To misquote The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: “It’s just some week, you know?” With one major exception, which I’ll put at the end even though it happened early in the week, because I like drama.
- Most of which I spent playing video games. Most evenings involved the B-movie joys of Earth Defense Force 4.1. Late Thursday night I played Overcooked! 2 with a pair of friends who were couch co-op-ing it in Portland and a third friend back in Louisiana, and it works… amazingly well. So few games support a mix of same-room and different-room players, but Overcooked! 2 makes it seem easy. I’ll likely have more to say about the game later, but: it’s great, assuming you have at least one other person to play with. Lastly, I apparently got over the samey-ness of Assassin’s Creed very quickly, because I reinstalled The Ezio Trilogy and spent, like, sixteen hours yesterday playing Revelations. (That’s why this isn’t going up until Saturday; I was up until 6am playing.) It’s… fine? The controls still suck, but Istanbul makes for a fascinating setting.
- Somewhere between board games and videogames lies Tabletop Simulator. We had the first of what will hopefully be many scheduled game nights with it on Thursday; only one other person showed up, but that’s fine, because there are plenty of excellent two-player games. (If you’re likely to be available at 6:30pm Eastern on Thursdays, hit me up and I’ll send you the appropriate Discord link.) TTS continues to be an utter mess to control, but the ability to play board games every week again makes me put up with its jank.
- I’ve also been watching a bit of TV; specifically, Russian Doll on Netflix, via a recommendation from an old coworker. It is very good, at least to the halfway point. I should have finished it by now, but see above as to why I haven’t.
- I picked up a book with a tiny bit more regularity this week than in several months prior. I’m about halfway through Christopher Priest’s The Prestige, which was made into one of my favorite movies of all time (and possibly my favorite Christopher Nolan movie). It’s a very different beast from said film, but quite good so far, even if not very far in I think I would have figured out one of the big twists in both works. (Of course, I know it from the film, so it’s a bit cheaty to say that.)
- I’ve done puzzles again too. I’ve been working through a Japanese variety book from my favorite puzzle company, Nikoli, doing one of each type of puzzle before looping back to the start of the book. I’ve done 17 of each now, and the difficulty progression is real. When I started, the dozen puzzle types took me a total of around thirty to forty-five minutes to finish, or three to four minutes a puzzle. The last loop was over three hours, breaking fifteen minutes a puzzle, although really it’s one or two types that take me 30+ minutes along with some that are still pretty quick to solve. This is my regular reminder that puzzles are crazy cheap entertainment; I’ve put something like 20-30 hours into the book, paid ~$14 for it, and still have another 10+ hours to go.
- The diet’s been very swingy recently, and I decided that–at least for the moment–the positive-feedback parts of having a scale outweigh the negatives of becoming a numbers-driven beast. So I bought one, and promptly got back on the wagon, and apparently lost 10 pounds in four days. A lot of that is excess water-and-waste weight, but still, it was the shot in the arm I needed to get back on the stick more consistently. And I have no compunction about putting the scale in the closet if it starts being a bad influence.
- The major exception to the not-much-new: I did my taxes last Saturday, and was pleased to see I’d be getting money back from the federal government for the first time in years. And then… I got another W-2 on Monday, for a deferred compensation plan that apparently is tracked in a completely different way than I expected. Oops. Now I have to file amended tax returns for both the state and the IRS. I was in a flop-sweat panic for a while on Monday, until I did the numbers… and realized that it means the US Government owes me another thousand dollars because of the second W-2. With them owing me money rather than the other way around, I’m a lot less worried. I’m gonna wait until March to file the amended returns, just in case something else comes in… and I’ve learned my lesson about doing my taxes early, I guess. Bleh.
I’ve said before that I’m pretty change- and surprise-averse, and this week epitomizes that sort of thing: a lot of “much the same” along with one “oh sweet merciful deity what I have I done?” moment that makes the whole thing stick in the mind. At least for now. I’d say that a little variety is a good thing… but I’d definitely have preferred this been a dull week from start to finish.
Fifty-two weeks. Not gonna lie: I’m more than a little surprised at myself that I’ve managed to stick to writing this for one day short of a year. I’ve always had a bit of a problem with sticking to long term projects, but somehow this one’s survived so far. I’ve toyed with shutting this down in the next week or so, given that the low readership makes it feel a little too self-aggrandizing to write this stuff… but I think I’m going to continue for the time being.
Anyway, I’m writing this one a bit earlier than usual because I want to write up a full-year retrospective this weekend. Fortunately, it’s been a quiet week, so there’s not a ton to say.
