Butterfly in my eye

I just finished reading the first book of my retirement, Version Control by Dexter Palmer.  It was complicated.  Very good, but complicated, a mix of literary and science fiction that took me a while to find the rhythm of; once I did, though, it made me stay up until 2am last night and then power through the rest today.

I don’t read nearly as much as I used to, though.

One reason is that I actually find it physically difficult; since I’ve developed allergies, my eyes water a lot, and extended reading sessions are a sure way to have me weeping constantly.  I put up with it when the reading’s good, but if it’s merely “okay” it’s easy to make excuses and just do something else that won’t entail me wiping my eyes every few minutes.

Another is a sort of cyclical issue that I find myself dealing with at almost all times.  Biorhythms are complete and total nonsense, but I find that my tastes for “things what I do with leisure time” follow these sort of boom-bust cycles that last days, weeks, or months.  I’ll go three months without turning my PS4 on, then (like right now) find myself having to sleep with wrist braces because I’m spending so much time playing vidja.  I won’t touch a puzzle book for a few weeks, then power through half of one in three days.  And I’ve been in a long, long drought of can-be-arsed energy when it comes to reading fiction, particularly novels I haven’t read already.

That distinction is important.  Right now I really, really want to reread the entire Culture series by Iain Banks for the… fourth? fifth? time, even though there’s a stack of unread novels sitting on my kitchen island.  The only reason Version Control happened is because it’s a library book and I already had to renew it once.  Now that I finished it, I may allow myself to dive back into that world of dry wit and unparalleled futuristic utopia as a bit of an escape.  But it’ll only take me a couple of weeks to reread all nine books, and then I’ll be right back where I started.

I wonder if it’s at least partly a move away from passive entertainment.  I don’t watch many movies or TV shows either, and limit myself to a single episode per day even when I’m in the middle of an excellent show, like The Expanse right now or Altered Carbon a couple of weeks ago.  Reading is more pleasurable, the mindscape always more powerful and expressive than a moving picture, but it’s still linear consumption of someone else’s work.

I’m not sure.  What I do know is that I want to write more, and to write well I need to read more, even if that means upsetting my own… mediarhythms, let’s say.  We’ll see if forcibly pushing myself out of that lack of desire works, or if it just makes things worse.

Weekly status update [0003/????]

I continued to make a good go of minimizing the amount of adulting this week.  In fact, I was rewarded for doing so; I got the notice in for getting my car inspected so that I can update its registration. This means that the maintenance procrastination I’ve engaged in for the last month and a half retroactively became time-saving genius.  Good job, me!

I’m up to 42 words per minute of typing with Colemak.  Median typing speed according to Google is 41, so in less than a week of using a completely new keyboard layout I’m already at a functional level.  It’s a painfully slow and error-ridden functional level, mind.  I’m actually at an ugly point where I’m still not great at all with the New Thing, and my ability to do the Old Thing is much worse due to overwriting those synapses in my brain.  I’ve taken to doing a few QWERTY typing tests every day just to make sure I don’t become a hunt-and-peck typist when I sit down at any keyboard that isn’t mine.  Thankfully the keyboard that is mine supports changing layouts on the fly in the hardware, so I don’t have to mess with operating system jankiness when I bounce back and forth.  I haven’t had to do that much either; it’s just long passwords that are more muscle memory of patterns than actual characters I remember that send me scurrying back to QWERTY.

Other than that, I’ve:

  • taken to watching both catsonurhead and Landail on the regular on Twitch; the former is a super-friendly speedrunner and the latter is on an insane quest to play through every console RPG ever;
  • started streaming on Twitch myself at http://twitch.tv/sunfalltoennien, mostly Let It Die but also some random other stuff that no one watches;
  • finished the fifth season of The Americans and the second season of Transparent, both of which were amazing;
  • gone to dinner twice with old coworkers at the same restaurant, because it has bacon wrapped cheese stuffed jalapeños and is therefore automatically the best restaurant in town;
  • used the whole slow typing thing to push off coding and writing yet another week.

I also played some board games early in the week, which I already wrote about here.  I both do and don’t look forward to giving gaming in a public space another try.

Lastly, bored status: still definitely no.

Down where we belong

We had our first real “game night” outside of the workplace tonight since I retired, at a local bar and restaurant.  It was nice; given that we took over a prime table at 4pm and didn’t leave until after 8pm, the venue showed remarkable restraint in not kicking us out.  But I have to admit that it was also a pale shadow of the gaming I did at work.

Part of it, a big part, is comfort.  Bars are loud, and I’m a little hard of hearing, so they’re never ideal venues in the first place.  I also don’t drink, so the prime benefit of holding game night in such a place is lost on me.  But these are honestly superficial issues.  The real difference in comfort is, for lack of a better term, a complete difference in feeling.  In belonging.

At work, we have a really nice gaming table that a coworker and I (mostly him) got made to order.  It’s in a well-trafficked area, so sitting at the table is a good way to say hello and/or goodbye to lots of coworkers and friends as they come and go.  Some people linger a moment, watching the action, even occasionally asking a question or two about the game we’re playing.  I had a specific place where I almost always sat, a place where I put the inevitable bottle of Hint Water.  It was in a place I knew, surrounded by people I knew.  It felt like I belonged there.

The vast majority of times I’ve played games at other people’s houses, I’ve felt a similar sense of belonging.  There, it’s less about familiarity; instead, the sort of warmness of being somewhere that people want you, with food and laughs and the coziness of a home well lived-in, engenders that sort of feeling of belonging.  Just this Monday, one of my old coworkers invited me over to play games.  Even though I had never been to their house before, I immediately felt at home.  I felt that I belonged.

