game art is.

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I cycled through a few pandemic hobbies.

Early in the pandemic I did a lot of cooking. I tried out new recipes and experimented with gluten free baking. It’s nice to have new additions to my repertoire like tteokbokki, beef and spinach lasagna, and gluten free carrot bread. Cooking so much eventually became tiring and I haven’t branched out like that since returning to work in person.

During the summer of Pandemic Year 2, I also got back into skateboarding! It was really good for my mental health to have a hobby that got me outside. I ended up meeting a lot of cool people and connecting with the local skate community. Got to know adorable kiddos and cheeky preteens who skate in my neighborhood. Once the days got shorter and winter rolled around I put skating on hiatus.

On the stranger side of things, I really got into museum quality replicas of historic clothing (thanks, Tim Rogers). I’m in a history profession so learning about historic clothing production and flipping through old Sears catalogs was really fun. This led me to researching high-quality, unique clothing items. I was on the precipice of becoming a “denim-head” but pulled myself back before I hurt myself (not before I purchased two steeply priced pairs of jeans, however).

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