- I’m most of the way through the third season of The Man in the High Castle. The first two were passable but not great, and I mostly watched thanks to my love of alternate history; this third season, though, has been jam-packed with Big Stuff Happening, and I’m genuinely excited to see where it’s going.
- I finished up Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood on the PS4, netting a Platinum trophy I was forever denied back on the PS3 due to stupid online requirements. It had a whole bunch of terrible design bits that continued to prove my previous take on achievements is correct. I booted up the third Ezio game, Revelations, and after about fifteen minutes went “nope” and deleted it off of my PS4. I’ll probably come back to it in six months or a year or so, but right now I’m super burnt out on that particular flavor of game.
- A dreadful discovery: Walmart now carries cookie butter, both store-brand and Biscoff. This is really unfortunate for my future diet.
- Totally unrelated (I hope), I spent most of Wednesday with a combination of a bad stomach-ache and back trouble, which meant I spent basically the entire day in and out of the bed, failing to get any quality sleep. I finally managed to wake up with some verve… a few minutes past midnight. Ugh. Sometimes the wacky sleep schedule I have thanks to being retired is nice, and sometimes it’s kinda awful. This was definitely one of the latter times.
- I have several books checked out of the library and have been busy ignoring them, instead reading Chokes McGee’s Let’s Plays of Final Fantasy Legend and its sequel. It’s the sort of things that probably mean nothing if you didn’t play games in the late ’80s or early ’90s, but the LPs were impressively well-written, funny and poignant throughout. I have no regrets having spent hours on them.
Fifty-two weeks. Crazy, man. Crazy.
The author stares silently at a calendar, a dazed look on his face.
- Much of this week was spent watching HBomberguy’s Donkey Kong 64 charity stream for Mermaids. I read about it after-the-fact and am slowly catching up on it… but the stream’s close to 60 hours long, so even watching it at 1.25x (for the gameplay parts) and 1.5x (for the “just chatting parts”) is a whole lot of time. It’s been really good so far, though, and a pleasant change from the usual negativity and vitriol on the Internet.
- Speaking of videogames, I’ve actually been playing them again quite a bit this week. I finally finished up Shining in the Darkness this weekend, played a bit of this and that earlier in the week, then settled in on trying to finish the PS4 remaster of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (or, as I like to call it, Assassin’s Creed 2.1). I made some serious progress in it, but am putting the game away for a day or two thanks to playing so much my right thumb hurts. I even played some online co-op Overcooked! 2, which was just as fantastic as I thought it would be.
- We had a game night on Tuesday at Fercott Fermentables. It was just three of us, but we had a great time playing Aeon’s End, a quirky co-operative deckbuilding game. I liked it quite a bit more than I thought I would going in, and I actually had pretty high expectations. I also managed to play a pair of games of ConHex on Tabletop Simulator with a friend… which mainly just made me long to play more stuff on TTS more frequently.
- I haven’t talked much about my diet since I’ve returned from Louisiana, but never fear: I’ve actually been sticking with it after the first few days of “travel is stressful and I don’t need this too” justification. (I mean, travel is stressful, but it’s still a justification for bad behavior.) I suspect I’ve taken off all of the weight I put on during my near-month back home, and maybe a little extra? I continue to not weigh myself due to the way that tends to mess me up, but pants sure seem to be looser…
- …and speaking of food, I had dinner last night with one of my good friends and old coworkers. His last day at the company was this Thursday; he’s moving into the world of small business, helping his wife run a local veterinary clinic. I am extremely interested to see the similarities and differences with our experiences, although obviously there are a tremendous number of fundamentals that are already quite different for the two of us (family vs. single, working vs. not) so I don’t think they’ll actually be all that comparable. I wish him the best of luck, and we plan on having dinner on the regs to catch up, compare, and enjoy tasty Tex-Mex.
You walk away slowly. He doesn’t seem to notice, his eyes still fixated on the flimsy cardboard-and-paper construction. “Hang in there!” it blandishes. Hang in there indeed.
Fifty sure is a nice, big round number, isn’t it?
- Wrapped up Castle Rock over the weekend. It ended up being okay but not great, leaning too heavily on past Stephen King works without establishing its own identity, and with some seriously incoherent bits. (Like, what happened to the forest fire?) I’ve also gone through the first four or so episodes of Superstore, which is a perfectly fine workplace comedy with an excellent cast; it’s nothing spectacular, but sometimes you just wanna watch something pretty funny for twenty-two minutes.
