A question of time and space

We had our second “folks from work” game night last night.  This time it was where we wanted to have it the first go-round, Fercott Fermentables.

The difference was striking.  Fercott has a fantastic, laid-back vibe; we played in the far back last night, but the next time I think we’re going to colonize the nice wooden table in the front, which has more room for a larger game like Power Grid or Concordia, and more seating for the more casual games that we could play as well.  They have lots of beers, if that’s your thing, but also a surprisingly solid selection of what I call “hipster drinks,” only half-snarkily.  I drank two Shirley Temples and a really good root beer.

I’m glad that my discomfort the time before came from the circumstances of venue and not just a general “I can’t handle playing games in public” sort of situation.  I should have known better; I used to spend almost every evening at the local game store, after all.  But I’m now actively looking forward to our next game-playing venture, something I couldn’t say the last time.

Also, Power Grid continues to hold up, more than a decade after its release.  Also also, I won, I think for the first time.  I promise that that’s not why Fercott left such a positive impression.  Well, mostly promise.

Breathing, simplified

My new COBRA insurance card came in yesterday, and so I called to book an appointment with an ENT so that I could get some more montelukast before the final bits of my stash from last year ran out.  At the doctor’s office, I learned something that is obvious in retrospect, although it surprised me at the time.

I had been planning on getting a full suite of allergy tests, so that I could figure out what it is I’m allergic to here in western North Carolina that clearly isn’t back in Louisiana.  My strong suspicion is that the main culprit is dogwood, a tree we don’t really have where I’m from, but which is utterly ubiquitous here.  Nevertheless, the doctor convinced me that getting tested would be a waste of time and money.

Why?  Because I’m not planning on staying here long term.  The tests are only really useful if you plan on following them up with shots to overcome your allergic reactions, which is usually a three- to five-year process.  It’s the sort of thing you do when you’re settling down somewhere for a long time, not when you’re thinking about leaving on any sort of short- to medium-term time horizon.

And I definitely am; while I really love the weather here, and will of course miss the people when I leave, I don’t think that Lenoir is my “forever” home.  It’s not Louisiana either, for that matter.  I’m not sure where it is, to be honest, although my current leanings are in the Colorado/Wyoming area more than staying in the South.

The other key discovery from Dr. de Neef (pronounced duh naïf, as it’s Dutch) was that they only test for allergens in the immediate area.  This was the thing that seemed so obvious in retrospect; of course there are hundreds, thousands of potential allergens, and so you’d minimize the testing to things that people are most likely to encounter.  Moving exposes you to a completely different sets of plants and molds trying to have sex with your sinuses, which your body may or may not take a dislike to, and a completely new battery of tests.

So: montelukast it is, for the time being, until I figure out what the hell it is I’m doing long term.  And one more thing popped off of the adulting queue.

Slow moves day

I’ve had problems with my wrists for years.  A lot of it comes from bad keyboard hygiene in my youth, and, well, all the way into adulthood; switching to Colemak is mostly an attempt to stave off those problems as long as I can.  There’s no question that it’s helping, but there’s also no question that I’m playing more games, and typing more, than I did when I was still working.  (Turns out workdays have lots of interruptions–meetings, lunches followed by board games, hallway chats–that you just don’t have when you’re home alone all day.  Who knew.) And that additional wear-and-tear is causing issues.

I’m wearing my wrist braces every night now, a habit I used to follow religiously and then gave up for the most part during my most recent job tenure.  My wrist problems are definitely exacerbated by the fact that I’m also a hand-curler in my sleep; I often wake up in strange positions, limbs twisted unnaturally and with various extremities going bzzzzzzzz from a lack of blood flow.  I’m also wearing them a lot during the day too, particularly when I’m doing a marathon game session.  They help, but still.

I think I’m going to have to simply start going easier on all the tech.  More reading, which is good; probably a bit more passive television watching, which is less good, but it’s not like there isn’t a ton of stuff for me to catch up on.  It’s frustrating, of course.  Having your body fail you slowly but surely is part of growing old, but I can’t imagine what I’d do if I could no longer use my hands.  So I’ve got to be careful, play it safe, and listen to when my body is telling me it’s time to quit.

Speaking of which: enough typing for now.  More later this week.


Procrasti nation

I have a confession to make: I’m really good at procrastinating.

Cue a wide array of shocked faces.  What?  No shocked faces.  Oh, well then.

I still haven’t taken my car in for the tires-oil change-inspection combo deal.  I haven’t started searching for a tax prep person either; normally I do them myself, but with me selling a ton of company stock last year I think the right thing to do is to get someone else to handle it this one time.  (Speaking of which: any of you Western North Carolinians have a good recommendation for tax prep?)  And I finally called the ENT today to try and get a refill on my Singulair prescription, to find out that I have to schedule an appointment to get it renewed.  I hung up rather than dealing with that this morning.


Wait But Why has an excellent pair of articles on procrastination that I can’t really add much to, other than to talk about what triggers it for me.  And that’s uncertainty.

I don’t handle uncertainty well.  I delayed early retirement for two years because I was scared of the changes it would bring, the level of turmoil to my finances and daily routine and “what do I do if something horrible happens and my cush tech safety net isn’t there” and and and

It’s a big part of why I hate traveling as well.  What if I don’t make it to the airport on time?  Or if I do but I’m delayed at security?  Or if the flight is delayed?  Or or or?  I can’t sleep well the night before any travelling because my head is spinning with all of the ways everything can go wrong.  It even makes me feel a bit physically ill.

So procrastination is my coping mechanism, in the grand tradition of mythical (but not real) ostriches, is to bury my head in the sand.  As long as I’m not actively doing A Thing, that thing can’t twist around on me, can’t be a source of new uncertainty, and that makes it easier.

That’s all wrong, of course.  There’s nothing to say that my car won’t break down tomorrow, or that my allergies won’t get worse.  But my brain is more easily satisfied by doing as little as possible, by keeping the active uncertainty down, even if that means just a different level of uncertainty.

It’s annoying, and frustrating, and putting voice to it and being aware of it hasn’t done much to make it easier for me over time.  But, hey: I’m on the phone with the Toyota dealership in Hickory right now, trying to schedule all the maintenance I need.  That’s a start, right?

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.

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!