We’ll have to see if doing this sort of thing regularly in more public venues changes my view.  Unfortunately hosting at my house is a non-starter, as it was too small to hold a table for gaming even before I packed it to the rafters with board games, and using other people’s homes is usually a scheduling nightmare.  In my experience, it doesn’t take much difficulty to stop things like “rotating game nights” to fail just as soon as they start.  I just hope it doesn’t fall totally by the wayside because that’s the easiest option, and I know it’s at least somewhat on me to try and make sure that doesn’t happen.

I’ll let you know.


Apparently I really hate myself, because late last night I switched my keyboard to Colemak.

For those of you who are not keyboard layout nerds, first: how dare you? Second, it’s a remapping of the standard QWERTY layout to this:

Same same, but different, but still same.

I taught myself to type when I was six, with the help of MasterType; I didn’t take a formal typing class until middle school, on old electric Smith Coronas.  The teacher promised me I would type faster “home row” style by the end of the semester than I did my own way at the start.  She was right, but I incorporated a lot of the lessons from the class into my own idiosyncratic style, and I typed even faster that way.

Nowadays I manage somewhere around 120 words per minute on a good keyboard.  By comparison, what I’ve written here so far has taken me roughly 30 minutes, for a blazing rate of 5 words per minute.  That’s a dramatic improvement over the 2-3 I managed last night.

So: why?

I have bad wrists, and extended typing sessions can become genuinely painful for me.  Colemak dramatically reduces the amount your hands need to move for the vast majority of words; I feel my large movements on the keyboard have been reduced by upwards of 90%.  (Also, they now more resemble a sloth in molasses rather than the previous hummingbird on speed.)

Colemak is also much better for programming than the more common and more famous Dvorak; as someone who at least aspires to get back to leisure coding, that’s pretty vital.

And if I’m going to do this, I need to start now; NaNoWriMo is only eight and a half months away.  I’ve got to be able to actually fit 1667 words into 24 hours by then or it will be literally impossible.

And thus.  I have a mechanical keyboard but I’m intentionally not switching the keys; I haven’t needed to look at them since I was six and I’m not starting now.  I have the image above permanently on my desktop but I haven’t looked at it once while typing this.  I’m doing this for real.  The hard way.

(And I managed to type this last half in 20 minutes, for a rate of 9wpm.  Slow, steady, oh my Deity so slow progress.)

Sunday edit: I’m up to about 15wpm now.  Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge Cats of twitch.tv/catsonurhead as the key catalyst on finally committing to switching to Colemak, something I’ve been waffling on for years.  Check out her stream if you’re into old video games played well in a friendly atmosphere.  Thanks, Cats!

Weekly status update [0002/????]

This week was quite a bit quieter than last week, which was already pretty mellow.  Those of you expecting a ton of slice-of-life updates in this blog’s future are going to be pretty disappointed.  Unless you really want to read about me solving puzzles, playing Let It Die, watching some Netflix and the occasional videogame stream on Twitch, and going to bed.  There, congratulations, that’s the slice-of-life for the past two weeks, all in one paragraph!


I already wrote a post about signing up for COBRA, which was the biggest thing I did all week.  Other than that, I:

  • Opened up Giles’ source code, thinking about doing some leisure coding on it, and went “nope”;
  • Thought about cleaning up one of my old short stories for posting here, and went “nope”;
  • Thought about getting my tires replaced on my car, and went “nope”.

I think I’ll want to do all of those things sooner rather than later, but for the time being I’m honestly loving the low-involvement lifestyle and I’d be lying if I said otherwise.

do sorely miss playing board games every day at lunch.  I love board games and I don’t get to play them anywhere near as frequently now, which makes me sad.  If any of you readers would be up for some Tabletop Simulator, or Giles, just let me know.  I’m available, uh, whenever, I guess.

Still not bored, though, and in no danger of becoming so.  That’s important, because if everything goes according to plan, that week counter is going to go into quadruple digits.

COBRA commanding

I signed up for COBRA today, which was one of the big bits of Adulting I still needed to do with regards to my retirement.  For those of you unfamiliar with it, COBRA allows you to maintain the health insurance coverage that you had at a previous employer.  You have to pay for all of it yourself, rather than the (extremely) subsidized rate that most companies offer, so many people don’t opt for COBRA.  Instead, they go with personal insurance from one of the exchanges or–depressingly often–opting for no insurance at all.  Fortunately I can afford the extra expense, so I’ll be sticking with COBRA at least until the next ACA enrollment period.

When I’m a little more comfortable with the format of this blog and the state of the readership, maybe I’ll go on a long rant-slash-ramble about how utterly ridiculous it is that the number one deciding factor in my early retirement was the state of the gorram healthcare system here in the United States, not anything so practical as amount of money saved or whether I was ready to retire.  But not today.

Before I actually made the commitment, it was easy to think of retirement as a sort of bright line, a single Rubicon to cross: one day you’re working and the next day you aren’t.  But what I’ve come to realize is that it’s a long series of much smaller Rubicons that you continue to cross, one after the other.  The first was actually tendering my resignation, many months ago.  Then there was the hustle near the end of my tenure at my job to actually get everything turned back in, all of my paperwork in order, and all that.  My last day was a big one, of course, but not nearly the last.

And then that first Monday, where I woke up and realized, huh, I’m not going into work today.  Or maybe ever again.  And then this past Monday, the second one, where that happened all over again. A bunch of small realizations that a bunch of people I used to interact with on a near-daily basis are going to be much harder to see on the regular.  And now this.

I know that doing my taxes–by which I mean using a professional for the first time in a decade because holy moly are my taxes gonna be complicated this year–is another big upcoming river to cross.  But I’m more curious as to what the others will be, the ones I don’t yet know of, haven’t yet thought of.