- I watched Solo: A Star Wars Story early this week. It was… fine? I paused it halfway through to watch a streamer for an hour or so, though, so clearly it didn’t completely engross me. Like Rogue One, it felt deeply inessential due to being a prequel where you know the end result, but for whatever reason I enjoyed Rogue One‘s grit more.
- Most of Tuesday and Wednesday were spent watching poker on Twitch, as mentioned here earlier.
- I’ve been playing Picross 3D Round 2 off and on for a long time, and went back to playing it more actively this week. The real big gaming thing is that I picked Shining in the Darkness back up after putting it aside for months; my hand-drawn graph paper maps were taunting me, and I want to play Shining Force sooner rather than later. I ended up sinking a bunch of time Thursday and Friday into SitD, and am pretty close to the end now. It’s a solid dungeon-crawler, with an impressively done difficulty curve that still keeps me on my toes without feeling insurmountable. If only the inventory system weren’t so awful.
- Lastly, I went over to an old coworker’s house for game night Friday evening. We played a bunch of new-to-me games. Quacks of Quedlinburg felt way too random for the length of time it lasts. I also had a strong negative impression of Azul, which led me to realize that there’s a whole class of board games (namely those with a bunch of take-that involved) that I really intensely dislike unless I’m playing them two-player; I had a similar reaction to Photosynthesis, although that’s a game I enjoyed quite a bit more mechanically. On the positive side, The Fox in the Forest seems like it might be the first two-player trick-taking game that actually works, which is exciting. I need to play it more to confirm that.
It’s only two more weeks before I’ve been doing this for a year. That’s a crazy, sobering thought.
I still miss watching TV with my mom, but I’m not gonna lie: I am so, so happy to be sleeping in my own bed again.
- This past Saturday was my yearly Big Bourré Game Night, and all the usual suspects (read: mostly my old university coworkers) showed up. I had a fantastic time despite coming down with a head cold Friday that made me snotty all evening, and that fantastic time wasn’t just because I had what I’m pretty sure was my biggest night in bourré ever, nearly doubling my stake. (Yes, we play for money. No, the amounts aren’t significant.) Mostly it was a fantastic evening of hanging out with old friends, lots of trash talk, and even a little boardgaming earlier in the day.
- Speaking of boardgaming, I managed to fit in even more before I left on Tuesday. There was a final game night at my neighbors’ house; I had the new-to-me experience of watching other people set up a complicated board game–in this case, Concordia–and it was grand. I learned on Saturday that four-player Evil High Priest is much, much harsher than the two-player experience. And just today I got to play games back here in North Carolina, including one I had never played before, Grifters. I expect to be sad for the next eleven months or so about how much less tabletop gaming I’m experiencing after the glut of the last few weeks.
- Tuesday was my big travel day, and it suuuuuuucked. But I made it. I listened to a bunch more episodes of The Dollop, so that was nice, at least?
- My mother and I did some last-minute TV cramming, watching all of Homecoming on Monday. It was good but not great, but it has the benefits of being short and having both an amazing cast and gorgeous cinematography. Back home, I’ve watched a few episodes of Castle Rock and am not yet sold on the show. The fact that Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Good Place are both back makes my heart warm, though.
- The diet starts again tomorrow, promise.
I’m still settling into being back home again, and I don’t expect for it to really feel “normal” until early next week But I am glad to be back, and am looking forward to what the next few weeks and months will bring, as my one-year anniversary of Not Doing That Work Thing Any More approaches.
And thus ends my last full week back in Louisiana. Barring catastrophe, I’ll be back in Lenoir next Friday… and already missing the delicious food I’ll be leaving behind.
And friends and family too, of course. Mustn’t forget them.
- The rate of boardgame play slowed down dramatically this past week, but I’ve still managed to fit in some more games of Dominion and even a round of Antike II. Tomorrow’s the yearly game night where we play bourré until the wee hours of the morning, a high point of every holiday trip back home.
- The massive amounts of TV consumption, on the other hand, continued unabated. Watching the last season of The Americans was almost as good the second time around as it was the first; we then pivoted to two other shows which we’ve also finished. The first, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, was extraordinarily good. It’s an Amy Sherman-Palladino joint, and hoo boy is it basically everything I ever wanted in a TV show: non-stop Amy S-P comic hijinks, tons of gorgeous period detail, and copious use of the F word. Strong recommend. The other show is The Last Kingdom, one of the drops in the sea of under-advertised Netflix shows. I only learned about it thanks to a random Reddit thread, in fact. It’s basically a “real life” Game of Thrones-lite, set in the 9th Century in a pre-unification England. It’s good but not great, but the visuals are fantastic, the soundtrack is solid, and the action is engaging. Perfect holiday watching, in other words.
- I’ve made a concerted effort on this trip to eat out less than I tend to when I’m back home, but I still have to hit up some of my favorite restaurants while I’m back in town. Honorable mention goes to the Central arm of Cafe Phoenicia, which has stepped up their game considerably over the last couple of years; it was good enough that I didn’t feel the need to go all the way across town for my usual Albasha fix. But the true winner of this past week was Fleur de Lis, my favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurant in the world. I was compelled to write a snarky 5-star review for the place on Google Maps, but can’t find a good way to link it here; I trust your ability to find it. Also, order your pizza “well done” there. Your belly will thank you.
- Even though I’ve been sleeping late most days, I’ve also been fitting in a bunch of naps in the early afternoons. And: naps are amazing. We should all nap more.
- Not so much on the videogame or puzzle front; it turns out that sitting at my mother’s table doing puzzles is a rapid recipe for major back pain for me now, which… sucks. And I’ve just got better things to do (or, at least, more social things) than play solo on my PS4 while I’m here. That said, what little I’ve done continues to be effectively joint: an old puzzle game or two on my DS, or Picross 3D Round 2 on my 3DS.
- After nearly twenty years of having essentially the same webhosting solution, I’ve moved my sites (including this blog, of course). It’s with the same ISP, Pair Networks, but I’ve switched to their modern shared hosting solution, as the plan I was on hasn’t actually been offered for years. The net result is that I’m going to save ~$100 a year and am actually on newer hardware besides. Other than a short service interruption early Friday afternoon, the transition’s been smooth, and as always their customer support has been nothing but highly responsive to the minor issues I’ve had. I had never changed over before due to time-value of money arguments, but with retirement my time’s become quite a bit cheaper, and my worry about the longevity of the old platform was steadily increasing. All good now! If you see any issues with this blog, please let me know.
I’ll likely be heading out early morning Tuesday or Wednesday; one of the nice things about being retired and driving here is that I don’t really have to decide just yet. I’ll post a quick update when I make it home.
Sorry about the lack of a mid-week post. On the other hand: holidays.
- Lots of time spent with family over the last week. My oldest sister and uncle stayed over at Mom’s for Christmas Eve, and we added my nephew and his SO for Christmas night, so it was a pleasantly packed house in the evenings. My younger-older sister and her spouse showed up for Christmas Day, and various other friends and extended family members drifted in and out of the house over the days. This is one of the nicest things about being “back home:” seeing everyone.
- I’ve also played a metric ton of board games, mostly with the neighbors (and in particular their youngest son, who now works at the same place where I did as a student at LSU). He and I have played a bunch of two-player stuff, and we’ve played bigger games with more of his family. Some highlights are:
- the new Dominion expansion (Renaissance), which I got for Christmas, and which feels like another Adventures/Empires level endeavor;
- Evil High Priest, which came in right before I left to come home, and which is a solid take on worker placement with some take-that mechanics added in;
- Spirit Island, a serious step up for my neighbors, but one that went over surprisingly well despite its length. (I’ve played it before, but am always happy to play it more frequently.)
- I’ve also been watching TV with my mother, a long-standing tradition. We just finished the third season of Travelers last night, which left me really, really hoping they get renewed for a fourth season. We’re also watching the last season of The Americans together and are almost done with it as well. (If you read what I wrote before, you understand why I don’t mind watching it again.)
- There’s been a bit of a puzzle/videogame combination thing going, in that what gaming I’ve done has been on my DS and 3DS; specifically, the Nikoli Nurikabe game on the former, where I only have ~15 puzzles (out of 300) before I’m finally done, and Picross 3D Round 2 on the latter, where I’m deep in the postgame. I’m on weirdly difficult puzzles in both, though, and have put them down for the last few days.
- Food. So much food. A lot of it has been delicious junk food–I ordered a ton of stuff from the Tootsie company direct (link withheld so that I’m at least less responsible for your irresponsibility) and the usual Airheads and Gold-n-Chees)–but my mother is a fantastic cook and I’ve been taking heavy advantage of her culinary skills. I’ve actually only eaten out twice since I’ve been here, which has got to be a record low. There are too many tasty things to eat at the house to leave.
- I’ve even done a bit of writing. It’s awful and private, but it’s writing nevertheless.
I’ll be hanging out mostly by myself for the next couple of days, while the family is off elsewhere, which is a surprisingly pleasant break in the middle of my visit. But I’m looking forward to them being back as well. All in all, it’s been a nice, if a bit hectic, visit, and one I look forward to continuing. There are lots more board games to play, after all.
Nothing says “home for the holidays” like the fact that it’s going to be almost seventy degrees today. Louisiana, you do you.
- Much of the early part of this week was spent in preparation for the trip back home. I’ve got a terrible memory for that sort of thing, so Google Keep did me a solid by letting me make a list and check it twice, helping ensure I didn’t leave anything important back in Lenoir.
- Trip day was Wednesday. I woke up at 04:30, which the less said about the better, and hit the road a bit before 5am. To my delight, Bojangles’ was already open, so I snagged some delicious (chicken-fried) steak biscuits to get the day going. I also stopped at a couple of QTs along the way and had their spicy chicken taquitos. (I have a weakness for their roller grill.) It ended up being a 13-hour drive, putting me back in Baton Rouge at just after 5pm local time thanks to time zones. It was a long, exhausting trip, and it rained pretty bad for a short stretch near the Mississippi/Louisiana border, but was otherwise incident-free.
- I slept for almost twelve hours, then woke up Thursday and immediately hit up Dang’s, the best local Vietnamese place. It was still as delicious as I remembered.
- Both Wednesday and Thursday afternoon were spent watching some TV with my Mom; the third season of Travelers dropped on Netflix, and I decided that I was all right with rewatching the last season of The Americans with her (for obvious reasons).
- I also managed to already fit some boardgames in with the neighbors on Thursday night. (One of the distinct advantages of driving: I came with a fat stack of games.) We played Antike II, which was surprisingly good for three players, along with Tumult and Lost Cities Rivals. They seemed to enjoy all three.
- Friday was mostly spent as a family day, with my sisters, nephew, uncle, and assorted significant others. Good food, good laughs, although I did my back a disservice by sitting in a hard chair for most of it that put me in a not-great spot by the end of the night. Also, I ate like a pig.
- I also squeezed a bit of puzzling in here and there, continuing to work both on 3D Picross Round 2 and Nikoli’s DS Nurikabe game that I’ve been playing off and on for many years, plus some paper puzzles at my mom’s expansive kitchen table.
I probably won’t be doing my usual mid-week post this coming week, other than maybe a quick blip, so: happy holidays to you and yours!
I could say that snow interrupted my plans, but that would require me to have plans to begin with.
- That said, yeah, it sure did snow quite a bit. I ended up stuck at home from Saturday afternoon until Tuesday morning. Fortunately the power never went out, and I had procured enough supplies that it wasn’t a problem (in fact, I’m still working through said supplies–by which I mean junk food, of course–and it looks like I’ll finish just in time for my trip home next week).
- I got the oil changed in my car Tuesday (which was honestly the only reason I left home that day; otherwise I would have waited until Wednesday… except see below). Now my vehicle is as ready as I can get it for the long jaunt home. I may have gotten stuck in the snow in the service station parking lot, but I won’t tell if you don’t.
- We also had an extended game night Tuesday night, which meant I had to get rolling anyhow. We played Terraforming Mars. It was a fine, if underwhelming, experience. The game is an engine builder, which is one of my favorite types, but honestly it just felt like it had way more surface complexity (and subsequently took a long time to play) without necessarily providing a lot more in the way of actual enjoyment. I think the time would be better spent on three games of Race for the Galaxy.
- Speaking of board games, we also had an “online game night” on Thursday. Sadly several people didn’t actually get their setup tested beforehand, so what should have been a group of six people ended up being a group of three due to technical issues. We played Dominion and Century: Spice Road, both of which I like a lot.
- I finished up The Labyrinth Index, which was very good, if very dark. I’ve intentionally not started anything new since. I plan on bringing my Kindle home for the holidays, and probably reading several of the Wheel of Time novels on it while I’m there.
- I’ve continued to play Tametsi off and on as, really, the only videogame I’m currently into. It’s been scratching both the game and the puzzle itch.
- It dawned on me Wednesday that the sixth (and final) season of The Americans might be on Amazon Prime Video at this point. Sure enough, it was. I ended up watching all ten episodes back-to-back, something I hadn’t done in ages. The last episode was one of the best hours of television I’ve ever seen, and the season reaffirmed just how good the show was; I’ll be writing a “Here’s a Thing” for it sometime soon. But, uh, just watch it if you haven’t already.
Tomorrow’s the holiday party, which I’ve thankfully managed to wrangle a ride for; I wasn’t excited about having to drive to Asheville this weekend and then an additional 13+ hours come Wednesday for the trip back home. I’m already feeling apprehensive about all of it, but that’s pretty typical for me. I’ll manage. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep up my posting schedule while I’m back in Louisiana, but I make no promises. In any event: still not bored!